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#Lent#3

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

The way the story of the Bible, the way the truth weaves its way through the whole Biblical narrative has never ceased to impress me.  It starts in Genesis 3 with the Fall and God’s judgment on the serpent-the animal and the force behind it.

  • “On your belly you will go and eat dirt”
  • “And I will put enmity between you and woman and between your seed and her seed.”
  • “You will bruise His heel; He will bruise your head.”

And then this!  “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8)

Satan would only bruise Jesus’ heel (cause Him to suffer), but Jesus would bruise Satan’s head (destroy him). Unless you are Achilles, a blow to the heel won’t kill you.  A blow to the head can and, if it lands just right, will.

The cross was that place.  Jesus suffered (His heel was bruised) but Satan was defeated by suffering a fatal blow (head slammed).  Thank God for the cross and the resurrection!

#Lent#Number2

Friday, February 28th, 2020

I’ve noticed lately that there is a movement to get rid of God’s wrath. What I mean by that is that we want to talk about God’s love and patience and kindness and goodness and forgiveness. The risk is that we want to excuse and escape talk or even thinking about God’s wrath.

What is strange though is the whole Easter story-the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection focus on God’s wrath. Oh, not as we think. God’s wrath predicted. God’s wrath fulfilled. God’s wrath satisfied. The biblical word is propitiation.  Consider these verses:

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” I John 2:2

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:10

“Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Rom.3:25

*Propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath by providing a substitute…The substitute, Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath; he absorbs it and diverts it from us to himself. God’s wrath is just, and it was spent, not withdrawn.*

And you know what’s amazing? It was God’s idea. Think about that! Chew on it. Then remember, it was His plan all along.

Note: All statements made by John Piper are highlighted with an * outlining his statement. They come from his book The Passion of Jesus Christ.

#Lent#Number1

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

Have you ever been to a Passion Play? I have. We visited some friends once who lived in Missouri. They took us to the “other side” of civilization to see a Passion Play in Arkansas. Fascinating!

But it sure seems strange to call something a Passion Play, given our current idea of passion. Until you know it derives from the Latin word which means suffering.  Then it makes total sense. It relates to the suffering and death of Jesus.

Can anyone deny the passion-the depth of being-involved in that death? The pain. The suffering. The agony. The resolute heart and mind. A conviction that led to His death and subsequent resurrection? *The controversy about who killed Jesus is marginal. He chose to die. The Father ordained it. He embraced it.*

Did you catch that? He embraced it. Ugly though it was. Painful though it was. Lonely though it was. He embraced His death. He embraced the passion of His life and death.

There are those who want to deny the crucifixion. I’ve been reading enough about that lately. They may grant that Jesus lived. It is hard to deny history. But they may say He never died (if they agree He lived). *But to deny Jesus was crucified is like the denial of the Holocaust.*  Unbelievable. I knew someone who did.  Respect for that individual ended. Wipe my hands of that nonsense.

During this Lenten season, think anew about the passion of Jesus.

Note: All statements made by John Piper are highlighted with an * outlining his statement. They come from his book The Passion of Jesus Christ.

#Ashes#Lent

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

I want to start out this post with a confession, something you need to know right up front.

I come from a tradition that does not observe Lent. When I was in high school I would see teachers, and maybe a classmate or two, walk around with this black spot on their forehead. I remember one teacher, Mr. Bano, who had this dark spot on his forehead. I almost…almost…went up to him and said something about having a black smudge on his forehead. But I didn’t. I’m glad because he had been to his Catholic church that morning before school.  I didn’t know.  Strangely, I grew up with a large contingent of Catholic people in my school and I had no clue what was going on.

Fast forward to the early ’70s when I was in Bible college (yeah I’m that old) and I was being taught the “evils” of other beliefs-of denominations, cults (agreed), and other faiths (agreed). We were above the others in that we were not a denomination. (I now say hogwash to that theory). Anyway, I was still not taught the idea of Lent.  I also do not consider myself a part of that particular group any more. And haven’t for multiple years.

It wasn’t until I was here in Spencer that I decided to stop being ignorant of something so widespread.  I found out Lent was (supposedly) a solemn time of religious observance that began on Ash Wednesday until what is called Maundy Thursday.  For more you can read here  or here.  I still have to confess that I am not much into special day observances like Lent. Resurrection Sunday (Easter) and Christmas are different.  What I never grasped was this whole idea of giving up something for 40 days for what? One year I tried it. I gave up caffeine pop. The day it was over I had my Diet Dr. Pepper. What did it accomplish? Ummmm nothing, except I didn’t drink caffeine pop.  One year I gave up chips. That wasn’t so big of a deal. At one point I had given up fries and chips for 7 years for my health. I am now into month 15 of giving up pop (soda to some of you).  I can’t say it is a spiritual thing because it is not. It has been a health thing. I’ve been drinking water with extra lemons at restaurants (it does make the bill cheaper), but like I said there is no spiritual significance attached to it.  I don’t drink coffee at all. Can’t stand the taste of it. We are a coffee-less family, except for one member of our extended family.

