How the Gospel Brought Shame to the First Century World by Timothy J. Martin

[Preface: This was originally written in a Facebook by Mr. Martin. I got his permission to post it here for your reading pleasure.]

The Gentile Shame

The Greeks, the Romans, and everyone nation since Babel has balked at the idea of the biblical God. Some were dissatisfied with His mercy. Others were dissatisfied with His justice. It has become the longstanding human tradition to transform the God of the universe into the God of our backyard. So it was with the Romans. Their gods were decadent and sinful as their own culture. Fickle and driven by whims. They also rarely had the consequences of their actions catch up to them. Now the Greek world is supposed to accept the claim that God’s chosen champion came and died on a cross and that he is the only way to salvation? Even if you do come to a true faith, what of the instrument of death?

The cross is taboo. Let’s try to illustrate it with modern ideas. We know that there are very few labels worst than ‘fascist.’ No one wants to be associated with the death machine that was Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Let’s say that we instituted crucifixion for fascists. Now you expect me to believe that God’s Messiah died a fascist’s death? It’s a little harder to believe. It’s very hard to rally around. The Gentile shame of the Gospel robs God of majesty.

The Jewish Shame

Now on the other hand, let us pretend that we are in the place of the Jew. We expected a conquering king. But to your unbelieving blood brothers it appears that we received, instead of a conquering king, a conquered blasphemer. This so called ‘son of God’ who would inherit the nations was, by the testimony of the Sanhedrin, a damnable offender of the law. And rumors of the resurrection – a doctrine going out of style – are a lot harder to believe when you’re in Rome and not in Jerusalem. The Jewish shame of the Gospel robs God of credibility.

The Theological Shame

There is also the very shame that this ‘Gospel’ is the foundation of the church. Where is the inheritance of the Son of God? Where is the justice in this? How can you accept the murder of an innocent man to be the will of God? Furthermore, will the son be vindicated? How can the church follow a disgraced and dishonored incarnate God? Where is the honor of God in this affair? Where is the glory due Christ’s name? Paul is approaching the church in Rome, trying to unite them so that they can fund a missionary journey to the edge of the Earth in Spain, and yet how can a church that does not understand the incarnation pursue Christ? The theological shame of the Gospel robs God of all honor.

The Universal Shame

Now let us step away from the immediate and theological context and look at the anthropological context. As a result of the fall, the heart of man is infested with the deadly sin of self-justification. Absorb that word – justification. It will become the keyword for this entire passage. The self-justification of man shields him from the truth about his state. But now as the Gospel message is proclaimed, God’s word – when His Spirit wills it – pierces the mental shield of self-justification and lets the mind lay naked before the truth of the Gospel. Who cannot become overwhelmed with such mental anguish when they know a perfect God died for them? Who cannot be ashamed of a Gospel that uncovers your wickedness? The universal shame of the Gospel robs man of his self-justification.

Exile, Ezekiel 12, and Hope for an Unshaken Kingdom

Today, I started doing an in-depth read through Embracing Exile by T. Scott Daniels. In this short, but edifying volume, Rev. Dr. Daniels gives us an over of the texts of Scripture that speak of God’s people living in the face of exile. Daniels then uses these narratives to explain how God’s people today experience exile as it seems that we’re losing influence and power within the western world.

To open the first chapter, Daniels shares a brief quote from Ezekiel 12:11.

They shall go into exile, into captivity.

Ezekiel 12:11, NRSV

To see the verse in context for myself, I opened up my Bible and read the entire chapter, and I can’t really explain what happened while I was reading it other than I felt the way someone might feel if they were reading a good novel and they can’t seem to bring themselves to put the book down.

