Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Correct Me!

About three weeks ago someone loaned me a DVD teaching that speaks of three different kinds of sin.  I'm not going to take time to look at the notes I have as I write this now, but my memory is that the three kinds are (1) "missing the mark," that is, going against God's commands without a rebellious attitude, (2) "transgression," knowingly and intentionally turning against God's ways, and (3) "iniquity," the consequences of habitually turning a blind eye, a deaf ear toward God's ways--something that comes near to what the scriptures call a "hard heart."

My understanding before studying these matters in depth is that each of these types of sin is still sin, and each of these kinds of sin brings the proverbial "wages of sin," that is, death.  And one might remember this from Galatians 6:7-8 -  "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption..."

The special difficulty that comes from being rebellious and hard-hearted is that it's so difficult to come to repentance.  The DVD resource claims that it is the rebellion and hard-hearted-ness that ends up impacting generations.  Rebellion and hard-hearted-ness leads us to hate the one who loves us--God himself.  (See Exodus 20:5)

I need to spend some time studying this in more depth, to see if there is indeed a reason for saying there are different "kinds of sin."  It make sense spiritually as I sit here writing this, but I do need to check this against the Word of God.

It's that time in the Word that will correct me and each of us.  Let's allow God to continually correct us and change us--and let's give God permission to correct us, harshly if necessary, so we will not wander far from His love.  And when we see that we are wandering, let us return to the Lord!

A prayer:

Father God, keep us close to your Word so we are regularly corrected and thereby stay soft to your hand.  Protect us by your Word all from rebellion and hardness of heart!  When you see that we are rebelling or hardening, use all means necessary to turn us back to the right path, for your love desires nothing more than our hearts, open and willing to receive You and Your Word.  Jesus, you have done all that is necessary to defeat every kind of sin.  Make that victory evident in our lives today.  Come Holy Spirit, fill us and give us new hearts!  In Jesus' name.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Counseling the Sick

I found this tonight as a comment on "Learning God's Purpose of Affliction." 


FROM “The Order for the Visitation of the Sick” {1928 Book of Common Prayer} ~

¶ Here shall be said,

O SAVIOUR of the world, who by thy Cross and precious Blood hast redeemed us; Save us, and help us, we humbly beseech thee, O Lord.

¶ As occasion demands, the Minister shall address the sick person on the meaning and use of the time of sickness, and the opportunity it affords for spiritual profit.

¶ Here may the Minister inquire of the sick person as to his acceptance of the Christian Faith, and as to whether he repent him truly of his sins, and be in charity with all the world; exhorting him to forgive, from the bottom of his heart, all persons that have offended him; and if he hath offended any other, to ask them forgiveness; and where he hath done injury or wrong to any man, that he make amends to the uttermost of his power.

¶ Then shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any matter; after which confession, on evidence of his repentance, the Minister shall assure him of God’s mercy and forgiveness.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Challenging? or Confusing?

I'll be posting my message from last Sunday (Apr. 21) on this blog later.  I loaned my final copy to someone yesterday afternoon.  I've had two people comment on how challenging, or confusing, this particular message was for them.  I brought up the possibility that "religion" (that is, the outward appearance or "form" of godliness, 2 Timothy 3:5) can serve Christ.  The other messages in the series, including the one to come this Sunday, point out the dangers of religious traditions, but in this one I wanted to point out the fact that God himself seems to endorse and even command some of these things.

This coming Sunday we'll be looking at First Corinthians 10.  In that particular chapter (and, actually in chapter 11) the Lord speaks to us about the dangers of putting too much trust in the most widely accepted Christian practices.  Baptism is mentioned there, and communion is too, though both in connection with their Old Testament "types."

This is a challenging area to be looking at.  I will do my best to keep it as clear as possible.  Still, some confusion may be unavoidable.  Please ask any questions you may have.  I'll do my best to answer whatever is on your mind.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

God is in Charge

Whitney McKendree Moore shared this today.  Thank you Whitney!  It's a good word.  For more go to wmckmoore.blogspot.com.

GOD on high, I see that my "default" is set at forgetting that everything is happening just the way it needs to happen and that everything that happens is allowed by You. In this awareness, I stand firm in the peace that passes all understanding. It is wisdom from on high to know that You are Sovereign and to stand firm, knowing that You are in charge and we are not. I am blessed among women (and men!) to know this.

