The Ultimate Easter Egg in Easter

We all know about Easter eggs, those specially colored and decorated eggs at Easter time that are hidden for children to find. There’s another meaning, however, to Easter eggs. It can refer to hidden clues or inside jokes that are placed in movies, TV shows, and video games. It’s believed that Steve Wright, director of software development at Atari, came up with the term in 1979.

When it comes to the celebration of Easter there are a lot of elements that make up the holiday. Of course, there’s the Easter egg, which became part of Easter celebrations around the 13th century. The Easter bunny came hopping into Easter celebrations sometime around the 16th century (the fertility aspect of rabbits playing a part in this). Candy eggs, including chocolate eggs, and chocolate bunnies too, came along later. Peeps, those marshmallowy chick treats, that people either love or hate, became part of Easter in 1953.

All of us undoubtedly have our own Easter memories from childhood. For me, it was the gift of an Easter basket from my grandparents on Easter Sunday afternoon that included lots of candy and usually a paddle with a ball attached with a rubber band.

Also part of the Easter celebration for many is an extended family gathering over an Easter dinner. Then, too, there’s the display of new Easter clothes, though I suspect this aspect of Easter is decreasing with casual attire being the new norm at most church services.

In all of the various aspects of celebrating Easter I’d like to suggest that there’s an Easter egg, a hidden clue, a message. That hidden clue or message is the empty tomb! It’s easily overlooked. When I did a search on YouTube using the word “Easter” about two-thirds of the videos had to do with a subject other than the Easter story (most were videos of Easter egg preparation or stories of the Easter bunny).

The empty tomb shouldn’t be an Easter egg, a hidden message, of the holiday, but instead should be the obvious focal point. After all, it’s the reason we have Easter! This often hidden message of the empty tomb shouts through the centuries that Jesus rose from the dead, that He’s alive!

The meaning and message of the empty tomb, of Jesus’ resurrection, is that He proved He was more than an ordinary person, that He was God come to us, as He made perfectly clear during His three years of ministry. His resurrection means He had the credentials (being God in the flesh) to do what He came to do on the cross, die for our sins so we could accept His forgiveness as a gracious, free gift. It’s this acceptance of His forgiveness that reconciles us to God, now and forever!

Like an Easter egg in a movie, TV show, or video game, the question can be asked of the Easter egg in Easter, “Do you see it?”

Through him [Jesus] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:21

God All Powerful!

One of the feelings most of us like the least is the feeling of inadequacy, of weakness, of powerlessness. The feeling can erupt when we’re grappling with a big problem, when facing a major health crisis, financial issue, or relational difficulty. We also often find ourselves feeling inadequate, weak, or powerless to help a loved one facing one of these issues.

The advice to “believe in yourself” or to “project positive thoughts” rings hollow, if you really analyze it. It’s like trying to get your car unstuck from the mud or snow without any help. You can believe you can get it unstuck and project all the positive thoughts you want, but your car is still going to be stuck. You need help getting it unstuck. If a sub compact car came along and the driver offered to push you out of your dilemma, you’d still be doubtful about getting unstuck. If a big four wheeler came along and the driver offered help, you’d be very confident you’d soon be on your way. Faith isn’t conjured up within self, it’s inspired by something big and wonderful outside of self.

When it comes to dealing with inadequacies, weaknesses or a sense of powerlessness, we need outside help, significant outside help. This is where reflecting on and embracing the fact that God is all powerful can be of tremendous help. We need to turn our attention away from how big our dilemma is and focus on how big and powerful God is in helping us face our dilemma.

Consider how big and powerful God is. He created our galaxy the Milky Way which contains about 400 billion stars along with our own sun. Our Milky Way galaxy is only one of about two trillion galaxies, each containing 100 billion stars or more! God created all of this, and sustains all of this! The psalmist declared, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6) God has infinite power! The fancy theological word for this is that God is OMNIPOTENT.

A.W. Pink, in his book, The Attributes of God, wrote, “But seeing that He is clothed with omnipotence, no prayer is too hard for Him to answer, no need too great for Him to supply, no passion too strong for Him to subdue, no temptation too powerful for Him to deliver from, no misery too deep for Him to relieve.”

This infinitely powerful God is not only creator and sustainer of this vast universe, but He is also a God who has a realistic knowledge of our weakness and is attentive to our needs! His adequacy can address our inadequacy!

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)

God Incomprehensible!

Not being a golfer it seemed to me a fairly simple sport involving hitting a ball with a club, trying to get the ball into the tiny hole on top of a small hill. Then someone gave me a set of used clubs and I gave it a try. Turns out I knew nothing at all of how to play golf. The little bit I began to learn only served to enlighten me that there was much more that I didn’t know.

