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July 25, 2011 / Matt Boswell

Silly Putty Jesus

RC Sproul once wrote, “Religion is chiefly about the study of a certain kind of human behavior, be it under the rubric of anthropology, sociology, or psychology. The study of theology on the other hand is the study of God. Religion is anthropocentric; theology is theocentric.”

It has become cliché to speak of Christianity as not being a religion, but a relationship. Personally I have used this designation several times myself in an attempt to better articulate the essence of what Jesus offers to humanity through the Gospel. But lately I am beginning to see the subtle risk of the tagline. The deficiency doesn’t rest in the sincerity of what is being implied by its user, nor in its potential to be the best of all possible descriptions, but rather in the lack of theological objectivity as it is used. That I have a personal relationship with Jesus says much about me (anthropology), but perhaps not as much about Him (theology).  Additionally I may have this deeply personal interplay with Jesus, but upon refection I find that many of my ideas about Jesus were not forged from the repository of the Bible, but from my own psychological creativity, political agenda, spiritual hunger, religious heritage, or moral proclivities. In fact in some ways I have come to see that the “relationship” jargon has become a type of Silly-Putty Savior by which Jesus is unintentionally shaped or imprinted upon to suite our personal, relational, or spiritual needs.

In this way who Jesus is objectively – according to the Bible – becomes inadvertently replaced by what I need Jesus to be for me subjectively. Hence Jesus is gradually defined by what we want of Him, not by what He says about Himself to us. And this leads to a religious Jesus.

Typically when we hear the word religion – in connection to Jesus – we think of rigidity, rules, or legalism. Such assumptions would be accurate since all are the by-products of religious controls. But the heart of religion is deeper; it is usour definitions applied to God and spirituality. Religion is the study of God in OUR context (i.e. anthropocentric), not the study of us in GOD’s context (i.e. theocentric). Thus defining Jesus based on what we need or want of Him – verses who He describes Himself to be – makes all such definitions nothing more than religious caricatures of a Silly Putty Savior.

This is why all the more that pastors must present the Jesus of the Gospels, the Jesus of the Epistles, and the Jesus of the Old Testament. People don’t need impressions of Jesus; they need to be impressed by the One who is Jesus. For it is there that one can say with honesty, integrity, clarity, objectivity and most of all genuine solidarity that they have a personal relationship with Jesus.

July 14, 2011 / Matt Boswell

Embrace Failure If You Love Your Kid

Your kids will fail. This is both inevitable and also necessary. Apparently not many parents today want to hear this uncomfortable fact. And they certainly don’t want to implement it in how they discipline their children. Writing the cover story for The Atlantic’s July/August issue, therapist Lori Gottlieb alerts us that the cult of self-esteem is ruining our kids. Convinced they are the center of the universe and capable of anything, our children have become insufferable narcissists. Then, when these kids grow up and fail, as they must, they head for the nearest therapist, worried their lives have gone horribly wrong… Read the rest of this post Here. It is a great article by Collin Hansen and our friends over at the Gospel Coalition.

July 13, 2011 / Scott W Thompson

A God Without Limits

A number of months ago I saw that the youth ministry would be well under what was budgeted for 2010. I asked Pastor Matt if I could take $1,000 of that “surplus” and do an experiment with Soulfire.  He said sure. So I challenged two groups of about a dozen high school students each to pray every week for two months over what God leads them to do with $500. The only stipulation is that the money had to be spent in King or Snohomish Counties. I did that because sending a check to World Vision would be too easy. We called this exercise Loaves and Fishes in hopes that God would multiply these funds for his glory.

Both groups were very faithful and met each week to pray. During this time a number of ideas were considered by each group. At about the 6th week it became clear that the savings “surplus” was not going to be available for this project due to unexpected church expenses. I was very discouraged. And I didn’t look forward to it but I met with each group to tell them that the $500 they have been praying over was no longer available. It was an emotional meeting for me but the students were not phased at all. We had just studied about the floating ax head in 2 Kings so one group said in effect, “Well I guess we just need to pray differently”  and the other decided to fast and pray more about it.

