I consider politics to be a necessary evil.
Maybe that’s too strong a statement. Someone might reply to me that the Christian message itself has political implications — and they would surely be right. Obviously, the Old Testament prophets — just to cite one obvious example — had a political message about justice and fairness (in addition to a moral message about right and wrong). Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God finds its roots in the message of the prophets. I’m all in favor of spelling out the political and social aspects of the Christian message. Really. I am.
And, politics is unavoidable. Where two or three are gathered together, there — pretty soon — will be politics in their midst. People have differing ideas and goals and agendas. If people gather together to accomplish something, then, soon these differences will arise. Sides will emerge. Issues will emerge. The question will be: who will prevail.
So, while there is national politics, there is also community politics, church politics, and family politics. I know that. And, there is no avoiding it.
But, here’s my problem with it: (more…)
“Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.'” — Exodus 33:18, 19 NRSV.
“At this moment, it is not Moses the religious-political leader of Israel speaking, but Moses the mystic, the ardent lover of God. The public need has been met: God has promised twice already to go up with the people into the Promised Land. You would think Moses would be satisfied, but instead he presses for one more thing: a favor for himself alone, a glimpse of God’s exquisite beauty. Of course God is flattered. Who would not be thrilled to know that a lover through many years and many domestic crises still finds one desirable, desirable just for oneself, when the children’s needs have been met and there is nothing to be sought or gained but the simple joy of intimacy? It is only in that request for a private revelation that God feels the purity of Moses’ love. Of course God capitulates, happily, even to the point of indignity. For as the whole Bible makes undeniably clear, God is a perfect fool for love — fool enough even to become human, to live and love as we do, and to weep because he loves; fool enough to suffer and die on a cross.”
— Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament
I can’t really comment on this passage extensively, because I’m not absolutely sure I fully understand it myself:
Lovers and friends have two desires. One is to love so much that one enters the other to make a single being. The other is to love so much that with half the earthly globe between them, their union would not suffer any diminishment. Everything that we desire vainly here below is perfect and real in God. Those impossible desires are within us as a mark of our destination, and it is good for us when we don’t hope to accomplish them.
Love between God and God, which is itself God, is the link of a double virtue; this link that unites two beings to the point where they are indistinguishable and really are one soul, the link that extends itself across the distance and triumphs over an infinite separation. The unity of God where all plurality disappears, and Christ’s abandonment of belief in being found, yet without ceasing to perfectly love his Father — these are forms of divine virtue of the same love, which is God Himself.
God is so essentially love that unity, which in a sense is its actual definition, is a simple effect of love. And corresponding to the infinite virtue of unification of this love is the infinite separation over which it triumphs, which is all of creation, spread through the totality of space and time, made of brutally mechanical matter, interposed between Christ and his Father.
— Simone Weil, “The Love of God and Affliction” Awaiting God (pp. 37-38). Fresh Wind Press. Kindle Edition.
The oneness we desire in love is something we never fully experience in this life. But, it is a pointer. It points us to who we really are as beings created in the image of God. It points us to God — in whom alone are we will find the fulfillment of our deepest longings and desires. Thus, having unfulfilled desires is a good thing — and important aspect of being human.
In the Introduction to his book Desire Found Me, André Rabe makes the following comment:
God and our concepts of God are not identical. God seldom, if ever, reveals concepts about himself. He simply reveals himself. Such encounters deeply transform our concepts.
Just so. Our concepts of God are conclusions people have reached from the way in which God has revealed God’s self. God does not send a theology text to the human race. God encounters people in the midst of their lives. On the basis of these experiences, conclusions are drawn. Philosophy — that is to say, our general knowledge of logic and of the world and the way it works — is drawn in to fill out the picture. But, the encounter is first.
Christians believe that the ultimate revelation of God is the Person of Jesus Christ — often called by theologians “the self-revelation of God.” But, Christ’s coming into the world was for the purpose of human redemption — for more than for human information. (more…)
In the book Transforming Spirituality: Integrating Theology and Psychology theologian F. Leron Shults writes:
The justice (or law) of God is fulfilled by love, as both Jesus and Paul insist (Matt. 22:36-40; cf. Mark 12:28-34; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5;14; cf. James 2:8). Becoming just therefore involves becoming an agent who manifests love. Finite agents do not have the power to fulfill this law of love, and so becoming just ultimately depends on the grace of God, who calls us to share in divine love by following in the way of Christ in the power of the Spirit. Our moral desire is only conformed to Jesus’ way of relating to the Good as we “die to sin” and are “crucified” to the world, no longer relying on our own power to secure the objects of our desire but actively resting in the omnipotent consoling agency of absolute Love. There are no shortcuts to developing a virtuous disposition; it requires the painful process of introspection and working out one’s redemptive agency in community. This too occurs by the gracious agency of the Holy Spirit as Christ is formed in us (cf. Gal. 4:19).
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…)
“For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” — 1 John 3:8.
