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!

You Are…

You are my Glory and my Hope
Perfect in all Your ways
You are the One in Whom I rest
You are my Hope and Stay

You are my Wisdom and my Rock
The Blesser of my soul
The Hearer of my painful cries
You’re holy and faithful

You are the One in whom I trust
The Strength’ner of my heart
You are my Shield and Protection
You’ll never more depart

You uphold all your righteous ones
You are my Hiding Place
You are the One Who gives me food
My Light, my Truth, my Grace

You are Alpha and Omega
You are the First and Last
When You come back to take me home
My sin will all be past.

Words by Violet Escalera – January 2017
(Can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace)

Discerning Believer

We live in a time of beginnings of peril within our country. The church is falling apart and grows more apostate each day, our culture, which was built on the Word of God, hates true believers and is willing to sacrifice them on the altar of tolerance. We are regularly put into a position of either stand for the Lord or stand with the world. People we thought loved the Lord have fallen prey to the lies of Satan and some may even have turned on true believers. We see children, who’ve been raised their whole life being taught the Word of God, stray to churches that teach sweet little nothing’s and tickle their ears.

We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.

As we go through each day we are called upon to make decisions based on the Word of God, we are called to be Berean Christians. We are called upon to discern right from wrong and good from bad. Sadly, we see more and more people dropping out of true Christianity to lie in bed with the deceiver and his minions. Sometimes we ask ourselves, “What is happening? Who can we trust? How do we know who is right and who is wrong?”

When this blog was first started it was named Defending Contending, which was very appropriate as it was begun so false prophets posing as true prophets would be called into question and revealed for what they truly were. Yet, the question should be asked, “Why don’t true believers know and discern who is a wolf in sheep clothing and who is truly the man of God?” Sometimes even we, as true believers, are fooled by someone who, we think, is truly loving and serving the Lord. The truth is that we won’t always know who is true and who is a tare. Some of them will be hidden for a time until the great harvest.

discernment-spurgeon

Yet we find that the Word of God is very clear. Heb 5:11-14, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” We are a people who refuse to study the Word of God. We “pay those people” to study it for us and, heaven forbid, that they should say something we don’t want to hear.

Brothers and sisters, it is our responsibility to study God’s Word to find out if what we are being taught is according to God’s Word. Even on this blog now called Truth in Grace, it’s important to realize that we are all sinners and can be led astray. We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.

Granted, there are grey areas within the Word of God that aren’t clearly known so some things can be believed one way or another. When it is clear and concise, though, it’s important for us to realize that God expects His children to follow His commands. Obedience with joy is very important for true believers. We can’t be obedient if we don’t know what the Lord tells us to do. It’s time for each of us to find out and learn to be discerning not just wait for someone else to do it for us.

Having A Tender Heart

As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.

After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.

Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.

heart

Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.

The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.

So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.

The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!

Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.

Speaking Graciously

Truth in grace. I love the new blog title. I’ve said for years that some people have no problem “speaking the truth” (or what they perceive that truth to be) but they forget the “in love” part.  If we love each other, our words will be “gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

col46

People complain about the internet being a place where some say things that they would never say to a person’s face. I personally love this mode of communication because it gives me time to think through how to respond to a person or situation. Not that I always do it perfectly, but I have the opportunity to slow down and allow God to speak through me as opposed to speaking off the top of my head words that might be full of pride and ignorance.

Whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we are to do it to the glory of God (Col. 3:17). I pray that I will never lose sight of that truth.

 

Moving Forward

Hello Brothers and Sisters,

Of recent times, I have been doing much soul-searching in particular as it applies to Defending Contending. I have seriously considering everything from closing it down to transferring ownership to another person. However, the more I have considered this, the more tense I became. This was not because it has been mine for so long, but because this has been an opportunity that the Lord has used to help me to grow and to be able to share with others. I have been writing at Defending Contending for 9 years come the end of January 2017.

