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April 10, 2009

'I Am Poured Out Like Water'

tissot-what-our-savior-saw-from-the-cross.jpg What Our Savior Saw From the Cross by James Tissot.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.

In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.

They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

"He trusts in the Lord;
let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him."

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother's breast.

From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

Continue reading "'I Am Poured Out Like Water'" »

April 9, 2009

Lifted Up

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The Brazen Serpent monument by Giovanni Fantoni, photo by David Bjorgen. The sculpture, on Mt. Nebo in Jordan, commemorates God's command to Moses to raise a sculpture of a snake on a pole in order to heal Israelites dying of snakebites.



Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
- John 3:14-15


When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

- "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" by Isaac Watts.

April 8, 2009

Passover Feast

417px-Haggadah_14th_cent.jpg A 14th-century German illuminated Haggadah. A Haggadah is the script recited at the first two Seder meals of Passover. It tells the story of the Exodus.


On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
- Mark 14:12-16

Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast - as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
- 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

April 7, 2009

Denial

forte_andpeterwept_72.jpg And Peter Wept by Wayne Forte.

Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
"'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."
But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.
But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

- Matthew 26:31-35, 69-70

April 6, 2009

The Cup

kiefer_canyoudrinkthecup_72.jpg Can You Drink the Cup I Am About to Drink? by Fr. John Kiefer .



Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

- Matthew 26:36-39


Christ's prayers fall into two categories with regard to this: conditional and absolute. As far as his conditional prayers were concerned, Luke 22:42 is a prime example: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." . . . This prayer was answered in the following ways. His mind was strengthened against the terror of the impending events. This enabled him to be perfectly composed to embrace God's will: "not my will, but yours be done." So Christ was heard to the extent he he had wished to be heard. Although, by nature, he desired deliverance, since he was human, yet he did not desire this absolutely, as he was wholly given over to God's will.
- Adapted from Hebrews by John Owen. Copyright 1998 by Watermark.

April 5, 2009

Palm Branches in Heaven

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Victory over Death, by Frederick Wilson at Church of the Incarnation. Photo by Chester Burger.



The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
"Hosanna!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the King of Israel!"
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
"Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey's colt."

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

- John 12:12-16


After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
"Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!"

- Revelation 7:9-12

Continue reading "Palm Branches in Heaven" »

April 3, 2009

Your King Comes

2334940696_24e4362db5_b.jpg A young man in the Philippines weaves palaspas for Palm Sunday celebrations. Photo by Regina Dycaico.


Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
- Matthew 20:25-28

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
- Zechariah 9:9-10

Easter Hats for a Recession

2398985414_eaa8690a17_b.jpg By aptmetaphor/Flickr

Easter Hats Fall Victim to Economic Downturn
By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

There are many things that Paula Settles is willing to forgo in these budget-conscious times, but an Easter hat isn't one of them.

Continue reading "Easter Hats for a Recession" »

April 2, 2009

Free Will and Destiny

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Reflection, by Steph Roberts. "[My] recent diver paintings continue to explore the dichotomy of free will and destiny," Roberts writes. "Even in their precise and controlled movements, the divers themselves strain against pervasive natural forces. This relationship speaks to the assertion of human will in the context of circumstances beyond one's control."

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death -
even death on a cross!
- Philippians 2:5-8

April 1, 2009

An Easy Fast

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"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
- Matthew 6:16

O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the Lord your God accept you." But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."
- 2 Samuel 24:23-24

Continue reading "An Easy Fast" »

March 31, 2009

Scorning the Shame

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Golgotha: Station Nine by Kevin Rolly.

May those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me,
O Lord, the Lord Almighty;
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me,
O God of Israel.

For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
I am a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my own mother's sons;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

- Psalm 69:6-9

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
- Hebrews 12:2-3

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
- I Corinthians 1:18-19

March 30, 2009

Mary's Gift

Georges_de_La_Tour_007.jpg Mary Magdalene by Georges de la Tour (1625-1650).

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
- John 12:1-3

My burden in thy Passion, Lord, thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on thee.
I cast me down before thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend,
For this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.

- "O Sacred Head Now Wounded," at?trib?ut?ed to Ber?nard of Clair?vaux

March 28, 2009

Why Jesus Died

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"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."
- Acts 2:22-24

Since Jesus had no sin either in his nature or in his conduct, he need never have died either physically or spiritually. ... Then why did he do it? What was the rationale of his death? There is only one possible, logical, biblical answer. It is that he died for our sins, not his own. The death he died was our death, the penalty which our sins had richly deserved.
- John Stott, Our Guilty Silence

What the Sadducees Forgot

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Graves on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. By John LaRue.

