Monday, March 25, 2013

Easter opens doors!

            The words “open door” has a nice ring to it. It conveys the idea of opportunities, expansion, a new outlook on things. We may have an open door to a new and better job opportunity. A door might open for us to expand our business or to start a new company. In church work, an ‘open door’ means that we have access and opportunity to bring the gospel to a new mission field.
Today, I’d like to tell you about the open doors of Easter. Do you remember the story of the first Easter? On Good Friday, Jesus was put to death on the cross and buried in a grave. The grave was a tomb carved out of stone and sealed later with a large stone.
On Easter morning the greatest of all miracles took place. Jesus, who had been buried, came to life. An angel came down from heaven, rolled away the stone from Jesus’ grave, to reveal that it was empty. Christ had risen from the dead!
When the women and the disciples went to visit Jesus’ grave on Easter morning, they found the door of the tomb wide open and the grave empty.
That open door, with it’s message – “Christ is alive!” is the bedrock of our Christian faith. The empty tomb dried up the tears of those who mourned and brought joy to the hearts of those who grieved.
The open door of Christ’s tomb is also our assurance that all the promises God has made in his Word are true. One thousand years before Jesus rose from his grave, the psalm writer said that the body of God’s holy one (Jesus) would never see decay. Eight hundred years before Jesus rose, the three-day experience Jonah had in the belly of a great fish, was an object lesson that pictured the three day stay of Jesus in the grave. If ever there was proof that God’s Word is true, the empty tomb was it.
The open tomb is also an open door to confidence. The open door of the tomb means that the Lord’s job was completed successfully. His resurrection meant that his mission, the salvation of all souls, was accomplished.
The open door of the tomb also means that the gates to heaven and eternal life are open as well. That’s the focus of Easter and the message we proclaim year long. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world that we might have eternal life.
            The next time you think about ‘open doors,’ don’t forget the ones that Jesus opened by his resurrection from the grave. They are ones that will bring us the greatest blessings we can have in this life and the next. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Want to save your marriage? Follow the direction of the Lord.

         Every year across the East Coast, 100s of Civil war buffs get together and put on mock battles. They form military regiments modeled after forces of by-gone days and have artillery and cavalry units as well as foot soldiers. They even don uniforms that solders of the North and South would have worn back then.
A couple of years ago, one such group was replaying the Battle of Hanover (it’s a town that influenced the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg). The Southern forces under General J.E.B. Stuart had attacked a federal cavalry unit driving it back through the streets of Hanover. But Union reinforcements arrived just in the nick of time and Stuart was driven back and nearly captured.
Well, during the reenactment, it was a hot sweltering day. The civil war buffs were sweating as they maneuvered into position for battle. They faced delays and the usual frustrations involved in setting up such a display. One of the ‘rebels’ however got so tired, hot, and frustrated that he literally threw in the towel and headed for the refreshment tent. As he tugged off his wool uniform, he was heard to grumble, “I quit. We’re not going to win anyway!”
And, of course, he was right. At best, the Battle of Hanover was a draw. But it contributed to the Confederate loss at Gettysburg. So here was this civil war buff who knows how everything is going to turn out. He’s tired. He’s hot. He’s discouraged. He knows his side isn’t going to win anyway, so he quits.
In the course of counseling many couples who are dealing with marriage problems I find the same thing. One or both of the parties involved give up because they are convinced they know how things are going to turn out. So, why bother? They are convinced that no matter how hard they try, no matter what they do, it’s just not going to work out. It’s going to end in divorce so why even try?
Some arrive at this conclusion early on, others over time. All they know is that there marriage is filled with problems. They argue all the time. At best they are civil to each other like two strangers living under the same roof. At other times, they live in open hostility. Sometimes serious attempts are made to make things better. Counselors are seen, advice sought from family members and friends – yet nothing seems to work. Divorce seems like the only solution.
          What is often overlooked is the real problem, the one that lies at the heart of every failing and broken marriage. It is sin. Sin takes marriage, a blessing from God, and ruins it. It may be an act of unfaithfulness or just doing things that are contrary to God’s will for those who are married. So often, our focus is on the problems of our spouse instead of working on our own. We fail to seek the advice and guidance of the Lord. We refuse to say we are sorry and ask for forgiveness. God says put away anger, sinful pride, impatience, selfishness, etc. We are to live with Christian love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, humility, etc. Serve each other. Love your spouse as Christ loves you. Forgive as you are forgiven. It’s easy. But with the Lord’s help it will work out. Don’t give up.

“There are lessons to learn from llamas."

          I read an account of a sheep herder that I would like to share with you. The story goes like this - Like many sheep ranchers in the West, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. None the less, the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambs. One year alone she lost fifty.
Lexy has used odor sprays, electric fences, and "scare-coyotes." She has slept with her lambs during the summer and placed battery operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night and herded them during the day.
Then she discovered the llama - the aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama. "Llamas don't appear to be afraid of anything," she said. "When they see something, they put their head up and walk straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as coyotes are concerned, and they won't have anything to do with that. Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take that opportunity away."
In a way llamas know the truth James writes of, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) The moment we sense his attack is the moment we should face it and deal with it for what it is.
We cannot build walls high enough or strong enough to keep Satan from penetrating our hearts. He knows how to sneak in. He knows just where our weaknesses are and when we are most vulnerable to his attacks.
The devil may use the words of a co-worker or fellow student to intimidate us. He may rely on a friendship to spoil our resolves. He insinuates, uses flawed logic and tells half-truths. It happens every day through the people we come into contact with and through the various situations we face in our life.
It takes more than the aggressiveness of a llama to deal with those temptations. It takes convictions strengthened through struggle and sharpened on the certainty of God's love. It takes a person who has the holy Word and the Holy Spirit at his disposal. Those are the resources our Savior had. He experienced Satan's attacks and successfully repelled them. He also offers us this power as one of his disciples.
          There are many in the world who doubt the existence of the devil, God, heaven and hell. Don't be fooled. Don't be lulled into spiritual sleep. These things are real. They demand our attention. The devil means business and there is only one way to overcome him. You need the help of God. Let God help you by reading and using his Word. With the Lord at your side you can stand toe to toe with Satan and know you will be the victor.