As I am in my mid-fifties now and I reflect on our society one thing that I am surprised by is the incredible amount of loneliness and isolation I see. We are one of the most advanced, wealthy and sophisticated countries in the world and yet loneliness is everywhere.When I was reading 2 Kings 2:11 about the departure of Elijah to heaven and his parting question to the man he had mentored, Elisha, I was struck by the profound loneliness Elisha must have felt as the mantle of leadership fell onto him now.Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “‘ Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.”  Matthew Henry writes, “He asks not for wealth, nor honour, nor exemption from troubles, but to be qualified for the service of God and his generation.”As God takes Elijah to heaven, Elisha looks on and cries out to his mentor “My father! My father!”Elisha is to face the needs of his generation without the benefit and counsel of his mentor. A lonely and potentially scary place to be.

The times we live in are extraordinary…the world has never looked quite like it does right now with the incredibly advanced technology alongside profound spiritual and emotional poverty.So how do we navigate through uncertain times when those we have relied on, our elders are passing into the next life? Elisha mourned the loss of his spiritual father and then he picked up his cloak. Elisha would wear Elijah’s cloak and would serve with the authority and power it symbolized.  So to with us, as those we have looked to for spiritual wisdom and counsel passed on, we can pick up the mantle left behind and walk with a holy confidence as we emulate their absolute and complete reliance on God.And as God said to Joshua after his mentor Moses had died, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:5,6a

Praise the Lord, that we serve a God that is present for all generations, not just the generations of the past. What a comfort. We are not alone to face the struggles of our day. “Not for a moment did He forsake” nor will He ever.

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Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.  This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him

Acts 2:21-24

What is Easter anyway?

Last week I was at a local grocery store and I couldn’t help but notice the chasmic difference between modern american culture’s version of Easter and the story that we find in the Word of God. The story that the items on the shelves tell is one of fun with friends and family full of eating chocolate and finding plastic eggs.  It is a happy story for sure, but lacking of the true meaning of Easter. If we are not careful Easter can become for us yet another Sunday to go through the motions and attend church, only to go on our way and pay no attention to its spiritual significance in our lives.

What is Easter anyway?

It is so much more than we often make it out to be. It’s more than Easter bunnies, chocolate and finding plastic eggs with your loved ones and family members. It’s more than a special Sunday to attend church in fancier clothes or sadly for some who claim to be followers of Jesus the only Sunday to attend church.

What is Easter anyway?

It is at the very heart of the biblical message of that eternal life that is possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s hard to put the significance of Easter into proper perspective.  Easter, along with the Good Friday message of the crucifiction, divide all of human history. Everything before those fateful days looked toward it in hopeful anticipation of the coming redeemer. From that time on the shadow that sin cast over humanity was burned out by the light given off by the glory of the risen savior.

The true significance of Easter is simple, it is the empty tomb and eternal implications that come with it. In light of the resurrection, sin is permanently atoned for, God’s wrath vindicated and the reconciliation of sinful humanity is made possible. A risen Christ defeated sin for all time, demonstrated Jesus to be divine and made eternal life possible for all who put their hope and trust in Jesus alone to save them from their sin.  Without the Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus the Christian faith is a purposeless vacuum of hopelessness, no different than any other religious system.

Take heart though, Jesus is alive! The tomb was in fact found to be empty. After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus made several appearances.  He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-16), Mary the mother of James (Matt 28:9), Peter (Luke 24:34), Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), the 11 remaining disciples (John 20:19-28, ), James and 500 others (1 Cor 15:7-8).

What is Easter anyway?

I hope that you will take some time this year to reflect on that very question. It’s the celebration of a risen, living savior who brings hope to a hopeless world.  Easter should bring us to our knees, and inspire us to engage everyone we know with the truth that Jesus is risen and refocus on hearts and minds on pursuing God with our whole being. It should remind us of the glory and power of the resurrection and encourage us to look to Christ who dealt with our sin and made forgiveness and reconciliation with God possible.

What is Easter anyway?

Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The implication of which  is perhaps best stated by the author of Hebrews. Where once priests made sacrifices day after day that could never permanently deal with our sin, Jesus, that first Easter, with one sacrifice for all time took care of sin forever and then assumed his rightful glorified place, at the right hand of God the father.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

Hebrews 10:11-12

It always amazes me how God can redeem some of the most painful and ugly situations. I was reading the very last chapter of Genesis regarding Joseph. Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. They had dealt treacherously and cruelly with him. But Joseph’s eyes were always on God. So that at the end of this chapter Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

Earlier in Genesis 45:7 Josesph said to his brothers, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here but God.”

Make no mistake Joseph suffered because of what his brothers had done and not just for a week or two, but for years. Yet, by God’s grace Joseph was able keep his gaze on God and His plan. Joseph’s story, or really God’s story is truly humbling, because it is a tremendous reminder of God’s sovereignty, wisdom and love that is soo incredibly different than the inclinations of our very human hearts.

Last Sunday our pastor askedsked us if we knew Jesus was coming back in the next 15 minutes would we be willing to declare an international amnesty (day so to speak)…and forgive those that have wronged us, so that when we went to face God at those end of those 15 minutes…our hearts would be clean before God? It is a powerful question to contemplate.

There is a great cost to unforgiveness in this lifetime and in the next life. Is it worth it?