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Posts from April 2012

"You Don't Belong Here!" and Other Lies Christians Believe

01 01 - You Don't Belong

Weirdo-300x220It's not very creative. In fact, the lie has been the same for centuries. Christ followers seeking to serve the Lord often find themselves in circumstances where they feel totally out of place. It may be in a church service, in a small group, a seminary class or just sitting around a table drinking coffee with friends. No one likes to feel like the dumbest person in the room.

So, the enemy tells the lie.

We hear it.

We don't recognize where it's coming from, so we believe it.

And. . .we are stuck.

The message attached to this post was preached Sunday, April 29 and is the first in a series titled "Finish Well" that takes us through the letter of 2 Timothy. I'm really looking forward to hearing what God says to me through this book. I hope you are as well.

In the meantime, stop listening and agreeing with the lies.


Battle Ready Men's Conference - "What Is It?"

We are one week from hosting our first Battle Ready Men's Conference. There's still time to register, but I believe that many men in our church and community just aren't too sure what this event is. And. . .like you, if I don't know what something is, I tend not to pay much attention to it, much less pay a registration fee and give up my weekend for it.

So. . .here's the skinny:

267_battle_ready_conference_copyWHAT BATTLE READY CONFERENCE IS NOT

  • It is not just a gathering of church guys around a meal.
  • It's not a prayer meeting (though prayer will happen and we do encourage that.)
  • It's not a church thing (though, it's taking place at the church's facility.)
  • It's not a revival meeting.
  • It's not boring.
  • It's not easy.
  • It's not fluff.
  • It's not a waste of time.
  • It's not just another Bible study.
  • It's not just another men's conference.
  • It's not for wimps.
  • It's not just sitting in a room watching a movie on the big screen.

WHAT BATTLE READY CONFERENCE IS

  • It's dangerous.
  • It's about a journey toward authentic manhood.
  • It involves good food (on Sunday night - you're on your own Saturday).
  • It does involve movie clips - clips from movies that guy's like.
  • It's about learning that you're not on this journey alone.
  • It's about being equipped to be the man you can be.
  • It's about being equipped to be the husband you need to be.
  • It's about being equipped to be the father you're called to be.
  • It's about being a brother - the kind of brother that sticks close.
  • It's about learning you have what it takes.

For years we have held a Battle Ready Weekend getaway to the mountains in the fall. Unfortunately, many men are unable to attend. This conference fills the gap that has been needed for years. However, it's only worthwhile for you if you attend.

This year we welcome David Dusek, founder of Rough Cut Men, as our guest speaker. Using clips from popular films like "Saving Private Ryan," "The Gridiron Gang,", "Armageddon," and even "Shrek", men come away from a Rough Cut Men's Movie Experience realizing they are not the only ones going through challenges. You will be equipped to deal with the challenges of life and encouraged to "walk through life" with one another, as David and Jonathan modeled in 1 Samuel.

In the movie industry, the "rough cut" is defined as the raw, first edition of a movie. This gives an idea of what the finished product will look like and indications where the film excels and needs work. Much like a rough cut movie, rough cut men are not the "finished product" (Philippians 1:6).

Movie clips are coupled with personal storied and relevant biblical principles designed to equip us to live valuable, important and courageous lives.

David Dusek has shared these stories to men all around the nation, from church meetings, Florida Men of Integrity events, the workers for Joe Gibbs Racing and cadets at West Point.
Make a point to join us for the first annual "Battle Ready Men's Conference" featuring Rough Cut Men this year.
The conference is $30 a person and takes place on Saturday, May 5 from 7pm - 9pm and Sunday, May 6 from 3pm - 8pm (gourmet burgers for dinner on Sunday are included.)
Click here to read more and to register today.


Baptism by the Holy Spirit

01 2 - Baptism by the Holy Spirit 4

In Acts 1 and 2 it is clear that Jesus is preparing His followers for an amazing event. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was to come. It was incredible. It was something the disciples had never experienced. It changed everything. 

Yet, today, there's confusion, even among followers of Christ as to what this means. Is this baptism by the Holy Spirit a "second blessing?" Do you get more of God later? Sometime after you surrender to Him?

