He Is Alive


The_Empty_Tomb004Sunday we’ll celebrate Easter. Those adventurous enough to awake in the waning hours of night and find their way to a Sunrise service actually commemorate the moment of discovery.

Grieving women, determined to provide Jesus with a proper burial, made their way to the tomb where they’d seen His body laid. They brought with them the necessary spices to preserve His corpse, but the tomb had been closed with a stone too big for them to maneuver.

According to Mark’s account this difficulty hadn’t dawned on them before they set out. Otherwise they could have asked a couple of the disciples to accompany them. Interestingly, they didn’t decide to turn back once they realized they couldn’t get into the tomb with that boulder blocking the entrance. Perhaps they kept going instead of searching for a few strong men because they knew a Roman guard had been stationed there. Were they hoping to find mercy from their persecutors?

No telling what kept them going, but their persistence paid off. When they got to the tomb, the stone was already rolled aside. That’s when they first heard the truth: Jesus isn’t in the tomb because He’s alive. Not, mysteriously missing. Alive!

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:4-7)

I love this announcement. It carries a subtle rebuke–as if the angels are saying, Hel-lo! Weren’t you paying attention? He told you He’d be out of here in three days. And you’re still looking for Him in this tomb? Why? Why would you do that?

I can only imagine the confusion those women felt. The shock at not finding His body, the questioning–yes they remembered His words; could it be true? Had He meant literally “rise from the dead”? The flicker of hope fanning ever brighter. And at last they went to report what they’d seen to the disciples.

Two at least, Peter and John, went to see for themselves. But seeing, they still didn’t totally get it. They recognized that the women had told the truth–the tomb was open and there was no body, even though the grave wrappings were still in place. It was as if His body had evaporated. Today we might think it looked as if His body had been transported elsewhere, leaving the grave wrappings undisturbed.

All they knew was that there was no explanation–apart from the one Jesus had given them repeatedly and with increased frequency: He had risen from the dead. He was alive.

The Living Christ makes Christianity unique among all other religions. And wonderfully, the Bible tells us His resurrection is emblematic of our own resurrection to new life: “and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18b).

Paul clarified this in his first letter to the church in Corinth. Apparently some people were teaching that there was no resurrection. Paul said Christ’s resurrection proved this to be false:

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Cor. 15:20-23)

So, yes, come Easter morning, celebrate because Jesus has risen; He has risen indeed! He is alive!

Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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Accused, Betrayed, Denied, Forsaken


The_Crucifixion011During Passion Week, we Christians commemorate the great sacrifice Jesus made for us, giving His own life in order that we might experience newness of life, freedom from sin, reconciliation with God. But our focus often centers on Christ’s physical suffering. In looking at the events surrounding His crucifixion, however, it becomes apparent that He suffered in every way humanly possible.

First, His suffering had a social component. One of His twelve chosen followers in whom He poured His life, betrayed Him to His enemies. One of His inner circle, who knew Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, who saw Him transfigured, denied Him. All His followers abandoned Him, literally leaving Him for dead. Jesus could not have been more alone.

His suffering was also intellectual. Jesus identified Himself as the Truth, yet He endured false accusations. People twisted His words, claiming He said things He didn’t say. His very purpose for coming to earth was misrepresented and misunderstood. He was also subject to an illegal trial which unfolded in six phases. He was questioned and denounced by Herod when He gave no answer, condemned by the High Priest when He did answer, and ignored by Pilate when He offered him the Truth.

Jesus suffered emotionally, too. The Roman soldiers made fun of His position as King of the Jews. As Pastor Swindoll taught, those godless men who hated the Jews presented Him with three things that marked a king: a robe, a scepter, and a crown. The crown was made of thorns, the scepter was a reed, and the robe, identified in Matthew as a chlamys, was a short robe covering the shoulders and ending at the elbows such as military men wore. He was naked from the waist down.

In addition, as He hung on the cross, onlookers and even for a time both thieves dying with Him, taunted Him. Somewhere nearby soldiers gambled for the few possessions He owned–His clothes. And ultimately, He had to put His mother into the care of someone else.

I believe the worst suffering of all, however, was what He went through spiritually. Jesus Himself gave voice to what He was experiencing:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matt. 27:46)

Jesus, with God and also God, somehow experienced forsakenness by God. He was, after all, becoming sin for us. And Holy God has no part with sin.

