Posts Tagged ‘Christ’


I have a piece of art I do that is not beautiful. As a matter of fact it’s ugly and it keeps getting uglier, by design. There are days here I wonder if it is not my mot important piece. I do it live, and it is getting thicker every time. I wish I would run out of resources and have to stop using it, but short of Christ’s return, my guess is I will not run out of material. It’s called The Cross of Sin.

It’s harsh, it’s offensive looking. Picture a six foot wooden cross covered with newspaper clippings. Clippings of sin and it’s effects on our world. I never run out, sadly. Some people question why I would take all that ugliness and attach it to a symbol of Christ. Well it didn’t start off as a symbol of Christ. At it’s harshest, the cross is a symbol of torture and death, the first century electric chair, only a whole lot more brutal. The reason we are so attached to it is for one reason and one reason only, Jesus changed the story. He took a symbol of death and destruction and made it a symbol of life and hope. Why would I cover that with images of sin? Because Jesus did.

2 Corinthians 5 says “He who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus took our sin and nailed it to the cross, paying the price for all time for all who would believe. Because He bore your sin to the cross, you and I can be based clean.

In my presentations I tell the story from John 19. Everything that was done to Jesus, I do to the cross. The beatings, the crown of thorns and the nails as a way of dramatizing what was done. Making people see it in a way that is tangible. It seems to have the desired impact. Of course I don’t leave Him there, but that is a different piece of art. When I finish the presentation, I go to the newspapers and cover it all over again.

The piece is brutally ugly, and yet in it’s ugliness is beauty. It says something Jesus has been saying all along, ever since he stretched out his arms and said “I love you this much.”

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There are times for al but the strongest in faith where fear and doubt come to call and when they do it is a real bear. Is it a lack of faith? To some degree, yes, but the purpose of this post is not to beat us up. Often, at least for me, it starts with a kernel of doubt. Often it’s not a doubt about God but rather looking at our own abilities, our own resources and doubting we are up to the challenge at hand. When this happens, doubt gets on a roll and invites her ugly stepsister, fear, to the party. From there, it’s a downhill slide. The ultimate assault is on our faith, and a byproduct of that is an attack on creativity.

You see creativity and faith are the two things that are needed to get us through the majority of our struggles. Faith brings hope and creativity helps us to find the solution to the problem. Without those two things we will wallow in fear and hope (while still there) become nearly invisible.

Here’s what we need to remember. There is hope because there is God. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. God is not fickle, He’s solid, the same yesterday, today and forever. He loves you today, He will love you tomorrow, and He is always there, walking us through the valleys.

Don’t make the mistake of looking at this post and thinking I am a strong person who has this mastered. Truth be known, I am writing this at what I hope is the end of a valley myself. Fear and doubt did a number on me just yesterday and in writing this, I really hope it helps someone, but ultimately this is as much about reminding myself.

God is always good. He’s bigger than our fears and our doubts.

Remember…


pregressiveA couple years ago, I saw something I was really interested in. It appeared a group from within my denomination was holding a gathering for progressives in the denomination. I thought, “I would LOVE to be a part of that.” After all anybody who knows me knows I think sacred cows make the best hamburgers. Besides we’re not Hindu, we have no business having sacred cows. I thought, “Surely this would be a group of people looking for new and exciting ways to take the unchanging message of the Gospel to an ever changing world.”

That wasn’t what they meant. Instead, in my opinion, they gathered to find ways to create a more politically correct gospel. i.e. a gospel that would be more palatable to the whims of society. An admirable goal, except for one thing… That’s not the Gospel. See the thing about the Gospel, which is still good news for all people, is it’s the Word of God. We don’t change it. We can’t because God didn’t. No, what is supposed to happen is the Word of God is supposed to change us. Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The first eight letters of progressive are “progress” so progressive ideas should bring us toward progress. For the church, going in a way Jesus didn’t intend is not progress, therefore I want my word back. I hereby reclaim the word “progressive.”

That we gather in Christ to advance HIS Gospel. The one that remains Good News because it is the Word of God, the one who made everything and knows how it works. The one where we remove nothing, neither the definition of sin, nor the overriding command to love everyone even those with whom we disagree. That we obey the Lord, love sacricicially and use His blessings to benefit others. That we don’t attempt to discredit the Word when there are points where it disagrees with the way the world works, thinks and acts today. He is God and we are not. We follow Him. We love Him because He first loved us. We stand by the truth that sets men free and we speak that truth in love. We love everyone and we represent Him. The good news is good news all by itself.

When we do that, we’ll see progress.


