Learning about racial healing and forgiveness from a Rwandan genocide survivor

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45 NLT).

We just returned from a two week mission trip to Uganda. One of the highlights was being able to meet and work with five pastors from one of the United Nations refugee camps located there. A little known fact is that Uganda has the most compassionate refugee policy in the world, welcoming refugees from surrounding African countries like Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, and Burundi. The five pastors that attended our pastor’s training conference have all planted churches in one of these refugee camps. Being refugees themselves, they have now become the ideal pastors to help other refugees in Uganda.

One of the refugee pastors was Byamungu Emmanuel. He was a refugee from the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. Nearly his entire family was murdered when the Hutu majority systematically killed over 800,000 Rwandans from the Tutsi and Pygmy Batwa people groups. Over a 100-day period in 1994, it is estimated that 70% of the Tutsi population and 30% of the Batwa were killed. Many of the survivors fled to Uganda. Emmanuel was among them.

When I heard Emmanuel explaining his reason for being a refugee, I asked him to give me his testimony. I asked, “How did you go from having your family murdered to becoming a Christian pastor?”

After hearing his amazing testimony, I asked him to please write it down for me in his own words. The following is what he wrote:

“I am called Pastor Byamungu Emmanuel and this is my testimony before I got saved. I was born on March 8, 1988 and I grew up in the family of non believers but I grew up in that situation knowing nothing about salvation and how a person can get eternal life.

This is what happened to me in 1994 during genocide that took place in Rwanda. My family was completely destroyed from my grandfather and many of my relatives and I remained with only my mother and my sister who is now staying in Kigali. My mother was shocked and  she remained with mental problem after the murders. I grew up with a spirit of revenging to those who had killed my family and relatives. I joined primary school and then after I joined  secondary school but my plan was to join the army so that I can revenge to those who had killed my relatives. I couldn’t study well because my heart was broken. My mission of joining the army failed because after I received the call from someone whom I didn’t know before, telling me to go to Kampala to look for a good school (University). I had sponsorship when I was in senior six but I didn’t think that I have to study even University because what was in mind was only revenging.

I obeyed the call and to went to Kampala to look for the good school. When I reached in Kampala, my plan was to study the law but I didn’t realize that I had joined Bible school. I found my self studying God’s word which was not even in my thoughts.

Day by day transformation took place in my life. No one preached to me the Gospel. What I know and what I believe is that the Holy Spirit touched me in the way I didn’t expect but I allowed Him to take control in my life. After reading Romans 3:23, I was convicted that not only those who killed my relatives are sinners but even me too am a terrible sinner and again the Bible tells us even to love our enemies. To understand this was very had to me but slowly by slowly, God changed me in His own way.

I spent there 3 years in the Bible school and before my graduation I went back to Rwanda. I called my mother and sister and I began to teach and tell them how God had transformed my life. They were amazed because they saw me with a heart of forgiving others. I preached to them and told them how Jesus took away our sins and put them on the cross so that we can get eternal life. They received the message and believed what the Bible says but when I told them to forgive those who killed our relatives, to understand what I was telling them became hard for them. So I kept on praying so that God can change their hearts.

Later, they came to believe what I told them, so I called those who had killed our family to our home so that we could forgive them. Even though it was not their request of forgiveness but I called them and cooked for them and we shared food and drinks with them and I opened Romans 3:23, we all started crying and we forgave them and we also asked them forgiveness because we were in the process of revenging to them and on their children.

We embraced each other and I prayed for them and after 2 weeks, I went to attend my graduation. From 2010 to date, my Mum has been sharing with the so-called enemies what ever they have and  I am going on preaching the Gospel to those who are suffering in sinful life.

I thank the  almighty God who sent Jesus Christ to save me. By now I am a child of God, a new creation, no judgement is on me and I believe that Jesus Christ will not leave me. Glory be to Jesus who saved me and He has given me a beautiful wife and one daughter.

My hope is that Jesus Christ who saved me while I was a terrible sinner will not fail to save others through his powerful blood.”

– Pastor Byamungu Emmanuel, August 2, 2017 at Rutare, Uganda


On our return trip home from Uganda we started catching up on the news from home. After two weeks of working together with Ugandan believers and refugee pastors like Emmanuel, I was broken hearted to hear the tragic news about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Oh how I pray that the people of our country would learn of the racial healing and forgiveness that Pastor Emmanuel has experienced. The kind of healing and forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

5 reasons our church will look like the bat cave this week…

“Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” – Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:22b-23 (NLT)

‘But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”‘ – Jesus, Luke 18:16 (ESV)

If you come to our church this week, or for that matter, you just drive by the building, you’ll see some pretty unusual features added to the architecture. It looks kind of like a superhero hideout. Even more, as you come inside, it looks like the bat cave.


