Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chasing 120 - Silver Medal 2015 Illumination Awards!


February 26, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Plain Truth Ministries is pleased to announce that Chasing 120, by Monte Wolverton, has won a silver Medal at the 2015 Illumination Book Awards, in the general fiction category. The Illumination Awards are designed to honor the year’s best new titles written and published with a Christian worldview.

About the Book

In Chasing 120… author, artist and syndicated cartoonist Monte Wolverton tells a fascinating story reflecting many of his life experiences. It’s a page turning tale that speaks to the shattered dreams of so many who have experienced their house of pseudo-religious cards falling around them. 

For more book information, video overview and endorsements, please visit:www.ptm.org/120 

To view an interview with the author, click here: https://www.ptm.org/uni/resources/images/interviewChasing120.htm 

To purchase a copy of Chasing 120 – A Story of Food, Faith, Fraud and the Pursuit of Longevity, click here: www.ptm.org/120
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Christianity Without the Cross - Zack Hunt

Tony Campolo tells a story about a parent-teacher meeting he once had while a professor at Eastern University.
A father of one of his students had demanded a meeting with his son and Tony because he was upset about some of the things Tony was teaching his son about what it really means to be a follower of Jesus.
What Tony was teaching was simply too radical for this father. He was incensed that his son had taken the gospel literally, given up everything he had, and was now out on the street serving the poor in his community.
“I don’t mind being a Christian…up to a point!” the father shouted to Tony.
“And what point is that, dad?” replied the son.
“The cross?”
I was reminded of that punch-to-the-gut anecdote this week as I read through some of the responses to my posts (and other articles across the Internet) about ISIS, Islam, and how we as Christians our called to love our enemies.
CLICK HERE to continue reading

The Suffering Judge - Greg Albrecht

… If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.—Romans 8:31-34
You probably have heard of honor killings. An "honor killing" is the term used to describe a practice in which one or more males murders a female relative who, according to their perspective, dishonored the family. 

Honor killings are usually inspired by cultures whose values are based on shame and honor. Based on our scriptural foundation in Romans 8:31-34, we're going to talk about shame and honor in The Suffering Judge. 

One of the most profound questions we humans can ever ponder has to do with the question of atonement. Given our complicity in hurt and pain, what does it take for us to find healing, forgiveness and peace? 

How can—how DOES—the Cross of Christ atone for the ugliness of our lives and make it right?

Human society has generally seen the problem of sin, guilt and shame being resolved by the shedding of blood— usually the blood of the perpetrator, the person who is deemed to have brought shame to the family or community. 

How can we find healing, forgiveness and peace? God provides an answer that is at odds with human ideas. While God offers a Christ-centered answer, religion, over the years, even within Christendom, has corrupted the love and mercy God offers. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Massacres in the Name of Religion - Monte Wolverton

It had been some twenty years since I visited France, so when I was invited to the 33rd annual St. Just le Martel Cartoon Festival, I had to find a way to go. St. Just le Martel is a village east of Limoges, about four hours south of Paris by train. I traveled with four other American editorial cartoonists, plus spouses and significant others. Every year the village hosts hundreds of cartoonists, most from France, many from around the world. The entire town volunteers, with a sense of community that I have rarely seen elsewhere. A troop of chefs (French, of course) prepare amazing meals, served in a big tent by the village teenagers (with astonishingly cheerful, cooperative attitudes).

Many residents house cartoonists in their homes. My friend Steve Sack was hosted by one such retired couple, Irene and Michele. We spent hours in their living room one day, enjoying a delicious lunch and eroding the language barrier with a translation app on my iPhone.

The next day Michele asked if some of the Americans would like to visit the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, where, in 1944, a company of German Waffen SS had massacred 642 inhabitants, because they had allegedly captured an SS officer. SS soldiers rounded up the residents, shot and burned the men, and burned the women and children alive in a church. Later, the SS discovered they had the wrong village. The grim details of this event can be found on the Internet at Wikipedia. Today, the preserved ruins of the village cover many acres, including a cemetery, an interpretive center and an underground memorial where the names of victims are etched in granite. Personal effects are displayed in glass cases. SPRING 2015 23 This was a neck-wrenching change from the high spirits of the cartoon festival. We walked the abandoned streets of the village in a daze. Crumbling buildings still display signs for dentists, bakeries, caf├ęs and grocery stores. Burned-out hulks of 1930s and 40s cars sit exactly where they had in 1944. In the church, the rusty steel frame of a baby buggy melts into the stone floor.

