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By Elisabeth Elliot

When I came to the realization that my husband was missing, not knowing for another five days that he was dead, the words that God brought to me then were from Isaiah the 43rd chapter, “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God” (Isa 43:2–3).

And I realized then that God was not telling me that everything was going to be fine, humanly speaking, that he was going to preserve my husband physically and bring him back to me. But he was giving me one unmistakable promise: I will be with you. For I am the Lord your God. He is the one who loved me and gave himself for me.

And so, we come back again to the terrible truth that there is suffering. The question remains, is God paying attention? If so, why doesn’t he do something? I say he has, he did, he is doing something, and he will do something.

The subject can only be approached by the cross. That old, rugged cross so despised by the world. The very worst thing that ever happened in human history turns out to be the very best thing because it saved me. . . . And so God’s love, which was represented, demonstrated to us in his giving his son Jesus to die on the cross, has been brought together in harmony with suffering. . . . 

It’s only in the cross that we can begin to harmonize this seeming contradiction between suffering and love. And we will never understand suffering unless we understand the love of God.

***

This post is adapted from Suffering Is Never for Nothing, (B&H Books, 2019), by Elisabeth Elliot. The post’s title is the addition of an editor.

Focus on the sacrificial love of Jesus this Easter with these resources.

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If you’ve ever priced custom in-ear monitors for your worship leader, you know that church tech can get expensive fast. Sometimes it’s necessary to make those large investments in technology to keep moving forward.

But there’s also tech available that will produce high-end results without the massive price tag. Here are five budget-friendly options that are either free or very low cost.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a free way to make video or voice calls and have group chats with up to 150 people. Plus, you can use emojis, stickers, and animated gifs.

Develop.Me

Develop.Me is a free developmental and goal-setting program for staff. This allows you to track and incorporate year-round conversations with staff about their progress on personal and professional goals.

Smartphone Gimbal

Smartphone Gimbal ($139) is a handheld smartphone stabilizer. If you’re shooting videos on your phone for social media, announcements, or service, this is a must-have. You can walk, run, or jump, and your shot will stay completely smooth.  

Adobe Spark Post

Adobe Spark Post is a free app you can use to create high-quality social media posts. Adobe features new designs from users that you can update and use as your own. Choose from professionally designed templates or make them yourself.

Faithlife Giving

Faithlife Giving is a low-cost option that provides an intuitive dashboard for givers and staff, plus a suite of communication tools to engage your church. You can use it free or pay a low monthly fee for lower processing rates (ideal if you’re processing more than $7,500 in monthly donations). It makes giving convenient, secure, and relational for each and every giver. Plus, you can manage your church finances easily and as a team.

We know you want to honor God as you decide how to best steward the finances of your church. And that includes decisions on what new tech you should invest in.

We’ve created a free guide that walks you through five steps of developing a predictable church budget. With financial clarity, you can make confident choices now and plan wisely for the future.

***

Download your free guide.

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This week we pause to remember Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and for many of us, that means attending special church services.

Many—if not most—churches have Good Friday services in addition to special Easter gatherings, but some churches also meet on Maundy Thursday.

Here are eight things to know about Maundy Thursday:

  1. Maundy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26–29, Mark 14:12–25, Luke 22:15–20, John 13:1–17:26), and it’s observed on the Thursday before Easter (the day before Good Friday).
  2. It’s also sometimes called Holy Thursday or Covenant Thursday.
  3. Celebrated on the Thursday before Easter, Maundy Thursday remembers the events of the day before Jesus’ arrest.
  4. The events of Maundy Thursday focus on the Eucharist in the Synoptic Gospels. However, the Gospel of John explains the day in more detail. John begins with the pericope of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1–20), includes two of Jesus’ “I am” statements (John 14:6, 15:5), and ends with his High Priestly Prayer (John 17). In all four Gospels, the day’s events come right before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
  5. Maundy Thursday gets its name from the new commandment (Lat. mandatum) Jesus gave in John 13:34.
  6. References to Maundy Thursday appear as early as Justin Martyr’s First Apology (c. 155–157) and Hippolytus’ liturgy (second century).
  7. The day was officially recognized as a Holy Day in AD 393 by the Council of Hippo.
  8. At a typical Maundy Thursday service, attendees confess their sins to God and take communion together. Some churches also include foot-washing, stripping the church’s decor, and Tenebrae (or extinguishing candles).

