Wednesday, March 30, 2011

BOOK REVIEW OF THE MOUNTAINS BOW DOWN BY Sibella Giorello


THE MOUNTAINS BOW DOWN

By Sibella Giorello

ISBN 978-1-59554-535-0

Published by Thomas Nelson

Marketed by Litfuse Promotions

Reviewer Clint Walker


 

In THE MOUNTAINS BOW DOWN Sibella Giorello brings us the next installment in the life and investigations of Raleigh Harmon. This is the fourth book in the series.


 

For those of you have not read Giorello's novels, in might be helpful to introduce you to her protagonist. Raleigh Harmon is a forensic geologist, and has also become an FBI agent. She has a habit of falling into cases that are more complicated than they first appear, and stumbling onto clues to solve mysteries as she goes along. Many of her cases end up having some sort of complications with people in power, which leave her more vulnerable than a typical investigator.


 

THE MOUNTAINS BOW DOWN follows the aforementioned formula. Raleigh Harmon and her mother were on a much needed vacation. Early one morning the cruise ship staff comes to ask for Agent Harmon's expertise on an investigation of a missing woman. They soon discover a woman has died on a cruise travelling up the Inside Passage of Alaska. The security staff on the cruise ship quickly rules the death a suicide. Agent Harmon believes this declaration to be faulty, and sets out to seek the truth. And the adventure of this mystery begins.


 

As usual, Giorello spins an excellent story with lots of twists and turns. Agent Harmon is smart but flawed, intelligent and sometimes lacking in common sense, and completely lovable. She is the kind of protagonist the reader can identify with, admire, and root for.


 

I am coming to enjoy how Giorello uses her novels to describe, promote, and admire places that she loves. In previous novels she has described Virginia and Washington State. This novel, of course, describes Alaska. Her description of Ketchikan is especially well done. The author's biography shares that she has lived in the states that she talks about. As she writes her novels she is a stellar ambassador of her home places. I especially was excited about this one, since I have also lived in Alaska. Unfortunately, I lived on the other side of the state from where Harmon is doing her investigation.


 

I am not much of a flatterer, so listen closely to this endorsement. I believe that the Raleigh Harmon series by Sibella Giorello is one of the best mystery series' out there of any sort. It is an easy fun read that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Grab a copy of her books and read them. Especially THE MOUNTAINS BOW DOWN. You will not be disappointed.



 

*This book was provided by the publisher via Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

More About THE MOUNTAINS BOW DOWN & CONTEST

Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Mountains Bow Down with a blog tour, a Cruise prize pack worth over $500 and a Facebook Party! Don't miss a minute of the fun.






One Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • A $500 gift certificate toward the cruise of their choice from Vacations To Go.

  • The entire set of the Raleigh Harmon series.


To enter click one of the icons below. Then tell your friends. And enter soon - the giveaway ends on 4/1! The winner will be announced at Sibella’s Raleigh Harmon Book Club Party on FB April 5th, 2011! Don’t miss the fun – prizes, books and gab!


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter



About the Facebook Party: Join Sibella and fans of the Raleigh Harmon series on April 5th at 5:00 pm PST (6 MST, 7 CST & 8 EST) for a Facebook Book Club Party. Sibella will be giving away some fun prizes, testing your trivia skills and hosting a book chat about the Raleigh Harmon books. Have questions you'd like to chat about - leave them on the Event page.

Battle of the Bulge: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


I gained a pound last week. I almost decided not to post this, but I thought I should.

I was disappointed. I was disappointed in part because I ate significantly less last week. The previous week I had ate more than usual, and lost two pounds. I also want the ego-pleasing narrative of a continuous journey in the right direction. Unfortunately it does not work that way.

I have two main excuses why I may have gained a pound this last week. First, I cooked for myself on Sunday, and although I was within my point range I ate late (10pm), and at a low-calorie turkey smoked sausage (perhaps high sodium) and noodles. It might have stuck in my belly a little longer.

I also had been without my blood pressure meds for a few days. My bp meds include a mild "water pill" kind of medication as a part of the treatment. I think not taking my meds could have helped with the one pound gain as well.

Finally, I am pondering whether the timing of my food consumption is having an effect as well. When I spread out my meals, I lose weight even if I eat a little more. When I load all my food to later in the day, perhaps this causes some weight retention. We will see.

Wish me good luck next week and on the journey!

Getting free books: My Christian book review journey

Through the last year and a half, with the encouragement and help of Becca Syme to start with, I have began a book review journey. Today I have found that I have built up a network for book reviewing that gets me enough books that I can barely keep up. I wanted to tell you how that happened.

I began by searching online for Christian publishers that use online reviewers. I found four, and eventually I was able to subscribe to them all.

Thomas Nelson has book review program called "BookSneeze". It is fun for a number of reasons. First of all, it is not always time sensitive. As a matter of fact, for the most part it is a "get a book, publish the review, get another book" model of book reviewing. Also, Thomas Nelson has a broad variety of the kinds of books they publish, so I am able to get biographies, inspirational books, and business books as well. TN gives clear guidelines on how they want the books reviewed, which is also very helpful. If one was starting out with blogging and book reviews, I would start with Thomas Nelson.

Soon after, I also began to review books for Tyndale. Tyndale has a similar format to Booksneeze, although they read your reviews more carefully. Tyndale's registration is not as user friendly, nor is its site to navigate. But, they publish some good books, and I have enjoyed reviewing some of them.

After that, I signed up with Bethany House Publishers. Bethany House is more loosy, goosy with their review program. They just ask you to send links to a guy when you finish their reviews. They ask that you finish their books in a month, but they are really flexible. I have began to have people guest blog my books from Bethany House. And I have some books I am WAYYY behind on.

Finally, I also got plugged in with Waterbrook/Multnomah's book program. I have been less motivated to read the books they provide, but in general they have one of the most exciting book review programs out there. Waterbrook/Multnomah is also a review one/get one program. They keep it competitive with small prices for the best reviews. They target promotions at certain audiences. They have a larger selection of books to review. But they are more challenging to get started with, and I have been lazy in my reviews for them as well.

