Easter Evening

sunsetThe first Easter wasn’t a happy day for Jesus’ first disciples.  At least it wasn’t for the men who followed Jesus.

It’s true they had heard Mary say she had seen the risen Lord.  It’s true Peter and John had inspected Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  But as the disciples gathered on that first Easter evening, their mood was fearful not festive:   “On the evening of that first day of the week . . .the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. . . ” (John 20:19).

Even though Jesus had risen early that morning, there were no handshakes and high-fives that evening.    No celebrations.  No party mood.

It all changed when Jesus appeared to them:   “On the evening of that first day of the week. . . Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20).

On the first Easter, joy didn’t rise until after sundown.  Joy came in the evening when it finally dawned on the disciples that Jesus was truly alive again.

Easter isn’t automatically a cause for joy just because it’s true.  Easter becomes a cause for joy when the truth of the resurrection is believed.  Joy comes to us when the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection becomes part of our personal reality—when we believe in the resurrected Christ (John 20:30-31).

So here’s a question each of us can ask:  “Has the reality that the Son has risen really dawned on me?”

 

 

 

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Who needs forgiveness anyway?

Most people I meet don’t seem to feel a pressing need for God’s forgiveness.  They wouldn’t claim to be perfect, but they certainly wouldn’t see themselves as perverse.  They may not be sinless, but they aren’t all that bad.  They’d put themselves solidly in the category of “good people.”

As such, they don’t feel on shaky grounds with God.  In fact, if they do believe in God, they have concluded that He will give them passing marks.  They assume that God will be basically good to those who’ve been basically good.  If there’s a heaven (and most people believe there is), they’re fairly sure they’ll be welcomed in.

The problem with this “no worries” point of view is that it’s tragically mistaken.  The Bible teaches that God does not see any of us as  basically good.  “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  “All we, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

God sees all of us as spiritual felons who’ve embezzled his glory.  We’ve committed high treason by elevating ourselves to His position, crowning ourselves as little kings and queens.  The penalty for our mutiny is death—spiritually, physically and eternally.  Instead of being on the narrow road to heaven, we’re all on the highway to hell.

That’s why Good Friday is such good news.  Jesus went to the cross and died the death we deserved.  As John Stott observes, “The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us.  We put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God …put himself where we deserve to be” (The Cross of Christ, p. 160).

So who needs forgiveness? I do. You do. Everyone does.

Because of what Jesus did on Good Friday, forgiveness is available to all who confess their sin and place their trust in who Jesus is (Lord and God) and what Jesus did (died and rose again).

Good Friday

 

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The Heritage Podcast

A little over a week ago, Heritage launched a new weekly podcast.  The goal of it is to encourage and strengthen our alumni and friends by extending the preaching and teaching ministry of our faculty.

As I have the privilege of preaching at churches around Ontario, the majority of the podcasts will be sermons that I’ve preached at churches or conferences.  We’ll also sprinkle in sermons from other Heritage professors, like Dr. Dave Barker and Dr. Stan Fowler.

From time to time, we’ll add short interviews to give updates on what’s happening at Heritage.

I’m excited about the possibilities of this new initiative; it’s another way we can seek to encourage and equip Christians for life and ministry.

Here’s a link to the first broadcast; it’s a sermon I gave entitled Jailhouse Praise.  I pray it will strengthen your soul and prompt your praise—even when life has you feeling locked up and beaten down.

podcast

P.S.  The intro music for the podcast was written and recorded by several Heritage music students.

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March Update

It’s been a while since we’ve written, so here’s an update on what we’ve been up to over the past weeks.

blossom

Women’s Blossom Conference:  In late February, Linda spoke at conference for women in Pembroke.  In spite of the fact it was cold and white outside, the conference had a spring feel.  Much prayer and planning had gone into the event, and much fruit seemed to blossom from it.

Teaching Preachers:  In early March, I taught a course for pastors entitled, “The preachPersonal Side of Expository Preaching.”  (The course was the first of five courses in a our newly launched Graduate Certificate in Biblical Preaching).  For three days, fifteen pastors from across Ontario focused on taking their preaching to the next level of effectiveness. It was a fantastic three days—tiring to my body but energizing to my soul.  When pastors make progress in their preaching, the whole church benefits!

southernSouthern Exposure: Last weekend, Linda and I made a quick trip to Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  Not only was it nice to get out of the snow for a few days and enjoy a Chipotle’s burrito, I was able to meet with the dean of the seminary and Linda connected with leaders of the women and wives ministry.  We sensed God’s gracious guidance on the whole experience (including the timing of a flat tire—at a time when we were able to get immediate help).   Seeing another quality seminary up close is both educational and inspirational.  God is shaping my vision for the impact Heritage can have in Canada and beyond.

MynamarA quick trip to Myanmar:  Last night we visited Myanmar by traveling to Kitchener.  Linda and I were invited to be part of a national conference for Chin believers (a persecuted Christian group that came from western Myanmar).  After enjoying dinner with them and hearing some of their stories, I spoke to the group; the topic they assigned me was “Understanding the Bible Theologically.” Though language was a barrier (I had an interpreter), they were eager to learn more about understanding the God’s Word.  The whole evening felt like a preview of heaven—when believers from every tribe and tongue will join together to worship the Lord.

