Thanks for the Memories

RosesBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Beloved father:

Thank you for placing godly friends in my life,

who share my pain and feel my sorrows

more than I even recall.

Thank you for giving me  a loving family,

who have always been with me

even when I was sick and irratible and no fun at all to be with.

Thank you for countless blessings,

which I mostly took for granted

like the legs that I walk on, the ears that I hear with, and the eyes that let me see.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

help me to be more thankful,

to share other’s pains,

to be more loving, and

to share the many blessings.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Thanks for the Memories [1]

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

[1] “Thanks for the memories” is an expression frequently associated with comedian Bob Hope whose theme song had that name.

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Origin of the Bible

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

For Christians, what we know about God is revealed primarily in scripture. In order to understand the Christian perspective of God, it is accordingly important to understand the nature of the Bible and what it says about God. Let me start by describing the origins of the Bible.

People of the Book

In the Koran, Christians are described as people of the book. Part of the reason for this distinction may be that the New Testament was the first bound book. Books were cheaper to produce and more portable than scrolls, which continued to be used, for example, to record the Hebrew Bible. It is noteworthy that more New Testament texts have survived from ancient times than any other ancient manuscripts.[1]

New Testament Compilation

Athanasius suggested the twenty-seven books which now make up the New Testament in his Easter letter of AD 367. This list was later confirmed by the Council of Carthage in AD 397. The common denominator in these books is that their authors were known to have been an apostle or associated closely with an apostle of Jesus. Pope Damasus I commissioned Jerome to prepare an authoritative translation of the Bible into Latin in AD 382 commonly known as the Vulgate (Evans 2005, 162). The Vulgate remained the authoritative Biblical text for the church until the time of the Reformation when the reformers began translating the Bible into common languages.

Reformation

In 1522 the reformer Martin Luther translated the New Testament into Germanand followed with an Old Testament translation in 1532.[2] Luther kept the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, but followed the Masoretic (Hebrew Old Testament) rather than the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) in selecting books for the Old Testament.[3] The books left out of the Masoretic text but in the Septuagint became known as the Apocrypha. These books continue to distinguish the Catholic (Apocrypha included) from Protestant Bible translations (Apocrypha excluded) to this day. The list given below, which excludes the Apocrypha, is taken from the Westminster Confession:

OLD TESTAMENT

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

NEW TESTAMENT

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation

Jesus’ Attitude About Scripture

In our study of the Bible, Jesus’ attitude about scripture guides our thinking. Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt 5:17-18).

The Law of Moses refers to the Law (first five books of the Bible) and the Prophets refers to the other books of the Old Testament.

Timing of Writing

The last book in the Old Testament to be written was likely Malachi which was written about four hundred years before the birth of Christ. The last book in the New Testament to be written was likely the book of Revelation which was written around 90 AD.

Compilation and Divine Inspiration

The Bible represents the work of many authors, yet its contents are uniquely consistent. This consistency adds weight to our belief that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. This point is expressed within the Bible itself with these words:

“Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the people of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)

References

Bainton, Roland H. 1995. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin.

Evans, Craig A. 2005. Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to Background Literature. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

Metzger, Bruce M. and Bart D. Ehrman. 2005. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stone, Larry. 2010. The Story of the Bible: The Fascinating History of Its Writing, Translation, and Effect on Civilization. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


[1] The technical description is the Bible was the first publication to appear in widespread circulation as a codex (bound book) (Metzger and Ehrman 2005, 15). Stone (2010, 14) cites the existence of 5,500 partial or complete biblical manuscripts making it the only document from the ancient world with more than a few dozen copies.

[2] Luther completed the entire Bible in 1534 (Bainton 1995, 255).

[3] Luther translated the Apocrpha in 1534 but specifically said they were not canonical, just good to read (see: http://www.lstc.edu/gruber/luthers_bible/1534.php).

Origin of the Bible

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Bly Writes to Sell, Part 2

Robert Bly, The Copywriter's HandbookRobert W. Bly. 2005. The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. (Goto part 1)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

In advertising books online, commercial ads often are sold in an auction framework where the advertiser pays the going rate for clicks on the ad. Clicking on the ad typically transfers one to a product page on an online retailer where the book cover is displayed along with details about the book and an opportunity to purchase it. The click through rate measures the ratio of views of the ad to clicks on the link and the conversion rate measures the number clicks required to yield a purchase. A high click through rate suggests a high-performance ad, while a high conversion rate suggest a well-written product page. Both are ads, but they have separate objectives.