Soon after I began reviewing for publishers on my blog, I also researched and found two review sites that allow me to review books. One is Authors Choice Reviews and the other is Christian Book Previews. Reviews for these two sites are my top priority in reviewing, which has led my publisher reviews to suffer. Slowly, I have begun to find my voice in both review sites. Part of how I did this was by moving to primarily non-fiction reviews. I can read these quickly. Actually, if I have a fairly low interest in the text I can half-read and half-skim the books over the course of a couple days and write a decent review. I generally have to read fiction slowly, and pay attention more. This means I need to invest significant time in my fiction reading. For this reason, I have spurned much of the fiction I have an opportunity to get. And both sites have supported me as I start to specialize in non-fiction reviews.

Finally, I have affiliated with a couple of review distributors that are middle-men for publishers wanting reviews done for their books. One such distributor is Litfuse Promotions. I generally only take books from them that I have a very strong interest in and would not be able to get otherwise.

And, because I have become proficient in reviews, and many of these reviews require posts of reviews on Amazon as well as a blogging platform, I have been selected by Amazon.com to review both books and products through their Vine Program. I was so close to getting a weedeater to review last week. Darn it! Vine is similar to the publishers in that it is a "review one, get a new one" program, but allows you to review up to four products at once. It is an invitation only program, so I was honored to get in it!

So there you go! Besides work, baby, and weight loss, that is what is keeping me busy these days. Let me know if you want some guidance on how to do reviews for free books on your blogs, or if you are seeking ways of reviewing for Christian websites.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fourth Word from the Cross—sermon on 3/27



Matthew 27:46


46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"



"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" These are difficult words. Painful words. Painful words to pray. Even more painful words to hear.


"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" This one sentence of Jesus perplexes us. It challenges us. It makes us think, once again, what is happening here to this man on the cross? Why is he saying these words to God?


"My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" Why is Jesus uttering these words? Where did they come from? What are we supposed to learn from them? How are we supposed to worship Jesus in this moment?


Tough questions. But these are the questions that run through my mind as I read through this passage.


"My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" There was a time when I thought I had these words from the cross figured out. I had heard things from preachers I grew up with that had built a whole theory about this very moment when Jesus cried out on the cross.


One of the common statements about what is happening on the cross goes something like this. At the very moment Jesus was crying out in prayer, that this was the moment that the Father turned his back on the Son on the cross. According to this explanation, God cannot tolerate sin. Therefore when Jesus takes the sin of the world upon himself, the Father has to abandon the Son and completely separate himself from the sin that Jesus is dying for. So, in that moment, this way of interpreting Scripture tells us, God the Father did in fact abandon Jesus the Son. It is a nice theory. It expresses the truth that sin grieves God, and that Jesus died to take the sins of the world upon himself. Unfortunately though, even though this scenario expresses some truths about Jesus' atonement of sin, this way of perceiving this moment has little support in the rest of Scripture.


As a matter of fact, it contradicts some core tenants of Christian Theology. One core tenant of Christian theology it seems to go against is the doctrine of the Trinity. It is anti-trinitarian. The Trinity is a mystery. But Scripture says very clearly that God is both 3 and 1. Jesus died on the cross. But for God to completely separate himself in the way this understanding of the atonement describes him doing describes a heresy of tri-theism. Not the 3 in 1 the Bible speaks of.


This idea that the Father turned his back on the Son contradicts our beliefs about God's omnipresence. Psalm 139 clearly shares that God is everywhere. God cannot be everywhere, and yet somewhere not where Jesus is present.


Besides, who is Jesus talking to when he is praying if God has turned his back and left him? Who can hear him?


Does Jesus feel alone? Yes he does! Is he feeling the full weight of the sin he is dying to save us from? Yes he is!


When Jesus prays, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" he assumes God's presence. He is trusting that his prayer is heard.


So then, what is this prayer saying? What is there for? What is it designed to teach us?


To get some answers to this question, we need to understand where Jesus got the idea to pray this prayer in the first place. The words he says, the prayer he utters, is not original to Jesus. Jesus is actually praying a prayer that kids would have learned in Sunday School. A prayer that can be found in the prayer book and hymn book of young Jewish boys. Jesus is in fact praying his way through Psalm 22.


God put this in the Bible as a prayer for all of us to pray, this prayer that Jesus prays in his most pained moment. Yes he did. The prayer that Jesus prayed on the cross is a prayer that the Bible teaches us to pray. The Bible teaches us to pray this prayer, because most of us, possibly all of us, will have this moment where the whole world feels like it is going to cave in on us, and we will wonder if we can pray, and if it is ok to pray what is on our heart. So Scripture gives us these words for those times of utter desperation and isolation, because we may feel afraid to utter them on our own. This tells us something very important. It tells us that when Jesus cries out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" he is showing us his humanity and he is showing he is one of us.


I will say that again. It is point one on your outline. When Jesus says "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus is demonstrating his humanity and showing he is one of us..


At one point or another most of us have a dark night of the soul. A moment when we are so down, we can hardly find a way to get up in the morning. You know what I am talking about. You know because feeling abandoned and alone is part of the human experience.


I have an aquaintence that visited with off and on with online through my blog. She is an author. She wrote a book about her sense of abandonment by God, and trying to find faith. In her case, her father believed himself to be a devout Christian man, and so he would abuse her while praying and/or quoting Scripture. She felt so angry with God. She felt so forsaken. Even though she did not say it this way, in the midst of her pain of those many years the only prayer of her heart could have been "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"



Some of you have lost spouses or children. Some of you have loved someone with all your heart, and married them, only to have them abandon you. Some of you have been trapped in addiction. Others of you have been hit with health concerns that make it so that you don't feel you can hardly do anything.


You need to know that God wants to hear what is on your heart. He wants to hear you cry out to Him in those moments. He hears your honest prayers of heartache and complaint as words of trust in Him.