All that to say (finally! you must be thinking) that I am challenging myself during this Lenten season. Not to give up something, but to add something. As much as I can, I am going to challenge myself to blog some type of Lenten thought here on this blog. I also have to say there might be some cross-pollination between this blog and my “Shadow” blog.  That nature of the beast requires some “shortcuts” along the way. I will also tell you that I will be using John Piper’s excellent little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ, as a way to “seed” my thoughts. I have read it twice before (I have the colored underlines to prove it) but it has been a couple of years since I have. I’ll give credit where credit is due.

I hope you will join me as I try this self-imposed challenge.  In fact, if you would like to get “meaty” with me and take up the challenge on your own blog, then I welcome it and will link to your post as well.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post4

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Christmas vs Easter.

Celebratory vs Solemn.

That’s often the way we look at Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve vs Good Friday. The tree vs the Cross. Not until Easter morning-Resurrection Sunday-does the 40 days leading up to it become a celebration.

In my mind it is not a case of either/or.  It is a case of both/and. In God’s grand scheme Christmas is not more celebratory than Easter. Sure Christmas is a time of celebration-nowadays dating back to the day after Thanksgiving (and now creeping closer to Halloween). And Easter tends to be more of a one day of celebration.

But if you really think about it, without Christmas Easter makes no sense. And without Easter Christmas is only an introduction but has no conclusion. Taken separately Christmas speaks of a birth; Easter speaks of a death & resurrection. Seen together we see Someone born; we see Someone die; we see Someone born to die.

We often hear during this time of the year the slogan “Wise men still seek Him.” True. But not just Christmas. Wise men worship the child who was born and the man who would die.

“Father, I thank you for the story of Christmas. I thank you for the story of Easter. And I thank you they make more sense and have more meaning when seen together.”

Don’t forget to check out Ed at http://inpulsearts.com

Don’t forget to check out Diane at http://adoredheart.blogspot.com

Victory!

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Some of the thoughts I plan to share Sunday:

Sooner or later death comes. The statistics are staggering: 1/1!!

Science has done nothing to deal with death. It may be prolonging life in some cases. It has definitely helped alleviate pain. But it hasn’t solved the problem of death.

Death is our enemy. But to followers of Jesus death is a stepping stone to something much better.

Jesus abolished death. His resurrection which we celebrate today conquered it. It is because of the cross where forgiveness of sins was paid for, and because of the resurrection where victory was won, that we have and can talk about hope today.

Praying you have a great Resurrection Sunday!

Alone

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

As in “leave well enough…”

This is not a post about being Alone, although I have had my share of that this past week as I’ve spent time with people who have lost people they love.

This is about something we say, why we say it and what brought it up.

I was in the local Circle K buying gas for my truck and mower and while waiting in line I looked down and about gagged. M&Ms staring me right in the face. Mint since the package was green?

NO.

Jalapeno-flavored M&Ms. Are you kidding me? Since I knew the clerk I made a comment to him and the other patron about it. Jalapeno-flavored M&Ms? The clerk shuddered along with me and the other customer when I said something, then the clerk said something wise (least in my eyes): “Why can’t they just leave chocolate alone?” Plain. Peanut. Mint. Crunch. Toffee. Caramel. Caramel with Sea Salt. Raspberry Crunch. Peanut Butter. I’m sure there are others.

But Jalapeno?

Sounds like some who thinks change is good. Change is good…if it has a purpose. But change for the sake of change? Not so. I want to ask them the same question as the clerk did: “Why can’t they just leave it alone?” I’m all for change. I don’t like sameness. I get bored. Changing the order of service around is okay by me. Changing the style of music (as long as it isn’t country, rap, hip hop, or any of those other foreign entities) is okay. 🙂 Changing seating is okay. You get my point. But to change the message. N.O. W.A.Y.  The medium may change but the message never changes.

The message of the cross must never change. We may present it differently than we have in the past or even than others do, but the message of the cross is rock solid. THAT MESSAGE NEVER CHANGES!! N.E.V.E.R!!! Have I said that enough?

We are in the week many denominations call “Holy Week.” While I don’t belong to one of them, nor do I put any extra emphasis on this week, I want to be mindful of what is coming. Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. I want my message on the cross to be specific and clear.  That message will never change and I will leave well enough it alone.

Done!

