Monday, September 28, 2009

The Offense of the Cross

Paul refers to the cross of Christ in a curious way-

Galatians 5:11a In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.

This designation by Paul has caused me to reflect on three ways the cross of Christ is offensive to men and women today.

1. The Cross is offensive because it seems so primitive.

Sophisticated, modern man looks at the notion of one man dying for the rest as too simple, too primitive. Pompous, contemporary man looks at the account of Christ dying at the hands of an religiously zealous, unenlightened, unsophisticated mob as so terribly un-evolved. Present self-made man, is offended by the idea that he is in need of a sacrifice by someone else, especially someone living in the backward times of the first century Greco-Roman world. Many people today think humanity has progressed past the simple religious ways of the ancients, we’re so much smarter now. Everything was so violent back then, such a primordial, prehistoric message of a substitutionary atonement. The message of the cross is for the simple-minded. Sophisticated, advanced modern people, who can truly think and rationalize, can see the primitive, mythical nature of the story of Christ’s crucifixion and thus write off it’s importance.

Of course, Paul had “wise” people living in his day also. To whom he referred in his letter to the Corinthian Church-

1 Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing...

2. The Cross is offensive because of it’s violence

Plain and simple- the cross is a symbol of torture, pain, and agony. The cross rightly conjures an image grotesque and inhuman. Modern forms of execution are relatively clean and neat- lethal injection is so benign, a person sleeps. Even hanging or firing squad provides instant, almost painless death. Crucifixion, by any comparison, is barbaric. The Romans expertly crafted the most extreme form of torture and death ever known and used it on Jesus Christ. The Cross was a form of torture and execution that brought a person to the edge of blacking out so as to cause the most pain and agony that could be experienced for the longest amount of time. Virtually every way a person could feel physical pain was accounted for when devising crucifixion: torn muscles, bruised tissue, pierced nerves, lacerated skin, terrible blood loss, dehydration, multiple dislocated joints, and a slow asphyxiation that would take hours, sometimes even days. All this distress while on display naked and under extreme psychological torture for the duration. Birds of prey pecking and feeding, insects biting, the sun beating down, producing a longing to die that would not come any time soon. If not fortunate enough to die before a certain deadline (in the case of Christ, the Sabbath day), you would have your lower legs clubbed and broken at the shins to hasten your demise.

Indeed, the cross is offensive to so many because it is so brutal. It depicts something so seemingly inhuman. The history of the cross and the actuality of Christ’s torment and death there is not often denied, however the relationship of the cross to us (man) is widely rejected or not considered. Many in our day will say, from their suburban settings no doubt, we have overcome such a violent, bloody, violent concept. As if we live in a peaceful, non-violent world, many modern men find the cross offensive because of how violent it was.

3. The Cross of Christ is offensive because it declares something about us we do not want to hear

The Cross of Christ declares that our sin is so great that it requires the ultimate punishment, and we do not want to hear or admit that. The Cross of Christ declares that our sin was so great that only One who has ever lived could shoulder it’s burden for us. We cannot save ourselves. The Cross of Christ declares that our sin brought about the necessity of the violence that came down on Christ and we could do nothing to improve upon it. The Cross of Christ is a message of complete sufficiency in Christ and total depravity and bankruptcy in us-that’s what is so offensive about the Cross. The Cross is an offense to the self-righteous. The man or woman who is relying on their own imagined strength for salvation, does not like the doctrine of the cross.

Charles Spurgeon spoke of how the Cross offends from the perspective of the preacher preaching the Cross:

“But if he starts to cast the sinner down in the dust, and to teach what Christ himself taught, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him;” and that, in the Scriptures, all men are declared to be “dead in transgressions and sins;” then the proud sinner will turn away, and say, “I am not going to be so insulted, as to have all my powers leveled to the ground! Am I to be made into a mere machine, or into a piece of clay, and to lie passive in the Potter’s hands? I will not submit to such an indignity.” If the minister will give him a little to do himself, and let him sacrifice a little to his own idol, he will drink down the false doctrine as the ox drinks down water; but since we tell him he is powerless, like the poor bleeding man when the Samaritan met him, he says, “I will have nothing to do with you.”

The Cross of Christ is offensive because it declares something about us we do not want to hear- we are sinners and only God can save us.

Indeed, considered personally- I am such a heinous sinner that saving me requires the punishment of Christ on the Cross and I can add nothing to it because I have nothing to add. I’m a poor sinner, and only Jesus Christ is everything to me.

So, Paul's reference to the "offense" of the cross makes good sense, as it relates to the perishing who do not believe. But for me, who believes (by God's grace), the cross means eternal life. All praise to Him.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The Yanks clinched the AL East title today.

For the 14th time in the last 15 years, the road to the World Series will go through New York.

