A Good Friday Feet on the Farm with John Deere

Friday Feet on the John Deere Tractor

This is a very late version of Friday Feet today, but it’s technically still Friday. This late post is because We had an incredible, very humbling, Good Friday service today-tonight, (a post which will have to wait until tomorrow when I can get to the images). After finishing up a book review for Liberty this morning, my Friday-day-off became a mow as much grass as can be mowed in one afternoon. That’s not as bad as it sounds, I actually like getting out on the tractor, it gives me an escape of sorts to be able to listen to a book or something like that.

I know many people who do their thinking while they run, or ride, but I do mine while I’m on the tractor. It takes just about as long (that’s a good thing) to ride 30-40 miles, or run 10-15 miles, as it does to mow acres of grass. All that and I have less of a chance to get run over by a passing car too. It’s hard not to think about Holy Week, and the significance of it all, but I’ll elaborate on tonight’s service in the next post.

For now, the grass is green and growing fast, and the garden is about to be washed in purple. Our purple Iris’ (photo below), are about to bloom surrounding our red Double Knockout Roses. You may not look for the symbolic among creation, but I do, and I love the fact that we have purple flowers about to bloom, the day before Easter, surrounding blood red roses… royalty of a King, surrounded by the blood shed for me and you, all displayed in a tiny little flower garden in south Alabama. The larger version taking place on Auburn’s campus is seen just below, but then again, all of creation proclaims the Glory of God (Romans 1:20 and others).

Purple Iris About to Bloom

Azaleas on Auburn University Campus

Cutting the Pasture on the John Deere Tractor

Lent Has Brought Us To This Maundy Thursday Prayer

Maundy Thursday Chalkboard Prayer Vigil

Every year, on this day, Maundy Thursday, we come to the Lord in prayer, as Jesus did with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. On that night, Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray… because our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:36-46), and then Jesus was betrayed by one of his own inner circle friends. Every year at our church is slightly different, but each year, this evening is set aside for prayer, the Lord’s supper, and meditation on what our Lord went through on Good Friday. I love that image above from last year (see also Messages from the Heart to God in Chalk Board Prayers :: Photos) where everyone wrote their prayers in chalk as they moved through the night.

I looked back over and read some of my journal entries from that night a few years ago, and it’s amazing what that great spiritual discipline of meditation can do for the soul.  In my entry from 2009 I wrote this sentence after being there for an hour or so.

It is almost impossible to wrap your mind around what everything here tonight represents in history. I understand nothing, but I love what I don’t understand.

There are only a few more days of Lent for 2012, today being Day 44 (if you count Sunday’s), and our reading today came from the Book of Common Prayer (only $2.99 on Kindle by the way). Something I don’t get a chance to read all that often, but love its wisdom.

Almighty God, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May that be the prayer for today.

Though Your Sins are Like Scarlet Only Christ Can Atone :: Isaiah 1:18-20

Book of Isaiah

I am in the middle of reading three different reading plans from YouVersion (I rotate reading from one particular plan each day), and today in the Canonical Plan started the book of Isaiah. I put off starting the book for a week or two because of its depth and heaviness, but today was the day. This is one of my favorite Old Testament books, probably because it is one that I understand the least, but three verses really stuck with me, Isaiah 1:18, 19, and 20.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

At first I just read that above and moved on. I love that “let us reason together,” but if we stop there we miss the point. There is a decision to be made for that statement to come to pass on our lives, and it’s from verse 18, “if you are willing and obedient,” and verse 19, “but if you refuse and rebel.”

The decision is for Christ, and without Christ, verse 18 will never come to pass. The word from the Lord is a simple, yet a profound, if-then statement. Our sins will be forgiven if we trust and obey. This of course is not a full and complete exegetical look at verse 18-20, but at the start of this Holy Week, the incredible fact of Isaiah and the rest of Scripture is it all points to the saving work of Christ, done on the cross, which we traditionally observe starting on Thursday with a Maundy Thursday prayer vigil (see last year) followed by Good Friday.

Easter Sunday Morning at Cornerstone 2011 :: Photos

So today was finally the day we have been leading up to since Ash Wednesday, more than 40 days ago, Easter Sunday. This is the great day on the Christian calendar where we celebrate Christ as the risen savior and Lord over all creation. It was an exhausting day, but a wonderful day filled full of Christ’s redeeming work. It is always a fantastic site to see so many people gathering together that perhaps normally wouldn’t even know each other except for the common bond of Jesus.