Yep. We’ve made some temporary modifications to make our building look like Batman’s secret base. Not only that, but we’re dressing like superheroes, and we’ve even written songs and lessons and designed crafts and activities around the superhero theme.


Let me give you five reasons:

  1. Because kids everywhere today are into superheroes and we thought it might be a good way to get kids who don’t normally go to church, to come to ours. We’re calling our four-night event: “KidzFest 2017: SIDEKICKS.”  We know that our members will bring their kids to any kind of  VBS type event  just because we offer it. But we wanted to do something that would cause kids in the city, that don’t normally go to church, to beg their parents to bring them. As the apostle Paul taught, we are trying to find “common ground” with unreached families in our city in order to share the gospel with them.
  2. Because kids are the most open to the gospel. That’s why Jesus instructed His disciples not to do anything to “hinder” kids from coming to Him. We’re making our church kid-friendly because we want to give them the gospel in a way that they can understand.
  3. Because when we reach kids, we also reach their parents. One of the main reasons that people begin attending church is because one of their children starts asking “God-questions.” You know, stuff like: “Who made the world? What happens when you die? Who is Jesus?” Parents often need help with these kinds of questions. We want to be there to help.
  4. Because the “growth engine” of our church is our children and family ministries. God has trusted us with young families with lots of kids. We want to be good stewards of that trust. So, our annual KidzFest outreach is one way that we “lean in” to this trust that God has given us.
  5. Because we want to teach kids about the only true Superhero, namely, Jesus Christ! During our KidzFest, even Batman and Superman will have to admit that the only true hero is Jesus. And Jesus wants every kid to be His “sidekick!” In other words, Jesus wants kids to follow Him.

So, there’s five reasons that we’re looking and dressing like superheroes this week. It’s why over 100 adult volunteers are singing, teaching, playing and serving. It’s why we’ve planned and worked for months to prepare. We want kids to come to Jesus.

Every year this outreach has grown. For the last two years we have creatively thought of ways to expand in spite of severe space limitations. But in order to continue to grow, we will need to enlarge our facilities, and increase our efforts to reach kids and families in our city.

So, put your cape on and join us this coming week for KidzFest 2017! And be in prayer for how we can continue to grow in our ministry to kids in years to come!

From now on, call me Moses.

“You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name.” – Isaiah 62:2 NKJV

We just returned from a ten-day tour of Israel yesterday. I’m still pretty jet-lagged, but I had to tell you one of the wonderful God-stories that we experienced while there.

The week before we left on the tour, I received a phone call from the tour company to go over last minute details with me. They also gave me an updated listing of everyone that was going on the tour. I knew the names of the 20 people that I had booked from our church and from other friends. But I didn’t know the names of those the tour company had booked. One of the people they had booked was named “Mohammed.”

“Mohammed?” I asked. “Where is he from and how old is he?”

“He’s from Maryland. He is sixty-six years old.” They answered.

“Is he Muslim?” I asked.

“We don’t know. He was a last minute booking.” They replied.

“OK. That’s cool. I look forward to hearing his story.” I answered.

So, when we arrived in Israel, I was looking for Mohammed. At our first lunch stop I asked him to sit beside me.

“What’s your story, Mohammed?” I asked between bites of falafel. “Why would a Muslim want to go on a Christian tour of Israel?”

“I’m not Muslim anymore.” He answered, while dipping his bread in hummus. “I was a Muslim for sixty-five years, but last year I had several visions of Jesus. He appeared to me. I know it was Him because I saw the scars in His hands as He beckoned to me. So, I decided to become His follower before I die.”

“That’s amazing!” I replied. “So, you’ve been a Christian for one year?”

“Yes, one year. And since then I’ve become obsessed with Jesus. That’s why I decided to come to Israel to see the land where He walked for myself.”

“That’s wonderful! I’ve read well documented reports that Muslims around the world are coming to Jesus because of such visions. It’s become quite a well known phenomenon. Jesus must really love you to appear to you in such a way.” I told him while shaking his hand.

“Hey everyone!” I shouted to those sitting at our table. “You have got to ask Mohammed to tell you his story. It’s amazing!”

