Monday, August 22, 2016

CWR Magazine - Fall 2016 - Remembering 9-11

CWR Magazine - Fall 2016

Content links:

Remembering 9-11: 15 Years Later
by Greg Albrecht

When Towers Fall
by Brad Jersak

5 Stages of Religious Violence
by Greg Albrecht

Religion that's Lost It's Way
by Lazar Puhalo 

What's So "Christian" About Christianity? 
by Zack Hunt

"Fear Not"
by Michael Hardin

Raising Children With Fearless Faith
by Cindy Brandt 

The Dogs of Legalism: Can Religion Help Stress?
by Ron Benson

The Therapeutic Massage of Prayer
by a Former Pastor 

George MacDonald's Spiritual Journey (and mine too!)
by Brian Zahnd
House of Cards: Does It Confirm Our Worst Fears About Democracy?
by Kevin Miller 

Times of Refreshing and Restoration
by Brad Jersak


Have You Forgiven God? - Greg Albrecht


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."—Isaiah 55:8-9

 A few years ago I officiated at a funeral service for someone I had never known. I interviewed people who had known the deceased, and in the process I found out some dark and disturbing things.

What do you say at a funeral when you can't find anyone who ever knew the person who has anything good to say about them? What can you say at a memorial service when surviving friends and relatives are having a difficult time forgiving God for allowing the deceased to have been the nasty, intolerant, self-centered person they apparently were?

Preparing for the funeral and preaching the service took me directly to God. The path I took to God on this occasion is a well traveled road in my life—I call it "Forgiveness Avenue." As my life in Christ continues, I find myself walking down this road regularly, for it takes me in a Christ-centered direction. It's my experience that thinking about and pondering forgiveness will almost always lead us in the right spiritual direction. 

CLICK HERE to continue

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Great Humility that Redeems the Cosmos - Kenneth Tanner

The gospels upend every human (perhaps every rational) notion of strength.

The cosmos—superclusters of galaxies, delicate wildflowers on countless meadows, the waves of every ocean—thrives on one source of energy, a hidden force of charity that does not seek its own, a Person with an unremarkable face, who came not to be served by his creation but to serve.

When I talk about this personal force of love I often describe it as some of the first Christians did. They call his passion for everyone and everything an Extreme Humility.

The biggest challenge presented to humanity by his gospel is our mistaken bedrock belief that what drives the universe is an unbridled might that rules by fiat. This is after all the only form of power we humans recognize: brute force, cunning strategy, ruthless competition, and, above all else, "winning."

It goes against everything that man has built and everything that man has ventured to accept the idea that the real power that sustains all movement and all life, that binds all things together—from subatomic particles to intergalactic distances—is a self-sacrificial love without measure.

"If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it."

Jesus is not just talking about your life but is describing how *everything* works.

The losers in this scenario do not "win" but instead come to participate forever in the life of him who lays down his life for the life of the world and in so doing—by a great humility—redeems the cosmos and makes all things new, makes all things well.

This belief is not going to get you anywhere in the world that humanity has made but you can serve that world—this world that Christ loved before it loved him—by embracing this sacred path of humility and renouncing all the other ways and means and kinds of power.

All of them. Political. Military. Intellectual. Physical. All.

It is telling that almost every news story that compels the urgent attention of Christians these days can only do so because we have denied that we serve a Lord that rules by a mysterious humility that conquers all hearts by self-giving.

Redefining Holiness Jesus' Style - Jeff K. Clarke

When many of us first embraced Christianity, we almost immediately began to define our journey by the things we could no longer do. The words ‘not’, ‘do not’ and ‘cannot’ came to characterize not only our approach to our new-found faith, but the ways we lived it out as well.


However, the more I read the Jesus story the more I begin to realize that our journey with Christ and his body has never been about what we ‘can’t’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do, but more about what we ‘can’ and ‘should’ do.

While there will always be things we need to avoid as followers of Jesus, his language and life centered less on things we need to avoid and more on things we need to accept. He didn’t worry about those things the religious establishment of his day said he couldn’t do, who to avoid and what laws he couldn’t break.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jesus Is Nothing Like Superman - Kenneth Tanner

"Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head."

It’s tempting for contemporary Americans to think of Jesus along the mythos of Superman: an alien humanoid capable of extraordinary feats of strength, impervious to earthly elements, and virtually indestructible.

Yet Jesus is nothing like that. When the Son of God humbled himself, a quiet, wondrous mystery took shape in the womb of a Judaean teenager. God took on our shatterable humanity “in every respect.”

This means Jesus was vulnerable to all the frailties of a clay vessel, as fragile as anyone with a skeleton, brain, lungs, heart, skin, and spinal cord.

