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cross artStill wading through “The Cross of Christ”, and not because the book is boring but to the contrary—it’s eyeball deep in theological richness.  John Stott proposes, “the cross enforces three truths—about ourselves, about God, and about Jesus Christ.” 

First, our sin must be extremely horrible.  Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgement and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior we urgently need.

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension.  God could have quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. Read the rest of this entry »

…a reminder today that the gospel isn’t about our goodness–it’s about the incredible, undeserved and unexplainable forgiveness that Christ offers to us despite our own filthy sponges.

Thoughts?

newspaperJust what is the gospel, that is, what is the good news of Jesus Christ?  There has been much written and debated so I am ever searching for good solid definitions—since it’s imperative we get the gospel right. 

Theologian R.C. Sproul writes,

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel. 

The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. Read the rest of this entry »

On a side note: I received a copy of Jim Belcher’s new book today from IVP, “Deep Church”—a third way beyond emerging and traditional.  I’m looking forward to reading it (he looks to be someone who understands the rift and yet offers solutions and hope).
 
emergent-jesusSacred cows surely need tipping from time to time.  And as Michael Spencer (aka the Internet monk) says, some even need barbecuing.  But as I continue this short series on the emergent movement, the question I want to pose is this: Does that mean our entire theological frame work needs re-engineering?
 
There have been movements within Christendom since the days of the early church, some useful and some detrimental.  Agree with the cause or not, Luther and the reformers made a lasting impact.  It’s safe to say that the Protestant Reformation and much of what ensued (i.e., the Radical Reformation, Anabaptists, etc.) was about calling the church to return to its origins.  Instead of deconstructing the church so much, they saw their mission as one of reclamation.  
 
Charles Finney is the father of modern day American evangelical pragmatism (in which techniques and results are valued over truth and in turn we make up our own truth), hyper-revivalism and sensationalism (where emotions run the table and trump solid doctrine), and what has been termed as “decision theology” (which leaves God’s sovereignty at the door and places salvation in the hands of man, see Jonah 2:9). The teachings and lack thereof espoused by Finney have sadly done more damage than can be measured.  
 
And then there was the “Jesus Movement” with its “Jesus people” which became groovy in the late 60’s and 70’s (which has more or less morphed into the mega church movement according to Michael Horton). Read the rest of this entry »

francis schaeffer…in a post-Christian world and in an often post-Christian church it is imperative to point out with love where apostasy lies. We must openly discuss with all who will listen, treating all men as fellow men, but we must call apostasy, apostasy.  If we do not do that, we are not ready for reformation, revival, and a revolutionary church in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are all too easily infiltrated with relativism and synthesis in our own day. We tend to lack antithesis.   ~Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City (1969)         

40 years later, Schaeffer’s assessment as well as his warning might eerily be all the more apropos.  While love can take on a thousand and one forms—love is never about accomidating lies and turning a deaf ear to truth—rather, love (the kind of love Jesus demonstrated) is commited to exposing lies and embracing the truth.  And it makes sense, because lies bring every kind of bondage and the truth (what Schaffer called “true truth”) is ever about setting people free.

Thoughts?

HT: reformation21

christ stained glassI mentioned reading John Stott’s classic, “The Cross of Christ” a few days back.  I was struck today by the simplicity with which Stott handles a question he poses, “What was there about the crucifixion of Jesus which, in spite of its horror, shame and pain, makes it so important that God planned it in advance and Christ came to endure it?”

First, Christ died for us.  In addition to being necessary and voluntary, his death was altruistic and beneficial.  He undertook it for our sake, not for his own, and he believed that through it he would secure for us a good that could secured for us in no other way.  The Good Shepherd, he said, was going to lay down his life “for the sheep,” for their benefit.  Similarly, the words he spoke in the upper room when giving the bread were,”This is my body given for you.”  The apostles picked up this simple concept and repeated it, sometimes making it more personal by changing it from second person to the first””Christ died for us.” (1)  There is no explanation yet and no identification of the blessing he died to procure for us, but at least we are agreed over the “for you” and “for us.” Read the rest of this entry »

Icross painting 2f a message of grace tells us there was and is no judgment any more, and that God has simply put judgment on one side and has not exercised it, that cannot be the true grace of God. Surely the grace of God cannot stultify our human conscience like that! So we are haunted by mistrust, unless conscience be drowned in a haze of heart. We have always the feeling and fear that there is judgment to follow. How may I be sure that I may take the grace of God seriously and finally, how be sure that I have complete salvation, that I may entirely trust it through the worst my conscience may say? Only thus, that God is the Reconciler, that He reconciles in Christ’s Cross that the judgment of sin was there for good and all.  ~Peter T. Forsyth, The Work of Christ(London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910), 167–8.
 