Easter Sunday is always an extremely busy day of course and today was no exception. But because Easter is one of those days on the calendar where many people come to church, perhaps out of a mental obligation to the date on the calendar (or any number of other reasons), it’s also a day where staff and volunteers in the church are on their game. Not out of sense of trying to paint a pretty picture of life, but out of an attempt to fulfill the great commission and point people towards the cross and away from themselves. I only wish many of them could have also shared in the days leading up to Easter as well since it is all part of the story of God’s work.

Our sunrise service for the first time in several years was almost completely covered by clouds, but it wasn’t freezing outside, which was nice. There was some sun as you can see from the shots below, but it didn’t really matter, the important part was the celebration. I hope this season of lent has been meaningful to you and your family. Below are some of the photos from this morning, you can see the full gallery of the whole weekend on the Holy Week 2011 gallery.

Messages from the Heart to God in Chalk Board Prayers :: Photos

From my previous post you might have seen some of the photos from our Maundy Thursday prayer vigil. These photos here on this post are the images that were left off that post, because until the morning of Good Friday, they were incomplete. Along side our different I AM statement boards were some pieces of chalk where people could write anything that came to their heart as they went through their time of meditation. They ended up being giant pages in a book of prayers from a collective body of believers, and to me, one of the most powerful components of the last few days.

Scripture tells us that what comes from our mouth (or fingers in the way of a pen, keyboard, cell phone, text messages) originates in the heart and that’s why I love what these pages represent. Untarnished by consumerism or commercialism, unfiltered by a greater governing body, just raw messages from the heart, to the fingertips of believers, to the all-knowing God of creation. To see all the images from Holy Week so far you can visit my Holy Week 2011 gallery on Flickr.

Did Jesus Descend into Hell After He Died on the Cross?

Update March 2012

[ For an update to this post on a more scholarly level please see Did Jesus Descend into Hell According to the Apostles’ Creed? ]

This question is usually asked once a year after people remember what actually happened on Good Friday. I ask the question myself each year and go back and re-read the pertinent scripture information to refresh my understanding because the question is asked by believers, but it’s also asked by those with a secular worldview, atheists, and skeptics alike. When the secularist asks this question they are actually calling scripture into question itself by saying scripture says Jesus descended into Hell and Jesus said to the criminal on the cross “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), and both can’t be true. That worldview understanding comes from a populist misunderstanding of scripture and what we think of as pointing to this, the facts about Hell, or Apostle’s Creed, not actually what scripture teaches us about the subject.

Of course I am certainly no scholar on the subject what-so-ever, but the short answer to the question “Did Jesus Descend into Hell After He Died on the Cross on Good Friday?” is no, He did not, at least not according to scripture. His suffering ended on the cross when Jesus said “It is finished”.

As you might guess, scholars aren’t in complete agreement on this theological issue but if you dig deep into scripture specifically trying to prove one or the other you will probably succeed. If you follow scripture, in context, attempting to understand beyond just our postmodern view of life, the text points to the suffering of Christ taking place on the cross, and ending on the cross. This is what Jesus was in such agony about in the garden of Gethsemane.

Much of the confusion today comes from the Apostle’s Creed where our modern-day translation says “and he descended into hell”. We forget the Apostle’s Creed came from the early church fathers and really needs its own translation into our modern-day language. The translation of the word “Hell” from the Apostle’s Creed is more likely to be translated Sheol or Hades, which is not the same thing as Hell even though our modern understand places the terms Sheol, Hades, and Hell all as being the same locale. Often we see in scripture Sheol being depicted where the Saints went prior to the resurrection, one side being a heaven-like side of paradise prior to the ascension into Heaven, the other being a place of torment. This is depicted in scripture in the story of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 but scripture tells us “Sheol/Hades is a realm with two divisions (Matthew 11:2316:18Luke 10:1516:23Acts 2:27-31), the abodes of the saved and the lost”, and Christ’s suffering, completed on the cross then descended to Hades or Sheol, scripture never says Jesus was sent to a place of torment for 3 days, and in fact we have scripture, from Jesus’ own words saying he was in “Paradise”.

