Thursday, April 26, 2012

Time is money

I would assume that most people understand the value of time on at least a basic level. Who hasn't lamented that "there aren't enough hours in a day" during a busy spell of life? It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life just to run out of time to do all the things that we intended to do. There is another value to time that may be a bit less obvious. There is a saying that "Time is money" which is generally used in the business world to mean that time not spent making money is time spent losing money. If we really think about it, time really is money in the sense that we get to decide how to spend it in the same way that we would spend dollars. However time is a very limited commodity–we cannot produce any more than we are given every day or are allotted in life–it is also a very valuable commodity. And because it is a valuable commodity how we spend it tells us what we value.

One of the things that my wife and I have decided to do is be more intentional about spending time together. Yes we spend a lot of time together but, for instance, right now we are in the same room sitting a foot apart from one another. Yet as I am typing away and she is doing other things we might as well be worlds apart. It's not that we don't spend quality time together. What we are trying to do is to carve out even more quality time together. One of the places that where we found that we have time to spend together is in the mornings during breakfast.

It started off that we went to Panera Bread for breakfast twice a week. I would drive her to work–we only have one car–and on the way we would stop and get a bagel and coffee. It was great to spend about fifteen to twenty minutes sitting and talking. Unfortunately the extra driving was costing us about an extra tank of gas every week or two. That added to what we spent at Panera, we were spending up to an extra $200 a month to spend about an extra 3-4 hours a month together. We liked spending the time together but didn't want to spend that much money.

And that is where we came up with the idea for Café Mannino.

It is our own personal eatery where we are spending quality time together. What we decided to do is to still get ready like we were going to leave early in order to go to Panera. Then we toasted a few bagels in our own toaster and poured a couple of cups of quality Trader Joe's extra dark coffee. Because we didn't have to fight traffic we actually spent a whole 30 minutes together. The first week stuck to the same schedule as our old Panera schedule. The second week we decided to expand to five days.

So over the course of a month we are now going to spend an extra 10 hours together all the while saving anywhere from $120-200. That is the equivalent to an extra day off of work every month.

I share this as an example of how we were able to squeeze a bit of quality time out of each day that adds up over the long haul. We decided that spending time together in the mornings was more important than other things that we could be doing. It took a bit of creativity and sacrifice but it is something that can be done if it is important to you.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What about the Contradictions?

I found an interesting article by Dr. Craig Blomberg about what appear to be (or even actually are) discrepancies in the Bible. It starts off by stating the challenge put forth:

"Skeptics often charge that the Bible’s historical books hopelessly contradict each other. And if that’s the case, they charge, then the Bible cannot be trusted in anything it says...On the surface, the Bible’s historical books can appear to disagree. These range all the way from very minor variations in wording to the most famous apparent contradictions."

So what should we do with these issues? The thing that we shouldn't do is to ignore them.

Dr. Blomberg gets right to the point:

"But once you allow for paraphrase, abridgment, explanatory additions, selection and omission—acceptable techniques even in many of today’s writing styles—the books are extremely consistent with each other by ancient standards, which are the only standards by which it’s fair to judge them."

Even further Dr. Blomberg quotes Simon Greenleaf of Harvard Law School:

"There is enough of a discrepancy to show that there could have been no previous concert among them; and at the same time such substantial agreement as to show that they all were independent narrators of the same great transaction."

And he also quotes German scholar Hans Stier:

"Every historian is especially skeptical at that moment when an extraordinary happening is only reported in accounts which are completely free of contradictions."

What I think is important to keep in mind in situations where we are facing a challenge from someone about contradictions in the Bible is that the issue is rarely the issue. Generally the real issue is not that there are difficulties in the Bible. When I have engaged someone in the past regarding these difficulties they had not rejected either the God of Christianity or the idea of God in general because of them. Rather these objections were being raised as a support for their presupposition that the God of the Bible does not exist. So while it is profitable and important to be able to answer these challenges, we need to keep in mind that when someone raises these challenges that there are usually bigger challenges lurking behind.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Youth Fitness Specialist

I was walking to the library the other day and saw a sign that was hanging out in front of a house. It was a large banner that was an advertisement for a "Youth Fitness Specialist." Personally I had never considered the need for youth fitness specialists. I want to be right up front in saying that I realize that I am not the "physical specimen" that I was in my late 20s and early 30s. I have put on a few pounds since then and probably could benefit from a fitness specialist myself. Unfortunately some of the current statistics on child obesity say that there actually may be a need for our youth to have fitness specialists as well:

  • Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2–19 years are obese.
  • Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.
  • There are significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents. In 2007–2008, Hispanic boys, aged 2 to 19 years,were significantly more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white boys, and non-Hispanic black girls were significantly more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white girls.
I don't mean to get into all of the socio-economic realities that lead to certain demographic differences in obesity. I don't even want to get into any scientific or dietary reasons either. What I am about to say comes more from observation and anecdote.

My mom and dad would never have considered using a youth fitness specialists. They were youth fitness specialists. My brother and I were not allowed to watch much tv or play any video games growing up. In the summer time we were shooed out of the house. We ended up playing baseball, football, riding bikes, play in the playground and we were generally active. We just needed to be in the house before either the streetlights or our porch light came on. I remember having to hustle home more than once to avoid getting into trouble.

Far too often today when I pass by a playground it is empty. I did see one child playing in a playground as I was walking home from the library. The basketball courts by our church seem to be one of the few exceptions. There are a lot of people playing basketball although they seem to be mostly high school or older. There still are not a lot of younger kids out there playing.

What is troubling is that we have turned what should be a natural–kids outside burning up tons of energy–into a rare occasion. There are many reasons and excuses that we can give for this. But it seems that we need to do something. The health of the children of this country depend upon it.


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Flying Spagetti Monster

Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason is one of my all-time favorite Christian Apologists. In this video Mr. Koukl is differentiating between the claim that there is no evidence for Christianity–which is false and is intellectually dishonest–and the claim that the evidence is not compelling–which I believe to be false but is at least something that we can debate about.

In their very basic forms the arguments that Mr. Koukl references are:

  1. The Cosmological Argument–something does not come into existence from nothing and the universe exists therefore something or someone must have caused the universe;
  2. The Ontological Argument–the greatest thing that we can imagine (God) cannot exceed that which actually exists;
  3. The Moral Argument–the foundation for objective moral obligations cannot exist outside of an objective moral source;
  4. The Argument from Desire–every innate desire has a corresponding real satisfaction and because we have an innate desire that goes beyond the natural world then something outside of the natural world must exist;
  5. And The Teleological Argument–there is an inherent design found within the universe that cannot be fully explained through random chance and requires a designer.
For a fuller explanation of each of these (and even more) evidences for the existence of God:

Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God

Stand To Reason Commentaries and Articles

Friday, April 20, 2012

Caine's Arcade

When a child combines imagination and initiative the results can be outstanding.


Caine's Arcade via Free Range Kids


Thursday, April 19, 2012

What is our only comfort in life and in death?

I have never considered myself to be very credal. At least I haven't held to any of the major creeds or confessions; at least in terms of how a "confessional" church would define it. I think that some of the creeds do a fine job of summarizing the Christian faith like the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. And it is also true that the creeds and confessions can serve as a useful educational piece within the church. One of the confessions that my current church–the Reformed Church of America (RCA)–holds to is the Heidelberg Catechism. The RCA says the following about creeds and confessions:

"The RCA is confessional, which means that together we have statements of belief, called creeds and confessions. These statements guide our understanding of faith and shape its practice."

The idea is to have a standard statement of faith across the whole denomination. It is not that different than other denominations or churches having a statement of faith that one needs to accept before becoming a member. In a certain sense these creeds and confessions are just really old statements of faith. And as long as a church does not elevate the confession above or contradict scripture–and I do not believe that this is what the RCA is doing–then I don't see any real problem with them. In fact if they are used properly, they can play an important teaching role in the life of the church. To that end our Wednesday night adult Bible study has just started to look at the Heidelberg Catechism. Last night we looked at Question 1:

"What is your only comfort in life and in death?"

Instead of simply reading the Heidelberg answer, we split into smaller groups and read the scripture passages that the original writers used to come up with their answer. And then we wrote our own answer based on those scripture passages. In my group we didn't end up getting to all of the scripture passages so our answer doesn't touch on all aspects of the Heidelberg answer. But we still ended up with our own answer. This is what we came up with:

"Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and is not our own. We were bought by God and need to honor God with our bodies. We belong to the Lord in both life and death. He purifies us through his sacrifice; Christ's blood washes away all of our sins. Because we are children of God we are ultimately free from sin. Those who put their hope in Christ–because the Father has given this authority to Christ–are in the Father's hands. God will protect us. And in the last day, God will bring us home to heaven. Fear not! God values us. We are important to him and he will protect us."

Not a bad answer if you ask me.

Our answer was based on the following scripture passages:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 3:23; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7-9; 1 John 2:2; John 8:34-36; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:1-11; John 6:39-40; John 10:27-30; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 1:5; Matthew 10:29-31; and Luke 21:16-18.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yahoo and the solution for itching ears

If you are reading this then I suspect that you already know that the Internet is a wonderful and terrible place all at once. It is simultaneously a resource for both good and evil. However one of the more insidious things about the Internet is how it is shaped and moulded behind the scenes. The content that you see can be very different than the content that I see...even if we go to the same page. Consider the story of Sarah Kendzior:

"On February 8, 2012, I was on Yahoo's homepage when a headline caught my eye: "Mo. teen gets life with possible parole in killing." Curious, I clicked to see what atrocity had transpired in the state where I live. Alyssa Bustamante, a teenager from Jefferson City, had strangled and stabbed her nine-year-old neighbor for the sheer thrill of it, later describing the event in her diary as an "ahmazing" experience. Horrified, I closed the page. Like many whose homepage defaults to Yahoo, this quick scan of a story was a rote action, information via procrastination, almost subconsciously performed every morning before I move on to other things. In this case, the story was so awful that I wanted to get away. Except, it turned out, I couldn't.

"For the next month, I woke up to a barrage of horrifying stories that seemed to signal an epidemic of child torture in America...I rarely clicked on any of these headlines, and at first, I didn't notice the way they had crept into my Yahoo homepage -- and into my mind -- until their pervasiveness became impossible to ignore.

"That's when I realized: Yahoo had decided I liked child murder."

Ms. Kendzior is someone that understands how the Internet works and is well aware of the fact that sites such as Yahoo and Google filter what you see based upon what they perceive to be your interests:

"Unlike tabloid television, algorithmic personalization does not announce that it's pandering to base interests. When sensationalized reports about violence against children are on TV, I can change the channel -- an act that is harder to do on the Internet when seemingly "neutral" spaces, like Yahoo's homepage, leave no tell-tale trace of manipulation. You can't change the channel when you don't know you're watching the program.

"Yahoo personalizes headlines for its audience of over 700 million people through its Content Optimization and Relevance Engine, an algorithmic system based on demographic data and reading behavior. As a researcher who studies digital media, I was aware that my news was filtered, but I had never noticed the filtering process in action, probably because, until now, Yahoo had guessed me right. (Or at least not so gruesomely wrong.) When the headlines first appeared, I thought they were an anomaly, but as the weeks went on, I noticed a pattern. Going through my search history, I could trace the emergence of stories to the day I read about the Bustamante murder."

There is a very real problem with this type of filtering:

"Few perusing Yahoo headlines would suspect that children murdering children is a reader category chosen by robots. While disturbing on an epistemological level, it may also have practical consequences. As we rely on internet media to give us a taste of what's going on, we don't realize we're consuming a particular flavor. A sudden uptick in stories on violence -- particularly by or against a specific demographic category -- can spur paranoia, prejudice and vigilante behavior. What a machine thinks we need to know can become what we fear. But because the algorithmic process is both secret and subjective, we have no way of tracking the ramifications."

We start to see and hear the things that we want to see and hear...even when they are things that we think that don't want to see and hear. In this case Ms. Kendzior was given something that shocked her system but how much targeted information had Yahoo fed her before she realized what was going on? She admits that she had never questioned how the news that was being given to her via Yahoo was being shaped as long as it was sublte and agreed with her.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy that a day like this was coming to the church:

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

Very rarely will a person willingly take in teaching that is jarringly false. The problem comes when a pastor or teacher feeds a subtle and agreeable diet of false doctrine to a congregation. It is one of the reasons that we always need to be searching and studying the Bible and not just taking someone else's word as to what it says.


Source: The Atlantic via Tim Challies


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The "fake" Michael Jordan


The people who make ESPN commercials can be quite brilliant at times. But this video leads me to wonder if it would be better to be the actual Michael Jordan and getting mobbed everywhere you go or the "fake" Michael Jordan and constantly disappointing people?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Repaying evil with good

King David has always fascinated me. What young boy sitting through a Sunday School lesson doesn't perk up whenever the story of David using a slingshot to defeat Goliath comes up? David is often portrayed as a mighty warrior and was very brave even when he was young. I found that inspiring. I wanted to be like David. As I grew up and started to read some of the less seemly stories of David I was further fascinated by the notion that someone with such flaws was still considered by God to be a man after God's own heart.

At our church we have been going through the Old Testament (for quite some time) in order to get a better overview of the story of Israel and how it still relates to us today. The last two sermons in the series (we did take a break for Palm Sunday and Easter) do a good job of highlighting the contrasting–and conflicting–sides of David. I covered 1 Samuel 24 a couple of weeks ago and our pastor covered 1 Samuel 25 yesterday. These two sermons covered the same basic topic with David playing opposite roles in each one. One of the lessons that we get from both stories is the importance of choosing to act properly towards other people.

In 1 Samuel 24, David is being pursued by King Saul. Saul has been chasing David with the intention of killing him for quite some time. David is hiding out in a cave in the oasis of Engedi. Saul needs to take care of some business and just happens to wander into the same cave that David and his men are in. David was faced with a decision that must have really stunk. And he decided to let Saul go. David spared Saul's life even though Saul was trying to kill David. David decided to repay Saul's evil actions with good actions.

In 1 Samuel 25, David is faced with another decision regarding how to react to someone. David and his men had shown hospitality towards the servants and shepherds of Nabal. Not only did David and his men treat the shepherds well, they went so far as to protect the shepherds and their flocks. But when it came time for Nabal to return the favor, he turned David away. It was a great insult towards David. In a stark contrast to his actions in chapter 24, David decided to repay Nabal's evil actions with some evil actions of his own:
"And David said to his men, "Every man strap on his sword!"
If it weren't for the quick thinking of Nabal's wife Abigail, David would have massacred Nabal and all of his men.

There are two verses that are a mirror of each other. In 1 Samuel 24:17, Saul tells David:
"You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil."
In other words Saul is telling David that David has returned good for evil. On the other hand, in 1 Samuel 25:21, David says the following about Nabal:
"Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good."
These back-to-back mirrored stories about David are a very good reminder to us that we can very easily get caught up in treating people poorly when we feel that we have been wronged. On the one hand David knew that had not done anything to Saul to justify Saul's desire to kill him. But on the other hand David felt that he had earned the right of Nabal's favor. It was David's perspective that had changed between the two events. I know that I often feel greatly insulted when I do not receive that which I have earned. What I need to remember is that God has decided to forgive me and to repay my evil actions with good. I need to go and do likewise and be willing to act in a God pleasing way towards others even when they wrong me.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The scariest Bible verses?

One of the things that Paul does in the book of Romans is to strip away any excuses that we might try and use to justify our actions. Paul lays out a clear-cut and logical argument that we are all guilty of sinning against God and need the forgiveness only provided by Jesus Christ. The first thing that Paul does is strip away our excuse of ignorance. In Romans 1:18-23 Paul makes it clear that we have enough evidence in nature to recognize that there is a God but we can often times choose to ignore him.

When we choose to ignore God on a regular basis it leads to what I think are two of the scariest verses in the Bible:

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."

There comes a point in our rebellion against God where he just lets us go. What Paul is saying is that when we choose to live a life of rebellion God actually honors our choice. God allows us to continue living a life of rebellion. What we must remember is that all sin is rebellion against God and whenever we choose to live a life of consistent sin we are in danger of God honoring that request. Paul continues a few verses later to describe some of the characteristics of a rebellious life:

"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless."

I don't know about anyone else but there are a few things on that list that I am guilty of doing. Paul also makes it clear that there is a penalty for such behavior:

"Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."

Paul is saying that even if we deny the existence of God we still recognize that moral wrongdoing is punishable. Paul also makes it clear that it is not just that we engage in these behaviors but that we also give approval to others when they do them. And that is really just another form of excuse making. Excusing someone else's bad behavior is just as wrong as excusing my own.

Fortunately this is not the end of the book of Romans. But it is another reminder that I am still a man in need of a savior.


And for the record–I skipped verses 26-27 for a reason. It is not to excuse or minimize the behavior found in those verses. Rather I skipped them in order to point out that the behaviors listed in verses 29-31 are just as rebellious.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

I am the king of excuses.

This morning I have had the old DC Talk song In The Light stuck in my head. The first few lines are:

"I keep trying to find a life
On my own, apart from you
I am the king of excuses
I've got one for every selfish thing I do"

It's the "I am the king of excuses; I've got one for every selfish thing I do" that caught my attention. I know that I can be pretty good at justifying my bad behavior. Even when I am not excusing my behavior I am excusing my behavior. The "it's not an excuse; it's a reason" explanation–which I like to use from time to time–is often just an excuse clothed in faux humility or contrition. I would guess that I am not alone in saying that I do have an excuse for every selfish thing I do.

The problem is that all of my reasons and excuses really don't cut it; especially with God. Paul makes that very clear to us at the very beginning of Romans. What Paul is doing in the book of Romans is laying out a clear-cut and logical argument that we are all guilty of sin and need the forgiveness only provided by Jesus Christ. Paul hits the ground running in Romans 1:18-20 by quickly stripping away any excuses that we might have:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

This passage is mainly referring to what we call General Revelation–or that God has partially revealed himself through nature. Paul is saying that there is enough evidence (Christian Apologists use these evidences as arguments for the existence of God) in the created world for us to recognize that there is a God. But Paul's statement goes one step further. He is laying the foundation for his overall argument that systematically strips away any excuses–or justification–for our bad behavior that we might have.

Paul continues:

"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."

Overall Paul is talking about those that we would easily recognize as ungodly people. Paul is speaking about people that do not honor God or give thanks to him. He is speaking about people that worship people, animals and things instead of God. The problem is that when we start to strip away our excuses it becomes pretty clear that we do not honor God the way that we should; we do not thank God the way that we should; and we worship people, animals and things more than God.

Paul is telling us all that–as DC Talk states later in their song:

"This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I'm still a man in need of a savior."

It is a good reminder that I am the king of excuses and that I still need Jesus as my savior.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The most important thing ever.

So far this week has been one of those weeks. My church is located in a near western suburb of Chicago. While the suburb butts up against Chicago and is in the flight path of Midway Airport; it is a small village of about 6,000 people and has retained a small town feel. Even with the Chicago skyline visible it can be very easy to forget in the middle of one of the major metropolitan areas of the world.

The town suffered a great tragedy last week when a prominent member of the community was killed in an on the job accident. Our church hosted the funeral yesterday and nearly 225 people showed up. Our sanctuary is normally set to seat about 100 and we really start feeling full at around 75-80. So Monday was filled with moving all of the normal stuff out of the sanctuary, adding an additional 55 chairs and setting up overflow seating and sound equipment downstairs and outside. Tuesday afternoon was filled with putting everything back. (Hence no blog posting either day.)

The death of this young man shook the the whole community. I never had the privilege of meeting him but his grandmother is a member of our church. From what I heard at the funeral yesterday I have every reason to believe that this man was not only a very good man but also a fellow believer in Christ. Being Easter we have just celebrated the most important event in human history. It is the resurrection of Christ that gives us the only hope we can have in a time like this. Paul shares the hope that we should have in 1 Corinthians 15:1-23:

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain.

"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, 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. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 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. 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. 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. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 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. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ."

What Paul is saying is that Christ's resurrection is the most important thing that we can hold on to and it is more than just a one time event. Christ's resurrection on that first Easter morning is the first-fruit of the resurrection that we as believers in Christ can also expect to be a part of. We have the hope that–while tragic and sad–that death here on this earth is not the end. There is more to come and we will one day be reunited with all those that have put their faith in Jesus Christ.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Jesus loved his frenemies.

Good Friday brings Holy Week to a close. I think that Paul sums up Christ's focus for Good Friday well in Romans 5:6-11.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

On Good Friday Christ focused on providing the means of reconciliation for his enemies. All we have to do is to put our faith in him.


More thoughts on Good Friday:

" take away sins..."



Previous days of Holy Week:

Monday–Driving out the distractions

Tuesday–Jesus says: "Pay Your Taxes."

Wednesday–Jesus say "Relax"

Thursday–Jesus focused on the Church


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jesus focused on the church

We are in Holy Week which is our way of remembering the final week of Jesus before his death on the cross. (While it is important to note that Jesus death wasn't the end of the story it was in essence the end of his earthly ministry. When I refer to Jesus' last week I am not implying that it was his last week but simply it was the last week leading up to the cross.) I know that facing certain death would cause me to focus on those things that were truly important. So what did Jesus focus on in his last week?

On Monday Jesus reclaimed proper worship of God. On Tuesday Jesus made it clear that we belong to God and should give ourselves to him. On Wednesday Jesus took the time to be with friends. Thursday must have felt somewhat like the last full day of vacation. It is a wonderful day where you still get to do those things that you want to do but you do them knowing that tomorrow you have to go back to the real world. Except Jesus didn't face going back to the daily grindstone of work. He faced multiple trials, ridicule, torture and eventually one of the most excruciating forms of death ever invented by man.

On Thursday Jesus and his Disciples make the necessary preparations for the Passover meal. And while they are eating the meal Jesus takes two actions that focus not just on the people at the meal but upon all future followers of Christ as well. It needs to be pointed out that the Passover meal was eaten after sundown on Thursday which would technically make it Friday. But for this discussion we are going to call it Thursday.

On that last evening together Jesus took the time to wash his Disciples' feet. It was a menial task that was usually relegated to a servant. Walking everywhere in a dry environment wearing sandals meant that your feet would get pretty dirty. And Jesus took the time to perform a task for his Disciples that would normally be beneath the teacher to do. Peter voices his objection strongly:

"(Jesus) came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, do you wash my feet?' Jesus answered him, 'What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.' Peter said to him, 'You shall never wash my feet.' Jesus answered him, 'If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.'"

What Peter failed to see was that Jesus was setting a precedent for how the disciples should treat each other that should extend far beyond that original group:

"When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, 'Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'"

Jesus also took the time to start the practice of what we now call Communion or the Lord's Supper.

"And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, 'Take; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.'"

We now celebrate Communion to remember the sacrifice that Jesus willingly paid for our sins. Jesus took the time to focus not only on those that were present but also those that were to follow them as well. Jesus had his focus on the church. This sentiment is easy for us to understand when we think about how parents can very easily be concerned with the well being of their children's children and beyond. Jesus was thinking about you and me that night. I find it very humbling that he thought that I was important enough to focus on the night that he would be arrested.

That night Jesus took time to pray:

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

We were on Jesus mind that night. We are important enough to be a part of his focus in that last week.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Jesus say "Relax"

We are in Holy Week which is our way of remembering the final week of Jesus before his death on the cross. (While it is important to note that Jesus death wasn't the end of the story it was in essence the end of his earthly ministry. When I refer to Jesus' last week I am not implying that it was his last week but simply it was the last week leading up to the cross.) I know that facing certain death would cause me to focus on those things that were truly important. So what did Jesus focus on in his last week?

On Monday Jesus drove out the money-changers and merchants from the temple in order to restore the proper worship of God. Tuesday had Jesus teaching in the temple where he ended up in conflict with the Jewish leaders. He made it clear to them that we should be giving all to God.

Now it is Wednesday and Jesus is teaching in the temple again. Which is interesting by itself because it means that Jesus valued teaching. But we don't have much details about the content of the teaching. The detail that we do have is Jesus spending time with friends.

"And while (Jesus) was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, 'Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.' And they scolded her. But Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.'"

Now their may be some debate as to whether or not this happened before Palm Sunday as it is reported in John 12:1-8 or on Wednesday it would seem to be in Mark 14:3-9 (quoted above) and in Matthew 26:6-13 as well. What it tells us is that Jesus was not alone during this time. He spent time with friends when he knew his time was limited.

Ecclesiastes tells us that facing life with a friend is much better than facing it alone:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

In his last week, Jesus took time to be with those that he loved. He knew that he will be all alone soon enough. He knew that all of his friends will scatter when he is arrested. But that time is not now. Now is the moment to make time for those friends. I know that I can get busy at times and forget to slow down. It can be easy to forget to just spend time with friends. I am guessing that Jesus didn't go to the cross wishing that he had spent more of his limited time with his friends. Hopefully I learn the same thing before it is too late.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Jesus says, "Pay your taxes."

It is what we call Holy Week and it is a reminder of Jesus facing his last week before his death on the cross. (While it is important to note that Jesus death wasn't the end of the story it was in essence the end of his earthly ministry. When I refer to Jesus' last week I am not implying that it was his last week but simply it was the last week leading up to the cross.) I know that facing certain death would cause me to focus on those things that were truly important. So what did Jesus focus on in his last week?

On Monday Jesus cleared all of the money-changers and merchants out of the temple in order to make the point that business as usual shouldn't be the usual business for the temple. To say that he upset the status quo would be an understatement. He infuriated all of those that were in power within the temple so much so that it created some very strange bedfellows.

So now its Tuesday and Jesus returns to the temple to face the very people that he has infuriated. One after another they come at Jesus and challenge his authority and understanding of the Scriptures. It is a series of clashes between Jesus and the powers that be. You can almost think of it as a religious version of the shootout at the O.K. Corral. The aim of the powers that be is to destroy Jesus' credibility by issuing a bunch of challenges that are designed to trap him. What I find interesting is that in one of these clashes there are two groups that form an alliance in one of those attacks.

The Pharisees and the Herodians get together to try and trap Jesus. The Pharisees were a religious group of very pious separatists. They had their roots in the Maccabean Revolt and despised any foreign influences on the Jewish faith. The Herodians on the other hand were primarily a political group and they supported of King Herod. King Herod derived all of his authority from Rome and the Herodians held that it was the duty of the Jews to be faithful to Rome. These two groups make the challenge presented to Jesus in Mark 12:13-17 all the more interesting.