Take a moment to listen to the attached file, or download it from our iTunes podcast or listen from our church app.


The Church Modeling Stewardship & Generosity (or "Why We're Giving Away $36,000?")

Churches and pastors are good at promoting the message that people should tithe and give generously, cut up credit cards, eliminate debt and save accordingly. The only problem is that while the message is true and right, often the church doesn't actually model that very well.

Hands lightThat's why I am so excited to share once again that the financial leadership team of the church (made up of laypersons) continues to lead us to a place where ministry continues to be done and missions is supported, at increased levels, while saving, giving and eliminating debt is being modeled.

As the church models this as a whole, it is much easier for me and you to see how it should be done in our individual lives.

So, here we are once again. A surplus of funds from regular tithes and offerings from the past six months allows us to worship God through our actions. Like I said Sunday, talk is cheap. This is more than just talk.

We shared at our quarterly meeting last Sunday evening the details, but let me explain them here.

A net "income" has accumulated over the past six months. This was carried over from 2011 and now we are at a place to distribute funds accordingly.

The total amount to distribute is $143,504. From this, per the distribution scale developed last year, the following is happening now:

  1. We are "paying" our accrual accounts a total of $23,673 to bring us up to where we should be as of 3/31/2012. The accrual accounts are new and designed to provide funds for replacement and upkeep of high cost items (i.e. A/C units, roofs, transportation).

  2. This leaves us with $119,831. Of this, the distribution is as follows:

    1. 40% for capital improvements and/or debt reduction. The total amount is $47,933. Of this, $16,016 was spent in January for the purchase of our needed new sound system in the Worship Center. That amount will be applied to the Music Ministry Budget to put it back in order for the remaining ministry needs for the year. The remaining $31,917 is available for capital improvements and/or debt reduction. Most likely this amount will go towards new signage around campus and the stage rebuild in the Worship Center. These things will take place over time this year since they will cost more than $31,917 and we will not spend money we do not have.

    2. 30% will go in our Emergency/Opportunity Fund. The total is $35,949. This fund is being filled to provide us "rainy day" funds. These are for real emergencies such as fire, hurricane, etc. that may cause us to close for a number of weeks.

    3. 30% of the funds will be given away to Gospel-centered ministries. This is our church being generous and aiding in the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. The total amount is $35,949 (however, we have been told by one individual that they will give $51 to make it a nice round $36,000.) Here's who we are blessing this month:

      • $5,000 to Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, North Carolina and church planter Andrew Hopper.

      • $5,000 to Caleb Crider, church planter in Portland, Oregon.

      • $5,000 to Sean Benesh, church planter in Portland, Oregon.

      • $5,000 to Matt Jolley, church planter in Portland, Oregon.

      • $5,000 to Anthony Harris, church planter in Vancouver, Washington.

      • $5,000 Clay Holcomb, church planter and pastor of Trinity Church in Happy Valley, Oregon.

      • $3,000 to the Clay County First Coast Women's Services.

      • $3,000 to Living Water International to provide clean water and the message of life through Jesus Christ in Guatemala.

It's an exciting time to be at First Baptist. I've never experienced anything like this. I pray that we remain faithful and focused and continue in this story.

When you see these numbers, in addition to what we were able to do last fall, it's astounding. Also, this is in addition to what we do regularly through our giving to the Cooperative Program, Associational Missions, the Orange Park Clothes Closet, the Florida Baptist Children's Homes, the benevolent gifts distributed regularly through our Deacons, and more. 

Some may not fully understand why we do this, especially the giving away of funds to ministries not in our own backyard and not seemingly benefiting us locally. It's the Acts 1:8 model. We aren't forgetting or ignoring the local mission. We are just living obediently to reach "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world" at the same time.

Whether we all get it or not, I truly believe God is smiling on us.

We are blessing ministries that focus on women and children, orphans, the least of these, and church planters and missionaries. Sounds very biblical, doesn't it?

As we model what godly stewardship looks like, I pray that we (me included) will begin to make the changes necessary to get our own houses in order. Let's get out from under the debt that keeps us in bondage. Let's live unselfishly and generously.

