Monday, March 25, 2013

Eight Practical Ways to Celebrate Easter

Eight Practical Ways to Celebrate Easter
by Chuck Lawless

In just a few days, believers around the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Congregations will meet before sunrise to focus on the truth that Jesus is alive. Families will dress in their finest clothes for this special day. Folks who typically don’t attend church will do so this week. As you celebrate Easter this year, think about these practical ways to celebrate the holiday:
  1. Focus on new beginnings. We make new commitments at the start of a new year, but let’s be honest: for many of us, we’ve already given up on those commitments by the time Easter comes around. If ever there were a time to start over, though, it’s Easter. The resurrection is God’s reminder that hope still exists. If you’re already behind in your Bible reading for this year, start again. If you’ve failed in your commitment to pray regularly with your spouse, re-start this week. Walk away from that sin that is controlling you. Start afresh, renewed by God’s resurrection power.
  2. Start Easter family traditions. Many families have Easter lunch together, but I’m thinking of more than that. Read the Easter story on Sunday morning, just as you do the Christmas story. Use old photographs to remember loved ones, and talk about the importance of resurrection hope. Bake Easter cookies for your neighbors. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Make holiday memories that your children will want to duplicate in their own families.
  3. Send Easter cards or an Easter letter. We expect cards or family letters at Christmas, but not at Easter. This year, send a resurrection card to everyone on your Christmas card list. If you send an Easter family letter, focus more on Jesus than on your family. Talk about his love, his grace, his forgiveness, and his victory over death. Be sure to write about the hope you have in Christ.
  4. Reach out to others who buried a loved one in the past year. Churches usually do well in ministering to grieving families at the time of a death, but that ministry is not always lasting. Eventually, the loving crowds return to busy lives. The holidays are often especially difficult as families find themselves alone. This Easter, call one of those families and pray with them. What better time than Easter is there to celebrate life and look forward to resurrection?
  5. Learn about and pray for a people group who know nothing about Jesus’ resurrection. Missionaries tell us that 1.7 billion people have little access to the gospel. They do not know the name of Jesus, much less the story of his conquering death. Learn about one of these people groups at, teach your children about them, and then pray they will hear the Easter story.
  6. Tell somebody what Jesus means in your life. As Christians, we know we need to be telling the gospel story. Why not tell others during the Easter season? Maybe you can approach someone this way: “I know a lot of folks think about going to church on Easter. May I have five minutes to tell you why this holiday is so important to me?” You might find somebody who has been waiting for some good news!
  7. Write a thank you note to someone who models overcoming faith. Maybe it’s that friend who experienced disaster, but who trusted God through the pain. Perhaps it’s a missionary who has been faithful even when his life was at risk. It might be your church pastor or a Bible study teacher. It may even be your parent or one of your children. Easter is about celebrating victory – so honor God by celebrating what He’s done through someone else’s life.
  8. Don’t give up. I don’t know what you’re facing. You might be discouraged and hurting. The mountain you’re trying to climb is steep, or the valley you find yourself in is deep. Prayer seems useless. Trusting God is tough because the obstacles are so big. Whatever you’re facing, though, is not bigger than the God who defeated death. Don’t give up – the God of resurrection is alive.

A Prayer for Monday of Holy Week

     ”Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:27-32
Dear Lord Jesus, it’s Monday of Holy Week, and I’m deeply moved as I reflect on how profoundly troubled you were as the events of that week began to unfold. There was no doubt in your mind why you came into Jerusalem riding the foal of a donkey. There was great conflict, but no doubt. There would be no surprises—you knew what was coming, and you willingly submitted.

In a matter of days, you’d sustain the holy wrath of Judgment Day for all who will trust in you. At the end of the week, your “bruised heel” (Gen. 3:15) would secure the ultimate crushing and “casting out” of the “ruler of this world” (John 12:30)—Satan himself.

At the end of the week, you’d pay the supreme price that alone guarantees the redemption and “drawing” of men and women from every single nation, tribe, people, and language—a number as great as the stars in the sky, the sand of the beaches, and the dust of the earth.

For this very reason you came from eternity into time and space. For this very reason you emptied yourself of your glory by taking the form of a servant-man—the Lord’s Servant. For this very reason the Father spoke thunderous words from heaven to quiet our restless, needy, unbelieving hearts. For this very reason you were obedient—even obedient to death on the cross. Understandably so, your heart was greatly troubled, Lord Jesus.

