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Quotes From Some Books I’ve Been Reading

I always have several books going all at the same time. Some I plow through quickly. Some I never finish. Some I lay aside to pick up later.

51g94tKvIFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Tim Otto writes about the significance of the controversy in the Church over same-gender sex: “The conflict around same-sex relationships can either cause further division within the church, or, by faith, we can see the struggle as our teacher. By bringing up questions about family, social relations, church unity, and politics, this debate can help us think well and live more deeply into the dream God has for us and the world. It can help us, as God’s little flock, receive the kingdom that God is offering with so much pleasure. And if that happens, it will mean more gospel, more good news for everyone.” From: Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships.

Michael J. Quicke on preaching: “Preaching’s awesome task is about evoking an alternative community that lives for a different agenda — for God, for the wider community, and for the world. Preaching needs to be experienced as prophetic, transformational, incarnational, and diverse. Catalytic, life-changing preaching accomplishes deep outcomes in God’s purposes.” From: 360-Degree Preaching: Hearing, Speaking, and Living the Word.
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Philip Yancey on Praying Like a Child

Prayer-yanceyFrom an excellent book on prayer:

Again, Jesus likened prayer to a child approaching the Father. A child who crawls into her father’s lap with a fantasy Christmas list may not get everything she desires. But the very fact that she crawled into his lap, making know her deepest desires, helps cement the bond of love the father cherishes above all else. We do far better to act like a trusting child, presenting foolish requests and letting the Father make judgements, than to fret in advance over appropriate petitions.

Fittingly, some of the most articulate prayers come from the mouths of children. God, help that man we saw at the red light find a place to sleep tonight… Please don’t let my cat suffer anymore…. Help Grandmommy to stop feeling sad all the time…. Teach me how to get along with my mean brother.

My neighbor Elizabeth, age four, was staying with her grandmother while her parents went to New York City on business. Kneeling by her bed that night, she prayed: ‘Help Mommy and Daddy to come home safely. And if they don’t want to come home — ‘ Her grandmother interrupted, ‘Honey, of course they want to come home.’ Elizabeth set her straight with a sharp reply, “I’m talking to God!’ With the wisdom of a child, she knew that in prayer it is perfectly appropriate to voice fear, anger (think of the imprecatory psalms), insecurity, doubt, or anything else we need to get out.

— Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?  (Chapter 22).

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A Prayer from the Darkness – Psalms 25:16-18

There are times when God seems absent. It seems that direction and blessing are gone. We have no sense that our prayers are being heard. We may be in a time of stress and trial, where there seems to be no relief in sight. Service that formerly brought us joy becomes dry and unrewarding. And we ask: Why?

candle-tipAt this point, the theological knowledge of God’s Omnipresence doesn’t help. This tells us that God is theoretically present. But, since the evidences of God’s favor seem missing from our life, this theoretical knowledge is no comfort. If God is present, why does God seem to be standing apart from us?

The Psalms often speak of these times. There is no denial here. The reality is that God’s most devoted followers sometimes go through dark times when God seems absent.

I have often reflected on this. It seems strange to me, but it is true: there have been seasons of blessing and seasons of darkness. I don’t know why. There have been times when I seemed to be living under a curse. Then, there have been times of blessing. And, it often doesn’t seem to make sense. I’ve never been able to connect these times of curse with moral faults either — something I notice Job’s companions tried to do for also him — and failed. Times of darkness happen unexpectedly, without warning or underlying reason. (more…)

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Keep the Focus on Jesus!

Conservative-Evangelicals-Misunderstood-MillennialsWhen I was just starting out in Christian pastoral ministry (long ago) I was drawn to the writings of Paul for preaching material. It read more like theology to me — it seemed more about ideas and morality — and seemed a better fit for the needs of a three-point sermon outline. I could simply draw from Paul’s writings my point #1, point #2 and so forth. All my points were Biblical (from my point of view at the time) since they each had a verse or a phrase from one of Paul’s letters attached to them.

What I was missing was that all these assertions Paul makes, all the apparently abstract theology and moralizing, was, in truth, reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus — working out its implications for first century believers. The Epistles must take us back to the Gospels — or else, we are just not getting it. The Gospel message we need to communicate is the story of Jesus. (more…)

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Some Quotes from the Internet

internet-wrldBoze Herrington gives us a heart-rending account of his involvement in a prayer group (associated with the International House of Prayer) that evolved into a dangerous cult. The account centers around the death of the cult leader’s wife (Boze’s friend) Bethany. He writes: “But it is clear that when Bethany died, she was part of a community shrouded in fear and hatred, a community where those who spoke out were treated as though they didn’t exist. Their loves, desires, opinions, feelings, and whole personalities were invalidated, all in the name of God.” At The Atlantic here: The Seven Signs You’re in a Cult.

