Monday, April 30, 2007

Romantic Weekend

Me and the Mrs. dropped off our kids at a relative's house so we could have an entire weekend to ourselves.

It was quite a romantic weekend. What did we do?

We made a budget.

Yep, spent all of Saturday afternoon figuring out how to make our money behave.

Money expert Dave Ramsey says money is one of the top reasons that couples divorce. While we don't have any debt, we want to better manage what we do have.

Guess it's a sign of maturity. How romantic.

Now a guy might take the above remark as sarcasm, but a gal might see it as a sign of security for the relationship--taking good care of the home base is romantic.

And husbands, you know wives are always right.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Check Out a Link

There's a lot of blogs out in the blogging world.

To the right of the page are some good blogs that I've discovered.

Check one out. Most, but not all, are Christian oriented.

Each one has been aged and hand selected so you get the finest quality (whoops, sounds like a meat commercial). Really, I read each of these blogs and learn a lot from them.

As someone once told me, "If you want to get wiser, surround yourself with people a lot smarter than you."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Church Joins Faithful and Welcoming

Last night at our Quarterly Meeting, the Little River Congregational Church voted to formally associate itself with the United Church of Christ (UCC) renewal movement known as Faithful and Welcoming Churches (FWC).

The vote followed discussion about how our church can move forward, in light of the February 28 vote where our church voted 59-31 to leave the UCC, one vote shy of a 2/3 majority.

When the motion was discussed, one point raised was the need for the majority to listen to the concerns of the minority and not abuse its power; it was also said that the minority has responsibilities to the majority, allowing it move in the manner it sees fit.

Personally, it was good to hear such discussion. Unlike a political legislative body, we're all in this together as a church. Our unity is centered around our faith in Jesus Christ. As the UCC likes to say, everyone has a place at the table.

Improving the way majorities relate to minorities and vice versa is one objective I hope Faithful and Welcoming Churches can accomplish on larger scale in the UCC.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Pumpkin Patch

Hart Inlow, pastor of St. John-Hill UCC in Boyertown, PA, told this good story on the discussion board at UCCtruths.com and graciously agreed to let me share it here:

When our sons were young, and nearing adolescence, we had a little saying we would use when one of the family members did something that could be misunderstood or "appeared suspicious."

That person was cautioned to "remember the pumpkin patch." It was a reference to a saying/proverb one of us had heard somewhere, to the effect, "If you want to make sure no one thinks you're stealing pumpkins, then don't bend over to tie your shoe while you're walking through the pumpkin patch."

There are those out there who are LOOKING FOR excuses to blame, criticize, and take offense. When we bend over to tie our shoes in the pumpkin patch, they are going to assume the worst. That doesn't mean what was done, was done wrongly. But it does mean we should not be surprised when others charge us with trying to steal pumpkins.

This is obviously a childish and simple way to try to help all of us to consider the possible results of actions you might take.

Proverbs 20:11 declares, "Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Crow-ing about Toilet Paper

Pop singer Sheryl Crow shares on her blog a novel idea for saving the plant from global warming:
I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required.
Ever since the Washington Post published an article with that excerpt, the article's comment section, the Internet and talk radio has been crowing about Crow's crazy idea.

But if this proposal becomes a reality, choosing the right kind of toilet paper will become a very important matter to the millions who shop the toilet paper aisle on behalf of their household.

Now I know this blog normally talks about Christianity, but hey, I live in the real world too, just like you. And in my household, I'm the one who does the grocery shopping. And so consequently, I'm the one who makes that soon-to-be-all-the-more-important choice of what kind of toilet paper gets used by my family.

Have you ever taken a look at all the toilet paper choices available to you?

The first decision to make is this: single ply or two ply? Then, there's the choice concerning thickness. The cheap single ply is thin, but the more expensive single ply are thicker. Now even though a square of toilet paper might have some density to it, that doesn't necessarily mean its soft. So that's another choice you have to take into account. Then, there's those single and double ply rolls that have impressions stamped into them. For example, our church bought from the janitorial supply company a single ply paper called, "Roses" (What a nice term for TP). If you look at the paper, it has roses stamped into it (Seems like the rougher toilet papers do that to make the paper feel softer and thicker in your hand). Oh, that raises a question: Scented or unscented? Or, how about aloe? Then, there's the choice of how many squares you want per roll. Some toilet paper is advertised as a "double roll." It's just more squares (or total square feet) per roll. Then, you have to decide how many rolls you want to buy--4, 8, 16, 24, 32? Those big packages always take up too much space in the shopping cart. Of course another important choice when choosing toilet paper is the price. And oh, finally, there's the brand. Generic or major brand? And if you really want to get scientific, you need to also take into account the paper's absorbency and strength.