Another thing you can know. No matter what it is, you have been in that dark place where you prayed and nothing seemed to happen, and you felt completely forsaken. You need to know that when you are there, or if you are there now, that Jesus has been there too. I might not be able identify with your hurts and your pains. Jesus can. This Scripture tells us so. Another Scripture gets at this, in Hebrews 4:14 and following when it says:


14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


Which leads me to my next point.


Jesus cried out, "My Father, My Father, Why have you forsaken me?" When he does this Jesus is demonstrating that he is with us in the midst of our pain and sense of forsakenness. He is not just one of us and someone who can identify with us…he is with us and bearing our pain with us.


When Jesus prays Psalm 22 he prays it with us. He prays it with all who have ever prayed it. In a mighty chorus, we pray it together. When this prayer is on our heart, he prays it with us.


For most of Christian history, people have looked at the suffering of Christ, and believed that he was suffering for our sins, but that he was also suffering with us. They looked at the cross in those dark moments and knew that even if we could not feel it or sense it, that we could know that God was suffering with and for us through the person of Jesus Christ.


It is interesting. When I was in college, I had to have a few artsy kinds of classes to meet my general education requirements. One was an art appreciation class. And I learned that there were several classic pieces of art from around the Renaissance period that were designed for hospitals. Hospitals were not sophisticated in the 1400s. They did a lot of bloodletting to help people feel better. There were not a lot of painkillers. So people were often in tremendous pain. And so, people started to pain these pictures for the hospital rooms that would tell the story of the crucifixion. They could see the suffering of Jesus, and know that he hurt, he felt pain, he felt abandoned, and he was with them while they suffered.


This understanding of God being with us in suffering with us is hauntingly illustrated by Elie Weisel in his Nobel Prize winning book NIGHT. One person tells it this way.


Almost 50 years ago Elie Wiesel was a fifteen-year old prisoner in the Nazi death camp at Buna. A cache of arms belonging to a Dutchman had been discovered at the camp. The man was promptly shipped to Auschwitz. But he had a young servant boy, a pipel as they were called, a child with a refined and beautiful face, unheard of in the camps. He had the face of a sad angel. The little servant, like his Dutch master, was cruelly tortured, but would not reveal any information. So the SS sentenced the child to death, along with two other prisoners who had been discovered with arms. Wiesel tells the story:


One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around us; machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains--and one of them, the little servant, the sad- eyed angel. The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him. This time the Lagercapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him. The three victims mounted together onto the chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. "Long live liberty!" cried the two adults. But the child was silent. "Where is God? Where is He?" someone behind me asked. Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. "Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping. "Cover your heads!" Then the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. but the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive...For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: "Where is God now?" And I heard a voice within me answer him: "Where is He? Here He is--He is hanging here on this gallows.."


Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" When he prayed this prayer, in his moment of deepest pain, he let us know he is with us in ours.


But, that is not the end of the story.


Point 3


Jesus is demonstrating he loves us by being forsaken for us.


Jesus cried out "My Father, My Father, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" he is crying out because he is taking the punishment for YOUR sin. He is bearing the full weight of your sin because there is nothing you can do to make your sin right. He is taking your punishment. He is having the Sin of the world placed at his feet, upon his shoulders. The Apostle Paul said it this way:


God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that God's righteousness might come about in us. –2 Corinthians 5:21


Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way in his wonderful, beautiful little book on the church called Life Together, "He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone (131-2)".


Now imagine you had taken the penalty for all the sins of the world upon yourself like Jesus did. You would feel alone. You would be alone. You would feel forsaken. You would cry out, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"


When Jesus cries out that prayer, he cries it, so in the end, you will not have to.


So come to the cross. See Jesus crying out in agony. Picture it in your mind. Hear him utter those words "My God, MY God, Why have you forsaken me?" And know that he is crying out with the deepest heartache anyone can experience so that you can have the opportunity to have the deepest joy anyone can ever know.


Come to the cross. Hear those words. And know that his words are uttered so that you can have eternal life. See his sacrifice for your sins. Hear his agony for your wretchedness. See him bleed for your selfishness.


See it all, and don't ignore it. Don't make light of it. Don't be apathetic about it. Because his death is the opportunity for your life, his humiliation on that cross is given so that you may be exalted.


Hear those words. And make them matter in your life. Choose to offer your life to Christ. Come forward today. Accept Jesus into your heart today. Cry out to receive him. Do not forsake him. Do not forsake this moment. Do not forsake His gift.

Money & Marriage Book Review By Matt Bell


This last weekend the wifey and I went to Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover event in Colorado Springs. We had been looking forward to it for quite a while. We went with friends (Jon and Tammi Williams), and we learned a lot.

The day before I went to the big event in the Springs, I began reading Money and Marriage by Matt Bell. Money and Marriage is a guide to personal finance for engaged and newly married couples, although I think the book would be helpful for couples of every age.

SUMMARY

Money and Marriage is broken up into three logically planned, sequential parts. The first part of the book encourages each member of a couple to examine their "financial dna". It challenges the reader to examine their personal financial history, the ways their families of orgin handled money, and how their cultural background effects their financial priorities. Suprisingly, it also asks readers to examine their personal tempraments, and how that effects how their financial attitudes and emotional issues with money.

Much of this section consists of lists of questions for couple's to discuss. As I read through the questions and answers I thought that I could use this resource in pre-marital counseling sessions with couples. This is true because it asked stellar financial questions, but also because the financial questions touched on so many other areas of life that couples need to communicate about.

The second part of book consists of ten brief chapters to insure a couple's financial success as they begin their lives together. I like that these chapters are brief and to the point. Although these chapters are not heavy-handed, they are direct advice and instruction that couples need to listen to.


The third part of the book Money& Marriage is entitled "Fostering Financial Oneness". This section guides couples on finding their way in combining their financial destiny. It includes discussion of the "his and hers or ours" question to how couples handle their money. It also includes advice on other questions or how to combine finances in the wisest way possible.


MY OPINION


I really liked this book. It was smart. It offered wise advice without being judgmental. It was written in a way that is easy to read and accessable to a broad audience. As a pastor, I plan to keep it on my shelf for marriage and pre-marital counseling situations.


