"God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."
    -- John Piper

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  • James 2:14-17

    What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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Focus on Worship…Creation

I caught an interview with Mike Massimino on Letterman last night.  Massimino is a NASA astronaut who  is featured in the  IMAX 3D movie on the Hubble Telescope.  He was one of several astronauts to complete the spacewalks that upgraded the Hubble Telescope.  In the interview, Dave asks him to describe what it was like to be in space and look back at Planet Earth for the first time.  Take a look at this clip

I was amazed when he said that when he first looked at the Earth he had to look away.  He said that the thought that went through his head was this “this was something I’m not supposed to look at…it’s a secret….people aren’t supposed to see this…..There are no words to describe this beauty”  He goes on to say, “The second time I looked I started to get a little emotional.”  And Finally he says of his third look at the Earth from space, “the thought went through my head that if you’re in Heaven, this is what you’d see…”

I don’t want to get into a discussion of what we are going to see from Heaven, but as I consider the song, Son of God from Starfield, and the opening lyric that says:

Son of God, Shaper of the stars, You alone the dweller of my heart.  Mighty King, how beautiful you are”

I know that when I enter His presence, I want to say, as Massimino did, “there are no words to describe this beauty.”


There is no Plan B

This might hurt a little, but you need to see it.

Chaos to thoughts to words….sort of

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to write this post.  I guess that somehow I needed to get it out of my head.  All the swirling around of random thoughts this morning needed out if I had any hope of productivity today. 

God continues to poke and push and prod (sometimes even dragging me along in the plan I am avoiding). Yet I resist.

We are all so good at avoiding it.  We look at the life WE have built for ourselves–at the tremendous comfort it brings–and we know that total surrender, while appealing in the heart of that moment, is so scary it sends us running for cover.  And there we live comfortably discontent amongst our ‘stuff’, occasionally peeking over the edge of the pile to see if it’s ok to jump in — like somehow this time will be less frigntening.  The list of fears is HUGE. The potential for pain or rejection is monumental, yet lingering in the back of our minds is the allure of the Holy Spirit (whom I have been doing a good job of ignoring–have you?). Wondering how others will ‘see’ us. Wondering if God will really come through. Discomfort, fatigue, hunger, poverty, lost souls, misguided mindsets, discontent, avoidance, the list goes on and on and on.  It’s about me and then ‘them’ and then about me again—yet, in fact, it isn’t about me at all….maybe that’s the problem.  Why isn’t the cross enough?  I mean, I know it’s enough…. I know God is bigger than all of it, but my heart forgets and it betrays me and it betrays Him and I retreat to the false safety of my stuff once again.

Well, this post is a mess, but I think I’ll leave it this way.  Good luck reading it.

Radical–Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream-a review

I need to ask a question.  But, before you read any further, go get your Bible. 

Go ahead….I’ll wait.   

Seriously, go get it and come right back here. 

 OK, now that you have it, hold it in your hand and read this question out loud:

 Do I really believe this book? 

Just for good measure, look at the Bible in your hand and ask the question….out loud, so you hear it….Do I really believe this book? 

 Early in the first Radical sermon, we are asked if we ‘really believe what is contained in the Bible.’  As I read through the Radical book, I am constantly bothered by this question because if I claim to be a follower of Jesus, and the Bible is the word of God, then the reality is that there are certain implications for my life.  Dr. Platt refers to them as radical implications.  The thing is (and this is what hurts a little)….they are only radical by the world’s standards.  As far as God is concerned, they are simply the natural response to his love, grace and mercy. 

 While it is occasionally difficult to read the tough words he writes, Dr. Platt isn’t afraid to say it like it is, and back it up with scripture.  Before I go any further, I want to make sure you know that Platt whole-heartedly acknowledges that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.  But, where he starts to strike a nerve is with the assertion that God’s “gift of grace results in the gift of a new heart.”  If we have that new heart which is, in effect, God’s heart, shouldn’t there be an outward visible transformation in our actions as a result of that inward renewal?   And if there is no real outward transformation, Dr Platt suggests that…

            You and I desperately need to consider whether we have ever truly, authentically trusted in Christ for our salvation…

 Ouch….Like I said, there are some tough questions in this book.   Here’s another one (actually two):  “Is materialism a blind spot in American Christianity today?  More specifically, is materialism a blind spot in your Christianity today?”    Before you answer, go read the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  Really read through it and then come back and ask the question again.

 Radical—Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream is full of challenges like this.  Now, I want to be careful in placing too much importance on this or any other book because it might lead you to conclude that we don’t need the Bible.  Folks we need the Bible.  Ultimately, I believe that the only thing that can redeem the world is God, and the spread of his gospel.  No book can or should replace the gospel.  That said, I do believe this book has the power to move us to a point where we can recognize that the version of Christianity many of us are practicing may not be what God intended for us. 

