In this Good News Audio WE HAVE LOTS OF FUN as Pastor T and a few audience members take part in an illustration designed to answer a crucial point about the nature of God’s forgiveness toward us! You may not be able to catch the illustration fully by just hearing the audio, and we’re sorry about that, but it sure was insightful and fun in person! HaHa!
My kids and I recently concluded reading through C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Since I had stopped after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child myself, I enjoyed them every bit as much as my kids. I ate them up hungrily actually.
It’s been interesting to read about some of the controversies sparked by the series, and also C.S. Lewis’ own words regarding his work. Entire books have been written on the topic, and as is so often the case, it’s difficult to know exactly what to think or believe. I find it interesting that Lewis described the stories as coming to him – and there were a number of events in the final two books particularly that resonated with me powerfully. When I finished reading The Last Battle to my kids, I could barely speak for being so choked up. I felt that if all they ever understood about their futures came from that book, there would be enough hopeful certitude to last them their lifetimes.
One of these events was the reaction of Aslan to Emeth, a Calormene who had spent his life serving and seeking the god he had been raised to believe in – Tash. Emeth relates:
But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.
Therefore if any man swears by Tash and keeps his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.
When Emeth persists, saying that he spent his entire life seeking Tash and therefore surely can’t be acceptable to Aslan, the Lion says:
Beloved, unless thy desire had been for me, thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.
And you wonder why the Chronicles were considered controversial!
The idea that this could be true – that humans can worship or serve any “god” and, if love is there, God counts it for him, is controversial indeed. But it’s also extraordinarily wonderful!! – a cause for unending celebration.
It’s also worth noting that this account takes place once Emeth has already passed “through the stable door.” His physical life has ended before he encounters Aslan.
I realise we can’t know for certain – C.S. Lewis was a mere mortal, if not inspired. But I can’t help feeling that what he described here is precisely as it should be. When,
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. (I Cor. 13:4-8) *
When God is all of those things.
Someone knocked on my door a few months ago and tried to tell me that God wished to be called by one name only (Jehovah), and was as angered at being called by a different – even similar – name as I would be at being called by the wrong name.
I disagree. I don’t believe that God cares what name we call him by. My child could call me by a name other than Mama (even an insulting one) and I’d remain his mama. She could forget she ever had a mother, and I’d remain the person who loved her from the moment I knew she was coming, who birthed her, and for whom rarely a minute passes without consciously thinking about her. And never one without loving her more than my own life. This is so without thought, intention, effort or taking credit on my part. It just is. Most parents would sooner stop breathing than stop loving their children. (Even with the final cessation of breath, I believe that this love goes on and remains.) This is all, also, as it should be. Every human knows it, however deep down.
We get it wrong when we look at our own characteristics and imagine God from there – but I do know that if there is anything good in people – and there is – it is just like moon reflecting the true light of the sun. But as the moon would be invisible, in pitch blackness, without the sun, so would we without the Son, Father and Spirit.
I look around me at people of all cultures and religions – and I see that moonlight in all of us. Not one of us is perfect or has it all figured out, but Love remains, no matter what creed, or lack thereof, under which we we live.
7-10 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. 11-12 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! (I John 4:7-11, The Message)
Love – it’s the only name that matters.
~ Jeannine Buntrock
* The Message translation reads I Corinthians 13 as follows:
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
I love it!
The question arose from the congregation: “If God was going to forgive us, why didn’t He just forgive us?” Here is how we began and are learning to discuss all such questions as a local Church.
Recall the words spoken to Moses in Exodus 3:5: “Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’” And recall the words written by Moses in Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” These words have resounded in my mind the past couple days.
On Tuesday, June 4th, I had a wonderful opportunity to travel with our CEO and seven others from our senior management team to New York City to be part of the NASDAQ Closing Bell ceremony in Times Square. It was a surreal experience as were the other events of the day.
Four of us arrived early in the day in New York and felt that seeing the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, and the Statue of Liberty would be the best way to spend our precious few sight-seeing hours. After dropping our bags at the hotel, and a subsequent thirty minute cab ride, we arrived within walking distance of the memorial. After making our way through a long line to get a visitor pass, we then proceeded to the site that included several check points and a security scan detection system that could have rivaled most airports.
