“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.” — Exodus 3:1,2.
Your voice burns within the depths of our being,
O God of our ancestors,
and draws us into your presence and service.
Hear the cries of your people
and speak a word of comfort,
that we may proclaim to all the earth
the glory of your name. Amen.
Some comments from Albert Outler about John Wesley’s sermon on “Christian Perfection” — and the fears it arouses:
If, for Wesley, salvation was the total restoration of the deformed image of God in us, and if its fullness was the recovery of our negative power not to sin and our positive power to love God supremely, this denotes that furthest reach of grace and triumph in this life that Wesley chose to call ‘Christian Perfection.’
Just as justification and regeneration are thresholds for the Christian life in earnest (‘what God does for us’), so also sanctification is ‘what God does in us’, to mature and fulfill the human potential according to his primal design. Few Christians had ever denied some such prospect, in statu gloriae; few . . . ever envisioned it as a realistic possibility in this life. . . . Thus, Wesley’s encouragement to his people to ‘go on to perfection’ and to ‘expect to be made perfect in love in this life’ aroused lively fears that this would foster more of the self-righteous perfectionism already made objectionable by earlier pietists.
— Albert Outler (Ed). “An Introductory Comment” to Sermon 40: “Christian Perfection”. Works (Bic Ed) Vol 2, p. 97. (c) 1985.
John Wesley’s sermon on “Christian Perfection” (Sermon #40) was written in 1741.
Wesley says in his Journal:
I think it was the latter end of the year 1740, that I had a conversation with Dr. Gibson, then Bishop of London, at Whitehall. He asked me what I meant by perfection. I told him without any disguise or reserve. When I ceased speaking, he said: ‘Mr. Wesley, if this be all you mean, publish it to all the world.’ I answered, ‘My lord, I will’; and accordingly wrote and published the sermon on ‘Christian Perfection.’
You can read Wesley’s sermon here: “Christian Perfection” (Sermon #40).
If we are to follow God, if we are to trust God, we must have some assurance about God’s character. It is only natural that Bible often spends time with this issue. If we are to trust in God we need some assurance also of God’s power. Is God able to uphold us through the difficulties of life? To me, these are the issues addressed in Psalm 135:7,8.
Which brings me back to the circumstances that made Psalm 135 so vivid to me in the first place. I started reading and meditating on this psalm on a stormy morning. There was a thunderstorm raging outside. And, it is clear that the Psalmist saw the power of God in the thunderstorm. It was not an unruly, threatening natural event — somehow the thunderstorm was also under the sovereign power of God.
So there is no need to ultimately fear what would otherwise seem powerful, unruly or chaotic — all the powers of this world are under God’s overruling power. They reflect the power of God — for God is the Creator of all that is. (more…)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgement simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison, 43. Quoted by Nijay K. Gupta here: Bonhoeffer on Stupidity.
From a joint statement prompted by the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, by pastors Gabriel Salguero, J. Mark DeYmaz, Le Que Vu-Heidkamp, Jeanette Salguero, Bryan Loritts, David Anderson, and Eugene Cho: “At its core the scourge of racism presents a spiritual crisis with real life and death repercussions. And while government and educational programs, together with the efforts of countless individuals, groups and agencies, have long-sought to eliminate prejudice and the disparaging consequences of systemic racism still deeply embedded within our society, it is long-past time to recognize that systemic racism cannot be overcome apart from the establishment of local churches which intentionally and joyfully reflect the love of God for all people beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide. For not only does God require of governments and institutions the work of justice, we, too, the local church, the bride of Christ, have been ordained by God to this task. With this in mind, the American Church can and must do better in providing spiritual leadership toward a healing response. Indeed, we call immediately for it to do so.” Here: Multi-Ethnic Churches Lament America’s Racial Injustice. (more…)
כִּי אֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־גָדוֹל יְהוָה וַאֲדֹנֵינוּ מִכָּל־אֱלֹהִים
“For I know that the Lord is great; our Lord is above all gods.”
In this verse both the personal name of God (יְהוָה) Yahweh and the term “Lord” (אָדוֹן) adon appear. In the original language the words lie side by side: as if to emphasize that it is Yahweh and none other who is Lord above all other powers.
As I understand it, the word “worship” comes from the old English term worth-ship. Worship recognizes the worthiness and power of the God we know through Jesus Christ.
Worship acknowledges that I am not at the center of the universe: God is. Worship works against narcissistic self-absorption. It says I have a Creator. It says there is One who is greater than I am. It calls me into relationship with the One who is greater than I am. It calls me into the Presence of the One who is greater than all people — and all the powers of this world. (more…)
From the “Preface” to: Zechariah Taft, Biographical Sketches of the Lives and Public Ministry of Various Holy Women (1825):
“Such were the high church principles, and the prejudice of education, of that eminent servant of Jesus Christ, the Rev. John Wesley, that for a season, he could scarcely give the right hand of fellowship, to any Labourers in the Lord’s Vineyard, that had not received Episcopal Ordination. But when he was fully convinced, that God had owned the labours of pious laymen in his community, he encouraged them to proceed. And he never molested any pious female, who was subject to discipline and order, in his Societies for calling sinners to repentance; but when fully satisfied that God had owned their labours, he gave them encouragement. This is evident in his conduct towards Mrs. Gilbert, Mrs. Johnson, Miss Bosanquet, Miss Mallet, Mrs. Crosby, Miss Hurrell, and some others. Indeed he could not have done otherwise according to his own reasoning in his Sermon “against Bigotry.” His argument throughout that Sermon is, that the conversion of sinners is the work of God, and whoever is the instrument of doing this work, is the servant of God. And we must not forbid such a one. His words are (Mark ix. 38, 39) (more…)
who after the creation of the world rested from all you works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures:
Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties,
may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary,
and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This week I attended a forum held here in Grand Rapids for discussing sexuality issues. It was nice to actually meet in person some people I know only from the Internet. And several of the presenters had interesting things to say — as people who strongly disagree about the morality of same-gender sex interacted with each others ideas and experiences.
