Happy Easter – Happy Resurrection Sunday

Happy Easter – Happy Resurrection Sunday. For us, this is really the big holiday, the great celebration. Jesus is risen and everything is changed. But I think it might be useful to remember who “we” are. 
I watched Bill O’Reilly last night and he had a program about faith and recent attacks on people of faith. Yes, I am a person of faith. I believe in God. But that puts me in the same category as Christians, Jews, Muslims and many who don’t know who they are. Certainly there is a recent attack on people who believe in God from those who don’t. The nonbelievers think that science has the answers for every question and those who believe in God aren’t very smart. So all of us who believe in God stand united.
But more than believe in God, I trust in God. I don’t just know He exists, but I trust His word as the final authority. I believe He is creator and sets rules for humanity and still intervenes in the lives of people. That puts me in a subset of believers in God. But that subset also includes folks who aren’t even Christians.
But more than believe in God and trust in Him, I trust in Jesus. I believe He is God and He is the ONLY way. This group is much more restrictive. It includes only Christians and, EXCLUDES many who call themselves Christians but are satisfied with a theology that says Jesus is A way and not the ONLY way. I can’t go with that.
But more than believe in God and trust in Him and trust in Jesus and believe He is God and He is the ONLY way, I am a follower of Christ. That makes me a real minority. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, in fact, it confirms I know I’m not.  It doesn’t mean I don’t drift from the path, because I certainly do. It means I am more than a fan. I don’t just believe that Jesus is great and the only way, but that I am called and created to follow Him and in that following is the only real way to joy. He doesn’t promise an easy path, but a hard road. He doesn’t promise riches now, but blessings forever. He doesn’t promise we will rule here, but that after serving here we will rule there with Him. It is in that small group that I am delighted that today is Easter. It is in that small group that I celebrate. 
Happy Easter. Happy Resurrection Sunday. Be more than a believer and more than a truster. Come and follow Him.
Nick

Good Friday

Today is the day that turns our understanding of the world upside down. We call this day “good” although it memorializes one of the most horrifying deaths imaginable. We celebrate death, even though we ordinarily don’t even want to talk about death. 
My wife and I enjoy listening to the audio book series, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. It takes place in Botswana. The characters don’t refer to folks as dead or deceased but as “late.” It’s amusing but it’s not that different from our reluctance to think about death, ours or those we love. 
Yet, death is a marvelous thing. Through the death of a seed, a tree grows, Through our deaths, we enter eternal life. Through the death of one God Man, salvation is possible for us. 
Celebrate completely this weekend. He died, Praise God, so that we might live. He died, so He could rise. Celebrate His resurrection; but remember it’s possible because of His death. 
Are there things in your life that need to die? Are there things that need to end so that real life can begin? His death makes joyous life possible; but there are things in us that must die as well.  Do you live in fear of death that will open the door to eternal life. Isn’t it time to live more for our eternal home and less for our temporary residence.
Thank you Lord for death. Thank you that this day of death is Good. Thank you that one day, through death, this will end, and glorious eternity will begin.
Be blessed.
Nick

Easter Bunny too controversial???

A school in Alabama has decided that the Easter Bunny, and, in fact, the word “Easter” are too controversial and likely to cause discomfort for some. They are, therefore, banned. 
This is disturbing on so many levels. First off this isn’t in New York or California. We are talking about Alabama, the Bible Belt. 
I guess I could understand if teachers were asked not to discuss the crucifixion or the resurrection, but the Easter Bunny? What are these people afraid of? Be sure it is a question of fear. They are apparently afraid that Easter Bunnies will make one think of Easter Eggs which will remind someone of Jesus (not sure how) and, of course, we can’t have that. 
People are concerned about school shootings and violence on students and teachers. They want to forbid guns and Jesus. Does that make any sense? It’s time to take a stand. Among the Easter eggs and bunnies and chocolate and candy, let’s mention Jesus. Let’s tell kids the reason for this season. 
The most important event in human history shouldn’t be reduced to bunnies, especially when even they have become too offensive. If people seem offended if you mention “Easter” spare them and call it “Resurrection Sunday.” Let’s see them ban that.
Happy Easter and Be blessed.
Nick

Check Up

Today is semiannual physical check up day at our house. About a week ago Rosemary and I went to a lab and had blood drawn and gave fluid samples. Today we meet with our internist. We get poked and weighed and evaluated. We end up with a bunch of numbers: weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, etc. Based on these numbers we get an idea of how we are doing physically. Based on these numbers perhaps we make some adjustments: change a medication, alter a diet, make an appointment with a specialist. 
I like check up day, after the checkup. There is normally a since of “made it” and “that wasn’t too bad.” Normally there isn’t horrible news. If there are things out of line, usually we can fix them with a bit of adjustment. The biggest relief comes from knowing it’s over. Rose and I usually celebrate by going to lunch and making wild promises to do much better over the next six months.
As important as our spiritual lives are, you would think we would do spiritual check ups at least as often as we do physical ones. I don’t. I go forward with only the vaguest idea of how I am doing spiritually. Unless a major test is thrown in my path, I just seem to put one foot in front of the other.
One of the reasons for this is that a spiritual check up is harder to do. There is no third person to evaluate your numbers and tell you how you are doing. Worse, there just aren’t very many numbers. It’s very difficult to put objective numbers on the state of our spiritual health. If we could do that, perhaps we would be more prone to frequent evaluation.
For the Christian, it’s all about relationship: our relationship with God and our neighbor. How do you evaluate relationship? Are there elements that we can attach numbers to that would make the process more objective? Let’s try.
Time together. A relationship isn’t very healthy if you don’t spend much time together. How much time are  you spending with God? There may be no objective standards as to how many hours a day is healthy, but at least we can compare time spent with other activities in our lives and with the time spent by Christians whose walks we admire. We can compare our time spent with God with our time spent in other “pursuits” : eating, playing, working, watching television. The great thing about time with God is that we can spend time with Him WHILE we are doing something else. Can we agree that we can all do better in practicing the presence of God?
Priorities: Perhaps the best way to gauge a relationship is by comparing how we rate it against other things in our lives. How important is our relationship with God? Do we recognize a connection between the quality of our relationship with Him and the joy and quality of our lives? We are taught to “See first the Kingdom of God.” If we are doing that, our spiritual health is probably great. It’s important to honestly gauge where our heads are at. Consider how we spend our days. Are we putting the things of God first and trusting, that will cause the other things we have to do to fall in  line?
Affection: You can tell how strong a relationship is by how affectionate the parties are with each other. We all smile at the older married couple that still holds hands and exchanges affectionate glances. Do we smile when we think of God? Are our hearts ever very far from His? 
Maybe it’s time for a spiritual check up. Do one and be blessed.
Nick

Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,D)’> what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”F)’> on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”c]’>[c]23