Fortunately, Good Housekeeping's dedicated scientists has thoroughly researched which toilet paper is best and the results are available right here.

As you can see, choosing the right toilet paper, so you make the most of your one square, is a very, very big decision.

Good luck.


-------------
I've uncovered a very dangerous threat to global warming. This has got to stop!

Iraqi Terrorists Using Clorine Bombs

Why aren't we reading more news and commentary in the United States media like this? From the British newspaper the Guardian, an article by Henry Porter:
The West bears much of the blame for the situation in Iraq, but as it descends further into barbaric civil war, the Islamic world cannot keep using us as an alibi.

At least nine of the large-scale attacks in Iraq since the beginning of the year have involved the use of chlorine. These bombs strike a particular fear because if people are not killed by the blast, they may easily die an agonising death when the chlorine is dispersed and inhaled...

If the number of attacks diminished, the Americans and British troops would leave Iraq far faster than seems likely at the present. The situation, therefore, can no longer be taken for a classic resistance of an occupying force. Nor can it be entirely seen as the opposite, that is to say a guerrilla war that is maintained by Islamist, Shia and Ba'athists groups for the sole purpose of engaging the American and British military.

The proof of this lies in the fact that the great majority of casualties are caused by Arabs killing Arabs, Muslims slaughtering Muslims.
This article reveals a lot about the situation the US is facing right now in Iraq.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

10 Errors in the Da Vinci Code

If your computer program has error in its code, it malfunctions. If you have factual errors in The Da Vinci Code, well...you still millions of books.

Michael Barber and Brant Pitre at Singing in the Reign show in a very succinct style, "10 Clear Errors in The DaVinci Code."

The entry debunks assertions made in Dan Brown's book, like:
  • More than 80 books were considered for the New Testament.
  • Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife and appears in Leonardo's painting of the Last Supper.
  • That Jesus' deity wasn't something he claimed himself, but was ascribed to him by his followers hundreds of years after Jesus' life.
If you still have questions about Jesus and Christianity that are raised by Dan Brown's book, this is a good place to go.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gospel of Thomas Compared to NT Gospels

The Gospel of Thomas--with its weird sayings and mystical teachings (see previous post)--is sure to attract the intrigue of biblical scholars and the general public for years to come.

While some think that Thomas deserves a hallowed place next to the New Testament (NT) Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there's an essential difference that separates the two.

That difference is evident when you compare the familiar story of Peter's great confession in the Gospels (found in Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, and Luke 9:18-27) with the version given by the Gospel of Thomas.

Matthew 16:13-20 tells us:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

15 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Now compare that story with saying # 13 in the Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I am like."

Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a just messenger."

Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher."

Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like."

Jesus said, "I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended."

And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?"

Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you."

While the New Testament Gospels reveals Jesus' identity--He is the Christ, God's Chosen One, Israel's Messiah--the Gospel of Thomas keeps it under wraps. In fact, if Thomas tells what he knows, the disciples will face harsh judgment! And even though Jesus in the NT tells his disciples "not to tell anyone" he is the Christ, you as the reader have been given the inside scoop; you know who He is.

The difference is even more evident. In the Gospel of Thomas, we just saw that Jesus pulls aside the privileged disciple and tells him something that neither the other disciples, nor we as readers, are permitted to hear. Compare that with the New Testament's Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36, when Jesus leaves the 12 and takes along only Peter, James, and John. Here's Matthew's account:
1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Once again in the New Testament, when Jesus pulls aside a few disciples and reveals something that's not told to the rest of the group, we as readers are privileged to be given insight into the person of Jesus. You don't get that kind of revealing information in the Gospel of Thomas.

In the end, the Gospel of Thomas and the New Testament Gospels offer two competing views of spirituality.

With Thomas, you get Jesus' secret sayings, but even Jesus doesn't give you much help in figuring out its meaning. That's left to you.

But with the NT Gospels, Jesus tells you who He is and makes plain the response He desires from us--repentance, faith, and obedience.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gospel of Thomas--Some Thoughts

Since its discovery in the Egyptian desert in 1945, the Gospel of Thomas has been the object of much discussion.

Some have called it the fifth gospel (hardly). Others think it's "Q" (plausible, yet doubtful). One thing is certain--it is interesting reading.

Unlike the Gospels you know (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the Gospel of Thomas tells no stories about Jesus: Nothing about his birth, childhood, public ministry, arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, appearances, or ascension. Instead, Thomas is simply a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus.

