Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Cross of Christ: God Instead of Us (1)

The cross offers a glimpse into the heart of a God who is willing to be with us in death and suffering. But we need more than a God who knows our pain. We need mercy for our own contributions to the pain in the world. Christ’s death is not merely a picture of God with us. It is also a picture of a God willing to stand in our place.

Jesus Christ dies instead of us. He not only identifies with our suffering caused by our sin; he also enters into our sorrow and makes it his own. He takes our sin and its consequences upon himself so that we can be free. He experiences the full force of God’s wrath toward sin in order that we might be saved. Only the cross satisfies God’s demand for justice and our desire for mercy.

Guilt and Sin

People know deep down that there is something wrong with our world. Things aren’t right. The world has been damaged and defaced by sin. We see it in our relationships, in the toil of our work, the brokenness of our marriages, and the rebelliousness of our own hearts.

And yet, we are more than damaged by sin. We are complicit. We are not merely victims of evil but also perpetrators. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that all the problems of sin are out there and that we are being affected only by the sin of others. We too are involved in evil and …

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Worth a Look 3.31.10

Jason Powell looks into the past with these terrific pictures. He combines present and past shots.

How to jump from a speeding car. (In case you were just wondering…)

Allow me to turn into an annoying LOST fan for a few moments. Here are some interesting takes on the religious symbolism of these final episodes:

    Chris Seay thinks it’s about Jacob and Esau, a theory I’ve long considered, although I’m wavering now.
    Amy Hall on the show’s vacillation between a God of grace and a God of judgment.
    Nancy Guthrie on the show’s portrayal of earning forgiveness.
    Philip thinks the show is telling the mythological story of Lilith. This proposal has some merit.
    Oscar Dahl thinks that the point of LOST is that there is no point. We’re all lost.
    Here’s what I think. This show better not end with someone waking up from a bad dream. That worked for Newhart. But I think I would pull my hair out if it’s the ending of LOST.
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The Cross of Christ: God With Us

Loneliness and alienation are part of human existence. Signs of loneliness appear everywhere:

    In the flickering light of the computer screen at night.
    In the big house with only one inhabitant.
    In our chronic distrust of one another.
    In the younger generation’s cynicism.

We are alone. Isolated. Friendships fade. Relationships are severed. Trust is broken.

All these symptoms of loneliness point to a greater relationship that has been severed – our relationship with God. We have rebelled against God. We have spit in his face and demanded our own way.

God offers living water. We poison the well.

God desires fellowship with us. We spurn his friendship.

God offers his eternal life. We turn away and march toward death.

God offers healing. We try to heal ourselves and only exacerbate our disease.

Alienation follows. The fallout from our rebellion is that everyone suffers. Suffering and pain are now ingrained in our lives.

But God knows our plight. He is not absent from our pain. Even as he rightly condemns our rebellion, he willingly suffers alongside of us, bearing the devastating effects of our sinfulness. Isaiah 53: Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The Servant of God is there. He dies with us. He carries the weight – not only of sin, but also its horrible consequences.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“The world is a dance in which good, descending from God, is disturbed by evil arising from the creatures, and the resulting conflict is resolved by God’s own assumption of the suffering nature which evil produces.”

A Broken World

In November 2008, …

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Worth a Look 3.30.10

Is your church losing blood?

American Christianity is far less bloody than it used to be.

Songs like “Power in the Blood” or “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” or “Are You Washed in the Blood?” are still sung in some places, but fewer and fewer, and there aren’t many newer songs or praise choruses so focused on blood. The Cross, yes; redemption, yes; but blood, rarely. We’re eager to speak of life, but hesitant to speak of blood.

This is the main reason I am looking forward to Together for the Gospel 2010.

Seven characteristics of highly evangelistic people:

Stated simply, the evangelistic churches that I have researched for the past twenty years have one or more highly evangelistic Christians.

I know. The previous statement is no great revelation. It is almost stating the obvious. But, if it is reality, why are we not hearing more about these Christians who seem to have a passion for evangelism? Why are we not doing a better job of telling their stories?

Pictures of the world’s most stunning data centers.

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The Beauty of a Blood-Stained Cross

Every year, I devote several posts during Holy Week to the cross and resurrection of Christ. I realize that blogging and thoughtful devotional material often do not mix, since many readers simply scan feeds. But I hope that during this week, you will take a few moments to read through these five reflective posts and that you will glory in the sacrifice of our Savior.

The Beauty of the Cross

No theology is genuinely Christian
which does not arise from and focus on the cross.

– Martin Luther

We stepped outside into the soft glow of early morning light. A chill was in the air. Seeing our breath reminded us that summer had faded. Fall was upon us. No more chirping of crickets. No more singing of birds.

