Wednesday, April 28, 2010


For 12 years of my life I lived in a small western Ohio made up entirely of people like me - white people. They were good days and the people were nice people, who loved and encouraged us as persons.
But during my junior year my family moved to the inner city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was the late 60s, a time of great civil unrest. During my junior year both Martin Luther King, Jr and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. And Harrisburg had a whole lot more people than white folk. My class had African-Americans, Asians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics. In my high school, John Harris, there were more whites than any other race-- but even the white people were different. Some were Protestant, some Catholic, some Jewish, some Baptists, some main liners. There were different accents and different traditions. Blue collar kids and wealthy ones. Poor kids from the projects and comfortable kids from Bellevue Park. There were kids whose parents voted Democrat (didn't know of those in small town Ohio) and some whose parents were socialists. Still a lot of Republicans. Kids who wouldn't spend the time of day with someone of another race, and others who dated interracially. All kinds of people.

One of the best things that ever happened to meet was to move into a community where there were all kinds of people.

There is a comfortable naivete when you are only around people like yourself. But there is also a dangerous ignorance that can lead to devaluing other people. It is an easy step from devaluing them to making them convenient enemies or scapegoats. When you are around only your kind of people there also emerges an unchallenged arrogance that assumes your way of life is the best way, if not the only way to live.

Because God led my father to move into a parish in the city, I learned many lessons I might have missed. I meant many people who were not like me but whose friendship enriched me immeasurably. I met a Greek girl who taught me about hard work and loyalty to family. I met a Jewish man who taught me about the importance of honoring your word even to someone who dishonors you. I met an African-American who introduced me to the poet James Weldon Johnson, and a Polish kid who made a jazz-lover out of me. I met a black man who taught me that no one should be too busy to listen to a young man's dreams. I met police detective who taught me to protect myself and white woman who taught me to pray for my enemies. I met a divorced man who taught me that treasuring your family requires sacrifice and a widow from a previous era in the church to love the new things God was doing. I met a steelworker who taught me the importance of attitude. The list goes on.

One of God's gifts to us is all kinds of people. More of us need to step out of our cliques and comfort zones and meet those people.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


One of my favorite places on the planet is a family restaurant owned by George Agadis and his father, Mike called the Silver Spring Family Restaurant. Located on Marietta Pike in a little Lancaster County village by the same name, it serves as my "second office." I am there so frequently (5-6 days each week at my breakfast time of 6:00/6:30 am) that people come looking for me there. I joke that I ought to own stock in the place and that I am helping George put his kids through college (the oldest is not yet school age).

It is sufficiently part of my personal experience that I find myself inadvertently marketing the place in my Sunday morning sermons. Many people who want to give me a gift find it safe to get me a gift certificate to the SSFR (as I abbreviate it). I also have what I call a "frequent flier" ticket that after so many breakfasts earns me a free one. (I tend to earn a free one about every two weeks).

I began frequenting family restaurants years ago as an attempt to get out of the Christian bubble of my office to meet and interact with people who are neither a part of my church or even what we call unchurched. More than once God has given me some helpful insights into the community in which I serve and humanity in general because I go and listen.

It also has given me a chance to minister. One day a person who was studying the Bible at his own church, cornered me to talk about Genesis. "There's a whole lot there. What's the takeaway from Genesis?" This allowed me an opportunity to talk for a time about being created in God's image and the Fall. More than once someone has planted themselves across the table from me for some spiritual counsel or stopped by to request prayer. It's given me an extended flock, so to speak, as I have tried to encourage and help the waitresses. My friend George, the owner, is Greek Orthodox. We come from two streams of Christianity, but have become good friends. One day he said to one of his waitresses, "I have priest ... this is my pastor." I was honored beyond measure by that affirmation.

Too many Christians (including pastors) isolate themselves in little cocoons and miss the great opportunity and privilege of interacting with the world. I am very thankful for the resource Silver Spring provides for me to grow and mature as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Plus, they have the best Eggs Benedict I've eaten anywhere.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I am one of a unique minority in America who does not spend morning in leisure or lawn care. I spend it in worship. I don’t use the highly personalized rationalization that I can worship God anywhere–out in nature or on the golf course. (Don’t get time for nature very often and the only praying I do on the golf course is, “God, don’t let me miss this putt.” I join with other people of similar commitment to worship God as a community.

