Crossroads Connection
 
Welcome to the new page on our site. I will be placing articles here that will inform, inspire, feed and challenge you in your walk with Jesus.
You will find that Articles 1 and 3 deal with the subject of evangelism. Evangelism is very dear to my heart and is one of several factors that are a necessity to having a healthy church. Please read and enjoy all three articles. The article on the Physicians Analysis of the crucifixion is still here too.
 
Article #1 
 
Evangelism
  • Evangelism is often the least natural ministry in many churches.
  • If there is not explicit intentionality about evangelism, it will wane in a church.
  • Evangelism is not the sole responsibility of the pastor and church staff.
  • If we depend on a single evangelistic event, we abdicate our daily evangelistic responsibility.
  • Don’t think of evangelism as a once-a-year church event.
  • We should be highly intentional and prayerful about connecting with unbelievers.
  • The most effective evangelistic churches have two main characteristics: obedience and prayer.

The six statements that kill evangelism are:

  1. “That’s what we pay our pastor to do.”
  2. “Our church members are just not evangelistic.”
  3. “Our denomination does not help us.”
  4. “We emphasize evangelism once a year in our church.”
  5. “I don’t know anyone well who is not a Christian.”
  6. “We don’t have the resources.
 
Article #2


These are confusing times to be a man. Many characteristics we once celebrated in men are now rightly seen as brutish, emotionally stunted, and egocentric. But we've too often used that as an excuse to regress into effete men afraid of our own shadows.

Jesus was neither a brute, nor was he backwards. He modeled a strong, virtuous, self-sacrificing masculinity that was grounded in his identity as his heavenly father's beloved son. If we are to become the men God created us to be, we must first find our identity in our heavenly father's love. That will give us the holy self-forgetfulness that gives us an otherworldly strength of character the world can't help but notice and admire.
 
True Grit   
                                                                                                                                                             Key Bible Verse: These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. (1 Peter 1:7)

Dig Deeper: 1 Peter 1:6-9

Don't wash your hands like Pilate. Wash feet like Jesus.
—Mark Batterson (Lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.)

I'm more and more convinced that men need an element of danger. It's one way we come alive. It's one way we discover who we really are. Without danger, our sense of manliness atrophies. We become like caged animals. If there isn't a healthy and holy outlet for our testosterone, we often find unhealthy and unholy outlets.

When have you felt most like a man? I haven't done a quantitative study on the subject, but I have a hunch. If you're anything like me, you feel most like a man when you're pushed to your limits and beyond.

The word toughness, when referring to metal, is a measure of how much it can deform without fracturing. In other words, it's the ability to bend without breaking. The toughest metals can withstand stress and strain because of their resiliency. Metal toughness and mental toughness are similar. Grit is the place where passion and perseverance meet. Grit is a sanctified stubborn streak! No matter how many times you've been knocked down, you get back up! You keep on keeping on no matter what, no matter when, no matter how.

Adapted from Play the Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be by Mark Batterson. Baker Books
 
 
Article #3
 
Is Jesus Welcome in Justice Efforts?
Tim Avery

Fifteen years ago, some Christians volunteered to help serve and prepare food for a New York City AIDS hospice with a clientele primarily of homosexual men. Since the hospice was involved in the gay rights movement, its administrators were nervous about letting church volunteers inside their doors. They made the expectations clear: you can come and serve, but don't proselytize.

We recommend this Building Church Leaders training tool:

Today, Christians still come and serve food in the hospice. But they also come to help with something else, something that would have been unthinkable 15 years ago: a worship service.

This service was started at the request of hospice residents, who over the years developed deeper and deeper friendships with the church folks who showed up every week to offer a loving presence. Now the name of Jesus is heard regularly in what was once the most secular of environments.

This story illustrates one of the stickier relationships in ministry: word and deed. While most Christian leaders will quickly say the two can't be separated, the question remains, especially with more and more churches focusing on justice ministry: how open can Christians be about their faith? In many situations, the "serving" is welcome but "proselytizing" is not. How do Christians bring the name of Jesus into works of compassion, mercy, and justice?