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. . . . Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
- Matthew 22:29

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
- Acts 2:22-24

March 27, 2009

Provocative Parable

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"The Parable of the Vineyard" by John S. C. Abbott & Jacob Abbott, Illustrated New Testament (1878).

He then began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

"He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.'

"But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

"What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven't you read this scripture:
"'The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"

Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

- Mark 12:1-12

March 26, 2009

He Resolutely Set Out

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Photo of the Seventh Station, Gate of Justice in Jerusalem taken by the American Colony between 1898 and 1914. From the Library of Congress.


As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
- Luke 9:51


When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die.

Remember, when you think of Jesus' resolution to die, that he had a nature like ours. He shrunk back from pain like we do. He would have enjoyed marriage and children and grandchildren and a long life and esteem in the community. He had a mother and brothers and sisters. He had special places in the mountains. To turn his back on all this and set his face towards vicious whipping and beating and spitting and mocking and crucifixion was not easy. It was hard. O how we need to use our imagination to put ourselves back into his place and feel what he felt. I don't know of any other way for us to begin to know how much he loved us. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

If we were to look at Jesus' death merely as a result of a betrayer's deceit and the Sanhedrin's envy and Pilate's spinelessness and the soldiers' nails and spear, it might seem very involuntary. And the benefit of salvation that comes to us who believe from this death might be viewed as God's way of making a virtue out of a necessity. But once you read Luke 9:51 all such thoughts vanish. Jesus was not accidentally entangled in a web of injustice. The saving benefits of his death for sinners were not an afterthought. God planned it all out of infinite love to sinners like us and appointed a time.

- John Piper, from "He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem"

March 25, 2009

Easter Eggs

425695403_2530452c1e.jpg Eggs by Sue Copenhaver, photo by Emily Martin.

Slavic people have been making pysanky (above) for centuries. When Christianity was introduced in their region more than 1000 years ago, much of the pagan symbolism in the eggs was repurposed, so that fish came to represent Christ; lines encircling the egg eternal life; triangles, the Trinity; and the egg itself, the Resurrection, as well as spring and fertility.


In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
- Luke 1:26-33

March 23, 2009

Be Reconciled

rwanda6%20006.JPG Photo by Mark Moring.


"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
- Matthew 5:23-24


Marcos and Felicity (above) ride a bike from village to village in Rwanda telling their story of reconciliation. In the 1994 genocide, Marcos murdered eight people, including several members of Felicity's family, while she hid in the nearby bushes.

When the genocide ended and Marcos ended up going to prison, Felicity says she wouldn't have hesitated to kill him. When he was released several years ago, he faced a community "gacaca" court, where he confessed his crimes in detail and seemed truly repentant, but Felicity wasn't ready to forgive.

Over the next couple of years, though, she became a Christian and began considering the possibility of forgiveness. Marcos came to her home, got down on his knees before her, folded his hands, and begged for forgiveness - which she granted while putting a hand on his shoulder. Marcos told CT it felt like a "holy shower," that he felt clean on the inside for the first time in many years. And Felicity said it was like having a crippling burden released from her back. Today, they ride the bike around, telling their amazing story of reconciliation - and many others throughout Rwanda have similar stories to tell.

Shocking

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The Passion fa?ade of Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Fam?lia in Barcelona. Sculpture designed by Josep Maria Subirachs.


It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear the story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.
- Dorothy Sayers, quoted by Barbara Brown Taylor in God in Pain

March 22, 2009

The Perfect Defense

15%20MEMLING%20HANS%20SCENES%20FROM%20THE%20PASSION%20OF%20CHRIST.jpg Panel with scenes from the Passion of Christ by Hans Memling

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart.
I know that while in heaven he stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.

- "Before the throne of God above" by Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863.

March 21, 2009

God's Suffering

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By Amalia Elena Veralli


There is good biblical evidence that God not only suffered in Christ, but that God in Christ suffers with his people still. ? It is wonderful that we may share in Christ's sufferings; it is more wonderful still that he shares in ours.
- John Stott, The Cross of Christ


For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.

I am a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my own mother's sons;

for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

- Psalm 69: 7-8

March 20, 2009

Earning Forgiveness

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The Glory of the Cross by Sawai Chinnawong

We do not have to make ourselves suffer to merit forgiveness. We simply receive the forgiveness earned by Christ.
- Tim Keller in "All of Life is Repentance"

March 19, 2009

Agnus Dei

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Agnus Dei by Francisco de Zurbar?n


The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
- John 1:29

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
- Hebrews 9:11-14

March 18, 2009

When He Comes

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Places of Light #3 by Krystyna Sanderson

"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap.
- Malachi 3:1-2

"[Peter] asked the Lord to leave his boat because he felt humble - and he felt humble because he had suddenly perceived the greatness of Jesus. Do we ever do that? When we read the Gospel and the image of Christ becomes compelling, glorious, when we pray and we become aware of greatness, the holiness of God, do we ever say ?I am unworthy that He should come near me?'
- Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray

March 17, 2009

'They Find it Unacceptable That We Are Irish'

Woman%20holding%20child.jpg This mother was freed from slavery in a South Asian rock quarry through International Justice Mission intervention in collaboration with local authorities. Photo courtesy of IJM.

