Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

"belly dancing pirates eating stale spaghetti on the dark side of the moon last Tuesday"? ...sounds like church to me

One of our favorite games for church parties is "wacko pictionary":  it's great for creative well as driving participants to pull out their hair.
It's pictionary with a  twist: you gave to draw something like "belly dancing pirates eating stale spaghetti on the dark side of the moon last Tuesday"  " ( A biblically-themed one is appropriate: "the twelve disciples, a drunk Foghorn Leghorn and twins who look like  Donny Osmond  try to fix a USB port while imitating Gene Simmons" was fairly easy to guess, actually)
............or something equally wacky like:

I love the comment halfway through: "we'd better not post this anywhere":

You know you want to see more..

"belly dancing pirates eating spaghetti on the moon?"

One of our favorite games for church parties is "wacko pictionary":  it's great for creative well as driving participants to pull out their hair.
It's pictionary with a twist: you gave to draw something like  "belly dancing pirates eating spaghetti on the moon." ( A biblically-themed one is appropriate: "the twelve disciples, a drunk Foghorn Leghorn and twins who look like  Donny Osmond  try to fix a USB port while imitating Gene Simmons" was fairly easy to guess, actually)
............or something equally wacky like:

I love the comment halfway through: "we'd better not post this anywhere":

You know you want to see more..

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nice to have Ken Metz back from the dead! Here's the story

Thanks to all who prayed (backstory here). Check this out below (Click to enlarge, then click again):

and just for fun, an antique i found:


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sts. Marta, Wolfgang, Purple Pig Daniel Fast and Sinead

 Highlights from today's gathering:
The Fresno Bee article on Marta and 24/7 Prayer is here

The Wolfgang Simson Antioch Meeting summary is here  (PDF)

21 Day Daniel Prayer/Fast that was announced at Purple Pig, and started today, here:

St. Sinead prayed:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tarzan Tom's tattoo evangelized a Peruvian brothel

  • When Tarzan Tom got this tattoo, he probably knew it would

wind up being an attention getter.
It's "all Greek" to some folks, but prize goes to the first person to translate it.

Even though he was told his tatts and earring might be a stumbling block in Peru, he found people fascinated with them all...and was able to preach many impromptu sermons when people noticed them on the street, in a church service, in the sex shops and brothel.  (Uh, if you think I'm kidding, I was there..and video evidence here.)

  • If you're worried about the "biblical injunction" against tattoos, see:

                 kicking butts, hair in a bun, tattoos

  • For another story about Tom, click:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Video of Brain Surgery :The Gospel of Sin Management

At one of our home meetings not long ago, we did brain surgery on each other.
As you can see by this video excerpt, the scissors and the tape are all ready to go;
the cameraman (St. Merlin) wisely stopped filming before the actual surgery.

Any questions?

The whole point was praying for each other that our brains/souls would be rewired from
the counterfeit, or partial gospel ( what Dallas Willard and often call "the gospel of sin management") to the more holistic gospel of the Kingdom, which is much more
grace-full.......and inevitably attractive and missional.

Here are some quotes and links on this dichotomy:

In the video clip, I read from Dwight Edwards' (a great great nephew of Jonathan Edwards) book,"Releasing the Rivers Within: The Exhilaration of Utter Dependence on God".
Edwards in turn quotes a famous passage from Lutzer about an entire neighborhood of thousands of people where no one sins.

Monday, June 07, 2010

the Holy Kiss for today..on a bridge and in a bucket

"There is the kiss and the counterkiss, and if one wins, we both lose." -Walter Brueggemann -
We covered the biblical tradition of the "holy kiss" in our gathering last Sunday.
It was a lot of fun. We started with a game of Hangman;
We had "Holy _ _ _ _" on the whiteboard when folks came in!

They has to guess what four letter word filled in the blank to make this a phrase that appears in Scripture. When i said "yes" to the first guess of "S," you should have heard the comments!

That the Bible explicitly mentions this practice five times:

  • Romans 16.16a — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Corinthians 16.20b — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • II Corinthians 13.12a — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι).
  • I Thessalonians 5.26 — "Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Peter 5.14a — "Greet one another with a kiss of love" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης).
...makes it a classic case study in how to apply
any scriptures that we assume need a cultural equivalent to out taking them literally.
(Though some of our folks took the "holy kiss" literally, not on the lips....I wish I had video..someone post the stories!(:...)

On this issue of interpretation:

  • Brian Dodd's discussion of the "interpretive bridge" is helpful (p. 19 here)
as is
  • Ron Martoia's posts on the "two buckets" (see "The Two Bucket Theory Examined" here).

I really recommend you read both above links, then get back to us.
They helped us when we tackled women in leadership, and homosexuality.

We learned that, counterintuitively to our guesses from this end of the cultural bridge, it seems the early church's holy kissing was almost always... on the lips!
The reason is powerful: that form on kiss implied equality...a kiss on the cheeks implied one person was inferior. Nothing like a Kingdom Kiss as an acted parable and reminder that in Christ we are equal! Of course, today, when we look at cultural equivalents like the "holy hug", "holy handshake," we might not realize that that, too, began as a Kingdom equalizer:

In fact, handshaking, which can seem quite prosaic today, was popularised by Quakers as a sign of equality under God, rather than stratified system of etiquette of seventeenth century England
Ironically, the kiss of inclusion became a kiss of exclusion (from centered to bounded set):

Just as kissing had many different meanings in the wider ancient world, so too early Christians interpreted the kiss in various ways. Because ancient kissing was often seen as a familiar gesture, many early Christians kissed each other to help construct themselves as a new sort of family, a family of Christ. Similarly, in the Greco-Roman world, kissing often was seen as involving a transfer of spirit; when you kissed someone else you literally gave them part of your soul. The early church expanded on this and claimed that, when Christians kissed, they exchanged the Holy Spirit with one another. Christians also emphasized the kiss as an indication of mutual forgiveness (it’s from here that we get the term “kiss of peace”). These different meanings influenced and were influenced by the sorts of rituals kissing became associated with. For example, because the kiss helped exchange spirit, it made perfect sense for it to become part of baptism and ordination, rituals in which you wanted the Holy Spirit to descend and enter the initiate. The flip side of the coin is that before someone was baptized you wouldn’t want to kiss them. Early Christians often believed that previous to exorcism and baptism people were inevitably demon possessed. Given that they also thought that kissing resulted in spiritual exchange, it’s pretty clear why you wouldn’t want to kiss non-Christians. I sometimes think of this as an ancient form of “cooties.” It resulted in early Christian debates over whether one could kiss a pagan relative, if one should kiss a potential heretic, or if Jews even had a kiss.
-Penn, link

We incorporated insights from these and other articles linked below, and quoted the only book on the topic, "Kissing Christians" by Michael Penn. You'll note some of the articles below include interview with him. We particularly enjoyed some of the early fathers and teachers' comments and guidelines on the practice.

