WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Faith in the Empty Tomb - 03/27/2016


Easter Sunday is the pinnacle of the Christian faith, not Christmas as many suppose: the single reality that Jesus rose back to life from the grave.  St. Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christianity IS pointless if Jesus did not rise from the dead.

13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

So for me, as a Christian who acknowledges the reality of the empty-tomb, Easter is the celebration of the origins of my faith.  For if there were no resurrection then the Cross was the end of the story – a failed and executed human Jesus. 

But in the reality of the risen Lord I recognize a faith, an active hope, which transcends my five-senses.  Despite the utter despair and hopelessness of what I physically perceive, faith informs me the empty-tomb overcomes.  For faith in the empty-tomb is the spiritual reality that God has conquered sin and death in this world - despite what we perceive. 

Faith in the empty-tomb does not remove the obstacles we face in this world, but rather the obstacles prove our faith.  For it takes no faith to trust God for this month’s rent when there is a million dollars in the bank, but when our last check just bounced and the rent is due then, and only then, will we see if we actually have faith.

So then, faith in the empty-tomb informs us that Christianity is not about “getting saved” but about acknowledging that we have “already been redeemed” by Jesus on the cross.  For His death and blood has defeated sin and death.  Out acknowledgement that this world is not the death that we perceive it to be but, a spiritual reality that always informs us we are on a journey, through this life, toward a new land.  A land flowing with milk and honey with our God.

Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the empty-tomb, is the pinnacle of the Christian faith.  The question is as it always has been – will we acknowledge it?

Happy Easter!  He is alive indeed!

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  (1 John 4:18)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Eyes on Brussels - 03/23/2016


It’s Holy Week, the time of the Christian calendar when we remember the week leading Jesus to the Cross.  As we Christians recognize the Cross that our savior bore I find it helpful to recognize the atrocities against Him.

60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.  (Mark 14:60-61)

We call the day our Lord was executed on the Cross ‘Good Friday’.  We should be struck by the irony that we find goodness in the violent execution of an innocent.  Certainly, the original disciples of Jesus did not call it “Good” – at first.

But as people say, hind-site is always 20-20.

As we journey to the Cross with Jesus this week it is helpful that we should look at the senselessness, the tragic, and the painful while holding firm to the faith that where death exists life will arise.  It is in these terrible times when our faith is stretched to the point of very real death, but only at this point can we see the glorious healing of resurrection.

Let not this world's events during this Holy Week distract us from the reality that our faith is firm in the resurrected life of Jesus whom we celebrate this Sunday.

May we all know the goodness of the Cross.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How We Avoid the Cross - 03/20/2016


I prayed Psalm 2 this week; 

“You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.

And the alarms of illusion to Christ rang loud in my soul.

At the Baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:17 tells us that Jesus is the Son of God.

 17 And a voice from heaven said,
   “This is my Son, whom I love;
      with him I am well pleased.”

And then Matthew 28:18 tells us that Jesus possessed all of the earth.

18Then Jesus came to them and said,
   “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

But my summary of the illusion was not a neat and tidy as it appears here.

After Jesus had been baptized He was declared by God as His Son but before he arrived at the cross on Golgotha the devil tempted him to avoid the cross altogether.  The last temptation of Jesus in Mathew 4:8 tells us that the devil offered Him what God had promised Him way back in Psalm 2.  And the devil’s offer avoided the pain of the Cross.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

It must have been tempting to take the devil up on his offer.  This was quite literally a get-rich overnight scheme that was a guarantee.  It was better than one of those Facebook promises of wealth if you will just Like or Share a certain post.  All Jesus had to do was bow down and worship the evil one.

Sometimes when we think of “bowing down and worshiping Satan” we often think of dark covens of witches, human sacrifices, and tattoos, piercings, or our personal flesh cutting.  Such images of our minds have been propelled by the arts for many centuries and solidified and cemented for us during the middle-ages.  The reality, however, is that all it takes to worship the devil is to avoid the cross.  According to Jesus’ prayer in the Gethsemanean Garden, He even asked God to allow him to avoid the cross.  So I am positive that part of the lure of the devil’s proposition was the avoidance of the shame and pain of it.

When I think of it, I wonder how many times I choose to avoid the Cross in my own life  and how often I inadvertently bow a knee to the devil in order to gain that which God had already promised me.  I know that I have done it – and do it still.

So I am reminded that my words and my attitude need to be that of my Lord’s when he says in Mathew 16:23.

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Sunday, March 13, 2016

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing - 03/14/2016


In 1994 I attended a Promise Keepers’ event in Keswick, New Jersey.  The Promise Keepers was a men’s event calling on men to live with integrity in their Christian lives.  I had been a Christian just a few months and the Promise Keepers were in their infancy of formation.  While the Promise Keepers’ events would eventually reach the size of hosting tens of thousands of men this particular event in Keswick hosted just 1100 men.  The event began with singing the first song O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.  I remember it being a surreal feeling to be among 1000 men who all considered Jesus Lord as they sang with great voices in His honor. 

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you [Greek Plural – you-all], the hope of glory.  (Colossians 1:27)

During this time of my life I was discovering a world that was previously unreal to me, a spiritual reality that connected this familiar physical world and connected it to a mystical one that was not previously visible to me without the baptized eyes of faith.  And to hear the voices of 1000 like-minded men in praise for this Jesus was exhilarating to me.  Their voices confirmed to me that I was not alone in my faith and gave me encouragement to continue on with my new life’s spiritual-discovery.

In O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing is the line “His blood availed for me.”

Up to this point my focus had been on myself and how when Jesus died on the cross he did so specifically for ME but in singing this song with 1000 other tongues I recognized that Jesus died not for me specifically but for WE specifically.  For this song helped me to realize the community of believers, the Church, and the great mystery is that Jesus’ blood availed for WE.  Sure, human bickering, politics, power plays, and egos exist in the church but that’s because the church is comprised of us humans.  However, the fact is the blood that Jesus poured out on the cross defeated sin for the world and I was simply and graciously invited into the community of those who worship this Jesus.

I think this is why I appreciate the a‘Capella worship of the Churches of Christ over the modern idea of worship with today’s praise bands; The one allows me to hear and feel the force of the WE while the other seems to drown out all but the ME.

Either way, though, a thousand voices giving honor to the man who sacrificed himself for us all is a mighty powerful thing.  If you haven’t you should take some time and consider Him today.


O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
'tis music in the sinner's ears,
'tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean;
his blood availed for me.

He speaks, and listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive;
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
your loosened tongues employ;
ye blind, behold your savior come,
and leap, ye lame, for joy.

In Christ, your head, you then shall know,
shall feel your sins forgiven;
anticipate your heaven below,
and own that love is heaven.