Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why DID we crucify Jesus?

Question: If Jesus is just another great teacher, why did we kill him? William Willimon asks the same question:

“It is odd that we have made even Jesus into such a quivering mass of affirmation and oozing graciousness, considering how frequently, unguardedly, and gleefully Jesus told us that we were sinners. Anyone who thinks that Jesus was into inclusiveness, self-affirmation, and open-minded, heart-happy acceptance has then got to figure out why we responded to him by nailing him on a cross. He got there not for urging us to ‘consider the lilies’ but for calling us ‘whitewashed tombs’ and even worse.”

As someone else has stated, "God made man in his own image, and we've been returning the favor ever since."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amaze them with God

by Kevin DeYoung

I beg of you, don’t go after the next generation with mere moralism, either on the right (don’t have sex, go to church, share your faith, stay off drugs) or on the left (recycle, dig a well, feed the homeless, buy a wristband). The gospel is not a message about what we need to do for God, but about what God has done for us. So get them with the good news about who God is and what he has done for us.

Some of us, it seems, are almost scared to tell people about God. Perhaps because we don’t truly know him. Maybe because we prefer living in triviality. Or maybe because we don’t consider knowing God to be very helpful in real life. I have to fight against this unbelief in my own life. If only I would trust God that God is enough to win the hearts and minds of the next generation. It’s his work much more than it is mine or yours. So make him front and center. Don’t preach your doubts as mystery. And don’t reduce God to your own level. If ever people were starving for a God the size of God, surely it is now.

Give them a God who is holy, independent, and unlike us, a God who is good, just, full of wrath and full of mercy. Give them a God who is sovereign, powerful, tender, and true. Give them a God with edges. Give them an undiluted God who makes them feel cherished and safe, and small and uncomfortable too. Give them a God who works all things after the counsel of his will and for the glory of his name. Give them a God whose love is lavish and free. Give them a God worthy of wonder and fear, a God big enough for all our faith, hope, and love.

Do your friends, your church, your family, your children know that God is the center of the universe? Can they see that he is at the center of your life?

Imagine you had a dream of someone sitting on a throne. In your dream a rainbow encircled the throne. Twenty-four men surrounded the throne. Lighting and thunder issued from the throne. Seven lamps stood blazing at the foot of the throne. A sea of glass lay before the throne. Four strange creatures were around the throne, giving thanks to him who sits on the throne. And twenty-four old dudes were falling down before the one who sits on the throne. You wouldn’t have to get Joseph out of prison to figure out the point of this dream. The throne is the figurative and literal center of the vision. The meaning of the dream is God.

This, of course, is no ordinary dream. It is John’s vision from Revelation 4. And it is reality, right now. More substantial and more lasting and more influential than your pain, or fear, or temptation, or opposition, or make-up, or clothes, or boyfriends, or video games, or iPods, or whatever else our culture says should be important to young people is God. What matters now and for eternity is the unceasing worship of him who sits on the throne.

As you try to reach the next generation for Christ, you can amaze them with your cleverness, your humor, or your looks. Or you can amaze them with God. I need a lot of things in my life. There are schedules and details and a long to-do list. I need food and water and shelter. I need sleep. I need more exercise and I need to eat better. But this is my greatest need and yours: to know God, love God, delight in God, and make much of God.

We have an incredible opportunity before us. Most people live weightless, ephemeral lives. We can give them substance instead of style. We can show them a big God to help make sense of their shrinking lives. We can point them to transcendence instead of triviality. We can reach them with something more lasting and more powerful than gimmicks, gadgets, and games. We can reach them with God.

Imagine that. Reaching the next generation for God by showing them more of God. That’s just crazy enough to work.

HT Brian Frahm

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our Substitute brings peace

“From beginning to end what Jesus Christ has done for you he has done not only as God but as man. He has acted in your place in the whole range of your human life and activity... in all of which he has been fully and completely accepted by the Father, so that in Jesus Christ you are already accepted by him. Therefore, renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.”

- TF Torrance

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Give Me Jesus

Fernando Ortega - "Give Me Jesus" from Adamson.TV on Vimeo.

James, the Importance of Good Works and Seeking God

Here's a great excerpt from a sermon on James by Kim Riddlebarger:

"While some have thought that the Book of James is nothing more than warmed over Jewish legalism, we have seen how that sentiment could not be further from the truth. James does not contradict Paul when it comes to justification, and when interpreted correctly, James reminds us of the importance of good works, as well as the need for us to be more than mere “hearers” of the word. In fact, James has taught us that it is God who brings us forth (from death to life) through the preached word, then implants that word with in us, thereby ensuring that we hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. James exhorts struggling Christians to draw near to God, because James knows God’s promise that God will draw near to us whenever we seek his face. James reminds that when we humble ourselves, God responds by exalting us. James tells us that whenever we seek God’s grace, God is willing to give us even more grace. James is very clear that from beginning to end, the Christian life is grounded in the grace of God, who has promised to see us through all of the trials of life. And the way in which God sees us through the trials of life is through prayer..."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Christianity Declining in the West?

"If one is hapless enough to watch television or listen to conservative or religious (or conservative religious) radio, one hears endless rhetorical prefaces that assert the decline of Christianity in the industrialized West (or any of its sub-parts). In almost every case, this narrative of decline and fall is READ MORE

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bono on Karma & Grace

Shortly after the Madrid train bombings of March 2004, Bono and French music journalist Michka Assayas had a series of conversations. Here is a selected excerpt:

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace…You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics–in physical laws–every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s – - -. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But i love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that far-fetched?

Bono: No, it’s not far-fetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched.

Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s – - – and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God is far more

“The gospel shows us that God is far more holy and absolute than the moralists’ god, because he could not be satisfied by our moral efforts, even the best! On the other hand, the gospel shows us that God is far more loving and gracious than the relativists’ god. They say that God (if he exists) just loves everyone no matter what they do. The true God of the gospel had to suffer and die to save us, while the god of the relativist pays no price to love us.”

- Timothy Keller

Monday, August 10, 2009

James May rides in a U2 spy plane

I totally envy this guy. He gets to see what few of us do.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I'm an ambassador for Christ, cleverly disguised as _________

... you fill in the blank.

Our pastor today said something that really got me thinking. He asked us what the primary goal of the church in this age was. "Well", I thought, "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever". Yes, I suppose that's the chief end of man, sort of the ultimate goal in the grand picture, but the primary (to be more specific: immediate goal) here on earth now is to make disciples, which consequently glorifies God - all the other valuable things the church does on earth support that. Worship, study, etc... are to prepare us for and motivate us to... missions.

If the church's main goal here on earth was to study God's word (and I don't diminish the importance of this for a second), wouldn't it have been better for Him to take us to heaven immediately, so we could study in a more perfect and accommodating context? Yes. What about worship? Well, praising God is wonderful, but some Sundays my flesh really takes all the joy out of worship. I really get a sense of just how much better worshipping God in song will be on the new heaven and new earth.

So, why leave us on earth after He regenerates us and makes us His followers? To love, and share the good news with my neighbor (Christian and non-Christian alike) and work to see His kingdom spread, all under His power and direction. He IS returning someday, but we don't always act like we're on mission. You know, it might be easier to have that attitude if I WERE in a foreign land. To always have the feeling of being "sent" at every turn. Here's the challenge: whatever situation He's sovereignly set us, we are to be "on mission".

Does this mean obnoxiously cramming the gospel down someone's throat? No, but it does mean hanging out with people (like Jesus did), speaking the truth in love when the opportunity arrives (like Jesus did) and joyfully welcoming people into our company and kingdom (like Jesus did). ...and yes, you can have fun doing it. Find something you like to do, invite some non-believers to join you, and voila let the Holy Spirit bring opportunities to engage them! Genuine friendship is the goal. Even if they never become a follower of Christ, that's not your responsibility. I'm NOT talking about looking at people as "converts", "notches on your belt", etc... that's NOT loving people, that's legalism.

Think about your own life and vocation. Are you a stay-at-home-mom? A designer? A store manager? You might want to start thinking of yourself as an ambassador for Christ cleverly disguised as one of these vocations. Just something to think about...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Legalism part 2

I love this quote:

“It is not easy to get the law killed; something of a legal disposition remains even in the believer while he is in this world: many a stroke does self and self-righteousness get, but still it revives again. If he were wholly dead to the law, he would be wholly dead to sin; but so far as the law lives, so far sin lives. They that think they know the gospel well enough bewray (reveal-J.F.) their ignorance; no man can be too evangelical, it will take all his life-time to get a legal temper destroyed.”

Ralph Erskine, The Works of Ralph Erskine, vol. 2, p. 27.
(Paramount Blog)

"No man can be too evangelical" - Wow. Amen to that.


"...Legalism is primarily a God-ward thing. It’s a way of making and keeping yourself acceptable to God. From this flows the legalism that is directed towards one another It’s a way of scoring sanctity points in our fellowships, and exerting what one postmodernist called a “truth regime” - it’s about pride, power and control. It simultaneously glorifies man and “unsecures” man. Thus its true opposites are grace and faith." - Dominic Smart, Minister of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Full article: http://www.beginningwithmoses.org/bigger/ds_legalism.htm

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Counting the Cost of Sexual Immorality

Have you ever considered the effects of your sexual immorality - especially if you're serving in any sort of ministry capacity in a church?

Author and teacher Randy Alcorn sat down and came up with a list of effects. When he was going through a time of temptation, or knew he would have to face it, he would take out the list:

Personalized List of Anticipated Consequences of Immorality

* Grieving my Lord; displeasing the One whose opinion most matters.

* Dragging into the mud Christ's sacred reputation.

* Loss of reward and commendation from God.

* Having to one day look Jesus in the face at the judgment seat and give an account of why I did it. Forcing God to discipline me in various ways.

* Following in the footsteps of men I know of whose immorality forfeited their ministry and caused me to shudder. List of these names:

* Suffering of innocent people around me who would get hit by my shrapnel (a la Achan).

* Untold hurt to Nanci, my best friend and loyal wife.

* Loss of Nanci's respect and trust.

* Hurt to and loss of credibility with my beloved daughters, Karina and Angela. ("Why listen to a man who betrayed Mom and us?")

* If my blindness should continue or my family be unable to forgive, I could lose my wife and my children forever.

* Shame to my family. (The cruel comments of others who would invariably find out.)

* Shame to my church family.

* Shame and hurt to my fellow pastors and elders. List of names:

* Shame and hurt to my friends, and especially those I've led to Christ and discipled. List of names:

* Guilt awfully hard to shake—even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself?

* Plaguing memories and flashbacks that could taint future intimacy with my wife.

* Disqualifying myself after having preached to others.

* Surrender of the things I am called to and love to do—teach and preach and write and minister to others. Forfeiting forever certain opportunities to serve God. Years of training and experience in ministry wasted for a long period of time, maybe permanently.

* Being haunted by my sin as I look in the eyes of others, and having it all dredged up again wherever I go and whatever I do.

* Undermining the hard work and prayers of others by saying to our community "this is a hypocrite—who can take seriously anything he and his church have said and done?"

* Laughter, rejoicing and blasphemous smugness by those who disrespect God and the church (2 Samuel 12:14).

* Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the Enemy of God.

* Heaping judgment and endless problems on the person I would have committed adultery with.

* Possible diseases (pain, constant reminder to me and my wife, possible infection of Nanci, or in the case of AIDS, even causing her death, as well as mine.)

* Possible pregnancy, with its personal and financial implications.

* Loss of self-respect, discrediting my own name, and invoking shame and lifelong embarrassment upon myself.

Alcorn's Blog entry

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Sense of Touch in Worship

The Sense of Touch in Worship
from Ligonier Ministries Blog

by R.C. Sproul

Years ago, I spoke at a service at a large church in California. After I finished preaching, the associate pastor invited everyone who would like to have prayer to come forward to the long kneeling bench across the front of the sanctuary, and seventy-five or eighty people responded. The minister then gave a closing prayer, but as he prayed he walked along the bench and touched each person on the head very gently. I thought, "This is remarkable. This is a recovery, in a sense, of the ancient tradition of having a physical touch that is a part of the worship service."

Jesus understood the importance of touching those to whom He ministered. Very often, when He healed people, He touched them. We see a beautiful example of this in Matthew 8, where a man with leprosy approached Jesus to ask for healing. Leprosy was extremely contagious and was incurable, so those who contracted it became social outcasts, forced to live apart from the rest of the community. But Jesus not only healed the leper, He touched the man. Jesus ministered to his physical need and also to his need for human contact.

People today need that touch. That's why an important moment in church on Sunday morning is when the pastor interacts with the worshipers as they depart. I tell my students in the seminary that there's an art to greeting people at the door after the church service. It's vitally important for the pastor to extend his hand and at least offer to shake hands with every person who comes by. Some will walk right by, but the vast majority of people want to stop and shake the pastor's hand. If that person is an elderly man or woman, and especially if it is an elderly widow, the pastor should never, ever shake with one hand. He must take that lady's hand in both of his hands. Why? It is because she needs that special touch, because she experiences loneliness. In giving her that tender, loving touch, the pastor is being Christ to the people, giving the Master's touch in His name to people who are afraid, or who are lonely, or who are hurting. People want to be touched, not in an evil sense, but in a tender and merciful sense, in a human sense.

Every Christian would love to kneel in Christ's presence, feel the touch of His hand, and hear Him say, "Your sins are forgiven" or "Be healed and go in peace." He doesn't do that now, but in His wisdom God has made provision for people to be ministered to through touch as we worship together.


From A Taste for Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity by R.C. Sproul.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prayer Mirrors the Gospel

"Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks as the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.”

—Paul Miller, A Praying Life

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bible's purpose - 2 views

Tim Keller contrasts 2 approaches to scripture's purpose:

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”

- Timothy Keller

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mike Horton interview: the gospel-driven church

Mike Horton was on Issues, Etc., discussing "The Gospel-Driven Church":

Here's the link

thought-provoking questions

I have taken a paragraph from Mike Horton's new book, Christless Christianity and split it up into bullet points for thoughtful reflection:

• Does Christ come merely to improve our existence in Adam or to end it, sweeping us into his new creation?

• Is Christianity all about spiritual and moral makeovers or about death and resurrection — radical judgment and radical grace?

• Is the Word of God a resource for what we have already decided we want and need, or is it God’s living and active criticism of our religion, morality, and pious experience?

In other words, is the Bible God’s story, centering on Christ’s redeeming work, that rewrites our stories, or is it something we use to make our stories a little more exciting and interesting?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Worst pun of all time?

I'm thinking so...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

from racism to reconciliation

The power of the gospel is clear in this powerful reunion.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"You have heard it said... but I say to you..."

Ever wonder why Jesus says this? It sounds at first as if He's contradicting the law of Moses. Intimating that the law got it wrong, but "here's what you should REALLY do." Indeed, that's probably what the Pharisees and the strict followers of Moses thought - it was even shocking for His own disciples to hear no doubt.

Here's some helpful commentary on this topic from Lee Irons in his article A New Locus of Authority:

"Perhaps an analogy may help. The constitution of the United States and the constitution of England may have many points in common. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the constitution of England (even if based on common law) contained similar provisions concerning civil liberties such as the right to freedom of religion or freedom of speech. But are citizens of the United States bound by these provisions in the constitution of the England? No. We fought a Revolutionary War, broke from England, and we are now bound by the constitution of the United States. The fact that there are points of similarity and continuity doesn’t change that fundamental legal fact. We can trace lines of organic, historic continuity from the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights. But, legally, we Americans are not under the Magna Carta or the constitution of England.

So with the new covenant. We Christians are members of a new polity called the new covenant. We are not bound by the constitution of Israel (the Mosaic Law). We are not Jews. Are there points of similarity and continuity between the old covenant and the new? Of course. Every moral teaching contained in the old covenant is carried forward into the new. Christians are still obligated to flee idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, and so on. If anything, our view of what is entailed by God’s moral law is expanded and heightened in the new covenant. The prohibition against murder entails a prohibition against hating our neighbor in our heart. The prohibition against adultery includes the prohibition against lust. Neighbor-love is expanded to enemy-love. And so on. But in reality, even these heart attitudes were always a part of the moral law. They are just more clearly seen in Christ and made more explicit through his teaching."

Read the whole article

Monday, February 02, 2009

who are we attracting?

This is thought-provoking:

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Price that Love Pays

“God’s love is his holiness reaching out to sinners; grace is but the price that his love pays to his holiness; the cross is but its victory over sin and death; and faith is but the way in which we bring our worship to him who is holy.”

- David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant

Monday, January 12, 2009

How much do you have to hate somebody NOT to proselytize?

Penn Jillette, a comedian and illusionist who happens to be an atheist, describing a recent encounter he had with a Christian: