Posted by: T. Boyd | December 9, 2016

Gleanings from Fleming Rutledge

(Last Update: August 6, 2017)

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ


This is the most important book I have read this year, other than the Bible.  Mrs. Rutledge took over 20 years to write this, and it is a masterpiece – it should be read by every serious believer who wants to understand the true meaning of the Atonement by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I plan to write more about what this book is stirring in my heart – it is so profound and addresses so much of what is wrong with the Christian Church, at least in the affluent Western countries.  I want to help share these thoughts.

For now, I will quote some of the passages from the book (the Kindle edition), and will put some impressions in the comments section.

(Update: April 24, 2017 – have been too busy to keep this posting up-to-date with the reading, so there are gaps – hope to come back to the missed chapters)

Most churchgoing people are “Jews” on Sunday morning and “Greeks” the rest of the time. Religious people want visionary experiences and spiritual uplift; secular people want proofs, arguments, demonstrations, philosophy, science. The striking fact is that neither one of these groups wants to hear about the cross.
Rutledge, Fleming. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ – (Kindle Locations 2458-2460). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
“A Spirit who could derogate from the glory of Christ crucified in order to promote a more dazzling glory of his own, who passes by the sufferings of Christ in order to offer us a share in a painless and costless triumph, is certainly not the Holy Spirit of the New Testament [who] glorifies, not himself, but Christ, and therefore his mission is to reveal the full glory of Calvary, and to bring us into possession of all the blessings that by his death Christ has won for us.” 
– (Kindle Locations 2503-2507).
A feature of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion that is apparently Bach’s own invention is not only musically arresting but also of great theological importance. Jaroslav Pelikan describes it thus: 

[Bach uses] the “halo,” the string quartet that plays various chords to accompany each of the sayings of Jesus and, it has been said, “floats round the utterances of Christ like a glory” [quoting music historian and Bach biographer Philipp Spitta]. . . . Bach was apparently the only one [among composers of his time] to see that the absolutely appropriate place to suspend the “halo” leitmotiv was at the cry of dereliction, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. . . . The glory of the Father was withdrawn from the solitary figure on the cross . . . now he is all alone and forsaken.  – (Kindle Locations 2681-2688).

Sometimes it is objected that a father who would allow his own son to be cursed and abandoned must be monstrous. Trinitarian thinking is of the essence here, however. The Son and the Father are doing this in concert, by the power of the Spirit. This interposition of the Son between human beings and the curse of God upon Sin is a project of the three persons. The sentence of accursedness has fallen upon Jesus on our behalf and in our place, by his own decree as the second person. 
 – (Kindle Locations 2726-2730).
We have looked at passages from Paul’s Corinthian letters to show what happens to a church when it loses sight of the cross. Paul’s insistence on the “word of the cross,” then as now, causes offense, because a “Corinthian” church is self-congratulatory, certain of its own spiritual attainments, whereas the cross of Christ displays God’s leveling of all distinctions in his godless death.
–  (Kindle Locations 2804-2807)
The Corinthians were self-congratulatory about their spiritual (so-called) accomplishments, and tended to be antinomian (nomos, “law”). As we shall see, the Galatian church was the opposite, being led in the direction of a new legalism.
– (Kindle Locations 3124-3126).

If God in three persons is most fully revealed to us by the Son’s accursed death outside the community of the godly, this means a complete rethinking of what is usually called religion.

– (Kindle Locations 2813-2814)

Those who suffer most from injustice are the poorly educated, the impoverished, the invisible. Justice is involved with law and judges; the people most likely to suffer injustice cannot afford good lawyers, do not even know any lawyers, whereas lawyers and judges are the ones who have the money to buy books. In other words, those most likely to be affected by the issues raised in this chapter are least likely to be reading about them. This puts an extra burden on the privileged reader, but such challenges are not unrelated to Jesus’ teaching that the one who does not take up his cross and follow him is not worthy of him (Matt. 10: 38). Trying to understand someone else’s predicament lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.

– (Kindle Locations 3145-3150)

There are many things that we do not know about Jesus, but of this we can be sure: his mind and heart were shaped by intimate, continuous interaction with the Scriptures.

 It is not too far-fetched to compare Jesus’ total immersion in the Scriptures to the young person of today who is continually plugged in to electronic media.

