Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Small Piece of Heaven on Earth

Continuing with the theme of the spring, I'm going to relate this post to heaven.

Yes, tomorrow is the beginning of heaven on earth. You see, each year the weather starts to change (at least theoretically) and we get 162 glimpses of heaven on earth.

Because, let's face it, there's nowhere where the grass is greener or the sky is bluer than at a baseball game. The sights, the sounds and the smells are simply amazing.

Opening day is tomorrow. In anticipation of opening day, I'm going to make some predictions.

Let's start in the National League.

NL East Champs: Philadelphia Phillies - Honestly, I can't see how anyone picks against them. Adding Cliff Lee to a team that was already great? Yikes. Coming in second will be Atlanta, and they will most assuredly be in the hunt for the Wild Card, which I'll get to.

NL Central Champs: Cincinnati Reds - I have a lot of faith in this team. They should be solid again this year and they'll win a lot of games. I'm really excited to see Chapman get some more time on the field, taking over the place Rhodes had maintained.

NL West Champs: San Francisco Giants - Lincecum will lead this team through their division again. Coming in behind them will be Colorado.

NL Wild Card: This one's a toss-up between the Braves and the Rockies. For the purpose of picking someone, I'm going to pick the Braves, which means that the NL looks exactly the same in my 2011 predictions as the NL looked in 2010 at the end of the regular season.

So, there ya have it. The Giants and Phillies will meet in the NLCS where the Giants won't be able to match the Phillies 4-man playoff pitching rotation.

AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox - This absolutely pains me to write, but the additions they made (Gonzalez and Crawford), there is very little chance of them not making the playoffs this year. Their pitching staff is still money, and they took Carl Crawford from the Rays, therefore they weakened a division rival while strengthening their own roster. Great off season for the BoSox. Yankees and Rays won't exactly be the red-headed step-children in this race, but Boston will come out on top in 2011.

AL Central Champs: Minnesota Twins - Their team is pretty well intact (in the era of free agency), and they have a great chance to win their division. Lots of people are picking Chicago here but Mauer will lead his team to another division title. He's one of the top 3 players in the game right now, and he makes his whole team better. My vindictive side tells me that Pavano is going to get hurt this year, but that's probably just my bitter side talking.

AL West Champs: Oakland A's - I originally thought this was going to be a slam dunk for the Rangers to win again, but after doing a little more research, it wouldn't shock me at all to see the A's pick up the division this year after finishing at .500 last year. They made some good additions and Texas lost their ace in Cliff Lee.

AL Wild Card: New York Yankees - Originally I had Tampa Bay winning the Wild Card, but after doing a little reading, I'm not so sure. So, the Yankees, being my favorite team don't have to do a lot to convince me. Honestly, though, it would not shock me if the Yankees do not make the playoffs this year. They have an extremely weak pitching rotation, even IF A.J. Burnett makes a turnaround (and that's a really big if). Tampa, Chicago and Texas will all be in the hunt for the wild card.

In the playoffs, Boston beats Minnesota to win the ALCS.

This, naturally sets up a Boston vs Philly World Series, which means that the World Series Trophy will be back on the East Coast, where it belongs.

I refuse to pick the Red Sox to win the whole thing, Philly will win in 6.

All-in-all, I'm sure that I'm wrong. I hope that I'm wrong and the Yankees win the whole thing!

Love Wins - My Thoughts

After exploding the Christian Blog-world, Rob Bell’s newest book came out. I own and have read each of his previous 3 books. They were all good, not life-changing, but good.

I’ve seen most of the Nooma videos.

I want to say that I’m surprised with this latest turn for Rob Bell, but, quite frankly, I feel like President Bartlet when he found out that Toby was the leak.

He said that this sort of thing was “inevitable.”

In Velvet Elvis, Bell said that Christianity was like a trampoline; Jesus is like the mat, and theology is like the springs.

He said, not merely implied, but said that if you removed some springs, that was okay, Christianity would survive.

I think he was right, there are some springs on the trampoline of Christianity that can be removed or moved and Christianity, as a whole will be okay.

But, if you keep removing springs, you end up jumping on the ground, and the trampoline loses its effectiveness.

When discussing the “springs,” Bell mentioned specifically the Virgin Birth as one that could be removed. This was the start down a road that Evangelicals didn’t want to travel down.

Just as Bartlet said to Ziegler, this sort of thing was inevitable.

At some point, Bell, if you keep removing springs, then what you’re promoting will no longer be Christianity.

