Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

Good Morning this Maundy Thursday of Holy Week 2015.  For much of the night I pondered and prayed about what to share this morning.  Holy Week is climactic in the life of a believer as we relive Jesus final earthly hours and culmination of why He came.  As I alluded to yesterday Jesus came with a primary purpose and a number of secondary purposes.  Some of His secondary purposes were to give us an example of how to live, to touch lives in His day that were later recorded so we would know how to minister, and to send the Holy Spirit to live within us who would further our living and ministering in faith.  His primary purpose was to give Himself up as a perfect sinless sacrifice for sin so that through Him everyone would have a path to forgiveness and restoration with God the Father.  I heard on the news this week that a recent study found that over 50% of youth and young adults do not know the reason for the Easter season.  That is sad.

I am praying for a groundswell of truth seeking for I am convinced that if people seek truth, they will find God.  This is never more accurate than if they simply look into the facts about Jesus.  I have spoken with unbelievers and invariably their response has fallen along a couple of distinct lines.  Either they don’t want to be bothered by seriously considering the claims of Christ or they simply have never taken the time to weigh the evidence and apply logic to determine what is true.  In my experience the root of unbelief for those who have heard the gospel and not accepted it has always been a sin they were not willing to give up or look past long enough to consider is Jesus who He said He is.

One of the things I have done a lot in my career as an engineer is Root Cause Analysis.  The most effective way to get to the real reasons a failure occurs is to diligently gather all the evidence, make sure it is valid and accurate, and then put those pieces of evidence together to see what story it tells.  I have been involved in hundreds of these investigations and if this process is followed, we always resolve the issue.  However I have seen a number of situations where the investigator approached a failure with a preconceived idea of what the root cause was and the investigation did not go well.  You see, if we approach a question with a bias ahead of time, it becomes much more difficult to accept the evidence at face value.  We look for evidence that supports our hypothesis.  In many cases unconsciously.  In others it is conscious and willful.  We will overlook or dismiss evidence that does not fit our hypothesis.  Additionally when we have a bias from the outset, we are not able to effectively apply logic.  Remember that one of the key principles of logic is that when all the evidence is weighed, if all other options are eliminated, then the remaining option, regardless of how unlikely, must be true.  (I think I heard the character Sherlock Holmes say that recently.)

The ultimate question then becomes “Who was Jesus?”  People who haven’t investigated all the facts and applied logic will often respond, “Oh Jesus was a good man.”  “He was a wise and good teacher.”  Or perhaps they will even go so far and say what Islam says about Him, “He was a great prophet.”  However those are not valid choices as the ultimate declaration of who Jesus was.  To make the claims He made and to suffer an indescribably cruel and painful death as He did, there are really only three choices.  One he was insane and delusional in the most extreme sense.  Two He was the greatest deceiver who has ever lived.  Or three, He was who He claimed to be.  Jesus claimed to be God’s Son – to be One with the Father.  He claimed to be able to forgive sins.  In John 14:6 we read “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one come to the Father except through me.'”  These are extremely bold claims.  A good man does not make Himself equal to God unless that is Who He truly is.  Otherwise He is either a deceiver or mad.

The evidence is pretty substantial.

