Big Easter surprises

Image from: https://www.gospelimages.com/paintings/66/the-women-return-from-the-grave-after-jesus-resurrection

Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James (and possibly other women) had come to the tomb of their teacher and friend.

The earth shook and rumbled with an awesome force. Something great was about to happen.

A holy being suddenly appeared.

Surprise!

This strong and mighty angel was bursting with bright light and illuminated the atmosphere. Its robe radiated with pure white light. This was one of God’s holy angels sent to assist in God’s work.

The angel began to roll the stone away, uncovering the tomb.

The guards on duty that day, who were tasked to guard the tomb of the crucified Jesus, were now trembling in shock. Being completely overwhelmed, they sat in disbelief and amazement by what they had just witnessed. They had never seen such a powerful display of power from heaven.

Surprise!

God’s holy angel told the women there’s no reason to fear. It said, “Jesus is no longer here. He’s come back to life. Come inside the tomb. Check it out. Take a look for yourselves.”

Surprise!

The angel told them, “You’ve seen where his body had once laid. He’s alive. Now, go and tell Jesus’ disciples that he has resurrected from death. Jesus is no longer dead. He is now alive.”

Overwhelmed with joy and excitement, they made their way to Galilee.

As these two women approached Jesus,Jesus appeared and said to them:

“Hey it’s me! Surprise!

Good morning. What a great morning it is this day.

You must be in shock, I know, but there’s no need to fear.

Check me out. It’s really me, your’s truly, Jesus of Nazareth, your old friend. Touch me yourself. Feel that I am indeed real. I have skin and bones. I have nail marks on me. I’m not just a ghost or an apparition.

They looked at Jesus. Surprised and bewildered.

They touched his two ankles, his feet and felt that his body was real indeed.

He was not a ghost or apparition. He was real indeed.

Then they worshiped Jesus.

What a great surprise for these women this day. Almost too much of a surprise to take in. Almost too unbelievable if they hadn’t seen him for themselves.

Jesus then told the women, “Go now, and tell my brothers to start heading up to Galilee. I will meet up with them there.”

So off they went to inform the disciples of this great news.

Indeed, it was a great day, filled with big big surprises.

Happy Easter!

On Saturday when the world stopped

Between Friday and Sunday, the world stopped.

The earth shook. Thunder and lightening beamed and rumbled across the earth.

A people in bewilderment wondered what in the world has just happened?

Jesus was hung on the cross and was forced to accept his own death–to be killed.

He had once told the leaders of the people that “this temple” would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.

Now that Jesus has died, how can a dead man rebuild a temple? A man once alive is now dead.

Did God in heaven make an empty promise?

Did God truly love humankind?

Did God truly love his Son?

Did God make a mistake in sending His Son into the world?

Was God swindled out of His Son?

God gave His one and only Son to die for humankind. His Son is now dead. What now?

God gave his Son as a ransom and took upon himself the sins of humanity. For what?

Between Friday and Sunday, the world awaits… for something.

It does not know what is to come. Uncertainty hangs in the air with a hint of expectation. The third day is coming.

What’s good about Good Friday?

What’s good about Good Friday? It commemorates the day when Jesus was crucified on the cross. During the days of the Roman Empire, crucifixion was the method of death penalty. Criminals were flogged and then crucified on a cross. It was a very painful way to die. They would die slowly of asphyxiation. It was more painful than the electric chair, the gas chamber, or the guillotine.

Knowing this, the cross then actually represented a symbol of shame and guilt. Only criminals died by crucifixion. Jesus was not given a fair trial. He was sent to his death. It was unfair and unjustified. The cross is symbol of torture, shame and guilt. It is also now a religious symbol. We carry it with a sense of pride because there’s a very important message behind the cross.

All though we deserve death and the punishment of hell, we will receive something much better. By placing our faith in Jesus, our lives and our souls are destined belong to God for eternity. We have been made a part of God’s holy family. God has rescued us from hell, and invited us into his holy family. We now belong to God. Yes, we belong to the loving and compassionate heart of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That truly makes it a good Friday.