I read Ezekiel 12, and I then I went back and read it again and again and again. It’s almost as if I could visualize the prophet Ezekiel packing his bags and leaving the city mourning over the sin that will lead to the people’s exile. Unfortunately, Ezekiel seems to be one of the few (possibly the only one) mourning in this way. While the people of God live complacently, God is making plans to “scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries.” (Ezekiel 12:15, NKJV)

However, the people are skeptical. According to Ezekiel 12:22, the people have heard all of the visions and words from many prophets before who were false and just want the give the people what they wanted to hear, and if those flattering visions and prophecies didn’t come to pass, what made the people believe that Ezekiel’s legitimate message from Yahweh was going to be true?

However, the Lord speaks again to Ezekiel and says:

For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious house, I will say the word and perform it,” says the Lord God.’ ” 26 “Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 27 “Son of man, look, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’ 28 Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done,” says the Lord God.’ ”

Ezekiel 12:25-28, NKJV

The damage had already been done by false prophets and wicked leaders. The people had been led astray to live complacent in the muck and mire of their rebellion without recognizing anything was wrong. All of their sin and rebellion was going to come to a head when they get taken into exile.

However, not all hope is lost. In the midst of exile, even while the children are growing up in the midst of foreign nations and comforming to pagan standards of life, God spares for Himself a people who remember Zion, a people who still honor God, a people who long for worship in the temple once again.

While the world around us changes and the Church seems to be pushed to the margins of society, Jesus is still on His throne. While God’s people may have longed to return to Zion, we the Messiah-following Israel of God, have been brought to Zion and our position is secure. We are citizens of kingdom that cannot be shaken, and we long with great anticipation for that day when everything that can be shaken will be shaken so that only that which of God’s kingdom may remain. (Hebrews 12:25-29)

Reflections on Jimmy Carter’s Reflections: A Review of the Simple Faith Bible

Introduction – Offending Most of You Before We Get Started

I was talking to someone the other day about the opportunity that I have from Zondervan to review this unique Bible. Of course, the conversation moved to politics since Jimmy Carter in a former President of the United States. The person that I was talking to said that they didn’t understand why Carter was chosen for this project.

I said that I didn’t know the specific reason why, but I would have to assume that it’s probably because he’s the only President in recent history who claims to be a Christian and has actually shown any fruit of the Spirit in his dealings and decision-making.

His responded with a dismissal and some generic comment about the ineffectiveness of Carter’s administration. This wasn’t the first comment that I’ve heard like that about Carter’s presidency and it won’t be the last. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not under any grand delusion about President Carter’s administration, but I also feel that there was a legitimate reason for Carter’s limitations as a leader. The reason is simple – He’s a Christian.

What does it say about us as a nation when someone can’t be seen as an effective President simply because being seen as such would compromise their commitment to follow and live like Christ would have them to live? It’s no coincidence that the same people who frown upon Jimmy Carter’s effectiveness as a President applaud and revere the way our current administration bullies others and “tells it like it is.”

However, the primary purpose of this post isn’t to wax political or to expose what is clearly a giant hypocrisy within the conservative evangelical movement at large.

Why I’ve Gathered You All Here in the First Place

Zondervan was kind enough to send me a Leathertouch copy of the Simple Faith Bible and upon opening the box a certain smell hit me in the face. You know the one. The smell of a brand new Bible. That’s the smell that I want to capture in an aerosol can and spray into the air any time I need a quick aroma therapy boost.

When I turned the pages, I heard the distinct light popping and cracking of the golden guilding breaking up. Just like with any new Bible I hold in my hands, I was excited from the very beginning.

As you open the first page, you immediately see a guide to the features of this piece.

Two features of note are the Bible in Life and the Bible in Focus pieces. These brief articles are excerpts from Jimmy Carter’s own personal devotions. These pieces provide insight and personal application into the text at hand.

The 9.5 size of the font is great for people who ordinarily have to strain to read, and while I’m not a fan of Zondervan’s ComfortPrint, they could’ve done worse with their font choice.

