Facing Calvary Seven : Hilaskomai

Lenten Reflections Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2012

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (NIV) Rom 3:25-26

imageChrist Jesus ,whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (ESV) Rom 3:25

The question of what was accomplished on the Cross that Friday afternoon has both simple and complex answers. The simple response is, it changed everything. A more in-depth examination discovers the true magnitude of that change.

The truth of Romans 3:23 [All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God] points us to His attitude toward humankind. His holiness demands retribution, His love leads to sacrifice. The perfection of His character does not allow one or the other. Propitiation—the turning of God’s righteous wrath away from sinners—is the answer to the first, the self-sacrifice of Himself in Christ the second. No substance or creature from within the fallen world held the perfection necessary to fulfill the demand of perfect holiness. For this reason, Jesus enters the world thirty-three years previous.

Modern Christians don’t often meditate on the turning aside of God’s wrath. We have pushed into the realms of the angry-God of the Old Testament, forgetting that it demanded the life of Christ for satisfaction. The life of our buddy. The life of the Jesus of modern prom songs. The life of Jesus who has become a casual expletive.

The life of Jesus our Savior.

 

Grace and peace to you in the Name of the One who is over all and through all and in all.

image Fred Jackson

Burial Cloth and Neatness

The Jesus We Missed by Patrick Henry Reardon

imageThe folding of the kerchief may have been completely unconscious. I do not find this hard to believe. The universal Christ, the eternal Word in whom all things subsist, was still the same Jesus to whom an act of elementary neatness came naturally.

It was in reading these words in the closing paragraphs of The Jesus We Missed that the import of the book finally took hold. The humanity of Christ, while a matter of theological discussion through the centuries, is rarely given the biographical treatment that we read on these pages. Is it important? I believe yes, because the full picture of the God-man Jesus is incomplete unless the full measure of his humanity is realized and taken into account alongside of His words and actions.

Jesus was not God simply inhabiting a human form. He was God who willingly made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Phil 2:7). He was not an infant who simply pretended not to comprehend the voices around him, Jesus was the helpless babe in the feed trough. He was the terrible two-year-old, the rebellious teenager, the young man full of strength and possessing the craftsmen’s hands.

And He was God, knowing an intimate relationship with the heavenly Father that we are called to emulate in the days preceding His return.

Reardon’s excellent book is not a casual read. It demands consideration on every page of the human nature of the Savior. In doing so, the reader is awakened to the senses of sight, smell and hearing in the fully-man Jesus. Events that often take on an other-worldly character when we forget His humanity are viewed in a different light as you consider scriptural hints that you may have skimmed in the past. The human portrait that Reardon paints is an encouragement to the reader in addition to its edification. Jesus relied on prayer to know the Father and His will and God used that open conduit to guide the Son’s steps. Has He promised anything less to us?

The Jesus We Missed will challenge you. It is written for the non-theological reader but that doesn’t make it a breezy read. You will be stopped on page after page as you find facets of the Lord that you had not considered in your travels through the Bible. Don’t hesitate to put the book down and pick up the Scriptures. The expanded perspective is well worth the time.

I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this copy for review.

In Him All Things Hold Together

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

imageThomas Paine described the crisis of revolution as the “times that try men’s souls”, a season of life in which one would have to be undeniably sure of the foundation on which his feet rested. Without that assurance there would be no resistance against which to create forward motion. Though not as momentous as the birth of a nation, author Tullian Tchividjian was confronted with a leadership challenge in the melding of two ministries that brought an unexpected resistance. The crisis forced him back to the irreducible minimum that formed his foundation, faith in Christ alone.

Driven to reflection, Tullian renewed his understanding of the rock on which he stood as character attacks and questions of ministerial competency swirled around, making him doubt the efficacy of what had brought him to that point. A performance ethic in particular threatened to derail his belief in the completed work of Christ as the touchstone against which he pushed for momentum. His exposition of key passages in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians restored his understanding of the sufficiency of Christ and the atonement and it is these reflections that form the core of the book.

Tchividjian’s writing and structure are dense, limiting the appeal of the tome to those willing to reflect alongside him. It will be read in small sections that turn your attention back to the Scriptures to see things that may have been masked to your eyes on previous reading. It is this density that gives the book its timeless appeal. Unlike the myriad volumes that will be published giving advice that quickly goes out of date, Pastor Tullian has written a book that can be pulled from the shelf over and over in the years to come as a guide to returning to the key, Christ alone.

Follow.Me

One.Life by Scot McKnight

imageThe time has come.

The kingdom of God has come near.

Repent and believe the good news!

Christians are well known for substituting legalism and activity for biblical discipleship of the kind that demands an investment of nothing less than your entire life. McKnight brings his always practical insight to bear on the question of what it should actually look like to walk in the Kingdom of Heaven that Christ announced.

At the core of One.Life is the notion of being all in. That is, life in Christ’s kingdom demands the full commitment of your one life. It was never intended to be a part-time or compartmentalized pursuit. To fully experience the full depth and breadth of the Spirit-enabled kingdom you must go beyond sampling it and make it your complete reality.

Scot touches on a wide variety of beliefs, thoughts and behaviors that generally form the contours of the Christian life, examining each in a kingdom light. In some ways, the book is The Jesus Creed part two. Where that volume helped us to flesh out what it meant to love God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves, One.Life challenges every area of life that we might be tempted to separate as outside of the kingdom.

One.Life is eminently practical on nearly every page. Professor McKnight has a lifetime of experience from which to share examples and the reader will find a variety of lives that mirror their own experiences from which lessons can be extracted. “…the Kingdom.Life only happens when you give yourself (your One.Life) to Jesus, and that means also to His kingdom dream and to those who are in that kingdom dream already.”

One.Life at Zondervan

I’m grateful to Zondervan who provided this copy for review.

God So Loved the World IV

Lent 2011

imageFor God so loved the world…  John 3:16

so adv 1. In the way or manner indicated. 2. to the extent or degree indicated or suggested. 3. very or extremely. 4. very greatly. 5. most certainly…

The small word so carries a lot of weight in this passage as it modifies the verb loved. In Greek as in English, the word has a wide range of usage. Reading this verse in a wide range of translations finds the interpreters seeing it differently as well.

Today, we read the word in its emphatic sense. God so loved the world … God loved the world so much that he sacrifices the most precious thing, his Son, Himself, a member of the Holy Trinity. His loves translates to loss on His part but gain for the world He loves.

Jesus’ words “Go and do likewise”, though they appear once, lie at the heart of His entire ministry. As God loves sacrificially, so we are called to love sacrificially. Our love is to spread outward without concern for its return. As God gave all, so we are to love likewise.

Grace and peace to you.

image joodmc

God So Loved the World II

Lent 2011

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

imageThough there is an almost universal familiarity with this verse amongst the Christian family, many forget the speaker and the context of His words. It becomes trite to many, an expression of immeasurable depth and meaning that is reduced to the shallows in which we wade.

Jesus refers to Himself in the verse, following his revelation in the preceding verses of the sacrifice yet to come. In verses 14 and 15, Jesus has informed Nicodemus that He is to be lifted up as the only source of eternal life.

Consider the first few words then, in this context. Rather than the common reflection on the word ‘so’ in its emphatic sense, we can read it directly translated from the Greek as ‘in this way’. Jesus informs Nicodemus, and centuries of readers to follow, that the sacrifice the father is making in seeing His Son lifted up is rooted in love for the fallen and corrupted world.

When we reflect on our personal sacrifice during this Lenten season, this idea informs it. Do we display our love for others in a sacrificial manner? Requited love is easy. Giving of self for the good of others when it is not recognized nor appreciated, not nearly so. Yet this is the disciple’s calling, to follow closely in the shadow of our Savior.

Grace and peace to you.

image fergal claddagh

God So Loved the World

Lent 2011 image

It is a fact of life that the most familiar things in our lives tend to fade to background, receiving little attention and often being taken for granted. We assume we will awaken tomorrow and that our significant others will continue to love us as they have. Our lives in Christ are not exempt from this trend; truths that we are most familiar with receive little meditation.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Verse 3:16 in John’s gospel is recognized as the most familiar verse in the Bible. It was probably the first verse that you committed to memory, and since it pops up at ballgames each week, it is probably has reached the most people outside of the faith community. It is a simple, straight-forward truth, foundational to the Christian life.

When was the last time you spent an extended time of reflection in this verse?

I’m willing to bet that it has been some time, if ever. And yet, this truth lies at the heart of the Lenten season. God’s sacrificial love is evidenced in the Cross and the resurrection of the Savior. It is the promise from which we draw strength in the storm and pass on to our children. It is everything.

My Lenten reflections for this season are going to be rooted in this passage. The Spirit has brought this back to my attention for a reason and the approach to Easter is a perfect time to meditate on its many and varied messages. I hope you will join me.

image mandy jansen

Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

imageSweet and Viola say this somewhere near the midpoint of their new book, Jesus Manifesto: “Get a fresh glimpse of your incomparable Lord, and you will be emboldened to stop spending your life on yourself. Connect with Him who is life, and you will be empowered to deny yourself, live beyond yourself, and live outside yourself.” Herein is the key idea behind the author’s call; the Church and her members have abandoned their life in Christ in favor of creeds, theological constructs, and self-help. Rather than sermons, service, and self rooted in ‘having my best life now’ or ‘the me I want to be’, Manifesto insists on every page that we return to a Christianity rooted in Christ, from Alpha to Omega.

The call for Christians to return to our first love is all encompassing as befits the all-in-all that Sweet and Viola remind us that Christ inhabits. It is this need to remind us of our first love that drives the book. The authors reach far and wide to examine the myriad ways in which Christians have substituted self-esteem, moral improvement, theology, social justice and a whole host of other things for Christ. Jesus has been reduced to the titular center of the church. Our movement away from Him in an imagined exchange between Jesus and Peter. Does Christ ask Peter, upon his restoration, to build a leadership program, improve the self-esteem of His followers, or help them to try harder to be Christ-like? No. Jesus asks His friend Peter, “Do you love me?”

Along the entire span of Alpha to Omega there is but one question to answer about Jesus, “Do you love me?”

 

Thomas Nelson graciously provided this book for review.

Go and Do Likewise…

Mother Mary

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” 

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation. 

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 

He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

Luke 1:45 – 55

I Am Thankful

image

When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:27-28)

Today across America, families will gather together and prompt one another to announce what they are grateful for. Many will include in their schedules their family members and perhaps some friends among the other milestones they voice. I too am grateful beyond words for my loving wife and best friend (one in the same) and my fabulous son, now grown into a good man. There is one thing that supersedes them but does not diminish them in any way. One thing we all share as a family and that is the privilege of being even in the vicinity of Christ.

There are many times when I am unable to be face to face with my Lord but to know that His power is so great that just a glancing brush against the hem of His garment can heal brings peace. To know that if the best I can muster is to graze my fingers over the trailing cloth and healing will be available is knowledge to be thankful for. And treasured. And shared. My hope is that all of you are able to know this same thankfulness and, if you don’t, you feel free to ask me about it. It’s not to be missed.

Image by cabezalana