Saturday, November 07, 2009

Abreaction: The Shack

The Collins English Dictionary defines abreaction as "the release and expression of emotional tension associated with repressed ideas by bringing those ideas into consciousness." And this is precisely what author William Paul Young set out to do when he wrote the NY Times bestseller The Shack. (It's been on the list for the past 76 weeks and is currently at #4!)

I am currently attending the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Montreal, and decided to stop in on a session this afternoon where Young was talking about his book and interacting with a panel of theologians in front of a roomful of theologians on what he wrote. To be honest I have not read the book yet, even though many people had recommended it to me. I have been quite ambivalent towards the genre of Christian fiction on the whole, because much of the time it is either poorly written, or not very "Christian" in what it communicates, and in most cases just poorly written, un-"Christian" trash.

But since this was an academic presentation by the "Christian Theological Research Fellowship," I thought that it might be interesting to go hear what the author had to say about this "wildly popular novel" (as stated in the program book). Well, I was truly blown away by Young, and his presentation. I won't try to rehash the whole session or give you all my notes on the session here, as I don't think I could do him justice if I did, but I posted an interview that he gave a Christian radio station in Sydney, Australia, that basically captures a lot of what he had to say about the book and the many objections to it.

The Shack is essentially a "theological novel" (his description) and in it he is trying to address who God is and how he has come to understand him in the midst of deep personal pain. He talked about the "shack" as a metaphor of the human soul and how it is a run-down, ramshackle dilapidated building that we try to prop up and pretend is really a beautiful mansion, or a least a nice suburban detached two-storey home. In reality it is filled with deep darkness, pain and every manner of uncleanness inside. As far as he is concerned, this is what most of us (especially Christians) will not admit to. We try to paper over the cracks, and pretend that everything is ok, when we know it really isn't. And one of the ways we do it is to turn to religion to do. For him, religion is "fear and guilt based performance to win the approval of God." Instead he believes that we need to find our relationship with a personal and loving God who is revealed in his Son, Jesus Christ.

What really grabbed me was the fact that he set out to write the book in obedience to a request his wife. She wanted him to write something to tell his 6 children about what he had learnt in a time of deep darkness. He went through a huge personal crash in early 1994, and this began an 11 year ordeal, that he only came out of at the end of 2004 (details can be found in the posted interview). It was in this context that he wrote to share with his kids what he had learnt about God in this time of deep personal darkness. So The Shack was his abreaction and I think this is why it has gained the readership it has all around the globe (over 10 million and counting!). One of the theologians in the audience described it as Young's "12 step" recovery process.  It connects with people deep down in a visceral way, bypassing all the intellectual objections many people have to the Christian description of God. I think that it is telling that most of the critics are those who are within the Chrisitian establishment, some of whom have labeled it "heresy". (Just "google" it and you can find all manner of vitrolic against him and his book)

Young himself is a "layperson" but not an unschooled one. He has had some seminary education, and is very well-read theologically. My impression of him was that he was quite astute as an amateur theologian. He was working as an office manager for a circuit board manufacturer when he wrote this book, and initially meant it as a Christmas gift for his children. He originally printed 15 copies for them and some close friends and other family members, but was later encouraged to try to get it published. What is amazing is that it was turned down by 26 publishers (both Christian and secular), so a couple of his friends helped him get it published, and they actually sold over 1 million copies out one of their garages with a $300 advertising budget. As Young says, it was a God thing!

What was widely acknowledged at the end of the session (which was attended by some really well-known, and respected theologians) was that Young has succeeded in getting theology into the hearts (and heads) of the masses. Not just Christians, but also many who had either turned their back on Christianity or had never given it serious thought up till reading his book. He shared some wonderful testimonies of people who had come to faith in Christ through his work, and many of them were really amazing. The challenged issued to the group of thinkers here in Montreal is to do more creatively so that theology will break out beyond the hallowed halls, and "ivory towers" we theologians too often find ourselves in. I can't wait to get my hands on the book and actually read it for myself!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Change of Heart

I just came across an interview with Dr. Ashley Null on Thomas Cranmer (ht Aaron Z). For those of you who don't know, Cranmer is the architect of the English Reformation, and is one of the key figures in the formation of the Anglican church. Dr Null is the foremost expert on Abp Cranmer.

