I wondered why Christianity had not typically embedded itself into these festivals, why we weren’t among the leaders of new cultural developments and wildly creative thought. Certainly God is wildly creative – enough to find his way into human hearts in other cultures around the world. But at these festivals, and in the newly developing cultures of postmodernity, there seemed to be so few people of Jesus.
Category Archives: Gospel
Nothing is as sobering as seeing your sin and weakness and then marveling at the consuming beauty of grace. God has used a book over the past few weeks to do both in my life. I have had to put it down several times because the pain was too great and the worship so strong. Wrestling With an Angel is about a father’s experience with his special needs son and God. The subtitle of the book tells it all: A story of love, disability, and the lessons of grace.
It surprised me that it hit so hard. The chapters are short but the connection to what it means to be a fallen parent regardless of the child God has entrusted you to raise is sharp. I strongly recommend this for all parents. It will help you see your journey in a whole new light. Parenting is never for the faint of heart and some hearts grow through unimaginable pain. Here is an extended excerpt to provide a taste.
The alarm goes off inside my head usually a few moments before the clock on my nightstand sets in motion the events of the morning. It is amazing how the mind and body can sync to a schooled stimulus response, almost to the minute, each and every day.
It’s 5:58 a.m. and I have two minutes before my morning routine begins.
I watch the clock and wait for the alarm. It’s not a desire for more sleep that holds me in place. Nor is it the comfort of my blanket on this crisp, cold, dark morning. I take refuge in my bed for these few peaceful moments to think about my life.
I reflect on my weakness and inability to meet the demands that have been placed on me through the circumstances of my journey. I wonder why God’s plan for my life includes so much frustration and hurt. Then I question why God even has a plan for me at all as I contemplate my sin, self- centeredness, pride, and constant sense of failure.
Suffering seems to be the tool He uses to draw me close. But the very affliction of my soul and the anxious weariness of my heart, things that should force me to run to the light, often drive me furiously into the darkness.
I know He loves me and cares for me but sometimes I cannot understand this strange affection. What kind of love is it that brings so much pain into my life – especially from a sovereign being who has the power to make all things right. And so, by nature,I resist the One who ultimately has designed all these difficult conditions for my good and for His glory.
It’s 5:59 a.m. I want to turn off the alarm, go back to sleep, and wake up in a different place and time. I want to wake up a better man or in different circumstances, something other than what’s right here, right now. I am exhausted already, simply by anticipating the next twenty minutes. Guilt begins to disguise itself as conviction, and so I pray.
Father, forgive me for my sins – cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Make the cross of your Son visible for me this morning as I approach this day. Show me your greatness in the smallness of my life. Lord, I am helpless against what is before me this morning, and I do not know what to do. But my eyes are on you. Please wake my son gently and peacefully. Create in him a good mood and a cooperative spirit. Give him an understanding of your love. Give me an understanding of Your love. Ease his frustration and help me to get him out of bed, cleaned, dressed, and off to school. Create in me the heart of a father, that I might be the man my son needs me to be. Make me like Jesus. None of this will be possible unless you intervene in my life and my family this morning. Lord, before my feet touch the floor, give me strength and grace – especially grace. I am desperate for your grace…
The shrill tone of the alarm clock pierces my thoughts and brings an impromptu amen to my prayer. A bit startled, my heart begins to beat faster, pumping much-needed blood into my reluctant extremities, a slight injection of adrenaline to assure the job gets done.
“The primary purpose of the church is to give a ravishing vision of who Jesus Christ is.”
I realize, of course, by the nature of their questions that they have been listening. It’s because they understand very clearly that Paul’s world is different from our world, that Paul faced different challenges than we do today, that Paul’s assumptions do not translate directly into out context, they must ask “So what?” They want to take Paul’s advice seriously. It’s not enough for them to understand the historical meaning of Paul’s letters. They want to know-they must know!-if Paul’s gospel still matters today, especially since the apostle dealt with some of the same issues we face: gender battles, social contests, racial prejudice, marital struggles, sexual vices. Indeed, Paul didn’t hide behind vague theological ideas when he wrote his letters to the churches of the first century. He deals with the messy details of daily life for Christ believers. Do we eat this or that? Should I have sex with her or not? Do we have to believe everything you do? Should I get married? Should we help the poor who refuse to work? Because Paul’s instructions are so specific on his experiences and ideas about what the gospel should look like in his time, we can’t help but wonder: is Paul’s timely advice timeless?
Trying to answer the “So what?” question has brought Paul’s gospel into better focus for us-not just his theological ideas, but his personal experience of the gospel of Jesus Christ, his spirituality. Typically, Paul’s letters have been used as resources for his theology. We’ve grown accustomed to studying Paul for his theological insights, siphoning from his letters what he believed, distilling the contents for “hard doctrine.” Yet, for Paul, the gospel was not merely what he taught, but how he lived. He wanted his converts not only to believe what he had “received”; he expected them to follow “his ways” in Christ (1 Cor 4:17).
His kingdom society will be shaped not by power-mongering but by self-sacrificing service for one another. In fact, he reveals, his own life will be an absolutely perfect sacrifice and memorable example: He will give his own life as a ransom and as a martyr for them. He will die in order to take their death upon himself, and he will, at the same time, provide a model of how to live – by giving your life for others.
I get to lead the graduating seniors during their Bible Fellowship Group time this Sunday. We are going to look at the topic of Discovering God’s Will. I think I may use this quote:
Also imagine a world, Jesus tells us, where there are ultimate consequences for what we do. Imagine a world where the reality hits home that some folks ruin their potential by ignoring the kingdom vision of Jesus. They get all exited about the dream vision of Jesus when they are in high school but fail to do anything about it in college and beyond, because they think it is too demanding. Or maybe they fool themselves in to chasing sex and drugs and drunkenness and money and fame and possessions and power, but fail to see that the Desire Dream and Dollars Dream fade fast. And they don’t even care.
Jesus wants his listeners to imagine a world where the one who wins at the end is the one who lets the kingdom seed take deep root and lets the Kingdom.Life shape all of life.
He had theologically refined the Christian life as something active, not reactive. It had nothing to do with avoiding sin or with merely talking or teaching or believing theological notions or principles or rules or tenets. It had everything to do with living one’s while life in obedience to God’s call through action. It did not merely require a mind, but a body too. It was God’s call to be fully human…
Many congregations are in significant decline. For a lot of people, the congregation is little more than a haven in a heartless world, a dispenser of religious goods and services to individuals. Nevertheless, it is still populated by the people of God.
God chooses to create new futures in the most inauspicious of places. Through the Incarnation, we discover that God’s future is at work not where we tend to look but among the people we write off as dead or powerless to make things different.
If the Spirit has been poured out in the church – the church as it is, not some ideal type – then we are compelled to believe that the Spirit of God is at work and alive among the congregations of America. Congregations matter. But they need leaders with the skills to cultivate an environment in which the Spirit-given presence of God’s future may emerge among the people of God.
Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is; there is never loneliness.
Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.
Commenting on race relations in the 1920s:
The separation of whites from blacks in the southern states really does make a rather shameful impression….It is a bit unnerving that in a country with so inordinately many slogans about brotherhood, peace, and so on, such things still continue completely uncorrected.