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.

For many of us sharing our faith doesn’t come easy. But I think it has much to with the fact that we put much too much pressure on ourselves.

Peter writes, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:15-16, ESV).”

Tougher done than said.

Jonathan McIntosh of Rethink Mission makes some great points on just what it takes to share Christ right where you are without going and getting a PhD in evangelism. Listen to this 3 minute clip and be encouraged.

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Part 2 in a series.

emergent JesusWhen surveying the Emergent movement it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that what started off as a creek has become more like the Amazon River.  And as it happens with every movement that experiences substantial growth, the emergent river includes several tributaries.  An expert on the movement, Scot McKnight, identifies five streams of influence and eight characteristics within the ECM.  One blogger writes, “Of course those within the movement would cringe at being called a movement preferring the term ‘conversation’.  However, many would agree that the emergent church now has too many followers, published books and meetings to be called simply a ‘conversation’.”  The movement is vast no doubt.  And it is varied. 

The witty G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types—the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.”  Chesterton was speaking of the British political system of course when he uttered those words, but I find them applicable when it comes to differences between various groups and factions, political or not—as to why movements pop up in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

Wrote the following a couple years ago but never posted it.  Got it off the shelf a few days back and made some additions and subtractions, thought it might be worth passing along. 
  
emergent JesusC.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
                      
I don’t know nearly enough about the Emergent church movement to be against it.  And even if I did, anyone can be against something they don’t like.  After all, the growing movement includes some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, so I should pray for them if anything. 
       
Like many folks, I like blazing my own trail.  I want to make my our own mark.  My preference is to think my own thoughts if the alternative is being force fed someone else’s.  My observation has been that we humans have this built in drive to uncover hidden and different paths then those who have proceeded us.  So, with those things in mind, it should come as no surprise that when I first learned of the ECM that it appealed to me on several levels. 
 
For starters, I have felt just a little out of place for whatever reason within the streams of Presbyterianism I’ve been swimming in for the better part of the last 15 years (Presbyterian Church in America—aka PCA, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church—aka EPC).  That “I’m not at home” sort of sense of discontentment has been my gnawing reminder that I must belong elsewhere and continues to feed my hope for more meaningful community. Read the rest of this entry »

I read Jared’s blog (The Gospel-Driven Church) regularly and can say I have benefited from doing so.  Having had my own “gospel renaissance” of sorts (as he calls it) a few years ago now, I could really relate with what he describes here.  Jared hits the nail on the head when he says, “You can’t sustain spirituality apart from the gospel…”

If you are a pastor or a communicator of the good news in any facet, you will be encouraged by this 12 minute clip… a strong dose of gospel to keep the devil away.

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(Jonathan McIntosh with rethinkmission is the interviewer).

USREPORT-US-MADOFF-CANCERReports today from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post stated that unidentified sources are saying that disgraced and convicted Wall Street fraud Bernie Madoff, 71, is in the terminal stages of cancer.  US prison authorities are denying it.  Whether it’s true of false isn’t the topic of this post.

There seemed to had been a lot of hatred directed toward Madoff during his trial last spring, and not just among those who’d been taken by the scam artist.  I caught a glimpse or two on CNN with folks lining the streets with posters saying everything from”Bah-Bye Bernie” to “We Hope You Burn In Hell Madoff!”.  One blogger wrote, “No one deserves to be tortured in a public place, every day for 6 months, more than Bernard Madoff. If you are not familiar with this [explicative], he masterminded the greatest Ponzi scheme in Wall Street history. $50 billion worth.  Read here to find out why he should die a horrible death and then be tortured for all of eternity.”  Such passionate remarks and sentiments do make me wonder how we as Christians would treat such a man given the opportunity?  Would we stone him, call for his head, or be willing to pull the lever sending him on a sure path to eternal torment? Read the rest of this entry »

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post titled Don’t Worry, Trust God so when I ran into this clip today it caught my attention.

“…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~Jesus (Matthew 6:20-21, ESV)          

Several years ago now (15 to be precise), I was a kid youth pastor promoting concerts, pulling off all-nighters, organizing missions trips, and preaching to young people about the virtues of Christian living (it was a time in my life in which I didn’t have a very good handle on the whole gospel vs. law thing so my preaching had a distinct moralistic tone to it and I just didn’t do a very thorough job of presenting God’s grace in Christ lets say).

I ran across the following several months ago now and it brought back memories for me.  I’ll admit that we had a special guest or two who pushed the envelope (a note: you weren’t one of them, BB).  And for the record, I was no Ignatius (just ask the kids in the youth group from back in the day).

This guy however, is something else (for those who might not get it I’ll state right now that it is a sarcastic spoof).  Sadly though, this is the only gospel some young people get.

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HT: Imonk

I found this refreshing.

HT: Jared Wilson

sharing ChristThe longer I walk with Christ, the more in tune I become with God’s heart for lost sinners like me.  He did come to seek and to save us after all.  A few years ago I ran across the following (written by Ed Stetzer) while doing some research for a piece I was writing at the time.  I think it is just about the best short article I have ever read about sharing Christ with those who don’t know his saving grace. 

I’d simply provide a link to The Resurgence where it was originally published but I visited the site this afternoon and it appears to be only available to the paying subscriber and since I am not a subscriber I’ll just provide the short article here (I did ask the Resurgence about their policy at one point and they stated that if I merely mentioned them I had their permission to reproduce anything off of their site—so I am taking them up on the offer). 

“Beginning a Conversation about Christ”

Finding a starting point for a Christ-sharing conversation is not easy. Maybe you’ve heard before:

  1. “So, do you consider yourself a good person? Yes, well I’ve got some bad news…”
  2. Nice to meet you, Stephen. Did you know that there was a guy in the Bible who was stoned to death for his beliefs about Jesus? What do you believe about Jesus?”
  3. “If you were to die tonight… Read the rest of this entry »

It’s okay to laugh, we have all been guilty at one time or another.

221768259_03396f142eWe’ve all heard a version of the saying, “in God we trust, all others pay cash.”  When Jesus says “do not be anxious about your life”, he isn’t saying: “Don’t worry, be happy.”  On that note, he isn’t saying, “stop it”, “knock it off”, or “you can choose not to worry.” 

I kinda get the feeling that he’s saying there is a better way.

Recently I was with a friend who was going on and on with a small group of freinds about how she doesn’t worry anymore.  I was getting agitated just listening because the people she was talking to had to be just like me I’m guessing—prone to worry.

We all worry from time to time, some of us more than others for sure.  But we all worry nonetheless.  We worry about who will take care of us when we get older—or who won’t.  We worry about how we are going to make it another month unemployed.  We worry about the cancer that runs in our family Read the rest of this entry »

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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