One early guideline, for real (wonder if this was in the weekly "bulletin"):

1)No French Kissing!
2)If you come back for seconds, because you liked the first kiss too much, you may be going to hell!!

Clement of Alexandra (c.150 - c. 215

"There are those who do nothing but make the church resound with the kiss."

Chrysostom (4th C):
“We are the temple of Christ, and when we kiss each other
we are kissing the porch and entrance of the temple.”

Augustine (4th C):
"when your lips draw close to the lips of your brother, let your heart not draw away."

One interview with Michael Penn:

Whoever said ''a kiss is just a kiss" didn't know their theological history. During Christianity's first five centuries, ritual kissing -- on the lips -- was a vital part of worship, says Michael P. Penn, who teaches religion at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. In that context, kissing helped Christians define themselves as a family of faith, he writes in his new book, ''Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church" (University of Pennsylvania Press). Excerpts from a recent interview follow.
Q: Let me start with the basic question: Who kissed whom?
A: In the first two centuries [AD], men may kiss men, women women, but also you would have men and women kissing one another. In future centuries, there continued to be a debate over who should kiss whom. In later years, Christians will no longer have men and women kissing each other, but only men men, women women. [Christians had] debates on whether or not priests could kiss the laity, on whether you should kiss a non-Christian relative in the normal, everyday situation, even debates over whether Jews have a kiss or not.
Q: When in the service was the kiss performed?
A: Our earliest references would be a kiss that would follow a communal prayer. Later on, it gets increasingly associated with the Eucharist and also occurs in part of the rites of baptism and in ordination rites. You have Christians kissing each other as an everyday greeting or also martyrs, before they're killed, kissing one another.
Q: What was the theological significance?
A: In antiquity, a kiss on the lips was seen as transferring a little bit of one's spirit to the other person. You have a lot of early -- I kind of think of them almost as Greco-Roman Harlequin -- novels that speak of the kiss as this transfer of spirit. Christians modify it a bit, to suggest that when Christians kiss each other, they don't just exchange their own spirit, but also share a part of the Holy Spirit with one another. So the kiss is seen as a way to bind the community together.
There's another side, though. There was a concern that kissing an individual who has promised to join the Christian community but isn't yet baptized should be avoided, because the spirit that would be transferred wouldn't be a holy spirit but a demonic spirit. So you have the kiss working as this ritual of exclusion.
Q: Did Christian leaders worry about the erotic overtones?
A: We have only two explicit references to this concern. One says, essentially, to kiss with a closed and chaste mouth, which suggests that a few of these kisses may have been too erotic. The other one warns against those who kiss a second time because they liked the first one so much.
Judas kissing Jesus [to betray him] terrifies them a lot more than eroticism. There's this evil intention behind it. Early Christian writers use the kiss of Judas to warn that it's not just how you practice the kiss, but what you're thinking. If you kiss another Christian while keeping evil in your heart against them, you are repeating Judas' betrayal.
Q: When did kissing fall out of favor?
A: In the third century, men and women are no longer to kiss one another. Early Christians met in what we think of as a house church -- you meet in someone's living room, essentially. Starting in the third century, when Christians [worship] in a public forum, this familial kiss is less appropriate. It's also a time where Christianity becomes concerned with making sure women and men are categorically separated. In the fourth century, that clergy and laity become increasingly distant. You start having prohibitions against clergy and laity kissing one another.
The ritual kiss never entirely died out. We still have it as an exchange of peace [in Christian services]. We see it in the kissing of the pope's ring. In Catholicism, a priest may kiss a ritual object.
Q: What would Christianity have been without the kiss?
A: What I find exciting is to see how what we think of as trivial is so central to early Christian self-understanding. Our earliest Christian writing, Paul's letter to the First Thessalonians, talks about the ritual kiss, albeit briefly. We have hundreds of early Christian references to this ritual. For these authors, it was anything but trivial.

  • Wikipedia article on Holy Kiss

  • Kiss and Tell the Gospel

  • Michael Penn explains what the early church meant by the "holy kiss."

  • On Kissing: A Q&A with Michael Penn

  • -PUCKER UP by Martin Marty


  • The Holy Kiss of Love: Are We Keeping This Command?

  • I Corinthians 16-II Corinthians 1: Greet One Another with a Holy Kiss

  • RIP TNIV: Order "TNIV Books of the Bible" yesterday if not sooner

    Although I am not sure anyone is telling the whole story..

    (some of it is ugly and political...and don't get me started on James Dobson's role (see Bob Robinson's "This is why I no longer like Dobson, Bully"! You'd think he had been hanging with crabby Colson when he encouraged the eventually successful...sigh..ban)

    ...if you want some backstory,

    here is an archive of all articles in Christianity Today chronicling the debate and demise of one of the best translations we have ever had:

    the TNIV.

    Never heard of it?

    Of course not! Conspiracy!

    Heard of it, and heard it was heretical?


    Click here for the doomed translation's website.
    See who recommended it, and ask why you never heard about it!!
    You can also click the "TNIV" label at bottom to see my other posts on the topic of this translation, including Rob Bell's ringing endorsement (Ha, that may have been the death knell) on video.

    All that to say:
    Rest in peace, now that you have been banned.


    Order your "
    TNIV Books of the Bible" while you can (SpyScott bought our church a discounted case..thanks!) as it too will soon be out of print.
    (Though I am delighted it will continue to be printed next year, just with the new NIV translation..see the comment from the publisher at bottom of this same post on my...Dave's.. main blog.)
    There is currently one left on Amazon, and several here on the official website. Kudos to Biblica (formerly International Bible Society for this amazing project.

    What's so different/great about it? You can read all about it below. I recommend reading the preface here which explains the format. Suffice to say the book introductions themselves (Like Intro to Revelation) are way worth the price. I know no other Bible that does justice to structural issues: chiasm/inclusio, for one.