Introduction

In part one of this review, I gave an overview of Robert W. Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook. Here in part two, I will look in more depth at Bly’s approach to writing ads.

In his book, The Copywriter’s Handbook, Robert W. Bly describes two philosophies among copywriters—those that focus on the creative element and those (like Bly) that focus on the sell. He goes on to say that copy that sells needs to accomplish three things:

  1. Get attention
  2. Communicate
  3. Persuade (7).

This basic charge has not changed with the introduction of the internet because people have been inundated with advertising and have become more conscience of promotion and manipulation. The result is that consumers expect advertisers to get to the point quickly and provide actionable product information which raises the interest and value in good copywriting (9-10).

Getting Attention

Advertisers use headlines to get your attention (13). According to Bly, the headline can perform four tasks:

  1. Get attention
  2. Select the audience
  3. Deliver a complete message
  4. Draw attention to the body of the ad (16)

Words that get attention include: “new, discover, introducing, announcing, now, it’s here, at last, and just arrived” but the word—free—is in a class by itself (17). Other words include: “how to, why, sale, quick, easy, bargain, last chance, guarantee, results, proven, and save.” (18) Bly advises us: to “avoid headlines and concepts that are cute, clever, and titillating, but irrelevant.” (19) We have all seen ads that seem to feature all these words, but Bly’s philosophy is that the words also have to inform or, in other words, be true.

Bly advises copywriters to write headlines that satisfy the 4 U’s: urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful. (29)

Select the Audience

In advertising books, audiences are selected by focusing on keyword categories and names of authors of competing books. Recently, for example, my book, Spiritual Trilogy, used two keywords on BookBub.com—Billy Graham and C.S. Lewis—that might also fall in the categories of devotionals and Christian spirituality. While my books might conceivably sell to readers of romance and thriller novels, the click through rates and conversion rates would likely be rather low.

Bly makes the point that: “If you are selling life insurance to people over 65, there is no point in writing an ad that generates inquiries from young people.” (19)

Communicate

Bly writes: “advertising is most effective when it is easy to understand.” (38) He gives eleven pointers on writing clearly:

  1. Put the reader first
  2. Carefully organize your selling points
  3. Break the writing into short sections
  4. Use short sentences
  5. Use simple words
  6. Avoid technical jargon
  7. Be concise
  8. Be specific
  9. Go straight to the point
  10. Write in a friendly, conversational style
  11. Avoid sexist language. (38-55)

Much of what he writes could be found in any business writing text, but the advice for advertisers is even more emphatic because it must not only communicate but also has to motivate the buyer to buy.

Persuade

Bly begins his discuss of writing to sell by making a distinction between features and benefits. He writes:

“A feature is a descriptive fact about a product or service. It’s what the product is or has. A benefit is what the product does.” (64)

This distinction is important because it highlights the need to understand your customer. One category of customer may benefit from one feature while another category benefits primarily from an entirely different feature. Bly tells the story of a water purification system that sold to two primary categories of customers: marine customers who focused on reliability and light weight, and chemical industry buyers who cared only about technical features. (86)  Clearly, these systems either needed two sets of ads because the one customer category focused on an entirely different set of benefits than the other or a comprehensive ad that outlined both sets of benefits.

Bly provides lots of advice on understanding customer needs and product benefits. I will mention only one that goes by the acronym AIDA: attention, interest, desire, and action. Bly writes:

“copy must first get the reader’s attention, then create an interest in the product, then turn that interest into a strong desire to own the product, and finally ask the reader to buy the product…” (67)

Do you get the idea that the ad must tell a story? He makes the point that “Copywriters, like lawyers, are advocates for the client.” (67)

For those interested in learning about how to write advertisements that sell, Bly’s book provides a clear and complete guide. This book fascinated me—you may be too.

Bly Writes to Sell, Part 2

Also see:

Bly Writes to Sell, Part 1

Scott Writes Pro Email Newsletters

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a prayer for church workers and a reflection on the Trinity as seen in the Creation accounts of the Book of Genesis.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

 Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Prayer for Church Workers

Ceramic churchBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

Bless the workers in your church with your special presence during this spring season.

Grant them strength to get their work done, grace to extend your blessings to those they serve, and the peace that passes all understanding.

Give them more hours in every day and quiet time to listen for your voice that their work will reflect your glory and more people will come to call you father.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, revive your church; revive us.

In Jesus’ tender name, Amen.

