The Wonderful Cross

Chris Tomlin’s lyrics are a great place to start with singing glory to our Savior King Jesus, but our praises mustn’t end there. First, we need to think about the words we are singing.

When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain, I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

What is wondrous about the cross on which our Lord died? Nothing whatsoever! It represents the curse that Jesus bore for us, who truly deserve to so die. The fact that He actually chose to die in our place because of His love for us, His wayward creation, is the most wondrous thing of all. But that awful cross? Just two pieces of lumber; nothing special about that.

Christendom has elevated the cross, a symbol of Christ’s redemptive work for us, to the status of a religious icon. We’re okay as long as we only view it as the symbol, but when we elevate it to a position of singular importance and venerate it as a source of God’s grace, we are in danger of becoming idolaters.

Some Christian denominations cover their church buildings’ walls with icons representing Jesus, saints and religious objects. Others condemn using icons in worship. Both extremes are wrong when they take pride in their respective beliefs and make them conditions for spiritual fellowship.

Now, for the phrase, “Prince of Glory.” Maybe I’m picking nits, but I wonder if using a non-Biblical title for our Lord Jesus is quite the thing to do. He is indeed the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and the King of Glory (Psalm 24). Would the lyrics have suffered if Tomlin had used, “King of Glory” instead? The cadence would have been the same, so why not use the Biblical phrase?

The balance of that stanza cries out a truth that the church badly needs to grasp. Oh, aren’t we into worldly gain! The more, the merrier! Ephesians 4:17-32 gives us a strong statement of how we must conduct ourselves in the church and the world. Apostle Paul begins with, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” Then, in verse twenty-eight he adds, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” Does that include any provision for accumulating possessions? Can we find that anywhere in the New Covenant of God’s grace? So, why do we insist on devoting ourselves to accumulating possessions for our own glory?

Finally, Tomlin’s second and third stanzas remind us of Christ’s depth of suffering and the response we owe to Him.

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose, so rich a crown

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all

Read more: Chris Tomlin – The Wonderful Cross Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Why Lukewarm?

Francis Chan

I mean, not speaking of myself, of course; it’s all those people. You know, the less-spiritual “brethren:” The ones who don’t spend enough time in God’s Word. The ones who don’t help out. The ones whose lives are too hurried for much prayer. The ones who fill their minds with worldly entertainments. And the ones who follow pop-culture’s behavioral and fashion trends, rather than Godly principles.

Wait a sec! That’s me, except for the last one. No one would ever accuse me of being trendy. Those are the kinds of things that gradually cover our eyes with worldly-colored contacts, nudging our world view and priorities away from what Jesus taught, one teeny-tiny step at a time. Walk that path very long, and no one will recognized Christ’s presence within—that is, if He’s still there.

Bible Gateway sent me a link to the article, Biblical Literacy by the Numbers: Fixing the Problem, where Ed Stetzer suggests: 1) Viewing the Bible as a whole, as opposed to fracturing it into sound-bites to suit our purposes, or taking a, “spiritual fast-food,” approach to our “McBibles.” 2) Creating a reading and study plan, personally or congregationally, since becoming conversant with God’s word flows from the top down. 3) Teach the Bible, not predigested curricula that may, or may not, present Biblical principles faithfully. 4) Teach and preach from the best contemporary translations, while taking older, more established versions, into consideration.

Stetzer summarizes with, “Reading the Bible is actually part of the abundant life Christ has given us,” but I say it’s far more. Only when God’s Holy Spirit makes His Word alive within us, will we understand His life-giving principles, but each Christ-follower—that’s you and I—must commit to learning them. We cannot live the Christian life without them.

The resurrected and glorified Jesus told His disciple John to warn the Laodecian church about the consequences of their lukewarm commitment to Him (Revelation 3:14-22). If there are ages within the historical Christian church, we are now in the Laodecian age, where we take our ease, having, in our own minds, satisfied Christ’s minimum requirements for salvation. We are rich (by the world’s standards), we have become wealthy, and have need of nothing … nothing but repentance.

Another View of Creation

I just discovered an oddity: a Christian scientist. Not an adherent of Christian Science, but a scientist who, though once and atheist, is now a Christian. I discovered him through a video titled, “Francis Collins Denies Intelligent Design.” Like me, you have probably never heard of Dr. Francis Collins. If you click here you can learn why what he says is important.

Dr. Collins’ position on the origin of the universe won’t sit well with the Evangelical Christians that I know; he says creation and evolution are perfectly compatible, and that science and faith are parallel world views with little bearing on one another. While his position is reasonable, I’m not convinced that God’s eternal Word created the universe through a Big Bang. He certainly could have created the universe with the appearance of age, like the young-Earthers preach, but I have to wonder why. Here is Collins’ rationalle for his position:

Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time. God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings. After evolution, in the fullness of time, had prepared a sufficiently advanced neurological house (the brain), God gifted human with free will and with a soul. Thus humans received a special status, “made in God’s image.” We humans used our free will to disobey God, leading to our realization of being in violation of the Moral Law. Thus we were estranged from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement.