    Here you go:

    The Books of The Bible project encourages better Bible reading, particularly by emphasizing the reading of whole books. The result is an inviting and clean visual presentation of the Bible that can be understood and enjoyed more easily. The Books of The Bible differs from the format of most current Bibles in significant ways:
    • chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text (a chapter-and-verse range is at the bottom of each page)
    • individual books are presented with the literary divisions that their authors have indicated
    • footnotes, section headings and other supplementary materials have been removed from the text (translators’ notes are available at the back of each book)
    • the books of the Bible have been placed in an order that provides more help in understanding, based on literary genre, historical circumstance and theological tradition
    • single books that later translations or tradition divided
      into two or more books are made whole again
      (example: Luke-Acts)
    • single-column setting that clearly and naturally presents the
      literary forms of the Bible’s books


    “At last a publisher has brought us back to the reality of the first fifteen hundred years of the church: a Bible without numbers. Although the numbers are a great convenience for ‘finding things,’ they in fact get in the way of good Bible reading. So in the language Augustine heard many centuries ago, ‘Take up and read; take up and read!’ with heavy emphasis on the ‘read.’ ”
    —Gordon D. Fee, Author of How to Read the Bible Book by Book

    "International Bible Society has given Christianity many gifts over the years, but The Books of the Bible is most surely among the greatest of these. Sacred scripture, like any other form of often-read literature, can become so familiar to us as to be lost to our attention and—alas—to our energetic appreciation. By the simple, but daring, decision to remove the accustomed markers of chapters, verses, and volumes, The Books of the Bible interrupts our sense of business as usual and demands that we look with more attentive minds and hearts at what the words are and, more importantly, at what they actually say. And those words, rendered in Today's New International Version, are as fresh as the method of their presentation is bold and affective.
    Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly and author of Divine Hours

    “Wow. This looks so smart. This is the wisest ‘new idea’ I've seen in Bible publishing that I can remember. As an old English major, it makes so much sense. Just having the reflections on chapters and verses in the Preface is worthwhile! I've been a bit of a fanatic about being ‘versus verses’ for exactly the reasons you address. The perspective on book order and genre make sense. This is a truly significant undertaking.”
    —Brian McLaren, Pastor & Author

    “Finally, a Bible that allows you to hear the voices of the biblical authors without the background noise.”
    —Dr. James D. Cartin, Pastor, Western Avenue Baptist Church (SBC), Statesville, NC

    “First off, let me say that I love it. It has been so refreshing to read God’s Word in this new format. Just one paragraph into it, it was as if some part of my soul sighed in relief. This is good. This is the way it is to be read. I didn’t know how needed it was until I had it. Thank you for your work and vision and for thinking outside the box on this one.
    —Shannon Taylor, ServLife International

    “What an interesting idea—the simplicity of reading through the Bible without the distraction of numbers! Simple makes sense for this invitation into the life-changing reading of Scripture, especially for young people in our biblically-illiterate society unacquainted with biblical richness. I believe its impact can be huge.”
    —Luci Shaw, Poet & Author

    “Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. The Books of The Bible sweeps away many of the pious additions that can obscure the ancient text of Scripture, revealing connections that readers have all too often missed. I will be turning to this edition often to clear my mind and refocus my attention on the grand story that addresses us from the Bible's pages.”
    —Andy Crouch, Journalist & Author

    “This Bible is very much like the Bible of the pre-modern (ancient) world in that it is not broken down into chapters and verses. Like the ancient manuscripts, this Bible follows a natural narrative that reads like a story. Today, the postmodern world has rediscovered some of the values of the pre-modern world and one of these values is the story. By dropping the modern invention of compartmentalizing the Bible into chapters and verses, we now can recover the powerful, all-encompassing divine story of the world.”
    —The late Dr. Robert Webber

    “You are encouraging readers to devour the whole book at once. I like that! I especially appreciated seeing Luke and Acts placed together and the Pauline epistles in a more chronological order. Thanks for your work!”
    —Dean Deppe, Professor of New Testament, Calvin Theological Seminary

    “The Bible is meant to be read—both aloud and privately. There is no Bible more suited to reading the Bible—from the beginning of the book to the end—than The Books of The Bible. This ‘new’ approach is actually the original approach, and I love it.”
    —Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

    - official website.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers" Trailer and complete film here


    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Palestinian Christians, Bullet Holes, & Veggie Tales: Bishara Awad video

    Here I am (below) in Jerusalem with one of my heroes,
    Alex Awad,
    pastor of E. Jerusalem Baptist Church,and dean of Bethlehem Bible College.

    BBC trains Palestinian Christians.
    Amazingly, I have been basically Americans..even while at the school, surrounded by what God is doing there!...that "Palestinian Christian' is an oxymoron.


    Even though it was only a few miles taxi trip for him to come see me,
    Alex never knows how long he will have to wait at the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

    He is that
    paradox: a Palestinian Christian.

    I aim to get my video from Bethlehem Bible College uploaded soon.
    Until then, here is a link to someone else's video tour of the college,
    and here are my other posts on the college.
    BBC is:

    • that marvelous place that is routinely ignored on tours of Israel;
    • that Christian school with bullet holes in the sign,
    • that amazing place that houses the only public library in Bethlehem (it is worth it all to see the local kids watching "Veggie Tales" in Arabic there!)

    today's catch:
    Below is an important "100 Huntley Street" (a Canadian Christian, those two words are not an oxymoron either! interview with Bethlehem Bible College founder/ president, Bishara Awad (Alex's brother, who blew us away when he spoke at the church I pastored in Delano when a dozen of his Palestinian cousins who lived in the area showed up) on issues related to being Arab/Palestinian Christians:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    church/synagogue ashtray

    I was honored that Gary Goodell, or someone at ThirdDayChurches liked my photo of our church ashtray on the Bible (displayed on right hand side bar of the blog, and featured in the spiritual formation interview post)) now shows up on their homepage.

    It reminded me to post this photo of the menorah with the ashtray, which we took just to make Rabbi Adam say "oy!"

    How long till he posts that response? (:

    Bonus photo below (from, Translation of Hebrew : "No Smoking" (By Command!):

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Women Shepherds, Porn Stars...and Jumping Through Phyllis Tickle 18-month window

    For ThirdDay saints...and all interested parties (we like parties):

    For next Sunday, it may help to glance at these materials (PDF) on WOMEN IN MINISTRY (dealing with those controversial scriptures about women) that Dallas Elder sent out a few years ago.

