Sunday, October 28, 2007

Check Out Ascensionpittsburgh.org

I am really excited about the new website. The team has been working very hard on the site and we see this as an essential element to being a missional force to the city and the world.Check out ascensionpittsburgh.org

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Just Judge- Do I Want Justice

I am preaching this weekend on Luke 18:1-8. The passage is the Parable of the Persistent Widow:

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'4"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Jesus gives his disciples this parable in the midst of news about the future that is massive and overwhelming. He says that there is going to be a massive battle in front of them and in front of the whole of human history. Evil is going to war against good. And, there are going to be times when we will think that the war is too big, the battle too long, the enemy too full of resources. But, he tells us in this passage to NEVER stop praying. Why? Well, because we matter. And, because our choices and our actions, and our fears, and our emotions, and our inclinations, and especially our faith in what is outside our circumstances, matters. It is not going unnoticed. In fact, God is not like an unjust judge who answers pleas for help to get us off his back because he is sick and tired from hearing from us "widows."

Instead, he is a loving Father who ends up throwing Himself into the bloody battle we are in to bring about fairness. Everything we do matters. Everything we do makes an impact, either for good or for evil because we were made as creatures who can both impregnate history and give birth to real things in this real world of God's making. I am thinking and praying very hard about this passage.

In it all, as I cry out to God, I am asking some very hard questions: When I look at my own life, do I really want God's justice to fall down upon me as I wish it to fall down on others? What if he gave me what I deserve, even as I wish him to give to those around me what they deserve? Do I want justice or do I want mercy? And even deeper into this, is it possible for us to have both? What does the Gospel have to say about injustice and the need for those of us who suffer under it and are guilty of it, to have justice reign?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Preaching

We have been working hard to get the website ready. Sermons are now available.

Last week's sermon on Hell from Luke 16:19-31 is taken from the parable on Lazarus and the rich man. Here is the outline and the link:Lazarus and the Rich Man: the Choice, the Company, and the Cruelty of Hell

Intro: When Bad New is Good News

I. The Choice of Hell?“
All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.

"Hell … begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps even criticizing it…. You can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine." CS Lewis

II. The Company of Hell.
It is common for us to say, "I don't think God would send a person who lives a good life to hell just for holding the wrong belief." The universal religion of humankind is BE GOOD.” The problem is that only about 10% of the world can BE GOOD. The rest of us have to struggle in our weakness, brokeness, and vice. Religion is, therefore, very exclusive. The Gospel that Luke is proclaiming is Jesus' message that EVERYONE who admits that they are lost without God because of their own human brokeness and sin, will and can be saved if they call on the name of Jesus Christ who stands in our place and takes on the punishment that we deserve in dying on the cross. The bottum line is that we can believe that faith in Christ is not necessary because we can be saved by BEING GOOD or we can believe that we are saved by grace and that God can rescue us by allowing Jesus to pay the penalty we deserve. We can beleive one or the other, but you cannot believe in both at once.

III. The Cruelty of Hell?
There is no love without wrath. A wrathless God cannot be a loving God.
In Hope Has Its Reasons, Becky Pippert writes, 'Think how we feel when we see someone we love ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might toward strangers? Far from it…. Anger isn't the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference.' "E. H. Gifford says, 'Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, the traitor.' "She concludes: 'If I, a flawed narcissistic sinful woman, can feel this much pain and anger over someone's condition, how much more a morally perfect God who made them? God's wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer of sin which is eating out the insides of the human race he loves with his whole being.' "