The best summation of the question comes from GotQuestions.org where the writer says:

When Jesus cried upon the cross, “Oh, Father, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), it was then that He was separated from the Father because of the sin poured out upon Him. As He gave up His spirit, He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). His suffering in our place was completed. His soul/spirit went to the paradise side of hades. Jesus did not go to hell. Jesus’ suffering ended the moment He died. The payment for sin was paid. He then awaited the resurrection of His body and His return to glory in His ascension. Did Jesus go to hell? No. Did Jesus go to Sheol/hades? Yes.

There are some who might say we aren’t to question our faith in this manner, many who say the question I pose is irrelevant, and others in the Christian faith who just don’t care. I have always grown in my understanding of the Christian faith by asking questions and then searching for the answers.

Update March 2012

For an update to this post on a more scholarly level please see Did Jesus Descend into Hell According to the Apostles’ Creed?

Other Scriptural Resources to Understand Jesus’ Death on the Cross

This is not an exhaustive look at scripture on the subject by any means. There are some great resources online that deal with the question about Jesus and Hell so if you are so inclined, below I have listed some further reading on the subject. At the bottom I have included two scholarly papers, which debate the issue from both sides. They are both very interesting arguments for and against the wording in the Apostle’s Creed.

Whether Christ spent time in actual Hell or not after His crucifixion, one thing is certain, Christ was raised from the dead and after appearing to more than 500 people here on our own physical earth, he ascended into Heaven and the new covenant was established.

  1. He Did Not Descend into Hell, Understanding Through Scripture (pdf)
  2. Did Jesus Descend into Hell? (pdf)
  3. He Did Descend into Hell, Defending the Apostle’s Creed (pdf)

The Cornerstone Maundy Thursday Pray Vigil 2011 :: Photos

Last night from 8pm to 8am (that’s Maundy Thursday from 8pm until today, Good Friday at 8am) our church, Cornerstone, had its annual observation of what Jesus and his disciples did on that Thursday night as explained in the Gospels. Our observations follow that tradition with communion, feet washing, and then an open area for prayer and Christian meditation similar to what Jesus and his disciples did in the garden of Gethsemane.

It is actually hard to explain. I was trying to find words, and obviously some photos, to explain the night to someone who wasn’t able to be there in person, but nothing I can think of gives an adequate representation of the night, and the experience I believe is different for each individual who moves through the worship setting. Each year I come expecting, expecting something specific, some preconceived notions of what the night will bring, and each year those are basically thrown out the window by the time I get in the car to come home. Last night was no different. While I didn’t spend as much time in the “garden” area last night, I did experience something new as a believe, and I had the privilege of helping others come into the worship experience who had never been here before.

Something interesting happens when we as believers take a moment to set aside time to spend with God without distractions, without cell phones beeping, without people running about. Our lives are so busy, so hurried from one thing to another that we rarely have time realistically observe Psalm 46:10, to just “be still and know He is God”. That is what last night typically tries to achieve. It isn’t something that just pops out of the air, it takes a lot of preparation, and a willing spirit.

Below are a few photos of what was the main part of the room. The photo above is Rusty preparing to serve communion and out of the photo behind me is a foot washing station. After communion people were able to proceed into the main area through the garden around the “I AM” statements of Christ where they could read scripture, contemplate on information about each area, write on an adjacent board with chalk, feel the grass of the garden, or just sit and pray.

Tonight, on Good Friday, we turn our eyes towards the cross and the amazing sacrifice Jesus made by dying for the sins of the world. It’s all connected, all part of the same story, part of my story.

What is Maundy Thursday Other Than Communion and Feet Washing?

We hear this all the time, come to worship, or come to God being expectant or with an expectant heart, but what should we be expecting, and what exactly is Maundy Thursday? For several years now this week has been a time of the year I look forward to all throughout the year. Holy Week, and Maundy Thursday in particular, is observed in many different ways around the world, but it’s a unique night for our Cornerstone family. Personally, I do prepare for the night in advance. I bring at least one Moleskine and a pen or pencil, expecting God to be there with me as I go through the night. The last few years I have written names of people I pray for while I’m in the room along with areas of my life I want to give back to the Lord.