Church researchers have a measure they call the “butt factor.” It’s a little crude but it measures “how many butts will be in the pews on a Sunday morning.” That figure currently stands (in 2010) around 15%, a little more (but only a little) if you live in the Bible Belt of the Southeast and Texas, a little less if you live as I do in the Middle Atlantic or Northeast.

At this point many Christians will now launch into a riff about the “paganizing” or “Europination” of America. I share their evaluation, but my reasons are different.

I worship on Sunday morning because of a relationship with the Living God–my Creator, my Forgiver, my Life Changer, my Leader, my Friend.
My life has been changed immeasurably for the better because I have chosen to make God the center of my life instead of a casual acquaintance. My life continues to find peace and power because I keep clearly focused on Him, instead of allowing Him to slip out of sight and out of mind.

I join others in worship because we are not Lone Rangers. We are interdependent people living in a tough, often lonely world. We need the connection and encouragement others to survive and to thrive. We need others to remind us of the importance of God so that we do do not fall into the temptation to believe the lie that we are in charge and we in control.

I join in worship with others to bear witness to the reality that there is more to Sunday morning than the New York Times Crossword puzzle or the futile pursuit of a green lawn or jogging in traffic or youth soccer tournaments. All of the above are good things but they do not give my life power and purpose, hope and joy.


I find this cartoon to be prophetic. The "biggest boys on the block" or the meanest you-know-what's in the valley live with an arrogance of position that makes them fearsome for a time. But being in control of a situation because there is no one big enough or bad enough to challenge is ultimately a fantasy. A microbe can bring down an empire. A child with the right piece of information can defeat a bully. A persistent novice can score a winning shot against a pro. It happens all the time. History is filled with examples.

In John 13, Jesus said that the road to greatness was through stooping to serve. Humility will triumph over pride. Persons who can think of others will be rewarded far beyond their imagination. People who settle for personal victory or vindication will only have that at best--and that doesn't last.

Feet washing is the symbol in the Bible of the prevailing value of humble service. I love this picture of the little Chinese girl washing feet. Who do you think is having the greatest joy here? Who do you think will be remembered and honored.

My own church, the Churches of God, practices this ceremony or ordinance of Feetwashing because we want to always be reminded that we are servant of God serving a world that God loves.

Ultimately arrogance and power go the way of the dinosaur. I wonder when the world will figure it out.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I came across this column by Alex Marvez posted on Fox Sports website. It expresses my personal sentiments exactly. i have posted and excerpt below. You can read the rest of the post at ALVAREZ

In today’s NFL, character counts. Dez Bryant and Jimmy Clausen learned that the hard way during Thursday night’s draft. And on the flip side, Tim Tebow’s squeaky-clean reputation and leadership skills helped push him into the first round. Bryant was a top-10 talent who dropped all the way to No. 24 until picked by Dallas. He wasn’t even the first wideout selected. That distinction was garnered by Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas, a Boy Scout in comparison, who was selected by Denver two slots earlier.

The Broncos had just traded one head case in Brandon Marshall. They weren’t about to tempt the fates by messing with another.

.... Clausen must be feeling cursed. He was long touted as this draft’s second-best quarterback prospect. Instead, the Notre Dame standout will have to wait another day for his name to get called. This, too, isn’t a question of on-field ability. Even with damaged toes, Clausen did more than enough during his junior season to justify a first-round selection. He thrived in a pro-style system under esteemed offensive mind Charlie Weis. It would be hard to bash a team with quarterback needs like Oakland, Buffalo or Jacksonville had they used a top-10 pick on Clausen, let alone traded back into the late stages of the first round. But Clausen can’t shed the ongoing questions about his maturity and leadership skills that began even before his ballyhooed arrival at Notre Dame. One franchise I spoke with that had strong interest in taking a first-round quarterback soured on Clausen because it didn’t like his attitude. Clausen may now become the fourth quarterback taken if a team likes undersized Texas standout Colt McCoy more.
Get the latest reactions, news and rumors from the draft blog.
That fourth slot was once believed to be reserved for Tebow, whose college throwing style wouldn’t have worked in the NFL despite his achievements at Florida. It’s much too early to tell whether Tebow’s pre-draft attempts to overhaul his release and motion will work. Tebow, though, couldn’t ask for a better situation. He can spend at least one season learning behind Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn before making a push to start. Tebow also gets to work with a quarterbacks guru in Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who helped mold Matt Cassel into a starter while both were in New England. McDaniels fell in love with Tebow and his intangibles this spring, conducting one final private workout Monday on the UF campus. Tebow left that session immediately for a speaking engagement at a Christian college in Tennessee. Unless his heavily religious lifestyle takes a 180-degree turn, McDaniels knows he won’t have to worry about Tebow getting into a bar fight like Clausen did last November at Notre Dame. Nor will McDaniels ever fret Tebow pulling a Ben Roethlisberger. In a prime-time embarrassment for the NFL, fans at Radio City Music Hall loudly chanted “She said no!” as commissioner Roger Goodell and a young Make-A-Wish Pittsburgh Steelers fan approached the podium to announce the team’s first-round pick. The jeers were in reference to sexual assault claims that led to Roethlisberger’s four-to-six game NFL suspension. The punishment Goodell administered Wednesday proved just how much character means to him. The draft fate of Bryant, Clausen and Tebow shows most teams feel the same way.

