The Cross of Christ

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours….’ ‘The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.

– John Stott, The Cross of Christ

I Am Fifteen

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I am a child. In my parents’ eyes I will always be their firstborn – an obstinate youngster who insisted on having long hair although it didn’t suit her. I will always be so many years younger than them and therefore incapable of making decisions for myself. I wonder when I am fifty and they are seventy will they still tell me to ‘tidy my room’ I can make no medical decisions for myself. My parents must give permission for any operation; they sign all my dental forms. Apparently I am not considered responsible enough to do this for myself.

I am an adolescent. In the opinion of psychiatrists and psychologists I am going through a difficult stage. I am expected to be rebellious and defiant. I am experiencing strange new emotions with which I cannot cope. I am quite normal because I have crushes on other people. They say it’s natural that I should be insolent and mutinous. In theory I am not supposed to feel happy and fulfilled. I should feel frustrated, rejected, unsociable and lacking in confidence. In short I think I am expected to be slightly sub-normal.

I am an adult and expected to behave like one. I cannot have silly, childish outbursts. I must only show my emotions in a proper manner. In school I am told that I am an adult – if only a young adult. I have to pay adult fares on public transport. I am old enough to be responsible for my actions in law. My parents expect me to behave like an adult in my manner. I am expected to say the right things at the right time. In my role as an adult, I should be completely socially acceptable. 

I am fifteen

and 

I am confused.

 

This was an entry for the 1978 WH Smith Literacy Competition

Mere Mortals

This quote by CS Lewis from his book “The Weight of Glory” has been rocking me lately. I can’t get it out of my head. I hope it does the same to you.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

How Long Should a Sermon Be?

“Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.” – Acts 20:9

How long should a sermon be?

  • If you ask a preteen pastor, they’ll probably say 15-20 minutes.
  • If you as a junior high pastor, they’ll probably say 20-25.
  • If you ask a high school pastor, they’ll probably say 25-30.
  • If you as a lead pastor, they’ll probably say 30-35.

That sound about right?

Let’s talk about those first three. When I started teaching in junior high ministry back in 2002 I was told that the students only had an attention span that could last for about 20 minutes. Anything more than that and they’d check out and my sermon would be ruined.

Here’s my problem with the 20-minute limit, or the 25-minute limit, or the 30-minute limit: When The Lord of the Rings came out in 2003, my junior high students waited in line for hours to see the midnight premier. They sat there, past midnight, for 201 minutes!

Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t get the memo. Or maybe he did, and he completely ignored it.

What he did was create 201 minutes of compelling material, and my junior high students sat there glued to it, soaking in every line and moment.

The problem with most sermons isn’t that they’re too long, but that they’re… boring… or  confusing… or unhelpful.. or all of those.

If you’re a boring speaker, then yes, please keep it at 20 minutes. Or become an author. But if you have something worth saying, and you can say it in a compelling way, then nobody is going to complain.

I’m not saying we should preach 201-minute sermons… people have got to eat, but that we should prepare and deliver sermons that are interesting, compelling and useful.

This blog post is getting too long so I’ll stop now 😉

 

 

Shout Out to the Moms

Mom had just walked in the door. The boys were apparently happy to see her!

My boys have been waking up at ungodly hours the past few weeks. Our 9-month-old Gavin woke up at 4am yesterday.

4am… If the Starbucks baristas are still sleeping, everyone else should be too. 

Our 2-year-old Griffin was up an hour later, and they were both ready to party.

Gavin is a mama’s boy as much as any boy has ever been one. He absolutely adores his mom. It’s so intense that I haven’t been able to feed him a bottle in 7 months because I’m not mom.

So… when he woke up 6 times the other night, so did mom.

When he refuses to go to sleep, it’s mom to the rescue.

When it’s 7pm and time to go to bed, it’s mommy-time.

When all the other women on the planet are out at fun restaurants or watching their favorite shows together or on dates with their men or are pinning something on Pinterest or working out or whatever else women like to do… the young moms of the planet are at home, covered in baby sauce, tucked away in some dark room singing songs to their babies.

Don’t get me wrong, the young moms would love to be doing all of those fun things! But babies change everything, mostly for moms.

So this is a shout out to all the moms out there, especially my Lindsay!

You inspire me! In fact, you inspire God!

Look, He even used you as an example:

“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” – Isaiah 66:13

Keep doing what you’re doing!