Historically, Christians take time to solemnly observe the week proceeding Easter Sunday, calling it Holy or Passion Week. Indeed, these seven days were the most intense days of Jesus’ life and notably the most significant week in all of history. All four Gospels (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 12) record the details of the dramatic events occurring during Christ’s final days on earth. In fact, the Passion Narratives of the four Gospels receive the greatest attention from the authors. The Gospel writers slow down during the last week of Jesus’ life, providing greater detail than earlier events of the Gospels. The slow down indicates the importance of what is happening.
Let’s not miss the importance of this week. If God, through the Gospel writers deemed it necessary to devote so much time to one week in the life of Christ, then we ought to give it our attention too.
In summary, Passion Week began with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the “Hosannas” from the crowd that changed to cries of “Crucify Him” before the week was over as Ken Martin taught us this past Sunday. Reading the Gospel accounts, it looks like Jesus spent most of the week teaching in the temple area during the day. In the evenings, He spent time with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. During Passion Week the Sanhedrin plotted to kill Jesus, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, handing Him over for arrest, different leaders tried Jesus in their mock courtrooms, He journeyed to Golgotha where the soldiers ultimately crucified Him, and gloriously God raised Christ from the grave on the first Easter Sunday.
I want to encourage you to take a step back and reflect on the events of this week. If you have children, take time each day to read the events that happened on that day of the week. Ask and answer questions together as a family; passing on the amazing story to the next generation. Most importantly, see your place in the account. Christ died as an atonement for sins—your sins, and by satisfying the wrath of God, He makes it possible for you to have a relationship with the Father. Our part? “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Ro 10:9, NLT).
Plan to join us this Sunday as we celebrate the most important events in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Be sure to bring your family and friends as we reflect on the price God paid to save us from our sins, remember Christ’s great love poured out for us on the cross, and celebrate the victory we have in Jesus Christ!
I am finally back to the blog. Since I last posted, I finished up some school work. Now I can reclaim some of my time.
This past Sunday we had a fantastic time at Blainsport. We baptized four persons and received another eight into membership. All shared their testimonies leaving few dry eyes. I am still receiving comments about how inspired people felt following the worship gathering. I am grateful for the way God is moving in the lives of folks here at Blainsport.
Some exciting things are coming up. This Sunday Ken Martin from Weaverland Anabaptist Faith Community will be with us. He is steering our attention toward Matthew 21:1-11 as we celebrate Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday was the Sunday before Christ was crucified. On that day, the crowd of people proclaimed Jesus as king. Lamentably, the following Friday that same crowd called for His execution.
The following Sunday, April 21, is Easter. We begin the day at the church at 5:45 AM where we carpool to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. At Willow Point, the youth group will lead us in songs and Scripture readings as we watch the sunrise. One of the most spectacular verses of the Bible tells us “Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance” (Lk 24:1–2, NLT). The stone was removed, and Christ was alive again. Seeing the sun coming up over the lake reminds us anew the miracle of the first Easter and the hope for all who trust in Christ as their Savior. If He lives, so shall we!
Please invite your friend and family to our worship gathering at 10:00 AM. Several people have been planning an unforgettable morning that you don’t want to miss. It will truly be a celebration for our Living Savior.
Now, catching up a bit, I want to let those who like to know what I am currently reading see my reading list. First, in the leadership category, I am reading John Maxwell’s new book, Leader Shift. It is pretty good. His recognizable writing style emerges for those familiar with his books. Many of the principles he highlights you can find in his other books. A second book I have my nose in during my free time is Ernest Hemingway’s classic For Whom the Bell Tolls. It takes me a while to read it since I continually research some of the historical activity going on as his book describes. It takes place during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939). Not being knowledgeable of the war, I must dive into other sources to gain more insight. As a whole, I am learning a great deal because of all the extra research.
People ask me from time to time what I am currently reading. Here are four books that I am into right now in addition to my regular Bible study.
Coming to the end of the summer is always an exciting time of the year. Students enter a new grade in school; home life goes back to normal; church ministries gear up for another year; and maybe my tomatoes will get ripe! Autumn is definitely a “reset” for so many of us.
We had a terrific summer with Anthony Martin teaching the combined adult class. He did a masterful job of walking us through 2,000 years of church history. This Sunday will be his last one with us. He will also close our preaching series from Ephesians. With the summer Sunday School class coming to an end this Sunday, September 2 will kick off our next quarter. Remember to select a class so that we have the right materials order for the first Sunday. Sign-ups are in the lobby.
