PALMS UP

His disciples had been around Him long enough to know that where Jesus went the crowds would soon follow.  But this time it was different.  Jesus intentionally waited until the nation’s biggest holiday season known as “Passover” and then he drew a crowd of his own making.  No Government mandate was going to stop this public gathering. Today we might call it a “flash mob.” Despite numerous warnings from the authorities, the public, already geared up for Jesus arrival, rapidly converged upon Jerusalem’s main street as they heard the news.  An excited rumble was building to a crescendo, as a spontaneous parade erupted seemingly out of nowhere, much to the consternation of the religious officials.  All four of the Gospel writers attempt to describe this event while countless children and adults, who were swarming the parade’s parameters, doubtless retold their own versions of what happened later that night around their family dinner tables.

Forget about keeping six feet of separation, it was nowhere to be found.  The burgeoning crowd pressed against each other as they paved the way for the oncoming march by shedding and tossing their jackets, and palm branches, newly separated from their trees on to the road.  Shouts of praise and adulation were bursting out everywhere for their would-be Deliverer.

Everyone sensed that their problems were about to be solved. They were sure their Roman oppressor was about to be vanquished.  After all, they were God’s chosen people and no problem brought upon them by another world power could stop them from getting the victory.  Not now, not this time!

Attempts to disperse this public assembly were futile, as a frenzied crowd waited for their chance to heap on their praise.  Then, suddenly, there He was, riding on a donkey and looking like a King.  This had to be the One the prophet had made the prediction about, so many years ago:  “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

With one voice the onlookers cheered, praising to God for this man and the miracles He brought. On one side of the street the excited bystanders shouted a group chant: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” From the other side of the street they answered in unison, with increasing volume: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

As the parade came to an end and its Hero dismounted, the authorities scrambled to recoup their losses.  In front of the crowd they confronted this “would-be” King with a demand for restitution: “Teacher, rebuke your followers,” they said. But Jesus, without batting an eye or backing down a single inch, shut them up and sent them packing: “I tell you, if these become silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Looking back, it is obvious that crowd of followers had no understanding of what was about to take place.  They were completely unaware of the fact that in five short days this “King” would become the sacrificial Lamb: That the only antidote for our eternal destiny separated from God would require the payment of His sinless life.  They had no concept that in one week’s time the King of Glory would reverse the effects of the disease, called sin that had infected every human ever born. They had no idea that with one magnificent act, His resurrection would cause a global impact that would forever change history.  The power of sin and death would be destroyed forever for all who believed.

It reminds us also, that when we look around at what is happening in this world, we have to shake our heads and admit that we too, often do not know why things are unfolding the way they are.  There are things events that are bigger than we are and we can’t begin to make sense of it all. Yet still, we can hang on to what we know about our God.  We know that He is good and He is in control. So, we trust Him, and we step forward in faith, trusting Him with our past, our present and our future.

And, one more thing:  I wonder how many of those vocal cheerleaders that couldn’t help but praise Jesus as He made his way into Jerusalem that Palm Sunday, would regret what they did?  How many of those, in the weeks to come, having witnessed the resurrected Jesus, alive and well, would feel they had made a foolish mistake?  I am willing to bet that in retrospect they cherished the memory and treasured the time they unabashedly praised the King of Glory, even when it made no sense. I am willing to bet that not one of them would be sorry that when they had the chance, even though they didn’t understand, they praised his name? I am willing to wager that if you and I take this opportunity this Palm Sunday to praise that name of Jesus, we won’t regret it either.   So, come on, lift your clean hands; raise your sanctified palms to the sky in praise of our King: Don’t let the rocks beat you to it!


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Jesus tells us in John chapter 14  "Do not let your heart be troubled, neither be afraid, my peace I leave with you my peace I give unto you."
 
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, it is important that we remember God is in control. We can trust him. At the same time, God expects us to act wisely. Our government officials and medical authorities have advised us to avoid public gathering temporarily when possible.
 
