Replacing Easter

What is society afraid of?

What is Christianity afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

Society is afraid of the truth. Christianity is afraid of being offensive. As for what you are afraid of, that is something only you can answer. My goal is that this post will have you thinking about why you do what you do.

Easter is a great time to bring this subject matter to light. Let me explain. For almost 40 days, many have been practicing the idea of “Lent.” They have no clue why they do it except that it is part of their religion. Many have not a single thought about God, but want to make sure that they cover all the bases just in case. They will live like the world every single day, except for a special day or two in the entire calendar so their “God” box will be checked. This leaves them feeling good about themselves so they can have a sense of being a “Christian.” Yet, the heart condemns those who think they can please God by pleasing themselves.

For years, I have worked with many people who can live, talk, and act like a minion of the evil one every single day. Yet, in one swift moment, as soon as they find out that you are a believer, they can and will proclaim, “Oh, I am a Christian.” The follow-up questions are quickly followed by silence until it grows awkward and the person soon finds something else with which to occupy their time. Or, in the better scenarios, you hear the response of, “Well, that is private and is just between me and the Man upstairs. Besides, who are you to judge me? The Bible says, “Don’t judge!”

What types of questions might we ask of any individual with whom we may meet? This could be another family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a work colleague.

“Where do you attend church? Where are you in fellowship each week with other believers seeking to remind the world that we are not of this world, but that we are just passing through?”

“What about your relationships? Are you married or just living in a way that goes contrary to the Word of God? Why would you want to be living with somebody who does not share your views, if you are a true believer?”

“Do your words and actions reflect that you are different, or do you strive to be just like those around you? Would your Sunday appearance give forth the reflection of a hypocrite, or a genuine believer longing to be more like Jesus Christ despite the difficulties of living a life of holiness?”

Despite the awkward silence or vocal calls about not judging, Easter and Christmas find more people claiming the name of Christ than any other time of the year. They are willing to give up things for Lent, but not for Christ. Far too many think that they are meriting favor or grace with God by giving up chocolate, meat, intimacy, or whatever.

When the forty days of Lent arrives, people flock to services for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Morning service never to be seen again til Christmas. Yet, for all the fasting or giving up of things, nothing has changed in their lives. They produce the same cursing, same vulgarity, same illicit relationships, and not one thing to indicate that they have actually spent time with Jesus Christ and are a new creation.

As for society, just look at our workplaces. Lies, deceit, and dishonesty rules the day. Few are willing to take a stand, and when something is said as a reminder, those speaking up are quickly removed. What does this have to do with Easter time? Simply this. These same practices and philosophies have moved from universally being accepted as part of the workplace to being fully accepted in the circles of so-called Christianity.

Let me be very blunt!

Easter is NOT about a bunny that lays eggs!

Easter is NOT about furry chicken that lays candy!

Easter is NOT about egg hunts, bouncy castles, and clowns on a Sunday.

Easter is supposedly to revolve around the holy Person of Jesus Christ. The reminder of the week prior to the Sunday should be a solemn reminder of the price that was carried on the cross. The wrath of God the Father was poured upon His only begotten Son because of the sins of mankind. It pleased the Father to bruise and crush His own Son because of the cursing, the vulgarity, the illicit relationships, and all sin that separates us from a holy God.

Christianity has allowed society to tell us that Easter has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. We are not allowed to speak of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on Calvary, but we can speak the religion of secularism and commercialism all day long. Nobody has one single problem with that. The world and the church have now merged in such a way that it is almost impossible in most circles to know where one starts and one ends.

If you are a true believer and have placed your faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, then this next section is a solemn reminder and exhortation to you and your family.

This coming Sunday, we will have the privilege of celebrating the most glorious even that has ever transpired in all of human history. Nothing can top what took place almost 2000 years ago. Let me summarize what this Sunday SHOULD mean to you.