Monday, April 19, 2010


This is where my week will ultimately take me, Doubling Gap Center. Doubling Gap is the retreat and conference center for the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God, located near Newville PA. It is also the home of Camp Yolijwa. Originally a famous hotel with mineral springs, it was secured by the Churches of God in 1935 to become the home of its fledgling church camping ministry. (You can learn more about this magnificent place by going to: camp yolijwa Along with a number of other persons from my congregation we will be attending the annual conference sessions of the ERC: a time of church business, prayer, inspiration, equipping, worship, and fellowship. People rarely like attending business meetings, but this "gathering of the church" is far more than something so mundane. By the time it ends Saturday at lunch time, many of us will have a special time of blessing from God. I will return in June to serve as a Head Counselor on the staff of the Youth Camp. That will be far more grueling, but in many ways more rewarding. I look forward to my time at Doubling Gap.

The Mets and the Cardinals put together a twenty inning extra inning game Saturday. Fortunately it started at 4:15 in the afternoon or they might have watched the sun rise on the Mississippi before the last out was made. Six hours and 53 minutes before Jose Reyes hit a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 2-1 victory. Cardinals' utility man Joe Mather was pressed into service on the mound when Tony LaRussa ran out of pitchers. Poor Joe will probably never get another chance to pitch in his career that now sports an 0-1 pitching record. Perhaps the real hero was Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who caught all 20 innings (a superhuman effort by baseball standards) and gunned down David Wright in the 14th inning as he attempted to steal second, prolonging the game even further. Alas, Yadier's efforts were for naught, but he was behind the plate 24 hours later in the final game of this series.

Yesterday's sermon was called "Redeemed Rejection." Rejection is with us from the beginning of life until life's, but thankfully God allows us to overcome rejection with a fresh start. We "redeem rejection" when we choose to live by the truth of God's New Creation and stop living the lie that comes from people who do not value us God does.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Here are a few of my favorite cartoons that pack a powerful message. They make great discussion starters or stand alones.


A friend shared this video on Facebook. It is seriously hilarious.

On the other hand, it is lousy theology. One of humanity's greatest self-deceptions is that you can find a program or diet spiritually speaking that can change you eternal destiny. Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic strip Pogo once introduced this great line into the cultural dialogue, "We have met the enemy and he is us." When the "trap" that has captured us is sin, we cannot work our way out of simply by superhuman effort. It takes a supernatural one--Someone beyond ourselves who pulls open the trap to let us go free.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Something to think about. I'll be interested in your feedback. Let's have some fun with this.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This blog is cross-posted on Word Press where it has a broader audience. One of my readers there is a Winebrenner Seminary student in the Master of Arts in Church Development program and a former youth pastor at Newville, where I began in ministry as a youth pastor. She writes a highly creative blog that links scripture to life matters. In her most recent post she wrote:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

- Matthew 6:1-4

I read this verses a few days ago as part of the preparation for my trip to Haiti and they’ve stuck in my head ever since. These verses present a conundrum — a Catch-22, if you will.

If we follow the teaching of Jesus, we’ll feed the hungry, repair storm-damaged homes, offer supplies and shelter to earthquake victims, bring medical assistance to the hurting, provide clothing for the poor and a myriad of other activities that fall broadly under the category of social justice without saying a word to anyone.

Who, then, knows what good things we are doing in the name of Christ? God, those we serve and maybe our congregations – depending on if it is a church-related project or an individual undertaking.

Is that OK?

Check it out.

By the way, if you'd like to see the other version of LIFE MATTERS go to


Recently I had the wonderful privilege of baptizing eleven teenagers who had given their lives to Jesus Christ. These kids chose the very public venue of a pool party where their friends (some of whom tend to avoid churches) could be present to witness what they were doing and hear the faith stories. I was very proud of these kids. Admitting to caring about spiritual things at all sets them apart from many of their peers. Going public with their faith in Christ really put it on the line for people to now observe, analyze, and make a judgment upon. I pray that this step will be more than youthful enthusiasm, that it has grown from a profound desire to be the persons Christ created them to be. Time will tell, but I have a lot of hope for these kids. I believe they are the real deal.

Unfortunately there are a lot of "Christians" out there who are not the real deal. They may have one time been enthusiastic about Jesus Christ, but they have let that passion grow cold. They no longer seek to stand out as salt and light. They much prefer "fitting in" and then choosing times to admit to their faith when it is advantageous. For years churches and theologians have debated the concept of "backsliding" and whether or not someone can lose their salvation. I come from the stream of Christianity that says you can lose your salvation. Such backsliding is serious business.

But allowing your faith to go from the center of your life to its periphery is also a form of backsliding. It is not backsliding that robs you of your salvation. It robs you of your witness. When people who are generally seeking God encounter you, they are probably going to keep looking because they quickly learn you are not the real deal.

A newfound faith is a precious gift from God, a gift of His grace. But if we really understand the value of the gift, we will always hold it precious. It will always center us and ground us and empower us. When we truly treasure and cultivate the faith God has given us, backsliding will not be an option.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The 2010
had more than a little drama, with seven men "in the hunt" for the Green Jacket right up to the end. Much of the focus was on Tiger Woods and his comeback, but there were plenty of stories. Fred Couples made a bid to be the oldest man to win the Masters and I confess, I was rooting for the "Old Guy." Maybe that's because at age 59, I have begun to empathize with those old guys just a little. But the winner was Phil Mickelson, not generally one of my favorites. However, you had to be glad for him. He was one the "Good Guys." Whereas Tiger took time off to get his addictions under control and mend his marriage, Phil took time off to be at the side of his wife (and also his mother) who were battling breast cancer. You had to admire his priorities and smile a bit when he got a little of his heavenly reward early at Augusta.

The 2009 Detroit Tigers left many of us heartbroken when they let the Minnesota Twins overtake them at season's end for the Central Division title. By Sunday they reeled off their

fourth win in a row, taking 4 out of 5 from the Royals and the Indians. A lot of offense was generated despite Johnny Damon's non-productivity. Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera provided a whole lot of power. But nothing was more fun than watching Carlos Guillen win a Sunday slugfest when he scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch (is that a "walk off wild pitch"?). The Tigers were so much fun this week that I largely ignored my fantasy baseball teams.

When I pay attention to the news, I keep hearing assessments of Mr. Obama's performance as President. Personally, I still think the best thing is to pray for him to be a wise and godly leader and stop spreading all the urban legends. Likewise, Democrats need to give him a break. He is not the Messiah (that job has already been taken quite well, thank you.)

Just so this blog post has some redeeming value, let me leave you with a verse that I find gives me focus and hope. It's Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Greg Nauman is a good friend of mine; but more importantly, he's a friend of God. As a member of my congregation he has served as an elder and a council president. For a time he co-taught The Transformers, our young couples' Sunday School Class. Right now he's doing none of these, To the left you see him serving as a teacher for a Good News Club we sponsor in a local elementary school. He is heading up our All Church Family Retreat, a once year event occurring in about two weeks. He and his wife help with our senior high Sunday School class. Last Monday he had lunch with a young man from our Core Student Leadership group, who Greg will be mentoring. Right now he is organizing a work team of adult and teens who will helping in the Appalachian region of southwestern Pennsylvania this summer.
Most Sundays he and his wife Maria take someone in the church to lunch--to get acquainted and to encourage them. He'll probably be embarrassed by this post.

You say, "It's wonderful to have a guy like that working for the church." That's true. He's among many men and women with whom I blessed as Lead Pastor of my church. But this is not his job, it his calling. Greg's day job is that of a financial planner for a major financial management firm.
No healthy and effective church depends on paid staff to do its jobs. It depends upon its people who believe that they have a critical role to play in God's kingdom and give of their time and their talents to follow their calling to serve their community where God's Spirit leads.