This issue has been tearing the United Methodist Church apart. During all the recent talk about denominational schism I have kept quiet here. I am on the sidelines now. If the church wishes to split (which I don’t imagine it does), so be it. It seems to me that the current position on gay and lesbian issues in the United Methodist Book of Discipline does not allow for a “Third Way” (agree to disagree) of any sort. Any proposal for one would be allowing for limited, regional violations of the Discipline. Surely that won’t pass Judicial Council muster — and it shouldn’t. Does the United Methodist Church have a way forward? I don’t know. I really can’t imagine that the God we know through Jesus Christ is much concerned with the survival and fate of our various human denominational institutions. The apostle Paul had a bit to say about the factions humans create within the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 — and he wasn’t in favor of it. (more…)
A recent article at The Atlantic entitled When Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse points to a problem that others have mentioned before: prayer may (and should) release us from our anxieties, but some types of prayer may make matters worse. It depends on what kind of God you believe in.
But for those who are anxious about everything, prayer can sometimes help and sometimes hurt. Past research on the mental-health benefits of praying have been mixed. Some studies have found that people who pray more are more satisfied and happy, others found no relationship to well-being, and still others found a negative correlation.
A new study published in Sociology of Religion suggests that prayer can help ease people’s anxiety, but whether it does so depends on the personality of the God they believe in. That is, whether someone has a relationship with what they perceive to be an angry, vengeful God or more of a friendly figure could determine whether prayer brings relief—or simply more stress….
What they found was that those who prayed more frequently felt “a secure attachment to God.” But those who thought God was distant and unresponsive were far more likely to show signs of anxiety-related disorders. This echoes an April study that found that people who believe God is malevolent are more likely to suffer from anxiety, paranoia, and compulsions.
I have found this to be true myself. When my focus is on my own anxieties and frustrations, my prayers can make my attitude worse. It is faith and trust that make prayer effective. As I trust God, I release my anxieties — I let go of them. My prayers need to focus on God and not on me. This is why praise is so important to prayer — like true worship, it puts our mind on God. As we re-affirm our faith in God’s character and God’s love, we put our anxieties in perspective. From that standpoint, we can, then, pray about them.
If prayer is making you more anxious — you are (to put it crassly) doing it wrong.
You can comment to Derek at YouTube: Gungor: 3 Concerts Cancelled over Unorthodoxy? What! (re)News. You can see more of his videos here: Bible Floss.
MORE ON THIS CONTROVERSY:
From Dave Wainscott (mostly links): Gungorgate: banned for agreeing with C.S. Lewis (and having Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans help with their CD). And Stephen Mattson reminds us that some of the historic hymn writers were controversial in their day: The Problem With Christian Worship Wars. And, at the BioLogos web site: Faith after Literalism: An Interview with Michael Gungor.
I remember the morning (a few years ago) when Psalm 135 became memorable to me. I started reading and meditating on this psalm on a stormy morning. There was a thunderstorm raging outside. And, I slowly read these lines:
“He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.” (v.7 NRSV)
So, now, when I read this again, I am reminded of that morning.
But, for now, let’s begin at the beginning. Notice how it starts. (more…)
Hollywood publicist Michael Levine comments on the struggles of actor and comedian Robin Williams: “Very few people in this world reach the level of fame Robin Williams did and could understand the type of depression he dealt with…. There tends to be a lack of compassion — ‘So what, you’re famous’ — and it’s hard for people to then empathize. People like Robin often feel like they have to completely isolate themselves from the fishbowl they live in, and are so isolated they are afraid to ask for help.” Found here: Robin Williams worried about faltering career, struggled with survivor’s guilt, sources say.
Also: here is a list of quotes from Robin Williams: The Profound Quotes From Robin Williams That Helped Shape Our Generation. It includes the following: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
“PRAYER has been defined, ‘an offering of our desire to God for things needful, with an humble confidence to obtain them through the alone merits of Christ, to the praise of the mercy, truth, and power of God.’ And ‘its parts are said to be invocation, adoration, confession, petition, pleading, dedication, thanksgiving, and blessing.’ Though the definition be imperfect, yet, as far as it goes, it is not objectionable; but the parts of prayer, as they are called, (except the word petition,) have scarcely anything to do with the nature of prayer. They are, in general, separate acts of devotion; and attention to them in what is termed ‘praying,’ will entirely mar it, and destroy its efficacy.
“It was by following this division, that long prayers have been introduced among Christian congregations, by means of which the spirit of devotion has been lost: for, where such prevail most, listlessness and deadness are the principal characteristics of the religious services of such people; and these have often engendered formality, and frequently total indifference to religion. Long prayers prevent kneeling, for it is utterly impossible for man or woman to keep on their knees during the time such last; where these prevail, the people either stand or sit. Technical prayers, I have no doubt, are odious in the sight of God; for no man can be in the spirit of devotion who uses such: it is a drawing nigh to God with the lips, while the heart is, almost necessarily, far from him. (more…)