1. He laid aside His glory as the all-powerful majestic King of all Creation and came down to this sin-cursed earth.
2. He was born in a lowly stable showing the stark opposite of what He had enjoyed for all of eternity past.
3. He was welcomed by magi as well as lowly shepherds who guarded the lambs that would be sacrificed each Passover.
4. He grew in wisdom and stature and lived in obedience to the commands of both His earthly parents and the will of His heavenly Father.
5. He spent 3 ½ years walking the dusty roads of Galilee, Judea, and Samaria preaching the kingdom of heaven.
6. He was betrayed and abandoned by every one of His disciples.
7. He, the King of all Creation, was beaten, mocked, scourged into a bloody mess, and then hung between earth and heaven.
8. He bore upon Himself our sins and was ultimately forsaken even by His own Father in heaven because God the Father could not stand to look upon sin.
9. He became sin on our behalf and became clothed with our filth so that we would be clothed in His righteousness.
10. He died and was buried like a common criminal in a borrowed tomb.

But Sunday was coming!

There should be no doubt that the disciples had contacted the local businesses to ensure that bouncy castles were set up outside the tomb to celebrate what was going to happen. There should also be no doubt that the apostle Peter, having just denied the Lord three times earlier that week, was the instigator in setting up an Easter Egg hunt in order to entice the children of the murderous hordes to come to their service so that they would have greater numbers. There should be no doubt, based on what we see in modern Christianity, that the early New Testament church was prepared with the latest jokes and frivolity after having just seen the King of all Creation die and be buried.

Dear brothers and sisters, do you see the hypocrisy in the above statements? If it does not bother you to see the entertainment on any given Sunday in church, then it is time to examine your heart to see whether you are truly of the faith. If the only thing you can think of is, “Well, what you say may be true, but the Bible says not to judge,” then you have failed miserably to comprehend the solemnness and the seriousness of what this Sunday is all about. If you think that Easter is about the bunny and candy eggs, then your pastor and church have failed in their responsibility to teach you the truth of the gospel.

Easter is NOT about you and your perceived needs!

Easter is about the conclusion of the worst week in the history of mankind!
Easter is about the reality of the sacrifice that Christ made on Calvary!
Easter is about the truth Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief!
Easter is about the defeat of sin, hell, Satan, and the grave!
Easter is about Resurrection Sunday!
Easter is about Jesus Christ coming back to life victoriously!
Easter is about Jesus Christ one day coming for all who believe on Him!
Easter is about change and becoming a new creation in Christ!

Today, you have a choice. You can choose to continue replacing Easter with the world, or you can stop setting your affections on the things of this world, and setting your affections on the things of heaven.

My purpose is not to judge the world with my words. My thoughts are to be a beacon in the wilderness shining a light that points others to Jesus Christ, and not to Mark Escalera. My desire is to be a gentle reminder that true believers are called to be different, not the same as the world.

We are NOT replacing Easter in our home, but we will joyfully, reverently, and humbly celebrate –

Resurrection Sunday!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Why Did Jesus Come?

I’m sure just about everyone who has grown up in church can give pat answers as to why Jesus left the splendors of Heaven to enter a world where He would be scorned and persecuted but have you ever taken time to examine exactly why Jesus did that? The obvious answer is taken from the familiar John 3:16 (He loved us) but it is more in-depth than that.

To Give Abundant life

John 10:10 tells us, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life. Think about it. If you look up the definition, this means life that is “more than adequate, over-sufficient, richly supplied.” Way too many professing Christians are just trying to get through their days. They are barely living instead of living in the abundance that is available to them.

In John 5, Jesus told the people, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” This happens way too often even today. So many are seeking for answers, a reason to live but they want to keep their life instead of surrendering to the only One who can really give life.

Someone came up with the phrase, “Wise men still seek Him,” and I will add that men and women who are really wise will find Him. He has promised that, “when you seek Me, you will find Me if you search for Me with all your heart.” Oh that people would realize how desperate they really are and not stop seeking until they find Him.

