Monthly Archives: March 2018

He’s Not There, but Thank God He’s Here!

ThePastorsPenDear Church Family and Friends,

Mark 16:1-8

He really does live, doesn’t He? He’s not there in that tomb, is He? Thank God He’s not there! Thank God He’s here – with you and me. There is no question about it. There’s no doubt in my mind. The tomb was empty on that first Easter morning. Jesus was resurrected. He’s not there, but thank God He’s here! That really is the powerful message of Easter Sunday.

And it is a message that needs to be heard again and again. For we are all like the three women, described here in Mark’s account of resurrection in Mark 16 – the earliest Gospel account. Early that Sunday morning, they were going to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, wondering how the massive stone would be rolled aside so they could enter. Upon arrival they observed that stone sealing the tomb had already been rolled away. Upon entering it, they saw a young man – an angel, to be exact, who told them not to be alarmed since they were. You and I would’ve been alarmed too, by the way. He knew why they were there: to anoint Jesus’ dead body, which would have been a very noble thing to do. But the body wasn’t there. The young man told them He had been raised. Even though the angel reminded those three ladies that Jesus had told them all this was going to happen, it still didn’t make sense to them.

This guy instructed Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Younger who was one of The Twelve, and Salome to go and tell the other disciples, especially Peter – that miserable failure whose denial may have been worse than Judas’ – something very important. Jesus was going to Galilee and would wait for them there and they were to get up there as quickly as they could. Mark then says those gals got out of there as quickly as they could. When you think about, their departure may have been somewhat comical.

I can get tickled at just about anything and laugh almost uncontrollably. Yesterday morning as I was reading over this text, I thought about Mary, Mary, and Salome leaving the tomb. I started laughing as I pondered the scene. I can imagine the three of them attempting to exit the tomb at the same time, bumping into each other, knocking each other down, getting up, tripping and falling down again. I can envision one about to exit and the one behind her grabbing her, pulling her out of the way and attempting to make her own exit, while the third one grabbed her, pulling her out of the way, seeking to be the first to get out of there. I should think the angel was amused as he watched the scene unfold. It’s the stuff that makes for a good cartoon or Three Stooges episode.

Let’s face it. You and I would have been doing the same thing. These girls had been seized by terror and amazement. They had just seen an angel in a graveyard who had literally spoken to them. Jesus was not in the tomb. As they listened to this young messenger from God they must have thought, “Gone to Galilee? But He died on Friday. We saw Him die on the cross. We watched Joseph of Arimathea take Him off the cross and wrap Him in a linen cloth. We watched Joseph put Him in this tomb. He’s risen? He’s gone to Galilee? An angel is talking to us? We’re out of here!” And then Mark concludes: “and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8).

On this Easter morning I remind you as I remind myself, He’s not there in the tomb. Thank God He’s here. And because Jesus is there’s encouragement to move beyond the terror and amazement. As I look into your faces this morning, I see in all of us some fear. We’ve come into this Worship Center with a host of fears – the fear of dying, the fear of financial failure, the fear of a marriage collapsing to name a few. Because Jesus is here, we can rid ourselves of all those fears whatever they may be. Mary, Mary, and Salome did. The truth is, they all did eventually. You see, because He’s not there, but is here, there is power that will enable you and me to say something and not be afraid. More often than not, though, we’re like those three women: we say nothing to anyone for we are afraid.

Our fear, perhaps, is justified. It is a scary world out there, isn’t it? If you don’t believe that then watch the news on television sometime today. Pick up a newspaper and peruse it. Can you believe all the things that have happened in our small town and county in the past two months? The world, even here in Rogersville, is scary. There’s a good reason why the desk sergeant on that early ’80s prime-time TV drama on Thursdays, Hill Street Blues, always told everybody after announcements, roll call, and assignments just prior to their departure to serve and protect, “Let’s be careful out there.” We can’t exercise enough care. Every day seemingly brings new terror and so in our “being careful out there,” we tend to clam up. Maybe we’re exercising too much care out there.

Many people identify April 20 with evil. On April 20, 1889 Adolph Hitler was born. On April 20, 1999 the Columbine High School massacre, in which two students shot and killed twelve of their fellow students and two teachers before killing themselves, took place in Littleton, CO. There are 420 student groups associated with drugs. Since it’s Easter wouldn’t it be great great if all Christians would allow God’s miraculous love to so overwhelm us because of our belief in the resurrection that the world would be inclined to forget the evil associated with April 20.

April 1st is April Fools Day. Many of this world would say we are fools for believing in this kind of love and forgiveness. We are fools for believing in the resurrection of a Jesus from the dead. But the Bible indicates that this would be a good day to claim as the holiday for atheist. Psalm 14:1 (KJV) 1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. So, I don’t think we as believers are the foolish ones here.

he Resurrection is evidence of God’s love and it is precisely because Jesus Christ has been resurrected that evil can be overcome. The tomb is empty. He’s not there, but thank God He’s here!

The angel told them Jesus wasn’t there. The evil of death had been conquered so why hang around a tomb? The angel told them He was going to Galilee. Maybe we need to go back to Galilee, the place where it all started.

