For many Americans, Easter will have extra meaning this year.
After a year of daily death counts – with many paralyzed by fear of death for themselves or for vulnerable loved ones – we rejoice on a weekend where our focus is on the One who conquered the grave.
After a year of tension and anger – played out in nightly eruptions on our streets and daily outbursts on social media accounts – we exhale a sigh of relief and hope as we embrace the Prince of Peace.
And after the turmoil of a bitter election – and the gut-wrenching, often truth-defying policy changes that have followed – we are steadied and renewed as we kneel before our good and glorious King who embodies truth and never changes.
The last year has been remarkable for its enormous events and quantifiable numbers – cases, deaths, businesses ablaze, churches closed, vote counts, and so much more.
And yet beneath the big numbers and headlines, it has also been a year of quiet angst, gnawing fear and building anger – in our neighbors, and sometimes even in ourselves.
Through all of that, this year has been a crystal-clear reminder that we live in a fallen world that desperately needs a Savior. If we trust Christ, then even in the midst of a broken world and the never-ending battle for truth and justice, we can find a peace that surpasses understanding, a hope that never fades, and endurance to not grow weary in doing good.
It starts at the cross – and the empty tomb.
So this Easter weekend, we thank you for your steadfast support and engagement. And we pray that you’ll be blessed with the joy and peace that only Christ can bring.
Expectations faltered. The hopes of a triumphant outcome rooted in truth and eternal justice were now questionable – if not impossible. Government casually dismissed the facts and caved to mob rule. The narrative rapidly changed and now positioned them on what looked like it would be the wrong side of history. The most ardent supporters felt the best pragmatic and protective measure to take was to draw back and consider how to endure the cultural backlash for their beliefs.
Then everything changed.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the gospel on which we stand. Scholars can critique it and scoffers can criticize it, but no one can cancel it.
In the end, truth wins! You can crucify it and bury it, but it will roll away the stone and become louder. As we enter this Resurrection Celebration weekend, I want to encourage you to stay steadfast in your work to make New Jersey better. There is too much at stake to withdraw and gradually capitulate to the extreme demands of those who seek to promote their own agenda above the common good of society.
The historical reality of the resurrection ensures us God will always come through, even when defeat seems settled and habitual. As we work together, along with other pro-life and social conservative organizations in our state, may we be reminded of this truth.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
He is risen!
This Holy Week has been unusual. Confinement not congregating is the new normal. As we celebrate Resurrection Sunday through innovative worship experiences, I want to share three lessons from the last 24 hours of Jesus’s life that will inspire you to stay focused and committed to making NJ better in the months ahead.
Lesson 1: God is involved in government – you should be too!
Many well-intentioned believers fail to live up to Christ honoring biblical citizenship because of early 20th century fundamentalist beliefs. In their eyes, government and other public institutions such as schools are inherently part of this fallen world. Therefore, Christians should avoid any effort to improve these institutions because they are irredeemable.
Jesus had a different perspective on the government. As he stood before Pontius Pilate, he appealed to the sovereignty of God that reigned over human government.
Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Lesson 2: Religious liberty might suffer under the disguise of social justice
Judas was guilty of the greater sin referenced above because he willingly handed over Christ for his own personal benefit. Judas attempted to leverage feelings of guilt that the poor could have been better served with the money Mary dedicated by using expensive ointment to worship Jesus. Motivated by financial self-interest, Judas would betray the Savior hours later for 30 pieces of silver. I am alarmed that many today are intrigued by socialism, despite the potential loss of religious liberty at the hands of extreme left-wing political leaders who enshrine erotic rights above constitutional religious rights. Jesus instructed us to help the poor, but not at the expense of silencing gospel preaching.
Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He [Judas] said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Lesson 3: Stand-alone if you must
Jesus not only experienced the betrayal of Judas but the pain of his closest friends refusing to stand with him in times of distress. Today, many people silently agree with our Biblical values that have helped society to flourish for centuries. Tragically, they are afraid to stand with us on the front lines to promote better public policies. We must stay encouraged and engaged notwithstanding the response of others.
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.
Happy Resurrection Sunday! Our redeemer lives!
