Law

Review: The Barbarian Way

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The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within
by Erwin Raphael McManus

Christianity has become civilized. It’s words on a page and saying the right things on Sunday morning. But what if that’s not what Jesus intended? What if those who follow Christ are not meant to be tamed, but to be barbarians, smashing down whatever was in the way of their Lord? What if instead of forming committees, Christians passionately followed their King, living in communion with him and each other, doing what they have been unleashed to do? The Barbarian Way says it will connect you with that living, barbaric faith.

McManus accurately diagnoses a problem. Time and time again he hammers away on a problem: So many churches promise that you are safe in the hands of God, that God will keep you from danger. Jesus never promises that. In fact, he does promise that Christians will face persecution. Because of their connection with Jesus, they will face danger, and often in ways they feel unprepared to face.

But then… sigh. (more…)

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Jesus Offends.

And then they abandoned Jesus. They walked away. These people who had chased after him, who longed to hear him preach, who had witnessed miracles – these people who had sacrificed days of time and a lot of effort to follow Jesus: they walked away.

Why did they walk away?

Because what Jesus taught offended them. (Check out the end of John 6.)

This morning’s sermon was all about how offensive God’s Word is.

The Law declares that I am a sinner. That by nature I am dead in my transgressions and sins. That I am hostile to God. That I am not a good person. In fact, there is nothing good in me! And not only me – but that there is no difference, for all have sinned. The newborn baby? Just as sinful as me. That old grandma knitting scarves for the homeless? Just as sinful as me. And man… that is offensive.

The Gospel isn’t much better. It declares I do nothing to help. Jesus died for my sins. I didn’t help him. God declares me not guilty. I don’t help him. I didn’t choose Jesus; he chose me. And even my “good works” God himself works in me to will and do. And then, that person that hurt me so much? Jesus forgives that person too, with just as little work on their part? Shouldn’t they do something to make up for their sins before Jesus forgives? Nope! There is no difference: All are justified freely by his grace. And man… that is offensive. (more…)

Come Back

Calling people out isn’t the most fun thing in the world.

Last week I made a first visit to a congregation member that I’ve seen numerous times in her own home but only once or twice in church. Her son is going through confirmation and regularly is able to attend. That same son gets dropped off in time for worship services pretty often. But her? Not so much.

So, it was past time to make a visit. There were some choices coming up for her son in confirmation – I’m thinking of switching up a few aspects of the program, and he’s one of the ones It would affect the most. This mother also has a daughter (nominally a member of the congregation) who was born about two months ago and hasn’t been baptized. So, it was time to visit for other things.

The thing is, I know this woman. She’s not a person who is “too busy” for church the way so many say they are. She’s run ragged by her various children. She’s exhausted and badly needs the rest that only Jesus offers.

So, I asked her: “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you in church. I know you’re busy. I’m not here to drop the hammer on you. I’m here to ask: How can I bring you Jesus?” (more…)

Bloody Footprints

As I walked up the sidewalk, I noted the shoeprints on the cement. They were red.

Inside, the woman wailed. A younger woman sat beside her — her daughter. I introduced myself. The daughter moved aside and allowed me to sit beside the widow. I listened.

Twenty minutes earlier, I had received a call. A member family lived in this condo; the crying woman was their upstairs neighbor. She had discovered her husband lying dead at the end of the stairs in a pool of blood. Her phone didn’t work, so she came downstairs — having to step through that pool of blood — to use the member family’s phone. The members called me; this woman and her husband didn’t have a church.

And now, here I sat. I arrived before the coroner, though not before the police. They swarmed her apartment, but at least for now it was just us. She cried. She was in shock. “I should have gotten up. What was he doing, moving the television by himself? I should have been awake. I should have helped him.”  (more…)

I am Not a Police Officer

Police officers have this inherent ability to make people nervous. It doesn’t matter if you’re following the speed limit, you’re under, or you’re over: Unless you’re in a situation that calls for help, seeing a police cruiser makes you nervous. That’s just the way it is. We know that it’s an officer’s job to catch someone in the act, to give out penalties, to be the law.

I am not a police officer. Yet, when I appear, people get nervous. They know that a pastor has the weight of God behind him, and often that brings up feelings of guilt. People expect to be yelled at. They expect me to point out some sin, some flaw, some portion of their lives they’d prefer to keep hidden.

It’s not fun. Especially when people expect to be yelled at, when they’ve got a guilty conscience, they shy away from me. They don’t return phone calls (or pick up the phone). They find excuses to avoid talking at church, if they show up to worship at all. (more…)