Oh, by the way, for information on personal stewardship as well as helpful resources for you and your family, go to this page on our website (it's more than just the portal to online giving.)  - http://www.fbc-orangepark.org/giveonline.html.


Entering Into The Story of Pure & Undefiled Religion

1-01 Pure & Undefiled Religion

 Yesterday's message has been a long time coming. Yet, it still feels unfinished, unresolved. There is a shift happening in the church. It is a shift to a more deeper understanding of the gospel and how it motivates us for everything.

04-22-2012 - Eva Kroon Pike (3)It is a revelation about religion. 

Sure, it's more about "relationship" than "religion," but there is this little verse in James 1 that makes it very clear that there is a form of religion that God accepts and expects from his followers.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)

God is clearly calling the church into this story, this form of religion. The church must be involved, from a gospel motivation, in the story of orphancare. This includes being pro-life, but also pro-adoption. 

It's not up for debate. It's the calling of the church. To love and care for orphans, widows and the unfortunate and to live unstained.

Easy? No way!

Possible? Only through Christ.

It's time to enter into this fully. It's time to offer God pure and undefiled religion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our special guest this past Sunday was Eva Kroon Pike. Her story of adoption is powerful and her advocacy for the Florida Baptist Children's Homes  is strong. We were blessed to be led in worship by Eva and our Celebration Choir & Orchestra this past Sunday. Her song "Grace That Chose Me" is powerful. Just in case you missed it, check out the video below.

 


God is Always Changing

OK, so God isn't changing. He's the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and for eternity. Yet, he is always changing. He's continually changing us, his children. When we became Christ-followers and surrendered to his call, we were immediately and forever transformed. We went from death and now have life. However, even now, as living children of God, we are still in a state of change. He is continually renewing and transforming and changing us into his likeness.

He's doing this to the church as well. (Well, that's redundant since we are the church, but you understand, right?)

ChangeWe are constantly in a state of flux. That means things are always changing. As much as we'd like to hold on and stay the same, it's just not possible. This is true for individuals, families, communities and churches alike.

For years, we have heard the frustration of church-goers and Christ-followers about change. We've often talked about how much churches hate change. I guess it's true. Most of us resist change, yet it's continually happening.

Sometimes the change is immediate. At other times it's subtle.

Sometimes the change is damaging. At others it's healthy and needed.

Some things never change (i.e. the Gospel).

Some things need to change.

I have noticed that while I say I don't like change too much, the reality is that I love it. In fact, I thrive on it. Maybe I'm a little ADD and get bored too easily. Just look at our church's website. I design and maintain it and it has changed completely about twelve times in the past eight years. I'm not saying that's good, it's just been a good reminder to me about my need for newness.

God has wired me this way. I get  bored easily. I like to see new things. I love old things. I really love old things made new.

What I don't like is change just for the sake of change. There must be a bigger story and a good reason for change. Otherwise, it's a waste of time. You know, kind of like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic (that was my required 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic reference.)

So, here's what God is saying to me through His Word, prayers and the voices of others who are godly and have their finger on the pulse of this culture while standing solidly on the Gospel.

The way we have done church must change. 

That's a pretty bold statement and pretty open ended. It also opens me up for some pretty severe criticism from those who believe we need to go back to a previous age rather than move forward.

In truth, we are being called away from "doing" church to living out what it means to "be the church."

I'm not sure what all this entails, but I do know this. The way I was trained, and most other pastors my age and older, to do church, build staff, create ministries and "grow" a church may not only be wrong, it may be unbiblical.

I'm still working through this, so give me some time before you blast me. There's a good chance God will reveal that I misheard him as well.

Nonetheless, I believe we are moving to an age where the traditional pastors or ministers serving an age group or function will be redefined. Oh, we'll still be serving and leading children, students, single adults, married adults and focus on the function of education, music and administration, but the truth of the matter is that God is blurring the lines between heretofore "defined" pastoral roles.