  • We have eye witness evidence from multiple sources of the life and miracles of Jesus.  They are amazing stories.  And if we do not allow our biases, either for or against to sway us, then we put those into the “validation bin” to determine a little later if we admit them as true and valid.
  • We have the number of prophesies in the ancient Hebrew sacred texts (the Old testament of the bible) written 400 – 1000 years before Jesus’ birth that fit what we know about His life perfectly.  Many of these were fulfilled completely independent of any thought or action He could have taken.  Here are a few of the 100+ prophesies fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
    • Virgin birth
    • Born in Bethlehem
    • Herod’s killing of all male babies in Bethlehem (except Jesus who had escaped to Egypt) after Jesus birth
    • From the lineage of David
    • The manner of His death
    • The advent of John the Baptist
    • Plus many more to numerous to capture here.
  • The fearful disciples who hid themselves after the crucifixion were transformed into life long evangelists after His resurrection.  Eleven of the twelve were martyred with John the only one to suffer a natural death albeit in exile because of His faith.
  • Jesus’ body was never found.  This is really huge. Remember the key principle about logic mentioned above.
    • If the disciples had stolen the body (highly unlikely) one of them would surely have broken and confessed when under the threat of death.  And while it is possible a person might die to cover up a lie, that such a large group of people maintained the same story speaks to the truth of the tale.
    • If the authorities had taken the body all they had to do was show the body and the movement would have been stopped at the outset.
  • The number of post resurrection appearances Jesus made.  All told Jesus appeared to over 500 people after He was ressurected.  And because of this they were transformed into faithful followers even through persecution and death.
  • The accuracy and validity of the bible.  This is actually evidence to support the validation process.
    • The bible is far and away the most studied book of antiquity.
    • There are more high quality ancient manuscripts of the bible than any other book from antiquity by far.  Some of these manuscripts are from within just a few decades of the original documentation.  A recent ceremonial mask from Egypt was found and carefully studied.  I believe the date was from around 80 AD.  The mask was made from papyrus that had short selections of the Gospel of Mark in it that authenticated current texts.
    • The dead sea scrolls found in the Judean desert in 1947 had a large number of Hebrew texts that proved the accuracy of current texts.
    • Along these lines, an understanding of the absolute rigor and holy reverence with which the Jewish scribes approached the copy of the texts ensures the highest level of accuracy and attention to detail.
    • The secondary sources such as the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus that support the historical details surrounding Jesus and the time and place He lived.
    • Even the manner of the biblical writings supports its authenticity.  A consistent message and story is presented with enough variability to show it was compiled by different persons with slightly different perspectives.  The minor differences do not in any way take away from the central tenants of the faith, but they do reveal an integrity in documentation and copying.  This supports the argument that what we have today is in the same form as the original writers, some eyewitnesses and some recorders of eyewitness accounts, intended.
  • The growth of the church from the humblest of beginnings, ie. one man crucified upon a Roman cross after only a three year itinerant ministry in a very small, remote, and isolated province of Rome, to the 2 billion Christians in the world today.
  • Lastly, the lives of people throughout history and continuing today, who are changed because of knowing the risen Lord.  Jesus is alive today and He is still meeting people and transforming them through His mercy and grace.

I am one of those people Jesus has changed.  I have met the Lord.  He has saved me.  He has brought much positive change in me.  I would love to say I am totally faithful and complete in every way, but I am not…yet.  I, like all faithful believers, am a work in progress.  But I am growing because He is real and He is walking with me, helping me to become more and more like Him.

Dear friend, I hope this has encouraged you today.  If you are a believer my desire is that this provide a reinforcement of your faith and help you share that faith with others.  If you are not yet a follower of Jesus Christ I invite you to dig deeper and see if what I have written is true and accurate.  Ultimately I was convinced by the life that I saw in people who claimed to know Jesus and lived with a vibrant, tangible faith.  The rest of the information just solidified my faith once I accepted and started following Him.  Since this is Easter, I encourage you to go to a bible believing church this Sunday and ask the Lord to speak to you.  See if He won’t speak a message of love to you heart.  What do you have to lose?

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

Oh, one more thing.  Three year ago I wrote a blog that is really cool family story called Quest for Truth.  If you want to read about a practical application of Truth Seeking.


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Good Morning and Welcome to Lent 2015. Lent is the season of preparation immediately preceding Easter. In the early church this time was spent in final training for Easter baptism for persons who had decided to give their life to the Lord.  While the faith and commitment of a life given to God remains the same, there have been many adaptations through the years.  As we begin our Lenten journey together this year let’s take a look at some of the roots of the Christian faith and allow our Father to inspire us this year to deepen our walk with Him.

