Where Generosity Goes Wild

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Lambs in the Midst of Wolves

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At first sight . . . the Kingdom seems impossible and the world way the reasonable and workable way. Jesus, knowing that men would feel that his way is impossible says: “I send you as lambs in the midst of wolves.” It looks as thought the principles of Jesus have about as much chance of success as lambs have of getting through a pack of wolves. What can humility do in a world where it is considered a weakness?

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What chance of success has a business man if he should take the way of the Sermon on the Mount? Would not his competitors tear him to pieces, as wolves do a lamb, if he attempted it? And a nation that built its collective life upon the principle of love and turning the other cheek—would not other nations make short shrift of it? They would be lambs in the midst of wolves. So it seems. But when John saw the final end of things in Apocalypse the Lamb was on the throne!

-E. Stanley Jones,
Christ at the Round Table

Motive for Mission

blank squarethe-sword-of-the-spirit_nI think that the deepest motive
for mission is simply the desire
to be with Jesus where he is,
on the frontier between the
reign of God and the usurped
dominion of the devil.

–Lesslie Newbigin

Published in: on 02/04/2016 at 19:28  Leave a Comment  
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Uncommon coronation

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WHEN Christ uttered, in the judgment hall of Pilate, the remarkable words—”I am king,” he pronounced a sentiment fraught with unspeakable dignity and power. His enemies might deride his pretensions and express their mockery of his claim, by presenting him with a crown of thorns, a reed and a purple robe, and nailing him to the cross; but . . . [a] higher power presided over that derisive ceremony, and converted it into a real coronation. That crown of thorns was indeed the diadem of empire; that purple robe was the badge of royalty; that fragile reed was the symbol of unbounded power; and that cross the throne of dominion which shall never end.

–J. L. Reynolds

 

We plant seeds

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It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise than is the Lord’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No sermon says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. That is what we are about.

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We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that affects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and to do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are the prophets of a future that is not our own.

–Oscar Romero

Everything changes

index copy 3If the Lord is indeed our shepherd, then everything goes topsy-turvy. Losing becomes finding and crying becomes laughing. The last become first and the weak become strong.

Instead of life being done in by death in the end as we always supposed, death is done in finally by life in the end. If the Lord is our host at the great feast, then the sky is the limit.

–Frederick Buechner
Secrets in the Dark

Child’s play and the Kingdom

dsc_00201-1Unless you become like a child, Jesus said, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and maybe part of what that means is that in the long run what is good about religion is playing the way a child plays at being grown up until he finds that being grown up is just another way of playing and thereby starts to grow up himself. Maybe what is good about religion is playing that the Kingdom will come, until—in the joy of your playing, the hope and rhythm and comradeship and poignance and mystery of it—you start to see that the playing is itself the first-fruits of the Kingdom’s coming and of God’s presence within us and among us.

–Frederick Buechner
Now and Then

New life breaking through

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The whole of the Sermon [Matt 5-7] is framed within Jesus’s announcement that what his fellow Jews had longed for over many generations was now at last coming to pass – but that new kingdom didn’t look like they had thought it would. Indeed, in some ways it went in exactly the other direction. No violence, no hatred of enemies, no anxious protection of land and property against the pagan hordes. In short, no frantic intensification of the ancestral codes of life.

Rather, a glad and unworried trust in the creator God, whose kingdom is now at last starting to arrive, leading to a glad and generous heart toward other people, even those who are technically “enemies.” Faith, hope, and love: here they are again. They are the language of life, the sign in the present of green shoots growing through the concrete of this sad old world, the indication that the creator God is on the move, and that Jesus’s hearers and followers can be part of what he’s now doing.

― N. T. Wright

Challenging Caesar

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In every worship service, the Christian ekklesia is renewed in her unique story and language, her unique political experience and vocation. Every worship service is a challenge to Caesar, because every Lord’s Day we bow to a Man on the throne of heaven, to whom even great Caesar must bow. O’Donovan claims that all political order rests on a people’s homage to authority, which is to say, on an act of worship. Every Lord’s Day, the Church is reconstituted as a polity whose obedience is owed to Christ, and we are taught to name Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.

