Monday, April 25, 2011


Have you ever wondered what the disciples did that first week after His resurrection? There was so much excitement that first Resurrection Day, but the Bible does not mention their activities during the rest of the week. Did they lay low, thinking there was more to come, more arrests, more crucifixions? We know some of His followers went into hiding, but where did they go and what did they do?

On December 17, 1944, 21 year-old Lt. Hiroo Onoda left for the Philippines to join his fellow Japanese soldiers in fighting the Allies. Onoda was given orders to lead his platoon in guerilla fighting, and he was ordered not under any circumstances to surrender or to take his own life. To the last man, he was to command and keep fighting the enemy. Lt. Onoda took those orders more literally than any commander could have given them. When the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945, Lt. Onoda refused to believe it and continued guerilla warfare, even when all but a few of his men were killed. In the ensuing years when leaflets were dropped several times saying the war was over, Onoda believed it a hoax and never came out of hiding. Finally, in 1974, 51 year-old Lt. Onodo, lone survivor of his platoon, came out of the jungle and surrendered to his former commanding officer. He was pardoned by Philippine Pres. Marcos for killing 30 people and wounding nearly 100 during his extended warfare. It took Lt. Hiroo Onoda 30 years to believe that World War Two was actually over.

When Jesus said, "It is finished!" His work as Savior was over. Some of His disciples didn't believe it, but in the coming weeks He showed Himself alive to hundreds, including His own disciples, and all were witnesses to His resurrection. They didn't all believe right away, so it took the Holy Spirit's coming in Pentecost to breathe life into that faltering group of followers.

Without His resurrection, we would have no hope for heaven and there would be no Church. "If Christ is not raised, then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins," said Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:17)  I urge you to read all of 1 Corinthians 15 to get his full reasoning why Christ's resurrection is so important. Easter is not just a time to be glad after a long winter, nor is it the mere christianizing of a pagan spring festival. It is Jesus rising from the dead and our reason to know He truly is the Son of God whose death sets us free from God's condemnation for our sins. 

Easter is the Christian's reason to be glad in the midst of life's struggles, and to know God loves and accepts us as His children. God loves us just the way we are, but He helps us change for the better. He helps us open our eyes to the reality of our sin and our need for His mercy, and then helps us live a new life - for Him!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed - Hallelujah!

Monday, April 18, 2011


Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, co-authors of, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made," concluded their excellent book with a story about an English cathedral that was repaired by volunteer German students after World War Two. During the process they attempted to repair a statue of Jesus with arms outstretched bearing the familiar inscription, "Come Unto Me." The statue's hands were missing, so the students decided to leave them off and attached a sign that read, "Christ Has No Hands But Ours." This story has been repeated often, including by Pres. Ronald Reagan at the 1987 National Prayer Breakfast.

Unfortunately, part of the story is incorrect. The statue is located, not in Europe but at Christ the King Church, San Diego, CA, and the hands were broken off, not by war but by vandals in 1980. Instead of repairing the hands, the church decided to put up a plaque that says, "I Have No Hands But Yours," a reference to a poem by St. Teresa of Avila that begins: "Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours." The statue is still there without the hands.

This Holy Week we recall the selfless sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth in giving His life to redeem the sins of the world. Weeks after His resurrection, Jesus the Christ returned to heaven, leaving no body on earth to show God's presence except the faltering, bumbling community of followers who had mostly forsaken Him on Calvary. Jesus did not leave behind a book of doctrines or philosophical statement. He left the Church, a community of people to embody Him and represent Him to the world. WE are what He left behind on earth.

St. Paul tells us, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:27) He did not say we are LIKE the Body of Christ, but we ARE the Body of Christ. "The Church is nothing but a section of humanity in which Christ has taken form," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But we don't often act like it, do we? It's too easy to condemn the parts we don't agree with, or live as if we are like the rest of the world that denies Christ.

That's because we are still sinful humans in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. Easter should not be a joyous festival only, but also an inward examination of how we are faring as His Body. Easter is a time to renew our belief that we truly ARE the Body of Christ.

Christ is risen!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Throughout the history of mankind, men and women with great ideas have faced opponents. Whether it's creating a nation, an invention, a family or even a career, visionary people have faced roadblocks placed there by those who believe their ideas to be better.

Ken Follett's epic novel, "Pillars of the Earth," is about the struggles to build a cathedral during the Middle Ages. Without modern machinery, everything must be done by hand - every stone quarried, hauled, cut, measured, shaped, lifted and set in place by human hands or crude machinery. Without (sometimes even with) the protection of God or Church, king or nobleman, the builder is opposed by someone who doesn't want the job done. So the cathedral is started then burned, rebuilt then smashed, rebuilt and destroyed, and then rebuilt again. The book's cathedral takes fifty years to build. In reality, some European cathedrals took five hundred years to complete, and in the process they often impoverished the people with conflict and constant financial demands.

Today Lent is almost over. I have been preaching midweek services on the "Seven Last Words from the Cross" and this week will concentrate on, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). When Jesus said, "Tetelesthai!" His work was done. His years on earth, His ministry among the people, His establishing the New Kingdom, His keeping the Holy Law, His taking on Himself the sins of the world -- all these monumental things were over. "It is finished!" meant achievement not defeat, completion not quitting.

A mother who has raised a large family, a man who has finally paid off his house, a doctor who has studied medicine ten or twelve years, a middle aged woman who is finally getting married, or a man who finally retires after working fifty years -- all these know the meaning, "It is finished!" Yet not all is finished. A parent's task is not over, the house needs maintenance, the doctor needs patients, the marriage needs work, the retirement is just beginning.

"It is finished!" for us usually means more to come, but with Jesus His task is truly done. "It is finished!" for Jesus means nothing else is needed for salvation. No human effort, no sacrifice, no obedience, no act of mercy can add to what Jesus has already done. We cannot make His perfection more complete. Our faith will benefit us, but it won't change what Jesus did. He endured the cross victoriously, and in three days, the world would know it. He finished the task, and all people for eternity would be the beneficiaries. "It is finished!"

Give thanks we are His beneficiaries, by faith in Him alone.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Spring is officially here, despite brief snowstorms and other unexpected "gifts" the weather gives us. Spring is the time for graduations, Confirmations and other celebrations, and these mean invitations, open houses and gifts. I have a suggestion for anyone needing to find "just the right gift."


1. The gift of LISTENING... Give this to someone in need. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planned responses - just listen caringly.

2. The gift of AFFECTION... Be generous with your hugs and gentle squeezes. Let your love show.

3. The gift of a NOTE... Whether it's love note or a sonnet on a card, write a note and put it where it will found.

4. The gift of LAUGHTER... Send someone a cartoon or a clever article. Your gift will say, "Let's laugh!"

5. The gift of a COMPLIMENT... "You look nice today" or "Great supper!" can be the best gift to someone today.

6. The gift of a FAVOR... Run an errand, offer a ride, vacuum the floors, or help someone in any way today.

7. The gift of a GOOD CHEER... Be cheerful around those you love. Smile at lots of people today.

8. The gift of PRAYER... Pray for your loved ones and let them know you are praying for them.

"Give, and it shall be given unto you." (Luke 8:38)

It's fun to surprise someone with an unexpected gift!