Teaching from Romans 5 at Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN. 2014.
Teaching from the Gospel of Mark chapter 7, Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN. 2014.
Teaching from Mark’s Gospel in chapter 3 at Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN
The key to this passage in Mark lies in the statement from the author, “It was not the season for figs,” signaling to the reader that something is up with the stories that are nestled together within this chapter. If it wasn’t the season for figs why is Jesus cursing the tree? Could it be a picture for his followers? A parable? In this chapter you and I get a glimpse into the hatred Jesus has for dead, unfruitful religion.
(Teaching from the Gospel of Mark chapter 11 at Redeemer Bible Church, Minnetonka, MN)
A sermon preached at Redeemer Bible Church in August 2014 from John 4.
Do you ever have those days where you just feel so close to God? Like his very presence is all around you and you are actually his friend? I love those days.
But sometimes, I don’t have those days. Like today.
Today, God feels like a distant memory or a fable or an angry Father. Why?
Because I’m not believing the Gospel today.
I have convinced myself that because of my moral performance of the last two days that God doesn’t want anything to do with me. I have bought the lie that when I perform well God’s favor rests on me and when I blow it he wants nothing to do with me.
And at the very same time I know the Gospel. The Gospel is that God accepts me despite me. God accepts me by his choosing, for his glory, on the basis of Jesus work for me. It has zero, zilch, nada, niet, NOTHING to do with me. I’ve preached this to myself 100,000 times and I know it’s true.
But today there’s a disconnect between my brain and my soul.
My brain knows the answers: The Gospel of Grace is true and I need to believe it!
My soul won’t believe it though.
I keep telling myself I’m worthless. I’m a miserable failure. I’m a wretched sinner. I’m scum because of my behavior before a holy God.
And, while some of those things are true apart from the blood of Christ, now that I am washed and united to Christ by faith I am God’s son forever. He sees me as beautiful forever. He wants nothing but my joy forever. He delights in me because I am his forever.
This morning I’m not believing the Gospel that I know in my head. And so, in a way this is simply a public plea that God would grant me repentance. That I would turn from my sin– the utmost being my thinking I can save myself and make myself acceptable to God— and embrace the finished work of Jesus.
There’s a disconnect right now God. I beg you to fix it by your grace.
Although the controversial former pastor and teacher turned Hollywood screenwriter has voiced similar opinions in the past, this may be the first time he has directly answered any question about gay marriage. Anyone who knows Rob Bell knows that speaking directly about anything is a big accomplishment for him, and that may be the most “shocking” part of the whole deal.
The statements came this past Sunday when Bell spoke at Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in California. You can hear the entire audio here.
He says, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man … I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
Bell is most well known for his books Love Wins, Velvet Elvis, and Sex God. His books raise suspicions about traditional orthodox evangelicalism and tend to leave questions unanswered.
What are your thoughts? Does this surprise anyone?
The Pleasure of Origins in Consumerism
The very fact that you clicked on this post and are reading tells me something about you. You are a geek like me. You are intrigued and awed by things that others see as pointless. Nevertheless, I must share something that I learned about branding today.
Driving along this morning I found myself ahead in my morning routine. My morning podcasts were finished before I even hit my coffee shop. This means I got a head start on my Friday evening commute podcast TED Radio Hour. This week’s episode is particularly fascinating to me. It was called “Brand Over Brain” and focused on the power of branding on the consumer.
In the second segment of the show Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University and author of the book How Pleasure Works, explains the correlation between origins and pleasure. People get more pleasure from something when they know the origins of that thing.
For example, artists can perfectly replicate Van Gogh’s “A Starry Night.” When staring at a replica of this painting you and I get pleasure, no matter whether it is a replica or not. There is something about the painting that is beautiful, visually stimulating, pleasurable about it naturally. But if you and I had opportunity to view the original our pleasure is considerably heightened. Why is that? The heightened pleasure is a result of the origin of that specific piece. You and I are aware that it was derived from the exact brush of “Art Divinity,” Van Gogh, and not someone of considerably less importance.