Life commitment.  For much of the history of the church, being objects of persecution has been the norm.  The Roman Empire had a god and he was the Caesar.  In reality they had a lot of “gods”, but what was officially frowned upon was a religion that espoused a solitary, supreme God that was not under the Roman boot.  As such the early church experienced repeated periods of intense persecution which included being treated as second-class citizens, torture, and even publically sanctioned murder simply based upon the fact they were Christians.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24 – 27 sets the bar for what it means to follow Him.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” 

Becoming a Christian is not simply responding to an altar call to receive a get-out-of-hell card.  It can start there, but the Lord is calling us to something so much more demanding and so much more rewarding than that.  And the early church dedicated time to teaching initiates about that with Lent being the final exam if you will.

As Christians in the western world we have experienced very little persecution directly impacting our lives, yet the reality is it has always existed.  The prince of this world, Satan, has and still does wage a relentless attack against the people of God.  Recently we have had the brutality and evil of it exposed in the atrocities committed by ISIS.  This is not really new however.  In the past 1200 years over 270,000,000 people have been murdered in the name of Islam.  To be Jewish or Christian and to hold to that faith was to be under a death sentence.  And in large parts of the world today it still is.

The point of this is that a commitment to follow the God of the bible, to trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, cannot be taken lightly.  What God calls us to is not a life of ease (although we are to rest in Him) nor is it a trouble-free life (but do not worry because Jesus has overcome the world), but it is a life that will be filled with God’s grace and abundant love.  When a person accepts Jesus as their savior and Lord, they truly move from death to life.  While that may make us targets of Satan (and Islam) it also comes with so many amazing benefits – Jesus’ promise to never leave us or forsake us, we are given the Holy Spirit as our counselor and helper, we are sealed as God’s possession forever, and the list goes on.

Over the coming weeks let’s dig deeper into what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  I would love to hear back from you.  Please share your thoughts or experiences with how God has stretched you, taught you, and helped you grow in your faith.

Until tomorrow I pray you will be blessed and be a blessing to another.

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We are on vacation at the beach for our youngest son’s spring break.  Last night the clouds rolled in with showers and thunderstorms.  I had intentions of getting up early and watching the sunrise on Good Friday morning, but the weather forecast was calling for rain all day on Friday.  I off-handedly said, “Well I guess there won’t be a sunrise tomorrow.”  My wife, whether knowingly or not said something that this morning seems rather profound.  “Honey, there’s always a sunrise.  It’s just that not everyone sees it.” 

As I reflect upon her statement this morning I realize that her statement is true whether she meant sunrise or Sonrise.  It is sad, but all too true that we often miss the meaningful because we have our eyes, our thoughts, or our attention on the trivial.  As I sat in the sand this morning with grey, scuttling clouds racing by overhead and the merest hints of color in a few scattered openings in the otherwise thick clouds, I thought about the sun that is out there rising behind those clouds.  Other people are in places where they can see it clearly and they know the sun is there.  I have seen the sun rise before and the brightening sky tells me that even though I don’t see him he is still there.  But for some all they can see are the clouds, the rain, and the disruption of their plans.  Sitting in the sand waiting and listening I saw much that I would not have noticed otherwise…

Pelicans, an otherwise odd-looking bird, looking so graceful as they fly up the beach in groups of from 3 – 25 in swooping lines just inches above the crashing surf.

The undulating pattern of the sand dunes covered with sea oats forming both a scenic and protective barrier for the homes and villas behind.

The furthest sawgrass toward the ocean.  Standing at the very edge of the surf, this little tuft gets the abuse of wind, wave, and the occasional beach walker, yet still holds his ground… literally.

The sky itself with a few pink highlights to the east and south while looking foreboding with dark greys and blues to the north and west. 

And then remembering that by this time on Good Friday, Jesus had already been tried and convicted in a mock trial, beaten within the confines of the Jewish council, and was probably on his way to be whipped by the Roman soldiers.  Still ahead the long walk to Calvary carrying His cross until He was no longer able.  The nails hammered through his wrists and feet to affix Him to the cross.  Then the unbearable pain as the cross is raised to the vertical and all the weight of His body rests upon the three nails… 

And His cry after hours of pain and suffering – “My God, My God.  Why have You forsaken Me?” 

God didn’t answer out loud, but His answer resonates today – “Because I love them.”

