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If I could go back in time to the first Easter, I hope that my choice would have been to go to the tomb early on Easter Sunday.

Walking the typically rocky road with home-made sandals, I know that I could have felt my heart pounding.  It would have been so loud that I couldn’t hear the women talking about the predicament of moving the stone.  Knowing what I know now, but keeping it secret from those in that day, I would be straining to look ahead.

Maybe the sight of the absent soldiers would have confirmed what I know.  They had been blown on to their backside and been terrified that they would be executed for failure to do their duty.  All they had to do was keep Jesus’ disciples from stealing the body.

Yet, a power so great as to knock these professional soldiers out-of-the-way, disintegrate the Roman seal on the tomb as if it was never placed there, and then to move the stone out of the ditch in one instantaneous episode took place in a blink on an eye.  Like frightened children the soldiers reported to their authorities and rehearsed the lie that they were told to give.  That was better than execution or imprisonment to them.

The women were shocked to see the stone moved away.  Their confusion would have been my excitement.  Hearing the angel conversation would have thrilled my mind.

All the theology that I have learned would be validated through a few words.  As the women wondered what to do, they may have asked me what we should all do.  That’s when I would have let some of today’s Bible knowledge leak out, “Let’s go tell the disciples what we have seen!”

On the jog back to the gathering, I would have left the women, “You go report what we saw.  I’ve got two disciples on the road to Emmaus that I need to see.”

“What are you going to say to them?” they would have asked in surprise.

“I want to hear what their companions will be telling them,” I would smile.  “Don’t worry what anyone else says.  I believe what y’all (Texan for “all of you”) believe.  HE HAS RISEN!”

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Israel 2014 IFL 055The Bible makes a detailed notation about the stone that was positioned to seal Jesus’ tomb.  No one knows where that stone is today.  Yet, it is described as one of specifics in the language of the New Testament that should encourage the hearts of all who follow Jesus.

When Jesus was crucified there is undisputed evidence that He died on Good Friday.  His suffering and beating was excruciating.  The ignominy of His death was torturous.

The Roman soldiers declared Jesus dead and therefore saw no reason to break His legs to expedite what they concluded had already been accomplished.  Just to be sure, a spear was thrust into his side and confirmed that He was deceased.  Jesus did not pass out, He did not fake His death, His body was not stolen by His disciples.

Those who loved Jesus mourned over His death.  Like a loving family they laid His body to rest in a tomb hewn out of rock.  Once His body was there a large stone was rolled in front of the opening, sealing it.

As an added measure to insure that no one would tamper with the body a professional pair of guards were posted in front of the tomb.  The seal of Rome was added to the stone so that no one would tamper with the stone upon sentence of death.  Rumors of a resurrection in three days had the unbelieving authorities guarding against any foul-play.

Then the Scriptures declare that on Sunday, the first Easter the stone was rolled away.  Grammatically, the Bible could have said that the stone was rolled away in one single definitive act.  That could have shown the power of God to counter the human measures to resist the Resurrection.  But, the Bible does not say that.

The Bible could have said that the stone was rolling away capturing the continuous action of the stone moving without any resistance against human endeavor.  But, it does not say that either.

Instead, the Bible uses language to say that the stone was rolled away and stayed that way.  Once the opening to the tomb was reopened, the Resurrection could not be stopped and the grave would never hold the Savior again.  He died and now is alive forever!

That emphatic piece of grammatical detail is a thrilling notation to the glory of Easter.  He is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed!

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2008 445It was an ancient city with people living ancient cultures.  The problems were enormous.  Political figures were greedy, power-hungry, egotistical and full of self-centered pride.

Entertainment at the expense of the people was rampant.  Hostility was waiting for any excuse to erupt.  Military incursions were a daily affair.

Good people were losing hope.  Power was in the hands of officials who bent the law to satisfy their personal agenda.  Anger and intimidation overpowered reason, righteousness and love.

The world had sunk to a level where authorities would murder children to cover their own infractions and advance their influence.  Might was the premier.  Yet, the immoral posture of those in power had massive doubt.

To ameliorate the uncertainty and unrest among the population, appeasement was common place.  Bargaining to keep the general population below their boiling point was a part of the “passing the buck” and shifting blame and destroying the truth with bribery and false testimony.  Was any hope to be found for the human race so long ago?