    Here is my post on the topic:

    I need some token women

    ...including interesting comments by several women

    See also:
    On Sunday, We will also continue on a bit with Phyllis (a woman!)

    Women Shepherds, Porn Stars...and Jumping Through Phyllis Tickle 18-month windowTickle video #2, and a bit of

    Also, here's a helpful video interview with Phyllis by Eugene Cho, and here's a a video interview by Peter Rollins.
    Also.. here)is Phyllis on the 18-month window:

    Go, girls!

    Monday, April 05, 2010

    Rummage Sale Time! Phyllis Tickle videos: "The Great Emergence"

    How wonderful to have Phyllis Tickle walk us through her "Great Emergence" book in these videos. We'll be showing bits of these on Sunday mornings. Why? Because we like rummage sales....

    ...and besides, we finished the Wolfgang Simson videos!(:

    Click her name among the "labels" below this post for more info and book excerpts.

    Below is the accompanying blurb from the book publisher:

    "Rooted in the observation that massive transitions in the church happen about every 500 years, Phyllis Tickle shows readers that we live in such a time right now. She compares the Great Emergence to other "Greats" in the history of Christianity, including the Great Transformation (when God walked among us), the time of Gregory the Great, the Great Schism, and the Great Reformation.

    Combining history, a look at the causes of social upheaval, and current events, The Great Emergence shows readers what the Great Emergence in church and culture is, how it came to be, and where it is going. Anyone who is interested in the future of the church in America, no matter what their personal affiliation, will find this book a fascinating exploration."
    -Baker Books

    Friday, April 02, 2010

    So why is "Good Friday" so good?

    First, Watch our own Keltic Ken Adams, who the North Central Fresno Pastors Cluster commissioned to film some "man/woman on the street"interviews for our combined 2008 Good Friday Service.
    He ask folks:
    1)Have you heard of
    Good Friday?
    2)What is it?
    3)Why is it called "good"?
    4)Do you know Jesus?

    Then, an expanded version of my message at the service the year before:
    “The Lord Be With You...Even When He’s Not”

    Qualifier: I never type out manuscripts for sermons, I go from brief scribbled cryptic notes; if anything. So I have tried to write in somewhat oral style; as if I had preached this whole
    thing (Right! In the seven minutes I was allotted as the third of three preachers preaching through Psalm 22 that day!)


    There was a church that was not very liturgically oriented; in fact they were decidedly “low-church.” So the pastor wanted to teach his flock a bit of the richness of the liturgy tradition. He figured he’d start them out with a “win-win” that would be easy; the classic responsive that begins with the leader saying:

    “The Lord be with you.”

    You know the response:

    “And also with you.”

    And the pastor thought he’d have the congregation practice the responsive for several weeks, and then officially inaugurate it on Easter; a high attendance Sunday with lots of guests.

    So every week they walked through it:

    “Now when I say, ‘The Lord be with you,’ remember that you say And also with you.’” Let’s practice…”

    They practiced. They were primed. Pumped. Throughout the countdown weeks of Lent, they became quite prepared.

    Then came the big Sunday; Easter in all its glory. Lots of guests; an air of expectancy in the room; especially among the well-trained saints knowing they were about ready to show off what they had been practicing.

    So the pastor stepped up to the pulpit with a knowing smile. But he noticed that something was wrong with the microphone. So before he realized it, he said aloud just that:

    “There is something wrong with this microphone.”

    Well, the congregation was so primed and practiced that they immediately shot back, before they realized it, with one loud and clear voice:

    “And also with you!”

    There’s nothing wrong with my microphone today!

    But we can’t help but feel there’s something deeply wrong with us when we are forced to admit what we have been told is unthinkable, impossible, heretical and horrible:

    The Lord is not with us.

    Or so it feels if we are daring enough to be honest.

    I might even contend that until a Christian has said; meant; felt; prayed that unspeakable thought that must be spoken..… they may not even be a full follower of Jesus…

    The One who was and is God.

    The One who modeled for us how to live, how to pray, how to feel…

    The One who dared enough to be honest.

    The One who said, and I quote:

    “God, God . . . my God!
    Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?
    Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long.
    No answer.


    Did you know that’s what the Almighty Jesus Christ said, felt, prayed on the cross?

    No answer.

    It gets worse.

    Be sure you catch the condemning; the accusatory, angry, agnostic tone and tenor. The next two words must by necessity be read with all that volume and venom. If fact, the Bible specifically mentions that Jesus prayed this “in a loud cry.”
    He prays on:

    “And You!!

    Are You indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel's praise?
    We know You were there for our parents!

    They cried for Your help and You gave it; they trusted and lived a good life.
    And here I am, a nothing--an earthworm, something to step on, to squash.
    Everyone pokes fun at me; they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
    ‘Let's see how GOD handles this one; since God likes him so much, let him help him!’
    And to think You were midwife at my birth, setting me at my mother's breasts!
    When I left the womb You cradled me; since the moment of birth You've been my God.
    Then You moved far away and trouble moved in next-door. I need a neighbor. “

    This graphic and earthy (and astoundingly accurate) rendering of Jesus’ prayer from The Message translation is stunning, shattering; and yet not as devastating as the original language portrayed it. Somehow the whole scene changes, and is dialed down; is in effect censored; through standard translations such as the NIV:

    PS 22:3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the praise of Israel.

    PS 22:4 In you our fathers put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.

    PS 22:5 They cried to you and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

    PS 22:6 But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by men and despised by the people.

    PS 22:7 All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

    PS 22:8 "He trusts in the LORD;
    let the LORD rescue him.
    Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him."

    PS 22:9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you
    even at my mother's breast.

    PS 22:10 From birth I was cast upon you;
    from my mother's womb you have been my God.
    PS 22:11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.”

    I know.

    That sounds devasating…and dangerous… enough.

    But “In You” has lost all of its darkness, its near-atheism, its anger. It has been prematurely resolved into a peaceful surrender. The whole tone of voice has been twisted into trust.

    Way too soon.

    Let Jesus be ticked. Let him accuse God.

    Let him curse. Let him yell at God that he has abandoned him miles from nowhere.

    Otherwise I am sunk.

    As are you.

