March 2010


We have come to the mid-point of our Lenten journey that will lead us to the Cross of The Christ. Remembering the original journey of our Lord to Jerusalem in those final weeks, we can’t help but wonder, “What was in his mind and heart”?

Here is a reading from the Book of Common Prayer for this the fourth Sunday of Lent, taken from Psalm 18.

18:1  “I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me; [1]
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. “

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I have no difficulty at all on this Sunday of 2010 A.D. of envisioning that Scripture passages such as this were the very things that encouraged and strengthend Jesus of Nazareth, the Servant of God, to continue his journey. And I personally am sustained by His Spirit to continue in my own journey.

A matter of life and death

 Following our introduction of hell into the Lenten meditations, I can’t think of a better subject than that of the “provision of love” of the very God who is “angry”; the God who has prepared hell for the devil and his demons.

That in a nutshell is what the Cross of Jesus Christ is all about. That is what we must think of during this concentrated time called Lent. So how does the gift of life that is in Christ alone become ours? Here again, by lifting parts out of the Biblical narrative and out of their natural context, the Church of Jesus Christ continues to debate the “how-to”of escaping hell. This debate is so serious that the very symbol Christ gave us of our unity in Him, continues to be “a thorn in the flesh” to keep the churches from celebrating this sacrament together. And the watching world looks on amazed and amused.

Here is a brief look inside the Anglican discussion. It reminds me of a conference that Touchstone Magazine sponsored in 2001 on our “unity & the divisions” and why they must be sustained.

“In my preaching I have emphasized how much our service of Holy Communion stresses the Gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice, and also of the partaking/communion/fellowship we have with Him by receiving His life-giving Body and Blood. Our service emphasizes that we are celebrating a sacrament “generally necessary to salvation,”1 and that by faithful eating and drinking of it we have eternal life, feeding a future immortality that will be given to us by the Resurrected Christ when he comes on the Last Day. 2 In short, the emphasis of the Holy Communion service in Book of Common Prayer has everything to do with our salvation.” – Robert Hart

Read the full post and discussions,”Because He first Loved Us“.

I love and appreciate the ministry of Robert, but I would humbly submit to him and others, it is exactly because Christ and His Father loved us first that simply cannot remain divided before the watching world; especially over our different understandings/interpretations of the celebration of the Lord’s Table. We cannot and must not insist on the past luxury of remaining with those “just like us”; we must go forward to a “greater loyalty“(see earlier post).

Hell is an essential part of LENT.

To not speak of hell is not an option for those who want to be faithful to the Biblical story. It shows up in many places where the word itself is not specifically used. But the concept is there in both the Old as well as the New Testaments.

So we must speak and to answer my own question of how, I will say first, with dignity and respect for all of you who will read this post. I confess that this is hard to do and not something that is very common in our religious history. Just think of the latest example. The ad that was rejected by the Super-bowl committee for the game/soon to be movie, “Dante’s Inferno“.(see Dante’s “Divine Comedy“)

But this version of hell as well as the classic it takes it’s name from is not exactly the concept and theme that is so central in the Biblical narrative. I’ve heard that Jesus the Christ himself spoke more about this theme than anything else other than the Kingdom of God. I listened to a free-download of a sermon (abbreviated), said to be the most famous sermon ever preached in America. It is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“, preached by Jonathan Edwards on July 8, 1741. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

May I suggest that we all down-load this mp3 version and listen to it as it represents faithfully the Biblical concept as well as any sermon can. No book and certainly no one sermon can ever take the place of the Biblical narrative itself. This is certainly true with a major theme such as hell. To lift out even this theme and try to present it separated from its original context in the story-well, you get the picture. This is what led to my original question. How are we possibly able to speak this essential part of the divine message into our present twenty-first century of electronic games with images and sounds so common to every Play-station owning kid?

Free Mp3 Download  (34 min) with Introduction,  narrated by Max McClean.

Billy Graham’s 1949 sermon honoring Edwards ministry, 200 years earlier;  The Jonathan Edwards Center@ Yale University.

KENTUCKY Men’s Basketball:

Perfect at home in RUPP arena: 18-0

44th SEC Championship

#1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

SEC CHAMPIONS- 2010

And kudos to first year coach, John Calipari. Just think, he has done this with starting three freshmen!

Top Freshman in the nation!

The Open Secret of the Unity Vision.

The last century witnessed a monumental effort on the part of Christian leaders to promote the vision of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It grew out of , among other things, The Student Volunteer Movement which embraced the watchword, “The evangelization of the world in our generation”. This movement saw a vision of one mission incumbent on the whole Church of Jesus Christ and took serious and deliberate action to realize that vision. Their hearts were captive to a greater loyalty. The movement formally began in 1886 and according to at least one researcher, Michael Parker, had ended by 1926. (see The Kingdom of Character, American Society of Missiology, 1998).

The SVM movement

This movement is just one part of what led to the first World Conference on Christian missions at Edinburgh, 1910. Out of this conference developed the missionary thrust of the twentieth century and the ecumenical movement that became The World Council of Churches. Now thanks to the age of the internet, this same vision is entering not only a new millennium, but most definitely an important new chapter- one my friend John Armstrong calls, missional-ecumenism.

In his new book, “Your Church is Too Small“, an enormous amount of detail is made available for those that consider themselves loyal to the same vision and actively pray for and work at promoting this same vision for the whole church. Will it advance beyond what those of the twentieth century were able to take it? That will depend on the church in every place obediently becoming the church in both word and deed. The future of the church will certainly look different than the past two thousand years. But it cannot and must not forget what has gone before-certainly not the efforts, gains, and victories of the twentieth century both in terms of practicing her oneness and sacrificing herself for her mission to the world.

I cannot realistically hope that the churches will research the documents that I have over the last forty plus years. Missiology is a highly specialized discipline along with many others in the area of Christology and Ecclesiology. But with the age of the internet, ignorance of how the churches of the twentieth century saw the essence of their calling and how they went about fulfilling that calling must now be apart of any serious attempt to celebrate and promote the oneness of the world-wide church. The information is at our finger-tips for us to get up to speed on every part of the body of Christ. Just one of the beautiful things this means is that no part of the church is insignificant. In a whole new way every tradition within Christianity is reduced to a level playing field regardless of their size.

In my post tomorrow, I will introduce you to just one very important stream that we all surely need to know about. The Mennonite churches. So what about you? Are you content to just surf this web, or does it have something to do with what you have chosen to be loyal to; what you have given your heart to?

Listen to John’s introduction and see if you don’t hear this “Greater Loyalty”!

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