The Gladdest News of All

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Christianity tells us we are part of a story that has an Author. It tells us He is good—indisputably, overwhelmingly, irresistibly good— and He is the source of everything that is beautiful and worthwhile and true. He created us to play a role in His story and placed within our hearts a deep longing to know Him. Christianity warns us there is a villain and dangers and distortions and perversions of the truth. It declares that tragedy, evil, and chaos have been defeated in Jesus Christ. It calls us to believe that the gospel is not only the greatest truth—but the most wonderful one of all. It invites us to become the beloved sons and daughters of the Writer of the story.

Could there be anything more astounding than that?

–J. O. Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

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Peculiar People

images-1It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and good people who have learned the great secret of life. They have found a joy and wisdom which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are Christians. . . and I am one of them.

― Cyprian,
3rd century bishop of Carthage

Published in: on 07/29/2016 at 14:09  Comments (1)  
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The unsurpassed life

Christ 9JBA principle without a concrete illustration is a person without feet—it gets nowhere. I don’t know whether a principle is true until it is put under life to see whether life will approve of it. A principle is only a hypothesis until it is verified by life. All the principles of the Christian faith have been verified in the life of Jesus—they work and have produced the character of Jesus. And “in any battle of ideas the victory will go to those ideas guaranteed by the facts.” In the Christian faith all its ideas have been guaranteed by the fact of Jesus. So the final victory goes to Him. For you will never get better ideas than Jesus held until you live a better life than Jesus lived. That can’t be done. He is the standard.

–E. Stanley Jones
The Word Become Flesh

Not about a moral code

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Christianity is not a religion
about a moral code to keep.
It’s about a God who
saves people that don’t
keep the moral code.

–Tullian Tchividjian

God only cares about spiritual things?

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His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom? Are you kidding me? . . .

That’s part of it, sure, but I was pretty sure that He made physical animals and a physical man and gave him a physical job. I was pretty sure that He made a physical tree with physical fruit and told that physical man not to eat it or he would physically die. He physically ate it anyway and now we physically go into the physical ground, physically rot, and become physical plant and physical worm food.

And because of this incredibly physical problem, He made things even more clear when His own Son took on physical flesh to lead a physical life that lead to a physical cross where He physically absorbed our curse, was physically tortured, and bought you and bought me and bought this whole physical world with His physical blood. If He’d wanted a spiritual kingdom, He could have saved Himself a huge amount of trouble (to say nothing of making the Greek philosophers and medieval gnostics a lot happier), by just skipping Christmas and the Crucifixion.

― N. D. Wilson
Death by Living:
Life Is Meant to Be Spent

The transforming event

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We look back on history, and what do we see? Empires rising and falling;  and counter-revolutions succeeding one another; wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed; one nation dominant and then another. As Shakespeare’s King Lear puts it, “the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon…” Can this really be what life is about, as the media insist? This interminable soap opera going from century to century . . . from era to era, whose old discarded sets and props litter the earth? Surely not.

 Was it to provide a location
for so repetitive and ribald a performance
that the universe was created
and man came into existence?

I can’t believe it. If this were all, then the cynics, the hedonists, and the suicides would be right. The most we can hope for from life is some passing amusement, some gratification of our senses and death. But it’s not all.

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Thanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama. God reaches down to become a Man and Man reaches up to relate himself to God. Time looks into eternity and eternity into time, making now always, and always now. Everything is transformed by the sublime drama of the Incarnation…

–Malcolm Muggeridge
The True Crisis of Our Time

Image: Thomas Cole (1836)

Romance and truth

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Christianity met
the mythological search
for romance by being a story,
and the philosophical
search for truth by being
a true story.

–G. K. Chesterton

Artwork: Nolan N. Nasser

The anti-Christian

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There is nothing more cheering than transformed Christian people and there is nothing more disintegrating than people who have been merely “brushed” by Christianity, people who have been sown with a thousand seeds but in whose lives there is no depth and no rootage . . .

This is the wood from which
anti-Christians . . . are cut.
They are almost always
former half-Christians.

A person who lets Jesus only half way into his heart is far poorer than one hundred per cent worldling. He does not get the peace that passes all under-standing and he also loses the world’s peace, because his naïveté has been taken from him. Therefore a constant bickering goes on in his heart and it is quite apparent than one day in a fit of rage he will slam the door on that quiet Figure, who even then has continued to knock and seek entrance. The anti-Christian is always a half-Christian gone mad. This you can depend upon.

–Helmut Thielicke
The Waiting Father

Theological wipeouts

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Christian theology, however, never is and never can be anything more than the thoughts that Christians have (alone or with others) after they have said yes to Jesus. Sure, it can be a thrilling subject. Of course, it is something you can do well or badly — or even get right or wrong. And naturally, it is one of the great fun things to do on weekends when your kidney stones aren’t acting up.

Actually, it is almost exactly like another important human subject that meets all the same criteria: wind-surfing. Everybody admires it, and plenty of people try it. But the number of people who can do it well is even smaller than the number who can do it without making a fool of themselves.

Trust Jesus, then. After that, theologize all you want, Just don’t lose your sense of humor if your theological surfboard deposits you unceremoniously in the drink.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

Published in: on 06/04/2014 at 8:02  Leave a Comment  
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Unscripted grace

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If Christianity is grace,
we don’t have
a push-button God.
Get ready for
an adventure.

–Tim Keller

Published in: on 05/29/2014 at 8:48  Leave a Comment  
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The astounding offer

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The whole offer which
Christianity makes is this:
that we can,
if we let God have His way,
come to share in
the life of Christ.

–C. S. Lewis

Connected to the Vine

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It is only by being grafted into Christ that we produce good fruit. Other religions say, “Do good and you will become good.” Christianity says, “Be in Christ, and you will do good.” The meaning of the Atonement and the Blood that washes away our sins is that we are grafted into Christ, I in Him, and He in me. It is a bitter sprig which is grafted into the tree, but, once it is grafted in, the sweet juice of the tree flows through the bitter sprig and makes it sweet.

–Sadhu Sundar Singh
(1889-1929)

Beauty was God’s idea

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One of my greatest difficulties in considering to think of religion… was that I thought I should have to give up my beautiful thoughts and my love for the things God had made. But I find that the happiness springing from all things not in themselves sinful is much increased by religion. God is the God of the beautiful, Religion the love of the Beautiful, and Heaven the House of the Beautiful—nature is tenfold brighter in the sun of righteousness, and my love of nature is more intense since I became a Christian.

–George MacDonald
(1824 – 1905)

Image: Stephen Darbishire

The return of the King

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Christianity is the story
of how the rightful King
has landed and is calling us
to His great campaign
of sabotage.

–C. S. Lewis

A different lot

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A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen; talks familiarly every day to someone he cannot see; expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another; empties himself in order to be full; admits he is wrong so he can be declared right; goes down in order to get up; is strongest when he is weakest; richest when he is poorest; and happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live; forsakes in order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes knowledge.

The man who has met God
is not looking for anything;
he has found it.

He is not searching for light, for upon him the light has already shined. His certainty may seem bigoted, but his assurance is that of one who knows by experience his religion is not hearsay. He is not a copy, not a facsimile. He is an original from the hand of the Holy Spirit.

–A. W. Tozer

Lamebrains and misfits

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“We are fools for Christ’s sake,” Paul says. You can’t put it much more plainly than that. God is foolish too, he says–“the foolishness of God”–just as plainly. God is foolish to choose for his holy work in the world the kind of lamebrains and misfits and nitpickers and holier-than-thous and stuffed shirts and odd ducks and egomaniacs and milquetoasts and closet sensualists as are vividly represented here by you and me…

–Frederick Buechner
The Road Goes On

The pleasure and the pain

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There is nothing life-denying or teetotaling or pleasure-eschewing about authentic Christianity; it embraces the joys of human existence with great enthusiasm. However, let me make at least a nod in the direction of the Puritans. Since pleasure – like all good created things – can become an attachment, it too must be disciplined if we are to stay rooted in the center.

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To stand with Christ is hardly to embrace a hedonistic campaign of marching from delight to delight; rather it is to do the will of the Father even when that costs dearly, even when it conduces to the cross. Therefore the centered person must be ready for pain as well as pleasure, for deep sadness as well as contentment, clinging neither to one nor the other.

–Robert Barron
The Strangest Way

Bold believers

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In vain I have searched the Bible, looking for examples of early believers whose lives were marked by rigidity, predictability, inhibition, dullness, and caution.

Fortunately, grim, frowning,
joyless saints in Scriptures
are conspicuous by their absence.

Instead, the examples I find are of adventurous, risk-taking, enthusiastic, and authentic believers whose joy was contagious even in times of full trial. Their vision was broad even when death drew near. Rules were few and changes were welcome. The contrast between then and now is staggering.

–Charles Swindoll

Major makeover

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Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

–C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

A cure for insomnia

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To be perfectly candid, there are few things that are as dull and boring in life as Christianity without the living, breathing, radiant, triumphant Christ. It’s a first-degree snoozer. If you could bottle it, you would have the cure for insomnia.

