Costly relationship

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Relationships are costly.
Whatever it cost you
to be with God is nothing
compared to what it cost Him
to be with you.

–Tim Keller

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It is about relationship

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The . . . larger purpose of the Father, Son and Spirit for humanity is not merely the deliverance from sin and corruption (though this is critical), but our exaltation into the very trinitarian life of God.

Real relationship—shared life,
communion of the most personal
and profound order, union—
stands as the driving purpose of God
in creation and redemption.

Logically speaking, when the great apostle stated that the Father predestined us to adoption before the foundation of the world, he is setting forward the ultimate framework within which we are to understand the coming of Jesus. It is about relationship, about communion, about union with the very life of the Father, Son and Spirit.

–C. Baxter Kruger

Only one miracle

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After lecturing learnedly on miracles, a great theologian was asked to give a specific example of one. “There is only one miracle,” he answered. “It is life.” Have you wept at anything during the past year? Has your heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty? Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die? More often than not do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of just waiting for your turn to speak? Is there anybody you know in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself? If your answer to all or most of these questions is No, the chances are that you’re dead.

–Frederick Buechner
Wishful Thinking

Passing it on

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

–George MacDonald
(1824 – 1905)

The greater scandal

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Welcome everyone’s
differences and scandals
with the greater scandal
of grace.

–James Emery White

Published in: on 01/21/2014 at 7:11  Leave a Comment  
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What life is about

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We need higher relationships

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To save the world we need something more biblical than higher standards. We need higher relationships. We need less to be “true to our principles” and much more to be true to our relationships. To save the world we don’t need the courage of our convictions. We need the courage of our relationships . . . especially the courage of a right relationship with the Creator, the creation, and our fellow creatures.

Our problem in reaching the world
is that we’ve made rules more important
than relationship…

Over a two-thousand year period, but especially in the last two hundred years, we have jerked and tugged the Christian faith out of its original soil, its life-giving source, which is an honest relationship with God through Jesus the Christ. After uprooting the faith, we have entombed it in a declaration of adherence to a set of beliefs. The shift has left us with casual doctrinal assent that exists independent of a changed life.

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We have made the Cross into a crossword puzzle, spending our time diagramming byzantine theories of atonement. How did the beauty of Jesus’ atoning work get isolate from the wonder of restoring an authentic relationship between God and humanity?

Leonard Sweet
Out of the Question… Into the Mystery
(emphasis added)

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)

World-affirming spirituality

[There should be] grateful celebration . . . among us, uninhibited by our lingering evangelical asceticism.  For the truth is that a world-denying Gnosticism has not yet been altogether eradicated from our theology and practice.

Instead, we pride ourselves on our super-spirituality, which is detached from the natural order, and we look forward to an ethereal heaven, forgetting the promise of a new earth…

We should determine, then, to recognize and acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate, all the gifts of the Creator: the glory of the heavens and the earth, of mountain, of river and sea, of forest and flowers, of birds, beasts and butterflies, and of the intricate balance of the natural environment; the unique privileges of our humanness (rational, moral, social, and spiritual), as we were created in God’s image and appointed his stewards; the joys of

gender, marriage, sex, children, parenthood and family life, and of our extended family and friends; the rhythm of work and rest, of daily work  as a means to cooperate with God and serve the common good, and of the Lord’s day when we exchange work for worship; the blessing of peace, freedom, justice and good government, and of food and drink, clothing and shelter; and our human creativity expressed in music, literature, painting, sculpture and drama, and in the skills and strengths displayed in sport.

–John R. Stott

What is holiness?

In the course of a Bible study for college students in Delhi, a Hindu girl asked me what I consider to be a brilliant question: “How can you Christians say God is good? Good is the opposite of evil; evil is not eternal; therefore, good cannot be eternal as well.” . . . The Christian insists that God exists without reference to evil and rejects the dualism of positing good and evil as equal and opposite. But how can the Christian sustain this position philosophically and existentially?

If I were awakened suddenly in the middle of the night and asked this question, “What is holiness?” my instinctive answer would be “Absence of sin!” Although that may be enough of an answer for our understanding of holiness because of our fallenness and familiarity with sin, it would be inadequate as a definition of the holiness of God. He is holy without any reference to sin. How do we define that kind of holiness? We cannot define good with reference to evil because good is the original of which evil is the counterfeit—a problem parallel to defining the infinite in terms of the finite. Evil is an aberration. We need to look for a positive definition of good without reference to evil.

Love is the highest expression of holiness

Very significantly, the answer lies in the trinitarian being of God. Love is the epitome of all virtue and the highest expression of holiness. And God should not have to depend upon his creation to actualize his capacity to love, for that would make creation as important as the Creator because the Creator would be incomplete without his creation. But the Bible introduces love as an interpersonal quality requiring a subject-object relationship that is available in the Trinity because of the Father-Son relationship through the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian God is complete in his love relationship without reference to his creation. The Father loves the Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24). The infinite personal medium through whom this love is communicated is the Holy Spirit, and he is the one who pours the love of God in our hearts as well (Romans 5:5). The final answer that I could give to this college girl was to appeal to the Trinity, where good always existed without any reference to, outside of, and before evil…

Holiness is relational

The Ten Commandments that God gave to his people (Exodus 20:1–17) sum up God’s requirement in terms of relationships—with him and with one another. The Old Testament also sums up the commandments as love relationships with God (Deuteronomy 6:4–5) and among his people (Leviticus 19:18). In other words, holiness by God’s own definition (Leviticus 19:2) is seen in the relational commandments that comprise the rest of that chapter. Holiness is therefore not the stand-alone ascetic quality that is the hallmark of some Eastern religions but a community of people in right relationship to one another…

We are born to our parents and we grow in our understanding of ourselves as we learn to relate to parents, siblings, and friends. Simply put, I can’t be me without someone else; you can’t be you without reference to someone else. What makes a person a person is her (or his) capability of interpersonal relationship. In fact, we derive our most fundamental sense of identity by relating to God and other human beings. Moreover, the identity that we seek from impersonal entities such as achievement, fame, pleasure, and possessions—the hallmarks of today’s consumerist, shopping-mall existence—can be extremely inadequate and frustrating. To add to the confusion, we are deep into the use of gadgets and cyber-technology that is accelerating this tendency to depersonalization…

The lack of Trinitarian thinking and preaching has exacerbated the prevailing individualism of our culture and has brought it right into our Christian life and practice. If we do not think of God as a relational being in himself, we cannot appreciate the point that we are made to reflect his image in our relationships with one another…

Our response to the holiness of God is to reflect his character in our lives—in one phrase, the pursuit of holiness. In our endeavor in this direction, however, we need to be careful to note that what we have come to call personal holiness—what is inward—is only a potential that has to be constantly actualized in inter-personal relationships…

Trinitarian holiness

Holiness, in the final analysis, is therefore otherward and thus unselfconscious. I have been fascinated by the trinitarian example from John 5:19-27; 16:13, 14. The Father entrusts all things to the Son: his authority, his power over life and judgment. But the Son will not do anything by himself; he will only do what he sees the Father doing. The Spirit will not speak of himself nor seek his own glory. He will bring glory to Jesus by taking what belongs to Jesus and showing them to us.

Three self-giving, self-effacing persons constitute the amazing God whom we worship! It is this aspect of God’s character that we seek to reflect in our life and walk as the church of Jesus Christ.

–adapted from L.T. Jeyachandran

Something to share

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 the rest.

–George MacDonald

Published in: on 06/20/2011 at 3:45  Leave a Comment  
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