Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spicing it Up

Hello!! How is everyone doing?

I know that this is a book discussion but I am switching gears a little bit. I know people are probably super busy and I will be honest: I have not put as much time in the book as I would have liked to. I'll be on a 5-6 hr car ride tomorrow & Sunday so there should be some reading time.

This summer, I've found myself understanding more about Jesus when I reflect on different experiences I have. My desire to talk about Jesus with others has grown tremendously. At the rehab. hospital I volunteer at, the majority of the patients are senior citizens. Many are nervous about death and worried about time. I have yet to experience this but I think as people grow older, they begin to wonder, "What is going to happen to me?" I thank God I will never experience this but please pray for the people who do. Being with these people has helped me gain a better understanding as to why it is good to be open about Jesus with people you don't know that well.

I hope that everyone is having a fantastic summer. I am sorry to switch gears, but I wanted to inform everyone on how God is working in my life. Also, please pray for the summer camp I will be working at. I'm hired as one of the directors which is exciting, except I need prayer with this job. At camp, I tend to be someone who avoids conflict, confrontation, and if someone walks over me, I just take it. My boss had a conversation with me and the main director, informing me that I need to be more vocal about my needs and not to let lower-staff walk all over me. I also tend to worry about different things (I'm now worried about being able to effectively prepare everything, being less scatter-brained, and just doing a great job in general). Please pray for my confidence, ability to initiate/step up, organization skills, and just that I will do a great job. I care a lot about my campers, the counselors, and the other directors. God enriches my life so much from working here.

Thank you!

In Him,
Kelsey

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

To the Finish

This week's assignment is to the end! If you have made it this far, well done. I hope the reading has been helpful to you and am always interested in questions or reflections you've had. If you are behind, take heart and press onward! The words of the book do not change just because the month of June is over.

See you all at the finish!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Halfway to Glory

A quick disclaimer afer a deluge of reading (and probably slow reading at that!) from Week 2: If you've fallen behind in the "schedule," take heart! You can read a book outside the time schedule set up by this blog! I'm merely putting up weekly readings for those Type A folks who desire (read: need) a strucuture in which to accomplish the reading and who desire to be in the same place as others. Do not feel pressured that if you are not keeping up here you have failed and should just stop reading. Please proceed at your own pace. And if thoughts come to you, feel free to share them with us, regardless of where you are.

Week 3 (June 16-22): Part 3, pgs. 165-246

The material eases up considerably in Part 4, so take heart and keep plowing if you are on schedule.

Onward and upward, my friends!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mystery, Necessary but Unexplainable

I joined a church for the first time in my life two years ago. I had to go through an interview with one of the elders to ensure I understood the Gospel (and to talk to me about it if I did not) before welcoming me in as a member to receive all the privileges of membership.

In the interview, the elder asked me, "Who was Jesus?". I paused, knowing one cannot sum up God's character in a 30 second monologue, and then proceeded to toss out some things about salvation, identity, and freedom from anxiety. He smiled and told me he was blessed by my answer but would not let me leave until I answered his follow-up question:

"Was Jesus man or God?"

I responded "fully God and fully man," as I had been taught to do by my three years in InterVarsity (shameless plug!). Poof! I was a member. I remember thinking it odd though that of all the questions he could have asked, my interview turned, indeed depended on, this one about Christ's divinity.

Any time the Trinity comes up in any discussion on campus I almost automatically default to "God's mysterious"/"If we could understand God, he wouldn't be God"/"There's just some things we can't know" language. This is all true. The Trinity is, and has been, an unexplainable mystery, how one God can exist in three persons.

100% + 100% + 100% = 100% Go ahead, Math majors. Try to explain that one to me.

The end of Part 2 does help our understanding of this mystery though, not that we know how it works but that we know why it's necessary and what the consequences of Jesus being fully God and fully man (or to use other language, not just a human but also a divine part of the Trinity) are.

"Anselm was right that only man should make reparation for his sins, since it is he who has defaulted. And he was equally right that only God could make the necessary reparation, since it is he who has demanded it. Jesus Christ is therefore the only Savior, since he is the only person in whom the 'should' and the 'could' are united, being himself both God and man" (157).

If Jesus is not a complete human, he is not qualified to receive the punishment due to sinful man. Mankind as a race will not have received its punishment, and there is no second Adam to undo the first. God would not be holy and just.

If Jesus is not completely divine, then our salvation cost God nothing. He merely would have poured out his wrath on a 3rd party which would have been either unjust, immoral, or unfair (depending on who the party was). Either way, God would not be loving.

Now how does this "fully God, fully man" thing work? I have no clue. But it is indispensible to our salvation from a God of holy love. In fact, without the "fully God, fully man" doctrine (which one could say makes no sense), our salvation makes no sense.

I think I have confused myself. Somebody push back on this. Can someone explain this better? Are my above "If" clauses heretical?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

thoughts...

on humility, the cross and some other stuff thrown in there :-D

there is so much to look at and think about here that i dont know where to start, and i hope that i am not too long winded (even in type) as i randomly try to think stuff through, but here goes.

starting off Stott says we need to seriously look at both the "seriousness of sin" and the "majesty of God"... and really when we can look at these I think that humility is all that there is room left for. It seems like the more we see who God is and His perfect and scary Holiness, well thats when we can see how imperfect, dirty and small we are. If we can really look at who we are then we can realize that we are nothing and that God is everything, and I guess when we get to that point there is really no room for pride.

The Holiness and the wrath of God seems so crucial to this point, because without them our sin doesnt seem too bad and we look like maybe we could make do on our own. And we dont really talk about a wrathful God all that much, because honestly who wouldnt rather talk about happy, loving Jesus all day? Stott quotes Hab. on page 104 it says that God is "too pure to look on evil." its just something that i've been thinking about and still trying to understand....

so far as building humility in ourselves and in our community... and what it looks like to live it out... i just get the word honesty. like pure honesty and openess with who we are and the crap that we've done. being honest about who God is and how short we fall down- and how AWESOME that makes God's grace. learning to be open and honest with each other and holding each other accountable to that.
and (honestly...) this isnt something i am wicked great at all the time, but thats the idea that i'm getting about humility and as i read this book... i'm looking forward to see what other stuff you guys are thinking about!

Monday, June 9, 2008

I Take It Back

So, on Saturday I wrote that reading Part 2 would be "fun."

Today, I came across Stott's description of the work we must do in Part 2 on page 91:

"It will not be a plesant exercise, and our integrity will be tested in the course of it."

Oops.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Part Deux

I hope and pray y'all's readings continue to go well. I've found all the comments so far helpful and encouraging, so thank you for those who have taken the time to post. I hope thinking through an entry and writing it out has been helpful in debriefing for you. In particular, the theme of humilty, as Brad pointed out last post, seems to have emerged over and over again which I think is a proper read of the cross and is extremely helpful in the way we approach Christ, each other, and the world. I look forward to seeing how this idea of humility continues to play itself out.

Part 1 is a nice introduction to the cross, but Parts 2 and 3 are where it really begins to get heavy, deep, and (for us reading dorks out there) fun. Much awaits us this week and next.

Week 2 (June 7-13): Part 2, pages 89-162.

Question: I simply want to repeat and rephrase Brad's question concerning humility from last post: In response to the cross, how do we cultivate humility in our lives? Furthermore, in response to the cross, how do we cultivate humility in Christian community, both in the community on campus at UNH but also within the global Christian communty? What does this humility look like? How do we work towards it?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Trying to Sound Profound...

...has a tendency to get me nowhere.

The biggest thing that has drawn my attention in Part I of this book is Stott's insistence on an extended defense of the centrality of the cross in Christianity. I think that Alexx nailed the centrality of the cross on the head when he drew our attention to Christ's humanity--the cross serves as a reminder to us that Christ's sacrifice was ONLY worth a damn because He became a man, albeit without sacrificing His divinity. This essentially gives His sacrifice credibility with the Father on the scales of cosmic justice.

What is more important than Christ's ability to experience pain and anxiety as we can, however, is emphasized on p. 83, where Stott talks about the cross as an experience of what he calls "real dereliction" for Jesus. This is the point in the story where Jesus goes where no man can go without being abandoned forever--namely, straight into the teeth of separation from God. Stott describes the way in which Christ's death is linked to ideas of martyrdom on pp. 77-78, but one of the points that he makes a few pages later highlights the reasons why Christ's death was not mere martyrdom. He points out that God enables us to bear persecution from the world even to the point of death with joy, but implicit in his later discussion of what sets the dereliction of Christ apart is the reality that we cannot joyfully face the prospect of being judged for sin before the throne of God the Father--in fact, we cannot face this divine prosecution in any posture. The cross, then, is also important because the immense intensity of Christ's physical death is a mere underscoring to the reality of His real separation from God the Father because of our sin. Our sin...I mean, shit. That's crazy.