Jonathan Merritt on the public’s response to Christian leaders: “The point is that people don’t like mean people and judgmental people and power-hungry people, regardless of their religion. Most people dislike Christian jerks because they are jerks, not because they are Christian. (According to a 2013 Barna poll, about 51% of self-identified Christians are characterized by having the attitudes and actions that are “Pharisaical” as opposed to “Christlike.”)” Here: What the Pope’s popularity says about American culture. (more…)

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The Waiting Time – Psalm 25

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.” (Psalms 25:1-3 NRSV)

Hebrew_bible_4Several years ago, I began thinking of Psalm 25 as a Psalm for the waiting times. There are lots of Psalms — and other passages of Scripture — like this, but I hadn’t always seen Psalm 25 this way.

Here is what I mean.

Many times in the Hebrew scriptures we are exhorted to “wait on the LORD” — and we are told the advantages of such an approach to life. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalms 27:14 NRSV) “For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” (Psalms 37:9 NRSV) “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope….” (Psalms 130:5 NRSV). (more…)

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A Prayer for Today (Jesus’ Prayer for Unity)

prayer&candle“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:20-24 NRSV).

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Calvinism and John 6:44

An email and my response:

 

Hello Mr. Adams,

I read with interest your comments on Calvin's comments on John 3:16 on your web site. I was wondering what your thoughts are on Jesus' words as recorded in John 6:44:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (NKJV)

(It is unfortunate that English editions tend to translate the Greek as "draws" rather than the more accurate "compels" — especially since it is also translated more accurately as "dragged" elsewhere.)

Have you considered that perhaps Calvin's "on the other hand" was intended to recognize what the whole of scripture says about this issue?
 
He just may have been appealing to theology that is rooted in scripture itself.

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Newbigin: All Proper Order is Overturned

John 13:5-8 (NRSV)
“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.'” 

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998)

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998)

[Peter’s horrified reaction at Jesus’ washing of his feet] is the reaction of normal human nature. That the disciple should wash his master’s feet is normal and proper. But if the master becomes a menial slave to the disciple, then all proper order is overturned…. All of us except those at the very bottom have a vested interest in keeping it so, for as long as we duly submit to those above us we are free to bear down on those below us. The action of Jesus subverts this order and threatens to destabilize all society. Peter’s protest is the protest of normal human nature.

… This is not just an acted lesson in humility; Peter could have understood that…. The foot washing is a sign of that ultimate subversion of all human power and authority which took place when Jesus was crucified by the decision of the “powers” that rule this present age. In that act the wisdom of this world was shown to be folly, and the “powers” of this world were disarmed (Col 2:15). But “flesh and blood” — ordinary human nature — is in principle incapable of understanding this. It is “to the Jew a scandal, to the Greek folly.” Only those whom the risen Christ will call and to whom the Holy Spirit will be given will know that this folly is the wisdom of God, and this weakness is the power of God. At that moment, as the man he is, Peter cannot understand. The natural man makes gods in his own image…. How can the natural man recognize the supreme God in the stooping figure of a slave, clad only with a loincloth?

— Lesslie Newbigin, The Light Has Come.

Hat tip to Wesley Hill for this quote.

 

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Gethsemane



Jesus-in-Gethsemane

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two eons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'” — Matthew 26:36-39 (NIV)

There is something mysterious about Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. There was a depth of suffering there that is impossible to imagine. In the gospel of Luke we are told that while he prayed “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 N1V). It is hard to conceive how one we know of as the Son of God could be in such emotional torment. He says to his closest followers: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” There is something incomprehensible about the sorrow of the Savior. Like the disciples, we observe the scene of Gethsemane, as it were, at a distance. There is something here into which we cannot enter. It is beyond us. (more…)

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Leave Her Alone – John 12:7

Before his last earthly Passover, Jesus has a meal with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. We are told “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:15). And, during the meal, something amazing and unexpected (actually embarrassing) happens: Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then wipes his feet with her hair. A word of rebuke arises. And Jesus replies with these words:

John 12:7 —

εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό·
“Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

Mary is the one who understands.

mary-anoints-the-feet-of-jesus

The way John sets the scene we understand as well. He says (verse 1): “Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” Jesus is with his close friends, but it is “six days before the Passover.” As readers, we know where the story is going even if some of the characters in the drama do not. The shadow of the Cross hangs over Jesus. Passover this year will mean betrayal, rejection, condemnation, and crucifixion. (more…)

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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. ”

— Revelation 1:4-7 (NRSV)

These scripture passages remind me of the words of an old favorite Gospel chorus:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

jesus-alpha-omegaThe season of Lent is certainly an invitation to turn our eyes upon Jesus once more.

