We Need More “Christmas and Easter” Christians

images-1 (1)Ever hear the phrase “Christmas and Easter Christians”?

It’s a description of folks who only show up at church twice a year: at Christmas and Easter.   Usually the phrase is spoken as a critique, not a complement. After all, how serious about your faith can you be if you only show up at church on Christmas and Easter?

But I’m convinced we need a whole lot more Christmas and Easter Christians. And I have the apostle Paul on my side. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul made a case that every follower of Christ should be a Christmas and Easter Christian. Here’s what he wrote in Philippians 2:5-8:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

In verse 5, Paul calls Christians to emulate the attitude of Christ. Specifically, the attitude we see most clearly in Jesus when we think about Christmas and Easter.

Christ’s Christmas attitude: Lay aside your rights and your glory

In verse 6, Paul explains that Jesus enjoyed all the rights and privileges of God the Father. He was “in very nature God” and possessed “equality with God.” But Jesus willingly laid aside His right and glory when he came to earth, “being born in the likeness of men.” (2:7). Jesus Christmas attitude was to lay aside his rights and take on the role of a servant.

Christ’s Easter Attitude: Lay down your life for others

If Paul talks about Christmas in verse 7, he focuses on the Easter story in verse 8: Jesus goes further than just coming to earth as a human, he goes to the cross as our sin-bearer and substitute. He became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Paul’s point in retelling the story of Christ’s birth and death is a pastoral and practical. He wants us to adopt the same attitude. Rather than seeking our own empty glory, we are to empty ourselves of selfish ambition and conceit (2:3). We are to stop looking out for only for our own interests, and look after the interests of others (2:4).

God knows that thinking and acting like Christ will be a tall order for us. Thankfully, God provides for us what he commands from us. As Paul goes on to say in verse 12: “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

By God’s grace, let’s all seek to become Christmas and Easter Christians.

 

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Living with A Living Hope

HOpeHope.  

Hope is something everyone needs.  But sometimes hope is hard to hold on to.

We want to remain hopeful but face situations that seem hopeless.  We get our hopes up and have our hopes dashed.  So we hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

If you were to ask me why Easter is such a big deal, I would tell you that Easter is the reason I have hope.  Easter brings hope to life.  Easter lets me live with a living hope.

Last Sunday I spoke at Alma Bible church on how Easter brings hope to life.  If you could use an infusion of fresh hope, listen in!

http://www.almabiblechurch.ca/multimedia-archive/living-with-a-living-hope/

Happy (hopeful) Easter!

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The Silence of God on Good Friday

And the Man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

These words, from Andrew Peterson’s song The Silence of God, always move me to wonder and worship.  Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, carried our sins and bore our suffering on the cross (Isaiah 53:4).  He was forsaken by the Father (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) so we could be forgiven by the Father.

So when God seems silent, we can still hold on to the truth that He is present.  And that’s one of the reasons we call this day Good Friday.

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The Scandalous, Wonderful Cross

imgresIt’s not a big surprise that the cross is the most enduring symbol of the Christian faith. But it should be. We’ve grown so accustomed to seeing crosses that we often forget the fact that the cross was originally scandalous and repugnant to everyone.

The cross was Rome’s brutal way of executing its most despised criminals. Death on a cross was designed to be not only excruciating but also humiliating. Roman citizens were protected by law from ever being crucified. Some wanted to be protected from even hearing about a crucifixion. Cicero, the Roman poet, wrote, “Let the cross be banished from thoughts of Romans….”imgres-1

Yet today we see crosses everywhere. They are mounted on church buildings and walls; they are worn as earrings or necklaces.

So why have Christians chosen to identify themselves with something so demeaning and despised as the cross? Why would the apostle Paul write, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14)?

The answer is that the cross has a dual meaning to Christians: Pain and gain. Disgrace and Grace.

The cross reminds us of the pain and disgrace Jesus endured. It also speaks to us of the grace and gain we receive as a result. As Peter said, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

On the day we humans did our worst to Jesus, he did his best for us.

All who embrace the message of the cross, trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection as payment for their sins, are given forgiveness and eternal salvation. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

That’s why we call the day Jesus died, “Good Friday.” And that’s why the cross remains the enduring symbol of the Christian faith.

 

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Prayer Update April 7, 2017

Once again, I am grateful for your prayer support this past week.  I sensed it as I preached last Sunday at Grandview Baptist Church and gave an update on the school at the FEB Central Regional Conference on Tuesday.

Here are several prayer requests for the days ahead:

BIbleOn Saturday, Linda will be teaching the final day of a course on writing Bible Study curriculum.  This course, which is part of the Graduate Certificate for Women, gives students the training they need to develop Bible study materials for their churches.  Pray that Linda will have the energy and insight to teach and lead well.

Sunday, I am scheduled to preach at Alma Bible Church.  I also have the privilege of preaching in chapel next week at Heritage.  Please pray that the Lord will use my messages to point people to the glorious message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

heritageOur admissions department continues to receive new applications for both the college and seminary.  Would you pray for those considering coming to Heritage.  If you know someone who would benefit from biblical training at Heritage, please encourage them to contact us.

Thanks again for your prayers!

 

 

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Does the historical truth about Jesus matter?

jesus 2

If Christianity is not historically true, it’s not true. That’s because the central message of the Christian faith is inseparably tied to the historical reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

The message Christianity proclaims to all people is not a spiritual philosophy or even a system of ethics. The good news of the gospel is that God has dramatically intervened in human history by sending His Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour.

That’s why Christians affirm the historical reality of Jesus’ birth. We marvel that God’s Son would enter our world as a baby, born to a Jewish woman in the tiny village of Bethlehem.

We affirm the historical crucifixion of Jesus. Having been condemned by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus was nailed to a cross outside Jerusalem. The historical veracity of Christ’s crucifixion is confirmed by the New Testament documents and by Roman and Jewish historians (such as Tacitus and Josephus).

We affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus as historical fact. On the first Easter morning, Jesus’ tomb was empty because He had risen from the dead as promised (Matthew 17:22-23). After his resurrection, Jesus was seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

I realize some are skeptical about the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. They side with the religious officials who claimed Jesus’ disciples stole his body and fabricated the story of his resurrection (Matthew 28:13). The problem with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t wash with what we know of human nature. Many of the first witnesses to the resurrection were willing to die for their testimony. People simply aren’t willing to die for what they know to be a lie.

Some maintain Christianity would be equally valuable if the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection were not historically true. The apostle Paul disagreed. In 1 Corinthians 15:17 he wrote, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

While the Christian faith is not less than historical, it is more than mere history. The events of Jesus’ life become life changing for us when we understand and believe that He died and rose again to bring us back to God (1 Peter 3:18). While the message of Jesus is historical; faith in Jesus makes it personal.

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Prayer Update March 31, 2017

praiseAs we finish the week and head into the weekend, I’m quite aware of God’s goodness and grace to Heritage.  We’re seeing signs of spiritual growth in the lives of students.  More churches are becoming Partner Churches and increasing their support for the school.  We’re seeing a lot of activity in our admissions department for next year’s incoming class.  For all these evidences of God’s hand on Heritage, I want to give thanks.  And I want to thank you for helping through your prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11).

Thank you for praying for Linda as she spoke at an women’s outreach event on Saturday and for me as I spoke at a missions conference on Sunday.  We feel the need for a team of prayer supporters as we serve at Heritage and minister in the wider community.

Here are several prayer requests for this coming weekend and week:

This Sunday, I am scheduled to preach at Grandview Baptist Church in Kitchener.  Our travel worship team will be going with me to lead the congregation in singing.  Please pray as I speak on the hope of resurrection (1 Peter 1:3-9).  This is very a poignant and personal topic for the congregation as their lead pastor, Steve Baxter, died suddenly last fall.

On Tuesday (April 4), I will be at a regional conference for Fellowship Baptist churches to give an update on the school.  Pray that we will continue to see more churches choose to become Partner Churches with the school.  welcome

On Thursday (April 6) our first year students are hosting an open house for people they’ve met while serving in the community. Pray that those invited will choose to visit the school.  It’s our desire to share the good news of Christ with them.  Ask the Lord to fill our students with boldness and love.

God is answering!  Let’s keep praying.

 

 

 

 

 

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