With that in mind, I would like to encourage you to use your best judgment. Even though we are having church services today, I do not want you to feel obligated to attend if you have concerns about your own life or the lives of others you may endanger by spreading the coronavirus to others who may be susceptible to it.
 
Many times in the Gospels we find Jesus confronted about not keeping the Sabbath.  His reply was : "Which is lawful, to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil: to save lives or to kill?" (Mark 3:4).
 
While we now worship on Sunday rather than Saturday the principle remains the same. We should not look at Sunday legalistically. Clearly, Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself." The question is whether gathering together, under these circumstances, is the most loving thing we can do for our neighbors or ourselves? The question each of us must ask ourselves is: Am I being wise and loving in my actions toward my neighbors and my church family.
 
As 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us: "Therefore we do not lose heart even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory, while we do not look at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things that are seen are temporary."  
 
I am confident that as we face this global crisis, God will use us in ways that we can't yet see or imagine to share the love of Christ and the good news of the Gospel with the world around us. 
 
May the Lord keep each of you and give you wisdom in this matter.
God bless you,
Love Jay and Jan

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One woman's Easter story 
Who was this woman?
 
Who was she; this woman named Mary from the little fishing town known as
Magdala? Why do we find her inserting herself right into the heart of
the Easter story? What’s her story? 
 
We are first introduced to her about half way into Jesus ministry. She
shows up quite unexpectedly; we discover both her and her posse of
women Jesus followers, not sitting on the sidelines, but joining
right in with Jesus’ chosen twelve on road trips! Apparently for
close to a year and half of Jesus 3 year ministry Mary and her group
of women devotees shadowed Jesus and his apostles as they traveled up
and down Israel’s countryside. (Luke 8:1-3) (Luke 23:53-56) 
 
All of these women had one thing in common: Jesus had healed them, some
of various sicknesses: others of demon possession. Luke tells us
that seven individual demons had been residing and wreaking havoc in
the body Mary Magdalene. If she was anything like the demoniac Jesus
had healed earlier, she was in a dreadful and desperate condition. Probably, any family or friends she had earlier, had given up on her. Today we would most-likely have labeled her a schizophrenic and had
her placed in an institution. Even though, she may have come from
money, that didn’t stop sin from destroying her life. She
undoubtedly spent her days enduring a helpless and hopeless
existence. 
 
But then one day, out of the blue, she met Jesus and everything changed!
The demons, they were gone and a new life began. A new life
dedicated to following Jesus, the one who had set her free! Now she
spent her days making sure this Jesus had the resources he needed for
his ministry. She and her gang of radical women became ardent
followers of this Jewish rabbi they believed to be the Messiah.
 
Luke 8:1-2 puts it this way: “Jesus
traveled from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good
news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him. And certain
women, who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary,
called Magdalene, of whom went seven demons. And Joanna, the wife of
Chizas, Herod’s steward: and Susanna: and many others, who
ministered unto him of their substance.”
 
Now fast forward to the end of Jesus’ life when it seemed that the
whole world had turned against him: who would you have guessed would
have been there for Jesus? It was not the apostles, but this group of
women that were there every step of the way. Mary became the major,
ever present player in all the events that surrounded the
crucifixion. 
 
Mary and a few other women were the only ones that stood by Jesus from the beginning to the end. (Mark 15:40)
 
She was there when the hardened Roman soldiers pounded
spikes through his hands and his feet as they nailed him to the
cross. 
 
She watched the sky grow dark
and the earth begin to shake as Jesus was being crucified. (Luke
23:49)
 
She was there as he hung on the cross and commissioned John to
take care of his mother. (John 19:25-27)
 
She saw him as he pleaded
with his Father to “forgive them for they know now what they do.”
She listened as he uttered his final words, “It is finished” and
then breathed his last breath and died. She stood there as they took
his lifeless body down from the cross. (Matt. 27:55-56)
 
And yes, It was Mary that was there to wittiness as they prepared the
body of her rescuer, her Savior for burial and then laid him in the
tomb. (Mark 15:47) It was Mary that watched by the sepulcher when
they sealed the opening with a massive stone. (Matt. 27:57-61) 
 
And after waiting, heart broken, through the longer hours of the Sabbath
day, that must have seemed to drag on forever (John 20:1), yes, it
was Mary that was the first one to arrive. She arrived armed with
sweet spices to anoint the body of Jesus on Easter morning. And
although it was still too dark to see, Mary stood by in wonder during
that early morning earthquake that signaled the resurrection of Jesus
from the dead. (Matt. 28:1-2)
 
It was Mary whose jaw dropped as she was the first one to discover that
Jesus body was missing from the tomb! (Mark 16:1-4) It was she who
first observed that stone had been rolled away. It was Mary who
first confronted that big, stone throwing, angel she found
nonchalantly sitting on top of that massive boulder. She listened
with fear and joy as this glowing visitor informed her that that
Jesus was not there anymore; that the grave could not hold him, that
He was raised from the dead!
 
It was she who, in disbelief, after an all-out sprint to where the
disciples were hiding away, let them know, in no uncertain terms,
that someone had absconded with body of Jesus and that it was nowhere
to be found!
 
And finally, after Peter and John had competed in a foot race to the
tomb, where they confirmed Mary’s story and returned to their
hiding place to inform the other apostles that Jesus’ body was
indeed M.I.A.: It was then and there that Mary, and Mary alone became
the very first person to break the story of the most momentous event
in human history. (Mark 15:7)
 
There she stood, she was a mess: deserted, bewildered, uncontrollably
weeping; somehow trying to make sense of it all. (Matt. 20:11-17)
 
She gave the empty tomb one more look, the way we do when we are
hoping against hope to find something we know we have lost. Only
this time, John tells us in his Gospel, it was not one, but two
angels, that she found dressed in Easter white sitting on either end
of where Jesus’ body should have been laying. Then they asked in
unison, “Woman, why are you weeping.” The answer couldn’t have
been more obvious, but she humored them with a reply anyway: They
have taken the body and I don’t know where they have put him. She
turned to go, only to be asked the same question, one more time: this
time it was the gardener who spoke; “Woman, why are you weeping?”
 
Again she answered,
only this time with a hint of frustration in her tone: “Sir, If you
have taken him away, tell me where and I will take care of it,” she
said.
 
It took one more word out of the stranger’s lips; One more word to
turn the darkness into light. One more word, that would turn tears of
sorrow into tears of joy. Just one more word; A word she had
undoubted heard a thousand times before. When that
voice spoke that word, she would have recognized it anywhere:
“Mary” he said. “Teacher!”, she replied.
And then the flood gates opened as she found herself on
the ground, arms wrapped around his legs, clinging to him for dear
life.
 
Gently Jesus gave her, his most devoted follower, one last assignment, he
said, “Do not cling to me, for I have not ascended to My Father:
but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father
and your Father, and to My God and your God.” It had to Mary. She
was the only one that was allowed to see Jesus; the only one
permitted to touch him and to interact with him before he ascended to
God the Father. 
 
Try for a moment to imagine what it must have been like or what it must
have felt like to see the risen Christ alive and well, after watching
him die; what it must have been like to see him come back from the
dead! Then try to imagine one more thing. Imagine him, here and now,
stretching out his nail pierced hand toward you, looking you in your
eyes and with a face filled with love, saying just one more word;
your name. 
 
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from Jay Ashcraft ---

Dear Brentwood Lighthouse Baptist Church Family,

The Government has seen fit to order the people in Contra Costa County to shelter in place until at least April 30th.  This order was given to prevent or help slow down the outbreak of the coronavirus in our county and 4 other counties in the bay area (https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/16/coronavirus-six-bay-area-counties-to-shelter-in-place/ ).  I believe that we as followers of Christ have no other choice but to follow this directive by not congregating during this limited time period for several reasons.

First of all, it is the loving thing to do for our 'neighbors'. Our Lord told his followers that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. In a day and age where people often ask whether the church really cares for the people that live in the communities around them, we must show them the love of Christ through not only our words but also our actions by NOT actively spreading a dangerous disease because we are congregating over the next few weeks.

