Pastor's Blog

We exist to serve those in our community by sharing the pervasive light of the gospel. Here we are real and raw. We seek to show how the gospel pervades our life for the sake of YOUR encouragement.

Six Hours

Mark 15

25 and it was the third hour when they crucified him.

 

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.


Six hours. Six, gruesome, bloody, agonizing, afflicted hours is how long Jesus hung on a splintered, wooden cross. The crucifixion scene is the pinnacle of our faith and today, Good Friday is when we remember the death of our Lord Jesus. Can you imagine what a scene that was? Read the story of Mark 15 and simply close your eyes for 5 minutes and wrap your head around what Jesus did for us. There are certainly many aspects of this story showing the detailed account of what Jesus went through, but in this I want to focus on the actual cross.

Six hours I mentioned earlier, is how long Jesus hung on the cross. The Bible tells us that he was crucified on the third hour, which would have been about 9 a.m., the third hour of daylight roundabout is the idea, past 12 noon and onto 3 p.m. Jesus hung for. Can you imagine that? Can you envision the scene of the hill of Golgatha, filled with Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders shouting taunts to the king of the universe? Look into the face of the Savior battered on the cross, knowing that any moment he could end the apex of His suffering, knowing that any moment he could call down the world’s mightiest army of angels and send all of his accusers to the pit of hell and be completely justified for it. Can you see his face? No, you can’t, for it is marred beyond recognition.

Six hours, he lifted his body continuously up just to breathe in and out. We have a hard time simply standing in place for more than a few hours, imagine being tied to a pole? We have a hard time if we get a splinter in our thumb, imagine Roman nails? We have a hard time taking criticism from our daily skills and task, imagine the mockery of proudful Roman and Jewish elite? Read the account of Frank Turek describing Roman execution (https://crossexamined.org/crucifixion-like/, Paragraph 6):


The victim Jesus is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places his full weight on the nail through his feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, another phenomenon occurs. As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed, and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs but it cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It is undoubtedly during these periods that he utters the seven short sentences that are recorded.


It reminds me of the old hymn:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (Were you there?)

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!


We know the end of the story, for Jesus could not stay in the grave. His love could not allow him die and to be separated from us, for we know that he rose from the grave. However, the question must be asked as to what place Good Friday should hold in our hearts? What must be our posture on this day? I ask of this today; I ask that you grieve. Not that you grieve because of your sin, as that has no longer been recorded in the vaults of heaven if you have been saved, it has long been forgotten.

I ask that you grieve for the suffering of Christ. Remember his nails, his open wounds, his heavy load and painful groans as he struggles to carry his cross. Grieve that they crucified your Lord. Grieve that he was taken away before his time, grieve that he suffered in your place. Grieve my brother and tremble before the King of Kings, lifted up not to His glorious, golden throne full of light and truth, but that he is lifted up on our most heinous torture device full of blood and tears. Can you hear Him crying my brother? Can you hear his mother screaming out of her mind as her son is torn to pieces? Can you hear his disciples run away and desert him to the vultures? Grieve that they crucified your Lord, and if you are radical enough, grieve that you crucified your Lord.


Sometimes, it causes me to tremble! Tremble! Tremble!


Wait my brother, wait until Sunday.

Read more
Why we sing

“What can wash away my sin,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus”


It is amazing to me that after hundreds and sometimes even thousands of years, Christians have clung unto songs that are deeply and profoundly impactful. Singing in fact, has been a part of Christian history since the time of Jesus and has always held a reverent place in our worship services. You can read about Jesus singing with his disciples on the Mountain of Olives in Matthew 26. Though many Christians commonly partake in this Christian, in this post I want to talk about why we sing. Here are 5 reasons as to why we sing:


1.    To imitate God

When I say this, I don’t mean that God sings in the way that we do. Although it is certainly the case that when Jesus was on the earth, he sang hymns, and one reason why we do the same is to imitate Him. However, what I mean by this is that singing is an activity that is much more than speaking words. When we sing, we are creating something that drives our minds past just uttering something true like a speech. When we sing, we are creating art. We are forming images, symbols and sounds that drive our minds to recognize the greatness of God further than just knowing something would. We gain heart knowledge, we gain passion, we gain affections for Jesus.

