“The Wounding Church” by Howard Nowlan

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“We limp in faith from the bed of our death, through the blood of the cross, to the the joy of Christ’s resurrection”.   Robert Capon Farrar.
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_I watched a two-hour long documentary last night on the growth and teaching of the emergent church. The analysis was telling, not only in its accuracy with regards to where the likes of this phenomenon has departed from orthodox theology and practice, but equally, if unintentionally, as to why so many have made such an exit from mainstream Christianity. Amidst the sharp critique of some (not all) of those defining the painful declarations of de-constructive spirituality, was a clear adherence to the kind of theology which internally wounds the church as much as any external intrusion of alien (non-christian) approaches to God.It’s usually pretty easy to unmask teachings which present a God or faith which is contrary to the character and relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to His handiwork, but what is equally, if not far more dangerous, is those welcomed within the very fold and ministry of the faith who are effectively tearing down the very core of God’s redemptive work in Christ (justification by Grace alone through Faith alone) by a seeking to re-establish the place of the Law over and above the Gospel.Sometimes this happens simply out of ignorance. I recently attended a service where a young student minister was preaching in such a fashion, that I don’t  think he was even really aware of what he was doing. It made my blood boil to hear it, but I know that there are others in that church who will work hard to take and keep people beyond such folly, so that is something (and quite rare right now), but watching the documentary made me realize afresh why it is that so many have been so scarred and bruised amidst Christianity- not by Christ, but by the church- that they have had to go elsewhere to try and find something better! The reason why such movements begin and grow is because of the great numbers of people who have gone to ‘orthodox’ churches and been thrashed again, and again, and again by nothing but a ‘gospel’ of law which has been emptied of the riches of Christ and God’s unmerited mercy and love towards us.When the Gospel is ‘clipped’ of this primary, essential message of the redemptive work of God in Christ, then all religious belief and practice becomes nothing more than our seeking to be valid before a god of our own making, and most certainly not the living God who justifies the wicked.We can indeed become grieved when men profess a faith which denies Christ as seen in His own words or those of His Apostles and Prophets, and rightly so, but should we not be all the more deeply anguished when, in those very churches which deem themselves to be genuinely ‘christian’, the life-giving bread of the Gospel, the person, of Jesus Christ, is not broken and shared, but in truth withheld from the very souls which are there to feed upon Him – to meet with God with a broken and contrite heart and to eat of His grace in their time of need? Is that not the greatest evil of all – to leave men and women outside of that mercy and fellowship when that is why we are here… to hold out that word of life?

We simply cannot deal in many of our churches today with the manner of ‘Lordship’ evidenced in Christ Himself in the upper room at the last supper – removing His clothing and girding Himself in a towel (dressing Himself as a slave, as the Living Bible so succinctly puts it) to wash the feet of those who were His friends – those who, in spite of all the failings and denials, He loved totally, and would give His life to save just a few short hours later. 

This gospel means we totally and entirely saved “not by our successes but in and through our failures… Our so-called ‘successes’ cannot be saved – they are nothing but suits of obsolete armor, ineffective moral and spiritual contraptions we have climbed into to avoid facing the thing which can save us – our totally naked vulnerability before Jesus, for it is the person He lives and dies for, not the suit we contrive to wear” (Farrar – Parables of Judgement).

Is this the God with whom we have to do in our Sunday services, our bible studies, our daily lives, because if we are not focused upon this God, seen in the incarnation and life of His only begotten Son, then we really have nothing to say  - THAT is the reality.

The pain of the emergent church is great, but that is primarily because it shouts so loudly regarding the failure of mainline Christianity to ‘speak’ the truth in love, evidenced in God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ. Because of that failing, many of us who, miraculously still attend a church, know only too well of such wounding, and can only hope and pray that even as such bruised reeds and smoldering flaxes, we can seek to point to true grace in these days of such great need.

