Archives For Gospel

MY THANKS TO CHERYL LAVORNIA FOR THESE HELPFUL REVIEWS

Have you ever read a book that captured your imagination in a new way…that makes you change the way you interact with life? What if you found a book that did just that AND it somehow helped you read and understand the Bible better? This past spring, I found two such books. This fall we will be working through two sermon series that will help us understand how to become better followers (disciples) of  Jesus…and as better disciples (followers), we can become a more engaged church. These two books can be chosen as small group material or can be read alone. The Mark book would be a great read for families as well. Below, I’ve given a review of each book.

Card - markMark: The Gospel of Passion (The Biblical Imagination Series) by Michael Card.

Because I’ve read this gospel multiple times, finding a new way to read it was very appealing. The Gospel of Mark (in the Bible) is a book of action and passion with events happening one after the other, describing the life of Jesus in vivid detail with a sense of urgency and immediacy. This gospel was written by Mark, a young man who was a friend and interpreter for the Apostle Peter. He gives first hand glimpses of what was going on during Jesus’ ministry. Even though this is the shortest gospel, it was written to give the early Christians encouragement in all their sufferings. Michael Card wrote this book, as well as the series, not as a devotional or as a commentary, but with both in mind. He uses the most current resources and historical materials to comment on each section, but does it with a sense of imagination. He calls this informed way of reading “biblical imagination.” What this means is that as you read each section, the characters and settings come to life. It is a must read if you want to renew your passion for Jesus and your love and awe of how He works in and through all of us (1st century or 21st century)!

Keller - KingJesus the King by Tim Keller.

Timothy Keller, New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and the man Newsweek called a “C. S. Lewis for the twenty-first century,” unlocks new insights into the life of Jesus Christ as he explores how Jesus came as a king, but a king who had to bear the greatest burden anyone ever has. Jesus the King is Keller’s revelatory look at the life of Christ as told in the Gospel of Mark. In it, Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God. It is an unforgettable look at Jesus Christ, and one that will leave an indelible imprint on every reader. Jesus the King is an excellent book for personal growth in discipleship or small group use for moving forward toward ‘the full stature of Christlikeness.’

These books will be available at the Christ Church Welcome Center or you can order them from Amazon or Kindle.

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bestkeptsecretEvangelism is a good word (“Announcing the Good News!”)  but it has a bad rap in our culture at present – for some good reasons of course! When people feel tele-marketed or coerced, it betrays the love orientation that God demonstrates in Christ. The Gospel is good news because God, in Jesus is reconciling and restoring the world to relationship with himself!

Let me suggest two resources for authentic evangelism: one is the book by John Dickson that is a wonderful corrective to the false models and misconceptions about evangelism. It’s called The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with More Than Our Lips.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 1.05.22 PMThe other is a tool from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship based on material from True Story by James Choung. It is an APP for smart phones or tablets that can be used to help share the Good News in language for today.

It’s called New World and uses the story of Scripture that humankind is: Designed for Good; Damaged by Evil; Restored through Christ; and Sent together to Heal.
Check it out at Intervarsity’s Evangelism site.

I’m not keen on “canned” tools for sharing Christ, but this is flexible and follows the “Six Act Drama” of Scripture that I so often use when seeking to explain more about what it means to follow Christ and use as the basis for my class, Biblical Thought, at URI.

NOTE: two sermons by myself and Nathan Albert can be accessed here.

LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK WHEN YOU HAVE LOOKED AT IT OR BETTER YET – USED IT – TO SHARE THE GOOD NEWS WITH SOMEONE ELSE!

It was George MacDonald, quoted in an anthology by C.S. Lewis who said that “unforgiveness is spiritual murder.” Jesus did not mince words when he said,

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Mat. 6:14-15)

In a recent sermon, we explored the nature of true forgiveness. Part of our “Mind the Gap” series. I think you’ll find some very practical help with the complexities of maintaining a forgiving spirit.

O holy Jesus who didst for us die,
     And on the Altar bleeding lie,
Bearing all Torment, pain, reproach, and shame.
     That we by virtue of the same,
     Though enemies to God, might be
     Redeemed, and set at liberty.
          As thou didst us forgive,
So meekly let us Love to others show,
     And live in Heaven on Earth below!

_Thomas Traherne, 1637-74, from “Christian Ethicks”

compassion imageWhen we chose to use “Compassionate Christian Community” as our church’s ‘byline’ and in our mission statement, we did so because compassion is a part of our ‘DNA.’ It is a beautiful and expansive word that reflects the embodied love of Christ who “suffered with” and for us.

An article in the Gordon-Conwell Seminary magazine, Contact, captures the legacy of Christian compassion that defies the rhetoric of many of the “New Atheists.” It is a good follow-up from one of the “Tough Questions” in a previous post, The Church – Bad for Humanity?

The Living Gospel: The Church’s Historic Witness, by Dr. Frank James, Contact magazine, Spring 2013.

