Blessing Tour: Why Sorrow Over

Bio

Stephen Todd Jones is a writer and poet from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

While a sophomore at Liberty University, he sustained injuries in a car crash that left him in a wheelchair, and this perspective forms the basis for much of his writing. Through his poetry, he gives us a window into his world and his faith.

Why Sorrow Over

by Stephen Todd Jones

Why sorrow over
That had not
For the same is a
Heavy thought?

Why not enumerate
All here had
Rather than accounting
For those bad?

In content, do you
Not strive to
Obtain that reserved,
It seems, for few?

Or is content a state
Where you are
Never seeking that
From way afar?

Is dreaming wrong to
Do here when
You are dissatisfied in the
State you are in?

Are we not to seek to
Improve our lot,
Or as the fatalist here,
Are we not?

God, reveal to me the
Answer to those,
Or is there a definite
As I here suppose?

Posted with author permission.

Andrea’s Comments:

Poetry is a great vehicle for lament. These are questions many have, as the church today has forgotten the art of lament, and when we begin instinctively to lament, we’re often frowned upon, told we should stop whining and practice contentment, rejoice for all the blessings He’s given us instead of sorrowing for all we’ve lost. What we fail to realize is that lament–crying out before the Lord and being totally, brutally honest with God about where we’re at–is a valid form of worship, too. And when we’ve cried until we have no tears left before His throne, we find His grace is there to lift us up, and, in truth, He’s been weeping with us all along. And that’s when we’re ready to rejoice.

My Prayer:

Abba, Father, come along side Stephan in the gift of lament, and may your Church join with him as well. Lord, I don’t know why You allow Your children to experience such pain; I don’t know why some are healed on earth and why some have to wait until Heaven. I thank you for the promise of healing, and I pray you will make your strength perfect in Stephen’s weakness here on earth until the promise is fulfilled.

Father, I’ve never been physically disabled, and I don’t know what that’s like. But I do understand loneliness and the pain of isolation. I know what it’s like to long to walk in the sunshine. I know what it’s like to be surrounded by darkness, to be attacked and accused, made to feel worthless, and to have an account demanded to justify my continued existence. To be told I can’t do it and I’ll never measure up. Lord, surround Stephen now with your loving-kindness, hold him in your everlasting arms, and whisper your love to him. Speak your truth into his heart to swallow up and cast out the accuser’s lies. Fill him with the understanding of how special he is to you, that you still have a plan for his life, and grant him the reassurance that you will empower him to do all you have for him to do. Remind him of the vision You gave him, reaffirm your covenant, and reassure his heart that though the vision tarry, you shall yet bring it to pass. For I know what is impossible for man, is possible for You, Lord. Grant him the courage to pursue the call you have placed upon his life, no matter how many road blocks and taunts the enemy throws at him. Glorify Your Holy Name in his life and mine.

In Jesus’ Name I pray,

Amen!

Essay on Islam In Response to the Terrorist Attacks on 9/11/01

by Andrea J. Graham

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 brought many issues crashing in on a sleepy America. One of them is the reality that we are not alone on this planet—and our neighbors don’t all consider our opinions to be normative. Now we are left with questions about who are neighbors are and why they don’t seem to like us. It was a fundamentalist group of Muslims known as al Qaeda, sponsored by the ruling Taliban of Afghanistan, that attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the United States, Western Civilization, and everyone else who relies on American prosperity for their own economic growth (this is the number one reason that the world is sending in its sympathies and pledge of support). Arabs and Mainstream Muslims, in the United States and Abroad, are now scrambling (along with the rest of those groups who are scrambling to get out of the path of a rudely awakened Angry Giant, which is the second reason the world is scrambling to cooperate) to put as much distance between them and these Fundamentalists as possible, quite understandably.

There is a bit of a logical problem with some of their arguments, I think, but I can hardly blame them. The United States does not have a history of being able to correctly distinguish their enemies from those who superficially resemble them. Lets not forget the Japanese-American Detention Camps here in the United States—while we were off trying to make the Nazis break up theirs. Does sparing their lives make it okay to take away ones liberty and property? Please. It would of course be inhumane if we repeated that History with the Arab-Americans (most of which aren’t even Muslim).

The brunt of Mainstream Islam’s argument is that the fundamentalist (a.k.a extremist) beliefs of the Taliban and associated organizations is so different from their beliefs that they aren’t really Muslim or Islamic. This is best captured by the cries of the political incorrectness of the phrase, “Islamic Terrorists” that keeps popping up in the media. The Muslims say they find this incredibly insulting because they abhor the actions of the Taliban and that their beliefs aren’t really Muslim at all. I would say that yes, the actions of the Taliban are deplorable and violates both human and Christian wisdom, but I’m still not so sure that the argument of Mainstream Islam follows logical thought lines.

