Wednesday, March 28, 2007
"Could you paint a picture of what happened to Jesus?" I asked.
He cleared his throat. "It began after the Last Supper," he said. "Jesus went with his disciples tot he Mount of Olives - specifically, to the Garden of Gethsemane. And there, if you remember, he prayed all night. Now, during that process he was anticipating the coming events of the next day. Since he knew the amount of suffering he was going to have to endure, he was quite naturally experiencing a great deal of psychological stress."
I raised my hand to stop him. "Whoa - here's where skeptics have a field day," I told him. "The gospels tell us he began to sweat blood at this point. Now, c'mon, isn't that just a product of some overactive imaginations? Doesn't that call into question the accuracy of the gospel writers?"
Unfazed, Metherell shook his head. "Not at all," he replied. "This is a known medical condition called hematidrosis. It's not very common, but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress.
"What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there's a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood. We're not talking about a lot of blood; it's just a very, very small amount."
Though a bit chastened, I pressed on. "Did this have any other effect on the body?"
"What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, his skin would be very, very sensitive."
Well, I thought, here we go. I braced myself for the grim images I knew were about to flood my mind... "Tell me," I said, "What was the flogging like?"
Metherell's eyes never left me. "Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. they usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows.
"The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them, when the whip would strike flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would probably break open with farther blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely.
"The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible."
"One physician who has studied Roman beatings said, 'As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.' A third century historian by the name of Eusebius described a flogging by saying, 'the sufferer's veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.'
"We know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock. Hypo means 'low,' vol refers to volume, and emic means 'blood,' so hypovolemic shock means that the person is suffering from the effects of losing a large amount of blood," the Doctor explained. "This does four things. First, the heart races to try and pump blood that isn't there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.
"Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there's no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet."
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I thought it was about time for another Spurgeon quote. This one hit me across the forehead this morning in providential timing:
This is the royal road to comfort. Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace. "My sins are many, but oh! it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant's foot would crush a worm, but it is no more than a grain of dust to him, because he has already borne its curse in his own body on the tree. It will be but a small thing for him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive it.
No wonder I wallow in the depths of despair! I think such small, puny thoughts of the Son of God!
How did I receive such a gift? Why me? Lord, your grace is overwhelming! Please strengthen and increase my weak faith.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:32-34
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Again, thank you to Jonathon, Ryan, Jason and Adam for leading an excellent discussion at Home Group this past week. For some of you who don't know, I have a Wend night class this semester and having been able to go this past week because I was on spring break was very refreshing for me. Refreshing in the sense that God was gracefully pointing out specific area's of sin and I was once again aware of His continued grace in my life. Just coming back this week has defidently made me aware of my need for Home Group in my life and I am grateful that God has used this season to make me more aware of how much I need you all in my life.
I am continually grateful to God for all of you in my life.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Though the whole Bible points to Christ and his atoning work on the Cross, I love finding verses that summarize the Gospel in a concentrated sentence or two (or three). (I especially love running into them when I least expect to.) Maybe it's because they are easy to recall at times when I don't have a Bible. Maybe it's because they simplify the Gospel message into a short statement that even a child could understand. Or because such a huge, glorious truth is packed into so few words.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
II Corinthians 5:21 "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Ephesians 2:12,13 "remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."
Do any of you have some favorite verses that make the Gospel big to you in so small a passage?
Thursday, March 15, 2007
"I think that I make to many decisions based on how I feel. If I let myself become informed by subjectivity, it will only lead to despair in a fallen world. Yet at times I cannot alleviate this weight that presses in on me so. My heart yearns to be joyful, but it as if my sin will not allow it. I begin to preach myself the Gospel again, but its foundation has been loosened in my life because of sin. It has almost lost its effect. How can I profess something that my life does not support? How can I call myself a child of God and yet live as a forsaken one? How can I sing a lyric that proclaims the sinner that I once was, when I am that now? O' sinful heart, you bring me to despair. I cannot bear my own deceitfulness."
It was at this moment that God began to work in my heart and show me where my thought process had gone awry. How quickly I gave up on the Gospel! Even in these words God showed me how I was letting myself be decieved by trusting in that which I had done, and not what Christ had accomplished. Most importantly, as I read the objective words of truth by Jermiah in chapter 17, I was greatly encouraged.
"Thus says the LORD:
'Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched
places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust in in the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.'"
Isn't it amazing how I can read words that were written 2500 years and they can directly apply to my life today! Even more amazing is the grace of God to lead me to a truth that pierced that shell of my sin and shed light on "the deceitfulness of my heart." Praise be to God for his never-ending mercy!
