Thursday, April 26, 2012

A New Creation... difficult to believe sometimes



You may have read some of the amazing tributes written about the recently-deceased Chuck Colson... how he was transformed from President Nixon's evil "hatchet man" to a humble-yet-strong, godly leader in the modern-day church.  If you haven't read some of these pieces, click HERE and HERE and the best one is actually HERE.

But do you remember when the Apostles were afraid to meet with Saul of Tarsus and were initially skeptical of his conversion experience?  (Acts 9.26,27)

I was reminded of this kind of skepticism when reading a column in today's newspaper entitled "Don't forget Colson's Watergate role."  Here's a quote:

"I was never too sure about the former dark eminence of the Nixon White House who died Saturday.  It was difficult for me to believe that the creator of so many dirty tricks who had taken the worst in the art of politics to a nastier level could suddenly assume such a benevolent nature.  At the news of his death, I could only recall those days when he played a leading role in pushing us into the worst constitutional crisis in the nation's history."

"It was difficult for me to believe..."  And throughout the column there were a few zingers thrown in that were intended to make it more difficult for us to believe that God can make a man re-born... that God can make a man into a new creation... that we actually live in a world dominated by the Hard Beauty of Hope -- not the easy pettiness of cynicism -- because of the work of Jesus of Nazareth.

This is part of the scandal of the gospel.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.....   Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself..."    1 Corinthians 6 & 2 Corinthians 5

Click HERE for some great columns written by Chuck Colson.





Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guess Who?

Alright... as far as I can tell, the people who look at Ransom Road mostly do so on DPC's Facebook page.  Which is great.  So, if you want to make some guesses, I think you're going to have to go over there.

The dude on the far right side of the picture.

Any guesses as to who that is?


The Legacy of Chuck Colson

This is the Breakpoint post from a day or so ago...


Chuck's Gift to Us
'Loving God'

By Eric Metaxes

By now you’ve surely heard that Chuck Colson went to be with the Lord on Saturday afternoon. Those of us who knew him are sad, thankful, and hopeful: sad that he is gone; thankful to have known him; and hopeful that we will be reunited with him one day.

Please continue to keep the Colson family and Prison Fellowship in your prayers.

Chuck’s passing, as you'd expect, has been covered in the press. Some of the coverage was pretty good, but none of it does justice to what my friend Rod Dreher rightly called “one of the great American public lives of the 20th century.”

So with your permission, I would like to spend some time re-acquainting you — or perhaps acquainting you for the first time — with the things that made Chuck Colson’s life so great.

A good place to start is with what, for me at least, is Chuck’s best book, Loving God. Other books may have better demonstrated Chuck’s intelligence and analytical skills, but none of them matched Loving God when it came to answering the question “How Now Shall We Live?”

“Loving God” was Chuck’s response to our culture’s increasing preoccupation with the Self. He saw people whose pursuit of celebrity, materialism, and success had not made them happy but, instead, “self-absorbed, frightened, and hollow.”

Their response to the failure was not repentance but to becoming even more preoccupied with the self. Even worse, the Church had bought into this same value system instead of showing a way out of the dead end of self-preoccupation.

That way out required replacing self-absorption with the love of God. That of course requires understanding what it means to love God. And for Chuck, the answer lay in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “Only he who believes is obedient; only he who is obedient believes.”

Loving God requires viewing our faith as a “living Person for whom we are willing to lay down our lives.” A “vibrant strong faith” is not “just knowledge but knowledge acted upon.” It is “not just belief but belief lived out.” Real faith, which is the cure to self-absorption and the way out of the prison we construct for ourselves, consists of “believing and act obediently regardless of circumstances or contrary evidence.”

I’ll never forget reading Loving God after I became a Christian. I had never read or heard anything quite like it. This is the stuff of transformed lives; this is the stuff of which a world turned upside down is made.

The thing is, Loving God is even more timely today than it was in 1983. It scarcely seems possible but our culture is even more preoccupied with the Self than it was thirty years ago. A survey of college students found that today’s student score significantly higher on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder than those of thirty years ago. At the same time, they are less likely to be happy.