As the events of our celebration of Holy Week now unfold, grant us grace to survey the wonders of your cross, with greater awe, worship and gratitude than ever before. In a time when many in our culture are marginalizing and minimizing, denying or dismissing your cross, may our boasting in your cross grow by all-time exponential proportions. So very Amen we pray, in the beauty and bounty of your most glorious name.

Every Calvary Step Was Love

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and so began our journey with Jesus from Jerusalem’s gate to Golgotha’s cross to Easter’s triumph. In this article, David Mathis shares a good word for us as we consider the path to the cross. He writes:

In this Holy Week, we begin with “Hosanna,” walk solemnly toward “Crucify him,” and finish elatedly with, “He is risen!”

Here we see Jesus’s love for us in every intentional step. In one sense, every step he ever took was for us. He was born to die. He came to give his life. His public ministry was ever a steady drumbeat toward Calvary. But in his last week, the quickly moving story begins to run in slow motion. Roughly half the Gospel accounts are dedicated to chronicle these final days.

Five years ago, John Piper wrote a memorable Holy Week meditation on Jesus’s intentionality and intensity. As intentional as were his steps toward death, so intense was his love for us.
If he was intentional in laying down his life, it was for us. It was love. Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”
And so to feel more deeply the love of Jesus for us, it helps to see more clearly how intentional he was in doing it. Here are the five ways Piper mentions for seeing Jesus’s intentionality in dying for us.

1) Jesus himself made choices precisely to fulfill the Scriptures.

“Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52–54)
See the full list....

Hymn Stories: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

In this article, Tim Challies shares the story of my favorite hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, by Isaac Watts:

"It was a daring move when, in 1707, Isaac Watts published his first book of hymns. At that time it was the practice of almost every congregation of the Church of England to sing only Old Testament psalms in their public worship. However, Watts had grown to dislike this because it restricted the Christian from being able to explicitly celebrate in song all those aspects of the gospel that are fulfilled and illuminated in the New Testament... See the rest of the article...

Sunday's Coming

As I prepare my heart for Easter, I am always blessed and focused by this video from our friends at Igniter Media. It shares the Easter story from a sermon by S.M. Lockridge. Be blessed!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Confession for Personal Renewal

Sunday in our worship hours we will celebrate the Lord's Supper. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians11:28, "Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup" (NIV). In preparation for Sunday (or in our ongoing efforts to walk closely with our Lord) the following prayer and confession points have been helpful to me.


The following is a list of common sins that prevent God from blessing and using our lives.  As you prayerfully read this, examine yourself and circle or underline the areas that apply to you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”                                     
                                                            Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”   
                                                            Psalm 19:12 (NIV)

Have you been holding a grudge against anyone? Have you been secretly unforgiving? Desiring revenge? Secretly jealous of someone? Harboring bitterness? Unwilling to forget a misunderstanding? Hateful? Do you avoid people you dislike but need your love? Are you critical or judging of others?  Do you justify your bad attitude by claiming it is their fault? Do you gossip to feel superior or better about yourself? Have you worn a self-protective mask and failed to let people get close to you?

In what areas of your life have you failed to put God first? Do any of the following interfere with doing God’s will…your personal ambitions and goals, your fun and hobbies, your job, your desire to get rich, your own plans, your habits, your friendship, your family? Do you find you don’t have time for God?  For prayer?  For Bible reading? For small group?  Have other activities made you irregular at worship? Is there anything you would be unwilling to give up if God asked you?

Do you complain and whine about your circumstances? Are you ungrateful? Irritable or cranky? Always speak negatively? Do you get angry easily and blow up or pout? Are you ever harsh or unkind? Un-teachable? Sarcastic? Do you put down others instead of building them up? Do you worry about things God wants you to trust Him with? Are you fearful or anxious? Do you try to control people or circumstances? Impatient? Prideful or stubborn?

Are you honest in all your dealings? Do you find it easy to lie? Do you exaggerate to make yourself look better: Leave a better impression of yourself than is true? Have you cheated on taxes? Have you stolen things? Failed to return things? Do you do good things hoping to impress others? Do you pretend to live one way in front of your Christian friends and another way at home or at work? Do you keep your promises? Are you dependable?

