Not Always Punishment

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Published in: on 11/14/2018 at 21:30  Leave a Comment  
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Centered In God

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Worship is a meeting
at the center so that
our lives are centered in God
and not lived eccentrically.

–Eugene Peterson‏

A Christ-Like God

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Here then, is the revolution:
for all our dreams,
our dark and frightened
imagings of God,
there is no God in heaven
who is unlike Jesus.

– Michael Reeves,
Rejoicing in Christ

The Sun Never Says

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Even
After
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”
Look
What happens
With a love like that.
It lights the
Whole
Sky.

–Hafiz,
Sufi poet

Published in: on 10/15/2018 at 15:39  Leave a Comment  
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The Grace Upheaval

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In a world ruled by law, grace stands as a sign of contradiction. We want fairness; the gospel gives us an innocent man nailed to a cross who cries out, “Father, forgive them.” We want respectability; the gospel elevates tax collectors, prodigals, and Samaritans. We want success; the gospel revises the terms, moving the poor and downtrodden to the head of the line and the wealthy and famous to the rear.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor

Published in: on 10/08/2018 at 13:19  Leave a Comment  
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The Practice of Praise

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You praise the heartbreaking beauty of Jessye Norman singing the Vier Letzte Lieder of Richard Strauss. You praise the new puppy for making its offering on the lawn for once instead of on the living-room rug. Maybe you yourself are praised for some generous thing you have done. In each case, the praise that is handed out is a measured response. It is a matter of saying something to one degree or another complimentary, with the implication that if Jessye Norman’s voice had sprung a leak or the puppy hadn’t made it outside in time or your generous deed turned out to be secretly self-serving, a different sort of response altogether would have been called for.

flowers on hill 4 copyThe way Psalm 148 describes it, praising God is another kettle of fish altogether. It is about as measured as a volcanic eruption, and there is no implication that under any conceivable circumstances it could be anything other than what it is. The whole of creation is  on the act—the sun and moon, the sea, fire and snow, Holstein cows and white-throated sparrows, old men in walkers and children who still haven’t taken their first step. Their praise is not chiefly a matter of saying anything, because most of creation doesn’t deal in words. Instead, the snow whirls, the fire roars, the Holstein bellows, the old man watches the moon rise. Their praise is not something that at their most complimentary they say, but something that at their truest they are.

We learn to praise God not by paying compliments, but by paying attention. Watch how the trees exult when the wind is in them. Mark the utter stillness of the great blue heron in the swamp. Listen to the sound of the rain. Learn how to say “Hallelujah” from the ones who say it right.

–Frederick Buechner

 

 

Saved And Living By Grace

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What I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well.

–Richard Foster

Published in: on 09/12/2018 at 21:24  Leave a Comment  
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Sharing Light

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Every one of us is something the other is not,
and therefore knows something—it may be
without knowing that he knows it—which
no one else knows. It is everyone’s business
as one of the kingdom of light and inheritor
in it all, to give his portion to rest.

—George MacDonald

The Self-Disclosure of God

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Jesus puts God on display:
He is what God looks like (Heb. 1:3).
He is what God lives like (Jn. 5:19).
He is what God loves like (Rom. 5:8).
He is what God has to say (Jn. 14:10).

A Sense of Proportion

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If a man had only one prayer to pray he might well ask to be given a sense of proportion. The things which disturb the peace of congregations are often trifles. The things which divide men from men and which destroy friendships are often little things to which no sensible man, in his saner moments, would allow any importance. The little things can bulk so large that they can fill the whole horizon. Only if we put first things first will all things take their proper place—and love comes first.

–William Barclay

Holy Amazement

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We are never nearer Christ
than when we find ourselves 
lost in a holy amazement 
at his unspeakable love.

–John Owen,
(1616 – 1683)

Beaches, Oceans and Maps

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I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff.  But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt him; out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real.

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In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he is turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.

In the second place, if you want to go anywhere the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get [from England] to America.

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Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map.

–C. S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity

Awaiting The King

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Jesus is the greatest Lover of all. He loved and pursued a bride, and laid down his life so that she could be His. He was fully aware of all the undesirable things about her, but loved her deeply and faithfully. She was not faithful to him. She turned her heart to other lovers. She did not wait for him but gave herself to those who only took advantage of her.

The Heavenly Lover went so far as to suffer all the consequences of her waywardness. He paid with his own blood to rescue her out of her adulterous enslavement. He purchased for her a pure white wedding dress which covers her sin and shame. It was made of the finest material—His own righteousness. He loves a bride with a sordid past and purposes to make her pure. He loves a bride who had lost her attractiveness and He purposes to make her beautiful.

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He went to prepare a place for her and one day will return for His beloved and take her to dwell with him forever. More than two thousand years have transpired as he patiently awaits the day when he will consummate the marriage at the greatest wedding celebration of the universe.

Never has there been a Lover whose love is as deep, as strong, as faithful, and as true, and no privilege can compare with being the object of his affection. This bride has a destiny marked out for her that is glorious beyond words. She has been swept up into a high and holy calling. She lives with a heavenward gaze in a world that does not know her King, as she awaits His glad return.

–J. O. Schulz

 

Artwork credit: James Nesbitt

Supernatural Seed

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I had to learn by experience the meaning of the parable of the four soils: according to the New English Bible, some seed fell “along” the pathway; some fell “on” stony ground; some “among” thorns; and some fell “into” good soil. I would have to learn to put up with the “along,” the “on,” the “among,” awaiting the “into.” Three out of the four efforts to get a harvest would be lost. It was a sobering prospect to feel that 75 percent of all your efforts to produce permanent changed character would be lost.

