Today, I am going to be taking my two daughters to an annual church activity whereby they place little plastic eggs on the ground filled with candy. Some of these eggs will be hidden, most not so much. Then my daughters, along with a bunch of other children, will be let loose to go find these eggs. It will be a great time, full of smiles and children laughing. Sunday morning, they will have a special basket to go through which their mother will have prepared ahead of time. It will also have little candies, treats, and toys in it for them to go through before we head off to church that morning. It is a celebration of Easter, and quite frankly it has little to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let me be clear on one thing. Easter, in fact, was a pagan holiday. First Fruits, is a Christian Holy Day. These two days are separate with the Christian Holy Day of First Fruits being established long before Easter was ever even a word. "The theme of the festival of First Fruits is resurrection and salvation." according to the Jewish Holy Day of Bikkurim. It was one of several Feast Days / Holy Days in the Jewish calendar.
This Holy Day saw several important events, Biblically speaking, that established the theme of resurrection and salvation before Christ died and rose again. Those events include the resting of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat signaling the end of God's judgement on the earth by flood, and the rebirth / new beginning of mankind, as well as the crossing of the Red Sea by Israel when they escaped out of Egypt, and other events.
Study Jewish Holy Days for some time and you will quickly realize they were not only celebrations of events past, but predictors of events to come. The Holy Day of First Fruits was a foretelling of the resurrection of Jesus Christ - the most important event in Biblical history. Without the resurrection, we have a story of a man who lived an incredible life that died, however, the story of Jesus Christ - God in the flesh - doesn't end with a tomb. Jesus rose again the third day (for those of you who do not quite understand the Jewish timing of events, see this page here "How Long was Jesus Dead in the Tomb?").
Point is, Easter and First Fruits happen to fall on the same day. Which do we celebrate? Well, we celebrate the Holy Day of First Fruits actually (I Corinthians 15:23), but the means in which we celebrate it in American culture is much the same as Easter. Is it wrong? Nope. There is nothing wrong with allowing your children to have fun, even if it happens to resemble some pagan holiday. Why? Because if you are like me, you are educating your children about the true meaning of this most important season of great celebration, about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What's more, if I were to suddenly not have anything to do with any and all pagan holidays, I'd pretty much set myself up so that anyone could declare Thanksgiving, Labor Day, July 4th, or any holiday "pagan" and I'd then be expected to have no part simply because of someone else's pronouncements. That is absurd and ridiculous, and I refuse to allow myself to be sucked into someone else's expectations of what I should or should not do. As a Christian, I only need ask myself "What does the Bible say about Easter?" Quite simply, the Bible verifies that the resurrection happened on the day of that recently established pagan holiday - nothing more. It does not condemn Easter, it does not rail against Easter, it does not give a hate speech about Easter, it simply mentions it and moves on.
As that is the attitude of the Bible about Easter, then that is the attitude I am going to choose to take. In the mean time, my girls will still be going out to collect eggs filled with candy, have baskets to dig into on Sunday morning, and they will learn of the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For without the resurrection, there would be no hope of salvation. The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. Far more important than His birth, His life, or His death, we have hope because Jesus lives!
"1Corinthians 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain."
While prime time news outlets devoted at least some of their broadcasting to the record-breaking lottery jackpot that ended with several winners last night, I must say it was a bit of fun conversation between my wife and I about what we would do with so much money. To be honest, my main thoughts seemed to keep navigating toward finding a way to preserve both my anonymity and my sanity, and the best way I could think of to do this would be to take a very long vacation out of the country - maybe for a year. By the time I came back from vacation, it would be hoped, another world issue/problem will have found its way to center stage.
All that money is kinda fun and scary to think about at the same time. Fun to think about what you'd do with it, and scary to think about all the problems it would inevitably bring. I can just imagine the number of people who would suddenly become your friend asking for "just $1 million" out of "all those hundreds of millions of dollars" you'd have. Within days you'd have every worthy cause and crackpot at your door looking for a donation, and then fingering you as a heartless miser (or worse) if you turned any one of them down. Then there are those out there who would seek to find some creatively exploitative reason, however trivial, to sue just in the hopes that you'd settle out of court. After all that, then there are the relatives . . .
Besides the ones you actually know and have anything to do with, you'd have relatives you never knew, and those sudden relatives who are related because you have the same last name, or maybe just the same first name would be enough. To be sure, winning $640 million would start a parade of long-lost acquaintances and friends from all over, and makes me think that year-long vacation I was thinking about would need to stretch out a little longer, like maybe over the rest of my life.
So what would you do with $640 million? It's just a question, but one worth asking if only to think of what could be, and as you do remind yourself of what will be. You see, for those people who won the $640 million, they will have a lot of decisions to make, and I'd love to be one of them, but in the end, both the winners of the $640 million and I will have one thing in common with you. Whatever we have now in this life, we must leave it all behind when we die.
