I won’t even do it for my pastor!

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Sunday morning.  The communion table’s shrouded plates drew my attention. My thoughts centered on Jesus and His saving work for me. “Father, give me a genuine sense of Your Son’s sacrifice for me!”

A bit of a grimace flickered across our pastor’s face as he prayed for our church and the world.  I decided to pray for him right then and there. An unbidden idea arrived -“What if I asked God to give ME Patrick’s headache or stomach discomfort for the duration of the service?”

As quickly as suggestion formed in my mind, I dispatched it with this humbling admittance:

  • I’m not willing to suffer Patrick’s stead, even for one hour!

My eyes settled once again on the surface bearing the elements.

Holy Spirit-inspired Truth landed on me.

Jesus PLANNED for and undertook to undergo my eternal punishment, cut off from the love of His Dad, a fellowship He had enjoyed since before time.

Not just MY eternal punishment but the weight of every other believer’s well-earned punishment too.  I sat there, half listening to Patrick and using my imagination to re-create the enormity of this formula:

  • Infinite punishment due one believer X number of men for whom Christ suffered X 3 days

My finite brain cells couldn’t expand sufficiently.  But I glimpsed a splinter of Jesus’ love for us.

The sacrament of the shared Supper drew forth a new kind of gratitude.  Thank you, good Father for answering my morning’s prayer.

 

Downton Abbey and Why Jesus Came

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downton-final-season  Mike and I just finished watching this series.  You have to understand how we ‘do movies’.  Thirty minutes at a time, while enjoying supper on trays.  So we have have moved through Seasons 4, 5 and 6 (with a break of several years) at a enjoyably slow pace, savoring each scene as well as imagining what would happen next.

After our hiatus, we noticed a shift from what seemed like an intentional soap operatic purpose of shocking the viewer TO a peppering of events with grace.

We could be mistaken in assigning a perceptible shift in the screenwriting of Julian Fellowes.   It could be that over the years we have grown both more desperate for and in love with God’s Grace, so that we spot it wherever its fragrance wafts.

One dramatic category of this Grace pervaded that final show.  All the broken relationships were healed.

Yes, some might call this contrivance, a tying up with a pretty bow this microcosm named Downton Abbey.

But we loved it!  Reconciliation between humans is a powerful, supernatural and divine blessing.  God has so wired each of us with the need and longing to be ‘right’ with each other and ultimately with God Himself.

  • Deep calls to deep……Psalm 42:7

I’m not ashamed to admit this: we sobbed, both of us.  Tears painted with the recognition of this holy ache planted deep inside.

Realistically, we all know that harmony doesn’t last, at least in this world. Edith’s parents, Robert and Cora Crawley, articulated as much. But the desire for it and the joy that sweeps into our hearts when we are made right with one another point to a world where that kind of peace will be its warp and woof.  That life exists.  Jesus’ birth is proof.

This is one meaning of Christmas.  Creator and Father God intruded into our broken world as the God-Man Jesus to provide the one and only way for us sinful creatures to be reconciled to Him.  And being reconciled to Him, we have hope for harmony at the horizontal level.

By the time you read this, Christmas day will be waning or already past.  Invariably, if you are older than 7, your expectations have not been met.  The hype, YOUR hopes for a mystical, otherworldly taste or experience of Joy bigger than you were not met.  Either in the gifts or in the relationships.

Tomorrow looms as another cold-water, ordinary or even painful day.  But cheer up, reality is actually better than we imagine.  Because of Jesus, Christmas’ promises will neither disappoint nor fade away.

Jesus really did come at that point in history, when Augustus demanded a registration of all his subjects.  And His predicted death and resurrection are the evidence you need to safely trust His words about your future.

There is a new earth and new heavens awaiting Christians, one where true reconciliation with God and with each other will be played out forever.

Downton Abbey gives us a glimpse of what we long for and what is possible.  Thank you, Julian Fellowes!

Why do you trust Christianity? (aka: Why are you a Christian?)

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The only reason to be a Christian or to trust Christianity as a worldview is…

..if it’s TRUE!

Truth is a cross

The God of the universe is a ‘reasonable’ God.  That means He created EVERYTHING in a manner that can be attested to rationally (i.e. backed up with reasons or evidence), using His life-generating ‘logical’ Word.

In fact, God says in Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lordthough your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 

So on this Easter Sunday, I want to pass on what I am learning to articulate, 4 simple facts that even agnostic New Testament scholars and quite a few atheists agree on.  Where disputes and disagreements lie are in the interpretations of the facts.

Being equipped with ‘just the facts, ma’am’, can give you confidence when you find yourself with someone who doesn’t know the truth about Jesus.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Here is what is past dispute and agreed upon by most reputable scholars, no matter their faith positions:

 

 

 

 

  • Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion and laid in a tomb 
  • The tomb was discovered empty 2 days later
  • His disciples believed they had seen the risen, physical Jesus after his death
  • These disciples dramatically changed from cowering, demoralized followers to energized, bold and confident men and women who started a world-wide Christian movement that continues to endure and to grow both stronger and more numerous 2000+ years later

The evidence that backs up these facts comes NOT just from the Gospel accounts and letters written by Jesus’ earliest followers, but also from a-sympathetic historians, (that is to say, from those who didn’t have a dog in the race!)

To give you further confidence when sharing these 4 simple and incontrovertible facts, you only need to know ONE thing more.  Claims are most solid when they can be falsified.

So what would quickly falsify Christianity?

Empty tomb

 

 

 

Produce the body!

That’s all it would take to disprove and shut down the claims of these followers.  And you had better believe it, that the Romans AND the Jewish leaders did all they could to find the dead Galilean.

So as you celebrate and think about the living Savior, be confident, that you can trust the claims of the Bible.  Jesus IS (present tense) the truth, the light and the life.

Jesus' tomb is empty, unlike others

 

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