O do not take any thing less than this for the religion of Jesus Christ! Do not take part of it for the whole! What God hath joined together, put not asunder! Take no less for his religion, than the “faith that worketh by love;’ all inward and outward holiness. Be not content with any religion which does not imply the destruction of all the works of the devil; that is, of all sin. We know, weakness of understanding, and a thousand infirmities, will remain, while this corruptible body remains; but sin need not remain: This is that work of the devil, eminently so called, which the Son of God was manifested to destroy in this present life. He is able, he is willing, to destroy it now, in all that believe in him. …. Do not distrust his power, or his love! Put his promise to the proof! He hath spoken: And is he not ready likewise to perform? Only ‘come boldly to the throne of grace,’ trusting in his mercy; and you shall find, ‘He saveth to the uttermost all those that come to God through him!’
— John Wesley, Sermon #62 “The End of Christ’s Coming.” (Last paragraph.)
Great words from Charles Wesley:
“Let us plead for faith alone,
faith which by our works is shown;
God it is who justifies,
only faith the grace applies.
“Active faith that lives within,
conquers hell and death and sin,
hallows whom it first made whole,
forms the Savior in the soul.
“Let us for this faith contend,
sure salvation is the end;
heaven already is begun,
everlasting life is won.
“Only let us persevere
till we see our Lord appear,
never from the Rock remove,
saved by faith which works by love.”
— Charles Wesley (See: “Let Us Plead for Faith Alone.”)
In this view, there is no separation between faith and works, or between faith and spiritual formation.
The same faith that sets us right with God is also the faith that: “conquers hell and death and sin, hallows whom it first made whole, forms the Savior in the soul.”
Be thou to me a strong tower of defense,
a comforter in tribulation
a deliverer in distress,
a very present help in trouble,
and a guide to heaven
through the many temptations and dangers of this life.
The themes in this section of the Gospel of John resonate well with the themes I am often addressing at this web site. Jesus calls his followers into a life of obedience — and promises the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to them.
In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus preparing his disciples for the days to come with a long discourse: it begins in Chapters 13 and runs through chapter 16, with a closing prayer added in chapter 17. The passage under discussion today is just a brief snippet from that longer discourse.
This passage is memorable because in contains of the promise of the Holy Spirit. But, it is framed on either side by a challenge to keep Christ’s commandments. (more…)
For what end is life bestowed upon the children of men? Why were we sent into the world? For one sole end, and for no other, to prepare for eternity. For this alone we live. For this, and no other purpose, is our life either given or continued. It pleased the all-wise God, at the season which he saw best, to arise in the greatness of his strength, and create the heavens and the earth, and all things that are therein. Having prepared all things for him, He “created man in his own image, after his own likeness.” And what was the end of his creation? It was one, and no other, — that he might know, and love, and enjoy, and serve his great Creator to all eternity.
Remember! You were born for nothing else. You live for nothing else. Your life is continued to you upon earth, for no other purpose than this, that you may know, love, and serve God on earth, and enjoy him to all eternity. Consider! You were not created to please your senses, to gratify your imagination, to gain money, or the praise of men; to seek happiness in any created good, in anything under the sun. All this is “waiting in a vain shadow;” is leading a restless, miserable life, in order to a miserable eternity. On the contrary, you were created for this, and for no other purpose, by seeking and finding happiness in God on earth, to secure the glory of God in heaven. Therefore, let your heart continually say, “This one thing I do,” — having one thing in view, remembering why I was born, and why I am continued in life, — “I press on to the mark.” I aim at the one end of my being, God; even at “God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” He shall be my God for ever and ever, and my guide even unto death.
— John Wesley, Sermon #109 “What is Man?”
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“Bear the Cross cheerfully and it will bear you.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 2, ch. 12.
“Love feels no burden, regards not labors, strives toward more than it attains, argues not of impossibility, since it believes that it may and can do all things. Therefore it avails for all things, and fulfills and accomplishes much where one not a lover falls and lies helpless.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 3, ch. 6.
“It is much safer to obey, than to govern.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 9.
“An humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning.”
— Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, pt. 1, ch. 3.
Christians are drawn to the homosexuality controversy like moths to a flame.
The latest controversy (of many) is the announcement by World Vision that they would be willing to hire a gay Christian in a same-sex marriage. They weren’t taking a position of the topic of same-sex marriage, they were acknowledging that churches and Christian denominations have differing positions on this subject and they no longer felt that they should bar professing Christians who are in committed same-sex marriage from employment with their organization.
The Internet blew up. (more…)
I don’t know just exactly when it was. I don’t know exactly why. But, many years ago, some time while I was living up in the Boyne City area, I made a quiet spiritual breakthrough in my life. I started keeping regular morning devotions. It was not just that I started praying regularly in the mornings. That wasn’t the breakthrough.
The breakthrough was this: I wanted to pray.
To some, keeping morning devotions may not seem like much of an accomplishment. Isn’t this how Christians are supposed to begin their day? Maybe for some people prayer comes more naturally. Maybe for some people spiritual discipline comes more naturally. For me, it never did. So when I began keeping regular morning devotions, it was really something new.
Now, there had been many times when I resolved to be more faithful in prayer. (more…)