Have you failed to guard your mind from unhealthy, ungodly input? Have you filled your mind with sleazy or profane movies, television programs, magazines, or books? Do you participate in entertainment that causes you to have impure thoughts? Pornography? Do you spend more time with the TV or the Internet than with God’s Word? Are you lazy in memorizing scripture verses?

Have you failed to dedicate all of your possessions to the Lord? Have you acted like your possessions belong to you, not God? Have you robbed God by not giving him the 10% tithe that he commands? Do you find yourself resentful or defensive when asked to give to God’s work? Are you eager to get rich? Are you stingy with wealth? Have you failed to trust God with your finances? Do you need to be more generous with what God has given you?

Are you in any way careless with your body or health? Is there any activity or habit that is harmful to you? Are you lazy or undisciplined?

Do you tend to follow your moods or feelings rather than doing what you know is right? Do you allow your emotions to be inspired for the Lord at church but then do nothing about it? Do you focus more on your circumstances instead of the promises of God? Have you failed to trust God with the disappointments of your life?

Are you accountable to any small group of believers for growth? Are you using your God-given shape in some ministry? Do you pray for your church and your pastors? Have you been critical instead of helpful? Have you expected to be “fed” without giving back?

Are you unkind to those you live with? Do you pray for them? Do you need to ask forgiveness from a family member? Have you been unfaithful to your spouse mentally, emotionally, or physically?

Have you failed to share the Good News of Christ…with your relatives? With friends? With co-workers? With neighbors? Kept silent in fear?

ASK GOD TO REMIND YOU OF ANYTHING THAT HAS HINDERED HIS BLESSING ON YOUR LIFE.  1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anticipating Easter at FBC Allen

Easter Sunday is a great day in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ.  It is a day to celebrate God’s gifts to us of forgiveness of sin, power for living, and eternal life with God.  All these wonderful gifts were made possible because God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross in our place to pay the penalty for our sin.  He was raised from the dead to demonstrate the truth and power of the cross.  God has made all this possible, not because we earned it or deserved it, but because of His great love for us.  The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV).

Special days call for special preparations.  Every time we gather together as God’s people to worship and experience God we should be making spiritual preparations.  Easter Sunday is a unique day and calls for extra planning and preparation.  We will have large numbers of guests with us on Easter Sunday.  When guests come to visit our homes we want to be at our best.  The same should be true when guests come to church.  In light of all Easter represents, let me offer up some suggestions for you this Easter:

1.      Continue reaching out to your friends, neighbors, and family and invite them to attend one of our Easter services with you.
2.      Plan to attend our Palm Sunday worship service this Sunday as we remember what Christ did for us at the cross through our singing, our Bible study, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
3.      Read the Easter story from Mark 14-16.  It would be a blessing to read it out loud with your family.
4.      Get up early Easter morning to see the sunrise.  Meditate on the story of the women coming to the tomb at sunrise and hearing the message, “He is not here.  He has risen.”
5.      Spend extra time in prayer and spiritual preparation for worship.  Ask God to create within you a spirit of anticipation as you come to worship.  Spend time in confession of sin that nothing would stand as a barrier between you and what God would want to communicate to you.
6.      Park in the spaces farthest from the building and ride the shuttle. Leave the best parking places for our guests. 
7.      Arrive early for church so that you will be available to help meet needs and informally function as a “host” to our guests who will arrive.
8.      Pray for all the guests who will join us for worship on Sunday.  Some of them will be coming to church for the first time or the first time in a long while.  Pray they will have courage to come to church.  Pray they will feel welcomed and at home with our church family.
9.      Pray the distractions would be minimized.  Specifically, that people would not distract one another and that we would avoid technical difficulties that might distract.
10.  Be friendly and alert to the people around you.  Think of yourself as a host on Easter Sunday.  Watch for needs of others and be helpful.  Smile and speak to the people around you. 
11.  Pray for the church staff as we lead.  Pray for me as I share what it means to be a Christian in each of the four worship hours. Pray that hearers will make commitments to Christ and be drawn closer to Him.
  1. Pray that the guests will experience something real that they find attractive.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in their lives after they leave church.  Pray they will take the great next step of coming a second time.  Pray for the harvest we will see for months to come.
Easter Sunday will be a great day in the life of our church.  I would pray it would be a day that would forever touch our lives and elevate our ministry to new levels.  “Expect great things from God.  Attempt great things for God.”

