Tag Archives: Culture

The Gospel: More Beautiful Than You Think – part 4

Three Common Beliefs that Ruin Christianity

In the first three parts of this series I’ve been considering some very common beliefs that ruin Christianity. These beliefs are held by so many people that they are generally accepted without much thought. Even people who have been followers of Jesus for many years often accept these things as true because they sound good, and they make us feel good. But the problem is, according to the scripture we base our faith on, they are false. Not only that, the wide-spread acceptance of these things has diminished the beauty of the gospel.

I suggest you read the first three parts of this series if you haven’t already, because these things all come together as a package deal. If you believe one, you’ll likely believe the others.

Part one was an introduction to the series.

In part two we considered the commonly held belief that God is a tolerant God, and discovered that in fact he is not tolerant at all, but holy.

Part three asked the question, “Do you think people are basically good, or bad?” There are some exceptions, but for the most part we want to believe that people are basically good. But scripture, and personal experience, both point to the fact that people are basically sinners.

Now we approach the third commonly held belief which ruins Christianity. In order to get a handle on this belief we asked the people on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square at lunch time the following question:

“How does a person get to heaven?”

Take a couple of minutes to listen to their answers…

The widely held view seems to be that, because God is tolerant, and we are basically good, it is possible for us to earn God’s favor. That if we do enough good stuff to offset the bad, then God will look at us, wink and say, “Well done. You’ve done a pretty good job. Welcome to heaven!”

There’s only one problem.

We simply can’t be that good.

In fact, scripture tells us our “good deeds” are like filthy rags in the sight of God. (Isaiah 64:6) It says that all of us have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). In the book of Romans Paul tells us that every single one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), which, by the way, is the standard we must live up to if we are to have any hope at all (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Here’s the deal:

Humans can do absolutely nothing to earn God’s favor.

Our only option is to trust in Christ’s atonement and accept God’s completely undeserved favor.

I mean, it only makes sense. If God is holy and cannot accept imperfection, then any attempt we make is going to fall short.  We can’t be good enough. We can’t attend enough church services. We can’t serve enough. We can’t give enough. We can’t do enough good works to cancel out or offset any one of our innumerable sins.

At this point I suppose it’s fair to ask, “What is beautiful about this?” I admit that the outlook seems kind of bleak.

But without that bleakness, we miss the incredible beauty of the gospel.

The apostle Paul describes the situation in a powerful way in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can read it here in the NIV if you like (It’s pretty daggone powerful in any translation!), but I love the way Eugene Peterson has paraphrased it in The Message:

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

You see, it’s not that we are basically good people who do our best so a tolerant and understanding God allows our little mistakes to slide because He loves us. Not even close!

The situation is that we are sinful, selfish, and rebellious people who have intentionally turned our backs on our Creator. Yet this completely holy and just God did the unthinkable. He took our guilt upon Himself – sacrificing His own life – to offer us a way out of eternal punishment and into eternal life.

Now that’s a love that’s incomprehensible to us.

One more thought for those of you who have been Christians a while:

Do you have a particular sin that you struggle with?  Is it anger, or greed, or envy, or lust? If you’re like me, whenever you yield to your particular temptation you carry around this load of guilt for a while.  You know you shouldn’t have said or done whatever it was and in fact you knew you had the power to overcome the temptation. God has promised you could. You simply made a wrong choice. Let me ask you something…

If Jesus died for you when you were His enemy, will He not forgive you and love you now that you’re His friend?

Take a look at 1 John 1:8-9:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

If you assume that God loves you because you are good, you can never know this freedom. If you think God loves because you’re good then you must continue to be good to be loved. Sadly, I realize that this is the very experience many have with their human father. You know the end result of this is a burden of guilt and despair because, as we have seen, you will never be good enough.

But God is not like our human fathers.

God loves us because He is good – not because we are.

See what I mean?

The gospel is way more beautiful than we think.