All of that being said, this is not a study bible for ivory tower theologians. If that’s what you’re expecting, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a light everyday carry and you’re a fan of the NRSV, then this is definitely for you. As a matter of fact, I would say that this would be great if you’re looking for a decent preaching Bible on a budget. It feels great in your hand and the the Leathertouch feels just like real leather. The paste down paper liner kind of gives it away that it’s not real leather, but the illusion is very good upon first opening the box.

This is a great Bible for devotional reading, carrying to church, or as I said, preaching. The guilding is actually very good for a Bible that isn’t typically considered ‘premium.’ I could actually see my reflection in the gold until I got my fingerprints all over it from reading through it.

The price on the back of the box is $59.99. Honestly, I think this is kind of steep for what it is, but you could easily get this for much cheaper on christianbook.com.

In conclusion, this would actually be a really good Bible for someone who needs a Bible for devotional purposes, but doesn’t want to be bogged down with a lot of extra study materials that they could easily find on biblegateway.com or studylight.org.

Hallowing Halloween by J. Brandon Meeks

[A Necessary Preface: This article is not my own. It was originally written by J. Brandon Meeks about 5 years ago over at his blog, The High Church Puritan. For whatever reason, this particular article keeps disappearing from the internet so I am taking it upon myself to post the article here where it is not in any immediate danger of disappearing. However, if the author were to see this and request that I take it down, I will do so.]

Olympus has fallen. The old gods are dead. Poseidon has drowned in the sea of forgetfulness and Zeus has been plucked from the heavens. Like Dagon before them, they have all bowed at the feet of the Living God and lost their heads in the process.

The resurrected Christ has vanquished them all and plundered their ancient shrines and temples. He spoiled the principalities and powers that stood behind these demonic deities, and by virtue of a empty tomb and occupied throne, He chained them to His chariot wheels as a demonstration of His triumph (Col. 2:15).

The names of these deposed deities are now little more than distant memories, if they come to memory at all. No one thinks of the Viking lords when they speak of Monday, Tuesdays, and Wednesday anymore. But even the most recalcitrant secularist is reminded that Sunday is regarded by multiplied millions as the Lord’s Day—for on Sunday the Son rose.

In the beginning, God created dates and days, separated times and seasons, and then pronounced them good and blessed. Pagans, with their pygmy gods, usurped these days that God claimed for Himself. They sought to fill them with significance but ultimately failed because they were already full of it. Then, in a dramatic turn of events, God turned the world upside down, shook them loose, and claimed them for Himself once again. Sunday belongs to Him again. But what about all of the other days?

When Jesus died and rose again He conquered sin and death, but He also conquered the calendar. In His ascension gi from His Father there is nothing le outside the domain of His lordship. His redemption effected a cosmic restoration that would envelop matter, and space, and even time. When we say that Jesus “won the day,” we mean it most literally. There is nothing in the entire universe that He has declined to rest His resurrected foot upon.

Among other things, this means that the devil has no days. The Strong Man has entered into his house and plundered his goods. Death and hell are no longer under his purview. Satan doesn’t even have the keys to his own domain! They were stripped from his serpentine hands by the Alpha and Omega—the One who has even claimed the alphabet for Himself.

Our “times are in His hands” because time is in His hands. Time is in His hands because all things are in His hands. And everything that is now in His hands will eventually be under His feet. This is the victory of God. This is the good news. This is the promise of the gospel. Behold, He is making all things new.

For Christians, this is both a cause to rejoice and a call to respond. We rejoice because our God reigns. We respond in faith by joining with our King in taking back lost territory. This is the mission of the Church. So we have set up an outpost at the gates of hell and we are beating down its high walls. Eventually, those walls will be battered down and those gates will crumble. Hell’s gates cannot long prevail.

