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easter

April 12, 2009

It is Easter today, and I woke up thinking about this song, a new favorite Easter hymn. It is written (not surprisingly) as a collaborative effort between Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. You can find at least a couple of different versions of it at Amazon or on iTunes. There is the studio version on the Getty’s album In Christ Alone or, the one I prefer, a live recording by Stuart Townend on the album See, What a Morning. With solid lyrics and a fitting melody, it simply rejoices in what this day is all about: Christ is risen from the dead!

See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce, “Christ is risen!”
See God’s salvation plan,
Wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, “Where is He laid?”
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with pow’r and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

March 31, 2009

This is the third day of our thirteen days spent reading The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. Today’s text is from Luke 22:43: “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.”

In this chapter Leahy writes about the angel who comforted Christ and shows that the angel not only brought comfort, but that he strengthened Christ for the greater pain and torment he was about to endure. “The angel’s presence served to aggravate his suffering.” Here is a passage that stood out to me:

*****

There was an outstretched hand, his Father’s hand—even in the darkness—and Christ knew it. Initially the presence of the angel must have brought some modicum of comfort to the Sufferer. It came at a moment when unaided human nature could no longer take the strain. It was a critical moment. Christ knew that his sorrow was “unto death” and as Dr Frederick Godet remarks, this was “no figure of rhetoric.” But it was not the Father’s will that the Saviour should die in the garden, and just as after the temptation in the wilderness angels ministered to him (Matt. 4:11), so now he was strengthened by an angel. How strange is the sight! A creature sent to minister to the Creator! But then, as man he “for a little while was made lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9). Here the theologians run out of answers. Mercifully so! There is a place for mystery. There is need for ground on which, in a unique sense, one walks by faith and not by sight. Bishop Ryle says well of Christ’s experience in Gethsemane, “It is a depth which we have no line to fathom.”

For one fleeting moment immense joy must have leaped within Christ’s soul as the Father’s hand touched him. This was a message from home. Heaven was behind him. He was forsaken, but not disowned. His Father was there, somewhere in the darkness. His loud cries and tears had not been unnoticed.

March 30, 2009

This is day two of our thirteen-day trek through Frederick Leahy’s The Cross He Bore. Today Leahy looks to Jesus’ words of submission to the Father. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39).

Here is a favorite quote:

*****

How clearly the true humanity of Christ is seen in Gethsemane, more so than in much of our standard dogmatics! For evangelicals are so concerned to defend the deity of Christ, and rightly so, that often they hardly know how to handle his humanity! Here, in Gethsemane, we see the sinless, finite humanity of Christ in deep and terrible distress. Calvin said that Christ had horror at the prospect of death because “he had before his eyes the dreadful tribunal of God, and the judge himself armed with inconceivable vengeance; and because our sins, the load of which was laid upon him, pressed him down with their enormous weight. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if the dreadful abyss of destruction tormented him grievously with fear and anguish.” Yes, fear and anguish; but, unlike the experience of all others, it was fear untainted by sin. It was Ambrose who said, “He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; and, laying aside the delights of the eternal Godhead, he experiences the affliction of my weakness.”

In Gethsemane it was never a question whether the Saviour would obey or disobey. In Eden God asked, “Adam, where are you?” In a sense the question was repeated in Gethsemane and this Adam did not try to hide; he had no need to; his whole response was clearly, “Here am I!”

March 29, 2009

Over the next thirteen days, I will be reading one chapter each day of Frederick Leahy’s book The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer. I know that many of you will be reading along as well. My plan is simply to post a favorite quote or two, or perhaps a small reflection on the chapter. I will then open it up for discussion if you have something you’d like to add. This will culminate on Good Friday with the book’s final chapter.

The first chapter takes us to Gethsemane where Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled.” Leahy looks to these words.