“Should I change my name?” Mohammed suddenly asked me. “It seems you assumed I was Muslim because of my name. So, I think I must change it. I want a Christian name.” He passionately explained.

“Well, I’ll be offering to baptize people in the Jordan river in a couple of days. People have been taking a Christian name at baptism for centuries. So that might be a perfect time to consider changing your name.” I answered. “Would you like for me to baptize you?”

“Yes, absolutely. I was hoping for such a possibility. I was baptized by the Catholic church that my wife attends, but I was hoping to be baptized by immersion. So, you would be willing to do that for me?” He asked.

“Have you believed that Jesus died for your sins, was buried and rose again? Have you confessed Him as your Lord and Savior?” I answered.

“I have.” He responded simply.

“Then, on that basis, I will baptize you.” I agreed.

“Great. I’m so happy. Now, I have to think of a new name.” He said with a huge smile on his face.

Following that conversation, I heard Mohammed telling his story to everyone on the tour. He always finished by asking their opinion on what new name they thought he should take. He wanted to have a name from the Bible, but one that still started with an “M” as the first letter. The name that nearly everyone mentioned to him was “Moses.”

But he still wasn’t sure on the morning of baptism. So, I baptized him in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as commanded by Jesus, and told him that he could take a new Christian name whenever he wanted.

A couple of days later, when I gave out baptism certificates to all that were baptized, he came back to me with a troubled look on his face.

“Can you make me a new baptism certificate with the name ‘Moses” on it? I’m going to change my name legally too. So, I want to start with my baptism certificate. ” He asked confidently.

“Yes, as it turns out, I have one blank certificate left. Are you sure you want to change your name to Moses?”

“I’m positively sure. Moses saw the burning bush when he was old and I saw a vision of Jesus when I was old. I am like Moses.” He said.

“Yes, you do look like a Moses to me.” I replied smiling.

On the last day of the tour, we had a worship service at the Garden Tomb. We concluded the service by remembering the Lord’s Supper. At that service, I asked Moses to come forward and there I presented him with his new baptism certificate. On it was his new name, “Moses.”

As he stood next to me smiling, he said to everyone gathered there, “Don’t call me Mohammed anymore. From now on, call me Moses!”

Developing a five year strategic ministry plan

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” – Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV)

We’re beginning a six-month season of focused prayer and reflection on where God wants our church to be in the next five years. We’ve partnered with Brad Oaster with Oaster Development to help us in this process. Brad has years of experience coaching churches on planning for next steps in their ministry.

We’re appointing several teams to focus on various aspects of the ministry,  to pray, research, and offer strategic steps for how we might move forward into the future that we see God leading us. At the end of this six-month period, we prayerfully plan to have a God-sized vision for our church, including next steps that we must take to get there.

So, if you hear a “buzz” around the church over the next six months about how we’re dreaming together to grow and to reach our city for Christ, now you’re in the know.

Also, if you have an interest in helping on one of these strategic planning teams, please contact us. We want all our members to have a part in this process.



Humbled to celebrate 38 happy years together!

“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:21 (ESV)

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? …But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God.” – James 4:1, 6-7 (ESV)

Robin and I are celebrating our anniversary today! We were wed in a little country church up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia thirty-eight years ago. Many considered us too young at the time, but here we are now, thirty-eight years later, with three married children and eight grandchildren. We two, have become a tribe!

Yet, we are humbled by this journey. For the secret to our marital bliss has always been the Lord Jesus, and the grace that He gives us. It is His grace that has made us reconciled to the Father and continues to reconcile us to one another. God’s grace is like love and forgiveness all mixed together and lavishly poured out on us through Christ. When things get difficult in our marriage, God’s grace is kind of like the oil in a combustion engine, it keeps the relational gears and pistons lubricated when friction and heat would otherwise cause them to break down.

And yes, we’ve had our own relational “friction and heat” in 38 years together! There’s no such thing as a conflict-free marriage and we’re certainly no exception. We’re all sinners, and sinners are selfish and want their own way. We may want to blame our disagreements and strife on someone else, but the truth is we’re usually the ones to blame.

The apostle James wrote that our quarrels actually begin inside of us. He said it’s because our own “passions are at war” within us. Marriage merely exposes the conflict that is already raging inside our own hearts.

