DISCIPLINE: The Call To Discipleship (Part 1) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 9, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship And as he passed by he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, “Follow me.”  And he arose and followed him. (Mark 2:14) The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience.  The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus.  How could the call immediately evoke obedience?  The story is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events.  By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them.  Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical event.  Thus we get the stupid question: Surely the [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 4) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 2, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ.  It is true, of course, that we have paid the doctrine of pure grace divine honors unparalleled in Christendom, in fact we have exalted that doctrine to the position of God himself.  Everywhere Luther’s formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception.  So long as our church holds the correct doctrine of justification, there is no doubt whatever that she is a justified church!  So they said, thinking that we must vindicate our Lutheran heritage by making this grace available on the cheapest and easiest terms.  To be [...]

GRACE: Grace In The Garden by Preston Sprinkle

February 28, 2019

From: Charis If Genesis 1 emphasizes the transcendence of God, then Genesis 2 (specifically, 2:4-25) highlights the intimacy of God. Transcendence and intimacy.  We need both. The two chapters reveal different aspects of God’s character.  God is far beyond us, (Genesis 1), yet very near, (Genesis 2).  God is our King, (Genesis 1), but also our Friend, (Genesis 2).  God is infinitely powerful, (Genesis 1), yet intimately personal, (Genesis 2).  Genesis 1 shows off God’s raw power.  Genesis 2 showcases God’s Earthy affection.  Here’s how. First, notice the different names for God in Genesis 1–2.  Throughout Genesis 1, the English word “God” translates the Hebrew term Elohim.  Thirty-five times, in fact, Moses writes [...]

GRACE: Defending—Truth On The Scaffold (Part 1) by Charles R. Swindoll

February 26, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening While most people in the world are busy building towers with highest hopes of making a name and gaining fame, God’s truth sets the record straight.  On the basis of God’s Book, his Holy Word, it is my plea that we simply admit our need and claim God’s grace.  Instead of striving for a manmade ticket to Heaven based on high achievement and hard work (for which we get all the credit), I suggest we openly declare our own spiritual bankruptcy and accept God’s free gift of grace.  “Why?” you ask.  “Why not emphasize how much I do for God instead of what he does for me?”  Because that is heresy, plain and simple.  How?  By exalting our own effort and striving for our own accomplishments, we insult [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 3) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

February 23, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship At the end of a life spent in pursuit of knowledge Faust has to confess: I now do see that we can nothing know. That is the answer to a sum, it is the outcome of a long experience.  But as Kierkegaard observed, it is quite a different thing when a freshman comes up to the university and uses the same sentiment to justify his indolence.  As the answer to a sum it is perfectly true, but as the initial data it is a piece of self-deception.  For acquired knowledge cannot be divorced from the existence in which it is acquired.  The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.  Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of [...]

GRACE: Locusts And Field Mice by Lee Strobel

February 21, 2019

From: The Case for Grace I imagined the bounty of food that’s put before Penelope three times a day – and which, like more preschoolers, she routinely picks at with casual disinterest.  “How did you manage to eat?” I asked Stephanie. “Actually, food was plentiful in the country, except in the winter,” she said.  “I could steal whatever I wanted.  There were fruit fields, vegetable fields, and rice fields.  As long as I didn’t get caught, I could eat. “I remember following a group of homeless children.  At night they would crawl on their bellies into the fields and get some of what we called sweet melons.  I thought, I could do that.  So there was a season where every night I would wait for the watchman of the field [...]

GRACE: Cracked Mirrors by Preston Sprinkle

February 21, 2019

From: Charis After God showcases his transcendent power by speaking one hundred billion galaxies into existence, he says that the crown of his creation – the most majestic display of beauty and wisdom and power – is you. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God bless them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28) You and I reflect God.  When we look at people, or when they look at us, we see a reflection of the God of Genesis 1.  We are created in his image.  And [...]

GRACE: Warning—Heresy On The Loose by Charles R. Swindoll

February 19, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening You’ve heard words like that, haven’t you?  If you’re like me, you’ve heard them since you were just a child.  They sound so right, so inspiring.  “Just reach down real deep and pull up hard on your own bootstraps, and you can make it all on your own.  You can endure whatever.  Nothing is out of reach, so press on.  Climb higher!  You can make anything of yourself.  You can even attain Heaven!”  (Or, as in Luther’s day, at least buy a quicker way to Heaven for someone else.) What seems so right is, in fact, heresy – the one I consider the most dangerous heresy of Earth.  What is it?  The emphasis on what we do for God, instead of what God does for us.  Some are so convinced of the [...]

