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Monday, March 28, 2016
"Of First Importance"
Message Summary: Whatever you're facing today, hold on to this glorious truth that is of first importance, Christ died, Christ was buried, and Christ Jesus was raised to life forevermore! The risen Christ states in Revelation 1:18, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."
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"God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact" (Acts 2:32). "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
We, like many of you, gathered with other believers in church yesterday to corporately declare the glorious truth of our resurrected Savior. This was the 1983rd Resurrection Day based on a little math work subtracting 33AD (the traditional date for the resurrection) from 2016.
Brooksyne led our church choir in a powerful musical titled "In Christ Alone" that expresses the great truths of the atoning death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, including one of our longtime favorites, "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today!" Originally titled, “Hymn for Easter Day” this exuberant Charles Wesley hymn has been sung on Easter for 277 years. What a privilege to join the host of believers through the generations in declaring this Biblical truth not only in Scripture reading but also in our worship musically.
I never weary of hearing the old message that doesn’t expire, is never out of date, and does not need revision. I pray that I will always be like “those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest."
I also pray that there will always be churches faithfully proclaiming the message of Christ. The commission for the true follower of Christ is stated by Jude. We are to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Far too many churches have abandoned the apostolic faith. They’re caught up in current fads and attempts to appeal to the post-modern "seeker". Some are even embarrassed by the Gospel and redemption truths such as the Cross, the shed Blood and the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today's verse is the only place in the Bible where the phrase "as of first importance" is found. In these verses the apostle Paul provides a wonderful summation of the Gospel. What he himself had "received" (paralambano), he had "passed on" (paradidomi). This has been the God-ordained manner for the transmission of truth for nearly 2,000 years.
* Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
* He was buried
* He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
Earnest believers continue to receive and pass on this sacred message to our present day. Have you received and believed this message? Are you passing it on? At the heart of apostolic preaching is the proclamation of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe these three together comprise the truth that is of "first importance." This is of first importance all through the church age and indeed through eternity. This is based on the authority of the Scriptures, "according to the Scriptures."
Whatever you're facing today, hold on to this glorious truth that is of first importance, Christ died, Christ was buried, and Christ Jesus was raised to life forevermore! The risen Christ states in Revelation 1:18, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."
Up from the grave He arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
and He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, it is of first importance to the Apostle Paul to declare that Jesus is risen from the dead and is alive forevermore. So it is also of first importance nearly 2000 years later for those of us who hold dear the sacred Scriptures to joyfully declare the miraculous news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Jesus is the living One; He was dead but is alive forevermore! This factual knowledge and spiritual blessing helps to still my fears and reminds me that I serve a living, risen Christ who says to His followers, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever.” Because Jesus lives we live also!
* Of course the specific wording of the phrase varies by version but both the NASV and NIV use this phrase "of first importance." In all versions this sure seems to be the sense.
Gary Bauer writes a commentary on current events in a daily post titled "End of Day".
We received this post on Friday while we were in Washington and it really blessed both of us:
The headlines are grim:
Islamic State Trains 400 Fighters To Attack Europe In Wave Of Bloodshed
ISIS Goes Global: 75 Attacks In 20 Countries Have Killed 1,280
Islamic State Committed Genocide Against Christians
Fears Grow For Priest . . . Who May Be Crucified On Good Friday."
(Since he wrote this add the horrific slaughter of Christians in Pakistan this weekend and only God knows how many atrocities committed by the Islamic savages we never even read about.)
At times it can all seem so overwhelming. But, my friends, there is Good News!
Today, on Good Friday, we think about the Cross and the sacrifice paid for our sins. Romans 5:8 tells us, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
While some worship a god who commands men to die for him*, we worship a loving God who gave His son to die for us. Never forget that. (* while in the process of killing others I would add.)
Thank God for the cross and the empty tomb! Thank God for the Good News of Christ's resurrection!
In Christ, we have confidence. No matter what happens on this earth, no matter what tomorrow's headlines may bring, we have confidence in a caring Creator, rather than the chaos of the cosmos. We have confidence in a glorious future, rather than the finality of the grave.
