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HE IS RISEN INDEED!!

“Salvation comes through a cross and a crucified Christ.”

A Good Friday Communion Meditation by Trevor Miller

I recall a story of how a group of Christian missionaries in India arranged to visit Mahatma Gandhi in order to discuss faith and the Way to God. Before they left Gandhi asked them to sing one of their Christian hymns. Which one, they said? He replied, “The one which best expresses the heart of what you Christians believe!” My! What would you have chosen?

They chose ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross… love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all’.cross_4

They were right! The Cross is central; at the very heart not only of our faith but of God Himself! Even the mighty resurrection is but God’s vindication that what happened on the Cross was under His total control and that all was going according to plan!

To preach Christ without the Cross is like writing a biography of David Beckham or Wayne Rooney without mentioning football; like making a documentary on Theresa May without mentioning the Conservative Party or Donald Trump without mentioning the US Presidency.

In this Good Friday Eucharist meditation, I want to hone in on one phrase, the 6th of the 7 phrases uttered by Jesus from the Cross. More than any other it forcibly reminds us that even in the darkest night, God is planning for the brightest day! It is found in John 19:30 ‘It is finished.’

What it meant then!

Reviewing the scene on that black Friday makes us realize that many others would have said these very same words that day

– the Soldiers, after their dreaded execution shift was over, it’s finished, thank Jupiter!

– the Crowd, now that the hideous entertainment was done, it’s finished.

– Judas, when he realized the enormity of what he had done in betrayal, it’s all over, finished.

– Peter and the disciples, after 3 wonderful years, then denial and desertion, it’s finished.

– the Priests, having seemingly come through a really tricky business, “we’ve managed it, it’s finished now.”

However, no one could say it the way Jesus said it or mean it the way Jesus meant it!

The other gospel writers give us a clue. All of them say Jesus cried out with a loud voice but only John records what He said. One word in the original language, a cry of triumph, satisfaction, and victory = Finished! Accomplished! Done! Jesus in complete control, despite the agonizing pain that we must never minimize. It was a real pain, real thirst, real death BUT this was no resigned victim, it was a Reigning Victor! Not, I am finished but it is finished, for on the Cross God’s will was being done perfectly on earth as it is done in heaven! The Cross is no place of failure but of fulfillment. If we look at John 19:28 we will see that exactly the same word is used and translated in the NIV as ‘completed.’  So it reads that Jesus “knowing that all was now completed … said … completed … finished!  The task the Father began in Eternity had now been accomplished in time!

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Today I have a pleasure to welcome Jared Brock to Flowing Faith as a guest blogger. Jared is the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully, a humorous travel memoir about prayer. He is the cofounder of Hope for the Sold, an abolitionist charity that fights human trafficking one word at a time. Jared is happily married to his best friend, Michelle, whom he first kissed in the seventh grade.

Here’s Jared:

I recently traveled 37,000 miles around the world on a modern-day prayer pilgrimage. I met the Pope, danced with rabbis, visited monks, walked on coals, and revived my prayer life. I discovered a world of prayer traditions across the Judeo-Christian faith family, and dug into the history of our family’s greatest prayer warriors.

Here are ten I discovered along the way.

  1. Francis of Assisi

Francis, the patron saint of ecology, was a nature-loving monk, and his followers have founded dozens of hospitals and universities. He’s one of the few saints revered in all three major branches of Christianity.

I’m inspired by Francis’s boldness in prayer and action – in a time of enormous war and upheaval, Francis traveled to meet the Muslim sultan, in hopes of winning him to Jesus. While he didn’t succeed, he didn’t get executed either. In fact, the sultan so appreciated his boldness that Francis stayed for an entire year.

Takeaway: Where can you practice boldness in your life? Maybe it’s a conversation you’re putting off or a new chapter you’ve been making excuses for not moving forward.. Be bold and start today!

  1. Brother Lawrence

Lawrence was a monk who washed dishes and cooked meals, and tried to pray without ceasing. He became so famous for his habit that someone interviewed him, and published a little book called, The Practice of the Presence of God. The book hasn’t been out of print in over 300 years, with over 20 million copies in English alone.

