This darkness is, indeed, strong, for it has sucked into its vortex of betrayal and violence this innocent man lifted up on the cross between these two thieves. They were spreaders of the darkness. They were willing participants with the darkness. But Jesus? No. He was pure light.

What is he doing on a cross? Crosses are for those who create and spread darkness. How can he be here, nailed between two thieves, two criminals? How can the darkness snuff out the light? Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?

Maybe that’s why the mocking criminal was so cynical. If you are the King of the Jews, if you are God’s Messiah, then prove it by saving yourself. Pull the nails out of your hands and feet. Get down from that cross. Call on the angels of God to rescue you. And oh by the way, save me too. It’s all too easy to become cynical in the midst of such overwhelming darkness.

What do you expect, says the thief who makes the good confession. What do you expect when you choose to spread the darkness by breaking God’s commands? Did you think there would be no consequences? Did you think that his light would shine unhindered by all that darkness you’re throwing around? What did you think would happen when you sinned? How can you blame God for this darkness? He has not forgotten us. We have forgotten him.

Don’t you fear God? This man Jesus has done nothing wrong, and yet he’s in the same position as you and I. We deserve this cross because we have thrown darkness over the light. But he is the light! What’s happening to us is the work of justice. What’s happening to him is either a tremendous mistake or the most horrible evil that has ever been committed on the face of the earth.

We complain about the darkness that overwhelms us, but, even if in some small way, we all contribute to that darkness. We all sin. We all do wrong to each other. But Jesus? He never sinned. He never did any one any wrong. And yet the darkness consumed him. He was pure light, but still the darkness covered him as he died there, suffocating on a roman cross.

We push all of the blame onto God, as though he were some cosmic, supernatural janitor we hired to clean up all of our metaphysical messes. We complain that he has forgotten his duty of wiping our noses and cleaning up all the filth we have spread throughout the house. This darkness is his fault, we say bitterly, and what has he done about it? What, indeed?

Has God forgotten? Has he turned his back? Has he abandoned us? Does he not remember? Where have you gone, God? Where are you, God, when even your most innocent of servants succumbs to the power of the darkness and is tortured to death on a cross? Could you not even save your Chosen One? Where have you gone, O God?

I am here. Next to you, on this cross, this ancient gallows. Do you think that I have forgotten you? How can I forget you when I am being crucified right next to you? I suffer with you. I suffer for you. You bear the burden placed upon you by justice. I bear the burden placed upon me by mercy.

I have come, not to succumb to the darkness, but to subdue it, and break it, once and for all. Oh you may not understand now, but it’s only Friday. It’s only Friday, and Sunday is just a day away.

So we say, yes, be angry, but know that there is a place for your anger, and that place is here, at the cross. If you want to shout at God because of all this darkness, go ahead. But know that the one to whom you raise your voice is the one who is raised up on the cross and killed. You are not shouting into the air. You are shouting at a man, bloodied and beaten, mocked and betrayed, pierced and tortured, nailed to the Roman instrument of capital punishment. Know that your God knows, intimately, this darkness that plagues us all.

No, God has not forgotten. We commemorate tonight his very act of remembering the messes of darkness we have got ourselves into. He has remembered us.

And so the confessing thief turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Remember me. Remember me, Jesus. When you finally become king, Jesus, remember me. What an interesting thing to say to a man on a cross.

Our cry is the same as that of the poor, dying criminal. Remember me, Jesus! When darkness has surrounded me, O Jesus, remember me! Don’t forget about me. Don’t look past me. I’m still here. I’m still hanging on. When you come into your kingdom, remember me.

God has not forgotten you. We remember the cross tonight, that horrible place of death where God remembered you. He has not forgotten. He has not turned away. Jesus remembers you.

Last night I preached a sermon on humility at dia•spora, our service of mostly young adults and young families. Humility is one of those topics that doesn’t get covered a lot, probably because most preachers and teachers deem themselves unqualified to speak authoritatively on the subject. (I mean, can you really be an expert on humility? A bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it?) But I happen to believe that humility is the most important thing in the world. So, despite my shortcomings, I wanted to address it.

The Bible tells us, on several occasions, that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34, 1 Peter 5:5) In other words, humility is the channel through which God’s grace flows to us. It’s the riverbed of the River of Life. The deeper the riverbed of humility the greater volume of God’s grace flows into your heart.

Of course God’s heart is to give us as much grace as we can bear. That’s why, I believe, everything that happens to you is an opportunity to humble yourself. God has so ordered creation that it might humble the greatest of creatures–men and women. Life is humbling, and every experience is an opportunity to grow. Every difficult time is an opportunity to learn. We dig the riverbed deeper when we humble ourselves and learn the lessons that God is trying to teach us.