GRACE: “Garbage, Dust, Bastard, Alien Devil” by Lee Strobel

February 14, 2019

From: The Case for Grace Here was a child not much older than a toddler, cast adrift in a frightening and dangerous place that was predisposed to reject her – a world without grace.  “You must have been panic-stricken,” I said. “Not at first.  I thought, I’ll stand here on the platform, and my uncle will come for me.  But when evening came, the trains stopped.  The trainmaster came out and asked me what I was doing there.  I told him I was waiting for my uncle – and that was the first time someone called me a toogee,” she said, almost spitting out the epithet. “What does that mean?” “It’s a very nasty word, like using the n-word today.  It basically means half-breed or child of two bloods, and yet it’s more [...]

GRACE: Creator by Preston Sprinkle

February 14, 2019

From: Charis Transcendence Genesis 1–2 explodes out of the gate with an awe-inspiring account of creation.  God fashions the sky, forges the Earth, forms Adam and Eve, and breathes cosmic firestorms into existence.  Both chapters ripple with action and drip with intimacy.  Most of all, Genesis 1–2 pulls back the curtain and reveals the main subject of the Bible.  These chapters are fundamentally about God. God is preeminent.  God is ultimate.  God is the main subject of Genesis 1–2 because God is the main subject of the entire Bible.  I love how Rick Warren began his bestselling book, The Purpose Drive Life.  “It’s not about you,” Rich said.  “It all starts with God.”  And Moses, the author of Genesis, agrees.  [...]

GRACE: The Free Gift by Charles R. Swindoll

February 12, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening For the next few minutes let’s think about heresy.  To begin with, answer this question: What would you consider the most dangerous heresy on Earth?  Stop and think before you answer.  The one I have in mind is not so bold and ugly that it would make angels blush.  This one is subtle, rather attractive.  For a long, long time it’s been a favorite of many.  Actually, it has been around since the Garden of Eden.  Let me give you a few hints: It is a philosophy found in numerous self-help books, many poems, and most rags-to-riches biographies. It is a recurring theme in political speeches and commencement addresses. It flourishes in academia. It feeds our pride, it fuels our self-centered bent, it pleases [...]

GRACE: The Orphan—God’s Grace Goes Far Beyond Forgiveness by Lee Strobel

February 7, 2019

From: The Case for Grace Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.  Of all the gifts of grace, adoption is the highest. (J. I. Packer) Stephanie Fast has never known her father.  She suspects he was an American soldier – possibly an officer – who fought in the Korean conflict that started in 1950.  There’s even a chance he’s still alive somewhere.  There’s no way to tell. I managed to track down Stephanie, that fleeting voice from the radio, and flew from Denver to meet her in her tidy townhouse in a wooded neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest.  She’s petite at five-foot-three, her black hair falling in soft waves past her shoulders, her almost eyes animated.  Her husband, Darryl, a [...]

GRACE: You Can’t Make God Love You by Preston Sprinkle

February 7, 2019

From: Charis There are many Christians in the church trying to make God love them.  They spend their lives doing, serving, witnessing, fasting, judging, performing, and feeling the unbearable weight of condemnation when they fail at these things.  They are Charis-less Christians who atone for their sin by grinding out good works from a checklist.  Such was the life of my friend Brad Sarian. Brad was, in his own words, a modern-day Pharisee.  He grew up in the church, read the Bible, prayed every day, shunned the very appearance of evil, and had near-perfect church attendance.  When his Christian schoolteacher asked the class on Monday how many went to church, Brad shot up his hand like clockwork.  “Yes, ma’am, I went to church [...]

GRACE: Some Practical Expectations by Charles R. Swindoll

February 5, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening Most of you are familiar with the story of Rip Van Winkle, the man in the children’s fairy tale who went to sleep for twenty years and awoke to a very different world from the one he had known before his two-decade slumber.  All the while he was asleep, wonderful changes were taking place around him about which he was totally ignorant.  Like Rip Van Winkle, many of us are slumbering under the oppressive opiate of those who would keep us from experiencing the marvelous grace-filled life available to those of us who would be made fully alive to its liberating potential.  Wake up!  Sleep no longer!  The grace awakening is upon us.  And what can you expect upon rising from your uninformed stupor?  Let me [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 2) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

February 2, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship When the Reformation came, the providence of God raised Martin Luther to restore the gospel of pure, costly grace.  Luther passed through the cloister; he was a monk and all this was part of the divine plan.  Luther had left all to follow Christ on the path of absolute obedience.  He had renounced the world in order to live the Christian life.  He had learnt obedience to Christ and to his church, because only he who is obedient can believe.  The call to the cloister demanded of Luther the complete surrender of his life.  But God shattered all his hopes.  He showed him through the scriptures that the following of Christ is not the achievement or merit of a select few, but the divine command to all [...]