September will also be the kick-off of our Declaration House five-year commitment. We have a huge giving goal so don’t miss the introduction to the project on September 9.
I am so encouraged by the number of first-time guests we got to meet this summer. So many of them are no longer guests, they have quickly become family. Friends are bringing friends to church. Why not reach out today and be a part of connecting someone to our church? Bring a friend, or co-worker, or neighbor, or family member with you and allow God to change your life—and allow God to change their life!
One last thing. I received an email from J4C saying that they have the 2019 J4C Retreat on the calendar. They will return to Kenbrook on August 2-3-4, 2019. So, if your Junior Higher wants to attend, be sure to mark it on your calendar now to avoid planning another activity that weekend.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Blainsport Mennonite Church is the place to be this Easter. This Easter we would love introducing you to the God who defied the grave and rose victorious. Piercing Word, a premier drama team that brings the words of Scripture alive by performing Bible passages word-for-word straight from the ESV Bible, will join us for the morning. They make the story of Jesus and the invitation of God crystal clear for all age groups.
You do not have to be a church member to attend this Sunday or any other Sunday at Blainsport. The morning costs you nothing while it gives you the opportunity to see and hear what Easter is all about. Will you join us? We look forward to meeting you.
Before leaving for Pittsburgh on Monday night, one of Brooke’s elementary school friends stopped by to see her off. She brought some copies of photos she collected over the years. I had the chance to look at them at lunch time today. Pictures of her and her friends in school and on field trips. Some photos showed parties and adventures. All of them displayed smiles. Cheryl and I watched all three of our children grow up, and we are so proud of them.
We were privileged to raise such terrific children. It is something that we cannot redo, and it is something we cannot undo. The impact we made on our children lasts a lifetime. I think of all the parents of young children that attend Blainsport. If I can say anything of importance to you, it is, “Make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
What are the values that you want to pass along to your kids? Is your faith important? If so, how will you intentionally pass that faith onto them? Do you model a stable, growing walk with Jesus? Are you emphasizing the importance of unwavering faith, unselfish service, and standing for the truth?
Today, I read in Luke 9:46–48 that children are important to the Lord. They are impressionable; they are teachable. Children must have a prominent place in the ministry of the church. Jesus said, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (Luke 9:48, ESV).
As a church, we want to make the most of the opportunity we have to “receive” children. It is our desire to partner with parents in teaching the truths of Scripture to every child that enters our fellowship. It is not a necessary duty; it is an awesome privilege we have to serve God.
As summer comes to an end, we will restart a bunch of children’s activities. Reign Forest launches “Lunch Room,” a study about friendship. I know for Cheryl and me, we wanted our kids to develop healthy, lifelong friendships. I’m sure you want the same for your children. J4C, a program for middle schoolers will begin a new study with a huge group. J4C has been a huge success, helping kids stay connected after graduating from children’s ministries and before youth group. If your children are at that stage, be sure to connect with Sheldon and Lisa. Wednesday nights will have KFC for elementary school-aged kids. And of course on Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM we have Sunday School classes for all ages.
I’m excited about this new season at Blainsport! I hope you will plug in!
At this moment, I’m sitting at my desk, awaiting the solar eclipse and thinking about the change in seasons. Autumn does not officially start until September 22; still, it feels like fall. Later today, Cheryl and I will travel with our youngest to Pittsburgh, where she will begin her studies in biology at Pitt. Yesterday, we celebrated our son’s twenty-first birthday, and in November, our eldest son gets married. For Cheryl and me, it feels like the season is changing now.
Today, in my daily reading from the Bible, I found myself in Luke 3. In this passage, we see the changing of a season. During the intertestamental period (between the Old and New Testaments), the Jews believed that God no longer spoke directly to them, there are no prophets after Malachi. In other words, there was a season of silence on God’s behalf. Now, in the New Testament, John the Baptist delivers a powerful message from God to the people. We read in Luke 3:3, “Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.” The seasons were changing. God was going to show humankind His great mercy and grace. Amazingly, God still speaks that message today!
John makes this appeal to the crowd of people, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8). In other versions, the same passage is translated, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Is there a better indicator than fruit to demonstrate the changing season?