Yes, the pain and suffering Jesus went through, being whipped and nailed to a beam, hung above the earth for hours until He died of His wounds–this was physical torture few of us can imagine, and yet His sacrifice extended beyond one part of who Jesus was. It encompassed His total person. He give Himself completely to be consumed by the Consuming Fire of God’s wrath.

And as He died, He said the most wonderful words possible: It is finished. The burden of sin paid for, the certificate of debt canceled.

How can we not love a Savior such as Jesus!

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm  Comments Off on Accused, Betrayed, Denied, Forsaken  
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Good Friday Or Good Wednesday?


The_Burial006When I was younger, I was troubled by the fact that Jesus said He would be in the tomb for three days and three nights and yet apparently spent something closer to a day and two nights in the grave.

When I was older, I learned that the way the Jews reckoned time, He would have been considered to be dead and buried for three days. They began reckoning for each day at sunset, not sunrise, so the day He died and was buried would be day one, the Sabbath would be day two, and the end of the Sabbath, at sunset the first day of the week would begin and that would be day three.

I’ll admit, ever since I heard that explanation, I thought it was cheating. Besides, it didn’t answer what Jesus said specifically:

for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt. 12:40 – all caps indicates a quote of the Old Testament, boldface emphasis is mine)

Years and years ago, Pastor Charles Swindoll, who used to pastor my church, preached about Christ’s death and burial, postulating that perhaps we’ve figured His day of death incorrectly. Using the information from the gospels, it’s clear that Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath and that He was resurrected on the first day of the week, at or before sunrise after the Sabbath.

But there’s a very good possibility that He may have been crucified, not the day before the Sabbath, but before a Sabbath.

First, the crucifixion took place during Passover–not a one-day event, but an eight-day celebration. How the commemoration was to take place is explained in both Leviticus and Numbers. Here’s the description from the latter:

Then on the fourteenth day of the first month shall be the LORD’S Passover. On the fifteenth day of this month shall be a feast, unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work . . . On the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. (Numbers 28:16-17, 25 – emphasis mine)

These days of “holy convocation,” which could fall on any day of the week, apparently were understood to be a type of Sabbath. Leviticus 23 lists the holy convocations, starting first with the weekly Sabbath, then Passover and finally the Day of Atonement. In describing the latter, the term Sabbath appears:

You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath. (Lev 23:31-32 – emphasis mine)

Now add in the information from the gospels. Mark and Luke say Jesus died on the day of preparation, the next day being the Sabbath (Matthew simply refers to it as the preparation), but John adds some information, clarifying the day of preparation:

Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” (John 19:14)

Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (John 19:31 – emphasis mine)

A High Day, one of those Holy Convocations, perhaps–treated as a Sabbath. And in this instance, perhaps falling in the middle of the week, a Wednesday, meaning that Jesus would have been buried on Wednesday night, and remained in the tomb all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, just as He said.

How important is our celebration of Good Friday rather Good Wednesday? Should we start a campaign to get it changed? Hold boycotts of Good Friday services? None of the above.

For one thing, identifying the day of Christ’s death requires some speculation, one way or the other (on Friday, the speculation is how the time Jesus spent in the tomb adds up to three days and on Wednesday, determining the relation to the Sabbaths mentioned). If we knew that the apostles instituted Good Friday services, we could resort to tradition, but I’m not sure when they were first held.

I have a hard time imagining the first century Church doing so. Since they had actually witnessed His death, they would likely center their celebration on His resurrection. Then, too, Jesus Himself instituted Communion with the specific instruction to do it in remembrance of His broken body and shed blood. Why add in a separate day of commemoration if the Church already regularly held such a remembrance?

Nevertheless, remembering Christ’s death on our behalf, whenever it takes place, is not a bad thing. It’s actually quite a good thing as long as we understand He is alive today, seated at the right hand of the Father.

But here’s the reason I like the idea of Good Wednesday. It counters the idea that the Bible erred or that Christians have to do fancy footwork to make the facts fit. Simply by interpreting Scripture with Scripture, and believing that Jesus meant what He said, we can discover that yes, it is possible, dare I say probable, that Jesus died earlier than is commonly thought.

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 6:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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Tears Of The Messiah


Jerusalem
Most people know that Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb before He raised him back to life. It’s a touching scene, one that has produced any number of sermons.

Fewer people, I tend to think, know about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem on his final entry into the City of David. Luke records the scene, as well as the build up to it. Clearly Jesus cared deeply–not for the walls and the buildings, but for what Jerusalem stood for. This was the place God intended to be central to His worship. His people were there, the temple known as His house was there.

