Category Archives: Faith

He is Risen!

I can’t leave the story half-finished! Jesus died for us, but he defeated sin and death – He is Risen!

Let’s pick up the story in Mark 16:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

He is Risen! Happy Easter!

Good Friday

Nothing is normal right now as we all sit in quarantine. Tonight I attended Good Friday service online, and took communion in my living room with my family. The good news is that the Easter practice may change, the Easter story never will. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As I’ve done in years past, I’d like to use my blog post this week just to share with you the story of Christ’s death, from Mark chapters 14 and 15.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 

He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 

While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” 

They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” 

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 

Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” 

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” 

But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” 

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba,Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 

Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 

Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 

Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 

The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 

“Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 

Then everyone deserted him and fled. 

A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 

Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. 

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even then their testimony did not agree. 

Then 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?” 

But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. 

Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. 

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 

Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself !”

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.

Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

It looks dark now, but don’t worry – Sunday is coming!

Fresh Eyes: Another Lesson from Puzzles

I hope you are all healthy, calm, and have plenty of toilet paper. What a surreal couple of weeks we’ve had.

Like many of you, my workplace is closed. I’m staying home, working on things I can do from a distance, and keeping myself busy around the house. My husband is moving our son home from college, so for a few days I’m social distancing with just the dog and the internet for company. Naturally, I decided to pull out a puzzle – the wide, rectangular puzzle that doesn’t fit on my card table.

You know about my puzzle habit; I’ve written about it before. I like the quiet, orderly, accomplishment of a jigsaw puzzle. You can work on them while doing other things, like watching television or talking. You can spend five minutes at the table, or lose hours.

Yesterday I was working on my difficult new puzzle, and the later it got, the harder it was to find the pieces that fit. I thought it was because I did the easier part first. There are a lot of tiny details in this puzzle. I eventually called it a night.

This morning I wandered up to the kitchen and sat down with my coffee. Immediately, I started to see pieces that filled the holes in my puzzle. Pieces were flying into place. I was baffled – I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet!

In that moment I felt like God was speaking to me. “Sometimes you need to step back and take a break to see things clearly.”

In light of current events, that resonated with me deeply!

We suddenly have time on our hands, and we’re inundated with information and misinformation about this virus. People’s lives and livelihoods are in danger. Supplies are hard to find. The future is uncertain. How do we sort through it all, find the truth, and act on it? How do we find peace in the chaos?

The answer is right there in my puzzle lesson – step back, take a break.

Rest on these words:
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

1 Peter 5:17 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Stay healthy and sane, everyone!

Broken Stones

Wow, wow, wow! The second half of February involved about three million things, and it lasted about thirty seconds. Crazy. But I’m here now – thanks for sticking with me!

 

We sang a new song in church recently. It’s called Hallelujah Here Below by Elevation Worship, and the first verse goes like this.

We are an altar of broken stones
But You delight in the offering
You have the heavens to call Your home
But You abide in the song we sing
Ten thousand angels surround Your throne
To bring You praise that will never cease
But hallelujah from here below
Is still Your favorite melody
My first thought when we sang that song was that it reminded me of one of my most prized possessions. Not jewelry, or money, or my favorite shoes, but a drawing my son made when he was about five or six years old. It features his then-favorite football player, LaDainian Tomlinson, and the words “Go LT!”
When Jacob drew that for me, I was impressed, though the drawing itself is not what one would call “impressive.” But it was the first time he put words and pictures together in a drawing. The figure is human-looking, and the colors were chosen to match reality. Jacob knew that I loved football, just as he did, and he chose the subject of his picture thoughtfully. (For some interesting reading about child development as seen through artistic development, click here)
The drawing will never hang in a museum, but it hung on my fridge for a while, and has hung inside one of my kitchen cabinets for over a decade (even through a remodel). Every time I see it, I think of the round-faced little boy who so proudly drew it for me. I remember how he went through a phase where he called me “Honey.” I remember the way he smelled as a baby, and how he would smile at me with his whole chubby face. Now that he’s in college on the other side of the country, those memories are more valuable than ever.
I love that drawing because it was a sincere gift and a sign of development from someone I love.
God feels the same way about us.
God owns everything. He created the universe. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere at once. He is far beyond what we can even understand. Yet He chooses to inhabit the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). He chooses to use us even though we are weak, fragile, and imperfect (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
The song above says “We are an altar of broken stones.” That comes from a passage in Exodus 20, where God is instructing the Israelites about building the altar. Verses 24 and 25 read:
“An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.”
What the Lord is saying to Israel is that He isn’t looking for perfect. He’s satisfied to have us use earth and raw stone as the tools we use to worship Him. He’s looking for willing. He’s looking for that sincere gift that shows our development, and our love for Him.
Rest in that today. You don’t have to have it all figured out. God isn’t keeping His distance until you’re good enough. He delights in you, His child. (Psalm 149:4)

You Are That Man, And So Am I

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1-9 – emphasis added)

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Recently my pastor has been preaching on the stories in the genealogy of Jesus, from Matthew chapter 1. Last week he was talking about King David and Bathsheba. The Israelites were at war with the Ammonites when King David (who probably should have been with his troops at the time…) wandered onto his rooftop and caught sight of a woman bathing on another roof. Lust, abuse of power, adultery, and an unplanned pregnancy followed. Then, to cover his tracks, David brought the woman’s husband home from war, hoping they could pass off the pregnancy as his own child. But the husband, Uriah, refused to sleep with his wife while he was home, so David arranged to have him killed in battle, and took Bathsheba as his own.

This is where the prophet Nathan comes into the story. The quoted text above is how Nathan approached David to confront him about his sins. The story got to David. He was ready to strike at the wealthy man who would steal a beloved lamb out of laziness and greed. Then Nathan dropped the bomb. “You are the man,” he told David. David had everything. He was the king. He had wealth, fame, and military success (does the name Goliath ring any bells?). He had at least two other wives, too.

So what does David and Bathsheba’s story have to do with hunger, poverty, and fair trade? The answer is in Nathan’s words. “You are that man!”

Do you have a place to live? According to a Yale study, 150 million people around the world are homeless, and as many as 1.8 billion lack adequate housing.
Do you have food to eat? According to the UN World Food Programme, 795 million people in the world, about 1 in 9, do not have enough to eat.
Do you have access to clean water? About 4 billion people, nearly two-thirds of the world population, experience severe water scarcity at least part of the year.
Do your children have a chance to grow and learn, or are they faced into (often unsafe) work as children? According to Compassion, 152 million children worldwide are victims of child labor, and nearly half of them are age 11 or younger. About half of employed children work in hazardous conditions. Most of them will never receive an education beyond primary school, and subsequently they will struggle with low-paying jobs all their lives.

Do you ever find yourself saying, “I really need (insert something you do not actually need)?
Do you ever throw things out just because you don’t like them anymore?

Do you ever throw away food or waste water?

Then you are that man. And so am I.

Feeling bad about being fortunate doesn’t help anyone. I’m not pointing this out to make you feel guilty. I’m saying this to remind us to think about your spending. Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Buy fair trade when possible, or second-hand. Research companies that don’t use child labor. Put some effort into creating less waste. Think like the old World War Two era slogan: Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without.

You don’t have to be perfect, just strive to do the next right thing.