Good Friday Greetings to you… and Happy Easter!!!
Last Sunday morning when I woke up, got dressed, and Leslie & I were headed to church, we listened to the news only to learn of the attacks on two churches in Egypt. Upon our arrival, the pastor led in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters around the world, the issues surrounding Syria, and more… It has been my tradition to read, and re-read the story as recorded in the Gospel According to Mark, each day during this Holy Week. On Tuesday as I was reading Mark 13, in answering His disciples’ comment on the mighty construction of the temple and building’s walls, Jesus took time to share the details of events to take place at the end of times.
Wars… rumors of wars. Earthquakes… famines. Nation against nation… kingdom against kingdom. Floggings… arrests… betrayals and trials. And then I read in Matthew, once again, 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Unfortunately, direct translations don’t always sound the best, for the better translation would be, “On account of my coming…” Could we be living in the last days?
And then on Tuesday, right here… nearly in our backyard, (San Bernardino) the school shooting that took place when a man comes in to take two lives and then his own.
If there is ever a time for the church to stand up and proclaim a message of hope… now is the day! So, once again I say, “There’s no better time for the church to be the church than at this very moment in time.” In a world filled with hurt and pain… we have reason to live because there is hope in Jesus Christ God’s Son.
ENCOURAGEMENT: When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely He was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) A lot can happen within six short hours… the time from when Jesus was nailed on the cross and His death. A long time to be suffering. But to see all that transpired within that period of time is amazing! That’s not even a full day’s work. It takes longer to drive from here to San Francisco. Hey… sometimes it takes that long to drive from Pasadena to Downtown L.A.
The centurion was there… from the beginning to the end. Overseeing the events of the crucifixion… making certain that everything was done accordingly. He witnessed the floggings… the beatings and may have even participated in the placing of the crown of thorns upon Jesus’ head. He saw his soldiers spit in Jesus’ face. He heard the mockings… and then he marched alongside of Jesus as He carried His own cross to Golgotha. This centurion may have even handed the nails to the soldiers who pounded those spikes into Jesus’ hands and feet… then raised the cross up, only to drop it into its place in the ground.
And then… one word, from the cross… then another. He listened…
- “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:43)
- “I tell you the truth, today you’ll be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
- “Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.” (John 19:26)
- “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)
- “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
- “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
- “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Not once does Jesus retaliate. The Roman Centurion never hears Jesus on the attack. He hears words of forgiveness to those doing Him harm. He hears words of hope to a sinful, yet redeemed, dying man on a cross next to Him. He hears tender words of concern to a grief stricken mom. And he hears quotes from an unfamiliar Psalm… and perhaps hears the crowds speaking of this meaning… And finally he hears Jesus’ final statement of commitment into the God of the universe’s hands. And THAT did it. What a confession! “Yes, He is the King of the Jews. Yes, He is the Savior for mankind. Yes, He is the peace that can break down every wall. Yes, He is the Chief Cornerstone.” And as the earth shook… “Yes, He is Lord of Creation. Yes, He is the Son of God!”
A few years ago, when Leslie and I stood at the very place many scholars believed to be Golgotha, I stood silently… wept… reflected… and thought of this centurion’s testimony 2000 years ago. Yes, Jesus IS who He said He was! He is the One John the Baptist proclaimed saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Man of sorrows – what a name, For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah! What a savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood, Hallelujah! What a savior!
Guilty vile, and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was He,
Full atonement – Can it be, Hallelujah! What a savior!
Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished” was His cry,
Now in heaven exalted high, Hallelujah! What a savior!
When He comes our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew, this song we’ll sing, “Hallelujah! What a savior!
DISTRICT MATTERS: What’s going on in your ministry area?
- Eggstravaganza: I was invited to participate in the great outreach event that took place in Rowland Heights by our Trinity Church of the Nazarene (Merger of Monterey Park and Rowland Heights) on the Saturday before Palm Sunday… and what an event they had! Wow!!! It was amazing. There was a pancake breakfast (compliments of IHOP who donated all the batter), vintage car show, bouncing houses, wagon rides, ministry booths, raffles, and a giant Easter Egg Hunt. Pastors Albert and Christine Hung, along with their team of leaders, did an outstanding job pulling this day together. And I know that many of you are having similar outreach events in your church. May you have a fantastic time together!
- Palm Sunday: Leslie and I were privileged to be in two church services on Palm Sunday as we came down to PazNaz for the first 8:00AM service before heading back to our hometown church at NewNaz for the 10:30AM Service. It was great to be with both pastoral teams of leaders and to be part of the Palm Sunday celebration. Thank you Pastor Tara Beth Leach and your team, who are doing an exceptional job in ministry there at PazNaz… and to Pastor Josh Johnson and your team a NewNaz for outstanding ministry! We love our churches on the L.A. District!
- April 24-27: Prime Time Retreat at Murrieta Hot Springs with Special Speaker: Dr. Jim Diehl
- May 20: Dr. Stan Toler Seminar on Leadership in San Luis Obispo beginning at 9:00AM
- May 26-28: NYI Elev8 at PLNU with the entire Southwest Region
- June 8-10: PK Retreat… youth who are pastors’ kids are invited to the PLNU campus with other PKs from the region for inspiration and Christian formation. Register at southwestnyi.org
- June 20-30: General Conventions and Assembly in Indianapolis
- July 12-14: Los Angeles District Conventions and Assembly at PazNaz
- July 16-21: High School Camp at Granite Ridge
- July 23-28: Kids’ Camp at Granite Ridge
- July 30-August 4: Jr. High Camp at Granite Ridge
May the Lord bless you this weekend as you, and your congregation, join together in one great celebratory event. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow! I love you and I look forward to seeing you soon…
He is Risen!
Los Angeles District Superintendent
Church of the Nazarene