– (Kindle Locations 3156-3157)

In a Newsweek article about heaven, Kenneth L. Woodward noted, “Missing from most contemporary considerations of heaven is the notion of divine justice.”  When affluent white Americans think of heaven, we tend to think of celestial serenity, natural beauty, and family reunions. Black Americans and other disadvantaged groups would be much more likely to think of God’s promise that there will be ultimate justice. For anyone who has suffered great wrong, it is important to know, as the book of Revelation promises so wondrously, that all wrongs will be righted (Rev. 21: 3-4).

– (Kindle Locations 3564-3569).

Personal note: I am a white, relatively affluent American male, whose view of heaven has been reshaped from the former to the latter, because I see injustice daily in the new location we moved to in the highest poverty area of urban Virginia.  It’s not just the crime rate, its the joblessness, the despair on the faces around us; it’s the trash in the alleys and on the streets; it’s the poor upkeep of roads, sidewalks, and even street signs;  it’s the rusty front of the U.S. Post Office and the poor service the customers receive there; it’s the poor education that the kids get because of so many problems, and the many fatherless families in the area.

And my heart cries for justice.  I join my Black friends, my loved ones, in looking forward to the rectification of all things in the Kingdom.

God does not possess his justice (righteousness, same word) far off in a remote empyrean [heaven]. The righteousness of God is not a static, remorseless attribute against which vulnerable human beings fling themselves in vain. Nor is it like that of a judge who dispenses impersonal justice according to some legal norm. God’s justice, as Desmond Tutu insisted, is not retributive but restorative. It is natural that many do not understand this, because “God’s love, resisted, is felt as wrath.” 

 – (Kindle Locations 3720-3724)

Only God Can Save from a Weight of Sin So Great

We can identify the center of Anselm’s logic in 2.6. Here, he urges that the weight of sin is so great (nondum considerasti quanti ponderis peccatum sit) that there is no possibility of atonement or satisfaction unless the price paid is “greater than all the universe besides God.” 

Boso. So it appears. . . . 

Anselm. Therefore none but God is able to make this satisfaction. 

Boso. I cannot deny it. 

Anselm. But none but a man ought to do this [he has already established that it is the guilty party, and no one else, who ought to make the restitution]. 

Boso. Nothing could be more just. 

Anselm. If it be necessary, therefore . . . that [salvation] cannot be effected unless the aforesaid satisfaction be made, which none but God can make and none but man ought to make, it is necessary for the God-man to make it. 

Boso. Now blessed be God! We have made a great discovery. 

– (Kindle Locations 4393-4407).

Hart is thus saying, from a quite different perspective, almost exactly the same thing as J. L. Martyn: the resurrection is God’s validation of his Son’s redemptive death, not the replacement of it. “The resurrection of the Son does not eclipse the Son’s cross.”

– (Kindle Locations 4467-4470).

I went through a period of thinking when I thought the resurrection is the most important historical event, but I see I was wrong.  Of course it is of great importance, but it is not where the emphasis of the gospel lies.

Anselm emphasizes that the “God-man” goes to his death in full knowledge of what he is doing. The crucifixion “is an event in God’s triune life.”  It should never be interpreted as a deed done to an unsuspecting Son by his Father.  

Anselm is at pains to show that the Son laid down his life of his own accord (John 10: 18). “The Father did not compel him to suffer death, or even allow him to be slain against his will, but of his own accord he endured death for the salvation of men” (1.8).

To the objection that the Son had no choice since the Father commanded him to obey, Anselm replies that this was not at all the way it unfolded:

[S] o precious a life . . . given with such willingness . . . the Son freely gave himself to the Father. For thus we plainly affirm that in speaking of one Person we affirm the whole deity, to whom as man he offered himself. And, by the names of Father and Son, a wondrous depth of devotion is excited in the hearts of the hearers when it is said that the Son supplicates the Father on our behalf. (2.18, emphasis added)

The Son had agreed with the Father and the Holy Spirit that there was no other way to reveal to the world the height of his omnipotence than by his death. (1.9)

– (Kindle Locations 4483-4496).

Although “The Shack” has been validly criticized by many, it does make clear to me how important it is to understand that the Father was fully involved in the suffering of the Son, Jesus Christ on the cross.

If acknowledgment of fault is difficult for individuals — perhaps especially for men, who have been conditioned not to show weakness — how much more so is it for groups. A nation, tribe, corporation, or other human collective will typically define itself as superior to its enemies, competitors, or antagonists. Think of how difficult it is for any country or national group, including our own, to admit that it has done anything wrong. The wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq will continue to haunt the United States. Even after all the pain and second-guessing, our tendency is still to hunt for exculpating factors. We continue to think almost entirely in terms of American casualties, as though the deaths of Vietnamese peasants and Arab civilians are of lesser consequence.

– (Kindle Locations 4875-4881).

 Since the Reformation, the sad divisions in the church have often been marked by bitter disputes about the nature of the atonement, with some parties insisting that only one explanation of it is correct and others are erroneous. This has been a difficult stance to maintain, since there was never a Council of Nicaea or Chalcedon to determine an orthodox position regarding the crucifixion, as there was about the nature of Christ and the Holy Trinity. The strong reaction in recent decades against “theories” of the atonement has actually been useful. “Theories” are spun out of human mental capacity, and we are dealing here with an event far beyond human mental capacity.

 – (Kindle Locations 5775-5781).

I never thought before about how much good the Council’s did in the first millennium to keep Christianity “on track”, something that was lost in the Reformation, viz. the unity of mainstream Christianity when a Council could speak for it. 

Memory (remembrance) in biblical thought does not mean “calling to mind.” “Remembering” means present and active. That is the reason for the statement in the Passover Haggadah that it was not our ancestors who were brought by God out of bondage into freedom, but we ourselves. The Seder supper is not a memorial of God’s saving action in the past, but an appropriation of that same saving power in the present.

– (Kindle Locations 5951-5955).

When we repeat Jesus’ words, “do this in remembrance of me,” in the communion service, we do not simply call Jesus to mind. Jesus is actively present with power in the communion of the people. Disputes about the Lord’s Supper have divided the Christian church, but understanding the biblical concept of remembrance can help us. We are not just thinking about Jesus’ actions in the upper room; we acknowledge that he is present and acting with the community gathered at the table in the present time. The doctrine of the real presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper can be understood in this way by everyone, from the most sophisticated person to the simplest.

– (Kindle Locations 5966-5971).

Viewed from a New Testament perspective, we see the impetus for projecting the exodus into the future as an eschatological event already present in the Old Testament. Eschaton in Greek means “last.” To speak of the eschaton, therefore, means to speak of the Last Judgment, the second coming, the new heaven and new earth — traditionally grouped under the heading of the last things. However, eschatology is not so much a cluster of topics as it is a thought-world. A good basic definition is that of C. K. Barrett: “In characteristically eschatological thinking, the significance of a series of events in time is defined in terms of the last of their number. The last event is not merely one member of the series; it is the determinative member, which reveals the meaning of the whole.”

– (Kindle Locations 5996-6002).

The words “eschatology” and “apocalyptic,” though future-oriented, are not interchangeable. The key apocalyptic idea, to be developed further in later chapters, is the sovereign intervention of God, with a corresponding displacement of the capacity of human beings to bring that intervention about. It must be said in the strongest possible terms: in no way does this emphasis on the divine agency mean that there is nothing for us to do, or that our activity is meaningless. What it means, rather, is that human activity points to the future reign of God and participates in it proleptically (prolepsis, “to anticipate”). It does not, however, make it come to fruition; only God can complete his purpose. At no time does the Bible suggest that we are, in the currently popular phrase, “co-creators with God”; rather, we are graciously called and moved to be participants in what God alone is able to create. 29 The word “eschatology” does not necessarily make this distinction clear; it is possible to refer to the “last things” and thus speak eschatologically, without being careful to show that God alone will cause those last things to come to pass — the emphasis that is the hallmark of apocalyptic. The role of the people of God is participation in what God is already doing.

– (Kindle Locations 6038-6049)

Surely the danger here is that Christians may be, and often have been, tempted to think that the constituting of Israel by God as “a peculiar people” (see Exod. 19: 5; Deut. 14: 2 KJV) has been invalidated by the Christ event. This notion should be decisively repudiated (Rom. 9: 4)…..If we really want to combat anti-Semitism, what better way to do it than to foster love of the Hebrew Scriptures? There is a gap in the mental furnishings of white Christians in America today. The thrilling story of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt ought to make our collective hairs stand on end, but the mention of it is likely to be met with blank stares. We need more sermons on this central shaping story.

–  (Kindle Locations 6076-6087).

The first thing to remember is that these codes [the Levitical laws] were given to God’s people living in alien territory. This was true of the Israelites throughout most of their biblical history; they were “sojourning” in either Canaan or Babylon or the Roman Empire. The period when they were truly at home was all too brief. This is still true for Christians, or should be, because the people of God are always going to be uneasily situated. We live as exiles in territory that is either besieged or occupied by alien gods.  The church should always have a sense of being in a strange land, and if we are not feeling this tension, we are not really being the church: “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6: 1).

– (Kindle Locations 6505-6510).

