Celebrating the Holy Week

Today is Thursday, and this is when we reach the height of the Holy Week, or it is also called the Passion Week. This is the few days that believers set aside to remember the work of Jesus almost 2000 years ago.

Maundy Thursday. This is the night that Jesus shares his last supper and institutes what we call communion. In the middle of the evening, he washes the disciple’s feet and commands them to do the same. This is an evening where we think of serving like our Savior.

Good Friday. This is the day we remember Jesus being nailed to a cross. He will hang in the air for six hours and finally die this die. It is here that he sacrificed his body to death for the sins of the world.

Holy Saturday. This is the day that Jesus body lies in the grave. Nothing happens this day, but it serves as a time of quiet reflection on the price that he paid for us.

Resurrection Sunday. This is the day we recognize the power of God in Jesus. The sacrifice was accepted, and the payment on the cross was adequate, and now Jesus is raised from the dead. It is a day of joyful surprise and enduring celebration.

These four days believers set aside to focus our thoughts on the work of Jesus that brings our salvation. While I serve in a smaller Church and we have limited programs through this season, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate. Here are a few suggestions:

-Take time to read the story of the passion of Jesus out loud with family or friends. You could even do it all four days from all four gospels.
-Set aside time to pray each of these days focused on that one day’s theme.
-Find a special worship program to attend. While our town is small, we live near a big city, and there are numerous opportunities to worship every day.
-Make plans for Easter Sunday morning now. Our Church is having breakfast and then worship. I know some Churches offer programs at sunrise. Plan now to worship.
-Invite friends and family to join you at this time of celebration and share with them the story of Jesus and the message of the cross.

The list could go on and on: listen to worship music specifically about the cross and resurrection, sing your favorite songs out loud, read a book about the cross or resurrection, give money to a work of the Lord, serve in a way that brings glory to Jesus and on and on it goes.

Here is my point – do not let these next few days continue with business as usual. Don’t let them be filled with children’s activities and forget the Savior. Don’t miss an opportunity to focus your heart and mind on Jesus. This is a special week, but it was done for you, so don’t ever forget it.

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The Burning of Notre Dame Cathedral

For the last three days, my news feed has been full of stories about the burning of the cathedral in Paris along with information about the donations for rebuilding. As I read the articles that fill the internet over this event, I am trying to approach this through the eyes of a believer.

First, I understand the importance of the architecture and the history of the Church captured by a building. I have been a witness to several Church buildings being torn down through the years, and people will always tell me the pain it causes to lose it. It conjures up memories of personal decisions, moments of discovery and milestones in life. I realize humanity can develop an emotional connection with inanimate objects as we walk the journey of faith.

Second, I am reminded that the Church is not a building. The Church is a collection of people who follow Jesus together. It is people who make up the Church and not some stone and mortar building created for ministry to occur and God to be worshipped. Even when the meeting place is burned to the ground, the people will continue to be the Lord’s Church.

There is always this tension between the people of Jesus, the building the use, and the memories that are generated in that location.

Events like the burning of Notre Dame should cause us to reflect on what really matters as a Church. Do we care more about our buildings or the people of Jesus? This cathedral is giving us the most dramatic form of this question.

The only things needed to have a Church is Jesus and people willing to follow him. I understand the power a place can hold in our hearts, but what really matters can never be lost.

Five Day Easter Prayer Plan

We are less than a week away from the day in which we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. As a preacher, I have finally rested my mind from Sunday and gotten over the Monday blahs. Now it time for me to refocus. Here is what I will be praying for the next five days and I hope you will join me.

Tuesday – Pray for all the events and activities that all Churches are doing this weekend in the name of the resurrected Lord. Our Church will have only one special program, but some Churches will have dozens of activities. A rising tide (of faith) raises all ships.

Wednesday – Pray for all of the invitations being sent out for Easter. There will be people invited to Church for the first time all over the world. Some of those invited to attend will even be our friends and family. Maybe you want to pray for someone specifically too. I ask God to open the doors for countless people to join a worship program and hear the message of the cross and resurrection.

Thursday – Pray for the community of faith of which you are connected. This is the day we celebrate Jesus instituting the last supper with his disciples. He spent his final evening before the cross with his followers and instructed them to celebrate his death together. You are not alone in your faith; instead, you are a part of the Church as a follower of Jesus. Lift up your brothers and sisters in prayer, especially any particular needs or which you know.

Friday – Pray a prayer (or many prayers) of thanksgiving for the cross. This is Good Friday, and we remember the sacrifice of Jesus this day. Take time to be thankful for a God who loves you and sent his son to die for you that you might be saved from your sins.

Saturday – Pray for those who will lead on Sunday. Pray for the sermon your preacher will share. Pray for your children’s church leader and teachers. Pray for your worship leaders. They have not only spent all week preparing for Sunday but in many ways, all year. May their leadership be strong, and the gospel is presented clearly.