"The very next day after my new converts, dressed all in white, were anointed with chrism, even as it was still gleaming upon their foreheads, they were cruelly cut down and killed by the swords of these same devilish men. At once I sent a good priest with a letter. I could trust him, for I had taught him from his boyhood. He went, accompanied by other priests, to see if we might claw something back from all the looting, most important, the baptized captives whom they had seized. Yet all they did was to laugh in our faces at the mere mention of their prisoners. ...

"For myself, I do not know 'what I shall say,' or how 'I may speak anymore' of those who are dead of these children of God--whom the sword has struck down so harshly, beyond all belief. For it is written, 'Weep with those that weep,' and again, 'If one member grieves, then all members should grieve together.' Because of this, the whole Church 'cries out and for its sons and daughters' who so far have not been killed by the sword. For they have been taken far away and abandoned in a land where sin abounds, openly, wickedly, impudently; there freeborn men are sold, Christians are reduced to slavery, and worst of all among the most worthless and vilest apostates, the Picts.

"Because of all this, my voice is raised in sorrow and mourning. Oh, my most beautiful, my lovely brethren and my sons 'whom I begot in Christ,' I have lost count of your number, what can I do to help you now? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. 'We have been overwhelmed by the wickedness of unjust men,' it is as if 'we had been made outsiders.' They find it unacceptable that we are Irish. But it says 'Is it not true that you all have but one God? Why then have you, each one of you, abandoned your own neighbor?' "

- From "A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus," which Patrick wrote to excommunicate soldiers who had kidnapped and enslaved a group of Irish Christians. Translated by John Skinner.

March 16, 2009

Priorities

Liberty.jpg Photo by Andrew Holbrook.

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"
- Matthew 6:24-25

"Take no thought for your life." "Be careful about one thing only," says our Lord, "your relationship to Me." Common sense shouts loud and says, "That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, I must consider what I am going to eat and drink." Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing the thought that this statement is made by One Who does not understand our particular circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things so as to make them the one concern of our life. Wherever there is competition, be sure that you put your relationship to God first.
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

March 15, 2009

Consecration

Overhead Sacred Harp singers, Overhead Hallow Square. From Awake, My Soul.

Behold the servant of the Lord!
I wait thy guiding eye to feel,
To hear and keep thy every word,
To prove and do thy perfect will,
Joyful from my own works to cease,
Glad to fulfill all righteousness.

Here then to thee thy own I leave;
Mold as thou wilt thy passive clay;
But let me all thy stamp receive,
But let me all thy words obey,
Serve with a single heart and eye,
And to thy glory live and die.

- "Behold the Servant of the Lord" by Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1749.

March 14, 2009

History Lesson

pharisees-cartoon.jpg Pharisees by Dave Walker.


Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

-
Matthew 23:1-4, 23-27

March 13, 2009

Don't Throw Your Life Away

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Don't Throw Your Life Away by Paul Shively. Inspired by the book Rethinking Retirement by John Piper.

March 11, 2009

You Used to Walk in These Ways

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The Prodigal Son, by Max Slevogt

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

- Colossians 3:5-14

Dying to Sin

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An inmate at the Carol S. Vance prison unit near Houston volunteers to be baptized to signify his faith in Christ. Photo courtesy of Prison Fellowship.

"I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
- Luke 5:32

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
- Romans 6:1-4

March 10, 2009

He Remembers

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Accusation, by Tyrus Clutter. Woodcut, 2003

Your hands shaped me and made me.
Will you now turn and destroy me?
Remember that you molded me like clay.
Will you now turn me to dust again?
Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese,
clothe me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews?
- Job 10: 8-11

He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
- Psalm 103:9-14

March 9, 2009

Sin Crouches at Your Door

mccleary_childrenoftheapple.jpg Children of the Apple Tree by Mary McCleary, © 2000, mixed media collage on paper.

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
- Genesis 4:6-7

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
- I Corintians 10:13

There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
- Ecclesiastes 7:20

March 8, 2009

Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace

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At at Baka church service in Southern Sudan. By Amanda Yeager.

