Scandalous – by Don Carson

Scandalous The cross is one of the most recognizable images worldwide. Worn as jewellery, even by those with no faith at all, and forming the basis of art and decoration in church buildings, the cross is remarkable because an instrument of tortuous execution has become a symbol of religious importance. The cross itself is no more than a couple of blood stained rough timbers but what it represents: the death and resurrection of Jesus is quite literally the crux of history itself. The message of the cross reaches out to us across 2,000 years and is as significant today as it was that first Easter.

In ‘Scandalous’ Don Carson applies his remarkable skill as a theologian and a pastor to help us look through the eyes of five eyewitnesses to these events, and help us understand the cosmic significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. This is a readable book that is accessible yet powerful in unfolding the eternal mystery of God’s love for people like you and me.
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The Message of the Cross

Recently two women (Mrs Eweida and Mrs Chaplin) took their case to the European Court after they faced disciplinary action for wearing crosses to work. The British Government argued that Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work and claim that the two women’s application to the Strasbourg court was “manifestly ill-founded”. The fuss that has surrounded this matter has divided opinion in the UK, sometimes along unexpected lines.

Controversy has surrounded the cross ever since Christ was crucified. St Paul wrote: ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’  1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV) Crucifixion was a brutal form of execution that was designed to torture its victims as, over many hours, it led to a slow painful death, primarily through asphyxiation. Even among the Romans the cross was an object of horror, so for a Jew to declare that ‘it is the power of God’ is astonishing.

How is it then that something as unpleasant as the cross could become the symbol of God’s power and love? Paul’s answer is ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.’ 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NIV) If Jesus’ death on the cross had been the end of his story then he would have been just another forgotten Jew who died at the hands of the Roman occupation army. However, as millions of Christians will celebrate on Easter Day, Christ did not stay dead but resurrected from the tomb demonstrating his power over death, affirming his power to provide forgiveness. Christ’s resurrection transforms a rough wooden cross from being an ugly object of scorn into the glorious means of our rescue from sin.

The true mark of a follower of Jesus is not a cross worn around their neck but that the message of the cross has penetrated their heart. We invite you to join us this Easter Sunday as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Our prayer is that you too may know the power of God that is found in the message of the cross.

This blog post featured in the April 2012 edition of Hook Focus

Good News!

Think about some good news that you had recently – the birth of a baby, a marriage or a job appointment. I wonder how you heard about it? I wonder what your instinct was when you heard the news? Increasingly people use things like Facebook and Twitter to pass on good news but even if you don’t ‘do technology’ I am sure that you will agree that there are few things as frustrating as having good news that you can’t share.

For Christians there is no greater news than the Easter message. The death and resurrection of Jesus provide us with tangible assurance of God’s love for us and the means for our forgiveness and reconciliation. There are few Christians who don’t want to share God’s love with the people around them but many of us struggle with how. Over the next few months we have planned a number of activities that we believe will help us. The two main events are InsideOut and Catch the Flame please put these in your diary now so that you do not miss out.

InsideOut is a series of four Wednesday evenings starting 11th April. Led by Steve Lee from Miracle Street, these sessions will help us to share God’s love in practical and natural ways as part of our daily lives. You can watch a personal invitation from Steve on our website (lifechurchhook.org/insideout) As well as helping us to live our daily lives as followers of Jesus these evenings will also help us get ready for Catch the Flame which will take place over 26/27th May as we work together with the folk from St John’s. On the Saturday afternoon we will be holding another Fun Day followed by an open air ‘Church in the Park’ event on the Sunday. Catch the Flame is intended to tap into the 2012 Olympic theme as well as taking place at Pentecost weekend.

Please make it a priority to get involved on those dates, above all please pray that we will see people respond to the good news over the coming months.

This blog post featured in the April 2012 edition of Lifelines