The journey ahead

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Do not give into fear in the face of the changes and chances of this life. Rather, as they arise, look at them with full trust in God, to whom you belong, who will enable you – through His powerful love – to profit from them. He has guided you thus far in life; so hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through every trial. Whenever you cannot stand, he will carry you in his loving arms. Do not be anxious about what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. He will either shield you from suffering, or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations.

–St Francis de Sales

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New beginnings

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God is for ever and for ever
getting new mornings
out of old nights,
fair beginnings out of
dismal endings.

–F. W. Boreham

Published in: on 12/30/2013 at 1:53  Leave a Comment  
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Loved and valuable

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God loves us, not because 
we are so valuable; rather 
we are valuable because 
God loves us.

–Helmut Thielicke
(1908 – 1986)

Published in: on 12/29/2013 at 3:48  Leave a Comment  
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The serious matter of humor

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Numbers of clergymen have from time to time reproached me for making jokes about religion; and they have almost always invoked the authority of that very sensible commandment which says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Of course, I pointed out that I was not in any conceivable sense taking the name in vain. To take a thing and make a joke out of it is not to take it in vain. It is, on the contrary, to take it and use it for an uncommonly good object. To use a thing in vain means to use it without use. But a joke may be exceedingly useful; it may contain the whole earthly sense, not to mention the whole heavenly sense, of a situation. And those who find in the Bible the commandment can find in the Bible any number of the jokes. In the same book in which God’s name is fenced from being taken in vain, God himself overwhelms Job with a torrent of terrible levities.

The same book which says that 
God’s name must not be taken vainly,
talks easily and carelessly about 
God laughing and God winking.

Evidently it is not here that we have to look for genuine examples of what is meant by a vain use of the name. And it is not very difficult to see where we have really to look for it. The people (as I tactfully pointed out to them) who really take the name of the Lord in vain are the clergymen themselves. The thing which is fundamentally and really frivolous is not a careless joke. The thing which is fundamentally and really frivolous is a careless solemnity.

–G. K. Chesterton

Image: Jeannette Woitzik

The shocking affirmation

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Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside of the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

–C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

Published in: on 12/27/2013 at 4:26  Leave a Comment  
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Crossing the Chasm

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When we did not want God, God wanted us. When we would not come to God, he came to us. When we resisted him, he plotted to win us. When we could not cross the chasm that separates creation from deity, God decided to cross it and become one of us. He would not give up his deity, rather, he would unite divinity and humanity in a single person so that God and humans would really meet and become one.

–Dennis F. Kinlaw

When God drew near

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On a wintry night
in an obscure cave,
the infant Jesus was
a humble, naked,
helpless God who
allowed us to get
close to him.

–Brennan Manning

Image: Michael Dudash

He walked among us

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The incarnation
does not mean some
abstract doctrine
about the intersection
of eternity and time;
the incarnation means
that God stepped
in our manure.

–Peter Kreeft

Ongoing astonishment

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Let the stable still astonish:
Straw-dirt floor,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said; “Yes,
Let the God of all the heavens
and earth
Be born here, in this place?”
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler
rooms of our hearts
and says, “Yes,
let the God of Heaven and Earth
be born here….
in this place.

-Leslie Leyland Fields

Image: Michael Dudash

Incomprehensible

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You can more easily
catch a hurricane in a shrimp net
than understand the wild, relentless,
love of God made present
in the manger.

–Brennan Manning

Image: Michael Dudash

The return of the King

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Christianity is the story
of how the rightful King
has landed and is calling us
to His great campaign
of sabotage.

–C. S. Lewis

The preposterous idea

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If you do not hear in the message of Christmas something that must strike some as blasphemy and others as sheer fantasy, the chances are you have not heard the message for what it is. Emmanuel is the message in a nutshell, which is Hebrew for “God with us” . . . because the claim that Christianity makes for Christmas is that at a particular time and place God came to be with us himself. When Quirinius was governor of Syria, in a town called Bethlehem, a child was born who, beyond the power of anyone to account for, was the high and lofty One made low and helpless. The One who inhabits eternity comes to dwell in time. The One whom none can look upon and live is delivered in a stable under the soft, indifferent gaze of cattle. The Father of all mercies puts himself at our mercy.

–Frederick Buechner
Emmanuel

Image: Anton R. Mengs

Redefining God

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Christmas calls 
for a total revolution 
in our view of God.