This distinction does not mean that Israel is allowed to disdain the people around her. In a particularly significant passage, Leviticus instructs, “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19: 34). Ellen F. Davis calls this a “destabilizing factor within Leviticus,” meaning that even within the strict Holiness Code, a future way is already opened up; “the Levitical vision contains the mustard seed that will grow to burst the limits of that vision . . . this is what happens with Jesus and his followers.”  Set-apartness is not meant to encourage a sense of superiority on the part of God’s people; it is God who is superior, not his servants.  The members of the community are not to look down their collective noses at the Canaanites floundering in their idolatry. If we take the whole grand sweep of the Old Testament into consideration, the ultimate design is for Israel to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth. Looking ahead to Romans 4, concerning the promise made to Abraham, there is no one, however far gone in unrighteousness, who is beyond the reach of the crucified One who died for the ungodly (Rom. 5: 6). Therefore, the people of God both do, and do not, hold themselves apart.

– (Kindle Locations 6537-6548).

In a footnote for Chapter 6, Pastor Rutledge writes:

25. Philip Hughes, in his commentary on Hebrews, makes a nice distinction between “separation from” and “separation to,” which removes some of the problems associated with the idea of being “set apart.” He makes this point with reference to Heb. 13: 12-13, where Christians are called away from the sacred precincts to go “outside the camp,” where Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame” (12: 2). “By suffering outside the gate, Jesus identifies himself with the world in its unholiness. . . . On our unholy ground he makes his holiness available to us in exchange for our sin which he bears and for which he atones on the cross. . . . This following of Christ inescapably involves going outside the camp where the cross, too shameful to be placed inside the camp, is located.” He then quotes F. F. Bruce to great effect: “What was formerly sacred was now unhallowed, because Jesus had been expelled from it, and what was formerly unhallowed was now sacred ground because Jesus was there” (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977], 580-82).

-(Kindle Locations 7400-7408).

I was able to check out that Commentary by Hughes, and in reading it, I was thrilled to see something about Hebrews 1:3, written in the 8th Century by the commentator, Alcuin, where he points out “it is no less to govern the world than to create it; for in creating, the substances of things were produced from nothing, while in governing, the things that have been made are sustained, lest they should return to nothing.”  That was something I had never thought about.

A crucial difference between wrong and evil is that people are implicitly in charge of the universe in which rights and wrongs are discussed; people have systems of laws to right wrongs. But evil implies a different universe, controlled by extra-human forces. Wrong is a human offense that suggests reparation is possible and deserved. Wrong is not mysterious. Evil suggests a mysterious force that may be in business for itself and may exploit human agency as part of a larger cosmic conflict — between good and evil, God and Satan. 

— she quotes  here from Morrow, Lance. Evil: An Investigation. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

Rutledge, Fleming. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Kindle Locations 11410-11415). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 Wow.  The following excerpt is very disturbing, and in my sheltered world I didn’t even pay attention when it was going on.  So sad.

The Hidden Factor of Complicity As the twentieth century drew to a close, it was becoming clear that the extermination of six million Jews and several million Slavs, Roma (gypsies), homosexuals, mentally retarded people, resistance leaders, and others at the hands of the Nazis was not to be the last genocide in our time, in spite of pious and defiant cries of “Never again.” The demonstrable failure of the Christian church during the roundup of Europe’s Jews was to be exceeded — if that were possible — in 1994 by the sometimes enthusiastic participation of Christian leaders and institutions during the Rwandan genocide. The insistent question that such events raise, over and over, is whether Christian faith really makes any difference when self-identified Christians participate in radical evil. Stephen R. Haynes, writing in the Christian Century, observes that Rwanda was the most Christianized country in Africa (90 percent), yet huge numbers of victims were killed in church buildings where they had sought refuge. “Like Nazi Germany, genocidal Rwanda is an exceedingly unattractive venue for Christian self-examination. Much of the evidence indicates that ‘blood’ proved thicker than baptismal water, that faith was powerless to overcome the interests of class or ethnicity. . . . Christians must ask what this and other episodes of mass killing reveal about the essence and extent of our fallenness.” 134

The Rwandan atrocities force us to reexamine our understanding of human nature. The manner of the murders has caused especial notice, since hundreds of thousands were hacked with machetes, burned in churches, and shot point-blank and face-to-face. This was not an industrialized, anonymous operation carried out at remote locations by a few fanatical officials “just doing their jobs”; it was a person-to-person massacre by people who in many cases knew their victims, and were even colleagues with them on the staffs of the same hospitals and members of the same parish churches. Anyone who cares about Christian witness must be haunted by the question: What would I have done?

