5 things I learnt from The Cross of Christ

crossofchristI have just recently finished John Stott’s epic book “The Cross of Christ”. I remember receiving this book as a gift during relay and I spent some time in various chapters studying it and chewing on it. But I hadn’t actually read the whole thing from start to finish, so I embarked to do so this year.

Reading this book gave me a fresh reminder of the cross and what Christ had done on the cross. I want to share with you 5 things that I learnt or was reminded of from this book.

1. Christianity is nothing without the cross.

It is the lamb that is slain on the throne. The cross is the center of history and had been on the mind of Christ from the start. It is a stumbling block and most offensive to some people and to others it is a joy and the heart beat of Christianity.

Without the cross there could be no atonement, forgiveness of sins, evil defeated, salvation for sinners, suffering where Christ can sympathise with all our sufferings..and many more things that took place on the cross.

2. The cross impacts every sphere of our Christian living.

Why? John Stott says the cross is the:

ground of our justification (he has redeemed us from the curse),
the means for our sanctification (we have been crucified with him, the world to us and us to the world),
the subject of our witness (we are to placard Christ Crucified publicly before people’s eyes),
the object of our boasting (God forbid that we should boast in anything else!!)

3. We are enemies of the cross if it is not central to our Christian living

If the cross is not central to our Christian living then we are enemies of the cross and to be an enemy means:

self-righteousness (instead of looking to the cross for justification)
self-indulgence (Instead of taking up the cross to follow Christ)
self-advertisement (Instead of preaching Christ crucified)
self-glorification (Instead of glorying in the cross)

How true that is in my own life!

4. Love was the motivation of the cross

Reading this book reminded me afresh of the love of Christ for us. To take human flesh and walk among this earth in order to go to the cross for my sin and shame, to take on the punishment I deserved in order that I might be reconciled to the Father. It shows a great and deep love that I cannot truly understand.

If we were ever in doubt about whether God loves us, we need to look no further than to the cross – his love demonstrated for us there.

5. I need to be reminded of the cross daily

I forget so easily the triumph, victory, pain, weakness and sacrifice of the cross. I too easily become an enemy of the cross and become self-righteous and self-indulgent. I need to be reminded of the Gospel, what Christ has done on the cross.

I need to be reminded of this daily and I know my friends do too as we struggle through this life and our hearts become deceived and caught up in various things, we need to bring each other back to the cross.

If you have not read this book, I would recommend you do so. Don’t be put off by the size of the book, but instead take your time over it and enjoy the refreshing water that comes from it. Stott turns our eyes away from ourselves and what we must do, and places our gaze on Christ and what he has done. Wonderful.

Fascinate people to Jesus

fascinating[Re-post and Re-written]

There is something about Christians that should be different. We should stand out.

Shine.

Go against the crowd.

We have a message of hope, we carry an eternal promise of truth. We have Jesus.
Jesus is beautiful.

Everyday when I switch on the news I cringe and slump. But in my heart I can say Jesus is beautiful.

His death resurrection gives us hope.

Our lifestyles should reflect this truth. We should be courageous in Love, reaching out to the dirty, the outcasts, the low in society, the unclean, the hopeless, the people without a voice.

We shouldnt be concerned with social status because we wear a different dress code. Our actions and words should scream a different story that’s so radical from society:

that promotes Jesus over man,
that shares the good news,
that welcomes in the broken and the weak
that says to a suffering world that Jesus understands. He has been there and carries the marks of suffering too.

We should fascinate people to Jesus. The Great I AM. The Shepard.

The Lamb. Our Great High Priest. Our God. Our Husband.

We are to fascinate the world by not being concerned with self-image, or trying to buy the latest gadgets, or trying to be popular. Not with beauty of self but beauty of Christ.

And that beauty shines through the church.

Jesus loves the church.

Church is a place where people can limp over the line and be welcomed in with arms wide open.

The church is both messy and beautiful and Jesus loves the church. The church is the bride of Christ.

The bride of Christ is to fascinate the world to Jesus.

Excited about Gospel Communities

In the verses that most of us have read a thousand times of Acts 2:42-47, we find ourselves peering into a world that seems quite alien and far from us in our culture.When the verses read –

”  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

I don’t know about you but when I read that my heart beats faster and I have a longing there, a deep thirst  for such community and interaction. Even an introvert like me desires this kind of community because I know that I wasn’t made to be on my own – I was made for relationship and relationship with people who are different to me. There is so much packed in this verse, so much is happening in this church – devotion to teaching and fellowship, breaking bread, praying together, seeing signs and wonders, having things in common, making sure nobody was in need, coming together DAY by DAY going to the temple, breaking bread – having generous hearts and praising God. And people were added to them daily. It seems so far from what happens in the western culture, in some cultures we see more of a glimpse of this and after being in Peru for a year I was hungry for this.