This happens every time that a person comes to faith in Christ. We see man who is a slave to sin but has not been made aware of the great “emancipation proclamation” of the gospel so we go and tell. When he responds in faith what has happened? The gates of hell have taken a hit. One square foot of enemy territory has now been possessed for the King of Glory. Onward, Christian soldier…

Though we seem to understand this principle as it pertains to personal evangelism, we seem to forget that it pertains to everything else as well. Even days. If the name of Christ is to be sanctified at all times and in all places, then we have to declare it at all times and in all places. This includes days that we have formerly written off as belonging to the opposition.

For the Christian then, Halloween (as well as other dates and days) becomes a satirical pageant; a mockery of long defeated foes. Every day that the sun rises we are reminded that Christ has ascended having finished His work, but we have not yet finished ours. Christ has struck the decisive blow, but we have the privilege of working in the mopping up operation. Thus, century by century the Christian Faith rolls back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition. In the spirit of Elijah, we mock the dead gods and the defeated demons. They have no rightful claims upon anything in this world.

Similarly, our fathers used this same tactic when they dedicated sacred spaces such as churches and cathedrals. The gargoyles that were placed on those imposing structures were meant to be taunts. They symbolized the Church ridiculing the enemy. They stick out their tongues and make faces at those who would assault the Church. Gargoyles are not demonic; they are believers ridiculing the defeated demonic army. Just as with spaces and places, we take
dominion over times and seasons. What once may have been regarded as festivals of fear and wickedness now become celebrations of joy and gladness.

Some might object and say, “But Halloween was a day that was filled with evil superstitions.” To which we might reply, “But who has the right to fill it? And with what?”

When October 31 dawns I can dress up like the Pope and laugh because I know that my costume is no more a farce than his own own robes are. I can paint my face like a ghoulish creature and giggle because I know that Christ has “unhaunted” the world through grace. Jesus has defanged the vampires, dehorned the dragons, and displaced all principalities and powers. When we send our kids to a neighbor’s door to say, “Trick or treat,” we can smile knowing that the joke is on the devil. This is deep comedy.

What will I do on Halloween? I honestly don’t know. But I will probably get up and say what I say every other day that God allows me to live: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

A Look at Lectionaries

According to Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, “the lectionary is the reason why, if you’re a preacher, you’re bored to tears, and if you’re a layperson, you have a sneaking suspicion you’ve heard this one before.”

LITURGICAL COLANDER Season Your Pasta With Ordinary Thyme ...

Most preachers that I interact with on a regular basis don’t typically use the lectionary to plan out their sermons. I will typically look at it for seasons like Advent or Lent, but I usually preach through a book of the Bible or systematically preach through a topic. However, I know some preachers who are attached to the lectionary to the point that they are getting bored with it.

They have sermons for every text over the course of the three year cycle, and they need something else so they can keep flexing their sermon prep muscles. According to Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, “the lectionary is the reason why, if you’re a preacher, you’re bored to tears, and if you’re a layperson, you have a sneaking suspicion you’ve heard this one before.” If that resonates with you, then I have good news for you! There are other lectionaries that you can borrow from!

Typically, when one thinks of the lectionary, they think of the Revised Common Lectionary since that is the most common one in use among mainline evangelical Protestants (and we will cover that one for our low church friends). However, did you know that there are actually handful out there that you can use?

Getting the Lingo Down

For those of you who may be eavesdropping into the conversation you may be wondering, “What in the heck is a lectionary anyway?”

A lectionary is a systematic reading of selected Scriptures throughout the Christian year (Advent through Christ the King Sunday). The tradition of using a lectionary goes back to at least first century Judaism (maybe even farther back than that) where there would be assigned readings from the Old Testament to address where the people of God were in the Jewish calendar. (You can read Leon Morris’ extensive work on the Jewish lectionaries here.)

Even in Luke 4, when Jesus teaches in his hometown, the text tells us that they handed the scroll of Isaiah to Him so He could read from it. From this, we can infer that when Jesus read Isaiah 61 and said, “Today, this has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-21) it was because Isaiah 61 was the assigned text for that Sabbath day.

