fain | fān | archaic

fain | fān | archaic: adjective: 1. pleased or willing under the circumstances, eager. 2. obliged. adverb: gladly

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eight Practical Ways to Celebrate Easter

Lots of preparation and activity go into celebrating Christmas and very little into Easter, which, from a Christian's point of view, carries much greater significance. After all, if God had not raised Jesus from the dead, we would not be celebrating Christmas in the first place. 

Here are eight suggestions for building Easter traditions in your home (from this post on the Thom Rainer Blog by Chuck Lawless).

Do you have any to add to this list? Please post a comment to share your ideas.
  1. Focus on new beginnings. We make new commitments at the start of a new year, but let’s be honest: for many of us, we’ve already given up on those commitments by the time Easter comes around. If ever there were a time to start over, though, it’s Easter. The resurrection is God’s reminder that hope still exists. If you’re already behind in your Bible reading for this year, start again. If you’ve failed in your commitment to pray regularly with your spouse, re-start this week. Walk away from that sin that is controlling you. Start afresh, renewed by God’s resurrection power.
  2. Start Easter family traditions. Many families have Easter lunch together, but I’m thinking of more than that. Read the Easter story on Sunday morning, just as you do the Christmas story. Use old photographs to remember loved ones, and talk about the importance of resurrection hope. Bake Easter cookies for your neighbors. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Make holiday memories that your children will want to duplicate in their own families.
  3. Send Easter cards or an Easter letter. We expect cards or family letters at Christmas, but not at Easter. This year, send a resurrection card to everyone on your Christmas card list. If you send an Easter family letter, focus more on Jesus than on your family. Talk about his love, his grace, his forgiveness, and his victory over death. Be sure to write about the hope you have in Christ.
  4. Reach out to others who buried a loved one in the past year. Churches usually do well in ministering to grieving families at the time of a death, but that ministry is not always lasting. Eventually, the loving crowds return to busy lives. The holidays are often especially difficult as families find themselves alone. This Easter, call one of those families and pray with them. What better time than Easter is there to celebrate life and look forward to resurrection?
  5. Learn about and pray for a people group who know nothing about Jesus’ resurrection. Missionaries tell us that 1.7 billion people have little access to the gospel. They do not know the name of Jesus, much less the story of his conquering death. Learn about one of these people groups at www.joshuaproject.net, teach your children about them, and then pray they will hear the Easter story.
  6. Tell somebody what Jesus means in your life. As Christians, we know we need to be telling the gospel story. Why not tell others during the Easter season? Maybe you can approach someone this way: “I know a lot of folks think about going to church on Easter. May I have five minutes to tell you why this holiday is so important to me?” You might find somebody who has been waiting for some good news!
  7. Write a thank you note to someone who models overcoming faith. Maybe it’s that friend who experienced disaster, but who trusted God through the pain. Perhaps it’s a missionary who has been faithful even when his life was at risk. It might be your church pastor or a Bible study teacher. It may even be your parent or one of your children. Easter is about celebrating victory – so honor God by celebrating what He’s done through someone else’s life.
  8. Don’t give up. I don’t know what you’re facing. You might be discouraged and hurting. The mountain you’re trying to climb is steep, or the valley you find yourself in is deep. Prayer seems useless. Trusting God is tough because the obstacles are so big. Whatever you’re facing, though, is not bigger than the God who defeated death. Don’t give up – the God of resurrection is alive.

Photo:  Thomrainer.com

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Review of "The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?"

 In this book review of The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? by John N. Oswalt, I find the contrasts between the myths of ancient literature with the Genesis account fascinating.