Chuck’s message to the Church — that faith is inseparable from obedience and faithfulness — is every bit as essential today as when he wrote Loving God thirty years ago. It is part of his gift to us — a gift I will be telling you about over these next few weeks and one that I pray you will claim for yourself.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pray for Chuck Colson & his Family


Chuck Colson has been a giant of the Christian faith since his conversion. This is today's Breakpoint article...

Thank You, Chuck
The Next Chapter

John Stonestreet

Even as I record this, our friend and leader Chuck Colson is near death. After early hopeful news about his recovery from surgery, we now face the reality that short of a miracle, Chuck will soon enter the presence of the Lord. Please pray for Chuck and his family.

Quantifying his impact would be impossible, but you know I meet those who have been impacted by him all the time—they read his books, or they listen to BreakPoint, or maybe their children were loved by Angel Tree volunteers while they were incarcerated, or they found Jesus Christ after hearing his story of redemption.

My friend Greg launched an internationally recognized public policy think tank in New Zeland after reading the book How Now Shall We Live? that Chuck wrote with Nancy Pearcey.

And it’s fitting that this weekend’s “BreakPoint this Week” broadcast features Gabe Lyons, an innovative Christian thinker and collaborator. Like Greg, Gabe points How Now Shall We Live?as the book that changed his understanding of Christianity and led to the work of cultural restoration that he’s leading today. I’ll be talking with Gabe this weekend on “BreakPoint This Week.” I hope you can tune in or catch it at our website, BreakPoint.org.

I’ve been impacted by Chuck, too. For years I heard him on this daily broadcast BreakPoint, but I’ve gotten to know Chuck personally, and worked with him on projects like the Doing the Right Thing tour, the Manhattan Declaration, and I’ve co-hosted with him on “BreakPoint this Week.”

I first met Chuck just before speaking on worldview to a class of Centurions. Chuck launched the Centurions Program to train adults around the country in Biblical worldview, and I was honored just to have the invitation to be a part of the teaching faculty. I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect Chuck to stay in the room when I spoke! My knees were knocking so loudly, I was just hoping people could still hear my words.

These last two weeks, I’ve been honored to host BreakPoint along with Eric Metaxas, another person whose life was impacted by Chuck.

You know, Chuck spoke often recently about the next generation and what he hoped to see from those of us who follow his lead. In an age when so many young Christians find their passion in causes of social justice and are skeptical of Truth, it’s worth mentioning that Chuck was doing social justice before it was cool. He went from prisoner, to prison minister, to prison reformer.

And yet Chuck taught us that social justice, and any cultural work, must be undergirded by Truth, Truth with a capital T—something he learned from the late Francis Schaeffer. For Chuck, Biblical worldview is more than theoretical posturing, it’s embracing and living out Truth with courage. And that Truth sets us free.

Chuck knew that personally.

Of course, what set Chuck’s life apart was that it was not his own. It had been bought, by Christ, and returned to Chuck, redeemed.

You know once in a sermon, Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.”

What transformed Chuck’s life is now what transforms his death. I’m reminded of what C. S. Lewis wrote to close the Narnia adventures. I think it applies here: “now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

For BreakPoint and my friend Chuck Colson, this is John Stonestreet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Waiting For Aslan To Make All Things New


This headstone is in a cemetery down the street from my in-laws. Whenever I see it, I think of that last book in "The Chronicles of Narnia" series (~The Last Battle~) when Aslan does indeed make all things new... including Mr. & Mrs. Beaver.

"Further Up and Further In!" That's what Aslan commands the resurrected faithful as they enter into a New Narnia. You just need to go get the book and read it. It's a beautiful picture of the promise that our God has given us -- the promise that one day, after all the dust of this life is settled, after sin & death have been fully dealt with, after evil has been conquered, after this fallen earth finally comes to a close, and the gates of eternity are thrown open -- a New Heavens and a New Earth will be created for us.

Further Up and Further In. They run forever in the New Narnia... and everything is bigger. Everything is better. Everything is higher, brighter, more colorful, more beautiful, more real.

That's what Jesus is preparing for his people.

But for now, like Mr. & Mrs. Beaver, we wait for him to make all things new.

Revelation 21: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”


Monday, April 16, 2012

Good Counsel When Feeling Overwhelmed




I have loved being signed up for R.C. Sproul Jr.'s blog posts the past few months. I am sure they were good before then too, but that's when I was first introduced to his blog. And, providentially, that's around the time he lost his wife to cancer. Whenever he touches on that loss, he does so with strong faith and clear-eyed wisdom. This post from last month is a keeper...