My first thought was—how could God allow this to happen? Of course this was only a tiny sample of the atrocities and suffering that took place in World War II—and atrocities that continue today all around the world. My second thought was—what were the men of the Waffen SS thinking and feeling as they shot and incinerated the villagers?

CLICK HERE for the entire article

"Why are Christians so ...?" - Brad Jersak



Ouch, eh?

I guess the most positive answer is that Christ has sought out, found and gathered the worst of the worst into his family of grace. If the family of God is truly open to the those most in need of grace, then don't be surprised if those most in need of grace (the angry, the annoying, the arrogant) show up.  

I guess the most negative answer is that having experienced that radical grace, we (the angry, annoying and arrogant) have not yet been transformed by it into gracious people. Why is this? Because we are an "already and not yet" people. Still ... 

How is it that Jesus could say, "Those who have been forgiven much, love much." Was he mistaken? Or perhaps our Christianity has been rooted less in a realization of the profundity of God's forgiveness and too much in how well he's met our consumer needs.

There's real resistance these days to saying the Jesus prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner," because we don't want to identify with the condemnation of that scary word. But in so resisting, maybe we've also lost sight of our need for mercy. Maybe we, like the Corinthians, have become too comfortable with strutting our identity in Christ as if we were kings instead of Jesus. "We are kings," they said. Paul replies, "If only you were."  

This needs more thought. But if we're not sure that Christians are still sinners, just do the google search.
And if we are very sure that we are 'sinners saved by grace,' then maybe that grace should show.

Sincerely,
A sinner hoping grace will do it's work.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Exclamation Point on God's Love: Greg Albrecht with Brad Jersak

The following is a transcript of a live interview with Brad Jersak by Greg Albrecht on the meaning of the Cross

Greg Albrecht: Hello everyone, this is Greg Albrecht. We're going to remember and discuss our Lord's ultimate sacrifice for us and reflect on his life, death, burial and of course the significance and meaning of his resurrection. Helping us with his insights and observations is Brad Jersak. Brad is Senior Editor of our magazines and a Christ-centered professor, speaker and author from Abbotsford, British Columbia. 
Brad, in one sense it seems to me that these two events, the crucifixion and the resurrection, are the crowning jewels in God's demonstration and revelation of his love for us. When I think of the resurrection specifically, I often think of it as the fulfillment of the new covenant. Jesus didn't come simply to make a new covenant with us, he came to be the new covenant. We might think of his resurrection as the final act in the life of Christ, the final part of his three-part revelation— his death, burial and resurrection. And this three-part revelation is a dynamic illustration of God's love, his very own nature. 
Brad, would you begin by talking about Good Friday, giving us some background about the cross of Christ and its relevance and significance to and for us in the light of the resurrection?

BJ: First of all, let's focus on the fact that the cross, and specifically the way Jesus experienced the cross and what he did on the cross, is a revelation of God. What you just said is right on—the cross reveals the central nature of God. That's such a good way to phrase it. In Christ God demonstrated his unsurpassable love. When we look at Christ on the cross, we are looking at God in the flesh. It's very important where we locate God on Good Friday. As we know, there are many within Christianity who virtually picture the Father punishing Jesus, crucifying Jesus, or being appeased by the torture and death of his Son.

But Paul tells us that God was in Christ on the cross reconciling the world to himself (Colossians 1:19-20). So if you want to find or locate God on Good Friday, he's on a cross. God is the Word made flesh even when that flesh was being wounded and pierced and crucified.
So when we look at Christ on the cross we're seeing something central to the very nature of God, and you've alluded to it already. What is it we find out about God when we look at the cross? We do not see that he was angry and had to get his wrath off his chest. No, rather we see self-giving grace, we see sacrificial love and we see radical forgiveness. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Love = No Fear - Greg Albrecht

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:4-8 
1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter many have come to know as the "love chapter" of the Bible. 1 Cor. 13 is arranged in three separate sections, two of which we will briefly examine:
The first section, in verses 1-3, is about love as being indispensable. If you've ever been to college, you'll know that there are courses for which there are prerequisites. If a class has a prerequisite, you can't take that class unless you have already taken another, more basic, fundamental class. 

In this first section of 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is saying that love is the fundamental definition of a Christian. Love, for Christians, is a basic requirement—an absolute necessity, a core essential for our relationship with God and for our relationship, as Christians, with mankind at large. 

Martin Luther once gave a sermon about this chapter in which he contended that verses 1-3 of 1 Corinthians 13 are intended as what we would call today a reality check.
Of course Martin Luther didn't use the term "reality check"—he simply said that these first few verses serve to silence and humble haughty Christians, particularly teachers and preachers who become impressed with themselves. 

