What if it’s True?

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Do you have special Easter traditions with your family? Do you cook a ham, and hide easter eggs? For the past two thousand years Christians have been celebrating the fact that Jesus was crucified for our sins on Good Friday, and he rose from the dead on Easter. He conquered sin and death. Some would argue that this never happened, and will live their lives like God doesn’t exist. But what if it’s True?

The Apostle Paul was one of the biggest critics of Jesus Christ. He was a religious leader and he hated the idea of Christianity. He went around persecuting, arresting and torturing Christians, trying to force them to deny Christ. Then one day Jesus appeared to him personally, and Paul became the greatest Christian missionary that ever lived. His life was completely transformed by Jesus Christ.

Paul establishes the resurrection as an undeniable, undisputed fact of history.  This is the very heart of Christianity.  If Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, and come back from the dead three days later, there would be no basis for Christianity.  Everything revolves around this fact.  This is a unique aspect of Christianity.  No other religion is based on the resurrection of its leader.

 Paul wrote a treatise on the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. He almost wrote it like a district attorney in a court of law. I want a highlight a few verses from this chapter. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”

There are some pastors and Bible College professors, even today that claim that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, or if he did, he didn’t rise again.  The Scriptures, and history are very clear that this is exactly what happened.  Don’t let anyone tell you Jesus didn’t really live on earth.  There is absolutely no doubt he was a real person.  There is an incredible amount of historical documentation about him.

There was a weird theory invented to explain away the resurrection.  They try to say that Jesus never really died on the cross.  He just swooned, and they assumed he was dead.  When he was laid in the tomb, supposedly, the cool air from the tomb revived him.  The problem is, there were hundreds of witnesses to his death.  He not only died, but a Roman lance was thrust up and through his side.  Blood and water came out which is a medical description of what happens to the heart of someone who has died on a cross.

A Roman soldier in charge of a public execution would never leave a scene before making sure the person was completely dead. If the person didn’t die, they would be killed in the same manner. A person who is hung on a cross is forced to push up on the nail in their feet to take a breath. Every breath. The soldiers began breaking the legs of the men on the cross to make it impossible for them to push up and breathe. They wanted them to die quicker. When they came to Jesus they were surprised he was already dead, and stabbed him in the heart with their lance to make sure he was really dead and not just faking it. 

When Jesus was taken down from the cross, his body was carefully washed, and wrapped very tightly, along with a fortune of embalming spices and perfumes.  The tightness of the wrap, and some 75 pounds of spices and perfume would have suffocated him if he was alive. If there was any life left in his body, they would never have prepared his body for burial.

The entire Old Testament spoke of a messiah, and predicted his death for our sins.  Every time the Old Testament Jews sacrificed an animal it was looking forward to the perfect sacrifice.  Everything pointed to the cross.  If Jesus didn’t die there is no sacrifice for our sins, and we are all hopelessly lost.

Then we have the soldiers ordered to guard the tomb.  They would never have left their post, or fallen asleep for fear of being executed themselves.  The Gospels tell us the Sanhedrin, the Jewish group of high priests that insisted Jesus be crucified, paid off the Roman soldiers.  They told the soldiers to say they fell asleep, and the disciples stole the body.  If their commanders caught word of this, the Sanhedrin would protect them.  If the story was true, the soldiers would have been the first to deny it, because it would mean their lives for sleeping while on guard duty.  Besides that, if they were sound asleep, how did they know the disciples were ever there to roll away this huge stone, and carry off a corpse?

A Long List of Eyewitnesses to the Living Christ

V. 5-8, “and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

Paul lines up a list of eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ.  Luke, the doctor, was a traveling companion with Paul.  Luke interviewed a number of eyewitnesses to get the story of Jesus, and wrote it down in his Gospel, the book of Luke.  Paul would have heard these same interviews with eyewitnesses.

Cephas, or Peter, the very one who had denied that he knew Christ 3 times to a little girl. He had seen Jesus alive after he was laid dead in a tomb. Something had to have happened to cowardly Peter to totally change him into the fearless proclaimer of the Gospel he became.

The eleven disciples (minus the traitor Judas) seen him alive.  The people who had been with him day and night for three years.  They knew him well and wouldn’t have been fooled by an imposter.  These were good and honest men, from a variety of different backgrounds.  There was no reason to doubt any of them.

Jesus was also seen by his own brother, James. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, James thought Jesus had lost his mind, and he and his mother tried to get him to go home with them. James became a believer in Jesus and was the head of the church in Jerusalem. Jesus’ own family confirmed he really died, and that he subsequently raised from the dead.

Then he appeared to about 500 people, many of who were still alive and could testify about seeing him when the Gospel was written.  If the Gospel wasn’t true, surely the people who were there would have stepped forward to say it was a lie.

Finally, Paul himself seen a glorified Jesus Christ. Paul went from being the chief persecutor of the church, to its greatest missionary. Critics have no explanation for this.

There are written, non-religious historical records from the same period that speak of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The fact is, there is more proof just for the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross, and rose again three days later than there is proof that Napoleon Bonaparte ever lived.

V. 12, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

There were people during that time who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.  They believed this life is all there is.  Once your dead, that’s it. Some people then and now claim to have an intellectual problem with the resurrection. They don’t believe miracles happen. The Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death at all, and neither did the Greeks.  Paul was probably the greatest intellect of his time. Paul had no problem with the resurrection of Christ. He had seen Jesus with his own eyes.   


To deny the resurrection of the dead is a direct attack on the Gospel. Denial of the resurrection was something that crept into the early church, and is still around in some churches today. 

Liberal theology teaches Jesus’ resurrection simply can’t be true.  This is despite the mounds of evidence that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that he did indeed rise from the dead.

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus only pretended to raise Jairus’s daughter; and the widow’s son; and Lazarus.  He died a martyr’s death, was buried and remained dead.  That is what the devil would have us believe along with those with a liberal theology.  If that’s true, the whole story of Easter is a lie.  Christianity cannot be true.  It would never have gotten started in the first place.

V. 13-14, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

This should be printed over the door of every liberal church and seminary in the world. If you are a pastor and you don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead, then your preaching is totally in vain.  It does absolutely no good. 

Those who don’t believe in a resurrected Christ have nothing to offer a sin-cursed, dying world.  They offer no forgiveness for the sinner who is too ashamed of the life they have lived to go on. 

One hundred years after the first missionaries arrived in Zaire, Africa, there was a Christian gathering in celebration. There was a very old man who stood up to give a speech. He said he was going to die soon, but he needed to tell something that happened when he was young that no other living person knew about

The old man told the story of the first white missionaries. His people didn’t trust them at first. They decided they would slowly and secretly poison the missionaries and watch them die. One after another the children and the adults got sick and died. When his people saw how these missionaries died, never giving up their faith, they decided to believe the message of the Gospel.