David Garland, a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. who now teaches New Testament in the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, TX where he is currently Associate Dean. David observes that all Mark gives us is simply the news that Jesus has been raised. If anybody wants to see Jesus, they will have to leave the tomb and follow Him since He has gone on ahead – to Galilee, where it all began.1

As I contemplated this insight, I was reminded that Jesus really is always a step or two ahead of us. He is always out there beckoning us to come to where He is. He’s not there in the tomb. That was the black of Good Friday and quiet of Holy Saturday. He’s not there, but thank God He’s here! He’s here, He is in Galilee, the place of beginnings. That’s where it all started in Galilee. That’s where Jesus began preaching the kingdom of God. That’s where He called some guys to follow Him, joining Him in taking to task the evil of the world. And, He is here with us today.

Easter calls us to start again by going back to the place of beginnings. We are to learn to follow Him all over again. That’s what Easter Sunday concerns: learning to follow Jesus Christ all over again. Christ is always out there ahead of us – leading and guiding His followers into new lands, new ventures, and new challenges. He’s not there in the empty tomb. He’s on the move. Anywhere persons are compliant to His charge to go to Galilee, He’s there. I’m glad He is for many reasons, but especially because there is evil in the world. Galilee really can be a rough place at times.

I’m glad Jesus wasn’t there in the tomb on Easter Sunday. I’m glad He went on to Galilee. I’m also glad you and I are following Him to Galilee. I’m glad lives are being changed even today. Easter always grants us strength to change.

Now on Easter Sunday 2018 I believe at least one life, my life, will be changed. No. I believe the lives of these souls in this choir will be changed. No. I believe the lives of every person in this Worship Center can be changed forever. No. I believe lives all over this planet in all those Galilees can be changed forever.

Oh, I’m so glad Jesus is still right here in Rogersville, TN and At The Top of The Hill. That’s the Good News of Easter and it’s news worth telling. The tomb? The grave? He’s not there, but thank God He’s here! And on this Easter His Presence, well, it’s enough. It really is enough.

Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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Tips On Family Devotion!

ThePastorsPenDear Church Family and Friends,
I am very encouraged by the number of people, both in our church family as well as those outside our church family, who are following JAVA WITH JESUS each morning. If you are not following along but would like to start a daily time in the word, it is not too late. Easter is coming so why not start now and finish up celebrating next Easter by having read through the entire Bible. Why not do it with Family? Family devotions have seemingly become a thing of the past since social media and other things have separated us from personal contact even among our own families. With that said, I would like to pass on some tips for a Family Time In The Word.

These are just some ideas and tips I read about in an article entitled, 10 Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions in 2017; By Tim Challies.

Ideas for Family Devotions
Read the Narratives. Read through the big picture of the Bible by focusing on the narrative (story) parts. In the Old Testament, read Genesis, parts of Exodus (you might skip the building of the tabernacle, for example, and the giving of the ceremonial law), parts of Joshua (perhaps skipping the division of the land), Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, Esther, and so on. For the New Testament, focus on a couple of gospels and Acts. Read the passages aloud, one section or one chapter at a time. Ensure that each day you read enough for it to be significant but not so much that you lose the attention of the children. Over the course of a year you should be able to make your way through much of the Bible’s big story.

Read Big Beliefs! David Helm’s Big Beliefs! is one of my favorite books of 2016 and my family has been using it each morning, five days a week, since it released. It includes a daily reading plus a short devotional and a couple of optional discussion questions. It’s targeted at ages 8-12, but younger kids will be able to stretch up for it while older kids will be able to stoop down. It is framed around the Westminster Confession of Faith and teaches a broad systematic theology. We love it!

Read Around the Table. Sometimes it’s best for mom and dad to do the reading from their own Bible, and especially so when children are young. But as children get older and more adept at reading, it may be best to get each child a Bible so they can follow along. When you do this, you can have each person take a turn reading aloud. It may be too clunky to read one verse per person, but perhaps each person can read a few verses at a time. Or perhaps you can have one person read each day’s entire passage. This gets children comfortable with reading (and perhaps praying) in front of others while also pushing for deeper engagement with the text.

Read Long Story Short. Marty Machowski has released two excellent books that are ideal for family devotions: Long Story Short and Old Story New. Long Story Short is a family devotional program designed to explain God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament and is suitable for children from preschool through high school. Old Story New is the sequel and walks children through the great truths of the Christian faith in the New Testament. Both include daily readings, discussion points and prayer suggestions, and are designed to be completed in about 10 minutes per day. (You might also consider his book Wise Up which focuses on Proverbs.)

Just Read the Bible. This is the simplest suggestion of all: Just read the Bible a book at a time. Younger children tend to do best reading narratives, but as children grow older they need the whole Bible. Consider reading the epistles slowly, a few verses per day, taking time to discuss and apply them. Or read all or some of the Psalms, or whatever else seems interesting and applicable.