Hope sprang eternal with a single sacrifice.  One died on behalf of the many.  It was not just a volunteer who stepped forward.

Rather it was the only one who could be a substitute for all.  Even the very wicked were represented by the perfect sacrifice of love.  Jesus, the Christ, willingly gave Himself as a substitutionary death for all.

That is Good Friday.  An ignominious death so long ago has impacted the eternity of all forever and ever.  His one submissive act to have His blood shed gave all mankind hope through the amazing grace of God’s redemption.

Yes, that is a mouthful.  However, it was that magnificent.  It was such a phenomenal act of mercy that even the world’s worst had a chance to turn, repent and believe.

That is why Good Friday is good.  It was a horrible day because of the death of the only perfect One.  Yet, it was the best event for mankind in anticipation of the new life to come.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_5313No, it is not Chinese.  Yes, it is in Chinese restaurants located in the USA.  No, restaurants in China do not offer these cookies for dessert.

Yet, the iconic fortune cookie makes its way into ethnic lore.  Sometimes it appears in movies.  Iron Man 3 the Mandarin waxes eloquent on the history of this crunchy tasty morsel.

He acknowledges what is generally accepted as true.  The ethnic identity is associated with Chinese.  Yet, few Americans realize that their assumptions bear little influence on the world stage.

The Mandarin reflected, “A true story about fortune cookies. They look Chinese. They sound… Chinese. But they’re actually an American invention. Which is why they’re hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste in the mouth.”

This monologue was true.  American ingenuity seems to have been at the forefront of this invention.  Originally, the cookie and fortune seem to have Japanese roots. This cookie announcement many say it all: “originated by the Japanese, exploited by the Chinese, consumed by Americans and entertained by all.”

Regardless of the real history of this conversation piece the fortune cookie is fun.  They offer a tasty end to a delicious meal. Further, they bring most people to a cheerful moment as the evening comes to a close.

Recently, I was out with friends.  We all ate a delicious Chinese restaurant.  The evening was delightful.

Our menu was well-balanced.  Chicken, fish, pork and tofu gave us our protein.  Green string beans, carrots and choy gave us our vegetables.

Flavors from Cantonese style foods were delicious. There was a wonderful blend in each of our plates.  Rice and noodles soaked up those taste bud sensations and satisfied every hungry soul at our table.

Without a second thought or expectation fortune cookies were delivered with the final bill.  We were laughing, joking, reminiscing and doing a lot of talking.  Pictures filled the climax of the meal as well.

Then we passed out the fortune cookies.  I opened mine and announced the delightful revelation.  It simply read, “Hallelujah!”

Our gathering of redeemed souls picked up a special enthusiasm.  Everyone wanted a cookie to explore “God’s will” and we all laughed.  Some of the fortunes were philosophical.  A few were nonsensical.

That special one-word declaration of “Hallelujah!” was unmatched. It was short, fun and true all at the same time.  That after all is what a fortune cookie is all about, eh?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3489The build up to the most important event in the Christian calendar is nothing less than mind-blowing.  Months before Easter Sunday arrives, followers of the Savior plan, rehearse, organize, design, administrate and delegate.  Colors, music, printing, rehearsals, meetings, construction, purchasing, distribution are just a few of the activities that blend into a blur of fast-paced dust-creating calendar-filling moments in the fellowship of Christians around the world.

Do not let the flurry of busyness fool you.  Easter is far more than a single event.  This historic life-changing episode is more than just one more day on the calendar.

There are holidays and then there are holidays.  Sometimes we get a day off from work.  Schools shut down to give students a break and families time to connect.

Routines are interrupted to recognize a day in history, lives that sacrificed themselves for others or a ritual for our culture.  All of those occasions are wonderful.  They give us a chance to enjoy those closest to us and reflect on what is most important in life.

Easter stands above these calendar highlights.  This occasion is more than a reason to party.  The celebration will never be overshadowed by colorful eggs, rabbits or marshmallow chickens.

All those extra trappings are fun.  I have enjoyed a tasty treat or laughed at the discovery of a plastic egg filled with treats or given a solid chocolate rabbit to a very grateful child.  Yet, these happy moments lift the real reason for this special day.

Jesus rose again from the grave on Easter.  Three days after He died for the sins of the world, He rose.  His Resurrected life made it possible for all of us to put our faith in Him, have our sins forgiven and inherit eternal life forever.