So, if the Jews used a lectionary to remind them of the significance of where they were in the Jewish calendar then it’s only natural that Christians would do the same with the Christian calendar.

So, if the Jews used a lectionary to remind them of the significance of where they were in the Jewish calendar then it’s only natural that Christians would do the same with the Christian calendar.

Let’s look at some lectionaries at our disposal. This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just some that I’ve found helpful.

The Revised Common Lectionary

The Common Lectionary was published in 1983 out of an ecumenical effort by both American and Canadian denominations to have a common experience of the story of Scripture throughout the Church year . There were some various problems with its trial run so the same people who brought us the Common Lectionary went back to the ol’ drawing board and brought us the Revised Common Lectionary which you can peruse at this link. The Revised Common Lectionary, published in 1992, takes into account constructive criticism of the Common Lectionary. It is a three-year cycle of Sunday Eucharistic readings in which Matthew, Mark, and Luke are read in successive years with some material from John read in each year.

When a mainline church uses the lectionary this is typically their go-to. Many PCUSA, Cumberland Presbyterian, United Methodist, and American Baptist congregations walk through this lectionary every three years.*

LCMS One Year Lectionary

The Missouri Synod Lutheran Church developed the one year lectionary which you can view here. Admittedly, I don’t know much about this lectionary, but from what I’ve seen it could be handy for pastors who want to introduce the Christian calendar to congregations that have historically been low church.

At this link you can read a talk given by Rev. Randy Asburry where he gives some compelling reasons for using this lectionary.

The Narrative Lectionary

I have become quite familar with the Narrative Lectionary over the last year or so. Basically, this lectionary operates on a four year cycle where you focus on the story of one of the four gospels every year from Advent until Pentecost Sunday, and then there are various readings of Scripture throughout the rest of the church year that help us in examining other books of the Bible or systematically addressing different themes from Scripture.

I should add that one of the reasons I admire this particular lectionary is that it’s convenient to take a break from during Ordinary Time so that you can preach on other topics or books of the Bible that the lectionary doesn’t cover.

You can read all about the Narrative Lectionary here.

Lectionary from Christ Church – Moscow, Idaho

Even though I follow Christ Church and Douglas Wilson, I haven’t heard much about their lectionary. From what I understand this lectionary is strictly used for readings in the Sunday morning worship services at Christ Church (as opposed to being used for selections for sermon texts). However, when I began filling the pulpit at variousCumberland Presbyterian Churches in my presbytery, I found this lectionary helpful for selecting sermon texts.

Because of the limited readings in a two year cycles, this might be perfect for any preacher that wants a personal challenge. You can find their lectionary here.

If you’re a lectionary preacher, I hope you found this article helpful. Contact me if there are other lectionaries that I can address in future articles! Thanks!

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* There are too many denominations to list that actually use the Revised Common Lectionary.

A.C. Dixon on the Passing of His Wife

[Disclaimer: Though we share a last name, I do not think I am related to think extraordinary couple.]

Kuling, China. August 1922.

His wife had been sick for nearly a week now, but she seemed to be showing signs of recovery up until the evening of Saturday, August 6th when she slipped into unconsciousness. The next morning the Rev. A.C. was going to stay home with his wife and let someone else preach for the Chinese congregation in Kuling that morning, but the attending physician insisted that he should go. He went knowing that his ailing wife would want him to go.

As 11:00 approached, A.C. Dixon reported that in the middle of his sermon, in mid-sentence no less, that he felt a strange awareness of his wife’s presence.

During my sermon I had at one time such a consciousness of her presence that for a few moments my mind could rest only upon her, and I had to struggle back to the line of thought I was pursuing.

A. C. Dixon, Mary Faison Dixon: The Wife Who Always Helped and Never Hindered

He knew at that moment that she had gone to be with her Savior whom she loved and longed to see face to face.

The next day the funeral service for Mary Faison Dixon commenced. The platform was covered with flowers, and the congregation from the Kuling Church sang “In the Sweet By and By” in their native Chinese language. A. C Dixon sat there listening to the beautiful voices sing the songs of Zion, waiting for his turn to speak, and wishing intently that the Lord would return right there to establish His kingdom and reunite the Rev. Dixon to his wife.

When it was his turn to take the pulpit, Dixon spoke of his wife’s upbringing, her college education, and how they had met during his first pastorate at Village Baptist Church.

The day was hot, and a company of us were on a stage-coach rattling over a rather rough road. The question was raised among the passengers as to whether women ought to speak in public, suggested by the fact that a noted woman lecturer from New York was to be among the teachers of the normal training school. Among the debaters of this question was a young woman, whose quiet, yet vivacious manner and intelligent reasons attracted my attention. She seemed to have a mind of her own with the courage of her convictions; and, when I looked into her face, there was a beauty with a charm of personality that fascinated me. As I cultivated her acquaintance during the weeks that followed, I found that she was more conversant than I with the best literature, and her ideals of life were deeply spiritual. She loved Christ, the Bible, and the
church.

It did not take me long to decide that she was just the one I needed for a wife…

A. C. Dixon, Mary Faison Dixon: The Wife Who Always Helped and Never Hindered

He spoke of her love for literature, her constant encouragement to him in the work of the Lord. She went with him wherever he went. In Chicago as he went to pastor the Moody Church, she was there. In London, when he was asked to take the helm of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, she was there. Finally, when when they were called to China as full time missionaries, she was there.

Now, she wasn’t. She had gone to be with her Lord. It is reported that A.C. Dixon left China and went to Baltimore in 1923 to pastor at University Baptist Church. It is not said why he made this move, but I can only imagine that it was because he felt that he could no longer face the daunting task of missionary work without the love of his life by his side.

On June 14th, 1925, A.C. Dixon had a heart attack and entered into the presence of the Lord, to be reunited with his wife, Mary.

The Guillotines of Fundamentalism // #100DaysToOffload

The guillotines of fundamentalism tend to make life hard for preachers too…

“A Hasidic proverb says, “We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold.” We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are. Knowing, teaching, and learning under the grace of great things will come from teachers who own such a coat and wear it to class every day…


I happened to come to the seminary to teach during some rough years of denominational struggles. Some fundamentalist conservatives were making it hard for every professor to find out how to wear the coats with two pockets. Everything taught had to be scrutinized very closely, and it had to match the thinking of the powers in charge. Any number of professors were fired for being liberal, and within our school it was often the case that a student from a conservative church would smuggle a tape recorder into class to try and catch a professor saying something that might be interpreted as heresy. Then the student might take the heretical tape to a conservative trustee and it was either “ouch” or “off with his head.” The guillotines of fundamentalism always make teaching a nightmare.”

Calvin Miller, Life is Mostly Edges: A Memoir

Shaun King’s Bait

The internet broke for American evangelicals yesterday when a secularist had a secular opinion and posted about it on Twitter. This came as a shock to literally no one who has been paying attention.

In a tweet that sparked a lot of controversy yesterday, Shaun King announced that he believed that “all the statues of a white European that they believe is Jesus should come down.” In another tweet, he says, “All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down.”

He goes on to say that these images of a “white European Jesus” are “a gross form white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.”

Now, typically when someone baits people they’re just exaggerating to get a response. I believe King genuinely believes everything he’s saying so I don’t think he’s baiting in the classical sense of how we might use the term, but I think he was definitely trying to elicit a response. As a matter of fact, I think this was a calculated move on his part to provoke a response from conservatives and evangelicals just so he and/or his secularist friends could then have an excuse to say, “Careful. Your white fragility is showing.”