Life’s full of situations where we come up against the complexity of something only after we jump in with both feet thinking it couldn’t be that complicated. There’s been a number of times when I thought I could do a home improvement, but, upon further research, decided it was beyond me and had it hired done.

One of the lessons of life we learn, hopefully early on, is that the more we know, the more we know we don’t know. Faith and trust come into play at this point.

I pay to fly in a plane, part of my ticket paying for the pilot whom I trust to fly the plane. I confidently drive my car even though I’m clueless as to the intricate mechanical, electrical, and digital details of how it works. I’m comfortable in my own skin even though I don’t understand much at all how any part of my body works. Even as I think about how little I know about my own body, I’m reminded that I don’t even know how my brain works that allows me to think at all!

There’s so much of life that’s beyond my comprehension, and yet I go blithely on my way, accepting and trusting all along the way. Why then, when it comes to God, am I tempted to use a different standard?

If all of my questions about God can’t be answered to my satisfaction, is that reason enough to call into question His very existence? Really? Who do I think I am?

Actually, it shouldn’t bother me that there’s so much about God that I don’t understand and can’t comprehend. What kind of God would He be if I could fully understand Him? Theologians have a fancy word for what we’re grappling with here, that God is incomprehensible.

This doesn’t mean I can’t know anything about God, it just means I can’t know everything about God. He’s beyond fully finding out! Yes, like most everything else, the more I learn about God the more I learn I don’t know about God, and that’s okay.

I’m going to continue to drive my car, fly commercially, and be at home in a body of which I understand so little. I gave up on golf, but I’m not giving up on God. I’ll continue my pursuit of a deeper relationship with God who is way beyond my full understanding!

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” Romans 11:33

What This Writer Believes Is Most Important

I’ve written a weekly column that’s appeared in my hometown newspaper, The Parkersburg Eclipse/News, for over 45 years. That’s 52 columns for each of those 45 years, over 2,250 columns. I’m also grateful that a few other newspapers along the way have decided to publish some of what I write.

If I had but one more column to write, I’d want folks to know what are the core beliefs that have motivated my writing over the years. Let me state those beliefs in something of a succinct and logical order. I believe…

…Everything that exists does so because God made it. To me this is easier to believe than that it all exists without anyone making it.

…God made us, meaning us people, a very special part of His creation. He used His own nature as something of a template when He made us, so that we could be in a relationship with Him.

…We have misused this freedom to love Him by failing to love Him rightly, as well as those He’s placed around us, as He intended. It’s sinful what we have done, and it’s alienated us from God.

…God was not surprised by our falling into sin, and He always had a plan to make a way back to Him. He entered human history as one of us. It’s the event marked “Christmas” on our calendars.

…His primary purpose in joining us as one of us was not to show us or teach us a better way but to BE the better way. Evil, from a righteous perspective, needs to be dealt with, punished, paid for. God took care of this Himself. It’s the event that’s marked as “Good Friday” on our calendars. The death of Jesus was His giving His life for those willing to be rescued by Him.

…Jesus bounced back from the grave, alive again, marked as “Easter” on our calendars. For me this is the final piece of proof that He’s to be taken far more seriously than we take any other person, including ourselves.

…My decision to accept His forgiveness, His leadership for my life, and a relationship with Him unlike any other relationship I could possibly have is the best decision I’ve ever made. It has eternal ramifications.

This is what I believe, and it drives my writing. These beliefs are not overtly stated in every sentence, paragraph, or even every article that I’ve written. But if you’ve read at least some of my stuff over the years, then I hope what I believe doesn’t come as a surprise to you.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

 God Is Dependable!

Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash
@lighttouchedphotography and @Kevin Schmid

A man bragged about the antique ax he owned. He said, “The ax head has been replaced once and the handle replaced three times, but other than that it’s the very same ax my great-great-grandfather used.” In reality, nothing was the same about the ax.

It’s been said that the only thing that never changes is the fact that everything changes. The beard I have may appear the same as it was a year ago, but it’s not. Over the last 12 months I’ve trimmed off the original hair that I sported a year ago. It’s a new and different beard. It’s not just my beard that’s changed, I keep changing in a multitude of ways, and so do you.

The fact that we are ever changing people, especially when it comes to our moods, makes for challenging relationships. Then, too, our circumstances are always changing, demanding our need to be constantly adjusting and adapting. It can make for insecure living!

Those of us who believe in God can take great comfort and find great confidence for daily living in the fact that one of God’s amazing attributes is that He’s unchanging. The fancy theological word for this is immutable. God never mutates! “I the Lord do not change…” Malachi 3:6a.