A professor in the Religion Department at Ashland University said something along the lines of, “Fundamentalists take the tenants of the faith to the extreme. They take things literally.” Indeed, the heart of fundamentalism is a literal reading of whatever book they hold as scripture. I also have an article by Prof. Omar Altalib (also of Ashland University) which, in explanation of the Terrorists actions on September 11, 2001, “A Muslim Fundamentalist may do such a thing because they have misinterpreted Islam along the following lines: Jihad, Shaheed, Kaffir, and Khilafa.”

I see a logical discrepancy here. These two statements together are saying the literal (ie, plain) reading of the Koran is a misinterpretation. But what interpretation do they have in mind? Fundamentalists do as little interpretation as possible. It is Non-fundamentalists that get bogged down in interpretation, striving to pull together seemingly contradictory passages of scripture to make them consistent with the theological views they bring to the text, views that are generally dictated by a unbelieving and morally devoid society, which, if not western or American, is patterned after Western Society! And we wonder why Usama bin Laden and those like him consider us a threat!

Prof. Altalib’s article says, “Usama bin Laden incorrectly considers the US government an enemy of Islam.” I’m not sure that statement is entirely true (though of course Mainstream Islam will be quick to try to pacify the Angry Giant with such statements.) While it is true that we have not actively shown animosities towards Islam, the American culture is both increasingly captivating and antithetical to the beliefs and lifestyle of the morally conservative observant believers of not only Islam, but also Christianity, Judaism, and some Eastern Religions as well. The difference being in the Judeo-Christian faiths, we are taught to respond on our knees in prayer rather than with the sword of jihad.

But combine America’s moral decay with the power (both economic and militant, hence their choice of targets) and love of freedom we have and we are indeed a huge threat to such groups as the Taliban and al Qaeda. I would say it was not merely our economic and military strongholds these men wished to attack, they feared the potent and dangerous combination I detailed above, but it is much more difficult to find the heart of the ooze of moral decay leaking out of this country and destroy it before it reaches their shores.

However, there are a few interesting differences between the Taliban and mainstream Islam. Mainstream Islam, in America, is busy walking a tightrope between the moral codes taught in the Qu’ran (and their cultural traditions and heritage) and assimilation into the majority American culture. This puts American Muslims under certain restraints. It is not a coincidence that there are no openly Fundamentalist Muslims of the Taliban sort in the United States (except of course for aliens who have illegally entered the country to commit acts of terrorism).

Islam in Muslim-majority countries is not under such restraints. It is also not a coincidence that most Arabs in this country are Christians. The Christian Arabs have a very good reason for fleeing to places like the United States—the Islamic States of their homelands are busy persecuting them. It is all well and fine for Muslims to put out the hand of brotherhood to Christians when Christians are in the majority (indeed, this is in their own best interests), but what about when they are the majority?

I would like to believe that Muslims are truly peace-loving people and I do not doubt that most of the Muslims in this country are. But there is still the fact that virtually every country that is currently an Islamic State (except maybe Jordan) is persecuting Christians. In fact, of the 40 or so countries that are known to persecute Christians, only ten are not Islamic States.

Many will, of course, respond, “Those are, of course, the fundamentalists, the extremists. Mainstream Islam is not like that.” Yes, and it is in Mainstream Islam’s best interest to NOT be like that and to interpret their way around the passages in the Qu’ran that call for a very literal Jihad against Jews and Christians and others who have not bowed the knee to Allah. For instance, in one place (009.029), the Qu’ran states, “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Exactly how else can one read such a straightforward passage, particularly when we realize that the phrase “people of the Book” here must refer to Christians and Jews?

But I know well enough that there are plenty of recourses, for many “Christian” theologians have used diverse interpretive methods to work their way around biblical passages that are politically incorrect and subversive to American culture. And both Mainstream Islam and Mainstream Christianity are striving to please Mother Culture despite clear calls on both parts to stand against Her–Islam with the sword and Christianity with prayer.

But would Islam’s views stay so safe and politically correct if they where in power? I would like to say yes but History indicates otherwise, “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.” Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of Muslims honestly hold to the peace-loving neighborly version of Islam and refuse to acknowledge any version of Islam that is not politically correct as having any validity whatsoever.