Can you imagine going to “Dr. James” for marriage counseling today? Couples that might come looking for some communication tips or conflict resolution tweaks, would be quite surprised to have Dr. James focusing his attention on their individual relationships with God…

Dr. James – “So, John and Sally, how can I help you today?”

Sally – “Dr. James, can you please help us with our communication? John doesn’t talk to me like he used to, and when I complain, he gets angry with me.

Dr. James – “Sally, are you at peace with God? Have you humbled yourself before God and submitted to His will for your life? Are you seeking to please the Lord Jesus in all things?”

Sally – “What? We came here for marriage counseling. Not spiritual counseling!”

John – “Ha! Now you see what I’m up against Doc. She can be a real nag!”

Dr. James – “No John. Sally is not the problem. You are. Have you humbled yourself before God and submitted to His will for your life?  If you will submit your role as a husband to Christ, He will give you the grace to be the husband that Sally truly needs.”

Sally – “Yes, yes! See John? You need God’s help to be a better husband to me. That’s what I’ve been praying for you.”

Dr. James – “No Sally. You misunderstand. John is the problem, but so are you. If each of you will focus on humbly submitting to God, He will give you the grace for living in harmony as husband and wife. Stop focusing on the faults you see in one another and start focusing on your own need for God’s grace in your life.”

I’m not sure if “Dr. James” would have a successful counseling practice today because people like to have their ears tickled. But I guarantee you that those who would follow his advice would see the grace of God bring peace and harmony to their lives.

That’s what Robin and I have experienced in our marriage. Sure, we could give you a list of tips and tweaks, like “don’t go to bed mad,” and always be ready to say, “I’m sorry,” and of course the very important, “the last one up makes the bed!” But none of that advice will help with the war that rages inside us. We need someone to rescue us from our own selves.

That “someone” is Jesus. When we humbly submit to Him, he “gives more grace.” Then, when we have submitted to receive His peace with God, we learn to submit to “one another out of reverence for Christ” and discover that we have found peace with one another too.

So, we are humbled to celebrate our thirty-eight years of marriage together. For it was in humbling our individual selves “before the Lord” that resulted in His “raising us up,” so that Christ gets the glory!



Who is Mephibosheth?

“So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king’s table. And he was lame in both his feet” (2 Samuel 9:13 NKJV).

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV).

Who is Mephibosheth?

Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, the son of King Saul, who was five years old when the news came about their deaths in battle. His nurse was fleeing with him to hide when “he fell and became disabled” (2 Samuel 4:4). Then, perhaps 16 years later, King David called for the disabled Mephibosheth .

Surely he was terrified as he limped into the king’s throne room and fell prostrate on his face before the king. Middle Eastern custom would have suggested that David would slay all remaining descendants of Saul in order to secure his own throne. Yet, while the crippled Mephibosheth lay face down, trembling with anxiety, he heard King David say, “Fear not. For I will surely show you kindness for your father’s sake, and you shall eat bread at my table continually” (2 Samuel 9:7).

Who is Mephibosheth? First, we must answer the question, “Who is David?” For David was a type of Christ, and his behavior towards Mephibosheth foreshadowed the kindness of Christ towards us. Mephibosheth had fallen and was crippled all his days. He was from the House of Saul, who had made David his enemy, trying to kill him. It was a scandalous thing that King David would seek to find Mephibosheth in order to invite this crippled, former enemy to eat at the same table as one of his own sons. Yet, this is exactly what David did.

Who is Mephibosheth?

We are. If David represents Christ, then Mephibosheth represents us. We are fallen and crippled by sin. We have made ourselves enemies of God. Yet Jesus Christ, the Son of David, has sought us out. He has invited us to eat continually at the King’s table as one of the Father’s own sons. Yet, we must respond to His invitation. Admitting our weakness, that we are crippled by sin, we must fall on our faces in repentance and receive the kindness of Christ. For Christ took on our weakness, that we might receive His strength.

Therefore, because of Christ, we have become more than Mephibosheth, for we are glad to exchange our weakness for Christ’s strength. We answer the King’s invitation in weakness, but will one day take a seat at His table according to His strength.

Yet, in the meantime, while we await our new bodies, unmarred by the crippling effects of sin, we “take pleasure” in being like Mephibosheth, so that in our weakness, the strength of Christ may be revealed in us.

Listening speaks louder

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19 ESV).

“Lend me your ears” (Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar).

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give another is the gift of listening. It sounds paradoxical, but listening can actually speak louder than words.