Rutledge, Fleming. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Kindle Locations 11489-11507). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.


It is a new epistemology, a new way of knowing. When God reveals himself, the old arrangements become obsolete. The distinctive characteristic of Job, in the last analysis, is his consuming desire to receive a response from God. He got one. It was not the response he could have expected, but in an utterly strange way God was gracious to Job. The clue that we need is the detachment of the question about suffering from the self-revelation of God. The question “Why?” is not the right question and will never yield the right “explanation.” 152

David Hart, writing about The Brothers Karamazov, describes Ivan’s posture as “rage against explanation.” 153 Hart argues that we must not be persuaded into a position that requires us to make sense of everything that happens. It is premature to say to a sufferer, “There must be some reason for this.” The sufferer may (or may not) eventually come to this belief by himself, in and through the suffering; but it is a first rule of pastoral ministry that the would-be consoler must never put such words into the sufferer’s mouth. In many situations the best rule for the “comforter” may very well be silence. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the “explanations” offered are consoling only to the “comforter,” not the sufferer. There are only two possible responses to horrendous suffering. The first is to share the sufferer’s pain at length, in silence. 154 The second, as Hart concludes, is to “hate these things with a perfect hatred.” 155

Rutledge, Fleming. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Kindle Locations 11615-11629). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Posted by: T. Boyd | April 15, 2016

Last of the Mohicans

At Gold’s Gym I did a half hour on the treadmill in the “cardio cinema” theater while watching a portion of the 1992 movie, “The Last of the Mohicans”.  I knew nothing about the story, having never read the book nor studied the French-Indian War, and the retention of history is, alas, not a strength of mine.

But I started thinking about the small amount I know of the sad history of the natives of the Americas and how they were treated by the European migration to this continent.  And I wondered, if that had been done in God’s righteous ways, if it was under the Lord’s guidance and direction, what would it have looked like?

In this vast continent, surely there was enough land and resources to support all the new comers as well as the natives in a prosperous and fruitful, peaceful manner.  God’s original purpose was for mankind to spread out an occupy the whole earth in a good, righteous way, ruling over it – being caretakers of it.

If the kingdom of God had been continued without man falling  in the Garden of Eden, and then later, after the Flood, if Noah’s family had not continued the sinful pattern, then the ones that migrated originally to the new world would have done so under God’s hand; and so when the later explorers arrived, there would have been a peaceful settling into the “new” continent – it would have been driven not by greed, but by the impetus of the Spirit of God with a much different outcome.

So what?  Why think about this?   Maybe thinking through these scenarios could help us to know how to pray about our relationships with our neighbors, with new immigrants,  or even about how to care for the environment;  it could help shape how we should live and work now in this age before His return upon the Earth in bodily form.

Besides that, I just really enjoy anticipating the new kingdom and how glorious it will be when the Lord Jesus is on the throne on Earth, ruling over us in all aspects, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  We cannot even imagine how good and wonderful it will be.

No more sickness or death, no hunger or thirst, no more war or crime.  Wow!  It blows our minds to imagine it.  Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus, come!


Posted by: T. Boyd | July 2, 2015

Holograms and Seeing Jesus

How is a hologram made? The light from a laser is used to illuminate some chess pieces in a certain way and a piece of photographic film is exposed to the reflected light as in the diagram below.

hologram setup

After the film is developed, in its transparent form, it looks like this picture under ordinary light, in other words, it looks like a nice pattern of swirls like water waves set up by a rock dropped into a pool of quiet water.

hologram film

But if the film is exposed to the same laser light that was used to make the exposure, then looking through the film like a window, with the laser light diffused so that it doesn’t harm the eye, you can see the original chess pieces as if they are placed behind the “window”.

hologram picture

The next image shows what happens as you move your head to the left and then to the right as you look “through the window”, and you can see the chess pieces shift around just like they were really sitting there.  In other words, the hologram is producing a 3-dimensional image of the original chess pieces. hologram pictures

Lots of science-fiction movies simulate what 3-d holograms can do in transmitting messages to look like the person is really present, floating in midair.  And there have been recent advances in trying to do this, but the best so far is being able to produce an image that seems to hover in front of a screen, but not really floating in the space like Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie.  And the image can only be seen from a limited range of angles in front of the projection.


Seeing Jesus

There are a couple of ways that this science discovery has analogies in the spiritual realm.  First of all, the image cannot be seen without special light, at least with this type hologram (there are such things as “white” light holograms that can be seen in normal light).