During that time, there have been things I have both read and written that I have cringed. There are posts written that have caused my heart to break before the Lord and I have had to seek repentance for my own stubbornness and lack of Christ-likeness. We have gained many viewers and lost more than we have gained. I believe that we are in a state of flux within evangelical Christianity and my heart has long been to reach out to our readers in a way that still point out the truth without being hateful, spiteful, or vitriolic in any manner even when we disagree with others.

With that in mind, I believe for the time being that a change in direction will be a profitable move. I want to lay these out just briefly.

climateoftruth

1. A new name – Truth In Grace — Reason is simply because we are truly called to preach and teach truth, but I believe we are called to do so with grace. The new picture on the website says, “Truth without grace is a prison; Grace without truth is chaos.”
2. A new tagline – “Sharing truth and faith in a spirit of love and grace.”
3. A new direction with posts
4. Additional contributors — I have just this evening reached out to two people that I believe could be a blessing to our readers.

I believe that this new direction, name change, and tagline are still very much in line with where The Pilgrim was going with the blog when he started it. Yes, we have all had to learn and I pray this will continue to reach others with a gracious spirit years in to the future.

However, I know that with the additions and changes, there will be other differences to deal with which is another reason for writing. Not all of us, even now, are in full agreement on every aspect of doctrine. I have no doubt that our differences are not salvific in nature, but I also understand that can be debated by some if they choose a hard line on some points.

For example, through the ages, men like Spurgeon, Sproul, MacArthur, Wilkerson, Conway, Baucham, Lloyd-Jones, etc. would have all agreed on many points of foundational truths that are unassailable, but they would have disagreed on some doctrines that, in my humble opinion, do not make a difference in whether a person is a true believer or not. Another example would be where Lloyd-Jones stood on the work and role of the Holy Spirit as compared to say Sproul or MacArthur. Yet, I have no doubt that they would have been gracious to each other and would have learned from each other.

Many of you know that I hold to the doctrines of grace, but it is not a drum that I have ever made a point of beating others up on. I can respectfully agree to disagree with another and still call them my brother or sister in Christ. I can disagree on things like family integrated or Sunday school, or in the style and meaning of missions, or in the version or music styles I choose to use and still call the other side of the coin a brother or sister in Christ.

Not everybody who has or who will write at DefCon are staunch Calvinists. Each of us are at different points in our Christian walk, and even one who is mature in the faith in many areas can still have much to learn as though they were a new believer. Brothers and sisters, as I get older, my heart’s desire is that my mind would be brought into closer communion with the Lord of glory. We will not be found in glory based on or divided into groups according to what we believed on certain issues. We will be in glory because of what Christ alone has done for us.

I know that each of you will have to make decisions as to what direction you will go into the future. As for me, this is where I believe the Lord would have me to walk. My issue will be that every post provides encouragement, edification, or exhortation according to the principles of God’s Word. Simply put, my intention is not to linger on one issue, one doctrine, or even appear as though we are nothing but a discernment blog. The new blog will be so much more, as the Lord blesses and is glorified.

If you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns, please feel free to reach back out to me.

I am so thankful for all we have been through down through each season that you have been part of our readership. My prayer is that this will continue for a long time, but it needs to move in a new direction effective immediately. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ even if we do not ultimately agree in the end. Thank you for your understanding.

In Christian love and grace,

Mark Anthony

Lightning Strikes Car After Church Robbery?

This article will be quick. I caught a glimpse of a Facebook video that is being shared by many concerning a supposed lightning strike that hit a car that was involved in a chase after robbing a church. Here is the video:

Seems pretty plausible doesn’t it? Not really. And I will show you why in the next paragraph. But the veracity of this chase does not concern me as much as how easy it is to believe something on the Internet, even if it was supposedly God who did it. In other words, I find that those who are suppose to be on the side of truth and biblical objectivity still keep falling prey to the tricks that the Internet is notorious for. Spreading lies, gossip, misinformation, and the like is not something that should be named among us as Christians. Yet, time and time again, I continually see posts, twitter feeds, and other such avenues being flooded with slander, propaganda, and nonsense that has not been given due diligence and godly reservation before sharing and spreading.

Case in point. Here is a frame by frame visual of what actually happened to this car. Continue reading