Christ has died, Christ has risen

“The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment — all about the vitamins and proteins — is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard of: and if the theory of vitamins is someday abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the same. Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Try telling that to a theologian.

Lewis keeps it simple. And on this particular point, I’m thankful.

Christianity isn’t about a search for comfort

“Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort or truth — only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

The paralysis of politics has made the Church pathetic instead of PROPHETIC

Please do yourself a favor and listen to a repeat of this live stream. I couldn’t fast forward through it, so it was necessary to listen carefully all the way through as evangelical/conservative leaders talked about race, racism, and justice.

The very first comments from a conservative black pastor caught me. He asked someone who had been in a conservative Christian college in 1968 when Dr. King was assassinated. The younger pastor asked the older pastor, “What did your college do that day? Did they stop to pray?”

The answer was, “We did nothing. We just went on our day.”

We have been caught in political arguments as conservative Christians. The trouble is we don’t want to recognize it. Because the “right” black men weren’t killed innocently, we are paralyzed from doing anything because it may look like we’re… um… LIBERALS…

When I mentioned on a forum what I did in my church to observe #BlackLivesMatter Sunday, I was met with opposition. One was angry because it was done to “honor” some “thugs” who were “in the wrong.” He then went on to say he wasn’t racist and any Church of God in Christ pastor could come any other day to his pulpit. I seriously doubt that pastor will arrange that day on his own.

We seem to want the precisely RIGHT conditions for us as conservatives to stand up and say, “We have a problem.”

On the conservative side and on the liberal side, our politics have made us pathetic when King Jesus needs us in this hour (and every hour) to be prophetic. 

Assemblies of God pastors vehemently disagreed with our general superintendent when he asked to support our COGIC brothers and sisters because it looked like we were supporting “thugs.” That’s a political motivation and we need to call it out.

In Dr. King’s day conservative churches did little or nothing. Today, I want it to be better. At least on my part. I want my congregation THINKING about justice. I want to be more engaged in these issues because the Church really has something to say in this matter and, quite frankly, it will get Democrats and Republicans upset.

We need a way forward and hiding behind political stances and calling them “theological” won’t cut it anymore.

Quite frankly, there will be some who won’t listen very long to that live stream repeat because of the theology of most pastors present. (There are a lot of Reformed pastors in this group.)

We need to take some time and simply shut up and listen.

I need to listen to the hurt and pain of my African American brothers and sisters, especially when they are in the church. I need to shut up and listen for possible ways through this mess, even if I don’t particularly like the Reformed theology of some of that panel and the moderator’s goatee scares the living daylights out of me. (Someone PLEASE give Ed Stetzer a beard trim!)

There are plenty of opportunities to hammer the foolishness of liberal theology/politics. Today, it’s my own house. Cut the political maneuvering and PLEASE find a way to listen.

Oh, and go make friends with people that don’t look like you and think like you. Please.

Worm theology

I am working through the new devotional called “Live Dead Joy” by missionary Dick Brogden. “Live Dead” is a missions effort to put missions teams in the hardest, most unreached parts of the world. It is a radical call to missions and as such, Dick Brogden is a very driven man. I admire him greatly.

I enjoy the Live Dead devotional because it is NOT soft pedaling anything. It’s not your “warm thought for the day” kind of devotional. It is a call to live under the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

But today I have a bone to pick with his thought process.

Today’s devotional starts with this sentence:

“Revelation wreaks havoc on any theology that has a high view of people.”

A few lines later:

“There is no man-centered triumphalism in the last days — there is only disaster.”

Revelation does point out what happens when humanity puts themselves at the center. We witness this all over the world all the time.

But to say there is no place for a “high view of people” ignores… well.. the Bible. We too often have a “worm theology.” I draw this from the song “At the Cross” where the line says “Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”

I grew up with that theology.

It’s not about being “man centered.” What is needed is a theology of God that is so great that we understand GOD has a high view of humanity. Without God, we’re foolish. Yes. But WITH God, what is constantly put in front of us biblically is the thought: ALL IS OURS.

Without God, we end up in disaster. Revelation portrays that. Yet, WITH God, we have the opportunity to understand what it is to walk in the image of Christ.

Here are a couple of reminders we need from Scripture:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:4-9)

We need to be reminded from time to time that GOD has a high view of us.

1. Don’t think you do it all on your own. That’s disastrous.

2. Don’t think you’re an unworthy worm. That’s disastrous as well.

3. In Christ, ALL IS OURS. That is victorious.

I don’t understand… and I WANT to understand

Ferguson, MO is blowing up again. No indictment for the white cop who shot and killed a young unarmed black man.

As someone white, I can look at the evidence as it comes out and “analyze” it.

But the problem is obviously deeper. I want to acknowledge that.

I don’t understand enough. And I want to understand.

This video from Matt Chandler gives me some starting thoughts. He looks at Acts 10 as a text to discuss racism. He readily admits it is hard work. We tend to make steps toward a conversation, but our natural tendency, for ANY race, is to drift back toward what is familiar to us. This is hard work.

I’ve not done well with this, and it may very well be I’m going to goof this up all over again.

Beyond the “facts” of the case. Beyond the rioting that has resulted. There is a problem. 

I am going to try and listen today. But I want more than that. I want to dialogue with significant people I have followed and respect. There will be moments of rage I need to hear.

Efrem Smith has a great piece to help me get started. I would love a dialogue with him.

Rod Thomas at Political Jesus will be cranking it up soon, and I need to hear his raging voice as well. (I say “raging voice” with respect.)

This is hard work.

I cannot be afraid of the work.

Please help me.

Gospel definitions

I am in the first pages of Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology. He opens early on with definitions of gospel because all theology must be rooted in gospel.

He uses N.T. Wright:

The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world. When the gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.

Then his own definition:

The gospel is the announcement that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. The gospel evokes faith, repentance, and discipleship; its accompanying effects include salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Defining gospel is necessary, and difficult!