Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the period in the church calendar known as Lent.
As a younger Christian, I did not respect much of the older church “traditions,” for they seemed dead to me. And, no doubt, some of them can be. But I’ve found the rituals (or rhythms) of the traditional (or historic) church to be very helpful in our present-day, including my own walk with God.
Hence, my appreciation now for Lent.
Lent is a time marked out by the church to focus on reflective prayer and different avenues of fasting, all to prepare for remembering the death of Christ on the cross and his overcoming death through resurrection. The cross, the upside-down, unique way in which the power and wisdom of God are expressed. Christ’s walking out of the grave, showing himself as the conquering one over the final enemy, death. Continue reading
The gospel. We know it, oh, so well – like the back of our hand.
The cross, the death of Christ, the forgiveness of sin. Those are the essential elements of the gospel, the evangel, the good news.
But here’s an interesting thing worth noting – those points never fall from the lips of Jesus when he speaks about the gospel in the gospels. It actually never comes up.
Now, hold on. Before any knickers get in a twist, I’m not dismissing the cross, the death of Christ and the forgiveness of sin. I just want us to first note that’s not in Christ’s vocabulary when he speaks about gospel. Continue reading
I recently posted an article in which I suggested that the “church” existed well before the New Testament (before the Gospels or Acts). The thoughts rose out of some teaching sessions I gave in a Missiology course, one where our driving focus in discussing “church” (or any topic) is that of mission.
And I believe that mission is best understood when we see the mission of God being made known from the beginning – starting in Genesis 1. And, I believe the same attention needs to be given when we discuss this community of God’s people we call “church.”
I centered a lot of the discussion around linguistics. The word we use, “church,” comes from the Greek ekklesia. Most are aware of this.
However, this word ekklesia - generally meaning assembly, gathering, or congregation – was also used in the Old Testament to describe God’s old covenant people of Israel. It’s just that the Hebrew word is qahal.
But both – ekklesia and qahal – mean and are translated in English as assembly, gathering, or congregation. Continue reading
When people talk about church, or study about it in Scripture, where do they first turn? Normally the New Testament, most likely starting in Acts. But I’m convinced that’s not where we need to begin.
Interestingly enough, the word church shows up before Acts, in 2 places in the gospels: Matt 16:13-20 and Matt 18:15-20. Those passages have been highly debated, especially amongst Roman Catholics and Protestants. I actually side with the Roman Catholics on a point – mainly that Peter is the rock in Matt 16, not “Peter’s confession.” Protestants work too hard to connect “rock” with that statement in Matt 16:16, or work too hard to disconnect it from the person, Peter. Continue reading
Recently, a friend of mine – a lady who, along with her husband, had a very pastoral role in the life of myself & my wife – passed away. She has a great story, one which included a tragic accident of falling down her home stairs in 2001, on the brink of death. In the end, she was left paralyzed, continuing on for another 13 years.
Her story is captured in the book, Falling Into His Grace.