The missionaries never knew they were being poisoned. They didn’t know why they were dying. Their faithfulness to the Lord convinced the people of Zaire the message of the Gospel was true.

V. 15, “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.”

If the liberal theologians are right, then all the apostles and prophets of the early church were liars and false witnesses. The missionaries who gave their lives died in vain.  All of the preaching in the book of Acts involves eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, and the main reason for Acts is to bear witness to this fact.

 V. 16-17, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Everything comes to a screeching stop at the door of the tomb if Jesus is still dead.  Even though he is beautifully embalmed, with a kings ransoms worth of spices, and perfumes, it is still just a decaying dead body.  If Jesus is dead, Christianity has no more to offer than Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

The Living Bible paraphrases it this way. “Death came into the world because of what one man (Adam) did, and it is because of what this other man (Christ) has done that now there is the resurrection from the dead.  Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, being members of his sinful race, and wherever there is sin, death results. But all who are related to Christ will rise again.”

This is a very important passage for a number of reasons. This clearly states that sin came into the world because of one man, Adam.  Prior to that, the world was good.  It was the way God created it.  With sin, came death.  Death was a symptom of sin.  Since there was no sin on earth before Adam, and since there was no death on earth before sin, there was no death before Adam.

That means the New Testament clearly teaches that the Theory of Evolution is false.  A lot of theologians try to compromise the Bible with the theory of Evolution.  They call it Theistic Evolution.  It’s the idea that somewhere, sometime, millions of years ago, God created the world and set it evolving.  After a few million years or so, the first human evolved, and somehow we ended up with a sinful nature.  If there was no sin before Adam, and no death before sin, that can’t be true.

Another theory is called the gap theory.  This theory teaches there is a gap of millions of years between verse 2 and 3 of Genesis chapter 1.  They say when the earth was without form, void, and dark, it was a period of millions of years accounting for fossil records of monsters on the earth.  Let’s look at this for a second.

Genesis 1:1-3, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

If there was no sin before Adam, and death came because of sin, these fossils of dead animals and people could not have occurred before the time of Adam because there was no death before sin.

If you read the rest of Genesis 1 you find that there was also no dry land until the second day.

The bottom line.  If the Theory of Evolution is true, then the Bible is not true.  But, if the Bible is true, then the Theory of Evolution cannot be true.  You can’t have it both ways.

One man brought sin into the world, and we are all born sinners because of Adam.  One man brought salvation and forgiveness to the world through his shed blood on the cross.  Jesus rose from the dead proving the resurrection is true.  Praise God!

How a Tea Bag teaches Jesus

Are you a tea drinker? The lowly tea bag can be shown to be a type of Christ. Every tea bag has a label. Jesus had lots of labels. Son of Man, Son of God, Prince of Peace, Lord, Messiah, Savior. A sign was hung above his head when he was crucified that said, King of the Jews.

Every tea bag has a string. The string represents the whip that was used across his back. Every string reminds us of that.

Every tea bag has a staple. When you pull out the staple, it is very small, but it reminds us of the nails that were used to nail Jesus to the cross. It reminds us of the lance that pierced his side.

Little holes in a tea bag. Jesus had holes from the crown of thorns. He had holes in his hands and feet. He had holes in his flesh from whipping. And he had a hole in his side from the lance used by the Romans.

Jesus died for our sins. The tea in the teabag represents the blood that Jesus shed. It colors us. It changes us.

The bag represents the empty shroud that wrapped Jesus in his death. That shroud was found in the empty tomb, as if the body passed right through it. The empty shroud in the tomb was more proof of the resurrection.

V. 30-32, “Why are we in danger every hour?  I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

During Paul’s time, Christians were being persecuted.  They were constantly in danger.  In Ephesus, Christians were already being thrown to the lions.  If there is no resurrection, why would any sane person go through this?  Why would a person follow a religion into death, when it would be such a simple matter to bow to the emperor?  Paul is saying it wouldn’t make any sense.

But the fact is, that Paul and others did go to their death proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only way into Heaven.  They knew that the moment they closed their eyes in death, they would open them alive in Heaven.

V. 35, “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”

These were the skeptical questions being raised by those who chose not to believe in the resurrection.  Paul seemed to lump them in with people who today who proclaim the earth is flat, no matter the proof.

V. 36-38, “You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.”

This is an amazing passage.  Paul is not only shutting down the critics who were proclaiming “since there is no resurrection, live however you want.”  He gave us some insight to what happens to us when we die.  Paul said it’s not unlike when we plant a grain of corn, or wheat.  The body that dies and is buried is not the same body that will be resurrected.  When you plant a grain of corn, you get a corn stock with lots of ears of corn – not just a single grain of corn.  You get something far better and more complicated.

From this little dry dead seed, an entire new plant springs up.  From our own dry, dead body, God will raise up a new body that He has already designed.

V. 39, “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.”

This is an interesting verse.  Paul makes it clear that all flesh is different.  Those who teach the theory of Evolution like to tell us that we are the same as the animals.  They teach that animals sprang up from fish, and birds sprang up from animals.  The truth is we are not the same.  Within just the last couple of decades scientists have determined that the flesh of animals, fish, birds, and humans are all different.  They are not related.  They proved only the last few years what the Bible said over 2000 years ago.

V. 50, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

Paul is reminding us that only those who belong to Christ when they die will enter Heaven. You are not a Christian because you were born in America, you are not a Christian because your parents were, or you were baptized as a baby. You have to accept Jesus Christ as your savior personally.

I recently heard a story about a child who was deathly allergic to bee stings. If they were stung, the family had an epipen. This is like a portable syringe with a needle to immediately give him a shot to prevent him from dying before they could get him to the hospital. As most kids, he was terrified of needles, but he was even more afraid of bees.

One warm spring day they were driving down the road with the windows down, when a great big bumblebee flew in the window. The Dad quickly tried to shew it out the window while trying to pull safely to the side of the road. The little boy was crying. Then the Dad reached out and snagged the bumble right out of the air. He squeezed his hand tightly on the bee for several seconds.

After a few moments, the Dad let the bee go free from his hand. As soon as he let it go, the boy became frantic once again as the bee buzzed around in the car. The father realized the terror his little boy must be in. He reached his hand out again. This time he opened his hand to his son, and pointed to it. Right there, stuck in the palm of his hand was the bee’s stinger. He said, “You see this son?” he said. “You don’t have to be afraid anymore. I took the sting away for you.”

V. 53-57, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

 “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Do you know Jesus?

 For the past two thousand years we have been celebrating the fact that Jesus was crucified for our sins on Good Friday, and he rose from the dead on Easter. He conquered sin and death. He told us because he died, and lives again, we too can have life after death. We no longer have to fear death if we are a Christian, because of his work on the cross and his Easter resurrection.

