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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Cry of Dereliction

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The following is from John Stott's, The Cross of Christ (Intervarsity, 2004), from the chapter, Looking Below the Surface (page 78):

We must now pass by the details of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, his trials before Annas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, Peter's denials, the cruel mockery by priests and soldiers, the spitting and the scourging, and the hysteria of the mob who demanded his death. We move on to the end of the story. Condemned to death by crucifixion, 'he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth' (Is. 53:7). Carrying his own cross, until Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry it for him, he will have walked along the Via Dolorosa, out of the city, to Golgotha, 'the place of the skull'. Here they crucified him', the evangelists write, declining to dwell on the details. Even the excruciating pain of crucifixion could not silence his repeated entreaties: 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' The soldiers gambled for his clothes. Some women stood afar off. The crowd remained a while to watch. Jesus commended his mother to John's care and John to hers. He spoke words of kingly assurance to the penitent criminal crucified at his side. Meanwhile, the rulers sneered at him, shouting: 'He saved others, but he can't save himself!' Their words, spoken as an insult, were the literal truth. He could not save himself and others simultaneously. He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save the world.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Garden of Gethsemene

The following is from John Stott's The Cross of Christ (Intervarsity Press, 2004), from the chapter, Looking Below the Surface (Page 72):

Jesus prays for the 'cup' to be removed.
Supper is over now, and Jesus has finished his instruction of the apostles. He has urged them to abide in him, as the branches abide in the vine. He has warned them of the opposition of the world, yet encouraged them to bear witness to him none the less, remembering that the Spirit of truth will be the chief witness. He has also prayed - first for himself that he may glorify his Father in the coming ordeal, then for them that they may be kept in truth, holiness, mission and unity, and lastly for all those of subsequent generations who would believe in him through their message. Probably now they sang a hymn, and then together they leave the upper room. They walk through the streets of the city in the stillness of the night, and in the soft light of the Paschal moon, cross the Kidron Valley, begin to climb the Mount of Olives, and turn off into an olive orchard, as its name 'Gethsemane' ('oil press') suggests. It is evidently a favorite retreat for Jesus, for John comments that he 'had often met there with his disciples' (18:2). Here something takes place which, despite the sober way the evangelists describe it, simply cries out for an explanation, and begins to disclose the enormous costliness of the cross to Jesus. We rightly call it 'the agony in the garden'.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kingdom and Cross

N.T. Wright is one of my favorite biblical scholars and a necessary voice encouraging all Christians to look at the big picture of what God is doing in the world through Christ. He's not only a scholar and writer but is also a pastor, having served in the Anglican Church as the Bishop of Durham. He's a powerful voice for truth in a denomination that's fragmented over just what that means. 

I've had the privilege of meeting him personally, and I can tell you that though I expected the Bishop of Durham, third in line to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be wearing a pointy hat and a giant ring, he looked quite normal and down-to-earth, taking the time to ask me questions and respond to mine. He was as gentle and kind as he seems in his lectures, and I was impressed by his humility and warmth. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Last Supper

The Last Supper - Jesus' dramatization of his own death

The following is from John Stott's, The Cross of Christ (Intervarsity Press, 2004), in the chapter, Looking Below the Surface:

Jesus was spending his last evening on earth in quiet seclusion with his apostles. It was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and they had met to eat the Passover meal together in a friend's house. The place is described as 'a large upper room, furnished and ready', and we can picture them round a low meal-table, reclining on cushions on the floor. Evidently no servant was in attendance, so that there had been no-one to wash their feet before the meal began. Nor was any of the apostles humble enough to undertake this menial task. It was to their intense embarrassment, therefore, that during supper Jesus put on a slave's apron, poured water into a basin, and went round washing their feet, thus doing what none of them had been willing to do. He then proceeded to tell them how authentic love always expresses itself in humble service and how the world would identify them as his disciples only if they loved one another. In contrast to the priority of sacrificial and serving love, he warned them that one of them was going to betray him. He also spoke much of his impending departure, of the coming of the Comforter to take his place, and of this Spirit of truth's varied ministry of teaching and witnessing. 

