Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What Louie Doesn't Say

I recently spent some time watching a video that has been floating around cyber space entitled "How Great is our God" with a preacher named Louie Giglio. If you have taken the time to watch the video you will know, Louie is a great preacher. If you haven’t watched it, a portion of it is posted here for you to see for yourself. Louie is emotional. He is passionate. He is knowledgeable and informative. He is engaging and interesting to listen to. As a fellow preacher, I wish I had a tenth of his skill.

But there is more to be seen here than simply rhetorical style. Where Louie is successful at putting together a moving presentation, he fails at delivering to us the Gospel in all its fullness (Romans 15:19). He fails at delivering to us Jesus dead on a cross for the forgiveness for our sin. (1 Corinthians 1:23)

The theme of Mr Giglio’s presentation fits in with the Chris Tomlin song, How Great is our God. He is participating in a Chris Tomlin tour. Chris sings and then introduces Louie who comes out to do his presentation.

The video posted here is an excerpt from a larger presentation that lasts about 50 minutes. You can find them all on YouTube if you want to watch them back to back. Louie does a great job of convincing us that God is great, that God is big, that God is all powerful and sufficient and that is all really good. But for me, a sinner doomed to hell because of my sin, that is not good enough. I need more.

Louie does talk about sin. He says that because of sin we make God to be so small. Over the course of his 50 minute presentation Louie demonstrates that God is not small. Earth is small. On a small earth we are small people. In the vastness of the universe we are minuscule. Louie makes this point very effectively. God is not small. God is big, bigger than the universe. God is powerful, breathing out the stars and the galaxies, creating them with a word. But still this is not enough. I need more.

Louie’s big left hook (as he describes it) is a little protein molecule called laminin. Laminin is a molecule in every human cell that keeps the entire human body together. Louie effectively defines the central significance of this molecule. Louie rejoices in the fact that this molecule is in the shape of the cross. He uses that as his hook to bring in the “sufficiency of Christ”, “the supremacy of Christ”. He quotes the Apostle Paul who tells us all things hang together in Jesus from Colossians 1. Louie says, “So you’re at the toughest place in your life, how can you know that God is going to hold you together. You know because there is a cross standing over history.” Amen! That’s it. If only he would have ended here.

As soon as Louie tells us that Jesus made peace with God through his blood he blows right past it and gets on to what he seems to think is our biggest problem – to what he believes I think is my biggest problem – all of my baggage, my struggles, my hardships, the problems of this life. He says, “Yes I will accept that God died on a cross, but what I really need to know right now is does God see what I am going through?”

Yes my life has problems. Everyone’s life has problems. This side of heaven, we always will. According to Louie, my biggest problem is that I make God too small, too small to handle all my life’s issues. His solution is to make God big, big enough to handle my life’s issues. If my biggest problem was life issues then a big God would be great. But it’s not. Therefore, I need more.

My biggest problem is sin. Sin that makes God small. Sin that makes sin small. Sin that has doomed me to hell. I need Jesus – that big, universe creating, star breathing God, on a cross for me in my place and for my sin. I need that Jesus to suffer in my place as my perfect sacrifice to fix that biggest of problems that I am too small and too weak to overcome. Mr. Giglio gives me a bigger God. Being a sinner, all he has done is give me a bigger problem. Mr. Giglio, Louie, I need Jesus. I need Christ. I need Christ crucified!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not Bad Enough

"That's not very loving," said the guest who requested to attend the Lord's Supper at our altar one Sunday. He and his wife were visiting from another church not in fellowship with ours. "It's like you think that you are better than us."

Oh, contraire my friend.

A Lutheran Altar is no place for the good, it is no place for the strong. It is no place for the healthy. As Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick." A Lutheran altar is reserved for those who are sick, who are sinful, evil, and weak. When my visiting friend was put off by our refusal to allow him to attend he was put off by the wrong thing. It is not that he was not good enough to attend. It is precisely the opposite. He was not bad enough.

The Catechism says that the Supper is "the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and the wine instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink." and that "These words, 'Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,' show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words." The body and blood of Jesus are the body and blood of Jesus for sinners.

For those of us who have a terminal case of sin, there is no better medicine than the body and blood of Jesus. For those of us who are dying in our own trespasses and sin, there is no greater hope than receiving the body and blood of Jesus into my mouth. That body and blood is life; and not just a little extra life tacked on to an existence that is going to end soon anyway. It is life that never ends. It is eternal life.

If you're not sick you don't take medicine. Likewise, if you're good you don't need forgiveness. If your only problem is that you need to have your memory jogged from time to time you don't need "the body and blood of Jesus given for us Christians to eat and to drink." This body and blood is God's gift for sinners. My friend was not welcome to come because he needed more than just some quality time with the other people sitting in the pews. He needed Jesus.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Christ Have Mercy — The Bridge

"Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy." What more can sinners say before The Almighty God? What more can a pastor pray as he is called upon to bring words of hope in the midst of tragedy? This short video is definitely worth the 6 1/2 minutes of your time.

I have lived the tragedy from both sides - felt it personally and ministered to it pastorally. All one can do is pray for God's mercy and hold tightly to His promise to provide it. Here Pastor Harrison does what God has called him to do - through the tragedy he points us to Jesus.

Thank You God for Your mercy that you have provided for us in Jesus!

To view this video in its original context click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Sacred is Still Sacred

There was a time when the things declared by God to be sacred were lethal. There was a time when those things were deadly for sinners like you and me. Don’t believe me? Just ask Uzzah (2 Samuel 6) who reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant, or Isaiah (Isaiah 6) who beheld the Almighty while serving in the temple and exclaimed “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips”. It used to be when sinners encountered the sacred they knew their limits and were terrified, as the Israelites were when they were camped around Sinai (Exodus 19:6).

But then came Jesus. The Sacred One came to suffer for the sin that used to make those encounters with God so deadly. He assumed into himself the punishment and death that we ought to endure when we enter into the Presence of the Holy. But do we die? Hardly! Instead the Holy One places his own body and blood into our mouths to eat and to drink! Imagine the carnage that would have erupted in a pre-incarnation communion service! Imagine the blessing that is ours because God makes us into a holy nation through the Communion of Saints!

These days people will say that because the curtain was torn in the temple the dividing line between the sacred and the common has been erased. These days people will assume that this means that nothing is sacred, that nothing should be sacred. How sad! Far from erasing the sacred, God in his loving kindness has invited us in - to take part in the sacred. God has opened heaven so that we could join him in the Eternal Feast.

Why is it that we feel so inclined to cheapen this magnificent gift? Instead of entering heaven with fear and trembling we load up the Holy of Holies with all the equipment for a rock concert. Instead of seeing it as first and foremost that we will be met by the “Light of Light descending from the Realms of Endless Day” we capitulate to a culture that has thrown away any notion of the sacred, that distorts God’s gifts into a patriarchal hierarchy that needs to be torn down and deconstructed

What God has made to be sacred remains sacred! Let’s remember what has changed. The sacred hasn’t stopped being sacred – God has simply done away with the need for a fence that keeps us out!