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Monday, March 29, 2010

Time to Party!

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah! How amazing that truth is: that Jesus has risen from the dead! All of His suffering, all of His sorrow, all of His blood shed to pay for our sins and wash us clean is finished. Our salvation has been accomplished! No more suffering for sin, no more working to earn God's pleasure, no more fear of hell! All of it has been handled by Jesus on the cross! And now He is risen, never to die again! And because of all these things which He has done for you, you have the same resurrection to look forward to! Hallelujah! Let's party!

One of the things I love about following the church calendar is how it informs the rhythm of our lives. What we experience in our lives is reflected in the pattern of worship we follow throughout the year. At Advent we live in anticipation of our future hope, at Christmas we wonder at the mystery of God taking on flesh, during Lent we endure the heavy load of sinful burden, learning to cast it upon Jesus in repentance, and during Holy Week we mourn over the wages of our sin being nailed to our Creator on the cross. And then Easter arrives! We are caught up in the splendor of God's glory as we dance and sing around an empty tomb where our crucified and risen Jesus once laid. We can sing and celebrate because we know the sacrifice has lead to resurrection, death has brought life, the old world is passing away and the new has begun!

Throughout Lent we have been reading through the book of Leviticus and focusing in on the system of sacrifice God had graciously given to Israel as a provision for their sins. We saw how all of these sacrifices were insufficient but wonderful in that they pointed to the ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. Well, such a sacrifice leads to celebration. So, during the season of Easter, we are going to move into a time of joy and elation, rejoicing over the resurrection of Jesus. We are going to do this by examining the festivals in the Old Testament, especially those found in Leviticus 23. We'll find the Israelites were a very festive people. They found much joy in the love that their God had for them. We too are given the same kind of joy, only perhaps better in that we know the fulfillment of that joy, Jesus! We will see how even these festivals served to point us to Jesus and prepare our hearts for the final, eternal celebration we will experience with Him when He returns! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah!

Pastor Bob

Monday, March 1, 2010

Going for the Gold

I love the Olympics! Whenever they start advertising for the games, I think, "Oh, I won't be interested this year." And then the opening ceremonies come and I am hooked. In these games you have all the makings of a great story: triumph and tragedy, poverty to riches, athletes overcoming obstacles and adversities to achieve glory! With each athlete the announcers draw you into a story of battle, hardship, and struggle to achieve that goal which has been set before them: the gold medal!

I can't help but see an analogy here with the Christian life. In fact, the author of Hebrews uses such an analogy to encourage those who are struggling in their faith. In Hebrews, the author is speaking to people who are struggling and being persecuted for their faith. They are likely Jews who had converted to Christianity, an illegal religion. If they go back to Judaism, a legal religion, they could be free of this oppression from the state and welcomed back to their friends and family who had likely rejected them. The author of Hebrews reminds them that the Christian life is one of battle, hardship, and struggle (Hebrews 12:1-17). Much like those who train for the Olympics, we will face hardships and adversities of many kinds. Unlike the Olympians, the hardships we face can prove to be deadly as Satan and the world hate us and want us to suffer. Sin, temptation, evil, tragedy, pain, strife, all of these things will cause us to doubt and stumble and, in our worst moments, cause us to feel like we are losing and want to quit altogether.

So, wisely, the author of Hebrews directs our eyes away from us and points them to Jesus. "[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb. 12:1b-3).

The author points us to Jesus and calls us to fix our eyes upon Him! Why? Because Jesus has endured such suffering as well. Everyone turned against Jesus. He was abandoned by friends and family. He was nailed to a cross by the very people he had created in love, at the will of the very nation he had chosen to be His people. Taking our sins upon Himself (being rejected by us), He suffered even God's wrath on the cross, crying out "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me!" He endured the cross, despised its shame. It looked like Jesus lost. The suffering seemed to win. But (always a glorious word in the Bible!), because of such suffering, because He took the cross, He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God! On a throne! Wearing a victor's crown, a gold medal if you will. His suffering and death saved you and me. And though we suffer with Jesus now, we know that He has won the race for us.

We know that at the end, there is a victor's crown of gold, the gold medal, waiting for us. For Christ has promised victory over the pains of this life and the trials we face. So, amidst our struggles, fix your eyes on Jesus! "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees." (Heb. 12:12) Stand firm, your prize won by Jesus awaits you! As we remember our trials and struggles this Lenten season, let us always keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus and His empty tomb. And let us strive with great anticipation for the glory set before us!

Pastor Bob

Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email