Lloyd

 

Tuesday Picks ~ 7-18-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

This is how it’s supposed to work…

He’s My F*cking Pastor!Gary Liederbach
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/557884bae4b06e95d28f8cfe/576ab449440243082a91e68e/59691795d7bdceddc9d28631/1500266044939/preacher.jpg?format=1000wMy morning office is the Waffle House… Chuck is a man who comes frequently to the WH.  He is a “rough” and crude man in his late 50’s.  He cusses allot and gives the waitresses and customers a hard time and is sharp with them when he is “in that mood.”  Chuck walked back into the WH, saw me sitting in “his chair,”  walked up to me and said coldly “Hey mother F*%ker you are in my seat!”  I turned to him and before I could say a word the two waitresses who were standing there almost jumped over the bar and verbally attacked Chuck.  One said, “Now you listen here you mother F&%ker this man here is a f*#king man of God and if you ever talk to him like that again I will kick your f*cking @ss!!“ The other waitress jumped in, “ Ya you d#ck, he is my f*cking pastor! What the f@ck is wrong with you.!”  Show some f@cking repect!  The waitresses high fived each other and one said to the other. “Sword of the spirit b#tch!”  And Chuck turned and walked out.

I sat there and processed what had just happened!  First, the waitresses have never come to an ODC gathering, though I have invited them many times.  And I never told the waitresses I was their pastor.  But because of my coming into the WH four or five mornings a week and talking, listening, and praying with them it appears that is how they saw me…


Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense
Carey Nieuwhof
attend churchIncreasingly, I’m convinced there’s no point to merely attending. You drive all the way in to connect with three or four songs, hear the message and then head home. All of that you could almost do by yourself in a much more convenient way. Slip on Spotify and grab the message via podcast or on demand and boom, you’re covered…

We now live in a culture that’s drowning in options and has 24/7 access to anything Christian.

In fact, I can think of only two compelling reasons to go to church anymore…


SandwichesAlan Jacobs
Image resultYou learn a lot about people by noting what trivial things they obsess over, and today’s David Brooks column is a perfect example. Let me be really clear about this: people are freaking out about The Sandwich Bar Anecdote for one major reason, which is that they know the rest of the column is dead-on accurate and they’d prefer not to think about what it tells us about our social order…

Brooks writes, “Status rules are partly about collusion, about attracting educated people to your circle, tightening the bonds between you and erecting shields against everybody else.” This is true, and true in very important ways; and the intuition that such rules are always in play can make people uneasy or angry when they think such rules are being enforced against them. If you can’t acknowledge this you’re just being willfully blind.


First day of work at the zoo…
https://safr.kingfeatures.com/idn/cnfeed/zone/js/content.php?file=aHR0cDovL3NhZnIua2luZ2ZlYXR1cmVzLmNvbS9aaXRzLzIwMTcvMDcvWml0cy4yMDE3MDcxOF85MDAuZ2lm
Zits – Click image for a larger view.

Monday Picks ~ 7-17-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

This will be the best thing you’ve read all week, even if you know absolutely nothing about Eugene Peterson. I read this yesterday afternoon after hearing a challenging message on Sunday morning about reaching across the racial and ethnic divisions we all recognize. I’m learning that empathy is the thing that we seem to be missing in so many of our conversations, and that empathy never begins with the other person. It always begins with me…

That Time I Said “Yes” When I Really Meant “No”: One Last Thought on Eugene Peterson’s InterviewRebecca Reynolds
As I look across the landscape of evangelicalism, I see the sorts of leaders who bloviate and blast, and I used to be intimidated by them. But over the years, I’ve seen enough sex scandals emerge from this camp, I’m no longer awed by their proud self-righteousness.

I’m now drawn to gentle teachers who speak about sin with a tender understanding of how human pain works. While these tender men still hold to orthodox truth, they engage with humility and deep concern because they’ve taken time to weep with those who weep.


Some very helpful “dos” and “don’ts” for worship leaders when it seems your congregation isn’t singing. His first “do” is one I believe is often overlooked…

To Sing Again – a constructive approachAaron Hoskins

Why aren’t they singing?