Matt Bell compiled some important statistics at the beginning of the book that we all should take time to read and pay attention to. They included research-based facts on how couples view money, and how couples communicate about money.


This is a book every young couple should have.


(This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

Matt Bell's (a.k.a Matt About Money) Money & Marriage has just released (NAVPress) and is a great resource for engaged or newly married couples.
Matt says about the book, “I wrote “Money & Marriage” because I believe in marriage. I’m sure it isn’t news to you that money is a very common source of stress between spouses. It’s even a primary factor in many divorces. I wrote this book with no less of a goal than to save many marriages from disaster, and to help all couples use money in a way that strengthens their relationship and increases their joy.”

To celebrate Matt has put together a Nest Egg Giveaway with a prize package worth over $250! 





One winner will receive:

•    A Free 1 Hour Financial Session
•    A $100 Visa Cash Card
•    A signed copy of Matt’s Money, Purpose, Joy and Money Strategies for Tough Times

To enter just click one of the icons below. Then tell your friends. And hurry - the contest ends April 11th. The winner will be announced on Matt's blog on April 13th.


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


Be sure to pick up a copy of Money & Marriage – important principles whether you're newly engaged or just celebrated your 30th anniversary.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tyndale Book Club Hub Newsletter Premier and Giveaway


Tyndale is doing something exciting and new designed to serve Book Clubs. They are beginning a book club hub newsletter. This newsletter will be designed to help groups decide on book club options within the Tyndale publishing family, and it will allow for resources and conversation based on the books that are featured. And, who knows, you might even find a couple of good deals on books for your book club within the newsletter as well.


To start this off, they are doing a series of daily giveaways! Join in that as well, and find out about some of the stellar books Tyndale has to offer!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Battle of the Bulge: New Normal.



I have now lost 52 pounds. I lost 2 pounds this week. One pound the week before. Two pounds the week before that. It seems I am settling into a two pound a week weight loss.

There are many reasons this is good news. I am consistently losing weight. I am losing weight in a managable manner. What I am doing is working, and it seems managable. I suppose it is ok.

I know if I got the exercise piece together I would be doing better. But, right now I feel like going to the gym is too much of a hassle to drive 45 minutes each way, and walking or running is simply something I dread. I know I can do better. I am planning on stepping up. But I have not yet.

I want change to happen fast. This is because I want to be done with the whole process, because I am eager to see quicker change, and because frankly I want to do things bigger, better, and faster than everyone else. So there is a disappointment in me that things are not happening faster for me. Like they did when I started this journey.

I will continue to plug on, and then try and improve my game step by step as I go.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sermon 3/20—Family of God—3rd Word from the Cross

A little over ten years ago, my father, his significant other, and I went to Mission San Juan Capistrano. It was the week that my sister was getting married. And while the bride and the mother of the bride were running around doing their thing, the three of us went to look at a little piece of history in Southern Orange County California. Besides, it is about 15 minutes from the area my sister lives in, so we could have run back to help with anything if we were needed. (We were not).
Visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano was an interesting visit for us because it combined my father’s personal and professional interests with my own personal and professional interests.
My father had several starts and stops in his career before he retired. He served in military doing intelligence work on college campuses in the late 60s. He then moved into being an investigator for the State of Oregon. A few months before I was born my mother inherited a house in her hometown, and my father did not want to be an office worker. So they moved to Roseburg, Oregon where he worked as a carpenter when my sister and I were young.
A while after my parents divorced my father became a rafting and fishing guide on the Rogue River in Oregon. He did this for a number of years. During the off-season, he found a niche as a golf-course groundskeeper. Eventually, he found a way to make grounds keeping and landscaping into a career. Dad had always been interested in plants and flowers and growing things, so when he fell into the grounds keeping career for the last 20 years of his working years it was a perfect fit.
And Mission San Juan Capistrano is a wonder of plants, flowers, and gardens to walk through. So he loved it there. He was able to admire the different kinds of flowers and plants, including many plants and flowers that do not grow in Oregon’s cooler and more moist climate. It was fun for me because he was able to explain a lot about flowers and growing things and I was able to learn more about him.
It was nice for me because it was, for most of its history, a ministry center for the Catholic Church as well. And the history and development of ministry in a specific place is something that fascinates me. The Mission is full of history. It was a Franciscan Mission, and my one of my all time faith heroes is St. Francis. It had the oldest building still in use in California, which was an old chapel. My dad is interested in history, but not as schooled in religious history and the development of the church. So as things peeked my interest, he got to learn a little from me and about me in that moment too.
I think we all long to connect and reconnect with family. Especially those most closely related to us. We long to have their attention, their approval, their acceptance, and their heart. It is not always easy to find ways to stay close to family. Often family hurts us. They irritate us. They break our heart. Or we get along with family fairly well, but we don’t have family nearby. Maybe we have moved here from somewhere, or our children and grandchildren have moved far away.
Some of us don’t have the challenge of geography or drama to keep us from being connected to family. That is because some of us are related to half of the Arkansas Valley and are surrounded by family and love it. A couple of weeks ago I was talking with Lacy and Brandon McCuistion of how they are related to different people in the community. There were so many relations I lost track. I have also visited with Annette and Clair Lundy. Clair described a story about where she was dating a boy in high school, and the young man’s cousin walked in. He introduced this new young man as his cousin. Turned out It was Clair’s cousin too. Due to the marrying of different people to other folks, they were not related. Still, a surreal experience for Clair and a telling story of just how much family Clair had in this community.
Near or far, there is something deep inside us that longs for the comfort that a family kind of connection can bring. And, although this may be controversial, I think that each of us needs a deeper family connection than any family of marriage and a shared gene pool can provide. But to illustrate this I need to go back to the story I was telling.
Anyway, so I am with my family. One of the last places we visited was the gift shop. It was a Catholic gift shop, so I figured not much would hold my interest. I was wrong. One crucifix captured my attention. The crucifix has Jesus with one hand nailed to the cross, and his feet nailed to the cross, but one hand is free. And in that hand is a dove he is releasing into the world.
It is a powerful little statuette, because it speaks to several truths about what happened when Jesus was on the cross. One of the things that is teaches us about is something that happened when Jesus spoke that third word as he was dying. When Jesus said “Mother, behold your Son.” And “Son, behold your mother.” he was creating a new family. An eternal family that is more important than one’s family of birth. That family has a unique name. It is called the church.
The Theological Focus of the third word from the cross is encapsulated in one small five letter word. That word, again, is CHURCH.
So let us examine and meditate on these short verses just a little bit more. And let us see what we can learn about the church. Specifically the church we see being formed by Jesus as he dies.
I. The birthday of the church is on GOOD FRIDAY not Pentecost.
While the body of Christ is being crucified on the cross, the body of Christ is being created by Christ through his words to the Apostle John and Mary the mother of Jesus on the cross. When Jesus says for Mary and John to become family together, he is calling into a being a reality that has not existed before. He is speaking the church—called the Body of Christ--into existence.
Without these words, it would be easy to assume that God’s work on the cross was all about each person’s individual salvation, and that was it. With the words, “Woman behold your son,” and “Behold Your Mother”, we hear that the cross also is given to form a community. Jesus’ blood was shed to give birth to the church.
Theologian Fleming Rutledge puts it this way, “The saying is not about being nice to your mother. It is about the new community that comes into being through the power of Jesus.” The first two words speak to what God’s work on the cross means to me and you. This word teaches us that the cross is not just about me and you, but us together. When we hear these words from the cross, we realize that Christ did not come only to save and redeem us as individuals. This moment at the cross teaches us that Christ came to save and redeem a church.
Like that crucifix demonstrates, even as Jesus is crying out in agony from the cross, barely able to breathe, in more pain than most of us could bear, even then he reaches out to form a new family. The family of God.
Which brings me to point #2