Do you know him today? I’m not asking if you know about him, but do you know him. Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Are you ready to accept his free gift of salvation?

I heard a prominent pastor on the radio the other day pleading and begging for people to come to Christ. I’m not going to do that. It has to be your decision. If you want to become a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ, you can pray a simple prayer such as something like this. There are no magic words. What matters is the attitude of your heart. Pray something like this: “Heavenly Father, I am sorry for my sins. Please forgive me of all of my sins. Thank you for dying on the cross for me, and for rising from the dead three days later. Please come into my heart, and my life, and be my Savior. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, and you meant it, God has begun a work in you. Now I want you to do three things:

  1. Pray. Prayer is simply talking to God, like you would talk to a good friend. Be honest, and use normal language like you would with a friend.
  2. Start reading your Bible. The Bible is not just one book, but rather 66 books bound in one volume. Start reading in the Gospel of John. It will make a lot more sense if you read the Gospel of John first.
  3. Find a church that teaches the Bible, and get involved.

One more thing you should do is to find the best person you know and tell them what you did.

Politics and Passion Week

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Have you ever been stung by a bee? This happened several times to me when I was a kid. I have a slight allergy to bee stings, so when I get stung, I swell up a lot around the sting. When you get stung, the stinger will stick in your skin. If you have ever looked, the stinger will be throbbing as it is pumping poison into you, which makes the sting burn. You must scrape the stinger out. If you grab it to pull it out, you risk squeezing even more poison into your skin. Anytime one of us got a bee sting, my mom would slice an onion in half and have us hold it over the sting because the onion would suck some of the poison out.

One spring day, my brothers and I were throwing a football back and forth in our yard. The ball bounced into a big overgrown wild rosebush covered with flowers. I chased the ball near the roses, and something flew into my mouth. I tried to spit it out, but it clung to the inside of my lower lip.  That’s when it got me. I got stung in my lower lip. My lower lip started to burn like fire. It hurt so bad. My lower lip completely swelled up. It literally swelled until my lower was hanging below my chin. Of course my older brothers laughed and made fun of the way I looked.

If you follow politics, you know how politicians have been trying to silence this one man who is opposing them. He seems to have come out of nowhere, and rocketed to popularity. At first they just ignored him, and thought he was no threat. Then as he gained popularity, they mocked him, and tried to humiliate him. Unfortunately every time they tried to trip him up with his words and outsmart him, he turned the tables on them and showed what hypocrites they are.  Every time they tried to turn the crowds against him, he always came out on top. They accused him with trumped up charges, but somehow he walked free every time. They were so frustrated. It was as if he was made of Teflon. Nothing would stick to him!

Finally, they made up a charge, and had him indicted. They were finally able to turn one of his closest allies against him. They found people with questionable backgrounds that would say anything to get him. They indicted him, had him arrested and drug him into court. They threw everything they had against him. This time, they gaslighted the people and got public opinion on their side, and they were able to incite the crowd to turn on him.

No, I’m not talking about former President Donald Trump. I’m talking about Jesus Christ. Passion week began with Palm Sunday as the people sang his praises when he rode into Jerusalem on the back of a Donkey.

Let’s go back just a little farther and look at an event that happened just before passion week. According to John, this happened Saturday evening, the day before Palm Sunday.

Before going to Jerusalem Jesus was staying in Bethany with his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. A dinner was held in his honor and people came from all around to see Jesus, and the man Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead. This story happened just before passion week (John 12:1-8). Mary had taken a pound of the most expensive perfume that existed during that time. She took this very expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. She was anointing him for his death. This was an expression of her love for Jesus.

The next day was Palm Sunday. In the book of Daniel it was predicted Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a Donkey on this day 600 years before it happened. Daniel predicted to the day when Jesus would ride into Jerusalem, and he also predicted that at the end of the week the Messiah would be killed. The Jews knew the Old Testament better than we do. They knew about Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks of years, and the coming of the Messiah. They also knew about Zechariah 9:9 (ESV), which says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The crowd who had been at the dinner in honor of Jesus, were now shouting hosannah as Jesus entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). They recognized Jesus as the Messiah, prophesied in Daniel, and Zechariah. They had been at the dinner the day before at Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ home. This was the same Lazarus that they had witnessed Jesus raise from the dead not long before. They had seen Lazarus alive with their own eyes.

The crowd began to throw palm branches and laid their cloaks in front of Jesus to walk on. It was like rolling out the red carpet. They were shouting out praise and adoration saying “Hosanna.” This would be like us shouting “Praise the Lord.” It was a huge party, and they were celebrating. These same people would call for his crucifixion later in the same week. They were expecting a conquering king who would come in and rescue them from the oppression of the Romans. They were not looking for a spiritual savior who would save them from their sins.

On Monday, day two of passion week Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem and threw out the moneychangers (see Mark 11:15-18).

Jesus was passionate about God, His Father. His biggest condemnation always came for the Pharisees and Sadducees. These were religious leaders, but they were also politicians. They considered themselves holy, and were so proud of their knowledge of the Bible and how they followed it. Jesus was now condemning them for their crooked activity in the temple as they bought and sold, constantly cheating and getting rich off the backs of the people.

The next day was Tuesday, day 3. Jesus did a lot of teaching on Tuesday, predicting his return, talking about the greatest commandment, and talking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He also tells many parables including one about ten virgins (see Matthew 24).

All the disciples except Judas were from Galilee. Jesus taught that he is the bridegroom, and the church is his bride. He must go away to prepare a place for us, and he will return, like a bridegroom for his bride. The marriage feast in Galilee was always a huge event that no one wanted to miss. A wedding feast was a big deal. In Galilean weddings, the return of the bridegroom for his bride was to be a surprise. Only the grooms father knew what day and hour he would go to get his bride, and the bride and bridesmaids were expected to be ready in case he came in the middle of the night. Jesus talks about ten virgins who were bridesmaids waiting the day the groom would come to claim his bride, and they would go to the wedding supper to celebrate the wedding. In this case, five were wise and five were foolish. The five who were wise had oil and extra oil for their lamps. The five who were not wise didn’t have enough oil when the groom returned. They were late arriving to the party, and were locked out. They missed out on the wedding feast. Many people believe in God, and even believe everything about Jesus. But if they have never received Jesus Christ as their Savior, if they never became followers of Jesus, they won’t have enough oil in their lamps when Jesus returns for this Church, his bride. They will not be allowed in.

Jesus was telling his disciples, just like in the Galilean wedding ceremony, he would return for his bride, the church, which includes Christians everywhere. He will take us to his father’s house, and we will forever be with the Lord.

Wednesday, day 4 was the day Judas went to the Chief priests seeking to make money from betraying Jesus (see Matthew 26:14-16).