In a world where everyone is busy expressing their opinion on social media and tweeting about their status, do you ever wonder if anyone is really listening? We greet one another with “How are you?” but really don’t want to know. It’s just a pleasantry. We don’t have time to hear. Listening is a luxury we feel we can’t afford.

Yet many are starving for understanding, yearning for someone to really listen to their voice. Who will give the gift of listening to them?

There have been many through the years who have given me the gift of listening. And that’s really important to a “talker” like me. Certainly the one, other than Jesus, that has been my most ardent listener has been my wife, Robin. As long as I don’t start the conversation too late at night (she’s an early to bed, early to rise type), she will listen attentively as long as I talk. She’s my biggest fan. Always encouraging me when I express self-doubt. Believing in me when I describe my dreams. Her listening speaks louder of her love for me than words ever could.

That’s because listening is sacrificial. We have to humble ourselves and be silent to truly hear another. This self-imposed silence is not only to our speaking voice, but also to our inner one as well, not thinking of what we’re going to say next, but truly focusing on the other. Listening is a gift of love.

When was the last time you gave the gift of listening to someone that everyone else tends to shun? When did you last bend down to a child’s level and truly hear their little voice?

I’m glad that I have a wife that listens to me. Even more than that, I’m glad that we have a God that listens. As the psalmist said, “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:19 ESV).

If we really seek to communicate with God and with others, we must learn to be “quick to listen.” The paradoxical biblical principle of listening in order to speak is counter to the world’s wisdom. Yet, when practiced it brings about the harmony of understanding.



(This article was adapted from a previous entry entitled, “Generous Ears,” February 2016.)

Two ways you can help us prepare for a full house this Easter

“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23 ESV).

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you” (Luke 14:8-10 ESV).

We’re praying and preparing for a full house on Easter weekend.

We’re preparing great music and a gospel-centered message. We’ve designed and printed invite cards, door hangars, and signs to help promote our services. We’re planning to utilize social media and Facebook ads to send out invites. We’re offering four services instead of our usual two to make room for everyone.

Yet, there are key two areas where our church members are best suited to help us prepare for a full house this Easter (Hint: It’s about who you invite and where you sit):

1. Invite people to attend our services.

In Luke 14, Jesus told two banquet parables. One was about a wedding banquet and the other was about a “great banquet.” The great banquet parable illustrates our call as servants of God to be busy inviting people that the Master’s “house might be filled.”

In this parable, Jesus described a master who sent his servant out to invite people to his banquet. But everyone the servant invited gave an excuse for not being able to attend. So, the master told the servant to go out and “bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame,” that his house might be filled. The servant reported that he had done as commanded, yet there was still room at the table. So, the master sent the servant back out to “compel” people to come.

The truth is, most people who visit our church have come because of a personal invitation from a family member or friend. Look at these statistics explaining what prompted someone to visit and attend church (From evangelismcoach.org)

  • 2% by Advertisement
  • 6% by the Pastoral Invitation
  • 6% by organized evangelism campaign
  • 86% by friends or relatives

So, most church visits are prompted by a personal invitation. Yet, a troubling statistic is that “only 2% of church people have invited an unchurched person” (Thom S. Rainer).

Preparing for a full house requires church members who are willing to be servants who “compel” (“to urge with urgency”) people to come, with a special emphasis to focus on those who are “poor, crippled, blind and lame.” In other words, we should focus on inviting those who have the greatest physical and spiritual need because they are usually most receptive to the gospel.

2. Make it easy for our guests to find a seat.

In the wedding banquet parable, Jesus taught that we shouldn’t choose to, “sit down in a place of honor.” He described those who would choose a seat based on their own preference, rather than the preference of the host. He said that they might be embarrassed when the host asks them to move.

We can apply this parable’s teaching to how we treat our invited guests who arrive and search for a seat in our worship space. Consider the following questions about where you choose to sit:

  • Should you choose the back seats and aisle seats, so that those entering feel there is no room for them?
  • Should you climb over the ropes reserving seats for our late arrivals, placed there by the ushers?
  • Should you ignore the instruction of our ushers who try to help you get a seat?
  • Which seats being filled best “honor” and encourage the pastor and worship team?
  • Is it best to choose your seat on what “honors” you or based on what “honors” others?

The answers to these questions seem clear when we base the answer on what is best for our guests, rather than our own preferences.

