Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Resurrection Day, 2104

Easter is another moment of our year, our lives, that offers us a beautiful occasion to once again consider the Life of Christ and everything that He did for us. The Day asks us to think about what it all means, to me, to you, to each and every believer on the face of the Earth. Contemplating the Life of Jesus is something that we should do on a regular basis, and not just on Easter Sunday. In Luke 22:19, Jesus asks us to remember Him, “And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Perhaps at this moment in time, we casually or passingly think of the Agony of the Garden that He suffered the night before he died. That’s when Jesus asked His disciples to spend some time in prayer with Him, while He talked with His Father, but they got tired and fell asleep, like a lot of us do. Jesus then asked them, “Could you not spend an hour with me?” Matthew 26:40. Well, they couldn’t and, usually, we don’t, either. Easter denotes an opening for me as a pastor to remind the congregation and certainly all those around me of the violent and severe price that Jesus paid in order for us to profit from the breathtaking relationship that we have in God because of His torture, death and resurrection. In my heart, mind and soul, lives a burning passion that forces me to want to live my life in a way that contemplates, emulates and shares the Good News about the Love of God that was in Christ, reconciling the world to God. 2 Corinthians 5:19, “That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Romans 11:15, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” Easter helps me value Christ’s guidance. Jesus was very much a leader of the people. He loved people profoundly, sincerely and intensely, Jesus got involved with every aspect of their lives. 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is Love.” He ate with them, drank with them, laughed with them and cried with them. He was compassionate. He provided for their needs, He healed the sick and cheered the lonely, lifted up the downtrodden and even revived the dead. He literally touched people with contagious leprosy and allowed a woman of the night to anoint his feet in public. He wasn’t anxious with what the people thought about Him, and as a pastor, or believer, like Jesus, we shouldn’t worry about this, either. His chief concern was doing what was commanded of Him by His Heavenly Father. He introduced Himself as He was and made no apologies for it. God loves us all, just as we are, without one plea. Jesus proved that, Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus wasn’t proud or haughty, He was just a man who knew who He was and stood by what He believed. So should we. Jesus wasn’t one to twiddle His thumbs, He was a worker. As early as twelve years old His panic-stricken parents who had been searching for Him, found Him in the temple listening to and questioning the educated teachers of His day. He asked the religious elders questions, He challenged the thought process of the spiritual leaders. Luke 2:49, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Fathers business?” Jesus always stands up for those who are defenseless. The death of Christ purchased us freedom from guilt and sin and hell. Now we are free to be salt and light in a sick and dying world. His birth, life, death and resurrection should mean everything to everyone on this planet, every day of the year. It is also living proof that He will return and that I will have to give Him an account for how I have lived out His Gift of Love to me. Our impacting the world for Jesus is not an option; it’s the ultimate burden and calling for each and every pastor and true believer in Jesus. Happy Resurrection Day, to one and all!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Good Friday Message, 2014