Our sins were left to die on that cross, never to be remembered again by our heavenly Father. God would prove to the world that He has the power to forgive sins and to resurrect Jesus and his followers from the dead. That special day would on the third day which we commemorate as Easter or Resurrection Sunday.

Freedom in the gospel

The Law: demands everything but gives nothing.
The Gospel: demands nothing but gives everything.

The Law: shows us what godliness looks like but it cannot transform the sinner
The Gospel: is alone the power of God to salvation and transforms the sinner.

The Law: accuses and exposes our sins.
The Gospel: acquits and exonerates us of our sins.

The Law: diagnoses sinners.
The Gospel: delivers sinners.

The Law: is for those who think they’re good.
The Gospel: is for those who know they are sinners.

Christian journalists: seeking and reporting the Truth

Today and more than ever, people fear being censored for speaking the truth, especially when the truth does not agree with the narrative perpetuated by the majority stakeholders. Our academic environment is ever more intolerant to differences in opinions. Whether one has a liberal or conservative bent, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly are very precious rights and freedoms in a liberal democracy or democratic republic.

If we do not defend these freedoms, we will all lose out in the end. End result: no one will have the freedom to speak the truth. We need to stand together to defend these freedoms, even if we do not always agree with everything the other says. The common denominator must always be to speak the truth, and to abide by a professional code of ethics as journalists. Otherwise, a free and democratic society will be weakened. A strong democratic republic depends on ethical journalism.

As a Christian, I was taught in church and from my parents to tell the truth, even when it’s not convenient. I remember many opportunities to fudge a little, to bend the truth when it wasn’t convenient to provide the full truth. I know, as a young person, as a student, as a young adult, as a colleague in work places, the opportunity to shift the truth a little to the left or right was always there.

To tell the honest to God truth was not always easy. It even hurt me to tell the full truth. I lost respect when I told them the truth. I also lost some self-respect, and respect from others when I did fudge the truth a little. I might be too open here in my post. I admit it—-I am not perfect and will never be perfect. I am always prone to falling into temptation as long as I am a human being.

This corruption of innate/original sin exists in every person, even in those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Every person of every religion, persuasion, creed and color, has within him- or herself an inner dark side. We need redemption, or simply put, forgiveness of original sin and of sins we commit each day. That is why I am a believer in Jesus Christ who provides me confidence to start fresh each day.

As a young adult, I used to be an avid reader of news. In recent years, my faith in mass media and journalism has waned. Distrust in the mainstream media has seeped into my consciousness. In my university days, one of my professors used to work as a reporter and editor for the New York Times. He emphasized good journalism and seeking and speaking the truth. He was one of the most admired teachers at the school but is now deceased. He is a rare gem these days.

Truth is something we still need to strive for. As journalists and people who work in media, the temptation to fudge the truth is glaring. This temptation haunts every journalist who claims impartiality in the world of a free press. As I observe a daily dose of news in the media and free press, I see much misinformation and disinformation. Lies perpetuates more lies and other falsities in our world. When this happens, it also perpetuates anger, frustration and dissatisfaction. Sad.

As people who seek truth, we need to seek the truth. Journalism schools requires people who are seekers of truth. Several bible verses are a good reminder of the importance of speaking the truth.

Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge, teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth, so that you bring back truthful reports to those you serve?

Proverbs 22:20-21, NIV, Holy Bible

“Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.”

Psalm 45:3-4, NIV, Holy Bible

If you are a Christian journalist or a Christian looking at a career in journalism, one needs to stay in the light and continue in God’s grace and mercy because the temptation to bend the truth always exists.

Editors will force you to bend the truth to fit the narrative of what they want. News editors will be forced by the corporate heads and governments to remove important pieces of information and provide mis- and disinformation in order to sway public opinion. We need good ethics and morality. These are good but rare virtues these days where journalism sometimes seem more akin to state and corporate sponsored propaganda outlets.

If one wants to succeed in disseminating truth in journalism, then for God’s sake, remain in the vine and be in tune with God’s Holy Spirit. Allow truth to guide your writing, speaking and editing. May God’s Spirit of truth penetrate into the hearts and minds of every editor, journalist, media, news reporter and columnist. May God be with you always, and in your endeavors in seeking and speaking the truth.