*****

Gethsemane means “the oil press.” David could say, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8). Israel in her long history could say the same. But the suffering Savior could say it best of all, for there in Gethsemane—the oil press—he was crushed and bruised without mercy. But how and why? How is the sudden and dramatic change of atmosphere to be explained, even in a measure? Christ knew all along the death that awaited him. He had grappled with Satan and his legions more than once. He had repeatedly spoken of his death to his disciples, telling them what that death would accomplish. He had prayed with the utmost confidence in his high priestly prayer (John 17). Why, then, is there this sudden plunge into such awful agony, why this shuddering horror? Why is this fruit of the olive tree so severely crushed? Why does the divine record say that in Gethsemane our Lord BEGAN to be sorrowful, sorrowful in a new and terrible way? Was it not because God began forsaking him then? How else is this sorrow unto death to be understood?

“Jesus wept,” but never like this. No previous sorrow of his could match this. At the time of his arrest he declared, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? “THIS CUP“—not some future cup. The cup that was symbolized in the feast (Matt. 26:27,28) was now actual: God was placing it in the Savior’s hands and it carried the stench of hell. But stop!

Schilder is right. “Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect. It is a sanctuary for our faith.” Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes.

July 19, 2007

Thursday July 19, 2007

Books: The NY Times has an early review of the new Harry Potter. “With each installment, the Potter series has grown increasingly dark, and this volume … is no exception.” “Ms. Rowling has fitted together the jigsaw puzzle pieces of this long undertaking with Dickensian ingenuity and ardor.”

Politics: Obama says “sex education for kindergarteners, as long as it is ‘age-appropriate,’ is ‘the right thing to do.’”

Humor: Pecadillo shares a strange story and shows that he shares my dislike for cats, evil creatures that they are.

Du Jour: Timmy Brister writes about being “a Misfit in a World of Impermanence.” Well worth the read, this one.

October 16, 2005

As you may know, Richard Abanes was in town on Friday on a whirlwind promotional tour for his new book, Harry Potter, Narnia, And The Lord Of The Rings. The book, which I have not read, is a comparison and examination of the magic (and magick) in the Harry Potter, Narnia and Lord of the Rings series of books. I caught a few minutes of Abanes’ interview on the local Christian television station and quite agreed with his conclusions about the difference between the magic used by Rowling and that used by Lewis and Tolkien. But perhaps I’ll discuss that another day.

Abanes had a couple of hours of free time in the middle of the day so asked if I’d be interested in having lunch with him. Of course I’m always happy to meet new people (and especially if I know I’ll get some stimulating discussion out of the deal) so I agreed and went to meet him at his hotel. We found a restaurant close by and, well, ate lunch. Of course our primary topic of discussion was Rick Warren and all things Purpose Driven.

First off, as I’m sure you’d expect, Richard is a friendly and personable guy, so we had no trouble getting along just fine. What surprised me a little bit more was that on the whole he agrees, at least on some level, with many of my criticisms of Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life. I told him my top three concerns which I hope will form a topic of discussion on this site later this week and he did not reject them out-of-hand as I might have expected based on his reaction in the various forums and web sites where we have interacted. The difference between us is not so much in our understanding or interpretation of the facts but in what we do with those facts. In the end I feel that the bad begins to outweigh the good and that we need to be particularly suspicious or wary of Rick Warren and his teachings. Richard feels the good by far outweighs the bad.

One excellent point Richard raised, which in my mind does little to exonerate Warren, but which does make some sense, is that much of what comes out under the name of Rick Warren is not from the mind or pen of Rick Warren. In other words, Warren has become so big, so popular, that much of what comes out under the banner of Rick Warren and Purpose Driven is written by other people. Thus it becomes difficult to know what Warren actually believes. I guess it is may be best to rely more fully on those things that we know come directly from Rick, things such as The Purpose Driven Life than those that could be ghost-written. Having said that, if Warren really does disagree with much of what comes out under his name, he should take the obvious and necessary prevantive steps to protect his name and reputation. That he has not done this would seem to indicate that he is not actually concerned about this.