Whatever God is doing in your life, I assure you that part of it is trying to build humility into your soul. God wants that riverbed to be as deep as it can because his reservoir of grace is infinite. Think about the circumstances of your life–the good, the bad and the ugly. Ask God what he’s trying to teach you, and specifically how he’s trying to teach you humility. Dig the riverbed deeper by humbly obeying him, and enjoy the rush of grace that flows into your heart.

Here’s another nerd blog that I first wrote up for my church.

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It seems that the Bible is constantly coming under attack as being hopelessly full of errors and contradictions, and that the many manuscripts on which our translations are based are unreliable. The critique normally takes the line that too large a gap of time exists between the original documents and the earliest copies we have found. Hundreds of years have elapsed, they tell us, between the first writing and the copies we now possess. Who knows how the documents might have been altered? Who knows what absurd theological points (like the divinity of Christ) have been inserted in the interim? But is this really the case? I suppose I wouldn’t be writing this if it were.

The New Testament is far and away the best-attested ancient document. What I mean by this is that there are hundreds and hundreds of early “copies”, or manuscripts that date to within a reasonable amount of time to the first composition of the various books. The number of manuscripts (whether in whole or fragments) is estimated at 5000, with some dating to within a few decades, and many within three centuries.

By means of comparison, consider the second best-attested ancient document, Homer’s Iliad. This epic Greek poem has about a tenth of the manuscripts as the NT, and the earliest document we have was written roughly 1200 years after Homer first composed the story. The best document, called Venetus A, is preserved from the tenth century AD, almost 2000 years later!

What we have with the NT is an embarrassment of riches. So many documents. So early. So similar. Consider one document, called p52. It contains a portion of the gospel of John, which was written in about 90. Scholars have dated p52 to about 125. You can do the math. 35 years! Less than a generation! Consider also that p52 was written in Alexandria, Egypt, and John wrote his gospel in Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey. That means that the Gospel of John was circulating throughout the Roman Empire in less than a generation.

Consider also Codex Sinaiticus, which was written in the middle of the 4th century and contains the complete New Testament, as well as about half of the Old Testament. Again, you can do the math. The whole New Testament was compiled and copied less than 300 years after it was written. When you consider that we’re dealing with multiple authors at different times from varying locations working without the benefit of modern technology, this is truly a remarkable feat. So don’t let Dan Brown get you down. The New Testament is the most reliable ancient document around.

My last post was about LifeChurch.tv’s Bible app for the iPhone/iPod Touch. One of my favorite features of the app is the extensive catalog of Bible reading plans. I’m attempting to work my way through two of them, the M’Cheyne (which takes you through the Bible in a year) and Elevation Church’s New Thru 30 (which takes you through the New Testament in 30 days).

Like so much of what they do at Elevation (which is in Charlotte, NC, by the way–mmm, Charlotte…), the New Thru 30 reading plan is intense and ambitious. It amounts to roughly 10 chapters of reading each day, though there is nothing scheduled for 2 days each week. I assume they do this so that you can catch up on what you weren’t able to get through during the week.

One of the things I like best about the New Thru 30 is that, because you’re reading so much at a time, you get a better sense for the structure and story of each book. (I’m still in the gospels at this point.) I’ve found that it’s so much easier to understand a book of the Bible if you read it all in one sitting, or, for the longer books, read them over the period of just a couple days.

It has been difficult to keep up with the New Thru 30, as this has been one of the busier times for me and my family in recent memory. So it will probably be closer to the New Thru 45 for me. But whether you’re reading 10 chapters a day or just a few verses, it’s always good to consistently get into God’s Word. His words nourish and refresh, rebuke and correct, encourage and enlighten. Read the Word, friends!

I love churches that think outside of their own walls and seek to bless the body of Christ at large. Lifechurch.tv seems to be one of those churches. If you’re a Christian and you own an iPhone or an iPod Touch, first of all, shame on you for being so materialistic. Secondly, you’ve probably downloaded Lifechurch’s free Bible app. It was one of the first apps I downloaded after I sold my soul and got an iPod Touch. (And thank you, Verizon, for not supporting the iPhone. Jerks.)

There’s a lot to like about this app. First of all, it’s free! And they carry a wide range of translations, including the NIV, TNIV, NLT, The Message, ESV, and many more. I’m sure that’s a hefty licensing fee on their part, but they swallow all the cost and pass it on to us for free. Thanks, Lifechurch! (And some of those translations are even available for download!)

Probably my favorite feature is the reading plans. There are a lot to choose from, and they’re all linked to their website, www.youversion.com. This was a smart move because the app has proved less than reliable at times, and it would be a major drag to lose track of where you are in your reading plan if the app crashes.

There is also a nice Contribs feature where you can publish your own thoughts on particular passages. I have yet to take full advantage of this feature, but I can see the potential. All in all this is a fantastic app, and because it’s free and offers so much, I really can’t complain about the occasional crashing. The only thing it doesn’t have now that would put it over the top (and make it worth paying for) is Hebrew and Greek versions. Or maybe BibleWorks or Accordance should just put out an app.

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