Today is a very special day on the Christian calendar of spiritual events, known as, Good Friday. Some people call this day, "Holy Friday." It’s the Friday directly before Easter Sunday. It is generally celebrated as the day on which Jesus was executed. The Bible does not plainly state on which day of the week Jesus was tortured and crucified. The two most commonly held understandings are Friday and Wednesday. Some scholars, however, using an amalgamation of both the Friday and Wednesday arguments, maintain that Thursday was the day. Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Furthermore, Mark 8:31, says that Jesus will be raised “after” three days. In the massive arrangement of things, it is not all that imperative to know which day of the week Jesus was actually crucified. If it were all that crucial, then God's Word would have clearly revealed the exact day and framework. What is central is that He did die and that He materially and corporally rose from the dead. What is likewise essential is the purpose for which He died, to take the punishment that all sinners warrant. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” and in 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Both verses proclaim that by placing your faith and trust in Him, results in eternal life. This is a truth that equally rings genuine whether He was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!“ Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Here’s an interesting question, believing that Jesus was crucified and died on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, should Christians remember Jesus' death by celebrating Good Friday? The Bible itself doesn’t command that Christians remember Christ’s death by honoring any selected day. Yet, the Word of God does give us freedom in certain matters, such as these. Romans 14:5, tells us, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Even though the Bible doesn’t instruct believers to remember Christ's death on a certain day, once a year, like on Good or Holy Friday, the Bible does charges us to remember Christ’s death by observing the Lord’s Supper. First Corinthians 11:24-26, announces, “Do this in remembrance of me, for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” Let us be quick to remember that any ceremony, observance or celebration is up to the individual believer, we are not to judge what a man or woman chooses to observe and what they choose not to remember. They, according to God’s Word, have the right to select to observe or not. It’s truly up to the individual’s heart, mind and soul. Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” Here’s another attention-grabbing question, why is Good Friday referred to as, “good?” What the Jewish agencies and Romans did to Jesus was undeniably not good, (Read Matthew chapters 26-27). Nevertheless, the outcome of Christ’s death was extremely good and positive! Romans 5:8, encouragingly relates, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” First Peter 3:18, happily tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” Many denominational churches celebrate Good Friday with a subdued service, usually at sunset, in which Christ’s death is considered with ceremonial hymns, prayers of thanksgiving, and an appropriate message focused on Christ’s anguish for our sakes, often ending with the execution of the Lord's Supper. Whether or not Christians should choose to “celebrate” Good Friday is up to them, but the events of that day should be on our minds every day of the year because the death of Christ on the cross is the highest and most paramount of events and practices within the Christian faith. Matthew 16:21, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Acts 2:24, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Matthew 28:6, “The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” AMEN!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Happy Holy Week, 2014

Happy and Blessed Palm Sunday! Today my message is about the "Triumphal Entry," of Jesus into Jerusalem, just one week before His death and resurrection as told in Matthew 21:1-11. About 500 years before that, the Prophet Zechariah stated, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey." A lot of the people I work with here in Mexico, know a thing or two about donkeys.) Zechariah 9:9 foretells, and Matthew 21:7-9, reveals the fulfillment of that prophecy: "They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down (palm) branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!’” Since this entry took place seven days before Jesus was crucified, it sets the stage for talking about the roadway to our hearts and souls, have we prepared the way so the King to come in? Here's a little story, not my creation, that I use and it's a joke, it's not a true story: This certain man died and went to Heaven and found himself standing before the Pearly Gates where Saint Peter asked him, 'What have you done in your life? Tell me the good things you've done, as each good act has a point value attached to it. You need to reach one thousand points before the gates will open.' So, the man thought for a moment and said, well, 'I've been married to the same woman for 50 years. I never ever cheated on her, not even in my heart.' And, Saint Peter replied, 'Well that is very good and it's worth three points.' The man was surprised at that answer, 'Only three points,' he said. 'Well, I went to Skid Row and opened a Soup Kitchen there to feed the bums and homeless people.' 'Okay,' said Saint Peter, 'that's wonderful and it's worth two points.' At hearing that, the man, frustrated and sorry cried out, 'Seems to me that the only way I can get in to Heaven is by the Grace of God!' At that, the Pearly Gates opened wide and Saint Peter smiled and told the man, 'That's worth a thousand points, come on in!' In remembrance of Palm Sunday, some churches cut palm brfanches and decorate the church with them, some even cover the floor with them. I don't. I don't see the need as I hate religious actions that really don't solve anybody's problems of faith. On a deeper side, Palm Sunday was the fulfillment of the Prophet Daniel's "Seventy Sevens," prophecy: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times," Daniel 9:25. It seems everyone knew Jesus was coming, it's in the Old Testament, but the majority of Israel missed the message. John 1:11, tells us, "He (Jesus) came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." How fickle we are, as the same crowds that were crying out, "Hosanna," were crying out, "crucify Him," only five days later, Matthew 27:22-23. It breaks my heart when I read those verses. I feel so sad for Jesus and for those that choose to reject the Lord's Love, Grace and Mercy, and His Salvation. What a shame. To my mission friends, helpers and supporters, God Bless You All! I thank God for your kind and warmhearted and obvioius love for the Lord and His work of salvation here on earth. Each and everyone of you is a blessing and a true friend to the lost men and women and children that so need to hear, "Jesus Loves You." You make that possible. Happy Easter, Your Friend, Max (I took this photo back in 2004 in Taxco, in south Mexico. It is a very religious area of the country, where being a non-Catholic Christian, can cause you many social problems.)