Now, having read the book, I can say that it’s not nearly as controversial as people thought it would be.

The basic concept is that heaven and hell are realities that you can experience here on Earth. And, if we’re going to be honest, that’s true, sort of.

Because, heaven and hell are realities based on your connection to God. So, in essence, when you’re connected to God, it’s like experiencing heaven on earth. Haven’t you ever been a part of a really great worship service and thought that you must have just experienced something of what heaven’s like?

For Bell, heaven is a great big, socially just, green movement.

Hell, then, is the opposite. It’s consumerist, not environmentally friendly, and void of social justice.

And so, we can agree that given those definitions of heaven and hell, we understand why there’s a possibility of heaven (or hell) on earth.

However, at that point, my support for the thoughts in Love Wins ends.

Bell treats the Holy Scriptures like an essay, written by a college professor. He rips quotations out of their context to say what he wants, and he cuts and pastes the Scripture portions that he does use. (This is the way we’d treat an essay, we’d cut and paste the quotations for our own essay)

In all of the books I’ve read, I’ve never seen someone do that to the Bible. It’s as if he’s saying, “here check out this quote I found in the Bible, but I’m going to remove something from the middle of it.”

We do not do that to the Bible.

That’s one of the most important lessons I learned in college, we use entire Scriptures to teach from, and it’s this insistence that we don’t just yank verses out of their context that helps us to stop from proof-texting and reading into the Bible things that we want it to say as opposed to what it actually says.

Rob Bell focuses on very small portions of Scripture that say what he wants it to say, and then breezes over and past great big chunks of Scripture that would really harm his viewpoint. (This is incredibly evident in Chapter 3, most notably pages 68-69)

His explanation of Lazarus and the Rich Man is extremely shallow and leaves much to be desired.

I suppose we should be grateful to Bell, he’s opened up dialogue. That’s essentially what we want to do. This new movement of Christians (or Christ-Followers), if nothing else, wants to know that we can talk about anything. And, they’re right. We should be able to talk about all parts of Christianity and approach with an open mind. That’s a good thing.

However, we need to guard our theology. We have to.

It wasn’t until page 110 that I really had a problem. Bell implies that Christianity is a story. And he says that the story that people have been telling, that many, many people are destined for eternal, conscious separation from God is not a good story.

You’re right, it’s not a good story. It’s not meant to be. It’s meant to point us to the good story. The story that we don’t have to be slaves to our sin.

The story that Christ is bigger than death. He’s bigger than our sin. He’s the mighty conqueror of the grave.

That is the good story.

And the end of that episode of The West Wing seems to play out, Bartlet says to Toby: “When you walk out of here, there'll be people out there, perhaps a great many, who'll think of you as a hero. I just don't for a moment want you thinking I'll be one of them.

To Rob Bell, I was on your team, but I’m not anymore. And there are a great many people who think this book has revolutionized the way Christians should think about heaven and hell and that you must be some sort of enlightened genius to have figured this out.

I’m not one of them.

I’m not angry with Bell and I won’t be protesting at Mars Hill. I’m just moving on, in my own way. And since this is my blog, I decided to post about it here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Power of God

I’ve been sitting at my computer tonight... thinking. I’ve been listening to worship music (loudly). And really just thinking about God.

To be honest, I’m overwhelmed.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.”

“You won’t relent until you have it all.”

“There’s nothing we want more.”

“The slightest hint of you brought me down to my knees.”

“Come be the fire inside of me, until You and I are one.”

“If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”

When I think of God, sometimes I think I’m really missing it.

Do I really believe that God is that powerful?

Do I live my life like I’m a child of the Creator of the World?

I’m an heir to the throne of God!

Sometimes I feel like the writer of another song I heard tonight, that I’ve made God too small.

I wonder what my life looks like. Do I really trust God?

I don’t want to be the kind of Christian, the kind of pastor, who lives a fake-Christian life. Acting as if there are things God can’t do.

I want to live my life in full obedience of Him, and I want to claim his power for my own.

God, help me to live like I really do trust you. Like I believe that you can fulfill me in a way nobody else can. God, give me the grace to believe your word when it says that you can do anything.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Preaching Process

I wonder, sometimes audibly, if people ever wonder about the process that is preaching. What goes into a sermon? Where did you get that idea? Whose idea was it to sing this song?

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to offer a glimpse into my preaching process. On Sunday March 6, 2011, I preached at High Street Nazarene. The sermon was entitled, “rethinking: communion” and it was not created that week.