It is in this vein of thought that we imitate God. As we are singing and creating kinds of images that recognize God’s truth, we are bringing these things to life much like God did in creation and continues to do. God has given us abilities that mirror his to glorify Him, and when we use these abilities to create, we are imitating Him if we use them for His glory.


2.    To teach

It is no surprise that our worship songs teach us deep theological truths about God and who He is. Take for example one of the most intellectual challenging doctrines of the Christian Faith, the Trinity. How is it that we worship one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost? How is that God is one what (Diety), but three whose (Person)? How is it that a song can allow us to think of God as Trinity? Or put another way, how is it that songs allow us to begin the task of Triune thinking? Take the Doxology:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.


Notice how this very short song written by Thomas Ken in 1674, which has been song all over the world gets us to think about God. The first three lines speak to God’s work in the world as the source of all blessings, as the point of all praise, as the transcendent God but only refer to Him as one. The last line however gets us to recognize and group the identity of this one God in the group of three, the Trinity. These words became ingrained in us and even though when we speak about God we speak in singular nouns, but think about Jesus, the Father and Holy Spirit. You can hardly think about Jesus or talk about Him without referencing one person of the Godhead, which itself points us to there being other persons. Even though this song does not teach us how the triune paradox makes sense, it teaches us about the main points of the Trinity, one God, three persons.



3.    To guard against false teaching

One of the things that has always amazed me is how precious hymns were to the older generation from where I grew up. Those hymns where not just words or tunes; they were something deeper than that. When something bad happened in their life, it was the words to the hymns that their minds first went to, for God’s presence was reminded constantly to them by these old songs. Although there is something to be said that the songs people used to sing were nearer to their hearts than our songs may be to us today, it is still true that songs have a unique way of us remembering things. This is true with our knowledge about God.

It is the case that for people who have not gone through extensive theological training, the hymns that they learn become one of the bases for what they believe to be right or wrong. Now this can be both a good and a bad thing depending on the situation. I have found though that is someone hear something that goes against say an old song that they learned from their youth, they are very quick to distrust it, as they wisdom they have has proved trustworthy. This is an asset for most cases I believe as the old faith is preserved. Take for example the prosperity gospel that teaches that God wants us to proposer with health and wealth in this present life. This is the teaching that God is waiting to give us all of the earthly goods we want in this life if we just give a donation to His “work” by means of a certain preacher. I can refute this no better than this hymn:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul


4.    To share the gospel

The line I quoted at the beginning of this post comes from the Hymn “what can wash away my sin.” Even in reading these lines I can still hear my grandfather’s voice in singing them and my grandmother adding her Harmony. The point here however is that our worship songs primary message has to always be found in the gospel. Our hymns recognize the truths of God, but everything we know about God is dead to us without the saving power of the Gospel. What does it matter to know God’s all-powerful nature if you are still dead in your sins, and it is with this power that God will judge you at the end of days? Or what about God being all knowing, what is it if it is with this knowledge of your past sins that he will condemn you?

If our worship songs sing simply to express some kind of personal experience or simply to confess truths without finding their place in God’s salvation, they are of no use to us. They of eternal and powerful use only when we recognize the shed bled of Jesus, which is why so many of our hymns like the one I quoted earlier are about God’s saving grace on the cross. “What can wash away my sin” it asks, “nothing but the blood of Jesus,” it answers. Again, it asks, “what can make me whole again,” the answer is, “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”


5.    We identify with our past brethren

One of the beautiful realities about traditional churches in all of their traditions that in contemporary churches that we many times lose is that from the time of the apostles, to maybe a few years before we were born, we have a big gap in terms of our history and our worship with our predecessors. Many times, we don’t even think that it is important as to what even our grandfathers did in their worship, but it could not be more so. As Christians, we identify ourselves with the body of Christ and an important step in that is recognizing that we do not live out or faith alone, we are connected to a revolutionary movement that has changed the world. What participating in the same kinds of worship or the same songs does is that it helps us to see that the same realities that we have sung about on that particular day, our fellow brothers and sisters have dune for hundreds of years. It helps to make us realize that Christianity did not take a gap for thousands of years, but instead we continue their same mission, and we appreciate the work of God in their lives more for it.