…We could get lost in conversations that could quickly turn into a criticism of the modern worship movement about singing and participation. Instead of criticizing the church. I choose to build her up. This is not an exhaustive list but I hope it helps you to think differently how to lead your people.


I have often wondered this same thing…

Dear Feminists, Where Are You?Melissa Edgington
Our girls need to see you unfurl your fury on an industry that tells them they exist only to please men. That their pleasure is secondary to their willingness to do anything that is asked of them in the bedroom. That their worth is measured in naked photographs. That their minds and their souls are of little importance because they have vaginas and breasts, and those are the only things that really matter. Where are you, my kindred?

You and I disagree on some issues. We march in opposite directions in our various battles. But, here, on this hallowed earth, this war for the hearts and souls of our children, this is our common ground. We are all mamas, sisters, aunts, grandmas. We are all casualties of this war, whether we know it or not, and we are now watching our own sons and daughters fall into its devastating grip. Where are you, courageous ones? Our boys and girls need you to turn and fight and rail and rage and squall.


Literally awesome…

The Closest-Ever Shot of the Great Red SpotMarina Koren
Two days ago, Juno, a pinwheel-shaped spacecraft, zoomed over Jupiter, coming within just 5,600 miles of its best-known feature, the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft’s camera stared at the oval-shaped storm as it soared above, capturing a few images of its orangey-red coils. The photo shoot lasted nine minutes. Juno travels at tens of thousands of miles per hour, and it doesn’t slow down. The spacecraft’s orbit flung it beyond Jupiter, toward Callisto, one of its moons, and away from the worst of the planet’s radiation.

Nine minutes, and humanity managed to capture the closest-ever photograph of a storm on another world, one that’s bigger than the entire Earth and has been churning for decades.


Serious Humor…
https://wronghands1.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/at-the-oxymoron-museum.jpg
Wrong Hands – Click image for a larger view.

Thursday Picks ~ 7-13-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

A Future of Snark, Not IdeasSamuel James
http://blogs.mereorthodoxy.com/samuel/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/07/Screen-Shot-2017-07-11-at-5.13.03-PM-375x250.pngWell, apparently Brooks’s mid-column anecdote about taking a less educated, less urbane friend to a hip sandwich shop was just, ya know, lolz. Mind you: Actually finding folks among the Snarktariat who could explain why this was such a groan-inducing paragraph is pretty difficult. No one seems to want to say the punchline out loud. Instead, Brooks’s paragraph got parodied, jeered, and turned into a kind of self-referential inside joke…

Why did I find this annoying? Well, as I’ve written before, I think the ascendancy of snark to become the reigning lingua franca of the internet is a bad thing, a trend that our already fraying public square can ill afford. But there’s another reason. While the Twitterers were obsessing over a single paragraph and turning it into a monument of sophisticated political signaling, Brooks’s observations about the increasingly fanatical caste system among educated urban progressives came alive…

The only people who could read this and dismiss it with snark are people who perceive–correctly–that Brooks is talking about them. It doesn’t take long at all to realize that the most important political divide in this country is not between Republicans and Democrats, Christians and secularists, or even whites and minorities. The most important divide is between those who care that places like Owensboro, Kentucky exist and those who don’t.


A challenge for worship leaders, and worshipers…

The Paradox of the Worship SelfieBob Kauflin
Social media can blur the lines between magnifying the Lord and magnifying us, between speaking of God’s awesome deeds and our awesome deeds. And if we don’t aim at exalting Christ, it’s easy to take a lot of worship selfies with Jesus. And feel good about it.

If you serve as part of a church’s leadership, even if you don’t have an official position, you’re directing people’s attention to something. But it’s not only when you stand (or sit) in front of them. It’s when you tweet, post a picture on Instagram, write a blog, or put something on Facebook. Where are we pointing people’s attention, affections, and adoration?

