Thursday, April 28, 2011

Have I Changed Jesus?

I recently began reading David Platt’s book Radical and in the beginning chapter he discusses how we have changed who the Jesus of the Bible is to someone who is easy to believe in. The following quote is taking from the first chapter titled “Someone Worth Losing Everything For”.

And this is where we need to pause. Because we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.

A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.

But do you and I realize what we are doing at this point? We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us because, after all, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church building to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.
- David Platt, Radical, 13

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guarding Against Letting Passion Week Become Like Any Other Week

Passion Week is a special time of the year. It is a week that all of my activities, church and other, are focused on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

The days leading up to our Good Friday service are emotional because I am reminded of the reason Christ died - my sin. This years’ service focused on the seven sayings of Christ on the cross. The words that Christ uttered are full of love and compassion, even for those who killed Him. The concern He had for others comes across clearly. He is slowly dying and His thoughts are about others. How wonderful and humbling.

After each saying was read we sang a worship song about that saying. I hadn’t experienced anything quite like it before.

Our Resurrection Sunday service was memorable for two reasons. First, as my pastor began to preach we lost power due to thunderstorms but he didn’t miss a beat. He preached from a music stand with a book light to see his Bible. It made me think of what an evening church service might have been like 2000 years ago (with a candle for lighting). I found out later that he left his notes on the pulpit and preached from memory. It was a great service.

The other reason why it is memorable is that it focuses on the victory my Savior obtained over death, hell and the grave. Someone made the following observation on the difference between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday - Good Friday we remember what we did to Christ, Resurrection Sunday we remember what Christ did for us.

The second reason it was memorable is that it focused on the resurrection of our Lord. The only reason I or anyone else has hope of heaven is because of Christ being raised from the dead. His death wasn’t enough. If He died never to be raised again His death would have been like any other. But since He rose again we have eternal life and this was the message of the service. Christ had to die because of my sin and I get to spend eternity with Him. Praise God!

Unfortunately as the days pass and Passion Week becomes more of my history, the feelings I experienced slowly fade away. I let the power that I experienced that week weaken to the point of little effect (mind you that the weakening isn’t Christ’s fault but mine). The joy I experienced Sunday can easily fade if I don’t reflect on Christ’s victory as often as I do during that week. I have to guard against letting Christ’s death and resurrection become mundane.

I want a Passion Week experience every week of the year. I want to meditate on Christ now as much as I did then. I want to worship and praise Him as much or more than I did then. I need His presence daily. I need to be regularly reminded of the why and the how of Passion Week. That is my prayer, that is my goal, that is my desire.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review - The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

If there is one characteristic of the Christian faith that most are missing it is joy - deep, everlasting, Godly joy. Not joy based on circumstance but grounded in Christ. Stephen Altrogge in his book The Greener Grass Conspiracy uses humor and wit to equip believers in the struggle to find joy in all things. He begins with the premise that Christians are to be the most joyful people yet sadly we aren’t. We believe like the world that if our wildest dreams come true we would find joy when in reality we will still be unsatisfied.

I found the chapter titled “Count Your Blessings - Literally” to be the most convicting. He shows us how, even in our toughest trials, there is much joy to be experienced. In one example he shows that when we hit our thumb with a hammer we should be thankful that we have a thumb to be hit because there are many who don’t. He also hits hard at the fact that those living in America have blessings that most of the world doesn’t have but we have less joy than they do.

This is a book that people, no matter how much joy you have, will benefit from. It will change your perspective on many areas in your life, particularly those that seem joyless.

Here is a link to a promotional video for the book. You can purchase it at Christianbook or Amazon.

Disclaimer - I received this book free from Crossway in exchange for a review, positive or negative, on my site.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review - The Story of the Bible by Larry Stone

It would be safe to say that I love the Bible. To be able to read God’s very word is an honor and a privilege. Because of that I am intrigued by how we received the Bible, its structure and authors, and how it has lasted through these centuries. I have read much on these and look for any other resources that encourage me in the truth that the Bible we have today is the very book God wants us to have.

In Larry Stone’s book The Story of the Bible we can learn of those things. He gives us in fascinating detail the beginnings of the Bible and how it has been preserved to present times. On every page there are photos of paintings, sculptures and of ancient copies of the books of the Bible. Inserted throughout are removable life-size reproductions with explanations from those ancient copies. Most books like these are scholarly, technical and at times inaccessible to most people. Even though this book is like those Stone writes in a way most will understand.

This is a book that I will cherish. I will turn to it often to assist in teaching God’s Word and defending it from attacks. I couldn’t recommend this book enough.

You can currently purchase it at Christianbook, Amazon or from Thomas Nelson.

Disclaimer - I received this resource free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Sneeze book review blogger program. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.