Easter Is Not Cancelled. Jesus Is Still Alive.

Easter is going to be…. different this year.

Typically, churches gather together and pack out their buildings in order to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Typically, my own church will have a Sunrise Service, followed by a full breakfast, followed by another bigger Worship Service.

Typically, I will stand in front and loudly proclaim, “He is risen” and that is always met by an even louder response from the congregation of, “He is risen indeed!”

Typically, between services families will gather in front of one of the big trees outside and take fun family pictures.

Typically, kids will be given some sort of goody at children’s church.

Typically, we all will dress just a little bit nicer and I’ll say, “I wore a tie because, ya know, its Easter after all.”

Typically, we will see new visitors, family members from out of town, or people who normally only come to church twice a year.

Typically, families will gather with extended family for a big lunch or dinner that is just a tad too stressful to put together.

Typically, Easter Sunday is full of fun, loads of smiles, hugs and handshakes, and plenty of “Amens!”

But this isn’t a typical Easter. Most, if not all of those things will not happen for millions of believers this coming Sunday. Our typical Easter celebrations are no longer reality.

So, let me tell you about a few things that do remain reality.

Jesus is alive.

The tomb is empty.

Death has lost its victory.

Sin is defeated.

The free gift of eternal life is available.

God is in control.

The harvest is still plentiful.

The workers, unfortunately, are still few.

The Gospel is still the best news ever.

This Easter may not be typical, but Jesus is still alive. And that profound truth changes everything about today! My prayer is that in the midst of losing all of our typical traditions we will be able to see Jesus even more clearly. And as we see Him clearly, we will clearly make Him known!

The Time Is NOW

Things are getting pretty crazy out there. It seems as though every few hours there are reports of new cases of the virus. Various governments continue to announce new restrictions in order to “flatten the curve.” Social media is filled with opinions and hot takes. And the U.S. Surgeon General recently told us, “this week is going to get bad.”

People are scared. People are worried. People are frustrated.

That is why the time for selfishness is over. The time for hoarding goods is over. The time for “I told you so” is over. The time for “this is so annoying” is over. The time for preference is over.

It’s time to talk about Jesus.

Talk about Jesus to anyone and everyone you know. Talk about Jesus to your church friends. Talk about Jesus to your family. Talk about Jesus to your non-believing friends.

Please. Just. Talk. About. Jesus.

For those who need hope…Hope can only be found in Jesus.

For those who need peace…Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

For those who need joy…Jesus is our Joy.

For those who need answers…Jesus is Truth.

For those who need life, now and forever…Jesus is Life.

Do not waste this time. God has you alive and breathing right now for a reason. Who will you impact? Who will you share this good news with? Who will you be a good neighbor to?

I don’t mean to make this post sound so direct, but our current situation calls for it. I wanted to end with a quote by Martin Luther that I have seen floating around lately. It is timely, but also a good reminder that we, the church, have been in this sort of situation before.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

May the church rise up in this time, and may we be found faithful.

Stocks & Socks

2019 was a big year for me.

My son was born! I got to scratch off 6 more countries from our countries visited map. We remodeled our kitchen. A Chick-Fi-A opened just a 5-minute drive from my house. I got a driveway basketball hoop for my birthday. I ate bear meat. And I bought my first pair of Birkenstocks.

If you don’t know what Birkenstocks are, go on Amazon right now and buy a pair, your feet will thank you. If you do know what they are, why don’t you have a pair already? (No, they are not a paid sponsor of this blog.) I bought the waterproof kind and so, they provide the comfort and support of the standard kind but with the benefit of being waterproof as well as incredibly light.

But enough about the shoes, this isn’t a commercial. What I wanted to talk about today is how I choose to wear this fantastic footwear. I’ll admit the embarrassing truth…

My name is Josh and I like to wear socks with my sandals.

I have found myself walking out of the house even when there is snow on the ground in this “Socks ‘n Stocks” combo many times. Why? It’s incredibly simple, it’s crazy comfy. The socks keep my feet warm and cozy while the “Stocks” allow me freedom and comfort.I don’t have to give in to the rigidity and stuffiness of shoes, but I also can keep my feet warm. It’s the best of both worlds!