    I must fully embrace, pass through, pray through ..and feel through that Scripture; thos Psal,…uncut…before I can…in a way that is not cliche, contrived, and.indeed denial…find a mature and wrestled-through-the-crucible confidence in God’s sovereignty.

    We quote Romans 8:28 too tritely and too soon.

    We quote Psalm 23, and post it on on our refrigerator doors, slap it on our bumperstickers; without its context and it’s immediate predecessor in the Psalter.

    We cannot have Psalm 23 without this Psalm we have been quoting:

    The devastating, glorious Psalm 22.

    The one that starts not with a resolute “The Lord is my shepherd,”

    But with a ruddy “Yahweh has dumped me.”


    “I’ve got nothing left to give,” the professor said.

    Several years ago some other pastors and I had responsibility for a pastors retreat. We decided to bring in a deep, profound, distinguished man of God; a professor renowned in the field of spiritual formation.

    We were busy pastors, some of us bordering on burnout; we badly needed retreat…and training in the meat spiritual formation .

    So there was indeed a huge hunger and holy hush in the room, when after weeks of waiting, the respected PhD, whom we were thrilled had said “yes” to flying out the 3,000 miles from his seminary to enlighten our relatively small but serious group, opened his mouth that first night.

    Bibles and notebooks in hand , we leaned forward to receive what the master would say; what gleanings the guru had studied and prayed hard to impart.

    His opening line broke the silence, the mood, and all the “rules” of grad-school-level spiritual formation 701:

    “I have nothing to give.”

    “Excuse me?,” I am sure we all collectively thought.

    He continued, oblivious to our headscratching; indeed not even acknowledging the question marks hanging over us.

    “I almost didn’t come. I almost cancelled, but I figured this retreat was booked, and I had better keep my commitment.

    You see, the other day, I woke up to my wife saying ‘I’m leaving you.’

    And she did.

    I was so distraught that all I could do was immediately, and in a daze, drive the thousand miles to my best friend’s house.

    When his wife answered the door, she could only manage: ‘How did you know?’

    ‘Know what?, I asked.

    ‘He just killed himself!’

    I could only jump shellshocked into my car, drive all those miles back home..

    ..To find my house had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground.”

    The question marks over our heads were gone.

    He matter-of-factly concluded:

    “So all I could do is keep my commitment and make this retreat where you want me to teach you spiritual formation. I’m sorry if I’ve made the wrong choice in coming; if I’m wasting your valuable time and money. I am here to teach spiritual formation, and maybe I can do that…

    The only problem is I’m not sure I have anything left to give.”

    That was the most profound lesson and lecture in spiritual formation that I have ever received.

    As you can tell, I remember every word of that opening lecture.


    “God, God, my God! Why?...

    No answer. Nothing.”

    Jesus prayed that.

    “And You, God…Traitor!”

    “I’ve got nothing left, and it’s Your fault.”

    “To think You were there at my birth!!” Jesus cried out.

    “I need a neighbor.”

    My God, My God, Why oh Why have you forsaken me?

    One translation is daring enough: “Where the hell are You, God?”

    I mentioned that all this seemingly blasphemous prayer was a prayer Jesus actually prayed.

    Indeed he did.

    On the cross, of all places. Jesus owned, recited, and prayed Psalm 22.
    Incarnated it incredibly.

    You don’t remember Him praying such a long prayer? You only remember the “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” part; the opening salvo?

    Your memory serves well. But I am probably preaching to the choir to remind you (Note: here I turned to the choir, and laughed that I was now literally preaching to the choir) that in biblical days, when a Jew quoted the first portion or line of a Scripture, it implied she or he was quoting and implying the whole passage.

    The opening verse stood for the rest.

    But they had no atomized verses; they visualized only sections; memorized only passages.

    There were no “memory verses.”

    So much so that to quote one part of the passage implied an acceptance and implication of the theme and flow and content…. and emotion….of the entire thing.

    In a way, this is not much different than if I were to say as a rhetorical device in this sermon, “For God so loved the world…” you would understand I would mean imply all of what we have memorized as “John 3:16.” You would fill in the blank. But how many know John 3:15 and John 3:17 from memory?

    That’s what I thought.

    “Our Father who art in heaven….” I know you know, and can finish. that prayer without a cheat sheet.

    “The Lord is my shepherd….” I know you know the rest of that as well as you know the answer to “The Lord bewith you…”

    “And also with you!”

    So the reason we three preachers are “also with you” today , and are preaching through Psalm 22 sequentially, is to help us all remember or realize that there is no doubt that what Jesus the Jew was doing on the cross as he recited what we now call Psalm 22, verse 1. He was praying…uncensored…the entire glorious, gory, gutsy, God-forsaken Psalm.

    True, only the first line is mentioned as having passed his lips in the gospel accounts;
    But there is no question that he was saying not just “I am the Messiah, and I am fulfilling this ancient Scripture,” but…“I am praying, I am feeling, this whole rugged, ruthless Psalm. Psalm 22 uncut.

    Everyone around the cross who was versed in Scripture knew what he was quoting, and thus suggesting: the entire emotive Psalm was his liturgically-correct prayer that day; agnostism, angst and all.

    Whether or not he literally verbalized aloud from the Place of a Skull every “verse” of that psalm (which is possible, perhaps probable, as we will see), or just was able to utter
    and sputter the blunt first line.. .it’s microcosm and thesis statement…. the effect;and affect; is the same.

    Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe felt …

    Abandoned, betrayed, used.

    Agnostic. Angry.

    Hear this explosive good news: You are allowed to feel that way…on Good Friday, or any day it fits.

    “Jesus, I know You’re looking out for us…”

    So the prayer started. So far; so good.

    “…but maybe Your hands aren’t free.”

    Excuse me?

    It gets

    “Wake Up, Dead Man!”

    A man once prayed, felt, this devastatingly honest prayer.

    He even was bold and honest enough to include a four letter word as he was reminding the Lord how messed up his life and world was.

    “Is there some order in all of this disorder? Is it like a tape recorder? Can we rewind just once more?”

    Tell me you have never felt something like that.

    Let me phrase it another way: All who have ever felt something like that; please be seated.

    Ah, that’s what I thought.

    This prayer is a cheerful little worship ditty, put to music and recorded under the title “Wake Up Dead Man.” It’s based on another Psalm we’d be tempted to excise and excuse: 44. Written and sung and prayed by Bono of U2.