The best we can be is signposts. Signposts are directions, not destinations. No one stops the car on a journey to gaze longingly at the signpost. They take note of where it says to go and continue on their way. So the people we lead should only only be aware of us long enough to know which way their thoughts, emotions, and affections should go: to God’s glory in Jesus Christ.


I know I sound old, but I worry so much about how my grandkids will deal with coming of age in this generation…

There is a Better Way to Experience Sexuality, and Christian Parents Need to Be Talking About ItMelissa Edgington
You may have read that Teen Vogue published an article this week for its audience of girls, ages 12-18, which is a how-to guide for anal sex. In fact, the creators of this magazine are writing instructive articles for all kinds of sexual acts. They want young girls to believe that sexual activity (including BDSM) is a natural part of being an older child in this country… Our twelve year olds open teen magazines and take quizzes about what kind of sexual partner they are and read articles about how to masturbate and how “valid and valuable” porn is.

It’s hard to even believe that on a continent where an estimated 1.5 million children are currently being sold to satisfy detestable, porn-fueled desires that a teen magazine can so flippantly sell sex to kids like it’s candy. But, it’s happening.

…the line in the article that bothered me the most has broader implications, and it’s the real message I want to counteract in my daughter’s heart and mind: “There is no wrong way to experience sexuality, and no one way is better than any other.” The writer says this with all authority and legitimacy…

So, here is what our kids need to know. There are plenty of wrong ways to experience sexuality...

…decision by decision, the kids of America learn again and again: there are plenty of wrong ways to experience sexuality. Ways that hurt them deeply. That cripple them emotionally and spiritually. Ways that will cause problems in their future marriages. Ways that wound the heart of God.


FYI…

It’s Official: Fewer Persecuted Christians Find Refuge in America Under TrumpSarah Eekhoff Zylstra
It’s Official: Fewer Persecuted Christians Find Refuge in America Under TrumpApproximately 14,000 fewer Christian refugees will arrive in the United States this fiscal year, as President Donald Trump’s policies lead to the fewest resettlements in a decade.

Today, resettlement agencies hit Trump’s new ceiling of 50,000 refugees, three months before the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on September 30. And as CT predicted, Christians fell far short of last year’s intake.


What a crazy idea…
https://safr.kingfeatures.com/idn/cnfeed/zone/js/content.php?file=aHR0cDovL3NhZnIua2luZ2ZlYXR1cmVzLmNvbS9CaXphcnJvLzIwMTcvMDcvQml6YXJyb19wLjIwMTcwNzEyXzYxNi5naWY=
Bizarro

The Gospel: More Beautiful than You Think – part 3

There are three very common beliefs that ruin Christianity. These are some very basic things that you hear almost daily. You might even believe them yourself. We want to believe them. They have a way of making us feel better about ourselves. The problem is, that if these things are true, then Christianity is ruined.

If these things are true then the Bible is false.

I introduce the three common beliefs in the first part of this series.

The second part discusses the common belief that God is a tolerant God. Spoiler alert: He’s not tolerant at all. He’s holy.

Now in part three I want to turn our attention to the second common belief.

In the video I’ve been sharing we asked some folks who were hanging out on Fountain Square in Cincinnati…

“Do you think people are basically good, or bad?”

Listen to their answers beginning at about 2:31…

For the most part, except for that one smart-aleck guy, these folks think that people are basically good. We all want to believe that, don’t we? We would like to think that if you peel away all the bluster, pride, selfishness, violence, lust, and … well, um … evil … that at our core we are a good person.

But that doesn’t square with scripture, and, if we’re honest, it doesn’t square with our experience.

Because…

People are not basically good. People are sinful.

In Romans 3 Paul quotes two different places in the Psalms when he says “There is no one righteous, not even one, …they have all turned away, …there is no one who does good, not even one.” (vs. 11&12) Then he goes on to say “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (vs. 23)

Yes, there are likely people whose sins are more heinous than ours. It’s true that we’re not as bad as we could be. We all could probably sin more than we actually do, but that doesn’t mean we’re good. Just because we might not be as bad as someone else doesn’t mean we’re good enough to stand in the presence of the Holy God.

