Wishing This Plague Would Just Passover

by Michael Freeman

Each year, around Easter, I look forward to what has become a tradition in my home… preparing and sharing a Passover Seder with our family and friends. This is not something we did in my house growing up. Though my father was raised Jewish, and my grandmother and aunts and uncles all celebrated Passover together, our family did not participate. I’m sure my parents had their reasons. Maybe they thought that combining religious traditions would confuse us as kids. Maybe that week was already busy enough with Easter traditions… Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday service, searching for eggs and Easter baskets at my home and my grandparents’ house, the big family meal. I even remember doing a homemade Easter bonnet parade in elementary school. As a kid, that time was fun and busy… too busy to wonder why we never celebrated Easter with my Dad’s mom. As I got older though, I wanted to know more about my Jewish family and the customs and traditions that marked out their year. So, I started to look into it. It wasn’t until we had young children of our own that, with the support of Bethanie, we celebrated our first Passover Seder. We have continued the tradition every year since… adding chairs and additional tables to the meal to accommodate more and more guests.

Last year, during the height of the pandemic, I had the opportunity of welcoming my church family into my home (via video) to celebrate Passover together. This year, we are preparing to share a Seder at the church during Holy Week. This has become an important tradition in my family so I thought it might be a good opportunity to reflect on just some of the lessons that celebrating Passover has taught me.

  • God is faithful to keep His promises. Passover is a time when we celebrate the miraculous Exodus story, where God brought His people out of bondage in Egypt. If He can keep a 400-year-old promise to Israel, we can trust His promises to us.

Do we trust Him? John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • Sometimes, God needs to get our attention. During the telling of the Exodus story, there is special attention given to the plagues on Egypt. As a Christian, it is often hard to understand how Pharaoh didn’t just acknowledge the power of God and set the Israelites free.

How many ways does God try to capture our attention while we are busy going about our lives? Romans 1:18 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

  • We have to share the story. The Passover Seder is a tradition that is meant to be shared with others. It is built around encouraging children to ask questions and to spend time answering those questions. People are also encouraged to open their homes and tables to others.

Do we open our lives to others? Are we ready to share the story of God’s faithfulness to any who would ask about it? Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek.”

  • He’s coming back! Though the Passover Seder is a powerful tradition for the Jewish people, it has such a richer meaning for Christians. Whenever we participate in Communion, we are actually participating in a tiny part of the Passover Seder. Christ used this celebration to point to Himself. The plague of the Death of the Firstborn, opening the door to wait for the prophet Elijah to return, the symbols of rebirth throughout the celebration… there is so much here that points to God’s larger plan to not only bring His people out of bondage in Egypt but to also release them from the bondage of sin.

Do we live like we know He is coming back? Do we make room for Him at our tables and in our lives? Luke 22:15-16 – “And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’”     

After my grandmother died, we were invited to celebrate Passover with my Jewish relatives for the first time. Sitting around their table, I had the excitement of a kid again on Easter morning, just waiting for the day to unfold. Surrounded by family, laughter, storytelling, and song, I discovered a new appreciation for my Christian faith. Participating in this ancient Jewish tradition, one that was so important to Christ Himself, I felt like I had an inside track on what this celebration was all about.

God has always had a plan for His people. He is faithful, loving, and can be trusted. For a reason that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, He intends for us to have a role in that plan… to participate in reconciling the world to Him. Can we still see Him working that plan out in our lives? Are we in a season where He is trying desperately to get our attention? Are we willing to open our lives and our homes to others who are seeking? Do we live our lives with the expectancy that He is coming back at any moment? I pray that this season, as we prepare to celebrate His resurrection, some of these lessons from the Passover Seder might help to strengthen our faith and witness.    



Scripture Reading: April 9 & 10

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11 NIV)



by Pastor Joshua Trojak

Service. As we are focused on that word this year it is a great time to point to the one who gave us the greatest example of service. Obviously, the answer is Jesus. Every part of his life was spent showing us what it looks like to put others above ourselves. So why is it that sometimes we spend more time trying to put ourselves before others?

One reason is our sinful nature. But another is that it is simply hard to do. This call to put others first was never meant to be easy. Jesus knew that. Jesus experienced that. As we take this time during Lent, we have to remember the example we were given in how to do this. In Matt 26:36-46 we see Jesus taking time before his arrest, conviction, and crucifixion to pray to the Father. Three times Jesus prayed for the Father to take this task from Him. But each time Jesus said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39 NIV)

Are we willing to say “Not our plans, but yours God”? For Jesus’ human nature, this was a task only able to be done with the Father’s help. Serving God and serving others will not be easy. But it is what He has called us to do, and He is not leaving us alone in the task. Let’s lean on Jesus as we serve those around us this Lent season, and in the days to come.

Jesus, help us serve others with the same mindset you served us with. Amen.


Always With Us

by Keith Bortner

As we deal with pain, suffering, illness, and death due in our lives, sometimes it’s easy to think that it must be nice for God to be sitting up in heaven, not having to deal with all the trials of this life. But at the same time, we know better than that.
In the Gospel of John, we read the story of the death of Lazarus. Jesus was told that his friend Lazarus was sick. He waited two days to go to him and by the time he arrived, Lazarus had died. It can be very easy to read past the next few sentences that John writes just before Jesus arrives at the tomb. One of them is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it’s a powerful one. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NIV) The One who is Lord over everything, who has the power to heal any illness and to resurrect the dead, wept over the death of his friend. Some of those around him stated, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36 NIV) Others said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37) We go on to read that Jesus did, in this instance, resurrect Lazarus from the grave. But the thing I want to focus on is the fact that Jesus wept in that moment. He felt that pain of knowing how his friend suffered in the sickness that took his life. He felt the grief that we feel at the loss of a loved one.