So while Richard and I found much common ground in our disagreements, particularly in the area of Bible translations, we departed amiably, but still disagreeing about the real effects of Warren’s ministry. It was a useful and profitable discussion and one I’m glad I made time for. It is always easy to hide behind a keyboard and discuss this type of disagreement, but it is helpful to put a real face and a real person in place of that computer screen. It was good to meet Richard and see a more personable and (I suppose) rational side of him than I’ve seen online. I am particularly glad to see that he is generally moving on from his defense of Rick Warren and is writing about other topics where more people are bound to agree with him and where he will do more good than harm. Unlike a guy like Dave Hunt, whom I feel made a terrible mistake in his attacks on Calvinism, and who has since done nothing but renew those attacks time and again, Richard is at least moving on from Warren. I hope and trust that his future ministry will be more useful to the body of Christ than it was last year when he released Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him. I believe Abanes has a lot to offer the church - just not in the area of Rick Warren.

August 11, 2005

I have been reflecting this week on the Apostle’s admonition to “avoid evil.” Heady stuff for a vacation, I admit! My need to more fully understand this concept arose as I wrote about movies and the Christian obsession with watching and enjoying them regardless of their content. It took me some time, but I realized that I had reflected on this in the past, though it was several years ago.

The last time I remember writing about the importance of avoiding evil was after reading an article about Jeffery Dahmer. I assume that most North Americans are familiar with him, as he gained great notoriety in the 1990’s as one of America’s most vile serial killers. Over a two-decade period he was responsible for the murder (and sometimes cannibalization and other unmentionable acts) of seventeen men. The usual American media circus accompanied his trial and sentencing. His life came to a violent end when, shortly after being sentenced to life imprisonment, he was murdered by another inmate.

I read the story of his life, from his upbringing in a normal family to his gruesome death in prison, with a kind of horror, but also with a kind of fascination. Though the article was, thankfully, short on specifics, it certainly provided enough detail to show just what a depraved individual Dahmer was. And despite the depravity, I lapped this story up like a dog lapping up his own vomit.

Later in the evening I reflected on the fascination I had felt when reading the article. Why is it that I could be absorbed with something so vile and so unnatural? Why would I even want to know the details of such a life? A couple of possibilities came to mind.

Perhaps it could be that it is simply inconceivable to me that such evil could exist in a mind and body just like mine. In many ways Dahmer was little different than me. He was raised in the same society (albeit a few years before my time) with many of the same values, had a job and paid his taxes. Yet within him lurked this terrible evil. So perhaps my fascination was simply my mind crying out in disbelief that this was a man not too terribly unlike me.

The second possibility may be easier to explain by analogy. I was reminded of a recurring theme within that timeless story Lord of the Rings, a story that most people are now familiar with. Frodo Baggins has been bequeathed a ring of immense power. Though at first he does not realize it, this ring is actually a source of incredible evil. It contains within it the wrath, fury and evil of the sorcerer Sauron, who represents the source of evil within Middle Earth. As the story progresses, we see that Frodo has begun to fall under the ring’s power. The ring has a kind of mind of its own and desires to return to its master. As Sauron’s minions search for this ring, Frodo finds himself drawn to them. The ring, which he wears on a chain around his neck, pulls him towards the power of evil. This evil ring around his neck, desires to return to its wicked master.

Within every human there is an evil nature. The Bible, in Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Anyone who denies that he has these sinful inclinations is in defiance of the obvious. So perhaps the fascination I felt in reading about someone so vile as Dahmer is simply the evil within me drawing me to an even greater source of evil. Perhaps the evil within me is just crying out and pulling me to allow it to return to its master. It is a daunting thought, that lurking within my heart, just barely beneath the surface, is an evil that is fighting to escape.

The third possibility is that my fascination was based on a combination the other two reasons. The side of me that is appalled by wickedness recoiled at the thought of such evil. At the same time, the part of me that delights in all manner of wickedness was drawn towards more and greater evil. One thing that is certain and is beyond possibility is the wisdom of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-24. “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

While I may be drawn to evil, and in fact, am willing to admit that I am drawn to it, the fact remains that God commands that I avoid it. And not only am I to avoid evil, but I am to avoid every kind of evil - the mere possibility or hint of evil. God’s standards are high. So is my propensity towards evil. Evil has a magnetic pull that draws me towards it. Thankfully God, in His great wisdom, has placed within me the Spirit who graciously allows me to see this evil, to hate it, and ultimately to avoid it.