The 5th day, Thursday, was a special day for Jesus and the disciples. It was the day before his crucifixion. This was the day they would celebrate the Passover feast (John 13:1-11, 33-35).

Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that Judas had already gone to the chief priests to betray him. Yet, Jesus loved all of them, even Judas, until the end.

It was during the Passover feast that Jesus prophesied that it would be Judas who would betray him. This was also where he instituted communion. He told the disciples that all of them would betray him, and when Peter tried to tell him that he would never betray him, Jesus told him he would deny him three times before the roster crowed.

Judas left to go to the pharisees and betray Jesus.  

Jesus led the disciples out to the garden of Gethsemane to pray.

Jesus fully knew what was coming. He knew that he was going to be crucified, which is still known today as the most painful death man has ever invented. He knew he was about to take on all of the sins of the world as a sacrificial lamb. He was only 33 years old, and he was facing death. The Bible records that he had a reaction to this extreme stress. People under extreme distress sometimes will have a condition called Hematidrosis. This is when blood vessels just under the skin begin to burst, and blood will start coming out through the sweat glands. This is a very painful experience and is exactly what Luke chapter 22 describes here.

Judas brought the soldiers from the temple with him to arrest Jesus. He arrived, walked up to Jesus, and betrayed him with a kiss. This was a cultural greeting. It would be like two close friends greeting each other with a hug in our culture.

Day 6, Friday, Jesus was hauled from court to court, he was beaten, mocked and scourged. Early in the morning on Friday before most of Jerusalem was awake he was tried and judged. The Sanhedrin had the power to give the death sentence, but they were afraid of the crowds, so they made it a political issue. They pushed Pilate to sentence Jesus to death so the crowds couldn’t blame the priests.

As you read the story, Pilate put Jesus on trial and found him not guilty. He tried to release him but the priests incited the crowds to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus. The soldiers spat on Jesus, beat him, mocked him, and whipped him. They made a crown out of thorns and shoved it down on his head. Finally, they made him carry his own cross through the crowds as they ripped the beard from his face. Finally, around 9 in the morning, they laid him on the cross, nailing his hands and feet down. Then they lifted the cross in the air, and dropped it in a hole, which caused all of his bones to come out of place. To take a breath, he would have to push up on the nail in his feet. He hung there in absolute agony until he died at 3 in the afternoon. You can read the story in Luke chapter 23.

  When Jesus died, he died for all of our sins. He was totally innocent. He was born sinless, and never sinned his whole life. He didn’t do one thing to deserve the punishment and death he died. He did it for us. Jesus himself predicted this in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

When Jesus died, the Bible says the veil of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The veil of the Temple was this very thick curtain that separated and hid the ark of the covenant from the rest of the Temple. At the time of Christ this veil was about 20 feet tall, 60 feet wide, and 4 inches thick. This was where the glory of God dwelled.

Once a year one of the high priests were allowed behind the veil to make an atonement or sin offering for the people’s sins. Now this separation between God and man was torn asunder. We no longer had to have a priest to make atonement for us, because Jesus became our high priest. We can go directly to him for forgiveness of sins now.

The 7th day of the Passion week, Saturday, Jesus’ body lay in the tomb. One of the followers of Jesus named Joseph of Armithea, a wealthy man, and some of the women took the body of Jesus down from the cross, and they quickly prepared his body for burial (Matthew 27:57-66). They tightly bound his whole body in a burial shroud. There were about 75 pounds of strong-smelling perfume and spices sitting on his chest. Then they put him in a borrowed tomb. The tomb was sealed with a huge rock that was rolled into a slot in front of the tomb. The disciples were scattered and went into hiding, thinking they may be next.  

Over the course of the seven days of passion week, Jesus gave everything he had to the people. He taught them. He told them he was entering into a new covenant with them. He told them of the new commandment of love towards one another. And finally, he layed down his life for the sins of the world. Now he was buried in a tomb. Guards were placed outside the tomb to make sure the disciples could not steal his body, because there were rumors going around that he said he would rise from the dead.

Something unique and special happened on the 8th day. This would be day 8 from the time he rode into Jerusalem to the cries of Hosanna. On the 8th day, he rose from the dead proving he was who he said he was, the savior of the world. This 8th day miracle is why we now celebrate and meet on Sundays. The 8th day when Jesus rose from the dead.

Have you ever been stung by a bee? It can really hurt. Some people have a bit of an allergy to bee stings, and will have swelling around the area that got stung. Some people have serious allergies to bee stings. For them it’s not just painful, it can be deadly.

I recently heard a story of a child who was deathly allergic to bee stings. If they were stung, the family had a pen with a needle to immediately give him a shot to prevent him from dying before they could get him to the hospital. As most kids, he was terrified of needles, but he was even more afraid of bees.

One warm spring day they were driving down the road with the windows down, when a great big bumblebee flew in the window. The Dad quickly tried to shew it out the window while trying to pull safely to the side of the road. The little boy was crying. Then the Dad reached out and snagged the bumble right out of the air. He squeezed his hand tightly on the bee for several seconds.

After a few moments, the Dad let the bee go free from his hand. As soon as he let it go, the boy became frantic once again as the bee buzzed around in the car.

The father realized the terror his little boy must be in. He reached his hand out again. This time he opened his hand to his son, and pointed to it. Right there, stuck in the palm of his hand was the bee’s stinger. He said, “You see this son?” he said. “You don’t have to be afraid anymore. I took the sting away for you.”

Politicians killed Jesus. They thought it was over. They thought they had exercised the ultimate political power in silencing their hated opponent by killing him. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead proving he is everything he said he is.

Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. For the past two thousand years we have been celebrating the fact that Jesus was crucified for our sins on Good Friday, and he rose from the dead on Easter. He conquered sin and death. We no longer have to fear death because of his work on the cross and his Easter resurrection. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

As Christians, we no longer need to fear death. Just like the dad took the sting out of the bee, Jesus took away the sting of death for us. We know we will one day be reunited with our loved ones.

Jesus Loved Interruptions:

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Interruptions or Divine Appointments?

        Have you ever been in the middle of something important and had someone interrupt you? I once had a friend named Russ. He was a volunteer in a ministry I ran. Russ was an outgoing guy, with a huge heart for people. I loved visiting with him over a cup of coffee when I wasn’t in a hurry to go somewhere. One other thing about Russ, he could also talk the wallpaper off the wall. I remember Russ coming to my office one day. I was in the middle of a project with a deadline coming soon. I loved Russ, but I didn’t have time to sit and talk. He was asking for five minutes of my time, but I knew from experience that his five minutes would quickly turn into an hour. These interruptions would test my patience. He was much older than me, and would lecture me on the importance of taking time and putting people first. He reminded me that ministry is about people and not just about the work. It was hard for me to admit, but I learned a lot from him.