Our day job may pay the bills and earn the respect of the world. It is our 24/7 calling that honors God and truly transforms people's lives. Are you more than your day job?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


A friend, Rich Thornton, sent me this video. I have no clue how Billy Graham allowed himself to be interviewed by Woody Allen, but I am impressed by the respect Billy shows Woody and the grace with which he speaks plainly about what he believes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Long before I knew much about golf I discovered The Masters. It is actually one of my childhood memories. Grandma Reames' house in Bellefontaine on a sunny day. Her big color TV and scenes from The Masters on its screen. In those days I didn't even know the golfers' names nor that much about golf. What was captivating with the scenery of Augusta National Golf Course.

Later I would learn names like Palmer and Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tom Watson. Then there was the year one of my parishioners, Billy Kratzert led through the second round. Finally there was Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. So much drama against the backdrop of so much physical beauty. Some much tradition. And who will forget the utterly improbable chip shot by Tiger Woods on the 16th hole in 2005 in the final round that led the memorable "fist-pump" as he celebrated a shot that ultimately forced a playoff which Tiger won.

As much as anything I associate this golf tournament with CBS Sports. In fact, even now I can hear the resonant tones of Jim Nantz as he announces "The Masters on CBS." CBS' long term partnership with the Augusta National Golf Course have helped create a tradition of excellence that has turned many a disinterested person into a golf fan the second full weekend in April. Not all tradition is helpful or useful. But in today's world where so much is temporary and most people pursue the flash instead of the class--The Masters on CBS can remind us of the beauty and the attractive of tradition done with excellence.


This picture says it all. Life is so much richer than the level at which we live it. People have more dimensions than we take time to explore. People have more potential than they realize. God is so much more than we can ever ask or imagine.

For most people in our world today God is pretty much out of sight and out of mind. Not that people are atheists or even agnostics. People just don't think much about Him and when they seek Him at all, it seems to be in their spare time. "Life is so daily," Tim Hansel once said. The routine of life tends to deaden our spiritual antennae. We put our lives sort of on autopilot and just move from alarm clock to night cap dealing mostly with what is urgent, occasionally what is pleasant. This is often true whether we are living hand-to-mouth or we have more than enough to be comfortable.

In this scenario people start thinking about God either of out of crisis or emptiness. When life is beyond your control, you look for something or Someone beyond yourself for intervention or consolation. When nothing in life works or you seem adrift in a sea of unfulfilled dreams, you reach out for an anchor.

Some people encourage shallowness. "Don't worry, be happy!" Others eschew authenticity. "Never let them see you sweat." Still others counsel action, any action rather than remaining stuck. "Just do something, anything, but stop complaining." Like Job's well-meaning companions, such people rarely have a clue and because their guidance is rooted in unreflective values, listening to them usually compounds our difficulties.

Sooner or later, we are drawn towards God and if we are truly seeking solutions, we don't stop until we have begun to explore the hidden depths of God's wisdom and love.

Blaise Pascal has written, "In each of us there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill." When we starting paying attention to God (for whatever reason) we begin to discover that truth--a truth hidden deep inside our own spiritual DNA, And we finally start embracing the Truth found in depths of God, we begin finally to be free. We begin finally to be the person that God had in mind when He first thought of us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Lee Strobel is one of the premiere apologists (explainers) of the Christian faith today. Strobel has a while series of free resources, This clip is from one of those. It is very timely at Easter.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Still praying for Haiti, of all the important things going on in the world - from healthcare to the Iraqi elections, to the Final Four an the Masters, to our on again-off again economy, I hope we have lot let Haiti to totally slip off our radar. As both the rainy season in Haiti and the hurricane season in the Caribbean rev up, we must understand the potential for further misery in Haiti could materialize in a moment. Keep praying for Haiti.

The Butler Bulldogs pulled off a tough victory againstt Tom Izzel's always tough Michigan State Spartans. 25 victories in a row and their first ever appearance in the Final Four could turn into their first ever NCAA Championship. Tonight could provide just that reality. But what is particularly classy is that the night before that big semi-final game, Butler coach Brad Stevens and his wife fulfilled a commitment they made a year ago when they knew only that the Final Four was coming to Indianapolis. They hosted a gala fundraiser for Coaches Against Cancer. Class act!