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Thank you, Howard.
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Howard’s blogsite is Rebel by Nature, Righteous by Force
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Faith and Art

Please check out Howard Nowlan’s piece at http://wwwjustifiedsinner.blogspot.com/

 

Howard thoughtfully explores how God may use art to help keep us in His faith.

 

Thank you, Howard!

 

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‘In Small Corners’ by Howard Nowlan

 

“I just want her back”    Agent Tom Greer   "Surrogates" 412px x 229px by degrootk

Whilst Director Johnathan Mostow’s latest Sci-Fi release gained only mediocre reviews from the critics, Surrogates raises some major issues in relation to human identity.
Set around a decade from now, we are presented with a society where people appear cushioned from pain and harm by living much of their lives via the safety of being wired to a substitute alter ego – a robot which engages with the world, allowing dreams and fantasies to be fulfilled without danger or, apparently, remorse or guilt. Into this paradise, however, comes death, a murderer which destroys both ghola and user in an instant, exposing the terrifying frailty of the ‘system’ that everyone considers ‘safe’ and strengthening in our principal characters the fact that this virtual existence has merely distracted from but in no way dealt with the true wounds and trails of being human.

Key to the story is the manner in which two leading characters deal with the agony of loss.
Detective Tom Greer, played by Bruce Willis, and Inventor of the Virtual life, Dr Lionel Canter, come to epitomize two very different reactions to our reality, and in Greer’s final choice in the film, we find ourselves facing a hard question – ‘how real about ourselves do we really want to be’?

The issues raised in Surrogates will become pressing to all of us during our lives. Amidst the bobbing and weaving to solve the crime, Willis’ character seeks to look beyond the immediate and the superficial (both in the case, and in his experience) to reach for deeper answers to the void of his society and his life.

As someone who knows well the manner of personal trails conveyed here, I’ve found myself several times this week pondering several of the issues the movie raised. How many of us are reduced, even imprisoned, through the tragedies that real grief and loss bring upon us? How often can life become little more than a nightmare to be avoided as much and as often as possible?

Tom Greer, like us, whilst having moments of brilliance, is a deeply flawed and wounded man, but that realization motivates him to ask the right questions and to seek a better answer.

At its very heart, Christianity is about facing the real world. It’s not about fanciful illusions, where we just accept ourselves as a slightly evolved species, essentially just here for a good time, but a faith which drags us before the deepest longings and understanding in our souls – that the beauty we know in love, the majesty we view in creation, the passion we encounter in life, resonates with the fact that there is much, much more going on than the oft vaunted facile/popular escapism (philosophically and practically) often tagged ‘life’.

Jesus Christ came to not only return significance to His handiwork, but to define that ‘weight’ in our lives – intimacy, profoundly genuine, with God, with each other, and with creation. That is the objective of divine redemption.

Facing the pain of who and what we are is not easy, but as in the movie, it is as this is done, in the light of Christ’s teaching regarding our true wonder (made by God) and our catastrophic fall (rebellion from Him), that reality will once more fall into place, and freedom can be found in God’s healing grace and mercy.
Life now is stained by the horror of our enslavement to lies and their consequences, but the day is approaching when that will be over, and humanity will start afresh, healed from these times.

                                                                                                   – Howard Nowlan

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 To me, this is the theology of the cross.

It calls a thing what it really is and does not attempt to soften it , or bury it underneath a more palatable reality.

I’ll repeat the question asked in the piece above, and in the movie,

‘how real about ourselves do we really want to be’?

 

Please check out Howard’s blog at http://wwwjustifiedsinner.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

 

The Deadly Years

“Now the Spirit instructs us that in the later times some will depart from faith,
devoting themselves to deceits – the very teaching of dar kness.
Liars will inspire such to seek to determine who can marry whom,
forbidding not only such union, but also the eating of foods which have been clearly
given by God to be received with joy.
Remember that every good thing is created and given by God to be received in this fashion,
and should not be renounced or rejected”.   – Paul to Timothy.

 

Genuine faith, Luther once noted, can be a pretty unsettling thing.