What sort of fruit is evident in your life? No matter what season of life we find ourselves, I think we ought to be continually asking that question. What is the tangible result of following Jesus in your life? Through this passage, I hear God whispering to me, “Don’t waste this season.” How can I produce results in my life that reflect God working on me? Those present in the crowd to whom John the Baptist spoke asked Him “what shall we do?” (see Luke 3:10, 12, 14). Can we ask God along with the crowd “what shall we do?” For me, I want to embrace this season of change. I’m going to ride it for all its worth so that I can arrive exactly where God wants me.
Ascension Day is when we commemorate our Lord Jesus leaving this earth to enter into heaven. It is a neglected observance in the lives of many Christians. Really, it has become an ordinary day in the lives of so many Christ followers. Perhaps we don’t understand its significance, or maybe we’ve become so busy that we just don’t have time to focus on what happened on the Mount of Olives that spectacular day.
Christ’s ascension into heaven occurred 40 days after his resurrection—that’s why we celebrate it 40 days after Easter. Though it never falls on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day following Ascension Day is designated as Ascension Sunday. It is certainly one of the important events in the life of Christ, and it points to Jesus ‘promised second coming.
Here’s how it happened:
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:6–11, NLT)
Notice, “someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Just as he ascended, so he will descend and return to the earth.
The author, Frances Havergal, wrote this Ascension Day hymn especially for a group of children while visiting their school. It is said that she wrote it in only ten minutes, but I think it describes the ascension so well. I wonder, would you take a few moments this Thursday, May 25, to read it and praise God for what Jesus had done on this earth and now does for us in heaven (Hebrews 9:11–28)?
“Golden Harps Are Sounding”
Golden harps are sounding, angel voices ring, pearly gates are opened, opened for the King: Christ, the King of glory, Jesus, King of love, is gone up in triumph to His throne above.
He who came to save us, He who bled and died, now is crowned with glory at His Father’s side: Never more to suffer, never more to die, Jesus, King of glory, is gone up on high.
Praying for His children in that blessed place, calling them to glory, sending them His grace: His bright home preparing, faithful ones, for you; Jesus ever liveth, ever loveth too.
Refrain: All His work is ended, joyfully we sing; Jesus hath ascended—Glory to our King!
Mark doesn’t dwell on the crucifixion. He states it very simply. He simply says “they crucified him,” and then he moves on. It’s not the crucifixion that is of ultimate importance for Mark’s Gospel. It’s the fact that Jesus is giving His life as an atonement for sins. This is a sacrifice of atonement. The worst suffering of Jesus on the cross is almost certainly not the crucifixion. It was when the Father poured out the sins of the world on Him. So Mark doesn’t dwell on the torture. He focuses on the fact that Jesus has given Himself as a sacrifice for sins [and the] simplicity of the crucifixion account.
Under Roman law the release of a crucified man’s corpse for burial was determined only by the imperial magistrate. Usually such a request by a victim’s relatives was granted, but sometimes a body would be left on a cross to decay or be eaten by predatory animals or birds and the remains were thrown into a common grave. Jewish law required a proper burial for all bodies, even those of executed criminals. It also dictated that those hanged were to be taken down and buried before sunset (cf. Deut. 21:23).
Aware of these regulations, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and requested Jesus’ body for burial. He did this as evening approached (“when evening had already arrived,” probably about 4 P.M.). This gave urgency to his intended action.
Though Joseph probably lived in Jerusalem he was originally from Arimathea, a village 20 miles northwest of the city. He was a wealthy (Matt. 27:57), reputable member of the Council, a non-Jewish designation for the Sanhedrin. He had not approved of the Sanhedrin’s decision to kill Jesus (Luke 23:51). He was personally waiting for the kingdom of God (cf. Mark 1:15) which suggests he was a devout Pharisee. He regarded Jesus as the Messiah though so far he was a secret disciple (John 19:38).
But he took courage and went to Pilate boldly, a description unique to Mark. His action was bold because: (a) he was not related to Jesus; (b) his request was a favor that would likely be denied on principle since Jesus had been executed for treason; (c) he risked ceremonial defilement in handling a dead body; (d) his request amounted to an open confession of personal loyalty to the crucified Jesus which would doubtless incur his associates’ hostility. He was a secret disciple no longer—something Mark impressed on his readers.
Fitzpatrick, Elyse et al. NT156 Understanding Easter: The Significance of the Resurrection. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016. Print.
Grassmick, John D. “Mark.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 191. Print.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Eric grew up in the little town of Gibraltar, PA with his grandparents. He met his wife Cheryl while working at Good’s Greenhouse in Bowmansville, PA. He has three adult children and values watching them grow into the people God wants them to be.