―Peter J. Leithart

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

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

A magnificent obsession

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There is a magnificent insanity about the parable that [Jesus told in Mt. 13:45]. It has to do with a pearl freak—a merchant whose hobby was pearls. One day he evidently came across a pearl to end all pearls. You can imagine the quick intake of his breath, his staring eyes, the licking of his dry lips, the anxious inquiry about price, the haggling, the pondering of the tremendous cost of the pearl. You can also imagine him returning home and looking over the rest of his pearl collection. With shaking hands he would pick them up one by one and drop them into a soft leather pouch. Not only the pearls but house, slaves, everything went so that the one pearl might be his.

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And then, bereft of everything but a big pearl—what would the food do? You can’t eat pearls. In my mind is a picture of a crazy merchant sitting in a miserable hovel, his glowing eyes feasting on his pearl and his fingers gently caressing it. Crazy? Perhaps he is the one sane person among us.

It all depends on whether the pearl was worth it. We see at once that treasure in heaven would be worth it. Why are we so quick to opt for earthly treasure and so slow to be obsessed with the heavenly? Perhaps it is because we do not believe in heavenly realities. They represent a celestial cliché in our minds, but no more. Basically you see, it is faith that makes us step lightheartedly along the Way of the Cross—not a spirit of sacrifice but faith that the next life is important…

The Way of the Cross is a magnificent obsession with a heavenly pearl, beside which everything else in life has no value.

–John White
The Cost of Commitment

The only punishable offence

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Bookkeeping is the only punishable offence in the kingdom of heaven. For in that happy state, the books are ignored forever, and there is only the Book of life. And in that book, nothing stands against you.

There are no debit entries
that can keep you out of the clutches
of the Love that will not let you go.

bookeepingThere is no minimum balance below which the grace that finagles all accounts will cancel your credit. And there is, of course, no need for you to show large amounts of black ink, because the only Auditor before whom you must finally stand is the Lamb — and he has gone deaf, dumb, and blind on the cross. The last may be first and the first last, but that’s only for the fun of making the point: everybody is on the payout queue and everybody gets full pay. Nobody is kicked out who wasn’t already in, the only bruised backsides belong to those who insist on butting themselves into outer darkness.

For if our world
could have been saved
by bookkeeping,
it would have been saved
by Moses, not Jesus.

The law was just fine. And God gave it a good thousand years or so to see if anyone could pass a test like that. But nobody did — when it became perfectly clear that there was “no one who was righteous, no even one” (Rom. 3:10; Ps. 14:1-3), that “both Jews and Gentiles alike were under the power of sin (Rom. 3:9) — God gave up on salvation by the books. He cancelled everybody’s records in the death of Jesus and rewarded us all, equally and fully, with a new creation in the resurrection of the dead.

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And therefore the only adverse judgment that falls on the world falls on those who take their stand on a life God cannot use rather than on the death he can. Only the winners lose, because only the losers can win: the reconciliation simply cannot work out any other way . . . the kingdom of heaven is for everybody; hell is reserved only for the idiots who insist on keeping nonexistent records in their heads.

Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
(emphasis added)

A kingdom of paradox

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It’s not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us.

God doesn’t want our success. He wants us.

He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified.

Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokeness; finding self through losing self.

–Charles Colson
Loving God

Things are not as they seem

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Imagine a city under siege. The enemy that surrounds they city will not let anyone or anything leave. Supplies are running low, and the citizens are fearful. But in the dark of the night, a spy sneaks through the enemy lines. He has rushed to the city to tell the people that in another place the main enemy force has been defeated; the leaders have already surrendered. The people do not need to be afraid. It is only a matter of time until the besieging troops receive the news and lay down their weapons.

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Similarly, we may seem now to be surrounded by the forces of evil – disease, injustice, oppression, death.

But the enemy has actually
been defeated at Calvary.

Things are not the way they seem to be. It is only a matter of time until it becomes clear to all that the battle is really over.

–Richard J. Mouw
(emphasis added)

Every knee, every tongue

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I confess and profess
that every knee shall bow
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is lord,
including the amputees,
the deaf and the dumb.

-Richard Moszumanski

It will end well

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[T]he God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.

–Brennan Manning

Creation renewed

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Jesus, unlike the founder of any other major faith, holds out hope for ordinary human life. Our future is not an ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness. We will not float through the air, but rather will eat, embrace, sing, laugh, and dance in the kingdom of God, in degrees of power, glory, and joy that we can’t at present imagine.

Jesus will make the world our perfect home again. We will no longer be living ‘east of Eden,’ always wandering and never arriving. We will come, and the father will meet us and embrace us, and we will be brought into the feast.

–Tim Keller
The Prodigal God

What we all hunger for

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The Kingdom of God
is what all of us hunger for
above all other things even when
we don’t know its name.