When you have lots of time between sermons, you do different things to prepare for them. My way is not meant to be viewed as “the right way.” I had months to prepare, and so it looks a little different from what someone who preaches every week (and sometimes twice a week) might look like.

So, without further delay, a behind the scenes look into “rethinking: communion.”

At our church’s Christmas Eve service, I was struck with an idea for what I thought could be an awesome sermon series someday. As I’ve said many times, advent is my favorite time of year. It should be no surprise that my idea that day centered around that. I was thinking about doing a 4-5 week series called, “Rethinking: Advent.”

But my brain began to work in a different direction, I realized that Advent may only be one thing that could be rethought in the Church today. What if we did a LONG sermon series just called Rethinking?

So, on the envelope to a Christmas card one of my teens had given me, I jotted down a list:

Rethinking: Advent
Rethinking: Christianity
Rethinking: Politics
Rethinking: Communion
Rethinking: Church

I basically filed the idea away in my brain (I still have the envelope. It’s in my work office, I’m writing from my home office). I thought I could use it at some point.

As a staff guy, you get asked to preach on a certain Sunday. My senior pastor asked me to preach a few months in advance.

So, I know a few months in advance that I’ll be preaching. It gives me a LOT of time to prepare.

When my wife and I moved, I got a chance to make a bonafide home-office. I love working in that office. I installed white boards on the walls, and I basically wrote the entire sermon on those boards.

I asked my pastor if I could serve communion as a part of the service. He told me I was allowed, and it was off to the races with my idea for Rethinking: Communion.

The message took shape on my white board over the next 4-5 weeks. This picture is a part of that process. I spend time in prayer preparing for the message, and used commentaries to refine the message (and make sure that I’m not saying anything incredibly stupid).

I typed out a manuscript, but I don’t preach from a manuscript. It just helps me to lay the ideas into a logical flow of thought.

Finally, I typed out a Sarah Palin-style crib note. I just don’t do it on my hand. I make a small sheet that fits on the cover of my Bible, and I print the entire Scripture I read on there, as well as a very skeletal outline of the sermon, just in case I get lost.

The manuscript and notes happened this week, sometime between Tuesday-Friday.

My final preparation happens the day before I preach. I think I’ve done this in one way or another every single time I’ve preached. The first time was actually at half-time of the Ohio State-Florida National Title game a few years ago, I was scheduled to preach in chapel at MVNU the next morning.

I take some time and I go into the place I’ll be preaching, and I run through the sermon. I tweak wording a little bit then, and check how long it’s taking.

Sometimes I have to go through it 4-5 times. Sometimes I just do it once. I ran through it once for this particular sermon.

Then I came home and picked out what I was going to wear on Sunday. Why take the time to pick out what I am going to wear? I’m honestly not that obsessed with the way I look, but on a Sunday morning when I’m going to preach, I don’t want to be concerned all morning with what I’m going to wear, so I try everything on the day before (pray that I don’t look like an idiot) and get it all put together for the next morning. That way when I get up I can be streamlined in my focus.

Well, that’s really it. Thanks for reading... as always, feel free to comment =)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Raindrops and Coffee

Central Ohio has seen gray clouds and drops of rain for the past 2 days.

It hasn’t stopped. It just keeps coming.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it is not a monsoon, it’s not the second great flood or anything like that.

It’s just... rain.

And I wish it would stop.

I was drinking a cup of coffee this morning, thinking about the rain. And I stepped outside to check out what our backyard looked like.

It looks like it’s in transition. As if, the rain is just temporary.

And, if we think about it, the rain is always temporary. Yesterday, I was talking on the phone to one of the our church’s retired pastors. We were making small talk about the rain, and he said, “Yeah, without the rain we won’t get any flowers.”

He’s right.

Sometimes the rain just seems to pour down on us for days. Sometimes it feels like the reality of the rain is all we can remember.

I realize that I’m slightly melodramatic, but on the second or third day of rain, I forget what the world looks like as the sun shines on it.

The rain becomes my reality.

But the great thing about being a Christian is that we have a God who can see past the storm. We have a Father whose reality isn’t the rain. We have a Savior who weathered the ultimate storm.

And that brings me hope. So, even on day two of this rain, even though I can’t remember what my backyard looks like as the sun shines on it, we need the rain to see the flowers.

So, send the rain.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Love Wins.

Twitter and the Blogosphere are up in arms today about a new book by one of my favorite authors, Rob Bell. The book is called “Love Wins” and he’s released a video promo to go with the book.