"And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?' But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, 'Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.' And they brought one. And he said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said to him, 'Caesar's.' Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they marveled at him."

They thought they had him. If Jesus simply said that the Jews should pay their taxes then the Pharisees would have jumped on him for his supporting Rome over God. They would have made the claim that he did not truly believe that God was the only true Lord. Jesus would have likely been discredited by the Jewish people. But if Jesus had said that the Jews should not pay their taxes then the Herodians would have jumped on him for inciting a revolt. Jesus would have likely been immediately arrested and executed. Instead Jesus gives an answer that cuts right through the intentions to trap him.

In that last week Jesus focuses on teaching that while we may have many obligations in the world, we are still responsible to give to God that which belongs to God. Jesus uses the image of Caesar on the coin to make his point. Jesus real point is something that he does not explicitly state. While we can make a long list of things that we can say belong to God like our time, money, worship and so forth; nothing belongs more to God than that which bears his likeness. We all have been created in the image of God and Jesus real point is that we are supposed to give ourselves to God.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Driving out the distractions

There are events in life that can cause you to realize what is truly important. Sometimes it can be something big like the birth of a child, a wedding or a death in the family. Other times it can be something small like a kind word or a simple memory. These events can cause us to refocus our attention on what is important but often–given enough time–the impact of that event starts to fade and our attention to the important goes with it.

2000 years ago Jesus faced one of those events and it is over the course of this week that we remember it. His death on the cross and following resurrection is also one of those refocusing events for all of his followers. The impact that it had on those that lived through it is still being felt today. Yesterday was Palm Sunday where Jesus makes his final entrance into Jerusalem knowing that he was facing the cross at the end of this week. The crowd received Jesus expecting him to be the promised Messiah; the one that would defeat Rome and reestablish the Kingdom of David. He was supposed to set everything right. While Jesus was the Messiah and will set everything right, it isn't happening quite the way the people expected.

Jesus is facing his last week before his death on the cross. (While it is important to note that Jesus death wasn't the end of the story it was in essence the end of his earthly ministry. When I refer to Jesus' last week I am not implying that it was his last week but simply it was the last week leading up to the cross.) I know that facing certain death would cause me to focus on those things that were truly important. So what did Jesus focus on in his last week?

On Monday Jesus and his disciples enter the temple and see just how far astray things have gone:

"And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city."

Jesus objected to having the temple turned into a place of business. There were money-changers to exchange foreign currency into the coins required for the temple tax and people selling animals for sacrifices. The fact that Jesus then states that the activity is turning the temple into a "den of robbers" is telling. It wasn't merely the fact that these activities were happening. But that they were happening and people were becoming rich because of it. While it might seem like a logical extension to see this as a general condemnation of "Christian commerce," I don't think that it is fair to jump all they way to that conclusion.

God was the one that set up the payment structure for the priests in the first place. They were paid out of the sacrifices given at the temple. But they weren't given land in Israel and were supposed to survive on their portion of the sacrifices. In other words, they weren't supposed to get rich being priests. Even Paul states in multiple places that those working in full-time ministry should get paid for their labor.

Authors should get paid for the books that they write, musicians should get paid for the music they produce and so forth. It's all hard work and people deserve to get paid for their efforts. How many Christians would turn down their paycheck from a secular company? The problem comes when we start turning Christianity into a means of profit.

The problem also comes when being a "successful" pastor or church becomes more important than worshipping and obeying God. When we focus on the world's definition of success we are by definition not focusing on God's definition of success. Worshipping God with the proper mindset was so important that Jesus took time during his last week to drive out all of those things from the temple that took away from that focus. What is distracting you from worshipping and obeying God?


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.