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.
Allow me to recount the personal way my wife and I spent Easter 2020 along with some thoughts on how Easter was shared among believers in the protestant world.
I’ll start with an entry from my journal on Saturday before Easter. “It’s sunny with clouds and a cool east wind on a crisp spring day atop this beautiful mountain as I read another chapter in Dudley Hall’s, Grace Works.” In the latest chapter he notes, “The major sin of God’s covenant people is that of unbelief… since Gods primary requirement is faith.” “In fact, I would dare say that no violation of the law is ever committed without prior unbelief.”
Profound! Grace and Faith. Faith and Grace. The two key issues with God! (Eph 2:8-9)
Then Abide (John 15:5). No boasting ( I Col 1:29, Jeremiah 9:23-24)!
If you fall back into law or works, pray-repent-admit-be restored at once. The price is paid — Easter 2020. Holy Saturday ends the season of Lent. It’s a good day to ponder such truth. Thank you Lord for leading me. Help me to abide more with You, and in You, and You in me. This is my plea, my prayer for holy Saturday, 2020.
April 12, 2020 Easter
On a beautiful, high overcast morning with a sea of pastel greens and blues below… there is thunder in the area on Easter morning — a power display.
I share “He is Risen!” and “He is Risen Indeed!” — the traditional Easter greeting of the early church — with a few close friends and family by text. Now begins a virtual Easter celebration with our present home church, Fayetteville Fellowship. Strange it seems, real and surreal at the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has much of the planet in isolation, so on one of the most church-attended Sundays of the year in Christendom, the faithful are not allowed to meet! So plans have been made, with a few weeks practice under their belts, for most of the planet’s churches to meet on line, via streaming, Facebook, YouTube, etc. People are forced to be more private and thoughtful about their beliefs, as they ponder them alone, and with their families, or small groups of believers in a time of uncertainty.
As startling as it is, it’s also refreshing in a sense — to break with tradition and consider what it is you really believe? And why you do what you do?
The outline of our pastors message was: The Fact — of the resurrection The Implications — of the resurrection The Meaning — of the resurrection
You assume His death is the end. His disciple did! The most faithful prepared spices. It’s over.
But within days, Peter, arguably the most prone to act in the flesh or his own strength, has a personal meeting with his risen Lord in Galilee, gets a personal commission, and a few days later the inner empowerment to carry it out, being filled with the same Holy Spirit operative in Jesus.
In similar fashion within a few weeks, Paul a violent, angry religious, Jewish bigot, would meet the risen Lord and receive the same Holy Spirit, along with a new identity. The two of them, in that power, would go on to change the known world of their time extending down to our time. Amazing. Grace.
Or in his own words recorded in Romans 1:1-7
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, promised by the Prophets, Jesus Christ our Lord! News by which everything is changed. A plan to fix and reverse the curse of sin… One Who would come has come.
The implications Paul goes on to say in Romans 8, is that, “We are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And in Romans 10, “If you declare with your mouth, and trust in your heart, you will be saved.” Declare and believe what? “Jesus was raised from the dead!”
It’s the claim of Easter. The victory we walk in. Celebrate!!
Here are two special worship videos going around in our area this season especially apropos the pandemic and the cultural era in which we live.
I knew it could be special! I’ve heard some of Andrea Bocelli’s songs before. A voice, and seemingly a heart, that turns heads whenever one hears almost any note he sings.
My wife had seen a message on line announcing that Bocelli would be bringing a free concert to the world from Milan Italy at noon our time, live streamed to the world via YouTube. And it happened just like that!
Two and one half million viewers watched it live. During the next forty-eight hours, more than thirty-three million people had watched it. Amazing!
I’ll comment on it later, with the English translations of the songs sung in Italian, but you can watch it here now, and experience it for yourself.
The music, the back story, the architecture , the videography, the choreography, the history, the understated nature of this world-wide communication and prayer to the Almighty will speak to your heart in ways words cannot. Just enjoy it for now, and listen with your heart, to something deeply spiritual, and very special. Music for hope.