Thinking Out Loud

April 15, 2017

Passion Week Songs (7) – Crucified Man

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm

Three of our songs this week have been by Graham Kendrick. This is a perfect choice for Holy Saturday. Imagine the disciples, giving more than three years of their lives — and life expectancy was much shorter then — only to find their leader’s life ended on a Roman cross; this just days after he had been hailed with shouts of Hosanna and a palm branch parade. On that Saturday those disciples had, as the song says, “no other plan.”

 

April 13, 2017

Good Friday: I Wish I’d Thought of It

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:03 am

In much younger days I had a friend who I said I would be willing to die for. I’m not sure if I went on record with this in an informal conversation or if it was said in a talk I would have given to a particular group of young adults.

Today, I’m not going to be dismissive of it. I’m not going to suggest it seems a little silly, though it does seem rather extreme. But is it? In a world where people donate kidneys and bone marrow to perfect strangers?

John 15:12 comes to mind: “There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends.” (The Voice).

The Good Friday narrative is something we could never have come up with by ourselves. 1 Corinthians 2:9 echoes Isaiah 64:4 “No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (NCV) In Isaiah 55:8-9 we’re reminded that “His ways are higher than ours,” translated elsewhere as:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  (NLT)

Just a few days ago we quoted Walter Wink, “If Jesus had never lived we would never have been able to invent him.”

…As I thought about this, a song title popped into my head, “A Strange Way to Save the World.” I don’t know this song at all, and a quick search proved it to be a Christmas song, not an Easter one; but the sentiment still applies namely, for those of us outside the Jewish sacrificial framework, the act of atonement would not have been predicted, and even within that context, a human sacrifice might not have been foreseen.

One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 10:11-12 (the reference is easily memorized)

11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. (NLT)

I wonder if back in that day, anyone ever looked the priests, “ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices” (NASB) and wondered, ‘What if we had a way to do this once and for all?’ Maybe that’s just me, or perhaps it’s just a 2017 mindset. Maybe they didn’t think like that back then. Or, ‘What if there was such a perfect sacrifice that this act need never be repeated?’

It was and is a strange way to save the world.

…I’m posting this on Thursday so we can think about it as we head into Good Friday. This whole thing, conceived in the mind of God is so simple that a child can understand it, but so intricately detailed that an adult can never cease to be fascinated by it.

And then there’s prophecy; that dozens upon dozens of prophecies are fulfilled on a single day. We often talk about a story that wraps up all its loose ends as, ‘putting a bow on it.’ In this one God ties up the bow and hands us a gift labelled, ‘For you.’

…Even as I write this I see my words’ deficiencies. I’m thinking of the plan of salvation and not focusing that in all of this Jesus is ushering in his kingdom. For 3+ years he teaches, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand;’ (see Matthew 4:17) and if this Easter weekend represents the climax of the story, then certainly his death and resurrection has huge kingdom implications. It’s hard to tell the whole story in a few short paragraphs and not leave something out.

However, we are on safe ground to allow ourselves to see this weekend in atonement terms. Looking to the cross we find forgiveness. Remembering his sacrifice on Good Friday we’re reminded that “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 CSB)

 

 

April 13, 2015

Book Review: Did God Kill Jesus?

Did God Kill JesusThere was something almost eerie about reading this book over the Easter season. I took a rather slow, almost plodding pace in order to absorb the material and then have a day to digest it before moving on, some of the events described paralleling narratives being brought to mind at Holy Week.

In Did God Kill Jesus? Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution, author Tony Jones looks at the central element of the Christian faith — the death and resurrection of Jesus — though his focus is clearly on the crucifixion and all of its ramifications for doctrine and theology. Over the years, writers and teachers have processed a handful of dominant models of what all is taking place — what we call atonement — as Christ yields his life to the religious and political powers of Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers; and Jones considers these as well as a few of the lesser-known theories.

At the very core of his analysis is Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God; why have you forsaken me?” He veers strongly toward the view that at that moment Jesus sees the Father as absent and dares to suggest that right then, right there, Jesus experiences something akin to atheism; life in a world without God. This is presented alongside the notion that while positionally God’s omniscience is a given, there are things that could only be known incarnationally.

This is a book for people willing to risk actually doing some thinking. Many of us have grown up in environments where we were taught that “Jesus died on the cross for our sins;” but would be lacking clarity in explaining exactly how the violent, death of this One accomplished this. He notes that if a sacrifice were all that was required, a child sacrifice at the Bethlehem manger would have sufficed. He also forces the reader to consider why a violent death was necessary.