I used to think of myself as an Anglican because of an accident of birth (i.e. being born in the home of an Anglican vicar) but I now consider myself one out of conviction. The chief reason for this is what Dr Null pointed out in his interview:
"According to Cranmer’s anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.
The trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification, i.e., concupiscence. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways.
Therefore, God must intervene in our lives in order to bring salvation. Working through Scripture, the Holy Spirit first brings a conviction of sin in a believer’s heart, then he births a living faith by which the believer lays hold of the extrinsic righteousness of Christ. Of course, the perfect justifying righteousness by which we are made right with God must be outside of us, for the ongoing presence of sinful concupiscence in our mortal bodies renders it impossible for us ever to be truly holy in this life. Indeed, the glory of God is his love for the unworthy, that although we are sinners, he makes us his own."

This insight into the human condition and God's work in our lives has revolutionised my own life, ministry and preaching. This understanding also permeates the liturgy of the Anglican church, especially since Cranmer's single greatest contribution is the Book of Common Prayer. I have really come to appreciate and value the depth of the prayers, and how it points us time and time again to God's sovereign work in us, and how we desperately need a "change of heart". As Cranmer prayed:
Cambridge BCP 2O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A 2009 Ranking of Graduate Programs in Theology in First Things

I was alerted to this article from the Christian Journal, First Things by a fellow student at Wycliffe, where I am currently a doctoral candidate in Theology. It is a ranking of graduate theology programs in North America, done by the features editor of this publication. He also happens to be a professor of theology at Creighton University, and is well versed with the academic world in North America. What I was pleasantly surprised about was the fact that he ranked Wycliffe 4th in the North American continent!

When I applied to Wycliffe, it was not because I had an eye on the rankings, but because of what they had to offer in terms of the professors, and the way the system was set up within the larger Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto. So I was really pleased to learn that someone else (who is far more well-versed in academia) also thought highly of my choice!
However this is but one person's opinion and he admits that he has a personal bias, but as I learnt from Gadamer in my readings this week, prejudice is not necessarily a bad thing!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Can You Do It?

I have recently gone back to school and one of the courses I am taking this semester is centred around the theology of the reformers, specifically that of Luther and Calvin. In class this past week, we were discussing the bound will from Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, and of course the topic of semi-Pelagianism came up. One of my classmates used an illustration to explain this heresy that is too good not to share with you on on this blog.
He pointed out that a semi-Pelagian sees God like the Home Depot store whose tagline is “You can do it, we can help”. That set off a discussion about how pernicious this kind of thinking can be. It is actually fatal because it hides what the real problem is, and prevents us from fully embracing the gospel.
To use the Home Depot illustration again, it is like a person who thinks that all they need to make their home presentable is to get a fresh coat of paint, and maybe some new molding, to fix the problems they have with the house. When in reality the root of the problem is that the foundations of the house have rotted away, and it will collapse at any moment (ala Tom Hanks in “The Money Pit”). What is really needed is for the home to be torn down, and a new one erected in its place. That is why the Christian gospel is about death and resurrection—not “you can do it, we can help”!
So many times we don’t like to hear this kind of news. Someone in my class observed that Luther sounds so pessimistic and depressing in his disputation. Yet Luther himself points out how important it is to get the diagnosis of our problem right. In the proof for Thesis 17 of the Heidelberg Disputation, he says:
Sin is recognized only through the law. It is apparent that not despair, but rather hope, is preached when we are told that we are sinners. Such preaching concerning sin is a preparation for grace, or it is rather the recognition of sin and faith in such preaching. Yearning for grace wells up when recognition of sin has arisen. A sick person seeks the physician when he recognizes the seriousness of his illness. Therefore one does not give cause for despair or death by telling a sick person about the danger of his illness, but, in effect, one urges him to seek a medical cure. To say that we are nothing and constantly sin when we do the best we can does not mean that we cause people to despair (unless they are fools); rather, we make them concerned about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wedding Evangelism Anyone?

This article from CT's Leadership Journal ("Wedding Crashers") shows that we have a lot to do in terms of the impression people have of the church.

"No" seems to be the word of the day, so much so that when they get a "Yes", it makes them re-examine their assumptions. This is especially reflected in an excerpt of an email from a self-avowed atheist who was married by a pastor:

"When we first met, I described myself to you as an atheist and asked if it were possible to 'leave God out of the ceremony.' You kindly told me that you desired to serve us best, but that leaving God out of it was not possible because God was a part of you. I was not sure what you meant, but I trusted your promise not to 'preach' to us on our wedding day. I have to say that I can no longer call myself an atheist. Rather, I am probably an agnostic, because I just don't know the answer. You've shown me that it's OK to question, as long as I am still en route. Since we are moving in a few months, we were wondering if you could point us to a church in Seattle with a pastor like you. You've made us think that we might be missing a part of life, so we want to give it a try."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

In Perfect Harmony?

I came across an interesting article "Ministry Lessons from Muslim" on an approach to pluralism that seeks to "love our neighbour" without compromising on loving God will all our hearts. I think it is worth some further reflection and consideration. This question of how we are to live with those of other faiths is a reality for us who live in multi-ethnic and multi-religious Singapore.

Of late, the spotlight has been turned on us as Christians, and how we live in a "secular" society. I myself have problems with the concept of a "secular" society because most often the underlying assumption is that for us to live with others, we have to "dumb down" who we are and what we believe. This so-called society is one in which everyone joins hands, singing "I'd like teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony". Where there is no conflict, because there are no strongly held views that impinge on another. In fact, many who espouse this view of "secularism" in reality put forward their own value system that minimalises any sort of religious belief, and they do it "religiously".

As an aside, that popular song of the 70's began as a jingle for that giant of globalisation, Coca-Cola. It included the line "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" and the refrain "It's the real thing". These of course play right into their goal of selling more so that they can gain more, another "religious" view which actually has many more adherents than any other religion in the world!

This type of approach to living in a plural (the word I prefer over "secular") world really denies and denigrates people and their beliefs. It assumes neutrality should be the goal for all. The problem is who defines what is "neutral"? We are complex creatures, and we are the sum of all our experiences and upbringing. To deny any of it is to be less than who we are, or to lapse into some kind of surreal, superficial "common ground" which really is a place where no one feels comfortable.

Don't misunderstand me, I do not support any person (or organization or corporation) that seeks to force their beliefs on another. Not only is it obnoxious, it is also incapable of changing anyone. Such a push, always results in a push-back, or in Newtonian terms, "an equal and opposite reaction" (Just look at what is happening in Urumqi, China). Yet what many people seem to think is that the solution is to take the opposite approach. They believe that lowering ourselves to the "lowest common denominator" will allow for greater harmony. I think that this actually leads to less understanding, because we only know the other person superficially. They cannot be themselves. It is a pale shadow of who they really are. So what is the solution?

The article points out that there is another way:
In our increasingly secular society, many people have come to view religion as a problem and the source of conflict between groups. This sentiment was popularized in John Lennon's 1971 song "Imagine," in which religion is presented as an obstacle to world peace and harmony. But Eboo Patel is helping these seminary students turn conventional wisdom upside down. He sees the potential for greater cooperation and coexistence by embracing our different religious identities, not abandoning them.

"If you enter a ministerial gathering as a Christian minister and downplay your Christian identity in an attempt to make everyone comfortable," says Patel, "as a Muslim leader, I'm immediately suspicious. I don't trust you. Embracing your identity as a Christian creates safety for me to be a Muslim."
I think that this is where we need to head. I know that it is not easy, but it is necessary.

ANA Merlion Commercial

To be honest, I don't know why tourists are so fascinated with the Merlion.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Loving Sinners

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a phrase that has been tossed about so often, that many people think it is a biblical quotation. Using the search feature on my bible software on 16 different versions of the Bible turned up: “There were no results for this search.” A search of the internet pointed to a possibility that it may have been a paraphrase of St Augustine of Hippo who said in Latin, Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, or “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” So why do we as Christians use this phrase so often?
It may be because the sentiment it expresses is one found in Scripture. After all Paul reminds Timothy that, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim 1:15). Jesus certainly went out of his way to reach the lost, and became known as a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Then we have that famous story of the woman caught in adultery. As we all know, the story ends with him saying to this poor dis-graced person, “Neither do I condemn you... Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

However, in my experience, as good and biblical as this phrase sounds, it is for all intents and purposes a human impossibility. As depraved creatures, we do neither well. Our “love” is incomplete at best, or hypocritical at its worst. And our “hate” is qualified. We “hate” the sin that is not our own. More importantly, we cannot for all our efforts keep that fine line between the “sin” and the “sinner”.

I have never heard a person once utter with great conviction, “That pastor really hates my sin, but I am convinced that he absolutely loves me!” Instead, what I have come across many times are people who has been so battered and bruised by other Christians, because of the callous judgement, and angry rhetoric, that they despaired of ever finding healing in the church. I am reminded of the story that Philip Yancey tells in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? He speaks to a prostitute who is desperate, advising her to go to the neighbourhood church to find help. She replies, “Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They'd just make me feel worse."

So what are we to do? In my opinion, the greater problem we have in the church (or our tradition) right now is that we are far too Pharisaical in tone, and not sufficiently loving to sinners. How can we change that? Do we even want to? Don’t get me wrong. We must never deny the reality of sin in the life of the person. But most who come to us are “sick” people, in need of healing. What we cannot do is turn them away, just because they are unwell. After all, what kind of hospital would we be if we only allow healthy people to enter?

Even more important though is how we see ourselves. At times we think of ourselves as health care workers, when in reality we are the patients who are in various stages of recovery, but in desperate need of healing too! It is so easy for us to see “them” as sinners, forgetting our own condition. That is why Jesus was insistent that we deal with the log in our eyes, and not obsess over the splinters in the eye of another. So we are called to be loving sinners who love fellow sinners. And together we look to Dr. Jesus who alone can cure sin!

St Francis de la Sissies

This put a smile on my face. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Asian Cuisine

Asians will eat anything... and I know this from first-hand experience!

Read it all here: Fishermen catch, then eat, ultra-rare megamouth shark

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Scandal of the Gospel

I found it interesting how Mark Galli, the managing editor of Christianity Today, drew a gospel lesson from the current furore surrounding the $165 million being paid out to high-leveled executives of the troubled insurance giant AIG (read all about it in The Scandal of the AIG Bonuses).

As a side note, I circumspectly offer the observation that they are the jersey sponsors of a team otherwise known as the "Red Devils" which leads me to think of "birds of a feather" and all that...

In any case, he wryly notes that this scandal is nothing compared to the scandal of the gospel; "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). The "free bonus" of grace given to totally undeserving miscreants cannot help but incense the masses; unless we happen to be one of the villainous miscreants.

If the gospel we preach doesn't turn a few heads, and cause the man in the street to cry out at the scandal, the question begs as to whether what we proclaim is truly "good news"?

As Galli says in his conclusion...
I wonder if we are preaching the gospel if we don't scandalize a few listeners, maybe even ourselves, with the incomprehensible unfairness of it all. When Paul talked about the gospel, many were shocked and appalled. It sounded as if God wanted to reward sinners, to give a bonus to scoundrels! They scoffed, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Rom. 6:1). And when they figured out what exactly he was preaching, they got so angry that they told him to fall on his sword, and then formed a mob to run him out of town.

May we be as "scandalous" as Paul as we declare the gospel of the cross on which our Lord bled and died...for us!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Pew Warmers?

Pew Warmer
Pew Warmer,
originally uploaded by Jon W.
The Rev Dr Leander Harding was one of my professors in seminary. His keen sense of pastoral need and ability to sift through the flotsam of parish ministry is quite a gift, in my opinion. I recently came across a post on his blog about Ash Wednesday, and I reproduce a section from that post, " Thoughts on Ash Wednesday" here:
I have become more and more suspicious of the concept of the nominal Christian. Our parish churches are supposed to be full of nominal Christians who are just going through the motions, of half-believers who are relying on their good works and who have not really surrendered to Christ and accepted the Gospel. In any parish church there are a few real apostates, and a few real scoffers and perhaps a few who genuinely hate God. Their numbers are routinely exaggerated. Most of the people who come to the church Sunday by Sunday know they are dying and are placing their hope in Christ. It may be an inarticulate hope, it may be a confused hope. Often there are huge brambles of misunderstanding that must be cleared away before the whole power of the good news can come in upon them. Often there is real darkness into which the light of Christ has not yet come and which cries out for a light-bearer. Yet, they come. When Jesus saw such as these gathered in their multitudes on the hill side, the sight provoked in him not contempt for the nominal but compassion, “for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Closer to Being Human