And guess what? If that was his plan, it worked. Fox News, TheBlaze, and other news sources began reporting on what King said, and the next thing you know people were allowing themselves to be outraged over something said on the internet by someone who doesn’t have any bearing on their lives (unless they’re some weird Shaun King fangirl).

Many evangelicals including Babylon Bee creator Adam Ford took to social media concerning King’s remarks advising Christians to “stop cheering this satanic divisiveness!” and “WAKE UP!”

While I agree with Ford’s sentiments that Christians shouldn’t be supporting King’s ideas to tear down statues of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder how much of our outrage is just a sign that we’re letting our fear be the determining factor in how we respond to things like this.

Sure, there are legitimate things in the news to be concerned over, but sharing news article after news article and talking about it’s “a sign of the end times” and how “persecution is upon us” or something about the “leftist agenda” in all caps might be a sign that you need to talk to your doctor about taking some Valium or a nice blood pressure medicine.

Ford says in his Facebook post, “It will NOT stop here.” What exactly does he mean by that? I imagine that he means that soon they’ll be coming for churches and even personally coming after Christians for their faith. But, really though? All because of a tweet from someone whose name hasn’t been mentioned in pop culture in quite sometime? Did it ever occur to Ford or anyone else that maybe King just wants some attention? If that’s what King wanted, that’s what he got, and we’re all playing into his hand.

However, if Ford is correct, then we were promised that the world would hate us (Matthew 10:22). Persecution for our faith should come as no surprise. However, I don’t think Christians in America are on the verge of being persecuted. At least… not yet. I’m sure we’ll see persecution in America against Christians, but I don’t at this time think we’re even close to that. And no, plain red cups at Starbucks and a cashier saying ‘Happy Holidays’ doesn’t count. (Sorry, Karens and Susans of the world. It doesn’t work like that.)

What really bothers me about how Christians are responding to this Shaun King twitter ordeal is that it’s almost as if they’re just now realizing that Christianity is offensive. It seems like they’re just now realizing that the cross of Christ has always been an offense. The Apostle Paul said, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NKJV) Later in verse 23 of the same chapter, Paul describes the message of Christ crucified as a “stumbling block” to the Jews and “foolishness” to the Greeks. Part of Paul’s point is that we have to be offended by the cross before we can be saved by it. We don’t want to hear that we are so sinful that we need Jesus to die in our place for our sin, but once we get past the initial offense, something in us changes and we start to see the cross as good news.

I fear that the fact that many Christians are shocked that someone with a secular worldview would find Jesus offensive means that they themselves have never seen the offense of the cross, and if they’ve never seen the offense of the cross, then it could mean that they’ve never been personally confronted with the reality of the Gospel.

The truth is that the first century Christians were persecuted because the governmental authorities saw the message of Jesus’ Lordship as a threat to their power and rightly so because Jesus doesn’t share His throne with people who thrive off of having power. It would seem that here in the 21st century we’ve lost our edge because the powers that be no longer see our message as a threat, but instead they call it an “essential service.” No doubt the preaching of the Gospel is an essential service to those who believe its message, but it should be radically offensive to someone who brags about grabbing women by the genitals, buys sexual favors from porn stars, and says that they need no forgiveness. The Gospel should also be radically offensive to someone who politically supports such as person.

I have more thoughts on this, and I may post more on this later, but I think this is sufficient for now.

Why a Cumberland Presbyterian Listens to Herman Murray Jr. // #100DaysToOffload

Courtesy: YouTube

[This post is from my #100DaysToOffload series.]

If you’re one of those Truly Reformed™ brothers or sisters or one of my ivory tower theologian friends, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by, but this isn’t for you. This is a conversation between me and my Cumberland Presbyterian peeps. I’ll write a post for you fellas later. Now, bye-bye, and close the door on your way out.

Now that we’re alone, and I can talk to you one-on-one, I would recommend that you look up Herman Murray Jr. from Full Gospel Holy Temple in Dallas, Texas, and listen to him preach… just once.