No longer will the church claim to be culturally relevant and biblically solid just by gathering together in large rooms and stating so. We've talked for decades. James' words of faith and works are getting louder, all the while reminding us that works and good deeds do not save.

Years ago churches lauded the fact they were "mission-minded." That, my friends, is not enough. All around our nation and throughout our denomination we have "mission-minded" churches who give a love offering every Christmas and Easter and maybe do a missions study on Wednesday evenings (or Sunday evenings for those few churches still holding the flag for Sunday night services). I fear that these people will stand before God one day and say "But we were mission-minded," and God will say "Where in my commission did I say to think about being on mission?" 

What does this mean for our fellowship? Well, it's the next step in a journey that we have obviously been on for years. However, don't think that just because we send people on short-term mission trips every year we have arrived. I truly believe that each of us are to be on mission and missional in our own communities as well as supportive (and I mean really supportive) of our missionaries on the field. In addition to that, I believe God is going to call out an individual or family in our church (BTW - He's already at work in this area) that we as a church will send to the field. Yes, in addition to our Cooperative Program giving, which continues to increase, our Associational Missions giving, which also is increasing, God is moving us into a part of the story we have never been as a church. We will continue to support our IMB and NAMB missionaries, but we will also have FBCOP missionaries. 

The change is happening. It's exciting. It's Gospel driven. It's not about being a good church. It's about being an obedient family. What will it all look like? I have no idea, but it's becoming clearer every day.

Oh, here's the warning. We can resist the change. Other groups have. You may have seen them around. They're the ones in buildings they cannot afford, looking to close down or sell out. Others own their buildings, so that's not an issue, but there is no life within. They gather regularly, listen to sermons and studies they have heard for  years. They say "Amen" and then go home. They are inwardly focused and satisfied. They will remain for a few more decades until the last of the members pass away or move away. They will pay their bills regularly until the Social Security checks are no longer enough to keep the doors open. It sounds harsh, right? You know it's true, though. It's the lukewarm Christianity and churches that we read about in Revelation. 

Let's not slide into that trap.

Change is normal.


JAX to PDX - Connecting Churches & Church Planters

Something is going on here in Jacksonville, Florida (JAX). It's big. . .really big. It won't be on the news tonight. Most of the people in our communities don't know this is happening. Many don't care, at least right now they don't, but I pray they will.

Something's happening in Portland, Oregon (PDX), too. It's a similar story, but on a different backdrop. Most likely, the majority of  Portlandians do not know it's happening in their city either. However, they will. 

God is at work in these cities in a mighty way.

Last week I traveled to Portland with a good friend, Neil Jimenez. This journey was strange. We knew we had to go, but weren't sure why. About a year ago, Wes Hughes from the Northwest Baptist Convention tweeted to me while I was attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. While at this convention, the North American Mission Board was unveiling their "Send: North America" emphasis. The buzz was all about church planting.

So, Wes, while still in the Portland area, tweets over 100 people attending the convention (you could tell who was there by the #SBC2011 people were using) about joining other Baptists in the Northwest to support church planting there.

I responded, thinking Wes was in Phoenix. Since he wasn't we tweeted back and forth and I told him that I would be interested in seeing how our fellowship could connect across the country in Phoenix in this movement of church planting.

So. . .about a year later, Neil and I ended up in Portland with Wes, walking through the numerous communities and meeting with church planters.

What I found surprising was that of the 100+ tweets Wes sent out to SBC attendees about joining them in Portland, he only received one reply. Mine.

So, we travel to Portland last week. We began meeting with church planters and denominational leaders almost immediately. We were getting a crash course on the makeup and diversity of Portland. It's a beautiful city, but not Jacksonville. In fact, their unofficial motto that appears in numerous places is "Keep Portland Weird." I figured I'd fit right in.

Portland ScottySo, we walked, rode the MAX (metro train line) and sat in coffee shops all throughout the city just observing, talking and learning about what God is doing there.

Each church planter we met with would ask me "So. . .why are you here?" 

Great question. 

I finally figured out the answer. We were there to discover what God is already at work doing and seeking to find how we can support our church planters and missionaries and get in this great story.