Unfortunately, while this kind of compromise and dual living is OK for footwear, it is no way to live our lives.

Far too many people who claim to be Christians are trying to live dual lives. The temptation to try to “follow Jesus” while chasing after our own desires is very great. Far too many have fallen into that trap.

You can’t live for Jesus on Sunday and live for yourself the remaining 6 days a week. It doesn’t work like that. It looks funny and it’s uncomfortable.

Jesus told us that it is impossible to serve two masters. We cannot love both God and money. We cannot follow both Jesus and the ways of the culture. We cannot serve both God and ourselves.

I don’t have to choose between sock and sandals, I can have both. But I must choose between Jesus and myself, I cannot have both.

Jesus told us that in order to follow Him we must be willing to die to ourselves. That means dying to our own plans, sinful desires, and selfish expectations.

Don’t live a dual life. If you say that you follow Jesus, then follow Him in every aspect of your life. Follow Him when you make your budget. Follow Him when you use technology. Follow Him when you talk to your coworkers. Follow Him when you sit in traffic. Follow Him when you plan for your future. Follow Him when you are alone, and no one is watching.

Serving Jesus and serving yourself is a combo that just simply will never work….unlike my sock and sandals. 

Counting the Cost

Free coffee!

I saw the ad and immediately was intrigued. The flyer promised free coffee shipped to your house, all you had to do was pay $1 for shipping.

I went to the company’s website to get my free coffee, and I was pleased to see no hidden fees. I searched the site and was confident that all I was signing up for was free coffee with $1 shipping. A few days later I got my free coffee and was proud of myself for finding a good deal.

The problem came when I failed to check my email.

You see, in fine print (even though I thought I had checked that) the company informed me that an email would be sent to me and that unless I “opted out” I would then be signed up for a monthly coffee program. I didn’t know this until a box arrived at my door.

$75 worth of coffee.

I like love coffee. But I was unprepared to pay $75! Especially because that was certainly not what I had thought I signed up for. I was unready and unwilling to count the cost.

There are many things in life in which we must “count the cost.” If you want to be physically fit, you must work out and eat healthily. If you want to have a family, be prepared to say goodbye to sleep. If you want to do well at your job, show initiative and work hard. If you want to follow Jesus, be prepared to give up everything.

But here is the problem, like me and my coffee fiasco, many people are unaware of what it truly means to follow Jesus, and unfortunately, too many are unwilling to count the cost.

Unlike the coffee company, however, Jesus has no hidden fees. He is very clear on what it means to follow Him as well as all the potential risks involved.

In Luke 14 Jesus proclaims, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” In Luke 9:23 Jesus calls for His followers to deny themselves and take up their crosses. Galatians 5:24 reminds us that true followers of Jesus are those that have crucified their own passions and desires. And Matthew 7:13-14 says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Jesus offers hope, life, love, grace, and mercy. This is good news, but we cannot expect to take all that Jesus offers and remain unchanged by it. Jesus changes us.

If we claim to follow Jesus, but our lives look exactly the same as they did when we were not following Him then something is very very wrong.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Following Jesus transforms us.

And as believers, we have a responsibility to share this truth. For far too long Christians have tried to “sugar coat” the Gospel message. For far too long people have tried to hide the costs of following Jesus. With messages like, “Jesus loves you just as you are, come let Him be a part of your life and watch how He will make it better. No pressure, no risk, no obligations.” This message may sound good, but it sounds far different from what Jesus Himself said.

That kind of sales pitch is pathetic and unworthy of our Savior. The fact is that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. The relationship between us and God has been broken and it is our fault. God graciously sent Jesus to restore that relationship. He offers life to anyone who would believe, but we must leave our old ways behind and be willing to give up everything for Him. Anything short of that is convenient and consumeristic “Christianity” and I want no part of that.

Is following Jesus easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

Will you have to give up everything to follow Him? Maybe not. But must you be willing? Absolutely, because He gave up everything to save you.