Prayer for Church Workers

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Creation and Trinity

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Bible starts telling us that: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) What do these simple words tell us about God?

In the Beginning

The phrase—in the beginning—tells us that God is eternal. If creation has a beginning, then it must also have an end. This implies that creation is not eternal, but the God who created it must be. If our eternal God created time, both the beginning and the end, then everything God created belongs to God. Just as the potter is master over the pottery he makes, God is sovereign over creation (Jer 18:4-6). God did not win creation in an arm-wrestling match or buy it online or find it on the street, he created it—God is a worker (Whelchel 2012, 7).

Transcendence

God eternal existence suggests that as mortal beings we cannot approach God without his assistance, an immediate consequence of God’s transcendence. The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 makes this point in a physical sense, but it also stands as a metaphor for philosophical towers that we might attempt to build, such as the Enlightenment Project.

Sovereignty

God’s sovereignty is reinforced in the second half of the sentence when it says: God created the heavens and the earth. Here heaven and earth form a poetic construction called a merism. A merism is a literary device that can be compared to defining a line segment by referring to its end points. The expression—heaven and earth—therefore means that God created everything.[1] Because he created everything, he is sovereign over creation; and sovereignty implies ownership.[2]

Holy

So, from the first sentence in the Bible we know that God is eternal and he is sovereign. We also know that he is holy. Why? Are heaven and earth equal? No. Heaven is God’s residence. From the story of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush (Exod 3:5), we learn that any place where God is becomes holy in the sense of being set apart or sacred. Because God resides in heaven, it must be holy. Earth is not. Still, God created both and is sovereign over both (Rev 4:11).
Genesis paints two other important pictures of God.

Holy Spirit

The first picture arises in Genesis 1:2; here the breath, or spirit of God, is pictured like a bird hovering over the waters.[3] Hovering requires time and effort suggesting ongoing participation in and care for creation. The Bible speaks exhaustively about God providing for us—God’s provision. Breath translates as Holy Spirit in the original languages of the Bible—both Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament).[4]

Immanence

The second picture appears in Genesis 2, which retells the story of creation in more personal terms. As a potter works with clay (Isa 64:8), God forms Adam and puts him in a garden. Then, he talks to Adam and directs him to give the animals names. And when Adam gets lonely, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib or side—a place close to his heart.

Summary

Genesis 1 and 2, accordingly, paint three pictures of God: 1. God as a mighty creator; 2. God who meticulously attends to his creation; and 3. God who walks with us like a friend. While the Trinity is not fully articulated in scripture until the New Testament, God’s self-disclosure as the Trinity appears from the beginning (Chan 1998, 41).
The Lord’s Prayer casts a new perspective on Genesis 1:1when Jesus says: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Because we are created in God’s image, we want our home to modeled after God’s.

References

Dyck, Drew Nathan. 2014. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Whelchel, Hugh. 2012. How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.


[1] Heaven and earth can also be interpreted as proxies for God’s attributes of transcendence and immanence (Jer 23:23-24; Dyck 2014, 99).

[2] God’s eternal nature is also defined with a merism: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

[3] This bird (avian) image appears again in the baptismal accounts of Jesus. For example, in Matthew 3:16 we read: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.”

[4] Breath itself is necessary for life—part of God’s provision.

Creation and Trinity

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Bly Writes to Sell, Part 1

Robert Bly, The Copywriter's HandbookRobert W. Bly. 2005. The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. (Goto part 2)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

At the heart of the Gospel is a tough sell: give up your sinful desires and surrender your life to God. In my work at T2Pneuma Publishers LLC, I summarize the Gospel with this catch phrase: Hear the words; Follow the steps; Experience the joy! Only the Holy Spirit can close the deal, but the pitch must be made. The trouble is that most Christians, myself included, are terrible at sales.

Introduction

In his book, The Copywriter’s Handbook, Robert W. Bly sets out with a clear objective:

“This book is written to give you guidelines and advice that can teach you to write effective copy—that is, copy that gets attention, gets its message across, and convinces the customer to buy the product.” (xv)

He defines copywriters as “salespeople whose job is to convince people to buy products” (xvi) and should not be confused with the process of registering a copyright for a book with the Library of Congress.

Bly’s Writing Philosophy

For those you who associate copywriting with those catchy ads placed during the Super Bowl, Bly’s focus on ads that communicate and sell may come as a surprise. But ask yourself a simple question, do you remember what products those Super Bowl ads were intending to sell? If not, then the ads may have caught your attention, but for the wrong reasons. Because advertising is expensive, it is important to focus on the informational and sales objectives in creating an ad.

