Why Is a Love Story Told as a Tale of Horror?

This morning I was watching Outside the Lines on ESPN as I do most Sunday mornings before going to church. The story this morning was about Tim Tebow and his outspokenness of his faith. My dad happened to be watching with me since he had come town to for the Baylor – SFA game. My dad is not a Christian. He was letting me know about how he did not like how Tebow had the Bible verses on his eye liners. Because of how outspoken Tebow is, my dad is not a fan. Then they also showed a clip of Tebow preaching. In the clip Tebow was giving the standard line of if you do not accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are going to Hell. This approach more than anything else in the story got to thinking about how we present to Good News of the coming Kingdom. The story is a love story of God through Jesus pursuing reconciliation, a relationship. Essentially it is a love story. Yet when people preach the message as Tebow did it does not sound like a love story, it sounds like a tale of horror. God is so angry with you that God is going to throw you in Hell, unless you accept God’s son who was brutally murdered. The love and grace is underplayed while the fear and pain is overplayed. I think this is the wrong approach to spreading the Good News. Shouldn’t the message sound good instead of bad. One might argue that well isn’t escaping Hell good news? It can be but what is the motivation for them believing in this telling, to escape Hell or because they have found a meaningful relationship with Christ. Jesus is not a get out of Hell free card. We seek a relationship with God because we love God and wish to be reconciled just as God wishes to be reconciled to us. This fire and brimstone approach fails utterly at this aspect, which is, in my opinion, the most important. If escaping Hell, is the reason you claim to have a relationship with God, you may want to reexamine if there is a real relationship there.

I was thinking about this while we were singing at church. I thought, ‘I think this might be a good topic to blog about.’ Little did I know that the sermon was going to have a similar vibe. The sermon was on Matthew 20:1-16. Josh explained that Heaven may be too graceful. God may allow for people we do not want to be in Heaven. Some people who are assured they are going to Heaven may think twice about going if they knew who God was willing to show grace and mercy to and allow into Heaven. He then showed this picture, which I think is the best example of God’s unending grace…

How many people are accepting of this picture? But isn’t this what Jesus came to teach us. To pray for our enemies, to be servants to the world. He did say be servants of those who you like? God’s grace abounds further than we can imagine. God wishes for one and all to come and be reconciled, including Osama bin Laden. I believe this extends throughout eternity. Jesus’ death was a never ending invitation to be reconciled. I do not pretend to know why sin and evil were allowed to come into being, my best guess is it is a true consequence of free will. I particularly like the idea of Hell being locked from the inside, meaning those ‘trapped’ are free to leave. C. S. Lewis deals with this notion his book The Great Divorce, I highly recommend it.

So would you being willing to live in a Heaven that included Osama bin Laden, Hitler, Casey Anthony, etc.? I think God is willing and has been willing to extend them an invitation. What is your motivation for wanting to be in Heaven, to escape Hell or because you believe in a God who wishes for reconciliation with all the earth. One reason I believe God is willing to pursue this reconciliation for all eternity, is this one haunting question… Can Heaven be heaven if your parent or child was not there? The Good News is that God is unveiling God’s Kingdom and the invitation has been extended to all. This is what we should be preaching, the invitation to the Kingdom, to reconciliation, not a get out of Hell free card. The invitation is not for our sole benefit, it is a reconciliation of the a fallen world to God.

St. Francis

St. Francis is fifth on the list.St Francis may seem an odd choice for my collection but I felt his stance on life merited him a spot. (It also helps I just finished a book about him and am three-fourths the way through another.) St Francis came from a wealthy family but forsook his wealth after a failed career as a knight and an active young life. He and then a few friends wrote a rule and got approval from the pope. His rule requires that a member gives up all possessions. So Francis may not have been a recognized apologetic but I think through his actions he defends the true faith.

Justin Martyr

Second in my list is Justin Martyr.Justin Martyr was well versed in Greek Philosophy and uses this knowledge to defend the Christian faith. Justin argues that Christianity is the law for human kind, see his work Dialogue with Trypho. I think Justin mixes too much Greek Philosophy into Christianity. None the less, Justin was very influential in the early formation of Christianity as many influential Christians in the following years know of him and use some of his material.

St. Paul

The First Christian (starting on the left) is St. Paul, aka the Apostle Paul aka Saul of Tarsus.

Paul is arguably the the first full time Christian apologetic. Paul as most of us know, traveled throughout Asia Minor just a few decades after Jesus’ death, teaching and then defending the Christian faith. Paul in his own words was an elite Pharisee and very religious. However, his knowledge of rules were lacking in faith. Paul had been zealous but mostly for the rules and not for his personal faith in God. His encounter with Christ began a turn around for him.

For more on Paul read Acts 7 (Stephen’s apology [defense]) and see how Saul became Paul. I also suggest Galatians and Philippians to gain more background information on him from a Biblical perspective.