I had been aware of Tony Jones through his blogging activity at Theoblogy, and knew that because of his co-authorship of The Emergent Manifesto, some readers here might question his orthodoxy. My thoughts ran somewhat the other way; reading through I asked myself if the book could not have appeared under HarperCollins’ more Evangelical imprints such as Zondervan, instead of HarperOne. (There were a couple of language issues early on, which are, in balance, unfortunate.) Jones is simply a nice guy, charitable to people whose views on Calvary are different because they are Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic, Progressive or even Pentecostal. By this I mean, the book accounts for all tastes.

Perhaps it is my own perspective, but my takeaway — and I mean this as high praise — is that I found myself thinking about Jesus and what would be going through his mind throughout all aspects of his final words to his disciples, his betrayal, his beating, his trial before Pilate and the agony of the crucifixion itself. Could there be any higher benefit to the reader of a Christian book?

Click here to read sample pages of Did God Kill Jesus?.

October 27, 2014

Central Theme: The Cross

One of my strong beliefs is that instead of shutting down for the weekend, perhaps some blogs and websites should ramp it up a bit. For many people, the days off work are lonely and depressing. For several months awhile ago I actually ran extra posts on the weekend.

This week we ran what I thought was a fairly solid series of posts on Friday (parenting kids in the internet age), Saturday (a massive blogroll), and Sunday (one busy family’s activity log). But the rush to do all that left me crashing in terms of what to run on Monday morning. As I went through the archives, I found what you see below. When all the newsy stories, scandals, book releases, church statistics and leadership advice is done and dispensed with, this is what matters:

“I must die or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that it doesn’t teach anything.” ~ Dwight L. Moody
“The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden he carries it also.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Jesus now has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.” ~ Thomas a Kempis
“In many respects I find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes him dangerous. Because of Easter, I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.” ~ Philip Yancey
“God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, bled and died it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.'” ~ Billy Graham

October 21, 2014

The Protestant Kid and The Crucifix

Yes, this is the third time around for this column, but it’s been four years…

When I was in the sixth grade, my friend Jimmy Moss and his family moved to Morristown, New Jersey, where he later decided that his life calling was to enter the priesthood.

I have never seen Jimmy since. I doubt very much he goes by ‘Jimmy’ now. “Father Jimmy?” Okay, it’s possible.

crucifixJimmy’s family were Catholic. I know that because we had several discussions about it. Not so much Jimmy and I. Mostly my parents and I. It was considered necessary that I know a little about this particular take on Christianity should it ever come up.

Later on, I decided to check it out firsthand. Much later on. I think I was in my mid-twenties when I first attended a mass. I was working for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Toronto at the time, and there was another girl in the office who also had never been to a mass, and so we both agreed that on the next weekend we would attend a mass.

I remember several things about that mass. It was the middle of summer and the sermon was short. If there was one at all. If there was, I can tell you the announcements took up more time. It seemed like we were in and out of there in about twenty minutes. In truth, it couldn’t have been much more than twenty-five.

I didn’t know where to turn in the missal to follow the order of service. Someone nearby spotted my confusion and informed me we were in “the sixteenth Sunday of ordinary time,” or something like that. But they were flipping back and forth between different sections of the missal, which didn’t help.

I also remember the guy standing at the back reading a copy of the tabloid Sunday paper. I don’t think he ever looked up from the sports pages. I was later informed that “being there” was paramount. It was important to attend apparently, even if your heart wasn’t in it. Just show up.

Which would explain the guy who was wet. The way I figured it, he must have lived directly across the road from the church. He had jumped out of his backyard pool, donned the minimal amount of clothing, and joined the newspaper reader at the back of the sanctuary. He was the one dripping water droplets on the floor. Really.

I didn’t go forward to “receive the host,” i.e. take communion. But I tried my best to sing the two hymns. And I knew the words to repeat the “Our Father.” And my reflexes were quick enough not to launch into, “For Thine is the kingdom…”

Most evangelicals have never been to a mass. Nearly twenty-five years later, I would attend again. Once every quarter century. I guess that makes me a nominal Catholic.

…Anyway, I was often invited into Jimmy’s home. I remember several things about it all these years later. The first was that if I stayed for supper, Jimmy and his two brothers had to wash their hands before and after meals. That was new to me, then, but it’s a practice I’ve adopted recently since discovering the world of sauces and salad dressings. A good meal is one where I leave with sticky fingers that require a rinse.

crucifix2The second was the presence of crucifixes. I think they were spread throughout the house; but the memory may be of general religious icons; there may have only been the one at the front door.

This was a Catholic home. That was communicated to every guest, every salesman, every one of the kid’s friends. I couldn’t avert my eyes. Jesus was there on the cross, and he didn’t look happy.

