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Friday, April 3, 2015

Living Near Golgotha

Icon of the Crucifixion, by Olga Christine
There are moments in life so deep, so lasting in consequence, their echo sounds from that moment onward, continually shaping us at our core. The suffering of Jesus Christ, along with his glorious Resurrection is just such a moment for all people, events, and time. 

This week is fixed in history; through the liturgy of the Church we remember and enter in with Christ as he walks from Palm Sunday through the hours of darkness and into the Great Day of our liberation from Death. Yearly we repeat it to remember it. Yes, we have our communions, and every time we eat the bread and drink the wine we remember his death, but this week we immerse ourselves in every triumph, every disappointment, every disgrace, every painful scourge just to emerge, as he did, triumphant on Easter. 

This moment is the moment of truth for all of us, for we can look upon Christ's body on the cross and respond; just how we respond shapes the rest of our lives. In the end, we always stand near Golgotha, always make our choice to either pick up our cross and follow him or walk away. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

In the Steps of Christ

Christ Carrying the Cross, by Hieronymus Bosch
Palm Sunday has passed, and only the shame and humiliation of the cross stand between Christ and His glorious resurrection. The palms have been set aside, and we begin to remember His "hour of darkness" and the victory of God.  

Holy Week isn't just to recall the facts of Christ's death. After all, when we have Communion we remember. But this week is an extended time of meditation, not only on the stark reality of the cross, but on the steps He took to get there. We remember His movement towards Calvary, but we also seek to join Him on that road, both in our hearts and in our lives as we take the strenuous path by faith, pressing onward towards our own calvaries and tombs. Suffering isn't optional for us, lazy and coddled as we may be here in America. Rather it's part of the message and life we choose as we run after the Person and Place we're really created for.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

God of Liberation

Whenever I hear this song and see the video, it pulls at my heart; its beautifully done and demonstrates art filled with Spirit and truth. 

Aradhna is a band fusing traditional Indian devotional music with Christ-centered themes, composed primarily in the Hindi language. The name Aradhna is from Hindi, meaning 'Adoration'. The band-members were interested in creating an authentic sound for Indian Christ-centered worship which had so far relied heavily on Western hymns and contemporary worship. To make this possible the band turned to India's bhajan singers and the style of Indian devotion known as 'bhakti', expressing faith in 'Yeshu Khrist' (Jesus Christ).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

“Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2

Within each of our hearts is the deep desire to find a place of lasting security, genuine warmth, safe harbor, and unconditional love. This desire is the very foundation of our human experience in whatever cultural circumstance we live. We look to fill it in various ways, most often expressed through reaching out to personal relationships: parents, friends, spouses, or mentors to whom we look up with respect and admiration. Sometimes we look to our own sin to fulfill those same desires and find we simply return to empty wells to quench our thirst. 

As fulfilling as even healthy relationships may seem, they remain transitory; those we love pass away, our own strengths and abilities fade, and our sins burden our souls. The truth is that complete and lasting peace that “surpasses all understanding" comes through a relationship with the Creator, through Jesus Christ, who promises to never leave us or forsake us, giving us what temporary solutions never can: eternity. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Lord's Doing

"This is the LORD'S doing; and it is marvelous in our eyes." Psalm 118:23

King David wrote these words when he rose above the ashes of his former life to gain the throne of Israel:
"The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone; 
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad."
Jesus Christ took the place of David as Israel's Messiah, acting both as persecuted outlaw and reigning king. He quoted this scripture in reference to himself (Mark 12:11) and now, just like David, the one who stood rejected stands triumphant. Only God can do that.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The City of God

The New Jerusalem, by Gustave Dore
"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride is adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among men, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:2-4
This morning I woke up with a hymn in my mind I haven't sung in about twenty years. I remembered the first few lines, which tugged at my heartstrings, but I couldn't remember the rest until I looked it up. Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken is an ode to Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God. The music was written by Fredrich Haydn and the words  by John Newton.

In his book, The City of God, St. Augustine wrote: 
"I have undertaken a defense of the City of God against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city: a city most glorious, whether we view it now by faith in this fleeting course of time, as a stranger in the midst of the ungodly; or whether we view it as it will be in the fixed stability of its eternal seat, which it now patiently waits for, until righteousness shall return and it obtains its lasting victory and perfect peace." 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Good Thief

One of the criminals who hung there hurled abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered and rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We are suffering justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our sins; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!" And Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." - Luke 23: 39-43

Jesus Christ and His forerunner, John the Baptist, began their public ministries with the same words: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” What does the command to repent (literally to "change your mind") have to do with God's Kingdom? 

Repentance means more than feeling sorry for your sins, though that's part of it. To repent means to change your mind about how you're living, to turn your heart from sin to the living God, which then leads to a reformed life. As the Baptist preached: "Produce fruit in accordance with repentance." This inner transformation marks the entrance to a new life characterized by humility and love, making the individual fit for God's Kingdom, which is made only for the righteous. This righteousness is acquired by faith expressed by repentance and lived out through love and good works.

But what about those who "repent" at the end of their lives and cannot experience this external transformation?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Death, Snow, and Silence

Often a picture is worth a thousand words. If there was any picture that best represents Lent for me and (due to the exorbitant amount of snow we're experiencing this year) the state of my life, it would be the picture of a tree in snow; visibly lonely, lifeless, and frigid; going and growing nowhere; silent in a blanket of frost. 

But is that what silence (and Lent) is all about? Am I really just grasping around in the dark, waiting for a better day, silently suffering until all hope is just about lost?

Friday, February 20, 2015

UPDATE: Martyred by ISIS

The following are two important articles updating the news from Lebanon regarding the 21 martyred Coptic Christians from Egypt. These two Christian perspectives flesh out the lives and spirits of those killed, solemnly reminding us of union with Christ both in His suffering and His glory. 

American Christians haven't the slightest clue of what it's like to live as a persecuted saint. I hope and pray the example of these Orthodox Christian men serve to encourage Christians throughout the whole Church to join with Jesus Christ in pursuing the Kingdom of God at all costs.

>>> Brother of slain Coptic Christians thanks ISIS for including their words of faith in murder video:

Not So Fast

Fasting, according to Isaiah 58, is far less important than doing good to the less fortunate around us and honoring the Lord in our hearts. Likewise Lent, if only an external ritual, profits a man nothing. It's good to keep in mind that whatever we do as a spiritual discipline should be done either to love God or to love our neighbor. Any other reason and we've lost the whole point.