    “Yes, Bono’s a believer. I know him and have even worked with him on mission projects,” the famous evangelist strongly told my friend and I.

    He continued to address my friend’s question about Bono being a professed believer and using such “salty language. ” Tony Campolo, the evangelist (a Baptist , no less), shot back unapologetically, “Sometimes our language is not salty enough.”

    No, parents, I am not asking your kids to swear in prayer or Sunday School.

    But letting Bono break the barrier for us; maybe you can finally admit, however colorfully and candidly, what you may actually fear saying aloud even more than a four-letter word: that…like Jesus!...I still haven’t completely “found what I’m looking for.”

    I am allowed to; in fact commanded and called to, at times; feel and taste the same.

    With or without the salt of the psalter.

    Surely you have noticed that many psalms begin with inscriptions, denoting for example that they are to be put to music for liturgical and prayer use. Sometimes even naming the tune it was to be set to is named. Have you ever noticed the suggested tune title to the Psalm 22? The psalm Jesus prayed…uncut...on the cross? It rings amazing, sounds ridiculous…and makes perfect prophetic sense.

    It’s…you could never guess this, but look at it yourself in your Bible:

    “Doe of the Morning”

    Excuse me?

    Doesn’t that title conjure up the happiest, most peaceful serene scene imaginable? What’s more beautiful than a doe? Or uplifting than a new morning?

    What gives, O God?

    Can you imagine a melody by that title as anything else but upbeat, uplifting? And maybe in God’s…and the psalmwriters…ironic and irenic sense of holy humor, it was! And maybe it was. Some of U2’s most droning laments lyrically are set to very positive music and major chords. This is not denial; or an attempt to hijack pain and make it land prematurely as unfettered joy. It’s acknowledging irony, faith and doubt as a package deal…especially while hanging on crosses. Jesus, no doubt in more excruciating pain anyone in history endured it all, Hebrews 12:2 claims, because of the….fill in the blank… set before him?



    “Doe of the Morning”? On Good Friday? Go figure.

    I have a hard time living, singing, praying in the beautiful tension, dreadful and healing paradox, and ruthless reality.

    Picture “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me” sung to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine”?!

    Hear again Psalm 22 in the Message:

    “God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?

    Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing”

    Now set it to the tune of “Shine Jesus Shine”.

    Ridiculous? Perhaps. Revelatory? Just maybe.

    Bono, as you know by now has been, sometimes rightfully, accused of being too real and rough with his language, prayer and theology. So you won’t be surprised to hear him say in an in interview which we’ll now listen to (Now, don’t worry…no salty words ahead, but don’t let your musical preference trip you up so you miss the point; he may be overstating, but he is speaking truth in love to say):

    "God is interested in truth, and only in truth. And that's why God is more interested in Rock & Roll music than Gospel... Many gospel musicians can't write about what's going on in their life, beacuse it's not allowed ..If you can't write about what's really going on in the world and your life, because it's all happy-clappy... Is God interested in that? I mean, 'Please, don't patronize Me! I want to go the Nine-Inch-Nails gig, they're talking the truth!"

    -Bono, audio here

    Jesus Christ prayed, at least implied, the whole gamut of emotion in Psalm 22.

    So can we.

    If we are interested in truth, and only truth…wherever it takes us (look at cross).

    The account of Jesus’ dying words in John actually could be made to infer that Jesus did in fact pray aloud the entire Psalm…or at least the first and last line… to give context and contour, no matter how real...and really troubling...the fulness of what he was experiencing.

    Jesus, as John tellingly tells us, cried out the famous words…the “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” line “in a loud voice.” Then it is relayed that someone offered him a sponge with wine vinegar. (Matthew, not John, notes that Jesus had said “I thirst.) Then a fascinating, intriguing fact that only John highlights: “And then, after receiving the drink, he cried out again in a loud voice”
    (emphasis mine). This second crying out has puzzled Bible readers for years: What did he say? Was it anything audible? Was it the “eighth saying from they cross”, just one that never got transcribed?

    There is actually a chance that we know exactly what he cried out that second time.

    With the help of John.

    The mentioning of the wine vinegar sponge being lifted to Jesus is immediately followed…not in Matthew, but only in John… not by Jesus offering up a generic loud cry. Jon alone tells us exactly what Jesus said. I’m reading it now; watch this: “The wine was lifted to his lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said…..

    ‘It... is…. finished.’

    With that , he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

    So according to John’s journal, the literal last words of Jesus were not a helpless “My God, Why…” but a hearty “It is finished.”

    Three words which are strikingly similar to the literal last words of Psalm 22.

    Look at them. One version even translates the last line of Psalm 22; “It is finished”

    Many scholars recognize the similarity in the structure of the Hebrew (of Psalm 22)
    This last line is usually rendered something like in the NIV “He (God) has done it.”

    Jesus’s cry on the cross, “It is finished” doesn’t specifically mention God having done or finished something; so we often assume it means “It is finished…I, Jesus, have finished the saving act of dying on the cross.” That of course, is true and key. But in the Greek language grammar, it may well be what we call a ”divine passive”…a sentence that doesn’t specifically mention God, but implies it. Like we might say “Someone is watching out for you.” Or “I was touched.” So it may be “It is finished; God has done it.”

    The last line of Psalm 22 may have been the last line of Jesus on Friday.

    He may have forced himself, as he was dying, to say and pray aloud, the whole thing.

    Did you ever wonder why Jesus said “I thirst” right in the middle of dying? Maybe he was right in the middle of a long Psalm, but he knew he had to get it all said.

    For our sake.

    Again, whether or not Jesus literally prayed the first line only, the first and closing line (a common framing technique in Bible days, a framing device, an “inclusio”), or the entire psalm, the message is the same salty one:

    “I feel this whole psalm. My guts are literally being wrenched. I wonder why God is doing this to me. But I am sensing it will work out; that God is finishing something.”

    Maybe there are “does of the morning” visible from Golgotha; from Good Friday after all.

    Or to quote Tony Campolo again; from his most celebrated sermon refrain. Who knows it? “It may be Friday…”

    “…but Sunday’s coming!”

    Maybe Jesus prayed Psalm 22…all of it…as a way of saying “It is painful, but it is finished. Yet I can only wrestle my way to resolution and full faith in the Father and the future by facing the forsakeness and abandonment that I feel in my heart…and even more real.”