We didn’t have a crucifix in our home. Crosses in my evangelical world were distinctly sans corpus, a phrase I just made up mixing French and Latin. As kids in Sunday School we were told that Catholics have crucifixes and Protestants don’t. I wonder sometimes if it would have been good if we had one.

(Which reminds me of the Catholic child who entered a Protestant house of worship for the first time, and seeing a cross at the front of the sanctuary, blurted out “What have they done with the little man?”)

For Christmas 2009, the Gregg Gift Company brought out some kind of ornament for the front hall that says, “This Home Believes.” I don’t think one’s expression of belief should be reduced to a sign, or that a sign should be expected to carry the burden of verbal witness, but I often wonder if we should have something at our front door — like the Mezuzah on Jewish homes — that alerts guests, salesmen and friends that “This is a Christian home;” preferably something that contains in its iconography the unmistakable message of the core of Christianity.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, maybe a crucifix.

March 31, 2013

How Could You Say No

Filed under: evangelism, Jesus, music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:24 am

I’m not sure how Reformers feel about this song in light of irresistible grace — the “I” of TULIP — but it’s always been one of my favorite songs for this time of year. I posted a cover version of it here two years ago, but discovered this week that the original version, performed by Julie Miller, is now available online.

Thorns on his head spear in his side
Yet it was a heartache that made him cry
He gave his life so you would understand
Is there any way you could say no to this man?

If Christ himself were standing here
Face full of glory and eyes full of tears
And he held out his arms and his nail printed hands
Is there any way you could say no to this man?

How could you look in his tear stained eyes
knowing it’s you he’s thinking of?
Could you tell him you’re not ready to give him your life
Could you say you don’t think you need his love?

Jesus is here with his arms open wide
You can see him with your heart

If you’ll stop looking with your eyes
He’s left it up to you,
He’s done all that he can
Is there any way you could say no to this man?

How could you look in his tear stained eyes
Knowing it’s you he’s thinking of?
Could you tell him you’re not ready to give him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need his love?

Thorns on his head, your life in on his hands
Is there any way you could say no to this man?
Is there any way you could say no to this man?

words by Mickey Cates

April 9, 2012

Easter Monday Meditation

Really, really looking forward to getting my computer back!  In the meantime, here’s a great song for Easter Monday. Most people know the version here by Robin Mark, but there’s also the Bethel Live version which rocks it out a bit more and adds a bridge after some of the verses.  Apparently, the song is a Welsh hymn, though most people would assume it to be part of the modern worship repertoire.

God’s grace and love… vast as the ocean.

October 22, 2010

Evangelicals and Crucifixes — A Rebroadcast (!) of 10.24.09

One of the better posts from one year ago…

When I was in the sixth grade, my friend Jimmy Moss and his family moved to Morristown, New Jersey, where he later decided that his life calling was to enter the priesthood.

I have never seen Jimmy since. I doubt very much he goes by ‘Jimmy’ now. “Father Jimmy?” Okay, it’s possible.

crucifixJimmy’s family were Catholic. I know that because we had several discussions about it. Not so much Jimmy and I. Mostly my parents and I. It was considered necessary that I know a little about this particular take on Christianity should it ever come up.

Later on, I decided to check it out firsthand. Much later on. I think I was in my mid-twenties when I first attended a mass. I was working for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Toronto at the time, and there was another girl in the office who also had never been to a mass, and so we both agreed that on the next weekend we would attend a mass.

I remember several things about that mass. It was the middle of summer and the sermon was short. If there was one at all. If there was, I can tell you the announcements took up more time. It seemed like we were in and out of there in about twenty minutes. In truth, it couldn’t have been much more than twenty-five.

I didn’t know where to turn in the missal to follow the order of service. Someone nearby spotted my confusion and informed me we were in “the sixteenth Sunday of ordinary time,” or something like that. But they were flipping back and forth between different sections of the missal, which didn’t help.

I also remember the guy standing at the back reading a copy of the tabloid Sunday paper. I don’t think he ever looked up from the sports pages. I was later informed that “being there” was paramount. It was important to attend apparently, even if your heart wasn’t in it. Just show up.

Which would explain the guy who was wet. The way I figured it, he must have lived directly across the road from the church. He had jumped out of his backyard pool, donned the minimal amount of clothing, and joined the newspaper reader at the back of the sanctuary. He was the one dripping water droplets on the floor. Really.

I didn’t go forward to “receive the host,” i.e. take communion. But I tried my best to sing the two hymns. And I knew the words to repeat the “Our Father.” And my reflexes were quick enough not to launch into, “For Thine is the kingdom…”

Most evangelicals have never been to a mass. Nearly twenty-five years later, I would attend again. Once every quarter century. I guess that makes me a nominal Catholic.