There are great differences between Portland and Jacksonville.

  • The geography is very different. While Mt. Hood looms on the horizon in PDX, I shared with our new friends that the tallest mountain in Florida is Space Mountain. 
  • JAX has been rated as the least walkable city in America. PDX is one of the most walkable.
  • It rains all the time in PDX. It rains a lot here, but not every day (except for those few weeks in the summer when church groups are trying to schedule recreation for youth camps.)
  • There's a "Southern Fried Christian" veneer to JAX. Not so in PDX.
  • JAX is conservative politically. PDX prides itself on not being so.
  • JAX is a football city. PDX is a basketball city (I really enjoyed that.)
  • You can pump your own gas in JAX. Not so in PDX or any other city in Oregon. It's a state law.
  • JAX has the River Run. PDX has a nude bike race.
  • JAX has the beach. PDX is about 45 minutes from the coast.
  • JAX has Starbucks. PDX does too, but Portlanders would rather be at Stumptown Coffee or one of the hundreds of independent coffee shops.
  • JAX has a lot of bicyclists. Everyone (it seems) rides bikes in PDX.
  • JAX has Whataburger. PDX has Burgerville.
  • JAX has read Blue Like Jazz. PDX has lived it.

There are other differences, but even with all of these, I noticed some interesting similarities.

  • JAX & PDX are both port cities.
  • JAX & PDX both have a good college population.
  • JAX has Folio Weekly. PDX has the Mercury. They're basically the same paper and have a lot of readers, especially younger adults.
  • JAX & PDX both have rivers running through the city.
  • JAX & PDX both have many pre-Christians.
  • JAX & PDX both have artisan districts.
  • JAX & PDX both have a network of believers praying for the city.
  • JAX & PDX both have homeless people.
  • JAX & PDX both have families in trouble.
  • JAX & PDX both have people with drug and alcohol problems.
  • JAX & PDX both have residents trying to figure out what life is all about.
  • JAX & PDX are both very spiritual cities. (I didn't say Christian.)
  • JAX & PDX both have church planters working in the urban core and suburban areas.

So, why were we there? 

I believe we traveled to Portland because God desires our church (First Baptist Church of Orange Park) and other churches in the Jacksonville area to connect with the church planters in the Portland/Vancouver, WA area.

Why?

Some would say "There are enough lost people around here. We need to focus on Jacksonville."

While that's true, that's a pretty small and limiting statement. God's church (remember, it's not a building) is bigger than Jacksonville. For some reason, I believe God has strategically placed us in a position to minister to and with those believers in Portland. Why Portland? To be honest, I really don't know, but I believe it's clearly Portland. 

I do believe it's more than putting mission teams together to travel to Portland, though that may happen. I believe it begins with prayer (actually begins, sustains and ends with prayer) and God will then reveal how we can be His instruments in our city and Portland. 

I'm pretty sure traditional mission trips and church events based on the attractional model are not the answer. 

So, join me in praying for Portland (and Jacksonville, too) as we seek together to push back the darkness. 

Let's win the city! (or cities!)

This story is still being written. 

(BTW - yes, that's a picture of a dude wearing Spock ears and Scotty's shirt while playing bagpipes and riding a unicycle down the sidewalk in one of Portland's 20 minute communities.)


Fritz Wilson - Sermon (04-15-2012)

01 Sermon - April 15, 2012


FritzLast week I was in Portland, Oregon with Neil Jimenez meeting with church planters and the network of Baptists in the region. I asked my friend and Deacon in our church, Fritz Wilson to bring the message on Sunday morning.

Fritz is the State Director of the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief group. You can connect with him through the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief website - www.flbaptistdisaster.org


How Emptiness Provides Hope for the Empty

01 Empty - Easter 2012

Jesus spent six hours suffering on a Roman cross. During this time, he fulfilled the work he had come to do. He paid the debt that humanity owed. Then, at the end of the workday, he spoke his last words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” and breathed his last.

100_5594Shortly thereafter, one of his followers, a man named Joseph, secured rights to his body and buried him in his newly purchased, unused family tomb.

