Sunday, October 16, 2011

Working on a New Blog & Website

I am in the process of developing a new website and blog for New Life Community. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Song: The Old Rugged Cross

I was at a funeral recently where a baritone soloist sang the dusty old hymn "The Old Rugged Cross." This song is full of contrasts - mainly the lyrics that focus on a cruel instrument of torture and death married to a sweeping melody that stirs the emotions as if we were singing about a long lost loved one.

The soloist sang the fourth verse as these words washed over us: "To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; its shame and reproach gladly bear..." As I listened to these words I wondered how many of us at the funeral understand what it means to "gladly bear" the old rugged cross. After all, how does one swear allegiance to an instrument of torture and death?

In Matthew 10:38, Jesus made a similar statement. He said, "Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." This harsh sounding statement is hard pressed to find its way into an inspiring and uplifting song any better than "The Old Rugged Cross." But what does it mean? How do we take up our cross, or 'ever be true' to the cross?

Some have concluded that the way to be 'true' to the Old Rugged Cross is to remember Jesus' death, and to hold it as special. And while these are commendable ideas, Jesus' call for his disciples to be cross carrying people is about something much more important than simply remembering fondly the instrument of Jesus' death. It is a call to die so that we might come to new life in the Kingdom of God!

This way of life that 'gladly bears' the old rugged cross is the way in which our self-oriented Self is put to death, and it must be put to death if our God-oriented Self is to become the reality of our existence. In Colossians 3 the Apostle Paul describes well this 'putting to death' and 'clothing' of one's self in our new identity in Christ. The way this happens is by taking up our cross.

Here is the rub, however, our self-oriented Self doesn't want to die! In fact it would rather kill you than be killed by the power of the Spirit working in/through you. It wants your destruction, and it accomplishes this best when our self-oriented Self is built up rather than being torn down.

This is why an old dusty song like "The Old Rugged Cross" points us towards a serious and life-ending struggle that must be undertaken by every person who chooses to follow Jesus. And when we do, when we choose to take up our instrument of death, we are also taking up our tree of life.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

What do your books say about you?

Recently I had the opportunity to go through the 'library' of a friend who died for the purpose of relocating her books to good homes. If you have ever had this kind of experience you will know that carrying heavy boxes of books to the car is the easiest part of the process. Sorting through years worth of reading is the challenge.
How do you evaluate a person's library? How do you determine what book is worth passing along to a new generation of readers that will lift them into the heights of heaven, and what books
should burn in the pit of publishing hell for all eternity? Okay, maybe that is slightly overstated.

Well as I was going through her books I felt like an intellectual voyeur. I was getting the chance to see what my friend had been thinking about, and what interested her the most. After all, she paid good money on a meager income to acquire these books. They told me a lot about her.

Then I started wondering what my books say about me. Certainly they tell a story, but what story do they tell? What book am I spending my hard earned money buying so that I can fill my mind with their juicy morsels? Would I be embarrassed for you to see my collection?

What do your books say about you?