How Jesus Used Scripture - Richard Rohr


Looking at which Scripture passages Jesus emphasizes (remember, the Hebrew Bible is his only Bible!) shows he clearly understands how to connect the "three steps forward" dots that confirm the God he has met, knows, loves, and trusts. At the same time, Jesus ignores or openly contradicts the many "two steps backward" texts. He never quotes the book of Numbers, for example, which is rather ritualistic and legalistic. He never quotes Joshua or Judges, which are full of sanctified violence. Basically, Jesus doesn't quote from his own Scriptures when they are punitive, imperialistic ("My country and religion are the 'only'!"), classist, or exclusionary. In fact, he teaches the exact opposite in every case. This is hard to miss. And our job as Christians is to imitate Jesus!

Jesus does not mention the list of 28 "thou shall nots" in Leviticus 18 through 20, but chooses instead to echo the rare positive quote of Leviticus 19:18: "You must love your neighbor as yourself." The longest single passage he quotes is from Isaiah 61 (in Luke 4:18-19): "The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord." But Jesus plays fast and easy, as they say, and quotes selectively! He appears to have deliberately omitted the last line--"and the day of vengeance of our God" (Isaiah 61:2b)--because he does not believe in a God of vengeance at all.

Jesus knows how to connect the dots and find out where the text is truly heading, beyond the low-level consciousness of a particular moment, fear, or circumstance. He knows there is a bigger arc to the story, one that always reveals a God who is compassionate, non-violent, and inclusive of outsiders. (Such passages are already found in the Hebrew Bible!) He knew how to "thin slice" the text, to find the overall pattern based on small windows of insight. He learned from Ezekiel, for example, that God's justice is restorative and not retributive. God punishes Israel by loving the Israelites even more! How did we miss that one?

We can only safely read Scripture--it is a dangerous book--if we are somehow sharing in the divine gaze of love. A life of prayer helps you develop a third eye that can read between the lines and find the golden thread which is moving toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice. I am sure that is what Paul means when he teaches that we must "know spiritual things in a spiritual way" (1 Corinthians 2:13). Any "pre-existing condition" of a hardened heart, a predisposition to judgment, a fear of God, any need to win or prove yourself right will corrupt and distort the most inspired and inspiring of Scriptures--just as they pollute every human conversation and relationship. Hateful people will find hateful verses to confirm their love of death. Loving people will find loving verses to call them into an even greater love of life. And both kinds of verses are in the Bible!
Adapted from
Hierarchy of Truths: Jesus' Use of Scripture
 (CDMP3 download)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why share the gospel if there's no hell? by Brad Jersak

I am frequently asked why anyone (including Jesus, the apostles and countless martyrs throughout the ages) would bother sharing the gospel if there is no hell. Before we even go there, I would hasten to ask, "Who told you there's no hell?" Of course there is.

Now as for the nature of hell, that's another matter. The idea of hell as 'eternal conscious torment' in an everlasting lake of fire is abhorrent to many who've experienced the fathomless depths of God's love, or have at least thought through the irrationality of its contradictions, or studied the competing images of divine judgment within Scripture. But that doesn't mean there is no hell. Have you been inside Burma's borders? Or experienced the front lines of a Middle East war zone? Or visited a sex-trafficking brothel? I know those who have and they assure me absolutely: hell exists.

I'm not a universalist, but I do believe in hopeful inclusivism. That is, we cannot presume that all will be saved, or that any would be lost, but love obligates us to hope and pray that the mercy of Christ would have the last word on the Day of Judgment. If so, what is the point of evangelism?

I think the difficulty in perceiving the point of evangelism if there is a hope that one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess and glorify Christ as Lord exposes something awful about our perception of the Gospel and what Evangelism is.

These questions are the beginning of a renewed vision around all of that. First, let's start with this: If everything does finally "comes out in the wash," (i.e., that Christ does somehow accomplish "the restoration of all things," Acts 3:21), then sharing the Good News of God's love in Christ is the divinely appointed means whereby the restoration begins to happen in this age. That is, the Gospel is that Jesus is the Saviour of the World, the restorer of hope, the perfection of love, and the One who would embrace all and redeem everyone from our enslavement to Satan, sin and death. Telling the world this fabulous news and inviting them to it is integral to how Christ is restoring the cosmos. Moreover, now that Christ holds the keys of death and hades, apparently the power of death is broken and no longer creates a barrier or deadline before which Christ is powerless to continue his salvation project. I don't presume to know what that means exactly in the next life, but I'm not waiting until then to invite people to the benefits now.