If you find this presentation reprehensible, I challenge you to act like a Berean and search the Scriptures to see whether or not these things are true. We all have a great body of beliefs that we have received through our church culture, and we need to know, from the Bible, why we believe them.

As I alluded above, I don’t buy it, especially the human part of his story. The Bible clearly states that God made Adam from the dust of the ground; we didn’t evolve with the other animals, from the same single-cell organisms that floated around in the primordial soup. As for the literal, six twenty-four hour days of creation, while I readily admit that God could have done the job that quickly, I need to see more Biblical evidence to arrive there. His ways are not our ways, and similarly, His understanding is not our understanding. I think the part of Genesis 2 that catches me is verses four and five: This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. The word for “day” is the same one used in verse one and all the other references to days of creation. Verse four uses “day” as a period of time during which God created the heavens and the earth.

Feel free to weigh in on the debate, without name-calling and emotional rants. Show me book, chapter, and verse for your position. If I’m wrong, I want to know why.

A Lesson From Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert of Bavaria discovered an interesting phenomenon that makes glass harder than steel. This YouTube video from Smarter Every Day demonstrates its properties.

Did you notice how the exceedingly strong lump of glass could only be broken by snapping the weaker, tail-section? That suggests an equally mysterious phenomenon within God’s church; as strong as the church is against outside attack, internal stresses can explode it.

When glass is held in a flame until it’s hot enough, it begins to flow like an extremely thick liquid, with its high-viscosity holding it in a single mass. Similarly, when God’s church is spiritually hot enough, it too begins to move, and like a liquid, it fills voids in people’s lives. When the church cools, however, it becomes brittle enough to break easily under stress.

I found the almost-instant, explosive force flowing from a break in the relatively weak tail particularly fascinating. God’s Spirit holds his church together and strong through the people’s individual characteristics and interpersonal dynamics, but the tiniest break can release those dynamics explosively and travel through the church at lightening speed.

The enemy will most certainly use the church’s internal stresses to fracture it, but that can’t happen as long as it’s kept hot by the Holy Spirit’s fire.

Why Muslim Dr. Nabeel Qureshi Converted to Christianity

First, grab a note pad and a pencil, ’cause you’re going to want to take notes; this has some of the best apologetics I’ve heard. Oh, and some Kleenex, if you really love Jesus.

Dr. Qureshi presented this talk on, “Why Islam?” He interpreted that to mean: Why and how should we engage Muslims to share the gospel with them?

  • Muslim family values:
    They are close-knit.
    Their lives are immersed in prayer and devotion.
    They have strong moral principles.
    Young Muslims are taught to be ambassadors for Islam.
    They must be known for their truthfulness.
    They must show respect for their elders.
    They must know the Koran in Arabic.
    They must pray consistently, including the five daily prayers.
    Families must center their lives around their religion.
  • Religious values:
    There is one God, Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.
    Performing the Five Pillars earns Allah’s favor: To proclaim that Allah is God, and Muhammad is his messenger. To pray the five daily prayers. To pay alms. To fast. To go on pilgrimage.
    If they are good Muslims they will go to heaven.
    Allah is unknowable, transcendent, and Muslims are simply his slaves.
    Some Muslims work to please Allah because they love him, but most are just trying to please him.
    If someone tries to share their Christian faith, a Muslim must share Islam with them.
  • Beliefs:
    Muslims believe the truth matters.
    Muslims believe in Jesus and what he did, but they refuse to accept his divinity and death on the cross.
    When witnessing to Christians they challenge Jesus’ deity, and most Christians can’t counter that from the Scriptures.
  • Arguments with David in University that led to his conversion. (15.00)
    Attacks on the Bible’s authority and accuracy, and David’s defenses.
    Three issues he had to investigate: 1; Is Jesus Lord? 2; Did he die on the cross for our sins? 3; Did he rise from the dead after three days?
  • The rational process that led him to Christ.

THE INVASION — A Review

I just watched THE INVASION, another BODY SNATCHERS-type movie.

Oliver Hirschbiegel and James McTeigue directed Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig et al. in a reasonably entertaining and gripping tale of alien spores attaching themselves to a space shuttle and causing it to crash to earth, spreading the spores half-way across the United States in a swath two hundred miles wide. As those hardy buggers weren’t in the least affected by either the cold of space or the heat of reentry into the atmosphere, they invaded human bodies and began changing them into dispassionate, purpose-driven beings who looked exactly like the people they infected. And their purpose? To turn Earth into a Utopian society with none of the social problems we’ve learned to live with.

