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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.

source


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Guilt Based Deterrents Should Not Become Substitutes For The Self-Examination That Brings Growth In Grace (via Winn Collier)

The Gospels contrast the disciples of Jesus who were not consistently clear about what they wanted with those at the margins (like blind Bartimaeus) who were completely focussed on their need.
Jesus keeps asking a question (actually or implied) of those he encounters to help them understand that their present desire was masking their need or was leading them away from understanding their need of God.

From Winn Collier.

accountability is a Christian buzzword. Designed to aid spiritual formation, the (good) intention is to walk and struggle and live honestly with a spiritual friend who know s our foibles and our mess and loves us toward Jesus anyway. However accountability often devolves into a spiritual lashing, when we attempt to manage our behaviour by the sheer terror of having to ‘fess up. Numerous lists of questions have been designed to serve the accountability process, but they usually tread shallow water, only uncovering external scandalous behaviours: Have I looked at porn this week? Have I used my money wisely? Have I given emotional intimacy with someone other than my husband? However, I have never – not once – seen Jesus’ question make the list: what do I want?

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pgs 147-148.


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What We Are

Disciples of Jesus are not subversives, we are not rebels, we are not anarchists; disciples of Jesus are light.

That is how we are the means by which God changes the world.


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The Quiet Of Easter versus Performance Almighty

It interests me watching modern evangelicalism struggle more and more about what to do with Easter.
Good Friday was a spiritual pause, a pause that lasted until the acknowledgment of resurrection on Sunday morning.
Now any thought of pause seems something to be avoided and Good Friday seems to be identical to Easter Sunday.
How can you pause and rest in God when the focus is on the productivity of your own response to grace.
We can never allow the weekend that focuses on resting in the work of God to become the primary example of a never-ending striving to perfection.
From David Zahl.

Faith that more often than not begins with an admission of losing and need morphs into a hectic competition for spiritual justification, in which we baptize our busyness with religious language. Before we know it, God has ceased to be a good shepherd and turned into the Taskmaster-in-the-Sky, or worse, another name for the persecutor within. “I just couldn’t keep it up anymore!” is the refrain I’ve heard from many a refugee from performancist churches.
If there’s a difference today, it has to do with the vanishing of outlets where the pressure of perfection might be vented. It’s easier to develop a sense of enoughness, for example, when your pool of peers is in the hundreds rather than the millions, when the primary venues of comparison close shop at 5:00 p.m. Similarly, it’s a lot harder to recover from a youthful indiscretion when the internet has made the record of your adolescence permanent and searchable.
Capital-R Religion once provided a space to come clean and maybe even be absolved of shortcoming and guilt. Church wasn’t busy. If anything, it was boring and full of silence, a respite from the noise of daily demand, a local repository of peace and forgiveness. The good ones at least.

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Becoming A Christian Is Not Tantamount To Becoming An Extrovert (via Sammy Rhodes)

Sometimes I feel the effective Christian life is confined to one personality type. Or, at the very least, that it’s not fair that one personality type seems ideally suited for reaching out.
Sammy Rhodes gives some relief with an observation that the Good News is embodied in a community of all types of people.

One line in particular has stayed with me. “Becoming a Christian is not tantamount [to] becoming an extrovert.” We could also add that being a Christian is not tantamount to being an extrovert, yet a casual visit to almost any Christian gathering could lead you to conclude the opposite. This varies from group to group, but the pressure is there. Typically this is because we’ve exalted a method (or methods) over the message.
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If you have a method or formula more than you have a message or truth, then you implicitly rule out all the person— ality types that can’t pull off your method or formula. If you have a message, however, then you invite all kinds of personality types to embody and reflect that message through a variety of different gifts and methods. This is exactly what Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians when he compared the church to a body, with different members being like different parts of the body, all working together with none being more important than the other. How beautiful are the feet that bring good news, Isaiah tells us. But where would the mouth be if the feet couldn’t take it to places where it might be heard? Where would the feet be if the brain couldn’t tell them how and where to walk?

Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward, Thomas Nelson, 2016, pg 132, 133.


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God Moves In A Mysterious Way – The Legacy Hymn Of William Cowper

Scott Hubbard writes about William Cowper, who on New Year’s Day 1773 was about to slip into a depression that would remain for the rest of his life.
Anticipating that descending darkness Cowper wrote the hymn God Moves In A Mysterious Way.
From Hubbard’s article:

… before night fell on Cowper’s soul, he sat in the light of his remaining sanity, took up his pen, and wrote a hymn that has strengthened generations of staggering saints through their various shadows.
Take Courage
Cowper’s hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” is a song for every saint who sits on the edge. It is a guide for all who do not see fresh hopes rising over the horizon of the new year. It is a confession of faith in the face of darkness — one that flickers with enough light to carry us through whatever midnights this year brings.
At the heart of the hymn is a simple exhortation: “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take.” Take courage. Take courage when the clouds come thundering toward you. Take courage when the coming days seem covered in shadow. Take courage when you cannot understand God’s ways.
But why, we ask in the valley, should we take courage? Throughout the rest of the hymn, Cowper gives his reasons.

Read the rest of the post at Desiring God.

Here’s Nathan Tasker’s rendition of the hymn.
I wanted a version that has the lyrics to the forefront.


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Why Church Should Be Nothing Like Cross-Fit (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

I’ve been dabbling a little bit in personal fitness for a while now, so I’ve got lots of respect for those who exercise.
This article by
Connor Gwin on Mockingbird
interacts with popular thought about why gyms and exercise fill a space in some modern lives that used to be filled by church.
It wants to tease out that the thought that people can find more personally meaningful “content and wisdom and community” in gyms is because the church has been conditioning them to expect the wrong thing.
There are texts in the New Testament that utilise athletic metaphors, but they are not based so much in self-improvement as they are in increased resting in the finished work of Christ in order to grow more like him.
From the article:

What troubles me is that we so easily make the jump from church to gym.
This argument of the Vox article starts from the assumption that religion and religious institutions are “providers of content and wisdom and community.”
From the outside, this is an easy assumption to make. Those of us within the church can fall into this trap too easily as well. The church is not just a provider of content and community. Ritual is not “this really helpful way of making people think of something greater.” The church and the rituals contained therein are forms of participation in reality as opposed to the delusion of my own sinful understanding.
The church does not exist to “make people better” like CrossFit. The church exists first and foremost for the worship of Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. This sole focus serves to remind people who they are and to proclaim the Good News that we cannot make ourselves better but there is One who makes us whole.
The church is not a provider of spiritual wisdom, but foolishness. It does not exist for improvement or even growth. Saying that CrossFit is the logical home for those who no longer darken the doors of the church is an indictment of the church more than anything.
It shouldn’t be an easy walk from the pew to the weight bench, but it is made easy by a Christianity that looks more like a spiritual fitness program than a Gospel balm.
Any mention of “nones” and someone will mention the “dones,” those who are burned out and tired of giving their all to the church. For the “dones,” the prospect of endless burpees sounds better than one more sermon about the next political issue they need to care about or the next moral ladder they need to climb.
What is happening in the church when the Workout of the Day sounds like better news than the Gospel?
Jesus is not a personal trainer or a guru espousing wisdom. Jesus is Lord, and he calls to each of us, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.