About 1/4 of Thomas reads like the Gospels. Similar to what Jesus says about the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:1-9, and Luke 8:4-8 is Thomas' saying # 20:
The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us what Heaven's kingdom is like."He said to them, "It's like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky."
Another 1/4 of Thomas reads similar to the Gospels. For example, with parallels with Jesus' fishing stories in Luke 5 and John 21 is Thomas' saying # 8:
And he said, The person is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of little fish. Among them the wise fisherman discovered a fine large fish. He threw all the little fish back into the sea, and easily chose the large fish. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!
But the last 1/2 of Thomas attributes some pretty strange sayings to Jesus that bear no resemblance to the New Testament Gospels. Take for example, saying # 22:
Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom."

They said to him, "Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?"

Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."
Hmmm...entering the Kingdom of Heaven sure is easy, huh? Notice there's no call to believe in Jesus in any sort of way.

The weirdest saying of all most definitely is # 114:
Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
This saying panders to the 1-2 century belief that women were 2nd class citizens and inferior to males. But the Gospels that you and I know always show Jesus treating women with dignity and respect. In Luke 7 for example, Jesus raises up a widow's son and heals a woman's illness. Then in chapter 8, Luke lists the names the women who followed Jesus around in his public ministry, even mentioning that they provided financia support.

But what sets apart the Gospel of Thomas from the New Testament Gospels is its claim--made right at the beginning in the opening prologue--that it shares "secret" knowledge. The trouble is, with lots obscure sayings, like # 22 given above, how you crack that nut of knowledge and gain those secret truths is left to you.

And that's not really much of a "good news" Gospel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wish Blossoms

The other evening me and the kids went for a walk down to the ball fields. We flew a kite and blew lots of dandelions. My kids call them, "wish blossoms." I asked, "What are you wishing for?" Here's a sampling of what they said:
  • I wish people didn't kill.
  • I wish I could get everything I want out of a catalogue.
  • I wish Mommy would do whatever I say.
  • I wish Muslims would live in peace with everybody.
  • I wish the law would let us be in charge of parents.
What are you wishing for today?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why? The Virginia Tech Shootings

Today the country is in shock and grief after 32 people were senselessly murdered at Virgina Tech University. It is the worst mass killing by a gunman in U.S. history.

The question that immediately comes to mind is, "Why?" During the coffee social hour in my rural town's cafe, someone asked me, "So is this predestination-- something that God did?"

No. This is not anything that God did. While predestination is used to describe God's control over all things, that term has more to do with God's saving activity (see Ephesians 1:3-6). In no way should anyone suggest that God was directly responsible for the tragic events at Virginia Tech.

But couldn't have God prevented the situation in the first place? Or limited the carnage? Yes. God is sovereign. He reigns over all things. Nothing escapes His sight. I don't say this glibly. My first daughter died unexpectedly at 4 days from a heart defect. I too have been touched by personal tragedy. I too have questioned God for his apparent non-activity. Job did too. It's an age old question.

While God is sovereign, there's another side of this philosophical equation--human responsibility. God has given us freedom. We are not robots. We have the ability to make real choices, even those that offend a holy and righteous God. Freedom at its best is expressed by love. Freedom at its worst is expressed by evil. Blame for this tragedy lies firmly with the shooter.

Every single human being will give God an accounting of their actions. God doesn't grade on a curve. He judges each and every one of us according to His righteous Laws (think 10 commandments). That's why God has so graciously provided us forgiveness and righteousness through the crucified and risen Jesus. This aspect of God impending judgment makes John 3:16's offer of salvation all the better. The Righteous Judge has provided the solution. May every person reading this respond with faith in Almighty God and His gift of salvation in Jesus.

And today, let us "mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15) and "not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

----------
  • The Washington Post "On Faith" panel answers the question, "How does your faith tradition explain (and respond to) senseless tragedies like the Virgina Tech shootings."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lesson From Imus and Duke Lacrosse Players

Definitely two big stories in the media lately are the firing of Don Imus and the dismissal of charges against three Duke lacrosse players.

Imus was fired from his radio show for spewing a racial epithet at the Rutgers women's basketball team. Charges of rape against the Duke players were dropped by the North Carolina Attorney General, who said that prosecuting attorney Mike Nifong grossly mishandled the evidence, or lack thereof.

Because Nifong insisted on keeping the case open, for apparent political gain and even though the legal evidence was poor, the reputation of the Duke athletes was raked over the coals for months. Now, Nifong might lose his law license and get sued by the athletes for libel and abuse of power.

Imus' remark, once he said it, spread like wildfire. Imus was suspended for two weeks by his CBS radio syndicate, dropped by his cable TV channel MSNBC, abandoned by major corporate advertisers, and finally fired by CBS. The Rutgers women accepted Imus' apology, but that didn't help Imus keep his show.

There's one observation and one lesson I take away from the Imus and Duke lacrosse situations.

The observation is this: Sometimes one's misdeeds can bring about very unpleasant and very disproportionate consequences.

While we all have an opinion, Imus and the Duke lacrosse players would certainly say their "crime" in no way fit the consequences they suffered. Imus probably believes he should be allowed to keep his show. The lacrosse players likely think the charges against them should never have been filed, or should been quickly dropped. But life doesn't always dole out appropriate, proportional consequences. As the old saying goes, sometimes life ain't fair.

Here's the lesson: Your odds of avoiding very unpleasant, disproportionate consequences dramatically improve when you choose not to do stupid things in the first place.

If Imus kept his tounge under control and if those college kids didn't call for a stripper...none of us would be talking about any of this.

Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."

And sometimes, that "harvest" is far more than you bargained for.



UPDATE: Victor Davis Hansen writes: "At the heart of both the Imus and Duke scandals is arrogance."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Amazing Ping Pong Tricks


Random Thoughts:
  • This guy has way too much time on his hands.
  • You gotta wonder when this will become an Olympic sport.
  • The folks who created You Tube must feel really proud that the whole world can see stuff like this.
  • There's no way I could this.
  • For every shot you see made, how many hundreds of times did he miss?
  • America: You gotta love her.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Burying Doubts about the Risen Lord

"Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again."

This familiar acclamation is proclaimed in churches all over the world at Easter.

When we say, "Christ has risen," what exactly do we mean?

Marcus Borg, soon to be retiring professor from Oregon State University, is a leading voice claiming that Jesus' resurrection wasn't physical. In a chapter entitled, "The Irrelevancy of the Empty Tomb," from the excellent book, Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up, Borg writes: "Put simply, it seems to me that whether something happened to the corpse of Jesus is irrelevant to the truth of Easter." As part of his argument, he claims that Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, "explicitly denies that it is a physical body; instead, it is a spiritual body."

I never bought into Borg's argument when I first read it, but I hadn't forgotten it either. So it was encouraging to read Denny Burk's succinct entry that puts to rest such claims. Responding to an argument made by James Tabor, in the "Tomb of Jesus" TV special, that Jesus wasn't physically raised, Burk writes:
Tabor wrongly assumes that “spiritual” means the opposite of “physical.” But that is not at all what Paul means here. “Spiritual” does not mean “non-physical.” It means something that is wrought by the Holy Spirit.
Why does it matter that the nature of Jesus' resurrection is physical and not just spiritual? The Apostle Paul puts it bluntly in 1 Corinthians 15:17-18:
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
The physical resurrection--not a mere spiritual one--is God's declaration of our forgiveness and affirmation of Jesus' deity. Because it is the most incredible event in all of human history--indeed a miracle, it's understandable that doubts and questions arise in our mind.

But the longer I read the Gospel resurrection accounts and consider the arguments, whatever doubts that arise eventually get buried.

"Christ is risen!" He is risen indeed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another Aspect of Grace

Years ago my father went to a health fair and whenever someone at a booth asked if he'd like to take their free test, he said "yes," because...why not, the test is free.

Imagine his surprise when he got a call a few weeks later from one of the groups at the fair who said, "From the results we see here from your test, we highly suggest you visit your doctor, like right now."

Dad did and got diagnosed with prostate cancer. Quickly, he went to surgery. Fortunately, everything went fine. In fact, no follow up care of any kind was needed. My family was relieved. And we thanked God for His grace.

In his book, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life, Paul F.M. Zahl says God's grace is, "one-way love." Classically, grace is God's unmerited favor directed toward sinners. Typically, I've always thought of grace as something soothing and comforting, but when I recently sat in the ICU of a hospital with a church member who was told he needed heart surgery, I was reminded of another aspect of grace--it's sometimes scary.

When the women came to the tomb at Easter and discovered it empty--told by angels that Jesus had risen--Mark's Gospel says at 16:8: "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." While the earliest and most reliable copies of Mark's Greek manuscript end here with this unlikely, open-ended ending, later manuscripts add content and tame down the shocking ending.

But I think, in terms of literature and story telling, Mark's Gospel ending at verse 8 illustrates that grace is sometimes scary. It catches you off-guard. Grace exposes real problems (you have blocked arteries, you're a sinner, et. al.), but then goes on to reveal solutions (we can do surgery, you are forgiven--Christ died for your sins).

Grace is definitely comforting. It's a message of hope to a needy world.

