Posted in theology, worship

Is your church a spectacle in the right way or the wrong way?

By Elizabeth Prata

Where are your eyes looking? What’s claiming your attention?

spectacle

The church was the one institution whose mission depended on galvanizing attention; through its daily and weekly offices, as well as its sometimes central role in education, that is exactly what it managed to do. At the dawn of the attention industries, then, religion was still, in a very real sense, the incumbent operation, the only large-scale endeavor designed to capture attention and use it. ~Tim Wu: The Attention Merchants

These days there are competing operations, all vying for our attention.

For politics, power, war, sex, sports, social media, gaming, or entertainment the best spectacles grab mass attention. Our culture is no longer banded together by shared beliefs; it’s drawn together by shared spectacles. ~Tony Reinke, Competing Spectacles

If  culture is no longer banded together through shared beliefs but by shared spectacles, what of the church, where we’re supposed to be banded by beliefs but now share only spectacles? Woe!

Hopefully your church hasn’t sunk into the idea that maintaining a spectacle is the only way to capture a person’s attention. It’s our beliefs that unite us, with that three-fold cord not easily broken.

When a preacher lifts up Christ crucified, it is the premier spectacle that captures us, the doctrines around that cross are the only draw that holds us together. Not concerts or hot dog barbecues or revival extravaganzas. Those spectacles hold attention only for a moment. Just the preaching of Christ and Him crucified is the pivotal sight before our eyes.

I pray your Lord’s Day is filled with the Word, song, prayer, fellowship, and the saturation of the shared belief that sustains and nurtures our souls.

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Posted in theology

I Surrender All (Or Do I?)

By Elizabeth Prata

I do hope your faith is growing and your trust in Jesus is too. He is so magnificent. Daily I’m awed by His sweetness, perfection, and power. I wrote on this blog a while ago about how the Spirit sometimes leads me through listening to hymns, and one example blessed me. I like the traditional hymns because they either directly quote scripture, or closely paraphrase Bible verses. This morning I awoke humming “I Surrender All.”

So that got me thinking on the word surrender. I was wondering, what IS surrender, exactly. How does one surrender? What does one surrender? I know we “surrender” because it’s a war between the flesh and the Holy Spirit who draws us. Even after conversion with the Spirit in us, we still struggle against the flesh. Our carnal nature still seeks to gain territory within us, making us less effective for Christ.

Self-surrender is defined in Galatians 2:20: Paul saying, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Curious, I looked up the word surrender in the biblical encyclopedia. It’s defined as “the struggle between the natural human impulses of self-seeking, self-defence and the like, on the one hand, and the struggle toward self-denial, self-surrender, on the other. The Scriptures represent self-surrender as among the noblest of human virtues.” The following is an excerpt on surrender. Go to this link to read the short paragraph.

Some examples given in the Old Testament are Adam and Eve, In the Old Testament self-surrender is taught in the early account of the first pair. Each was to be given to the other (Genesis 2:24; Genesis 3:16) and both were to be surrendered to God in perfect obedience (Genesis 3:1-15).”

Also the faithful ones like Abraham are characterized by self-surrender. Abraham abandons friends and native country to go to a land unknown to him, because God called him to do so (Genesis 12:1). He would give up all his cherished hopes in his only son Isaac, at the voice of God (Genesis 22:1-18). Moses, at the call of Yahweh, surrenders self, and undertakes the deliverance of his fellow-Hebrews (Exodus 3:1-4:13). The prophets are good examples of self-surrender.

The International Bible Encyclopedia defines self-surrender as,

In the New Testament self-surrender is still more clearly set forth. Christ above all men was the prime example of self-surrender to the Father’s will. Christ’s teachings and example as presented in the Gospels, give to it special emphasis. It is a prime requisite for becoming His disciple (Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24 Luke 9:23, 24, 59; Luke 14:27, 33). When certain of the disciples were called they left all and followed (Matthew 4:20; Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27 f). His followers must so completely surrender self, as that father, mother, kindred, and one’s own life must be, as it were, hated for His sake (Luke 14:26).

Do we surrender? As saved sheep of the Shepherd, we have been called to surrender our ego, our desires, our souls to Him, and we continue striving to do so. But how much territory does Satan gain back? He cannot take all of it because we are sealed for Christ and we’re His for certain. But satan can tempt us. I read recently that all one needs to do to conform to a secular world view, is nothing. We must work against the current and continue to swim upstream, every day. Part of that struggle involves surrendering ourselves to the cross every day. (Luke 9:23).

Meanwhile, I sing “I Surrender All” and consider it a privilege to ask the Spirit to guide me into ever deeper submission to His will. It is a good Will, working for the good of all those who love Him.

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Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Lift high the cross

Part of this essay appeared on The End Time in 2010.

The Wayside Cross is a huge tradition in Canada and Europe, where it has abounded for over a thousand years. “In Quebec, and Europe, a wayside cross marks a place where the members of a community gather to meet and pray, and often commemorates an important moment in their communal history.” Charles Bourget reports that there are 3000 wayside shrines dotting the countryside in Quebec, however, many of them are falling into disrepair because the tradition is waning. I wrote at one time about the fate of one American Wayside Cross in East Greenwich RI.

Below, a wayside crucifix in Europe

In America, the tradition never really caught on. If one does stumble upon a wayside cross, they are usually a cricifix- which represents an entirely different religion. They are seen occasionally, especially in central rural Wisconsin. Wayside crosses dot the landscape there. In Bedford NY, one was erected in 1936 and it was hoped that the sight of it would invite the prayers of the passersby. In 1922 East Greenwich, it was hoped by “those who placed this beautiful memorial to an exemplary life feel that it will indeed be a light by the way and a guide post to Heaven.” By and large wayside crosses are not seen much and those that do exist are under increasing challenge.

The point of the cross in public life is that it would point the way to Jesus. That upon seeing it, thoughts of Him and the Good News would ruminate in the mind, and through the strength of the Holy Spirit, those thoughts would germinate. For people seeing such displays, who have already heard the Good News, perhaps its sight would loosen the bonds around the heartstrings and their conviction would grow, as in the allegorical depiction of Christian at the Wayside Cross.

A wayside cross was a pivotal point in the very famous book Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, published in 1678 and has remained on the ‘bestseller list’ ever since, never having been out of print. The passage is below:

“He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart, ‘He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.’ Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold three Shining Ones came to him and saluted him with Peace be unto thee. So the first said to him, Thy sins be forgiven thee;”

It is amazing that the sight of the cross should ease a person’s burdens, but it does, for the person who is ready to receive grace. For every individual on the planet, there comes that critical moment, upon which the eye falls to the cross and a decision is made either aye or nay. The cross to the unsaved does make one’s soul burn, satan would have it so. But in the process of that the soul-singe the cross is emblazoned on the mind and heart and soul, thereafter to linger as a brand. It stays there, to rankle. Opponents of Christ do not want that rankle, and therefore strive to remove the cross from all areas of life except homes and churches.

This article from 2011 by John Witte Jr., Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., is interesting: Lift High the Cross? Religion In Public Spaces

It made 6 points about court challenges to religious symbols in public spaces:

While not entirely convergent in their religious symbolism cases, the American and European high courts now hold six teachings in common.

  • First, tradition counts in these cases
  • Second, religious symbols often have redeeming cultural value
  • Third, local values deserve some deference.
  • Fourth, religious freedom does not require the secularization of society.
  • Fifth, religious freedom does not give a minority a heckler’s veto over majoritarian policies
  • Finally, religious symbolism cases are serious business. 

Lift high the cross. Value it, present it, wear it, but above all, cherish it and obey it. We can and should beautify the Gospel that the cross stands for by our obedient and gentle adornment of obedient behavior because of it.

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Don’t leave the Baby in the manger or the Man on the cross

When Christmas comes around, everyone loves the thought of the baby in the manger. The story is so precious, and the swaddling cloths, and the animals milling around, and the Shepherds who came to see…

So cute!

But not cute.

This Grace To You essay brings the point home.

What do you think about when you see a nativity scene? We might recognize the baby in the manger as God in flesh. But seeing Christ as a helpless and vulnerable infant can delude us into thinking that the humility of the incarnation was not isolated to His physical form—that somehow, His deity was also diminished.
And it’s easy to read the birth narratives in the gospel accounts without gaining a full sense of Christ’s eternal glory and supremacy. Those attributes figure more prominently at the end of His earthly sojourn rather than the beginning.

Where can we see that glory and supremacy? Is it on the cross? The Man-God hung on that tree, He was perfect in every way yet absorbing all God’s wrath for sin, separated from His eternal father for agonizing hours. He was the suffering servant, bleeding and wounded and humble, and scorned and rejected. He hung there…

But He is not still there.

We look to Jesus when we want to praise or seek comfort, and we often think of the cross. The cross is the symbol of death, new life, eternity. We respect the cross as the execution method of what Jesus suffered for us in obedience to the Father. The cross is everything to us, but it is not all.

Because Jesus rose.

So the bloody, unrecognizable fleshly Man is not still on the cross. He is in heaven, robed majestically, at the right hand of the Father, ministering as KING OF THE UNIVERSE!

12Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:12-16)

Don’t leave the baby in the manger or the man upon the cross. When you think of Jesus daily, remember Him as He is now.

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Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Our precious Jesus, His cross, and the ‘accusation’

Jesus died on the cross. When He was nailed to the tree, the soldiers an ‘accusation’ placed above His head.

And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matthew 27:37.)

The other three Gospels also note that an ‘accusation’ was placed over His head, each Gospel stating that Jesus is King of the Jews. Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19.

Jesus was ‘tried’ in two different courts. He had a religious Jewish trial and a secular Roman trial. Since each kind of trial had three phases, Jesus was involved in 6 different legal proceedings. In none of them was a sinful accusation leveled at Him. The sign above His head did not say thief. Nor did it charge Him with being a blasphemer. Nor a rebel. Nor a usurper.

The only ‘accusation’ above the head of Jesus as He expired on the cross was THE TRUTH. No blot was above His precious head. Only the truth that Jesus was, and is, and is to come as King of the Jews.

Now note the Christmas story. Wise Men from the East arrived at Jerusalem. They sought the babe whose star had led them to the city. The men went to Herod and asked about this Messiah. They asked,

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2).

Tremendous truth-

WHEN JESUS WAS BORN, HE WAS ANNOUNCED AS KING OF THE JEWS.

WHEN JESUS DIED HE WAS PROCLAIMED AS KING OF THE JEWS.

Eventually, His kingship will be over the entire earth and all its people. Hallelujah!

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:16)