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Coming To The Place That Doesn’t Exhaust Us (via Sarah Condon)

It’s a worry if the church simply transfers the exhausting, life-draining, joy-sucking demands of the rest of life to its own agenda and programs.
The Gospel demands that people need something very different than to feel that their church sees them as a resource to meet their goals.
Worse still, the thought that coming to church is some sort of activity they need to perform in order to gain or keep some sort of spiritual capital.
I hope the disciples of Jesus who gather week by week at Mount Gambier know that they’re gathering in the one place that doesn’t want a piece of them.

From Sarah Condon:

We do not come to church because we get a gold star. We come to church because we have tried everything else and it turns out we continue to be exhausted by the world and our lives. Church is a last-ditch effort for many of us. It is what happens before we start drinking more or isolating more or doing whatever it is that harangues us, more.

Read more here.

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The Touch That Turns Everything Upside Down – The Contagion Of Grace (via Rosaria Butterfield at ESV Bible Blog)

When a leper seeks Jesus, the leper wants one thing – not a change in social status – not a change in health – what the leper wants is Jesus.
From Rosaria Butterfield.

And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean’” (Luke 5:13).
That touch changed the man. But the touch did more than that. That touch changed the world.
When Jesus touched the leper, he did not invent grace. God the Father did, and we see this throughout the Old Testament, even in healing leprosy. The great Syrian general Naaman was healed of his leprosy by Elisha, thanks to the spiritual wisdom of a nameless Hebrew slave girl who knew above all else that there is a prophet in Israel who heals (2 Kings 5:1–14). Luke records how important Naaman’s healing was: “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:27). I suspect Elisha healed Naaman for the sake of the nameless Hebrew slave, whose faith was strong and more contagious than the leprosy of her master. Indeed, she had faith that Elisha could do something that he had never done before. Because that is what real faith is: resting in assurance on a promise of God that has yet to be materialized.
It is vital to see what healing and salvation mean when they come from the hand of God.
It is vital to have the eyes to see what Jesus did. It is also vital to see what Jesus did not do.
He did not tell the leper that God loved and approved of him just as he was. Jesus did not say that the problem of leprosy was a social construction rooted only in the mind of the beholder, and now that “grace” had arrived, “the law” was no longer binding. Jesus did not encourage the leper to develop greater self-esteem. Nor did Jesus rebuke the faith community for upholding irrational taboos against leprosy—leprophobia. No. The problem was the contagion, and the contagion was no social construct. The contagion was dangerous. When Jesus walked the earth, he wasn’t afraid to touch hurting people. He drew people in close. He met them empty and left them full. Jesus turned everything upside down.

Read the whole post at the ESV Bible Blog.

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If You Want To Kill The Gospel, Add A Bit Of Religious Gloom (via Steve Brown)

If Jesus had atoned for it, stop living in misery over it.
Live like someone who’s been forgiven of something they never thought they’d be forgiven for.

From Steve Brown (who makes me smile).

If You Want To Kill The Gospel, Add A Bit Of Religious Gloom.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
The fact is that those who remain in a perpetual state of woe and depression over their sin are often the same ones who teach the doctrines of grace.
If you knew that Jesus was coming back next Thursday, what would you do? You would probably repent, go through remorse, and spend the time remaining in prayer and fasting. Not me. If I knew that Jesus was coming back next Thursday, I would buy a Mercedes because I’m tired of my old Honda and run up the credit cards.
The reason you’re so shocked is that Jesus likes me more than he likes you!
It feels like arrogance, but it’s not. It’s the simple realization that I have nothing to prove, nothing to lose and nothing to hide. I’m screwed up and Jesus, because I’ve put my faith in him, likes me a lot.
You too.


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The Origins Of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’

Hallelujah is a song composed by Leonard Cohen and performed by hundreds of popular music artists.
Come Christmas time you may hear another set of lyrics that have been composed as a seasonal (Christian) version.
If you want to know more about the background of the song this Mental Floss article has a few facts I hadn’t read before.

The article makes the observation that the many, many, many (too many) renditions of the song might make it seem overexposed, but the word at the heart of the song “Hallelujah” is both an invitation to, as well an expression of, praise.

In 2009, after the song appeared in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, Cohen agreed with a critic who called for a moratorium on covers. “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told The Guardian. “But too many people sing it.”
Except “Hallelujah” is a song that urges everyone to sing. That’s kind of the point. The title is from a compound Hebrew word comprising hallelu, to praise joyously, and yah, the name of god. As writer Alan Light explains in his 2013 book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah,” the word hallelujah was originally an imperative—a command to praise the Lord. In the Christian tradition, it’s less an imperative than an expression of joy: “Hallelujah!” Cohen seemingly plays on both meanings.


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Forgiveness And A Hug For His Brother’s Murderer

If you haven’t seen this anywhere else, watch it now.
If you have seen it, watch it again.
From the FOX 10 Phoenix Youtube page where this is posted:

A former Dallas police officer was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for killing an unarmed man in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below.
As people outside of the courtroom reacted angrily to the 10-year sentence given to Amber Guyger for killing Botham Jean in his apartment, believing it was too lenient, his brother was allowed to address her directly from the witness stand.
Brandt Jean told Guyger that he thinks his brother would have wanted her to turn her life over to Christ, and that if she can ask God for forgiveness, she will get it.
“I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you,” he said to the 31-year-old Guyger, before adding, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?”

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Winning By Losing (via Chad Bird)

The sacraments of modern culture are personal achievements, measured, quantified, compared. But they are not enough to provide a satisfaction that we have connection with eternity. There is no rest, only striving.
The good news is something better than that.
From Chad Bird:

In the kingdom of the almighty number, where the first are first and even the second are last, we remember only the names of those who are the cream of the crop.
In the kingdom of the humble Christ, where the first are last and the last are first, God rememberers even the names of those who sink to the bottom.
For in the church, we win by losing, are humbled to be exalted, receive a name even when lost in anonymity.

Chad Bird, Your God Is Too Glorious, Baker Books, 2018, 113.

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The Endless Self-Justifying Life And The Gospel (via J.D. Greear)

Finding security in our ability to successfully construct a life is destructive of relationship because others who do not conform to that from which we derive security detract from our assurance of security.
In the Bible it’s as old as Cain and Abel.
From J.D. Greear.

St. Augustine said that before they sinned, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed because they were clothed in God’s love and acceptance. One of the first effects of sin after the fall was a sense of shame over their nakedness. They had always been naked, but without God’s approval, now they felt naked.
That’s a picture of the human race: We feel exposed, unacceptable, and ashamed. Our whole lives are spent as a quest to re-clothe ourselves. We’re always looking for what sets us apart and makes us “right.” We’re always looking for something to validate us, something to prove that we’ve earned our place in this world.
But apart from Christ, whatever we turn to for our justification becomes a snare.
Worse, it becomes a point of division in our communities—and in the church. If I’m trusting in my parenting to be made right, then I need to be a better parent than you. If I’m trusting in my moral goodness, then I need to present a better picture of holiness than you. If I’m trusting in my group of friends, then I automatically assume that we are the good guys and they are the bad guys.
Thank God justification doesn’t work this way. It is given to us freely as a gift in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul says, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith” (Romans 3:27 CSB).
The gospel eliminates boasting, not by telling us to stop boasting, but by undercutting the very basis of pride: We aren’t saved by anything we do. We can’t keep the law. We can’t make any claim to success on our own virtue. At our core—at our best—we are a race of miserable failures. There is none righteous, not even one.
In fact, we are so bad, Jesus had to die to save us. And that destroys the basis of pride.