Try and imagine what it must have been like for Peter, for example, that morning before he met
Cornelius, when he was presented with a requirement to partake of food to eat which, to his manner of thinking was ‘unclean’. It must of shaken him deeply, when God not only required this of Him, but sought to teach him three times that what God makes clean can no longer be excluded.

Peter, like so many of us, could operate quite safely in a sphere where piety and devotion, duty and dedication, are all neatly defined by a ‘belief’ which compartmentalizes the sacred and the secular, but God is far, far too near for such ‘neatness’. He is the Lord who rescues the miserably lost, the entirely ungodly. He comes amongst us, into the very dirt of this sin-sick place, and redeems and restores all that we have muddied by our externalizing of sanctity – our ‘fig leaf’ pretensions of religion. He takes the life of our world, so sickened by sin, and by giving Himself, changes the very common into the framework of eternity, the theater of His Kingdom.

Paul’s warning, then, to Timothy, is so pertinent.
Ungodly religion is marked by an ethos which radically denies the sovereignty of God in what He has redeemed. By talking up our piety, our rules, our impetuous attempts at self-righteousness, it lacerates and murders the banqueting table of grace, furnished by our Great God and Saviour.

Redemption takes us beyond the fallen practices which has marked our race since our death in Eden – it calls us to return to life in the giver of all that is good.
Secularism and Legalism simply cannot hold or contain the depth or richness of the gift He gives to each of us – no apparatus of our invention can come close to supplying true confidence in His great and precious promises – it can only continue to deform us into creatures which spurn the beauty of grace.

Peter, (no doubt like us), spent a lifetime learning just how amazing God’s work is, both with him and in the world. Are we learning those lessons, or are we buried in pretensions that effectively blind us to that good work, burying our lives beneath a lie of ‘godliness’?

Leaving the comfort of our own ‘gods’ to journey to new lands…
it’s a disturbing call.

                         – Howard Nowlan

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Thank you, Howard!

“Ungodly religion”.

People are suckers for it.   I have been.   Maybe most of us have been at one time or another.

How should we attempt to keep people out of that deadly game?

‘The Darkness’ by Howard Nowlan

A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health, and a successful outcome to every situation and action“. - Ramez Sasson


I was blinded by the devil, born already ruined,
stone cold dead as I stepped out of the womb“.  - Bob Dylan.

 Ever pondered what exactly gets you out of bed in the morning (assuming you are able to sleep at nights)?
The mind ‘games’ we usually have to play are pretty elaborate – presumptions that spin a fabric of social and personal ‘norms’ by which we can not only face but hopefully invest something into each fleeting moment called a day – granting the game some worth, so long as we do not probe or question too deeply.

 

The problems come, often, as we grow older. The mask of such illusion begins to slip as we become aware that the value of such a dance is flawed, and that so much of what is deemed ‘the norm’ is but a pretense – a device to keep us busy, distracted, from facing reality. The cracks are always there – the perpetual corruption in every aspect of life, whilst it may seek to change it’s spots, continues apace, and the reality of decay and death encroaches, however we seek to project the ‘I’m fine’ persona to ourselves and to others.
In an honest analysis, we quickly find ourselves in agreement with the sobering analysis of Solomon – all of life amounts to no more than a painful futility.

The broken record of ‘normal’ life leaves us there, stranded and abandoned in a world which has us reaching for something to dull the pain – a darkness too terrible to comprehend – fueled by the misnomer that there is no true remedy. In the modernal mind, there is no actual escape – no aid or answer to this tragedy. Life becomes little more than ‘dodging the bullet’ for however long this can be achieved, until the moment when death slams us against the darkness from which there is no return.

Jesus Christ entered the arena of this dreadful malady and extinguished its rule.
He seeks to confront each of us with a greater reality – that our lives are not meant to be marked by such pathetic tragedy, but with life that has enduring value.
His death and resurrection reveal that the pain and misery of the present darkness have sought to usurp our true purpose and connection to what we are and are meant to be.

