Friday, April 10, 2009

Did Jesus Die on Friday? Is This a Good Question?

This a repeated byline on one cybernews site: "Did Jesus Die on Friday?"

Wrong question.

Completely unimportant when looking at the big picture.

I have my opinions, ones that will be reserved for academic discussions. But this is not the question we need to be answering for the general public.

The question is not even, "Did Jesus Die?" The legal evidence, found not only in the Bible, but also in history books from that time show that it was common knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified at the time of Passover somewhere around 29 or 30, C.E. (that's CHRISTIAN ERA, not "Common," folks). So we know he died. We know how he died.

The question you must answer is, "Why did Jesus die?"

Paul answered it this way, when correcting some heresies that were prevalent in that great Grecian city of Corinth:

1 Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. 2 You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed to no purpose. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, . . . (1 Corinthians 15, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The most important thing Jesus Christ taught Paul in that Arabian desert was that Christ died for our SINS.

There are four important words that we need to be clear about here: "for," "sins," and "according to."

Jesus' death sentence was handed down from the highest court--that Heavenly Court where God sits as the Judge. Think of a prison. A new guy or gal arrives and his cellmates begin to ask, "What are you in FOR?" The newbie answers, "Robbery," or whatever it may be. It does not mean (we hope) so that he can learn to rob, but instead because he robbed. Why did Jesus die? It was because of our sins. Ours.

Your sins. My sins. The sins of the world.

Though the Jewish leaders wanted him put to death out of jealousy, and though the Roman court laid down the sentence, "King of the Jews," the Heavenly death sentence was the prevailing one. It was the true sentence.

You killed Jesus. So did I.

He suffered my death--the one that was hanging over my head, just waiting to be carried out.

God turned all his wrath, his hatred of sin, that sin that kept you separated from God, onto Jesus so that he could bring you back to himself.

All this was in keeping with all of what we call "The Old Testament." Those divine and innerant words prophesied that Jesus would suffer this kind of death. This is what "according to" means. It is in keeping with what was already said.

I fear too often we have begun to take "according to" to mean, "some say;" or, "some sources tell us." In the case of Jesus' death, it is all in keeping with what God said would happen, going all the way back to Genesis 3. Everything was planned, in other words. It was not accidental, as some lost and misguided God-thinkers have said. It was planned and carried out to buy your freedom.

Jesus died. He did it to take your place.

Accept what Jesus did for you. Embrace the cross.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Jungle Saga

The following is from one of our IMB missionaries serving in the jungles between Peru and Brazil:

Ashéninka Team

April 7, 2009

The entrance to the indigenous community of Ashéninka people called San Pedro is a long grade at about a 40 degree angle, about 300 yards long. You have to carry all your gear from the river, across some muddy ground, across a log that lies over a small brook, then up some 50 degree clay steps to the main sloping pathway that rises into the village center. By the time you get there with a heavy backpack you feel like your heart will never slow down. In many communities the folks hear your motor and know that someone is arriving. They hurry to the river to see who it might be and quickly descend to the boat when you reach the bank. Then they generously grab your cargo and carry it energetically to the place where you will lodge. At San Pedro the river is so far from the village center that usually no one knows when we arrive and we’re left to carry everything on our own! When I’m laden with my overstuffed backpack, a bedroll under one arm, a folding camp chair slung over one shoulder, and my back of teaching materials and cameras in the other hand, I look more like a storage rack trying to walk uphill. I asked Dena today how many trips down and back up the San Pedro hill I should make per day in order to get into shape. She suggested three. I just glared and wondered when you’re too old for this line of work.

Because of our short-handedness during the last several years and our emphasis on the farther extremes of the Pichis River valley, we’ve simply not been able to get back to the Río Azupizú to visit and encourage our friends at San Pedro since 2007. In September of that year, along with volunteers from South Carolina, we built upon previously started ministry at nearby Puerto Pascuala as well, but we’ve since not returned. This outing will be to check on the status of the San Pedro church which we helped initiate back in 2003, and to look in on and encourage believers at Puerto Pascuala.

In San Pedro, Pastor Alejandro and his wife Ana, have labored with a solid commitment to the local church, and have weathered criticism and the opposition of errant sects. The formerly strong Adventist community no longer has an Adventist church, but throughout the region there is still much adherence to that group’s emphasis on keeping the Saturday Sabbath, as well as strict rules about which foods can be eaten. Alejandro has faithfully stood for an evangelical doctrine of salvation through grace, and liberty in Christ. They have faced additional obstacles as well. In 2006 their bamboo church building was blown down by a storm. The church rallied with small financial gifts and the Lord sent them outside help as well. Today they worship under a metal roof with walls of sawn lumber.

Please pray for this visit to these two Ashéninka communities and that the Christians in both places will be encouraged in the Lord and will deepen their commitment to following Him, even when persecuted.

Quilmer has been continuing teaching in the Río Negro communities since I left him there in March. He will be joining me again for this Río Azupizú trip. Please pray for the following:
1. Safety in all travels
2. Growth from all teaching and training in Río Negro communities
3. Transportation to San Pedro from town of Puerto Bermudez; we no longer keep a boat in Bermudez
4. Fruitful times of teaching and personal ministry in San Pedro and Puerto Pascuala
5. Leaders Alejandro and Ana in San Pedro, Giovana and Ernesto in Pascuala.
6. Dena, Jacob, and Berta who remain in Pucallpa

We love you and thank the Lord for your support in prayer.

Marty McAnally
Strategy Coordinator
Ashéninka People Group
International Mission Board
Pucallpa, Peru

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Ode to a Dog

Like many of you, we have a dog. He's nothing extraordinary; just a 5 year old Miniature Schnauzer. His name is Rufus. He does no tricks. He barks more than we would like. But his loyalty is without compare.

This morning, Rufus taught me a lesson.

A lesson about God.

When I got up this morning Rufus was there at the bedroom door, waiting as he does most mornings. He was standing against the door, but quickly moved to raise up and stand against my legs as I came out. All the way down the hall Rufus bumped and pawed at me. He stood, tail wagging, head moving from side to side, doing that thing that dogs to to let their masters know they are excited to see them. Rufus stood by my side, moving along with me, looking up expectantly. He wanted his morning attention.

The desire for attention was when I learned my lesson this morning. Rufus' tenacity reminded me how we should be when we pray. Jacob told the angel, as they wrestled, "I will not let you go until you bless me." Rufus would not leave my side until we engaged in his favorite game of tug-of-war with his blanket. I was reminded from that insistence that I must be so tenacious with my Lord. I must cling to him, remain by his side, and otherwise call out to him until he answers me. He promised Jeremiah, "Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know."

God used a dog to remind me of this. God took a simple created animal and taught a great spiritual lesson.

Learn from the dog. Cling to our God, through the Lord Jesus Christ.