However, that is like claiming that fundamentalist Christians aren’t really Christian because the Government finds their views to be dangerous and otherwise threatening to the status quo when most fundamentalist Christians know the bible better (and more strictly adhere to the teachings of the Lord who’s name we claim) than their Mainstream counterparts. The vast majority of the adherents to any Religion have not closely and impartiality examined what the writings they hold as scripture actually have to say.

Indeed, most people come to the Bible searching for proof of the theology they have already put together as necessary (that is, politically correct) from very unbiblical sources. There is no reason to think that human nature changes when you become a Muslim.



Copyright 2000, All Rights Reserved. You may not copy this article in its entirety for any reason whatsoever. Plagarism is not only illegal and could earn you a big fat F, it is also a sin. If you wish to quote this article I highly encourage you to find a more authoritative source. If you insist, you can contact me for permission at the address below.

The Faces of Jesus

  by Andrea J. Graham

Many have set about to write about the life and person of our Lord Christ Jesus, and as one destined to do so, I have decided to write down for you this short summary in hopes that I shall be able to produce for you a more in-depth look at a future time. Since I have but a short time in which to write, I must limit myself to primarily focusing on just one of the four gospels, and I have chosen Matthew. We see in Matthew as he details for us the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord Christ Jesus, several faces of Jesus that come together to form a more complete portrait of our Lord. Let us begin, as is often best, at the beginning.

The primary purpose for Matthew’s writing in the first place is that he wished to show skeptic Jews that our Lord Christ Jesus truly is the promised Messiah, and accordingly in every portrait and event encompassing the mosaic, he relates it back to old testament prophesy. He also begins for that reason with the genealogy of Jesus, showing him to be the true heir of King David, a face in the mosaic to be discussed in a moment. This purpose is also why he stresses Jesus’ virgin birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, the subsequent escape to Egypt and return to Nazareth. All of these fulfilled prophesies that Matthew quotes for us.

This brings us to the first face of Jesus that Matthew reveals: Jesus the King or Jesus the Son of David. This face is explored first and is reflected on throughout his gospel. Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist at about thirty doesn’t merely mark the beginning of Christ’s ministry, it also marks Him as the true king, as the words “this is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17, NIV) are reminiscent of the words spoken by a priest at a King’s coronation. It is also why Jesus is driven out into the desert to be tempted: He is being tested to see how he plans to govern. His princehood is alluded to when He humors the pharisees by paying His own temple tax, one of the rare instances where He bothers to avoid offending someone (17:24-27). We are also reminded of his princehood every time a beggar cries, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” and we see also that the multitude in Jerusalem receives Him as a conquering King on Palm Sunday (21:1-11).

The next face of Jesus we see is Jesus the Teacher. In many ways, Jesus the Teacher is almost a Moses figure in Matthew as He once again gives the law to the people (5-7). Jesus the Teacher never (or very rarely) stops teaching; everything from His choice of apostles to His choice of transportation on Palm Sunday has a lesson in it for us to discover. His enemies can never outsmart Him no matter how hard they try, as He is too busy dumbfounding and infuriating them with His teachings to be outdone. Of course in Matthew, the tension between Jesus and the pharisees doesn’t really escalate until the final week. However, Jesus the Teacher is patient with His friends though He is confusing with the masses as He speaks in parables to the volatile multitude. Jesus the teacher, it is important to note, however, does not teach as a scribe or teacher of the law taught, but as one with Authority as the masses note to their amazement (7:28,29).

Related to Jesus the Teacher is Jesus the Miracle Worker. Jesus the Miracle Worker heals the sick, raises the dead, makes the blind see, the deaf hear, the crippled walk, the mute speak, commands the storm, walks on water, drives out demons (half of which we now suppose had epilepsy), and so forth (it would take too much time to note them all). Jesus the Miracle worker testifies to the identity of the mosaic of our Lord Christ Jesus. Oftentimes, the miracles are laced with teachings, so we often see both faces–Jesus the Teacher and Jesus the Miracle Worker–at the same time. It is interesting to note that Jesus often warns those He heals not to tell anyone who He was. Many suppose that this may be because of what the Pharisees would (and eventually do) do when it reached their ears. Matthew, however, does not emphasize this point, but instead tells us He did this to fulfill the prophesy: Isaiah 42:1-4 to be precise.