God can’t change for the worse, because He can’t be other than being perfect. He can’t change for the better, because He’s already the best He can be. God doesn’t have moods that can change at a whim; He never has a bad day. Neither does God change His will or His purposes.

But does God ever change His responses? Does He “change His mind”? There are many scriptures where God decides not to judge a nation or people because they listened to God’s prophet and repented. Also, if our prayer requests to God have any value at all, it’s because He responds to them.

However, God is unchanging in His nature and in His purposes. This means that God can be counted on, depended on. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s the same God for us today as He was for the people of the Old Testament and for the people of the New Testament. Yes, God is unchanging, and aren’t we glad He is!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

A Panda Parable

Photo by Debbie on Unsplash

In a far, far away kingdom a long time ago the king was given the gift of a panda by a king of another land. The king was delighted by the gift of the panda, for his royal hobbies included collecting plants and animals from far and wide.

The next day the animal keeper approached the king with concern etched on his face. He explained that the visiting gift-giving king had neglected to inform anyone of what food the panda ate in his natural environment. He then explained that he had tried the usual foods he would give a creature that looked like a bear. Though the panda was very hungry and tried much of what was offered him, nothing was ultimately to his satisfaction. He was starving.

The king thought for a moment, then told his animal keeper, “We can know what food the panda eats in his natural environment. Widen your selection of what you offer the panda. Try a sample from every one of the vast number of plants in my gardens.”

The animal keeper did so and came back hours later with good news. After offering the panda more than a hundred choices, the panda dove voraciously into eating a sampling of bamboo.

The king nodded and said, “This tells us that in his natural environment there is an ample supply of bamboo.”

“But we only have a small growth of bamboo, and the panda has already eaten most of it,” the animal keeper told the king.

The king replied, “The panda is not meant to live here. Feed him the meager amount of bamboo we have as you take him back to the place that is his home.” And so the panda was sent back to the distant gift-giving king who returned him to his home environment in the bamboo mountains.

The great Christian thinker C. S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world… Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death…”

We try to satisfy our greatest hunger with all kinds of things that do not provide ultimate satisfaction. That’s because we have a hunger that only Heaven can satisfy.

The good news, however, is that God offers the gift of an adequate supply of Himself here and now, an appetizer if you will, so we can make the most of this journey through life, while finding a healthy satisfaction from the other gifts He gives us along the way. But our real feasting won’t happen until we get to heaven!

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry…’” John 6:35

Our Personal Growth Rings

A board salvaged from a 100-year-old house is very likely going to be a better board than one purchased new at Home Depot. Why?

The board out of the old house is called old-growth wood. Old-growth wood is from trees that have grown over many years in forests where there was competition with nearby trees and limited light. The result is that old-growth wood has up to ten times the number of growth rings as does modern wood, which has been developed and cultivated to grow rapidly. Scott Sidler in The Craftsman Blog says the old-growth wood is stronger, more rot resistant, and even more resistant to termites.

This illustrates a principle God often uses to make our lives more of what they should be, the principle of slow growth. I’ve often said that it seems to me God has two speeds, slow and slower. Yes, there are times when we drag our feet with God, but probably more times than we can count we have wished things could move ahead more quickly.

Most of us want quick and easy fixes to our problems. We expect fast results. It’s often been said that God answers prayers three ways: yes, no, and wait. It’s His answer to wait that gets to us.

Aesop’s fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare has stood the test of time for a reason. The fable concludes with the tortoise winning the race, illustrating the moral that the race does not always go to the fast and quick but that a slow and steady pace often wins the day.

I doubt I’d accept any kind of professional service from someone who had received their degree on a “fast track” through an on-line program. I’d want someone who had spent years at an accredited institution of higher education.

Much of the growth and many of the lessons God has for us are not learned when things go smoothly and quickly. Often, a slow and steady pace through challenging situations is what’s required.

The growth rings of an old-growth tree are narrow because of the tough conditions under which it grew. This is what gives the wood cut from such a tree strength and resilience.

We’re each a tree in God’s forest, being grown to do His good work. It’s often a slow and challenging process, making our personal growth rings narrow and many, but also making us more strong and resilient!

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1

The Boy and His Boat

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A boy spent hours building a toy sailboat. When finished he took his boat to a nearby lake. He tied a string to the boat so he could pull it back to shore. When he placed the boat in the water he was delighted to see the wind catch the sail and rapidly blow the boat from shore. When the boat pulled the string taut a stronger gust of wind came up, the string came loose and the boat sailed further and further out into the lake until it disappeared from sight. After staring at the lake a long time he turned from the lake and, with his hands in his pockets, dejectedly headed home.

