Take a moment and think of one of your favorite stories. It may be from a favorite book or movie; fiction or true. Do you have one in mind?
Have you ever given serious thought as to why you like that story so much? Even if it is simply entertainment or a momentary escape, there are still profound reasons why you are drawn to that story.
It starts with our attraction to one or more of the characters in the story. You begin to identify with them. Maybe you are like them in some way or can relate to their story through similar circumstances.
Then you begin to connect with them emotionally. You feel for them, with them and like them. You want them to win. You want them to be loving and to be loved.
Finally, while being engrossed in a story, do you have thoughts like, “That’s what I want to be like.”? You wish you were more courageous like him or kind, forgiving and selfless like her. You want to change lives like they did.
I think most people have this experience as they enjoy a good story. Why? Because you, I and everyone else on the planet share something in common: deep down we want our lives to matter to others because we made a difference in their lives.
When we matter, we feel valued.
However, when we need the validation of others, it creates a paradox: we must know we are valuable before we are able to make a real difference in the lives of others.
There comes a time in our lives when we must understand and accept the origin of value and this is something the world and this life cannot give. True value can only come from the Creator of this world and the Giver of life.
Because God created you, you are already valuable to Him. God validated you when He sent His Son Jesus to die for you. To ratify your value, God said He wants to live in and through you!
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” Phil 2:13
Regardless of where you are in your faith, I encourage you to calculate your value by examining your approach to God.
Do you feel you must earn God’s approval and favor? Do you see God only as a judge who condemns you every time you blow it? This is a religion that must be endured.
Or do you see God as He really is, a good and forgiving God. A God who shows you unearned, undeserved and unmerited favor, which is grace. This is a relationship meant to be enjoyed.
Then, accept your real identity.
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Because you are His child, the Holy Spirit says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
We accept our real identity when we simply say yes to Jesus.
In elementary and high school, I hated history classes. History was boring. Maybe it was how it was taught. Of the teachers who made school interesting or dare I say fun, none were history teachers. Maybe the problem was what was being taught. Thinking back, which is now WAY back, I never saw or felt a connection between history and my life.
Of course, maybe it was just me.
For most of my school career I was a pretty good student. However, by my senior year, the wheels had come off my life. My priorities and attitudes were out of whack. At that point, I simply did not care about learning and barely graduated. I was not very interested in politics. I did not even vote until my late twenties and not consistently until after I got married.
Sadly, my indifference to our nation’s history in the 80’s is currently a national epidemic.
A recent survey said that 2 out of 3 Americans could not pass the U.S. Citizenship test given to immigrants. And the passing grade is only 60%!
Since the early 90’s I have done a decent job of playing catch up to the miracle that is the United States of America, which started with the vision, courage and self-sacrifice of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Before signing, they knew they were about to lose everything to gain only one thing, freedom. In the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, they wrote, “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor”. They knew if they won, they faced years of hardship. If they lost, they would be hung because King George labeled them traitors. Basically, when they signed that wonderful document, besides taking a vow of poverty, they personally signed their own death warrant. All of them lived a hard life and paid a very a high price so that I may live a free one.
In honor of them, this is my Declaration of Dependence on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, written by our nation’s founders, for the natural freedoms I enjoy in my great country. Without the enforcement of those documents, I lose the very freedom given to me by the sacrifices of so many.
I believe our Founding Fathers were pursing God’s will for all people to live an abundant life under His loving care and protection as our one True King. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is one of the best know lines from the Declaration of Independence and mirrors the heart of God.
“And this is the way to have eternal life-to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth.” (John 17:3)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
“Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 144:15)
God’s perfect gift of life, liberty and happiness came at a high price - through the cross of Jesus. He knew from the beginning of the world He would send His Son to be punished and sacrificed on a cross to do something for me which I could not do on my own. I depend on Jesus for forgiveness of sin. I depend on Him for eternal life. I depend on Him for liberty from guilt. I depend on Him for happiness that comes from my relationship with God. I depend on God’s grace.
This is my Declaration of Dependence on the One Who gave His life for me.
June remains one of the most popular months for weddings. Weddings are a wonderful celebration usually followed by the all-important honeymoon (that’s right) then the first-year newlywed period and finally reality: marriage.
Marriage, wives and husbands are common targets for comedians. Rodney Dangerfield said that he and his wife were happy for 22 years, then they met. He also complained that his wife’s cooking was so bad, the flies in the neighborhood pitched in to fix the holes in their screens.
For you older folks, you may appreciate George Burns’ take: “I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.”
Husbands are equally assaulted. Rita Rudner quipped that “Men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage-they’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry.”
According to Ann Bancroft “The best way to get most husbands to do something is to suggest that perhaps they’re too old to do it.” I could have told you that. It carries over from the mindless dares and challenges from allies and adversaries alike at school, on playgrounds and in the neighborhood.
Many a male’s last words before departing this earth were “Watch this.”
Now, before I say another word, I want to go on the record that I enjoyed my wedding day and would not trade it for anything. I think most men feel the same but let’s face it, everyone knows the wedding day is for the bride.
I also hope the men reading this will appreciate the personal risk I am taking by getting out into the open what many of my male species think and feel about what has become of the wedding ceremony.
Of course, I know most of you will deny agreeing with my opinions when confronted by the love of your life. Cowards!
I read recently that the national average cost of a wedding in the United States is $30,000, which does not include the rings and honeymoon. $30,000!!!
Most ceremonies include symbolic customs to illustrate commitment to one another. For generations lighting a unity candle has been a staple and was included in my wedding.
As a twist on this lasting tradition, some couples use two jars of sand that each pour into a single glass.
Still others plant a tree or pot a plant together. >Sniff. So beautiful< Some couples create a cocktail! (Ok, this has merit since you may need it after a few years of marriage.) Finally, the majestic release of doves… I am not even sure what that means.
Has a groom, ever in history, been the one to suggest these? Oh, you may get on board quickly, but it was not your idea. This, my fellow husbands, is the beginning of “yes dear” training.
Then there are those unusual ceremony locations. I will simply address one here to strike a blow for all mankind and save friendships. Destination weddings.
It is as if the couple is telling everyone “Our wedding day is so important for your future we want you to give up vacation time, spend a bunch of money on travel, lodging and food so we can get married in some far-off location where no one we know lives.”
Who are you people? I personally know someone who declined attending a destination wedding over 10 years ago and the bride and groom have not spoken to him since and they are FAMILY. Yikes.
Now, to understand the man’s approach to the perfect wedding ceremony, we need to go back to the very first one between Adam and Eve.
God put Adam into a deep sleep, removed one of his ribs and formed a woman. Basically, Adam woke from a nap to find a naked woman with him. Married! (Genesis 2:21-23)
2,000 years later Abraham, Isaac’s father, sent a servant to a far-off land to find his son a bride. When his servant returned with Rebekah, Isaac met her, took her into his tent. Married! (Genesis 24: 62-67)
All joking aside, I love the simplicity of God’s design for the union between husband and wife. It really is about how we privately commit to one another in a covenant before God.
Sometimes the stress and strain of planning that special day or focusing on elements of the ceremony can rob us of experiencing the moment when the Lord unites us with our spouse.
Marriage is also a powerful picture of how Jesus wants to be united with you.
“Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.” (Isaiah 62:5)
I love that. When we give ourselves to Jesus like a man and woman do to each other before God in marriage, He rejoices like a newly married groom.
You may have heard that a good marriage requires a 50/50 partnership between husband and wife. That is simply not true. A good marriage takes 100% commitment, honor and support from each person.
My wife needs to know that I am giving 100% to her and the marriage. When I said, “I do”, I was really saying “I will” honor the unbreakable marriage covenant with my wife. Furthermore, my 100% should not be affected by anything she does, good or bad.
That is how Jesus feels toward you when you join with Him. The Holy Spirit wrote “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband-Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
Once united with Christ, He promises to never abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:6-8) and that does not depend on what you do, good or bad. He remains in a covenant relationship with you.
God continues to honor His covenant with you as His bride even when you are not honoring your covenant with Him. This is grace and it gently and lovingly draws you back into fellowship with Him.
It all starts with saying “I do” when you respond to Jesus as He is asking now, “Do you want me to be your Savior?”
In the late 1860s, less than a decade after the Civil War’s end, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to the countless fallen soldiers of that terrible war by decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
Though it is unclear exactly where this tradition originated, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day citing their first celebration as May 5, 1866.
A large portion of both the Union and Confederate armies were volunteers, whose first exposure to military life was a brutal, bloody war. They received little to no training yet sacrificed everything to preserve their way of life. Today, our military is comprised completely of volunteers, many who have given their lives to preserve our freedom here in the United States.
Even though I have never served in the military, I have the upmost respect for those who do. I am in awe of strangers who would fight and risk their lives to protect me and the freedom I enjoy in this country. It touches my heart each time I watch the videos of soldiers returning from overseas by surprising family members because I remain conscious that for many, their service ends tragically with heartache for their loved ones.
Willing soldiers are pictures of sacrificial devotion that should inspire us. Unfortunately, I believe many Americans have taken their service for granted. Maybe it is true that we are just too comfortable in America. Or perhaps we are just allowing the comforts of our freedom and prosperity of this country to dull our hearts to history and remembering those who made our lives possible by honoring them with how we live.
Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
He did not just teach it, He modeled it.
A soldier fights not only for your freedom, but for peace. Would you agree that any peaceful relationship in your life, one void of conflicts and rich with love and honesty, is a blessing? When Jesus went to the cross, He not only freed you from the judgement of your sins He also gave you peace with God. Let that sink in!
Right now, you may stand in the presence of God at total peace with Him. Jesus made that possible. For years that was hard for me to accept because I allowed my own system of right and wrong to prevent me from really seeing the sacrificial devotion of Jesus when He took my place in judgement before God. During those years I felt better about myself when I stuck to my code of conduct but now realize I never felt nor had peace with God.
Jesus said, “I am leaving you with this gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.” John 14:27
What brand of peace affects your mind and heart?
“This is the message of the Good News…that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” Acts 10:36
Peace with God! A gift from God through the Lord Jesus. The only caveat with this or any gift, is it must be received. You receive this gift by placing your trust in Jesus as your Savior. God will then help you live a life that honors Him and history.
As a kid in the early 70s, I watched reruns of the 1966-1968 Batman series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. At that age I watched it more as a serious action crime show and did not understand nor appreciate the wonderful humor. According to Wikipedia, Executive Producer William Dozier once described it as the only situation comedy on the air without a laugh track. After seeing some of the episodes as an adult, I agree.
One of the running jokes that appears in every episode is Robin’s “holy” exclamations such as “Holy Guacamole” or “Holy Hole in a Donut”. According to BuzzFeed, Robin made 359 such statements during the 3 season, 120 episodes run. That’s three “holies” per show! A member of the BuzzFeed staff listed and rated all of them. Holy Hijack came in at 170.
“Holy Hijack” describes well what secular cultures have done to two prominent Christian celebrations, Christmas and Easter. Of the two, the cleverest crime was the commandeering of Easter. For Christians, Easter is the day we remember and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead.
Over the years people have argued about the origin and meaning of the word “Easter” and when that word was used in conjunction with this Christian celebration. Frankly, I don’t really care. At the core this is not a matter of one day being any more important than another. It is simply a day set aside since the second century for Christians around the world to collectively celebrate what God has done because the entire Christian faith rests on this one event.
“For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either.”
1 Corinthians 15:13
As a self-proclaimed witness to Jesus’s resurrection, even Paul, who wrote over half of the New Testament, said he and all the apostles would be a bunch of liars IF the resurrection never happened.
“And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead.”
1 Corinthians 15:15
Yet most of the apostles were executed for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection. You can also count Jesus among the liars because He said:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25
Would you die for a lie?
Today in many homes Easter is recognized with little more than a Santa-like, candy-giving rabbit and the tradition of finding plastic eggs filled with treasures. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend over $18 billion this Easter mostly on clothing, candy and gifts. Of course, there is nothing wrong with fun family traditions. The hijack is the diversion of our attention away from an event that has the power to forever change us and the world.
Listen to God’s heart for you: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.” Philippians 3:10a
What is the power God promises?
“And God will raise us from the dead by His power, just as He raised our Lord from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 6:14
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance-an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
1 Peter 1:3-4
There is no dispute that Jesus lived and was crucified. There is no dispute that the apostles lived and died for their faith in Him. What is disputed and must be settled in your heart is whether they were all liars and lunatics, willing to die for a lie, or God did raise Jesus from the dead as your Lord and Savior.
Just like He did with His first disciples, Jesus asks each of us today, “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15
If you want to experience His resurrection power in your life, invite Him to be your Lord. It will be an Easter you will never forget.