When reading Everyday Church by Steve Timmis and Tim chester, I caught a glimpse of what these verses might look like in our culture today – people meeting together and doing life together. It seems so simple – we wash up, cook, eat, go to the pub, open scriptures etc together. But also have a driven focus to include those who don’t know Christ into that community, to invite people to be a part of everyday life of the church – where we care and love people and share the Gospel.

The reason why I am so excited about this is because at the church I go to in Plymouth, we are going to start doing this. The elders have been caught by the same vision that Steve Timmis had and whats written in Acts 2. We are going to have communities that are sharing life together and have a missional focus. I think it will be hard, I think it will be messy – because we are messy people! But I think it will be fun as well and my prayer is that we will see more and more people become Christians and added to the church. Its a chance to gather all sorts of people together, those who are sick, healthy, rich or poor, student or families to be included into a church community and to be looked after or look after others, to serve and to gather non christian friends to meet Christ.

That’s not to say this is the only way nor the best way of doing it, but it seems this is what God is calling our church to do at the moment and I am excited to see how it unfolds and how God uses this. But again I always have to watch my heart – it’s so easy to be hard-hearted towards change and things  not meeting my expectations. I know that the Holy Spirit will have to keep warming my heart to Christ because as we rub shoulders with people who are different to us it can cause friction and as these groups start-up it may cause some wobbles. But Christ works in our weaknesses all the time! Im looking forward to seeing what Christ does through all of this!

Christianity ought to touch the whole of Life…

“I would say if Christianity is truth, it ought to touch on the whole life” – Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer is a bit of a hero of mine, I read his biography a while back and was captivated by his attitude to Christianity, apologetics and serving. To my great delight while in Oxford I met a man named Joe who knew and worked with Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland. I was quite excited to hear stories and hear his wisdom. It was truly remarkable!

But what Schaeffer is saying here is so true. He is sure that if Christianity is true then we cannot box it or put it into a category and leave it untouched. We are introduced with Schaeffer the reality of Christianity that penetrates his life – the kind that digs deep at our soul and gets under our skin. If Jesus is real, if we not only believe but follow and thus a disciple then it ought to touch our whole life. Not just part of it.

Can we perhaps see the ripples of Christ in our life already? You will find that you cannot hold light and darkness together, you cannot hold truth and lies together. You cannot hold Christ as Lord and you as Lord in the same hand. One must go. Either you live for yourself and walk on the path of death or you embrace Christ and lose yourself and find that you are given eternal life. If this is true – then should it not affect every spectrum, inch, moment, thought, action of your life and my life?

I have been thinking how this affects me everyday. Perhaps it should touch how I watch TV, movies or read books. How I talk to people or don’t talk to people, how I love others, how I see the world, How I see death and life, church and friendship. How I see what is moral or what the world believes to be true. How I view white lies, how I view myself, how I judge others and how I show the love of Christ to others…

Christianity is not just for Sundays, but it’s for the Monday morning and the evening in the pub with workmates and the sitting in front of the TV and the walk to church and the listening to friends and the reading of the newspaper and sitting on the train and the love for people from different countries, religions and worldviews. It’s for the days that have rain or humid heat, the time we spend eating or the time we spend daydreaming. It’s when we read our bible or when we read science fiction, it’s when we listen to rock music or dance to the tango… “it ought to touch the whole of life”.

Online friendships

The virtual world is creating a new dimension for us to think about. How real is the online world? How much should we engage with it and connect with it? Are their real people at the other side of the screen or just a misty glaze of a real person, always out of reach?

Tim Chester wrote a really good blog post about facebook, in fact he is writing a series of them which are really thought-provoking. I do always want to be careful how we engage with our culture and with facebook/twitter so embedded in our British culture, we need to be careful to not simply dismiss it out of hand. I think facebook can be used in a good way, we can redeem it for good but the lines are always blurry.

The real question is how real are the friendships we make online? Especially where we rarely make face to face contact, but most of the interaction is done through the computer screen? Are they real?

The danger perhaps is that its very easy to be more vulnerable online then it is face to face, because really no one can see your face if all you are doing is tapping away on a keyboard creating sentences. It’s easy to pour your heart out more and soon the person on the other side knows more about you then your friends in real life. But the difference is that they don’t really know you, because they don’t see your actions, your tone, the way you act in situations etc. I was in this situation not so long ago where through facebook chat I made a friend with a lady my age and doing a very similar job to me – we became close friends through facebook chat and we did meet up but mostly at conferences and the occasional visit. We became close friends very quickly because it was a lot easier to chat on facebook then it was to chat with someone face to face – she knew what I was thinking about at that moment in time and on some superficial level she knew me and I knew her. But in reality I don’t think it was a real friendship and I look back now and I think there were some real unhealthy attachments there which aren’t good and aren’t really based on reality. It got to a point where we realised that this wasn’t a friendship.