In recent years, Christianity has been the object of considerable ridicule. The New Atheists—Dawkins, Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens—have made a nice living by declaring that religion in general and Christianity in particular “poisons everything.” Of course, this is nothing new. Karl Marx demeaned Christianity as the “opiate of the masses.” The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, defiantly asserted: “The Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of the moral progress in the world.”

So it was surprising to read an article from another atheist who took a rather different slant on Christianity. Matthew Parris, columnist for The Sunday Times of London, wrote a provocative online article titled: “As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God.” Returning to the Africa of his youth, Parris makes the startling observation:

“It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These along will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”

This is a refreshingly honest sentiment from one who demurs from personal allegiance to Christianity. If we are honest, Christian history has its fair share of skeletons in its collective closet. This is hard to swallow, and I wish it were not so. Despite the fact that Christians have not always behaved in ways that would please Christ, the many examples of Christian compassion down through the ages are nothing short of dazzling.

From the beginning, Christians have been known for their compassion for the disadvantaged. Perhaps one of the most astonishing examples is the opposition to infanticide in the early church. In the Greco-Roman world, female infants and males born with deformities were of no value and often deposited on the village dung heap to die of exposure—or perhaps even more tragic, raised as temple prostitutes. In a chilling letter written one year before the birth of Christ, a Roman citizen named Hilarion directs his pregnant wife: “When you are delivered of a child—if it is a boy, keep it; if it is a girl, discard it.” The Stoic philosopher, Seneca, is even more callous: “Monstrous [deformed] offspring we destroy; children too, if born feeble and ill-formed, we drown.” This is the cruel world to which Christianity came with their counter-cultural message. Over time, this gospel changed the Roman Empire.

Christian compassion has manifested in many ways down through the ages. In a world entirely lacking in social services, Christians became their brothers’ keepers. At the end of the 2nd century, Tertullian wrote that while pagan religions spent their donations “on feasts and drinking bouts,” Christians spent theirs “to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents and of old persons confined to the house.” By the 4th century, Christians had become especially well known for their compassion for the poor—both Christian and pagan. The Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate (361–363), even complained about “those impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well.”

Read more….the whole article is at the Gordon-Conwell website.

pentecost

Last Sunday marked the coming of the Holy Spirit to the new community of Jesus called the Church! Nothing would remain the same!

Malcolm Guite, poet, Anglican priest, and song-writer has written a whole book of sonnets for the Christian Year. I want to share his beautiful rendering of Pentecost.

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings,
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays,
Today the church draws breath at last and sings,
As every flame becomes a tongue of praise.
This is the feast of Fire, Air, and Water,
Poured out and breathed and kindled into Earth.
The Earth herself awakens to her maker,
Translated out of death and into birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release.
Today the Gospel crosses every border,
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace.
Today the lost are found in his translation,
Whose mother-tongue is love, in every nation.

I love the implications of Pentecost for the world-wide spread of the Gospel. Note the play on words in the last two lines.  We speak of something being “lost in translation.” With the coming of the Spirit and the Church charged with making disciples of all peoples, NO ONE need be “lost in translation.” Every nation knows the language of love that comes from God!

As a sequel to our Tough Questions series, I came across this video of a great discussion between John Ortberg and outgoing Fuller Seminary President, Richard Mouw (author of Uncommon Decency who coined the term we’ve used often: ‘Convictions with Civility.’)  It was held at Ortberg’s Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California.

Ortberg-Mouw-e1367000198107

It is a brief, free-flowing discussion on questions like:
“What does ‘Evangelical’ mean?”
“What is the significance of the Cross of Christ and why is it so central?”
“Is Mormonism Christian?”
“Why Should the Bible Be Viewed as Trustworthy?”
“How Can We Talk About Human Sexuality in a Biblical and Civil Way?”
“How Do We Dialog with Others with Convicted Civility?”
“How Do Christians understand and talk about Hell with Others?”
“How Do we interpret the Bible in passages that describe violence?”
“What is God Waiting for Before He Comes Back?”
“What Do you See around the World Gives You Hope?”

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Resurrection Icon

Resurrection Icon

Holy Week and Easter Sunday were glorious times for our church. In the sermon Sunday, (available here) I used, as I have for many years, the icon of the Resurrection, originating in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Christ has smashed the gates of Hades (or death) and fashioned them as a bridge over the pit of hell. Below, the locks and keys lie broken. In one, Satan himself is bound, powerless to prevent the destruction of his kingdom.

The song we sang that comes from an ancient Paschal hymn says, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death…”

Christ stands over the tomb pulling Adam and Eve (as representative humanity) up and out. We don’t see Jesus raising two individuals. We see him raising the entire human race from bondage to sin and death.

This year I discovered a detail I never saw before. (Further study confirmed it is a standard requirement of all versions of this icon.) Jesus is pulling the man and woman up BY THE WRIST. They have no power to stand on their own. They don’t even have much power to reach out their hands to Jesus. The wrist image is a graphic way of proclaiming, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13, ESV)

Glory to God!