–Leonard Sweet
–Frank Viola
Jesus Manifesto

Joy and danger

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Forgiveness of sins,
ought to make you rejoice;
this is the very heart of Christianity,
and yet it is a mighty dangerous
thing to preach.

–Martin Luther
Table Talk

A new beginning

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Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world . . .  That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.

–N.T. Wright

He gives a Song

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Life to me has not been a struggle. It has been, and is, a Song. The struggle has been only when I have departed from His Way. Only when I have jumped the rails of his Way and have bumped along the ties of my own self-will, tearing myself and my situation to pieces, have I had a struggle, a struggle to get back on the rails, to get back on the Way to live – his will.

When I am in his will,
life is not a struggle;
it is a Song.

And it is a Song, not a song, a ditty to divert you from reality, but a Song which has behind it the “music of the spheres”; the sum total of reality is behind your Song. You have something to sing about. You sing the song that the “morning stars sang” and when “all the sons of God shouted for joy” – that strain is in it. You have cosmic backing. You sing because you can’t help it. It’s the only method of expression . . .

But my Song will not be primarily about special events, but about the special event, about Jesus Christ. I have something to sing about – and the something is a Someone.

–E. Stanley Jones
A Song of Ascents

No whiff of negotiation

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Grace is created by God and given to man . . . On the basis of this point alone, Christianity is set apart from any other religion in the world . . .

Every other approach to God
is a bartering system;
if I do this God will do that.

I’m either saved by works (what I do), emotions (what I experience), or knowledge (what I know). By contrast Christianity has no whiff of negotiation at all. Man is not the negotiator; indeed man has no grounds from which to negociate.

–Max Lucado
In the Grip of Grace

Called into a Story

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Christianity, in its true form, tells us that there is an Author and that he is good, the essence of all that is good and beautiful and true, for he is the source of all these things.

It tells us that he has set
our hearts’ longings within us,
for he has made us to live
in an Epic.

It warns that the truth is always in danger of being twisted and corrupted and stolen from us because there is a Villain in the Story who hates our hearts and wants to destroy us. It calls us up into a Story that is truer and deeper than any other, and assures us that there we will find the meaning of our lives.

–John Eldredge
Epic
(emphasis added)

The fairy tale that’s true

Castle

It is a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen and wonderful things too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle where often it is hard to be sure who belongs to which side because appearances are endlessly deceptive. Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name… That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.

–Frederick Buechner
Telling the Truth
(emphasis added)

Myths, legends and the gospel

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On the evening of September 19, 1931, Lewis had a long discussion with one of his closest friends, J. R. R. Tolkien . . .

Lewis said that he could not see what meaning Christ’s life, death and resurrection could possibly have for him living 1900 years after the events. Tolkien replied that the gospel works in the same way that myths work. Lewis had no problem in being moved by myths and legends – they gave him a sense of joy and touched a chord of longing in his heart. But, ‘they are lies breathed through silver’ Lewis replied.

No, said Tolkien, they are not completely lies – rather, myths have elements of the truth within the distortions and unworthy outer husk they often wear.

Myths, said Tolkien, are echoes
or memories of the truth
that God had originally made known
to Adam and Eve, the ancestors
of the whole human race.

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There are in myths, memories of the un-fallen world, memories of paradise when the world was not stained by human rebellion but was characterized only by goodness and joy in all of life; there is a sense of the shame and tragedy of the brokenness of our present life; and there are hints of the promise and hope of redemption, of the setting right of all things. The Gospel is the true myth, the great fairy story.

In the Gospel of Christ
all the elements of truth in the pagan myths
find their fulfillment.

This conversation (it went on till 3:00 am) was a very significant turning point in Lewis’ conversion, for just a few days afterwards Lewis came to faith in Christ.

Jerram Barrs
Echoes of Eden
(emphasis added)

The way out of the grave

Empty tomb

Christianity has had
a series of revolutions
and in each one of them
Christianity has died.
Christianity has died
many times and risen again;
for it had a God who knew
the way out of the grave.

–G. K. Chesterton
The Everlasting Man

The Gospel is a Person

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If the gospel were primarily
a set of good ideas, then the end
would be intellectual assent and acceptance.
But if the gospel is primarily a Person,
then the end is a surrender to,
and a following of, that Person.

–E. Stanley Jones

Back where we belong

Christ Hugging People

The gospel is
the restoration of humanity
to it’s rightful ownership.

–Norman Grubb
(1895 – 1993)

Published in: on 03/07/2013 at 1:47  Leave a Comment  
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