37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting:

    “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:37-44)

Earlier, when Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He had similar thoughts:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! (Luke 13:34)

Jesus was deeply moved by the rejection of His rebellious people. He wanted them to receive their King, to experience the peace with God He offered.

Scripture makes it clear that God’s desire is still for rebellious people to repent and turn to Him. Jesus said in Matthew, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish” (18:14) The in 1 Timothy, Paul wrote

This [prayer on behalf of all men] is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I’m in awe that Jesus unabashedly wept for those who would turn their back on Him, that God, loving the world so much, paid the price for our sin just so we could enjoy peace with Him:

you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

I’ve never thought about it much before, but might not Jesus weep for each person who walks away from Him?

Jeremiah is sometimes called the weeping prophet because in a number of places Scripture mentions him weeping for Judah and their stubborn, rebellious heart–well, more precisely for the destruction of the nation which he foresaw.

At one point he prophesied that the people who had been taken to Babylon in the first wave of captivity would be better off. They would prosper in their new land and one day be restored to Judah. But those who stayed or who fled to Egypt would bring destruction on their heads. I’m sure the people who heard him thought he was nuts. Captivity good, freedom bad, he seemed to be saying.

The problem was, they had limited sight. Jeremiah was speaking the words given him by omniscient God.

So, too, Jesus knows we are in desperate need of His life-giving blood–more dramatically than if we were in need of a transfusion. What’s more, He bled out for us. Why, then wouldn’t He weep over those who wave Him off and walk on by to destruction?

Published in: on March 26, 2013 at 7:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Triumphal Entry


Palm_Sunday012Yesterday is commonly referred to as Palm Sunday, the day Christians commemorate Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. He rode on the colt of a donkey, something associated with the kings in Jewish culture, and his followers spread their cloaks before him, waved palm branches, and shouted Hosanna!

Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)

According to some the translation of hosanna is, save, I pray. The term is linked to Psalm 118:25 which says,

O LORD, do save, we beseech You;
O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!

Hosanna.

Most likely, in the eyes of Jesus’s followers and the Jews in Jerusalem suffering under Rome’s oppressive rule, Jesus was coming to the nation’s capital to establish His kingdom. They might well have been planning a coronation rather than a funeral.

Looking back through the lens of history, we know that Jesus did not take over the government of Judea. From a political standpoint he was hardly experiencing a triumphal entry, so why do Christians persist in calling it by that name? Why not, fated entry or doomed entry?

I don’t know what others think, but as far as I’m concerned, Triumphal Entry fits–not in the way those in the first century running ahead of him or coming along behind shouting Hosanna intended it, but in the way Jesus planned to fulfill His own purpose.

He had not left Heaven to come to Judea to establish a temporary earthly kingdom over that one small country. Rather, He had His sights set on the World.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus entered Jerusalem, triumphant in the knowledge that the plan established before creation was nearly completed. He was on the last lap, coming down the home stretch with the cheers of the crowd echoing in His ears. No, they didn’t understand what His job was or what He yet had to face. They cheered from their ignorance for the hope of something temporal; He came to offer an imperishable, everlasting inheritance by triumphing over death and hell, over sin and guilt, even over the law.

So, yes, this step toward His crucifixion was His triumphal entry. His triumphal exit when He broke free of the tomb was still a few days away.

Published in: on March 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm  Comments (2)  
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March Madness


USAirwaysCenter-2008NCAAWestRegionalWhat’s mad about watching college basketball? Here are my random thoughts about the tournament so far.

The Pac-12 has once again shown how underrated a conference they are. Too many of the media pundits fall in love with one line of thinking–this year that the Big Ten is by far the superior conference. Of all people to be the voice of reason–surprise, surprise, it’s Charles Barkley who said more than once that the teams out west don’t get the respect they deserve.

I’m looking for at least one Pac-12 team to make the elite eight.

I don’t fill out my brackets like everyone else. I pick winners round for round. I mean, if you don’t have the right two teams playing each other in round two, how can you possibly predict a winner?

Last night I finished the night 11-5. Like many others, I missed on New Mexico vs. Harvard. I saw the Lobos play in the Mountain West final and thought they looked impressive, but I remember UCLA losing to Princeton some years back, so I know it’s unwise to take an Ivy League team for granted. Of course, New Mexico may simply have been experiencing the letdown that naturally comes after achieving a goal. You feel relieved, not hungry.