John Piper and Josh Harris, also authors, have publicly criticized the notion behind the video.

Pastor/Author Mark Driscoll has subtly made comments about the book/video.

Justin Taylor, who I never heard of before this made a great comment on his blog about this video and book.

My friend Travis has made a comment about the comments regarding the book and video.

Someone on my facebook commented, “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Someone else mentioned the narrow gate and the deception that would lead people astray.

And some people, myself included, have said, “I want to read the book first.”

So, I preface my thoughts with that, I want to read the book first.

However, the video is worth talking about. Yes, some of the questions that Bell is asking are rhetorical, and I wouldn’t argue that some of the questions he’s asking are meant to have “yes” answers and some are meant to have “no” answers.

The age-old question that we’ve been talking about for centuries is this: what happens to us when we die?

The Bible makes it clear. There is a heaven. There is a hell.

Some people will go to heaven, most will not. There is no in-between here. There isn’t a third, middle-ground eternity. Either you’re in, or you’re out.

The problem is that this type of thought has come under fire as non-inclusive, divisive and hate-filled. Because, how can a God who loves everyone send people to hell? This is a question that Bell asks in his video, and one that is echoed by throngs of people who don’t want to believe that they could possibly be heading for eternity in a place of torture.

Can I just put it bluntly? If everyone gets to go to heaven, if nobody has to go to hell, then Jesus death was for nothing. The sacrifice that Christ made on the Cross is useless without that fact.

We live in a world that is bathed in sin. We see it every single day. Every single one of us is born into a hopeless, sinful existence. Every single person.

But God’s grace is so much that we don’t have to receive what we deserve.

God’s love always wins. And God’s grace always wins.

But Jesus is extremely clear, not everyone who thinks they have received God’s grace has actually received it.

There are thousands, millions of people on this planet who are believing a lie.

Rob Bell, you’ve always come at us like you were painting Christianity with a different brush. This was a movement that I’ve always been for. We don’t need to look the same as we did 50, 100, 1000 years ago. We just don’t.

But the Bible is truth, friend. Jesus, Peter, Paul and the Church Fathers all told us these things. There is a heaven. There is a hell. Some make it to heaven. Most don’t.

It’s the harsh reality of the condition of sin.

Do. Not. Compromise.

We do not need to compromise the truth. If the book is anything like the video, Rob, I’m out. I hope I’m wrong and that the points in the video are meant to stir up conversation and get people talking about the book so that when people read it you point people in the right direction.

Galatians 1:8 - “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.”

Let’s be cautious in what we accept and we we tolerate from Christian leaders. Sin is always sin. But, God’s grace is so much bigger than all our sin.

(God’s) love (always) wins.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marriage is like...

19 days from today, I’m getting married. I’m very excited, and naturally, a lot of my thought over the past few days/weeks/months has been about marriage and how marriage relates to everything else I’m doing in my life.

The infusion of “Holly” into my bachelor-pad has been an interesting transformation. I’ll be honest, the place looks better, and it probably smells better too. She’s added some of her own touches to the apartment over the past few weeks as she prepares to completely move in and make it her place too.

We have a lot more stuff now, than we did, most of that is the result of three bridal showers in a two week span. The sheer amount of gifts that we received from our biological families, church family, adopted families and friends has been absolutely overwhelming.

Enough about that, though. I was thinking about marriage and sanctification. Yes, I’m such a Nazarene that even when I’m thinking about marriage, I’m thinking about entire sanctification and holiness. It really is in my blood, I think.

A few weeks ago, at our weekly prayer breakfast on Tuesday morning, Pastor Izzy and I were talking to a guy in the group about holiness. He had some misinformed thoughts on the doctrine of Entire Sanctification, and Izzy and I were working with him to help him better understand the doctrine.

So, how do they match-up? What are the similarities?

Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought and here’s the big one.

Every morning, when I wake up, I have to make a choice. I choose every day to love my fiancé. In the same manner, I choose every day to love God.

I think holiness is all about loving God. Just like marriage is all about loving your spouse. When I say “love” here, I’m not referring to an emotional response; I’m talking about a choice, every day.

Every day, we need to make a choice to love God more than we love everything else. Just as when you made that commitment to your spouse, you committed to love her only and nobody else.

So, in being holy, I love God more than I love everyone else. I’m going to say Yes to God, and No to everyone else.

In 19 days, I’m making an eternal commitment to Holly. I’m not only saying Yes to her. I’m saying No to every other female that ever comes my way. Although, in my defense, it’s not like females have ever been beating down the door for me.
Holiness is exactly like Marriage.

