HAPPY EASTER! For centuries or perhaps most of two millennia actually, that has been the traditional greeting of one Christ follower to another Christ follower on Easter, “He is risen!” With the greeted person responding, “He is risen indeed!” It’s the hinge of history and the linchpin of God’s plan of redemption for mankind – for those who would see this amazing sacrifice followed by power over death, and believe.
I sat atop this crag this morning and watched the sunrise, thinking of His grace, His goodness, His mercy, His power, His humility, His beauty … with a full and grateful heart. I also thought of many of you. Friends with a heart connection with Him, and with me. So I started texting this photo, along with the simple text, “He is Risen!”
I received a goodly number of replies, “He is risen indeed!” That is all that need be said, and really all that can be said in light of His plan and His power — His life and light and love… in an understated, worshipful, meditative way. But I also received a few additional comments that I’ll share with you from hearts that were full, like mine.
“Yes sir, He has been good to us, that can’t duplicated by man, amazing.” Arkansas
“You just figuring that out?” Arkansas
“He has indeed and I’m glad he has done so because he is the only thing on this earth that presently makes any sense whatsoever.” Virginia
“He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:6 Arkansas
“For us all, great reminder view you have daily!” Arkansas
“Amen and Amen. So has [my brother] [who almost died with COVID but had a supernatural recovery after much prayer] talked to him yesterday. Doin Great! Thank you for sharing that pic- I’m sharing it with many – will strike a cord in many lives – beautiful pic and essential message.” Tennessee
“And so shall we rise! Happy resurrection Sunday!” Missouri
“Amen! And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:7) Louisiana
“Thank you Yeshua!” Oklahoma
I hope your Easter was beautiful, meaningful, and reflective. That it caused your heart to swell with hope and the assurance of the Holy One being your guide, guard, and king. The Friend Who will never leave you or forsake you. That you are His! Amen. Easter Shalom to all…
Speaking of mediation, my wife just reminded me of what we watched last Easter along with over a million other humans via YouTube. If you’d care to remember you can click here.
Tonight if we can figure it out, we’re going to watch the highly anticipated first episode of “The Chosen,” season two!
“…let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.” Acts 4:10
“So you don’t care about one billion Catholics?” That’s what I heard in the spirit recently — a thought that wasn’t my thought — which I’ve learned to believe is from the Lord. I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking at the time, but I will never forget what I heard.
I have a high view of Catholics, I think, and I’ve always found common ground in Christ when relating to them as friends, in monasteries and retreat centers, and I had a good friend for a time who was the priest at Christ the King Catholic Church in the neighborhood where I lived.
But I didn’t question the thought. I know that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” [I Sam 16:7]. The inference, strong but gentle, was,”I do, and you should too.” That became easier and almost a mandate and passion Easter Sunday 2020 with what I heard from Andrea Bocelli. It peaked my spiritual senses, and I believe it reverberated in the heavens. A prayer birthed in the heart of God, to be answered soon. Mercy for our world.
Protestants & Catholics
There may be something just below the surface in protestant thinking that goes something like this, “Most Catholics don’t read the Bible for themselves, and have at times been discouraged from doing so, so how could they believe? Do they even know what they believe?” Something like that or along those lines. Then some superiority illusions or pride creeps in, because we protestants study the Bible, know the Bible and what we believe it teaches. Pride blinds one to truth and reality.
Protestants beware of blinding pride. Or as Jesus told the Pharisees (the most religious Jews of His day), “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” [John 5:39] That is, they couldn’t see that God in the flesh was standing right in front of them, even though they studied Scripture and its prophecies.
But Bocelli’s simple act of faith, prayer, and worship on the world stage demonstrated simple, childlike faith in doing what he had been invited to do. Child like faith may be a trademark of Catholics? Something akin to the thief on the cross, who sensed his own miserable condition, getting what he deserved, but also sensed that Jesus was the Son of God, asked for mercy, and received the grace of salvation — without much Bible knowledge, as far as we know, like a little child.
That kind of faith may be a Catholic strength?! Yet beware of being somewhat familiar with Jesus, and like the five foolish virgins, not being known by Him, [Matt 25:1-13] putting your faith in saying, “I’m a Catholic or I’m a Christian.” Jesus had something to say to the Pharisees about that too, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” [Matt 3:9] Or said another way, “You think you’re fine because you’re Jews, but that’s not enough.” Grace received by faith is required, and the resulting relationship.
I think this pandemic, isolation, and solitude has caused Christ followers around the world to reexamine what they believe. Who and how much they trust? Something along the lines of “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12b] And it’s caused Christ followers to minimize their differences and pull together in faith, solidarity, and obedience to Christ.
I’m not talking about universalism here, the teaching or belief that everyone will go to heaven and have eternal life. The Bible doesn’t teach that. And Jesus Himself certainly didn’t. Remember He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matt 7:13-14] And, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” [Luke 13:24] He also said it wasn’t His will that any should perish, but that all would come to eternal life.” [2 Peter 3:9] So our wills, wants, desires, actions, and words play a pivotal part in knowing Him.
I’m just saying I’m not the gate keeper. None of us are. Only One is — He Who rose from the dead that first Easter, once for all time, and for all who believe.
So know Him! More importantly, be known by Him.
