“We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts4:20)


easter-eggs-1443558-638x482It’s Easter season again! There are rows and rows of hollow chocolate eggs, bunnies, even crosses everywhere we go.  People are wearing more pastels and taking family photos in their nice new clothes.  Even people who don’t go to church are thinking that it’s just about time for that one visit a year to get it off their conscience…

You can also bet that we’ll hear about some new discovery, some historical finding that, if true, “could completely invalidate everything we’ve ever known about the Christian message”…blah, blah, blah.  You can count on it.  When the world is thinking about the resurrection, people are having to deal with that millennia-old question: “Is it true that Jesus rose from the dead?”  Skeptics have their ready list of the reasons why, even if the tomb was empty, something happened to Jesus’ body other than the resurrection.

This month, in my blogposts (https://shamusdrake.wordpress.com) I will be dealing with some of the best reasons why we should believe the resurrection. Reasons that include: the fact that there were many people who said that the tomb was empty (many of whom were alive when the gospels and the letters of Paul were written), and the fact that the Gospel was preached assuming the tomb was empty.

But the best apologetic reason to believe in the empty tomb has always been the drastic change in the disciples.  The same men who ran away the night Jesus was arrested (Mt. 26:56), who denied knowing Him even to a little girl (Lk. 22:56-57), and who huddled in fear after the crucifixion (Jn. 20:19), were the very same men who preached boldly before all who would hear them in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Ac. 2:14-41).  The best explanation for the change in their hearts, all of whom suffered and most were killed for witnessing to Jesus, is that they saw the resurrected Lord in the flesh.  They ate with Him (Jn. 21:9-14), talked with Him (Lk. 24:13-32), and touched Him (Jn. 20:26-29) during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension.  No one who was such a coward could be transformed into such a bold believer in such a short amount of time without a miracle.  And a miracle is precisely what happened.  They saw Jesus, and as they tell the religious leaders in Acts 4:20, they could not help but tell everyone who would listen all about it.

So amidst all this haze of plastic grass and everything-shaped chocolates, examine your own life.  Are you able to not talk about Jesus? If He is risen from the dead, is there anything on earth more important than that message? May we be a people who cannot but speak of what we, too, have seen and heard.



Advent (Or: “Why are there candles in the sanctuary all of a sudden?”)

Christmas Gifts

How well do you wait?  Are you ever actually able to wait?  Almost everything that you could want or need can be shipped to your home—overnight if necessary—so that you can have what you want immediately.  Communication is at the touch of a button.  Entertainment is now streamed to your cell phone for your constant amusement.  Music even fills the elevators these days because it would be just too awkward to stand the 60 seconds inside it without a distraction.

As a culture, we don’t wait well.  Just try telling a child who has just been through the toy aisle that “you have a birthday coming up,” or “you know, you can put that on your Christmas list, because it’s in less than a month,” and you will be bombarded with the same brand of patience that all-too-often characterizes who we are as adults, just in smaller shoes.

Since we are used to instant access, instant microwaveable popcorn, and instant gratification in just about everything, we hate having to wait for things.  Yet, Scripture says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).  God’s children are awaiting our Savior’s coming.

When we slow down and look around, we can see a world that is broken and messed up.  We can’t look around at the injustice and sin that is rampant in our world and say, “It is very good.”  Yet, this is exactly what God said about His creation when He made all things (Gen. 1:31).  Because of man’s sin in the garden, creation itself “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19).  Creation itself is awaiting the Savior’s return.

John says in Revelation 21:3–4 that the end will look like this: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

That’s where we’re headed, but we’re not there yet.  With the first coming of Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, in our hearts through faith in Christ, but the Kingdom has not yet fully come.

And so we wait.  Advent is about that wait.  We are in the “already and not yet” stage of redemption’s story.  Would you commit to making this advent season a season of waiting and watching for His return?  Would you take time this season to meditate on the great gift we were given when God came in a manger?

May we as a people look with great anticipation for the day when Jesus Christ our Savior returns and we will be with Him forever.  Until then, may we wait.