Then, at some point while the meal was still in progress, they watched enthralled as he took a loaf of bread, blessed it (that is, gave thanks for it), broke it into pieces and handed it round to them with the words, 'This is my body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper had ended, he took a cup of wine, gave thanks for it, passed it round to them, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

Friday, April 4, 2014

Glory Bound

Sometimes life seems unbearably hard. While not suicidal by any stretch of the imagination, I sometimes feel like I desperately want to leave this place, my sins, my struggles, my disappointments; to go be with Jesus. And the great thing is that I'm in the company of saints. It is a great thing to have Jesus Christ as a hope and a goal in our lives, because without a destination, we're often left directionless and, consequently, meaningless. When we feel the oppression that comes with living in a dark age, we can find our hope in where we're headed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

World Vision's Vision

Every now and then Christian scandals pop up in the news. My most popular post, with thousands of reads to date, is the piece I wrote about the President of Voice of the Martyrs' suicide, due to an investigation into his possible involvement with child pornography. It seems scandal is popular, even among Christians, and we all have a desire to know the why behind the rise and fall of many different organizations that have had a historical impact for Christ's Kingdom. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Cross of Christ

For the season of Lent, I want to present three sections from the great work by theologian John Stott called The Cross of Christ. Its become one of the foundational works of theology on the cross and what it means for believers. I'm re-reading it myself and can't help being continuously moved by what I learn once more. I highly recommend you purchase The Cross of Christ and read it, study it, and meditate upon it as many times as it takes to sink in. I'm indebted to John Stott's hard work and solid teaching on this most sober topic. 

As we approach the death and resurrection of Jesus, it's important to study the events in his life that took place as he approached his own death and resurrection. Often in the Church (particularly the evangelical one), we've pared down the ordeal to one day: Easter, forgetting that a whole season called Lent was created to bring to mind all the sufferings of Christ; these sufferings then have bearing on our own life as we join in his suffering and struggle to make it through an often lonely and painful journey.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really

There's a viral video that went around about a year ago, starring young poet and passionate preacher, Jefferson Bethke. He's done a lot of great work trying to tell people about Jesus through his own experience coming to faith, and his video recently came up again, so it merited some continued thoughtful response. The video, entitled "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus," might be outdated, but the mentality behind it certainly is not. 

The piece is a great attempt at separating Jesus from false and hypocritical religious systems, but its wording makes me feel what I've always felt everytime someone says something like, "I'm spiritual, not religious," or "Christianity isn't religion, it's relationship." These are common lines of thinking among Protestant evangelicals which state that, in sum, Jesus came to abolish religion. It sounds nice, especially to recovering Roman Catholics like myself, who've been led away from Jesus by their religion and want nothing more to do with it. But no matter how nice it sounds, the truth is that Jesus didn't come to abolish religion.
My issue with this video is that it panders to a false, but widely accepted Protestant Evangelical narrative; one which has come to supplant Christianity itself as the “true gospel.”
Here’s the narrative in brief:
Jesus came to abolish religion. Then the church came along and re-instituted it, telling people there was a particular to live in order to be a Christian. Now, we need once more to be liberated from the shackles of religion in order to be able to “freely” worship Jesus.
It sounds nice. And if you were to survey most people walking out of Protestant churches this Sunday morning, I feel pretty confident is saying that most of them would agree it’s the gospel, or at least pretty close to it.
- See more at: http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=4970#sthash.E82y6xw6.dpuf
My issue with this video is that it panders to a false, but widely accepted Protestant Evangelical narrative; one which has come to supplant Christianity itself as the “true gospel.”
Here’s the narrative in brief:
Jesus came to abolish religion. Then the church came along and re-instituted it, telling people there was a particular to live in order to be a Christian. Now, we need once more to be liberated from the shackles of religion in order to be able to “freely” worship Jesus.
It sounds nice. And if you were to survey most people walking out of Protestant churches this Sunday morning, I feel pretty confident is saying that most of them would agree it’s the gospel, or at least pretty close to it.
- See more at: http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=4970#sthash.E82y6xw6.dpuf

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Not Everyone's a Winner


The cold hard truth: not everyone's a winner.
That's right. I said it: not everyone's a winner. It's the cold, hard truth. Some people are terrible at what they do; others are disenfranchised and unable to break away from their external circumstances. Either way, we all have to face that fact or risk despair.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

If you didn't know any better (or had no access to Google), you might think Patrick was the patron saint of getting wasted. You might also think it's a strictly Irish celebration, and that those who aren't Irish but still celebrate it are just wanna-be posers. 

But what we celebrate shouldn't be Guinness or Jameson or leprechauns; rather we should celebrate the coming of the gospel to the pagan Celts; Patrick, who had once been enslaved by those same people brought the love of a new kind of god, previously unknown to the people of Ireland. Though it's a part of Ireland's story, it's a part of Jesus Christ's story of redemption; consequently, it's a part of all of our stories. Below are three links you might find interesting, including a previous dandle about the famous prayer of Saint Patrick: