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 

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