–Frederick Buechner

At the Kingdom’s center

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In the center of the kingdom of God, you do not find a gargantuan palace inhabited by an unapproachable king. No, in the center of the kingdom of God is a bloody cross, on which hung a broken King, who welcomes us as we are.

—Paul David Tripp

Published in: on 03/28/2013 at 19:48  Leave a Comment  
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A holy adventure

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At the edge of the map, a holy adventure awaits. A movement of love is rising in those who will choose to lay down their lives each day, becoming the expression of God’s grace and goodness to the people. He brings them… We are invited to join a global tribe of sons and daughters of their Father in heaven…

We are called to be a part of the coming
of an upside-down, inside out Kingdom
where the last are first and
the greatest are servants . . .

We have only one life to give, so we give it away extravagantly, hilariously, without reserve.

–Michelle Perry

The Great Invasion

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On earth a baby was born,
a king got wind of it,
a chase ensued.
In heaven the Great Invasion
had begun, a daring raid
by the ruler
of the forces of good
into the universe’s
seat of evil.

–Philip Yancey

He could have but He didn’t

He’s in Gethsemane and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he’s not going to fight. There was a skirmish there when he was arrested but he was not involved in it and he did not approve of it. In fact, he disapproved of it and, according to Luke, healed the one who was wounded and reprimanded his friend, “Put your sword away. That’s not how we do it.”

He’s not going to fight apparently. He could have, oh, he could have. Matthew has absolutely no doubt he could have. In fact he said, “Don’t you know I could ask God right now for twelve legions of angels and they would be here to fight for me?” He could have, says Matthew, but he doesn’t…

When he’s on the cross, there was a good time for him to do it. With all the taunting, just reading the taunting makes me want to do something. “If you’re the Messiah, why don’t you jump down? Everybody will believe in you. If you’re the king, come down. If you’re the Son of God, God would surely love you and get you down.”

That would have been my cue to act. Pull a little whammy. Motivate and energize the crowds and they would take care of it with garden tools and everything else and we’d be on our way. But it’s obvious that he’s not going to fight, although he could…

Matthew, more than anyone else, likes to call Jesus the King. He could have done it, but he didn’t. And I don’t know why I’m always surprised when I read this because I know better. Matthew has told us all along that he’s not going to. Is he the King? He’s the King. Is he going to fight? No. The title for every chapter in Matthew is this: “He Could Have but He Didn’t.

–Fred B. Craddock

Left-handed power

There is one effect that cannot be
the result of a direct application of force,
and that is the maintenance of
a relationship between free persons.

If my child chooses not to cooperate with me, if my wife chooses not to live with me, there is no right-handed power on earth that can make them toe the line of relationship I have chosen to draw in the sand. I can dock my son’s allowance, for example, or chain him to a radiator; or in anger at my wife, I can punch holes in the Sheetrock or beat her senseless with a shovel. In short, I can use any force that comes to hand or mind, and yet I cannot cause either of them, at the core of their being, to stop their wrongs and conform to my right. The only power I have by which to do that is left-handed power – which for all practical purposes will be indistinguishable from weakness on my part. It is the power of my patience with them, of my letting their wrong be – even if that costs me my rightness or my life – so that they, for whose reconciliation I long, may live for a better day of their own choosing.

My point here is twofold. The power of God that saves the world was revealed in Jesus as left-handed power; and therefore any power that the church may use in its God-given role as the sacrament of Jesus must also be left-handed. Despite the fact that God’s Old Testament forays into the thicket of fallen human nature were decided right-handed (plagues, might acts, stretched-out-arm exercises, and thunderous threats) – and despite Jesus’ occasional use of similar tactics in the Gospels – the final act by which God reconciles the world to himself consists of his simply dropping dead on the cross and shutting up on the subject of sin.

He declares the whole
power game won by losing,
and he invites the world just to believe
that absurd proposition.

–Robert F. Capon
(emphasis added)

A yearning for home

If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for.

The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams
come from and our truest prayers.

We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength.

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
(emphasis added)

Eternal childhood

Perhaps this will be one of the supreme tests: would we choose the childlikeness of Heaven or the promise of “maturity”, of “humanity come of age” in Hell? Will we suffer gladly the blow and shock to our pride that is Heaven’s gift of eternal childhood (thus eternal hope and progress) or will we insist on the “successes” of “self-actualization” that Heaven denies us and Hell offers us? If the latter, we will find despair instead of hope, ennui [boredom] instead of creative work, and the emptying out of all our joy.