But the last soil, where the seed fell “into” good ground, brought forth thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. Thirtyfold is 3000 percent, sixtyfold is 6,000 percent, a hundredfold is 10,000 percent, on the investment. Large returns? Exaggerated? No, in fact. You touch one, and he becomes changed by the power of Christ; he touches another, and he another, and it goes on in geometrical progression endlessly. So this investment in changed human character is the one bank that will not break, and it brings large dividends; it is big business.

–E. Stanley Jones,
A Song of Ascents

The Potency of Heaven’s Love

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God’s love is not
mild-mannered and limp;
it is livid, potent, and committed.
And therein lies our hope.

— Mike Reeves

Published in: on 07/14/2018 at 10:14  Leave a Comment  
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Here Was Goodness

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Then there quietly appeared, out of the obscurity of a country village, and out of the lowliness of a carpenter’s shop, a Man… There was something about the Man that made the best of men feel that they were in deepest need. And yet the worst of men felt drawn to him.

Here was goodness attractive, winsome, compelling… Here was goodness that was not meticulous, but merciful, not standing on pedestals to be worshiped, but bending in lowly service over the lost. Here was goodness not pharisaical, but friendly, not terrible, but tender… Never did majesty and meekness so blend and become so beautiful as here.

— E. Stanley Jones,
The Christ of Every Road

The Incomparable Christ

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How sifted from the local and temporary and the trivial his mind was! He was always on the worthwhile, on the thing that mattered. He was never misled by a subordinate issue; not once did he slip away from the primary into the secondary. His finger goes unerringly to the essentials in every matter.

–E. Stanley Jones,
Christ At The Round Table

Published in: on 06/18/2018 at 10:22  Comments (1)  
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Surrendering To God

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Surrender does involve loss,
but that loss is finite.
What is gained is infinite,
eternal, belonging to
another world without end,
and worth far more than
any price we might pay.

–Christie Purifoy

Pressing Forward

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I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.

–C. S. Lewis

Published in: on 06/02/2018 at 8:13  Leave a Comment  
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Living By Faith

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As believers, we no longer live under the law, looking to it to tell us what to do or not do, then trying our best to do it. Instead, we live on the faith principle, the inner life principle, of who really is our life—Christ.

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We trust that He directs us, opens or closes doors for us, and speaks directly to us, giving us a message or whatever is needed for the occasion. We trust that He is living through us. We may not feel it at any given moment, but we live by faith that He is our life.

–Dan Stone and David Gregory

God Likes Matter

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There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.

–C. S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity

The Bright Field

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I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was
the pearl of great price, the one field
that had treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess. Life is not hurrying on
to a receding future, nor hankering
after an imagined past.
It is the turning aside like Moises
to the miracle of the lit bush,
to a brightness that seemed transitory
as your youth once, but is the
eternity that awaits you.

–R. S. Thomas,
The Bright Field

Published in: on 04/21/2018 at 11:00  Leave a Comment  
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Facing The Son

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Published in: on 04/19/2018 at 5:34  Leave a Comment  
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He Seeks The Unruly

220px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Good_Shepherd_(Le_bon_pasteur)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall copy 2We are misled by the religious pictures which depict Jesus as the good shepherd carrying a cuddly white lamb on his shoulder. A lamb will hardly stray from its mother. It is the troublesome, obstreperous sheep which is likely to go astray, going through the fence, having its wool torn and probably ending up in a ditch of dirty water. It is this dirty, smelly, riotous creature, which the good shepherd goes after, leaving the good, well-behaved ninety-nine in the wilderness, and when he finds it, why, he carries it on his shoulder and calls his friends to celebrate with him.

–Desmond Tutu,
Hope and Suffering

Published in: on 04/11/2018 at 19:23  Leave a Comment  
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Everything Is Different

9b08e837610f10f0246efe94cdb30340The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the “first fruits”, the “pioneer of life”. He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.  –C. S. Lewis

The Beginning of the End

He is Risen

Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s rebellion. That rebellion is still going on in the Spirit of hope and will be completed when, together with death, ‘every rule and every authority and power’ is at last abolished (1 Cor. 15:24).

–Jürgen Moltmann

When God Gave His Life

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When Jesus Christ
shed his blood on the cross,
it was not the blood of a martyr;
nor the blood of one man
for another; it was
the life of God poured out
to redeem the world.
         –Oswald Chambers

Unshakable Love

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There is a love
that blazes up
and is forgotten;
then there is love
until death.
–Soren Kierkegaard

Published in: on 03/30/2018 at 3:12  Leave a Comment  
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A Matter of the Heart

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Above all else, the Christian life is a love affair of the heart. It cannot be lived primarily as a set of principles or ethics. It cannot be managed with steps and programs. It cannot be lived exclusively as a moral code leading to righteousness. In response to a religious expert who asked him what he must do to obtain real life, Jesus asked a question in return:

“What is written in the Law? . . . How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:26-28)

The truth of the gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole heart. When we ignore this heart aspect of our faith and try to live out our religion solely as correct doctrine or ethics, our passion is crippled, or perverted, and the divorce of our soul from the heart purposes of God toward us is deepened.

–Brent Curtis & John Eldredge
The Sacred Romance

Published in: on 03/29/2018 at 8:50  Leave a Comment  
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Business Closed

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Christianity is not a religion, it is the announcement of the end of religion. Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle of Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever succeed (see the Epistle of Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection.

For Christians, then, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical, and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.

–Robert F. Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

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