James MacDonald – SPURGEON AND THE SHOPPING CART Sermon Illustration | Pulpit Stories | 2019

James MacDonald – THE STADIUM Sermon Illustration | Pulpit Stories | 2019

Alexamenos worships his god

But if the Messiah’s crucifixion was scandalous to Jews, it was sheer madness to non-Jews. The early cultured despisers of Christianity had no trouble mocking the very idea of worshipping a crucified man. A famous cartoon from the Palatine in Rome, dated to some point during the first three centuries of the common era, makes the point. It reads, “Alexamenos worships his god,” and features a crucified figure with a donkey’s head (below).

How easy it would have been for the early Christians to tone down the fact of the cross, to highlight instead the life-giving force of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit. How “sensible” it might have been to draw a discreet veil over the manner of Jesus’s death that had preceded this sudden new life.

N. T. Wright, The Day The Revolution Began

Who wants to be Jesus? 

A mother was preparing a pancake breakfast for her little boys, Kevin and Ryan. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake, and their mom saw the perfect opportunity for a moral lesson. „Now, boys, hold on a minute here. Let me tell you: If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.'” The two children sat silent for a moment. Then the five year-old, Kevin, turned to his younger brother and said, „Okay, Ryan, you be Jesus!”

It’s not about me! Being drawn into an larger vision


I conclude with a story. A year ago my wife and I spent a week in Assisi, a mountain town in Italy and the home of St. Francis and St. Clare. Francis (1182–1226) is commonly seen as the most Christlike of the church’s saints. In his early twenties, Francis had a vision of Jesus, renounced his wealth and all of his possessions, and began a life of devotion to God. By the time of his death twenty years later, a religious order numbering in the thousands had sprung up around him, as also around St. Clare, the most important of his women followers.
Francis found God everywhere—in the birds, the animals, the sun, the moon, death—and his life was marked by a contagious joy. He was known for his embrace of “Lady Poverty,” as he called her, and his radical identification with the poor. Shortly before his death, according to the stories about him, he received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ in his hands, feet, and side.
Within a few years of his death, a great church was erected in his honor in Assisi. The Basilica of St. Francis is a masterpiece of architecture filled with some of the world’s greatest art: not only Giotto’s frescoes of St. Francis’s life, but also magnificent frescoes by Cimabue, Lorenzetti, and others. To a lesser degree, Clare is also honored by an impressive church. Both would have protested and would have wanted the money to be used for the poor.
And as my wife and I spent hours in this extraordinary and extrav- agant basilica dedicated to Francis, visiting it again and again, I thought about Francis and his passion for the poor. He would not have wanted such wealth spent on honoring him. He would have said, “It’s not about me.”
And yet, even though Francis would have opposed its construction, I don’t think the basilica is a mistake, something that never should have been. It reminds us of Francis, draws us to Assisi, perhaps even draws us to Francis’s vision. And because Francis pointed beyond himself to God and Jesus, we may be drawn into an even larger vision.
To apply the story to the church’s adoration of Jesus in our Christology, creeds, worship, art, music, architecture, and so forth: I think Jesus would have said, “It’s not about me.” During his lifetime, he deflected attention from himself. In an illuminating passage in our earliest gospel, when a man addressed him as “Good Teacher,” Jesus responded with, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”
Yet I do not think the church’s extravagant devotion to Jesus is a mistake, for the purpose of the church, of Christology, of the creed is to point us to Jesus. And then Jesus says, “It’s not about me.” He points beyond himself to God—to God’s character and passion. This is themeaning of our christological language and our credal affirmations about Jesus: in this person we see the revelation of God, the heart of God. He is both metaphor and sacrament of God.

Marcus J. Borg, The Heart of Christianity

De ce am părăsit Biserica Mormonilor pentru a-L urma pe Isus


Lynn K Wilder a slujit în Utah, în templul Mormonilor, ca profesoară a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Biserica lui Isus Hristos a Sfinţilor din Zilele din Urmă). Ea explică ce a determinat-o să părăsească această sectă.

În timpul celor 30 de ani ca mormon,  am crezut sincer că „experiențele spirituale mistice” mă aliniază cu Tatăl meu ceresc, Isus și Duhul Sfânt (am crezut în trei dumnezei separați, însă nu în Trinitate), în Biserica lui Isus Hristos a Sfinţilor din Zilele din Urmă.
Când un patriarh și-a pus mâinile pe capul meu să-mi dea o binecuvântare, potrivit ritualului iudaic, am simțit un fel de curent electric prin trupul meu. Am fost de multe ori copleșită de emoții slujind ca lucrător ordinat în templul din Chicago sau ca profesoară la institutul ce dă direcția în educația Bisericii, Brigham Young University. Am depus mărturie că Joseph Smith a restaurat „singura biserică vie și adevărată”
În mod sincer, m-am încrezut în sentimentele ce au venit din aceste experiențe, fără sa-mi dau seama că ele ar putea fi falsificate; înrădăcinate în ceea ce Biblia numește „un alt Isus” care învață „o altă Evanghelie”. Astăzi,  nu mă mai încred doar în sentimente sau în căutări ale vizitelor spiritelor în templu ca măsurile potrivite pentru a testa adevărul. Trebuie să îți folosești creierul și să citești Biblia.

Full article Here

The puzzle and the Church of Christ


Consider the analogy of a puzzle. When each puzzle piece is properly positioned in relation to the other pieces, the puzzle is assembled. The net effect? We see the entire picture . It’s the same way with Christ and His church.
The highest purpose of the church meeting, then , is to make the invisible Christ visible through His body. Put another way, we gather together to reassemble the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. When this happens, not only is Christ glorified in His saints, and not only is each member edified, but something is also registered in unseen realms: Principalities and powers in heavenly places are shamed.

Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, Kindle edition.

A flowering shrub called the bigleaf hydrangea


In nature, there’s a flowering shrub called the bigleaf hydrangea. If you take the seed of that shrub and plant it in the soil of Indiana, it will yield pink flowers when it blooms. But if you take that same seed and plant it in the soil of Brazil or Poland, it will produce blue flowers. Even more interesting , if you take the same seed and plant it in another type of soil, it will yield purple flowers. The bigleaf hydrangea, however, will never produce thorns or thistles. It will never bear oranges or apples. And it will never grow tall like a pine tree. Why? Because these features are not within the DNA of the seed. In the same way, the church of Jesus Christ— when planted properly and left on its own without human control and institutional interference— will produce certain features by virtue of its DNA. Like the bigleaf hydrangea, the church may look different from culture to culture, but it will have the same basic expression wherever it’s allowed to flourish.

Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, Kindle edition.

The Purpose of Marriage

Gary Thomas has said that the purpose of marriage is to make you holy, not happy. Of course, a side benefit of marriage is companionship, shared experiences, and—many times—true happiness. But that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to make us like Jesus. We don’t get to the final day on our own. Marriage is one of God’s good means to sanctify us and bring us safely home.

Full article HERE

Jesus was a very busy man. Kevin DeYoung

Many of us are so familiar with the Gospels that we fail to see the obvious: Jesus was a very busy man. One of Mark’s favourite words is ‘immediately’. For three years, Jesus and his band of disciples are a whirlwind of activity. One event immediately follows another. In Mark 1, Jesus begins his public ministry by teaching in the synagogue, rebuking an unclean spirit, caring for Simon’s mother-in-law and then staying up late into the night, healing many who were sick with various diseases and casting out many demons (1: 34). At one point Jesus was too busy even to eat, and his family thought he was going mad (3: 20– 21). Jesus had crowds coming to him all the time.

He had people looking for him, demanding his time and attention. The impression we get from the Gospels is that almost every day for three years he’s preaching, healing and casting out demons. Don’t think Jesus is some kind of Zen master who does yoga and ponders the sound of one hand clapping. If Jesus were alive today, he’d get more e-mails than any of us. He’d have people calling his mobile all the time. He’d have a zillion requests for interviews, television appearances and conference gigs. Jesus did not float above the fray, untouched by the pressures of normal human existence. Citește în continuare „Jesus was a very busy man. Kevin DeYoung”

Life, Life, Eternal Life

004.I.Must.Have.LifeSome of you may remember how Bunyan’s pilgrim, when called back by his wife and children from the journey on which he was setting out, put his fingers in his ears, and ran crying, Life, Life, Eternal Life.

In the same way, my family was against me when God saved me. When I was converted my folks didn’t understood this wonderful moment. They were quite blind. I felt they were my opponents. I was considered a freak. They though that someone has brainwashed me. A heretic with some strange and foreign heresies. I was baptized without their consent. My stepfather didn’t ate with me at the table because he believed that I’ve abandoned the ancestral Orthodox faith, and that was an unpardonable sin. My mother used to come in my room crying and telling me that she would rather see me with a cigarette in my mouth, in a Club with some girls than with a Bible in my hand. She was terrified. But I ran crying, Life, Life, Eternal Life.

This isn’t something new. Jesus said that:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Mat.10:34,35

If this is happening in your life because of your decision to follow Christ, rejoice. You’re on the right path. One of our Romanian saints said once that, When your relatives will surround you like bees or Citește în continuare „Life, Life, Eternal Life”

Tortured for Christ – Richard Wurmbrand

I was challenged to recommend Christian books and quality Christian food to a young man that recently converted. Richard Wurmbrand is a must have on this list. Nowadays I don’t think you can properly understand Christianity without listening the voice of the persecuted Church and it’s greatest ambassador, Richard Wurmbrand. He spent fourteen years in cells that wreaked of sickness, disease, betrayal, lies and cruelty, during communism, in Romania. With him, The Voice Of The Martyrs has an echo in the whole world today