As I walked to the reflecting pool where the South Tower once stood I felt an overwhelming sense of awe, and even now as I write these words, my eyes are once again tearing up as they did on my approach to the pool. How many times had I watched those buildings fall, and now I was standing right in that very spot where almost three thousand individuals lost their lives. I began to hear the words in my mind, “this is hallowed ground.” I felt that in each of my senses, as I heard the water flowing in the pool, as I touched the stone and stared at the names of so many lost lives. This truly was hallowed ground.
We made our way to the North Tower reflecting pool to find the name of a sister of a co-worker. She had been on Flight 11 that hit the North Tower. I created a crayon etching of her name to take back to her brother and co-worker Matt. This truly was hallowed ground.
As we proceeded through our morning we saw other sites packed with tourists stretching to snap a photo, and oddly, I got the same sense, that this was hallowed ground. There was Trinity Church Wall Street, visited by Nicholas Cage in search of clues in the National Treasure movie series. The New York Stock Exchange appeared as a gated community. No one entered without security clearance. There was Federal Hall where George Washington was sworn in as first President. Across from it at 23 Wall Street stood the J.P. Morgan Building that I recalled from reading The House of Morgan. We browsed jewelry at Tiffany’s and then made our way to Battery Park for a view of the Statue of Liberty.
At some point I reflected on the fact that so many people (myself included) were making such a thing of well-known historic buildings and landmarks, as if they stood on hallowed ground. The question occurred to me, “Would God feel the same way?” To Him, these are simply brick and mortar landmarks, nothing more; but we are His hallowed ground. He resides in us. He has accepted and included us. We, collectively, are God’s holy ground. He determined before the foundation of the world to include us in His Triune relationship. Friends, in His eyes, we are far more precious than any of the sites I mentioned before, because we are holy ground. We are much more than the problems we face. We are far greater than the stresses we experience. We are so much more beautiful than the jewels at Tiffany. We are more majestic than the Statue that stands on Liberty Island, worth far more than the countless millions held over the years at the House of Morgan or traded on the NYSE. In His eyes, we, my friends, are holy ground.
~by Craig Kuhlman
Recently I met with William Paul Young, author of The Shack, in Jackson, Mississippi, where he began to discuss the issues on this audio sermon. Needless to say, it was PROFOUND, and I was happy to discover a more in-depth sermon Paul gave on this subject at Emmanuel Enid in Oklahoma recently! This is, simply speaking, one of the most profound messages you have EVER and NEVER heard on the subject of men and women – GUARANTEED!!! Quite frankly, it rocked our congregation when I shared it with them and, in a Christ-centered, Trinitarian, Scriptural transformative way, our circuits popped (all good!) and we will never be able to think of relationships the same anymore! Enjoy and SHARE!
When Jesus talks about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Matt 16, 24, 26; Mark 13; Luke 17, 21), I believe he is using well-known metaphors to warn of a socio-political catastrophe that some of his first-century hearers would live to see. I also believe in the future event usually called “the Second Coming,” but I believe these texts (and others like them) are not talking about that.
This is not the most important doctrinal distinction in the world. The creeds, for example, don’t address it. But I am coming to believe it is a distinction that matters and is worth talking about. More on that in a bit. But first I want to give some background…
First, T.F. Torrance points out a problem in how we talk about the Coming of Christ:
It is important to recall that the apostolic witness to Christ did not speak of his advent (parousia)…in the plural, for strictly speaking there is only one saving parousia of the Son… The term parousia was used in the New Testament to speak of all three: the coming, arrival, and presence of Christ… His presence is an advent and his advent is a presence. “The hour comes and now is,” as Jesus once said [John 4:23]. The plural word, “advents” or parousiai, was not found in Christian literature for more than a century after the ascension of Christ… In one revealing statement, however, Justin Martyr spoke of what takes place in the midst of Christ’s parousia. In other words, here and now in the on-going life of the Church we live in the midst of the advent-presence of Christ, already partake of the great regeneration of the future, and share in its blessings with one another (Thomas F. Torrance, The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. Edinburgh: 1988. pp. 299,300).
Our deistic culture believes in few things so profoundly as it believes in the absence of God. We Christians seem to believe that he was present once and will someday be present again, but for now we mostly go along with the broader culture in saying that God is certainly not here now. Except for being “present in the Spirit,” which we mostly use as a euphemism for “not really present.”
