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Love Wins

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24:5-6
For days they had been wildly celebrating. They circled round the table where the dead lamb lay as testament to their master’s stunning achievement. With their glasses raised, they shout, slain lamb“Victory to our prince! God is dead! Look at him now! God is dead!” With their forks they stab at the lamb, and spill their bitter gall on the mangled, bloodied flesh.

With a smug, satisfied snarl, Lucifer turns to his minions and bellows, “Who will dare defy me now? Surely I am ruler over all the earth and all its people will be subject to me, for I have slaughtered their pathetic, meek little God.” Hoisting him up on their shoulders, they dance around the room in hysterical carousal. “God is dead!” they sneer. “Victory to our prince!”
Suddenly, even over the din of their drunken cackling, he begins to hear a sound in the distance that sends shivers up his crooked spine. “Silence!” he hollers. “Listen,” he says, “what is that sound?” Their eyes grow wider as the sound grows louder and stronger, and now his pathetic lackeys are cowering and whimpering in fear. Even he can’t stop the terror rising in his throat. It is the sound… of joy.

“Alleluia! He is risen from the dead and He lives forevermore! Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!”

In a flash he whips his head around toward the table, his trophy now vanished. “NO!” he roars. There in the center of the table is a note, secured by a bloody nail. Slowly he slinks over to it, frothing at the mouth, trembling in anger and fear, and reads his doom:

resurrection
~~~
You lose. Love wins.
~~~

“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1Corinthians 15:54-55
Jesus didn’t merely endure the worst the world had to offer. So great is His love for us that He plunged Himself into the deepest, darkest pit of hell itself, consuming its fire and conquering its power forever. We need no longer fear the agony of hell, for He has suffered it for us, and now He lives!
If not for the Resurrection, there could be no faith. It would be pointless to believe in a Lord still buried in a tomb.

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1Cor 15:14

He is alive! The victory is won, and though Satan rages in bitter anger over his defeat, even he knows that all who believe in Christ will not perish but have everlasting life. Rejoice!

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Alive

empty-tomb-of-Jesus-Christ

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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It’s Time

In the dark and silent tomb there is suddenly a gentle breeze

Father and Spirit are there

Jesus in the tombHe leans in close to whisper in a blood-stained ear,

“Son… Son… it’s me, Dad. It’s time to wake up.”

Resurrection (1)

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Good Friday

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Posted by on April 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Play-doh Christianity and the Vanishing Cross

Play-doh Christianity and the Vanishing Cross

If you haven’t heard, the Rev. Rob Bell has a dire warning for the church in America.

It was against the backdrop of Ash Wednesday, in the still-numb reality of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians being martyred for their faith by monstrous Islamic terrorists that I first read about Bell’s pronouncement.

The Church was irrelevant. Christianity itself was becoming more irrelevant with every passing day that it did not embrace same-sex “marriage”.

More irrelevant. This supposedly Christian pastor told Oprah that it was only a matter of time, and he expected the Church to get over itself very soon or perish. He said that since that was the direction society was heading, it’s the direction Christianity needs to be heading as well. Otherwise, the faith founded upon the Eternal God and his Incarnate Son will simply disappear and be left behind.

“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense…”

Alrighty, then. According to Bell, the inspired, holy Word of God is merely a collection of 2,000 year old letters which are no longer relevant to our modern culture. God is past His expiration date.

Bell’s disdain for the authority of Christ, for Sacred Scripture, and for the purpose and nature of marriage is all too clear, and I know I won’t persuade him otherwise today. But this characterization of the Church as an irrelevant body that is essentially prejudiced, woefully out of touch, and dying on the vine is just feeble, smarmy perfidy.

Bell is a little boy sitting at the table with his Play-doh. But rather than making planes or buildings or weird animals, he’s squishing together beliefs and opinions and preferences to form his own religion. He is the latest architect of Play-doh Christianity: those heretics who prefer a religion, fashioned by an ever-changing culture, in which the only true doctrine is there is no sin.

Since there is no sin, there’s no need for a Cross. No need for a Christ. No need to mention repentance at all. (Except to demand repentance of the sin of intolerance of all the culture says is good and necessary.)

Play-doh Christianity says that since God is love, then He happily allows whatever His children decide will make them happy, and bows to their conclusions about what is right and wrong. He serves at the pleasure of His children, from age to changing age. He bends with the times — or rather, they mold Him to the times and He cooperates — pliable, good-natured deity that He is.

play doh

Bell can have his happy-clappy, navel-centered religion and his wimpy god. He just can’t call it Christianity, and he can’t claim it’s the Church.

If Bell’s Play-doh creation was a jarring contrast to the profoundness of Ash Wednesday and those heroic men who clung to Christ when death was at their throats, it seems mild compared to the formless mound of doh being sculpted by the next “Reverend”.