9 Things You Should Know About Duck Dynasty

Duck Dynasty is a series on A&E that shows the lives of the Robertson family, a Louisiana clan who became wealthy from their family-operated duck call business.

Among the things mentioned in the article is this amazing fact - "When the show returned this month for season three, the premiere was the most watched show of the night, beating out ratings giants American Idol and Modern Family."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Five Godly Lessons from Sports

In a sports-crazed culture, this article comes as godly counsel to parents trying to find balance and wisdom in guiding their children through the world sports involvement.

"The odds of getting a full-ride scholarship or a big pro contract are long, but in sports there is a 100% chance that your child will learn lifelong lessons about faith, effort, attitude, playing on a team, and giving God the victory regardless of the outcome. As the parent of a young athlete, here are five ways to make those lessons positive ones."

See the list of Five Godly Lessons from Sports...

9 Reasons You Can Face Anything

A good reminder from God's word for Christ-followers feeling overwhelmed and out-gunned....

"God’s sovereignty is a precious reality. Now chances are this truth didn’t seem too precious when it first confronted you. The natural, fallen response to hearing we aren’t the ones in control is to white-knuckle our will and refuse to bow. Humans tend to like the idea that we are the captains of our own destinies. Motivational glib like that will pack out self-help seminars. But sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, we learn how bankrupt it all is. We are not in charge, and that’s a good thing."

See the rest of the article...

Questions for Sleepy and Nominal Christians

In this article, Tim Keller writes -

In a revival, sleepy Christians wake up, nominal Christians get converted, and non-Christians get reached. A sleepy Christian may believe they’re a Christian, but they don’t have a real sense of God’s holiness, their own sin, or the depth of his grace. They may be a moralist or a relativist, or living inconsistent lives. Nominal Christians may be going to church, but have never really been convicted of sin or received salvation personally. When sleepy and nominal Christians get revived, attractive and bold in their witness, people who would never have believed before begin to get converted.

So how do you wake up sleepy Christians and convert nominal Christians? Keller shares some time-tested spiritual diagnostic questions.

The New Cultural Acceptance

This article on a modern "hot topic" speaks to a clear reality in our modern culture....

The New Cultural Acceptance - “The new mark of being culturally acceptable is affirming homosexuality as virtuous (not merely okay, but virtuous, even exemplary). This is the litmus test. I don’t think many of us expected that it would so quickly fill this role, but it has. The mark of being a progressive, kind, socially courageous person today is simply this: affirming same-sex marriage.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Mission of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick's Day seems to be more connected to excessive alcohol consumption than with the man himself. This article provides a good background on the evangelizing missionary we refer to as Saint Patrick.

Five Myths About Bible Translation

5 Myths About Bible Translation - Dan Wallace covers five common myths related to translating the Bible. This has been a major area of attack against Christianity in recent years as people have tried to undermine the credibility of the Bible.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Seven Things To Pray for Your Children

Seven Things to Pray For Your Children - Jon Bloom offers seven helpful, specific things to pray for your children. “Some years back a good friend shared with me seven Scripture texts that he and his wife prayed for their two daughters from the time they were infants. The girls are now grown. And it’s beautiful to see how God has (and still is) answering the faithful, specific prayers of faith-filled parents in the lives of these young, godly women.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Five Love Languages of Pastors

Five Love Languages of Pastors Our church does a great job of encouraging me in these ways. It would be a good read for lots of churches as they seek to bless and encourage their pastors.

(Generic) Prayer Request Generator

Some things are just interesting and so...I pass this along.

How Can I Teach My Child That Easter Means More Than the Easter Bunny and Baskets of Candy?

This is a helpful article from the archives of Discipleship Journal. How can a parent take the secular traditions that have come to surround Easter and draw out biblical applications and truth?

How Can I Teach My Child That Easter Means More Than the Easter Bunny and Baskets of Candy?

It's certainly true that cultural traditions in the celebration of Easter can quickly overshadow family celebrations of the Lord's resurrection if we let them.

So should we throw out all those "secular traditions" and start over? Should we just ignore them and start some of our own? The best solution may be to keep a balance. Remember that Easter, with its Easter baskets, egg-dyeing, and new clothes, is a joyful, fun time for children! And that's not all bad. Easter is a time to celebrate! Is there any way a family can enjoy our culture's secular traditions and still focus on the meaning and joy of the empty tomb? I think there is.

