Category Archives: Happy Easter

First Gringo Easter In Eight Years

Part of going on the mission field has to do with sacrificing your personal and professional life to fulltime ministry. While you are serving in another culture you miss births, deaths, graduations, holidays and other big events that we use to define our lives.

imageThis past Sunday marked the first time since 2007 that our family celebrated Easter in the U.S. Easter Sunday is big for our family because in marks the resurrection of Christ. The raising of our Savior is what separates Christianity from other world religions. Every prophet is born and every prophet dies, but only one defeated death by raising from the dead.

Celebrating in Latin America, or many other cultures is different. Emphasis in Western churches, during Easter, is placed on the celebration of the bodily resurrection of Christ. Our family has missed that for eight years.

imageMike attended Phoenix United Reformed Church and heard a substantive resurrection sermon and praised the raising of Christ. It was something we have missed for years.

When you are on the mission field you give up many things that mattered to you in the past. Celebrating Easter in the U.S. for the first time in eight years was joyful.

Holy Week In Honduras

In Christendom Holy Week is the last week before Easter. It includes Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Upon the conclusion of Holy Week is Easter Sunday. It commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ and, needless to say, is a very significant and special time for Christians.

Seguridad_450_339In Honduras Holy Week (or semana santa) is a big deal, but it is a bit different. There are a few Christian celebrations commemorating Christ. But to the bulk of the country semana santa is about beeches, drugs, alcohol and violence. Most private sector employees get two or three paid days off while many government workers get the entire week off. Schools are closed the entire week. This results in an atmosphere of travel, partying and drinking.

Don’t get us wrong. There is nothing wrong with a little relaxation and moderate consumption of adult beverages. But, during semana santa our little beech town of La Ceiba swells with visitors. Commerce all but shuts down and violence increases. Beer tents pop up on every corner and sell bottles at such inexpensive prices that local merchants can’t compete.

Each semana santa the number of auto accidents, drownings and murders skyrocket in La Ceiba. Last year we asked several Honduran Christians what Holy Week meant to them. The responses were family, days off and partying. When we inquired about Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter we received laughs and a response of, “Oh, those are things that are only important to gringo churches.”

We pray that our Honduran friends enjoy their time off and have fun with family during semana santa. We also pray that they remember the crucified and risen Christ.

The Physical Pain Of The Cross

Two thousand years ago Jesus was crucified for our sins. It is easy to say those words, but what does it mean. The English language derives the word “excruciating” from crucifixion, acknowledging it as a form of slow, painful suffering. This punishment was reserved for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the lowest of criminals. Crucifixion was invented by the Persians between 300-400 B.C. It is quite possibly the most painful death ever invented by humankind.

Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged. Traditionally, the accused stood naked, and the flogging occurred from the shoulders to the upper legs. The whip contained metal balls that hit the skin, causing deep bruising. Sheep bone attached to the tips of each strip ripped the flesh and muscle.

Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head. As they hit Jesus in the head, the thorns from the crown pushed into the skin and He began bleeding profusely. The thorns also caused damage to the nerves to the face, causing intense pain down His face and neck. Due to severe blood loss, Jesus was likely in shock. As such, He is unable to carry the cross and Simon of Cyrene executes this task.

They nailed Jesus’ wrists and feet to the wood. The huge nails damaged or severed the major nerves causing continuous agonizing pain. As the cross bar was lifted into position Jesus’ full weight pulled down on His nailed wrists and His shoulders and elbows dislocated. In this position, Jesus’ arms stretched to a minimum of six inches longer than their original length.

As Jesus hung on the cross, the weight of His body pulled down on the diaphragm. In order to breathe or speak Jesus needed to painfully push up on His nailed feet enabling his lungs to function. The difficulty surrounding exhalation led to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide built up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. Jesus’ body responded instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, His heart beat faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen caused damage to the tissues and the capillaries began leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This resulted in a build-up of fluid around the heart and lungs. The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim. The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself, which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture. It is possible Jesus died of a heart attack.

While these unpleasant facts depict a brutal murder, the depth of Christ’s pain emphasizes the true extent of God’s love for His creation. Teaching the physiology of Christ’s crucifixion is a constant reminder of the magnificent demonstration of God’s love for humanity that was expressed that day in Calvary. This lesson enables us to participate in communion, the remembrance of His sacrifice, with a grateful heart. As a flesh and blood human, Jesus felt every ounce of this execution. What greater love than this can a man have for others?

The core of this post was liberated from Cahleen Shrier, Ph.D. of Azusa Pacific University.

Is It Really That Simple?

The Bible promises us that Christians will be hated and persecuted throughout the world only because they are Christians.  It even promises that Christians will betray each other.  False leaders (in politics, entertainment and sports) will come and attempt to pry our focus away from Christ.  Our job in the midst of these distractions, worldly concerns and frenzy is to remain focused on the cross.  (Matthew 24:9-14)  Whoever told you being a Christian was an easy thing did not consult the Bible.

Today the world is focusing on the economy, pirates, Obama’s new dog, and Iran’s nukes.  In 10 years, heck – in one year, those issues will be long forgotten and replaced by other mundane topics to distract us from the cross.  But, the eternal love of Christ will still exist.

We are called to let our lives be sacrifices to God. (Romans 12:1)  We are instructed to give up what is important to us and focus on Christ.  (Luke 9:23)  And, warned against walking with one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom. (Romans 6:13)  God is clear.  His message is simple.  The results are eternal.

Sometimes it seems hard to give up the world and embrace Christ.  Our family attempts and fails every day.  It seems complex and difficult.  But, in reality it is simple.  Start with the bottom line. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)  From there the desire to serve and give and sacrifice becomes so obvious.

Not just today, but everyday, remember that the resurrection was a personal gift from the Creator of the Universe to you.  It really is that simple, and complex, and loving, and perfect.

He is risen!

Raised From The Dead…So What?

The Bible teaches that on the third day Christ rose from the grave and showed Himself alive to His disciples. Why is this resurrection so special? Weren’t lots of people raised from the dead in the Bible? (1 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 4:34-35, 2 Kings 13:20-21, Matthew 9:18-26, Luke 7:11-15, John 11: 39-44, Acts 9:40-41, Acts 20:9-20). Sure, being raised from the dead is a neat trick, but, why does it matter?
 
What made the resurrection of Jesus noteworthy and unique was that His death was a response to God’s calling in His life. A response that was not given for himself, but, for others. Christ received no benefit for enduring what He did. It is us, His redeemed, who reap all the benefit.
 
For our gain, Christ experienced a cruel suffering in His body and soul. He was ridiculed, tortured, crucified, murdered and buried. After three days in the grave He rose from the dead, with the same body. After being seen by more then 500 people He ascended into heaven, and today sits beside His Father, making intervention for me and, I pray, you.
 
The factual resurrection of Jesus proves that He is the Son of God. It proves that Jesus’ doctrine is the truth. It proves that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for the reclaiming of man. And, it proves that all those who have a relationship with Him will be with Him for eternity.
 
His endurance, death and resurrection were freely given to us to make us acceptable to God. Simply believing this story as fact is not enough. We must look to Jesus as our only possible rescuer. We must live each day of our lives with loving adoration and appreciation. Our gratitude for this perfect gift can easily be demonstrated by loving Him enough to share this amazing news with those who do not know. Christ has risen!