4/26/15

A Glorious Dark


A Glorious Dark is a new book by author A.J. Swoboda.  With Good Friday, the silent Saturday and Easter Sunday as the backdrop, Swoboda tackles tough questions about faith, doubt, suffering and pain.

I found this book intriguing because we hear so many sermons on Good Friday and Easter Sunday but rarely will one talk about the silence that was Saturday.  What must the early believers have gone through that day Jesus was in the grave.  What would they have been thinking?  I don't know what was on their mind but I sure know what goes through mine when it seems God is silent.

As I read through A Glorious Dark, I found myself curling back page corners so I could go back to certain points again and again.  I started reading those snippets to my wife and really found them encouraging. I think the author did a great job of bringing light into some dark corners of life.

Confusion, fear, it all gets addressed here.

A great book for those who struggle with doubt and fear, an encouragement to those who need hope, and a blessing to those who believe God still changes lives today.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."

4/12/15

A Call for Nonviolent Action


Nonviolent Action is the latest offering by author Ronald J. Sider.

Having had losts of discussions over the years about "just war" vs. pacifism, I thought I would give this new book a perusal.  I had read some of Sider's earlier works and never really connected with them.  Despite that, this topic intrigued me enough to give the author another chance.

Let me just say it, this is an excellent book.  Sider looks at nonviolent action throughout the 20th century.  Brief and compelling chapters about Gahndi, King, the Arab Spring, Liberia and many more examples, keep the reader engaged throughout the book.

I was very impressed by how Sider handled the topic overall.  While not ignoring other factors (economic, political, etc) the author shows that nonviolent action does work and should be considered a viable option. Though I really enjoyed this book, two things would have made it much, much better.  The book is addressed to Christians but there is no supporting Biblical examples cited by the author.  Even the occasional verse would have been helpful.  I thibnk this is where the book suffers the most.  The other thing that would have made the book better would have been a more practical application in the concluding chapter. 

Despite these two issues, this is a book that is much needed in the ongoing debate about war and pacifism.  No matter where you stand on the issue, I challenge you to read this book with an open mind. 

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."

4/11/15

Jesus Takes a Road Trip



James Tissot, detail from 
"Pilgrims on the Road to Emmaus" (1884-1896), 
watercolor on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum.

Luke 24:13-35

Two followers of Jesus were heading to a village called Emmaus.  It was about 7.5 miles from Jerusalem.  The average person could do that in a couple hours.  These two guys are talking about all that has gone on.  They were trying to make sense of all that happened.  Jesus was supposed to be the one who redeemed Israel but then there was the trial, the beating, His death…and now the report that He was no longer in the grave.  You get a sense in this passage that these guys were confused, disappointed and discouraged.  They were caught up in all that was going on. This was probably not a fun road trip for them.

In the midst of their conversation, Jesus drew near and began to walk with them.  Not recognizing Him, He asked what they were discussing that caused them such sadness.  The traveler named Cleopas basically asked where Jesus had been not to know what has been happening the last few days.  They unload their thoughts and feelings on Jesus.  Again, they were so caught up in what was going on, they did not recognize that Jesus was right there in their midst.

Jesus points out their lack of understanding and begins to unpack the Scriptures from Moses through the prophets.  All the verses that talk about Jesus, He himself explained to these two weary travelers.

As it was getting late, they begged Him to come in and rest with them.  As they shared a meal, Jesus broke bread, blessed it and gave it to them.  They’re eyes were opened and Jesus vanished before their eyes.

They admitted that their hearts burned within them as Jesus expounded on the Word.  These two then made a beeline right back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles all that had happened.

I love this passage of Scripture.  So much Jesus could have done but one of the first things he did was go talk to these two discouraged followers.  I believe He had compassion and love for them.  Today, we also experience times of discouragement.  We get overwhelmed by our circumstances and we don’t always see Jesus in our midst. 

The road to Emmaus was filled with confusion, yet Jesus walked with them, unrecognized for a time. He was with them in their darkest hour, taught them, and finally they saw the light!  They had to tell people.

Are you on the road to Emmaus?  Discouraged, confused!  Look up….your redemption draws near.  Jesus is there on the road with you….wanting to show you the Way the Truth and the Life!