Every day, you have a choice to make.

Every single day.

What’s your choice today?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Random Monday Post - Marriage Advice

So, Holly and I had two wedding showers this weekend (and one more this coming weekend). It’s been an interesting adventure, this whole process of being engaged and especially this past month-or-so of wedding planning.

To be completely honest, I never realized how much went into planning a wedding! I guess, though, in my defense I had basically just showed up to all the weddings I went to. I was in two of them, but wasn’t a part of the planning of those weddings.

There is a lot to think about as we’ve been getting closer and closer to the wedding. There has been so much preparation for the wedding, and, well, it’s slightly overwhelming. Truth be told, I wish we had just “taken the money and ran,” which was some of the first advice we got. But, my congregational view on life wouldn’t allow me to not invite my church to celebrate the marriage of one of their pastors to one of the girls they’ve seen and known since she was in diapers. As I say on Sunday mornings, we are a family. The “I’s” become “We’s” on Sunday mornings. So, we made the choice to celebrate together. We invited our family and friends and as much of the church as we possibly could to celebrate together with us.

Yesterday, we had a wedding shower, and part of the festivities of that involved all of the people (mostly ladies) in the room writing down their marriage advice to Holly and I. There was so much good advice.

The most common form of advice was to never go to bed angry. Followed by closely by one word advice, “Communication.”

I find it to be a blessing in my life that there are so many people who are willing to give me marriage advice. It truly is something I count as a blessing in my life that there are people who are willing to come alongside Holly and me, in order to teach us how to be married.

So, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned the most in our 9 months of engagement. Of all the experiences, all the thoughts, tears and laughter, what stands out as the most teachable thing I’ve learned since I rose up from my knee after hearing her barely audible “Yes”?

I guess, the most important thing I’ve learned is that I do not always have to be right. For those of you who know me, you know that I absolutely love to be right. I worked extremely hard at college so that I would be able to say the right things. I don’t want to preach bad doctrine to my teens or my congregation. I never like to have to come back and say, “I was wrong when I said…”

This has always been one of the things I struggled with the most, but I absolutely don’t like being wrong.

Now, there’s always some jaded married person, generally a man, who says “Well, get ready, because once you’re married you’ll never be right again.”

Maybe that’s true, and I’m just not experiencing that yet because we’re not married. But, in my nine months of being engaged, I’ve not experienced always being wrong.

But man, when I’m wrong, I’m never just a little wrong. It’s like a plane crash of wrong. I mean, I do something wrong, and I feel like… well, I feel terrible.
So, the lesson for me is that, I’m not always right. And when I’m wrong, I need to work to make sure that I’m not wrong anymore (about that). I guess that’s my advice.

When you’re wrong, learn from it.

What’s your advice to an almost-married couple?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A New Way to be Human?

I’ve been putting the finishing touches up on my sermon for Sunday morning. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love preaching, it is, by far, my favorite part of being a pastor. I usually don’t let people know when I’m preaching, but since Bret announced it on Sunday morning, I’m letting people know that I’m preaching at HSN this week. As usual, I’m pretty excited!

Anyway, I was working on my sermon a bit today. I was reading a commentary on the story of the Prodigal Son. To be precise, I was reading William Barclay’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke. I like Barclay’s commentaries; they’re usually full of nice tid-bits that preach well. He has a solid theological head on his shoulders, and he’s not so intellectual that he’s unapproachable.

So, in my studies this morning I came across a small passage in his commentary that absolutely floored me.

“Jesus paid sinning mankind the greatest compliment it has ever been paid. ‘When he came to himself,’ he said. Jesus believed that so long as a man was away from God he was not truly himself; he was only truly himself when he was on the way home. Beyond a doubt Jesus did not believe in total depravity. He never believed that you could glorify God by blackguarding man; he believed that man was never essentially himself until he came home to God” (204).

Jesus didn’t believe in total depravity? Now, let’s be clear about something. As Nazarenes, we are not Calvinists. We don’t believe in the TULIP the way the Calvinists, however, in my theology classes, I was taught that we do believe in total depravity, in some form. We were taught that prevenient grace was the only thing that kept us from making the sinful choice every single time we had a choice to make. That is, in essence, absolute and total depravity.

However, what if Barclay is right? Aren’t there some serious theological implications in noting that humans aren’t totally depraved? Does it leave a cop-out excuse? Does it change the way we preach salvation?

If we aren’t truly human until we are on our way to God, then what are the implications?