Remember that? He’s holy. Not tolerant. It all hangs together.

This doesn’t really sound beautiful for us, does it? In fact, so far it sounds pretty bleak. God is perfectly holy and cannot tolerate sin, and we’re perfectly sinful and are powerless to be holy. And yet, holiness is exactly what God expects from us, and wants for us.

How does this make the gospel more beautiful?

See, here’s the thing: You can’t truly appreciate the beauty of the gospel, God’s good news for humans, if you start with a less than holy image of God. And you can’t truly comprehend the amazing thing that has been done for us if you think you’re really not all that bad.

Trust me, you’re bad. And so am I.

This is why the gospel is beautifully good news.

But there’s one more common belief we need to address…

Lloyd


Go here for part 4.

Weekend Picks ~ 7-7-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Joy Is For the GenerousTim Challies
Money may not be able to purchase the greatest and deepest joy, but it can still generate it. The joy is there for the taking. The joy is there for the giving. The joy is for the generous.


It’s so easy to judge someone who sins differently than you do…

The Hypocrisy of PhariseephobiaJay Harrison
https://tgc-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/images/remote/http_s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-ee2/articles/hypocrisy-of-phariseephobia-1.jpgThis person seemed to have compassion on everyone she met—that is, everyone who wasn’t gay. This made me angry, but it gradually dawned on me: Because she thought of me as the worst person, I’d begun thinking of her as the worst person.

I was being a hypocrite…

Not that long ago, many considered homosexuality to be the worst sin. Today, culture has shifted to view bigotry as the worst sin. But it’s clear Jesus didn’t rank sinners on a scale from “better” to “worse.” Sins may vary in some respects, including the consequences they can have in this life, but they’re all equally deserving of God’s judgment.


You’ve seen them, whether you realize it or not…

How to spot a misleading graphLea Gaslowitz

When they’re used well, graphs can help us intuitively grasp complex data. But as visual software has enabled more usage of graphs throughout all media, it has also made them easier to use in a careless or dishonest way — and as it turns out, there are plenty of ways graphs can mislead and outright manipulate. Lea Gaslowitz shares some things to look out for.


Christians are free, but have no rights…

4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty
Sinclair Ferguson
Where the gospel is at stake, liberty needs to be exercised; where the stability of a weak Christian is at stake, we need to restrain it.

This is all part and parcel of “living between the times.” Already, in Christ, we are free, but we do not yet live in a world that can cope with our freedom…

For now, as Martin Luther wrote, “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”

As it was with the Master, so it is with the servant.


People claim religious motivations for a lot of different things, including terrorism. It might make sense to be skeptical…

The Weakness of ReligionAlan Jacobs
http://religionfacts.imgix.net/226/147622.jpg?fit=max&q=80&w=340&s=46cff5163808efb9be865fc9d0017271The books I read, the food I eat, the music I listen to, my hobbies and interests, the thoughts that occupy my mind throughout the greater part of every day – these are, if truth be told, far less indebted to my Christianity than to my status as a middle-aged, middle-class American man.

Of course, I can’t universalize my own experience – but that experience does give me pause when people talk about the immense power of religion to make people do extraordinary things.When people say that they are acting out of religious conviction, I tend to be skeptical; I tend to wonder whether they’re not acting as I usually do, out of motives and impulses over which I could paint a thin religious veneer but which are really not religious at all.


Musical generation gap…
https://safr.kingfeatures.com/idn/cnfeed/zone/js/content.php?file=aHR0cDovL3NhZnIua2luZ2ZlYXR1cmVzLmNvbS9aaXRzLzIwMTcvMDcvWml0cy4yMDE3MDcwN185MDAuZ2lm
Zits – Click image for a larger view.