Lawrence believed it was easy to be close to God in prayer – if you didn’t wander far from Him during the rest of the day. I discovered Lawrence’s home after many months of research, and the impact of his simple prayer philosophy has helped me – and millions of people – to constantly commune with Christ.

Takeaway: Find ways to connect the everyday to the eternal. When you wake up, pray about being alive in Christ. As you shower, ask God to cleanse you from unrighteousness. As you put on your clothes, put on the armor of God. As you walk or drive to work, pray about your spiritual journey.

  1. Teresa of Avila

Teresa is the Doctor of Prayer in the Catholic church – a high honor, especially for a woman born 500 years ago. I visited her simple monastery in Spain, just outside the beautiful walls of Avila.

Teresa believed we are all on a spiritual journey, and there are seven “levels” in the process, ranging from practicing humility to achieving ecstatic spiritual marriage. While the lower levels of prayer – including the humble recognition of God’s work in our life – is very helpful, things got a little crazy towards the end. Teresa was said to levitate. I tend to stick to her first few ideas, trying to see where God is at work in my life.

Takeaway: Think about the times during the day you could focus on God more often. When do you get distracted, and how can you incorporate God into your life in those times?

  1. Benedict of Nursia

This pious monk is considered the father of Western monasticism, and for good reason – he literally wrote the book on it. The Rule of Saint Benedict has served as a guidebook for millions of monastics throughout the centuries, famously summed up by the phrase “Ora et Labora” – pray and work.

The patron saint of monks and spelunkers built a dozen monasteries in his lifetime, but his last one was truly impressive: a hulking hilltop fortress called Monte Cassino. I’ve visited the massive stone fortress where Benedict died, and reflected on the impact of his prayer and work.

Benedict believed that prayer and work aren’t mutually exclusive, and that times of work and prayer can go together. Prayer infuses mission with meaning.

Takeaway: Instead of trying to fix your problems by work alone, start with prayer. Then, as you work, continue to see it as an offering or a constant supplication. Let your work and prayer be one.

  1. John of the Cross

The Christian life is beautiful, but it isn’t easy. In this life we will have trouble. John of the Cross was no exception. His level of devotion was so extreme that another group of monks kidnapped and imprisoned him, bringing him out for regular public floggings. It was during the desperate time that he wrote the epic poem Dark Night of the Soul. He eventually tore the hinges off his cell and escaped, and went on to found a handful of monasteries.

Like John of the Cross, and Mother Teresa many years later, I too struggle with dark nights of the soul. John’s life encourages me to weather those difficult times – to make Christ my rock and anchor in the storms of life.

Takeaway: Make Jesus your firm foundation. Rather than trying to fix or avoid our problems, take time to do the greater work in prayer.

  1. Brother Roger

Roger Schütz was 25 years old when World War II started, and he decided that Switzerland was too safe a place for any Christian to be during a time of war. So he bicycled to France.

One night he stopped in an almost-abandoned hilltop town called Taize, and an elderly woman invited him in for dinner. She asked him to stay in Taize, and he did. As the war progressed, Roger helped Jewish refugees flee from Nazi persecution.

As the years went on, more and more people started to visit Taize – today, almost 100,000 young people visit each year, for prayer and meditation. My wife and I visited Taize, and it was a wonderful experience. We prayed before breakfast, before lunch, and after supper, and each time of prayer started with 8 minutes of silence. Our goal was to “maintain inner silence in all things so as to dwell with Christ.”

Takeaway: Rather than always asking for things during prayer, set aside a moment to simply spend time with Jesus.

  1. John Wesley

Literally tens of millions of people are part of the Christian faith family because of the work of Wesley and his fellow ministers. The tiny preacher had a big mission – he’s famous for declaring that “the whole world is my parish.” I’ve had the opportunity to visit Wesley’s simple house, where I discovered a curious walk-in closet off his bedroom – his prayer room.

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“THERE IS A GROWING CONVICTION EVERYWHERE, AND ESPECIALLY AMONG THOUGHTFUL PEOPLE, THAT UNLESS REVIVAL COMES, OTHER FORCES WILL TAKE THE FIELD, THAT WILL SINK US STILL DEEPER INTO THE MIRE OF HUMANISM AND MATERIALISM.”

