Archive for September, 2015|Monthly archive page

The cross

A while ago, a friend told me he could not believe that our Father God would be so cruel as to send Jesus to the cross to die for us.

Yet, it is interesting that he also does not believe God can forgive him for the bad things he has done in his life.

Where does that leave him?  It leaves him without hope.

The cross has been a stumbling stone for many people since the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

I think that may be partly due to the way we look at our relationship with God.

Do we believe that there is a vast gulf between us and God?  If so, do we believe that God wants to bridge that gap and bring us into his family?  Or, do we believe that he doesn’t really care about us at all?

I believe the Bible when it says God cares.  He cares so much that he actively pursued us by sending Jesus to the cross so that he took our sins on himself, dying for us.  But Jesus conquered death by rising again and bringing believers to life with him – everlasting life.

So, is my friend right in saying it was cruel of the Father to have Jesus crucified for us?

I believe it hurt the Father deeply, but he knew that the result would be Jesus restored to life along with billions more brothers and sisters of Christ.  We who accept Jesus’ sacrifice and put our faith in him are Jesus’ family.  We will rejoice with him in heaven.

My friend was right in believing his sins are too great to enter God’s family – if left to his own efforts.  None of us is good enough to be with God.  We are too selfish – our tendency to sin is built into our characters.

But when Jesus took our place and shouldered our sins on the cross, he opened the way for us to join the family of God.

By ourselves, we are unworthy.  But when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God sees Jesus’ worthiness when he looks at us.

My hope and prayer is that my friend will see the real meaning of the cross.  Then he, too, will be filled with gratitude for what Jesus did.

Compassion

There is nothing quite so powerful as the compassion of God.

As a follower of Jesus, I can draw on the compassion of Christ as I am with others who are in need.

I have been reminded of this by a story told by a woman this morning on the cruise my wife and I are taking.

This woman suffered through sexual assault as a young woman and has since become such a strong believer that she shares her story before audiences aboard our ship.

Yesterday, a 16-year-old girl at her table in the dining room asked this woman to pray for her.

The young girl said that her mother died a few years ago and her death was so traumatic that the only thing she remembers is seeing her mother in the coffin.  All her other memories of her mother have been wiped away.

The woman said she then talked with the young girl about the love of Christ and has said that Jesus can bring hope to her and help her deal with her trauma.  She asked us as a group to pray for the 16-year-old girl and we did.

As I was reflecting on this, I recalled that the Bible talks frequently about Jesus having compassion on the hurting people around him.  This calls to my mind a heart that goes out in love and concern for those who are suffering.

This compassion is something that cannot be manufactured by me.  I think more about my own personal convenience than I do of the needs of other people.

The compassion of Jesus is godly compassion.  It is the compassion which led Jesus to give up his life for me – and for everyone who believes in him.

Yet this supernatural compassion is within every believer, because once we believe in him, the Holy Spirit lives within us.

The key for me is whether I am ready to sacrifice my convenience in order for Jesus to work through me in bringing God’s love to others.

I believe the story I heard this morning was for my benefit.

God is nudging me to be more compassionate.

Jesus is for everyone

Once again, I am struck by a great truth – Jesus is for everyone.

He isn’t just for rich people, or poor people, or Canadians – everyone can believe and find new life in him.

If there’s a problem, it’s not Jesus’ fault.  It’s human beings who raise barriers to believing in Christ.

I have been thinking about this because my wife and I caught another glimpse this week about how universal is Jesus’ appeal.  We have been attending a Bible study aboard our cruise ship in the North Atlantic – a Bible study attended by about 50 people from nations around the world.

It is a seniors’ cruise so, along with being old, we shared a common musical heritage along with a love of the scriptures.

It was wonderful to hear voices from China, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the United States and Canada bellowing “How Great Thou Art”.  It must have been tuneful because several ship employees came in and joined us before hurrying back to work.

Christianity could easily have become just another nationalistic cult.  Several of Jesus’ followers saw him as a national Jewish leader.  And later, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, some Jewish believers tried to impose Jewish religious practices on new believers.

But Jesus and the apostle Paul made it very clear that faith in Christ is for everyone.  Jesus said he came to bring new life to all people – even to some people who were despised by Jewish leaders.

Jesus commissioned the new believers to go out and make disciples – followers – of people in all nations.

What I find wonderful is that the Spirit of God has touched hearts around the globe.  Now, some of the most vibrant churches are in China, India, Africa and South America, well outside the traditional Christian strongholds of Europe and North America.

Christ opens his arms to everyone.  It is our choice whether to enter his embrace or reject him.

Christ opens his ar

In the vanguard

Some British Christians are in the vanguard of a move to reintroduce their country to Jesus Christ.

My wife and I have seen some magnificent monuments to Christ in our visit to Britain in the last week.  But we realize that these celebrate past glories – and most people in Britain have long abandoned the church.

That’s heart-breaking if you care about Christ – and we do.

But we saw one tiny sign not far from our Southampton hotel of a new wave of believers who are reaching out to a skeptical world.

We discovered this church late – just a day or two before our departure.

It’s a church in a little building wedged in between shops in the shopping district on High Street, just above the old arch in the city walls.  It’s called the “Above Bar Church” – the Bar referring to the archway.

It was advertised by a little flag hanging on a lampost.  I looked it up on the Internet and saw pictures of a good number of people at a service.  And, to my great pleasure, it has a very active prayer ministry.

Explaining its mission, the church says: “We believe that God has a plan to bless the whole world through his Son Jesus Christ. We are therefore deeply committed to bringing his blessing to the world through acts of practical love and words of truth about Jesus.”

It is a “missional community”, a label attached to a growing movement of people around the world who are reaching out to people where they live and work rather than waiting for people to walk through the church doors.

The Above Bar Church is intent on helping people practically, establishing strong and loving relationships with them, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them.

A number of British men and women are leaders in the missional movement.

Mike Breen has written a number of books about how he and his churches have started down the missional road.  Alex Absalom, another British evangelical, was invited to a church in Canton, Ohio because of his missional work in England and he now writes a blog and speaks at major U.S. conferences.  There are others active, too.

Breen says that the missional movement must be more than programs and activities but must spring from a close and loving relationship with Christ – and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

The Christian church in Canada is facing many of the same issues already encountered in Britain.

It is good that we can learn from people who have already started on the missional path.