Thank You for teaching me to say, "I can't but God can, God, and I need to let Him." Whatever You allow, You allow. It is what it is. And so, I pray:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom the know the difference.
- R. Neibuhr

Thank You for the grace to discern Your Will and differentiate Your Voice from that of "other" higher powers, of which there are many. Thank You for teaching me to know the difference. Be Lord of all; be the center of everything; be first and foremost in my life, LORD Christ. In You, I stand firm, both and forever, safe and joyous and free. Thank You, Savior and Lord Most High. Amen.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Leaders for Crossroads

I sent this out as an email a few weeks ago to our Crossroads Community Church Board.  

Please be in prayer about the April 28 Partnership Dinner and the selection of three board members to replace those whose terms have expired.

Thank you!


... Here are some things to pray about when looking for future Crossroads leaders:

1) Character - Hold the person in mind and pray through Galatians 5:22-23.  Is the person growing (not perfect, but growing) in the fruit of the spirit?  are they willing to seek to be honest with themselves about themselves and their relationships?

2) Capacity - Read through Acts 2:42-27 and consider the need for our leaders to be together with our church.  Consider their ability to participate fully in our common life at Crossroads (worship, service, study, prayer)?  Are they able to be at meetings?  Does it work into their schedule?

3) Chemistry - See Luke 10:5-6.  Is the person we're considering a "person of peace" to Crossroads?  Are they obviously supportive of the church, its pastor and leadership? Can they get along with others who don't see things just as they do?

4) Calling - Look at Matthew 4:18-20.  Can this person consider being on the board a part of their personal calling to follow Jesus?  Do they know Jesus personally as their Lord and Savior?  Are they willing to step out beyond their comfort zone if they believe God is calling them?

Let's consider these four items as goals for our personal lives as well as our new board members.

God bless you all.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Where Faith Grows Strong

Faith grows strong in the soil of lamentation.

We never need fear sadness or tears.  In fact, we should get used to them and welcome them when they come, whether they come to us in our own life personally or when others come to us with their griefs.

This is especially true for Christian believers.  Tears and sadness are not signs of unbelief.  Instead, they are signs of moments when we can be most open to the Comfort of God, the Holy Spirit, and the priceless Word.

I encourage you to face fears, tears and sad thoughts head-on instead of seeking distraction.  Go to your heavenly Father in prayer.  Ask Him to speak to you and then open your Bible and begin to read.  Look for the sadness (in the Bible) and find companionship.  (So many saints have gone before you through the dark.)  Then look for the Word of Promise that comes.  Look for the light.  It will come.  God is faithful.  He will give you what you need.

In addition to going to the Lord in prayer and in scripture on my own, I find deep comfort when I go to other mature Christian believers who are, like Jesus, familiar with grief.  I often ask for prayers when my heart fails.  I treasure those friends who do not push me away at those times, those friends who are not afraid of sadness, those friends who know the work God does in the dark.  With those friends, whether in person, on the phone, or even via social media, I have heard God's voice, speaking strength and peace right there in the hardest of times.

The Word of God can be a super-blessed source of strength and God's truth can become precious beyond all else--but this requires us to avoid the temptation to hide triviality, entertainment and perpetual good-humor.  And passing though those sad times is what truly helps me grow strong in faith--in trusting God--and brings me great hope and love for others, and ready to walk beside others while faith grows.


Religion As A Servant of Christ

It's late at night and I need to get to sleep but before my mind will rest I'm needing to "talk" a bit about something that the Lord has been laying on my heart for the past few days.  I've been preparing, bit by bit, for the third message in a series on "Christianity and Religion: What's the Difference?"  I've been considering how, in the scriptures, religion can be a servant of Christ (as in when certain good habits, spiritual disciplines and customary behaviors, like going to church on Sundays) but how, if it does not stay in the servant role, but, instead, becomes the master, that it becomes a self-serving enemy of God (as we saw last week in our study of Second Timothy chapter 3).