 

You may very well know this story, but just as a refresher – we know that the Roman government stationed guards at the entrance of the tomb. The tomb was actually a cave hewn into the side of a hill. The cave entrance was covered with a large rolling stone. The body of Christ was lain inside, covered in burial cloths and remained there.

 

For three days.

 

Then, everything changed.

 

The dead Jesus was no longer dead.

Resurrection has always been a difficult thing for people to grasp.

 

For years, the debate has been about the fact that this just doesn’t happen. A man cannot be dead for three days and then come back to life, especially in a day where there were no modern medical procedures and brain scanners, etc.

 

The story of Jesus coming back to life has left some doubters to scoff at the authenticity of the story. 

 

At one point, in fact just a few decades ago, the debate centered around the viability of an historical Jesus existing. We’re not hearing so much of that nowadays, but it’s still there. There are those who discount his existence. Some point to other biblical characters like Pontius Pilate, who plays a major role in the Passion week story, as there being no reference in Roman history of his existence. 

 

The only references were in the Gospel accounts of the Bible and some first century stories written by Philo and Josephus. Therefore, if this Roman governor didn’t exist, the story goes, it’s most likely Jesus didn’t either.

 

Then, there was the discovery in 1961 of what is known now at the Pilate Stone.  This stone, about 2’ x 3’ was uncovered in the city of Caesarea Maritima.  The inscription on the stone attributes the dedication of a monument to Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman-controlled area of Judea. He lived in Caesarea from 26-36 AD and journeyed to Jerusalem when needed.

 

While there are still many who state that Jesus never really existed, items like this continue to affirm the authentic historicity of the gospel.

 

The modern world, with its logical, scientific understanding of natural law dismissed the resurrection as fairy tale.

 

Today, in this postmodern culture, there is still unbelief, but it is not tied to natural law. The postmodern mindset disbelieves because the resurrection does nothing for me, apparently. The cultural standard is that of systematic and individual truth – what’s true for me may not be true for you and that’s OK. Therefore, if there’s no understanding of how the resurrection affects me positively, there’s no reason for me to believe it. Therefore, it remains a fairy tale, and one that just wastes my time.

 

Unbelief reigns in the hearts and minds of the natural man. Unbelief is the starting assumption of most.

 

As followers of Christ, this assumption must be acknowledged. In fact, we must first understand and be able to answer why the resurrection matters.

 

Three days after Christ’s death, the tomb that held his body was empty. This emptiness is our message. This emptiness is the fulfillment of the Gospel.

 

For many, to be honest, it just doesn’t matter if Jesus rose from the dead or not. I’m not saying it doesn’t truly matter – I’m saying that many believe it doesn’t matter. The inner question that comes from many is “Do I care? Why should I care?”

 

Years after the resurrection and this event of Jesus’ coming back to life occurred, Paul the Apostle was in Athens, Greece. This cultural center was powerful and many would gather to hear the philosophers and intelligent men banter and debate as they contemplated the deep things of life.

 

Not unlike coffee shops and diners where the world’s problems and political woes are solved daily by men drinking their coffee and offering their insight.

 

In Acts 17, we find Paul in this city at a gathering place on Mars Hill. He enters into the philosophical debates and, as always, seeks to explain the truth of the gospel in ways the Greeks can understand.

 

As his discussion comes to a close, this is said. . .

 

Acts 17:30-31(ESV) 
30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all peopleeverywhere to repent, 
31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Paul speaks of the reality of humanity’s judgment. He speaks of the calling for repentance for all.

 

All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. All - you and me and everyone else in this world. We are all idolators and self-worshippers.

 

Then, he refers to a day, already set aside, when all humanity will be judged by one appointed. This one who is the standard bearer – the one who will judge is the one who was raised from the dead.

 

The Easter story was told long before the church assigned it to the calendar.

 

The resurrection story, even in the age of the Greek philosophers and first century people was revolutionary.

 

In this age of enlightenment, we sometimes just presume that ancient peoples believed anything and that to them, this supposed “fairy tale” of resurrection was commonly believed.

 

Check out the next verse.