In other words, the cross represents the depths of God’s grace because of the terrible judgment of God it spares us of.  Jesus stood in our place condemned and endured the wrath of God on our behalf.  And it’s this same cross that is sufficient in erasing our guilt that makes the assurance of our salvation solid and the forgiveness of sins sure.
 
Grace without judgment as its backdrop is nothing more than a nice little gesture at best.
 

telephone pollFor my 40th birthday this year my parents gave me a gift card to Borders Books (they know me by now).  A couple days later I was thumbing through shelves upon shelves lined with new books when I stumbled upon John Stott’s classic (The Cross of Christ, 1986), which was published the year before my life and entire outlook on everything was forever and radically altered one ordinary night at a car dealership in Phoenix, Arizona.  It was $25 (hardcover 20th anniversary edition) and so was my gift card.   

Last night I picked it up and started reading (I’d merely given it my customary casual glance several months back I do with 90% of the books I check out at the library, and the ones I bought when books were in the budget).  Stott tells of the famous British journalist and author Malcom Muggeridge and his conversion experience which included a turning away at first (taken from his book “Jesus Rediscovered”).  The only Jesus he knew growing up was a “Jesus of good causes.”  I could so relate.  Who I regretfuly spent most of my teenage years running from (a sort of deified Mister Rogers), turned out to be someone altogether different from the Jesus I’d envisioned even in my craziest dreams.  Read the rest of this entry »

jesus on the crossThe archbishop William Temple (1881-1944) said, “The only thing of my own which I contribute to redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed.”  Conversion is nothing short of miraculous.  And it is something to which we contribute nothing of value.  Our fascination with what we must do, what we must stop doing, and what steps we must take in order to be converted is nothing new—Jesus himself shut the door on such an approach to conversion.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Read the rest of this entry »

I dig Tony Campolo. Always have. We may be at odds over a few theological details but when it comes to Jesus, we couldn’t agree more. A friend shared this on their Facebook page last night and I just had to post it. Campolo tells one of my very favorite stories about a greasy spoon he walked into at 3 in the morning out in Honolulu.

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Part 3 in a series.
 
Note: Since the writing of my last post Scot McKnight has directed me to his extremely informative article in Christianity Today titled “Five Streams of the Emerging Church”.  You might read it for more on the movement from one of its apologists.  He, unlike several of his contemporaries, candidly points out some of the flaws within the movement (although I think that McKnight treats the concerns he raises with kid gloves). 
 
emergent Jesus
I don’t like hunches based on hearsay evidence. 
 
Even the so called “experts” are guilty of minimizing, ostracizing and even ignoring what they don’t have a handle on.  It’s easy.  Take doctors for instance; what they don’t want to acknowledge, what frightens them, and what they don’t care to look for often gets discredited and goes untreated.  We all do this very sort of thing when it comes to that which we don’t understand.  Rather than look under some rocks ourselves we tend to prefer the heavy lifting be done by others for us.  
 
The are more aspects about the ECM that I don’t understand than ones I do.  But there are things I am beginning to uncover.  That being said, I’m no genius so I’ll be leaving it to the experts to issue the final analysis.  I am going to report what I see and what I see is a movement that is young, energetic, and pregnant with contradictions and potential fatal flaws which are already ripe for the picken’ (yeah, I know, the evangelical tradition has its problems too).  I ask myself, “Are those who are critical of the ECM delusional, or are those who lead the movement guilty of theological treason?”  There are some pretty serious criticisms being tossed around by the likes of David F. Wells—to some I would consider to be nothing more than pessimistic alarmists who demonize every movement besides the one they swear allegiance to.  Rather than pile on I have decided to do my own research and draw my own conclusions.
     
As long as I live I’ll never forget the diagnosis, “You’re fine, it’s most likely in your head.”  Now, I will readily admit that I am a head case and my friends will all verify that statement.  But this was different.  I had been sick for an entire month and felt as if I had suddenly come down with a wicked strain of some super flu from the Congo and was dying at the age of 34 .  My body was beginning to break down quicker than a Nolan Ryan fast ball used to take in getting to a catchers mitt. Read the rest of this entry »

This song wets my eyes for more reasons than the beautiful lyrics, it reminds me of my wonderful daughters who live 550 miles away (I miss them every day all day long).  They introduced me to Jars years ago and I have enjoyed their music immensely since the 1st time I put their cd in my dashboard.  This song here is an all-time favorite, it’s the best version I could find.

Enjoy.

a blog about radical discipleship, the gospel of grace, a theology of the cross, Christian spirituality, the mission of the church in this world and whatever else on the same wave length that may be running around the brain of a hopeful Protestant.

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