II. The church is A FAMILY.
It is no accident that Jesus tells John and Mary that they are each other’s mother and brother. Jesus creates the church to be a spiritual family. The church is a family that takes higher precedence than our biological family. This is clear throughout the gospels.
At one point, Jesus comments become controversial, and his family comes to give him a break from his ministry. People come to Jesus and say his family is at the door and wanting to speak to him. Jesus says, “Who are my mother and brothers and sisters? Those who do the will of my father are my mother and brothers and sisters.” And he refuses to go see what his family wants. That is found in Mark 3.
Another time, when someone needs to go home to deal with funeral arrangements of their deceased relative Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead…follow me.” This is found in Matthew 8.
Jesus said, “I have come to turn father against son. Mother against daughter.” He said this in Matthew 10.
The church brings together people of different races, backgrounds, and biological families, and makes them one family through the blood of Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no male or female, Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, for all are one in Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 2 says Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. Romans 8 says that Jesus is firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
When we pass away, Scripture says that people will not be married or given in marriage. We are not going to have separate families. On the other side of eternity, we are going to be one family with God as Father. Through the church, God is trying to bring this reality into how we live and breathe and practice our faith among one another. We are family brothers and sisters. We are family.
We need a family that is bigger than just our biological family. We need that family to have a culture where we can learn from each other, support each other, love each other, grow with each other. Where we can be even more of a family that our biological family can provide, because our forever family shares everything that we hold most dear.
Furthermore, the family of God unites those that would otherwise fight against one another and exclude one another. One of the things that solidified my commitment to becoming an American Baptist was going to the seminarian’s conference. One of things our denomination does to train and build up our ministers is to have them go to Greek Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin for a long weekend with every other person in the middle of their studies for the ministry. As you are there, you discover not everyone in American Baptist churches look like you. If you are Caucasian, you make up somewhere around 45 percent of American Baptist Churches and ABC seminary students. About 25 percent of the students are African Americans. Another 15-20 percent are Hispanic. The rest are Asian or Native American. You get to fellowship with one another. Worship with one another. About half the students are women. We hear one another’s struggles and joys. Learn one another’s songs. And you hold hands and sing Amazing Grace in four different languages. You support one another in pursuing our calls to ministry. And you have an experience of the family of God that is much bigger than you have experienced before. And you see and hear that the family of God transcends all sorts of barriers that we might assume it has. And you know that you have this deep sense of family within the church that transcends geography, race, language, and gender. This spiritual sense of a global family we call church.
In the early church this sense of family was very important. If one was to trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior, one was often shunned by their families. If you were to accept Christ, your church had to be your family support. Your earthly family was not going to talk to you any more. This shunning thing happens today with strict Mormons, Muslims, and many other religious groups.
In the early church this sense of partnership in the family of God was very important as well. Sometimes a person was a slave, but also a deacon in spiritual authority over his master. Sometimes a person of Roman, African, Greek, and Jewish heritage worshipped in the same church, and called one another brother and sister.
Today, as families spread out geographically, and as families fall apart for a variety of reasons, people are more and more lonely. And they are seeking families. Families that choose to be families of healing instead of abuse. Families that offer us the opportunity to grow and change. Family that loves us when we feel unlovable. Family that helps us find our way home when we feel lost. Family that loves us. Family that leads us to our heavenly Father that created us and loves us more than we could ever know.
Many people who are on the cutting edge of evangelism say that people need to “belong to believe”. This means that even before people can trust Jesus as savior, they need to see the Holy Spirit at work in a healthy church family.
I don’t know when we stopped calling each other brother and sister in the church. We certainly did this when I was growing up. Brother Paul had the bass voice in the back of the church. Brother Kent led the music. Brother Mark was our pastor. Sister Eileen led our Sunday School. I don’t know when we stopped talking like that…but I miss it. Because it reflects the reality that Jesus was creating a FAMILY called the church when he went to the cross. And we need to live in that reality, not just SUNDAY, but EVERYDAY.
The blood that unites us is not the blood that holds the code of our DNA if we are believer, but rather our appropriation of the blood that flows from the cross to form a family of the Spirit.