That scenario affords a glimpse into the world’s perspective on being reborn in God’s Spirit; they see spiritual rebirth as an invasion of our personhood, changing us into something that we are not. In a way I can’t blame unbelievers for arriving at that conclusion, considering Bible passages and preaching that speaks of being filled with God’s Holy Spirit and death to self. But for one significant error in that reasoning, I could easily buy into it. That error is the assumption that we evolved into what we are through random mutations and natural selection (survival of the fittest), with no higher purpose for it all. Of course, the truth is God created us for a very specific purpose: to be the recipients of his love, and to voluntarily submit to his Lordship. Thing is, God will never override our free will, as he gave it to us in the first place. He doesn’t forcibly invade our bodies with some bland, unfeeling entity. In fact, just the opposite is true: He allows us to become the people he created us to be, and to enjoy the supernatural peace and joy that he affords.

In short, THE INVASION is good movie with a false moral. But what else can we expect from Hollywood.

TRANSCENDENCE

This film tackles a … shall I say … transcendent theme, and at least from a materialistic world view, tackled it rather well. Johnny Depp and company made the futuristic scenario believable, and even evoked my sympathy for the god-like artificial being that Dr. Will Caster (Depp’s character) became.

Dr. Caster presented a lecture early in the film where an anti-technology activist in the audience asked a probing question, “So … you want to create a god? Your own god?”

To which Dr. Caster, echoing atheists throughout history, answered, “That’s a very good question. Isn’t that what man has always done?”

That is a very insightful answer, as in a way it is true. Man, left to his own devices, naturally creates his own gods; the history of religion attests to that fact. And that is why God, in Christ Jesus, intervened in our history to save us from ourselves. In TRANSCENDENCE, Dr. Caster tried to do the same thing through technology. One could say it would be the high-tech version of the Tower of Babel.

This film echoed another atheistic view as well; the town’s people, and many others who bused and drove in, submitted to the computer’s “networking” them, allowing themselves to become automatons. Non-believers in Christ view our discipleship in the same way, if they have any thoughts on the subject at all. I would that God did control us in that way, but he has always refused to invade our personal volition, which is one of the chief attributes he shared with us at creation.

TRANSCENDENCE is a great bit of futuristic entertainment, and I recommend it to Christ-followers who are well-grounded in their faith. For anyone wavering on the brink of that solid rock who is Christ, however, it could stimulate the wrong kind of speculation. Remember, we must take human wisdom, and most especially human entertainment, with great quantities of salt.

Dave Barry Learns Everything You Need to Know About Being a Husband From Reading 50 Shades of Grey | TIME

If you typically react with offense or nausea to humor that employs PG-13 level … ah … um … “gender” related … I mean … well … physically that is … subject matter, you probably aught to pass up Dave Barry’s hilarious review of E.L. James’ runaway best-seller novel, 50 Shades of Grey. At least, I thought it’s hilarious, but then, I’m weird. While it uses some frank terms to describe bodily processes—like I said, it’s roughly PG-13 rated—the humor is pure Dave Barry. And if you’ve ever wondered about all the fuss regarding 50 Shades of Grey, read this review first.

So, that’s my way shorter and somewhat less funny review of Dave Barry’s review. If all those hyperlinks suggest to you that I consider Dave Barry’s review worth reading, you are correct.

“But where,” you might ask, “is the famous spiritual content that I’ve come to anticipate in “The Well-Dressed Branch”? To that I might answer, it’s all over the place in Dave Barry’s review, by means of his comparison between men’s and women’s communication styles, and his sarcastic ridicule of the novel’s ridiculous, verbally pornographic content, euphemistically known as erotica. Barry simply confirms one of my semi-regular themes; women are every bit as likely to consume porn as men, but since it’s hasn’t got pictures, they consider it more respectable. But, if you seek sexual arousal from it, you aren’t exactly in tight with God.

Okay, since I couldn’t play the harp if my life depended upon it, I’ll cease my harping on this well-worn topic.

You’re welcome.

Don’t Say “Ouch”

Say, “Lord, help me.”

I heard some fantastic preaching today at Parkgate Community Church in Pasadena, Texas, while I was washing a sinkload of dishes in Kalispell, Montana. The second sermon ended when the dishes ran out—yes, it was that bad. If you are considering giving ear to Pastor Ken Boggs’ preaching, I can promise it’s more-than worth the time spent.

Pastors Ken, Jim, and a guest speaker, have been preaching through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. So far, this is convicting preaching, or it should be for some of those people. Well, Apostle Paul admitted to making crazy, worldly statements in his letters to make a point, so why can’t I? In fact, I didn’t even get off scot free.

Since you’re reading this, I assume you can access said preaching on your own, so I won’t try to re-preach what I heard. It’s tempting, even though I certainly couldn’t add anything of value to it.

The one thing Pastor Ken didn’t say that I desperately wish he had is (even though I just said that I wouldn’t), “If you consider this message as something others need to hear, you need it more than they.” We all have trouble keeping our eyes on our own hearts instead of others’. God won’t convict anyone but you from his Word and its preaching.

So, again I say, “Lord help me to live according to the light you’ve given me, and not worry about others’ lives.