Sunday – Attend worship with your family. Spend the morning celebrating the resurrection. Be friendly to everyone. Show the gospel in your actions and speak it with your words. May this day be a time in which we give Jesus the thanksgiving, praise, and glory he deserves.

Your Pastor Doesn’t Need to Know

As a Pastor in the local Church, I admit that I do not need to know everything about you.

I don’t need to know how much you read your Bible.
I don’t need to know how much you pray.
I don’t need to know how much you give financially.
I don’t need to know how much you serve.
I don’t need to know what you are doing to grow in your faith.

Your pastor does not need to know …

But you do. You need to know what is really going on in your life. You need to be honest about your faith and what you are doing with it. You need to regularly assess the areas where you need to work on your faith and those that are going well. You need to be keenly aware of the state of your own spiritual life.

If your Pastor knows these things it is because he is trying to help you, but if he doesn’t that is fine. Ultimately the person responsible for your spiritual growth is you not him.

Weekend Reading

Here are some of the best articles I have read the past few weeks. If you have a few minutes to read, then I think you might enjoy them too. God bless and have a great weekend.

You Are Not Enough for Your Kids

The One Sentence Pastors Hate To Hear

3 PRAYERS TO PRAY AS YOU OPEN GOD’S WORD

5 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR EASTER INVITE MORE EFFECTIVE

Why You Will Join the Wrong Church

“Where Are You From?” This made me think of my boys who have lived in four places in their short lives.

Study: Number of Children Going to the ER for Suicidal Thoughts Has Doubled Since 2007 this is based off numbers from 2015. I would be the rate is increasing and not decreasing

More good stuff from business writer Seth Godin –

Busy is not the point
Pretending to be stupid

Following Jesus Is Not Always Pleasant

It was over twenty years ago that I listened to a sermon series on the life of Daniel called “Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer.” I was inspired and encouraged by the story of a man who gave himself entirely over to following God. Little did I know at the time how difficult this journey with Jesus would actually be in the life of a person. I have noticed a few things that happen when you live your life by the beat of a different drum.

1. Persecution. While I have never personally received real persecution for my faith, almost every day I read of someone in the world who is going through it. From China to Nigeria when people claim the name of Jesus, it might risk their very lives.

2. Rejection. Most people in our culture will not hurt you because of your faith; they will just ignore you. You will no longer be invited to participate. You are forgotten by the majority and spend most of your time on the outside looking in on the rest of the world.

3. Misunderstood. When you do not live by the same priorities as those around you, they will mistake your perspective. Their lives have a different starting point, and so every conversation is strained. The world does not see things the same way, and you will spend your life trying to explain and defend your position.

4. Loneliness. If your actions are completely surrendered to the will of God, it becomes convicting to have you around. People will have to watch what they say and what they do. It is easier to forget you exist than have you nearby. This will lead to continual loneliness. There is this struggle to live in a community with people who don’t really like you that is sometimes overwhelming. A continual refrain I hear from missionaries, preachers and committed believers is how lonely they feel.

If you are a believer in Jesus, then your life is blessed in the heavenly realms. Life on earth might not be so blessed. You have to decide early on in your walk of faith to live for an audience of one. The crowds may not like or understand your life, but God will be, and that is all that matters.

I know for some of you this has been a tough week or possibly year. I pray that you will feel the presence of God in your life even when times are tough.

A Little Inspiration from Basketball

On Monday night I watched the NCAA men’s basketball championship. The game matched Texas Tech versus Virginia. Honestly, my boys and I did not care who won, but we enjoy sports especially championship events. They are the culmination of a whole season, and one team will walk away saying that they were the best.

Even though I did not care who won the game, I was encouraged as the game unfolded. Texas Tech was playing the role of the underdog, but Virginia has its own unique story. Last year Virginia became the first number one seed in a region to lose to a number sixteen seed in the first round. It was a humbling loss and could have destroyed most programs and coaches. While I am hesitant about sports figures when they talk about their beliefs, I was interested to hear that the coach of Virginia says that the defeat was brutal, and he only made it through because of his faith and his family. At least three times the announcers mentioned his faith in a positive way.

Last year’s first-round embarrassment did not cause the team to give up in any way. Instead, they decided to work harder and be better prepared this year. Once again, the team went into the tournament as a number one seed. It looked like history was going to repeat itself when they were down by more than ten points in the first half of their opening game. I am sure there was a feeling of doubt as they struggled in that first half of play. When all seemed lost, they pulled themselves together and went on a run that leads them to victory in the final game.

Lying there Monday night after watching the game I could not help but feel a little inspired. It takes hard work, courage, and strength or character to go from a tough loss last year to be this year’s champions. It takes perseverance to keep trying when the chips are down. I don’t know any of the players or coaches on the Virginia team, and yet I appreciate them.

There are seasons when some of us have felt overwhelming defeat, and I am reminded this week that it is possible to turn everything around. Hang onto your faith in those times of loss. Keep doing the right thing with all your might. No failure is permanent if you keep trusting God and working hard.