GRACE: The Mistake by Lee Strobel

January 31, 2019

From: The Case for Grace Someday You’ll Understand Psychoanalysis daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of the father breaks down. (Sigmund Freud) It wasn’t until my mother was on her deathbed that she confirmed what years of therapy had only suggested to me: I was a mistake, at least in the eyes of my father. My parents started with three children – first a girl, then two boys – and my dad threw himself into fatherhood.  He coached his sons in Little League, led a Cub Scout troop, headed the high school boosters club, went on family vacations, and attended gymnastics meets and graduations. Then after a lengthy time gap came the unexpected news that my mother was [...]

GRACE: Unleashed by Preston Sprinkle

January 31, 2019

From: Charis But grace has no leash.  It’s untamed, unbound, and runs wild and free.  Was Dahmer’s conversion genuine?  If we go on evidence rather than skin-deep religiosity, then, yes.  But the church’s response to Dahmer’s conversion is telling.  The doubt hurled at Dahmer’s conversion gives off the foul odor of spoiled grace that’s been sitting in church too long.  Many Christians believe that rebels like Dahmer are unworthy of the fatted calf; they’re appalled at the thought of our Father running after them.  We’ve got to have some sort of balance – grace and justice.  We need to keep grace under control.  When it snaps our leash and runs loose, we get nervous. In many ways, the word grace has lost its [...]

GRACE: Grace—A Many-Splendored Thing by Charles R. Swindoll

January 29, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening We use grace to describe many things in life: A well-coordinated athlete or dancer Good manners and being considerate of others Beautiful, well-chosen words Consideration and care for other people Various expressions of kindness and mercy Those statements remind me of Christ.  What a perfect illustration of grace!  Think of several examples with me.  He stood alongside a woman caught in adultery.  The Law clearly stated, “Stone her.”  The grace killers who set her up demanded the same.  Yet Christ said to those self-righteous Pharisees, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”  What grace!  Under the Law they had every legal right to bury her beneath the rocks in their hands – and [...]

GRACE: Grace—Let’s Understand The Term by Charles R. Swindoll

January 22, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening What exactly is grace?  And is it limited to Jesus’s life and ministry?  You may be surprised to know that Jesus never used the word.  He just taught it, and, equally important, he lived it.  Furthermore, the Bible never gives us a one-statement definition, though grace appears throughout its pages – not only the word itself but numerous demonstrations of it.  Understanding what grace means requires our going back to an old Hebrew term that meant “to bend, to stoop.”  By and by, it came to include the idea of “condescending favor.” If you have traveled to London, you have perhaps seen royalty.  If so, you may have noticed sophistication, aloofness, distance.  On occasion, royalty in England [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 1) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

January 19, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church.  We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.  The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.  Grace is represented as the church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits.  Grace without price; grace without cost!  The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.  Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite.  What would [...]

GRACE: The Search For Grace by Lee Strobel

January 17, 2019

From: The Case for Grace God waits to be wanted.  Too bad with many of us he waits so long, so very long, in vain. (A. W. Tozer) He was leaning back in his leather recliner in the wood-paneled den, his eyes darting back and forth between the television set and me, as if he didn’t deign to devote his full attention to our confrontation.  In staccato bursts, he would lecture and scold and shout, but his eyes never met mine. It was the evening before my high-school graduation, and my dad had caught me lying to him – big-time. Finally, he snapped his chair forward and shifted to look fully into my face, his eyes angry slits behind his glasses.  He held up his left hand, waving his pinky like a taunt as he pounded each and every word: [...]

GRACE: Jesus Loves Cannibals by Preston Sprinkle

January 17, 2019

From: Charis God’s scandalous grace invaded Portage, Wisconsin, with unwelcomed splendor in April 1994.  It sailed past several churches and seminaries and targeted a criminal serving multiple life sentences in the Columbia Correctional Institution.  It’s not uncommon for thieves and murderers in prison to encounter God’s grace, but this day was different.  The villain who attracted God’s love was a man who had killed, had sex with, dismembered, and eaten portions of (in that order) seventeen young men.  Reviled as the epitome of human depravity – is human a fitting term? – Jeffrey Dahmer turned heads and stomachs with his imaginative acts of necrophilia and cannibalism. His vile behavior elicited a nauseating response when [...]

GRACE: “No Faces—“Yes” Faces by Charles R. Swindoll

January 15, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening Dr. Karl Menninger, in a book entitled, The Vital Balance, at one point discusses the negativistic personality.  That’s the type of person who says, “no,” to just about everything.  Calling these sad folks “troubled patients,” Menninger (no doubt with tongue in cheek) mentions several of the things that characterize their lives.  They have never made an unsound loan, voted for a liberal cause, or sponsored any extravagances.  Why?  He suggests it is because they cannot permit themselves the pleasure of giving.  He describes them in vivid terms: “rigid, chronically unhappy individuals, bitter, insecure, and often suicidal.” I would add one further description – they have never given themselves [...]

GOD 101: Forgiveness, Grace, And Mercy

January 13, 2019

I have a new little wooden box that is sectioned off.  It allows me to put small bottles in each section. I relate to that box.  My mind likes to put its ideas in little sections, and organize and reorganize the sections to see how things line up. Like a kaleidoscope.  Each piece standing in its own place, but changeable in its relationship to the other pieces. There’s a lot in theology and even in our liturgy that I find sloppy.  Or is done in such a way that causes a person’s sloppy thinking. I would like to say, Well, we don’t have to always be exact about things in the church, and mean it.  But, well. That’s just not me. Yes, I know.  People are good-hearted.  And they mean well. But let’s talk [...]

GRACE: The Case For Grace, Preface by Lee Strobel

January 10, 2019

From: The Case for Grace God’s grace is the sole basis for both new life and spiritual vitality. (Stanley Grenz) Defining grace can be as simple as one declarative sentence: “Grace is the favor shown by God to sinners.”  From there, it can be expounded upon in volumes of theological treatises, but at its core it is an unmerited and unconditional gift of God’s love that we can never earn or deserve. Grace enables us to respond to God, enfolds us into his family, and empowers us to change.  Theologian Thomas C. Oden said grace is necessary “to know truth, avoid sin, act well, pray fittingly, desire salvation, begin to have faith and persevere in faith.”  Grace, he said, is nothing less than “the motivating power of the [...]

GRACE: Charis, Preface by Preston Sprinkle

January 10, 2019

From: Charis Seriously?  Another book on grace? Trust me, this one will be different.  I promise you. This book stems from half a dozen years of teaching the Old Testament in a college setting.  You might think this would produce a book about judgment, perhaps a book on hell, but no way.  The Old Testament is all about grace.  I tell my students that the reason we don’t offer a course on grace is because we already offer several courses on the Old Testament.  A class on grace would be redundant, superfluous, a swift kick to an already dead horse. The Old Testament is a kaleidoscope of grace.  And this book will admire its beauty.  Genesis, Exodus, even Judges and Kings – they’re all greedy to be read by tired Christians [...]

GRACE: Grace—It’s Really Amazing! by Charles R. Swindoll

January 8, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening The moralizing and legalizing of the Gospel of God’s Grace is a dull heresy peddled to disappointed people who are angry because they have not received what they had no good reason to expect. (Richard J. Neuhaus) There are killers on the loose today. The problem is that you can’t tell by looking.  They don’t wear little buttons that give away their identity, nor do they carry signs warning everybody to stay away.  On the contrary, a lot of them carry Bibles and appear to be clean-living, nice-looking, law-abiding citizens.  Most of them spend a lot of time in churches, some in places of religious leadership.  Many are so respected in the community, their neighbors would never guess they are living next [...]

PRAYER: Soften Our Hearts by Henry VIII

October 1, 2018

O most merciful Father, who by the mouth of our Savior Jesus Christ has said, “Ask, and it shall be given you,” receive, we beseech thee, our supplication, and for thy Truth’s sake hear us in thy righteousness.  We make our prayers unto thee, most blessed Father, not trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold mercies.  Have mercy upon us, thy sinful children.  Soften our hard hearts with the dew of thy grace.  Fulfill thy promise made unto us by thy prophet.  Take away from us our stony heart, and put a new spirit within us, and make us to walk after thy commandments.  Lighten, O Father of lights, our blind hearts, blinded with error and ignorance.  Lighten them with the true light of thy holy Word, that we may [...]

POETRY: The Chimes Of Neverwhere by Les Murray

August 15, 2018

How many times did the Church prevent war? Who knows? Those wars did not occur. How many numbers don’t count before ten? Treasures of the Devil in Neverwhere. The neither state of Neverwhere is hard to place as near or far since all things that didn’t take place are there and things that have lost the place they took: Herr Hitler’s buildings, King James’s cigar, the happiness of Armenia, the Abelard children, the Manchu’s return are there with the Pictish Grammar Book. The girl who returned your dazzled look and the mornings you might have woke to her are your waterbed in Neverwhere. There shine the dukes of Australia and all the great poems that never were quite written, and every balked invention. There too are the Third AIF [...]

POETRY: Apple Fools by David Craig

August 1, 2018

Apple fools we are Ripe as cups of cider and the horse’s clodded wake let the wet mornings come ring out green beans beneath the leaves pumpkin piping on the vine Speckled corn aloft Indian feathered high on the door Squash squats on the rafters pot belly bent legged Buddha stove boots and coveralls Give us this grace and all this day the crowded table the pinions’ [...]