People say that Valentines Day is the Day of Love.  I disagree.  It is a day of romance and while love is an essential component of true romance, Valentines Day is not the ultimate demonstration of love.  The most amazing demonstration of Love was on the original Good Friday.  Jesus, pure and innocent Jesus, offered up for us.  He loves us more than we can comprehend.  God loves us so much He offered up His Son.  Jesus loves us so much He offered up Himself. 

If you know Him, please join me in worship and adoration of our loving Lord. 

If you don’t already know Him, please consider His offer of love.  He will not force Himself upon you.  But He does desire your response.  He loves you and wants to fill you with His love.  It is the best thing in all the world.

Have a blessed day today.

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Only a small percentage of us approach the end of our earthly life with the clear-sighted focus that Jesus did.  Jesus came to this earth on purpose and with a purpose.  The culmination of that purpose was found in Holy Week.  Holy week is the pivotal week in human history and Easter morning is the crux of it all.  Sadly to many are not aware of the wonder of this glorious day or they are so distracted that they fail to prepare for it and miss the precious gift that it offers.  Today I offer a few tips to make the most of Holy Week.

First, if you are not aware, Jesus stands alone as unique among all persons who have ever lived.  Jesus was killed by the ancient Roman custom of crucifixion.  He was confirmed dead and put into the tomb owned by a Jewish leader, Joseph of Arimathea.  Jesus did not stay in the tomb though.  God raised Him up to life after three days.  This really happened.  It was foretold ahead of time by prophets.  Jesus said it would happen.  And literally hundreds of witnesses saw Jesus alive after His resurrection.  Jesus is the only person who has ever lived, died, and lived again in their earthly body.

There are points that critics bring up to try to dispute the fact of Jesus resurrection.  They all need a conspiracy of some sort to show why Jesus body has never been found.  Every single theory falls flat though when the evidence is analyzed.  In his book, Born Again, Chuck Colson who was a member of President Richard Nixon’s inner team explains how he was convinced that Jesus was resurrected.  President Nixon resigned in disgrace when it was learned that he knew about efforts to coverup involvement in certain illegal political activities.  Chuck Colson was in the small group who knew about this.  Chuck was among those that served prison time for their role in the coverup.  The fact that a small group of people faithfully committed to one of the most powerful persons in the world at that time couldn’t keep a secret was very telling.  Colson then draws a parallel to the 12 apostles, Jesus’ inner circle.  These men who were supposed conspirators in foisting the Jesus is Alive story all the while knowing they had stolen His body.  The fact that these 12 men went throughout the world spreading the story of Jesus resurrection.  The final end of 11 of the 12 was martyrdom.  They were executed for their faith and the message they proclaimed.  This is very telling.  A person may, and I emphasize may, die for something they strongly believe to be true.  But to die for something you know to be a lie, it doesn’t happen.  And for all of them to die for a lie takes immeasurably more faith than to believe the wealth of evidence that says Jesus truly is alive.

So point one as we approach Holy Week is that Jesus is Alive.  This brings on the question – So what?  What does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean to me?  I mentioned before that Holy Week is the pivotal point in all of human history.  That is a huge statement, but I believe it to be true from both a sociological point of view and from a personal point of view.  I shared in one of my early posts about my conversion.  This speaks to how my life has been changed by Jesus.  My oldest daughter has recently found new life in Christ and she is writing about it in her blog growingthroughchrist.wordpress.com.  Since Jesus was raised from the dead, everything He said suddenly changes from good advice from a wise man, to words from God.  He is different from prophets.  Prophets occasionally spoke words from God.  They were still fully human and for that reason we can find prophets who make mistakes.  Jesus didn’t make mistakes.

Jesus was the sinless Son of God who came to earth with a very specific purpose.  He lived long enough to prove His deity.  He touched lives mainly within the Jewish people of that day.  But His primary purpose was culminated in Holy Week when He willingly offered Himself up as a sacrifice in our place.  Sin cannot go unpunished.  Sin separates us from God and if not atoned for, will keep us forever separate from God.  Jesus took our sin, my sin, upon Himself when He died on the cross.  Unless you have put your faith in Jesus, that sin is not atoned for.  I know that God works in our lives even before we come to faith.  Faith itself is a gift from God.  Faith is what happens when we trust God.