We don’t serve a god who sits in a faraway place who is so far above his creation that he doesn’t know what it is to be human. We serve a God who became one of us and who fully understands us and the things we experience. He also reminded us of this when he gave the Great Commission “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV) Our Lord is always with us. Through pain, sickness, suffering, and death, he is always with us. He may not always remove the hurts and pain we go through, but he is with us through them all.


What Shall I Do?

by Herman Crawford

“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’” (Matthew 27:22 NASB)

It has not been too long ago that we celebrated the birth of Jesus and a lot of this celebration has to do with giving gifts. But we don’t always give (or get) gifts that are useful. They may be valuable but, for us specifically, not useful. If anyone who has received gifts from me is reading this, I am sure that we will hear a few hearty “AMENs”.  When Ruth and I lived in Japan, I gave her a deep cast iron chicken fry pan…..two years in a row. Same thing. She wasn’t too excited with the first one. You can imagine how she lit up with joy with the second one. I forgot that I had given her one the year before because she never used it! Of course, she didn’t use the second one either. Not much value. And there wasn’t that much chicken in Japan. Two fry pans!! Or how about this as a gift. Once I went to a country in Africa where they mine diamonds. She thought that when I came back after a few weeks, I would surprise her with a 20 or 30 karat diamond ring. Instead, she got a tee shirt that said “Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa”. She might have been more excited with the tee shirt than the fry pans, but it was pretty hard to tell. Again, not much value.

But God gave us all something beyond anything we could ever imagine. It is His gift to us and it’s available to all who desire it. As we look at the time leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, here was a gift that had been given to everyone and the multitude essentially screamed to everyone there and even to us: “We don’t want it! Give us the world (Barabbas) instead!” My prayer is, that unlike Pilate who asked the question about Jesus the Christ – “what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”, we have come to Him with a repentant and believing heart. I pray that we celebrate His death and resurrection, especially in this Easter season, because of the most valuable gift He could give – Himself.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your love for us. I pray that as we remember what your love for us required of you, we set our hearts on serving you more in this coming year. Help us to have a heart for those who cannot see you because of the world. Thank you that we all have value in your eyes. Amen.


What We Need

by Crystal Johnson

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”

Nearly nine months ago, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to have our beloved family pet, an adorable and near perfect (in my eyes) Cocker Spaniel to sleep. Alex was my puppy and my sidekick from day one. He grew up with my kids and he and Catelyn even potty-trained together! So after 12 years of memories and love, deciding it was time to say goodbye to him left all four us heartbroken.

It didn’t help that while we were preparing our goodbyes and doing our “lasts” with Alex, my Mom decided to add a new member to her household in the form of…you guessed it, a puppy. She was so excited about meeting her puppy, buying new toys for her puppy, showing me photo after photo of her new puppy. I wanted to be happy for her; she wanted this puppy this so badly. My Mom picked out an adorable German Shepherd puppy that brought her a flood of memories from a puppy she had during her childhood. However, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy for my Mom and, in fact, I begged her NOT to get this puppy (for many reasons, but I digress).

Fast forward six weeks. Mom had brought her puppy, Archie, home to her other two dogs and they were all trying to settle into a nice, happy little life. It was not working. My parents had two older dogs at home and having Archie in the house upset the apple cart. Big time. Things were not working out. So, given my thoughts on this new puppy, you can imagine my surprise when I heard my voice say, “Archie can come live with us if it doesn’t work at your house.” WHAT?? I don’t know if it was my “inner daughter” trying to save my Mom (she and Archie had gotten attacked twice by one of her older dogs in the six weeks Archie was there). I certainly had not bonded with this puppy, I didn’t even want to look at him, but here I was offering to take this puppy that I vowed NOT to even like, to come live with ME and my family.

On a Monday afternoon, I picked up Archie and all his worldly possessions at my Mom’s house. (There was quite a lot of stuff…did I mention how excited my Mom was to get this puppy?). On the way home, I was preparing Gage and Catelyn, who couldn’t remember Alex’s puppy days, for the transition. I explained that Archie might be scared, shy, or uncertain, and how he might miss my parents and so on. Our house was his third house in six weeks. But when we got to our house, Archie walked right in the front door like he had FINALLY made it HOME. Our house was HIS house and we were HIS family right from the beginning–there was no looking back for Archie! Archie was where he belonged…with us!

Anyone who knows me has certainly heard about Archie! The dog I wanted NOTHING to do with and tried to resent came into our home and our hearts. As much as I complain about this dog, as much as he makes me CRAZY for his puppy, high energy, super strong, and immensely intelligent antics, I love this dog. He is a reminder to me that God gives us what we need, even when we don’t know it. God hears us when we pray. He knows what we need. The Bible promises us that He will give us what we NEED, not necessarily what we want! I’m not exactly sure what God will teach me or my family through this Archie adventure, but I know that through all the dog hair and mud Archie tracks into the house, God is most definitely giving us something we need!

God, thank you for hearing us when we pray. More importantly, thank you for knowing what we NEED. Thank you for providing for our needs, even those needs we may not want, or the desires of our hearts, that we do not need. Lord, your ways and your will are far better than my own; help me always to be aware of this truth and praise you, even during the times I’m not getting what I want, but what I need.