Do the Catacomb Paintings of Jesus Help Us Imagine His Likeness at His Second Coming?


Before Christianity was accepted by Constantine, the saints buried Christians along the walls of tunnels in what we call catacombs. Most major cities in the Roman empire have large sprawling catacombs underneath them. The city of Rome has over 4 million Christians buried underground in this fashion within 600 miles of tunnels.

The family often decorated the tombs. We do the same with carved headstones and occasional flowers. They often painted a portrait of Christ, or a fish, or bread and grapes, or bread and fish, or the Good Shepherd, or a cross.

Early Christians knew what Jesus looked like. They saw His face every time they greeted Him. Artists of the day could have easily been employed to paint His picture on a stone used to seal up a tomb in the catacombs. And in fact this was often done.

Obviously, our relationship with Jesus is not enhanced by our ability to rightly frame His earthly image in our head, but, might our worship be enhanced by rightly framing a heavenly image in our head?

Revelation 1:9-20 encourages us to do just that.

So what does this image look like?

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The Book of Revelation Ends the Same for Everyone — God says, "Checkmate!"


The only memory I have of my mom’s dad is playing chess in the basement of his home during the holidays. He owned a split level home. We played in the downstairs next to the fireplace.

My grandfather was American Indian. He had the jet black hair and flat nose to match. He was a striking man to see. And he never let me beat him in chess. He always won.

As I reflect on those memories I find comfort in his winning. Occasionally, I would think I was getting the upper hand. But in the end it was always checkmate. He was always in control.

I am glad I didn’t have the ability to out-think my grandfather. I am glad he always won.

That’s what God is telling us in Revelation. You may think God is not in control, but in the end it is checkmate for everybody. Jesus wins. God gets the glory, and things work out for our benefit.

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The Book of Revelation Ends the Same for Everyone — God says, "Checkmate!"


The only memory I have of my mom’s dad is playing chess in the basement of his home during the holidays. He owned a split level home. We played in the downstairs next to the fireplace.

My grandfather was American Indian. He had the jet black hair and flat nose to match. He was a striking man to see. And he never let me beat him in chess. He always won.

As I reflect on those memories I find comfort in his winning. Occasionally, I would think I was getting the upper hand. But in the end it was always checkmate. He was always in control.

I am glad I didn’t have the ability to out-think my grandfather. I am glad he always won.

That’s what God is telling us in Revelation. You may think God is not in control, but in the end it is checkmate for everybody. Jesus wins. God gets the glory, and things work out for our benefit.

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Briefly Noted: Is Facebook Making Us Lonely, Distracted, and Narcissistic?


In his recent article in The Atlantic, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?,” Stephen Marche suggests that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media might actually be making us more lonely (and more narcissistic, to boot).[1] Marche argues, “Social Media–from Facebook to Twitter–have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggest that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)–and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. A report on what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society.” (p. 60)

Marche begins with the story of the death of a former B-movie star whose dead body was not discovered in her house until a year after her death (even though she had thousands of Facebook “friends”) in order to illustrate the ironic effects of Facebook on our souls and society. For Marche greater social media “connection” actually leads to greater “disconnection.” The public and shared nature of Facebook ironically can turn people more in on themselves.

I think that social media can make us more distracted and less reflective. We find it difficult to read, to reflect, to pray, or to do anything else that requires sustained attention, precisely because we are assaulted by emails, text messages, tweets, and Facebook updates. We have got to find some way to carve out time in our lives for deeply human activities such as reading, contemplation, prayer, and conversation.

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More Scripture-Twisting on the Campaign Trail?


Raise your hand if you’re offended by politicians and church leaders using the Bible like a wax nose. On the left bank, there is the well-worn battery of references to Jesus and the rich young ruler, the command to “render unto Caesar,” and the last judgment where the sheep and goats are separated.

As the Washington Post poses the question: “Jesus said, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ In a time of economic turmoil and record poverty levels, are tax cuts for the wealthy moral?” Regular “On Faith” columnist and former seminary president Susan Brooks Thistlewaite is ready with an answer—and verses to back it up. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “‘Sell all that you own and distribute the money.’

But the young man, ‘who was very rich,’ turned away. Jesus’ comment? ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God’ (Luke 18: 21-25).” “All too true,” Ms. Thistlewaite sighs with all the self-satisfaction of someone who thinks she’s not the rich young ruler. “It’s also easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a bill with the rich paying their fair share of taxes to get through Congress. Not gonna happen.”

