Brentwood Lighthouse Baptist Church
We the congregation of this church do covenant together, God help us, to further the cause of Jesus Christ in this community; to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; to put away all bitterness and wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking, to be kind one to another even as God for Christ sake hath forgiven us; to do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith; to submit to the oversight of the officers of this church as administered in love and in accordance to God’s Word; to give cheerfully as God prospers us; and to be willing workers in the vineyard of the Lord. We also engage to support this church faithfully with our prayers and with our attendance.
For those who miss the Our Daily Bread
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!
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.
Although this message was sent to the south, and referred to the seed of Israel, it may profitably be a summons to ourselves. Backward we are naturally to all good things, and it is a lesson of grace to learn to go forward in the ways of God. Reader, are you unconverted, but do you desire to trust in the Lord Jesus? Then keep not back. Love invites you, the promises secure you success, the precious blood prepares the way. Let not sins or fears hinder you, but come to Jesus just as you are. Do you long to pray? Would you pour out your heart before the Lord? Keep not back. The mercy-seat is prepared for such as need mercy; a sinner's cries will prevail with God. You are invited, nay, you are commanded to pray; come therefore with boldness to the throne of grace.
Dear friend, are you already saved? Then keep not back from union with the Lord's people. Neglect not the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. You may be of a timid disposition, but you must strive against it, lest it lead you into disobedience. There is a sweet promise made to those who confess Christ - by no means miss it, lest you come under the condemnation of those who deny him. If you have talents keep not back from using them. Hoard not your wealth, waste not your time; let not your abilities rust or your influence be unused. Jesus kept not back; imitate him by being foremost in self-denials and self-sacrifices. Keep not back from close communion with God, from boldly appropriating covenant blessings, from advancing in the divine life, from prying into the precious mysteries of the love of Christ. Neither, beloved friend, be guilty of keeping others back by your coldness, harshness, or suspicions. For Jesus' sake go forward yourself, and encourage others to do the like. Hell and the leaguered bands of superstition and infidelity are forward to the fight. O soldiers of the cross, keep not back.