Come, thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of thy redeeming love.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood;
How his kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

- From "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," by Ro?bert Ro?bin?son

March 7, 2009

Many Things

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Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, by Diego Vel?zquez

We didn't even know what moderation was. What it felt like. We didn't just work: we inhaled our jobs, sucked them in, became them. . . . We looked for others whose lives were similarly overstuffed; we found them. "This is just he way it is," we said to one another on the train, in the restaurant. "This is modern life. Maybe some people have time to measure things out by teaspoonfuls." . . . .
When did the collision between our appetites and the needs of our souls happen? Was there a heart attack? Did we get laid off from work, one of the thousands certified as extraneous? Did a beloved child become a bored stranger, a marriage fall silent and cold? Or, by some exquisite working of God's grace, did we just find the courage to look the truth in the eye and, for once, not blink? How did we come to know that we were dying a slow and unacknowledged death? And the only way back to life was to set all our packages down and begin again, carrying what we really needed?
We travail. We are heavy laden. Refresh us, O homeless, jobless, possession-less Savior. You came naked, and naked you go. And so it is for us. So it is for all of us.
- From "Living Lent" by Barbara Cawthorne Crafton in Bread and Wine.


As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

- Luke 10:38-42

March 6, 2009

Repent

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By Brian Vander Veen. At Salvation Mounain, Niland, California


In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.' "
- Matthew 3:1-3


John's word strikes abrasively against the easy certainties of the religious Establishment. He will let us take no comfort in our rites, tradition, or ancestry. Everybody must submit to be made over. Everybody must descend into the waters, especially the religiously secure and the morally sophisticated.
- From "Repent," a sermon by William Willimon, in On a Wild and Windy Mountain, reprinted in Bread and Wine.

March 5, 2009

Treasures

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Entropy, by Chuck Mountain

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
- Matthew 6:19-21

March 4, 2009

Desert Survival by the Word of the Lord

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He Spake and it was Done II by Sandra Bowden. The surrounding text is from Psalm 33, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made . . .For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm."


Remember how Satan teased him? "If you are the Son of God . . . " (Luke 4:3, 9 NCV).
Why would Satan say this? Because he knew what Christ had heard at the baptism. "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17 NASB).

"Are you really God's Son?" Satan is asking. Then comes the dare - "Prove it!" Prove it by doing something:

"Tell this stone to become bread" (Luke 4:3 NASB)
"If You worship before me, it shall all be Yours" (v.7).
"Throw Yourself down from here" (v.9).

What subtle seduction! Satan doesn't denounce God; he simply raises doubts about God. Is his work enough? Earthly works - like bread changing or temple jumping - are given equal billing with heavenly works. He attempts to shift, ever so gradually, our source of confidence away from God's promise and toward our performance.

Jesus doesn't bite the bait. No heavenly sign is requested. He doesn't solicit a lightning bolt; he simply quotes the Bible. . . . Jesus' survival weapon of choice is Scripture. If the Bible was enough for his wilderness, shouldn't it be enough for ours? Don't miss the point here: Everything you and I need for desert survival is the Book.

- Max Lucado, from His Name Is Jesus: The Promise of God's Love Fulfilled

March 3, 2009

Looking for Power

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The Golden Calf from Overheads:What's in Your Worship? by TJ Aitken.


You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape. . . . Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.

- Deuteronomy 13:15-16, 39

The devil led [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.' "

- Luke 4:5-8

March 2, 2009

The Second Temptation

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Auslegung der Episteln vnd Euangelien vom Advent an, bis auff Ostern, by Martin Luther. (Magdeburg: Michael Lotter, 1530)


Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:

" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

- Matthew 4:5-7

March 1, 2009

What Wondrous Love

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By Amalia Elena Veralli

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
When I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

- From "What Wondrous Love Is This," attributed to Alexander Means.

February 28, 2009

Bread of Life

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The Fall of the Manna. Majolica plate, Urbino, c. 1570. Location: Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Italy. From Nimatallah / Art Resource, NY

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

- John 6:26-40

February 27, 2009

Fasting

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Last Night in Gethsemane by Wisnu Sasongko


At the very core of fasting is empathy with the divine or participation in God's perception of a sacred moment. When someone dies, God is grieved; when someone sins, particularly egregiously, God is grieved; when a nation is threatened, God is grieved. We could provide more examples. The point is this: fasting identifies with God's perspective and grief in a sacred moment. Fasting enables us to identify with how God views a given event; fasting empowers us to empathize with God. Fasting is about pathos, taking on the emotions of God in a given event. . . . When people tell us they are fasting, we should ask "In response to what?" instead of "What do you hope you will get out of it?"

- Scot McKnight, Fasting

February 26, 2009

He Was Hungry

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Ramon Crater as seen from Mizpe Ramon. Photo by Armin Schon, Nes Ziona, Israel

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

- Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

- Matthew 4:1-4

February 25, 2009

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

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A church in New Orleans' lower 9th Ward, April 2007. Photo by Julie Dermansky.


To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'

"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."

- Genesis 3:17-19

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