Has anyone ever told you to “follow your heart”, “be who you really are”, “do what feels right” or something like this? Such an imperative usually comes from a person who means well, and wants you to know it. I want to add a few drops of digital ink to the ocean which is the internet with the hope of showing why such statements are so hazardous to a correct perception of your identity as a Christian and to your passion for life.
On Friday I spoke of the death and burial of Christ. I went to a Good Friday service with my girlfriend that evening, and it was an excellent portrayal of the depth of Jesus’ agony on the cross as he took the sins of all humanity upon himself, all the while experiencing the wrath of God in punishment for sin. That day was the darkest in all of history, because God himself gave up his life in sacrifice for sinful man. God incarnate hung naked on a cross, beaten, bloody and bruised. He gasped for breath, fighting just to exhale. Professional executioners gathered around to mock him, gamble for his clothes and inflict as much pain as possible upon him, ultimately stabbing him with a spear and leaving him to die. He was taken down from the cross, that instrument of torture, and was laid in a tomb, never to walk the earth again — so thought his executioners. The good news is that they were wrong.
What is good about Good Friday? After all, it is the day we mark the death of Jesus Christ, which took place as the result of the outpouring of God’s wrath against mankind, and this upon a sinless man!
Consider the weight upon Jesus’ shoulders, so much that he would cry out “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death!“, while at the Garden of Gethsemane, which refers to an oil press, where a heavy stone would crush olives, squeezing every drop out of them.
For the last month I’ve been working through a series where I show how God’s actions toward Christians are the ultimate example of several of the most common human emotions. We are comforted by God, known by God, loved by God and forgiven by God. I have not explained this series very clearly, so allow me to do that.
I woke up at 2 am today and couldn’t go back to sleep, so naturally I decided to take advantage of the time. Part of doing that was writing in my journal, and as I frequently do, I went and read some old stuff I’ve written. Today I happened upon notes from a sermon I heard on October 5th, 2014, out of Matthew 26:69-27:10. Here’s what I wrote as a summary of the message:
“Be sorrowful over sins. It is appropriate to weep bitterly over them. Proceed then to an understanding of the glory of Christ’s majesty in his resurrection. We are saved through him, and we triumph in his blood!”
This spoke to me, and I hope it does to you as well. Be sorrowful for your sins, yes. More importantly, have a proper knowledge of Christ’s status and your standing before him.
Moral of the story: Preaching is powerful, and good notes allow good preaching to continue to be powerful long after the last word has faded from your ears.
Love is one of the most overused and wrongly used words in the entire English language. You love your dog, french fries and your spouse. There’s clearly a difference, but it is critically important for us as Christians to make this difference explicit, especially in light of the great love with which God has loved us. This post seeks to reclaim an element of the particularity of the word, and to show not only that God loves you, but also how and to what extent he loves you.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last week reflecting on relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but also general, personal human relationships. They form the base of society, and yet we frequently treat them with casual disregard. I want to explore some aspects of relationships, particularly how critical healthy relationships are to normal life, and how a relationship with God is so much more important than anything else.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming a couple of things about you. First, you are a human, and thus have feelings and emotions. Second, because of these feelings and emotions, you have been hurt at some point in your life, some of you deeply hurt by those who should have taken care of you. The third thing I assume about you is that you did not enjoy the process of being hurt. This part isn’t complicated. People hurt other people and the consequences are not fun. This is the result of sin in the world, and as long as there is still sin, there will be pain.
I just returned from a weekend retreat with the youth group I work with. If you’ve ever gone to a youth retreat, you know that they’re usually loud, energetic and fun, but all too frequently, the theology presented is weak and shallow. This was fortunately not the case this weekend (not too badly, anyway).
It made me think about the purpose of such retreats though. Why do we take the time to bring young people a couple hundred miles from home, keep them up late, hype them up and even spend money on it? Continue reading
Note: I published a version of this post a year ago. Writing and publishing it then was really helpful for me as I worked through some major grief. Since I published it though, I have experienced the loss of my grandfather and a number of other smaller, but still difficult things, all of which caused me grief and sorrow. God has worked in me tremendously, and I believe will be helpful to publish this reworked version of last year’s post.
Something that has been weighing heavily on my mind for the last year is the idea of Christian lament. How should Christians go about the grieving, mourning or lamenting process? Beyond this, how must we handle depression or times of intense sadness? I believe these are issues the church has failed to address for a long time, and ones that we must speak out on. My reasons for believing this are varied, but essentially they come down to a question of the function of the Church. If we believe (as the bible teaches) that the Church is to be a place where we can both reach a lost world for Christ and also build up Christians in their knowledge of God, helping them mature, we must be prepared to speak out on real-world issues. Continue reading