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To Bring Light

Another reason Jesus came is to bring light to a dark world (John 12:46). God still desires to do that through His people. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” If the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you, your light should be shining bright. He can enable you to shine in the midst of darkness, to rejoice in the midst of trials, to smile when you would usually be crying. We sometimes forget that we have a part to play in this “game of life” but, unlike most games, it’s our choice if we are going to win or lose this one. With Jesus, we will be a victorious winner.

That the World Might Be Saved

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

It may seem odd that I didn’t start with this but I believe that, if we who are saved will live an abundant life and be the light God desires us to be, we will see more people come to know Him as well.

If you do a study, you will find more reasons why Jesus came to earth. He was our example. He came to serve, to minister, to do the will of the Father, etc. And He came to be the supreme sacrifice for our sins so that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This must begin with you and me, however. God can save anyone in any way He chooses but I believe many people are not being saved because they are not seeing true Christianity lived out in our lives. We don’t study Matthew 5 and take it seriously. Instead, we live, talk, and act like the world, wanting to fit in yet using Christ’s name when it profits us something.

Brothers and Sisters, don’t grieve the Lord. He did not have to come to earth but He did so out of love for a lost, dying, and hopeless world. As you celebrate this Christmas, examine your heart. Are you living the abundant life that Jesus came to give you? As you go to work each day or interact with people around you, are you being a light, or are you trying to fit in so people don’t tease you for being different? This is not just a time to celebrate the birth of a baby but a time to realize what His coming did for us and how we can best serve Him. After all, he is the only person who was born over 2000 years ago yet is still alive.

It’s About The Cross

While many will discuss whether Christians should even participate in Christmas celebrations (which is discussion worth having) one thing thing we all agree upon is that almost 2,000 years ago Christ took on human flesh and was born into this world. The Incarnation is truly one of the greatest miracles of God. Divinity took on humanity, He became like us. But He did not do this for a parlor trick, or because He was bored. Christ became man so that He could die for us. God took on flesh so that He could be executed in our place, to pay the price for our sins. Then He rose three days later, proving His power of death and giving a promise of eternal life to those who would repent and trust in Him.

As we consider the season of Christmas, and whether we should or should not celebrate it, let us dwell on the miracle of the Incarnation. Let us be in awe of His death and resurrection. And let us share with everyone, “It’s about the cross.”

Worth a Bar of Gold?

Recently I saw a video taken at the Bank of England in which a gentleman had the privilege of being able to view rooms full of real gold. The gold was stacked from floor to ceiling with about 1 ton of gold on each shelf. The narrator commented that the total amount of gold was worth about $315 Billion at current prices and that the total amount of gold ever mined would equal about 60′ cubed. Again, according to the video, this is an amount that would easily fit under the legs of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

While it was a staggering amount of gold, one comment the man made really made me pay attention. He said, “If I was actually worth my weight in gold, I would weigh about the equivalent of 6 bars of gold (28 lbs. each = 164 lbs.). This means I would be worth a little over $4 million dollars.” His next comment was even more astounding – “I was a bit disappointed because I thought I would be worth more.”

goldbars

This brings us to the question of what are we worth. Unfortunately, many have taken the worth of our lives and translated this to something called self-esteem. This is supposedly a term used to indicate that we have intrinsic value within ourselves. The psychology of self-esteem continues to be taught and drummed into our heads and the heads of our children on a daily basis. For example, you go to make a purchase and the salesperson will comment, “You should go ahead and buy this because you are worth it. You owe it to yourself to treat yourself nicely!” Sadly, this then is translated in the church that you should think more highly of yourself because you are worth something to God. Multiple books, videos, seminars, etc., etc., etc., are then offered in our so-called Christian bookstores to feed the same thought process that we are to love ourselves because of our own self-imposed self-worth.

Of course, there are major differences between a human and a bar of gold. From a metallurgical standpoint, a bar of gold is definitely worth more than the elements found in the human body. From a financial perspective, gold has more buying capability as one bar of gold is worth about $768,000. You cannot take 28 lbs of an arm and a leg and make any purchases.

