As I write this article Memorial Day is less than a week away. I cannot help but think about this special holiday in America as the onset of summer transpires. On my way to the office I drove past the roundabout on the north side of our downtown, a powerful space with flags flying for each of the branches of our military. Memorial stones list the names of soldiers from Clinton County who fell in battle during war: the Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam, and the Iraqi Wars, just to name a few. Brick pavers memorialize the names of other beloved American patriots. This space contains benches on which to sit and rest, lush grass and beautiful flowers, and a canon which reminds us that freedom is hard-fought.
In an article for The Disciple, R. Robert Cueni compares memorials to scars which mark a wound that has healed. Scars are remarkable tissue growths resulting from traumatic injuries to the body. They seal off a wound, enabling healing to occur. War is an ugly event in human experience which brings carnage, destruction, and death. But the memorial of a fallen soldier is like a national scar that reminds us of those who have been hurt and who have died in a battle. A memorial is our community response to the severe injuries inflicted by war. A memorial reminds us of tough times and that healing has taken place as we are able to move on and flourish in life.
I am reminded of the time after Jesus’ resurrection when Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails, were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later Jesus stood next to Thomas and said, “Peace be with you! Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 21:25-27). Thomas saw and touched the scars of Jesus. Later, Peter would write, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
The story is told about General John Gordon, who a few years after the Civil War, ran as a candidate for the United States Senate from the state of Georgia. Back then senators were chosen by state legislators rather than by a vote of the people. An old soldier who had fought with General Gordon in the war and now served in the state legislature with him had taken a strong dislike to the General. The old soldier had decided to vote against the General becoming a candidate for the Senate, but when the roll call was taken, he changed his mind. General Gordon was on the platform to watch the proceedings, and when the old soldier arose to cast his vote, he noticed the ugly scar that marred the general’s face—a sword wound on the forehead from a battle during the war. The old comrade hesitated and choked with emotion. Finally he said, “I cannot vote against him. I had forgotten the scar.”
Memorial Day, as well as the Lord’s Day, is a time for remembering the scars. It’s a time for remembering lives cut short. It’s also a time for remembering with gratitude that with God’s powerful presence, the wounds can heal and life can flourish once again.
Blessings to you,
In her book Kids Say the Cutest Things About Moms Dandi Daley MacKall asks children questions about their mothers, and then she records their answers. Here are some examples:
· Why did God make mothers? “Think about it. It was the best way to get more people.”
· What ingredients are mothers made of? “God makes mothers out of clouds and angel
hair and everything nice in the world—and one dab of mean.”
· What kind of little girl was your mom? “They say she used to be nice.”
· How did your mom meet your dad? “Mom was working in a store and dad was
· What’s the difference between moms and grandmas? “You can always count on grandmothers for candy. Sometimes
moms don’t even have bread on them!”
· Is anything about your mom perfect? “Just her children.”
Mother’s Day is upon us and if you haven’t thought about what you’re going to do for mom and the women who make your life better, you may be looking for gift ideas. Jewelry, flowers, and cards are wonderful gifts for moms to receive, but in addition to those traditional gifts, perhaps consider some non-traditional gifts that every mom needs. No matter whether it’s a mom with small kids or a mom who now has grandchildren—or even a woman you’re not related to, but she made a big difference in your life—here are some gift ideas from the heart that will mean a lot.
Appreciation: Although gratitude is often felt in the heart, it doesn’t become “thank you” until it is spoken with words. Speak appreciation out loud or in writing.
Encouragement: We give encouragement when we communicate value for the job they do. Phrases that bring encouragement include: “What you do for our family is so important” and “I love the way you care for our family.”
Help: Help around the house or the yard is always appreciated—cleaning, shopping, or vacuuming. If younger kids are still in the picture, help with the kids would be appreciated.
Time: Time is greatly appreciated when given. Maybe your mom needs a visit or a phone call. Maybe you could take her to dinner. Maybe a mom needs time alone from the kids and the daily routine.
So what are you getting for mom or the special woman in your life this Mother’s Day? The gifts you can’t buy at the store may be the most important ones you will give.
Blessings to you,
To this day the attacks on Easter continue, but the burden of proof rests not on the believer but on the unbeliever to explain the empty tomb. Many theories have been proposed over the years as to why the tomb is empty, all of which are weak and far-fetched. Some will say that Jesus didn’t really die, but he swooned or passed out only to revive later in the tomb. Then the disciples lied and said he came back to life. Others will say that Jesus died, but the disciples went to the tomb and stole his body in order to make it look like he came back to life. These accusations require that the disciples be part of a cover-up as they promoted and preached what they knew to be a lie.
Charles Colson, the former counsel of President Nixon, was convicted of conspiring in the Watergate Scandal, and he was imprisoned for seven months. He wrote that the Watergate cover-up helped convince him that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said, “There were only eight or ten of us in the inner circle around the President who really knew what was going on. All we had to do was stonewall for a couple of months and the Watergate Scandal would be over. We had all the power and prestige of the Presidency at our fingertips. And if the truth broke there would be embarrassment and perhaps a prison sentence. There was no grave danger. Our lives were not threatened, but we could not hold the conspiracy together for more than two weeks. We could not contain the lie. Once prosecution was possible the natural instincts of self-preservation was so overwhelming that the conspirators one by one deserted their leaders. They caved in and they stood in line at the prosecutor’s office to escape jail.”
Colson goes on to write: “I know that the disciples could not perpetuate a lie like the resurrection, because it was not just their reputations that were at stake. Their lives were in danger. They had no clout. They had nothing to gain by the lie and yet every one of them stood fast in the conviction that Jesus is alive. Take it from one who saw firsthand how vulnerable a cover-up is: Nothing less than a witness as awesome as the resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and he is Lord!”
When we consider the fact that the tomb is empty and the disciples of Jesus not only were willing to die but did die for their belief that Jesus resurrected, there can be no conclusion other than that Jesus Christ is alive.
Happy Easter! Happy Resurrection Sunday!
Christians often speak of the fact that Jesus died for their sin. Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die for our sin? Or have you ever wondered how one man’s death 2,000 years ago can pardon you of your sins? It doesn’t seem fair that God would punish Jesus for our sins, and then let us off the hook knowing full well that we’re still guilty.
One thing to keep in mind is that our salvation is dependent upon God’s performance, not our own. People often make the mistake of thinking that they can somehow make themselves acceptable to God by living rightly or making themselves perfect. That’s a problem. By the time you recognize the sin in your life, it’s too late to do anything to earn your salvation. Earning your salvation is impossible; the stain of sin is already there and you cannot make it go away.
This is where Jesus and the cross come into play. He is able to bring God’s grace to our life in a way that nothing else ever could. Jesus was not just a “man” whose death 2,000 years ago gets you off the hook of your guilt for committing sin. Jesus is himself God as well as man. He is not only the one judged for the crime; he is the One against whom the crime is committed, and the One who passes out the sentence for the crime of breaking God’s commandments. Jesus makes the difference.
While the Bible does not explain why Jesus HAD to die for us, it does explain to us why he DID die for us. First, Jesus died for our sins because justice must be served. In other words, our sin must be “atoned for.” It cannot simply be overlooked. Our inclination to sometimes overlook sin is due to our imperfect moral character, yet even we usually feel wronged when serious crimes go unpunished. We want to see justice in such cases. God’s commands are clear, and we know them. When we reject him, his justice enters in.
But another reason why Jesus died for our sins is because we must be changed into beings who are compatible with God. We must become perfect as God is perfect if we are going to live in his presence, because he is an all-holy, perfect God. He cannot be inconsistent with his own character, and he must therefore be perfectly opposed to sin. When Jesus died on the cross, God’s love absorbed his own justice, setting us free from our sin so that we can live with God forever. Out of love for humanity, God himself satisfied his own moral standard by absorbing within himself the sin and punishment which that sin deserved.
As a man, God became sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:19). God reconciled us to himself through Jesus’ death on the cross, and he no longer counts our sin against us if we have been united with him through faith and baptism. As Gregory Boyd points out in his book, Letters to a Skeptic, “in Jesus, humanity pays for its sin, and God justly judges that sin, for Jesus is both God and man.” Because Jesus has atoned for our sin and removed it from our life, he can change us into “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17) who are compatible with God.
Praise be to God for the cross of Christ! Now let’s live up to who we are: the people of God.
In an interesting January 23, 2018 on-line article by the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins notes that researchers have been trying to get a read on the state of Christianity in America. That is, they are trying to determine whether Christianity is growing or dying out in the U.S. Up until now, reports have been saying that Christianity is on the way out as the major religion of our nation. After years of hearing the same dire predictions, even churchgoers probably assumed the country's faith had dwindled. The headlines have constantly talked about declining church attendance and the millennials' rejection of faith. But are these stories true?
A recent Harvard University study shows that U.S. Christianity isn't only alive, but growing. It's a surprising thing to swallow with the media's drumbeat of declining Christian influence, but powerful new statistics point to a resurgence of the faith that the media has seemed to dismiss. In a lengthy commentary by Glenn Stanton in The Federalist, he pours over the data and explains, "Not only did their examination find no support for this secularization in terms of actual practice and belief, the researchers proclaim that religion continues to enjoy 'persistent and exceptional intensity' in America. These researchers hold our nation 'remains an exceptional outlier and potential counter example to the secularization thesis.'"
Believe it or not, the authors of Harvard's report "found that the percentage of church-attending Americans relative to overall population is more than four times greater today than it was in 1776." In fact, Stanton points out, "The number of attendees has continued to rise each and every decade over our nation's history right up until the present day."
Despite the hemorrhaging of mainline congregations, most analysts say the brunt of the losses are liberal churches. "When the so-called 'progressive' churches question the historicity of Jesus, deny the reality of sin, support abortion, ordain clergy in same-sex relationships and perform their marriages, people desiring real Christianity head elsewhere," Stanton reminds people. "Fact: evangelical churches gain five new congregants exiled from the liberal churches for every one they lose for any reason. They also do a better job of retaining believers from childhood to adulthood than do mainline churches."
Christianity is shifting not dying. The number of people who read their Bible, go to church weekly, and pray regularly has been "steel-bar constant" for the last half-century. "Patently persistent," as Harvard calls it. It also happens to be in astounding contrast to other nations. "Attending services more than once a week continues to be twice as high among Americans compared to the next highest-attending industrial country, and three times higher than the average comparable nation."
What about the doom and gloom we keep hearing about millennials leaving the church? Is the next generation as lost as the media makes it out to be? Yes and no. One thing to keep in mind about Pew's research and others', Stanton cautions, is that a lot of these millennials who are "abandoning their faith" didn't have much to begin with. "Pew reports that of young adults who left their faith, only 11 percent said they had a strong faith in childhood while 89 percent said they came from a home that had a very weak faith in belief and practice." Questioning your beliefs, he points out, is also just part of the maturation process.
So the next time you hear that Christianity is "going the way of the Yellow Pages," don't buy it. Some people only argue that to disparage and diminish you. Don't let them. Rather than listen to their words, listen to the words of Jesus who said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Stay strong, Christian! As long as there are Christians living out their faith every day, faith is alive and well in America!
Working together to win together with you,
|Community Christian Church||
FROM TYLER'S DESK