The love of Jesus in public schools

"We bring Jesus in through the relationships that we build," says Efrem Smith, pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For years Sanctuary Covenant has ministered within the Minneapolis public schools, running a tutoring program to help children get reading and math skills up to grade level. Another initiative is called Hip Hop Academy, an after-school arts program for a district in which arts programs have been slashed. It teaches kids to enjoy hip-hop culture apart from its associations with gangs, drugs, alcohol, and abuse of women.

More recently, since Minneapolis teachers have experienced budget cuts and layoffs, Sanctuary Covenant has tried to bring encouragement through gestures of appreciation, such as gift cards or coffee and bagels in the teachers' lounge.

As the AIDS hospice once did, the public school system prohibits outright evangelism. But that doesn't mean that these ministries haven't borne fruit.

"We've seen teachers and families of our kids join our church and come to Christ," says Smith, "not because we went in and said, 'You need to accept Jesus,' but because we brought the love of Jesus to them."

So how are Sanctuary Covenant tutors told to approach their ministry? "We say, 'Go in there prayed up, and tutor that kid,'" says Smith. "'Help them in their reading and math skills, and trust the Holy Spirit. Ask God to use you as a tutor to extend his love and present his gospel.' We should not underestimate how God works through our integrity and character as we do the work, and we should also trust the Holy Spirit to do something on the hearts of those people so that they end up asking questions like 'How can I get to your church this Sunday?' or 'How can I learn more about God?'"

Adds Smith, "We can't guarantee everybody we encounter will become a Christian, but we can guarantee everybody we encounter experiences the love of Christ."

Disclosing why we do this

NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, pursues justice ministries, among other places, in Vietnam, working in poverty alleviation and development through hospitals, orphanages, and education. It also offers business classes for corporations and vocational schools for kids.

If the name of Jesus can spark trouble anywhere, it's in a place like Vietnam. But even if NorthWood volunteers don't come into the country with suitcases full of Bibles, they also don't mask their allegiance to Jesus.

"I hate it when Christians sneak in and do the humanitarian work and don't talk about who they're doing it for," says Bob Roberts, pastor of NorthWood. He thinks that when churches try to cover up their Christian purposes, they are not only disingenuous, but also naïve. Yet he sees it happening everywhere.

"As Christians we are having two conversations," he says. "We're having a public conversation—'World, this is who we are, this is what we believe'—and we're having a private conversation—'Well, this is what we really want to do.' But there are no private conversations anymore … people can go to your website. They're going to figure that out. And that comes across as deceit."

Roberts applies his "one-conversation" mentality to the church's many justice initiatives, since he often partners overseas with non-Christian leaders. He has found that he doesn't have to be bashful about his faith as long as he establishes common ground.

Roberts warns, however, that many Christians chase after common ground in the wrong way. For example, some Christians start with beliefs that they and their non-Christian partners can agree on (with Muslims, for instance, that Jesus brought a message from God) and then work their way back to the points of difference (Jesus was God himself), which they then try to resolve, usually by deemphasizing the distinctive beliefs. Roberts calls this an "inter-faith" platform.

Instead, he favors a "multi-faith" approach:

"As Christians and Muslims, we come side by side to work on projects together. I tell them, 'I'm grateful to be in a relationship with you because the best of both our faiths teaches us that we should be in a relationship. And at the end of the day, let's be honest; we have some irreconcilable differences in belief. But whether you ever agree with me or not, I'm going to love and serve you with all my might, because of Jesus living inside of me.'"

The distinction is that an inter-faith approach puts the focus on the beliefs, while a multi-faith approach puts the focus on the shared task. A parallel to multi-faith might be found in C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves. Lewis imagines that the ancient beginnings of friendship may have revolved around the hunt, with men pursuing their common goal shoulder to shoulder, and then filling in the idle times with talk.

In practice, then, interfaith tends to kill the conversation—we agree on this, we agree on that, and we will ignore what we disagree on—but multi-faith lets you build a relationship and keep talking through your differences as you work alongside each other.