Thursday Picks ~ 7-6-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

The ‘Church’ of Facebook?Alex Duke
https://tgc-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/images/made/images/remote/http_s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-ee2/articles/church_facebook_1200_700_c1_.jpgI’m deeply thankful for Zuckerberg’s desire to leave the world better than he found it. I’m even more thankful he sees the need for humans to connect to communities and even institutions in order to do so. His intuition about our need for relationships is exactly right…

But with all its grandiose plans to change the world, this kind community sets a remarkably low bar for us as humans in relationship; it’s strictly opt-in, strictly self-directed, strictly un-real, and available only for a few…

Real churches on the other hand—they’re hard…

And though it sounds quaint, these real churches are also actually here. They exist in space and time, and they’re filled not just with second-hand stories but with open-armed bodies that we’ve collapsed into after yet another miscarriage, yet another “no” after a job interview, yet another unexpected death. What’s more, these churches are open to all—no e-mail address or internet connection required—and they make known their beliefs to the world through sounds more magnetic than the dull whir of a modem or the clickety clack of a keyboard. These real churches simply sing and preach and pray—and in it all we find something far grander than even man’s most optimistic hope to change the world. We find the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10).

Can you believe such a thing is within our reach?


Why Trump’s Vengeful Tweeting MattersDavid French
http://c4.nrostatic.com/sites/default/files/styles/original_image_with_cropping/public/uploaded/donald-trump-mika-brzezinski-vengeful-tweets-degrade-american-political-culture.jpg?itok=z-88D5QXWords still matter, and the president’s words are often reprehensible. Even those who say, “Talk to me about what he does, not what he tweets” know this to be true. How can I tell? Because these same people incessantly point to liberal words and are unceasingly outraged by liberal tweets. Indeed, they often act as if a random news anchor’s comments are somehow more consequential than the president’s. I know. I see the clickbait everywhere.

A conservative can fight for tax reform, celebrate military victories over ISIS in Mosul, and applaud Trump’s judicial appointments while also condemning Trump’s vile tweets and criticizing his impulsiveness and lack of discipline. A good conservative can even step back and take a longer view, resolving to fight for the cultural values that tribalism degrades. Presidents matter not just because of their policies but also because of their impact on the character of the people they govern. Conservatives knew that once. Do they still?


On CoastingDarryl Dash
CoastingI’ve seen plenty of average preachers who’ve applied themselves and become competent preachers. And I’ve seen some gifted preachers apply themselves and become excellent. The ones I worry about the most are the gifted preachers and pastors who’ve decided to coast.


Simultaneously funny and sad…

NPR Tweeted the Declaration of Independence on July 4 and Some People Flipped Out
Every year, NPR reads (and lately, tweets) the Declaration of Independence to celebrate the Fourth of July. It’s a time-honored tradition but, this year, for some reason, a truly depressing number of people took it the wrong way. The Declaration was, of course, a call to arms—a rallying cry to overthrow tyranny and establish a new government in its place.

Given that modern American culture is wildly politicized and all too often poorly informed, it’s perhaps not surprising that a lot of people interpreted the tweets as a publicly funded media outlet encouraging citizens to rebel against President Donald Trump.


Historic Status Updates…
https://wronghands1.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/historical-status-updates1.jpg
Wrong Hands – Click image for a larger view.

The Gospel: More Beautiful Than You Think – part 2

I suggest you read the first part of this short series before proceeding. In it I shared a little “man-on-the-street” video we made several years ago. We approached total strangers on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati and asked them three questions. The first question was this:

“What do you think God is like?”

We asked this question first because this is where everything begins. Watch the first two and a half minutes and listen to their answers…

There are a few exceptions, but generally you can see a picture emerge of a god who is the white-bearded grandfather in heaven. He understands that nobody is perfect so he accepts people because they try hard and do their best.

We like this image of God because it gives us comfort and makes us feel good, and we think it will draw others to him.

But this is not who God is. To be sure, God is love. Scripture says so. But it’s a perfect love. Not the soft “I’ll-support-you-no-matter-what-you-do” kind of love. In fact, just a few verses after John writes “God is love” he says “ …he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In order to appreciate the power of this statement you might need to look up the word “propitiation.” We’ll talk more about this in parts three and four, but I bring it up now to show that…

God is not tolerant. God is holy.

Here are just a few verses that mention it:

Exodus 15:11  “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?  Who is like You – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”

Deuteronomy 32:4  “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”

I Samuel 6:20  “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?”

Isaiah 55:9  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

Psalm 145:17  “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.”

This God is unlike anyone or anything we’ve ever experienced. And, before you start thinking that this is only the God of the Old Testament, I assure you he hasn’t changed. In fact, when you move into the New Testament you find that, not only is God still perfectly holy, this holiness is God’s expectation of us as well…

I Peter 1:15-16  “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

I know this all sounds very hard-nosed and off-putting. You may think think this is very legalistic, strict, and “fundamentalist.” But if God is tolerant of sin, and not completely holy, the gospel is diminished. It doesn’t even make sense.

If you are one who has this tolerant image of God and are having trouble shaking it, stay tuned for part three.

Lloyd


Go here for part 3.

Wednesday Picks ~ 7-5-2017

It’s the day after Independence Day, (aka the 5th of July). I suppose this is the reason I came across several well-written and challenging articles on the subject of Christianity and patriotism…

Let’s begin with this prayer by Scotty Smith…

No Matter the Political Temperature, Living as Servants, not CynicsScotty Smith
http://trinitynews.ie/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/praying-hands.jpgHelp us, as well, to live and love to your glory–no matter our passport, the political atmosphere, or how pleased or disgusted we are with the government. Instead of being cynics, may we be servants and intercessors; instead of withdrawing out of disgust, may we be engaged with hope and kindness; instead of seeking judgment on our government, may we seek its peace and prosperity; instead of throwing political grenades, may we seek love mercy and work for justice in our communities.


Can Patriotism Become Idolatry?Zack Hunt
https://storage.googleapis.com/relevant-magazine/2017/07/patriot.jpgI’m not sure there is a clearly defined moment when patriotism becomes idolatry because it happens in such subtle ways, but you definitely know it’s occurred when you stand in the front of your sanctuary and contemplate where to move the stars and stripes so as not to offend anyone during worship.

Unfortunately, that struggle is not unique. I can’t count how many pastors have told me they leave the American flag in their sanctuaries simply because they’re afraid of the vitriol that would be unleashed by some of their parishioners if the flag moved. I’m left dumbfounded every time I hear that story from yet another pastor somewhere in America.

How far have we fallen as a Church, how lost are we in patriotic idolatry that we’re worried about offending people if we remove a symbol from our sacred space that demands our allegiance to something other than the God we’ve come there to worship?

God bless America?

How about God save the Church?


I Love You, America, But Not Like ThatBrian Zahnd
Flickr_-_USCapitol_-_Apotheosis_of_Washington,_War (1)Yes, America, I love you…but not like that. Not in the way of supreme allegiance and unquestioned devotion. You see, my heart belongs to another. I’m a Christian and I confess that Jesus is Lord. The Savior of the world is the crucified and risen Son of God, not “We the People.” The gospel is the story of Jesus, not the American story. I know your 16th President claimed that America was “the last best hope of earth,” but it’s simply not true. The last best hope of earth is Jesus, not you…

…America, I’m one of your citizens. And I love you like a sister. I’ll seek the common good. I’ll gladly pay my share to help provide for education, infrastructure, healthcare, emergency services, and everything else it takes to live in a civilized society. (I’d like for you to spend a lot less on bombs and killing machines, but I understand that’s not up to me.) Yes, America, I love you like a sister. But not like I love my Lord. Not like I love God. I cannot love you like that. I cannot pledge unconditional allegiance to you. But I can promise to be a good citizen by attempting to love my neighbor as myself.


Thank God for the Idea of AmericaKevin DeYoung
It has often been said that America was founded upon an idea. The country was not formed mainly for power or privilege but in adherence to a set of principles. Granted, these ideals have been, at various times in our history, less than ideally maintained. But the ideals remain. The idea persists.