My son grabbed his backpack for kindergarten and we headed toward the car. Yesterday had been windy. The trees had surrendered their leaves overnight. The leaves now covered the ground in various shades of colors, like a patchwork quilt that brightens a dreary room. Deep red. Luscious green. Bright yellow. Dark brown. And all sorts of shades in between. The leaves on the driveway were damp from the cool rain, while the ones taking refuge under the trees were old and crispy. No leaf seemed exactly alike.

“What happened to all these leaves?” my son asks me. “Why aren’t they on the trees anymore?”

“The leaves are dead,” I tell him. A puzzled look crosses his face. Dead? But they’re so …

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Worth a Look 3.29.10

The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?

Everywhere beyond Earth, there is silence. If life spontaneously evolved and intelligence imperfectly flowered on one planet, what about all those other rocky planets? Terrestrial civilisation has been beaming microwave messages into space for 50 years, in the form of Coronation Street and I Love LucyDr Who and Battlestar Galactica. And since April 1960 the astronomer Frank Drake and his colleagues in Seti, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, have been listening for signals from those other, so-far invisible planets that surely must be orbiting those stars that are strewn across 100,000 light years of space.

And what have they heard? The random fizz and splutter of the accidental noise from pulsars and quasars, from hot gas and cold dust and exploding stars: otherwise, nothing. The sound of extraterrestrial life is the sound of silence.

Jared Wilson wrote a paragraph about chilling out to the glory of God. Justin Taylor linked to it. Then 130+ comments followed on the balance between leisure and work.

Bob Kellemen provides an extensive review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, dealing with the pastoral implications of this book.

10 things your blog doesn’t need

Another viewpoint on the Great Commission Resurgence: “What Does Scripture Say?”

Does Scripture have anything to say about a Great Commission Resurgence? Yes, indeed, it does. The question now is whether we will obey our Lord’s commission. Will we follow Him? Will we let Him rule His churches as He …

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Palm Sunday

Go through, go through the gates!
Prepare the way for the people!
Build up, build up the highway;
clear it of stones!
Lift up a signal over the peoples.

Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth:
Say to the daugher of Zion:
“Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.”

And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.

- Isaiah 62:10-12, ESV

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The Peculiarities of the English Language

As a bilingual couple, my wife and I have had our fair share of laughs at the peculiarities of the English language. As this hilarious clip from I Love Lucy points out, look at all the ways “ough” can be pronounced:

    bough (pronounced bow)
    rough (pronounced ruff)
    through (pronounced thru)
    cough (pronounced coff)

This line from Ricky expresses Corina’s sentiment many times: In Spanish (or in Corina’s case, Romanian), you got a sound and it sounds the same… all the time. You write it the same way, it sounds the same way, no matter what word you put it in, it comes out the same way!

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Trevin's Seven

My seven picks for your weekend reading:

1. Visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre online. And while you’re at it, walk into the Sistine Chapel. Unbelievable!

2. More important than Christmas? Why pro-life Protestants about the Annunciation – or the unborn Jesus.

3. What hath Nashville to do with Jerusalem? Russell Moore on country music’s relationship to the SBC

4. What else can we do besides send short-term mission teams?

5. Analyzing FaceBook’s measurement of “happiness” moods and the like…

6. Omega males and the women who hate them: They’re unemployed, romantically challenged, and they’re everywhere!

7. A good word about how we speak about Europe. As one who called Europe “home” for five years, I can relate. It bugs me when people speak derisively about Europe.

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Book Notes: A Praying Life / 7 Steps to Becoming a Healthy Christian Leader

Here are some notes on two books I have read recently:

A Praying Life:
Connecting with God in a Distracting World

Paul E. Miller
NavPress, 2009
My Rating: *****

Do you really need another book on prayer? Yes, if it’s this one. Paul Miller’s book is challenging and encouraging all at once. His goal is to lead you to the place where prayer is a natural part of your life, where the circumstances in life that keep you from praying become the impetus for your prayers.

Miller goes deeper than most books on prayer in order to show us that our prayerlessness is rooted in the sins of unbelief or in misconceptions about God. By correcting these images with the biblical picture of the extravagant Father, Miller offers counsel that is both theological and practical. He continually reminds us of our dependence upon God. I underlined so many parts of this book that I had to sharpen my pencil several times. This book is a must-read!

Seven Steps to Becoming a Healthy Christian Leader
Doug Munton
VMI Publishers, 2004
*** 1/2

I enjoy leadership books written by pastors for pastors. Some books for the Christian leader only remind pastors of what it is that they should (ideally) be doing, which then leads to further feelings of guilt for not meeting the ridiculously high expectations of everyone around them. Munton’s book does indeed remind pastors of essentials, but he does so in an encouraging manner that understands the complexities of the pastoral role.

The seven steps are:

    Deepen your intimacy with …

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