What should I do when feeling completely overwhelmed, with a "to do" list as long as the Matterhorn is high, while wanting only to pull the bed covers over my head?

Three things. The first is to give thanks. Like most clichés, this one became a cliché because it is a powerful and pithy truth- I cried for having no shoes, until I met a man with no legs. This does not mean that all of us should find one person who is having a harder time than we are, and all of us, save one, the winner of the Job of the Moment award, would perk up. And when the winner loses his title for some other Job, he can begin to cheer up. Rather it reminds us that we all have much for which we should be grateful. Being joyful for what we have doesn’t tempt us to rest on our laurels, but motivates us to act, to get up and fulfill our calling. If we are in Christ and are ungrateful, we are being blinded.

Which brings us to the second thing we ought to do- repent and believe the gospel. We should in fact be ashamed when we are overcome with that “pull the sheets over our head” feeling. Jesus told us that His yoke is easy, His burden light. When we are feeling overwhelmed we are calling Him a liar. Having faced our failure, having entered into our shame, however, we move quickly to believing the gospel. Jesus died for our shameful feelings. He died for our calling Him a liar. And He not only forgives us, but loves us with an everlasting love. He knows everything there is to know about us, including those sins we can’t even face ourselves, and still, He loves us.

This, of course, brings us back to step one. That is, as we believe the gospel, we once again must give thanks.

The last step is as simple and easy as the first two-I must do the first thing on my list. When it is done, I must do the next thing on our list. Of course, when we give thanks, when we repent and believe the gospel, we notice a few things about our list. It begins to shrink. What we discover is that the more we are persuaded that we have all that we could ever want or imagine in Christ Jesus we discover we don’t need to do this or do that to try to satisfy our souls.

All that ought to remain on our list is loving our neighbors. That may mean doing dishes, or folding laundry, but when we do these chores we are actually loving our neighbors. We are serving them.

Since my wife passed I am constantly asked how I am doing. I am so grateful for people’s concerns. The truth is I do have a long to-do list, even without my honey making me honey-do lists. I also feel the weight of the sorrow of missing her that beckons me to spend the day in bed. I can’t, however, curl up in a ball because of my life’s work. I have eight children to care for, children who miss their mom every bit as much as I do. For all my sadness over the loss of my wife, I yet have what we have made, by His grace, together, these precious children. They need their dad more than I need a day in bed. In loving, in serving them, my wounds begin to heal and I am reminded I am not a man without shoes looking at children without feet. I am instead the richest man in the world, because of the children who are my, and His heirs. Give thanks. Repent. Believe the gospel. And get to work.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

James Bond & Me


James Bond roared through Decatur this weekend whilst in the midst of some world-saving mission or another. He's even more awesome in person than you might imagine. Word on the street is that he also managed to win an award for his skills in the Foxtrot this same evening.

Friday, April 6, 2012

My Favorite People Are Famous!


This is from yesterday's edition of The Decatur Daily... and what makes this story a special point of thanksgiving and joy for me is remembering THIS.



Jonathan, left, Calli, Jaden, Joseph, Caitlin and their mother, Elizabeth Lee, prepare for a running session last week. The family will be running in the 5K and 1-mile runs Saturday at the 33rd Annual 3M/Red Cross River City Run at Point Mallard.

Decatur's Jonathan Lee is thinking about the number 20 — as in 20 minutes.
His mom, Elizabeth, is more concerned with the number 5 — as in her children.

Last year, Lee, then 13, posted a 5-kilometer time of 23 minutes, 29 seconds, good for third place overall in the 3M/Red Cross River City Run. This year, he is shooting for a 20-minute time. And his parents and four siblings won't just be watching him run — they'll be running in the event, too.

The 33rd annual event will be Saturday at Point Mallard in Decatur. The 10K and 5K races will begin at 8 a.m., and the 1-mile run for ages 12 and under at 9:30 a.m.

While none of the Lee gang have signed up to run in the 10K run, three are running in the 5K and three more in the 1 mile. Last year's River City Run was the family's first official run.

"Our family has been running more this year," Jonathan said. "We all are expecting to have better times."

