Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter Week - That Great Day!

(Johnny Lang singing one of my favorite songs, "That Great Day.")

Sunday, March 31

Easter Day - That Great Day

The greatest days of my life so far are... 
·                     One day in May, 1970, when God became real to me in a very experiential way. I knew He existed, and that He incarnated Himself in Jesus.
·                     August 11, 1973. I married Linda.
·                     July 10, 1982, and September 25, 1985. My sons Dan and Josh were born. (And my stillborn son David died...)

And... the days my grandson Levi (now 4) and granddaughter Harper (now 2) were born!

My life is formed and shaped around these events. They color everything I do, and will do, for all my earthly existence.

The greatest holy day of my Jesus-life is Easter Sunday. That's today! As I worship this morning I'll close my eyes and say, for the bazillionth time, "Thank You, God, for rescuing me." It's forty-five years since my rescue. My heart will overflow with gratitude this morning at Redeemer.

The chains of self-hatred and death that bound me have been broken. I'm thinking of Romans 5:12-21. It's about the reign of condemnation and death brought about by Adam's sin, and the grace-gift of righteousness effected by Christ's death and resurrection. In Adam, death reigns. In Christ, grace reigns. Even more than this, we who are in Christ now reign in life.

Sometimes I go to a cemetery to pray. I'm standing in a field of tombstones. Because I am in Christ, I'm also standing in fields of grace (Romans 5:2). In the kingdom of God tombstones don't rule. Grace does. Empty tombs reign in the kingdom of heaven, because one tomb opened 2000 years ago.

Sin produces condemnation. "Condemnation," from the Greek word 
katakrima, has the root idea of separation or discrimination. Katakrima means: judgment coming down on someone. Because Grace Reigns, there's no more condemnation, no more separation. Grace and mercy are pouring down on me.

THIS IS HUGE! This morning I celebrate this with my Redeemer brothers and sisters and 2.5 billion others around the world.

You can't out-sin the grace of God or out-fail the mercy of God.

The greatest day in history: one Passover Day around 37 A.D. (That's right.)

That Great Day when sin, condemnation, shame, and death were defeated.

And, in my life, there's one more Great Day to come...


1. Take time today to thank God for...
- sending Jesus to rescue humanity from sin, condemnation, and death
- rescuing you from sin, condemnation, and death

2. Pray that you may experience and know what it means to "reign in life" through Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Easter Week - Jesus' Body Lies in a Tomb Owned by Joseph of Arimathea

(Ancient tomb in Jerusalem)



57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. 

 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."


As a new Jesus-follower many years ago there were factual, historical pieces of evidence that strengthened my new-found faith. One fact is this: Jesus' dead body was placed in a tomb owned by Sanhedrin member Joseph of Arimathea. This provides a piece of evidence that, along with other facts (esp. Jesus' postmortem appearances), forms an inductively strong argument for the resurrection of Jesus. 

On thE Saturday following Good Friday Jesus' body lay inert in Joseph of Arimathea's family tomb.
 We can be certain, historically (which means "inductively certain"), that this was the case. How so? Here are two reasons: 

1) this story, in the 4 Gospels and Paul, is found in independent sources that together attest to this; and 

2) by the "criterion of embarrassment" a story of a member of the Sanhedrin helping Jesus' family is unlikely, and not plausibly invented by Christians. This argues in favor of its historicity.

1) We have sources that together attest to Jesus' burial in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.

Paul Barnett writes: "Careful comparison of the texts of Mark and John indicate that neither of these Gospels is dependent on the other. Yet they have a number of incidents in common: For example, . . . the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" (Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History, 1997, pp. 104-5). Regarding the burial stories, the differences between Mark and the other Synoptics point to other independent sources behind Matthew and Luke. 

So what's the point? It's this. If, e.g., a police officer had multiple, independent (unrelated) witnesses to a crime, and they all gave the same report (even if worded differently and with variations), this would provide stronger evidence than if only one report had been given. We have this, re. the burial stories, in the Gospels and Paul. Here is the key Pauline text.

