Tag Archives: death

Between Two Criminals 

Last Sunday our church had a dramatic reading of Luke’s account of the trial and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ (see scripture below). 

Maybe I’m a bit dull, but I never saw the simple choice that is presented in that recounting of the death of our Lord. Jesus, the God-man without stain or blemish, is raised on a cross between two criminals meeting their just end. 

One hurls insults and derision on Yeshua, (Jesus’s name in Hebrew.) He mocks him, in the same manner that the religious elite do, “save yourself”. Jesus is essentially mocked for claiming to be the person that He is. The Truth is mocked for claiming to be Truth. 

The other sees his own sin. He makes no excuses, no rationalizing of his actions. He sees his own inability to save himself. He sees the stark Truth, that Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, is being killed unjustly. And he asks Jesus to remember him, to look with pity upon him. 

So the choice stands before us all. Will we acknowledge our sin, our crimes against a Holy and Righteous GOD or hurl insults at the Chosen One of God? There is none righteous, no not one. 

God have mercy on us. 

________________________

Luke 23: 32-43 (ESV) 
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.  And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.  And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine  and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him,“This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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The Mysterious

I’m in the middle of a book on Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s a rather odd experience. It’s a lot like going to a new destination, a new place, a far off place. Rather like my first trip to visit Guatemala, my wife’s native country. I flew a red eye flight from LA to Guatemala city. It was 1992 and I deboarded the airplane down one of those stairways out of a 1950’s movie. Right onto the tarmac and then walked inside the building. It was still rather dark. When I arrived at the office to purchase a tourist visa, it was closed. We all had to stand around waiting for this little Guatemalan man to show up at 6 am. After paying my $10 he issued me what looked like a telephone message 4×4 inch piece of paper. It was almost comical if it weren’t for how exhausted I was. The airport itself felt tired. One part gritty, one part age and two parts just small. Leaving the airport I was hit with the scene of many small children asking for money. They were a pitiful sight: small, unwashed and obviously poor. The smell was of unwashed bodies and a tinge of smoke (I would learn later that all poor families use wood stoves to cook). The car ride to my, soon to be, wife’s parents house was full of sights, smells and sounds I was very unfamiliar with. It’s barely a 30 minute drive. Seemed much longer at the time. My wife has told me she wasn’t sure if I was about to just turn around and get on the next flight back to the states. I didn’t, in fact about 5 years later we would move there and make a home for 5 years. I learned a great deal about my wife and her culture and all its attendant facets. And I’m the richer for it.

The book (my apologies for no book name, it’s sitting on my nightstand at home whilst I type away here in a coffee shop) on Eastern Orthodoxy is written by a fellow who spent a number of years in Russia. He went over when it was still the Soviet state, but it collapsed about a year into his stay. He was there as the Russian Orthodox Church made its roaring comeback. I can nearly taste his experience. They not only speak another language, they think about things in a completely distinct way. The ways of Eastern Orthodoxy is also similarly distinct, odd and strange to the Western trained mind.

It’s a little like getting to know a long lost relative. They talk about some similar things, but with a very different twist. Those of the Eastern Orthodox faith have an amazing reverence for both the Mystery of GOD and the spiritual life, a looking to the Holy Spirit that makes Pentecostals look like babbling kindergarteners. The theological debates they engage in are related to this desire to be united to the Holy Spirit and the merging with the Divine. They are much more comfortable with the Transcendent nature of God. An infinite God is only understandable as He reveals Himself to us. All we know about Him is what He has chosen to reveal, leaving an Infinite amount of knowledge yet unknown to us, a mystery then. That our very frame and structure lack the wherewithal to grasp Him, that language and human thought are insufficient to the task of describing His magnificence. And, they are not very big fans of Logic. He recounted his students rather dismissive treatment of C.S. Lewis. He was “too logical” they said. The reliance on logic is an argument against it’s use for things of GOD.

Now, I will admit I find the western church’s  obsession with logic a tad frustrating at times. As if we could logically argue someone into Faith. God’s Love for us is so intense that He would send His only Begotten Son to live among us puny creations and then Die as a propitiation for our sins, our wrongs against a perfectly Holy and Righteous God is not logical. It’s an intense, burning love for us that defies clear explanation, seeming completely out of proportion. And yet He did. Because we bear His image.

He made us, women and men, in His image. Women, have men ever seemed mysterious (odd, strange, not right in the head) to you? Men, have women ever seemed mysterious to you? We are each made in the image of a mysterious, glorious and living GOD. Our Eastern Orthodox cousins tend to swim in the mysterious nature of God, not wanting or trying to understand it but to experience it. I humbly submit that our “Western Church” could use a healthy dose of this transcendent Truth.