Let me introduce you to John Schuck. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and considers himself a Christian, despite the fact that he doesn’t believe in God.

He believes that Christianity is merely a human construct, like all religions; that Jesus Christ may have been a historical figure, but is mostly legend; the Bible is a human product and not the Divinely-inspired Word of God. In short, he says, he “regards the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.”

And by the way, he doesn’t appreciate being told he’s not really a Christian.

“Why is that so many people think my affirmations are antithetical to Christianity? I think it is because Christianity has placed all of its eggs in the belief basket. We all have been trained to think that Christianity is about believing things. Its symbols and artifacts (God, Bible, Jesus, Heaven, etc) must be accepted in a certain way. And when times change and these beliefs are no longer credible, the choices we are left with are either rejection or fundamentalism.”

(Again, God serves at the pleasure of the people and their changing times. Otherwise, how could he be credible?)

“I think of Christianity as a culture. It has produced 2,000 years of artifacts: literature, music, art, ethics, architecture, and (yes) beliefs. But cultures evolve and Christianity will have to adapt in order to survive in the modern era…”

(Mr. Shuck, ours is not the first era Christianity has “survived” and it will not be the last unless Jesus returns.)

“I believe one of the newer religious paths could be a “belief-less” Christianity. In this “sect,” one is not required to believe things. One learns and draws upon practices and products of our cultural tradition to create meaning in the present. The last two congregations I have served have huge commitments to equality for LGTBQ people and eco-justice, among other things. They draw from the well of our Christian cultural tradition (and other religious traditions) for encouragement in these efforts. I think a belief-less Christianity can be a positive good for society.

“Belief-less Christianity is thriving right now, even as other forms of the faith are falling away rapidly. Many liberal or progressive Christians have already let go or de-emphasized belief in Heaven, that the Bible is literally true, that Jesus is supernatural, and that Christianity is the only way. Yet they still practice what they call Christianity. Instead of traditional beliefs, they emphasize social justice, personal integrity and resilience, and building community. The cultural artifacts serve as resources.
“But what about belief in God? Can a belief-less Christianity really survive if God isn’t in the picture? Can you even call that Christianity anymore? In theory, yes. In practice, it is a challenge because “belief in God” seems to be so intractable. However, once people start questioning it and realize that they’re not alone, it becomes much more commonplace.”
“Since posting my article — and in response to my ministry in general — many have opened up to me that they didn’t believe in God but they liked coming to my church. One young woman, after going through my confirmation class, joined the church. She read her faith statement in front of the congregation. It was a powerful articulation of her social justice commitments in which she added that she didn’t believe in God. The congregation enthusiastically welcomed her, of course.”
“Someone quipped that my congregation is BYOG: Bring Your Own God. I use that and invite people to “bring their own God” — or none at all. While the symbol “God” is part of our cultural tradition, you can take it or leave it or redefine it to your liking. That permission to be theological do-it-yourselfers is at the heart of belief-less Christianity.”

your image hereBelief-less Christianity, in which there is no God but the one you bring with you, or none at all.
Have you ever read anything so dopey in your whole life?

When you get past the dopeyness of it, you recognize the melody. Same old song been sung since forever. “I shall not serve.”

Shuck’s Play-doh design goes way beyond Bell’s. Shuck has squished God out altogether. He simply clings to the name “Christian” for, what reason? Artifacts and resources?

It is Lent. The season set aside for reflection and contemplation of all that Jesus Christ suffered for our sakes. The season given to us as a time for purging and cleansing our lives of sin and obstacles to faith. The time when we are asked to follow Christ into the desert and in the silence, to listen and hear God.

It’s almost Holy Week; soon we will stand in solemn remembrance of a particular Friday in Jerusalem, long ago, when two pieces of wood became a bridge; became a Divine splint; became that thing Bell and Shuck have no use for any longer.

The “faith” Bell and Shuck preach is merely a vehicle for social justice according to their terms. It’s not a religion but a political and secular movement trading on God’s generosity and good nature.

But Christianity is first and foremost about the Cross.

There is no Christianity without Christ, and no Christ without the cross. There was no need for the cross except for our Redemption, and no need for that except for our sin. To preach Christianity without preaching repentance from sin and taking up your cross is just wicked babble.

Bell and Shuck both want a “Christianity” in which there’s no cross for them to carry, so first they must do away with the cross. Let us not speak of Calvary, they whisper. Let us not speak of sin. How ugly and accusing. God is looove!

God — whatever he may be to you, or nothing at all if you choose! — does not dwell on unpleasant things like rules, laws, right or wrong, good or evil. He cares only for your pleasure and satisfaction. All that offends him is the intractableness of some folks who insist that Jesus Christ is Lord; the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It’s a very popular message in our culture today, where rights and opinions are paramount, and autonomy is inviolate. Obedience is a very bad word. Humility and reverence and sacrifice are spit out like sour milk. We’re quite sickened by the very concepts.