This truth is more than a memory of a historic moment.  It is instead the memory of a new beginning available to all.  His grace made possible for every human being on the earth.

This great news crystallized when Jesus was Resurrected.  It is His Resurrection that is at the heart of the Gospel.  That is why Easter is more than a single day that is celebrated.

Are you enjoying the days until you can enter into eternity through Jesus’ righteousness?  It is not a matter of being good enough or not that bad.  Rather, it is a recognition that the impossibility of being holy or righteous are made possible because Jesus is our substitute.

He did it all and we benefit from His sacrifice through faith in Him.  Believe and enjoy not just a day but an eternity.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Israel 2014 IFL 341

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, You were condemned.
I am alive and well, Your sprit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love,
How can it be?
That You, my King would die for me?
Amazing love,
I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

Israel 2014 IFL 336

photo credit: brucefong photography

the Garden, where Jesus prayed before He was crucified for our sins

The sun has risen on this first day of the week Easter Sunday April 8, 2012.  There was little doubt.  As confident as we were about starting another day, we took it for granted that there was no reason to do anything other than to expect another day.

But, this day is special compare to all other days of the year.  It is the anniversary of the most spectacular and singularly important day in human history.  This day is Easter.

We commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  It was not a just a special event among many.  He was the first one ever to be Resurrected.

The unique achievement of this historical reality is that this new life was accomplished for all mankind.  Yes, it was not just a piece of history.  Instead, it was supernaturally historic. 

Jesus Christ died for our sins.  He died on the cross on Friday.  There His death paid for the price that allowed for all of our sins to be forgiven.  Then, He rose again to a life that would never experience death again.  He was made new.

This newness is not applied to every life that believes.  It is a simple matter of faith.  If we believe then we will be saved.

Its simplicity is its marvel.  This change from darkness into light, from lostness into security, a guaranteed pass into eternity is what Easter is all about.  But, we have as humans been given a simple task to personalize this opportunity.

Our part is to have faith, to believe in Jesus, on Jesus, about Jesus, through Jesus and because of Jesus.  He is the central point of where we place our trust.  It is not superstitious but remarkably complete by grace through faith.

If you have never a commitment to Jesus Christ, then, make this Easter your personal time to do so.  Put your faith in Him, believe that He died for you and rose again from the dead so that you would have eternal life.  It’ll change your eternity.

He has risen!

photo credit: brucefong photography

Heading for church was exciting. Anticipation of what we could expect was on the forefront of our minds. Afterall, it was Easter.

For months we anticipated this day. It is a high point in the Christian calendar. Every aspect of our service was planned, rehearsed and creatively orchestrated.

OK, it was a modest adjustment from our normal weekly service. We put our lives into our ministry every week. However, because Easter is special and our guests arrive in increasing numbers we ramp up our normal strides that strain towards excellence.

Normally a casual church, our team arrived with a step-up in our dress. T-shirts, jeans, sweatshirts and tennis shoes were replaced by collared shirts, neckties, dresses and suits. Wow, everyone looked great!

Guests had arrived early. It was fun to greet them, welcome them and honestly tell them how much we enjoyed having them at our service.

I watched from the back of the auditorium as people arrive on any given Sunday. As people come in I do drive-by prayer. It is a purposeful prayer that I pray on behalf of those who enter.

Sure, I may no clue as to what is going on their lives. But, who couldn’t use directed prayers in their lives? Besides, God knows and I’m just linking with Him.

Sunday, I was ecstatic. People were arriving early. Now that is NEWS worth announcing!

That kind of crowd dynamic was generating a lot of enthusiasm. I’m not anxious about people’s tardy habits. It is a reality that can be adjusted modestly but, this is a modus operandi that has the momentum favoring the masses. Yes, this is a matter of bending with the wind rather than trying to stand against it.

But, on Sunday, Easter Sunday, it was different. People were coming in early, bringing family and guests with them. Parking is always a challenge for us so that was surely a motivation for many who were filing in and filling up seats.

In our second service I walked forward to take me seat and it was the only one left in the first row. Normally, there are plenty of seats in the first two rows. Today they were ALL filled. How great is that?

Worship was outstanding. Baptisms were thrilling. Fellowship was fantastic. Reunions were stunning. Laughter was boisterous. Prayers were effective. Several were born again. Church was just great!

photo credit: brucefong photography

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