Our worship space has 214 seats. Most services we average around 100 to 160 people in those seats. We often have attenders thinking we are full when there are actually 40 to 100 seats still available. The problem is to find those seats, you have to go down towards the front and step over other people to find them. We’re expecting over 600 in attendance on Easter weekend, so you can see how important it is to make room for everyone.

We recognize that we are fast approaching the need to expand our facilities, both for our adult space and our children’s worship space. But in the meantime, we want to be good stewards of what we have. Let’s fill up the house God has given us! Then, we’ll expand when it’s really needed.

As we prepare for a full house not only this coming Easter weekend, but every weekend, would you consider helping us in these two key areas? Will you invite people far from God to come near? Will you take the seat that best honors both our guests and our Host?

Studying the seven last words

“And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.” – Mark 15:37 (ESV)

“It was most fitting that every word of our Lord upon the cross should be gathered up and preserved. As not a bone of him shall be broken, so not a word shall be lost. The Holy Spirit took special care that each of the sacred utterances should be fittingly recorded. There were, as you know, seven of those last words, and seven is the number of perfection and fulness; the number which blends the three of the infinite God with the four of complete creation. Our Lord in his death-cries, as in all else, was perfection itself. There is a fulness of meaning in each utterance which no man shall be able fully to bring forth, and when combined they make up a vast deep of thought, which no human line can fathom.” – C. H. Spurgeon

We’ve been studying the seven last words of Jesus from the cross these past four weeks. We have three more to go. This has been a rich time of study and meditation as we prepare for Easter Sunday. And we thought we would share a couple of the charts we have written to help prepare these messages.

The first chart we made was in preparation of the whole study. We wanted to verify the last sayings of Christ, discover which gospels reported them, and place them in the best chronological order. Here is a link to a PDF of the chart that we made: A STUDY OF THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS FROM THE CROSS

The second chart came out of a desire to know the identity of the four women who stood near the cross of Jesus as reported in John’s gospel. “Just how many “Marys” were there?” We wondered.  So, we charted what all four gospels said concerning the women at the cross and compared each to try and identify the four women reported in John. Here is a link to a PDF of the chart that we made: WHO WERE THE WOMEN AT THE CROSS?

We concluded that the two pairs of women (one pair unnamed and one named) at the cross in John’s gospel were:

  • Mary, mother of Jesus
  • Mary Magdalene
  • Mary, wife of Clopas, and mother of James the younger and Joseph (or Joses)
  • Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother to James and John, and sister to Mary, mother of Jesus

We offer these two charts to enhance your own Bible study during this series. We hope you find it helpful and that it offers additional insight and blessing to your consideration of the seven last words of Jesus.

The great British expositor, C. H. Spurgeon has said on this subject, “There is a fulness of meaning in each utterance which no man shall be able fully to bring forth, and when combined they make up a vast deep of thought, which no human line can fathom.”

Yet, we would invite you to join us as we endeavor to try and fathom them, diving deep into these seven sayings of Jesus to meditate on their meaning.

The emphasis must be on relationship

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27 ESV).

There are seven last sayings of Christ recorded in the four gospels. This year, we are studying these last words of Jesus from the cross on the Sundays leading up to Easter. This coming Sunday, we will be looking at the third saying where Jesus entrusted the welfare of his mother to his disciple, John.

In our study of this third saying, the personal relationship and loving care of our Lord Jesus for us has become even more evident. But you’ll have to wait for our sermon this coming Sunday to hear the insights the Lord has given us from our fruitful meditation and study on this saying. The reason I’m writing about it now, is not to tease you, but to encourage you to consider the importance of our relationships— with God and with one another— as it applies to discipleship.

As we continue to see God’s faithfulness in how our church has embraced Life On Life Discipleship, we want to emphasize even more the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus that calls us to a personal investment of our lives in others. Discipleship is not an optional church program to be taken like a class. It is a personal command of Jesus to follow him, in order to be with him, and to make disciples like him ( see Mark 3:14).  We are called to help them grow more like Jesus by calling them to be with us, and to imitate us as we imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).

Our Life On Life Discipleship workbook is not a program. It is a discipleship plan designed to give order and purpose for a one-to-one, life-on-life, discipleship relationship to form and take over, so that disciple-making, the Jesus way, can happen.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, he was not only acting to make provision for his mother’s soul. He was also mindful of his personal responsibility to care for her situation in this world. In the same way, we are to share our very lives with people, so that we can disciple them not only in spiritual things, but in the practical things of life too.

To disciple in the Jesus way, the emphasis must be on relationship.