III. The church family is modeled after the example of love we see on the cross.
The kind of church that Jesus wants to create from the cross is the kind of church that models its love out of the love it sees on the cross. Love like Philippians 2 describes when it says:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
The kind of example of love we see on the cross is sacrificial love. It puts others in the family above themselves. It thinks about the needs of the people in the pew in front of them and the pew behind them when it comes time to make a difficult decision in the church. It sees a brother and sister in need, and finds a creative way to help them out of their difficult circumstance…even at significant cost to themselves. It is the kind of love that asks “what do we need to do to reach others”, before it asks “what am I comfortable with”. It is the kind of love that finds ways to encourage folks with a little card or a note through the week just to show they care.
The example of love we see on the cross is painful love. It loves to the point where it actually hurts a little. It is vulnerable enough that it often faces rejection. It is sensitive enough that it cries with the hurting instead of judging those in distress. It is the kind of love that has sleepless nights praying for someone in distress. It is the kind of love that leaves many of us needing a week to recover after a Backyard Mission Project. It is a wonderful beautiful, painful, sacrificial kind of love—this love we find Jesus calling the church to live out on the cross.
It is the kind of love, this cross-like love, that people have died for. That others have been so desperate to share that they have followed God’s call to gang-infested urban neighborhoods, and tribal villages across the world.
It is the kind of love that we need to learn to practice right here, in our little place. In this small part of God’s family. With heart. With passion. Remembering that he died, me and you, and for us—and He has given us a call to live for him. Together. In the family he died to create from the cross. Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunday is Pop Quiz Day



Moving from Colorado Springs to Fowler has been adventure. All in all, the transition from Associate Pastor to Pastor of a Small Church has been an enjoyable journey. The people are kind. The church adores the baby. It has been willing to try some new things. I have been blessed.


One of the challenges with being in Fowler though has been the prayer times. I was looking forward to prayer time being a time of open sharing of prayer requests. I missed that from Montana after I lived in the Springs. I like the informality of our prayer time.


What I struggle with in regard to the prayer time is that many Sundays it ends up feeling like a pop quiz time, otherwise known as a game of "stump the pastor". What does this mean? It means that nearly every Sunday I have a question come out of left field that I have to answer:


"Do we still have missionaries in Japan?"


"Do we have _____________s address?"


"How is ________________ doing?(__________ left the church 2 years ago)"


"When is ____________ coming home?"


"What kind of surgery is it?"


Maybe you would think most of these questions during prayer time are easy. They are not. People on our prayer lists are often friends of members, and people I have never met. If people have moved miles away to a nursing home out of town or left the church, I don't keep as good of tabs on them. People even in the church can be tight-lipped about their maladies. And sometimes people don't want to share that they are having hernia surgery, a hysterectomy, or surgery on their rectum.


Furthermore, Saturday is often my day for family and sermon time. It is less often my time to keep in touch with the ill, or work to get up to date on when someone is coming home who went into the hospital on Thursday.


Most people are asking these questions out of kindness and respect. They figure if anyone should know, it would be me. It still feels like a pop quiz. On the other hand, there are people in the congregation who do enjoy a little game of "stump the pastor" during prayer time. You can tell by the way the question is asked. And I often fail like I barely pass this test.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

REVIEW OF THE JESUS INQUEST BY CHARLES FOSTER



THE JESUS INQUEST


By Charles Foster


ISBN 978-0-84944-811-4


Published by Thomas Nelson


Reviewer Clint Walker




Charles Foster is a lawyer, professor, and author with wide ranging intellectual interests. In his latest book, The Jesus Inquest, Foster focuses his rather generous range of professional skill toward writing about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not one to "like neat" summaries, Foster takes on several questions about the death and resurrection of Christ with thorough, well-worded thinking any professor could appreciate. He does this with two hypothetical friends posing arguments that are not so creatively named "X" and "Y". Like any good lawyer or debater, Foster goes in depth with each issue, unafraid to state the best arguments for each side of the argument. The result is a stellar book that will assist many people who are seeking to understand the truth of Jesus in an honest, in-depth manner.




I enjoyed The Jesus Inquest. It was conversational and easily accessible, while at the same time being pretty intelligent. It is not the first book to discuss the resurrection. However, most of the other books I have read on the issue seem more like a treatise. This book reads more like a conversation between two smart truth seekers. As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if in some limited extent both "X" and "Y" in some way described the author at different points in his faith journey.




When I was younger, I struggled with whether I could believe in the Christian faith with intellectual honesty. It was, remarkably, about the same time I was also feeling called into full-time ministry. I had many questions. I still do. My key question to resolve; however, was whether I believed in the resurrection. I studied the issue, and came to the conclusion that although the resurrection could not be proven, the preponderance of the evidence led me to believe that Jesus had indeed literally risen from the dead. Once I affirmed in that truth, the rest of my faith seemed to reintegrate with it.




*This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review of 90 Days of God’s Goodness by Randy Alcorn


90 DAYS OF GOD'S GOODNESS

By Randy Alcorn

ISBN 978-1-60142-344-3

Published by Multnomah Books

Reviewer Clint Walker


 

Are you the kind of person that sees the glass as half-empty instead of half-full? Are you often discouraged because you life is not all you hoped it would be? Are you discouraged and desiring a way to find hope and encouragement? If any of these questions describe you than you need to grab Randy Alcorn's 90 DAYS OF GOODNESS.


 

90 DAYS OF GOODNESS is a tour de force in seeing God's grace in the middle of discouragement, disability, loss, and heartache. It is, as the title suggests, a three month devotional. Each chapter is two to three pages long, and offers encouragement to those in trying circumstances. Alcorn's theology is firmly Reformed, and well-researched. It is easy to tell that this topic is near and dear to his heart. 90 DAYS OF GOODNESS is full of contemporary historical examples of people who overcame significant setbacks, and who in turn discovered joy and blessing in their life's journey in the midst of their circumstances.


 

This book is sure to be a blessing to a heavy heart, and an encouragement to all who read it.