~DUNCAN CAMPBELL

“When life is rough pray, when life is great pray.”

~ Anonymous

“You cannot pray for someone and hate them at the same time.”

~ Billy Graham

Joni Eareckson Tada Hospitalized After Cancer Treatments

Joni Eareckson Tada

“Having accomplished the series of radiation treatments for recurrence of cancer, Joni Eareckson Tada has been challenged in the weeks following with significant pain issues including most recently, difficulty with breathing,” a statement from Joni and Friends reads.

Tada announced she was battling cancer again for the second time in November of last year. Her first cancer diagnosis occurred in 2010, and Tada underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy. It took five years of treatment before Tada was ruled cancer-free.

Tada shared on her blog in February that the skin on her chest is wounded and causing her pain. Her doctor said she would need to hold off on radiation treatments until her skin had a chance to recuperate. “That area has been damaged so many times over the years from pressure sores and surgeries, little wonder it’s hard to mend,” Tada wrote.

Now, Tada’s hospitalization brings to light a new concern. “With…the corollary inability to get the sleep needed for recovery, she has been hospitalized for observation and medical oversight,” the statement reads.

Joni Eareckson Tada Remains Positive

Just as she did when she announced her diagnosis in November, Tada is asking for prayer and keeping her mindset positive. On her blog, she regularly expresses gratitude for the care her husband, Ken, provides. She also thanks readers and supporters for their prayers and notes of encouragement.

Referencing James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective,” Tada and her staff are confident that good things will come from the prayers of fellow believers.

For the rest of the post…

“The church of Jesus Christ was birthed as a world-changing force at a prayer meeting. In that upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, as the small group of disciples was gathered to pray continually and wait on God to send the gift of the promised Holy Spirit” (Acts 1.4-5; 14).

~ Andrew M DavisRevitalize,94

He Died Early in the Smile of God

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813–1843)

Article by John Piper

Robert Murray McCheyne was a local pastor in Dundee, Scotland, who died in 1843 at the age of 29. No extraordinary events in his life made him likely to be remembered. But he had a very precious friend, Andrew Bonar, a nearby pastor. And within two years Andrew had published Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne. It is still in print, and here we are 176 years after McCheyne’s death, encouraged and inspired by his life.

What was it about McCheyne’s short, and in many ways ordinary, life that gave it the force that created the book (and now books) that preserves his legacy to our day?

The Rose and the Thorn

I suggest that there was a double key to the force of McCheyne’s life: the preciousness of Jesus and the pain of a thorn.

In McCheyne’s description of his teenage years, he said, “I kissed the Rose nor thought about the thorn” — meaning, “I indulged in all the amusing and beautiful pleasures of the world, and didn’t give a thought to sickness and suffering and death.” But after his conversion, he spoke often of Jesus as his Rose of Sharon, and he lived in almost constant awareness of the thorn of his sickness and that his time might be short. He said in one of his sermons,

Set not your heart on the flowers of this world; for they have all a canker in them. Prize the Rose of Sharon . . . more than all; for he changeth not. Live nearer to Christ than to the saints, so that when they are taken from you, you may have him to lean on still. (Sermons of Robert Murray McCheyne)

McCheyne lived only the morning of his life: he died before he was 30. His effectiveness, however, was not frustrated by this fact but empowered by it. Because of his tuberculosis, he lived with the strong sense that he would die early. So the double key to his life is the preciousness of Jesus, the Rose, intensified by the pain of the thorn, the sickness and the shortness of his life.

Pierced Awake

McCheyne was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 21, 1813. He grew up in an atmosphere with high moral standards, but was, by his own testimony, “devoid of God.” When he went to the University of Edinburgh at the age of 14, he studied classics. He was kissing the rose of classical learning, and ignoring the thorn of suffering and death.

But all that changed in 1831 when he was 18 years old. David, Robert’s oldest brother, was neither spiritually nor physically well. In the summer of that year, he sank into a deep depression and died on July 8. Suddenly, the thorn of the rose stabbed McCheyne through the heart. All the beauty of the rose he was living for wilted. And by God’s grace, he saw another Rose in what happened to David.