And as mentioned several times in the New Testament, it takes the special light of the Holy Spirit to understand the good news about Jesus, and to even be able to come to him and be born again.

The most interesting feature to me of holograms is how you can cut the film into a bunch of pieces: for example, cut a 2″x2″ square film into sixteen 1/2″ x 1/2″ little squares and each piece will still have a complete picture. Each little  square, when illuminated by the laser light will show all the chess pieces just like the picture above, but from different angles, different perspectives.

I see in this the analogy that every believer in the Lord Jesus has a unique perspective on the Lord, a different set of experiences and revelations about Him, that only he or she has seen.  And to get the total picture of our Lord, then it takes all of the stories of all the saints (God calls all believers saints) to complete the portrait of Jesus.

As the end of John’s gospel says, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”


The images and ideas for this article were borrowed from my long-time friend and Ga. Tech. college mate, Rod Nave, from his popular web site that describes all of the many areas of physics: Hyperphysics of Georgia State University.  They are used by his permission.

Posted by: T. Boyd | May 19, 2015


Christianity Today recently had an article suggesting the popular expletive, “Awsome!”  describes only to one thing, rather one person: the triune God!

About 2 feet from where my hands are typing this article is a bird feeder right outside the window.  Rarely do Caroline Wrens come to feed at a sunflower source – maybe he was looking for insects there.  But being so close, I was struck by his beauty.  Such a neat, sleek creature.

And I exclaimed, “How did you do that, Lord?”

How did He create such beautiful creatures that are so varied and numerous?  And then there are the humorous looking ones that must have made Him laugh as He saw what He had made.

That is awesome.  He is Awesome!

And I am saddened that the people who believe that these wonders evolved spontaneously cannot experience the same joyous excitement, the wonder of the experience, of  “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know … what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe… (Ephesians 1: 18-19

Posted by: T. Boyd | April 12, 2015

Life is Unspeakably Sad – Part 1

Recently I bought three books that were recommended to me: Inside Out  by Larry Crabb, When Heaven is Silent  and The Faith Crisis by Ron Dunn.

Crabb’s book hits quick and deep about our natural, strong desire to avoid conflict and sadness, and how the church has facilitated that escapism with its surface “fixes” and programs to keep us busy – not just the church, but it is also my own tendency to escape into a new hobby or activity in order to keep my mind away from the sadness.

Dr. Crabb’s famous line, “Life is unspeakably sad” is so insightful – that life will always bring us episodes of sorrow until Christ returns – that Jesus will provide a means to experience joy in the midst of the sorrow, to give us hope of the victory to come as He brings worship to our hearts; an assurance that the outcome doesn’t depend on us.

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to experience this for the first time: A new friend in our neighborhood, described the chaotic, violent eviction of his next-door neighbor that morning – a young mother with 2 small children, with all their belongings flung out of the house – a TV and big mirror, for example, destroyed as they were thrown out on the sidewalk and street, by angry, rude men that had been hired by the house owner. They flung every belonging of the family out of the house upon the wet curb and street in the chilly, rainy weather.

The sorrow was overwhelming to me; and typically, I would have nursed the anger that arose in my heart, not knowing how to react, wanting to do something to escape the ache and hopeless feeling I was experiencing.  Rather than dealing with the sorrow, my usual thing to do would be to “change the subject” by feeding some desire for pleasure – maybe food, or turn to the internet to browse Facebook – anything to stop the emotional pain.

But instead I read a few pages of Inside Out  and I realized that I did not need to escape those feelings, that I did not have the power to do so;  but I could respond in the way that the author of Psalm 73 was led to respond to the unspeakable sadness:

“But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;

    then I discerned their end.”

And my application here of these words is not out of vengeful feelings and thoughts, but of the knowledge that the righteous judge of all the earth will deal with this event; and it is not even that the thought of justice so much, but I think it is the thought that I can take this sorrow and burden to Him and not feel that I am responsible for the evil that I saw through my friend’s eyes [except the very real white complicity – this past 9 months has led me to search my own ancestors’ role in that complicity].

The sorrow still remains, but it is not a despairing, hopeless feeling, but an inexplainable hope that arises in spite of the sight of the destruction of that evicted mother’s belongings.

Instead there is a hope that looks beyond the tragedy; that sees that the power of the gospel may allow that family to say, along with Joseph, son of Jacob, “… you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”.

It is the law of unintended consequences that God is always using to thwart the actions of the enemy.