1 Corinthians 15:3 ff.: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

About this William Lane Craig writes:

"This is an old tradition, handed on by Paul to the Corinthian church, which is among the earliest traditions identifiable in the NT. It refers to Jesus' burial in the second line of the tradition. That this is the same event as the burial described in the Gospels becomes evident by comparing Paul's tradition with the Passion narratives on the one hand and the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles on the other.
 The four-line tradition handed on by Paul is a summary of the central events of Jesus' crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, and his appearances to the disciples."

2) Most NT scholars say it is highly likely that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 

Sometimes I hear someone say, "OK, but Christians just made these stories up." This is improbable. As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that was against Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. In this regard New Testament  New Testament scholar Raymond Brown says burial by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable. Why? Because it is almost inexplicable why Christians would make up a story about a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who does what is right by Jesus. This would, for a Jesus-follower in the days after Easter weekend, be an embarrassment. 

Craig Keener writes: "Given early Christian experiences with and feelings toward the Sanhedrin, the invention of a Sanhedrist acting piously toward Jesus is not likely." (Keener,
 The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio- Rhetorical Commentary, 690)

Why is this important? It's important because the location of the tomb where Jesus' body was placed was known. Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" (the mother of James and Joseph) knew where it was, as did the chief priests and the Pharisees. Tomorrow, this tomb will be empty. If Jesus' body was still in the tomb, it could and would have been seen or exhumed on the days following Easter. 

Why would Joseph of Arimathea do such a thing? The answer is: he had become a disciple of Jesus. (Matt. 27:57) Both he and Sanhedrin member Nicodemus saw something in Jesus and stepped out of the box to follow Him. Joseph is a risk-taker who is willing to put aside his place of political and religious power to go after the truth and love he sees in Jesus. He doesn't realize what's going to happen on Sunday. But he wants to make sure his new Lord receives a proper Jewish burial. 


1. Joseph of Arimathea risked his reputation and career to follow Jesus. Reflect on if and how you are risking all for Jesus

Friday, March 29, 2024

Overcoming Fear - Resources


Here are some blog posts I have made, on overcoming fear.

Easter Week - Jesus Screams In the Absolute Darkness


                                                       (Mount of Olives, Jerusalem)



From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"


As Jesus hung suspended on a cross an unnatural darkness began in the middle of the day and continued into the natural darkness of sunset.

New Testament scholar R. T. France writes: “Given the symbolic significance of the darkness as a divine communication there is little point in speculating on its natural cause: a solar eclipse could not occur at the time of the Passover full moon though a dust storm (‘sirocco’) or heavy cloud are possible.” (France, Mark, 651)

N.T. Wright writes: “It can’t have been an eclipse, because Passover happened at full moon, so that the moon would be in the wrong part of the sky.” (Wright, Mark for Everyone, 215)

Craig Keener says that the darkness "could come from heavy cloud cover. But the Gospel writers use it to convey a more profound theological point. (Keener, Matthew, 685)

However it happened, this was a God-caused darkness. Jesus is bearing the load of the sins of all humanity. Sin causes separation; in this case, essentially from God. Sin separates us from Light. Sin and light cannot coexist.

Years ago Linda and I and our sons visited Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs. We were guided into the depths of these tunnels to a place where we were told that, when the lights in the cave were turned off, we would experience "absolute darkness." I thought, "This is cool!" 

The lights went off. We stood there, for several seconds. Our guide said, "You are now experiencing absolute darkness. Place your hand right in front of your eyes. You will not be able to see it." 

Our guide was right. It was so completely dark that I could not see what was right before me. Had the lights failed us that day, we would not be able to see each other. I imagine we would say things like, "Are you still near me?" "Are you here?" "We've got to stay close to each other!" And, "Don't abandon me while I'm in this darkness!"

On that day 2000 years ago the darkness that covered the land was not absolute. But the existential darkness was. The thickness of all this world's sin and failure and shame and guilt weighed on the heart of One Man. Out of this physical and ungodly darkness Jesus screamed. 

"Screamed?" I think so. The Greek wording here is: ἐβόησεν  ὁἸησοῦς φωνῇ μεγάλῃ. Those last two Greek words are transliterated: phone megale. A mega-phone! Jesus mega-screamed these words over and over and over again and again, since the verb indicates continuous action.