The same is true for any brand. When we buy an object, as Morgan Spurlock has said, “we are buying into the dream of that brand,” and along with that we are gaining pleasure from the origin of that dream. This is why the specifications of a Mac computer may be less wonderful than the HP next to it, but despite that (and the higher price tag) the consumer purchases the Mac. They gain more pleasure knowing they have something from the mind of Steve Jobs and Apple. It’s why women will buy Coach or Gucci or “italian leather” when a goat is a goat, a cow is a cow, and they’re skinned the same way in Italy or Mexico or China. We connect these things with their origin almost involuntarily and that correlates to the pleasure we gain from these things. Isn’t it fascinating?
The Pleasure of Origins and God
So, this got me thinking outside of the world of branding. If this idea of “pleasure of origins” is true in the consumer world around us, and I believe that it’s easily seen that it is true, how much more must it be true when we trace the origins of all things to a source.
Must it be true, that if my pleasure with a painting is maximized when I know it came from the painter himself, or that my pleasure in a book is maximized when it is the manuscript itself, or that my pleasure is maximized when I attend a game in person rather than via television, or when I know my leather bag came from the Coach factory, how much more is my pleasure maximized when I trace the origin of all of those inventors?
What is the origin of these origins? Obviously for the theist the origin of all that exists is God. For the agnostic or atheist it may be chance. I will not take the time to prove why I believe my Originator is the true origin of all things. I will simply assume most who read this agree.
So as a theist, a Christian theist, I believe that I am unique because I have the opportunity to experience the most maximal pleasure of all. If pleasure in life is maximized by knowing the origin of a particular item you experience, it has to follow that pleasure is most maximal when we know the Original Source– God.
And what is amazing is that the pleasure of simply cognitively knowing the origin of all that exists as being God is enough to blow your mind. But we not only know the Originator cognitively but intimately! To illustrate why this is a big deal think about this:
I gain pleasure looking at a Ford Mustang, I get more pleasure viewing a replica of Henry Ford’s Quadricycle, I would get even more pleasure if I could view the actual Quadricycle his hands produced… just because I cognitively know that he was handling that vehicle. But if I am Henry Ford’s son, and I view that first quadricycle, I get to experience a pleasure that precious few can because it is my dad that created that machine! I not only cognitively know Mr. Ford, I know him intimately!
We get to experience that pleasure every single day in the world around us. As a Christian, if what we believe about God is true, we have the unique opportunity to experience a pleasure that precious few can because it is our DAD that created everything!
Doesn’t that just blow your mind?
The Pleasure of Origins Today
How does this matter for today? Look at everything with a heightened sense of the branding that is on it. Your office computer didn’t originate with Dell, it goes back further than that. The trees in your yard didn’t originate with you, they go back further than that. The lettuce in your salad didn’t originate at the grocer, it goes back further than that. The rain didn’t start in those clouds, it goes back further than that.
Everything that you encounter today ultimately originated in the mind of your Father. Knowing that should maximize your pleasure in all that is. You can look, touch, feel, smell, taste, and enjoy everything and everyone you encounter because you intimately know the Origin because of Christ Jesus.
And that should blow your mind and make your world radically technicolor today! Enjoy God today by enjoying life today!
As I continue to think about this, I am sure that much of what has been written is largely shaped by my past reading of John Piper as it relates to Christian Hedonism. It’s been a long time since I’ve read his books on the subject, but I’m sure that without even recognizing it, that teaching has been engrained in me. I only bring this up because if for some reason this sounds like a ripoff I never meant it to. Anyways, if you want much more articulate treatment of pleasure and the Christian definitely read Piper’s Desiring God and The Pleasures of God.
In years gone by people had limited access to Christian teaching. There was not much of a concept of listening to preachers from across the globe on a regular basis. If you were lucky you may be able to get a hold of a cassette with some sermons on it, or maybe before that you would see a piece written by a Christian teacher in the paper. Today you not only have access to teaching from Christian leaders but you and I have access to the daily writing and musings of Christian teachers that can help encourage us in the Gospel, sharpen our understanding of God’s Word, and think about culture from a Christian worldview. Here are five blogs I think every Christian should follow right now.
(Featured Image Labeled for Reuse. Originally posted.)
It’s Thursday. You probably know it’s Thursday of what has traditionally been called Holy Week, or Passion Week, the week we follow Christ from the shouts of Hosanna, to the cross, to the grave, and up from the grave in triumphant resurrection. It’s a marvelous, solemn, powerful week because the whole faith system of Christianity hung in the balance during this week. Check out the playlist above then here’s some music to get you from Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday.
Worship Current – Good Friday Playlist (Some of these are good)