The choice is stark – a world enshrouded in a darkness which holds and devours all, or one marked by ultimate freedom from pain and sorrow, because of the one who has made us free, even in the midst of this present trial, to taste of eternal life.

In our mad world, that truth conveys a goodness and mercy which allows our troubled days here to be savored with a richer meaning than any broken dream.

                                                                                              – Howard Nowlan

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You guys and gals that don’t vist Howard’s blog http://wwwjustifiedsinner.blogspot.com/ are cheating yourself out of a very bold underline of the Word. 

Howard would never say that…but I’m saying it…because it’s true.

Thank you, Howard!

‘Amidst Perilious Waters’

It’s not supposed to be this way” Frodo Baggins – The T wo Towers. I received a circular e-mail this week which, using images of the holocaust, sought to raise concern that this dark chapter of history had been removed from the UK’s national education curriculum.
I proceeded to check these claims and whilst they proved incorrect, there are concerns that some schools are not teaching on such events as they may be deemed ‘difficult’ for students with certain cultural or religious views to deal with.
I’m not sure anyone with a conscience wouldn’t find scenes from a film like ‘Schindler’s List’ most troubling, but the reality of that event, of the Killing Fields in Cambodia, the atrocities in Bosnia and the extermination of the Armenians, and many others besides needs to be part of our understanding of the ‘modern’ world, where certain beliefs and ideologies have generated such horror.

 

The mailing brought to mind a scene from the aforementioned film, of the children from the factory being rescued literally from the jaws of death at the gates of Auschwitz. I wondered in the light of over a century in which these dark actions of genocide have pervaded humanity what is the real value of such a moment? If modernism is correct, and history is merely as Darwin and others have defined it – a survival of the fittest – then the actions of one man in seeking to rescue a few lives from extermination is pointless – the universe is merely a large scale story of cold and dreadful cruelty with no purpose, so why should we seek to fashion ourselves as something garbed in virtues of altruism – the only absolute reality is death for the individual and extinction for all life, now or in the future.

And what of contemporary Christianity? What of those known figures from this field who say they believe in Christ and salvation yet inherently advocate peace with the very notions of our existence that have essentially invigorated such evil – that ‘god’ uses pain and suffering and death over millions of years as the means of His work – that this amounts to His “good” creation? What does redemption from sin and death, from a FALLEN creation mean in such a context? What are you left with beyond a “god” of the extermination camp?

Such approaches are doomed to fail us, because they merely leave us where we already are, trapped in the vicious cycle of corruption that now taints creation.

Christianity points us away from such to a greater reality -
a first, mature creation, made good, which then became corrupted.
It points us to promise in the healing of that first order, through the ‘seed of the woman’ – the man, Christ Jesus.
It points us always to miracle – creation, promise, incarnation, resurrection, glorification – those things which lie beyond the futility of the now – only there can this reality be granted viability and meaning, only then does saving lives become truly meaningful.

Our times are in great need for a reality that invests true meaning and worth into existence, that allows us to truly enjoy the goodness of life and earth knowing that these things truly have a value which goes beyond the misery of death and the trials we all encounter.
If we seek to remain locked into an understanding of reality derived from the same notions as the ancient pagans – that the universe essentially perpetuates itself, and we are no more than a fleeting ‘blip’ on that scope – then no action, no value, truly has meaning.

Christ has come and revealed to the world the glorious surety of a greater truth.
We are here by design, and our lives therefore have purpose. The key requirement now is for us to recognize that greater truth.

                                         - Howard Nowlan

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Will “political correctness” help to lead us to our doom, or will it make it easier to set aside old scores and move on with the process of “evolution”?

 

How might this play out in the reality of Jesus Christ? 

Thanks to Howard Nowlan for this contribution.  You can always find stimulating and edifying thoughts on Howard’s blog ‘Rebel by Nature, Righteous by Force’ :

http://wwwjustifiedsinner.blogspot.com/

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