I agree with everyone who has posted to this point, particularly as the biggest theme I see developing throughout the blog is the impetus which the cross gives us for humility. A question for all of you in light of this...what can we, as a community of believers, do to cultivate this humility so that it doesn't end up as a simple flash-in-the-pan? How do we help each other in this?

Significance in the Lord's Supper

Pages 69 through 74 have really provided me with some new insight into Jesus' last supper and its significance. A quote from page 71 reads "The Lord's Supper, which was instituted by Jesus, and which is the only regular commemorative act authorized by him, dramatizes neither his birth , neither his words nor his works, but only his death. Nothing could indicate more clearly the central significance of that Jesus attached to his death. It was by his death that he wished above all else to be remembered. There is then, it is safe to say, no Christianity without the cross. If the cross is not central to our religion, ours is not the religion of Jesus."

I have never really considered before that the Lord's Supper really is the only commemorative Jesus gives for us to participate in for his life. Not only that, but it's remarkable that the ONLY thing it reminds us of is his death. Jesus did tons of amazing and great things by teaching and performing miracles in his life, but the one thing that really mattered was dying for the world.

Stott points out on page 73 in reference to Christ's death, "First, it was central to his own thinking about himself and his mission, and he desired it to be central to ours. Second, it took place in order to establish the new covenant and procure its promised forgiveness. Third, it needs to be appropriated individually (the covenant and the forgiveness) if its benefits are to be enjoyed." I find it convicting to think about the centrality of Christ's death to his mission when I look at my walk of faith. I find it scary how easy it is for me to be complacent with the knowledge of Christ's death. I'm humbled and convicted because this isn't how he wants me, or us to be about it. Rather, he wants the world to know the significance of his death and why it's so important!

As final note, I find it very cool that Jesus was dying at the time that passover lambs were to be sacrificed (pg. 74). The symbolism and relationship between the passover lamb and Jesus dying sacrificially really illustrates the way the entire situation and timing were God ordained.

Other thoughts?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Jesus' Perspective on His Death

Again and again, I am humbled by Jesus Christ. On page 37 it reads:

"The third and most important reason why he know he would die was because of his own deliberate choice. He was determined to fulfill what was written of the Messiah, however painful it would be. This was neither fatalism nor a martyr complex. It was quite simply that he believed Old Testament Scripture to be his Father's revelation and that he was totally resolved to do his Father's will and finish his Father's work. Besides, his suffering and death would not be purposeless. He had come "to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:10). It was for the salvation of sinners that he would die, giving his life as ransom to set them free (Mk 10:45). So he set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. Nothing would deter or deflect him. Hence the reiterated "must" when he spoke of his death. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected. Everything that was written about him must be fulfilled."

Here is a man, granted he is the Son of God, but still a man made of flesh and blood, able to feel pain and suffering. This man, Jesus Christ knew his whole life that he was going to die a painful, horrid death. A death sentenced to him by the very people he was saving through his death. Although he knew his death would be painful, he was steadfast and could not be steered off course. Jesus loved us enough to say, "I will suffer for you; I will die for you." And this is the man that we put to death on a cross.

It amazes me the troubles I face and how quickly I am to say, "Sorry God...this seems to be a little too hard, You need to take these obstacles away from me." However, reading this passage I am humbled. I am humbled to see that as Jesus' suffering was not in vain, neither will mine be. Jesus was able to see "the light at the end of the tunnel" if you will. Yes, he knew his death would be painful and torturous. Yes, he knew that the people he was dying to save were the ones nailing him to the cross. However, he was able to see beyond that. He was able to see what happened after his death: his resurrection. The obstacles that God puts in front of us are similar in the sense that there is a purpose to all of our struggles. Somehow, even if we don't understand when we are amidst the turmoil, we are growing with and in God and Jesus Christ.

I just pray for myself and all of you that we are able to be humbled by Jesus' death on the cross. I pray we are able to look past the struggles and obstacles in our lives and see the purpose behind them.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What Makes Christ Different

One thing I hear a fair amount when talking to people on campus about Jesus is something to the effect of:

"He's a great guy, great moral teachings, and certainly 'divine' in that sense, but I just don't buy the whole dying for sins thing."

In essence, they think Jesus was the original Mr. Rogers. The problem is that there have been many Mr. Rogers' throughout history, some religious figures and some not. This demands that there be something unique about Jesus or otherwise there is no reason to follow him instead of Buddha, Ghandi, or Ben Franklin. A couple quotes I have read so far do a great job, I think, of arguing that the Mr. Rogers Theory of Jesus is logically unsound:

"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour [of the crucifixion]. Father, glorify your name!" -John 12:27-28, quoted on page 34

"You do not understand Christ till you understand his cross." -P.T. Forsyth, quoted on page 48

"They wished to commemorate as central to their understanding of Jesus neither his birth nor his youth, neither his teaching nor his service, neither his resurrection nor his reign, nor his gift of the Spirit, but his death, his crucifixion" (27).

I like how the book points out that the cross makes Jesus unique. Now what that cross means is up for discussion and opinion, but the cross demands that we cannot say Jesus was just another Mr. Rogers.

If nothing else, his three hours on the cross were anything but a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Lots of reading, so little time!

Hi everybody! I'm Carrie and I'm really excited about joining this Bible study. I don't know if I'll be able to come every Wednesday since I have work and a summer course (yeah, I know I'm not the only busy one)...but I hope for chances to blog out my thoughts here.
I am deciding between a Social Work and Family Studies major (and minoring in the one I don't major in). Time goes by fast, so I have to pick soon.
My thoughts on the cross are also varied. I wear a cross necklace periodically, but don't really think of the message I may be sending to people. I mean, what if I do something really stupid that turns someone off to Christianity? I know people shouldn't judge Christ based on peoples' actions (we'll certainly let them down), but we're all prone to biases. I would feel so terrible if I pushed someone away in sharing the faith just by my actions. We'll see where my thoughts go after I read more.
Talk to you all later!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hey everyone

Hi, my name is Jon Ludwig and I'll be a junior at unh this coming fall. I play saxophone and am a music ed major. I've been reading the book on and off for the last week or so and it's really captivating. I highlight a lot when I read a good book so heres a quote in thinking about the cross that hit me pretty hard, "Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance)," (63). This was said right after a comparison was made that people today are just as responsible for Jesus's crucifiction as those back in the day. What do you all think?

Reminder

Alright...I know this is a book discussion blog but I am breaking the rules. THE CELTICS ARE GOING TO THE FINALS!!! Who's watching the game on Thursday? This is big for old school Boston fans:)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hey cool peoples

Hello everyone! I'm Bethany, and I am wicked excited to be looking at this book and asking questions about God and life in general with all you guys... should be a really good time! I'm studying psychology at UNH (no, I promise I will not analyze everything you guys say here) and currently getting ready to move up to a camp in Maine where I am going to work for the summer. Future plans are to travel the world next semester, and other than that all I am up to is generally causing mischief, laughing and find people to play frisbee with *grin*

My thoughts on the cross are still forming, and I am looking forward to be challenged by this book and the stuff we talk about. I know lots of sunday school answers and have cross necklaces and whatever, but honestly the cross itself is not something I think about every day. Mostly I think it has remained simply a symbol or reminder of what Jesus has done for me, or at worst it is just something that makes a nice picture or stylish jewelry. Annnddd thats about it, I am excited about talking with all you guys about this and seeing where God shows up :-D

WHATS UP

Hi my name is James Pitarys. I am currently majoring in biology and planning to attend
Chiropractic School after college; that is unless God has a change of plans, which could easily happen.

I am not going to lie, I haven't read a book entirely since the 11th grade. I'm the type of person who will begin reading a book, finish about 5 pages and not comprehend anything due to thinking of all the better things I could be doing at the moment. I am confident that I will be able to not only finish this book, but enjoy it because for once, I am not doing it solo. I hope you guys are having an awesome summer and making tons of money. Although I am not within close proximity to everyone, I will be down in D-town many times this summer. Looking forward to reading with you!!!

Young at heart

Hello from Ben's Mom, Evie
Wow, I used to be a Junior in College...Ben's Dad and I are both UNC-CH grads many years ago. He is originally from North Carolina and I am a Navy brat raised mostly in Rhode Island. I am excited about being a part of such an inspirational group. I have just returned from Boston after delivering Ben's sister Anna to the Middleboro KOA and am already behind on my reading! Thoughts on the Cross....I wear a gold cross that was a gift given to me around the time my Dad passed away. To me it has been a symbol of the faith I found after he was gone. Then Michael W Smith wrote the song, Cross of Gold, and I wondered if I was wearing it for the right reason. Maybe I'll learn something about that this month. Ben's Dad is Bill. He'll be posting under my name as he can't access the blog from work and is 'challenged' on the computer here at home. That's it for now - off to read.