    As you have heard the whole flow of Psalm have walked through all that Jesus felt on the cross..what started in abnandonment and anger traveled to confidence and faith.

    But it never would have arrived without it’s doubt.


    I fear that many Christians are walking time bombs.

    We have been told, even if between the lines, that we should never question God, doubt God, or admit our feelings, even our anger. Enter our emotions. Take up our crosses and admit our Psalm 22 days…even if everyone else in church is having a happy clappy Psalm 23, Romans 8:28 day.

    It could be that until we realize…emotionally…that we have nothing left to give, we have nothing to give.

    That is a lesson in spiritual formation worth receiving.

    Such might even be the only path to Sunday coming.

    There is a simplicity on the other side of complexity that is deeper, wider, and the very beginning of faith and resurrection.

    Eugene Peterson, translator of the Message Bible we have been using, has an amazing book on the Psalms called “Answering God.” It’s about the Psalms as a prayer book..uncut. In it he maintains, “Anger is not to be sublimated; it is to be prayed.” And he is a Presbyterian! (Note: look teasingly at the Presbyterian pastors on the platform)

    My pastor in college was such a strong preacher, but true to his style he hardly ever told a joke in a sermon. So passionate; so convicting and dynamic a preacher was he. (And he was a Methodist!) He was so phenomenal and engaging that he never had to tell a joke. I still remember the time he tried to throw in a light-hearted reference: “Sometimes I feel like Roger Dangerfield; I get no respect.”

    I’m still not sure he realizes that the only reason we laughed is that he said “Roger,” when the comedian’s first name was “Rodney.”

    Eventually this great preacher found a great joke that worked wonderfully. He preached it around the world. Here it is:

    Wilbur wakes up in the morning, and stubs his toe on the bed.
    “God, Why me?” he cries out.

    Wilbur goes out to start his car….it doesn’t start.
    “God, Why me?” he asks.

    He finally gets to work..and gets fired!
    “God, Why me” he screams.

    At which point the sky finally splits open, and the divine silence is broken, as the voice of God booms down:

    “Well, Wilbur… There’s just something about you that ticks me off!”

    In a delightful twist, years later, after telling this joke literally all over the world, Pastor Al told it, and told it well, at a men’s retreat at which there was…against all odds, for the very first time anywhere...a member of the church I was pastoring...named …you guessed it: Wilbur!

    We are all Wilbur.

    We have all felt that, prayed it, though likely never aloud…as we hear it’s not allowed.

    Hear the good news: it’s allowed to say that aloud. In church.

    If Jesus can say it from a cross; surely we can say it in church.

    We fear fear to face the…albeit false… feeling that God is ticked off at us; we fear facing the flipside; what seems an even worse offense: We are ticked off at God.

    If we are, I mean since we are; we are in good company.

    I’ll bet even Pastor Al has felt fleetingly like that.

    Like most pastors do on Monday.

    “It’s Sunday, but Monday’s coming!”

    Every Wilbur in the word has felt a version of that.

    Let alone Jesus.

    It may feel like one thing after another. Like the poor man I am about to tell about; .this story..unbelievably… is no joke; totally and tragically true.

    Brace yourselves and imagine this.

    One day when this humble believer and farmer was enjoying an innocent family party; a messenger came to the door with the message: “Your cattle, and all your ranchers, have been killed…I’m the only one who survived!”

    And while this messenger was still speaking, another arrived and knocked on the door with more news: “Fire from heaven just came down and killed all your sheep and shepherds. I am the only one who survived!

    While this second messenger was still speaking, a third came to the door: “A mighty wind just descended on your house and killed all your children. I am the only one who survived!”.

    Do you feel that? Is that you?

    To which the man…one named Job, you may recall…replied:

    “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

    BUT not before he (we dare not skip verses, remember?) he tore his clothes in remorse, and morning.

    Got honest.



    He may have even felt the absence of the omnipresent God.

    He might well have succumbed to his wife’s advice (“Curse God and die!”) if he had not been righteous and real enough to know and work the secret.

    The secret the spiritual formation professor found via a frighteningly similar three-chaptered experience.

    The secret Jesus used and utilized as he prayed Psalm 22…uncut…on the cross.

    The only other option to being honest is to lie.

    And we who mistakenly fear that allowing our occasional agnosticism, almost atheism, and anger to surface and verbalize itself aloud, is a sin nearly unpardonable; do well to remember what sin it actually was that did indeed cause God to literally strike someone…..two someones..dead.

    “Well, Anananias and Saphira, there’s just something about you that ticks me off!” if you will.

    They lied.

    Like I do when I violate Scripture, and reality itself, by jumping to the happy clappy faith-formula before embracing and even celebrating the redemptive depth of honest anger and passionate prayer. Doesn’t God know what you’re thinking anyway? Might as well be honest and say it; pray it!

    This is not a touchy-feely anger therapy; though there may be value in that.

    This is just being honest enough to tell…and pray…the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God.

    Put that in your Christian songbook and smoke it.

    I’ll never forget the first time I heard the lyric; I had to do a double take before I embraced it. It was an upbeat Matt Redman song; I bet you know it. “Blessed be the name of the Lord....” That part sounds good and kosher and evangelical…if not happy-clappy.

    But the next line did me in: “You give and

    take away! Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    But as you know by now, it’s just quoting Job.

    And Jesus.

    Walter Wangerin writes in novel “The Orphean Passages,” of a pastor who got up to preach on Good Friday, and suddenly realized the gravity of all Jesus went through on what we call Good Friday, and thus…. couldn’t say a word.

    Sometimes we have to stay in Friday, even if it feels Sunday is not coming.

    I wrote in my journal after reading how affected the pastor was; “Do I love or know Jesus?”


    One last clue and evidence could clinch the argument that Jesus literally prayed aloud all of Psalm 22 on the Good Friday tree. We have heard how he definitely quoted the first verse; we have provocatively proposed that he also prayed aloud the last verse. How many realize that a biblical writer also says clearly that Jesus quoted Psalm 22, verse 22, obviously in the middle of Psalm 22?

    I’m not making this up; It’s Hebrews 2:12, which says:

    “Jesus says,

    ‘I will declare your name to my brothers;
    in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.’"

    Your footnote will call attention to the fact that this sentence, which Hebrews 2:12 says that Jesus says, is Psalm 22:22.

    But does anyone remember Jesus saying that?

    When, where, why does he say that?

    It’s nowhere in the gospels.