My plan for this coming Sunday is to use First Samuel 3, the familiar "call of Samuel," as a way of talking about how a religious man like Eli the Priest can serve God (as when he discerns that the Lord is calling the boy Samuel) while at the same time allowing horrible religious abuses to go on under his roof.  The religious leaders of those days, symbolized in this case by Eli's sons, were using their religious position to benefit themselves.  Eli, however, recognized the truth of God's voice when it came to him, even when it came with judgment against him and his family.

I pray that all religious people would be as wise as Eli when he said: It is the Lord.  Let us bow before God and obey his Word--whatever the cost.

There's a lot more I could write, but I really need to sleep now.  5:30 comes early!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I found the following at http://ministrytoday.org/bible/wordstudies/studies/elders/terms/presbuteros.htm.

I think it's quite helpful, though there seems to be a typo in the second sentence.  I'll try to find out.

Also on this subject see Who Should Run the Church? A Case for the Plurality of Elders

Word Studies

"presbuteros"      "episcopos"      "poimen"

Elders (presbuteros) literally referred to "aged ones." Anyone of any age in the congregation was called "presbuteros." It was not necessarily an office but a function of age. Paul even calls elderly women by the term "presbuteros in 1 Timothy 5:2. Yet it becomes clear by the use of the term that it is one who ...
  1. Rules, oversees, manages
  2. Labors in word and doctrine
  3. Prays for the sick
  4. Are always plural in the church (more than one).
    • Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. - 1 Timothy 5:17
    • For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: - Titus 1:5
    • Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: - James 5:14
Peter considered himself to be an elder (presbuteros).
"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:" 1 Peter 5:1
The apostle John referred to himself as an elder (presbuteros). Though he was by office an "apostle" in function he was an elder (presbuteros).

  • The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; - 2 John 1:1
  • The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. - 3 John 1:1
<4245> presbuteros p(res-boo'-ter-os)
comparative of presbus (elderly);
AV-elder 64, old man 1, eldest 1, elder woman 1; 67

1) elder, of age,
1a) the elder of two people
1b) advanced in life, an elder, a senior
1b1) forefathers
2) a term of rank or office
2a) among the Jews
2a1) members of the great council or Sanhedrin (because in early times the rulers of the people, judges, etc., were selected from elderly men)
2a2) of those who in separate cities managed public affairs and administered justice
2b) among the Christians, those who presided over the assemblies (or churches) The NT uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably
2c) the twenty four members of the heavenly Sanhedrin or court seated on thrones around the throne of God

ELDER (singular)

  • 1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
  • 1 Timothy 5:2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
  • 1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
  • 1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
  • 1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
  • 2 John 1:1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
  • 3 John 1:1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
ELDERS (plural)
  • Acts 11:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
  • Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
  • Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
  • Acts 15:4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
  • Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
  • Acts 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
  • Acts 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
  • Acts 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
  • Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
  • Acts 21:18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
  • 1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
  • Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
  • Hebrews 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
  • James 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
  • 1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hide It? No.

It's almost the middle of what has been, so far, quite a challenging week.  Not challenging in my own life, but challenging for others.

When God calls us to His Kingdom, many times we do end up having our own lives complicated by the situations that aren't "ours."  We come alongside people in real life, and real life is often painful, messy, angry.  We pray "Lord, have mercy."  And we pray again.  And again.  And again.

I believe that is an important part of the call of God.  Pray that no Christian believer would shrink back and hide themselves away.  Pray that we would trust our big God enough to shine His light in the dark.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Good Day

Just a quick note before I hit the hay for the night.  No school today due to the April snow storm.  Personally that worked out fine because I was able to get to a 4-5 hour meeting with the other "network" pastors without having to give up my afternoon school bus run.  It was a bit sporting driving in but I was, and still am, energized by the spiritual intensity that these guys experience as they plan for upcoming preaching series.  We got the second stage of preparation done for a summer series (on Colossians), a September "encouragement" series that we're calling "UP!," and finally a series that will take us through the rest of the fall on Jesus' sermon on the mount.  I was then able to go visit my parents in South Minneapolis before coming home.  A good day!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Continuing Care

The following email went out a few moments ago to our Crossroads email list.  Whether or not you consider yourself a part of Crossroads Community Church, your prayers and your care are much appreciated.  Thank you.
Tammy Nygaard is coming home from the hospital today.  She asks if people would be willing to bring meals to her, for example, leftovers you have at home.  And if someone is interested in helping us organize this for her, that would be very helpful.

Also, if anyone would be willing to help with a few dollars, we're trying to help with day care costs for her son Carson while he is staying in Hutchinson with Tammy's sister Kim and family.  Kim is employed so cannot stay with Carson at home.  This would truly help Kim and her family as they are taking care of Carson and Carolyn (Tammy's mom) who is also staying there is recovering from pneumonia (she was hospitalized until Monday).  Carolyn is not able to keep up with Carson as she is recovering.  The day care costs are $150 per week.

Please call the church and leave a message there if you're willing to help with either of these.

"Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up." (Galatians 6:9)

Please speak with Pastor Steve if you have questions!  We all might have concerns about this or any other assistance we share with those in need, so please take time to ask those questions.  Many times we need to hear from one another so we get a good, realistic and compassionate picture of various situations.  And don't forget to pray!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Teaching Trust

The Lord IS faithful.

How can we help one another remember this at the moments when we need faith the most?

As Graham Cooke says "Faith is not a demand. It is a gift from God."

I am praying today for those who need provision & power and asking the Lord for opportunities to share truth with them in ways that are kind and powerful, so that their minds are transformed.

Too often believers forget to believe in the tough times.  Too often believers forget to pray and then hesitate to ask others to pray over them.  Too often we think we should be able to handle storms by ourselves.

The "confession" that Graham speaks of in the poster above is the confession "The Lord is faithful."  Agreeing with that truth, we find God's power at work to move circumstances in ways we can't easily explain.  This kind of faith does make a difference.  Something will change, something will move, there will be "a result."

Often it takes time for our brains to be "re-programmed" for trust.  Let's be patient with one another during the process.  Let's not get too frustrated with one another as our anxieties rise and fall.  Let's "validate" the feelings of our friends and family and church members, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice... but then let's point one another to our faithful God.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Weekend End

Just thought I'd write a few lines before heading to bed tonight.  My heart is full of gratitude for all the ways God has preserved and protected me and Toni and our children and our many loved ones.  There are days of pain and trouble, but the Lord helps us through them all and I am so thankful.  I want all the world to know God's amazing grace.

We had a sweet time in worship this morning followed by a afternoon at North Heights "All Things New" production.  After getting home from that there was a quick supper, a quick nap and then some time of cleaning at Toni's business.  And God gives strength and peace for it all.

Tomorrow will begin on the school bus and end at a Crossroads Board of Directors meeting.  God will give strength for tomorrow too.  All Glory to the Lord.

If you're not feeling God's peace tonight, if you are in pain, ask someone to pray with you.  And spend some time in God's Word.

Much love to you all from Jesus.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

What's the Difference?

We're moving into a series of messages that God has been preparing us for for quite some time.

The series title, "What's the Difference" was originally going to be focused on so called "other religions" but the challenges of "religion" aren't just about "other religions."

We at Crossroads can be just as able to be be trapped by false "religion" as anyone else.

A false "religion" is one that, as it reads in 2 Timothy 3:5, is dedicated to the "form" or "outward appearance" of  godliness while not being interested in God's transforming power.  We see the same thing in Matthew 15:8-9, where Jesus warns us about keeping our hearts and minds far away from God while at the same time pretending to honor God.  "Their worship is worthless," he says, "their teachings are just human ideas."

During this series we may consider a few of the difference between one "religion" and another, but our main focus will be on asking God to examine us. 

Come Holy Spirit.  Search us and try us.  Learn if there is any false way in us.  Lead us in the everlasting way.  (Psalm 139:23-24).


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter at Crossroads

Here are the notes written in preparation for our Easter Sunday celebration at CrossroadsThe theme from this day will be the lead-in to a series that will continue through May 5th that we'll be calling What's the Difference?  Today I'm doing some background work on that.

Thanks to our musicians, scripture readers & to the 20+ folks who got up at the end of this message in response to a sort of "reverse altar call."  Those "Crossroads elders" are ready to pray with you and walk beside you as you respond to God's call to examine the source of your faith, on the question of "fact vs. feeling."  Go to crossroadscokato.com/worship

Thanks to our audio visual crew, Easter worship was recorded and posted online.  If there was lots of time I'd go through and edit this so it would match the recording... and I'd fix the formatting.  If anyone would like to help with either of those issues, just let me know!
John 20:1-8
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.
"Jesus Christ is Risen Today" (song)
Welcome! and church family time
Time for Children – like to read? like stories?  2 kinds, true & not - The Jesus story is true!
Offering with "Festive Alleluia"
Praise & Worship
"For All You've Done" (song)
"Stronger" (song)

John 20:24-31
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said,  “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas,  “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 …Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.


“My Lord and My God"
(Every 'faith' is not the same)

     There are lots of reasons why a person could complain about unbelieving Thomas, but there are a few things I will always admire him for.

     One, is that he doesn’t keep his unbelief to himself.  He dares to speak it, out loud, among people who are all convinced that Jesus rose from the dead.  If you are an unbeliever today, if there is any corner of your mind that is not convinced about the resurrection of Jesus, I hope you will speak your questions out loud.  I’m hoping you’ll do that in the days to come.  It could be that Jesus met Thomas and gave him what he needed to believe because he was brave enough, or desperate enough, to bring his stubborn unbelief out into the open.  I will always admire him for that.

     Another thing I admire about him was his ability to stand strong in the face of peer pressure.  Sure, in this case, it was positive peer pressure because Jesus actually was risen from the dead, but I admire Thomas for not just giving into the crowd.  I think we all should admire him for that. 

     Third, Thomas did come up with criteria that he would accept in order to believe that Jesus had risen.  They were extreme criteria and Thomas was being unreasonable… for him seeing Jesus risen in the flesh would not be enough… he said he need to touch him in the most extreme way…  In the end, he didn’t need to do that, but I admire him for saying what he thought it would take to convince him and change him from from an unbeliever to someone who would believe.

     Fourth, when the evidence Thomas asked for is finally offered to him, when Jesus comes in FULLY KNOWING just what it was that Thomas had said when Jesus wasn’t even there to hear it… When Jesus comes in and said “Reach out that finger… look at my hands and take your hand and put it right here in my wounded side…” … When Jesus offered the evidence, he came from darkness into light, saying “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”

     But the main reason I appreciate Thomas is that he knows the difference between truth and fiction and he cares about it.  He’s not going to give his life to something that is not true.  He’s not going to pretend to follow someone who is not real.  His Lord, His God – His Jesus – Thomas is not going to trust just anyone.  He needs to know.

     Thomas frankly does a better job than many believers at just wanting to know the facts.  There are many believers, even famous ones, who are willing to settle for much less.  And it’s very sad.

     How many of you are familiar with the booklet “Our Daily Bread”?  We got an offer from the “Our Daily Bread” people to provide for us, for free, as many Easter booklets as we wanted.  The author of the booklet is Philip Yancey. 

     Do you know him?  He wrote some bestselling books including What’s So Amazing About Grace, Where is God When it Hurts, and The Jesus I Never Knew. 

     I can’t say I’m really familiar with him but I’ve heard his name so, when the Daily Bread people offered us his booklets, I said sure… and we got them in plenty of time and I thought we’d hand them out here at church today.

     I thought I might even use them as a part of today’s message.  – And there is a lot good in this booklet.  In it Yancey presents the overwhelming evidence for Christ’s resurrection.  He writes about the first Christians, who staked everything on the resurrection of Jesus.  He writes about the evidence that stands against the idea that the resurrection was some sort of elaborate conspiracy theory cooked up by the disciples or the Gospel writers.  He writes about how hard it was for the disciples to believe that Jesus actually had been raised… there are lots of good things about this book.

     But then he says this:  I have weighed the arguments in favor of the resurrection, and they are indeed impressive.  The English journalist Frank Morison dealt with most of these arguments in the classic Who Moved the Stone?  Although Morison had set out to discount the resurrection as a myth, the evidence convinced him otherwise.  Yet I also know that many intelligent people have looked at the same evidence and have found it impossible to believe.  Although much about the resurrection invites belief, nothing compels it.  Faith requires the possibility of rejection, or it is not faith.  What, then, gives me Easter faith?

