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Archive | Christ

Gospel Beauty Beyond Syllogisms

The Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner. Read it again. The Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner.

There is something refreshing about the simplicity of a statement such as this. Christianity is a religion for sinners. Should we not give him praise for this reality? The Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

I wonder how often we lose focus on this glorious truth? In our discussions with unbelievers and those who would describe themselves as “seekers” (yes, I know Romans 3:11), we ought to help direct their thinking along these lines as they ask us questions about what it means to be a Christian.

Several weeks ago, I was invited to UCLA to speak at class filled with medievalists and early modern English historians. These post-graduate students were studying the religious writings of England during the Reformation and early Puritan era. I was invited to give a pastoral perspective on the theology of the era and […]

Our Heart Telescope

In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, making it unique among attempts to peer into the universe. As Hubble orbits the Earth, it does so above the atmosphere, which distorts and even blocks the light that reaches our planet and is what makes the stars seem to twinkle.  This orbit allows Hubble to give a view of the galaxies that far surpass that of conventional telescopes on the ground that struggle with atmospheric distortion.

So 353 miles above the Earth, Hubble orbits our globe every 97 minutes (which is about five miles per second, meaning it goes across the United States in about 10 minutes).  Hubble has caused the knowledge of outer space to explode, as it has captured images never seen before of newly discovered galaxies and space phenomenon. Scientists have realized what is out there is far more beautiful, complex, and grand in magnitude than they had even imagined. For instance, they discovered there are ten times more galaxies in the observable universe. Who knows what lies beyond what our telescopes can observe now? It took getting beyond earth’s atmosphere for scientists to see new things.

As the Hubble telescope is to astronomy, so is the Spirit to the heart […]

A Real Redeemer, or: “Remember the Rose!”

Christians call Jesus the Redeemer, and he is, but we sometimes forget that biblically, to be redeemed means to be ruled.  To be redeemed means more than being brought back from bad circumstances; it means being bought back, transferred from one allegiance to another.  There’s no redemption through Jesus without a renunciation of our deepest craving since humankind’s collapse in the Garden of Eden:  autonomy.  Watch for this pattern in society – and in your own heart!  So much of what popular culture demands in the name of freedom is better understood as autonomy, literally, self-law.  We want autonomy so bad that we even fantasize about extraordinary beings who can provide and protect it.   

What Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ Reveals About Christ and Culture

The following is a guest post by J.K. Wall who is a writer in Indianapolis. His modernized abridgment of William Symington’s work, Messiah the Prince Revisited, was published in 2014 by Crown & Covenant Publications. You can e-mail him at jk.wall@gmail.com.

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I have been enjoying the new Netflix Original series “The Crown,” which vividly dramatizes the change experienced by Elizabeth II immediately after she became queen of England.

Before she received the news of her father the king’s death—at a lodge in Kenya—Elizabeth was treated as a distinguished but otherwise normal guest. After hearing the news over the radio, all the hotel staff members and other guests knelt in her presence.

And yet, it would take another 16 months before Elizabeth was formally crowned. During those 16 months, Elizabeth took up the heavy work of queen and was referred to by everyone as “The Queen.” Not the queen-elect, or the queen-in-waiting, or the queen-to-be, or any such already-not yet title. She was, during that entire 16 months, as fully queen as she was after the formal coronation ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

This is a helpful picture for how we should understand the kingship of Jesus Christ. It’s important because our […]

Us and Them

No one likes Genesis 19. It’s never contained anyone’s “life verse.” Sexual violence and widespread judgment don’t make for good greeting cards or bedtime stories. But God knows what he’s doing and included these gut-wrenching stories on purpose. By reading carefully, we come to see the story of Lot’s rescue from Sodom as an introduction into intercessory prayer on behalf of the church, following the example of Abraham. We come to see the justice of God and should delight to see how his justice magnifies the grace shown to Lot and his family in answer to Abraham’s prayer.

But Genesis 19 doesn’t end with Lot’s rescue. It doesn’t end with a “happily ever after.” It stumbles and trips over itself and leaves us feeling disgusted, questioning the point of telling stories that only make us uncomfortable. Was it really necessary to tell us of Lot’s drunkenness and his daughters’ desperate plunge into incest? 

Questioning Our Father

I love questions.  Want to know why?  Partly because of their power to reveal hearts.  The question I just asked revealed your heart toward me and this article. Though I and others may never know what it revealed, the question forced you to see things within you – good, kind, patient things, I hope!  Sometimes, questions are so powerful that they become heart-revealing statements.  For instance, “What’s your problem?”  That’s not so  much a question as a statement indicating irritation.  Yes, the sentence ends with a question mark, but the meaning often requires a period or an exclamation point to be properly understood.  Questions can reveal the hearts of those being interrogated, and they can reveal the hearts of the interrogators, too.  Scripture is full of heart-revealing questions, including some of the most powerful questions ever stated.  Let’s look at a few of them to see what’s going on in our souls.       

Happily Ever After

Most of us have grown up with a strong affection for books that finish well and fairytales that conclude with ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ Whether it’s ‘Beauty and Beast’ or ‘Snow White and her Handsome Prince’, we don’t enjoy reaching the final page, with a sense of the outcome left hanging or the future appearing bleak or mournful.

With its concrete hope of the future the bible does not disappoint. Though the plan of God starts brightly, the narrative of sin introduces a negative twist, meaning the long journey through the Old Testament, is bumpy at best, if not harrowing and heartbreaking at times. There are lamps to light the route, with bright promises of hope. After the holocaust of Calvary, light dawns at resurrection. From that time on the dimmer switch turns up. Along the New Testament path, there are, of course, tornadoes to hide from and cloud bursts to dampen spirits. As a general trend however, the Gospel beams blaze brighter, as we draw closer to the Day, and as wait in anticipation for the full revelation of glory at the appearing of King Jesus.

I’ve been doing a little research on ‘The End’ of the Kingdom of […]

To Condemn Surfing? Define Your Christianity.

“Protestant missionaries… had forced surfing deep into the shadows… To Calvinists, surfing was a sinful exercise, leading only to unbridled licentiousness and godless impiety. Go surfing they pronounced from their pulpits, and eternal flames awaited.” Pacific, 131.

Simon Winchester (one of my favorite authors) makes this passing statement  about surfing and 1820’s Hawaiian Calvinism. Calvinism is condemned in less than forty words in the midst of a 492 page book which concerns the ecological, international, and economic importance of the Pacific Ocean. Why did Calvinism get discredited in the midst of a discussion on the ocean? With no footnote or historical anecdote, the assertion was made that Calvinists believe that surfing leads to hell’s flame.

I am not arguing that such condemnations have never been made. Somewhere someone at some time has most-likely condemned wave riding, yet Winchester’s statement demonstrates that outside of the church people have presuppositions about what defines the Christian. People assume they know what is Christianity. That assumption is based on how we reflect Christianity; how we define it. To an unbelieving world, we define Christianity, not in our words only — but also in our actions.

What defines you?

What defines your Christianity?

Is it defined by a condemnation of surfing or some other lawful activity? Is […]

Preaching to the Mind

Sometimes we preachers fail in the pulpit simply because we forget what we are up against. We think if we are just pleasant enough or clever enough or loud enough, certainly we will be convincing to our hearers. Yet we must never forget that one of the impacts of the noetic effect of sin is that it causes the mind to be at war against the things of God. We can act as if we are training puppies when instead we are wrestling bears.

Fallen man at his fundamental level, at the core of his constituted being, sets his mind on the things of the flesh. In Romans 8:7-8, Paul states it this way: “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That unconverted man sitting before you in the pew has a mind that dwells on how he can satisfy his own cravings for such things as pleasure, prestige, and power. So deeply do men suppress the truth, so fiercely do they hate God, that in the words of Dr. James Boice men become “morally insane.” […]