Society of Professional Journalists, Code of Ethics: https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

The Source of our Rights and Freedoms

The Source and Defender of our Rights and Freedoms

In Canada, we have been inherently endowed with human rights and freedoms.  We recognize these rights and freedoms not because we received any of it from the state. We recognize these freedoms as blessings from the Sovereign One. It is from the Sovereign who graciously provides blessings. Such blessings of life and liberty come from one Source. We point back to the Source as an acknowledgement of God’s grace.

On earth and in these earthly kingdoms, such as the lands of the British Commonwealth, the Sovereign is represented by a regent, that is, the appointed person in the Queen or King of the Commonwealth. As a child of the Commonwealth, we do well to acknowledge this true and Sovereign One. As humble and glad recipients of these blessings that flow down to us, we also do well to give glory back to the Sovereign God for such Providence.

Our natural expression as recipients result in worship of the holy Sovereign. Thus, we will come full circle—from being recipients of free speech to one who freely offers worship. As natural citizens who receive rights and freedoms, we also use our rights and freedoms to live out our lives as free citizens.

Today, her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second remains as the defender of the Faith and is the regent of the heavenly Sovereign. As Canadians and subjects of the Crown, we honour the defender of the faith, her Royal Majesty. She is the representative of the Sovereign God from whom we have received our natural and inherent rights and freedoms.

Our Rights and Freedoms are recognized:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Section 2, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The freedom of peaceful assembly in section 2(c), is one of the fundamental freedoms of a Canadian citizen. Peaceful assembly is a right of every Canadian citizen.

Another fundamental freedom in section 2(b) is freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. These two freedoms of assembly and expression are inherent rights of each Canadian citizen. It expresses the right of every Canadian to freely assemble and to express their thought, belief, and opinion.

All peoples of Canada have freedom of speech to speak and share one’s religious opinions and beliefs, to preach and speak from one’s faith, and to freely assemble together to sing and worship according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

Our churches and places of worship are sacred assemblies of peoples of faith who worship together in community. Worship is a sacred act of all individuals which must never be encroached upon by anyone. When these rights and freedoms are infringed upon by the state or government, we must not hesitate to recognize such infringement as violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Such freedoms are usually the first encroached upon and are a bell-weather of government overreach. People of faith are most sensitive to such infringement.

Our Purpose and Destiny

To continue to live freely as Canadians, we must vigorously and continuously strive to protect and defend our inherent rights and freedoms to worship, to speak and to assemble. As we sing the national anthem, O Canada, we are reminded to “stand on guard for thee.” The object and purpose of standing guard is to defend our God-given rights and freedoms. This is why Canada is called by God to be one of the most free nations on earth.

Sometimes, I wonder if we have begun to lose our God-given freedoms. I wonder if we have forgotten about the One from whom we have received our blessings of freedom. If we have, we may be in danger of losing our rights and freedoms. We pray this will never happen.

As Canadians, we ought to be concerned about the potential loss of freedoms. Perhaps many of us have begun or have already fallen asleep. We have been put into a deep slumber where we cannot awaken to our purpose and destiny. Some might only be half awakened but still remain half asleep.

We have not fully awakened to the knowledge of our Source and Sovereign. If we fail to recognize the Sovereign One, we will inevitably fail to recognize what we have been endowed with as creatures of the Creator. Occasionally, there will be times when we must vigorously defend our freedoms. In the face of tyranny, Canadians will rise up to push back against tyrannical policies that infringe upon our rights and freedoms.

Canada, God is calling. God is calling you. Arise from your slumber. Awaken from your dreams. Awaken from your slumber and arise. (e.g., Ephesians 5:14; Romans 13:11)

If we were to begin to awaken and recognize the source of our freedoms, who is the Sovereign One and the Creator of each individual, we can begin to acknowledge who we are in relation to the Sovereign. As Canadians, we are blessed to be subjects of the Sovereign One, the holy and mighty one of Heaven and Earth. Our hope as Canadians is that each person, each citizen, either naturalized or born by birth, come to a full awakening as recipients to one’s natural rights and freedoms. This is part of our destiny. May this destiny be manifested fully one day.

