Jesus Outside the Lines

March 31, 2015

This afternoon I started reading Scott Sauls‘ refreshing new book, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides. It seems timely – at least for me.

I for one am growing weary of a culture in which increasingly polemic debates seem never ending.  And while I was at first skeptical of the phrase, considering it a bit exaggerated and overblown, I am more-and-more inclined to agree that the United States is appropriately labeled a “post-truth society” – where what matters are not the facts, but rather striking a blow for your political side. That’s what it seems to me, as I read and watch the news regarding the Riots of Ferguson, Missouri, the RFRA in Indiana, among other items.

There is truth. There is wisdom. And what’s more, there are effective ways of finding the wisdom without sacrificing truth.That’s what I long for.  I want to engage in intelligent discussion, both with those with whom I agree and with those with whom I do not agree.  I want to understand, so I can process things from perspectives I may not presently possess. I want to be heard, without being demonized as either a bigot or a half-hearted traitor.  I want to align myself to truth and wisdom, and I want to see truth and wisdom win the day.  I get that most things are more complex than we may want to make them.  I get that we can act wrongly even in those times when we are in the right.  But call me naive, or utopian, but that is what I want.

That is what Scott Sauls advocates in these pages.  Having not yet finished the book, I cannot say that everything Sauls writes will be as music to my ears.  But I can say is, having read a couple of related interviews, what Sauls endeavors to do resonates with my sensibilities.

It is not compromise I desire, but something transcendent: I want to remember that God is truth, for his truth to reign. I want for God’s people to be the champions for the good of all humanity – which is, after all, created after God’s image.  And I want these truths and values brought wisely, winsomely, and effectively into the Public Square.  The fact that some – maybe many – don’t want these ideas in the Public Square is no reason to stop taking them there.  And the fact that some seem to despise these ideas is no excuse for Christians to act in a manner unworthy of the Gospel, as we engage those who oppose and even hate us.

So far, Scott Sauls is not disappointing.

Related articles:

Fictional B-ball

Over at Grantland.com a discussion has been started to occupy the few down-time moments of sports fans during the NCAA March Madness.  The discussion: Who is the greatest ever fictional basketball player?

Here are the rules:

Rule 1: The Blue Chips Rule

The film Blue Chips was loaded with actual NBA stars playing fictional characters. It would be too easy to just pick the guys from this movie, or to simply add in another guy or two. So the Blue Chips Rule is: You can’t pick more than two players from any one movie.

Rule 2:  Split Personality Rule

If someone has played a basketball player in more than one movie, you can pick only one of his or her roles.

Rule 3: The Earl Manigault Rule

You can’t pick anyone who was portraying a real-life basketball player.

Rule 4: The Fletch Rule

There is no restriction on the type of movie referenced. It doesn’t have to be billed as a basketball movie; it only needs to contain some basketball scenes.

Rule 5: Fiction Rule

This is not a “Who Was the Best Basketball Player” to ever play in a movie thing, this is a “Who Was the Best Fictional Basketball Player” thing. In other words, while Shaq may have been the best player to ever play a fictional basketball character, it is not actual basketball skills this contest measures. (NOTE: Michael Jordan is disqualified from this contest because he played himself in Space Jam.) Rather who is the best fictional basketball player, which may include not only skills shown in the film, but the character he plays.

With those rules in mind, here is my team:

Bench:

Coaches:

Shamrock

This famous prayer, widely known as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, is one of the earliest known European vernacular poems. While it has been attributed to Patrick, some scholars say a few of the words indicate a later period. Regardless of who wrote it, or when, there is no question that this poetic prayer oozes the spirit and substance we see in Patrick’s Confession. And these words reverberate with the power of Christianity that Patrick gave to his adopted land – Ireland.

Some Christians today find great value in memorizing this classic prayer and repeating it each morning upon arising. But even if that is not something you think you might want to try, at least take some time to read through the words, and reflect on the awesome truths expressed in this poetic prayer.

***

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity. Through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism, Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension, Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom…

I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me from snare of devils, from temptations of vices, from everyone who shall wish me ill, Afar and anear, alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul Against incantations of false prophets,against black laws of pagandom, Against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness, Of the Creator of Creation.

***

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Celtic Trinity Knot (Small)

Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace have helped, directly or indirectly, shape and deepen worship for hundreds and thousands of congregations.  Indelibile Grace was at the forefront of the movement to renew old hymns by setting the rich lyrics to newer music. While, no doubt, this had been tried before, it was Indelible Grace music that seems to have been widely used.  Others followed, also seeing thier songs used in congregational worship throughout the USA, and the Church at large has been blessed by it. at least that is my take on it.

What was, and is, significant about Indelible Grace music, whether the re-written hymns or the newly composed songs, is that they are substantive – they bring to bear deep theological themes and truths and apply them to the emotion, without being emotionally manipulative.  They simply give vioce to deep gospel truth experienced.

This video tells the story of Indelible Grace.  And the featured concert held at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville… I had the privilege to be there – sitting with my wife and several of our closest friends.  Great night; great memories.

Naval Academy Rowing Team

As I reflect upon the need of our church to constantly cultivate community among those within our congregation, as well as between those already part of the congregation and those who have newly arrived, I am pondering the poignancy of this statement by Stanley Grenz, from his book Theology for the Community of God:

“Only in our Spirit-produced corporateness do we truly reflect to all creation the grand dynamic that lies at the heart of the triune God. As we share together in the Holy Spirit, therefore, we participate in relationship with the living God and become the community of Christ our Lord.”