Director of Advocacy
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:6-7
Awhile back, my young daughter and I were unloading groceries from Sam’s Club. As we began to unpack the car, I remember telling her to let me carry the heavy things. However, being the strong, independent minded child she is, she insisted on trying to carry a box of hot dogs that weighed almost as much as she did. I again encouraged her to let me carry the heavy things and I proceeded to take some other boxes inside. As I came back to the car, I saw her briefly lift the box of hot dogs before it quickly fell to the ground and smashed her foot. She immediately cried out in pain and frustration, “I can’t carry this, daddy!”—to which I replied, “You don’t have to carry that, Brooklyn. Give it to me.”
In 1 Peter 5:6-7, the Apostle Peter heartens us: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
During these challenging and uncertain times, do you find yourself feeling like you can’t bear the burdens of this pandemic any longer? Do you feel like you can’t carry the weight of your anxieties? Have you reached the point of crying out, “I can’t do this!”?
You are right—you can’t.
You need your Father to do the heavy lifting for you.
Too often, friends, we try to bear the burdens of life and carry our anxieties on our own, when all the while, we have a loving Father in Heaven who is saying, “Give them to me, you don’t have to carry those.”
This Easter weekend, I invite you to join me in casting all anxieties on God our Father as we celebrate the victory of Jesus over life’s greatest burdens—the burdens of sin and death. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is our hope. This is our joy. This is our peace.
Jesus is risen!
President & Executive Director
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” ~ Psalm 23:4
I’ve been comforted by Psalm 23 a lot the past few months, and I can’t help thinking that the Lord was using that time of reflection in advance of the coronavirus and economic uncertainty we are all facing together as a nation.
In particular, verse 4 has been on my heart and mind because my family has been walking the valley of the shadow of death since last fall.
In fact, we didn’t know that we had already begun walking this path until an unexpected seizure led to my father’s diagnosis of the most aggressive form of brain cancer.
After the initial shock of hearing what must be one of the worst words in the English language—glioblastoma—there were many rough days knowing we had entered that valley. And I didn’t want to walk.
Walking the valley
Then one evening I found this beautiful essay, “Reading Psalm 23 on Good Friday.” In Psalm 23 specifically, “…we can or should read Jesus not only as the Shepherd, but as the one who speaks in the Psalm.” The essay urges us to “engage in a genuine Christian reading, not to merely remember Christ as our Shepherd, but to think of Christ as the one who is praying this Psalm himself.”
In other words, we usually read this most-famous Psalm as “Jesus is my shepherd”—and, of course, He is. But knowing that all of the Old Testament points to Jesus, there is another meaning here, too.
And that is that we can hear Jesus’ voice in place of King David’s, praying Psalm 23 to His Father as He walked through that valley and suffered a cruel death on the first Good Friday. That death began the process of restoring all of creation to God’s original design; provided the way for re-establishing relationship between the Creator and those who call upon Jesus’ name as the only means by which they can be saved; and assures us that we will never have to walk that valley alone—if we belong to Him.
We do not know exactly how long this valley—my family’s or our nation’s—will be. Even apart from the coronavirus, of course, we are all walking the valley of the shadow of death. Our time on this earth is limited, though sometimes we’re more aware of it than other times.
But however long my family’s valley is, it won’t ever feel like enough time for this daughter with her father. While we continually pray for my dad’s complete healing, we know that may not come in this life, but the next.
And that is the other source of hope and comfort—to know that we will be raised to life in perfected bodies as part of the new heavens and new earth. That hope is only possible because Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18).
If you have followed Family Policy Alliance® for any length of time, you know we envision our nation being one where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished. Usually when we think about life being cherished, we think about protecting the preborn. But life is also worth fighting for at its other end—in illness and frailty, in the need for respirators to fight the coronavirus, and as one comes to the end of that valley.
I have had the privilege to work in pro-life, pro-family public policy my entire career, first at Focus on the Family and now at Family Policy Alliance. But never has principle been so personal. Walking this valley, time is precious and life is certainly cherished.
And so during this Holy Week, I pray that you do not rush through Thursday and Friday, skipping ahead to “Sunday’s coming.” But rather, reflect on the gravity and weight, the suffering and pain, the profound sacrifice of Good Friday—the ultimate act of cherishing life.
