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Showing posts from March, 2016

a small detail

"...and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself."  (John 20:7 ESV) Here's a little detail that the Apostle John notes about the now-empty tomb of Jesus.  The face cloth -- a separate wrapping for the head of the one prepared for burial -- was folded up, off to one side.  It was a simple act, yet with profound meaning.    The scene that faced the witnesses at the tomb early that first Easter morning was not one of chaos or disarray. The empty tomb of Christ was not a scene of plundering.  Neither was it the scene of some strange force, or some unexplained anomaly.  This action -- folding a cloth -- is such a human thing.  It was deliberate, calm, and personal.  Chaotic or random forces do not usually take time to fold clothing.  It's as if Jesus, done with his work, is putting his work clothes away.  Jesus' life was not taken from him, but he freely laid down his life in his re

the scars of Jesus

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."   When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  (John 20:19-20 ESV) Edward Shillito (1872-1948), a Free Church minister in England, lived through the horrors of World War I and wrote this poem in 1919: “Jesus of the Scars” If we have never sought, we seek Thee now; Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars; We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow, We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.  The heavens frighten us; they are too calm; In all the universe we have no place. Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm? Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace. If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near, Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine; We know to-day what wounds a

what is an evangelical, part 2

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.  (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV) Closer to our own time, Dr. Leon Morris, founding member of the Evangelical Alliance (Victoria, Australia), uses the verse above to explain what evangelicalism is. Here are some highlights from an article he wrote...  "An evangelical is a gospel man, a gospel woman. 'Evangelical' derives from 'evangel' : 'gospel'. By definition an evangelical is someone concerned for the gospel. This means more than that he preaches the gospel now and then. It means that for him the gospel of Christ is central. It is, of course, his message and he preaches it, constantly. But it is more than a subject of preaching. The gospel is at the centre of his thinking and liv

what is an evangelical, part 1

J ust what is "an evangelical"?  (As in, "a certain candidate received such a percentage of evangelical voters ." )  Also, some churches are referred to as "evangelical churches", though they may be a part of a denomination or not.  What is an evangelical Christian, and what makes a church evangelical?   Evangelicalism in the west, in the modern era, has been connected to the spiritual awakenings (revivals) of the 18th and 19th centuries in England and America. From many church backgrounds people were converted and brought to faith in Jesus Christ.  Transcending different denominations, they held a conviction in common as to the truthfulness of the gospel and its essential truths.       Writing in 1877, the Bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle, wrote about the general divisions, or movements, of people that made up the Church of England at that time.  He said there were three main groups:  1) The high church , such as the Anglo-Catholics, who most valued

the death of death

renounce, in order to receive

"The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to receive them as gifts we have to be open. In order to be open we have to renounce ourselves, in a sense we have to die to our image of ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed identity."   (Thomas Merton)

tale of two cities

Ian Hamilton writes, "The Christian believer is always living in an inescapable tension! ...The truth is that every Christian lives simultaneously in two worlds. Our life is a tale of two cities." He goes on to say,  "The fact is that the Christian life is a life of irresolvable tension. We are, by God’s grace, aliens and strangers. We march to the beat of a heavenly drum in a world shaped by an earth-bounded horizon. We live to the glory of God in a world which lives for itself. More acutely, we live to be holy as God is holy in bodies of death, yet marked by indwelling sin. The tension is within as well as without. We cannot, this side of glory, escape the tension without becoming a disloyal traitor to our God and Saviour." Read Ian Hamilton here: "Living in Two Worlds" 

questions for integrity

Fred Smith, Sr., successful Christian businessman and mentor to many, had an ability to ask himself questions "with toughness and objectivity.  He regularly assessed his progress.  He didn't trust the idea of achieving integrity and then putting himself on 'auto pilot.'  He took his emotional, spiritual, and intellectual temperature to maintain accuracy." Here are a few questions he used in his personal search for integrity: 1) Do my motives have integrity ?   Rationalization does more to pollute integrity of motive than any other factor. Ends never justify illegal, unjust, or unethical means.   2) Am I ego-driven or responsibility motivated ? Ego-driven people satisfy their ego from the cause while responsibility motivated people sacrifice their ego to the cause.   3) Do I want the truth ?  It takes a tough mind and a strong heart to love truth. Integrity demands trying to know and love truth for its own sake.   4) Does my will control my feelings ? L

clement quotes hebrews

Clement of Rome wrote to the church in Corinth around AD 90.  This is perhaps the same Clement, companion of Paul, mentioned in Philippians 4:3.  Many hold him to be the first bishop / pope in Rome, aka St. Clement I.   Clement quotes from the letter to the Hebrews.  Origin suggested that Clement was in fact the writer (as transcriber or amanuensis) of Hebrews.  Perhaps this letter began as a "word of exhortation" given by Paul at the synagogue (Heb 13:22; cf Acts 13:15) which then became a circular letter for the churches.  Other possible authors of Hebrews include Luke, Barnabas, or Apollos.  The theology is Pauline, but the transcriber is obviously second-generation (Heb. 2:3-4). At any rate, this early church leader in Rome, is already quoting Hebrews in his letter in AD 90:    CHAPTER 36  ALL BLESSINGS ARE GIVEN TO US THROUGH CHRIST This is the way, beloved, in which we find our Savior, even Jesus Christ,  the High Priest of all our offerings, the defender and he

tweetable ML-J

Martyn Lloyd-Jones probably would not have given much consideration to social media like Twitter.  He often said many people in the modern world -- including many Christians -- were much too superficial and hasty in their thinking.   And yet, he was able to capture in brief statements some very deep truths indeed.  Here are a few (even Tweet-able) Lloyd-Jones' statements...    "The first thing the Bible does is to make a man take a serious view of life." "The first sign of spiritual life is to feel you are dead." "No difficulty in believing the gospel is intellectual, it is always moral."  "We have come to realize that a man can be educated and cultured and still be a beast."  "Do you think that you deserve forgiveness?  If you do, you are not a Christian."  "If a philosophy of life cannot help me to die, then in a sense it cannot help me to live." "You cannot receive Christ in bits and pieces.&quo

rich store of all that is good

"And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord..." (The Apostles' Creed) In covering the second part of the Apostles' Creed in the Institutes , Calvin explains each phrase and then gives this lyrical summary as application...   Now since we see that the whole sum and all parts of our salvation are contained in Jesus Christ, we must beware of ascribing the tiniest portion of it to anything else.   If we are looking for salvation, the name of Jesus alone tells us that salvation is in him (Acts 4:12).   If we desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we will find them in his anointing.   If we seek strength, it is in his sovereign power.  If purity is our aim, it is set before us in his conception.   If we would find gentleness and kindness, it is in his birth, through which he was made like us, that he might learn compassion (Heb. 5:2).   If we ask for redemption, his passion provides it.  In his condemnation we have our absolution.   If we want pardon from s

soul, an embodied spirit

"The life of the soul, therefore, no less than the life of the body, is built on something other than caprice or accident. It is not a condition of lawlessness and anarchy but is from all sides and in all its activities determined by laws. It is subject to laws of truth and goodness and beauty and so it demonstrates that it has not generated itself. In short, man has from the very beginning his own nature and his own essence and these he cannot violate with impunity. And so much stronger is nature in these matters than theory that the adherents of the doctrine of evolution themselves keep talking of a human nature, of immutable human attributes, of laws of thought and ethics prescribed for man, and of an inborn religious sense. Thus the idea of the essence of man comes into conflict with the idea of his origin. "In Scripture, however, there is perfect agreement between the two ideas. There the essence of man corresponds to his origin. Because man, although he was formed fr