He doesn’t call God “Father” but Ὁ θεόςμου ὁ θεός μου… “My God… My God…” Jesus is in relationship with Abba Father God, but it now feels like abandonment. Six hours after he was placed on the cross, three of them being hours of darkness, Jesus feels abandoned by God. 

We don't know how long the feeling lasted. Assume three hours. Perhaps He screamed over and over for that long. And know that, for Jesus, it was utterly real and all-embracing. (Craig Keener comments that "the early church would hardly have invented Jesus’ cry of despair in uttering a complaint about alienation from God, quoting Ps. 22.” Keener, Matthew, 682)

As the weight of this world’s evil converged on Jesus He was giving his life as “a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). The sins of the “many,” which he is bearing, have for the first and only time in his experience caused a cloud to come between him and “Abba” – Father God. 1 Peter 2:24 explains it this way: 

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. Paul, in Galatians 3:13, writes: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

The curse of sin is that it makes a great divide between us and God. Sin breaches relationship. As Jesus bears our sin He experiences the Great Separation. Listen to how N.T. Wright expresses this.

“Out of the unexplained cosmic darkness comes God’s new word of creation, as at the beginning… And it all happens because of the God-forsakenness of the son of God. The horror which overwhelmed Jesus in Gethsemane, and then seems to have retreated again for a few hours, came back in all its awfulness, a horror of drinking the cup of God’s wrath, of sharing the depth of suffering, mental and emotional as well as physical, that characterized the world in general and Israel in particular. The dark cloud of evil, Israel’s evil, the world’s evil, Evil greater than the sum of its parts, cut him off from the one he called ‘Abba’ in a way he had never known before. And welling up from his heart there came, as though by a reflex, a cry not of rebellion, but of despair and sorrow, yet still a despair that, having lost contact with God, still asks God why this should be.” (N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone, 216-217)


1. Take time today to slow down in your heart, get alone by yourself, bow before God, and think of the passion of the Christ.

2. Resolve in your heart to never again take for granted what Jesus has done for you. Consider how and what it means that He bore your sins, and by His stripes you are healed.

3. Express in your own words thanks to God for what He has accomplished on the cross, which is: your justification; your being set right with God.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Easter Week - Jesus Suffered and Died on a Cross

(Jerusalem - some think this is Golgotha)


Jesus died on a cross. 

He died as he lived; viz., below the bottom rung of the honor-shame ladder. Jesus, the Supreme Somebody, was viewed as a nobody, and killed as a nothing.

"Jesus was executed in the manner regularly reserved for insurrectionists." (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 148)

God identified with the abandoned and godforsaken because Jesus the Son was executed in a manner regularly reserved for such people. The Word became expendable flesh, and suffered, and died as one of us. Tim Keller writes:

"Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment. On the cross, he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds ours as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours. In his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken." (Keller, The Reason for God, 29-30)

On a cross, God suffered. Can God suffer? Theistic philosopher Alvin Plantinga writes:

"As the Christian sees things, God does not stand idly by, cooly observing the suffering of His creatures. He enters into and shares our suffering. He endures the anguish of seeing his son, the second person of the Trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. Some theologians claim that God cannot suffer. I believe they are wrong. God’s capacity for suffering, I believe, is proportional to his greatness; it exceeds our capacity for suffering in the same measure as his capacity for knowledge exceeds ours. Christ was prepared to endure the agonies of hell itself; and God, the Lord of the universe, was prepared to endure the suffering consequent upon his son’s humiliation and death. He was prepared to accept this suffering in order to overcome sin, and death, and the evils that afflict our world, and to confer on us a life more glorious than we can imagine." (Alvin Plantinga, "Self-Profile," in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James E. Tomberlin and Peter Van Inwagen, Profiles, vol. 5, 36)

He bore our scandal.

By his stripes we are healed.


For a deep dive into the matter of the suffering of God, see Divine Impassibility: Four Views of God's Emotions and Suffering.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

How to Save Your Failing Marriage (Resources)

Our back yard

(I re-post this a lot, just to keep this ball in play.)

Linda and I are always meeting with couples whose marriages are failing. We consider it a privilege to do this. We also feel with these couples and at times agonize with them. We feel a holy desperation about the state of marriages in America today. In America Christian marriages are in no better shape than non-Christian marriages.