4/5/15

The Suffering Christ

Matthew 20: 18-19,  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”

As I was preparing a talk for a joint Good Friday service, I realized that I don’t reflect enough on the suffering that Jesus Christ went through on the cross.  I don’t mean that in a morbid sort of way.  It is just that, beyond Good Friday/Easter Sunday, I don’t often meditate on all that He suffered on the cross.

After His arrest, the Bible describes how Jesus had a crown of thorns crammed on His head. He was spit on, mocked and then He was scourged.  I read the word scourged and I realize I don’t think much about what that actually means. 

When the Romans scourged someone, it would quickly remove the skin. Deep lacerations, torn flesh, exposed muscles and excessive bleeding would leave the criminal "half-dead." The Centurion in charge would order a halt to the flogging when the criminal was near death.

Jesus Christ suffered a scourging before He went to the Cross.

At the cross, the condemned was thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the crossbar.  The nails…the iron spikes…were driven into His hands and feet.  During the time on the cross, Jesus would have been in excruciating pain, struggling to breathe, enduing unimaginable horror. 

Then came that final moment, when His earthly suffering was over….with His last Words…”It is finished.” Jesus, the innocent Son of God, who bore our sins, died.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

I asked the people in our congregation what came to mind when they thought of Jesus on the cross.  One lady said, “Unfathomable Love.”  I couldn’t say it any better.

Jesus went through all that suffering because He loved us…He died so that we could be reconnected with God the Father. 

Today, I urge you to take some time and reflect upon the Cross.  Reflect upon His suffering AND His Love.

3/27/15

The Cross

My wife Sarah wrote this for an upcoming prayer service:


The Cross 

More than the place that mends our brokenness,
or a bridge to reach God's holiness,
the cross is death to sin-soaked flesh
and life that lasts, brand-new and fresh.

No more addiction, no more shame;
no more bondage, no more chains.
Christ has taken all the blame,
covered us and made us clean.

More than a place to lay our past,
our dreams, our hopes, our circumstance,
the cross is where we learn to stand
in triumph over sin's demands.

The power of God is free for us,
won with thorns and drops of blood.
Redeeming Love and Salvation,
release us from all condemnation.

The resurrection of our King
means hope and joy and strength and peace.
Now at the cross we die to live,
transformed by Him who conquered sin!

3/26/15

Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate

http://store.faithgateway.com/jesus-bread-and-chocolate

I love the smell of fresh baked bread.  When we livied in Croatia, walking down to the local bakery and smelling all the amazing breads and pastries was awesome and the taste was indescribable!  Now, living in northern British Columbia, I have access to fresh baked breads, organic coffees, and a host of other items at local farmer's markets and boutique coffee shops.

When I came across Jesus, Bread and Chocolate I was immediately intrigued.  The idea of crafting a handmade faith in a mass-market world sounded appealing.  However, author John J. Thompson, seemes to have promised more than he actually delivered.

While the author's passion is evident, the connection between faith and a farmer's market lifestyle seems more forced than a natural flow.

Having said all that, I found the author's story of his journey of faith to be captivating and it his love and passion for God is quite evident.

Though not my cup of tea, this book will appeal to those believers deeply embedded in the farmer's market lifestyle.

Published by Zondervan, you can order this book at your local bookstore. 

BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

3/19/15

Out Of the Mouth of Babes...

"Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise."

Jesus said this in reference to Psalm 8:2 which says, "Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger."

Ok, my son CJ is no longer a baby but he does like to praise!  Back in December, shortly before turning four, he wrote a song about Jesus Christ.  Sarah put it to music and we have song this little chorus a few times now in church.

You Are Mighty

Oh, Jesus, what a mighty Savior are You!
Jesus, You're a mighty Savior!
Jesus, You are mightier than anything!
Jesus, You're the strongest; Jesus You're the best!
Jesus, You're the strongest; Jesus I love You!

What I think is awesome is that all the words were his.  This was a 4-year old's thought about Jesus.  We have found the song to be quite addictive and the whole family has been singing it around the house, at work, in the car, etc.

CJ reminds me that we really should have a child like faith when it comes to our Savior.  Adults make things so complicated!  Jesus is mighty! Jesus I love you! Basic truth from the mouth of a child!

That's the kind of faith I want.