I can already tell you that you’re probably not going to like that he has “Apostle” in front of his name. You might not like the high energy worship. You’re probably not going to like his loud, in-your-face style. You might call it “unnecessary” and “uncouth.” But if you can just turn off the high-brow, post-modernist goggles for just a few moments you’ll notice something.

Murray doesn’t preach a health, wealth, and prosperity message. He doesn’t use tricks and gimmicks to get his point across. He just opens the Bible and lets the Word speak for itself. You may not always agree with his exposition. He might not have the same views as you on baptism or soteriology, but he just tries his best, with the ability that God gave him, to talk about what the Bible talks about.

He’s not afraid to call out the homosexual agenda, the hyper-sexualization of our culture, or the need for strong and godly family units as evidenced in his sermon, “As Christ Loved the Church.”

So, you might ask, “Aren’t you good ol’ Cumberland Presbyterian boy, why are you trying to get me to watch this?” The answer is simple. We’re missing something that Murray has – boldness. You don’t have to have the same amount of volume, energy, or cadence to be bold. You just have to have a backbone, and that’s something we seem to have lost. We are letting the culture define the standards that we live and operate by. We are letting the culture tell us that we’re not allowed to say anything offensive in our pulpits. We have traded the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a message of sin tolerance, and we are paying a heavy price for it.

What we need to do is decide whether or not, the Bible is God’s Word to us today. We can’t pick and choose which parts are relevant and which ones aren’t. We have to decide whether or not the whole book is God’s word to us today or not. If it’s not, then throw the whole thing away and stop pretending to be a Christian just because you have a degree from a seminary and some presbytery said you could preach.

However, if the Bible is in fact God’s Word to us today, then there’s no reason for you to fear and cower in the pulpit. You should be able to stand up and declare what God says and let His word do the work. People may not like it. Your biggest tithe payers may walk out. The session might want to cut your salary or even fire you, but if what you say comes from the pages of Scripture, then they’ll have to fight God and His word before they can get to you.

Pastor, Sunday is coming, and you’re going to have to give an account to God for what every soul siting in the pews of your church hear from the pulpit. Are you going to preach the headlines? Are you going to preach a weak, watered-down Gospel that can’t save anybody? Are you going to preach about a god that tolerates the very sin his son died for?

Or, are you going to preach what God has said in His Word?

It’s a choice you have to make, and it’s a choice you’ll stand before God and give an account for.

Well, Let’s See How This Goes // #100DaysToOffload

While perusing Jeremy Sarber’s blog as I sometimes do, I noticed that he was doing the #100DaysToOffload challenge. For those who are not in the loop, the challenge basically is to set aside some time to write something on your blog about once every three days or so as a way to relieve stress, get some thoughts off your chest, or just talk about your day, etc. You can learn more about the challenge here.

Basically, for as long as I’m participating in this challenge, I’m not going to have the normal pretty pictures with words on them as our readers are accustomed to, I’m going to write, post, and call it a day.

So, here’s the first one…

I’m beginning to be busy, but in a good way.

I’m working with the Adult Discipleship Ministries of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to write the next two quarters of The Encounter (our Sunday School curriculum), I’ve been asked to speak at a pastor’s conference (something I’ve always wanted to do), and now I’m preaching through Ephesians at my church.

My lessons for The Encounter are due in July, I have to give my talk at the conference at the end of the month (June), and I’m really trying hard to stay ahead on my sermons so I can devote more time to writing my lessons. It just seems like I should be more motivated. It seems like I should be able to just buckle down and get these lessons done, but I can’t. I always find something else to distract me. (For example, I’m writing this blog post now instead of writing my lesson. -.-)

So guys, pray for me that I’ll remain focused and organized that I’ll get everything done that I need to get done in a timely manner. Meanwhile, I’ll try to keep you updated with this whole #100DaysToOffload challenge even if it’s just a paragraph or two.