And, it is interesting to note that this is the message of the book of Revelation, also. Here, continually, Jesus Christ is held before us as Savior, Lord of history and the center of our hope. A study of the book of Revelation ought to bring to us a clearer vision of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t, we have missed the point of it all. It is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1), and he appears in it continually. He is the Son of Pan, the Lamb, the White rider. He is always the central character. If we were to spend a lifetime studying this book (and you easily could) and miss the vision of Jesus Christ that lies at its heart, we would have wasted our time. John wrote this book to encourage people encountering persecution to “turn their eyes upon Jesus.” (more…)

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Craig Keener: Remarriage and Divorce

I am posting another of the excellent videos in Asbury Theological Seminary’s Seven Minute Seminary series.

In this video Dr. Craig Keener addresses the issue of Divorce and remarriage — particularly as it relates to the teaching of Jesus.

 

 

I appreciate the way he addresses this issue. But, I also wanted to post this for another reason. In this video, Dr. Keener raises the issue of whether Jesus used hyperbole (deliberate over-statement) in his teachings. Dr. Keener points out that he clearly did.

This is an important point to remember — especially for those of us who are tempted to ransack through Jesus’ teachings for rules and regulations — he just didn’t teach that way. He used overstatement to get our attention.

 

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On Peace, Love and Perfection – Matthew 5:38-48

sermon-on-the-mount-romaniaIn this passage Jesus is continuing the series of antithesis statements he began in verse 21. In these he fleshes out what he means by coming not to to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He goes beyond the law — not relaxing it, but pushing it further — pushing it toward its spiritual fulfillment. Jesus forces us to consider more than just outward fulfillment — he challenges us at the level of our motivations — our inner lives.

In verses 21-37 the issues were: destructive anger, covetous sexual desire, divorce, and the swearing of oaths. Here the issues are vengefulness, enemies, peace, and universal love for all.  Here the issue is how we treat — and think about — each other. This passage can be seen as a unit because of its closely related themes.

This is also one of those passages in the New Testament that uses the word τέλειος — often translated “perfect” — which gave rise to the phrase “Christian Perfection”— often used by John Wesley (and his followers) to talk about the spiritual life. The phrase was misunderstood from the beginning and still is today — and it’s easy to see why. Looking at verse 48 in its context may help to sort out some of the confusion.

But, our goal in looking at this passage is much larger than that one issue — it is to understand how Jesus interprets the Old Testament law and applies it to life. (more…)

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How Jesus Fulfills the Law – Matthew 5:21-37

sermon-on-the-mount-romaniaJesus has already stated that the purpose of his ministry was in no way to destroy the Law and the prophets (that is, the Old Testament) but to fulfill them. In this passage he begins to flesh out what that means. He seeks to bring the Old Testament law and teaching into its fulfillment by expounding its inner intent and purpose for the people of his own day.

In “fulfilling” the law, he fills it up with meaning, demonstrating how it reveals to us the will and purpose of God. It is for this reason that the Israelites meditated upon the law — seeking not just to keep it but to understand its inner meaning.

This passage begins a series of antithesis statements: “You have heard that it was said…”But I say….” In doing this he in no way seeks to undermine the importance or authority of the Old Testament’s teaching. He is stating the inner intent of the law — the spiritual significance of the law — for the moral and spiritual lives of the people. Notice that his sayings in these verses do not relax the law — in fact, they make them more demanding. In Jesus’ teaching the issue is not just murder, but destructive anger and rage. In Jesus’ teaching the issue is not just adultery, but the lust that makes people into objects. The issue is not the words of an oath, the issue is basic honesty.

Jesus seeks to establish among his disciples a righteousness greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees — not more meticulous, but more in line with the will and purpose of God revealed behind the letter of the law. (more…)

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