Weeks later he was walking home from school and passed the second hand store as he always did. But today was different. There in the store’s window was his boat for sale! He quickly entered the store and told the owner, “That’s my boat, I built it, then it got lost.”

“Well, now you’ll have to buy it if you want it,” the owner replied.

“For how much?” the boy asked.

“Two dollars,” said the shop owner.

The boy ran home, retrieved two dollars from his dresser drawer, returned to the store, and bought his boat.

As he left the store, lovingly grasping his boat, he said to it, “You’re twice mine. First I made you and now I bought you.”

This classic story, told many a time by preachers and Bible teachers, illustrates the essential message of the Good News, or Gospel, that’s the focus of the New Testament in the Bible. God made us, then we became separated from Him by sin. He then paid the price to get us back by giving His life on the cross. The preachers and Bible teachers who tell this story usually conclude saying something like this: “When we respond to this great redemptive action of God, then God in essence says to us, ’You’re twice mine. I made you and I bought you.’”

The apostle John observed through a God-given vision of heaven the heavenly beings singing to Jesus: “You were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9

Beyond a Beginning, Beyond an Ending

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The dash on a gravestone provides space at both ends to identify the dates of when the person buried below was born and when they died, the beginning and ending of life here on earth. Everything has a beginning; there was a time when it was not. Everything has an ending; there will be a time when it will be no more.

We’re so used to everything having a beginning and an ending that the idea of something eternal is hard to wrap our minds around. This is just one of many reasons it’s difficult to imagine what God is like, because one of the characteristics He possesses is that He’s eternal, having no beginning or ending.

I suspect this is why some have a difficult time believing in God at all; they can’t imagine how He could always have existed and always will exist. But the truth of the matter is that everyone believes in something eternal, even the atheist. Those who believe everything that exists does so without a creator have to come to the conclusion that matter and energy have always existed in some way, manner or form.

Those of us who believe in an eternal God find it unbelievable to hold the view that matter and energy have always existed on their own. It just doesn’t make sense to us. What seems more logical and makes more sense is that God, who is neither matter nor energy and exists outside of time and beyond space, is eternal, that He has always existed and will always exist.

Because God is eternal, being beyond and outside the movement of time passing, He can know what’s going to happen before it happens. Nothing catches Him by surprise; He never says, “I didn’t see that coming.”

There’s personal application for us of this astonishing idea that God is eternal. It means that He not only has been with us in the past and is with us in the present but that He is, in a manner of speaking, waiting for us in our future. When we determine to be in a personal relationship with Him and are willing to yield our will to His then our future is ultimately going to be good because we’re heading into that future where He is!

The Bible (a book many of us believe to be from God) talks countless times about the fact that we can have eternal life. We all have had a beginning, our conception, so we don’t have eternity in our past, but we can have eternity in our future! God wants a relationship with us that goes way beyond our few years allotted to us here on earth. His desire is to have an eternal relationship with us, if we want one. Yes, God’s eternal and has made it possible for us to have eternal life with Him!

“’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” Revelation 1:8

The Wonder of It All

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My wife Diann and I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon in wonder. What a vast, amazing sight!

When I can look up at the night sky in an area where there’s little light pollution and see clouds of stars, I do so with wonder. I call them clouds because the dots of light are so close together that they almost merge, and many of them aren’t a single star, but galaxies with billions of stars in each!

I open the living room curtain and gaze upon Popocatepetl, the active volcano that’s only 13 miles from our house in Mexico, as huge puffs of ash billow out of it from deep within the earth. I stand there in wonder.

To experience wonder means to be amazed, to be in awe, to marvel. It feels wonderful to experience wonder! There are wonders all around us, but many of them go largely unnoticed. It’s to our detriment that they do.

There are so many problems in this fallen world, so much negativity, so much hurt and suffering that we need the antidote of wonder! There are reasons enough all around us to prompt wonder. We just need to be more intentional about identifying those sources.

God’s creation abounds with reasons to cause our minds and hearts to erupt in wonder. God also works through people who, by God’s grace, fulfill His purpose for the moment, and this too can cause a response of wonder. Most of all, we can wonder at how God loves us, has a way for us to get right with Him, how we’re blessed by Him, that we can be a blessing to others for Him, and can look forward to spending an eternity with Him.

The great Christian hymn writer and singer, George Beverly Shea, wrote a song in 1955 titled The Wonder of It All. Here are the lyrics.

Verse 1

There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.
Verse 2
There’s the wonder of springtime and harvest,
The sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is a wonder that’s only begun.

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” Psalm 65:8