    The context is unclear.

    So the jury is out.

    One obvious and overlooked theory is …

    He said it…literally….on the cross.

    Especially if he prayed liturgically the whole thing from memory as we have suggested is possible.

    How could he pray something so downright optimistic while nailed, bleeding, thirsting, choking, dying?

    Makes perfect sense, as does a later verse in Hebrews (12:2)…remember?…which sheds incredible light on all this: “Jesus endured the cross, despised it’s shame for the….joy (!) set before him!”

    How is that possible? He must have seen the doe in the morning, the light at the end of the tunnel, the prize that made it all the Godforsakenness and pain of the torture stake worth it.

    What in the world was the joy that got him through?

    Namely, you! Even me!

    I dare to believe he loves us that much!

    That’s why you have Hebrews 12:2 in the Book.
    Insert your name: “For the Tom set before him; Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame”

    That’s why Psalm 22 ends so astoundingly upbeat, seizing such faith in the future…all while bleeding to death.

    Ironic and intentional. As the footnote to this section in the NIV Study Bible says, “No psalm or prophecy contains a grander vision of the scope of the throng of worshippers who will join in the praise of God’s saving acts.”

    Grand vision…from the cross?

    In fact, let’s pick up at Psalm 22, verse 22. Remembering this is the conclusion of the radically emotional angry burst and blare at God. This is the other end of “God, God, My God, why have you rejected me?....” Remember Hebrews tells us Jesus said this, too:

    S 22:22 I will declare your name to my brothers;
    in the congregation I will praise you.

    PS 22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

    PS 22:24 For he has not despised or disdained
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
    he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

    PS 22:25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

    PS 22:26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    they who seek the LORD will praise him--
    may your hearts live forever!

    PS 22:27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the LORD,
    and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,

    PS 22:28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
    and he rules over the nations.

    PS 22:29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him--
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.

    PS 22:30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.

    PS 22:31 They will proclaim his righteousness
    to a people yet unborn--
    for he has done it.

    Even from the cross, he knew it was finished. God has already done it.

    Such was the vantage point of the rugged cross, somehow. Such was the vista from hell.

    He said all this, shamed and naked.

    That’s right, no mater how many paintings of Jesus on the cross with a strategically placed loincloth…don’t believe it. He almost surely died, and prayed this for you, dressed like most all crucifixion victims: naked. If a person to be crucified was to be stripped of their dignity, they had to be stripped, literally! Remember earlier in
    the psalm (verse 18) his clothing is gone!

    Many of you will remember that the sudden memory that Jesus was naked on the cross empowered Corrie Ten Boom to endure and submit to forced nakedness in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

    So you see this amazing visionary faith in the future…and in us…is not just wishful thinking; not the power of positive denial.

    It was the radical optimism that is only won and wrestled through to praying in pain, naked and shamed, spit on; admitting and visiting anger and pain , so it can all be morphed into untold joy.

    And we can’t get there without praying the whole Psalm..uncut. The joy comes is collective..did you notice how everything hinged on verse 22 when the pray-er imagines himself surrounded by the encouragement of the worshipping faithful. That’s why we are gathered across race and denomination Pray collectively and corporately..the whole Psalm.

    The brother in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped with his life; under death sentence for his faith in Christ, is a chilling reminder that in recent years, over a hundred thousand Christian believers are killed every year, somewhere around the world, just because they are Christian. In countries like Sudan and Indonesia. This year, believers have been literally crucified due to their allegiance to the Crucified One. Their stories are inspiring. But one of my favorite such testimonies happened in ’55.

    That is, 1555. In England.

    Thomas Hauker, brave Christian, was slated to be burned at the stake the next day; all for his relentless faith in Christ.

    A friend of his begged, “Thomas, I have to know if this thing; this Christian faith you have; is real.

    Will you do me one last and huge favor? Tomorrow, when you are burning on that cross; right before you die…if the pain is bearable and your faith is still alive…will you simply clap your hands? Then I’ll know if it’s real. I beg you, Thomas.”

    Thomas Hauker agreed.

    The next day, the fires were lit. Hauker was placed on the stake like his Lord.

    After awhile his hands were completely burned…even fell off.

    The crowd gasped.

    But they hadn’t seen anything yet.

    Thomas Hauker had to keep a promise.

    His friend watched, horrified yet hopeful, as Thomas raised his hands…better yet his burning wrists…and clapped them loudly and firmly together.
    Not once.

    Not twice.

    Three unmistakable and unforgettable times.

    Thomas Hauker’s friend could only say..and pray:

    “I know that it’s real.

    I believe.”

    I can’t pretend to know all that you have been through, or are going through now.

    Maybe like my professor friend…your spouse has walked out, your best friend has been stolen; your house or your dreams struck by lightning or circumstances and gone.

    It could be that like Job, your possessions and family have been ripped away.

    It might even be that like Jesus, your only prayer is:

    “Why, God?”

    And it may well be that Sunday is not coming until we feel and temporarily believe that it is not.

    Lament not lamenting.

    Life is hard. It’s sometimes hell.

    Might as well be honest.
    Jesus was.

    But remember, he prayed the psalm through to its outrageously hopeful end.

    Sunday came.

    I hesitate to tell the end of one of my previous stories, because unfortunately I can’t promise an equally happy ending.

    Remember the spiritual formation professor? Wife left? Best buddy dead? House destroyed?

    Some years later, I heard he was happily married. You might guess to who.

    To the wife of his best friend, the one who killed himself.

    I can’t promise and identical ending to your story.

    But I can promise one thing.

    You can make it.

    This thing is real.

    It works.

    And someone who is not yet saved will be saved because they’re going to witness you clap your spiritual hands…not in some happy-clappy farce; remember your hands may be burned….

    Your wife or husband may have walked out. Your best friend or best plans may have killed themselves. Your house; your life; your dreams may have burned to ash.

    You may have no fingers; no hope, little faith left.

    But you have earned the gift and grace of “persisteverance” through praying the full gospel; the full Psalm 22 . Before Psalm 23.

    What’s the worst they can do: kill you?

    You are indestructible until the will of God is accomplished for your life!

    Everything God allows always has something to do with someone’s salvation.

    Someone in your life is about to say to the Lord, because of you and your honest faith:

    “I know this thing is real.

    I believe.”

    Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

    The Lord be with you!

    (motion for congregation to respond with:)

    “And also with you.”

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