Secondly, it is the loving thing to do to for 'each other'.  Jesus told us that the world will know we are His followers because we love one another, as He commanded.  If we continue to congregate, during these few weeks, one of us could come to church completely unaware that we are carrying the virus and therefore inadvertently spreading it to other people in the congregation.  In addition, in our congregation, there are a good number of people who are at higher risk of contracting the disease and dying from it, than the general  population, if we continue to congregate during the prohibited weeks.  

Just as Jesus did not simply follow the rules of the Sabbath, but instead addressed the needs of the people and attended to the health of the people around him, ("The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath:" Mk. 2:27); I believe we also, must recognize the extraordinary circumstances we are facing in our county and in our country at this particular time and temporarily adjust our behavior accordingly to show love and care to the people in our community.  Even in Old Testament times, long before people even understood the existence of germs, bacteria and microscopic organisms and how they caused sicknesses to be transferred, God established laws and regulations for the Israelites that required the Israelites to isolate individuals and families that may have caused sickness and disease to spread unnecessarily.

Finally, Paul instructs us to obey those in the government who have been placed by God to have authority over us.  Our state government has decided that we in Contra Costa County are in a high risk area and has ordered us NOT to gather during the coming three week period for the health and well-being of ourselves and those around us. I strongly believe that it is important for us as a church to practice "social distancing".  This practice, hopefully will allow those in the health care industry the time and resources they need to identify and produce the best treatments for curing those infected with the Coronavirus. 
 
There are times in our lives that we as a church need to step up and do the right thing, the loving thing, for the members of our congregation, the members of our community and for furthering the Kingdom of God in our community. I believe this is that time. As your pastor, I encourage you to reply with your feedback to what I have said. Since we are a church that values the voice of the congregation, I would appreciate the response of our members  and attenders: You can do this as simply as replying  by saying, "I agree" or "I disagree".  

During New Testament times Paul and the other Apostles used the means they had available to stay connected and to encourage other believers.  They did this by sending letters from a distance to the believers they could not see face to face. I believe it will be especially beneficial for us, as a congregation, if we make a special effort to gather together by using the means we have available to connect with each other by phone or over the internet during these next few weeks. While Paul tells us not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews10:25), that does not mean that we cannot make any exceptions when the circumstances require it. Just as a husband and wife are one and yet occasionally, one of them in the military must travel overseas or needs to leave for a business trip, as a church there will be times we need to postpone gathering together physically until the special circumstances are over.  Also, you will be able to go online this Sunday and watch the Brentwood Lighthouse Baptist Church sermon this Sunday. These are ways we can gather without actually being physically together.

In His service,
Pastor Jay



  
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Come and see what's happening...  
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We encourage all those who wish to stay home to do so safely.
 
BLBC - Brentwood Lighthouse Baptist Church retro-podcast:
(when we usually live stream) Sun-11am, Wed-7pm
 Clips posted: YouTube at 9am and Instagram at 5pm (soon).
Facebook and Twitter at 9am and 5pm.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Pastor Jay and the soundboard “AV” team have come up with a solution for all of the
congregation to receive the Word without risking the congregations’ health. We have been, and
will continue to, broadcasting the sermon onto social media sites. Now, because of the world
we live in, the world is at the tips of our fingers. This will help all who wish to receive the Word
without leaving one's home. However, since technology has advanced quickly, some might not
want to admit that they might not know how to maneuver through the vast digital world of the
internet. This is where we come in. If you need help getting to any of the social media sites,
finding the Church’s page on any of them, finding the newest videos, and/or setting up
notifications for live streaming (only for Youtube), one of the AV members can help you.
We have been posting old sermons and will start broadcasting the new sermons as well.
More information listed below.
We want to emphasize that we are doing this as a gift for anyone who wants/needs this. If
you are uncomfortable with the AV team coming over to your home, we can do this via a phone
call or email.
If you are interested in this learning experience, please do not hesitate to contact Angela via
text, call or email. Her information is below.
V/R
AV Team

 
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