I lost all three of my upset specials. I chose Bucknell over Butler, but Butler won by 12. Then I picked Montana over Syracuse, but by over 40 points the Orangemen demolished the Montana Grizzlies who didn’t have their leading scorer due to injury. My third miss was taking Valparaiso over Michigan St. I saw the Spartans play in their conference tournament and thought they could be upset. But it wasn’t to be. Michigan St. won by eleven.

The game I’m second guessing myself about is Pittsburgh vs. Wichita. I wanted to pick Wichita. I started to write them into my bracket, but then I remembered Pittsburgh’s reputation for tough defense. I went with the number eight seed, and I was wrong! Wichita pulled off the minor upset.

Glancing at today’s scores, it doesn’t look like I’ll fare quite as well with this half of the bracket. As long as UCLA wins, I won’t mind.

Yea, March Madness! 😀

Published in: on March 22, 2013 at 6:38 pm  Comments Off on March Madness  
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How Important Are The Details?


pick, pickIn more than one article critiquing the Mark Burnett/Roma Downey TV mini-series The Bible, reviewers pointed out “picky” details–Adam portrayed as a European-ish white guy, not an African or a Middle Easterner. And beardless. More than once I read remarks about the angels outfitted much like Ninja warriors.

Are details like this important?

My first thought is, Come on, people, quite being so picky.

But hold on.

Aren’t the picky things noticeable when they pull us out of the story? Just recently I read a post by agent Steve Laube about inconsistencies in novels that editors don’t catch but readers do. It reminded me of a book I recently read in which basketball details were wrong.

For example, Team A faced off against Team B in the NBA finals, with Team B hosting game 1. Some pages later the series is 3-2 and game 6 is being played at Team A’s home court.

But hold on. Fans of pro basketball know the finals are a 2-3-2 format–games 1,2,6 (if necessary), and 7 (if necessary) are played at the home of the team with the best over all regular season record. Games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary) are played at the home of the two seed. So no way could game 6 be played on Team B’s home court if game 1 was at Team A’s.

There was a similar stumble earlier connected with basketball (in the NBA, only one free throw when a technical foul is called) and another one with the weather in Southern California (a week of rain in May? Right! Doesn’t happen!) And another one on a cross-country drive. Three days, the character determines. It will take three days to reach her destination. She starts out on a Sunday and arrives … on a Sunday. O-o-kay.

But here’s the thing. If I were writing a review of this book, I would feel like I was being overly critical to point out these slips. I mean, did any of those matter in the long run? No. Will people who are not basketball fans, or residents of SoCal, even notice? Probably not. Does the day of the week really matter? Not really. Then what’s the big deal?

Do the details in fiction matter?

Actually, yes, they do. The details give the story a sense of credibility. I’ve said before, one of the things I think J. K. Rowling did so well was construct an incredible fantasy world. Others say she merely played off British boarding schools and that may be true. But through the details Ms. Rowling included, the world of magic came alive.

Horseless carriages that convey themselves, a sorting hat, a whomping tree, portkeys, food that appears in dishes on the dining tables, a ceiling that reflects the weather outside, broken wands mis-repaired that send spells incorrectly–on and on, each detail woven into the story with a high degree of consistency. There weren’t three school houses in one book and four in another. The new students weren’t placed in theirs by the Sorting Hat in one and by the Sword of Gryffindor in another.

Of course, the longer the book, the greater number of details there are to keep straight. An epic story like the seven Harry Potter books requires a great deal of work to keep all the details straight.

But I’ll come back to the point–why does it matter? I said credibility or realism, if you will, and that’s perhaps the greatest point, but in tangent is the fact that inconsistencies may pull readers out of the “fictive dream.” Rather than living side by side with the characters, the reader stops: Wait a minute, didn’t she say the trip took three days, and didn’t she leave on a Sunday? Then how can they be arriving on a Sunday? Did I miss something?

Lack of clarity can do essentially the same thing. The details might be right, but if they aren’t expressed clearly, the reader is still stopping, still looking back and checking to see why what she thought had been conveyed actually was something different.

So yes, details matter. At least they should.

Do editors give a pass to certain authors because they know readers will buy, read, love, and praise their books no matter what? To rectify this, should reviewers actually start pointing out inconsistencies . . . or will the point be lost because others will cry, Stop being so picky!

What do you think? Do you notice inconsistencies? Do you think those things should be pointed out in reviews?

