Easter — A Day and a Season

Easter is more than a memorial of the resurrection; it is a 50-day celebration focused on triumph and victory. The wonderful phrases of Easter never cease to remind us of the wonder and power of Jesus, the Christ.  Religion could not limit him. Sin could not control him. Evil could not defeat him. The cross could not stop him. Death could not hold him. The grave could not keep him. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Oh Glorious Day! But it’s more than a day. Easter is a season of 50 days—50 days of celebration that lead to the ascension and end on the eve of Pentecost. Bobby Gross, author of Living the Christian Year, said this about the 50 days: Why 50 days? First, because the enormity of the resurrection invited a lengthy... Read the article

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God’s Great Saving Act

A triduum is a religious observance that lasts three days. The best-known example of this is the three days from the evening of Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Called Paschal or Holy Triduum, this one event is the not only the center of the Christian year, it commemorates the great saving act of God. The Bible is full of mysteries; the story of Jesus is full of mysteries. How did God become human? What does it mean to be fully human, and fully divine? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? Why did he have to spend time in a grave? What did God accomplish in Jesus’ death? What does it mean that death has been conquered? These are mysteries that humanity will continue to ponder, to research, to discuss. The apostle Peter said of these... Read the article

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An Easter Preparation Challenge

In a world full of social and political division, we are not called to take sides and thus be part of the division. Easter Preparation season reminds us we are called to be centered in Jesus and to point others to him. The Easter Preparation message is simple—Jesus saves. Social justice doesn’t save, political affiliation doesn’t save, leaders don’t save, pastors don’t save—only Jesus saves. It isn’t that we should not pay attention to these other things, and we are not saying these other things are not important, but the noise and polarization should not cloud out Jesus and become our new center of focus. Easter Preparation is a time for recentering on Jesus—who he is, what he did, what he is doing, and what he is going to... Read the article

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Faith Forward

Jesus, having returned from the 40 days of temptation in the desert and beginning his public ministry, enters a synagogue and is handed a scroll of the prophecies of Isaiah. He unrolls the scroll and reads these powerful words, which is part of Isaiah’s prophecy about himself. The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19, quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2) What are the chances of Jesus just happening to turn to that passage? We can surmise that Jesus was intentional about reading that passage on that day to introduce... Read the article

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A New Birth

The birth of a child is not only exciting, it changes everything. I’ll never forget the excitement that filled our home as we anticipated the birth of our daughter. We decorated her room, we bought furniture, a car seat, clothes and all the items needed to take care of a newborn. We talked and talked about what it would be like to have her in our life. We celebrated her birth with great fanfare. Friends and family came over to share in our joy. We were now a family of three and we knew everything was going to change. And then a few days after her birth, we put everything away and waited for the next year to celebrate. Wait! What? OK, the last sentence was completely fictitious. Kayla is now 32 years of age and we are still enjoying... Read the article

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The Omega and the Alpha

November marks the end of one worship year with Christ the King Sunday, and the beginning of another worship year with Advent. The title of this article is a play on words. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end—and this month gives us the opportunity to celebrate with the end and work back to a celebration of the beginning. The worship calendar gives us constant reminders that all our worship centers on Jesus. We can’t make him the center of the center—he already is. The GCI worship calendar keeps us focused on him. So let’s start with the end. Christ the King Sunday  Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom... Read the article

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His Light, His Life, His Love

We often talk of sharing the life and love of Jesus, but we are also called to share that he is the light of the world. The three seasons (cycles) of the GCI Worship Calendar help us focus on his light, his life and his love. History was not my favorite subject in high school. Some of the stories were interesting, but I couldn’t see the value in knowing what I considered the trivia that always showed up on tests—specific quotes, exact dates, minute details. As I got older and learned more, I realized there was significance to some of this “trivia.” A quote or specific date might have been what inspired someone to start a movement. The “minute details” often led to events that changed the course of history. I have come to... Read the article

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“As for Me and My House…”

“…We will serve the Lord.” This quote from Joshua 24:15 is only part of Joshua’s admonition to stay focused on who God is. As a young student of the Bible, I could not understand how Israel could get caught up worshipping other gods. I’d seen pictures of Baal, Dagon, Asherah, Moloch and others and wondered how a nation who had been delivered from slavery fall for worshipping a pagan statue or carving? How naïve I was. I didn’t ask about the gods behind the statues and images Joshua and others were referring to. Egypt had as many as 40 gods that were feared and/or worshipped. But they weren’t just images— they represented many things. Amon was the god of the air. Thoth was the god of writing and wisdom. Anubis was the... Read the article

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Ordinary Time?

In the GCI Worship calendar, we are now under what is called “Ordinary Time”—the time between Pentecost and Christ the King Sunday. It’s a time that celebrates the mystery of the church and the mystery of Christ living in us. The word ordinary can sound boring, simple, and non-energetic, yet most of our days would fall under the category of ordinary time. We don’t celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and special events every day; most of our year is spent living a rather ordinary life—however that looks to each person. This doesn’t imply the rest of the year is less important, less effective, or less essential. It is during this “ordinary time” that our work is done, our projects are completed, our day-to-day life is... Read the article

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Know Justice Know Peace — Know Jesus Know Peace

I asked Charles Taylor, GCI Pastor in Miramar, Florida, to take this column and share notes from a sermon he gave on racial injustice. The point of his sermon was that in the midst of the real suffering and deep pain of racial injustice, we hold to the truth that God is real and he is there for us and in us. He will strengthen and comfort us as he brings his justice. To this I say Amen, and thank you Charles for the following article. Have a blessed month. Rick Shallenberger Know Justice Know Peace - Know Jesus Know Peace by Charles Taylor We are at a time of crisis in our country—people are still suffering over the loss of loved ones during the coronavirus epidemic. Our hearts, prayers, and sadness go out to those who... Read the article

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