Monday, March 24, 2008

Reflections on the Cross

It seems that each year around this time, God helps me understand the Cross in a fresh light; not necessarily a new light that I've never seen before, but a specific aspect of the meaning of Christ's crucifixion. A couple years ago, God worked through an Eastern Orthodox bishop and thinker named Kallistos Ware to help me see the profound significance of Christ's work on the cross as more than a mere sacrifice that somehow got God to forgive my personal sins. In fact, there was a way in the Old Testament for finding forgiveness for personal sins, as we see in David's confession and repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. Deeper than that, as I saw then, Christ went to the cross to heal a broken, sin-sick humanity. Isaiah wrote about this in Is. 53:5: "By His wounds we are healed." Spiritual healing from sin and its effects seems to be in mind in John 3:14-15, as John or Jesus refers to Moses' bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness. The cross is about Christ's brokenness leading to our healing from sin.

This year has been different, though. God has really been teaching me and speaking to me through my evangelism class, and as I've thought about sharing the Gospel with others, it's become evident that we can't leave sin out of the equation. We can't understand the truly good news of Jesus' death and resurrection unless we first understand the bad news of our sin and the punishment we deserve because of our sin. As an American evangelical, it is tempting for me to skip over the reality of sin and God's justice in hating and punishing sin, simply wanting to jump to the good news of God's love shown in Jesus dying for us. But without a recognition of our sin (as individuals who are part of the whole human race) and God's justice (which is clear throughout the Bible), the Cross is a mere tragedy. So God has been showing me that He truly is good, holy, just and loving, and it is because of all those aspects of who He is that Jesus, God the Son, willingly went to the Cross on our behalf. Healing...Punishment...Love...Justice... Because of the truly profound nature of God, I'll never fully understand the richness of the Cross, but He continues to give me hints and tastes of His fullness shown to us there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Much Needed Breather!

Well, we survived our winter schedule! We're currently in the midst of a two week break from speaking, and it could not have come at a better time. Most pastors are incredibly busy this week preparing for and leading Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services, while we simply get to participate in those worship services. The weekend of March 8-9, though, we were busier than a mosquito in a nudist colony (thanks to Jim Ehrman for that analogy)! We were with Grace E.C. Church in Kutztown most of the weekend, having 4 formal opportunities to speak about Spain. Then on Sunday afternoon, after our bellies were full from Grace's potluck and our bodies tired from sleep deprivation and speaking, we went to Seibert E.C. in Allentown to share in a late afternoon missions meeting. It was all great--we were well received, people were inquisitive and encouraging, and the churches are part of our support team; but it was a full weekend, which has made us very grateful for these couple weeks off!

Above is a picture of us with our friends, David and Conce Roof with their son Andrew. They are E.C. missionaries with OMS in Brazil and, after a longer than expected furlough, are preparing to return very soon. They were our neighbors for about a year, and we both had the opportunity to share at the Kutztown Sunday morning worship services on March 9. That's all for now--ADios!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mission Minded Kids Rally

On Saturday we had the privilege of being real, live missionaries for about 80 kids at our denomination's annual Mission Minded Kids Rally here at the seminary in Myerstown. We gave a 10 minute mini-presenation on Spain five times to five different groups of kids from various E.C. churches (that's what I'm doing in the picture above). We were really impressed with some of the ideas and questions these youngans had about Spain and the need for Spaniards to know Jesus.

The coolest part for us, though, is what you can see in the picture below. After we gave our presentation, the kids and their leaders filled out forms to let us know who they are, what they like to do, and that they will be praying for us on a specific day this fall. In turn, they gave us prayer requests so that we can pray for them on that day, as well. It's a pretty snazzy program the E.C. Church has called "Spend-A-Day," which helps build relationships between churches and missionaries. Two thumbs up for the Mission Minded Kids Rally!