Russ asked me to do his memorial service before he passed away a few years ago. I miss my friend Russ – and his interruptions.

My Friend Russ, coffee and a donut.

        Pastors and Christian leaders can be driven people. We put our head down as we are working on a project, and don’t look up until the task before us is finished. It can be very exasperating when we are in “the zone” to have someone ask us for something, or disturb us. But these interruptions are often the work of God in our lives. These may look like someone simply looking for our attention. It may seem like an annoying irritation taking us away from what is important. But when we hate interruptions, and we don’t see them as divine appointments, we may well miss the plan of God for us.

C.S. Lewis famously said, “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”

The Gospel of Luke chapter 8 tells of a day in the life of Jesus. Jesus was returning from the area known as the Gerasene’s where he had set the demoniac free. Upon his return there was a crowd already waiting for him. They pressed against him. Everyone wanted to get close to Jesus. They were there when he did the creative miracle and fed the five thousand. They had seen him heal the blind, the lame and the leper. They had heard his teachings. They all wanted something from him.

In verses 41-42 of Luke 8 we read, “And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” Jesus could have said he was too busy with the crowd to be bothered by one person, even if he was a ruler of the synagogue, but he didn’t. He set off towards the home of Jairus. But then he was interrupted yet again. It says in verses 43-44, “And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” This woman was part of the crowd pushing on Jesus. She moved through the crowd until she was close enough to touch Jesus and receive her healing. Jesus could have just kept going to Jairus’s home ignoring the woman, but he didn’t.

In verses 41-42 of Luke 8 we read, “And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” Jesus could have said he was too busy with the crowd to be bothered by one person, even if he was a ruler of the synagogue, but he didn’t. He set off towards the home of Jairus. But then he was interrupted yet again. It says in verses 43-44, “And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” This woman was part of the crowd pushing on Jesus. She moved through the crowd until she was close enough to touch Jesus and receive her healing. Jesus could have just kept going to Jairus’s home ignoring the woman, but he didn’t.

Here was an interruption followed by an interruption, but Jesus didn’t become frustrated. He called out the woman who had touched him and received the healing from an issue of blood. Jesus didn’t rebuke her, instead he ministered to her. Jairus was an important dignitary from the synagogue, so we can almost understand him allowing this interruption. However the woman with the issue of blood is not presented in the story as anyone important. Yet Jesus stopped what he was doing to care for her.

The next interruption came when people from Jairus’s home came to let them know his little girl was dead. Once again, Jesus was not disturbed by this yet another interruption. He continued the journey to the home of Jairus to heal his little girl. Neither of these miracles may have happened if Jesus had chosen to stay and minister to the crowd rather than to allow these interruptions. He had a choice of ministering to an individual, or continuing on with his plan to teach the crowd. But Jesus was aware of the moving of the Holy Spirit, and took these interruptions and recognized these divine appointments from God.

Do you have a Russ in your life? Are you a driven person who doesn’t like interruptions? I want to encourage you remember the example of Jesus and how he embraced interruptions. Change your thinking when it comes to interruptions. It may well be that the person disturbing you; the person infringing on your being “in the zone” may actually be a divine appointment set by God. As Russ taught me, so many years ago, put people first.

The Nashville Christian School Shooting and a Pastor’s Heart

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Can you remember the first mass school shooting you heard about? The news was so shocking, it seemed to pierce our hearts, and it kidnapped our souls. This is something so depraved, so evil, it should never happen. How could anyone kill innocent children? Once again, my heart aches over this yet another senseless attack.

There was another recent school shooting. This one occurred at a private Christian school. It was not my intention to comment on this national calamity.  However, after seeing so much coverage, and reading so many articles on the school shooting at the Christian Covenant School in Nashville, TN, I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to say something.  If you have not heard this awful news, an adult transgender individual broke into a private Christian school and brutally murdered 3 adults and 3 children before being killed by police.

There are three points that need to be addressed surrounding this school shooting:

1. The first point is “This murderous rampage is about the killer’s heart, not the weapon.”

2.The second point is “We should NEVER romanticize the killer.”

3. Finally the last point is “We need more prayer, not less.”

Point number one is that this murderous rampage is about the killer’s heart, not the weapon. This transgender adult broke into a locked private school, and mercilessly killed 6 innocent people. I have no desire to wax political, but certain politicians will try to use this horrible event to brow beat everyone into giving up their guns. Guns were used in this mass murder. But it may be pointed out that in countries that have outlawed guns, there are still mass murders involving knives, bombs, vehicles, or other methods of killing. A gun is an inanimate object. It can be used for good, or evil. There is nothing inherently evil in a gun.

The Bible is very clear in its condemnation of murder. The ten commandments, given by God, says “Thou shalt not murder.” This killer had murder in their heart. They left many written documents talking about how they were misunderstood by Christian parents, and how they wouldn’t let them take on the gender of their choice. This person wanted to send a message. They wrote to their friend that they were going to do something big, where they would never come back. So really, this was a hate crime specifically against Christians, that was well thought out, and carefully planned.

This transgender individual chose a lifestyle contrary to what their parents wanted for them. Living a self-disciplined life is difficult today. Our society seems to put a premium on doing whatever feels good to the individual, and the idea of holiness, or living a Christian life, would be anathema to them. Living a holy life, is actually a spiritual discipline or tradition according to Richard J. Foster. This is something that can change our heart. Foster writes in Streams of Living Water: “Holiness is bodily spirituality. It affirms the goodness of the human body and seeks to bring it into working harmony with the spirit. It utilizes appropriate Spiritual Disciplines for training the body and mind in right living. It is in this sense, ascetical – but never for the sake of the asceticism always for the sake of the

training” (83).

When a person submits their heart and life to God, God will begin to change that person. He will soften their heart,and lead them to become more like Christ. A person who rebels against God will find their heart becoming harder and harder. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 (ESV) talks about how a person can have their conscience seared, like having a hot iron burn them. Scar tissue from a burn has all the nerves seared to the point where they no longer work. This passage says “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,” In other words, a person whose heart is hardened against God will be capable of doing things they would otherwise see as inconceivable. This transgendered person lashed out violently against innocent people. Their conscience was seared. They used guns, but it could have just as easily been a bomb, a knife, or a vehicle. It was the heart of this killer that was instrumental in murdering these innocents.

The second point is, “we should NEVER romanticize the killer.” This seems like a strange thing to say at first glance. However, while this horrible school shooting was still fresh, and the details just coming out there were certain trans-activists who were blaming the Christian school (and Christians in general). They made the killer out as a misunderstood hero. They say the Christians who disagree with them and don’t accept their behavior are at fault. i.e. they brought this on themselves.  These trans-activists wrote that the murderer was so desperate they had no other choice but to kill these people in order to draw attention. I’ve got news for them, there are a lot of better ways to get attention than to commit murder and then suicide by cop. This transgendered person was the monster, not the victim.