Why? Because it isn’t the same as going to the pub with someone and laughing together, crying together and sharing stories together. It isn’t the same as I meet up with a friend nearly every week for coffee and I watch how she interacts with her daughter and her husband and where they invite us for dinner and we share food together and encourage each other with the Gospel. It’s not the same as a couple of weeks ago I went to the house of a lovely lady and we chatted deep theology and spiritual things while drinking coffee and eating chocolate which was rounded off with some great time of praying for each other. You can’t do that on facebook.

Facebook and online communities may speed up “deep” friendships, but it misses out the important process for how we make friendships, how we connect and how we develop those friendships. Which can only properly be done face to face, with real life meetings.

Tim Chester’s says:

Facebook encourages you to live elsewhere. The gospel encourages you to live life here and now.

  •      You can tend your Farmville farm or you can get an allotment.
  •      You can catch up with friends on Facebook or you can go out on a cold, dark night to see real friends.
  •      You can catch up with “Friends” by watching the latest episode on the television or you can serve your neighbours.
  •      You can build a new city on Sims or you can be the city of God set on a hill with your Christian community.

Facebook is good for the on the surface stuff like arranging of meetings. But humans live to connect with the reality, the real life, the flesh! And community won’t ever really thrive through a computer screen, but through face to face.

Now the question that is on the back of my mind is – what about those that can’t get out the house? Where actually Twitter and facebook is a lifeline to connect with people? I would be interested to hear any comments on that. My hope and prayer is that there is a community around you that visits you, that connects with you. Does that happen?

The need for christian artists

A wonderful quote from Tim Keller that I would like to share with you:

The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world. The simple fact is that the imagination ‘gets you,’ even when your reason is completely against the idea of God. ‘Imagination communicates,’ as Arthur Danto says, ‘indefinable but inescapable truth.’ Those who read a book or listen to music expose themselves to that inescapable truth. There is a sort of schizophrenia that occurs if you are listening to Bach and you hear the glory of God and yet your mind says there is no God and there is no meaning. You are committed to believing nothing means anything and yet the music comes in and takes you over with your imagination. When you listen to great music, you can’t believe life is meaningless. Your heart knows what your mind is denying. We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk.

I think Keller highlights something really important here about Christians and Art. He is echoing CS Lewis and Francis Schaeffer on this as well. But great music and great art can’t lead you to believe life is meaningless because they express something of the reality we are in – the need of a saviour. What better people to show them the true saviour then christian artists in our churches?

Yet we often celebrate those that can stand up and preach, those that can stand up and lead sung worship on Sunday and those that do cold contact evangelism. I am drawing a distinction between those that lead sung worship and those that play in pubs/clubs etc because I think the audience is different and perhaps the purpose as well. Although they are both artists. But what I am really thinking about is what about our artists in the world? Those that draw, take photographs, cook great food, write poetry, write novels, sketch, make models etc for the world to see…yet they often get the back seat. But the church needs them, because these people are speaking into the culture we are in and they are engaging with it in a different way. The are reaching people who the preacher alone could never reach.

But it’s also not about creating a christian sub-culture with your t-shirts and wrist bands, but it’s about creating art that speaks truth and hope into a culture that needs and wants a saviour.

Lets celebrate our christian artists and encourage them. Lets get the church releasing them into the world so that they can speak truth through their art.

He makes me smile

Now reflecting on our first year of marriage I have had some insights into what Husbands do. This is just a bit of fun, but it is also a mark of some of the things my husband does which makes me smile and which I am very grateful for!

  1. Catching and getting rid of monster spiders that lurk in the corners of your house!
  2. Making phone calls to people who I don’t want to talk to (phone company, sky etc)
  3. Pushing the trolley in Tescos and carrying heavy shopping bags
  4. Makes me coffee first thing in the morning to wake me up! ( I need it)
  5. Gives lots of hugs when needed
  6. He often says he is praying for me which really encourages me
  7. Make me laugh with silly faces and noises
  8. Writes to me “Good morning” messages when he goes off to work or writes notes with my lunch!
  9. He runs and grabs the washing when it starts to rain.
  10. He picks me up from evening meetings and waits there while I am late…or very late
  11. He allows me to choose a movie which may mean a really girly movie!
  12. He often reminds me of Gods Grace

I must admit and not to sound cheesy at all, but since being married I have seen more of Gods Grace and love then I did before. This is so evident in times where I am pretty rotten and sinful and yet my husband still loves me and shows me such patience and love when I don’t deserve it. It is in those times I see just a glimpse of the love of Christ towards me and it reminds me that while I was far off and rejecting him, he died for me and won me back. Pretty amazing.