–Glen Scrivener

The unorthodox God

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The who of the incarnation is perhaps the most extraordinary thing of all. That is, this baby is Immanuel, God with us. He is not just some divine ambassador. He is God: God in the flesh. But if so, what an unexpected God! He does things that God really ought not do. We all know perfectly well that God belongs on a throne, not in an animal’s feeding trough. But he seems not to be aware of such protocols.

–Mike Reeves

Image: Antoine Le Nain

 

Invaded by God

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The Gospel is not an academic discussion of truth—a set of doctrines about life, but an interpretation of “things” (Lk. 1:1) . . . Some “things” had happened on this earth that had never happened before—our planet has been invaded by God—redemptively invaded. That is the biggest and most decisive “thing” that has ever happened or can happen on this planet. . . .

This is cosmic news—the Good News,
that will make every planet, every cell,
every thing dance with joy
at the wonder of it.

Of all the things that have happened, or could happen this is the thing . . . the Central Cosmic Fact: God appeared on a little planet to take us by the hand and put us back on the Way. This is news—Good News—comparatively speaking, the only Good News that every reached our planet.

–E. Stanley Jones

Image: Maxime Courty

One of us

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For not only have
human beings been made
in imago Dei, like unto God,
but He also has
not been ashamed
to become one of us,
to be incarnate
in imago homini.

–Mike Mason

Published in: on 12/15/2013 at 20:04  Leave a Comment  
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A down to earth God

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The doctrine of the Incarnation means that God has come right into the midst of the tumult and the shouting of this world. In the most literal sense, it was a “down to earth” realism that gave the Gospel birth. Therefore to separate Christianity from social concern is to corrupt it at its roots; in the strong language of the apostle, it is to “make God a liar.”

When Jesus was born of Mary in the stable at Bethlehem, when He toiled at a carpenter’s bench in Nazareth, when He walked the crowded ways and lovingly identified Himself with the struggles and the miseries of men, when He suffered under Pontius Pilate, it was a declaration that divine eternal truth and the tough concrete actualities of the human situation belong together; and “what God hath joined together let not man put asunder.” It is an unholy divorce those Christians are aiding and abetting who separate “spiritual” religion from such “material” issues as feeding the hungry, rescuing the refugee, and enfranchising the racially disinherited.

–James Stewart
A Faith to Proclaim

Image: Emil Nolde

A character in his own plot

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“And the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us . . . “
John 1:14

The man on the cross was a man of flesh, but he was also the WORD made flesh, as John writes it in the great prologue to his Gospel, the Word that ‘became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.’ The Creator himself comes to dwell within his own creation, the Eternal within the temporal, the Invulnerable within the wound.

It is as if Shakespeare could somehow have entered the world of Hamlet, say, the dramatist descending from the infinite dimensions of reality into the dimensionlessness of his own drama, becoming a character in his own plot although he well knows the tragic denouement and submitting himself to all its limitations so that he can burst them asunder when the time comes and lead a tremendous exeunt by which his whole dramatis personae will become true persons at last.

–Frederick Buechner
The Faces of Jesus

Too good for words

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Why would Jesus do this? Why would he stoop to become human? He had no need of this. He has forever known his Father and enjoyed his Father’s full attention and affection. He has forever shared the concert of life with his Father in the Spirit. Why would he take the time and pain of earthing this fellowship of life? Why would the Triune God do such a thing? Was it because of some deficiency in their fellowship? Was it because of boredom? Of course not! The only reason to earth and humanize this eternal home-life was to share it, with us. As one of the ancients put it, Jesus became “what we are that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself” (St. Irenaeus). Is this not too good for words?

–Baxter Kruger
Home

Image: Maxime Courty

Heaven in pursuit

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He pursued humanity
to such an extent that
His feet landed on earth . . .
and he chased after us
until He rescued us
at the cross.

–Mary DeMuth

Published in: on 12/12/2013 at 5:09  Leave a Comment  
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Where we belong

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The Kingdom of God
is where we belong.
It is home, and whether
we realize it or not,
I think we are all of us
homesick for it.

–Frederick Buechner

Truth that liberates

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This [is] . . . the most liberating declaration ever uttered: “If you abide in My word,” said Jesus, “You are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32). Free from narrow-mindedness and parochial bias; free from denominational supposition; free from received opinions and traditional ignorance; free from shackles restraining redeemed intellectual curiosity and redeemed imagination; free from cant and shibboleth and prescribed terms of speech. Free to begin thinking like a Christian!

Free to enter wholly
into all those good things
that the loving heavenly Father
welcomes believers to enjoy.

