Search for Truth in Kindness, Not ConflictIf I, as a Christian, am going to debate someone who is a non-Christian, I want to be able to put my arm around that person’s shoulder and say, “We are looking for the truth together, and if you can show me where I’m wrong, I’ll take your side.” I’m not there to beat someone into submission. Jesus never worked that way. The only people he rapped on pretty hard were precisely the people who were positive they were right, when in fact they were totally blind to the truth.Apologetics isn’t intellectual bullying, it isn’t belittling, and it isn’t a way of getting people saved without God’s grace. We work with the Holy Spirit in gentleness and reverence. We surrender our powers of reason to the Holy Spirit. We expect God to enhance those powers and use our words, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to relieve the burden of doubt from a troubled heart. Doubt is a truly terrible thing. Some of us have been Christians for so long that we haven’t really struggled with it, but doubt is a terrible thing. To believe—to have what Peter refers to as faith that is “more precious than gold” (1 Pet. 1:7)—is a precious thing.From The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus. Copyright © 2015 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Forward this email to your friends, or invite them to subscribe . Used by permission
Grab the Reins Early
Command and teach these things.
1 Timothy 4:11
A pediatrician received a telephone call from the anxious mother of a six-month-old baby. “I think he has a fever,” she said nervously. “Well,” the doctor replied, “did you take his temperature?” “No,” she said. “He won’t let me insert the thermometer.”
Isn’t it amazing that a child, who only a few months ago was helpless and dependent, is capable of defying the big adults who would try to control him? The truth is, we human beings are born with a rebellious nature. Babies are not innately “good,” as some believe. Those who support this theory say that bad experiences alone are responsible for bad behavior. Scripture indicates otherwise. King David said, “In sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5, kjv). Paul tells us that sin has infected every person who ever lived: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even from birth we are naturally inclined toward rebellion, selfishness, dishonesty, and the like, with or without bad associations.
For this reason, we urge you to grab the reins of authority early in your child’s life. You must train, mold, correct, guide, punish, reward, instruct, warn, teach, and love your kids during the formative years. Your purpose is to help shape and develop their inner nature, and especially in the case of strong-willed kids, to keep it from tyrannizing the entire family. Do your best; then trust that your children will turn over their souls to Jesus to cleanse them and make them “wholly acceptable” to the Master.
Before you say good night…
- Do you expect your kids to learn responsible behavior on their own?
- How can you help each other to properly use parental authority?
Father, help us to mold those aspects of ourselves and our children that make us more like You. Show us how to choose the right response to each family situation, ultimately preparing our children to turn their lives over to You. Amen.
This devotional is taken from Night Light for Parents. Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Almost every Christian church in the West hosts an Easter egg hunt around Easter. The egg hunt may take place on Easter Sunday. It might also take place the day before, on Holy Saturday, or during Palm Sunday weekend. It will vary depending on the church, the congregation and what else is going on during Holy Week and Easter. Some churches prefer to stack their events. The Easter egg hunt, they say, will keep young children entertained while parents talk at the church picnic on Easter Sunday. Others prefer to separate them. Rather than try and wrangle the entire congregation at once, the church focuses on children one day or weekend and the adults the next. There is no right or wrong answer. It simply depends on each particular church’s situation.
Some Christians argue that there is a right answer to the question, and it has nothing to do with the timing of the event. In fact, they argue that churches should not hold Easter egg hunts at all. This particular group of Christians tends to argue that Easter egg hunts are pagan in origin and thus should never take place at a good Christian church. Others focus on how Easter has been excessively commercialized. Some would even argue that it has been more commercialized than Christmas. People may shop and buy more around Christmas, but at least most people are aware of what Christmas was originally meant to celebrate. There are plenty of people who have to think for a minute to remember what Easter is about underneath the mountain of fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs.
Critics claim that Christian churches need to put a ban on Easter egg hunts to avoid supporting the slow erasure of the most important day in history or harming Christians’ eternal souls. Is a plastic egg full of candy, however, really that dangerous? Are Christian churches wrong to host Easter egg hunts, and are Christians wrong to support them?
One could argue all day about whether or not Christians should take advantage of the commercial trappings that surround holy days. On one hand, Easter baskets and Christmas presents are a good way to help children who are too young to understand the real meanings of the days feel part of the celebration. Presents and candy are also enjoyable ways for adults to observe the holidays. While it may be good for your soul, most people do not find silent prayer to be a great way to show joy and excitement over Jesus’ birth and resurrection. Special food and an exchange of gifts are more likely to be seen as carrying that excitement.
Easter eggs are certainly part of the commercialization of Easter, but that does not in and of itself make them wrong. They can be a great teaching tool for young children if they are used correctly. Children may not understand why it is so exciting that Jesus rose from the dead, and they are, hopefully, unaware of the sheer violence that filled Jesus’ final hours or the myriad options for the final cause of His death. For those few children who are aware, parents have likely spent most of Lent dealing with incessant nightmares and with good reason. Most adults are unaware of the true horror of a full Roman crucifixion, and it can be enough to turn even the strongest of stomachs.