The purpose of this post though is not to dwell on those aspects as much as it is to consider what our worth might be from a spiritual perspective. James 4 makes it clear that our life is actually like a vapor that is here for a short time and then vanishes away. In other words, your life and mine is nothing more than a puff of steam from a kettle filled with boiling water. While down through history, people have bartered their lives away to pay off debts, there was never any guarantee that the life of the individual would even be present at the end of the day. An interesting note was that the oldest bar of gold in the Bank of England is about 96 years old. The narrator noted that gold never changes. It does not go through a process of oxidation. It has no smell and certainly does not rust. That old gold bar looks exactly the same today as it did when it was first minted in 1916.

As much as we are taught to think highly of ourselves and to love ourselves, the sad and very biblical reality is that our lives are not worth what we think they are. This means further that any value attached to us can only be found outside of ourselves.

This is a special time of year in that many are celebrating Xmas, but they are not celebrating Christ. Purchases are being made to satisfy greed and lust, but little to no thought is being made of Christ. “X” is used to indicate an unknown quantity. People today are purchasing what they cannot afford to appease people who will never be happy with money they do not have in order to celebrate what they cannot understand. There is an unknown quantity that is missing in the lives of billions of people around the world – that quantity is not the element AU, more commonly known as gold. This rare element was discovered approximately 5,000 years ago and has been used in a variety of ways down through the centuries.

The element that is missing though is the Lord Jesus Christ. Say what you will about Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Winter Festival, these are not the original reasons why people celebrated this time of year. While Jesus was not born on December 25 or even in the wintertime, He did lay aside His glory and came to earth to be born in a manger. He left a place that uses gold as street paving material in order that He might be robed in human flesh. But His purpose for coming was not to live, nor was it to make all humans worth their weight in gold. After approximately 33 years, He laid down His life and died for a special group of people, namely, His elect Bride. This was not done because of their intrinsic value, but simply because He chose them from among the children of men. He set His love upon them and upon whosoever will may come. Jesus Christ came to atone for our sins and to suffer the wrath of God the Father on our behalf.

So, while our life may never be worth a bar of gold on this earth, our lives were purchased with the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. In the light of eternity, this means that our value is found in Jesus Christ alone. It has nothing to do with us, and it certainly has nothing to do with the tons of gold that will one day melt away with a fervent heat. What a marvelous thought!

1 Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

In conclusion, each gold bar that is minted is marked with a specific identification marker so that it cannot be mixed up with any other bars. The identification tag stamped into the gold bar tells exactly how much it weighs down to the 1000th of an ounce. It also tells where it was minted and where it came from. How much more special the thought that each child of the living and thrice-holy God has marked each of us as His own. He has given us a new name and clothed us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. One day, He will allow the trumpet to be sounded and we will rise to be with Him forever. Heaven will resound with the praises as we sing glory, praise and honor to the Lamb that was slain! Amen and amen!

Something to Think About

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I am one who still celebrates Christmas with my family. Yes I know the allegations of it’s pagan origins, but I’m not going to argue that issue here today. Suffice it to say, if you are like me, then you enjoy sharing gifts with your loved ones. But as I share the picture posted above, I cannot help but be convicted by the influence out culture holds over us. If it is not the the newest, the latest and greatest gadget or toy, we feel cheated. We act as though we deserve to have the best and how dare anyone give us less.

But in our nation, even those of the lowest “class” have far more than the poorest nations in the world. I ask you to consider this, if you have a roof over your head, clothing to keep you warm and food to eat, realize your are greatly blessed by the Lord. If you have more than that, if you have a stable job, the ability to provide your family with even the smallest of gifts this season, you have been blessed above and beyond anything you deserve.

