“He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!”

As long as I can remember, this was the greeting on Easter Sunday morning.  What a great, great affirmation of our faith, in such simple, yet powerful terms!  “He is risen, indeed!”  There can be no doubt about it.

Oh, I know that the skeptics will say, “Prove it!”  Science says, the dead stay dead.  And the skeptics will pull out their biology notes that prove that death cannot be reversed.  They’ll go into a thoroughly scientific description of molecular or cell biology. Faith is for the ignorant.

Some skeptics will accuse the faithful believer of holding on to this archaic belief as a crutch.  Faith is for the weak.

Others will say that the resurrection was staged by the close friends and disciples of Jesus, or that it was actually orchestrated by the members of the Roman guard to keep from beingkilled for not performing their tomb-guarding duties well.

There are so many ways the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus has been attacked over the last 2,000 years.

And yet, the Church of Jesus Christ has survived it all?  How could that be?  How could a made-up story be able to withstand the onslaught of so much scrutiny and skepticism?

The answer:  The resurrection of Jesus the Christ was a miracle from God!  It was God’s greatest gift to the world!  It was God’s way of saying, “Nothing can keep me from loving you, my children.  Not even the stench of death itself!”

The next time someone tries to put a wet rag on your faith, smile at them and say, “He is risen!  I believe and receive it in faith.  Won’t you come to Him and receive His gift, too?”


Confused by “Fake” News?

We are living in a time when it’s pretty hard to know what’s “real” news and what’s “fake” news.  On the face of it, without investigating and digging around a bit, we can easily be fed “stories.”

It’s not just the sophomoric National Enquirer anymore!  Amazingly, it’s the “sophisticated” adults who are doing it!  With impunity!  The lack of negative consequences only encourages them!

We saw, and are seeing these “fake news” stories a lot these days, with the contentious political climate.  To be fair, it happens on both sides of the aisle.

We have all grown up, I think it’s right to say, with the ideal that when we turn on the news, we’ll get the real story.  After all, journalists are supposed to present their news without bias.  Opinions are supposed to be reserved for the op-ed pages.

And with the growing popularity of social media, it’s even harder to sift out truth from fiction. And the problem isn’t limited to secular news, either.

There are those who make a living exploiting the throngs of people who are hungry for God’s truth.  How do we know what’s true and what’s “fake”?

  1. Other sources will confirm it. Since all truth is God’s truth, God’s works (all God’s created world) will support God’s Word. (Psalm 19)
  2. Go beneath the surface. It will take some digging, both figuratively and spiritually! But if it’s true, there will be often be something to corroborate it, such as archaeological evidence.  (There’s even an Archaeological Study Bible that points out hundreds of places where this has happened.)
  3. Hold onto the teaching of Jesus. It will set you free!  Oh, it won’t be the kind of freedom that says “anything goes,” but the kind that unshackles you from all that would keep you from experiencing the fullness of God’s joy! (John 8:31-32)
  4. The spiritual connection: God’s Spirit will affirm in our spirits that we belong to Him!  (Romans 8:16)

Staying in Love with God

A friend of mine once told me that when she first decided to follow Jesus, she was “just so in love with God!” Have you experienced that? For most people, it’s not too unlike that first experience of falling in love with someone. You can’t stop thinking about them. You want to be with them all the time. You want to know everything about them.

Many of us have enjoyed those warm, exhilarating experiences in our human relationships… those feelings that lift you right off the ground and send you into orbit. And who of us wouldn’t welcome that kind of feeling?!

But we all know that it doesn’t last forever. Gradually, for many, at least, that first intense feeling of “being in love” begins to fade. It’s only natural that the highly emotional part of love relationships “cool down” a bit. After all, maturing love is never a love that is based all on feelings.

And that’s okay. Heaven forbid that our love experience with God be like the 1960s pop song laments: “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling. Now it’s gone, gone, gone, oh, oh, oh…”

So once we’ve re-entered earth’s atmosphere—where the trials of living our daily lives act as gravity in our emotional world—how can we “stay in love” with God?

First, never confuse feelings with facts. Love is the potatoes, and the feeling is just gravy.

Second, do those things that you did when you first “fell in love”: spend time with God in the Word, in worship, and in prayer.

Third, don’t just keep it to yourself. Love is an “action verb.” So be the hands and feet of Jesus.

When you’ve done these three simple things, you may not feel the intense “heat” of that first experience of God’s love. But the “slow and steady fire” of your maturing relationship with God, the joy of being a part of God’s work today, and the hope of eternity, will keep you in love with God!

Getting a Fresh Start

He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new! Rev. 21:5a

Of course, the setting for this remarkable statement is one we’ll have to wait for, because it refers to that wonderful moment at the close of this present age in which Jesus wipes out all sin and sadness and renews the entire heavens and the earth.  It seems clear that this is not a heavens and earth that has never been before, but a new quality.  Just as the resurrection body of Jesus was recognizable to some degree even though it was very different in quality (he could walk through walls, but he ate and drank as before)—so the new heavens and the new earth will be radically “reconditioned”—perfect recreations of the “old” heavens and the earth.

Okay, that’s interesting, but what is the application to us today, right here and now, in our present lives, where we go to work and raise families?

We, too, can live our lives, renewed, not that we will lose our identities, but that the very way we think and act will be utterly transformed.  How?  By allowing the Spirit of God to transform our minds.  It is then that we learn to discern God’s will for us, what is “good, pleasing, and perfect.”

It’s what we might call getting a fresh start.  It’s something very appropriate ALL the time.  But there’s something about the new calendar year that motivates a lot of us.  Why don’t we make a new kind of resolution this year?  That we will allow God’s Spirit to make us new so that we will live our lives with an entirely new quality!  Let’s journey along this fresh, new road together in 2017!

Pastor Ron signature