Kinda depressing, but a reality check is in order here. I love dreaming about what I'd do with $640 million if only because of the circumstances I face every day in my life right now. To be sure, I'd be substituting one set of problems for another, but at this moment I'd like to see what handling the problems of having $640 million looks like. However, life is, and always has been, one of the great equalizers. Whether it is money, or problems, which you have in plenty, you will one day leave them all behind.
With the end of March and the end of a record lottery jackpot, tomorrow turns to a new month, and thoughts turn to a new day. As we approach the Easter season, I think of the greatest prize in all of history - that of heaven. The price of that ticket? Paid in full. Availability? Free for all who choose to accept and believe. It is safe to assume I will never know the life of a millionaire on this earth, but with all the potential problems it can bring, I like to think my life is quite a wonderful blessing as it stands right now, and all the dreams I might have of living the life of a millionaire will simply never compare to the coming eternity in heaven. How about you? Did you get your ticket?
I remember having a parakeet in the house when I was a teenager. This little bird did not seem to care much for me or anyone else, that is, until it wanted something. The cage had a small vial for food and another one for water, but whenever I tried to remove the small containers to change out the food or water the bird would be at the edge of the cage trying to bite me. Same went for whenever I tried to put them back. It became very annoying, so I began to let the food run out completely before trying to replace it. That is when something strange happened.
Instead of being at the edge of the cage trying to bite me, the little bird actually seemed to be friendly. To test the theory, I opened the cage and held out my finger for the bird to stand on. It hopped on, and as I withdrew the bird from the cage, it flew to my shoulder where it nuzzled its soft feathers against the side of my neck. I thought the bird had finally had a change of heart and understood that I was only here to help it, but I was wrong.
Once the food and water were refreshed, the little bird flew to the cage and began to squawk and act territorial again, and even went so far as to bite me if I put my hand in the cage to clean the bottom out. I was annoyed. The bird was not a friendly pet, it was a pain, and I soon grew tired of the thing.
Flash forward to a situation that materialized last week when my wife spoke of a friend with family problems. Her friend could not understand why the relationship in her family could not seem to be amended despite all her efforts at trying to do what was right and her efforts to reach out to family members. The results for all her efforts seemed only to anger the family even more, that is, until they needed something.
I think you can see where this is going. It happens a lot in life, not just with family, but in the business world as well. I experienced a similar situation of my own over the past two weeks when I tried to refinance the mortgage on my home. Not going into any details, but suffice it to say it is very safe advice for anyone to keep your own best interests in mind and do everything you legally can to make sure you are getting the best deal possible, because despite the smiles, friendly conversations, and warm handshakes, the banker has no purpose or inclination at looking out for your best interest.
It's a sad commentary on the world as a whole, and as a Christian man trying to live in this world, I sometimes struggle to understand why some people cannot just be straightforward in their business dealings. I have to say I was never lied to, but I was not given straight answers to questions I already knew the answers to, and it only made me angry and frustrated to know that I could not trust this person to look out for me, even though I was about to give them a chunk of business. In the end, I was left with a very bad impression, but a little wiser in dealing with the workings of the world.
What can you do about it? Nothing. In all of the situations above, there is nothing you can do about the decisions other people make in life. You cannot change others, you cannot make decisions for them, you cannot even try to educate them that the relationship, whether with family, business, or otherwise, would actually be better if everyone were transparent and honest. The only thing you have control over is you.
The decisions you make are the only ones you can be held responsible for, and so you simply live and do what is right regardless of what others do, and let others live with the weight of your decisions. Too often, people will make you try to feel guilty or pay a price in lost access to a relationship because of decisions you make. The process is one that tries to lure you into a feeling that you have done something wrong, and that you somehow now owe them something.
When this happens, my advice is to walk away. You simply cannot help some people, no matter how much you give, no matter how hard you try, no matter what lengths you go to trying to be reasonable, they will only maintain the relationship for as long as they get what they want. That kind of one-way relationship will eventually drain you of every resource and energy until you have nothing left to give, and then they will be the ones to end the relationship because you have no value to them anymore.
It isn't healthy. It requires wisdom to know who you can and cannot help, and I am not here to advise on how to differentiate. However, when you identify such a relationship in your life, when you just cannot help despite your best efforts, the only thing you can do to really help them is walk away.
Going to church and calling yourself a Christian is easy, but actually living what you believe can be difficult to endure sometimes. Not because being a Christian is hard, but because the world we live in tends to penalize anyone, not just Christians, for doing what is right.
Take the case I ran into just this last week. On the job, I was trying to help a company who had taken over a hotel because the hotel had gone into bankruptcy. The previous owner of the hotel not only had defaulted on the loan, but just about everything else, and the hotel was decaying and falling apart because of neglect. Worse yet, to save money, the previous owner lied about the room count on the hotel. The management company under order from the bank, came in to rehabilitate the hotel and set everything right again.
Where I come in is when the General Manager of that management company called me to set the record straight on the room count, which represented a more than 100% increase on the room count total, and accordingly a more than doubling of the bill for that hotel. When the bank found out what the General Manager, who is a Christian, had done, the bank's knee-jerk reaction was to stop writing checks, and give the General Manager an ear-full for coming clean and telling the truth about the room count.