At a meeting for one of these multi-faith initiatives, Roberts was asked to explain the Great Commission. Afterward he was approached by a wealthy Muslim. As Roberts remembers: "He sat down with me and said, 'Bob, I've enjoyed being around you. I love your heart. I hope you won't be offended, but I have really come to care about you.' Then he began to tear up. He said, 'Would you seriously think about the prophet Mohammed?'

"I told him that I had.

"'I know you've read the Koran. But I want you to read it slower.' And he began to cry more. 'Because I cannot stand the thought of you not being in heaven with me.'"

For Roberts, that statement was the "greatest compliment," and he says that to this day he talks about spiritual matters with this Muslim. The justice ministries sustain the lines of communication across religious lines so that these kinds of conversations can take place. And to Roberts, this service-oriented evangelism gives the message the right kind of shape.

"Most of our evangelism starts with the head," he says. "We think we've got to convince people first to change their beliefs, hoping that will ultimately change the heart.

"But here's my premise: we start with the hand. We sweat side by side. And from the hand, it captures the heart. I'm not saying theology is subjective to our experience. But I am saying that a lot of our theology is just wonderful as long as it's sterile and doesn't touch life. But when it begins to touch life, it's a radically different thing."

It takes time

Another church that grounds its message in deeds is Apostles Church in New York City. Apostles is an affiliate of Hope for New York (HFNY), an organization started in the early 1990s by Redeemer Presbyterian. HFNY works with churches to provide volunteer and financial support to organizations that serve the physical and spiritual needs of the poor, homeless, recovering addicts, at-risk youth, immigrants, and others.

Kristian Rose, pastor of community and justice for Apostles, explains: "If post-Christian, postmodern, secular New Yorkers are ever going to listen to the gospel, it's going to have to be legitimized in their eyes. So, while we're not doing mercy ministry to legitimize our message, we're doing mercy ministry because it's a demonstration of the message. And we have seen this awaken people's hearts."

How do volunteers verbally present the message as they demonstrate it? Rose says that every ministry situation is different.

"In some of our ministries, we're upfront and explicit in preaching the gospel (in soup kitchens, for instance). In others, we have to be more patient and build some relational capital first.

"We've been at the Ronald McDonald House for a couple of months," he says, "and I would venture to say that not all the residents there know that we're Christians. We didn't come in holding a 'Jesus Saves' banner or wearing church t-shirts. But as conversations are started and relationships are built, it becomes apparent. We're not trying to broadcast it, but just trying to be sincere."

Strategic partnerships

In many justice ministries, churches are partnering with secular or non-Christian agencies—Sanctuary Covenant and the Minneapolis public schools, NorthWood and the Vietnamese government, or Apostles and Ronald McDonald House. While these contexts can initially limit the way Jesus is talked about, these pastors also see that, when these partnerships are conducted well, they have great strategic value.

Most evangelism starts with the head, to change beliefs. we start with the hand, working side by side, which leads to the heart.

"You've got to have healthy boundaries," says Efrem Smith. "On the one hand, when I sit down with the mayor, I have to try to provide some genuinely workable solutions to the city's problems. And you know, when a kid is shot, the mayor will say, 'I don't care if you're Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic—whoever can help, please come.' And that's an open door for Christians to step in and show that there is something powerful about Christ's work as the solution.

"At the same time, we should never compromise who we are. Once I invited the mayor and city council members to come with us as we went on a prayer walk, and I told the mayor, 'We're going to pray, and we're going to say Jesus' name. Are you okay with that?' And he was okay, because he just wants to see crime reduced in his city. But if somebody invites me to something and says, 'You can pray but don't say Jesus,' I don't go."

Bob Roberts sees a couple of advantages behind NorthWood's secular partnerships in Vietnam.

"First, everyone you have a relationship with is someone who needs to hear the gospel. Second, a closed country like Vietnam becomes more open. If we were to focus primarily on going to the church there, we would be more limited. On the other hand, when we work through society to connect technology people with technology people and artists with artists, then there are no closed countries."

Back home in Texas, NorthWood serves its local communities with ESL classes, arts camps, health clinics, and community beautification. Roberts points to similar benefits there.

"Once again, you're connecting believers with nonbelievers; it gives you a public platform to live out your faith. And when you do this stuff in your community, you get credibility, and you get access. For example, as a result of what we've done, the mayor of Haltom City pulled together 15 top church leaders and said, 'We want to make our public schools available to you for these kinds of things.'

"You also get incredible press coverage. Churches want good stories, and it's cool to be in the news not because something was slick or something was sinful but because your church is making a difference."

For each of these churches, then, there is at least one recurring answer to the question of how we bring Jesus into justice ministry: relationships. Whether serving others in mercy, compassion, or justice, we cannot help but forge relationships, and if we hold fast our Christian identity, then into these relationships the gospel overflows.

Or maybe it actually moves both ways. For as we live more and more into the identity Christ has given us, we will be drawn all the more deeply into service.

"Serve not to convert," says Roberts. "Serve because you are converted."

And that's contagious.

Tim Avery is associate editor of Leadership.


Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal. 
 

 

 A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis

Several years ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, or suffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in Jim Bishop's book, The Day Christ Died. I suddenly realized that I had taken the crucifixion more or less for granted all these years - that I had grown callous to its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details. It finally occurred to me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause of Christ's death. The gospel writers do not help much on this point. Since crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, they undoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous. For that reason we have only the concise words of the evangelists: "Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified ... and they crucified Him."

Despite the gospel accounts' silence on the details of Christ's crucifixion, many have looked into this subject in the past. In my personal study of the event from a medical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French surgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wrote extensively on the topic.

An attempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of the Incarnate1 God in atonement2 for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope of this article. However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord's passion we can examine in some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazareth actually endure during those hours of torture?

Gethsemane

The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of His initial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is the bloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the only evangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, "And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44 KJV).

Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away the phenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that it simply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting the medical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone could have produced marked weakness and possible shock.

Although Jesus' betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, the next event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective is His trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. The palace guards then blindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face.

Before Pilate

In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from a sleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. We are familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to shift responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate ordered Barabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

Preparations for Jesus' scourging were carried out at Caesar's orders. The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.

Mockery

The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make their travesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonly used for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaited into the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and again there was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue. After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stick from His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe from His back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed.

Golgotha

In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments. The heavy patibulum3 of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we know today as the Via Dolorosa.

In spite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. He stumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion, selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock. The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finally completed. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loin cloth which was allowed the Jews.

The crucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic, pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the patibulum on the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes4, and the titulus5 reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" was nailed into place.

The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

The Last Words

Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences that are recorded.

The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice6 for His seamless garment: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."

The second - to the penitent thief7: "Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

The third - looking down at Mary His mother, He said: "Woman, behold your son." Then turning to the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John , the beloved apostle, He said: "Behold your mother."8

The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart.

The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasped His fifth cry: "I thirst." Again we read in the prophetic psalm: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15 KJV).

A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus' lips. His body was now in extremis, and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brought forth His sixth word, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: "It is finished." His mission of atonement9 had been completed. Finally, He could allow His body to die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit."

Death

The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, "And immediately there came out blood and water." Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Resurrection

In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man can exhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and is likely to leave us despondent and depressed.

But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man--the gift of atonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Easter morning.

1 Incarnate
2 Atonement
3 Horizontal portion of the cross
4 Vertical portion of the cross
5 Small sign stating the victim's crime
6 Gambling
7 The one who felt remorse for his sins and asked Jesus to help him.
8 As Jesus was dying, He gave his trusted friend responsibility for the care of His mother.
9 Taking our place by suffering the death penalty for our sin.

Dr. C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a book about medicine and the Bible.

Editors' note: If Jesus had remained dead, Christianity would be nothing but an empty promise. But three days after His death, He rose again from the dead. This is the miracle of resurrection, which is what Christians celebrate at Easter. To learn more about the resurrection, read John chapters 20 and 21.