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Let Them Eat Cake

Who would pay $300 dollars for a chocolate cake?  Really!  In light of the world’s great IMG_0401needs, who could justify that kind of extravagant spending?

Well, if you had been at Heritage’s on February 12th, I could have introduced you to some people who did just that.  They paid $265 for a chocolate cherry cake;  $600 for a chocolate and whipped cream trifle; $1200 for a chocolate, mocha extravaganza.

It all happened at the conclusion of this year’s Missions Conference. Each winter, Heritage cancels classes for two days so that students, faculty and staff can be challenged with the biblical commission for global evangelism.  This year, Dr. T. V. Thomas was our plenary speaker and representatives from almost 30 mission agencies were our special guests.

After the sessions, seminars and village bazaar (complete with live chickens), we finished up the conference with an international dinner and dessert auction.  The dessert auction was a sweet ending to the conference—the icing on the cake.

Students, faculty and staff brought the home-made (or dorm-made) cakes, most of which were high-calorie works of art. Byron Bright, a Heritage student headed for missionary service in Chad, West Africa, was the auctioneer.  Students pooled their funds in cake-buying coalitions.  Then things got loud and lively as bids were shouted out, victories celebrated and cake consumed.   They had their cake and they ate it too!

By the end of the evening over $6,000 dollars was raised.  All the money will go to help Heritage students involved in short-term missions, including a group of students who will spend the summer serving in Poland.

So who would pay hundreds of dollars for a chocolate cake?  I’ll tell you who:  Heritage students who have personally tasted the goodness of the gospel and want to see it freely given to others around the world.

How sweet it is!

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Preparing for Life

Let’ say you have a 16-year-old daughter who wants to be a nurse and a 15-year-old son Brother sisterwho plans to be an engineer. Both have a heart for God (at least on most days).  Both have done quite well in school (at least in most subjects).  Neither feel called to be pastors or missionaries (at least not at this point).

Why should either consider coming to a Bible School like Heritage?  After all, Heritage doesn’t offer a major in engineering or nursing.

My answer would be that Heritage majors on preparing students for life.

We have a one-year certificate designed with students like these in mind. Our one-year program designed as a holistic discipleship year.  Students take ten top-notch classes (Old Testament survey, New Testament Survey, World View and more).  They connect in Impact Groups for weekly spiritual encouragement and challenge.  They serve together in ministry and enjoy life together as friends.  They can even opt to end the year overseas on a six-week missions trip (This year it’s Poland; next year it’s Indonesia). This one-year program will have a lifetime impact.

Let’s face it; students who head to college or university will face an onslaught of challenges.  Intellectual, moral, spiritual challenges.  It’s crucial that they are ready for whatever life throws their way.  The Hemorrhaging Faith study is a sobering reminder than many of our young people aren’t yet ready.

So whether a student’s long-term goal is engineering, nursing or any other career path, investing one year at Heritage can play a lifetime of dividends.

To learn more about Heritage’s one-year program (or any of our degree programs), click here.

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The Legacy of Elsie Howard

Today in Ottawa there will be a memorial service for Elsie Howard, a woman who touched our lives deeply.  Linda wrote this tribute for Elsie–who would have been 99 on February 24th.

Elsie Howard quietly and gently loved us.

Elsie

Elsie became a grandmother to three children who lived far from their grandparents.   As the Scriptures promise when we leave our “father, mother, sisters, brothers for Jesus sake, Elsie, among others, became our grandmothers and mothers.

Elsie, who’d worked as a dietician, had a culinary flair for food that was healthy and adventurous.  She loved trying new recipes – and new Thai dishes.  Lunches out included nutrition tips and best bargains.   She shared with me that she always sought to prepare a healthy, balanced meal.  Perhaps that’s one secret to her longevity.

The other secret was her attitude.  Often laughing, she looked for the positive:  Our kids were special, all the pastors were wonderful, and the places she lived a blessing.

It was at Elsie’s 90th birthday party that she shared the true secret of her success:  she’d memorized the Love Chapter (I Cor. 13), and had spent her life trying to live it out.  It had reaped a guest list of 30 people, and she only wished she could include everyone!

And so it was that I purchased an embroidery kit with the words of I Corinthians 13, and IMG_0378began to slowly stitch, seeking to let those words live out Elsie’s legacy in me.   I only finished last summer.  Realizing how impossible it was to be perfect, I framed it with old rugged wood to remind of the cross of Jesus who loved perfectly, even to death on the cross.  This now hangs at the foot of our bed, so that nearly every day I think of Elsie.

Do we meet great people in our time?  Yes, and Elsie was one of them.  Born prematurely at 2 pounds nearly 100 years ago, her life was spent fighting life’s odds with love.  She loved the church, she loved the pastors, and she loved her Saviour.   She gave her life to Him again last Sunday morning.  .

Elsie left a legacy for all of us, a reminder that the greatest of these is Love.

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