I invite you to look at--

My Website where you will find: ordering information and chapter summaries for The Beauty of God for a Broken World; audio sermons; a few poems and hymns; and some other essays.

My Videos where you will find a few two-minute videos on various subjects related to The Beauty of God for a Broken World.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Preaching of Christ

Ephesians 2:17 contains an astounding truth. Jesus Christ “preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near.” Christ is our peace, and He established peace (v. 14). That is wonderful enough, but verse 17 says He preached peace. Those far away were the gentiles at Ephesus. Those who were near were the Jews.

But Christ never went to Ephesus. Paul and several of his associates carried the gospel to that pagan city. How did Christ preach to them? We find the answer in 2 Corinthians 13 where Paul rebuked a group of cantankerous believers for “seeking proof of the Christ who speaks in me” (v. 3). When Paul preached, Christ was preaching in and through him.

But we can go further than that. Jesus said to His disciples, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10:40). So Paul was not the only representative of Christ through whom Christ spoke. When we look back at Ephesians 2, we see that Paul was not just writing about peace between the Ephesian Christians and the Jewish Christians. He had in mind the whole believing world. Whenever Jews and gentiles come to faith, they have heard Christ preaching through His messengers.

Therefore, when an ordinary pastor like me stands in front of an ordinary congregation and opens his mouth, Christ speaks. That is an astounding truth. There are, as far as I can tell, only two criteria that must be met for Christ to speak through me. First, I must preach the gospel. Ephesians 2:17 says literally that Christ gospelled peace. And the apostle Paul insisted, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Then in the next sentence he provides the second criterion for Christ speaking through His servant. “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

If I preach the gospel in the fullness of the Spirit, Christ speaks through my mouth. This wonderful truth entails several corollaries:

Ø I have no business preaching anything that is not centered on the gospel of Christ. I must present the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in all of Scripture as it relates to the gospel.

Ø Before I preach I must earnestly and humbly seek the purity and power of the Spirit.

Ø Those who sit under true gospel preaching ought to be straining their ears to hear the voice of Christ. They ought not come to hear a man putting on a clever performance. They come to hear God.

Great Father in heaven, be merciful to me a weak and sinful preacher of the glorious gospel of Christ. Be merciful to the people who hear me week after week. May I never stand before them to speak my words but only Yours, and when my words intrude into Your message, may the people not hear or heed them, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Till We Have Faces--by C S Lewis

I just finished this amazing book by a master Christian story-teller. I had read it a number of years ago, and I remembered the basic plot line except for the brilliant ending.

One of Lewis’s most fascinating proposals was that the ancient pagan myths, by embodying the deepest fears and longings of the human heart, point toward their perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ. In Till We Have Faces, Lewis reworks the Greek myth of Psyche to produce a tale that fits into none of the standard categories for novels. It is first interesting, then puzzling, then at the end incredibly and surprisingly beautiful.

Psyche was born divinely beautiful and destined to be married to a god, but this is really the story of her ugly sister, Orual, whose possessive love for Psyche threatens to destroy Psyche’s happiness. When Orual adopts a veil to hide her ugliness, we recall St. Paul’s reference to the veil that covers the faces of people who reject the gospel (2 Corinthians 4). Along the way we see the emptiness of those oh-so-sensible rationalizations that try to provide a psychological explanation for every encounter with the supernatural.

In some passages I sense the same mystery and wonder that I feel when the little otter meets Pan in Wind and the Willows or when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver describe Alsan to the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I suppose this is not a book for everybody. (No book is, except the Bible.) But I suspect that there are many who will find that it exposes the ugliness of their own souls without leaving them in despair. We need to see the things in us that must die if we are to see the beauty of our God. Seeing him is the only way we can be transformed from Orual into Psyche.