If your marriage is struggling to the point that you are wondering if you will make it, we suggest the following six things.

  1. Look at your own self. Be open to the idea that you are the problem, and not your spouse.  You are your marriage and the reason your marriage is failing. If you do not have this heart-insight then expect no more from your marriage than what it already is.   If you don't see yourself as 100% contributing to your marital failure your marriage will not be saved. Of course the same is true for your significant other. It will take two to do this. But you are not the one to give them this insight.
  2. You won't be able to help yourself. If you keep being "you" in your marriage your marriage will keep seeing the same results. Therefore, get help for your marriage. If you are a Jesus-follower your pastor can pray for you and love you as a couple but may not be skilled enough to counsel you. In Southeast Michigan the two places I recommend are here and here
  3. Get help for yourself even if your spouse won't. It's not unusual for only one partner to realize #s 1 and 2 above.  
  4. Trust your counselor. Be helpable. Be open and willing to look at your own marital failure. Your counselor will not be shocked by anything you say and will not condemn you.
  5. Trust God. Enter deeply into God's presence. Pray. Read Scripture and meditate on it. Read John chapters 14-15-16 and follow Jesus' advice.
  6. Know that your marriage can be saved. Linda and I have never met a marriage that we thought could not be rescued and transformed. This should give you hope! I have written some things about this here.


Can Your Marriage Really Be Saved?

Bolles Harbor, Monroe

Can a failing marriage really be saved? If a marriage is an absolute train wreck, can it be transformed? If you are a follower of Jesus, you have to answer "Yes" to these questions. 

This is because, with God, all things are possible. Nothing is impossible for God. If God created the vast complexity of the universe, then rescuing a marriage is well within God's cognitive and creative abilities.

For the person whose marriage is in cardiac arrest, it all looks unresurrectable. But from my vantage point, and even more so from God's, the dead can be raised. I have seen it happen with marriages, many times. The person in the marital ER won't see it, because they have no experience in saving marriages. But Linda and I have. We have worked with hundreds of marriages at every level of sin and dysfunction. We have seen God work through us and others to set things right and make things better than ever.

The couple who looks at their troubled marriage and concludes, "This could never work", commits the "fallacy of hasty generalization." Here is a benign example.

1. I polled two college students who said Coke is better than Pepsi.
2. Therefore, Coke is better than Pepsi.

Such reasoning is faulty, because the sample is too small. One can't go from 1 to 2. To do so is to reason hastily. 


1. I have never seen a disastrous marriage like mine be helped.
2. Therefore, my marriage cannot be helped.

But I have. Linda and I have a large sample group of hundreds of marriages we have worked with, and you haven't done this. 

In addition, this reasoning doesn't work:

1. I have friends whose marriages failed.
2. My friends are telling me to get a divorce (failure loves company).
3. Therefore, my marriage won't work.

Never look at the failed marriages of your friends to validate the death of your marriage. To do this adds another fallacy to the irrationality, the "fallacy of faulty analogy." No two marriages are the same.

Have we seen train-wreck marriages fail to come together? Yes. They fail because one or both partners refuse to: 

a) get humble and get outside help; 
b) look at their own selves and the faults they bring to the marriage; and 
c) look to the God they say they worship. 

All it takes is one of the two partners to bail out and refuse to get help. 

Sometimes Linda and I look at each other and say, "I doubt if this marriage will ever come together." And then, it does. God does it. We must trust that, even as we do our very best in counseling marital couples, God is doing infinitely better.

God loves to save marriages and families. It happens when:

a) Two people humble themselves and get outside help.
b) Two people look at their own selves and the faults they bring to the marriage.
c) Two people get on their knees and turn to God.

Note: Read Gary Chapman's One More Try: What to Do When Your Marriage is Falling Apart. Excellent!


Marriage Takes Work

Saving Your Marriage: You Can't Derive 'Ought' From Feeling 

Your Marriage Can Be Saved (Especially for Husbands)

Marriage Counseling Material 


Understanding and Overcoming Unrighteous Anger

This morning at Redeemer I was working with our Kids Church. Tim Curry was in the sanctuary and preached on understanding anger and being healed of unrighteous, irrational anger. I have heard many things today about the excellent job Tim did (thank you!). Linda was one who told me what a great message Tim gave. She has already recommended to some people that they listen to his message online, which should be available in a week.

