Monday, May 15, 2017

WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'THE NARROW GATE?' – GREG ALBRECHT


Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.—Matthew 7:13-14
This passage is often preached from the perspective of how hard it is to obey God and keep his laws—how hard it is to “make the grade” to get into heaven—how relatively few souls will be counted worthy of heaven while the broad majority will end up in hell.
Matthew 7:13-14 is one of those passages that is regularly preached to mean something altogether different than the meaning that God intends. In fact, it may make my list of the top 25 most misunderstood and often misapplied passages in the entire Bible.
The passage begins with Jesus’ admonition to “enter through the narrow gate.” As many preachers and students of the Bible read these words, it seems to me that they take their own feelings about what constitutes a difficult and narrow gate (and a wide gate and a broad road) and apply them to what Jesus is teaching.

Not rules-keeping but Christ-in-you - Steve McVey


McVey-Not Rules but Christ Living in You from Plain Truth Ministries on Vimeo.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Prophetic Hope or Partisan Megaphone? Kenneth Tanner

Words of Wisdom from Kenneth Tanner Christian leaders

If you are involved in the care of souls please avoid and flee the ever-present temptation to enter the partisan fray of contemporary life in America. 
If things get *actually* horrendous (I know things are not well) those who look to men and women of the cloth for comfort and direction and wisdom need to be able to trust you. 
They will not be able to trust you—even if they cannot consciously perceive or articulate a lack of trust—if you have been a shrill and (more or less) unending megaphone for the left or right or whatever cause célèbre replaces Jesus Christ. 
Trust is earned by consistently elevating the person of Jesus Christ (as much as the Spirit enables us in our weakness) in all our words and actions.
The church needs prophets but you cannot be a prophet when a prophet is needed when you have played the role of chicken little or the boy who cried wolf.

A besetting sin of our moment is a failure to imagine that things CAN be better than they are: in our communities, in our world, in our politics, in our care for one another and the earth, in our marriages, in all our vital relationships, in our churches, in our schools, in our corporations, on our farms and in our factories, in our hearts.
The Spirit that creates the world and resurrects Christ from the dead animates the Christian imagination, teaching us to trust that all things can indeed be made new, all things can be made well.
Our prison system is a horrific witness that we have given up on the capacity of the Spirit to redeem and make well.
When we suppress this gospel imagination that things can be better than they are we deny the radical hope that is ours by the costly sacrificial love Christ demonstrates, achieved not only by the divine nature he shares with the Father and Spirit but by the new humanity he unveils. He invites all humanity to participate in this new creation with him.
The older I get the more I understand that nothing changes until we embrace this gift of imagination, acting upon the trust Christ instills in our minds and hearts.
I am not talking about the myth of progress, nor of the inevitability of the human spirit, nor of collective and concerted human action but of a sure and certain hope we own that Christ has reversed death; that by his Spirit working in us we can bring authentic healing, deliverance, freedom, justice, forgiveness, peace, and newness of life to all persons and to every square foot of this world.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jesus as Scapegoat - Richard Rohr





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All the great religions of the world talk a lot about death, so there must be an essential lesson to be learned here. But throughout much of religious history our emphasis has been on killing the wrong thing and avoiding the truth: it’s you who has to die, or rather, who you think you are—your false self. It's never someone else!
Historically we moved from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice to various modes of seeming self-sacrifice, usually involving the body. For many religions, including immature Christianity, God was distant and scary, an angry deity who must be placated. God was not someone with whom you fell in love or with whom you could imagine sharing intimacy or tenderness.
The common Christian reading of the Bible is that Jesus “died for our sins”—either to pay a debt to the devil (common in the first millennium) or to pay a debt to God the Father (proposed by Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109). Theologians later developed a “substitutionary atonement theory”—the strange idea that before God could love us God needed and demanded Jesus to be a blood sacrifice to ''atone'' for our sin. As a result, our theology became more transactional than transformational.
Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was not guided by the Temple language of debt, atonement, or blood sacrifice (understandably used in the New Testament written by observant Jews). He was instead inspired by the cosmic hymns in the first chapters of Colossians and Ephesians and the first chapter of John's Gospel. For Duns Scotus, the incarnation of God and the redemption of the world could never be a mere mop-up exercise in response to human sinfulness, but the proactive work of God from the very beginning. We were “chosen in Christ before the world was made” (Ephesians 1:4). Our sin could not possibly be the motive for the divine incarnation; rather, God’s motivation was infinite divine love and full self-revelation! For Duns Scotus, God never merely reacts, but always freely actsout of free and unmerited love.
Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity (it did not need changing)! Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God. God’s abundance and compassion make any scarcity economy of merit or atonement unhelpful and unnecessary. Jesus undid “once and for all” (Hebrews 7:279:1210:10) all notions of human and animal sacrifice and replaced them with his new infinite economy of grace. Jesus was meant to be a game changer for religion and the human psyche.
This grounds Christianity in love and freedom from the very beginning; it creates a very coherent and utterly attractive religion, which draws people toward lives of inner depth, prayer, reconciliation, healing, and universal “at-one-ment,” instead of mere sacrificial atonement. Nothing “changed” on Calvary but everything was revealed—an eternally outpouring love. Jesus switched the engines of history: instead of us needing to spill blood to get to God, we have God spilling blood to get to us!

Gateway to Silence:
Father, forgive them.

References:

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi(Franciscan Media: 2014), 183-188;
“Dying: We Need It for Life,” Richard Rohr on Transformation, Collected Talks, Vol. 1, disc 4 (Franciscan Media: 1997); and
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 202.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Greg Albrecht - "He Can't Stop Loving You"


Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”—John 11:25
Ray Charles is one of my favorite blues singers of all time. The movie about his life, produced several years ago, won several Academy Awards, and was simply titled “Ray.”
Human suffering has given birth to much of our music, poetry, literature and art. The tragedies and the traumas of human relationships were the fertile soil from which many of the story lines and lyrics of Ray Charles’ music grew.
When I was a teenager I loved Ray’s music—it was catchy, with a sing-along melody line and on a surface level spoke to the adolescent, puppy-love infatuations I felt.
But, as a teenager, I had no idea of the deeper meanings of his music nor did I know until I saw the movie that depicted the enormous pain of Ray’s life, how many of his songs were autobiographical. It took several decades before I would begin to understand the deep anguish behind Ray’s music and lyrics.
The title of one of his songs, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” speaks of the pain that someone has as he or she looks back at a seemingly failed and broken relationship, but they just can’t let go. The song says that they can’t stop loving the object of their affections.

I'd Rather Have the Grace of Christ than the Bondage of Religion - Steve McVey


McVey-I'd Rather Have Jesus Than Religion from Plain Truth Ministries on Vimeo.