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Catechism: Lessons in Truth

So, like I said in my Tinker Bell post, I am reading a lot.
The current book is titled “Grounded in the Gospel” a book on teaching the basics of the Gospel. “Building Believers the old fashioned way” is the subtitle of the book,.
I really, really like this book. So much I bought my best friend a copy. And, since I had bought it on kindle, I bought myself a paperback copy too. I plan on using it, marking it up and otherwise.
The book also includes a short chapter on church history. Specifically the first four centuries of the church. I thought I knew some of it. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. It was a needed assault on my worldview. I, like many of my peers, have a truncated view of the world. Not just physically, but chronologically speaking. In a way we do this: creation, Adam, Abraham, David, Jesus, Fall of Rome, Reformation, Enlightenment, American founding, steam engine, world war, and then everything that matters like computers and internet and smartphones.
Four hundred years is a very long time. It seems absurd to even say that, but we have a tendency to treat antiquity with something on the level of polite disdain. As though they were uneducated yokels. I will venture to say that we “modern, western Christians” are more the uneducated yokels than they were.
We say insipid things like “the wrong side of history.” Is history a vinyl record with a B side? We stand on the shoulders of giants, Sir Isaac Newton is reported to have said. He was referring to the massive contribution of science by all those who had gone before him. We have this silly view that things MUST “progress”, or improve. Star Trek and all it’s attendant spin-offs are examples of this thinking. Arthur C Clarke and his “the future is better than anything we have imagined” silly talk is yet another example. Of course, it’s all a result of the theory of evolution. That we came from primordial ooze and now have conscientiousness. All by random chance. And the world came from a big bang, also a something from nothing scenario. An event that violates every known law of physics created the laws of physics after it was established to keep itself running in an orderly fashion after a rather disorderly entrance. But really I digress from my point.
Our church fathers (and mothers, but fathers in the all encompassing sense) endured the kind of persecution we modern westerners routinely ignore on the nightly news in Syria and Iraq (another blog for another time). They were teaching Christ in a time when it could really cost you. If it might cost you your life, would you believe on Christ Jesus? What was necessary to be saved? What were the central tenets of the faith? What does our Lord require of us? How do you live in this world while you wait for release to the next?
Our ancestors thought long and hard about these questions. They endured trials and tortures. They developed methods to teach the new comers. And the new comers learned. And then the new comers became the teachers to the next new comers. And it was serious stuff. Again, because you could suffer for being a follower of Christ.

They developed methods of teaching to aid in building believers, they were called catechisms. We might prefer a more modern word: lessons. The things of faith were taught, repeated and then taught again. Because we need them. God is Holy. The world screams that He is not. God seeks and saves the lost. The world screams he is a kill-joy and mean taskmaster. God the Son humbled himself to come to earth to die in our place on a cross. The world screams Jesus was just a good teacher. We must be taught and retaught Truth. Because the world needs to hear it and we need to believe it, because our lives depend on Him.

What are they you ask. Well, some are simple and some are more in depth. But I’d venture to wager that you know some of them already. The Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed are probably the two easiest examples.

The Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;  he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

There is a lot of truth in there. It’s also nothing but truth. Distilled, undiluted capital T truth. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t more to be taught but this is essential stuff here. Jesus as misunderstood teacher doesn’t fit in here. Jesus’s miraculous birth is in here. This creed is a great starting point for analyzing the things the world is telling you. If what you are being told doesn’t fit with this creed, then it isn’t truth you are being told. Respond in love however. We are a joyful people because of the great hope that resides within us. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come!

The Roman Catholic Church has developed many catechisms. The Reformation brought us the Westminster Confession of Faith , The Westminster Shorter Catechism , other Church Documents and the 39 Articles of Faith . The whole New Testament is instruction as well. So pick up your bible and be taught by God.

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Jews. Etc.

A Jewish Journalist walked the streets of Paris and got a whole lot of hate thrown his way.
I wish I could say I was surprised. It has been growing, but now it is full throttle. Satan hates Jews. They have been singled out time and again in history. Now ISIS is targeting Christians as well. Arab nations have long repressed Christians too.
I am typing this up at lunch, so this will be short.
The lines have been drawn. It appears as though Satan has taken off his mask and is roaming freely.
It reminds me of the world pre-WW2. Hitler is busy gobbling up Europe. The German intelligentsia have been reeducated to think Jews are less than human.
Our intelligentsia believe there are no moral absolutes. Our leaders think a carrot and stick will work with these barbarians.
The days are dark my friends. Stay in the light while there is light. Lean on Him in whom light lives. We may lose our heads, but our salvation is Secure in Christ Jesus.

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All things must come to an end

Today was a wonderful day. And a sad one. And a happy one.
Enjoyed a great worship service. Led by a friend who used to be the Worship Leader at church. He was fired by our church, for reasons unknown. Still a mystery to me.
Anyway, he needed to have a video of his leading worship to assist in his job search.
So everyone there tonight was a friend of his. And they wanted to be there. Absolutely glorious worship. God the Father focused, Jesus the Son of God praising, Holy Spirit honoring worship of the Living and Triune God.
And I’m sad because I will probably never get to see my friend lead again.
But I will love and praise God without my friend.
But I know, no matter what, we will be worshiping again together when Jesus calls us home. Now that is going to be worship.

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Holocaust Day

The moral decline of a society makes the monstrous possible:
Dennis Prager on the Holocaust

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