 

 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Review and Book Giveaway of Generous Justice by Timothy Keller





Generous Justice


By Timothy Keller


Published by Dutton Books


Reviewed by Clint Walker




Stereotypes die hard. One stereotype that haunts the church today is that conservative churches believe in evangelism without social action, and that liberal churches are concerned with social justice but do not care about evangelism. Like most stereotypes, there are some groups of Christians that critics of the church may point to as clear examples that this caricature is true. Most of evangelical Christianity; however, is rejecting this false dichotomy. Many Christians of a variety of theological and denominational backgrounds are realizing that personal evangelism and social action are both core commitments of disciple of Jesus Christ.




Timothy Keller is one of the leading lights in the New Calvinist movement. His writings combine a thoroughly missional vision of the church with thoroughly Reformed theology. In Generous Justice Keller focuses his considerable intellect upon the place of social justice in the ministry of the local church. The result is a concise, intelligent, and methodical argument in favor of Christians being passionately involved in social justice concerns in the church and in society.




Generous Justice is a very thorough book. It examines the issue of social justice through in depth study of both the Old and New Testaments. After doing this, Keller puts considerable attention toward how we live out the ancient commands in our contemporary lives, and explaining how God's specific emphasis on social justice is integral to strong, healthy Christians and strong, healthy churches.




Keller has done his research. Throughout Generous Justice he references the works of historic theological luminaries such as Jonathan Edwards and Abraham Kuyper. He also discerningly references more contemporary studies in academic disciplines other than theology.




One weakness of the book is that it primarily addresses justice as a domestic issue, and as a neighborhood concern. I would have liked to hear Keller say more how to be generously just in the global village, instead of simply the social conscience we should have within our comfortable North American bubble.




Generous Justice is a very heady work. In my opinion, it is also easily accessible reading for most of the folks in the pews on Sunday morning that have questions about social involvement and equality. The New Calvinist movement needed a thorough, theologically-grounded statement on what the Bible says about social justice ministry and how to be involved in it. Keller does the church a great service with the publication of this wonderful book. I will recommend it to many of my friends.

CONTEST:

I have an extra copy of this book, and am going to give it away. If you want to win a copy of this book please do the following:

Post a link to this blog post on your facebook profile

Write a comment or explanation w/ your link that shares why you find the concept of "generous justice" interesting

Let me know you did both these things

Wait for the winner to be chosen randomly on 3/17/

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BOOK REVIEW OF A TRAIL OF INK BY MEL STARR



A TRAIL OF INK


By Mel Starr


ISBN 978-1-85424-974-6


Published by Monarch Books


Reviewer Clint Walker



Today, I have the opportunity, thanks to a complementary book from the Litfuse ladies and Monarch Books, to review a book of fiction entitled A Trail of Ink written by Mel Starr. While this book may not be for everyone, for the right reader this book will be a stellar find.


A Trail of Ink is an extremely well-researched book of historical fiction. Set in Oxford, England in the 1300s, the book is a novel that mixes mystery and romance. The author uses just enough of 12th century dialect to make the book interesting, but not so much that the novel is unintelligible or inaccessible for modern readers. Also entertaining is the inclusion of John Wyclif in the story.


A lot of things happen in this book. This is, in part, due to the many occupations of the protagonist. Hugh de Singleton is at once a surgeon, a detective, and a bailiff (which turns out to be something akin to a business manager and chief of staff for a well-off Lord). Mr. Singleton is also attempting to court a young woman that he has had a crush on, and she becomes entwined in his investigative intrigue.


However, for some, wading through the historical peculiarities of A Trail of Ink will become cumbersome. For such readers, another author's work may be more appropriate.


Several others are doing reviews of this book. If you want more information on the book, check out the FACEBOOK page. Overall, I would give the book 3.5 stars on a 5.0 star scale.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Battle of the Bulge: Modest Forward Movement




Once again a moderate weight loss--2 pounds. This puts me at 49 for the year so far. I am hoping to get to 83 before Easter, and 130 before 4th of July, but I am not sure I am going to make it at the pace I am going.

I am currently at one of my "comfort weights". For many of us there are certain weights that our body tends to gravitate toward, and easily plateau at when we are losing weight. I have always had "comfort weights"....although the weight I had in high school and college was much more comfortable than it is now.

I am hoping I bust through this plateau soon. It will take some work. I would really like to see some more 5 and 10 pound weeks. But, if I don't eat spaghetti the night before a weigh in, well, that might help.

I took a big bag of dog food and carried it around a little. Annette advised it. Her advice was an encouragement when I put it into practice.

My measurements:
Neck--gain .25 inches--total loss is 1.25 inches
Chest loss of 2 inches for 6 inches total in my chest
Belly loss of 1 inch for 5 inches total in my Belly
Thiegh loss of 1 inch for .5 inches total loss
Calf loss of 0 for 2.5 total inches
Arm loss of 0 for 2.5 total inches

I need to exercise my neck more. I want a neck under 20 inches.
Another one of my goals is to fit into some of my old suit coats by Missouri Day.

Another week pushing hard to drop a few.

Take Care

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Father Forgive Them--Sermon fo 3/6


FATHER FORGIVE THEM
Luke 23:32-38
32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”[a]
And they divided His garments and cast lots. 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”
36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew:[b]

THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.




Her friends said she did not mean to, but…she did it. Allen Rose was a tow-truck driver. Detra Farries was a Denver mom down in Colorado Springs visiting her friends. Farries had her car repossessed several times in the last few years. When she saw Allen Rose about to tow away her car for being illegally parked she decided she was not going to take it. Somehow, when Allen was not looking she got up into the vehicle and got it off the truck and down the road. As Rose attempted to stop her, he got his leg stuck in the towing cable attached to the car. It wrapped around his leg and drug him. The police say he was dragged along behind that SUV for over a mile. He skidded along the pavement. He waved. He yelled. He screamed. First because he thought he could get the woman to stop. Later he simply cried out in agony. He bounced and scraped along the pavement for over a mile. Blood spurted and sprayed everywhere. Slowly his clothes shredded away from his body. People tried to wave at the woman to stop. She didn’t see them. She just kept going. Detra drove until that tow rope snapped and threw Allen’s tattered body off of the thoroughfare into a ditch. Then she kept on going.


Her friends said she was distraught. They say she had no idea what she was doing to that poor man as she tore his body apart. She just knew she did not want anybody to take her care. She did not want to be a killer. But she was.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

Jesus uttered these words while he was hanging on a cross. For the next seven Sundays between now and Easter we will listen to Jesus’ final words on the cross. Focusing on these seven words is an ancient practice of the church during Good Friday. Often there would be seven sermons, one on each of the statements Jesus made. These sermons would be preached consecutively on one day. I thought it would behoove us to take our time, and look at each of these statements one by one.
The first of the seven words or sayings from the cross is this: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

The Scripture says that Jesus was taken to that cross to be killed. He was put on a cross by faithful soldiers carrying out their duties. He was sent to the cross by religious leaders zealous to make a public stand for their faith and for righteousness. Jesus was sent to a cross by one of his disciples who sold him out, perhaps hoping he would take a stand and be the strong Messiah he had hoped for. Jesus was sent to a cross by a man named Pilate who believed he had to allow the Hebrew people to crucify Jesus to keep the peace.

As he was taken to the cross, his disciples scattered. Jesus’ friends did not come to his defense. The soldiers took his clothes off and gambled for his garments. People put a robe on him, and a crown of thorns. They put a mocking sign above him which said, “King of the Jews”.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Jesus uttered these words when most of us would have felt utterly alone and completely abandoned and betrayed.

I don’t know about you. If I had been taken to the cross, my first words would not have been Jesus’ first words. If I had been stripped naked, if I had nails go through my wrists and my feet, if I had been put up on a pole struggling for every breathe my first words would not have been Jesus’ first words.





Then he was taken to a cross. What is difficult about being on a cross is not so much being nailed there, although that would be quite awful. Most people who die on a cross die of suffocation. This is because as one hangs on a cross one’s body slumps. It becomes more and more difficult to breathe. Eventually one has to push one’s body up with one’s legs. This rips into the nail wounds. It also forces the back, which had been whipped, to scrape against an old piece of wood that give jagged slivers as it is moved against. Over and over, as one tries to suffer through crucifixion, one moves between the agony of almost suffocating, and the agony of one’s body being ripped into and through each time one moves.

The pain would have been bad enough. But the other half of the horror of crucifixion would have been utter humiliation. People are crucified in someplace visible to everyone. They are crucified naked. Before long as they are dying people lose control of their bodily functions on a cross. This loss of control is visible to all. With Jesus they make comments wondering why if he is so special he does not save himself. They put a mocking sign above his head to say “King of the Jews”. They dress him up to look like a king and continue to mock Him. They steal his clothes, and then gamble for them.

As they both utterly humiliate him, and torture him to death, he reaches out in forgiveness. As they do all sorts of evil against Him, He prays for them.
He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
There is something unique about this prayer. What is especially powerful about this prayer is that it is a prayer that is prayed preemptively. In other words Jesus prays for our forgiveness before we ask for it ourselves.

We do all sorts of things to avoid facing the truth. We do all sorts of things to avoid facing the truth about our sin. We do all sorts of things to avoid facing the truth about the evil that lurks in our hearts and in our lives. We do all sorts of thing to avoid looking directly at our lives and confronting the wretched things we have done in all its ugliness.

We minimize the wrong that we do. We justify our sin by claiming ignorance while playing God. We put blinders on and refuse to see how our selfish behavior has left a trail of destruction and ruin behind us.

Instead of becoming aware of the evil in our lives, and the heartache we are causing, we live our lives in some sense like Detra Ferries. We want what we want, we don’t care who it hurts to get what we want, and only later do we look back at the wretched things we have done and are shocked at all the unintended damage we caused as we went down the road.

It is not only to Roman politicians and soldiers, or Jewish religious leaders that Jesus cries out his first words from the cross. It is for you and me that he prays those words.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.
He prays those words for us before we can ask him to pray those words for us. He sees us before we see ourselves.

As a matter of fact, it is the cross, really, which shows us our need for forgiveness. As we see Christ suffer there, as we remember his death and his resurrection on that cross, as our attention is focused there, our sin is on display for all to see. Even more, the cost of our sin is visible in the bloody, emaciated, barely recognizable body of Jesus our Lord.

It has become fashionable to minimize the cross. To say that Christians should think less and less about the cross. That we should not focus on suffering and death of Jesus on Calvary. That we should fast forward past the cross and go straight to the joy of the empty tomb. Churches tear down their crosses from their sanctuaries and replace them with advertisements, or movie screens, or anything that can somehow shield them from confronting their sin.

You need to hear Jesus praying, and praying these words for you.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

There is no forgiveness without the cross.




We need to hear these truths. We need to hear these words. As we do we will become aware of two things.

First, we will become aware of the truth that when Jesus says these words he is not just speaking about some of us. Everybody is in need of God’s forgiveness. When we listen to Jesus pray this prayer from the cross we come to understand he is speaking about all of us. Everybody is living in ignorance of their sin, and everybody desperately needs the forgiveness Jesus offers.

At the same time we come to realize something else. We come to realize that nobody, absolutely nobody, no matter what they have done, it outside of God’s ability or desire to forgive.

So my brothers and sisters, I want you to hear these words ringing in your ears.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I want you to hear the compassion in those words. That in his worst moment, Jesus is concerned about you. As he is dying, he is thinking about how ignorant and lost and alone you are. Here him say it:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Friend, you need to take the blinders off. You need to listen to these words and know that you have sinned. You may not have known what you were doing exactly, but you have made your life an ugly, dirty, petty mess nonetheless. You may have been in church for a day, a week, a year, or your life. But you have never acknowledged your need for God’s forgiveness. You have never bent the knee in repentance to Christ. You need to accept the gift Jesus is offering when he cries out,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you need to remember who you are. You are sinners who have been saved by God’s grace. You have done nothing to earn or deserve God’s goodness, but you have had the opportunity to receive his salvation nonetheless. You too need to hear those words of grace over and over again

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

It is for this reason that we come to the table of our Lord. To remember we need grace. To remember we need forgiveness. To remember we need the cross and the gifts it offers. To remember, to accept, to live.