Learn from earlier Christian parents.

The early church chose to celebrate the resurrection at the same time as the ancient pagan festival of Oestre, the goddess of spring. Believing families faced our same dilemma. They apparently decided not to ignore this celebration of spring but to transform its traditions and symbols. Perhaps they knew how effectively children learn from object lessons, so they used the symbols already familiar to their children to point directly to Jesus.

For centuries before the resurrection, eggs were a symbol of new life. Even the Hebrews include a "paschal egg" in the Passover celebration. If your children dye eggs, tell them how they symbolize the new life Christ gives and decorate them with Christian symbols, such as a cross or a tomb with the stone rolled away.

If you buy new clothes for your children at Easter, this can symbolize the new righteousness ("right-ness") we can havewith God because of the resurrection. We can "put on" this new "right-ness" because of the Lord's victory over sin and death, just as we put on new clothes.

If you object to this tradition because of the commercialism, use the money saved to help the poor, or give it to missions. Giving to the needy is one of the oldest Christian traditions associated with Easter. Establish a family project during Lent to raise money for the needy. That helps shift the focus of Easter away from just "What's in my Easter basket?" to "What can I do to honor Jesus?"

Start some traditions of your own.

Early Christians greeted each other on Easter morning with, "The Lord is risen" and the reply, "He is risen indeed!" Your children will enjoy introducing this tradition to everyone they see Easter morning.
Many families may not observe the season of Lent, but observing Holy Week can be a powerful way to help your children enter into the joys and sorrows of the season.

Read the Scripture narrative about Palm Sunday. Let your children imagine (or act out) the cheering of the crowds. Explain the reason for their excitement. On Thursday, get out a towel and bowl of water so each can wash another family member's feet. Explain how Jesus came as a servant and to give His life. This is a good time to talk again about why He had to die and help your children understand the need for repentance.

On Friday, have your children experience the sadness of Jesus' disciples as you read the crucifixion narrative. Then, on Sunday, get up early to watch the sun rise so you can get to the tomb early (as the women did). Read the gospel narrative and let the children act out peeking in the tomb, seeing the angel, and being surprised with joy at the good news. Many families establish advent traditions and observances to help their children prepare for the joy of Christmas. Observing Lent prepares them to enter into the true meaning of Easter.

But what about the Easter Bunny? I admit he's more of a challenge to turn to a spiritual use! The best approach is to treat him with a kind of benign neglect. Make it clear to your children that this rabbit is just a part of the fun pretending that some children (and adults) enjoy at this season. Give him no more than the minor attention due such a character. Major in the risen Lord. Your children will get your message.

It takes careful thought and resourcefulness, but as we use Easter traditions, our children will grasp spiritual truths in the way they learn best—through familiar symbols explained within the context of the family. At the same time, these spiritual truths are planted deep in a child's heart and guarded well by warm childhood memories of family fun and celebrations. This approach follows the example of Christ, who did not come to judge the world but to transform and redeem it. Centuries of Christian parents understood this, and worked to reclaim and redeem its Easter traditions.

Traditions and symbols are part of the common language of the world we live in. Using this common language to teach children the meaning of the resurrection of Christ equips them to share this good news with their friends in language both understand. Surely that, too, is the true meaning of Easter and honoring to its risen Lord!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Christianity Today Gleanings: Major Hate Speech Ruling in Canada Affirms Biblical Principle

Christianity Today Gleanings: Major Hate Speech Ruling in Canada Affirms Biblical Principle

This article shows "where the road goes" on speaking out from a biblical worldview on homosexuality in Canada. Just a reminder of how close these things are to appearing in our own country.

Abide With Me

The hymn, Abide With Me, is not a hymn we often sing in Baptist churches but the tune if familiar. It even showed up at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics (2012). Not many hymns have dramatic stories behind them. This one is not all that dramatic; but knowing that it was written by a man who was very near death at a relatively young age helps us feel its weight and sobriety all the more. The words are powerful.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
          Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
          But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
          Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
          Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
          Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
          Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
          Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
          In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Ed Stetzer - Leaders of Courageous Character: Why They're Needed but Lacking-- With Four Ways to Be One

Ed Stetzer - Leaders of Courageous Character: Why They're Needed but Lacking-- With Four Ways to Be One