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I remember when I was eight or nine years old and began to have doubts about the Easter Bunny. Easter was great, but I could not figure out how a rabbit would be able to deliver chocolate and a dress shirt every Easter, so I developed a plan. I had been given a chalkboard for Christmas and I wrote, "If you are the real Easter Bunny, sign your name here." I believed that in the morning, I would have my answer, but on Easter morning, there was a paw print on my chalkboard. I was in awe and that kept me guessing . . . at least another year! My Easter then was filled with chocolate, a new shirt and hunting eggs.
My Easter today is about so much more! There still may be some chocolate and dyed eggs, perhaps even a shirt, but my Easter is about celebrating the fact that Jesus is alive! I am so glad that when it comes to Easter, we do not have to guess about this. The idea that someone could come back from the grave is so unbelievable, but Jesus did! In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul reminds them that Jesus was seen by Peter, then the Apostles, then by over five hundred at once and then by Paul himself. The Bible gives strong evidence for the resurrection of the Lord. Though some may doubt, we get to celebrate the fact that we serve a risen Savior! Many around us have not yet heard about what Jesus has done for them. It is great to be able to share with them something that is real.
In February of 1981, in God’s sovereign grace He took our five year old daughter to Glory. She was not sick nor had a disability. She was a five year old girl who loved Jesus and loved life to the fullest. I still see her frolicking with her three year old brother on the beach of Florida where we lived. They were inseparable as siblings for she was a little mother to him.I can identify greatly with Mary and Martha when Lazarus their brother died. They almost scolded the Lord by saying, “Lord, if you were only here our brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Where were you Lord? We called for you! Do you see what has happened because you were not here? Is this what we get for being close friends with you?
Tiny casket (all too tiny), tiny grave, but a Grand Canyon of hurt and pain. “Lord, where were you? You failed us. More than that you betrayed us!” The stone in front of Lazarus’ grave stood as a reminder that death had won and that separation and sorrow were now the new normal. How does one leave the cemetery knowing that buried deep in the dirt lays your flesh and blood and now you and your wife have to start living in the “Land of No More”?
Jesus makes a Mountain of Doctrine but also an Ocean of Comfort when he says to Martha in a loving tone, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23) and Martha you need to understand this, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live and whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25). Just like Martha, my wife and I had to answer this question many times as we worked through our grief and sorrow. When Resurrection Celebration (Easter) came two months later after our daughter’s death, we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Why? Because of that firmly fixed hope and the assurance that we will see our daughter Allison Renee one day in Glory for she is not dead but fully alive. Yes Lord, I believe!! Hallelujah!!
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, (believing the Gospel which is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus) that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
It was in Costa Rica on Good Friday in the Province of Cartago, in the city of Cartago. There was a procession with hundreds of Roman soldiers in their bright red attire marching in the street. My wife, brave as she is, got right in the midst of them with a video camera, trying to get every movement, as they marched from Basilica (Catholic Church) to Basilica.They pushed the statue of Jesus with its giant cross passed thousands of people who lined the streets. At one juncture they portrayed Mary meeting Jesus. There a priest stood with a microphone and said, “This is where we and the evangelicals disagree. They don’t venerate Mary.”What the priest did not know to tell them was, no, evangelicals don’t venerate Mary. But, we do honor her because the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit do so.
What caught my eye the most was that at the end of the procession followed those who were lame, sick, hurt, diseased or just hopeless. They were struggling behind trying to hold on to the false hope that, perhaps today, Mary would hear their prayers and God would heal them. Or would He?
Only the risen Lord of Lords and the King of Kings can give us life. Why? Because He is Alive! Of the nine years we served in Costa Rica, we never saw a procession for the resurrection. Why not? Because so many worship a dead Christ. The reality is this, Christ Jesus is alive and sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us! He is our High Priest, our Advocate, and our high defense attorney with the Father!
John 11:25-27, "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.'”
Do you believe?
"God said to Jonah, 'Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?' And he said, 'I have good reason to be angry, even to death.'" - Jonah 4:1A few weeks back, I was visiting a new congregation and their pastor was starting them through a study on the events of Jonah. It had been a while since I read the book, so I joined in the suggestion that people read through the book every day of the next week. Four chapters, a four part drama, which I read and pondered over the next seven days.
Jonah is one of those books that many are familiar with; whether they follow Christ or not. And why shouldn't they! It’s a great story, right?! A man gets swallowed by a big fish, has a three-day underwater ride and then is spat out upon the beach with a story to tell. And what a story! Who wouldn't want to read that?
However, as Whitney pointed out to the congregation, as fantastic as this account is, Jonah's experience with the big fish is not the real story. It is merely a vehicle (pun intended) to the core message. The central point to the account of Jonah is not the Ninevites, the big fish, Jonah being thrown into the sea and living in the innards of the fish for three days. No, the genuine treasure of the narrative of Jonah is the display of God and His nature against the backdrop of Jonah and his personality.
As readers progress from chapters one to three, they are immersed in what seems to be a story of people, the Ninevites, who teeter on the brink of destruction. A punishment that was rightly deserved. But, one it seems, they may escape because of a reluctant prophet, Jonah. Instead of yielding to God as had been his past practice, Jonah flees and must endure a tempestuous time on the sea and the fearful experience of being consumed by a large sea creature before he surrenders and is ejected on the shores of his destination. But, once all of this has transpired, the real story is only beginning.
While it appears Jonah heeds God's command to pronounce judgment upon the capital city of the Assyrian empire, his true heart is yet to be revealed. Seemingly Jonah sets about his task with gusto as he moves through the city over the course of three days calling for the people to repent. Secretly, however, Jonah doesn't want the people to yield to God. He harbors in his innards the desire that God repay them for the evil they have inflicted upon Israel.
The pinnacle of the story is reached when Jonah goes "out from the city and sat east of [Nineveh]. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city"(Jonah 4:5). Suddenly, this seemingly faithful, tried and submitted disciple is exposed for the false god he is proving himself to be.
Jonah didn't want the Ninevites to repent, as God did. Jonah didn't want to pronounce the message God had to be declared, knowing God would forgive should they repent. Jonah didn't want what God wanted. Unintentionally, Jonah was playing God. So there he sat, awaiting the judgment he hoped would eventually fall.
The record of Jonah's struggle with God leaves him sitting beneath a wilted tree beset upon by a blazing sun and scorching wind. While God may have left Jonah with an Arizona spring to ponder the fate of Nineveh and his own heart, isn't it wonderful that God never fails to challenge His people when their natures fail to reflect His own?
Undoubtedly, Jonah had witnessed God's glory on display in his past experiences with God. I say this because, Jonah had come to know YHWH as "gracious and compassionate . . . slow to anger and abundant in love, kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity" (Jonah 4:2). Knowing this though, Jonah still harbored ungodliness in his heart reserved for those times when he thought punishment was warranted.
The story of Jonah demonstrates the lengths God will go to show His gracious, compassionate, patient and enduring nature to the objects of His wrath and to craft His character in those who have escaped His fury and come into life with Him! The question for you and I is, what is God using to expose those recesses of our person where lay unknown to us or unexposed to others an ungodly nature?
What is God using today to refine His very nature in you? After all, "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:28-29).