The point of this long story is that the Lord has worked into me a new coping mechanism of not becoming despondent over something that brings sadness to me; instead, He has shown me how to confront the sadness instead of “sweeping it under the rug” so to speak.  Maybe I have learned a little bit about using the feeling of sorrow for good, and a joy arising that is like Paul’s statement in 2 Corithians 6:10 – “…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”


Posted by: T. Boyd | November 18, 2014

Mount Ebal – Mount Gerizim


( Image courtesy of )
As I watch the daily news about the turmoil and trouble in the U.S., and the awful storms that are taking a toll on the country – the tornadoes, hurricanes and floods, drought and forest fires, sudden changes in weather, I hear a voice, “Repent…Awake, Oh Sleeper, before it is too late

It is a call to our nation, to the believers in our country that don’t see the need to cry out to the Lord for revival of His people; that we would repent and turn from the idols of prosperity and the “good life” that the vast majority of us are worshiping; to fall on our faces before Him in seeking Him for mercy and healing of our land.

I thought of the Mt. Ebal vs Mt. Garizim ceremony, the blessing and curse promises of the Lord to His nation of Israel which would follow their choice to either follow His commands or not. Moses gave the directions starting in Deuteronomy 27:4 , and then carried out in Joshua 8:30-35.

The message from Moses includes this important command in Deuteronomy 30:19 –

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

Would that each believer that is truly committed to Jesus would reach out to his or her friends that are also serious about following the Lord and ask them to become sober, to become watchmen on the wall, and warn the people about the curses that have been experienced and future ones that are coming; to prepare for the persecution already breaking out in much of the world and will soon be experienced in our own country.

Would that we all take the call in Hosea to heart: “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn…” (Hosea 6:3)

Would that we turn off the TV and open His Word instead, and sit often and at length before Him; to be able to join Elijah in saying, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand…”; and from that place of holy ground to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom – to warn of the calamity coming; but also to point to the path, the Way of salvation, namely Jesus Himself, as the only way out of the darkness into the light.

Posted by: T. Boyd | January 31, 2014

Shattered Lantern and Mockingjay


(Warning – Mockingjay Spoiler Alert)

I am currently reading The Shattered Lantern by Ronald Rolheiser. It offers “a spiritual antidote to our everyday agnosticism…The way back to a lively faith is not a question of finding the right answers, but living in a certain way” – a quote from the back cover.

Rolheiser convinced me that we truly live in an agnostic age, one in which we no longer see God permeating our existence; most of us no longer live as if we need Him to get through our daily lives. And then Rolheiser shows the way back out of the resulting emptiness and longing for wholeness.

He uses John of the Cross to give direction: we have to enter the dark night of the senses, the dark night of the spirit, and the dark night of death. Rohlheiser explains this description in a loving and convincing way that resonates with my soul’s longing for healing and completion, a longing for God Himself.


 I was helped to picture what Rolheiser means when I recently read the third story of the trilogy of Hunger Games, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

At the end of the story, the heroine, Katniss, is found by Buttercup, the cat of her late younger sister, Prim, who was killed in battle. Katniss is in the long recovery from the sorrow and pain of being a leader in the battle against the tyranny of the government during which most of her team members were killed, and she herself almost destroyed.

Katniss has been moved to her childhood home to heal and recover. The cat, Buttercup has trekked many miles to return home and arrives weeks later. He is in bad shape – wounded, bedraggled, and starving. Katniss has always despised the cat, and likewise he has always shown hatred toward her.

But, strangely enough, through their shared  series of tragedies, they learn to comfort each other.  Katniss reflects,  “… hours later, when I come to my bed, he’s there in the moonlight. Crouched beside me, yellow eyes alert, guarding me from the night.” Katniss has finally begun to heal and to find purpose in the dark night of the soul that she has experienced.

And for me, that brought completion to the whole trilogy saga, and it seemed to parallel the hope, the faith, the love that permeates Rolheiser’s book, “The Shattered Lantern”.

For our lives, there is an end as well as a process, a goal that culminates in the opening of something “further upward and further in” (C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle) in our journey to truly enter the Kingdom of God.

May The Lord strengthen us to always keep our eyes on Him, on Jesus Himself, and be transformed into His image. Amen.

Posted by: T. Boyd | January 11, 2014

Awake, Sleepers!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

As I read the weekend edition the Wall Street Journal this morning, I found it just packed full of sorrow and evil that is so prevalent in our world.  It tends to just give me more depression, but I am thinking the righteous reaction is to soberly pray for the conditions of the sufferers.