I want to recommend this book to you; especially if something about your walk has been gnawing at you.  This might be just the thing to shine a light on a few ‘blind spots” in your Christian life.  Be careful though….once they are exposed, you are going to have to do something about them.  At that point God takes you and does something radical with your life. 

 In the coming weeks, I intend to spend some time writing about specific sections of the book and take a look at what I’m doing about applying it.  I hope you can get a copy and join me on this journey as it unfolds. 

I’m about 1/3 of the way through the Radical book.  Thought I would post a quick video ahead of my review later next week.

Coming soon: A Book Review (yes…on this blog)

As some of you know, I have been listening to The Radical series by Dr. David Platt at Brook Hills Church.  A few of his messages prompted the occasional post here at Along The Way.  Frankly, I have notes for a few more things I wanted to write on the series, but time has been short. 

Anyway, it seems that one of my posts was noticed last week, and I was asked if I had any interest in reading through an advance copy of Dr. Platt’s new book “Radical                               and blogging about it.  Naturally I agreed (I mean, I was going to buy the book anyway) and am waiting for my copy to arrive.

Stay tuned for my thoughts.  And if you are looking for some more on the Radical Series be sure to visit the Brook Hills Site.  You can either watch the messages as a video or get the podcast from iTunes.

The Reality of the Cross

We’ve all seen the images of the cross.  You know the ones I’m talking about: If you think about it for a minute you can picture the silhouette of the cross against a blazing sunset.  Maybe you’ve seen the three crosses atop a distant mountain with an inspirational verse adorning the clouds.  We’ve all seen the miniature cross hanging from a rear view mirror or on a bumper sticker.  I for one am rather tired of it. I suppose these images can serve as a reminder for someone somehow, but am finding those images wholly ineffective as I consider what Christ did.

The cross is an instrument of torture.  Those two beams combined in that exact shape become a tool of punishment and ultimately an apparatus which is used to bring about death.  Crucifixion is an ugly, horrible, humiliating way to die, and I don’t believe it serves much purpose to keep showing these rosy pictures of an empty cross casting a shadow over a grassy plain somewhere.

C. Truman Davis wrote an essay describing the crucifixion in some detail.  You can read an adaptation here , but let me quote a small portion for you:

As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. The compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues – the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasps, “I thirst.”

This follows the mocking, the flogging, and the painful walk to Golgotha.  When He arrives at the place of the crucifixion, Jesus has to deal with the nails and then the eventual raising of the cross.

I’m just not sure how we justify some of the images that we see on a daily basis when we have any understanding of what the cross really represents.  Don’t get me wrong…we need to see the cross, but we need to see it for what it represents.  It’s really quite ugly.  It has my sin all over it. It has the sin of the world all over it. It has Christ’s blood all over it.  If you can’t look at it and see that, I’m not sure what good it is doing you.

Part of my discontentment with this whole thing comes from two passages.  In Matthew 14 and again in Luke 16, Jesus tells us that we have to take up our cross and follow him.  May I openly say that I have no desire to go through what Davis quoted above?  But Jesus said it so it must have some application for me.  Only recently have I gained some perspective.  This perspective comes from one verse in Matthew. Read verse 32 of chapter 27:

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

My take here (and maybe I am wrong) is that Jesus didn’t have the strength to carry his own cross.  He started out with it over is shoulder, but was unable to go on.  His earlier references telling his followers that they had to carry their cross seemed to conflict with the fact that Simon carried Jesus’ cross for him.  Did Jesus contradict himself? I don’t think so.  I think he was pointing out that in our own strength we cannot carry our cross. 

The imagery amazes me. Well before his death on the cross, Jesus is telling his followers that they need to take up their cross and follow him. They didn’t know that he would be hanging from a cross in just a few weeks. Everyone knew about the cross. I am certain that they all witnessed a crucifixion, and knew of its horror. Yet with that knowledge and understanding Jesus points out that if they want to follow him, they have to carry their cross. And I have to carry mine….knowing full well that I can’t go more than a few steps without him taking it from me. I still have to bear it, but I need to do that in His strength and not my own. This surrender can only come when I have been drained of all my strength and self reliance and I give it up to him. Oh, there’s another reality. That’s the reality of the empty tomb. For my money if you want to remember what Jesus did for you, go find a small rock in your garden somewhere. Tie a string around it and hang it from your rear view mirror right next to the cross. Yes, He died for you, but three days later that stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.