One last thing before I close for the day.  I have discussed Jesus with a number of people.  The one thing I have found is that no one has ever been able to refute the historical and logical conclusions of the evidence surrounding Jesus life and death.  I am an engineer.  I am wired to think in a logical way.  (Which at times drives my family to distraction.)  When based purely upon well researched evidence, a jury would have to say Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  (For excellent research on this topic read Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict.) In many cases where I have had this discussion, the person I was speaking with chose to ignore the facts in deference to their own world view.  In most cases they held a belief that contrasted squarely with biblical teaching on moral law that they were not willing to give up.  In other words they chose to build a world view that allowed them to do what they wanted and not try to find truth and then go where truth led them.  I have seen this enough to understand the powerful persuasiveness of sin.  But I also know the incredible freedom and joy that I now have through my relationship with God.

This is my encouragement to you.  As you approach Holy Week meditate upon the resurrection.  See if God is speaking to you about a life decision.  Ask Him to give you faith to believe for your next step in a relationship with Him.  If you do not have a church home, check out NewSpring.cc on the internet.  I pray this will be the most amazing Easter you have ever experienced.  God bless you today.

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Worship 1

It was an awesome weekend of worship. The band from our church had a Night of Worship on Saturday in conjunction with the release of their latest worship CD. The 14 songs on the album are all original from different members of our church and performed by the band including members across the five campus’. The style is in the same vein as Chris Tomlin and the focus is upon our great God. If you get a chance look up the “No Other Name” album by the NewSpring Band.

Mentioning the night of worship makes me think of what worship is. As many of you know my occupation is as a Reliability Manager. I help my company’s plants understand what is necessary for the plants to run more consistently, producing product at a lower price by having the equipment do what it is supposed to do, when it is supposed to do it. One of the biggest tasks I have is to convince people that reliability isn’t just what maintenance does when the equipment breaks down. Reliability is all the activities, behaviors, and culture that have any impact upon the health and care of the equipment. Yet most persons have a very narrow view of reliability. The same is often true of the word Worship. In many cases we look at it as the time we sing praise songs. In other cases we may expand that view and encompass when we go to church. Even more progressive thinking would broaden that to say we worship when we are intentional to serving others in Christ’s name. I believe this is a fairly accurate definition although I see another level of worship that I believe we can and should aspire to and that is having the mind of Christ.

We are called to live “in Christ”. We are told to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are children of the King. All of these show our reality, yet so much of the time we don’t receive, perceive, or feel these truths. In many cases we can experience a nearness to God that lasts until we walk out the door of the church, or until the first trial trips us up and then we seem to fall back into turbulent ways of the world.  For me it is usually a gradual losing focus that gets my eyes off of the reality of living in Christ and onto whatever task or challenge I am up against.  A great Sunday service, a true Sabbath rest, solid praise music in my car radio can all help me maintain focus a while longer, but like a water bladder that has a pinhole leak, over time I lose that sense of joy and Christ-centered focus that buoys me above the fray and gives me such sharp focus.

I have had seasons in my life where this pattern has been broken and I experienced an extended time of divine joy.  Last year during Lent was one of those times.  As I look back at that time I see a few reasons which I will briefly mention and then I will go into greater detail in the coming posts.  1) I was committed to being obedient to a task that I know the Lord asked me to do.  2) I had other believing friends who joined with me in prayer.  3) The Lord by His Holy Spirit moved in situations and circumstances to make His presence clearly seen.  4) We were intentional about seeking and doing whatever the Lord asked us to do during this season.

It is my intention to have a Lenten discipline again this year that draws me closer to the Father.  However after Lent last year I relaxed and I know that was a mistake.  I am asking for the Lord’s guidance now on both the Lenten discipline and the follow up.  He is faithful and I am asking that He do whatever He needs to in me to grow my faith.  Won’t you join me?  To God be the Glory!

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