According to a recent Pew Study, Americans think that there has been too much about religion in the political campaign. And no wonder.

It’s no time for Christians to back away from concern for the common good, bringing their deepest convictions to bear just as others do.

However, the trading of Bible verses ripped from their covenantal context and intention is a sure way to trivialize God’s Word in our society, in our churches, and in our own lives.

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The Glory of Plodding


It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.

Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders.

Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.

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Jesus told Mary, "I am Not Yet Ascended" — Didn't He Already Go to Heaven?


Jesus makes two ascents. Take a moment to think this through. There are two events when Jesus ascends into Heaven.

First, after His death on the Cross Jesus immediately ascends into the congregation of the saints in heaven. Jesus told the thief hanging next to Him that they were both going to heaven.

This answers the question, “Where was Jesus during the three days His body was in the grave?”

The second ascent is recorded in the Bible in Acts 1:3-11. This is called the Ascension.

The difference is that in the first ascending of Jesus in Heaven He does so as a Man. He joins with the saints for three days without a resurrected body. He then goes back and forth to heaven for 40 days with a resurrected body.

The Ascension is different entirely. In the Ascension God answers Jesus prayer in John 20:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

This is why Mary couldn’t cling to Jesus and keep Him for herself. He wasn’t yet fully ascended.

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Jesus told Mary, "I am Not Yet Ascended" — Didn't He Already Go to Heaven?


Jesus makes two ascents. Take a moment to think this through. There are two events when Jesus ascends into Heaven.

First, after His death on the Cross Jesus immediately ascends into the congregation of the saints in heaven. Jesus told the thief hanging next to Him that they were both going to heaven.

This answers the question, “Where was Jesus during the three days His body was in the grave?”

The second ascent is recorded in the Bible in Acts 1:3-11. This is called the Ascension.

The difference is that in the first ascending of Jesus in Heaven He does so as a Man. He joins with the saints for three days without a resurrected body. He then goes back and forth to heaven for 40 days with a resurrected body.

The Ascension is different entirely. In the Ascension God answers Jesus prayer in John 20:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

This is why Mary couldn’t cling to Jesus and keep Him for herself. He wasn’t yet fully ascended.

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Can We Ask Our Children to Pay Our Debt and Still Call Ourselves The Greatest Generation?


Every time Christians elect politicians willing to spend more in taxes than we collect, we cosign our good names to the generational theft from future generations. This is a great sin.

What is the role of the Church? We need to preach against stealing.

Is our national debt really stealing? It is no different than taking a credit card out in our child’s name. If we borrow for our own comforts, and borrow more than we can every hope to pay back, then we are shifting the responsibility for that debt to them. Regardless of our good intentions, that’s white collar crime.

The Greatest Generation will be known, by future generations, as the Morally Bankrupt Generation. We are borrowing money to give charity (Welfare, Medicaid and Food Stamps) on the backs of our grand-children. It will be known as the Greatest Crime in a Thousand Years.

Nehemiah tells us how to fix it if we are willing to get involved.

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Did God Pollute the Environment by Creating Oil?


There are voices within our culture trying to remove the label “GOOD” from the creation.

Many things that God called good, they call bad.

Oil is a good example. We are not committing a sin by unlocking the energy within the creation. God placed it there for us to find and use.

We are not sinful for cutting down trees to make paper or build homes.

The Biblical model of the family is not a curse on women. The Ten commandments are not an infringement on liberty or free speech.

We must not adopt the world’s negative view toward God’s amazing gifts.

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Cal Thomas: Politics Reveal GOD GAP and Clergy isn't helping close it


by Cal Thomas

There have been many “gaps” in modern politics. There is the gender gap, the generation gap and now the God gap, which is the gulf between people who take God’s instructions seriously and those who don’t. Which side of the gap you’re on could influence your vote.

The God gap is growing wider.

I asked Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum about this. In a telephone interview with me, Santorum, whose rhetoric is loaded with religious and cultural language, said, “While (such language) may be upsetting to some, there’s a hunger out there for talking about what’s true.”

How, then, would he explain a recent New York Times story that reported for the first time in our history, that “more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.” Santorum acknowledged, “I’m probably talking to Republican audiences, so it’s a little different. I’m not talking to the general audience at this point. Marriage is on the decline. The culture is changing.”

The problem for presidential candidates — and for President Obama, who occasionally appeals to Scripture to justify his policies — is that fewer people are listening to the voice of God, or to voices claiming to speak for Him.

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