Today is the 13th anniversary of one of the most heinous crimes ever launched against the U.S. I’ve been reading reports that jetliners have been stolen from Libya in an attempt to do it again. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen. Terrorism is a horrible thing and every fiber of my being longs for a permanent solution to this problem. I have no idea what to do about it, but this I do know… None of our man-made solutions will work.

Today I want to look at another terrorist. Actually the ultimate terrorist and master of all terrorists. He launches a daily assault on humanity, killing roughly 151,000 people a day in our world. That’s 6292 people an hour, 104 a minute, almost two people a second, all day every day all over our world. Many of those people dragged off into an eternity separated from God. This terrorist is the enemy of our souls. Since his fall, he has had only one objective, to kill and destroy what God loves most, humanity, you and me.

While there is precious little we can do to thwart yet another terrorist attack, there is something we can do to thwart the plans of the ultimate enemy. We can pray. We can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can speak the truth that sets people free. We can fight this battle where it actually is fought. You see Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our God is powerful and this fight is His. Salvation is found in Christ alone and when we share His Gospel, and people receive it, the enemy’s plan is thwarted.

In this day, stained by the shadow of hate, the ultimate solution is found in sharing God’s love in Jesus Christ.


Read Luke 14:25-35
Sometimes Jesus is perplexing. The one who tells us to love friends, neighbors, even enemies, the one who says “they will know you are my disciples if you love one another” all of the sudden starts saying we have to hate those closest to us, and even our own lives, if we want to follow Him. It’s so out of character, it’s almost baffling. Why would Jesus say such a thing?

This isn’t really about hatred, it’s about priorities and it’s about idolatry. He doesn’t really want us to hate these people, He simply wants us to love God more, and He’s right. Anything we put before God, anything we love more than God becomes an idol. Idols tear us away from God. Being away from God draws us away from the source of our love. Being disconnected from the source of our love forces us to love from our own strength. Our own strength is pretty fickle and weak compared to the all-surpassing love of God. Therefore to really love the people we have been given with a wonderful perfect love, we have to love and remain connected to God more. When we love God first, then we can truly love.

We love because He first loves us.

So what do we do with that love? We must each carry our cross. Probably not literally but what Jesus is saying is there is a cost to following Him. It’s not money, it’s sacrifice, self-sacrifice. It only makes sense. He sacrificed Himself for those He loves and so must we. No we won’t be nailed to a cross, or even die, instead we die to self for the good of others. We put others first. We love others more than we love ourselves and still we love Him most. He is our source—the source of our love.

Jesus then goes on and gives two examples of what it means to count the cost. What does it cost to follow Jesus? Everything and yet nothing or maybe nothing and yet everything. He gave Himself freely and yet to receive His gift is to put Him first, to make Him, knowing Him, serving Him, following Him, our number one priority. Salvation is a free gift. Following Him will cost you everything. The cost is high and yet nothing compared to the great gift He gave for us. Yet to receive Him is to receive the Kingdom, becoming joint heirs of everything, leaving the slavery of sin to become sons and daughters of God forever. We are here not just to receive eternity but to point others to eternity. To point others to the ultimate free gift that will cost them everything. It requires sacrifice to draw others to sacrifice. Jesus modeled that and we must too, giving of ourselves so that others might live, the ultimate act of love. Carrying the cross, not dying but living, really living with a greater purpose than ourselves—an eternal purpose.

Creative reflections: (Do as many as you like or create your own response.)
1. Illustrate a key point in this passage, something that really speaks to you.
2. Write a story to show how this passage might be lived out in your life.
3. Make a list of the cost of being disciple. Then for each cost, write the benefit that comes with it.
4. Create a piece of art that will remind you to count the cost, carry your cross or any other take away you get from this passage.


It looks nothing like him, and yet it really tells us all we need to know. It’s something we wear around our necks. Sometimes I think that means we get it and sometimes I think it means we thoroughly miss the point. We’ve made it something beautiful, yet in reality it was something hideous and horrible that only Jesus could make beautiful. It’s the cross. A device of death and torture that Jesus turned into a symbol of life and hope. It’s the picture of His mission and the picture of God’s love and our value to God. It shows us that we were worth so much to God that He was willing to sacrifice His perfect Son for us in our sorry, broken, sinful state. It’s an instrument of death and the gateway to life.

That one picture says so much. How can we take it’s message to the world?


Bono Painted by David Garibaldi

Bono Painted by David Garibaldi

This interview seems to have made the rounds. I saw it shared on Facebook from this blog. A guy named Robert Eshleman posted it there from a site called the Poached Egg. The post can be found here. It’s one of the best most honest discussions of Christ I have seen in the media. I share it here not just so you can see the faith of one of the world’s most popular artists, but also as an encouragement to let your light shine whenever you get the opportunity.

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows

Assayas: So you won’t be critical.

Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?

Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”

Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.