     And at this point, as I was reading, I was saying to my self, YES!  He’s going to witness now to the power of God in his life, to the work of the Holy Spirit in him and through him and in the lives of others.  He’s going to say what a difference it made in his life when he finally gave in to the TRUTH and, like Thomas, stopped living as an unbeliever and finally said, “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”

     I was sorely disappointed.  Not only did he fail to say anything about the glorious power of the Holy Spirit that comes alive in believers… such as in the book of Acts and in Christian believers all over the world today… the power of the Holy Spirit that brings healing and new life, sometimes literally and dramatically, sometimes more slowly…  He finally gets there, sort of, you can read the booklet for yourself and see what you think, but the sad part for me is that at the critical moment in his book, when he could have powerfully witnessed to Jesus, it looks to me like he fall back on “feelings” and “wishes.” 

     He writes: One reason I am open to belief, I admit, is that at a very deep level I want the Easter story to be true.  And then, skipping down a bit, he writes: Above all else, I want Easter to be true because of its promise that someday I will get my friends back… At the beginning of the booklet he spoke about the loss of three of his friends.

     Now you may not react as strongly as I did when you read this, and eventually Philip Yancey does get past feelings, but there is such danger in making feelings and wishful thinking the basis of our faith.

     Every faith is not the same.  Some believers honestly never get past the sense of “feeling” that they “want” Easter to be true.  But that sort of faith will not have power.  That sort of faith will not witness to others.  And that sort of faith will not stand in hard and painful times.

     My friends, we live in a day when so many people’s lives are driven by feelings, by emotions, by the need to escape from painful reality.  Even Christians bury themselves in entertainment and distractions.  Addictions and sinful, unhealthy and dishonest words, attitudes and habits come upon us, often just as much as they afflict unbelievers.  Statistics and surveys show this to be true.

     Wishing and hoping cannot save you from sin, death or from the devil’s tricks.  Only the One True God can do that, and it is strong, unshakable, proven-under-fire faith, the kind of faith that many believers have experienced, it is TRUE faith NOT based on feelings that brings salvation and sanctification and restoration and resurrection power to you and to me, resurrection power and Holy Spirit power—faith-filled power to bring real life to this broken world through miraculous signs and wonderful acts of love.  [pause]

     So what do you do if, upon examining the basis of your faith, you discover that your faith is based on wishful thinking?

     If you think your faith may be based more on feelings than on facts, I suggest you do what Thomas did.  First, don’t keep your questions to yourself.  Share with someone you trust.  Second, don’t just give in to peer pressure.  The power of God does not come from your friends.  Third, lay out the evidence that you would need to move past feelings to a faith based on fact.  Don’t be lazy about this.  Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  You must come to Jesus, and Jesus must come to you.  Repent and be baptized.  You will be saved.

     Don’t be satisfied with fairy tales.  Don’t be satisfied with lies.  In First Corinthians 11, where the Lord is teaching us about communion, He says this:

28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

     That passage applies, not only to communion, but to every aspect of the Christian faith.  Examine your faith.

     Where does it rest?

     Does it rest on truth?  For this is the truth, the literal truth, the factual truth, the unshakable truth – Christ Is Risen!  You can trust him.  2 Peter 1:3 gives us a promise.  He is able to provide everything you need for a life of joyful and powerful faith.  You can trust him-now.

     Can you be honest today?  Can you be truthful? 

     If you know your faith is based MORE on feelings and wishful thinking than it is on facts, we want to walk beside you to a place of strength. 

     If you know this message has been for you today, I’m going to ask you to take a step, to come out into the open with all of us so we can pray for you and love you and walk with you.  Maybe we’ll need to provide a class.  Maybe we’ll need to sit down with you personally…  

     First, are there some who have made this journey already, this journey from feelings to facts, and who could volunteer to pray for others?  You may not have perfect faith, but you have seen enough evidence to convince you that it is factually, literally true.  Will you come up and join me here.

     Now, to those honest, admirable souls who have questions - Here are some men and women you can be honest with.  They won’t reject you.  They will love you and care for you.  There are others at this church too who aren’t here today who can walk beside you.  They will help you find the answers you need.

     I want to ask you to connect with us this week.  Will you do that?  Connect with us in whatever way is works for you.  Don’t let this chance pass you by.  Let’s pray…

"Thine Is the Glory" (song)
1 Peter 1:3–9