Let me explain my point about romanticizing the murderer a little more. There were many tragic teenaged suicides in my twenty five years of serving as a chaplain in law enforcement. What made them even more tragic was when there were copycat suicides. The schools wanted to do right by the teenager who committed suicide, so they would make a big deal about them. They would bring up how tragic their death was. They might talk about how they were misunderstood or had a poet’s soul. They might plant a tree in their honor and hold special assemblies to memorialize them. The unfortunate result would be other teens who would want somehow to have the same kind of attention by taking their own lives in the same way. If we make this transgender killer out to be some kind of tragic hero, there will be others who desire the same kind of attention who will do similar acts of violence. We need to call this act what it was. This was a cowardly act by a violent person who hurt innocent, defenseless people. If we want to prevent future school shootings, we need to show the world this was an act of cowardice against powerless innocents, not a brave act of a desperate person. Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

The last point is, “we need more prayer, not less.” There have many bold (or should I call them arrogant) reporters and politicians who try to shame and silence Christians. They say they don’t want any more prayers without action. They say our prayers are useless. My first thought when I hear this is “How much worse would things have been if not for our prayers.”

Prayer is central to the life of the Christian. Richard J. Foster wrote about the Christians prayer life in his book, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer. He quoted Mother Teresa saying, “Before she died Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, ‘pray for me that I not loosen my grip on the hands of Jesus even under the guise of ministering to the poor” (64).  Action is important. But knee-jerk reaction is not the answer. We can act and make things worse by taking the wrong action. Outlawing guns because a gun was used, would be like outlawing cars because a drunk caused a fatal crash. We need to address the heart of the matter.

Unbelievers think that prayer is ineffectual and doesn’t do anything. They don’t believe in the power of prayer. But the Bible is very clear on the power of prayer. James 5:16b says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Prayer connects us to the power of God. Those who are not Christians may never understand why we choose to pray. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) reminds us, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

        We can react the same way we have always reacted to school shootings. We can argue over gun control laws; we can talk with some kind of reverence about the murderers; and we can further isolate and push against Christians. But this has not worked so far.

We have pushed God out of the conversation in the United States. We have outlawed prayer in schools; we have outlawed the ten commandments; and we have embraced the religion of secular humanism. We have pushed back on the idea that we were created in the Image of God and therefore have human dignity. We have pushed back on the teaching of the Ten Commandments including the command against murder. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) tells us clearly, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

There are some alternatives we can take that can make a difference:

1. We can talk about what made the heart of the murderer so black that they could do such horrible things and how do we prevent it happening again.

2.  We can point out the cowardice in school shooters picking soft targets that couldn’t defend themselves. There is nothing noble or heroic about them.

3. We can bring God back into the conversation and seek his intervention.

Is the Church having a Love Affair with Arrogant Pastors?

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            The role of a pastor or Christian leader is a heady calling. We are privileged to serve the people of God and be His representative. It is a humbling experience to see lives transformed. We are honored to witness the hand of God moving in people’s lives, as we speak words of life and encouragement to them. There is a very real temptation to take on more credit than we deserve. A pastor may be a charismatic speaker and see incredible growth in a congregation but we need to remember it is God who brings the increase, not us.

Most recently I was listening to a podcast called, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” If you are not familiar with this story, Pastor Mark Driscoll pastored a mega church in Spokane WA, called Mars Hill. He was a powerfully gifted orator and drew a crowd anywhere he went. His church grew by leaps and bounds, and it seems most pastors wanted to be just like Mark Driscoll. He was a pioneer in one of the fastest growing church planting ministries in American history. Unfortunately, there were some internal conflicts and reports of bullying and accusations of hurtful arrogance on the part of Driscoll. The accusations eventually bubbled to the surfrace and came out publicly. When Driscoll unexpectedly stepped down as senior pastor, his church imploded. This is a powerful example of how power can go to the head of a pastor, and pride can lead to their downfall

(Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – link below)


            Spiritual formation may help inhibit the arrogance and egotism often prevalent in pastoral ministry, and help to integrate resiliency in ministry leadership. Richard Foster wrote a book back in 2011 called, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer. In this book, he quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning who famously wrote:

            Earth’s crammed with Heaven

            And every common bush afire with God;

            But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. (74)

It is so important for us to remember where our strength and help comes from. We are only successful because God gives us strength, talent, and even the very breath we breathe.

There are many things that can lead a ministry leader into pride and arrogance in the pulpit. High on that list is assumptions that the ministry would fail without them. They may work 7 days a week because they are afraid if they step away something may fail. Alan Fadling reminds us that when a person doesn’t stop working until everything gets done, they will never stop working. There is always more that needs to be accomplished. If there were more hours in the day, or more days in the week, the extra time would quickly be filled with more busy work. Some will say the work is too important to wait. Fadling says, “Sabbath can be a weekly reminder that our work is not sovereign, but God is” (122). Then he says, “Today is the day to enter into a weekly rhythm of ceasing my work one day in seven. Here I more deeply remember that God’s work always precedes mine” (122).

Pastors are extremely busy. There is a constant demand for our time and resources. Unfortunately the first thing to go is often taking a sabbath day off. There is so much to do, and all of it seems good and worthwhile. After all the Bible tells us to give our all in ministry, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16 KJV) It can be so tempting to think “God can’t do this work without me.” The truth Is God is wiser than we are. When we take a regular day for sabbath we step out on faith that God will continue working even when we are not.  We acknowledge that God is in control. We are telling God that we are wiser than He is when we get into a mindset that we are indispensable. Isaiah 5:21 reminds us, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!”

            Pride was the sin that caused Satan to think he could put his throne above God’s and that got him thrown out of Heaven. He tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the idea that they could become “like God” by simply eating the forbidden fruit. We are taught as young children to take pride in our work, and pride in ourselves. Pride and arrogance may seem annoying to those who witness it, but harmless. But pride and arrogance can be devastating for a minister.

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18:9-14. It says, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” We may think this parable is just for the legalistic pastors who think they are wiser than anyone else. But if you read the gospels, even the disciples were caught on at least one occasion having an argument over who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus told them the one who is humble as a little child is the greatest. If even the Apostles had to wrestle with pride and arrogance, who are we to think we are exempt from this temptation?

            There is another example of the consequences of relying on one’s own ability instead of on God in the Old Testament. King David was a mighty warrior, and was blessed by the Lord. He had a loyal army who could fight incredibly well. However, King David decided to number his people to determine how much power he actually had. Perhaps he was considering a draft and wanted to see how many he could call up to serve in his army. This displeased the Lord. 1 Chronicles 21:1 records this saying, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” We don’t know the circumstances of this numbering, but it is easy to speculate that David wanted a head count of how many people were at his disposal to force into military service. The point is, David had no reason to know these numbers if he trusted the Lord. God said He would fight for Israel, and by numbering the people, David was showing his own doubt and distrust of the Lord.

            Pride can be summarized as an arrogant attitude of self-sufficiency. We can demonstrate this in not taking a sabbath, and practicing other spiritual disciplines. We may think we are too busy to pray, or to spend time in the Word. We are promoting our own self-importance in neglecting these things. Spending time in prayer allows us to petition the Lord, and to listen to his direction. Studying God’s Word brings it into our spirit, and often God speaks to us directly through His Word. Taking a sabbath puts our trust back on God in that He will help us accomplish what we need to do in six days instead of seven. It takes away our self-exaltation and the philosophy that God needs “us” to accomplish his purposes and that He can’t use anyone else.

Christian leaders are expected to love God and love others. Someone once said, “The opposite of servant leadership is arrogance. Arrogant leadership is not spiritual leadership. And arrogant pastors are not spiritual pastors.” There are too many arrogant pastors in the United States (perhaps the world). Pastors who do not keep spiritual disciplines and especially regular sabbath are in danger of falling into pride and arrogancy. John Ortberg has famously said, “Better to be a loving person without knowing how you got there, than an expert no one can stand to be around.”

            People in our society are hurting. A pastor who has an intimate relationship with God having spent time in spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines will be better equipped to touch and minister to others with the kind of love that can reach the hurting people in our society. Spiritual formation leads us to become the kind of Christian leaders who will be able to break through the barriers that people put up and see them come to Christ where they will find a gentle savior who will give them rest for their souls.

            Have you been guilty of arrogance in the pulpit? Do you need to repent for your own pride? My encouragement to you is to keep a short account of sin. Go to God and quickly seek forgiveness when you recognize pride, and repent. To repent means to turn around and go the other way. Don’t continue in that sin. The best cure I have found for pride is spending time in the presence of God. That may mean getting quiet and still before the Lord. Ask the Lord what He would have you know, then shut down your mind and listen. Practice the spiritual discipline of lectio divina where you meditate on a passage from God’s Word. Take time for a regular sabbath. Many, if not all of the spiritual disciplines can accompany a sabbath. In modern society, you may have your sabbath on a Monday, or a Friday instead of the traditional Sunday. Take the sabbath and enjoy rest with the Lord, and recreation with family (more on that in a future blog). God bless you as you seek His face and seek to be transformed by His Holy Spirit.

Review of “A Testament of Devotion”

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By Thomas R. Kelly Copyright 1941, 1962, 1992

Once in a while you may read a book that really alters your perception of reality. It will have an impact on your faith, your convictions, and your relationship with God. This is such a book. A Testament of Devotion is not a very big book. It has a total of only 129 pages, but sometimes, dynamite comes in small packages. One could easily read it in less than a weekend, but I would not recommend it. It’s the kind of book that should be read slowly, and digested, with as few distractions as possible.

Thomas R. Kelly wrote a classic in this small volume. I believe it was first copyrighted in 1941, so it was certainly written to a different audience than what we have today. Yet, many of the truths in this book are simply timeless. It may be difficult to find, but it is well worth the search. I found a used copy on ebay. It was well loved and has lots of underlining, and dog-eared pages. Someone scribbled notes in the margins. I found myself adding my own highlighting of passages to come back and read again later. It is among the best things I have read outside of the Bible in a very long time.

I want to just give some highlights, while not giving away everything in the book. Kelly has a way with words that I admire. In the section on holy living, on page 34, he writes about the times we slip and fall in our walk. He eloquently writes, “If you slip and stumble and forget God for an hour, and assert your old proud self, and rely on your own clever wisdom, don’t spend too much time in anguished regrets and self-accusations but begin again, just where you are.”  Later on the same page he says, “Don’t grit your teeth and clench your fists and say, “I will! I will!” Relax. Take hands off. Submit yourself to God. Learn to live in the passive voice – a hard saying for Americans – and let life be willed through you. For “I will!” spells not obedience.” This is such good advice. Not to get too theological, but I think sometimes we slip and commit a sin, and then beat ourselves up over it for too long, rather than repenting, and moving on with what God has called us to do.

Many Christians today frown on any show of emotion when worshipping God. I don’t know where they get this from, as if being solemn, and looking like you have been sucking a green persimmon makes you some how holier than those around you. The Bible talks about how King David danced mightily before the Lord, and instead of being rebuked, it was said of him that he was a man after God’s own heart. Kelly talks about feeling the presence of the Lord, and the emotions that may go with this. He writes on page 70 of these periods of feeling the presence of God, “Sometimes these periods are acute and brief, too dazzling to report to anyone. Sometimes they are less elevated but more prolonged, with a milder sense of glory and of lift, yet as surely of a piece with the more acute experience.” I have experienced these moments with the Lord, as I have sought spiritual formation, and to partner with the Holy Spirit in this.

Sometimes we can get so full of ourselves that there isn’t room for much of anything else. Kelly warns against us having this kind of prideful attitude. He writes on page 72:

“Religion is not our concern: it is God’s concern. The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call men to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine. Our task is to encourage others first to let go, to cease striving, to give over this fevered effort of the self-sufficient religionist trying to please an eternal deity. Count on God knocking on the doors of time. God is the Seeker, and not we alone.”

As you seek to draw closer to the Lord, I want to encourage you to find those quiet times with the Lord, spending time in silence. Bring your petitions to the Lord, but instead of ending your prayer at that point, ask the Lord what He would have you to know. Then take time in silence to listen for that still small voice.  I would also recommend you begin a library of good books on spiritual formation. Don’t substitute these for spending time in your Bible, but use them to supplement your devotion time. Become a well read follower of Jesus Christ. I invite you to return to this blog frequently as I hope to not only review books on spiritual formation that will help your growth in Christ, but to include articles by myself and guest writers to encourage and strengthen you.

God bless you my faithful friends.

Silence: A Lost Spiritual Discipline?

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How Practicing Silence Before the Lord can Lead to Spiritual Formation

Have you ever been out in the woods, away from all the noise of the city? Maybe you were camping, or fishing, or just taking a nature walk. There is something soothing about the quiet. Most of us are so used to the noise and busyness of our world that we tune most of it out. But have you ever noticed it is harder to have a conversation with someone in a noisy environment? It’s easy to feel like no one is paying attention to you when you are in a crowd. Do you think God ever feels that way when He is trying to get our attention? The spiritual discipline of silence is a largely forgotten practice.

There was a time when men and women would seek solitude when they prayed. They would shut out the world, its noise and demands. It is much harder today to get away in the age of cell phones, and always being available.