Does your church celebrate Maundy Thursday? If not, do you think it should? Discuss in the comments below.

***

Don’t miss this month’s free book: A Theology of Matthew.

 

Works Cited

Provance, Brett Scott.  Pocket Dictionary of Liturgy & Worship, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 85.

Cross, F.L. and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1065.

Gregg, Larry D. “Maundy Thursday,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 874.

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Working in the church (salaried or not) is a huge honor. Nothing’s better than sharing the gospel with people and teaching the truth of God’s Word.

Administration is a huge part of church ministry, and budgeting a big part of administration—an area not everyone is skilled in.

Get a free guide for building a predictable church budget.

Whether you oversee the whole church budget or just one part, know budgets like the back of your hand or are just building one, there are a few keys to making your church budget predictable.  

We’ve created this free guide that takes you through five easy steps to build a budget uniquely contoured to your ministry’s needs:

  • Find your “why”—the goals your budget will help you reach
  • Assess your current expenses
  • Envision future ministry opportunities
  • Cultivate a more reliable income stream
  • Thank those who give to your ministry

Leading with a predictable budget could allow you to take ministry goals from “maybe someday” to “maybe next month.” Imagine what you could accomplish with a predictable budget and bandwidth to dream big. That’s what this guide will help you do.

***

Download your free guide and get started on your new church budget today.

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Creating your media presentations with Faithlife Proclaim is even faster with our latest feature update: Suggested Media.

Faithlife Proclaim can now automatically suggest media to add to your presentation based on the season.

In fact, it takes into account:

  • Upcoming events in your Faithlife Church calendar
  • Current funds from your Faithlife Giving account
  • Curated seasonal media from Proclaim, like announcements about graduations or Independence Day
Here’s a step-by-step guide to using the Suggested Media feature:

Click the green banner or go to Media > Suggested Items to get started.

Proclaim will suggest media like:

  • Announcements from events in your church calendar
  • Seasonal and upcoming holidays
  • Dynamic online giving slides use your church’s Giving account to show your towards a fund-raising goal
  • Directions for how to get to your church’s automatic Faithlife bulletin

Hover over the media to see what it looks like and where the media will be added in your presentation, such as the Warm-up for countdown media. Some items will be added in multiple places, such and Pre- and Post-service loops for announcements, so you’ll only have to select them once.

Select the media you want to add, then and click Add Selected.

Don’t have Faithlife Proclaim yet?

If you haven’t tried Proclaim, now is a great time to start a free trial. For a month you and your whole church will get access to powerful church presentation software, plus over 14,000 Pro Media pieces (no credit card required).

P.S. If you have ideas for any Proclaim features or fixes, let us know! (Join the Faithlife Proclaim group and you can post to it immediately.)

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Here are this week’s top deals, brought to you by Faithlife Ebooks. For more deals, visit our sale page or get our Free Book of the Month. Some of these deals are only good for a few days, so act fast to get these books at the sale price!

Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of Life with God

Christians are far more comfortable with tips, steps, and techniques for living than we are with ruthlessly trusting God. Pastor Mike Erre calls Christians away from simplistic formulas to honest and rugged faith in the mysterious and unpredictable God of the Bible—and challenges Christians to follow him into tension, frustration, and difficulty because he wants our trust.

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  Becoming Fearless

Michelle Aguilar’s inspiring story goes beyond her victory on the TV show The Biggest Loser. Becoming Fearless is about having faith in God when you’ve lost faith in yourself. It’s an encouragement to “feel the fear” in any obstacle in life without being paralyzed by it and a reminder that the journey is even more important than the destination.

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  God is Good (All the Time)

God Is Good (All the Time) will comfort your soul and remind you that his love never fails. These 125 readings and prayers will reassure your heart of God’s amazing character and his unfailing promises—through all of life’s ups, downs, and in-betweens. Each reading will bless your heart as you wrap up in the warmth of the heavenly Father’s never-ending goodness.