If one sentence captures the quintessential idea of America, surely it the famous assertion contained in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Almost every word of this remarkable sentence, 236 years old today, is pregnant with meaning and strikingly relevant…

There’s a reason the Founding Fathers did not wax eloquent about safety and security. It’s because they believed freedom and liberty to be better ideals, loftier goals, and more conducive to the common good.

Caps lock…
https://safr.kingfeatures.com/idn/cnfeed/zone/js/content.php?file=aHR0cDovL3NhZnIua2luZ2ZlYXR1cmVzLmNvbS9CaXphcnJvLzIwMTcvMDcvQml6YXJyb19wLjIwMTcwNzAzXzYxNi5naWY=
Bizarro

Weekend Picks ~ 6-30-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

The Case for ‘Christian’ ArtSteve Turner
https://storage.googleapis.com/relevant-magazine/2017/06/Hero-64.jpgNo one ever told me that it would be wrong for a Christian to become an actor or a songwriter, a novelist or a dancer. It was implied…

But because art is also a record and reflects the questions and anxieties of the time, I would like to see contributions that reflect a Christian understanding of that time. I also would like to see them in the mainstream arts rather than in the religious subculture.

I am not saying this for evangelistic reasons. I don’t expect art to convert people, although I realize that art plays an important part in shaping our understanding of the world. I am saying it because debates are taking place in cinema, painting, dance, fiction, poetry and theater on issues where Christians have something to say, and yet they are not even being heard.

I think we should be in those debates as part of our mandate to look after and care for the world rather than because of the command to make disciples. We are not entering the debates to tell people what to believe. Art tends to show rather than to tell. It allows people the opportunity to experience another way of seeing the world. But if we are not there, people are denied the opportunity of encountering our perspective.


Finally, Jackie Robinson’s Faith Is Getting the Attention It DeservesPaul Putz
Finally, Jackie Robinson’s Faith Is Getting the Attention It DeservesTwo books shine a long-overdue spotlight on the Christian convictions of the man who broke baseball’s color barrier…

…There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of 42, the 2013 film that depicts the inspiring story of Jackie Robinson. Observers noticed it at the time, pointing out that the film mostly ignored the role that faith played in Robinson’s life and in Branch Rickey’s decision to sign him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947…

From Long and Lamb’s book, Robinson emerges as a committed and thoughtful mainline Protestant comfortable within black and white Christian communities. Well versed in the Bible and connected to Protestant institutions throughout his life, Robinson saw faith as a source of inspiration, hope, and American identity. He grew up with a personal moral code taught by most white and black Protestants in the early 20th century—no smoking, no drinking, no premarital sex. But he was also shaped by the social witness distinct to the black church, believing that Christians had a responsibility to combat racism in American society, that anti-racism was a mark of true Christianity, and that many white Christians were failing to practice what they preached. As for June Fifield’s concern that Robinson recognize the help of Branch Rickey, she need not have worried. “When I came to believe that God was working with and guiding Mr. Rickey,” Robinson wrote, “I began to also believe that he was guiding me.”


Creating DiscomfortSeth Godin
http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/images/og.jpgIf you’re seeking to create positive change in your community, it’s almost certain you’ll be creating discomfort as well.

Want to upgrade the local playground? It sounds like it will be universally embraced by parents and everyone who cares about kids. Except that you now bring up issues of money, of how much is enough, of safety. Change is uncomfortable.

It’s way easier to talk about today’s weather, or what you had for lunch.

Usually, when we’re ready to launch something, we say, “this is going to help people, this is well crafted, I’m proud of it.”

What’s a lot more difficult (but useful) is to say all of that plus, “and this is going to make (some) people uncomfortable.”


I Hope I Die Before I Get OldJared C. Wilson
cristian-newman-67308What makes Richard different from these old coots who go out shaking their fist at the things of grace? Well, God. But also: Richard decided to die before he got old. He decided to die before he died. May we all do the same.


I think I’m more like Hobbes, how about you?
Calvin and Hobbes – Click image for a larger view.