In the days leading up to his death, David found a profound peace through the blood of Jesus. Bonar said that “joy from the face of a fully reconciled Father above lighted up [David’s dying] face” (Memoir). McCheyne saw it, and everything began to change. He had seen a rose other than classical learning. And he saw it as beautiful, not in spite of the thorn, but because of it. The thorn pierced him awake.

A Passion for Holiness and Evangelism

Four months after the death of his brother, McCheyne enrolled in the Divinity Hall of Edinburgh University, November 1831. There he met the man who would have the greatest influence on his life and ministry, Thomas Chalmers.

Chalmers pressed all of his great learning into the service of holiness and evangelism. He warned McCheyne and the other students of “the white devil” and “the black devil” — the black devil leading to “fleshly sins” of the world, and the white devil to “spiritual sins” of self-righteousness. And he made the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners the central power for this holiness.

Chalmers was also deeply burdened about the poverty in the slums of Edinburgh and how little gospel witness there was. He established the Visiting Society and recruited McCheyne and his friends to join. This threw McCheyne into a world he had never seen as an upper-middle-class university student. It awakened in him a sense of urgency for those cut off from the gospel. On March 3, 1834, two and a half years into his divinity studies, he wrote,

Such scenes I never before dreamed of. . . . “No man careth for our souls” is written over every forehead. Awake, my soul! Why should I give the hours and days any longer to the vain world, when there is such a world of misery at the very door? Lord, put thine own strength in me; confirm every good resolution; forgive my past long life of uselessness and folly. (Memoir)

So McCheyne would take away from his time in divinity school a passion for holiness and a passion for evangelism. These would never leave him and would become defining impulses of his life — all of it motivated by the beauty of the Rose, and all of it intensified by the thorn of suffering.

Uneventful, Useful Life

The last day of McCheyne’s divinity lectures was March 29, 1835. He was just shy of being 22 years old. And that fall he was called to be the assistant minister in the double parish of Larbert and Dunipace. He served there as an assistant until the call came from St. Peter’s Church in Dundee in August 1836. There McCheyne served as the pastor until his death six and a half years later.

That’s the simple sum of his professional life: a student till he was 22, an assistant pastor for a year, and a senior pastor for six years. As I have tried to think through what makes such an uneventful life so useful even 176 years after his death, it isn’t any extraordinary event in his life. Rather, it is his extraordinary passion for Christ — for the Rose — and for holiness and for lost people, all intensified by the shortness of life — the thorn. And all this passion preserved in powerful, picturesque language. He is still influencing us because of the words that came out of his mouth, not the events of his life.

So let’s listen to him concerning the pursuit of holiness and concerning his communion with God through the word and prayer.

Take Ten Looks at Christ

God had given McCheyne the gospel key to pursuing personal holiness. He received it through the teaching of Chalmers. Chalmers was very concerned about excessive introspection in the pursuit of holiness. He knew that a believer cannot make progress in holiness without basing it on the assurance of salvation, and yet the effort to look into our sinful hearts for some evidences of grace usually backfires.

Chalmers said that glimpses into the dark room of the heart alone give no good prospect. Instead, he said we should

take help from the windows. Open the shutters and admit the sun. So if you wish to look well inwardly, look well out. . . . This is the very way to quicken it. Throw widely open the portals of faith and in this, every light will be admitted into the chambers of experience. The true way to facilitate self-examination is to look believingly outwardly. (Introduction to The Christian’s Great Interest, 6)

McCheyne had written that down in a class and underlined the last sentence. So it is not surprising to hear him give his own counsel in similar terms: “Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. . . . Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love. And repose in his almighty arms” (Memoir).

This was the basic strategy in the pursuit of holiness. So when McCheyne spoke what are probably his most famous words, “The greatest need of my people is my own holiness,” he meant not only that they need a pastor who is morally upright, but that they need a pastor who is walking in constant communion with Christ, and being changed into Christ’s likeness by that constant fellowship. Which brings us now finally to the way he cultivated that constant communion with Christ.

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