He could be crushed by stoning, burned by fire, weakened by a lack of water, food, or sleep; he was susceptible to cuts, bruises, bacteria, radiation, or gravity. His cause of death was likely exsanguination, or bleeding out.

He swallowed up death forever by dying, in agony and in utter disgrace, as a criminal, without resistance or appeal to a violent defense.

All the “superhuman” things Jesus did he did as a mere human. Revealing the "weakness of God" he was strong in an unanticipated, self-sacrificial way. Jesus demonstrated divine power (when he did so) for the purpose of reconciling all flesh and all things to himself, always from a motive of love and never the will to power. His victory over the Powers is won by a horrendous defeat.

Jesus gave his life for the life of the world, not as a kind of demigod like Superman but as Emmanuel, God in clay...with us and for us.

We contemporary humans fashion gods all of the time. In the Ancient Near East we used to make them of clay. The brilliance of a God who possesses the humility to make himself earthen in order to redeem us miserable makers of earthen idols drives me to my knees.

Instead Jesus gets on his knees and washes my feet, because this God always makes himself lower than us to raise the human race he loves above anything else in his creation to life without end.

Jesus Is Nothing Like Superman - Kenneth Tanner

"Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head."

It’s tempting for contemporary Americans to think of Jesus along the mythos of Superman: an alien humanoid capable of extraordinary feats of strength, impervious to earthly elements, and virtually indestructible.

Yet Jesus is nothing like that. When the Son of God humbled himself, a quiet, wondrous mystery took shape in the womb of a Judaean teenager. God took on our shatterable humanity “in every respect.”

This means Jesus was vulnerable to all the frailties of a clay vessel, as fragile as anyone with a skeleton, brain, lungs, heart, skin, and spinal cord.

He could be crushed by stoning, burned by fire, weakened by a lack of water, food, or sleep; he was susceptible to cuts, bruises, bacteria, radiation, or gravity. His cause of death was likely exsanguination, or bleeding out.

He swallowed up death forever by dying, in agony and in utter disgrace, as a criminal, without resistance or appeal to a violent defense.

All the “superhuman” things Jesus did he did as a mere human. Revealing the "weakness of God" he was strong in an unanticipated, self-sacrificial way. Jesus demonstrated divine power (when he did so) for the purpose of reconciling all flesh and all things to himself, always from a motive of love and never the will to power. His victory over the Powers is won by a horrendous defeat.

Jesus gave his life for the life of the world, not as a kind of demigod like Superman but as Emmanuel, God in clay...with us and for us.

We contemporary humans fashion gods all of the time. In the Ancient Near East we used to make them of clay. The brilliance of a God who possesses the humility to make himself earthen in order to redeem us miserable makers of earthen idols drives me to my knees.

Instead Jesus gets on his knees and washes my feet, because this God always makes himself lower than us to raise the human race he loves above anything else in his creation to life without end.

What if God has your back? by Brad Jersak

"What will be will be, but God always has my back."

A friend of mine said that last night. 

Thoughts and feelings burst through my mind and heart like fireworks.

     "This feels deeply true to my heart of hearts."
     "But is it true? What about affliction?"
     "How is this different than denial of suffering?" 
     "How is this different from platitudes like 'everything always works out'?"

Because it doesn't always work out.
Even good people go bankrupt, lose their jobs, their homes.
Even good people get sick, contract diseases, die in misery.
Even good people have accidents, endure tragedy, lose loved ones. 

The rain falls and the sun shines on the just and the unjust.  
So do tornados and tsunamis. 
And famine. And rape. And murder. And war. 
And crucifixion.  
Even on Jesus.

Shit happens. To everyone. 
And no, God doesn't make it happen. 
No, God doesn't send tragedy so that we might fear him.
No, God is not a death-dealer so that we might glorify him.
(and I use the sexist 'him' advisedly)

But neither are we "deists" ... that is, just as people of faith don't believe God causes evil, neither do we believe the Creator set the stage, then abandoned it to its own severe laws. Christians believe that God is somehow present and even active in the mess we live in. 

All of these thoughts passed through my awareness seconds after the words were spoken.
In truth, it's the internal conversation I've been having for years.
I've written about it in A More Christlike God 
Its in the chapter titled, "Sh*t Happens ... and God is Good."

I guess that title is similar to my friend's claim:

"What will be will be, but God always has my back."

And irrespective of my daunting unanswerable questions, there was something fresh about it. Something true.
Something that calls me not only to believe that it's true, but to ask how it's true.
More, the statement invites me to live as if it's true. 
Here's my analysis of why it resonated and how I see it.