Amazing Grace — Blind or Seeing
The Bocelli event ended with Amazing Grace, something every believer in Christ can identify with immediately and intensely. A humble acknowledgement we once were blind. And only by His Grace, now we see — the Risen Savior, for Who He Is. The Christ. The King. The Messiah. God’s Son. A loving, powerful One Who hears prayer.
How striking and strong it was to have a blind man with perhaps the best voice in the world standing there singing and seeing in the spiritual realm, while many sighted people watched who were perhaps spiritually blind. Grace was all around, and is there to be found.
I think something changed with that proclamation and prayer Easter Sunday 2020. Many prayers were ascending to God to have mercy and extend grace in our time of global need. More than 2.5 million people watched the powerful event live. As of this post, 38,629,568 have viewed it! Certainly it must have been the largest Christian meeting or spiritual meeting ever experienced at one time. That it included people of all faiths and many nonbelievers is remarkable as well, in the privacy of their own homes, listening in a world quietened by plague. People looking for answers witnessed a global spiritual gathering and event around Christ — facilitated by YouTube, the world wide web, and a humble man with a great voice and sincere faith, moved by compassion for his city, his country, and the world.
So there you have it. There are an estimated 2.3 billion Christians in the world, 1.2 billion Catholics and 1.1 billion protestants — about 30% of the world population. Because of Jesus, we care about each other and our world. Our prayer is that He show us more of His Amazing Grace in this crisis as we love, serve, and worship Him, Who Is Worthy — He is rich in Mercy and abundant in Grace. Amen.
As I’ve entered the so-called retirement years, this phrase has come to me several times, and at times has become my mantra for trying to plan or order my life, especially spiritually, which is to me the most important, meaningful, and rewarding field of endeavor. “Finishing well” is another phrase I’ve heard kicked around by my peers trying to express the same goal or thought.
In one sense it sounds right. And I’m sure there is some merit to it, in the sense of focus. One must stay focused on the most important target if he or she is to have any chance of hitting it.
But even the phrases “finishing strong” or “finishing well” seem for me today in some early morning moments of clarity to bely pride in me. Like I can do something significant for the Lord, or that He needs me.
Let’s be clear, and honest. He doesn’t.
Now He may want something from us, or enjoy it when we are walking in truth and healthy relationships. We’ll perhaps get to that later or another time. But He doesn’t need us. He tells us many times in Scripture He’s quite Self sufficient, Other from His creation and created beings, Whole and happy and content within Himself.
Several verses of Scripture and thoughts flood my mind to support those thoughts. But at the top of the list is Isaiah 66:1-2.
“Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, NKJV)
These are among the last words recorded of Isaiah, perhaps the greatest Hebrew prophet, certainly the greatest writing prophet. From the last chapter of his amazing book and life in a rather dark time for Israel and Judah, 700 years before Christ and the New Testament. It was a time of idolatry, spiritual blindness and apostasy in God’s people. It was a time marked by unhealthy relationships with their God and with each other. Sound familiar or pertinent?
Sure it does! If you have any spiritual sight or senses left. If you compare the mores of our culture to those that please the Creator from His Word and those of the USA today. It’s cause for alarm, and perhaps panic, if you have any sense from human history of what follows when this situation exists in a nation or among nations.
The American way, the humanistic way, is to start trying to fix it! Let’s analyze how we got here, or maybe just analyze the problems and tackle them until we fix them. It sounds so right, and it’s who we are and what we do, isn’t it?
But this trait can also show us who we’ve become. Man trying to be like God, or believing he is like God? This is a simple definition of secular humanism, perhaps the oldest religion, originating in the garden.
“… in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3:5, NKJV)
Humanism is subtle and it is a part of who we are from creation. God’s people are to be humans but not secular humanist, saying “We have no need of Him,” or like a two year old, “I can do it by myself!” These are lies; substantiated in the Bible and in human history. We do need Him. It was and is always a part of His plan for us. To come to some maturity, yes, but to always need Him, trust Him, and be in relationship with Him.
We are created in His image, but we are not like Him. He is totally Other. He’s the God of all He created and we are not.
One of my favorite and most important spiritual mentors, Charles Simpson, recently said, “They tell us now there are about one hundred billion galaxies, containing about one hundred billion stars each. I don’t know who counted them? And isn’t it like human beings, we discover something, and we act like we made it. “ Telling isn’t it?
I also had the privilege and honor of visiting with Charles for a couple days recently with three other brothers, for friendship, fellowship, and spiritual counsel. In a private time with him, I mentioned this thought of “finishing strong.” He quickly said something like, “I’ve never preached a sermon on it or thought much about it.” That’s telling. About me.
And it brings me back to how I should be living, and my focus, in this chapter and maybe all chapters of my life? Not like I have to fix big cultural or church problems, or do something significant for God?
Compare the lie giving birth to secular humanism in the garden to what David said in the Psalms.
“O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.” (Psalm 131:1–2, NASB95)
This was “a man after God’s own heart” who “accomplished God’s purposes in his generation.” He was also Israel’s greatest king, save One.
And that King, would say that becoming like a little child would be very important. Little children are very trusting, and learning, and humble, and know they have needs. They also know the relationship with the people who gave them life and care for them is precious and most important. So then, the way up appears down. Perhaps living life and seeing life from the height of a bended knee? Or like a little child?
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1–4, NASB95)