I also just started reading a Randy Alcorn novel, Safely Home, that depicts very vividly and accurately (according to reviews) the sad situation in China of the Christians in the rural home churches.  The persecution is awful and very widespread, apparently.

The vast majority of Western Christians just don’t get it. We are asleep at the wheel, just keeping the throttle wide open, being part of society’s hurling toward disaster, crushing any that hinder our progress toward our prosperity and pleasure seeking.

Why are we not weeping, casting ourselves before The Lord in seeking His face to how we can join in the battle against evil, in spreading the gospel, in reaching out to widows (divorcees, unwed mothers) and orphans; to those in poverty and sickness; and those in prisons all around us?

Taking our place in the battle line does not need to be dreaded. It can be, it should be, “for the joy set before us”, knowing that we are finally fulfilling our purpose in being here, and of being called to be children of God, fellow sufferers of our eldest brother, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. And in joining in the host of believers that are on the front lines, being cheered on by the “great cloud of witnesses.”

Here is the way Hebrews 12 says it in The Message:

 “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

I’m so glad to see churches like East End Fellowship where many young adults and teens have heard the clear, clarion call to rally to our commander, our Lord. The words of the old hymn come to mind:

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
ith the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

 May we pause in this busy, crazy, 100 yard dash toward our next goal; may we get before our Lord, and wait to see His face, to hear this call, to pray for courage to respond; to take up the “whole armor of God” and enter the fray as He directs with His strong, encouraging voice; knowing that “He is our strength and shield, a very present help in times of trouble.”


Posted by: T. Boyd | October 15, 2013

When I Run I Feel His Pleasure


Eric Liddell, at Stamford Bridge, London, in qualifying trials for 1924 Olympics, original at

In my morning bible study a few weeks ago, I noticed a new parallel I had not seen before, unless my memory fails me (which happens a lot these days 🙂 ).

I was reading chapter 9 of Deuteronomy, verses 4 and 5, where Moses is talking about going into the promised land – like us “going” [processing?] into our sanctification:

“Not because of your righteousness … are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you…”

The new thought that came to me: it is like what God is doing in making us more like Jesus. It is not because of our righteousness that he is doing this work: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ“, but it is because He loves us and wants to drive out the wickedness that lingers in our flesh. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… ” (Galatians 5:19).

That purging is not fun or comfortable – those “inhabitants” of past experiences, our natural inclinations, our prejudices which affect our relationships, those strong opinions that cause us to insist that we are right and others are wrong; all of these “works” have to go, have to be taken captive and destroyed by “Him  whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).  And, although, by faith, we have been crucified and that dying is completed in one sense, (“we are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10), in another sense it is an on-going, daily experience (“Take up your cross daily and follow me” Luke 9:23).

It is not fun, but it brings joy, because in the transformation process  “… we all , with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

We begin to experience God’s pleasure.  As Eric Liddell, the olympic runner told his sister, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  God made each of us for a purpose – in fact He had our purpose in mind before the world was created!

Can you believe that? It is found in Ephesians 1:4 – “He chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him”, and Ephesians 2:10 – “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  And when we walk in the path that He has planned, we feel joy in our hearts – we feel His pleasure.

Posted by: T. Boyd | August 26, 2013

Too Small to Fly!

I was upstairs in my “man cave” when I noticed something tiny flying around. This bug was tiny compared to a fruit fly which we sometimes find in the kitchen around the fruit. It was moving quite fast, so I didn’t get a good look at it, and it didn’t land as far as I could tell.  In fact, it seemed very busy.

And I started wondering.  How could such a small creature have all the equipment and the know-how to fly?  It seems impossible.  I looked on the web for the smallest flying insect, and the winner is the Fairfly (

Fairy Fly, from Wikipedia

Fairy Fly, from Wikipedia

This fly is only 0.139 mm long. To compare, I got my micrometer, pulled out a hair from my beard (ouch!) and measured its width: 0.21 mm.  Imagine! This fly could land and turn around on the hair without it overhanging the sides.

So I say again, as in the title, it is too small to fly! But, obviously, it does.

Imagine what it would take to build and make such a small flying object which would also be autonomous (self-governing). Not only is the physical makeup of this fly very complicated – just as complicated as a large wasp, I imagine; but to give it the mental ability to maneuver its body and decide where to fly to, how to land safely, and what chore to accomplish, is stretching the best engineers’ abilities today.

The latter have developed small autonomous flying aircraft, but with much less ability that one of these flies, and not near as small (so far). Again, I come to the conclusion, that the ability our creator is accurately described when He says,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

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