 

Acts 17:32(ESV)
32Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”

"Some mocked.” – That response continues today.

 

Some wanted to talk more about this.  That too still happens.

 

Following this, we are told that some believed and joined Paul. Some, not all believed.

 

Not all believe today. Just some.

 

Going back to the Gospel account of the day of resurrection, we find that God revealed the key moment in history to a few people – a few witnesses.

 

The testimony of a few was the plan from the beginning. 

John 20:1-10(ESV)
1Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
3So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.
4Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
5And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,
7and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’£ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.
8Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
9for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
10Then the disciples went back to their homes.

The few who came to the tomb – Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, saw the empty tomb.

 

The telling verses are 9 and 10. -  They did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. So them went home.

 

It says that the “other disciple” went in and believed. Believed what? He believed the tomb was empty. That’s it. Not that there was a resurrection. Just that the body wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

 

They had just seen evidence of the resurrection, but didn’t recognize it. The empty tomb was not comforting at this point.

 

It wasn’t until the following verses where the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, then the disciples themselves complete with the encounter with Thomas and his doubts, that they knew the truth. They had been told about it, but they could not yet comprehend.

 

The truth had been revealed, completely.

 

This man they had been following for three years had been telling them about this continually. . .but they were ignorant to the truth. They didn’t get it. It hadn’t yet clicked for them mentally.

 

What an emotional ride this previous week had given them. The joy of the triumphal entry with Christ. The palm fronds and the proclamation of him as king. The hiding out from the crowds. The meal of Passover with their rabbi. The prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest, the fear, the beatings of Christ, the dispersion of the disciples. The beatings of Christ. The cross. The six hours hanging there. The death. The burial. The fear.

 

Now this. An empty tomb.

Maybe you’re like these disciples that first Easter day. You hear the tomb is empty. You run down to see. . .and sure enough it is.

You’re not sure what this means to you, but you’re not feeling good about it.

 

Maybe you’re not in fear for your lives like the disciples were. Maybe you’re not hiding out like they were.

 

Then again. Maybe you are in fear. Maybe you don’t understand. Maybe you are hiding.

 

The empty tomb reminds you of an emptiness that is very real.

 

It’s an emptiness within you. It’s a void that you have tried to fill with so many things – relationships, jobs, money, material possessions, alcohol, drugs, sex, power, friends, etc.

 

Yet, it’s still there.

 

The emptiness.

 

We’ve all been there. We have all felt this emptiness. Just like these disciples – a shock, a sadness, a confusion, a void.

 

Then, the answer. Jesus arrives. He surprises some. He shocks some. Many believe. Those who do are filled. That void, that emptiness is no longer empty.

 

It seems contradictory. It seems paradoxical. An empty tomb is needed so that our empty lives may be filled.

 

That’s the message of Easter. That’s the hope of resurrection.


Arise!

The clouds had not yet lifted

Jesus tombThe tomb was sealed and dark.

The cruel cross had crucified

The hope of every heart.

The Son of God,

The Lord of life,

By death had been destroyed.

Then in the silence of the tomb

He heard His Father's voice.

"Arise. Arise, first Star of the morning skies,

Come forth, my anointed One

Into eternal life.

Arise. Arise.

Cast away death's dark disguise.

My glorious Son,

Victorious One,

In majesty, arise!

The earth began to tremble.

The ground began to quake.

The mighty stone that sealed the tomb

Of death began to shake.

Then suddenly, the darkness

Was shattered by His light

As Jesus Christ, the Son of God

Burst through the doors alive.

Arise. Arise, first Star of the morning skies.

Come forth, my anointed One

Into eternal life.

Arise. Arise.

Cast away death's dark disguise

My glorious Son,

Victorious One

In majesty, arise!


Arise. Arise, first Star of the morning skies.

Come forth, my anointed One

Into eternal life.

Arise. Arise.

Cast away death's dark disguise.

My glorious Son,

Victorious Son

In majesty, arise!

Arise!

Arise!

"Arise" by Luke Garrett from the album Ever Constant. . .Ever Sure copyright 1987 as featured in the musical "The Promise.

Performed by Julio Arriola and choir.