An excerpt from the review:
I have asked in the past how the ancient Hebrews could have been so far ahead of their time. The Bible Among the Myths extends the question: how could they have been so utterly different from every other culture in history? For the contrasts are great. Oswalt identifies these common (if not universal) features of myth, contrasted with the Genesis view:
  • Cyclical time: there is a lack of definite beginning and no clear direction to reality (with no one to give it direction). The Bible speaks of history with a beginning, with progress, and with a destination.
  • Nature symbolizing the divine. The Bible specifically rejects this.
  • The significance of magic, specifically the use of ritual and/or manipulations of matter to cause predictable results in the realm of deity. This, too, is nowhere to be found in biblical religion.
  • Obsession with fertility and potency, often expressed in religious (temple-based, even) prostitution of every base description. God is not sexual, nor is the religion he revealed.
  • Polytheism: obviously not the case for biblical theism.
  • The use of images in worship: expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments.
  • Eternity of chaotic matter: see above; not so in the Bible.
  • Low view of the gods, who are more powerful than humans but no better ethically; the Bible depicts God as perfectly holy, just, loving, and righteous.
There is considerably more: I would rather leave you wanting to know more than thinking you had the gist of it covered here. These differences in substance obtain in spite of certain similarities of form between the Bible’s account and others.

Read the full review on the Thinking Christian Blog.

Friday, March 8, 2013

We're talking a lot, but is anyone listening?

Last week I watched Morning Joe with Ralph Reed on as a guest.  He was asked about the range of subjects that currently occupy political conversations, one of them being gun control.  Mr. Reed offered his personal opinion on the matter which I’d summarize as serious skepticism about the efficacy of anything that might be attempted.  Just the day before his appearance, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, passed a resolution reiterating the concerns the General Convention has expressed about gun violence in our culture.  Suffice it to say, I was struck by, let me say jarred by, these two very different responses: one from Ralph Reed, conservative Christian activist; and one from the Executive Council, on the liberal side of social and cultural issues. These two responses taken together did not present a coherent Christian perspective on the matter.  Indeed, were anyone to place the two responses side by side, they would probably conclude Ralph Reed as a Christian speaks in favor of the Republican response to gun issues and the Executive Council as Christians speak in favor of the Democratic approach to the same questions.

So, a couple of questions come to mind.  In post-Christendom America, do individual religious leaders or religious groups really believe they can influence politicians on outcomes by issuing pronouncements or personal statements about such matters?  Aren’t such actions in and of themselves, automatic Christendom responses which are therefore wasted effort in a post-Christendom culture?  And what happens when Christian leaders offer contradictory and mutually exclusive statements on the cultural issues of the day?  Would this be confusing to any who are paying attention?  Does the inconsistency in responses dilute even further any possible Christian impact on the matter at hand?

So, what do you think?  Is James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) correct, that the culture is at best, highly skeptical about anything Christians say publicly and therefore the Christian movement is best served by holding our peace and concentrating on being, salt, light and leaven in the world until such time as say, a generation or two, we might regain the credibility that is necessary to speak publicly to the culture again.  Or, is Ross Douthat (Bad Religion) correct, that cultural Christianity is essential to our society and the mainline churches must recover some vitality and consistency and get back in the game to bring positive influence to bear on the culture?

In this post-Christendom context, don’t we Christians need to hone our message to the world so that Christianity speaks with, despite our many differences, a more coherent, consistent and therefore intelligible voice to the culture?

Do we need to resist the temptation to comment or speak about every single thing and choose our moments with more consideration, addressing candidly the deeper, underlying issues of our common life, while always offering the word of good news, hope and encouragement to those responsible for addressing the issues?  Perhaps it would be a less complicated matter to speak with a more consistent voice if we disciplined ourselves to expend our words on fewer and weightier concerns.
It appears to me that in this new context, it is necessary for all Christians to realize that the days of making distinctions between ourselves for the purpose of attracting new members (we’re not like those ___________s!) or trying to gain credibility with others at the expense of other Christians, are long past.  We are truly in it together now.  What each Christian does or says reflects either favorably or unfavorably on all of us.  I don’t believe that our non-Christian neighbors who share this culture with us make any distinctions between reasonable or unreasonable, liberal or conservative Christians. We just all get lumped together, period.

If that’s the case, our message needs to get sharper and clearer.  Things really don’t have to be this way.  There is a better way.  Come and follow Jesus and see for yourself.

photo souce: www.rejesus.co.uk