You see, to the bank, the General Manager cost them a lot of money. If the General Manager had just kept silent, then no one would have known, and the deception could have continued indefinitely. The problem is, the General Manager knew, and the deception was not just wrong, it was illegal, and being a Christian the General Manager simply decided to do what was right.
Talking with her by phone, I could hear the distress in her voice as she tried to describe why the bank had stopped writing checks and why the work was going to be placed on hold for a time. My response was this: "It is never wrong to do what is right."
I have two little girls, and I am trying to raise them in the greater wisdom of the teachings of the Bible, but one day, they are going to be launched into the world to face the reality that not everyone believes doing the right thing is the best thing, or even the right thing. As I talked with the General Manager, she expressed appreciation for the encouragement, and I told her that I am going to take this story home to my two daughters where I teach them they should always tell the truth, even if it gets them into trouble. This was one real-world scenario I would have never thought of, but is exactly the kind of situation many Christians can find themselves in.
While the world will have you believe there are no moral absolutes, that doing right is conditional, and that there are extenuating circumstances for everything, let me set the record straight. There are hard decisions, sometimes it can be confusing to determine what is right, and sometimes there are some downright heartbreaking decisions that seem to blur the line between right and wrong, but here is one absolute of which I am 100% sure - It Is Never Wrong To Do What Is Right.
I love a good mystery. While I never read Nancy Drew mysteries (those were for girls) I did read a few Hardy Boys stories and listened to the Sugar Creek Gang some mornings. Later, it was the Sherlock Holmes stories when I could get hold of one, and today I still love a good book or movie with a bit of a puzzle or mystery to solve. That kind of curiosity led me to study out the Bible with questions like, "Where are all the 2,000 year old men?" answered last week.
What is even more curious though, is that the question answered last week was not where I initially started, but rather ended. For there was another verse in the Bible that sparked my curiosity, and led me to study out an entire chapter, which then led me to the verses talked about last week. When talking about those verses, I wondered, was it possible any one of them actually walked the earth today?
Practically, my study led me to believe that whoever was there was also simply taken to heaven as Elijah and Enoch were both taken to heaven, but I also wanted to know if it was even possible that "some of those standing here" were still around today. That question led me to a study of a special assignment, given to Paul, and his story of survival against man, nature, and beast. There, woven in the lines of the book of Acts, was this amazing account of how God preserved his life despite some of the most dire circumstances. In short, Paul was told he must go to Rome to testify before Caesar, and God would see to it that nothing would stop him from completing that mission.
Did you know, though, that there was someone else given a similar mission? That the person given such a mission was one of those standing there whom Christ said would not taste of death? Did you know that there was one person in the New Testament where it was actually rumored that this person would not die? It's true. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The verse that caught my attention actually starts in Revelation.
Revelation 10:4 "And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not." You see, anyone who has studied the book of Revelation knows about the seven seal judgements, the seven trumpet judgements, and the seven vial (or bowl) judgements; however, here in this verse is where I first found the seven thunders, and what stuck me is that we are told about their existence, but not allowed to know what the seven thunders actually are.
No big deal, except there is one person who DOES know. John.
You see, John was allowed to know something that no other human on earth would be allowed to know for a very long time. As I studied out the whole chapter, I learned many interesting things, but the most interesting to me was four words in the very last verse: Revelation 10:11 " . . . thou must prophesy again . . . "
Chapter 10 in Revelation is also curious in that it is the only chapter in Revelation where the writer moves from observe/report to actually taking part in the action. He is told to eat of a little book, given a great secret known as the seven thunders, and finally given a special mission. Why? That is when the verses talking about "some standing here which shall not taste of death" began to ring in my mind. Then came these words . . .
John 21:20 "Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
Note: the rumor is that this disciple (John) will not die, but John corrects the rumor to the actual words spoken. What is great about this verse is that Christ sets the very groundwork for fulfillment of the other verses when He said "there be some standing here which shall not taste of death." He literally mentions John tarrying until He comes - the same language used in Matthew 16:28 - as though it is no big deal.
To you and me, that someone could actually be walking the earth for 2,000 years might be a big deal, but to Christ who was there when the universe was breathed into existence, it is but a small matter. Question is, who cares? If John actually is walking the earth today because of some special mission to which only he has been allowed to see in Revelation 10, what do I care? Well, for one, what do you think John would be doing today? Would he be doing what you are doing? Would his priorities in life align with yours? Would he seek to live the life you do, go to the church you do, and pursue the things in life you do?
No. I think John, if he was walking the earth today, would have priorities quite different from my own. I quite believe the rest of Revelation 10:11 may be what he would be trying to accomplish today when it says " . . . thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." As for you, forget about John's mission, how about your neighbor, the person who cuts your hair, the people you work with or see every day in some capacity. Do they even know you are a Christian?
While John may be on some special assignment given exclusively to him, we still have one of our own no matter where we are in this world, no matter who we are in this world: Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."