Then consider the silence and uncertainty of that first Holy Saturday. So that when Easter morning does break, you can rejoice that resurrection and eternal life are truly won—and we have no need to fear evil—because our Lord walked through that valley alone so that we will never walk there without Him.
Walking with Him and you,
Family Policy Alliance
“He blesses the home of the righteous.” -Proverbs 3:33
As we continue to endure these challenging times in our state, nation, and world, my family and I are preparing for something we have never before experienced—Holy Week at home. No corporate church services. No Easter Sunday lunch. No Easter egg hunts. No personal interactions with close family and friends.
This week, millions of Christians across the world will forgo their typical Holy Week gatherings and traditions. Instead, many will tune in to online church services streamed to the “discomfort” of their homes. I say “discomfort” because if you feel like I feel, the corporate gathering of believers during Holy Week has always been a highlight of my year—a time for personal, affectionate interaction among the children of God as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And yet, this Holy Week will be different, because this Holy Week must be different.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the health and well-being of all Americans, President Trump and Governor Lujan Grisham have called upon us to help “slow the spread” by avoiding corporate gatherings. Nationally, President Trump has recommended that all Americans avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Governor Lujan Grisham has banned all gatherings of more than 5 people in a single room, connected or outdoor space, where people are within 6 feet of one another.
Though churches and other places of worship are exempt from the Governor’s ban, earlier this week, she asked that all churches avoid holding in-person Easter services during Holy Week. This prompted calls from pastors and others wondering whether or not I believe churches should follow the government’s directives. My personal recommendation has been, yes, we should.
As a pastor myself, I understand the pressures we face and the gravity of any decision to suspend our corporate worship services. I also understand the concerns about relinquishing too much control to the state. During these unprecedented times, however, I believe the COVID-19 guidelines are consistent with the God-given role of government to restrain evil and promote the common good (Romans 13:3-4); and as the Church, we too should follow them (Romans 13:1, 5).
As the President has stated, we all have a common “invisible enemy” in this virus, and if we work together, we can save lives and defeat this evil. This Easter season, I encourage you to observe Holy Week at home (see free resources list below); to practice social distancing; and to continue to minister to those in need. The quicker this pandemic diffuses, the quicker we can return to corporate worship and personal gatherings with those we love.
And remember—though these guidelines may prevent our physical communion with one another, they cannot prevent our spiritual communion with God. In other words, we can continue to be spiritually faithful Christians while serving as socially responsible citizens.
Let this be a moment in history that is celebrated by future generations—a moment when the Church shined bright; when the state governed well; and when church and state came together to persevere and overcome.
Pastor Vince Torres
President & Executive Director
Holy Week Resources for Families and Children
Love to the Uttermost: Devotional Readings for Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, ends on Easter Sunday, and aims to focus our attention on Jesus as he displays his love to the uttermost (John 13:1). These meditations on the self-giving love of Christ are all excerpted from the preaching and writing ministry of John Piper. Download it today for FREE!
(Younger Children) Bring the Easter story to life for your kids with eight days of Christ-centered activities. Created by Focus on the Family magazine, this activity kit includes craft ideas, recipes, puzzles, object lessons and much more. Download it today for FREE!
(Older Children) From Focus on the Family, these 5 min-lessons will help you give your child a greater appreciation and understanding of the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Download them today for FREE!
His heart stops—not a beat detected! Life ends without a beat.
To be sure, they thrust a spear into our Savior’s side. It’s Friday.
In the early hours before dawn—undetectable to mankind—His heart beats once. And then again… continuing forever. His promise is eternally fulfilled. It’s Sunday.
From that single beat—death is forever destroyed. From that single beat, Christ-followers have assurance of eternity. From that single beat, Satan is forever defeated.
By that single beat, we are commanded to:
go and make disciples (Mt. 28:19)
teach all Scripture for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)
not be frightened in anything by our opponents (Phil. 1:28)
How are we doing in getting with the beat?
In recent weeks, heartbeat bills have been passed in several states such as Ohio, Mississippi and Georgia, joining North Dakota, Arkansas and Iowa in advancing life initiatives. Family Policy allies in over 40 states are protecting life to the fullest extent while also opposing attempts to cheapen life—including infanticide.