Did I sin, or did a lesser version, the non-human version of me sin?

Does my past include life as a sinner, or am I something else entirely?

Maybe there’s some good in this concept, the idea that we become new creations when we’re completely cleansed by God. Behold the old has gone the new has come. However, does it close the door to a theological perspective which allows for the possibility of backsliding into sin? If someone is truly experiencing my human-ness for the first time as a Christian, then what does it say when that Christian backslides?

What do you think?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Our own Cake Boss experience

Holly and I were asked by my family to make a "snazzy desert" for my family's Easter get-together this year. I wasn't sure what we were going to do, but... I finally thought of something great. One of our favorite shows is Cake Boss, we love Buddy and we love watching the cakes he makes. So, taking inspiration from him, we decided to make our own Cake!

So, we set about to make a larger-than-life Easter cake! The day started off with a delicious breakfast, courtesy of her parentals. Then, we made our way to Hobby Lobby and Crafts 2000 for Cake building supplies. After that, we traveled across the way to Wal Mart. Let me explain something to you... don't ever go to Wal Mart on the first Saturday of the month. No matter what you need, it's NOT worth it. We made our way through Wal Mart for the couple things we needed, and eventually went home to get started.

I should interject here that I ended up making my way into the ghetto Kroger on the South Side of Springfield... twice. But, that's okay. So, we started making our cake. We used a home made recipe from Holly's grandma. We were using 9x13 pans, and we were making a double-decker cake. So, we had to make a triple batch of the recipe. It started off with sugar and crisco (Yep, it's going to be a healthy cake!) We creamed the two ingredients, making a huge bowl of a heart attack!

We finished the recipe, adding flour, egg whites, milk... and some other stuff. We made the two cakes, and then let them cool. We cut them down, and started the process of stacking them. Let me add, that at this point, we have surpassed my previous experience with cake making. Usually I just use a box and make a cake, then I ice it. We were cutting the cakes and stacking them with a layer of icing in the middle.

So, this of course, is what the cake looked like after we stacked them. We used Holly's grandma's icing recipe as well. We've watched so much Cake Boss that we knew what to do next. We needed to dirty ice it and put it fondant on it! However, one problem, fondant is nasty. Neither of us like the taste, so, we decided to go without the fondant. So, we had our icing plan, but had to decide where to go next...

Cereal Treats! What's a Cake Boss cake without some Rice Krispie Treats? So, for our Easter-themed cake ala Buddy, we wanted to make a tomb of Rice Krispie Treats. So, we melted the butter and cooked the marshmallows into it. Then dumped that hot mixture into the rice krispies. Yeah, this wasn't easy. Those aren't easy to make! At this point, the pictures are going to continue as I switch gears on this post.

We continued our production of this cake. As I did, I started to get a little worried. You know, my family is awesome, but they are not Christians. They do not follow Jesus, and I'm not sure that they fully "get" Easter. So, I'm worried that the idea of an empty tomb cave will be somewhat lost on them. But, I thought about things, and I couldn't resist the chance to make a cake that was about the real Easter!

So, the proverbial icing on the cake had to be something else besides the empty tomb. I decided to take another page from the Cake Boss book and use modeling chocolate. Well, there's one problem, neither Holly nor I had any idea what modeling chocolate was or where you could buy it. We thought maybe it was like fondant that you could just buy and then use. Turns out, that's not the case. You have to make modeling chocolate!

The biggest task of this cake boss extravaganza for me was to make a modeling chocolate figure to put on the cake. This meant, however that I first had to learn hot to make modeling chocolate. We learned how, and I set to work making a small Jesus figure to put with our empty tomb. The simple fact is that an empty tomb could mean any number of things. You could argue that the disciples stole the body. Or you could argue any number of things.

However, don't forget that Jesus literally rose from the dead, and not in some sort of zombie movie fashion. He literally came back from the dead and was alive. The Bible tells us that lots and lots of people had a chance to see him after his resurrection. Jesus walked away from the tomb, and because He was able to overcome the grave, we don't have to completely be held hostage by the power of death.

I'll be honest, there's a decent chance that this cake is considered kitsch. Christian kitsch, even. I suppose it might be, but Holly and I had a great time today making a cake, doing something that I knew she'd love doing. So, after buying ingredients and spending an entire day working on this cake, we're thrilled about how it looks. We can't wait to show it off to my family for Easter, and I'm excited to maybe get to explain who that goofy guy with a purple snake around his neck is. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy the images and the story as much as we enjoyed making it.