Monday, March 12, 2007
'Sin... exceedinly sinful'
Beware of light thoughts of sin. At the time of conversion, the conscience is so tender, that we are afriad of the slightest sin. Young converts have a holy timidity, a godly fear lest the should offend agianst God. But alas! very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world: the sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow in after life, too pliant, too easily yeilding. It is sadly true, that even a Christian may grow by degrees so callous, that the sin which once startled him does not alarm him in the least. by degrees me get familiar with sin. The ear in which the cannon has been born will not notice the slightest sounds. At first a little sin startles us; but soon we say, 'Is it not a little on?' Then there comes another, larger, and then another, until by degrees we begin to regard sin as but a little ill; and then follows an unholy presumption: 'We have not fallen into open sin. True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in main. We may have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it has been consistent'. So we palliate sin; we thow a cloak over it; we call it dainty names.
Christian, beware how thou thinkest lightly of sin. Take heed lest thou fall by little and little. Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison? Who knows its deadliness? Sin, a little thing? Do not the little foxes spoil the grapes? Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock which wrecks a navy? Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual droppings wear away stones? Sin, a little thing? It girded the Redeemer's head with thorns, and pierced His heart! It made Him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe. Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil. Look upon all sin as that which crucified the Saviour, and you will see it to be 'exceedingly sinful'.
I am continually amazed at Spurgeon's ability to so accurately and effectively describe the human heart and its inclinations. No wonder he became a pastor at the age of 17!
Thursday, March 8, 2007
I love to read.
I love to read classic works of literature--novels, poetry, prose, and dramas. I love to read books on Christian living and theology. I love to read history books and non-fiction. I love to read my nutrition textbook. I love to read blogs! But sometimes the number of things available to read can be overwhelming. There comes a point when one has to be selective in his or her reading choices.
There's one book, as you know, that can't be ruled out. It's just hard to remember sometimes. Read this quote from Horatious Bonar, nineteenth century Scottish pastor and poet:
See that your relish for the Bible be above every other enjoyment, and the moment you begin to feel greater relish for any other book, lay it down till you have sought deliverance from such a snare, and obtained from the Holy Spirit an intenser relish, a keener appetite for the Word of God (Jer 15:16).
It's important to make sure that we don't allow any other book to suffocate, if you will, time spent reading the Word. We must set it aside until we are sure that we love the Bible with an "intenser relish" than any other reading, even Christian books, such as Knowing God or The Cross Centered Life.
Nothing should be competing with the Bible, but it takes the help of the Holy Spirit to get to the place were we love it with a "keener appetite" than anything else.
Lord, help me to love your Word far more than any other book. Thank you for the precious gift it is to us. Help me to see its value and the power it has in my life. Help me, by your Spirit, to cherish it and study it diligently so that my thoughts might be your thoughts and my will your will.
Friday, March 2, 2007
"No force, nor any other means, contributes more to the buliding of Chirst's kingdom and the destruction of the dominion of darkness than your personal, daily commitment to honor Jesus in the place where God has called you to live, work, love, learn, struggle and even play."
I found this quote to be quite powerful in the simplicity of its argument. What Mr. Chappell is saying here is an enormous claim. Essentially, he is communicating that there is nothing we can do bring more glory to God than through our daily commitment to Him. And it makes perfect sense. Avoiding all implications of legalism, we must strive to honor our savior in all that we do. These means that we hold nothing back. We must commit the way we live our life, the way we conduct ourselves at work, the way we communicate our love for one another as in the affections of Christ, the diligence in which we apply ourselves to our studies (I know this one might be tough), the way in which we humbly submit ourself to His graces in times of hardship, and even the way in which we strive to have biblical fellowship with one another (should there be any other kind of fellowship?).
What I am most fond of within this quote and most grateful for to Mr. Chappell is in the fact that it leaves no room for turning aside. Let me give an anology to further communicate what I mean. For most of my life I was a swimmer and I can vividly remember every time my father came to watch me race. Without fail, before every event he would say, "Leave it all in the pool Kyle." What He meant was for me to give it everything I had, so that when the race was finished I could say with confidence that I had in fact, "left it all in the pool." I think that God would hold us to the same standard in our daily commitment to honor him. He has been most gracious to our behalf and deserves all of our energies to bring Him glory.
Hopefully this has encouraged some to continue to strive for the end of the race and fight the good fight. However, we must not make the mistake of accomplishing these things to earn the favor of God. It was received the moment that we placed our trust in the accomplishments of Christ and the works that did. This does not mean that God would not want any one to sense His pleasure when we are obedient to Him, but that we humbly recognize we are able to obey, because the Son of God obeyed first.