N.T. Wright explains:
When God renews the whole creation, as he has promised, bringing together heaven and earth, Jesus himself will be at the centre of it all, personally present to and with his people and ruling his world fully and finally at last… And since the ascension is often thought of in terms of Jesus ‘going away,’ this future final moment is often thought of in terms of his ‘coming back again,’ hence the shorthand ‘second coming.’ However, since the ascension in fact means that Jesus, though now invisible, is not far away but rather closely present with us, it isn’t surprising that some of the key New Testament passages speak not of his ‘return’ as though from a great distance, but of his ‘appearing’ (e.g. Colossians 3.4; 1 John 3.2)… For the early Christians, the really important event—the resurrection of Jesus—had already taken place, and his final ‘appearing’ would simply complete what had then been decisively begun (N.T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone. John Knox: 2011. pp. 224-25).
The Trinity and Humanity blog is part of a larger theological community that emphasizes the twin mysteries of Trinity & Incarnation, and the universal character of the Atonement which flows from them. This magnificent vision lives and breathes the good news of the Real Presence of the Triune God. As such, our theological project includes re-formulating doctrines which teach or imply God’s Absence. The popular eschatology of our day is one such doctrine that requires our attention.
Jesus and the New Testament writers have quite a lot to say about the impending destruction of Jerusalem “in this generation,” and the dark and difficult times leading up to it. And when we take those texts and impose them upon our doctrines about the future Glorious Appearing of Christ, it has consequences.
It produces a worldview of fatalism and pessimism, because it makes us think we know what the world will look like immediately before Christ appears, and it looks awful. When the beasts and tribulations of the first century get pasted onto our own future, it produces a vision of the world forever getting worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse until Jesus comes back and fixes it, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it in the meantime, so don’t even try making the world a better place, because we already know it won’t work.
Is this our vision of the world where the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit is earthing itself in human life in the world? Where Christ is already present and becoming more present all the time? Do we really want to be telling people to forget the prophetic visions of a world where swords get pounded into plowshares, where everyone has their own fig tree, where it will be considered unusual for someone’s lifespan to be less than 100 years, where water will flow in the wild places and flowers will bloom in the desert? Do we really want to be telling people to forget all that because those are visions of a world where God is present, and we don’t live in that world, at least not yet?
The Gospel is better than that.
What do you think? Have I gone off the deep end?
Dr. Maya Angelou, writer, poet, teacher, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the US), tells the story about how she became the first African-American streetcar conductor at the age of sixteen in San Francisco.
She told her mother that she wanted that job for the summer, and when her mother asked why, Angelou said that she admired the uniform the female streetcar conductors wore (a woman after my own heart!). Her mother encouraged her to apply, and when she was turned down because she was black, her mother told her to show up every day and sit in the office until someone would speak to her and give her an interview. Although it took two full weeks, her persistence paid off, and Angelou was finally given the job.
Her shift would begin early in the morning, long before sunrise. Though many would agree that such a position would be unsafe for a sixteen-year-old girl, especially in the dark hours of morning in downtown San Francisco, her mother allowed her to do it because she wanted the job.
However, Angelou shares that her mother would drive her down to the wharf in the wee hours of the morning, a loaded pistol on the front seat, to drop her off at her streetcar. She then would follow the streetcar, in the car with her pistol, as Angelou would traverse the streets of San Francisco. At daybreak, her mother would wave and go home.
I love this story for a number of reasons, but I’m particularly struck by her mother’s willingness to allow her to do what she wanted to do, yet at the same time, she protectively stayed close by. I think this story can give us an image of how the Father, Son, and Spirit enjoy seeing us use our individual talents and express our distinct personalities, giving us complete freedom, but always staying close by.
Far too often, we go through this life thinking we are on our own, or maybe we believe that whatever we do for fun or for work is outside the realm of the spiritual. I see this story as another reminder that “in him [Christ] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We are unique creations, each given specific gifts and desires that, when used properly, bring great joy to others, ourselves, and our God.
We need to see the Father, Son, and Spirit as accompanying us in our day-to-day activities (with or without a pistol on the front seat!), loving, watching, and participating with great pleasure as we fulfill our place in the world.
~by Nan Kuhlman
photos courtesy of OWN
As we begin our Gospel “On The Fly” participation approach to weekly Worship services, it seems the Spirit met and led us to consider that maybe obedience is not so much something we give to God but something God the Father, Son and Spirit has given to us graciously in Jesus the God/Man! See what you think!