[added video link]: The last living signatory of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Honourable Brian Peckford, former Premier of Newfoundland

Are you a “hypenated-Christian”?

I might be a hypenated Christian. I serve under the Baptists today although I was trained and ordained in the Lutheran church. I originally came from the evangelical and pentecostal churches. Some might call me a Bapti-costal or a crypto-Lutheran, Bapto-Lutheran or Luther-costal, or whatever hyphenated Christian.

I meet many people who are no longer part of the church. Some are lapsed Catholics, and some are also lapsed evangelicals. Some are searching or are visiting different churches and do not consider themselves belonging to any single denomination even though they may have been baptized in that denomination.

Today’s church is in flux. Amongst evangelicals, many have moved from one denomination to another and have never given a thought to staying with one denomination forever. I have done my share of church hopping in my young adult years, especially during college years. Many of my friends were also in the same boat. It is much like how many move from one job to another these days. Church, life and work are not static but always changing.

Organized religion is feeling less organized these days and will continue in this direction for the foreseeable future. For whatever reasons, some people change churches. It might be theological, or spiritual, or because they had friends or family who attended a congregation. Some return to the church of their childhood where they attended Sunday school, youth group or confirmation.

My sense is that people are looking for real spirituality. They want something that is genuine. Denomination is not a big concern. They want something spiritual and yet has meaning for their lives.

Has this been the case for yourself? Do you also consider yourself a hyphenated-Christian?

Jesus’ resurrection and calling sinners to repentance

The early Christians had known that Christ’s death and resurrection was meant to call sinners to repentance. Below is a quote from Epistle of Barnabas, ch 5, written by one of the early Apostolic fathers of the late 1st and early 2nd centuries (source here, dating here).

The prophets, having obtained grace from Him, prophesied concerning Him. And He (since it behoved Him to appear in flesh), that He might abolish death, and reveal the resurrection from the dead, endured [what and as He did], in order that He might fulfill the promise made unto the fathers, and by preparing a new people for Himself, might show, while He dwelt on earth, that He, when He has raised mankind, will also judge them. Moreover, teaching Israel, and doing so great miracles and signs, He preached [the truth] to him, and greatly loved him. But when He chose His own apostles who where to preach His Gospel, [He did so from among those] who were sinners above all sin, that He might show He came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Remember, Christ’s resurrection, and even our repentance, is a work of God and never our work.

Why do we say, “He is Risen”?

Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

On Easter Sunday, we in Christ, will say together “He is risen!” Why do we do this each Easter morning?

The witnesses in scripture told the disciples that Jesus is risen from the dead.

Matthew 28:6-7 says, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

Mark 16:6 says, “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

Luke 24:6 says, “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.”

In Scripture, Jesus predicted His own resurrection. His followers did not understand what He was saying to them, but after He returned, they understood.

Matthew 16:21 says, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Mark 8:13 says, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

Good Friday – when they crucified our Lord – INRI

If you ever watched a Jesus movie with his crucifixion and noticed a sign above his head says INRI (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum). This means Jesus Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Before his execution, Jesus was flogged, which was a customary practice intended to weaken a victim before crucifixion. Crucifixion was an especially painful method of execution and was perfected by the Romans as such. It was reserved for the worst criminals, and generally Roman citizens, women, and soldiers were exempt in most cases.

During his flogging, the soldiers tormented Jesus, crowning Him with thorns and ridicule. Jesus was forced to carry his own cross. Yes, his own cross! It was good that Cyrene help Jesus to carry it the rest of the way to Calvary. He was nailed between two thieves because his enemies felt he deserved a thief’s death.

In churches that observe Good Friday, the altar is stripped bare. Holy Communion is not taken. A fast may be done. It is a somber day.

With Catholics, there may also be a veneration of the cross to recognize the death of our Lord.

May the cross help all of us remember what Christ went through in his death. It was for us, for the atonement of our sins. May we be grateful for his death, but we will also arise with joy in his future resurrection.