The movie Unplanned is surpassing all expectations proving that the pro-life issue resonates with the heartbeat of America. The beat for life will never die—despite our opponents’ attempts to intimidate us.
Imagine if on that Sunday morning, you could peer into the tomb at the very moment when our Lord’s heart beat anew? The joy and excitement would be overwhelming. Tears flowing with hopeful expectation. It would be like peering into an ultrasound and seeing for the first time, your own child’s heart beating. We can’t wait to show our family the photo of our child in the womb. Like Christ’s tomb, a mother’s womb should be a place where life is cherished!
Our Lord’s first beat established eternity. His eternal beat results in eternal possibilities for mankind. That’s why Family Policy Alliance stands for that first beat to the very last beat; for a nation where life is cherished and where the Gospel can be proclaimed freely.
Will you join us in keeping the beat across America? That deafening beat of “He is Risen” proclaimed from every believer’s beating heart will continue until the Lord’s triumphal return.
Happy Easter to all who keep the beat,
President & CEO
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” -Mathew 26:26-30
Ordinarily, we do not refer to the day someone is unjustly convicted, severely tortured, and brutally murdered as a “good” day; but that is exactly what we, as Christians, do each and every year on Good Friday.
I have often considered the expression “Good Friday” to be somewhat disingenuous—a mere phrase we use to avoid the realities of that dark and somber day, including the role our sin played in its dramatic conclusion. I have even wondered if “Bad Friday” would be a better expression so that we might be stirred to acknowledge the weight of our sin and the price our Lord, Jesus Christ, had to pay in order to secure our verdict of innocence.
That was until I came across the following sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon that redirected my focus and, in short, reminded me that Good Friday is a festival, not a funeral—a day when our sins, past and present, were absorbed by the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross.
I hope this sermon excerpt blesses you, as it blessed me, during this Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
President and Executive Director
Delivered by Charles Haddon Spurgeon on September 7, 1890:
“The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God. We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even to-day? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.
Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. The bread and the cup most fitly set forth the death of our Lord and Saviour, and the mode of that death, even by the shedding of his blood; but as they stand before us now, they evoke no tears, they suggest no sighs.
The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts, ay, and go away from it with praises, for ‘after supper they sang a hymn.’” (Sermon No. 2248)
On Sunday morning, believers across our nation – and around the world – will join in proclaiming: “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”
In that call & response is the summation of our joy. As Christ-followers, we share the certainty that Jesus is alive, His sacrifice atones for all our sins and He has gone to prepare a place for us… to live with Him forever!
…and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)
As followers of Jesus, we call sin for what it is. First, within the family of believers and then within the culture around us. We do so not to be judgmental or “holier than thou,” or as “haters” as the world tries to label us.
We do so out of love as our Lord commanded and as He, Himself demonstrated. We stand for the values that promote love, and stand opposed to sin that destroys lives forever.
In other words, Family Policy Alliance stands on behalf of the family in the world of politics because we want others to know the joy that comes from knowing our risen Savior who bore our sin on His cross so that we could trade our destruction for His abundant life (John 10:10).
As a result:
We work to enact policies that protect life from conception to natural death – out of love for our neighbor and respect for all human beings who are made in God’s image.
We honor marriage between one man and one woman, and for children to be raised in a home with a mother and father– because this is God’s best for men, women, children, the family and society.
We fight to protect parents’ right to raise and train their children according to their values, rather than the government imposing its views, because God called upon parents to carry this honor and responsibility.
And, perhaps most importantly, we protect and advance the freedom to proclaim the Name above all names in the public square – because not doing so violates our very faith and prevents our neighbor from hearing about the Savior who gives us our joy
May the joy we have in our risen Savior never be confined to only Easter Sunday. John 3:16 makes clear that God gave His only Son for the world. So, as we rightly rejoice with our family of believers this Sunday, let us also renew our commitment to carry the joy of the Gospel to our work, our communities, our families…and, yes, even to the way we do government and politics!
The joy of Easter is for all of us!
Rejoicing with you,
Paul Weber, President & CEO