Free to become conscious, thankful recipients of God’s bounteous grace, wherever one finds it and however it may be mediated to him: as courtesy from a stranger, hospitality from mere acquaintances, civility from a bureaucrat, sportsmanship from a golfing partner, compassion from an emergency-room nurse, diligence from an auto assembly-line worker, not to mention all the other elements of God’s common grace poured out through the blessings of friendship, the immeasurable wealth of love, as well as the restraining power of God that holds back evil’s worst assaults.

–D. Bruce Lockerbie

Image: hpizka

From Charismania to Christ

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Before I truly understood the Gospel, I needed angels, bizarre miracles, and the spooktacular in order to keep my attention. When one fad grew old, I needed to learn of another. I stayed on the cutting edge of all that was weird and wild in the crazy land of Charismania. I was bored with what I perceived the Gospel to be, and required shiny things to keep me interested. However, upon truly discovering the Glories of Jesus Christ and His perfect work, I instantly outgrew my obsession with the supernatural for the sake of the supernatural. I no longer needed portals, miraculous hankies, or supernatural flows of oil. I’d found the source of all things glorious, and my thirst was quenched.

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Trust me, I have no problem with the supernatural, or with the miraculous. However, I do find it disturbing when we are fascinated with the spooky simply for the sake of being spooky. When the most popular charismatic books have titles like, “How to live in the supernatural flow of Heaven’s supernatural economy while living under an open heaven and to the right of an ancient portal . . . while petting the four living creatures”, we need to be concerned. The supernatural is not an end to itself. Jesus is, however.

If you’re going to be fascinated
with something, don’t let it be
with feathers, gems, angels, or manifestations.
Let it be with Jesus Christ, Himself!

Don’t misread me! I’m for the supernatural. I’ll receive and rejoice in anything of that nature the Father sends my way. However, it is not my focus, and I no longer have an inordinate fascination with such things. When I did, it was simply because there was a vacuum in my life. I didn’t not truly grasp the depth of Christ’s finished work, and most of the time when folks obsess over such things, it’s a symptom of the very same problem. Let Jesus be your obsession. Nothing else.

–Jeff Turner

Truth, Goodness & God

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All other teachers have pointed beyond themselves to truth. Jesus pointed to Himself and said: “I am the truth.” And somehow or other we believe it; for if we could sit down and try to imagine a perfect illustration of abstract truth translated into life and action, we could not think for the life of us of a better illustration than Jesus of Nazareth.

A man lived two thousand years ago; and now when I think of truth, I do not add truth to truth to get Truth—I think of Jesus. When I say Truth, I think of Jesus. When I say Goodness, I think of Jesus. And when I say God, I think of Jesus. If I don’t, I miss Truth; I miss Goodness; I miss God.

–E. Stanley Jones
Mastery

Only God is good

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There is but one good;
that is God.
Everything else is good
when it looks to Him
and bad when it turns
from Him.

–C. S. Lewis

More than sin management

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Being a Christian is less
about cautiously avoiding sin
than about courageously
and actively doing
God’s will.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(1906 – 1945)

He seeks to be found

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The reason we can hope to find God is that He is here, engaged all the time in finding us.

Every gleam of beauty
is a pull toward Him.

Every pulse of love is a tendril that draws us in His direction. Every verification of truth links the finite mind up into a Foundational Mind that undergirds us. Every deed of good will points toward a consummate Goodness which fulfills all our tiny adventures in faith. We can find Him because in Him we live and move and have our being.

–Rufus M. Jones
(1863-1948)

The basis for hope

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The ultimate reason
for our hope is not
to be found at all in what
we want, wish for and wait for;
the ultimate reason is that we . . .
are wanted and wished for
and waited for.

–Jürgen Moltmann

Image: Adam Firth

Published in: on 12/04/2013 at 3:47  Leave a Comment  
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Loved where we are

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Resting in Jesus in not applying a spiritual formula to ourselves as a kind of fix-it. It is the essence of repentance. It is letting our heart tell us where we are in our own story so that Jesus can minister to us out of the Story of his love for us. When in a given moment, we lay down our false self and the smaller story of whatever performance has sustained us, when we give up everything else but him, we experience the freedom of knowing that he simply loves us where we are. We begin just to be, having our identity anchored in him. We begin to experience our spiritual life as the “easy yoke and light burden” Jesus tells us is his experience.

–Brent Curtis & John Eldredge
The Sacred Romance

Higher ground

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There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for the long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness… (That seems to be why) dissatisfaction – coupled with a longing for peace and truth – are the only way we set off on the pilgrim path of wholeness in God…

As long as we think that the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith. A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he or she acquires an appetite for the world of grace.

–Eugene Peterson

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