Read more
God says you can handle it

The other day while Rebekah and I were going through our morning devotions in Spurgeon’s Mornings and Evenings, we came a crossed a section where Spurgeon outlines why Christians suffer. This is really an interesting question because in a way the question itself doesn’t make sense. The reason I say this is because since the beginning of our history, to be a Christian has meant to suffer. The very basis of our faith is founded in the affliction of our Lord Jesus Christ, and if anyone had gotten confused as to thinking that our life would be characterized by something else, just take a look at Jesus’ words in John 15:20, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

For any who are reading this post and might find this as new information I am grateful that someone was finally told you, but for most, I would imagine this would not be new information. The reason I write this and why what Spurgeon had said was so puzzling was that he puts this lifestyle in perspective. Suffering is the mark, the trophy if you will, of the Christian life. How do you know you are still on the straight and narrow? You check your life for suffering, for affliction and deep turmoil, this will provide your answer.

Much more can be said about the kind of suffering you face, from people or from nature, or of how we should respond to it, but I write this to talk about one thing in particular; that is why do Christians have to carry onto the same, long, burdens for so long? Why is it that God allows us to feel the same whip for days, weeks, months, and for some of us, maybe even years? On top of this, why aren’t all of Christian brothers and sisters carry similar burdens? Why is it that our burdens always seem to be heavier than our fellow traveler? Why is it that you are the one that has to continue at a job that brings you nothing but grief, or that you have to continue in unemployment while your account dwindles and you have kids to worry about? Why is it that you have to be the one who’s family is shattered or that you the one that continues to battle cancer and bear the chains that never sheds any light? Why does grief consume you while the whole world basks in happiness and light? The answer is testing.

Paul says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” Each test that we go through God has already foreseen and determined that you have the ability to endure such trials. If what was said at the beginning of this is true, and that it is the nature of the Christian, it is the blessedness of his faith and his gift to endure sufferings, then the weight of your trial shows the weight of your faith. The reason you continue to go through such dangerous trials is because God has deemed that you have the faith to endure this, while your fellow Christian may not. In fact, if what Paul says in Colossians 1:24 is true then as we suffer, we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction by showing the world Christ’s sufferings through our own. The primary reason we suffer is to show the world the gospel by showing them how Christ suffered for the salvation of all, we are a mirror of that every time we go through affliction. We “preach the gospel” and the greater our suffering, the louder the message of the gospel rings.

Much more can be said about this, but the primary reason I felt the need to share is to show that in your sufferings oh Christian, do not lose hope. You are showing the world the stripes of Jesus, the nails in his hands in feet, the wound in his side through your hope in difficult times. The reason you have to bear heavier burdens is because God has deemed you a louder preacher for the time being. That is what we find joy in. The temptation here however would be that we find pride in being louder proclaimers, I would caution you not to fall into pride in this, but to bear your burden well.

Also a challenge comes with this; I believe one of the reasons we in the west don’t suffer as our fellow brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution is because we are not strong enough in our faith to suffer that much. For if we were all strong enough, I would venture to say that most of us would be thrown in the lion’s cages, nailed to crosses, exiled from our homes as the early church did, and the reason we do not now is not because of God’s favor in the “blessed land of America,” but because of our weak faith. If not here in America, then our strong faith would drive us to the front line of physical warfare to be missionaries in dangerous countries. However, we are not yet able to handle such persecution, and therefore God spares us of it.