Bell’s and Shuck’s words sound very sweet indeed to ears itching for such pleasing affirmation and permission. Come, be your own god. Establish your own law. Determine for yourself what is good and what is not. Worship yourself. Worship your own ideals. Make social justice your religion, and by your own decree establish what justice means. Listen to the wisdom of the age and mold your god accordingly.

Bell and Shuck are fools handing out Play-doh to more poor fools who listen to them and start molding and squishing their own god.

Their malleable inventions will never save them. For that you need solid wood.

I’ll take the foolishness of the Cross over the wisdom of this world any day.

crucifixion“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor 1:18-21,25

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

The 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:33-34

“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:44-46

The fruit of the mystery is faithfulness to God.

This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my might.

The bitter truth is this: I really don’t want to die.

Will I walk with You along this distressing road only to shrink in fear when the final moment comes? Lord, You know that is exactly what I do, time and time again. My spirit may be willing, but my flesh is so weak. I start out well enough and I pray “not my will, but Thine” because I love You. But then the choice comes, and I stop short of the dying. I choose to spare myself. human instinct kicks in. But in sparing myself, I lose my life.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

Clearly, there’s no getting around it. Following You means dying.

It means the death of my own will; in small choices, in big decisions, in little ways, in old habits. It means relinquishing my right to myself, over and over again, day after day.

What does a heart really sound like when it has died to itself? It sounds like this: “I am at His disposal – He can do with me just as it pleaseth Him, without even a thought of consulting me. I just want to be His own little one – if He so wants, otherwise I will be happy to be just nothing and He everything.”

How does a face look when the self has given up its rights? Like this: “Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”

Those are the words of Your faithful servant, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She put hands and feet to those words every single day while privately enduring the darkest interior pain. Is that kind of faithfulness within my grasp?

I am most definitely not Mother Teresa. My vocation is quite different, but the call is the same: take up my cross and follow Jesus. I’m still being called to die.

Today, my dying looks a lot like the mundane, thankless, routine tasks that I have no motivation to accomplish. Dying is me choosing patience and kindness; dying is being faithful in little things. Dying is me forgiving the one who has hurt me – really forgiving; no grudge, no animosity, no hope of vindication, just release.

Dying is me, freely and generously, choosing someone else ahead of myself. Dying is making a sacrifice that hurts, and doing it with a full heart, asking nothing in return.

Dying is victory.  Dying is freedom from all that frightens me.  When I die to myself, it’s my fear that’s burned to death, and real faith rises out of the ashes.

With You, there is only life. Even death can no longer harm me because Your wondrous cross has rendered it void and powerless.

You held nothing back. You willingly gave it all so that I could have abundant life. I desire that kind of faithfulness, Lord! Teach me to give my all, even in little things, and withhold nothing. Grant me the courage to carry my cross and submit to the dying it asks of me, and then I will live…truly live.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

“Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.) John 19:16-17

The fruit of the mystery is perseverance and patience.

He was still standing after a brutal flogging that should have left him dead. His flesh is already mutilated and profusely bleeding, and His body is weak and shaky from the blood loss. Yet somehow, He withstands the pain and keeps going. I wonder if maybe the soldiers, besides being irked, weren’t just a little impressed that He was still alive after all they’d done to Him.

Maybe that’s why they enlisted some help for Him and made Simon carry the cross the rest of the way to Golgotha. “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country and they forced him to carry the cross.” Mark 15:21

But whether Jesus could walk or not, they were determined in their cause. Nothing was going to stop them from their final goal of execution.

Jesus persevered. So did Satan.

Satan was fiercely determined in his cause that day and he was getting plenty of help from those blood-thirsty Roman soldiers. In this battle between Love and Evil, it was beginning to look like Satan would prevail.

Thus far he had succeeded in shredding Jesus’ body and utterly humiliating Him. Not a bad day’s work for a fallen angel.

(Ah, but things are not as they seem! Evil was about to be soundly, eternally defeated.)

I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the thought, “I can’t take another step.”

How many times have I had that thought? It seems to me that my cross is getting too heavy, or I have been carrying it for too long, and I can’t take another step. I feel weakened by some harsh blows, and it looks as though the enemy is winning.

In faithful obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus persevered. So must I. Though it seems the enemy is scoring too many points against me, I must remember he has already lost. Though I’m sapped of strength and in pain, if I remain faithful, Satan will not prevail.

“Keep walking,” Jesus says to me. “I will carry you when you are weak. I will never leave you. I have been to hell and back for you, and there’s nothing to fear.”

“Keep walking.”

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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