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Upward, Inward, Outward

In Upward, Inward, Outward, Daniel Fusco writes that God gives us the key in the Greatest Commandment, but we’ve got to do things in the right order. It begins with loving God and understanding our identities in Jesus. Then, God’s Spirit sends us outward, into the world. Only then can we learn the art of living harmoniously in a chaotic world.

$15.99  $3.99
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***

If you are a fan of faith-inspired books, make sure to join the Faithlife Ebooks group where we post regular ebook deals, author interviews, and more.

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Looking to reflect on Jesus’ life and death more intentionally in the days leading up to Easter? Browse Easter-related videos on Faithlife TV.

From the Archeology + Jesus mini-series to a LEGO® depiction of the Passion, there’s something for everyone. Sign in or start a free trial to Faithlife TV Plus to watch.

Archaeology and Jesus Miniseries

No place on earth has arrested the attention of adventurers and archaeologists like the Holy Land. But does what we dig up in Israel bear resemblance to the stories we read about Jesus in the Gospels? To answer this question, Archaeology + Jesus follows two paths. You’ll explore the process of archaeology with top experts digging in Israel today. And along the way, you’ll join New Testament scholar, Dr. Craig Evans, as he reveals groundbreaking finds that illuminate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Learn more and watch the trailer.

Passion: A Brickfilm

This short film is a great way to share the Easter story with kids. The film accurately portrays the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection through the eyes of LEGO® characters.

Learn more and watch the trailer.

Forty Nights

40 Nights is an in-depth character story about the most known, questioned, and mysterious figure in human history. The film begins with Jesus’ baptism and traces his temptation by the devil in the wilderness.

Learn more and watch the trailer.

***

Start your free trial of Faithlife TV Plus and enjoy these films today!

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The final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry are surrounded in truth and eternal significance from which we’ll never stop learning. In his devotional  And the Angels Were Silent from the Chronicles of the Cross Collection, Max Lucado reflects on Jesus’ death and burial.

***

The road to Calvary was noisy, treacherous, and dangerous. And I wasn’t even carrying a cross. When I had thought of walking Christ’s steps to Golgotha, I envisioned myself meditating on Christ’s final hours and imagining the final turmoil. I was wrong.

Walking the Via Dolorosa is not a casual stroll in the steps of the Savior. It is, instead, an upstream struggle against a river of shoppers, soldiers, peddlers, and children.

“Watch your wallets,” Joe told us.

I already am, I thought.

Joe Shulam is a Messianic Jew, raised in Jerusalem, and held in high regard by both Jew and gentile. His rabbinic studies qualify him as a scholar. His archaeological training sets him apart as a researcher. But it is his tandem passion for the Messiah and the lost house of Israel which endears him to so many. We weren’t with a guide, we were with a zealot.

And when a zealot tells you to guard your wallet, you guard your wallet.

Every few steps a street peddler would step in my path and dangle earrings or scarfs in my face. How can I meditate in this market?

For that is what the Via Dolorosa is. A stretch of road so narrow it bottlenecks body against body. When its sides aren’t canyoned by the tall brick walls, they are lined with centuries-old shops selling everything from toys to dresses to turbans to compact discs. One section of the path is a butcher market. The smell turned my stomach and the sheep guts turned my eyes. Shuffling to catch up with Joe, I asked, “Was this street a meat market in the time of Christ?”

“It was,” he answered. “To get to the cross he had to pass through a slaughterhouse.”

It would be a few minutes before the significance of those words would register.

“Stay close,” he yelled over the crowd. “The church is around the corner.”

It’ll be better at the church, I told myself.

Wrong again.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is 1700 years of religion wrapped around a rock. In AD 326 Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, came to Jerusalem in search of the hill on which Christ was crucified. Makarios, Bishop of Jerusalem, took her to a rugged outcropping outside of the northwestern wall of the city. A twenty-foot jagged cluster of granite upon which sat a Roman-built temple to Jupiter. Surrounding the hill was a cemetery made up of other walls of rock, dotted with stone-sealed graves.

Helena demolished the pagan temple and built a chapel in its place. Every visitor since has had the same idea.

The result is a hill of sacrifice hidden in ornateness. After entering a tall entrance to the cathedral and climbing a dozen stone steps, I stood at the front of the top of the rock. A glass case covers the tip and the tip is all that is visible. Beneath an altar is a gold-plated hole in which the cross supposedly was lodged. Three crucified icons with elongated faces hang on crosses behind the altar.

Gold lanterns. Madonna statues. Candles and dim lights. I didn’t know what to think. I was at once moved because of where I was standing and disturbed by what I was seeing.

I turned, descended the steps, and walked toward the tomb.

The traditional burial spot of Christ is under the same roof as the traditional Golgotha. To see it, you don’t have to go outside; you do, however, have to use your imagination.

Two thousand years and a million tourists ago, this was a cemetery. Today it’s a cathedral. The domes high above are covered with ornate paintings. I stopped and tried to picture it in its original state. I couldn’t.

An elaborate sepulcher marks the traditional spot of Jesus’ tomb. Forty-three lamps hang above the portal and a candelabra sits in front of it. It is solid marble, cornered with golden leaves.

An elevated stone path led into the doorway and a black-caped, black-bearded, black-hatted priest stood guard in front of it. His job was to keep the holy place clean. Fifty-plus people were standing in line to enter but he wouldn’t let them. I didn’t understand the purpose of the delay but I did understand the length of it.

“Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes.”

The crowd mumbled. I mumbled. I came as close to the door as I could. The floor was inlaid with still more squares of marble and lanterns hung from the ceiling.

The sum total of the walk began to register with me. Holy road packed with peddlers. The cross hidden under an altar. The entrance to the tomb prohibited by a priest.

I had just muttered something about the temple needing another cleansing when I heard someone call. “No problem, come this way.” It was Joe Shulam speaking. What he showed us next I will never forget.

He took us behind the elaborate cupola, through an indiscreet entrance and guided us into a plain room. It was dark. It was musty. It was unkempt and dusty. Obviously not a place designed for tourists.

While our eyes adjusted, he began to speak. “Six or so of these have been found, but are seldom visited.” Behind him was a small opening. It was a rock-hewn tomb. Four feet high at the most. The width about the same.

“Wouldn’t it be ironic,” he smiled as he spoke, “if this was the place? It is dirty. It is uncared for. It is forgotten. The one over there is elaborate and adorned. This one is simple and ignored.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if this was the place where our Lord was buried?”

I walked over to the opening and stooped like the apostle John did to see in the tomb. And, just like John, I was amazed at what I saw. Not the huge room I’d imagined in my readings, but a small room lit with a timid lamp.

“Go in,” Joe urged. I didn’t have to be told twice.

Three steps across the rock floor and I was at the other side. The low ceiling forced me to squat and lean against a cold, rough wall. My eyes had to adjust a second time. As they did, I sat in the silence, the first moment of silence that day. It began to occur to me where I was: in a tomb. A tomb which could have held the body of Christ. A tomb which could have encaved the body of God. A tomb which could have witnessed history’s greatest moment.

“Five people could be buried here.” Joe had entered and was at my side. A couple of my co-travelers were with him. “Two or three would be laid here on the floor. And two would be slid into the holes over here.”

“God put himself in a place like this,” someone said softly.

He did. God put himself in a dark, tight, claustrophobic room and allowed them to seal it shut.

The Light of the World was mummied in cloth and shut in ebony. The Hope of humanity was shut in a tomb.

We didn’t dare speak. We couldn’t.

The elaborate altars were forgotten. The priest-protected sepulcher was a world away. What man had done to decorate what God came to do no longer mattered.

All I could see at that moment, perhaps more than any moment, was how far he had come.

More than the God in the burning bush. Beyond the infant wrapped in a feed trough. Past the adolescent Savior in Nazareth. Even surpassing the King of kings nailed to a tree and mounted on a hill was this: God in a tomb.

Nothing is blacker than a grave, as lifeless as a pit, as permanent as the crypt.

But into the crypt he came.

The next time you find yourself entombed in a darkened world of fear, remember that. The next time pain boxes you in a world of horror, remember the tomb. The next time a stone seals your exit to peace, think about the empty, musty tomb outside of Jerusalem.