Do Good And Evil Exist?


ThroughthescopeI think people with a theistic worldview understand that good and evil exist–evil being the absence of good. However, in this present day and age, more and more people have bought into the idea that the concept of evil is the only real evil.

Everything else in human behavior which is undesirable simply needs to be bathed in education. Those who do horrific things, like shoot kindergartners in their classroom or plan to gun down their fellow students in college, simply haven’t benefited from a proper upbringing in which they’ve been given what they need.

Basic psychology, we’re told, or “common” sense says that children simply need to receive proper care and instruction at the proper time, and they will be happy and productive citizens.

Mind you, I’m not knocking proper care and instruction. Every parent should give his child love and security along with provision for their basic human needs. Every child should be instructed about the things that will make them safe and will, in turn, help them keep others safe.

As good as education is, however, kids still do things they know could seriously harm them. And the older they are, the more apt they are to do these harmful things.

That seems counter intuitive. With all the education, these older kids should know better than to do drugs, smoke, have unprotected sex. But guess what? A lot of well-parented kids who never lacked love or any of the good things in life still go against their education.

The “evil is a myth” folks answer this fact by saying children are naturally curious, so of course, if a parent says no to a toddler who wants to stick her finger in the electric outlet, we can expect her not to listen because she is curious.

Given that rationale, I don’t understand what the point of “education” is. I mean, if a person knows the child won’t listen and must discover on her own, why don’t we forgo the wearisome instruction and let kids find out the hard way that drunk driving kills, gangs aren’t beneficial groups, and drugs are addictive.

I suspect with people like Lindsey Lohan we should simply be understanding: she needs to discover what’s healthy for her and what’s not.

The thing is, those who hold to the view that those like Ms. Lohan who do anti-social things, such as steal or drive drunk, simply needed to be properly nurtured and cared for as children, have no explanation how this “bad parenting” process began.

If humans are good and only in need of proper parenting, what caused the first bad parents to improperly provide for their children? Because clearly the teetering domino effect had to start somewhere. In this way of thinking, perfect parents, parenting perfectly, can’t produce imperfect kids.

And yet, somewhere along the line, children started doing unwholesome, even harmful, things. Which suggests there’s something inside the child herself that responds imperfectly.

Of course the Bible gives the clear explanation:

At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. (Romans 7:9-13, New Living Translation – emphasis mine)

It’s not a lack of empathy or proper nurturing or instruction or maturity that causes people to do hateful things. It’s sin, that thing in the human heart that makes us want to do the very thing we’re told not to do.

Of course, without recognizing our sin, we have no realization of our need for a Savior, so getting this good and evil issue right is pivotal.

Published in: on March 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Joy Of Conferencing


Not Mount Hermon, but not so very different either.

Not Mount Hermon, but not so very different either.

I love writers’ conferences. I’m not going to any this year, but my favorite one–Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference–starts this week, and a number of people I know are planning on attending either as conferees or as presenters.

Years ago I attended a conference here in the Southland, which was nice because I didn’t have the added expense of a hotel room. It was held at a Christian university in the area so the facility couldn’t have been better. However, the director changed and the venue changed, and then the conference ended.

Another small–I’m talking, fifty people at most–conference, ACW, used to be held in the area at a hotel. I could still commute and liked that one too depending on who the presenters were. There was something really intimate about such a small gathering.

I went to another one day conference in the area put on by the Orange County Christian Writers’ Fellowhip, and that was good too (they recently expanded to a two day conference, I believe). It was medium sized and had some good workshop instructors.

Then there was the ACFW conference a number of years ago. I liked my classes and had a chance to meet a number of online friends in person.

In fact, the best part of conferences, I think, is getting to hang out with writers. I like learning the important content the instructors give, too. I’m an incurable note-taker so fill up pages at these conferences. I also use up all the slots I’m given to meet with editors and agents.

Mount Hermon seems like a good conference for those of us attending–we get to have our work in front of either editors or agents as a submission, if we choose, or we can ask for a critique from one of those or from an experienced writer. Then we can make appointments with staff we’d like to talk with or we can sit with them at lunch or dinner. Since the conference officially runs from Friday noon to Tuesday noon, that’s a lot of meals to spend pitching projects or just getting to know professionals in the business.