Luther on defying Satan in times of despair over our sin

I have found Luther's lectures on Galatians to be absolutely riveting. Laid within his comments about the text of Galatians are golden nuggets of counsel clearly based on his own experience like what he says about defying Satan in times of despair concerning our sin-

"O cursed Satan, you choose a nice time to talk to me about doing and working when you know very well that I am in trouble over my sins. I will not listen to you. I will listen to Christ, who says that He came into the world to save sinners. This is the true Christ and there is none other. I can find plenty of examples for a holy life in Abraham, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and other saints. But they cannot forgive my sins. They cannot save me. They cannot procure for me everlasting life. Therefore I will not have you for my teacher, O Satan."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Defining International Moment for this Generation

Today it was revealed that Iran has been secretly building a second nuclear facility in violation of international agreements. This should shatter any reasonable person's hesitation about Iran's intentions.

Iran has several mid-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Their current missile arsenal could reach Israel or in to Iraq where so may U.S. forces are currently stationed. News of this second facility reveals the level of deception Iran has been operating at. It's doubtful anyone outside Iran actually knows how developed their nuclear arsenal is, but what if they indeed have a nuclear missile right now? It's surely possible.

Regardless of how the international community has arrived at this moment I believe we are at a serious crossroad. Perhaps I am over-reacting, but it seems to me we are standing on the precipice of a defining international moment for this generation.

If the Nazi's had the A-Bomb in WW2, do you think they would have used it? Of course.

If Iran has nukes, based on their constant rhetoric and clearly communicated commitment to the destruction of Israel, I think they will use them or provide a terrorist group with them.

I didn't live in 1935 when the world should have moved to stop Hitler, but I wonder if we are facing a similar dilemma?

May God give our leaders wisdom and bring peace to this situation.

OBAMOPOLY (click on to enlarge)

Thanks Scott!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Netanyahu tells it like it is

The UN has become a joke and a mockery. To allow Amhedinijad to speak with only a limited amount of protest or rebuke shows how ridiculous the whole thing is.

Israel will not let Iran continue to develop nuclear weapons-be sure of it. They simply can't afford to. With "friends" like the UN, Israel can't afford enemies like Iran.

You can see Netanyahu's full speech on Youtube.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Game On

Whenever I can find the know where I'll be this Fall-lookin' to let the air out of Bambi and friends.

Sonja Schmidt

I've never heard of this lady before today. Some very good points made.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obamaspeak on Obamacare

Stephanopoulos does a decent job here but should have pressed him harder. Still, Tim Russert would be proud.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

God Bless the School D.L. Moody Founded Remix

A few weeks back I referred to my college with fondness and posted the words of our school hymn, "God Bless the School D.L. Moody Founded".

Well, Moody students have come a long way in their various arrangements of the hymn, the latest is a must hear remix-

That was clever for sure, but it is with great pride that I remember being the first person to rap in a Moody chapel service, back in 1991. Here's the audio. Too bad you can't see Pastor Nathan as one of the back up dancers for this groundbreaking performance. And NO, I won't do this rap for the Redeemer Missions conference...never. I'm retired as a rapper.

Hit the arrow below and be prepared to kick it old school.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Alexander on believing in free grace

A most poignant and necessary statement-

There is a defect in our belief in the freeness of divine grace. To exercise unshaken confidence in the doctrine of gratuitous pardon is one of the most difficult things in the world; and to preach this doctrine fully without verging toward antinomianism is no easy task, and is therefore seldom done. But Christians cannot but be lean and feeble when deprived of their proper nutriment. it is by faith that the spiritual life is made to grow; and the doctrine of free grace, without any mixture of human merit, is the only true object of faith...Here, I am persuaded, is the root of the evil; and until religious teachers inculcate clearly, fully, and practically, the grace of God, as manifest in the Gospel, we shall have no vigorous growth of piety among professing Christians.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Luther on Galatians 5:1b

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

In this passage Paul again disparages the pernicious notion that the Law is able to make men righteous before God, a notion deeply rooted in man's reason. All mankind is so wrapped up in this idea that it is hard to drag it out of people. Paul compares those who seek to be justified by the Law to oxen that are hitched to the yoke. Like oxen that toil in the yoke all day, and in the evening are turned out to graze along the dusty road, and at last are marked for slaughter when they no longer can draw the burden, so those who seek to be justified by the Law are "entangled with the yoke of bondage," and when they have grown old and broken-down in the service of the Law they have earned for their perpetual reward God's wrath and everlasting torment.

We are not now treating of an unimportant matter. It is a matter that involves everlasting liberty or everlasting slavery. For as a liberation from God's wrath through the kind office of Christ is not a passing boon, but a permanent blessing, so also the yoke of the Law is not a temporary but an everlasting affliction.