If you have a family that just “has to have” the newest and best, take the time to lead them through the gospel. Show them what we all truly deserve, the wrath of God. Then show them that in His great love for us, Christ died to redeem us. Anything above and beyond that gift is God’s blessings and we should not despise them.

Then, as Christians who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, may we examine the blessings we have received and see where we might share them with those who are not so fortunate. Let us bestow upon those who are in far greater need than ourselves, providing for what their physical needs may be. Then, when we do so, let us share that greatest gift of all, the message that Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

Christmas Parade Witnessing

I was able to go witnessing at the Pueblo, Colorado Christmas parade on Saturday, an event that attracted thousands of people. A friend and I passed out 500 tracts in about 30 minutes, covering only a portion of the parade route and one side of the street.

Among the few conversations I had, one was particularly alarming.

I asked a group of teens what they think happens when they die, and the young lady who spoke up said she would be going to heaven. I asked why she thought that, and she said she was going to heaven because she’s a good person. I specifically asked if we have to be good to go to heaven, and she responded in the affirmative.

This is a pretty typical beginning to a conversation. Most people think they’ll go to heaven because they’re good people. After that, I discussed a few of the Ten Commandments; she admitted to breaking them, and she seemed humbled by the law.
I asked her if she knew what God did so she could have her sins forgiven; she said Jesus died on the cross.

I elaborated on the gospel a little bit. She seemed to agree with everything I said. At the end of the conversation, her brother, who was listening to our conversation, said they were Christians—and that their dad is a pastor.

I didn’t ask what kind of pastor, but I was shocked that the teenage daughter of a pastor could think of herself as a Christian, and still be so confused about why she’s going to heaven.

The sad part is that this conversation, while alarming, isn’t all that abnormal. Many people claim to be Christians, but do not give a proper reason for why they’re going to heaven. It is pretty rare to catch someone who can correctly explain why his or her sins are forgiven.

If there is one thing I want to drum into my little boys, it is what the Bible says about how to get to heaven. It is by the cross of Christ alone, and not by any of our own good deeds.

How many of the people sharing our pews don’t have a proper understanding of why they can go to heaven? It seems to me that pastors aren’t doing a good job of explaining this fundamental truth.

It used to frustrate me that I would discuss the law and the gospel, and at the end of the conversation, find out that this “good” person I had been talking to was a Christian.
I used to think that I should get in the habit of asking people more about their beliefs so that I wouldn’t inadvertently witness to a Christian. But if someone who claims to be a Christian thinks he or she is getting to heaven by being good—even if that individual is genuinely saved—that person needs to hear the law and the gospel.

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NOTE: Witnessing at the parade was a great experience. People are happy, friendly and open to talking or accepting tracts. It is a privilege to be able to proclaim the gospel at a Christmas parade where most people are thinking about Santa Claus and decorating their house for the season. It’s a privilege to remind them of the real reason for Christmas.

Feel free to download the Christmas tract I wrote a few years ago (here), and hit your local parade. The tract was inspired in part by “It’s About the Cross,” a song by Go Fish.

Free cult flyer and gospel tract download.

Back in 2008, I made a cult flyer/gospel tract combo available to the readers of this blog to download for free. Since then, this flyer/tract combo has undergone refinement and is now in its fifth printing.

This flyer/tract combo was drafted as a way to inform the public about the truths of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and to provide them with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It was originally designed to hang on doorknobs in the area where I live and was in response to the constant canvasing of neighborhoods by these two cults. But since its inception, this flyer/tract combo has also found its way into the hands of numerous people throughout America and has even found its way to the shores of Africa (with another box full currently en route to Liberia as I write this).

The cult flyer is a single tri-fold (printed on the front and back). The tract comes three to a page (printed on the front and back). Each tract fits nicely inside the cult flyer as an insert.

Please feel free to download, print, and make as many copies of each of these items as you wish to distribute as you see fit. You can even put your church name, website, or other personal information on them to help in your evangelistic contacts if you so desire.

The Great Exchange

Who’s Really Knocking at Your Door?