One good result is that our people today are thinking about their own anger, understanding it better, and have hope for healing from sin that emerges from anger.

I'm in some good dialogue tonight about this subject, so I'm re-posting a few things I've written about this.

Dealing with Anger in Relationships

In every good marriage, in every good friendship, in every church, and wherever there are people, feelings of anger happen. I once had a friend tell me, “I never get angry.” My thought was this: here is a person out of touch with what’s going on inside of him. Even God feels anger. Even Jesus felt anger.
When I feel angry, what can I do?  

1. Recognize your anger. 
“Anger” is the emotion a person feels when one of their expectations has not been met. For example, if I drive across town expecting every light to turn green when I approach, I am going to be an angry person. Because this expectation will not be met. Therefore...

2. Identify your unmet expectation. 
Fill in the blank: "I am angry because my expectation that ________ was not met."

3. Evaluate your unmet expectation. 
Is it either: a) godly, reasonable, good, fair; or 2) ungodly, unreasonable, bad, unfair. In my "driving" example above, my expectation was irrational.

4. Reject ungodly or irrational expectations. 
If, for example, you expect people to clearly understand every word that comes out of your mouth, you are now free to reject this as an irrational expectation. Or, if you have the expectation that other people should never make mistakes when it comes to you, I now free you from that ungodly, irrational expectation.

5. If the unmet expectation is godly/fair, then ask: Have I communicated this to the person I am angry with? If not, then communicate it. 
For example, my expectation that persons should take off their shoes before entering our living room may be both rational and of God. But if I have not communicated this to others, my anger at the unfulfilled expectation is still real. My expectation that people should know such a thing without being told is unfair.

6. If you have communicated it clearly to the person you are angry with, then communicate your anger this way: 
Say “I feel angry because my unmet expectation is __________________.

Communicate this in your own way of saying things. Begin your sentence with “I” rather than “You.” For example: “I feel angry…” rather than “You make me feel angry…” Doing it this way asserts without aggressing. For the person who hears this, it does not feel so attacking.

Get rid of irrational or ungodly expectations. As you get free of these things you’ll find yourself less angry.

Remember that from the Christian POV, “anger” is not sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We are not told never to feel anger. There is a righteous anger, and that is not only appropriate but necessary. But when we feel the emotion of anger we are never to sin. In all relationships we are never to be harsh, demeaning, vindictive, or abusive. Remember that  in every close relationship there is anger. The anger-free relationship is a myth, and probably is a sign of unhealth when claimed.

Finally, Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Which means: deal with anger quickly, and in a loving and truthful way. The goal is always restoration of relationship and reconciliation.

I am thankful that only a few times in our 44 years of marriage have Linda I fallen asleep angry with each other. The reason for this is not that we’re some special, exceptionally compatible couple. We are this way because we were taught to do this by godly people who spoke into our lives. We were sufficiently warned about the cancerous bitterness that arises when anger is “swept under the carpet.” We don’t want satan to gain even a toehold in our hearts. We have asked God to help us with this, and He has!

If you have allowed the enemy entrance into your heart because, in your anger, you have sinned, then confess this to God.

Then, receive God’s forgiveness and give Him thanks. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Acknowledge, before God, that you are a new creation in Christ.
Ask God to help you, and trust that He is now doing so. 

Face-to-Face Your Anger and Interpersonal Conflict (Not Facebook It)

Never use things like Facebook or texting to share negative things or work out interpersonal conflict. For such things Face-to-Face is best.

Henri Nouwen writes:

"When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don't send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: "Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?" You don't have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don't have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend."

Think, and pray, before you text or speak.

Using Logic to Manage Anger in Relationships

I'm presenting this to my MCCC Logic class tonight. It's an example of using logic to counsel people, in this case with conflict in relationships.

Note: there is a small but growing Philosophical Counseling movement. See here; and here

The Atonement - My Blog Posts

                                                               (Cross, in our front yard)

My blog posts on The Atonement...

Atonement - The Death of Jesus on a Cross Heals the Separation Between Us and God