Focus on Proverbs. The proverbs contain timeless wisdom and are written specifically for young people. Young Christians need the proverbs! Proverbs are meant to be treated like a lozenge or hard candy, to be savored over time rather than quickly chewed up. Consider reading the proverbs slowly over the course of weeks or months. Read five or six each day, but pause on one or two of them, considering what they mean and how they can be practically applied. It’s unlikely you will ever read five or six without encountering at least one that is especially fitting for your family.

Read One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters. Nancy Guthrie’s One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters is part of the One Year collection of resources and is meant to be read around the dinner table, though I’m sure the breakfast table will work equally well. As the meal comes to a close, family members can take turns turning to the dinner-table devotion for that day, designed to be done together as a family in 10 to 15 minutes. The result, says the publisher, “is a meaningful daily discussion in which every family member can participate, drawing the whole family closer to God…and each other.”

Read a Catechism. The majority of today’s Christians have forgotten about catechisms, but as believers we have quite a legacy with The Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism and others like them. The Gospel Coalition has combined the best of those two (while making them a bit more Baptist-friendly) with the New City Catechism. Catechisms approach the Christian faith in a question and answer format and invariably include Scripture to go along with them. If you structure your time around a catechism, do ensure you give attention to an associated Scripture passage.

Read Morning and Evening. Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening remains a devotional classic, and for good reason. Spurgeon’s reflections are deep, timely and suitable for quick reading. You may have the best success with the edition edited and modernized by Alistair Begg. You will need to put some effort into finding a suitable and significant reading to go with each since Spurgeon’s devotions are typically based on a single verse.

Mix It Up. Consider deliberately mixing up your devotions for 2017. Perhaps spend a month reading a book of the Bible, then follow with a devotional book for a while. Maybe through the summer you can switch to the Proverbs, then head back to reading an epistle as you head into fall and the gospels as you approach the Christmas season. Variety is the spice of life, right? Variety will keep your children engaged and, equally important, keep their parents engaged.

10 Tips for Family Devotions
1. More important than how you do family devotions is that you do family devotions.
2. Keep family devotions simple, especially when starting out. Five engaging minutes are far better than 20 rambling ones.
3. Family devotions is not only about gaining knowledge but also about establishing patterns and displaying priorities.
4. The foundation of family devotions is simple: read and pray. Better said: read, teach and pray.
5. Family devotions don’t need to be fun, but they must not be drab either. Focus on engagement, not entertainment.
6. The benefit of family devotions is not only gaining knowledge but also relating to God together as a family.
7. Do not grow discouraged if your children look bored. Measure long, not short and let your kids be kids.
8. Ask for tips on family devotions from others in your local church. Glean from their successes and false starts.
9. Expect that God will work through family devotions but do not demand that his work take a certain form.
10. Dad, take responsibility for family devotions. Lead your family by leading them to the Word and leading them in prayer.
Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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EASTER is coming!

ThePastorsPenDear Church Family and Friends,

I know most, if not all of you, have heard the statement, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” It is a phase used to express hope in the face of the horrible crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that the resurrection is coming. New hope, new life, a new beginning for those who put their faith in Jesus’ death burial and resurrection.

While I know this is not the week before Easter, I do know Easter is coming and will be here before we know it. I would love for us to be ready more than just having a new outfit to wear. I want us to be ready spiritually as well.

How do we begin now to prepare for Easter coming? I am glad you ask…LOL I read this article, Nine Considerations for Church Members This Easter, By Thom S. Rainer. I would like to share his insight with you now so we can begin to put them into practice and be prepared for the coming of Easter.

Easter will be one of the highest attended days of the year for our church. It may be the highest.

There will be some people you don’t know. Some of them are guests. Others are members who attend infrequently.

You have an opportunity to make a gospel impression on these people with a few simple acts. Indeed, you have an opportunity to make an eternal difference. Here are nine servant actions for you to consider.

Pray as you enter the property. Pray for the guests. Pray for the services. Pray for the pastor and the sermon.

Park at the most distant spot available. Save the closer parking places for guests.

Greet people. They may be guests. They may be members. It’s okay to introduce yourself to either.

Look for people to help. You know the place well. Many others will not. Be a guide. Help someone who looks like he or she needs help.

Sit as close as possible to the front of the worship center. Save the back rows for guests and late entrants, so they don’t have to walk past so many people.

Sit in the middle. Don’t claim that aisle seat where people have to walk over you or past you.

Sit closely. Your worship center may be packed. If so, be willing to sit cheek to cheek.
Volunteer to serve. As the number of attendees increase, so does the need for volunteers. The parking team, kids ministry, and church greeter ministry are a few of the areas that will need more volunteers to help serve and minister to members and guests.

Pray as you leave. The Holy Spirit is likely working in many persons who attended. Pray for His continual work of conviction and comfort.

These are simple acts. They are acts of service. And if you survive doing these acts of kindness and service on Easter, you just might be able to do them on other days of worship as well. So to prepare, because Easter is coming, let’s start putting these things into practice today as we get ready for Easter to have on our very best Christ-like heart of servitude and worship.

Until next week, Love and prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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