Religion

April Fool or Fool for Christ?

Good humor is healthy. The Bible teaches that a merry heart does good like a medicine. The Book of all ages also shows us that Jesus Himself enjoyed a happy celebration. He performed His first miracle at a wedding reception in Cana, turning water into wine. Also in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus tells us that the overjoyed father threw a big party for his returning son. “We are going to have a feast and a celebration,” the father declared with joyous tears in his eyes, “Because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15: 23-24)

The resurrection of Christ should be the greatest celebration of all because God’s Son who died for the world, God made alive again for the whole world to believe and be saved. Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

Easter theologians declared, “Easter is the day God laughed.” The theme has echoed down though the centuries. St. Francis of Assisi advised, “Leave sadness to the devil, he has a reason to be sad.” Martin Luther wrote, “God is not a God of sadness, but the devil is. Christ is a God of Joy. It is pleasing to dear God whenever we rejoice or laugh from the bottom of our heart.” John Wesley quoted, “Sour godliness is the devil’s religion.”

Someone once said, there are two kinds of fools in the world: fools that are damned and what Apostle Paul denotes, “Fools for Christ’s sake.” Paul, himself, is the one who justifies April Fool’s Day for the believer. He states in I Cor. 1:18 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.” It is salvation, hope, love, joy to those that believe. It is a divine joke on Satan, the great deceiver.

God fooled Satan and the whole world with a divine Easter morning surprise, the resurrection of Christ. 

For those that will believe will be a fool for Christ’s sake, those that don’t will not only be an April fool, but a fool forever.

— Tommy Meekins

Why do you celebrate Easter?

Just to be clear, in the question above I am not referring to families coming together to have a special lunch, followed by an Easter egg hunt for the children. I have fond memories of such from my youth growing up in Kentucky.  

Rather my question is directed towards the many churches and individuals who celebrate Easter in a religious manner. For many people, this coming Sunday is one of the few Sundays a year that they actually attend church services. Ladies and young girls will go shopping for a new Easter dress. Men and young boys will often times purchase a new suit to wear. So what makes this particular Sunday so important, and in fact, more important than most other Sundays? 

And someone may respond to my question by saying, “Easter Sunday is very special and extremely important because it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.” There is no question that the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior is extremely important and vital to our faith (1 Cor. 15). If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Paul declared that the Christian’s faith is empty and one is still dead in their sins (1 Cor. 15:17).

But WHY do you celebrate Easter? Is it because God commands it (1 John 5:3)? No. Is it because Jesus commanded it (Jn. 14:15; Matt. 28:20)? No. Is it because the twelve apostles commanded it (Acts 2:42)? No. Or do you celebrate Easter at your church because the first century Christians practiced such in their local churches (1 Cor. 4:17)? No. 

For example, if I had written an article entitled – “Everything the Bible says about Easter” – this entire page would be blank. And the reason is because the Bible doesn’t say anything about Easter or its observance. Now someone may vainly try to argue, “Well what about in Acts 12:4? It mentions ‘Easter’ in the King James Version.” The term that the KJV translators rendered Easter (pascha) is found many other times in the New Testament, and every other time it is translated “Passover.” That is the meaning of the word, and the translators of the KJV only caused confusion by translating differently in this one place.  

So then, what’s the real answer to the question – “Why do you celebrate Easter?” Most celebrate Easter Sunday as the resurrection of Jesus because that’s what they have always done – because that’s what their particular church teaches them to do – because it has become long-standing tradition that most folks never even question (Matt. 15:7-9).

But one of our first questions should always be – “By what authority do you do these things?” (Matt. 21:23; cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 3:17). And no one who celebrates Easter Sunday as the resurrection of Christ can truthfully and honestly answer that they celebrate it on the basis of divine authority, i.e. Bible authority (1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:6-9; 4:9-11; 1 Pet. 4:11; Rev. 22:18-19). 

Let each one of us remember that “whatever you do in word or deed, DO ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). 

Please visit us at www.biblework.com. 

— Jesse Flowers

Faith News: April Fools

In North America, Christmas Day is always celebrated on Dec. 25. Easter however, is a moving target. Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date. After centuries of being moveable, its celebration has settled on being the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after March 21.  Last year Easter fell on April 16.   This year it falls on April 1.

This is a year when Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day.  How many of you gave up chocolate for Valentines?  This is a year when Easter falls on April Fool’s Day. How many of you will play April Fool’s practical jokes on Easter? 

April Fools has become a day to play practical jokes on friends and family.  In our current milieu of “Fake News,” it may be even harder to believe what is printed this coming Sunday. The proliferation of “Fake News,” is why I started calling this column “Faith News.”

Put yourself in the place of Jesus’ disciples who were huddled in the last place they had supper with Jesus was arrested. The doors were locked for fear that they would be next. Suddenly, some women come and tell you that Jesus has risen from the dead and they have seen him. What would you think? In fact, the gospel of Luke says that the disciples perceived their report to be an “idle tale.”   

Still, Peter and John ran to see for themselves. I love it that John records that he won the race to the tomb. Eventually they and the rest, even Thomas a week later, encountered their risen Lord.  

Jesus had a sense of humor. Indeed, today many of our funniest comedians are Jewish. His first miracle was making 120 gallons of wine out of water so a wedding reception could continue. He went skiing without a boat. He spit on the ground and made mud and said to a blind man, “Here’s mud in your eye,” and the man was healed. He fed 5,000 folks with one kid’s Happy Meal. He told camel jokes. He said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. He lambasted the Pharisees that strain out a gnat and swallowed a camel. He told the classic clergy joke about a man left for dead who was ignored by two religious leaders only to be rescued by a Samaritan. That was a “punch in the gut” punch line to his listeners who hated Samaritans. 