It is this confidence that sustains us in times of trial and tribulation -- in times like these.
We have confidence because "It is finished." Christ's atoning work on the Cross is done, and we are saved.
On Easter morning, we do not gather to remember a martyr, a mere man who lived and died. We come together to worship the risen Son of God!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Washington Cherry Blossoms
With church friends visiting Washington Cherry Blossoms.
Brooksyne and I rented bikes and rode from the Smithsonian museum area down past the various Memorials, across the Potomac River, along a bike trail and back across on another bridge. We had a heavy downpour when we were riding across the second bridge and got soaked. But it soon cleared up and we dried out just fine. By afternoon it was sunny with very pleasant temps. They have a nifty bikeshare system where you can rent a bike for a flat fee of $8.00 each for 24 hours. However you have to get the bikes back to another kiosk location by 30 minutes to reset or they charge extra. With the crowds and pressure on getting the bikes back to reset in the 30 minute time frame we didn't find the bike riding that enjoyable, also because of the crowds we often had to walk the bikes anyway!
The most famous views are along the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial which is lined with Cherry trees.
People were everywhere around the Tidal Basin
"David's Tent" is a ministry that has 24 hour prayer and praise practically at the foot of the Washington Monument. Various groups provide a two hour music set and our church is considering taking a turn. I don't know whether or not the man with the cross was part of the David's Tent group.
One of the groups singing in "David's Tent" while we were there.
We thoroughly enjoy the children's songs and recitations on special Sundays such as Easter. They never disappoint, though it may come out a bit different than Brooksyne plans. The children sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" after Tirza's poetic introduction.
And then the big kids - I find it such an honor to lead a committed choir in singing an Easter or Christmas musical. With Easter so early they prepared in just over three weeks, but came through very nicely. Our theme song, "In Christ Alone" never fails to move me, but it carried even more special meaning as our Zimbabwean friends were able to translate the first verse into their own language and sing it. (See video below, if interested.)
The Ncube family from Zimbabwe joined us yesterday afternoon for our Easter meal. Pastor Knotsen, the husband and father, is back in Zimbabwe for a week attending to important family business while also preaching the Easter message at his home church.
Typically, it's the main dish or dessert that captures our attention on Easter but I had the greatest compliment paid when I passed the asparagus to Neville to my right at the table. I saw the look of dread on his face since he is not keen on green vegetables but I asked him to eat just one or two sprigs before passing it on. He carefully selected the two smallest on the serving platter. Surprisingly, minutes later, he asked me to pass him the plate again which got mom's attention. And then he asked to finish off the plate which he and his mom ended up splitting. I had the same attitude about asparagus until I began to prepare it in a different way that I find appetizing as well!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"In Christ Alone" Video Mount Pleasant Easter Choir directed by Brooksyne
"Christ Arose" Video Mount Pleasant Easter Choir and congregation (one verse and chorus)
Cherry Blossom photos. Of course we took a lot of photos and will share some more over the next several days. However here's a collection.
Finally today: Those who know me (Stephen) know I can still be quite a tease. Yesterday we had the program listing the songs the choir would sing in their musical. An older lady looked it over and apparently thinking these were the congregational songs asked me if we were going to sing "Christ Arose" (I guess she thought I'd know since I'm husband to the worship leader). Brooksyne assured me we were so I went back to the small class of several elderly people and teasingly, but with a straight face, informed them, "She told me she hadn't planned "Christ Arose" but would singing "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" instead. The Sunday School teacher, who is our age, gasped and said "I just can't believe she would sing that" and I went along (for a few seconds) with "I can't believe it either, it just doesn;t seem like the right song to sing in church" before quickly correcting myself in which we had a good laugh! ("In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was a popular rock song from the late sixties that lasted 17 minutes. If you have ever heard it you can probably still hum the tune.) I told Brooksyne later who had never heard of the song or the singers - coming from Oklahoma with a truck driver dad, she was exposed to alot more country music than rock music.
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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