At the Kingdom’s center

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In the center of the kingdom of God, you do not find a gargantuan palace inhabited by an unapproachable king. No, in the center of the kingdom of God is a bloody cross, on which hung a broken King, who welcomes us as we are.

—Paul David Tripp

Published in: on 03/28/2013 at 19:48  Leave a Comment  
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God, explain yourself

Cross - suffering 1

How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song–all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.

We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God.

―Nicholas Wolterstorff
Lament for a Son

The blunder of bookkeeping

hell_or_heaven__by_yongl-d4lkj73

In heaven, there are only forgiven sinners. There are no good guys, no uptight, successful types who, by dint of their own integrity, have been accepted into the great country club in the sky. There are only failures, only those who have accepted their deaths in their sins and who have been raised up by the King who himself died that they might live.

But in hell, too, there are only forgiven sinners. Jesus on the cross does not sort out certain exceptionally recalcitrant parties and cut them off from the pardon of his death.

He forgives the badness of even the worst of us,
willy-nilly; and he never takes back that
forgiveness, not even at the bottom
of the bottomless pit.

Heaven 8

The sole difference, therefore,
between hell and heaven is that in heaven
the forgiveness is accepted and passed along,
while in hell it is rejected and blocked.

In heaven, the death of the king is welcomed and becomes the doorway to new life in the resurrection. In hell, the old life of the bookkeeping world is insisted on and becomes, forever, the pointless torture it always was.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
(emphasis added)

He could have but He didn’t

He’s in Gethsemane and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he’s not going to fight. There was a skirmish there when he was arrested but he was not involved in it and he did not approve of it. In fact, he disapproved of it and, according to Luke, healed the one who was wounded and reprimanded his friend, “Put your sword away. That’s not how we do it.”

He’s not going to fight apparently. He could have, oh, he could have. Matthew has absolutely no doubt he could have. In fact he said, “Don’t you know I could ask God right now for twelve legions of angels and they would be here to fight for me?” He could have, says Matthew, but he doesn’t…

When he’s on the cross, there was a good time for him to do it. With all the taunting, just reading the taunting makes me want to do something. “If you’re the Messiah, why don’t you jump down? Everybody will believe in you. If you’re the king, come down. If you’re the Son of God, God would surely love you and get you down.”

That would have been my cue to act. Pull a little whammy. Motivate and energize the crowds and they would take care of it with garden tools and everything else and we’d be on our way. But it’s obvious that he’s not going to fight, although he could…

Matthew, more than anyone else, likes to call Jesus the King. He could have done it, but he didn’t. And I don’t know why I’m always surprised when I read this because I know better. Matthew has told us all along that he’s not going to. Is he the King? He’s the King. Is he going to fight? No. The title for every chapter in Matthew is this: “He Could Have but He Didn’t.

–Fred B. Craddock

Left-handed power

There is one effect that cannot be
the result of a direct application of force,
and that is the maintenance of
a relationship between free persons.

If my child chooses not to cooperate with me, if my wife chooses not to live with me, there is no right-handed power on earth that can make them toe the line of relationship I have chosen to draw in the sand. I can dock my son’s allowance, for example, or chain him to a radiator; or in anger at my wife, I can punch holes in the Sheetrock or beat her senseless with a shovel. In short, I can use any force that comes to hand or mind, and yet I cannot cause either of them, at the core of their being, to stop their wrongs and conform to my right. The only power I have by which to do that is left-handed power – which for all practical purposes will be indistinguishable from weakness on my part. It is the power of my patience with them, of my letting their wrong be – even if that costs me my rightness or my life – so that they, for whose reconciliation I long, may live for a better day of their own choosing.

My point here is twofold. The power of God that saves the world was revealed in Jesus as left-handed power; and therefore any power that the church may use in its God-given role as the sacrament of Jesus must also be left-handed. Despite the fact that God’s Old Testament forays into the thicket of fallen human nature were decided right-handed (plagues, might acts, stretched-out-arm exercises, and thunderous threats) – and despite Jesus’ occasional use of similar tactics in the Gospels – the final act by which God reconciles the world to himself consists of his simply dropping dead on the cross and shutting up on the subject of sin.

He declares the whole
power game won by losing,
and he invites the world just to believe
that absurd proposition.

–Robert F. Capon
(emphasis added)

When God renounced power

Power, no matter how well-intentioned, tends to cause suffering. Love, being vulnerable, absorbs it. In a point of convergence on a hill called Calvary, God renounced the one for the sake of the other.