How do we respond? Bear your burden and bear it well. Rejoice that we get to proclaim the gospel through suffering and know that with every illness, broken relationship, sleepless night, insult, etc., if you show hope in Christ in the midst of these, you have preached Jesus, and in that we rejoice. 

Read more
To be a Child again

Matthew 18:3 (NIV)

3 and [Jesus] said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


When I was 11 or 12 years old, I lived like almost any normal kid, playing, laughing, goofing around etc.. One day I had a pool party with 2 of my friends where we were, as Chucky Cheese says, “kids just being kids.” Here my friend decided to practice his new wrestling move and jab his elbow into the right side of me body. I can’t tell you the amount of pain that I felt after this as it was the worse feeling that I had in my life up until that point. This was a radiating pain, one that would come every 15-45 seconds and then go away but would get worse with every attack. 

At this point, we did what pretty much every islander would do, we called the island nurse. She came and saw the spot that the pain came from and told us we needed to get to a hospital immediately. Now if you are an islander, you would know what kind of journey this meant and the dangers of it, so for my American friends, let me explain. First you go drive to the dock, hop on a boat to the nearest island with an airport, get in a car and drive to the airport, try to orchestrate an emergency flight to get to that small island airport, get on the plane, fly to the capital, get in an ambulance, then finally get to the hospital. This occurred over a span of about 9 hours, so you can imagine that any emergency in such places is extremely dangerous and frightening. All the while from start to finish, my mother held me in her arms.

The rest of this story is pretty straight forward, once we got the hospital, we saw a doctor who had told us that he thought my appendix had gotten inflamed from the blow. After just a quick test, they confirmed that a surgery was needed to remove my appendix, which we did. Throughout this ordeal, with the length of the journey, the hours of anxiety not knowing how long it would take and the pain that I would endure through this time, there is one thing that sticks out above all others. The one thing I remember above all else is that from the time that we left our house to the time we had gotten to the hospital, I had kept my eyes shut. There were two periods where I had opened my eyes just to see my surroundings. For the remainder of the many hours on such a perilous journey, I hadn’t bothered to look or speak to anyone.

The reason for this is not because I was tired from travel, as anyone who has had a similar experience would tell you that the pain is enough to keep you awake. The reason is that there was something deep that gave me more peace then even the pain that I continued to face. This was a complete trust in my mother. When she carried me in her arms, I knew from when we embarked on our journey that no matter where she took me, I could trust her with my life. I knew that in order to get better, I would have to allow her to completely carry me no matter how many hours it would take. I knew that if I were to be saved, she would have to be the one to carry me in her arms, no matter how tired or fatigued she had to be from such a voyage.

In a similar way, I firmly believe that if this virus has taught us anything, it is that if we are going to press on as Christians in a fallen world, we are to have the kind of child-like faith that Jesus talks about in Matthew 18. Everyone in our American world has been impacted, no matter if you are a child and your school has shut down, if you are a parent and you don't know if you will have a job in a matter of weeks, if you are a senior and your retirement funds are now in question, or if your younger and all of your life plans are falling through the cracks. Everyone feels burdens that they have not had to carry before and pains that they didn’t even know they could have. Who knows how long we will have to carry these that came out of left field?

What is the response of the Christian? How does Jesus expect us to carry on? The answer lies in child-like faith. When we are young, we believe anything is possible and so to children, Jesus can literally do anything. When we get older, we seem to lose the ability to believe God can overcome anything. What does Jesus expect from us? Jesus expects that we can close our eyes and that He will take care of everything. Even if this means that he must carry us to wherever we need to be, He will do it. The question is do you trust Him?

Do you trust Him? No matter how bad the pain gets, do you trust God has you in His arms? Would you let go of worrying about where you are and where you are going and just trust Him? Would you do something so radical as to become a child again and trust Him? If you are trying, pray one simple prayer:


“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NKJV)

Read more