In this midst of all this, we receive a portrait of Jesus Among His Kin. We receive a glimpse of Jesus as the son of Mary and her husband Joseph, a carpenter. We are introduced to His four younger brothers when they accompany their mother to speak with Jesus outside where He is teaching, and we are told He has a few sisters, too. His response to their interruption of His teaching could be seen as hostile, or at least I am sure that I if I said to a crowd, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” and then said that my friends were, my family would be very upset with me (12:46-50). I also note that the only other time He is mentioned returning home, Jesus sadly notes, at the offended incredulous of His neighbors, “Only in his hometown and among his own house is a prophet without honor” (13:57).

On a side note, the other gospels make important notes on this subject. Luke notes that following this last event, the people of Nazareth then make a failed attempt to toss Him off a cliff (Lk4:28-30). Mark notes, ten verses before his version of the “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” scene, “Then Jesus entered a house and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”(Mk3:20,21). John also makes a note on this, “Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”(Jn7:3-5). So, I think it is fair to say that He was not on the best of terms with his kin folk, and I am fairly certain they did not understand Him, the clear exception being John the Baptist whom Luke reports to be a distant cousin of Jesus.

The last four faces we shall deal with are Angry Jesus, Jesus the Suffering Servant, and the two difficult-to-separate faces: Jesus of Power and Jesus the Son of God.

Angry Jesus is the most elusive face of Jesus in the gospels, though it is still present. It is in the background during every clash with the religious authorities of the day, and every time He offends someone. This, however, is not mere fleshy anger, but Righteous Anger reminiscent of the Father’s Holy Wrath. Angry Jesus, accordingly, is a testimony to Jesus the son of God, as this face is all too likely a child of that face. Angry Jesus shows up very clearly only twice in this gospel and then on the same Jewish day: the evening following Palm Sunday, turns over the benches and tables of those people selling in the temple and drives out both seller and buyer, chastising them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves!” (21:13, Is 56:7, Jer. 7:11) Yet He then slips on the face of Jesus the Miracle Worker over the face of Angry Jesus and begins healing the blind and the lame (vs. 14). The following morning, we see angry Jesus again: He withers a fig tree for not bearing fruit to Him, but again that face is quickly hidden by another as Jesus the Teacher takes over.

If Angry Jesus is the most elusive face of Jesus, then Jesus the Suffering Servant was the most misunderstood. We have already seen how most of His own kin didn’t understand Him, but neither did the masses nor even His own disciples understand the “Jesus the Suffering Servant”face. Once Jesus tried to explain this role, “Jesus began to explain to His disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘Never, Lord!’ he said, ‘This will never happen to you!’” (16:21-22). Even His own disciples were hung up on the idea of the conquering Messiah who would sit on the throne of David and banish Israel’s enemies. They did not know that the enemies He came to destroy were Death and Sin, and to do this He would suffer.

It is also important to note that the same masses that greeted Christ on Palm Sunday as a conquering King with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (21:9) were the same masses that shouted “Crucify him!” (27:22) not more than five days later. This leads us to ask ourselves, why? They, too, were looking for the conquering messiah to come and save them from Rome. Just as the disciples didn’t understand the enemy He had come to conquer, they too couldn’t grasp the fact that their King had come not to charge into battle, but to surrender His life and take our place on the cross.

It is rather ironic when the masses answer Pilate, “Let his blood be on us and our children,” for it was this that Jesus came, but they rejected the blood spilt for us all. They said to him, “come down from the cross if you are the Son of God” (27:40), not realizing that He could do that very thing; as he said to the disciple brandishing a sword at his arrest, “Do you not think I cannot call on my Father and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (26:53-4). We see on the cross the same Jesus we see in Gethsemane: a Jesus surrendering to the will of his father, a Jesus who is not killed but instead surrenders His life for both His friends and His enemies.

Interlocked with Jesus the Suffering Servant, are our last two faces: Jesus of Power and Jesus the Son of God. Jesus the Miracle worker testifies to Jesus of power, and Jesus of Power testifies to Jesus the Son of God. Jesus of Power is also Jesus Triumphant, for it is Jesus of Power at the Resurrection(28), as it is Jesus of Power that Peter, James, and John tremble before during the transfiguration on the high mountain (17:1-8), and it is Jesus of Power that says to the eleven, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (28:18-20). Jesus of Power stands behind both Jesus the Miracle Worker and Jesus Angry, fueling them both. Jesus of Power in turn is powered by Jesus the Son of God, whom we get glimpses of throughout the book of Matthew of its own accord and through the other faces of Jesus, all of which in one way or another testify to this one, which is no small wonder, for it was this face that Matthew was trying to show us all along: Jesus, the Son of God, the King who gave His life for all God’s people, this is the portrait the mosaic comes together to form.