―Philip Yancey

Published in: on 11/03/2012 at 10:52  Leave a Comment  
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Firmly in fellowship

Within the last century, the term fellowship has evolved into a construct that Christians use to talk about feelings of closeness to God at a given time. It’s a framework for relating to God that, unfortunately, we tend to develop from our interpersonal relationships. If we’ve sinned against a friend, family member, or coworker, we feel that our relationship with them is strained or broken until we apologize, are forgiven, and then restored to previous communication.

In the Scriptures, fellowship with God is not described in this way. Instead, a person is either in fellowship with God and therefore saved, or out of fellowship and therefore lost.

In the ten instances of the word fellowship
in the epistles, not once is there
a moving “in and out of fellowship” with God
based on recent performance.

Of course, we still mature spiritually. And when we sin, consequences hit us. We can’t escape the laws of the land. We also can’t escape the reactions of others. If we sin against someone, we may experience difficult circumstances and our own disappointment with our choice. But we shouldn’t mistake these earthly consequences for moving out of fellowship with God.

Our fellowship is stable and certain. God’s face is always toward us. When we sin, he’s there every step of the way to help us learn from our mistake. How arrogant it is to assume that we could escape sin alone, while out of fellowship, in order to get back in!

If we buy the lie that God sits in a swivel chair, ready to rotate his face away from us when we sin, then we proclaim a God of conditional love and conditional fellowship. But this is to ignore the work of Jesus, who on the cross cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus was out of fellowship with his Father so we would never be.

–Andrew Farley
(emphasis added)

A tangible marker

There are times when a stake needs to be driven into the ground to establish a fact, to make a statement. It becomes a tangible marker that clarifies an issue—that ends discussion. It makes the verbal visible. It is something we can point to and come back to.

When the Maker of the planet
purposed to confirm to us
the reality of His unrelenting love,
He was kind enough to place
the matter beyond dispute.

An enormous wooden stake was hammered into the soil. It was driven home so forcefully that the whole universe felt the impact. He made His point painfully clear. It left no room for doubt.

And it had the unmistakable resemblance to a Roman cross.

–Jurgen Schulz

The outrageous invitation

Religion is the human race’s vain attempt to perfect a series of transactions that will con God into doing something about its plight. But the prescriptions of religion never delivered on their promises: all the chicken sacrifices of history, all the fasts, all the nights of prayer, all the approved sexual behavior—none of it ever tidied up even the smallest corner of the mess of history. And therefore when God really does do something about the mess, he doesn’t risk doing anything religious. Instead, he simply gets himself executed as a common criminal and then outrageously invites us to trust that everything religion ever tried to do has been accomplished . . .

–Robert Farrar Capon

Published in: on 04/27/2011 at 22:19  Leave a Comment  
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Divine power

Divine power
is not a ruling fist,
but an open,
bleeding hand.

–Michael Lodahl


He is a lover

crown of thorns 4God’s reaction to our waywardness is not that of a government worker obsessed with rules, he is Christ breaking rules on the Sabbath to help someone imprisoned and oppressed by the world. He is Christ being down-right rude and aggressive defending an outcast from the religiously arrogant. Passionate, involved, dying a messy death. He is not a gentleman concerned with form and proper behavior, he is a lover.

–Derek Flood

The heavenly dream

The God of orthodox Christianity is a God who loves undeserving, vile sinners with an unconditional love, a God who voluntarily suffers on the cross the hellish nightmare that the sin of these sinners produces, in order that they might share in the heavenly dream he has for them. This is a God who sent his own eternal Son and gave his own eternal Spirit to envelop these sinners with his own eternal love and cause them to share in the eternal joy of this eternal triune fellowship.

–Gregory Boyd

Nailing it down

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There are times when we need to drive a stake into the ground to establish a fact, to make a statement. The marker becomes a tangible reminder that dispels uncertainty—that ends discussion. It makes the verbal visible. It is something we can point to and come back to.

When the Maker of the planet purposed to confirm to us the reality of His unrelenting love, He was kind enough to place the matter beyond dispute. He hammered into the soil an enormous wooden stake. It left no room for doubt. He made His point pain-fully clear. And it bore an unmistakable resemblance to a cross.

Published in: on 02/10/2010 at 13:11  Leave a Comment  
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