Paul, writing more Biblical letters than any other author (even if you have doubts about his authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), defends the faith against Greek/Roman and Jewish perversions. While both eventually do influence the Christian faith, Paul’s letters make it clear that there were problems from the very beginning of Christianity. Paul calls on Christians to unite and hold fast to their faith in Christ and to not let anyone persuade you away.

These are the primary reasons I went with Paul. So remember hold fast to the your faith in Christ and do not let anyone pull you away.

Chasing Francis, a review

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron is a fictional account of a pastor taking a pilgrimage to discover the true life, life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Chase Falson is the main character, who at the beginning of this story has a melt down one Sunday morning at his church he founded some years back. The church is unsure how to progress so Chase takes some time off and visits his uncle in Italy who happens to be a Franciscan priest. It is during this trip that Chase discovers Francis and decides how he will progress but will the church take him back?

This story was quite simple, though there are some twists. Despite the twists the story overall, is lacking. However, the discovery of Saint Francis is quite detailed and well told. I enjoyed learning the history of Francis and the parts of his theology/philosophy. The story unfortunately had huge jumps, and the timeline was hard to follow. As a fan of history I enjoyed the historical portions but thought the fictional story could have been much more developed. I do like how it ended though. I would recommend this book to history and theology lovers but not to fiction lovers. If Ian Morgan Cron writes another book of this nature I would try it, hoping he develops the fictional parts a little more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What Matters More, a review of Stockholm Syndrome

Webb seems to center all the songs on this album around this question, What matters more? What Matters More happens to be the song that Webb and his record company drew their lines in the dirt. Webb as a Christian artist is expected to follow certain rules with his Christian record company. Webb decided to push those rules. On What Matters More, Webb uses two curse words, a no no in the Christian circle. However, if one listens to the song and pays attention to how and why he uses them, one finds he has a great point. Many have argued well couldn’t have made the point without cursing, maybe but for the best effectiveness and conviction the words are necessary. (You can download What Matters More from his website, the only place it is available from unless you have vinyl record player, you can order the vinyl which includes the song.)

I also particularly liked the song The Spirit vs. the Kick Drum. This song is simple yet provoking song, Webb juxtaposes the three Persons of the Trinity with something else he/we would prefer over them. The State is a song about how Christians have tended to become more dependent on The State (their nation) than on what we are commanded to do as Christians, in fact “I can even do the things that should offend me.”

This album could be a turn off to some Derek Webb fans, not because of his lyrics but because he decided to experiment with his sound, foregoing the acoustic for a more electronic sampling. I personally really liked this new sound and hopes he continues to use it. I believe this album is very deep lyrical and hope Webb continues pushing the envelope and challenging his listeners to determine what matters more.

The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, a review

John MacArthur decided modern Christianity has become too nice and has lost the passion and zeal that Jesus had. MacArthur spends the book explaining how Jesus was confrontational with the Pharisees and Scribes. He uses a harmonization of the gospels to show how Jesus made the first move in this confrontation. Ultimately, MacArthur preposes that we, as Christians, cannot sugar coat the truth.

I agree with MacArthur’s overarching idea but found he included too much speculation and failed to make solid connections between the then and now. MacArthur in the prologue decries how some Christians, including most evangelicals, are too nice to Islam with interfaith dialogues. However, the rest of the book describes Jesus only interacting with fellow Jewish leaders and not interacting with the Roman religion. MacArthur, also, fails to discuss the historical culture compared to the culture today and if this could explain some of Jesus’ actions being so confrontational. I know not much later Paul preached/debated out in the open on his travels as it was cultural to do so. I think he had historical schizophrenia while writing this book, he had some great research in this book but failed to apply it across the whole book. So while MacArthur is right, we should proclaim the truth and not accept heresy to enter the church, we should still be cordial with other faiths which he fails to mention or distinguish.

So I agree, we cannot ignore this aspect of Jesus, but we can and probably should ignore this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Kingdom Life, a review

The Kingdom Life edited by Alan Andrews explores the practical theology of spiritual formation.  It has contributions from multiple authors, including Dallas Willard. They (TACT) broke spiritual formation into two parts process and theological. The books begins with the seven process elements and concludes with the three theological elements.

I found most of the chapters/elements thoughtful and challenging. However, a few of them seemed to have too much overlap and relied too heavily on one source. Two recurring sources were Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines and Thomas á Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. One or two chapters just seemed like the author’s take on these sources and had little of their own information. The authors also agreed not to give specific steps on spiritual formation because it will be different for every church and person however, I would have liked a few more examples than those given. Finally, I would have started with the theological elements first, especially with the Bible in Spiritual Formation, instead of it being the last chapter. To me it is better to start off biblically and then move from there. Despite these minor issues, I think a reader of this book will be challenged, the epilogue was especially challenging and helpful conclusion to this work.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”