Communion :: Its Not About Me

Marketers and advertisers make millions of dollars making billions of dollars for their clients because they are able to sell things that we think we will get something out of. They do a great job getting us to believe that they are all about us, and that we need what they have to sell.

Most churches dont have such marketers. To be sure, some do, and they regularly are able to produce the kind of services that people get something out of. So long as the music is just right, that we sing enough feel-good choruses (or enough verses of the good ol songs), and that the preacher doesnt preach more than 20-25 minutes (after which we leave feeling very good about ourselves), we can think that we got something out of it, and we are happy.

There are many wrong ideas that come from this perspective, but it is particularly ugly when your church doesnt regularly have the kind of services that do anything for you. But, I have to ask, is that the point? I mean, we dont need to make things boring on purpose, or do anything without passion and reverence for the God of the universe, but when we walk out thinking, I really didnt get anything out of that today, havent we drastically missed the point?

Take communion, for example. We could, like everything else in our culture, think of communion as another time when we can get spiritually filled up personally and miss the larger point of communion with others. J. I. Packer said it like this:

blockquoteAnd then we must realize something of our togetherness in Christ with the rest of the congregation. . . . [We should reject the] strange perverse idea . . . that the Lord’s Supper is a flight of the alone to the Alone: it is my communion I come to make, not our communion in which I come to share…The communion table must bring to us a deeper realization of our fellowship together./blockquote We are in this life, this church, this world emtogether./em There is no place and time that makes that more evident than communion. Its not about me and my spiritual journey, its not about what I might or might not get out of it, its about Christ and the bride that He died to purchase. Its about a lot of things, but its not about me.

(Quote from J. I. Packer, “The Gospel and the Lord’s Supper,” in Serving the People of God, vol. 2 of Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998), 49-50.)

The Story of Christmas–By Chris Powers

I love the advent season. Ever since the woman who would be my bride gave me a book called emGod Came Near/em many years ago, I have been struck by the awesomeness of the fact that Jesus was real, that He really came, that He really died, and that it was really on purpose: to atone for the sins of mankind. Each year, something else seems to fuel my soul for this pursuit of God in this season. In recent years, it has been Andrew Petersons emBehold the Lamb of God/em album. This year, this 13-minute video is it.

I cannot watch this video by myself or with my children (perhaps especially with my children) without tearing up. The gospel is so amazing. What Christ did for us on the cross is inexplicably loving and indescribably merciful.

This advent season, let the truth of the story of Christmas move you to love your God more.

God Takes Pleasure In His People

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;” (Psalm 149:4a)

What is it that you take pleasure in?

Finally sitting down at the end of the day? Finally allowing your head to hit the pillow? Experiencing the wonder and borderline miracle taste that is my bride’s Red Velvet cake? Watching a football game when your team’s at the top? Walking and talking with a friend over a good cup of coffee until you forget about time? Hearing someone say, “You were right, I’m sorry”?

We are pleasure-seeking creatures. We know that it means to take pleasure in or enjoy something. For me, almost every morning, it’s the first cup of coffee. I enjoy it naturally because I’m wired to appreciate a good cup of coffee.

Too often, though, we find our pleasure-seeking leads to a sinful end. We make things that are good become gods, and make things that we could otherwise enjoy into instruments of sin and shame. In the midst of our fallenness, we feel as though there is nothing that can really redeem us, nothing that can truly make us pure and good again.

This is where this truth hits us right in the heart: God takes pleasure in His people (Psalm 149:4).

In our culture, we are constantly barraged with all kinds of voices that try to put some value on a product or a person, and ultimately try to define who we are in light of what they think we should be. When we allow those people to define and determine our worth based on their own skewed understanding of humanity, we are believing a lie that can really do us damage.

Into this misinformation storm come the words of our heavenly Father to His children: “I take pleasure in you, you are mine, and I love you.” The more we can wrap our minds around that truth, the more the other voices seem to fade away. If I am a child of God, He takes pleasure in little ol’ me.