Besides all that, there are continuing classes on a particular subject of your choice, so you can go in depth. There are also editor and agent panels and other workshops about interesting topics. Of course there are also keynote speakers that tie the whole conference together. I’ve been there when Ted Dekker was a keynoter and another year when Jerry Jenkins was. But my favorite was Liz Curtis Higgs.

Mount Hermon has another thing going for it–it’s in Mount Hermon. I don’t know that there’s a more beautiful spot for a conference–and my favorite place in the world is Colorado. So you can see, I think a lot about the Mount Hermon Conference site. There’s something about those redwood trees. They’re not just big, though they are that. They are majestic. Or noble. It’s one of those things everyone tries to capture on film, but it just doesnt’ translate to an image. Besides, they create this amazing separation from the busy urban coastal communities nearby, so you feel as if you are miles and miles away from distractions (unless you bring them with you).

I love writers’ conferences, all types–small, large, short, long. I love talking about writing, hearing stories about writing, getting feedback about my writing. I even like writing, so one of the things I’d like to do is go to a writing retreat where much of the time is spent writing.

For now, though, I’m content to troll the Internet for news about conferences in the hopes that someone is blogging about their experience so I can live vicariously through them! 😉

The Bible On TV


John the Baptist preaches that Christ is the life and light of men.

John preaches that Christ is the life and light of men.

Being as I am still living in the dark ages (I may have been the last person on the planet to get a cell phone), I don’t have cable TV and therefore don’t get the History Channel. As a result, I can’t see for myself what I think of The Bible, the five-part, ten-hour series produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

However, I am finding talk about the series quite interesting. The ratings dipped some in week two but still outstripped the competition. Apparently some 30 million viewers have tuned in over the three-week period.

Never mind that the reviews have been tepid (see for example the one in the LA Times). One accusation is that the shows are quite violent, another that they are sensationalized.

Since I haven’t seen the TV production, I can’t offer an opinion. I can say that the stories in the Bible are quite violent. That’s a reflection of Man’s nature and God’s judgment. We don’t often think about all the people who died in the flood, for example, since the Biblical story focuses on the eight people who were saved. But to render the story accurately, the film version would have to show the loss of life along with the saving of life.

David faced Goliath in the middle of a war, so it would be logical to expect that segment to be fairly bloody. In fact Biblical times were quite violent. Even New Testament times.

The Roman rule was oppressive and insurrections were put down mercilessly–I was reminded of this when I read Tosca Lee’s Iscariot. I don’t know how peaceful the Burnett-Downey production will make it appear, but we know the Pharisees tried to stone Jesus once, that they did stone Stephen, that an adulteress would have been stoned had not Jesus answered her accusers as He did, and that He wasn’t the only person crucified. No, the Pax Romana was earned by the blood of the oppressed.

As far as the criticism that the shows are overdone and sensationalized, I suppose I’d have to see them to decide for myself if I agree or disagree. The irritating thing is that all the talk today is about the actor playing Satan looking like President Obama. I much prefer conversation about substantive issues, not some “Jesus in the smudge on the window” type imagination.

Some people, interestingly, criticize the TV series because they actually are criticizing God. Here’s a sample:

I won’t go into detail except to point out that I’ve never understood why God found it necessary to kill children and livestock. I almost understand the notion that adults were all sinners deserving of death (presuming the validity behind all that), but even the Catholics have the concept of the Age of Reason, before which children aren’t held responsible for sin because they’re innocent of responsibility for poor decision-making.

But what about the poor livestock?! With this story, as with God’s later plagues on Egypt, I’ve never understood why an infinitely wise God would punish soulless, conscious-less animals for their masters’ wrongdoings. Cattle are just wandering around . . . waiting to be slaughtered. Is their very existence a crime against God? If not, then why drown them all?

In reality, I prefer that to the jabs at the particular races of the actors or at the quality of the script. At least then the people are actually interacting with the text. The biggest problem I see with dramatizations of the Bible, and, in fact, with Biblical fiction, is that people will believe the modern interpretation over the Biblical record. That’s how we “know” there were three wisemen or that the shepherds say a really bright star.

Daniel019It appears that all this talk about casting President Obama in the role of Satan has detracted from some of the best of the series–the refusal of Daniel’s friends to worship a false God and being rescued from the fiery furnace meant to destroy them, John the Baptist, and the first appearance of Jesus. My guess is that “Satan” made his appearance in the temptations of Christ in the wilderness. How sad that the focus became so skewered.

So what do you all think? Are you watching The Bible? Why or why not? What do you think about it? What are they doing right? What could be better?

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