Jesus’ teaching, “Unless you turn
and become like children, you will
never enter the kingdom of Heaven”,
is not something to be outgrown.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, when asked which are the four most important virtues, replied, “Humility, humility, humility, and humility.”

–Peter Kreeft

Approachable childlikeness

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14,15).

The unthreatening childlikeness of Jesus intimidated no one. Both friend and foe approached him freely. The Pharisees and Saduccees attacked him with a fervor they could never have mustered had Jesus walked the earth with a heavenly glow and spoken in a royal, electronically enhanced voice. Children were comfortable around him, which even a surface observation would tell you could not be so without his own childlikeness.

–Gayle D. Erwin

Where’s the cookies?

In His reply to the disciples’ question about who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1), Jesus abolished any distinction between the elite and the ordinary in the Christian community. “He called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said,I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).

Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter as He sits the child on His knee. The child is unself-conscious, incapable of pretense. I am reminded of the night little John Dyer, three years old, knocked on our door flanked by his parents. I looked down and said, “Hi, John. I am delighted to see you.” He looked neither to the right nor left. His face was set like flint. He narrowed his eyes with the apocalyptic glint of an aimed gun. “Where’s the cookies?” he demanded.

The Kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves. They are not plotting how they can call attention to themselves, worrying about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get gold stars for their behaviour. Twenty centuries later, Jesus speaks pointedly to the preening ascetic trapped in the fatal narcissism of spiritual perfectionism, to those of us caught up in boasting about our victories in the vineyard, to those of us fretting and flapping about our human weakness and character defects.

The child doesn’t have to struggle
to get himself in a good position
for having a relationship with God…

He doesn’t have to craft ingenious way of explaining his position to Jesus; he doesn’t have to create a pretty face for himself; he doesn’t have to achieve any state of spiritual feeling or intellectual understanding. All he has to do is to happily accept the cookies: the gift of the Kingdom.

–Brennan Manning

Becoming fully human

The Kingdom of God has to do not only with the God of creation, but also with the creation of God . . .

Making a difference in our world – Kingdom living – implies that there is a duality to be acknowledged. Jesus said: “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). There is light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil. But what has happened is that all that is light, right and good has been identified with one side of ‘reality’ (= the church) and all that is dark, wrong and evil with the other side of ‘reality’ (= the ‘world’). The result is that many Christians have adopted a ‘siege mentality’, hauling up the drawbridge so that there is little real intercourse between the church and the world.

Instead of celebrating all that is good in the world,
some Christians view the secular world
as unspiritual, even to be avoided.

Early on in the life of the church all sorts of wrong ideas about the world in which we live began to take root. It’s called dualism, and it has a lot to do with Plato, whose ideas have infiltrated the church over the centuries.

Dualism has robbed many people – and
many Christians – of the joy of life
in God’s good creation.

Simply put, dualism says that life is divided into two compartments, the holy and the unholy, or the sacred and the profane: for one compartment – obviously ‘holy’! – read ‘church’, and for the other (‘unholy’) read the ‘world’…

We so easily divide life up into two realms, with a whole lot of false opposites. We pit sacred against secular, faith against works, church against world, soul against body, heaven against earth, prayer against politics, creeds against deeds, and so we could go on.

Some sections of the church need to repent of the narrow dualism that avoids any form of genuine contact with the world, a suffocating dualism that can treat God’s creation as intrinsically contaminating rather than intrinsically wholesome and good . . .

Hans Kung, the well-known Catholic theologian,
was once asked why we should
embrace Christianity. His reply was:
“So that we can be fully human.”

Spirituality and humanity go together – they are not to be pulled apart – in fact, I would go so far as to say that our Christian maturity could be measured not by how ‘spiritual’ we are, but how fully human we allow ourselves to be! What is our ultimate destination, as Christians? …

Our ultimate destination is not heaven –
it is the new earth that will represent the final act
in God’s great redemptive purposes.

–Graham Buxton
(adapted)

Invited into the Inner Circle

Here we have a window into the deep inner truth of Christianity. The life of the Holy Trinity—the relationship and beauty and passion, the creative and joyous and abounding fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit, the love of the Triune God—is given to us in Jesus Christ, shared with our innermost beings . . . Such is the kingdom of God and the very meaning of salvation.

–Baxter Kruger

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