Desiring Truth

February 21, 2015

An Evening Walk (Besnard)

by Wesley Hurd

At the end of one of his films, Deconstructing Harry, writer/actor Woody Allen delivers a movie-ending confession that offers a perverted coherence to the film:

“All people know the truth. Our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.”

For believers, though, desiring truth – undistorted – is central to the process and experience of our salvation. Nothing is more fundamental in our striving for sanctification – our striving to be good as God is good – than our embracing the truth at every level at which it confronts us.

One of the most common names for the presence of God in our lives is the Spirit of Truth. He is the author and source of all that is valuable, good, pure, and true. It follows, then, that believers in the true Gospel – a work the Spirit of Truth authors in our hearts – will seek what is true. Our commitment to living according to what is true is a “litmus test” for whether we are authentically interested in knowing God and learning to love what He loves – truth, justice, and mercy. Are we interested in knowing God? Then, in the end, we will be open to following the truth wherever it leads us. This will be a lifelong process for us, however, because, like our distant ancestors Adam and Eve, we are more inclined to hide from truth than to seek it or to embrace its consequences. Our fallen, darkened hearts do not naturally respond well to truth, especially when it surprises and inconveniences us, when believing and acting upon the truth costs us something.

In his gospel narrative (John 18.28ff), the Apostle John portrays a powerful scene in which Jesus and his captor, Pontius Pilate, engage in a profound exchange over this issue of truth. Their conversation shows two levels at which truth confronts all humans. Both levels can potentially reflect a person’s moral disposition, but the second level proves to be spiritually crucial. Let me explain.

The first level of discovering truth involves whether or not a person believes truth exists at all in a practical and philosophical sense. Is there truth? If so, how do I know it? How can I be confident in what appears to me to be true? In the John passage, Pilate interrogates Jesus and his accusers, attempting to ascertain the true circumstances that led to Jesus’ arrest. At this level of truth seeking, Pilate assumes the truth can be known and assessed. His inquiry proves he believes truth is objectively available and can be sought and found. Having received adequate firsthand testimony, Pilate determines that Jesus is innocent of the allegations against him. The truth made itself plain to Pilate. Pilate then attempts political maneuvers to free Jesus, but he fails when Jesus’ accusers threaten anarchy that would put Pilate himself in political jeopardy.

Yet Jesus intrigues Pilate, who engages Jesus further, asking Him questions that lead Jesus to claim, “For this I have been born…to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.” Now the second level of our relationship to truth appears. Once we believe we know what is true, are we willing to embrace it and to act accordingly? Pilate was not willing. His reply to Jesus, “What is truth?”, enables Pilate to keep the conversation at the philosophical level rather than going to the second level of personal, existential response.

Jesus identified himself with the vital truths about a person’s relationship to God and eternal destiny. Jesus spoke the truth about God — who He is, what His will is, and how human creatures can align themselves with those truths. Jesus was concerned not only about the factual truthfulness of what one believes (truth at level one), but also about the deeply personal moral posture of one’s heart toward factual truthfulness. Does one’s heart lean toward or away from letting the truth have its way in one’s thought, choices, and behavior? For example, I can know and agree with the theological truthfulness of man’s sin and fallenness, while simultaneously refusing to allow its factual truthfulness to penetrate my personal conscience and thereby own the truth of my guilt and need for repentance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Role of the Holy Spirit

February 20, 2015

Holy Spirit (Blue, Yellow, Red)

The Holy Spirit is mysterious to many, perhaps especially to those in more intellectually inclined traditions. Most Christians probably understand that historic orthodoxy recognizes the Holy Spirit to be part of the Trinity, and therefore God, but I suspect many are somewhat less certain about what that means.  Often the Holy Spirit is referred to as a depersonalized “it” despite being the third person of the Trinity. Maybe even more questions surround what exactly the Holy Spirit does.

Some time ago I ran across a satirical confession of faith, one that ostensibly reflects the functional beliefs of a typcical American evanglical. Mimicking the pattern of the Apostle’s Creed, the clause regarding the the Holy Spirit declares:

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, who did some weird stuff at Pentecost, but doesn’t do much more anymore except speak to the hearts of individual believers.

How close to the experience or belief of most, I cannot say. But I suspect, and fear, that it is discomfortingly close to the functional belief of too many.

Recently I have enjoyed a four-part series of posts by Jon Payne from Sovereign Grace Ministries blog, titled: The Role of Holy Spirit. I commend them for a thoughtful introduction and overview:

  • Part 1 – Introduction
  • Part 2 – The Trouble With Nicodemus
  • Part 3 – Who is the Holy Spirit? and What Does He Do?
  • Part 4 – Transaction at the Fountain

I believe this series provides a good Introduction and/or refresher about this one who is often referred to as “The Shy Member of the Trinity”.  Hopefully it will whet your appetite to look further, and to study more deeply.

For those who are interested in digging into this subject, into this Person of the Holy Spirit, I would suggest two things:

First, stay away from some of the more bizarre claims by the likes of Benny Hinn, Perry Stone, Lester Summerall, and others from the Name-It-Claim-It camp, who refer to themselves as “Full Gospel” Christians.  More often than not, there is little gospel reflected in the writings of these folks – at least not the gospel of the Bible.  (See Galatians 1.6-9)  These, at best, offer fascinations that lead away from the Cross.

Second, delve into a copy of one or more of the following books.  This list is hardly exhaustive, but I think all of these provide substantive and sound insights about the Holy Spirit:

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