But sometimes too, it's definitely scary.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

That's My King


Check out this awesome vignette about our risen Savior from the late Rev. S.M. Lockridge.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Living Out Longfellow's "The Children's Hour"

Today is the memorial service of our church's oldest member.

Lillian lived to the grand age of 101. Throughout her life she was energetic, upbeat, and full of style. She was a true lady's lady.

Years ago she recited to me from memory a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, "The Children's Hour" :

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

I think this was one of Lillian's favorite poems because she-- literally--lived the poem. Growing up, Lillian enjoyed that "hour." She and her siblings were the fond object of their father's affection. As an adult, Lillian shared that "hour." She blessed many with her love and friendship.

She was a beautiful lady and she will be missed.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter--Resurrection Sunday

The Resurrection of Christ (1570-1580)
by Jacopo Tintoretto

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here; he has risen!"
Luke 24:5-6


"The resurrection of Jesus assures us of God's
forgiveness, power, and ultimate triumph.

It enables us
to face our past
(however much reason we have to be ashamed of it),
confident of God's forgiveness through him
who died for our sins and was raised;
to face our present
(however strong our temptations and
heavy our responsibilities),
confident of the sufficiency of God's power;
and to face our future
(however uncertain it may be),
confident of God's final triumph,
of which the resurrection is the pledge.

The resurrection, precisely because it was a
decisive, public, visible act of God,
within the material order,
brings us firm assurance
in an otherwise insecure world."

--John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, p. 85

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday

The Burial of Christ
by Carl Bloch (1834-1890)

"As evening approached,
there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph,
who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body,
and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.
Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.
He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb
and went away.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
were sitting there opposite the tomb."
Matthew 27:57-61

"The grave is the peculiar heritage of a sinner.
There is nothing we can truly call our own
but our sins and our graves.
When we go to the grave, we go to our own place;
but our Lord Jesus, who had no sin of his own,
had no grave of his own;
dying under imputed sin,
it was fit that he should be buried in a borrowed grave."
--Matthew Henry

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Angus Dei (circa 1635-1640)
by Francisco de Zurbaran

"Behold, the lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world."
John 1:29

"Once you really see this message of the cross,
you see yourself grovelling on the dust and floor,
a miserable failure, a hopeless sinner.
You can do nothing, neither can your neighbor,
you are together in your complete
helplessness and hopelessness.
But thank God [the cross] does not leave you there.
You both look up together into the face
of the one and only Savior,
the Savior of the world,
the Lamb of God
that taketh away the sin of the world...
Here is the only one who can encompass
the whole world, the whole universe,
and all [who are] in utter helplessness can look to Him."
--Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Cross, p. 148

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Week--Thursday

Crucifixion (1524),
by Jorg the Elder Breu (1475/1476-1537)

"While we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8

"One of the reasons Jesus died was that
God might be able to freely forgive the sins of all who trust Christ.
That's the message of the Gospel:
'Christ died for our sins' (1 Corinthians 15:3).
We don't have to carry the burden and guilt of sin
because on Calvary Jesus bore the burden for us.
Now we be forgiven and we can be forgiving because of Calvary."
--Warren Wiersbe, The Cross of Jesus, p. 55

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Holy Week--Wednesday

The Small Crucifixion (1511/1520)
by Matthias Gr├╝enwald (1475/1480-1528)

"After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities."
Isaiah 53:11

"Jesus' soul feeds on the holy happiness
that his cross accomplishes...
It was his meat to do the Father's will,
even when that will was the travail of his soul...
It satisfies his great soul,
meets all the requirements of his mighty mind,
and gratifies all the benevolences that is his large heart...
He is entirely satisfied:
Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary, have left no regrets...
Looking back on all he has endured,
and forward to all that is yet to be accomplished,
he is content--he is delighted with the sight."
--John Brown (1784-1858)
The Sufferings and Glories of the Messiah

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Holy Week--Tuesday

Crucifixion
by Andrea del Castagno (1423-1457)

"Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors."
Isaiah 53:12

"Christ has not only spoken to us by his life,
but has also spoken for us by his death."
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Week-- Monday

Christ on the Cross (1520)
by Albrecht Altdorfer

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law,
has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness from God
comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
There is no difference, for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God,
and are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Romans 3:21-24

"The biblical-evangelical view [of Christ's atoning sacrifice]
takes into consideration
both God's gracious initiative and
the need for human decision and obedience.
Salvation involves both the objective work of Christ on the cross
and the response of faith,
made possible by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation is a past accomplishment,
a present experience, and a future hope."
--Donald Bloesch, Jesus Christ--Savior and Lord, p. 167.