Easter eggs are a better way to get across the point of Easter than a long lecture on the horrors of ancient Rome. After all, it is much easier for a child to comprehend that Jesus’ resurrection and the world’s resultant salvation is even better than chocolate eggs. Children are in many ways simple creatures. Salvation must be pretty awesome if it is better than a whole basket of candy!
Easter egg hunts also serve to bring people to churches who would not otherwise be willing to set foot on Christian ground. Members of other religions may let their children take part in Easter egg hunts because the affair is not, strictly speaking, Christian. This enables children and adults to converse with those who might have never heard the Gospel or have entirely the wrong perception of Christianity. After all, in many people’s minds, Christianity is all about solemn, serious prayer and sermons filled with fire and brimstone. While lifelong Christians might see the value in both of these things, potential converts are unlikely to be interested in what they see as a religion devoid of fun. Easter egg hunts can help offset that perception by showing that there is joy, light and love in Christianity as well as times of serious reflection and selfless service.
As for the supposedly pagan origins of Easter eggs, this statement shows up every Easter, but no one seems able to point to a specific pagan ritual that gave rise to Easter egg hunts.
Eggs have long been a symbol of rebirth and fertility, but this has been true going back into early Judaism. If Christians are meant to avoid anything that has a hint of pagan history in it, they need to stop celebrating Christmas in December since the popular date for Christmas was deliberately placed on top of a Roman-pagan holiday to help persecuted early Christians hide their celebrations. Christians also then need to come up with new names for the days of the week since the English names are based on the names of ancient Norse gods. Thursday is literally “Thor’s day,” and Tuesday is “Tyr’s day.”
Rather than worrying about whether or not an unnamed and forgotten group of pagans may have once gone egg hunting in spring, Christians should be focused on the intentions behind their own churches’ egg hunts. Is the egg hunt meant to focus on the commercialization of Easter and elevate store bought chocolate above the resurrection of Christ? If so, it is time for the church to reevaluate its priorities on the holiest day of the year. If the egg hunt is meant, however, to encourage harmless family fun, children’s positive associations with church and Christian fellowship, let the hunt begin. May the best egg-finder win!
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body down. When Pilate gave him permission, he came and took the body away. Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night, also came, bringing about seventy-five pounds of embalming ointment made from myrrh and aloes. – JOHN 19:38-39
It’s amazing how different men will react to the same situation in totally different ways. For instance, put two men in prison for the same crime. One is deeply remorseful and serves his sentence as a model prisoner and, after his release, lives an exemplary life. The other man becomes hardened, embittered, spends his time in jail perfecting his criminal skills, and, when released, embarks on even more vicious criminal acts.
As soon as it became clear that their leader was being crucified, Peter and other high profile disciples of Jesus went into hiding. Fear and despair gripped them; self-preservation and survival dominated their thinking. They had publicly associated with Jesus for over three years, but now out of fear they disowned him. Meanwhile, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the Pharisee moved in the opposite direction. Previously in hiding as far as their commitment to Jesus was concerned, they came forward at last after Jesus was so egregiously mistreated.
Nicodemus is carefully identified as “the man who had come to Jesus at night” (John 19:39). When he went to Jesus (John 3), he had apparently been intrigued by Jesus and desirous of knowing more. But he had difficulty understanding, or accepting, what Jesus told him—namely, that “unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God” (3:3). We don’t know if Nicodemus made a definite response to Jesus’ message at that time, but we do know that he subsequently took a bold stand in challenging the attempts to arrest Jesus being carried out by the ruling Council, of which Nicodemus was a member (7:50). We have every reason to believe that, by the time Jesus was put to death, Nicodemus was one of his disciples.
Joseph of Arimathea, also a member of the ruling Council, had been “waiting for the Kingdom of God to come” (Luke 23:51). In fact, he “had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders)” (19:38). Yet by the time of Jesus’ death, he, too, was willing to take a stand—he refused to go along with “the decisions and actions of the other religious leaders” (Luke 23:51).
We know that the ruling Council’s hostility against Jesus was fierce and unrelenting and that their power was far-reaching. Anyone who publicly identified with Jesus was in danger of being excommunicated from the synagogue, and thus from Jewish social life—a punishment that few people were prepared to face. Councilmen Nicodemus and Joseph had even more to lose—their position on the Council—by an open stand for Jesus. Not to mention the possibility of being put to death along with Jesus! This accounts for Joseph being a “secret disciple.”
At what point these two men of conviction and character came to the point of commitment to Jesus we are not told. It is quite possible that Nicodemus and Joseph had discussed Jesus’ startling teaching about the necessity of the new birth as the only entrance to the kingdom. There is evidence that Nicodemus and Joseph gradually came to recognize that their covert belief needed to be expressed in overt action. The dreadful events of Jesus’ execution gave them that chance. They took it!
There comes a time when fear must be vanquished by love and trepidation overcome by conviction. Nicodemus and Joseph showed how, while sadly Peter and his friends failed to show up.
For Further Study: John 19:28-42
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.