Thus, the question, 'Why bother telling people" overlooks two critical facts:

1. People around the globe are already suffering spiritual, emotional and physical enslavement right now, and it's literally killing them. Anyone I ask can tell me exactly what the nature of their hell is today ... the condemnation that is already oppressing them. Jesus didn't need to come condemn the world--when he arrived he found it already in ruin and in need of his grace and life (John 3:16-18). Almost anyone can tell me about their deepest needs and most painful wounds. I don't need to tell them their problem. They consistently tell me. And unless they're attached to their self-pity, they tell me because they want some Good News.

2. But also, salvation is not just from something; it's for Someone. Why introduce people to the best thing that's ever happened to us? Why share the kindest Person we've ever met? Why offer deliverance from the fear of death and the offer of peace and well-being now? Perhaps Christians will be better able to answer this if they commit to knowing Christ for themselves before pushing their 'fire insurance' gospel on others. Even in an era when evangelists are perceived as ponzi scheme hucksters, I keep talking gospel because I've come to know Jesus is alive and he's wonderful and knowing him IS eternal life now. Sharing the gospel is not about trying to convince someone to give up their quality-of-life hedonism in exchange for a 'get out of jail free' card to a hypothetical eternal Auschwitz down the road. Rather, it's an invitation to a family of love feasting on the presence of Love Himself.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lighten Up -- Trust Him -- Be Free! Greg Albrecht

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:  "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."—1 Peter 2:1-6
We need to lighten up! Institutionalized religion has turned many of us into timid little souls. Some people seem to think of God in a similar way as they recall their grandmothers. Some may remember when they visited Grandma that they had to be extremely careful not to disturb the museum-like setting of what was erroneously called her "living room." As children, they weren't allowed to sit down, to touch anything, and they had to take great care not to break anything.

God's kingdom of heaven is not a grandmother's living room that's virtually roped off, to be used for viewing purposes only. Our relationship with God is more like sitting down at his kitchen table (which, to be fair to grandmothers, is a memorable, positive feature that many of us discovered in our relationship with Grandma). In God's kitchen, there's always something cooking, the smell of a pie or baked bread just out of the oven fills the room, and a freshly brewed pot of coffee beckons us. 

Two Types of Knowing God - Maximus the Confessor

This excerpt is from Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 60: On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ (CCSG 22:73-81). It is a minor paraphrase (for readability only) of the translation by Paul Blowers and Robert Wilken (St. Vlad's Press, 2003).

Scripture teaches us two ways of knowing God, two kinds of knowledge of divine things.

First, there is what we might call 'relative knowledge,' which is rooted in human reason, ideas and conceptions. Relative knowledge lacks the kind of direct, experiential perception that we get by active engagement or a living encounter. This relative knowledge is what we typically use to order our affairs in our present daily lives. 

On the other hand, there is a second kind of knowledge--a truly authentic knowledge--gained only by actual experience, apart from and beyond human reason and ideas. This authentic, experiential knowledge gives us a direct perception of God through participation in his life by grace. 

We will ultimately attain this second way of knowing in the next life by participation in God's nature ('theosis'), as he transforms us from glory to glory into the image of Christ. This will be a supernatural and unceasing process. 

Scripture shows us how the relative knowledge based on reason and ideas can be a useful motivator, increasing our desire for the participative knowledge acquired by active engagement.

Further, they teach us that this active, experiential knowledge through participation, which gives us direct perception of God, can supplant (replace, displace) the relative knowledge based in reason and ideas.

The great sages go so far as to say that it's impossible for rational knowledge of God coexist with the direct experience of God. Or for human conceptions of God to coexist with the immediate perception of God. 

'Rational knowledge of God' uses analogies from created beings in the intellectual contemplation of God. Similarly, 'conceptual knowledge' means all the simple knowledge of God drawn from created beings. But 'immediate perception' involves actual experience, through participation, in the supernatural life of God. 



We use this kind of distinction with every other kind of knowledge as well, since our direct experience of something suspends our rational knowledge about it. And our direct perception of things makes our conceptual knowledge useless. This kind of 'experiential knowledge' refers to is based in firsthand, active engagement, which surpasses all reason. 

So when we speak of 'immediate perception,' we are referring to our participation in whatever (or whomever) manifests itself to us beyond all our human-based analogies and conceptions.

This may very well be what the Apostle Paul is secretly teaching when he says,  'As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will disappear (1 Cor. 13:8). Clearly he is referring here to that knowledge which is found in reason and ideas, which disappears in light of the direct experience of intimate encounter.