Christians may get squeamish at this point and respond, as I have, that they are not salespeople. Maybe. But why does Charlie Brown feel compelled to ask: “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” If the message is unclear; it will not be heard. Because with the Gospel the stakes are high, we need to communicate clearly.

Organization

Bly is a professional copywriter who specializes in B2B, high tech, and direct-response advertising and is a prolific author.[1] Outside of front matter and numerous appendices, he writes in fifteen chapters:

  1. An Introduction to Copywriting
  2. Writing to Get Attention: The Headline
  3. Writing to Communicate
  4. Writing to Sell
  5. Getting Ready to Write
  6. Writing Print Advertisements
  7. Writing Direct Mail
  8. Writing Brochures, Catalogs, and Other Sales Materials
  9. Writing Public Relations Materials
  10. Writing Commercials and Multimedia Presentations
  11. Writing for the Web
  12. Writing E-Mail Marketing
  13. How to Get a Job as a Copywriter
  14. How to Hire and Work with Copywriters
  15. Graphic Design for Copywriters (xii)

While I started out thinking that I only really had an interest in the first couple chapters here, as I read on I discovered that Bly addressed a much wider set of my business writing activities than I had envisioned. Other than the chapters on working as and hiring copywriters, each of the chapters offered helpful advice on diverse aspects of my publishing business—much more than any of the numerous writing books that I have read—from issuing press releases to writing a newsletter.

Example

For example, Bly reports that copywriters write two types of emails: the “solo email” and the “e-zine” The solo email is written to a distribution list promoting a single product (think direct marketing campaign, the online equivalent of junk mail) while the e-zine is an online newsletter (286). While this distinction may seem obvious, most independent writers focus exclusively on their personal newsletter, while a business-driven minority use product giveaways to launch automated email promotion campaigns. Bly is the first author that I have read who discusses the quality points of both alternatives.

Assessment

In part one of this review, I have given an overview of Robert W. Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook. In part two, I will look in more depth at Bly’s approach to writing ads. For those interested in learning about how to write advertisements that sell, Bly’s book provides a clear and complete guide.

[1] B2B is short for business to business. http://www.Bly.com.

Bly Writes to Sell, Part 1

Also see:

Scott Writes Pro Email Newsletters

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Monday Monologue, Sermon, April 2, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a sermon, Slave of Christ given originally in Spanish.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologue, Sermon, April 2, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Mark 16: Easter 2

Empty Tomb on EasterBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

“And he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.

He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6 ESV).

One of the most vivid memories I have as a young person was the experience of an Easter sunrise.  Easter is mysterious, earth-shattering news.  How could I sleep through it?

Funeral

At my grandfather’s funeral, I was given a head of wheat which hangs now in my kitchen.  The wheat reminds me of Jesus’ saying:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24 ESV).

Resurrection Reminders

The mystery of resurrection is everywhere in nature.  Sunrise is the resurrection of the day.  Springtime is the resurrection of the seasons.  The metamorphosis from caterpillar to cocoon to adult butterfly is a beautiful, dramatic resurrection.  The Apostle Paul writes:  “all of creation groans in anticipation of our redemption” (Romans 8:19-23).

Messianic Prophecies

Prophesies of Jesus’ resurrection start early in scripture.  Systematic theologians see salvation history as creation, fall, and redemption.  Because sin is the cause of death, eternal life requires forgiveness of sin which is brought about in Christ’s resurrection.  This transition is prophesied in Genesis:  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15 ESV).

Other theologians see resurrection arising out of righteous suffering.  The prophet Job writes not only of Christ, but his own resurrection:  “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27 ESV).  At the birth of the church on Pentecost (Acts 2:27), the Apostle Peter sees resurrection prophesied by King David:  “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10).

When asked to produce a sign Jesus himself spoke of the sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29-32).  In the belly of the whale Jonah prayed:  “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice” (Jonah 2:2 ESV).  And the whale spit him out on dry land, another resurrection story.

Old Testament Resurrections Accounts

Resurrection did not start with Jesus.  Some see the story of the binding of Isaac as a resurrection account [1] and a prophecy of the cross (Genesis 22:1-18).  The prophet Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-37).  In the valley of bones, Ezekiel prophesied about resurrection of the Nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37:3-6).  The exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt and the return of the exiles from Babylon are both resurrection accounts where a dead nation rises to new life.

New Testament Resurrection Accounts

In the gospels, Jesus himself performed several resurrections.  He raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead (Mark 5:22-43).  He raised the widow’s son (Luke 7:12-17).  Most remarkably, after lying four days in the tomb he raised Lazarus from death (John 11:1-45).  Like other resurrections, Jesus’ healings and exorcisms brought hope where there was none.

Some scholars believe that John Mark’s gospel recorded Apostle Peter’s testimony while he was in Rome during AD 41-54.  Mark later traveled with Paul.  Mark’s role was to teach about the life of Jesus.  Later, Luke may have assumed this role in Paul’s missionary team.

Mark’s Unusual Ending

Interestingly, Mark did no see the gospel ending with Jesus.  Neither did Luke whose gospel was followed by the Book of Acts.  Mark’s gospel starts with:  “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 ESV).  Scholars believe that Mark’s gospel ends with the woman going out from the tomb to relay the angel’s message:  “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee” (Mark 16:7 ESV).  Likewise, our part in salvation history is to pass on the story.  As the hymnist Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) writes:  “I love to tell the story, of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love…” [2]

Christian Hope

Christian hope starts with the resurrection: we know that death is not the end of life’s story.  And because we know the rest of the story, we can invest in life and live each day with boldness and joy.

[1] Did Abraham believe God would raise Isaac from the dead?  Why did the angel have to tell Abraham twice?

[2] www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh156.sht

Mark 16: Easter 2

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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Mark 15: Holy Saturday 2

Frank and Gertrude Hiemstra, GraveBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

“And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud

and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.

And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.” (Mark 15:46 ESV)

Jesus is buried on the Day of Preparation which ends at sundown when the Jewish Sabbath begins. This detail in Mark’s Gospel is important because burial was forbidden on the Sabbath[1] and executed criminals could not hang overnight (Deut 21:23). The Gospels mention nothing taking place on the Sabbath while Jesus lay in the tomb and the narrative resumes on the following day. In other words, Jesus rested in the tomb over the Sabbath. Holy Saturday was a day of mourning and grief.

A Grieving Holiday

Grief is more than crying. In Jesus’ Beatitudes, Matthew records: “Honored are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4) Luke records: “Honored are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21) Both accounts of this Beatitude are written in the form of a lament which has two parts.  In the first part, one empties the heart of all grief and pain and anxiety in prayer to God; in the second part, having been emptied the heart turns to God in praise. In the lament, when we grieve, we make room in our hearts for God.

The Theology of Lament

The most famous lament in the Bible is cited by the Gospel of Mark as Jesus’ last words: “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)[2] These words come from Psalm 22 verse one which turns to God in verse 19: “But You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.” At a time when much of scripture was memorized, rabbis would cite the first part of a passage knowing that the audience would fill in the missing part. Knowing this tradition[3], Jesus could cite the first verse in Psalm 22 knowing that people hearing him would know the Psalm and how it ended.

Jesus gave us a template for dealing with grief the night before during his prayer in Gethsemane. Mark records that Jesus’ prayed three times:  “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36). Jesus is aware that he stands before the cross and does not want to die; still, he yields to God’s will. Each time we face pain and grief we are faced with a decision: do we turn to God or do we turn into our grief? Our identity is crafted from a lifetime of such decisions.

Joseph of Arimathea

The story of Joseph of Arimathea is instructive. Mark records: “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” (Mark 15:43) Asking for the body of a man just crucified for sedition took guts. Yet, with no expectation of resurrection, on a day when Jesus’ inner circle was in hiding and in fear, Joseph “took courage” and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Then, he buried him in his own grave [4].

Holy Saturday Reveals our Theology

Holy Saturday is a time to reflect on Christ’s crucifixion. Are we among those happy to see Jesus in the tomb or are we looking forward to the kingdom of God like Joseph of Arimathea?

[1] Burial is work, hence forbidden on the Sabbath (e.g. Deut 5:12-15).

[2] Also: Matthew 27:46. The direct citation of an Aramaic expression—“Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” in both the Mark and Matthew accounts makes it more likely that these are the actual words of Jesus. This is because the most important expressions in the Bible are cited directly rather than translated or, in this case, the actual words are both cited and translated.

[3] Jesus does exactly that in Matthew 21:16 citing Psalm 8:2.

[4] What a picture of substitutionary atonement—Jesus was buried in my grave so that I do not have to be.

Mark 15: Holy Saturday 2

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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