Opening Day (every baseball fan knows exactly "what" is opening). The longest season in major sports commences today (actually the first game was yesterday but today is the real opening day.) I have been waiting this with eager anticipation. Can Jim Leyland's Tigers bounce back from the heart-breaking end of the 2009 season when the Twins won a division playoff game to make it into the postseason. Traded Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson - to the Phillies who I have affection for and the Yankees who I do not. Here's my picks. NATIONAL LEAGUE - East: Phillies; Central: Cardinals: West: Rockies; Wild Card: Giants AMERICAN LEAGUE - East: Yankees; Central: Tigers; West: Angels: Wild Card: Red Sox. The Twins and Tampa Bay could mess up my American League prognostications and maybe the Dodgers in the NL. World Series (I hate to say it) Yankees vs Phillies and the winner - Yankees.

Finally mowed the lawn Saturday. The onion grass was driving me nuts.

Facebook - I finally crossed the 300 threshold on friends and the church's page hit 87. Is all this social networking really necessary? Maybe not the trivial stuff, but a free society thrives on communication and the exchange of ideas. Probably more socially redeeming than texting. I feel a blog post coming on.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Y E S !!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Friday, April 2, 2010


Steve Mossburg is a man on the ground in Haiti, serving God on behalf of the Churches of God. Recently he posed this question in his blog-and this is the beginning of his answer:

"Life in Haiti is unpredictable at best all we can predict is that tomorrow may be worse than today. The little girl in the picture is living in a refugee camp in Montrouis her future for now is better than it was the day after the quake. She has shelter, clothing, water and food. In Haiti it is said parents try not to get attached to their children till they reach the age of five, the years of greatest risk till adulthood. The statistics are stark in that in Haiti the average life span is 20 plus years shorter than the U.S. Yesterday certainly was a reminder of that, as we were called on in two separate situations to try and save 3 lives of young adult Haitians.

The first one was a young 20 year old who was rushed to us as a drowning accident. Six young men and their employer were out from Port Au Prince for a day at the beach. All were in the water having a good time when it was noticed that one of them could not be found. After a frantic rescue and getting the young man out of the water he was rushed to us where we tried unsuccessfully to revive him. As tragic as this was it was moving to see the real compassion in the faces of our visiting doctors as they had to tell the young mans friends that they had to stop life support for him."

To read the rest of this post, go to this link.


Many years ago I was part of a ministerium that sponsored an ecumenical community Good Friday Service. In that particular year a number of my Pentecostal brethren formed the heart of the planning committee. They put their best creative efforts into that planning and then assigned responsibilities to the pastors of each participating church. When I saw the program I was a little confused. Good Friday is typically a somber and reflective service focusing on the Cross and Christ's death for our sins. This service was a very upbeat, lively service full of praise and joy.

Pentecostals are basically focused on Christ's victory and calling us to a life of victorious living. Unfortunately the service they produced was better suited to Easter morning, the celebration of the Resurrection. What we got was Easter on Good Friday. It was almost as if Christ hadn't died, or at least that this was just a blip on the radar of God's plan.

The result was Good News without the price for that Good News. It reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous expression "cheap grace," discipleship without a cost.

What makes Good Friday "good" is that emphasizes God's unconditional, unmerited love that pays the price for the sins of the world for all time. This was extremely costly, it cost the life of God's One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. Without his death for our sin--the Good News is more like a mulligan. Our sin, oops, you're bad; but no sweat, take another swing. Maybe you'll get it right this time.

Christ's victory over the grave that we celebrate at Easter requires Christ to die n Good Friday. It requires the sober realization that the wages of sin is death and death always collects it due--until Christ pays the penalty.

You can't rush past Good Friday to get to Easter.


Reading: Mark 15:24

"and they crucified him ..."
Four words that bring us to a stark Judean hilltop called Golgotha.
Four words that bear a finality to the events of a week we now call holy.
Four words that only begin to describe the pain and the agony that was his death.
Four words that stab at our hearts ripping away any delusion of our righteousness.
Four words that describe full measure of God's love for a rebellious people.
Four words that haunt us with conviction whenever we belittle his amazing grace.
Four words ...

"and they crucified him ..."
Four words that change world history and our personal destiny.
Four words that build a bridge of reconciliation for people separated from God.
Four words that defy death to do its worst.
Four words that destroy the penalty or reigning sin.
Four words that cleanse the deepest sin in the darkest soul.
Four words that set the captive free.
Four words ...

(C) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn