Tag Archives: cross

The Divisiveness of the Cross

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea… Exodus 14:27-29

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Luke 12:49-51

cross of lightFor one entire race of people, the Red Sea will forever represent God’s provision and liberation. To another, it represents destruction and devastation. It is all a matter of perspective. With the events in Exodus 5-14, the most powerful empire of its time was brought to its knees and forever crippled. But those same events served as a new day dawning for another nation. Destruction and devastation on one side. Salvation and transformation on the other. That is the divisiveness of the Red Sea in Exodus 14.

In this holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar, our attention has a laser fix on an entirely different symbol: the cross. Like the Red Sea, it is a symbol forever engrained in a culture for thousands of years. Like the Red Sea, it represents an end of an era and the beginning of an era. But, unlike the Red Sea, the harsh division between the those two eras carries forward even to today, literally dividing all of …

“The Lord Always Before Me”

Tuesday Re-mix:

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

I recently read a blog post by a prominent leader in the evangelical world.  It was a post about “Rules of Thumb” for healthy churches.  The rules were all about the proper acreage for church property, the number of parking spaces per attendance, the maximum occupancy for buildings, maximum debt payment budgeted, and so on.  You get the picture.  It broke my heart.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15608205I know this leader/blogger to be a godly man and a well-respected leader.  I absolutely do not question that.  To his credit, his own comments to that post state that he regrets using the words “healthy churches” in his title, as if these various metrics have anything to do with church health.  I respect that, and am so glad he made that correction.  I had actually written my own comment to the effect that he should have entitled the post “Ten Things You as a Church Leader Should NOT be Obsessing About”.  I refrained.  Maybe I shouldn’t have refrained.

Two observations here:

1. I believe our pastors and ministers and rectors and priests often do obsess about the wrong things…I believe church leaders today are easily swayed from “setting the Lord always before us”;

2.  I believe that is our own fault for allowing them, even encouraging them, to do that.

Don’t you think “I have set the Lord always before me” is a comment about focus?  I do.  I think it means always, always, always helping us stay focused on the Head of the church (Jesus) and what He desires and what Honors Him and what His kingdom requires.  I think it means, when the rest of the world is focused on …

Finding Focus in a Church’s Grief

Tuesday Re-mix – 

“Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Hebrews 3:1

I have been blessed with only a limited amount of genuine grieving in my life.  Frankly, I’ve done a whole lot more consoling of others than I have needed consoling myself.  But you don’t have to be an expert on grief to know that it has a profound effect on our ability to see truth.  In fact, a part of the healing process is learning to look through the pain to some larger truth which, difficult as it may be to grasp in spite of the pain, still has a way of guiding us.

But did you know that the grief process is not reserved only for individuals?  Churches grieve also.  They grieve the loss of a much-loved leader, the loss of a ministry or program, the loss of a “way of doing things”, the loss of unity…all of these can cause a type of grieving process for a church.  And like the grieving process for an individual, a church’s grief can be unpredictable and unrelenting.  It can last a few days or a few years, perhaps even an entire generation.  It can cause the church to do and say things it doesn’t mean to do and say.  But most of all, just like the grief process for anyone else, it is painful…unbearably so.

Moreover, grief has a way of disorienting us, both as individuals and as congregations.  It turns up into down and right into left.  It leaves us not even knowing which way to look for direction.  It is chaotic and complex and confounding.

So, it is in the pain of real grief where we are often left with little orientation …

Bonhoeffer on the Benefits of Confession to One Another

Tuesday Re-mix –

As Christians, we have been given only one mechanism to deal with sin in our lives: confession.  There simply is no other means of prevailing over sin.  Confession is our only hope.

Much of what I understand scripture to teach us about confession comes from my old friend, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  So today I will not bore you with my words; rather, I will challenge you with his.  Take a minute to let his words (from Life Together) about confession of our sins to one another settle in your heart.  Here was a man who understood some things about the transforming power of community.

Breaking Through to Community

In confession the break-through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.  Sin wants to remain unknown.  It shuns the light.  In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.  This can happen even in the midst of a pious community…

The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power…It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder.  Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother.  He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God…Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Breaking Through to the Cross

In confession occurs the break-through to the cross…Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation.  It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is