There are many spiritual practices that lead to spiritual formation. The list of spiritual practices may include scripture reading, meditation, silence, prayer, giving, sabbath keeping, and others. I want to talk to you a little bit about the spiritual discipline of silence.

A few years ago one of my professors, Dr. Gene Maynard from Epic Bible College in Sacramento, offered a class in Spiritual Formation. One of the projects was to go to a Christian camp and spend some time in practicing the spiritual discipline of silence. He gave us some instruction, and as I remember, we were asked to spend two hours without talking and just spending time with God. We were instructed to pray “Lord, what would you have me to know today?” and then still our minds and just listen for two hours. We were invited to do a nature walk, or just sit in a comfortable chair and be still. This seemed very intimidating at first, but it was so amazing! What an experience. I felt so close to God during this two hours. I loved it and try to get out in nature and repeat the experience as often as I can.

The world is loud, and noisy. Most of the time, there is so much noise, it is hard to hear the still small voice of God. In Quaker churches today, they have times of silence as part of their worship service.  They take the time to still themselves before God and listen. There is a passage in 1 Kings 19:11-13, that describes how God speaks in times of silence. Elisha had confronted the evil queen Jezebel, and she had threatened his life. He fled to the wilderness away from her. Here is where we pick up part of the story. It reads:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The noise and busyness of the world can create a cacophony of tumult. It is hard to hear the voice of the Lord with such a constant hullabaloo going on. Dallas Willard speaking at The Center for Personal and Relational Growth, in April 2019 put it this way: “God coaxes Elijah out of his cave of depression and onto the mountaintop: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by” (1 Kings 19:11)” (21). God uses a still small voice with Elijah. He was not in the storm or in the fire – in all the noise and chaos. He reached Elijah with a whisper. If Elisha, the great prophet had to be quiet to hear God’s whisper, then we should do the same thing.

Richard Foster talks about being quiet before the Lord in his book “Sanctuary of the Soul.” He talks about how when we enter into a time of silence and meditative prayer, that is the time when everything begins screaming for our attention. He calls it having a noisy heart. He goes on to talk about how even our time of Christian worship has become of less help in shutting out noise and distraction. He writes:

Sadly, our Christian worship services are of no help here.  Today for the most part, they have become one huge production in distraction.  Worship meant to draw us into the presence of God has become little more than an organized way of keeping us from the presence of God.  So it is little wonder that when we are first learning meditative prayer, we need help in how to control a wandering mind. (104-105)

It’s hard to imagine worship being a distraction to us as Foster puts it. But if you have gone to a church where they have a full production in worship, with lights, fog machines, and very loud music, I can see his point. Peter Scazzero is the author of The Emotionally Healthy Church. Scazzero writes about cultivating a quiet time with the Lord. He says, “Cultivating an intentional life with our Lord requires intentionally focused time – for silence, prayer, meditation on Scripture, and reading. But we are surrounded by endless distractions and voices that call us away from sitting at the feet of Jesus. Yet it is our only hope for seeing through the illusions and pretense of our world and for providing leadership to those around us” (206).

The Quakers have long practiced silent meditation as a part of their worship.  For many of us, this is strange and a bit foreign, but if you have an open mind to what God is doing, it can enrich your daily devotions. Richard Foster talks about one of his professors who gave three specific words of instruction for worship from the Quaker tradition. The three words were “center down,” “seek to be gathered into the power of God” and the third was to be careful not to run ahead, or get too far behind the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Foster went on to define some of these “words” about our worship. He wrote, “To center down in a Quaker context means to let go of all distractions and feelings; to become fully present to what is happening here, now; to silence our mind, which is askew with meandering thoughts, and our mouth, which is full of many words” (51-52).

When we quiet ourselves, we pray and then allow God to speak to us, we may get specific direction. God may well have something in particular He wants us to do. We may not hear an audible voice, but God may well speak to our spirit with a still small voice. Foster suggests we spend time during devotions meditating on God’s Word, quieting our heart and mind, and then taking action. Foster writes, “We allow God’s great silence to still our noisy heart” (63). Interestingly, Foster says our spiritual formation is not just about meditation, but God also calls believers to take action after hearing from Him. Foster writes, “In the biblical witness we have this dual nature of meditation on stillness and action” (20). So according to Foster, our prayer, meditation, and listening for the voice of God should lead us to action. Once a person hears from God, they are to take action on what He has told them.

In summary, part of the goal of silence before the Lord is to still our own minds, to shut out the noise and busyness of the world, to enable us to hear the still small voice of God. This helps partner with the Holy Spirit in spiritual formation, making us more like Christ. Being silent  may be easier when taking time to do a nature walk, or just being away from the city. This is not always convenient, but we can certainly turn off our electronics during devotion time. Many spiritual disciplines rely on being still and quiet before the Lord. Tuning out the world, and all of its noise will help in focusing on the spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation. The quiet rest in the Lord will refresh us, and then following the call and direction from the Lord after being quiet will energize us.

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There are Christians who have been followers of Jesus Christ for many years. They were on fire for God when they first got saved, and thought nothing could every change how they felt. Over time, that zeal seemed to wane. Secretly, now, they think they have lost that zeal, that closeness with the Lord they once had. They long for those days when they felt so close to the Lord. Perhaps you are wondering this yourself? Have you wondered what you can do to regain that intimacy you once had with the Lord? I have been there too. The missing key may well be spiritual formation. Many Christians since the time of Christ have asked some of the same questions. My hope is you will join me on this journey of discovery. We will examine how spiritual formation can be a game changer, as together we draw closer to Christ and we are transformed by Him.

I invite you to join me on a spiritual journey to become more and more like Christ. Spiritual formation is nothing but a fancy theological term. Spiritual formation is a more modern way of saying sanctification. Bruce Demarest gave a great definition of spiritual formation in his book, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality. He wrote, “Spiritual formation is an ancient ministry of the church, concerned with the “forming” or “reshaping” of a believer’s character and action into the likeness of Christ” (22-24). 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) partially describes this process saying, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

There are two primary theories about how spiritual formation occurs. the first is that this is completely the work of the Holy Spirit. The Christian has no influence or ability to change this. The second theory is that the Christian can partner with the Holy Spirit in the work of spiritual formation by practicing spiritual disciplines. I fall in this second camp, as do many other scholars. There are many passages of scripture suggesting the main work of spiritual transformation is the job of the Holy Spirit, where Christians partner with the Holy Spirit in that work. By clarification, that work is not the saving grace of salvation which is completely the work of Christ and his shed blood.

There are many Christian people who have been a Christian for many years. Secretly, they think they seem to have lost that zeal, that closeness with the Lord they once had. Perhaps you have wondered what you can do to regain that intimacy you once had with the Lord. The missing key may well be spiritual formation. My hope is you will join me on this journey of discovery, as together we draw closer to Christ and are transformed by Him.