He said he would increase training and distance this week.

His mother and his 12-year-old sister, Calli, are running in the 5K, while his dad, Tommy, brothers Jaden, 9, Joseph, 7, and sister Caitlin, 4, are in the 1-mile run.

"We just started running for the health benefits of it, so we decided last year to do a few races," Elizabeth said. "We didn't know what we were getting into when we arrived at the River City Run last year. But it was so well organized, and you make friends quickly. We've seen a few of the runners at some other runs we've competed in."

She said her children enjoyed the T-shirts, gift bags and refreshments.

"There were plenty of 3M Band-Aids in the goodie bags," she said. "With our children, we got plenty of use out of them."

Calli said she likes the layout of the River City Run. "It is so pretty," she said. "You run by the water, under the shade trees, and the course is mainly flat."

Elizabeth said her family enjoys reading, hiking and biking when it isn't training for one of the area races.

Debbie Heard, executive director of the Morgan-Lawrence Chapter of the American Red Cross, said her organization counts on the River City Run to help fund programs.

"The money goes to fund food, shelter, clothes for families affected by storms and fires," she said.

Heard said the run raises about $10,000. She said she will be volunteering at the run, registering participants and handing out refreshments and awards.

The race organizers will accept entrants until race time.

The runners will have chip timing on the USATF-certified course. Last year's 10K and 5K runs had 300 finishers.






Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rise, O Buried Lord!


Click HERE to see a fun, energetic arrangement of one of my all-time favorite hymns. Here's their description of this piece:

They say it is darkest just before the dawn. In the story of Jesus' last week, the darkest part is when Jesus is betrayed, beaten, and crucified. The Light of the World is snuffed out. His body lay silent in the tomb while the hopes of the world hang in the balance. But then comes the dawn and the reality that Jesus is risen and this changes everything. "Welcome, Happy Morning!" captures the joy of that first Easter and each one since. From the album, "Rise O Buried Lord," featuring Tyler Anthony of Cereus Bright.

DPC will be singing this great song on Resurrection Morning!

Read the lyrics below. This is a strong, vigorous celebration of the meaning of Christ's resurrection -- which is the heart of the Christian faith. Do we understand all that Jesus accomplished when he unlocked the gates of death and hell -- from the inside -- and walked out of his tomb? Ponder it for a moment. This song is a wonderful guide.

WELCOME, HAPPY MORNING!

"Welcome, happy morning!"
Age to age shall say:
Hell today is vanquished;
Heaven is won today.
Lo! the Dead is living,
God for evermore!
Him, their true Creator,
All his works adore.

Maker and Redeemer,
Life and health of all,
Thou, from heav'n beholding
Human nature's fall,
Of the Father's Godhead
True and only Son,
Manhood to deliver,
Manhood didst put on.

Thou, of life the author,
Death didst undergo,
Tread the path of darkness,
Saving strength to show;
Come then, true and faithful,
Now fulfil thy word,
'Tis thine own third morning;
Rise, O buried Lord.

Loose the souls long-prisoned,
Bound with Satan's chain;
Thine that now are fallen
Raise to life again;
Show thy face in brightness,
Bid the nations see;
Bring again our daylight;
Day returns with thee.






Wednesday, April 4, 2012

One Out of Four

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.” C.S. Lewis

I would actually say that the church exists for four purposes. But the purpose Lewis mentions above (mission) is certainly one of the four... and sadly, it's the one that's most often neglected.

We need to pray and serve and love and work towards a greater impact in this sin-sick, death-weary world. Too often we talk about mission, and then fool ourselves into thinking that because we've talked about, we've done it.




Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Vast Release of Energy...


Great questions that were once asked by a history professor at Yale...

Why, among all the cults and philosophies competing in the Greco-Roman world, did Christianity succeed and outstrip all others? Why did it succeed despite getting more severe opposition than any other? Why did it succeed though it had no influential backers in high places, but consisted mainly of the poor and slaves? How did it succeed so completely that it forced the most powerful state in history to come to terms with it, and then outlive the very empire that sought to uproot it? It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity there must have occurred a vast release of energy perhaps unequaled in our history. Without it, the future course of the Christian religion is inexplicable.

Kenneth Scott Latourette, historian (1884-1968)