Well a short time later God provided the funds anyway but that is only the beginning of the story. One group contacted a local clothing company and asked for a price break on fleece jackets to distribute to the homeless. The second group felt lead by God to form a service group to help those in the community who didn’t have any other recourse. They said they would use some of the money to advertize their services in the local paper but the rest of the money would go to the first group to buy more jackets. Do we have amazing students or what?

The  service group chose Azar! as their name.

a•zar verb [Hebrew] to protect, aid, help, support, give material or nonmaterial encouragement

The Azar group was able to get free ads for their services (more money for the jackets) and have had about a dozen requests so far for everything from baby-sitting and painting to auto repair to yard work. This is being done exclusively by high school students so far, many of who can’t drive yet and a number of the requests that come in are beyond the scope of their abilities. If you have talent, equipment or time and would like to come alongside these students please send me an email. They are particularly are in need of people with auto mechanical skills and construction trade skills but any help would be welcome.

How blessed we are to see how God works though the faithful and is not hindered by things of this world.

July 13, 2011 / Matt Boswell

C.S. Lewis

An old friend of mine, Morgan Busse, posted this today on Facebook. It was so good I thought I would send it along to all of us.

“We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” –C.S. Lewis
July 12, 2011 / Matt Boswell

The Danger of Moralistic Parenting

Raising a child under the bondage of Law, as opposed to the power of Grace, will often produce one of two extremes. We either establish a proud child who thinks that keeping the rules makes them better than everyone else (a Pharisee – Matthew 23), or we establish a discouraged child who thinks they are loved only if they keep the rules (those weighted down by Pharisees – also Matthew 23). Both extremes of the Law simply invite our kids to play on Satan’s playground since both undermine the transformational power of Grace (Titus 2:11-14). Here is a great little excerpt from a  book on the power of grace centered parenting.

July 11, 2011 / Matt Boswell

Wrecked By Grace

GRACE is a deeply beautiful yet profoundly challenging idea to hold consistently. It levels us to the ground and then lifts us to the heights of heaven as it seats us with Jesus Himself (Ephesians 2:1-7). Check out this great article from Tullian Tchividjian that highlights the lows to highs of GRACE:  Wrecked-By-Grace

July 8, 2011 / Matt Boswell

Love Trumps Legalism


By Ellen Boswell

I’ve had an opportunity to get a little reading in and God in his divine way led me to a couple of books that I thought were very different but both ended up conveying the same message in different and moving ways.  LOVE!!!!  I can’t say it enough.  I was moved to tears by the message from the writers, especially as they conveyed the message of Christ.  Jesus told us that the world would know him by our love for one another, and that of all things, the greatest is love.   How do we love like Jesus loved?  By realizing that no action weather good or bad matters, ultimately it is the heart that the actions flow from.  Sometimes this can be difficult because as Christians we are uncomfortable with this so we tend to spend much of our time focusing on the outside instead of the inside.  I am often challenged by this improper focus.  My ultimate walk away is that our first focus needs to be the heart.  Let’s present people with the love of Christ and share his truth in such a way as to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about change and obedience.  Often times we expect that to go the other way around.  We need the gospel daily and if we realize that, we will be able to love people that same way.  My challenge to you is to meditate on the first few chapters of Romans, especially Romans 3. (Heck, read the whole book, it’s fabulous!)  It is a great reminder that none of us have any goodness in us.  Humbling but true, it is only in Christ that we may boast.  (I love Paul because he was real, he got the struggle and it kept him humble)  Apart from Christ, we are NOTHING!!!!  This message is also a very freeing one as well because it is not our job to change people but to love them; to give them the love of Christ so that they long to obey and Jesus can change them.  Nothing good ever comes from legalism, but I believe it is one of the greatest temptations of the church.  Legalism gets immediate results, but waiting on the heart is a tricky thing.  I think this is why we tend to lean toward legalism.  When we get immediate results it makes us feel more comfortable because it looks better, yet the person’s heart hasn’t changed so while it makes us feel better it does nothing for God.  As we look at Titus 2, I pray we love the women around us with the love of Christ like never before.  A love that makes us less and Jesus more; a love that makes them feel lovable, when because of their sin they may feel unworthy of love; a love that shares the truth of God’s word with them; a love that makes them want to obey; a love that allows the Holy Spirit to work on their heart the way He sees fit; a love that shows our church and community that Jesus rocks!!!!!