Rightly are the doers of the Law called devil's martyrs. They take more pains to earn hell than the martyrs of Christ to obtain heaven. Theirs is a double misfortune. First they torture themselves on earth with self- inflicted penances and finally when they die they gain the reward of eternal damnation.

-Luther's commentary on Galatians

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

The most heartbreaking team in sports

If you saw the latest heartbreaking loss of the Buffalo Bills tonight, please pause and think of the good people of that beleaguered city who have endured more heartache than anyone could know.

Buffalo sports radio personality Nick Mendola said it best after the Bills lost 25-24 to the New England Patriots-

"No lie, the Buffalo Bills are the most heartbreaking franchise in the history of professional sports, and those citing the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Browns and anyone else can go home and eat laundry soap."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Spurgeon on the Truthfulness of God

Spurgeon nailed it-

"What the Lord has done he will do again, for he changes not. He is a God of veracity, faithful to his promises, and gracious to his saints; he will not turn away from his people."

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Three Most Influential Preachers

I am often asked what preachers have most influenced me as a young preacher. I can answer immediately-

1. James Boice
2. Bryan Chapell
3. E.V. Hill

Now, I am sure most of my readers will know the first two. They are well known in reformed circles. James Boice is my model for expositional preaching. Bryan Chapell is my model for redemptive preaching and the use of illustrations.

The last preacher will not be known to most of you. I was introduced to him almost 20 years ago while I attended Moody Bible Institute. He is the late E.V. Hill. He is my model for talking to the people in an impassioned, clearly communicated, memorable way. Hill was basically an arminian theologically and aligned too much with some careless charismatic/pentecostal types toward the end of his life, but nevertheless, his witty communication coupled with a refreshingly straight forward belief and promotion of Scripture have inspired me.

The clip needs no explanation, his message is clear. It is his greatest sermon. I was in attendance (1992) to hear the sermon here posted. He even gives a humorous shout out to the Presbyterians in the house in part 4.

Must be listened to in sequence.

Please, no hyper-technical, overly theological critiques of Dr. Hill's sermon. Just enjoy.

This sermon changed my outlook on preaching in a way I can't really put in to words. I will forever be grateful for Dr. Hill.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Fall is coming. The greatest and best season in the world.

Also, Animoto is cool.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The start of another school year at Westminster

We're a couple weeks in to a new year at Westminster. Jon put together this nice little slide show to kick the year off.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kansas City: Beleagured Sports Town

And I thought my beloved Buffalo was the saddest sports town in America...

While each of Kansas City's three sports teams have won the championship in their respective leagues, it's been years since any of them have been genuine contenders.

The Chiefs (NFL) won the Superbowl in 1969 and have had some impressive teams since, but over the past 10 years have only topped the .500 win percentage 4 times. Over the last two season they have a deplorable 6-28 record. New GM Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley will try to bring the hardcore New England Patriot mindset and work ethic to the Chiefs, but even if their new approach works, it will take some time. It'll be a long 2009 campaign once again.

The Royals (MLB) won the world series in 1985 and still live in a nostalgic la-la land about that era. The fact is, however, they have consistently gotten worse since that title almost 25 years ago. Despite boasting one of the nicest stadiums in baseball and a relatively loyal fan base (considering) they cry "small market" every year as they find new and creative ways to leave lots of their runners on base and give up ridiculous runs. Since 1995 they have only been over the .500 win percentage mark once. They have lost over 100 games 4 times in the last 5 years and are threatening to do it again this season. Small market teams are at a disadvantage, no doubt, however there is no excuse for the abysmal showing of the Royals these last 10 years.

The Wizards (MLS) won the league title in 2000 and boast the best winning percentage of KC's professional teams over the last 10 years, but barely. MLS has built in parity by way of a stringent salary cap, so few teams finish way over .500. The Wizards have managed to climb over .500 4 of the last 7 seasons and finishing close the other seasons this decade. Nevertheless, the wheels have fallen off this season, it happens that fast in MLS. Curt Onalfo was hired by the new ownership group in 2006 and seemed to be turning things toward a new style and approach that would produce an exciting "attacking style" offense and more wins. Instead the team has fallen flat this year and is on pace to have one of its worse seasons in its history. Onalfo was fired and the Technical Director (GM) Peter Vermes was named interim head coach. It seems like a prelude to his firing as they have lost 3 games under his leadership looking lost, confused, and frustrated.

Recent years have been tough for Kansas City as it relates to sports teams. My biggest fear is we would get a NHL hockey franchise. There's no way it would work here. We couldn't even support an NBA team in a region that is basketball-crazy. We do still have awesome Barbecue, however.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Global Warming Irrationality

I've been living in Kansas 14 of the last 16 years and this is the coolest summer I can ever remember. Whenever we have a cool season like this I mull over the lunacy of the global warming hype and recall the above chart.
Despite the facts concerning the natural cyclical temperature swings that can be demonstrated over the past 4500 years, I'm sure we'll continue to engage in a ridiculous amount of unnecessary "green" measures costing billions of dollars for no good reason.
This is especially ironic to think of on a day when a huge oil find was announced by British Petroleum. Keep drilling!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's

Today I got a flurry of emails with various links to the story found here. I heard a few Christian radio talk show hosts picking up the story as well. On Facebook a link to this story rippled through my friends like the California wildfires.

Apparently President Obama will do a national address to public school students next Tuesday, as many schools open that day. Coinciding with Obama's speech is a suggested lesson plan that includes various classroom activities and projects that seem to include a certain level of indoctrination about the President himself.

Critics are accusing Obama of using schools to sway students toward his ideology. Quite a few conservative groups are calling this a clear case of political and ideological indoctrination through the public school system.

Well of course people!

Schools indoctrinate. That's what they do. Furthermore, public schools are government schools, so they indoctrinate children according to the prevailing government-approved worldview. President Obama has a particular ideology (worldview) and understandably wants more people to share this so he can push his culture-shaping agenda. There is no better place for the president to do such indoctrination (worldview-shaping) than public schools. It makes total sense and should surprise no one. Public schools have been a very effective way to promote a secularistic agenda for decades now.

The majority of American children spend 9000 daytime hours at a school between kindergarten and 8th grade. Wherever students spend these hours they are being indoctrinated. Public schools indoctrinate with various forms of secularism and humanism. Some are better at said indoctrination than others, but all indoctrinate according to some strand of these philosophies. Yes, there are some wonderful Christian teachers in public schools doing their best to reach students for Christ and disturb the "pure" flow of secularism and humanism fed to students, but honest evaluation leaves us to admit only a few students escape government worldview training with a vital faith in Christ to say nothing of leaving with a mature, culture-transforming biblical worldview.

So, before getting our undies in a twist when we read of Caesar planning to indoctrinate his young subjects, realize it's been happening for decades already. Instead of Christian radio stations decrying the lack of freedoms for Christians in public schools, aged Christians lamenting how prayer and the Ten Commandments have been taken out of schools, and well-meaning evangelicals putting up a fuss because junior couldn't use a classroom for a "bible study", let's use our collective energy to get our children out of Caesar's formative clutches and cooperatively get about the task of inculcating a biblical worldview in each covenant child of God.

I have heard it said by quite a few people, so I simply echo their statement- if we give our kids to Caesar for 9000 hours between kindergarten and 8th grade, why are we surprised when they turn out to be Romans?

Mark 12:17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More thoughts on the doctrine of Adoption

As I prepared recently for a Galatians sermon I came to some oft sited verses, especially during the Advent season.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

When reading and teaching on this passage my usual focus has been on the planned and purposeful first Advent of Christ as He was “born of a woman”, closely followed with the adjoining purpose phrase- “to redeem those who were under the law.” Christ was sent to redeem us. Hallelujah for sure! Admittedly I spend much of my teaching and preaching energy emphasizing this glorious purpose of God sending Jesus- to redeem us from our sins. Certainly I am not apologizing for speaking so regularly on redemption, the very heart of the Good News. It is right for us to bask in redemption. It is proper for us to worship God with a vigorous emphasis on Christ’s atoning death for our sins. Christ our substitute has bought us with His own life’s blood, we are free from the power and penalty of our sin-may we ever be faithful to meditate on this glorious reality of redemption.

But as I studied this passage recently I was struck with an inextricably linked secondary purpose for God sending Christ. Notice the last part of verse 5 once again-

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Wow. Do you see it? We have been redeemed from the bondage and penalty of sin and to the status of sons and daughters of the King of the Universe!! We are not orphans. We belong to God our Father!! We are the children of God because of redemption! In this light, our primary identity isn’t what we do for a living, what we spend most of our daytime hours engaged in or thinking about, or some hobby we treasure, instead our primary identity is child of God through Christ!! So now, in Christ, as adopted sons and daughters of God, everything God calls us to in this life must be seen through the lens of our adoption. Talk about purpose in life! I hope this encourages you wherever you find yourself in life today, no matter what’s going on. In Jesus Christ, you are God’s beloved child. You are joined together with Christ and His inheritance has become yours. There are manifold blessings that flow to us through our elder brother, Christ, not the least of which is eventual resurrection from the dead and eternal life together with our Father in Heaven (1 Corinthians 15). Praise God for our adoption!

With John I praise God saying- See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1). We are not slaves or orphans my brothers and sisters- we are children of the living God through Christ.