A Day After Easter

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It’s difficult for me to imagine what it’s like to think of Easter as just another day, or even just another holiday. I’ve experienced too much with this living Jesus Christ, and I’ve seen too much in others as well. Easter is a holiday on the human calendar. For those of us who believe in and follow Jesus, Easter marks the day the world became filled with hope. It’s the day in history when all that Jesus said and did was given a gigantic exclamation point. It was no ordinary day.

I’ve often wished I had kept a record of answered prayers. It’s a good idea to do that, but I never did. Yet, I have had so many answered prayers. That gives me confidence as I, again and again, talk to the God who is really there, the God who raised his son, Jesus, from the dead. Those who write off answers to prayer as mere coincidence, in my opinion, speak a language of uninformed speculation. Let’s at least accept what someone said about coincidence – a coincidence is where God chose to remain anonymous. Or, as William Temple put it, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t” (https://www.brainyquote.com).

On numerous occasions, I have experienced Jesus’ presence. I don’t hear voices, and I don’t see abnormal things. Jesus did say, however, recorded in chapter 10 and verse 27 of John’s gospel, “My sheep hear my voice, . . .” His voice has given me clear direction, at times telling me to speak now, sometimes specifically what to say or do. This is not a voice like yours or mine, as one-time Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall, said he heard when God told him to stop his car just before he drove over a cliff on a foggy night. But, it’s definite. Other realities do exist beyond those we hear with our ears or see with our eyes.

Neither am I writing about an experience others can’t have. Anyone can respond to Jesus who invites us to follow him and develop a relationship. Anyone. I’m only another “anyone.”

The Biblical record is that after Jesus was raised from the dead, he revealed himself to his followers. While authorities scrambled to explain his missing body, news spread about Jesus’ resurrection primarily from his disciples, when they saw him after he had died. Others may have heard the word, but it was not shouted from street corners, rooftops or gossiped in local pubs. This amazing announcement was simply shared by a few ordinary people who were so convinced of its truth they couldn’t keep it to themselves.

That tells us there’s a faith bridge to a relationship with Jesus who is now very much alive. When we believe in, rely on and trust in him, a new world of experiences with Jesus is discovered. Believing in Jesus is not a one-time event, though we begin to open ourselves to him sometime, somewhere. We believe in Jesus over and over, daily, moment by moment. For the early disciples and for us, Jesus Christ is present with those of us who take steps to begin believing in him.

Mary and I have stood inside the empty Garden Tomb outside Jerusalem, believed to be

The Garden Tomb (Wikimedia.org, Phillip Benshmuel [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D)

 one of two primary, likely sites where Jesus was buried after his crucifixion. It’s an awesome feeling to be there, and to read the words, “He is not here, for he has risen.” Whether that is the actual location of the burial and resurrection of Jesus is not what makes Easter real. Experiencing Jesus, day by day, in the highs, lows, and ordinariness of life is what makes Easter real.

Evil’s Reality

downloadMore snow than I’ve ever seen and very cold temps made it a great night for a movie. We finally landed on “The Resistance Banker”, the real-life story of the banker, Walraven “Wally” van Hall of Amsterdam, who helped a group of Dutch citizens form a secret bank to fund the Nazi Resistance. It brings to light another previously unknown hero, like Oskar Schindler, Corrie Ten Boom, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who fought the Nazi’s tragic attempted destruction of the Jews. Seeing the mounting impact of the Nazi war machine and seeing his Jewish neighbors hauled off in dire railway cars, van Hall was compelled to act.

David Wharton, journalist and film critic, who reviews for the Daily Dot focus (https://www.dailydot.com), writes of this movie, “It’s harrowing, fascinating viewing, and well worth your investment.” We agree. If you’re looking for a light, relaxing movie, look elsewhere. But if you want to be awakened to the real power of evil, the creative, daring, inspiring and costly ways people have resisted it, and you would like to discover a piece of history you have not yet known, check out “The Resistance Banker.”

In the end, Wally van Hall lost his life at 39 years of age, a husband and father of three. How many lives he saved, how much he reduced the persistence of the war, only God truly knows.

Watching this riveting account, we could not help but wonder again how some people can cast doubt on the calamity of the Holocaust, essentially denying that it happened. That someone could actually believe that is unconscionable.

On seeing one of the Nazi Concentration camps, Supreme Allied Commander and former

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Dwight Eisenhower

President, Dwight Eisenhower said, “I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that `the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda’” (From Crusade in Europe, pp 408-9, Remember.org). Eisenhower said, “I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency” (ibid). That was evil on ruthless display.

Genocide is not a thing of the past. Mass murders still happen today. Being a news buff, I have for many years listened to CBS radio news when traveling in my car. Each broadcast begins with, “CBS covers the world.” There is no way anyone can cover everything going on in the world in a brief newscast. Too many people are suffering, fighting the ravages of war, in poverty and hungry, for anyone to summarize it in five minutes or less.

A too-often missing conviction today is that evil is real, exceedingly powerful and alarmingly predominant. It can sneak up on us when we are not alert. “The Resistance Banker” is the story of one man’s response to that fact.

We inhale grace when we make ourselves alert to evil’s prevalence. It’s a shield of protection. New Testament writer, Peter, urged his readers (1Peter 5:8), “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

It’s healthy to live with fear (profound respect for, not being afraid of) of God. A biblical Proverb (16:6) guides us, “ . . . through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.” Another biblical Proverb (14:27) reminds us, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, . . . .” When we rest in knowing that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, who can disable evil and will ultimately triumph over all evil, we can exhale gratitude.