why Easter is bigger than Christmas

Without launching into a theological debate, I want to address a little thought I’ve been having. I think Easter is a bigger deal than Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ while Easter commemorates his death and resurrection from the dead. Obviously you can’t have Easter without Christmas. If Jesus had never been born, He could not have been crucified or raised from the dead. But also, if Jesus had not died and resurrected from the dead, we probably wouldn’t celebrate His birth! I believe, pound for pound, Easter trumps Christmas.

One of the things I find interesting is that Easter doesn’t seem to get the backlash that Christmas does. Aside from the Jewish observation of Passover, Easter doesn’t have a lot of rivals (and the two are certainly connected!). There seem to be very few complaints about the religious nature of the day. Obviously bunnies and eggs have their supporters, but the animosity that comes against Christmas is pretty much absent at Easter. Sure, many public schools no longer observe Easter break, preferring instead to call it Spring Break. But think about the opposition to Christmas. Every year, I dread the same conversations – about how we need to keep Christ in Christmas. I don’t think it helps when Christians spend a lot of time complaining about the commercialism of Christmas. It’s a shame that we even have to have these conversations. Over all, people just seem to go with the flow of Easter, without a lot of pushback.

That’s not my only point. I am using impact as my criteria for assessment.

My observation is that Easter garners a lot more real ministry activity than does Christmas. At least in my circles, this season is massive for reaching out to people who don’t know Christ and who don’t go to church.  Christmas Eve has its punch but nothing equals Easter when considering the number of people who actually go to church services.  It simply has a greater impact. I know that tomorrow, over twice as many people will come to our church than who attend on any given Sunday. There is something to this Easter thing!

Now my hope is that the impact of Easter will last longer than one day, or one week. We are praying for an eternal impact in the lives of lots of people.  In churches all over the world, the truth of the resurrection of Jesus will be told. Let’s ask God to change the lives of everyone who hears the message!

Nothing against Christmas but Easter rocks! What say you?

Holy Week specifics

I have a special sense of significance about this week’s worship events. Our church needs Easter and the surrounding days to be deeply impactful. Yesterday, I used the phrase “do or die” regarding what happens this week. I am praying for “do”!

Here is our line up:

Vespers Prayer Service: Wednesday, April 4, 2012, 7:00 PM in the Worship Center of our Palm Beach Gardens Campus.  We will sing hymns, share times of corporate prayer, quiet individual prayer and Scripture reading.  The purpose is to focus our hearts and minds on the work of Jesus during Holy Week.

Good Friday Candlelight and Communion: Friday, April 6 at 7:00 PM. My good friend Travis Johnson will be our guest speaker. Travis is a passionate leader and will definitely challenge us with his message. Holy Communion as well as candlelight prayer around the cross will highlight the night.

Easter Sunrise Communion at the Beach: Sunday, April 8 at 7:00 AM. Palm Beach Shores Community Center.  This is an unparalleled worship setting as we will watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean on Easter Sunday! This one-hour worship event will include music, a message from God’s Word (a different message from our Gardens Campus) and Holy Communion.

New Life at Easter!: Sunday, April 8 at 9:30 and 11:00 AM at our Gardens Campus. These interactive worship gatherings will be life-changing for many people. Our Children’s Ministries Department has special plans for the day as well as egg hunts following both services.

On Easter, our church will conclude a very strategic preparation process, 40 Days to New Life. A lot of people have prayed, fasted, read the Gospel of John, served and invited people to Easter. I believe that all of this preparation will result in lots of changed lives.

For more information on any or all of this, please check out crosscommunity.cc

If you live in or around Palm Beach County Florida and do not have a church home, please be our guest.

where’s the passion?

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Holy Week, sometimes referred to as Passion Week. Beginning with Palm Sunday and extending to Easter, we recall the Passion of Christ, the road He walked that led Him to the cross. It’s a great time for Christ-followers to get re-focused on matters of faith and worship.

Leading into this season of ministry, there are many times that I ask the question, “where is the passion?” Obviously, Christ cared enough and was committed enough to do whatever it took to save us. But it seems, at times, that there is a lack of response on the part of those of us who have been saved. Allow me to explain:

On any given Sunday, during music and worship, I am amazed at how many people have no response. I mean they either just stand or sit there, expressionless, unmoved. They don’t sing, or in any other way engage in the music. I realize one can worship by listening but there is no getting around the idea that we are told in scripture to sing, clap our hands and worship God. Outward worship is simply a way to express love for God, it is a “spilling over” of what is in our spirits. I wonder, do these people sense anything in their hearts? Are they, in any way, moved in their spirits? Sometimes I preach about God’s love, His sacrifice, His intense desire to know us…and there are times when there is no response. In these times, I have to ask, “where is the passion?” This explains why the average Christian will not be in a local worship gathering at church tomorrow.  Recent research indicates that church attendance doesn’t mean what it used to for Christ-followers. Where is the passion?

The real issue isn’t with what is happening or not happening in corporate worship gatherings. I think Sunday is just a snapshot of the rest of life. I believe that the cares of life have acted like wet blanket on a fire. Stress kills passion. Pain has a way of burying it. Distractions prevent us from feeling and discouragement prevents us from expressing love for God.

One of the more disconcerting parts for me is, people don’t seem to hold back in their passion for other things.  Tonight’s NCAA Basketball Final Four will blow up Facebook and Twitter. This certainly is a season of political posturing – most people will gladly let you know where they stand on the issues. But spirituality has become taboo for many people in our culture – including those who have been saved from hell by God. It just shouldn’t be this way.

I am asking you to reconsider your approach and response to God, especially during Passion Week. He gave everything for you. How does that make you feel? Can you contain those feelings on the inside without outwardly expressing them in some way? God doesn’t need your passionate worship, but He wants it – and certainly deserves it.

Tomorrow, I will preach a message at Cross Community Church entitled: Pasión por la Vida. It will describe how passion for eternal life for you and me drove Jesus to the cross. And I plan to challenge the people of our church to be passionate in their response to the Passion of Jesus. Join us if you are able.

sound bytes from sunday

I began a new message series yesterday. Pastors who utilize series hope and pray for a strong 1st message. In many cases, the success of the remainder of the series is dictated by the first message. Our first week of Backbone: The Courage of Daniel had mixed reviews. Actually, only one of our 3 Sunday gatherings left me with a less-than satisfied feeling about the message. So I thought I would offer a few sound bytes. Even as I type them now, they sound much better than when I delivered them yesterday during our 11:00 gathering.

Keep in mind, I was speaking about Daniel and applying the characteristics displayed in his life to our lives. Let’s see what you think:

A lot of people want courage, but nobody wants to be in a spot where they really need it!

Like grace, courage is given to us by God, on an as-needed basis. You won’t need it/get it sitting on your couch.

Conformers blend in; they don’t rock the boat. Transformers receive opposition. If you want to be left alone, do nothing. People won’t bother you. But if you live with passion, if you are continually looking to improve the world, you will be the target of a lot of attention, some of it negative.

Our theology (what we believe about God) dictates our behavior. Others can determine our theology by how we live. What we think about God is reflected in how we treat others and how we face crisis.

Backbone based on our opinion becomes stubbornness and rigidity. Backbone based on the character of God is courage.

The weapons you bring to battle today are the weapons you’re fighting with. Preparation needed to be done yesterday.

Preparation can’t be retroactive.  You can’t pray today that God will change yesterday. If you want God’s favor tomorrow, you must prepare yourself today. If you don’t prepare today, you won’t be courageous tomorrow.

If you have any interest in listening to the message, you can do so on our website here: Cross Community Church

Preparing and praying for a better week 2 next Sunday!