It’s not easy to find. To see it you may have to get beyond the pressures of people demanding your attention. You may have to slip past the golden altars and ornate statues. To see it, you may even have to bypass the chamber near the priest and slip into an anteroom and look for yourself. Sometimes the hardest place to find the tomb is in a cathedral.

But it’s there.

And when you see it, bow down, enter quietly, and look closely. For there, on the wall, you may see the charred marks of a divine explosion.

***

Take time to reflect and focus on the sacrificial love of Jesus this Easter with these resources.    

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By Timothy Keller

What is this “gospel” for which Paul is willing to glory in being a slave? What gospel would make Paul happy to lose everything in order to share it?

First, it is worth reflecting on the word itself. “Gospel”—euangeloi—is literally “good herald.” In the first century, if on a far-flung battlefield an emperor won a great victory which secured his peace and established his authority, he would send heralds—angeloi—to declare his victory, peace and authority. Put most simply, the gospel is an announcement—a declaration. The gospel is not advice to be followed; it is news, good news about what has been done.

The gospel isn’t ours

The apostle Paul is the herald of this announcement. It is a good reminder that the gospel is not Paul’s; it did not originate with him and he did not claim the authority to craft it. Rather, it is “of God” (v 1). We, like Paul, are not at liberty to reshape it to sound more appealing in our day, nor to domesticate it to be more comfortable for our lives.

The gospel isn’t new

Neither is the gospel new; rather, God “promised it beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (v 2). The Old Testament is all about it. All the “Scriptures” point forward to this announcement. They are the scaffold on which Paul stands as God’s herald. Every page that God wrote before outlines what he has now declared in full color.

The gospel is a who

The gospel’s content is “his Son” (v 3). The gospel centers on Jesus. It is about a person, not a concept; it is about him, not us. We never grasp the gospel until we understand that it is not fundamentally a message about our lives, dreams, or hopes. The gospel speaks about, and transforms, all of those things, but only because it isn’t about us. It is a declaration about God’s Son, the man Jesus.

This Son was:

  • Fully human: “as to his human nature” (v 3).
  • The one who fulfilled the promises of Scripture: he was “a descendant of David” (v 3), the king of Israel a millennium before. God had promised David that from his family God would produce the ultimate, final, universal King—the Christ (see 2 Samuel 7:11b–16). And David’s own life—his rule, suffering and glory—in many ways foreshadowed that of his greater descendant (see Psalms 2; 22; 110).
  • Divine: the Son was “declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Paul is not saying that Jesus only became God’s Son when he was raised from the grave. Rather, he is outlining two great truths about the resurrection. First, the empty tomb is the great declaration of who Jesus is. His resurrection removes all doubt that he is the Son of God. Second, his resurrection and ascension were his path to his rightful place; to his rule at God’s right hand (Ephesians 1:19b–22), sitting at “the highest place,” given “the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9–10). God’s Son had humbly become a man, tasted poverty, endured rejection and suffered a powerless death. The resurrection is where we see not only that he is the Son of God, but that he is now the Son of God “in power.”

Not until the end of Romans 1:4 does Paul actually name God’s Son: “Jesus Christ our Lord.” God’s Son is Jesus, the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yeshua/Joshua—“God will save,” the fulfiller of all God “promised beforehand” (v. 2). He is Christ, the anointed man whom God has appointed to rule his people. And he is our Lord, God himself. The gospel is both a declaration of Jesus’ perfect rule and an invitation to come under that perfect rule, to make him “our Lord.”

***

This post is adapted from Romans 1–7 for You, (christianaudio, 2014), by Timothy Keller. The post’s title and headers are the addition of an editor. Learn more about the book.

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Want peace of mind knowing your volunteers are totally ready to use Faithlife Proclaim?

Check out the Proclaim Volunteer Reference Guide. It’s available online and in printable form and covers the basics of how to use Proclaim: everything from going On Air to editing slides during a live presentation.

We’ve also made an easy-to-follow video that goes with this guide:

Click here for a quick overview of Proclaim, perfect for sharing with your volunteers!

Don’t have Faithlife Proclaim yet?

If you haven’t tried Proclaim, now is a great time to start a free trial (no credit card required). For a month you and your whole church will get access to powerful church presentation software, plus over 16,000 pieces of church media.

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