So now I have written what I set down to write to you. May the peace, love, joy, hope and grace of our Lord Christ Jesus be with you always and to Him be the glory and the power and all praise forever and ever. Amen.


Copyright 2000, All Rights Reserved. You may not copy this article in its entirety for any reason whatsoever. Plagiarism is not only illegal and could earn you a big fat F, it is also a sin. If you wish to quote this article I highly encourage you to find a more authoritative source. If you insist, you can contact me for permission.

Jesus’ Gift to YOU!!! (and how to get it)

The Problem: Romans 3:23 “For all have sined and fallen short of the glory of God”

The Solution(Gift): John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so whosoever that belives in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

How to Get it: John 3:3 “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

How you do that: Romans 10:9-10 “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.

As you may be aware, you’re not perfect. We all make mistakes, and to be quite honest with ourselves, we really don’t need Satan’s help in that area, but he is eager to give it anyways, so where there is one sin, more follow. Unfortunately, those imperfections are the few (zillion) things that can and do keep us out of Heaven and just as unfortunately, that means once we leave the planet, we have no place else to go but down… way, way, WAY down. What? You don’t think that sounds fair? Well, actually, if we think about it, it is, but luckily for us, Jesus and His Father decided that that was not good, and came up with a plan to help “bridge” the gap a bit (okay, a lot.) The plan was this: Jesus would step down off his royal throne and become one of us. I can only imagine how un-fun that must have been, but He did it anyways. Even more un-fun was last part. Not only did He get the privilege of going from being One with our loving omnipotent God to one of the lowest human life forms, at least according to those of among us that look down on and despise the homeless, (see Mathew 8:20, “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” sounds pretty homeless to me) He also got to die one of the most humiliating and painful deaths imaginable–crucifixion. Then He got to go spend three days in hell battling Satan (a battle that naturally ended with His victory in which He rescued all the old testament saints and good Jews according to some), before returning to earth in a set of clothes that at least faintly resembled His former glory and brandishing the keys to both Heaven and Hell to prove to us fair mortals He was alive and in control, and finally at long last, more than 33 painful years later, finally was able to return to His kingdom. This, was His Gift to us. Because of what He did, anybody who believes in Him gets a free visa into His kingdom… and His family.

And all we gotta do is ask for it, huh, how about that? A gift that is actually still a gift! Which reminds me of another verse in Mathew(7:7), “Ask and you shall receive.”

Let your light shine for Jesus!

shining light candle
 

Steps to take:

1)Create your light

  • Become a Christian, receive Jesus’ Gift to you.
  • Pray to God that you want to be a light
  • Find a good church and attend faithfully
  • Pray daily, read the bible, and meditate on His word
  • Fellowship! Build relationships with your fellow Christians!

2)Clean your light

  • You can’t shine for Jesus if no one can see it, so give it a good cleaning
  • Check yourself against the Word. Are you living up to the standards it sets?
  • Listen to your brothers and sisters in Christ when they offer advice.
  • When you discover sins in your life, pray that God helps you overcome them.
  • When necessary, seek counseling from fellow Christians or your pastor.

3)Share your light

  • Pray for the desire to share your light. Rarely do we do something successfully if we didn’t want to do it.
  • Make sure your friends know you are a Christian
  • Pray for unsaved friends, ask God to help you to be a witness to them.
  • When God gives you an opportunity to shine, take it. You may have to pray for this a while before it happens.
  • God has given you a personality and set of gifts designed to fill a specific niche in the candelabra otherwise known as the Body of Christ. If your church offers any classes that’ll help you explore these, great! Even if you have to resort to trial and error, find what shining methods work for you and go at it! It’s the shining that’s important, not the technique! As long as you are shining, you can safely ignore those who insist you have to shine their way. God knows someone who needs a light just like yours!
  • Some things you can do: Join Christian groups at school, church, on the internet, create a webpage, pass out tracks, there are tons of ways to share your light!
  • If you already have a website, then consider linking to this page or creating one of your own. Let’s start a candle light vigil for our Lord!

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Now playing: Michael Card – Bearers Of The Light
via FoxyTunes

Alone

 

Alone

no one cares

no one sees

Alone

no one wants me

no one loves me

no one embraces me

Alone

no one hears

no one understands

Alone

no family

no fellowship

no comfort

only mockers

only users

only scorn

only black shadow

where friends and family once were

betrayed

denied

beaten

whipped

jerked around

burdened down

kicked

spat upon

crucified

who would have thought

God could feel

Alone too

 

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Now playing: Sonicflood – Holy One
via FoxyTunes