…Anyway, I was often invited into Jimmy’s home. I remember several things about it all these years later. The first was that if I stayed for supper, Jimmy and his two brothers had to wash their hands before and after meals. That was new to me, then, but it’s a practice I’ve adopted recently since discovering the world of sauces and salad dressings. A good meal is one where I leave with sticky fingers that require a rinse.

crucifix2The second was the presence of crucifixes. I think they were spread throughout the house; but the memory may be of general religious icons; there may have only been the one at the front door.

This was a Catholic home. That was communicated to every guest, every salesman, every one of the kid’s friends. I couldn’t avert my eyes. Jesus was there on the cross, and he didn’t look happy.

We didn’t have a crucifix in our home. Crosses in my evangelical world were distinctly sans corpus, a phrase I just made up mixing French and Latin. As kids in Sunday School we were told that Catholics have crucifixes and Protestants don’t. I wonder sometimes if it would have been good if we had one.

One Christmas, the Gregg Gift Company brought out some kind of ornament for the front hall that says, “This Home Believes.” I don’t think one’s expression of belief should be reduced to a sign, or that a sign should be expected to carry the burden of verbal witness, but I often wonder if we should have something at our front door that alerts guests, salesmen and friends that “This is a Christian home;” preferably something that contains in its iconography the unmistakable message of the core of Christianity.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, maybe a crucifix.

# # #

And while we’re reblogging things from a year ago, here’s the ending to another Catholic-related post containing an analogy I’ve used several times about the migration that often occurs between Canadian Roman Catholics and Canadian Anglicans

###

Ottawa Gatineau

…For my Canadian readers, here is an analogy I’ve always found helpful. The conversion of an Anglican to, for example, Pentecostalism, might be compared to someone living in Ottawa who decides to move to Windsor. It’s all the same province, they keep their driver’s license and their health cards, but it’s a major move — around 800 km — and a complete change of both climate and culture.

The conversion of an Anglican to Catholicism could be compared to the that same person in Ottawa deciding to move to Gatineau. The moving van might only have a ten-minute drive across the river, but it’s a new province, requiring a new driver’s license and even a new way of looking at common law. Compared to moving to Windsor, it’s a cakewalk, but at a deeper level it is a much more radical change of address. Which one is the bigger move?

# # #

COMMENTS: If you see your ministry as flitting from blog to blog leaving remarks which attack or tear down another denomination — i.e. anti-Catholic rhetoric — please note those comments will not be posted here.

October 3, 2010

The Cross of Christ: Our Central Theme

“I must die or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that it doesn’t teach anything.” ~ Dwight L. Moody
“The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden he carries it also.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Jesus now has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.” ~ Thomas a Kempis
“In many respects I find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes him dangerous. Because of Easter, I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.” ~ Philip Yancey
“God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, bled and died it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.'” ~ Billy Graham

September 2, 2010

Taking it to the Streets

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:43 am

This is actually the third time this particular post has appeared here.   I never get tired of the quotation that forms the centerpiece of this…


Several years ago, a long-time customer came into our bookstore and brought with her a new purpose and a new motto for our business, “marketplace ministry.” It was a fresh vision and a reminder that we should try to be more present in the public square, in civic life, and less dependent on churches which so often let us down.

The phrase “marketplace ministry” also reminded me of this quotation:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace, as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a high cross between two thieves: on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek…. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that’s where He died. And that is what He died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.”

This quotation belongs to Scottish theologian Dr. George MacLeod (1895 – 1991). According to Wikipedia, MacLeod is also the founder of the Iona Community, an ecumenical movement committed to social justice issues and “seeking new ways to live the gospel of Jesus in today’s world.” Most of its activities take place on the Isle of Iona and its interdenominational liturgies and publishing are developed by the Wild Goose Group, the name taken from an ancient Irish symbol of the Holy Spirit. (Apologies to “dove only” readers!) Its books and music resources deal with social justice and peace issues, spirituality and healing, and innovative approaches to worship.

Someone years ago taught me that so much of what the church considers “outreach” is actually “indrag.” We need to find ways to engage the concept of “marketplace ministry.” Evangelicals have long neglected issues of social justice or relegated the ’social gospel’ to mainline churches. But that is changing. And perhaps the thing we need to do in the center of the marketplace is to live out the gospel with visible demonstrations of Christ’s love, not just taking the quotation above as a call to loud street preaching. Is there someone in your sphere of influence to whom you can give “a cup of water” to today?

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