The Mystery Of The Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images To life by Judith Couchman

It goes without saying that the Cross is one of history’s most iconic symbols. Its image recalls THE one event and THE one person of human history – the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

But how did the image of the cross develop in the early church from a symbol of torture and deathto a sign of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

Judith Couchman takes you on a delightful journey through Church History examining images of the cross in the early church. The book is divided into seven parts; The Cross in Pre-Christian Times; The Cross and the Suffering Savior; The Cross and the First Believers; The Cross and Early Religious Freedom; The Cross In Everyday Life; The Cross In Early Church Life and The Cross and Its Eternal Power.

Each chapter is filled with wonderful pieces of information, from the historical to the implausible yet fascinating stories of Hebrew tradition. Couchman writes in a clear, easy and flowing way that at times is so disarmingly personal as to touch your emotions. But there is much more to this book than information – there is a strong spiritual content and winsome insight. At the end of each short chapter Couchman manages to bring the subject back to the solid foundation of faith, rooting it into a real context of our life in Jesus Christ and his salvation.

There are 40  chapters in this book that makes it ideal for a Lenten Mediation. However, don’t wait until Lent to buy this book. Buy it now, read it and then re-read it slowly, and meditatively during Lent. At least that it what I am going to do!

Buy the book HERE

Two More Books

I received two more books from IVP this week for review.

The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical World of the New Testament, Vol. 1: The Individual Witnesses

Seeking to write a Theology of the New Testament (framework), Witherington asks why it is that we try to understand elements of New Testament theology apart from history, ethics, and praxis. They are certainly not unrelated, and indeed feed into the very heart of one another. Witherington believes that the globally focused theological project of the New Testament Theology cannot be understood without the components (ethics, praxis) that support it (explication).

God the Peacemaker (New Studies in Biblical Theology)

In this book Graham A. Cole seeks to answer this question by setting the atoning work of the cross in the broad framework of God’s grand plan to restore the created order, and places the story of Jesus, his cross and empty tomb within it. Since we have become paradoxically the glory and garbage of the universe, our great need is peace with God and not just with God, but also with one another. Atonement brings shalom by defeating the enemies of peace, overcoming both the barriers to reconciliation and to the restoration of creation through the sacrifice of Christ. The “peace dividend” that atonement brings ranges from the forgiveness of sins for the individual to adoption into the family of God.

Look out for my reviews in 2010!

A Calvinist, a Pharisee and Angry…

A great post by Thabiti Anyabwile over a his blog . Here is a snippet…

I am a Calvinist.  I love the glorious truths of God revealed in His word.  I praise God for His mighty works in creation, redemption, and providence.  I live, I trust, for the glory of God in all things.

I am a Pharisee.  I shouldn’t be.  How can anyone claiming to be a Calvinist living for the glory of God also be a peevish, joyless, and fearful little Pharisee?  It’s a shame.  But I’m a Calvinist and I’m a Pharisee.

Narrowness for the letter and not the spirit, suspicion of joy, and fear are not the only things that make it possible for me to be a Calvinist and a Pharisee.  There is a fourth reason why these two things blend together more often than they should, and why they blend together in my heart.  Anger.


Is Lazarus The Beloved Disciple?

Ben Witherington wrote a few years ago a fascinating and challenging paper on whether the Beloved Disciple was in fact Lazarus and not John. Witherington’s thesis is that Lazarus is not only the Beloved disciple, but that he is responsible for much of the material in John’s gospel – which was edited and compiled by John after Lazarus dies. Evidence? Well, why not read the paper. I think you will at least be fascinated by it.

You can read it as posted on Ben Witherington’s blog HERE

Why The Church of England…

A great little paper published through Reform giving three reasons why the Church of England is a great boat to fish from…

Secondly, we bother with the Church of England because of its glorious liturgy.  This may surprise some, but not only does the Book of Common Prayer (supremely in the order for the Lord’s Supper) express Protestant truths, but it models the ingredients for a congregational gathering. Even if we do not use the Book of Common Prayer itself we should learn from the model it provides for that meeting. (And note that the word ‘worship’ is never used to describe the gathering. It only occurs in the marriage service – ‘with my body I thee worship’.) The introduction to the order for morning and evening prayer spells out the five reasons why Christians gather to encourage one another. We are to confess our sins; give God our adoring praise; bring Him our gratitude and thanksgiving; listen to His holy Word as it is read and preached (the Prayer Book is full of Scripture); and pray for others as well as ourselves.

Read the whole things HERE

Books Received For Review…

I received two books recently for review. Look out for the reviews in the next couple weeks. The first is from IVP..

The Mystery Of The Cross. Judith Couchman engages forty different images of the cross taken from life and art from early Christianity up to the year 1000.

The next one is from Thomas Nelson..

Where Is God?: Finding His Presence, Purpose and Power in Difficult Times. Where Is God? assures readers that even when it feels as though God is absent it is his nature to be in relationship, to connect with, love, and guide us. And when we seek him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he shows up in ways that transform us forever.

A Reflection On Galatians 3:24ff

Paul is talking about the law of God – the Old Testament law. And he uses some interesting language. He says that those under the law we were confined and kept restrained. He uses prison terms – terms which make it clear that God’s law and commandments in the Old Testament hold us in prison and KEEP us confined so we are unable to escape.

What does this mean? It means that we were in bondage. The law told us something very important. It told us that we are sinners. That we have failed to uphold the law. We are unable to be good. We can NEVER be good.

Just look at the ten commandments. We may not have murdered but we have probably coverted, and probably lied. You break one command, and you have broken the whole law.

But that is were the message of the law ends. There is no solution. There is no way out. The law alone is a harsh disciplinarian, with no mercy. It tells us God’s requirements and it tells us the penalties for disobedience. And since we have all disobeyed we have fallen under its condemnation.

But Moses and the law was not what came first. What came first was Abraham and the PROMISE. God gave Abraham a promise before he gave Moses the law. And after he gave the law he sent the prophets with the message of hope and a future redemption.

God never intended the oppression of the law to be permanent. He gave the law in his grace in order to make the promise more desirable. And we cannot receive the promise without first the experience of the law. We must know that we can never be good in order receive the promise of God and be set free.

The birth of Christ is the fulfllment of the promise.

And what is the promise? We all may say – freedom, eternal life, reconciliation with God – and you are right. But notice something here with Paul. He says that God’s purpose was to redeem AND adopt. He came not just to rescue us from slavery, but to make slaves into sons and daughters – which thus makes us heirs of the hope to come.

Do you realize that by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you have been redeemed AND you have been adopted as his Son or Daughter. Do you know that you are an heir of the Kingdom of God.

This Christmas as we celebrate the event of Christ’s birth – his Incarnation – let us know that we receive this promise, not because we are good enough, but because we could never be good enough, but through the gift of Christ and his work, we have been redeemed and adopted as his sons and daughters.