Thoughts for Holy Week 2016

LSullivan_0710_Tulips

This may seem shockingly liturgical coming from a Protestant, evangelical, Baptist type, but I have found the season of Lent to be a sobering period of reflection leading up to Easter. Every day, I’ve been listening to a podcast of Bible readings and commentary that together are methodically unfolding the events of Jesus’ betrayal, mock trials, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection—all of which were to bring about His sacrifice (death in our place) for the forgiveness of our sins. Providentially, these Lenten reflections have coincided with a verse-by-verse lecture series on the book of Ecclesiastes. These two studies may seem disconnected; but in fact they are not—Jesus, himself, said that all Scripture testifies of Him. (John 5:39)

Ecclesiastes contrasts the earthly, human wisdom “under the sun” with the revealed wisdom of God. It does so by addressing the timeless question, “What is the purpose and meaning of life?”

Is it knowledge? Is it pleasure? Is it work? Is it greatness? Is it wealth? Is it service to others?

One by one, The Teacher, (most definitely King Solomon near the end of his reign), concludes that all of these pursuits are vain and utterly meaningless—a chasing after the wind.

Indeed, when we (honestly) assess this life “under the sun,” we recognize that life is not always a bed of roses…or a perpetual sunny day ride. Life is hard; it seems futile. Day turns to night, turns to day, turns to night, and so on…and then we will die. Just like the generations before us, and just like the generations after us if the Lord tarries.

Through the lens of worldly wisdom and reason, God seems fickle: He rewards some and denies others. He sends sunshine and refreshing rain, yet He also sends scorching heat and destructive storms. In both the natural world and the world order, there is beauty but there is also violence, death, and chaos. It’s utterly meaningless, futile. Vanity.

Rather depressing, n’est-ce pas?

So then, what is meaning? What is meaningful?

Just as the reader is drowning in the despairing reality of life “under the sun,” Solomon supplies the answer: The end of the matter (the meaning of life) is to “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Fear God. Keep His commandments. Put another way, when we have a proper relationship with God, we have met our purpose. The “meaning” is not a what; the “meaning” is a Who. And the Who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Consider this: The Word, (which translated from the Greek means logic, reason, or meaning), became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  The “Word” in the Bible is another name for Christ (Jesus). Beyond space and time—“above the sun” so to speak—the second Person of the trinity (Christ) came “under the sun” and became a human being. He lived in all ways tempted as we are, yet did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)  Instead, He was crucified for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day.

This Word, this Living Word, is the center and meaning of all human life. All of life can only be seen and interpreted rightly in light of who He is. He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one has the relationship with God that Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes except through Him. (John 14:6)  Our entire existence is in reference to Jesus Christ—and we are either with Him or we are against Him. (John 1:14)  I pray that you are with Him!

For those who are with Him, this contrasting wisdom “under the Son” changes our perspective entirely: We see God reveal himself in the person of Jesus, and we see that God is not fickle! He is completely steadfast in His faithfulness. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and that work on our behalf is permanent and eternal!

Does the day still turn to night, turn to day, turn to night…and then we die? Yes. But this reality is seen differently when we trust that Christ is sufficient for us. Acknowledging Christ for the forgiveness of our sins results in a relationship with God, and that relationship, which begins in this life, continues forever—for all eternity.

In light of this new perspective—this position in Christ—consider then how the wisdom of God defeats the wisdom “under the sun”: Although we will die and generations after us will eventually forget us, Christ remembers those who have faith in Him. (A timely example is the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43 , who asked the Lord to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus’ response was “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Christ remembers!)

Furthermore, any greatness we achieve, when we view and live life according to God’s wisdom, is now accomplished to further Christ’s kingdom—to bring glory to the “King of Kings” who wore a crown of thorns on behalf of sinful mankind.

Any service we do for others is not vain and worthless, if done in humility and love, knowing that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Any pleasure, which in this world doesn’t satisfy for long, now becomes a cause for thanksgiving to God, the giver of all good things. (James 1:17)  …But the greatest cause for thanksgiving will be celebrated this coming Sunday when believers everywhere proclaim of Christ: “He is risen. He is risen, indeed!”

Join With All Nature

Hello, World! It would seem that I’ve been living under a rock since early January, doing very little writing. (Let’s see if I can still string a few sentences together!)

I hope that you’ve been weathering winter well. Here in central North Carolina, we’ve had some snow and ice, the latter of which always makes things more interesting. Despite the weather (or because of it), I was able to capture the Duke Gardens blanketed in snow.

DSC_0019_peace_pond

The Virtue Peace Pond at Duke Gardens is always a tranquil sight. (Note the splash of orange-red to the right, where construction in the nearby Spring Woodlands Garden is underway. How exciting!)

IMG_0211_warbler

The snow and ice have since melted (and it’s in the 60’s as I write this post!), but it was a mere 24 degrees last Saturday morning when I took this photo of a cute little warbler fluffing its feathers to retain body heat and keep out the cold. — Blomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke Gardens

A verse from an old favorite comes to mind when I consider the subtle wonder of a tiny bird carefully designed to dwell in “summer and winter and springtime and harvest”–a witness in nature to God’s great faithfulness, mercy and love.[1]


“Great is Thy Faithfulness”; Thomas Obediah Chisholm (1866-1960)

 

Joyous Christmas

His arrival had been anticipated since Genesis 3. The Old Testament prophets foretold His birth in accurate detail. The self-existent, second person of the Godhead “became flesh and dwelt among us.”[1] …The long-awaited Christ was born!

“Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.”[2]

I hope that you join me in proclaiming, “Glory to the newborn King!”

May the peace of Christ be with you this Christmas season and always.

KingsDaughters_Porch_Tree-3


[1] John 1:14; See Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, and Micah 5:2 for examples in the Old Testament of Jesus’ anticipated birth prophesied.

[2] Lyrics from Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, written by Charles Wesley, published in 1739, and adapted by George Whitefield.

Photo taken at the King’s Daughters Inn; Durham, NC.

Truth, No Tricks

October 31, 2015.

Do you know what today is? If you answered “Halloween,” you wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s not exactly the response I was looking for.

Today is also Reformation Day, which commemorates that time in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door at Wittenberg in Germany. Although this action was a customary way to initiate public debate, the content of Luther’s document was far from ordinary—his actions brought about great changes to Christianity, which had strayed from “the faith once delivered to the saints.” – Jude 1:3

Luther’s indignation began (but did not end) with the “sale of indulgences” by John Tetzel, a monk selling indulgence papers to lay folks who feared the fate of their dead loved ones and who were promised that “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

The sale of indulgences was a means of raising money for the Church. Luther not only disputed this abuse of people (many of whom could hardly afford such an expense), he disputed what was, in effect, the “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:11)

Luther contested man-made traditions and church authority, both of which compromised the authority of God and the Bible, citing instead that:

the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.” — Thesis 62 of 93

The results of the Reformation can be summed up in what are referred to as the Five Solas. The first one is this: sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone). From the authoritative nature of Scripture, the rest of the solas flow: sola fide (by faith alone); sola gratia (by grace alone); solus Christus (through Christ alone); soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).

Great reformers, such as Luther, are not the only ones who can and ought to contend for the faith. Nor was the need for reforming Christian thought and practice a problem of the 1500s alone. Perhaps as you read the paragraphs above concerning indulgences, you were reminded of the pyramid schemes and prosperity preaching of today—or perhaps of more subtle “prone to wander, Lord I feel it” type of thinking that hits closer to home.

My hope is that Reformation Day is not only a day to be thankful to God for men like Luther, but that it also fans into flame a desire for us, as Christians, to think more biblically, be more discerning, and to boldly contend for the Gospel.

What is the Gospel? It can be summed up in this passage from I Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.


Are you looking for a “Christ-centered and Cross-focused” resource to help you develop biblical discernment and grow in your understanding of Scripture? Consider Pirate Christian Radio.