The greatest one he pulled though was what happened on the morning of the third day after he was laid in the tomb.  

That was when he had the last laugh on those who put him there that we celebrate this year on … April Fools.  

— Jim Gill

Connection with cryptic ‘I Am’

In the story of the burning bush, God tells Moses He is “I Am,” a cryptic name if there ever was one. Over the years the church has thought that this name meant that God was the power behind all that existed, the source of all being. Others perhaps think that God indicated that He just was; He was not explicable in terms of language. His name in this case was meant to convey mystery, which it certainly does.

One thing the Old Testament implies is that mankind and God existed on different planes. They were separated by a gulf of capability, knowledge, righteousness, whatever. This picture existed despite the early Genesis proclamation that man was made in God’s image and likeness. In that respect, the Old Testament story unfolds in a decidedly paradoxical way. Unity with God is shed by man, in the account of the Fall, as casually and quickly as we might discard some junk mail. It’s a strange story which does little to explain what really happened in the mind of Adam and Eve. Of course, the progressive development of mankind continues in the rest of the biblical account. The Fall is not the end; just the beginning.

It is further noteworthy that the separation we see in the OT is not just between God and man; it is also a story of a separated people. In the beginning various tribes form and come into conflict. The story of the confounding of the languages is the ultimate act of people separation, in my mind. It’s consequence is the widespread scattering of different groups and the resultant development of vastly different cultures. The Bible implies that God is the source of this separation and segregation, first practiced by mankind as a whole and then later by the Israelites.

The Great I Am of the Old Testament may be the fountainhead of all Being, but He does not call all men into any sort of union or oneness with Him or each other. God exists. Men exist because He exists, but men exist in isolation without regard for the existence of others. Life is not a function of connection but separation. Success and failure, happiness and grief are to be achieved and experienced without regard to anyone else, at least beyond the immediate group. Self- mindedness is the natural way to think because it has less complexity; is less demanding. Man lived under this prevailing paradigm for thousands of years with little to challenge its eternal validity.

 Occasionally in the Old Testament, and pointedly in the teachings of Jesus and Paul we see a completely new paradigm suggested. The appropriateness of self-mindedness is questioned. The reality of man’s separation from God and each other is challenged. Unity and oneness are presented as an essential part of God’s plan for man and Jesus’ message and role in that plan. That message was and still is very mindboggling and even disturbing in many respects. The idea of casting aside the assumption of separateness presents the human ego with a real problem. The ego is the protector and maintainer of the self as preeminent. Unity and oneness run counter to all that the ego knows and loves. To embrace unity requires a suppression of the ego to a substantial extent, a very difficult task.

 Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan and in His prayer in John 17, Paul in his dialogue with the Athenians on Mars Hill, and Paul again in the letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 2), all point to a new unity, different from the past. Going all the way back to the story of Cain and Abel we see the issue of separation, when Cain asked if he was to be his brother’s keeper. God did not answer Cain at that time. Centuries later, Jesus provided the answer, in a very paradoxical fashion. In effect, the call to brotherhood by Jesus and Paul say- No, you are not your brother’s keeper. You are your brother because we all are one! One with God and each other. We live and die inalterably intertwined. The universality of death proves as much. Nothing unites mankind like the death experience or serves more powerfully to shred the illusion of independence and isolation. Just pay attention to how people embrace each other, even complete strangers, when death threatens. It is a view into a largely hidden reality, one which both Jesus and Paul recognized and taught. Unity and salvation are inseparable. Please visit us at www.sjolanderroadfellowship.com.

— Rick Crotts

Don’s Daily Parable: Ready for a steak?

I suppose there’s something to the idea of being a vegetarian, like some folks choose to be. In the Old Testament in the Bible, in Daniel 1:12, it speaks of some Hebrew servants who were fed nothing but vegetables and water for ten days, and how healthy and glowing their complexion skin was. It made a lot of difference. I don’t doubt that one bit. If you will just take a random look at the nutrition labels on the food that we eat, you will come to the conclusion rather quickly that it’s no wonder that we have a society who is overweight and unhealthy with heart disease, etc. 

I told you in one parable about the fast food places and how much salt they use on their French fries. My mouth just flew open at all of the salt coming out of that big bottle of salt with the dime-sized holes in the lid (I’m not exaggerating too much). It makes you want to stop eating there.

I haven’t gone over to the vegetarian side yet, but there are definitely benefits to it. The biggest one is all the preservatives added to processed foods. I don’t eat a lot of beef. I eat mostly chicken and I eat a steak every so often. Sometimes I just have that craving for the taste of a good steak. There’s nothing to compare it with.

The Bible talks about the need of meat in the Christian’s life. When we are first saved (accept Jesus as our Savior), we are just like a human baby. The Bible says that we are given milk, spiritual milk. It is easy to digest and easy on our system. Then, as we grow, our body needs additional nutrients that milk by itself will not provide. That is also true with our spiritual bodies. If we are really in love with Jesus, He will put that hunger in our spirit for more and more of His word. If you don’t hunger after His word, ask Jesus to fill you with that hunger. 

You may have been a Christian for a number of years and are still depending upon spiritual milk to feed you as a Christian. Believe me, you cannot exist on just that alone. It’s time to move up on the food list. Ready for a steak (spiritual one)? God bless you. 

—Don Cunningham

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