I just read a review in the NY Times on an off-broadway play entitled "This Beautiful City," which traces the transformation of the city of Colorado Springs into a "miniature capital of (Evangelical) Christianity." As expected, one of the storylines is, surprise, surprise, Ted Haggard and his fall from grace (covered elsewhere on this great blog) . What caught my eye in the review were the lines spoken by the character (holding his hat in the picture on the left) who plays Marcus Haggard, one of Ted's sons.
“Sure, tragedy happened there,” he reflects. “Flip side is, in my view, my dad’s understanding God for the first time. Because, you know, we believe God is unconditional love. He is the only one who can love us completely for who we are, no matter what we’ve done, and heal us. So I think my dad’s being healed. I think he’s closer to being human now than ever before.”
I would never wish what happened to Haggard on anyone. Having said that, if that is what it takes for us to become "closer to being human," it can only be a good thing. As Luther points out, "A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it is." May we all be similarly healed!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Defeated Pastors

Mark Galli, a Christianity Today editor points out that many of the pastors he has observed at this year's National Pastors Convention in the US seem to harbour "a simmering anger about the church" (read it all in his blog posting, "Pastors as Lovers")

Having been a pastor himself, he understands that the primary cause of this slow burn are the people that make up the flock. It is not a problem unique to Western Christianity, but is just as real here in Singapore. I'm quite sure many pastors have thought, "I love the church, but its the people in the church that I can't stand."

I am sure that the reasons for this can be complex, but I can't help but think how it boils down to how most pastors view their people. They mistakenly believe that change is the natural outcome of good preaching, teaching and leading. The cause and effect thinking that if we just give them good teaching, they will be transformed. Yet what happens is that we run up against the reality of the bound will, and get frustrated when our best efforts seem to fall on deaf ears.

The irony is that Pastors conferences heap on the misery when they continue to exhort these weary pastors to just do more of the same. Galli says, "I just wish that at NPC, more of the presenters would not have fed the anger with calls for revolutionizing this and transforming that, which only puts more guilt and even more unrealistic expectations on the shoulders of men and women in pastoral leadership..."

I've been there, done that, but refused to buy the t-shirt because who wants to be reminded of his inadequacies and failings? Ironically, Galli's prescription to "love the church" may not be any more soothing to tired souls. How can a bruised, beaten up shepherd, rise up and love his flock. I believe that it is only when he receives the love of the Shepherd, that he can rise up and love others. After all it is only love that can beget love. Christ said to "love as I have loved you." And to be fair to Galli, he sort of instinctually understands this. He points out towards the end of the of his blog post that the healing and renewal he had received in past conferences came because of the opportunities he found to commiserate with fellow sufferers, and the fact that he found sympathetic listeners amongst the walking wounded. Love indeed births goodness.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Desperate acts

Unfortunately, the reality of how much people measure their self-worth by their net-worth comes through in this article. Much attention in this current economic crisis has been focused on the people who are on the lower strata of the socio-economic pile, but the reality of depravity and depression affects all, even those who seemingly have it made. Pain is truly universal.

IN THE abyss of financial ruin, faced with sure disgrace and possibly prison, some of the newly scandalised rich have taken desperate measures in these despairing times.
The black hole of hopelessness can be overwhelming. A man who lost US$1.4 billion (S$2.11 billion) to Bernie Madoff sits down in his Manhattan office and carefully writes a series of suicide letters to family and friends, then swallows a fatal dose of pills and conscientiously places a wastebasket under his bleeding arm, after slicing it with a box cutter.
Others are mind-boggling in their brazenness. A financier accused of stealing from his investors boards his private plane alone, sends a fake distress call over Alabama saying his windshield has shattered and he is bleeding profusely, then parachutes from the still-moving Piper Malibu, which is later found in a Florida swamp with no signs of blood or an imploded windshield.
In the past year, there have been more than 10 such incidents, from points across the country and beyond, executed by men whose finances disintegrated, sometimes into greed and possible thievery - with the same dizzying speed of the roller-coaster global market.
In January alone, three cases surfaced. German billionaire investor Adolf Merckle, who lost a fortune in shorted Volkswagen stock, threw himself under a commuter train.
Patrick Rocca, an Irish property investor who lost millions when the real estate market bottomed out, waited until his wife took their children to school before he shot himself in the head. Outside Chicago, real estate mogul Steven L. Good was found dead in his Jaguar, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Weeds and Wheat

Having grown up as a pastor's kid, and now entering my 11th year of ordained ministry, I am seldom surprised anymore by the things that go on in churches. Martin Luther, the great reformer definitely understood that the Church is an imperfect place, and desperately in need of a Saviour. In a sermon reflecting on the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matt. 13:25), he said:
The meaning of the parable is that no Christians, especially no preachers, should grow disheartened or despondent because they cannot bring it about that there are only saints in their churches. For the devil does not stand aloof but throws his seeds in, and this is first noticed when they burst forth and shoot up. Thus it happened with the apostles Paul and John and others. Where they hoped to have devout Christians and faithful labourers in the gospel, they got the most wicked rogues and the bitterest foes. And this it happens with us. Those we think godly and righteous do us the greatest harm and cause us the greatest difficulties, because we sleep and fear no evil.

This is the only comfort, that Christ himself warns us that it will happen in such a way. For this reason John comforts himself in the face of such difficulties in his epistle, saying, "They went out from us, but they did not belong to us" (1 John 2:19). For it is the way of the world that what should be best turns out worst. Angels become devils. One of the apostles betrayed Christ. Christians become heretics. Out of the people of God came wicked persons who nailed Christ to the cross.

So it happens still. Therefore we must not be alarmed and must not faint in our ministry when we see weeds shooting up among the wheat. Rather we must confidently go on and admonish our people, that no one be led astray.

--Sermons from the year 1544 WA 52:132f.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy "Moo" Year!

Chinese New Year is a big deal here in Singapore. It's kind of like Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled up into one big holiday. The festivities and preparations begin months in advance, and they last 15 days after. This upcoming year is the Year of the Ox (the reason for my cheesy title) and it begins on January 25th.

There will be huge family reunions, large dinners, parties and the trimmings that go with any major holiday. However there is a flip side to it. I was having dinner two nights ago with a guy who is involved with a ministry that helps people with mental and psychiatric disorders, and he tells me that the staff in their residential centers have to be extra alert during these seasons because the incidence of attempted suicide goes up significantly in the weeks leading up to major holidays. When I asked him why that may be so, he surmised that some of it may have to do with the stress that comes from facing family, and the judgement that inevitably follows. I think that we all face it in some degree or another. I know I’m going to get more than a few comments about my “expanding ministry” or how “well-rounded” I’ve become in this past year.

And just as I was sinking into despair, I came across this quote from Martin Luther today and realized that this is what we need during such stressful times!
There are laws enough in the world, more than people can keep. The state, fathers and mothers, schoolmasters, and law enforcement persons all exist to rule according to laws. But the Lord Christ says, “I have not come to judge, to bite, to grumble, and to condemn people. The world is too much condemned. Therefore I will not rule people with laws. I have come that through my ministry and my death I may give help to all who are lost and may release and set free those who are overburdened with laws, with judgments, and with condemnation.”

This is a comforting saying in which the Lord Jesus portrays his dear sweet self, and it agrees with John, who says, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Jesus says, “I have come into the world that was condemned already and has enough to do with judges and judgement; but I will take away their judgement, that all who are condemned may be saved.”

Because of our desperate need, we must have such sayings.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A gift to an Atheist

A really interesting perspective on evangelism from an atheist (Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller). Kudos to my friend Dave B who posted it on his blog!