Friday, April 12th, 2019

There is nothing like the satisfaction of being able to shake our hands together and feel the relief of a job well done. Whether it is a one-day job or a month-long job, being able to breathe a sigh of accomplishment is a good thing.

There should be no question that Jesus lived a unique life. Even the people recognized something was different about Him. “No one ever spoke like this man” was not uncommon to hear. The religious leaders couldn’t handle His frankness and willingness to call it like it was when it came to their religious hypocrisy. Here is something you might find interesting. Max Lucado in his book He Chose the Nails has written a chapter called “I Understand Your Pain.” Near the end of the chapter he talks about fulfilled prophecies, especially at the end of Jesus’ life. After giving a breakdown of some of those prophecies, Max goes on to say that Jesus fulfilled 332 distinct prophecies in the OT. The mathematical possibilities of all these prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man is 1/84 with 97 zeroes!! Now that is amazing and sort of throws a dagger into the old lie of “Jesus just happened to be the right man at the right time.”

The two statements I will be considering Sunday are just another example of fulfilled prophecies. One is a cry for relief and the other is a statement of completion. “I thirst.” “It is finished.”

I’m not ashamed to ask for your prayers. It has been a super long week and weekend and I can feel my body and mind a tad bit tired. I’d appreciate your prayers for my strength and also my spirit. And please say a prayer for those who listen.

PAIN

Friday, April 5th, 2019

I am going to take a break from my Effectiveness posts to tell you about the sermon this weekend. I’ve titled it Remembered and Forsaken. Sort of an anomaly there. Or at least a dichotomy of thought.

Have you ever been in such pain you couldn’t do much else but cry or agonize? I’ve heard stories about women in the throes of labor who look at their husbands with anger (and almost hate) in their eyes and blame them for all the pain. It is all their fault!! As if…  🙂

Maybe you have been in a burn unit or been the victim of some burns and know of the agony of that accident. i spoke with someone just yesterday (I stopped my bike ride to visit) who was burning a stump and the flash caught him and burnt a good part of his body.  Over a year later he said he still has excruciating pain at times. UGH!

Multiply that pain and agony a hundredfold and you have what Jesus experienced on the cross after hours of torture, a crown of thorns jammed on his head, nails in his hands and feet, and constantly struggling to breathe. When I had my accident I thought of no one else but Jo and of my pain.  Jesus had thoughts of others.

The series is titled “Last Words.” Ryan started the series last week and I am continuing the 7 sayings of Jesus on the cross. I will be preaching on #3 & #4: His heart for His mother (“Behold your mother/son” and His hurt for His Father (“Why have you forsaken me?”).  I’d appreciate your prayers for me this week.

Suicide

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Warning. Spoiler Alert. This is not going to be a fun post to read. Or write for that matter.  This is not a fun subject, a joking matter, or something to be taken lightly. Everyone of us has probably, in some way, been touched by suicide. Either we are survivors of it (those left behind) or we know someone who has threatened suicide or someone who died of suicide.  As a pastor I would love to say it has never touched a church I have pastored or affected someone in the church. I could give you statistics but that would belabor it.  Because I am a pastor, and because I want to reach out to the survivors, I felt a definite need to “read up” on it. I feel God definitely led me to a book called Grieving a Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu. A few months after his wedding, Dr. Hsu’s father took his life. No doubt depression played a major part in his father’s actions after a major stroke three months earlier.

What makes this book so helpful is his personal involvement in it. It is not a clinical “this-is-what-is-wrong-with-people” approach. Nor is it a book which condemns people to hell who take their life (I won’t do that either). What I especially liked about the book is it can be read and understood by the common person. Like me. I have no visions of grandeur about my intelligence. I like things simple. Dr. Hsu does that. He doesn’t back down from the hard questions but neither does he get heavy-handed. The ones who won’t like this book are those looking for proof of condemnation. If you are one of those, go looking at the comics. I prefer not to cross swords or paths with you.

Here is one example of down-to-earth teaching: there is some discussion about the use of terms-committed suicide vs  completed suicide. I have always use the former but there is someone in the church who uses the latter. His thoughts? Survivor’s react against the former saying it sounds criminal. I’ll grant that now. The latter, he says, “sounds like a laudatory accomplishment…It comes across as somewhat clinical and cold.” (p.169)  His suggestion? “My dad died from suicide” or “my dad took his own life.”  He also recoils against describing suicide as “successful.” (p.170).

I simply cannot recommend this book enough. It is also interspersed with excellent and informative items like “Warning Signs of Suicide”; “Facts About Suicide”; and others. It is helpful if you are a survivor and are looking for help, and it is helpful if you want to help someone. Check out the right sidebar of my blog for more information on the book.

Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope