Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Death of Jesus

Last week I talked about John 19 and the death of Jesus. Here a medical doctor provides a physical description:

The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought iron nail through the wrist deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement.

The cross is then lifted into place. The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed.

The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain - the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet.

Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet. As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through his muscles, knotting them deep relentless, throbbing pain.

With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. Hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint wrenching cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against rough timber.

Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level-the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues and the tortured lungs are making frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues...Finally, he can allow his body to die...

All this the Bible records with the simple words, "and they crucified Him", (Mark 15:24).

What wondrous love is this? Many people don't know all the pain and suffering Jesus Christ went through for us...because of the brutality, crucifixion was given as a sentence to only its worst offenders of the law. Thieves, murderers, and rapists would be the types who got crucified. Yet, here Jesus is being crucified between two hardened criminals...What did Jesus do? Did he murder anyone? Did he steal anything? The answer as we all know is NO!! Jesus did nothing to deserve this type of death, yet he went willing to die, in between 2 thieves, so that we might be saved. And there, in between the sinners, was our slain savior for our sins.


Monday, November 20, 2006

99 and a half years old!

EVA MURIEL (BLANK) SCHWAB was born in Morden MB on May 19, 1907. She was the third oldest in a family of nine children. Now think about that for a moment. Imagine all the history that she has lived through. I had the opportunity and privilege to share many lunches and scrabble games with this special lady. During our times together Auntie Eva would tell me of the different events in her life. I heard her story and even encouraged her one day to have someone write it out.

Eva had to leave school after grade 8 in order to help provide for her family. After moving to Winnipeg in 1930, she worked as a housekeeper in a nursing home. On January 7, 1938, she married Ralph Schwab and they lived happily until his death in 1966. She remained at home for a number of years raising her family, before working as a chef at the Happy Vinyard, until her retirement in 1972. Eva told me how important it was for her to focus on her family and not think about getting remarried. WOW! Not one to gather moss, she began working part-time at Lange's Pastry Shop for several years. From the time that she was a young woman, Eva's Christian faith and values were the foundation of her life. She enthusiastically participated in the life of her church, Calvary Temple, which she attended faithfully for over 69 years. During the 1970s, Aunty Eva served as the head cook for the boys' and girls' camps at Calvary Temple Youth Camp at Red Rock Lake in Whiteshell. Many stories of her feisty spirit and prankster nature stem from those summers at camp.

It was an honour for me to be a pallbearer at her funeral last Friday. At the funeral many stories and tidbits were told about this great grandmother, grandmother and mom. Stories like how mischievous she was when she was not only young but ALL the time. She was considered a real prankster by all who knew her. When she was young she captured 12 mice and put them in the top drawer of the teacher’s desk at the school. Needless to say we would have all loved to see that response. Numerous times she pretended to be a bear at camp…and scared people silly. She even encountered a real bear on a path, and lost!

Here was an interesting story…how many knew that this little woman saved a family of 6 from a house fire and was recognized for her act of bravery? According to her son David he only really heard her complain once and she said…..”Why could I have been born rich instead of good looking?”

Eva had a remarkable gift for hospitality, and enjoyed entertaining friends in her home. She excelled at knitting afghans, sweaters, and baby shawls, which she gave away at weddings and baby showers. Auntie Eva was famous for her pies and jams and marmalade and kept our fridge full and my boys were always thrilled when I came back from lunch with Auntie Eva, never mind how thoughtful she was at Christmas time for each of my boys. I was just one of her many “boys” and that was a badge that I wear with honour.

One thing sticks out however with Eva. My wife remembers a phone call from her, shortly after one of my boys had major surgery on his arm to correct a bone defect. Eva told Sharon how she wished that she could bear his pain. Man, that meant so much to our family simply because we knew that Eva meant it.

Peacefully, on November 12, 2006, Eva Schwab passed away at the Grace Hospital following a brief illness. She is survived by one daughter Hazel (Jack) Hyde; one son David (Dorothy Regehr); seven grandchildren, Keith, Kari (Greg) Renner, Sharla (Dean) Kojima, Dayna, Tracey (Robert) Brandt, Sarah Jane, Rebeccah; four great-grandchildren, Jaysen, Brayden, Alex, and Madison Eva; one sister Hilda Cann of Kelowna; one brother Jack Blank of Penticton, BC, a very special sister-in-law, Rosemary Blank of Portland, OR and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was predeceased by her husband, Ralph (1966); her daughter Darlene (1986); brothers, Austin, Lawrence, Floyd; sisters, Linda, Frieda and Eileen.

May I end with what was said in a letter from the funeral…..
“Many will rise up and call her blessed and her works will follow her!”

Aunite Eva….Enjoy your new home!!!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What is GOD Like?

'What is God like?' is the most important question you can ask, because your understanding of God has everything to do with your understanding of self. It is a matter of identity. It all comes down to one thing. Here it is:

Psalm 100:3. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Everything in life comes down to this:
Know who you are by understanding whose you are.
Understanding whose you are has everything to do with the decisions you make in your life. When you're tempted, do you give in to your temptations and become a cheat and a liar? Or do you keep your promises?

Let me ask you a question. How do you personally make the decision of what is right and wrong? Here is how most people in our culture do it? They say “well, by my experience, I just kind of go by my past experience and if it seems right to me or feels right to me, I do it.” Now think about that for a minute. If I am my highest force of authority in determining the standard of what is right, then I'm making myself out to be God. And that is a pretty shaky foundation to base my life on. Right?

It is a matter of ownership. The Lord is God. It is He who made us. You know, God, our Creator, has a right to make a claim upon our lives. Would you agree? Think about it for a minute. The Creator, He made all the stars. Do you know how many stars there are? I don't even know how to say this number, maybe you mathematicians can pronounce this number, but it is 250 million times 250 million. I can't even say what that is but that's how many stars there are. And do you know that our sun is a small one. Everything else in the universe is bigger than this. Now turn around the other way - take one handful of dirt and put that one handful under an electro-microscope and there are literally millions of micro-organisms in one handful of dirt. And then He made you and I in the middle of all of that.

You know I like the way David put it. He wrote a psalm about identity: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” You know what that means. Maybe here's how you'd say it today. “The Lord is my owner.” David knew it is a matter of identity. You understand who you are because you know whose you are. The Lord is my shepherd.

We don't like that word 'owner' today, do we? We resent being owned. I don't like that idea of ownership. You know what our generation is known for? We're known as the 'addicted generation.' We are addicted to everything from sex to chocolate. We don't like to be owned, yet we are.

We are the sheep of His pasture, and then Jesus says: "I am the good shepherd."
What is God like? Good.
Now get this. This amazes me. That God, 250 million stars times 250 million stars, a handful of dirt, millions of micro-organisms, the God who did all of that, said, "I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."

A God who lays down his life for me? A God who lays down his life for you? We can trust Him, that God, to bear our weights. It's a matter of identity. The Lord is God. He has made you. You are His. You are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fear and Anger

This last Sunday we dealt with the topic of fear and anger and I have received some very interesting responses from people. So I ask you out there in cyber space…What are you afraid of? How do you deal with fear? What difference does faith make?

For me, one fear I had was vampires. When I was young I watched a vampire movie on TV – I got so scared that I put a homemade cross under my pillow. My Mom would find it and throw it out and then she said that I would go out and make a new one… other fears I had was not getting married before Jesus Christ would return(hey, stop laughing); dying before I saw 30; roller coasters.

Some people say they have no fears. That may be true on the outside but when they go to bed at night I think that they may have fears that they don’t publicly acknowledge.

Stuff like…Fear of bats, of pain either physical or emotional, of loss and grief, of violent crime and criminals. What about the fear of failure. That you will not succeed. Fear that you will not be able to provide for family. Fear of not being able to change. Fear that we will not able to meet a special someone. Fear of loosing those who are close to us. Fear of rejection, Not fitting in. Growing old. That we won’t ever be known.

Have you ever thought that our fears lead to anger? What gets you angry? Anger is an emotion that controls you and consumes you. Anger is a part of a lot of people’s journey and it becomes part of people’s spiritual journey as well. The thing about anger is that it can distort things. When you are trapped in the emotion of anger you sometimes don’t see things as they really are. Things just get fuzzy. There are subtleties to anger. In the midst of fuzziness and distortion, it is imperative that we hear truth. That we hear the voice of truth. Face it when we are in anger, it takes over and we cannot hear clearly. And when you are upset there are different ways of dealing with anger. Some people say release it … problem with that most of the time when we lash out, it is the people around that suffer and though we might feel better they are the ones left with the damage. While we are releasing this anger we are pushing those away that we care about the most. We lash out with our anger and then we are left feeling alone. Have you been to the place where you are filled with anger and lash out at somebody or a group of people then all of a sudden you feel alone?

Now, you feel that you can’t be around these people anymore or that you crossed a line and you cannot come back to them. Then the voices pop into your head and say “That is right, you cannot go back. They will not accept you.”

Now there another side of anger that happens inside of us. We start to nurse the anger that you feel. You start to listen to those voices that justify how you feel and that you have been offended and that you are right to feel this way and that you want justice. And you start letting this thing simmer and then bitterness comes in and it gives birth to decay that starts happening in our soul and we find ourselves alone. The sad thing about this is that we choose. We choose to distance our selves from people. From the hurts and the things that we have been wronged. We choose then to put ourselves into solitary confinement. We choose to be alone. We choose a painful existence.

Notice how both lead to isolation?

Some of us take our anger and project it onto GOD. Maybe that is your story. Why do you have so much angst? Why do we have all this anger in us? Have you ever retraced that? Is it broken relationships that you found yourself? And you asked “Is there a GOD why is this stuff happening to me?” Or maybe you would see stuff on the news or real life that is full of injustice and we ask…if there is a GOD how can this happen?

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Who?

Ok, a few weeks ago The Who came to town and I had the opportunity to go and hear them. (Thank you Mr. B!!!!!) What a great experience!
There was Roger Daltrey on lead vocals…and of course Pete Townshend on guitar, not too mention John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keys and piano. Then there was Ringo Star’s son Zak Starkey on drums and then Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on rhythm guitar, and vocals and then an incredible bass player named Pino Palladino. Over all it was a great show….however…There were a number of things that I noticed.

First, my expectations were not really met. I expected a punk show, screaming and the breaking of 'stuff,' I expected some mayhem, some arrests, some serious craziness. I was surprised that other than the occasional fan, the screaming was in time with the music. As for stuff breaking, the only thing that broke was Pete's guitar; prior to the second song, and then he had some techies fix it and move on.

Besides the expectations I noticed that the audience was older than me; and I thought I was going to be the old guy going that night. Growing up in church circles I always thought that "old peoples" hated loud rock music. That was not the case this night. The ‘homes’ must have emptied out and filled the MTS Centre. Just kidding!!! Come ON!!!! Ok I am not, but what I saw was all these people dancing and screaming and having a great time......but they had gray hair! This cannot be right.

Not only where they dancing and yelling, they their hands in the air....why? Was it praise and worship time? Did I miss something? Many people moved into the aisle and danced. Actually one hippie castaway was dancing as if on LSD for the entire show...a throw back to Woodstock for sure. What happened? Gray hair, loud music, cheering, dancing, and waving their hands in the air…..not to mention the occasion “purple cloud” that went up from the floor zone.

But wait, there were young people there as well, but they probably only heard of The Who after CSI came out. So, what am I getting at? Good question….

I observed a cultural phenomena. I watched as music affected a variety of generations.
Bill Kinnon in his blog did an interesting post regarding music in the church. And I would agree whole heartedly with both Bill and Martin Luther that music has incredible power to affect us.

But why is music such an issue in churches. I know this is an old argument, and I walked through that in my previous ministries. I guess I am still in wonder as I reflect on what I saw and how I saw people respond. What about you? What music moves you and why?