I just love dedicated times of Christian meditation (or reflection) since they are so few and far between for our world today. Christian meditation is the counter opposite of what we do in our culture today, so it almost makes us uncomfortable at this point. Both Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 among many others, tells us to meditate on the scriptures day and night, so one night out of the year on Maundy Thursday is a great launching point for the rest of the year.

What is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday is of course the day before Good Friday, which is the day Jesus was crucified on the cross. It is also called “Holy Thursday”, which is part of the greater week called “Holy Week” or Passion Week. The date changes according to the schedule of Easter, which changes each year. Maundy Thursday is the date that Jesus celebrated the passover, which became known as the last supper, and instituted what we know as communion. The two main events if you will that occur on Maundy Thursday are washing of feet and communion. The washing of feet was done by Jesus after supper was over (John 13:3-17) to give his disciples an example of humility and to show them a great act of love, providing all of us with an example of how we should treat others.

Scholars agree that the English word Maundy comes from mandé, from the Latin mandatum, or “command”. The first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the John 13:34 where Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

How Will We Observe Maundy Thursday

In our church specifically, Maundy Thursday is a time period from 8pm to 8am set aside as a time of meditation and reflection. Much in the same way Jesus prayed in Gethsemane on that Thursday night as described in Matthew 26:36-46 before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Matthew 26:36-46 is part of a larger story of course, but a few sections earlier we see that Jesus celebrates the passover with his disciples and then institutes The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-25 and Matthew 26:26-29 respectively).

Because the bible doesn’t mandate or command (or deny) the observation of Maundy Thursday specifically, observing this night is something that some churches do and some don’t. Before we came to Auburn I don’t really remember being in a church that observed Maundy Thursday night into Good Friday quite like this, but it is an experience I would hope everyone could go through.

In a world increasingly busy and full of distractions how can we ever stand still long enough to just be an awe of God and his brilliance. Maundy Thursday is that night, at least for our church. Each year I hope to pull a little more momentum from that night into the remainder of the year, trying to remember God also finds us in our silent meditation of his word.

Good Friday Tornadoes with Minor Tree Damage :: Friday Feet

Downed Tree

This Friday for Friday Feet the plan was to focus on the day at hand, Good Friday. We had a nice relaxing day at home on Friday in preparation for the Good Friday service and it ended up being one of the more memorable services that either Deborah or I have been to in years.  Just about half way into the service the tornado sirens started sounded.  The service was interrupted for about 30 minutes while we all hunkered down to one side of the worship area.

What made the service so memorable was how unscripted the whole evening was.  As we came back together and stared to focus on what makes this day special, the hail, thunder, and lightning started to come down in full force.  This was not a “traditional” service but the way it came together was so special.  I am thrilled to be a part of a church that is willing to interpret worship in many different ways.

On the way home it became apparent that the storm system that went through the area had made its way out to our property.  Tree after tree had been uprooted, snapped in half, and literally thrown all over the place.  The photo below at night was what we found as we drove in from the service.  A cedar tree topped and covering the road.  Once morning arrived we found about a 75 foot pine tree that was just blown over, making my Friday Feet image.

After surveying the damage out this way we found out that there were one and possibly two tornadoes that came through the property.  They were small, but had two visual sightings and see to skip around the houses for the most part.

Happy Easter to everyone.

Downed Tree

Downed Tree

Downed Tree

On the Beach Again with the Whole Family :: Friday Feet

Scott, Deborah, and Ebby on the Beach

Scott, Deborah, and Ebby on the Beach

Scott, Deborah, and Ebby on the Beach

Scott, Deborah, and Ebby on the Beach

Last weekend Deb and I went back down to Gulf Shores for a quick camping trip.  Of course, being that we were camping we had no Internet access (at least non-cellular) which was weird, so I have some catching up to do on my blog.  I haven’t missed a Friday Feet post since I started it last year so this post-dated version was from last Friday.

Always an interesting weather time weather wise down here where thunderstorms usually start to roll in and winter still tries to hang on.  One day it is freezing and the next is it hot.  Thursday we arrived to a blustering tornatic frontal system and Friday it was sunny and hot.  It was still a great time to relax away from the computer and start thinking about Holy Week coming up.

I have several posts coming up on photos from that weekend, a few book reviews, and many more, stay tuned.  Have a great Holy Week this week.