Next to the Gospel

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To have peace and love
in a marriage is a gift
that is next to the knowledge
of the gospel.

–Martin Luther

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Published in: on 11/06/2017 at 4:33  Leave a Comment  
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Uniqueness of the Gospel

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We see that the uniqueness
of the Gospel is that when He who is
self-giving love takes over a human life,
the one who is taken over himself
becomes an other-lover,
and not just blessed but a blesser,
not just healed but a healer,
not just loved but a lover.

–Norman P. Grubb

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

Love is not like that

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No man, whether good or bad, can lay claim in strict justice to the love of God, because love is not like that at all. It has to be given as a free gift, or not at all. The sinner who is ready to accept love as a gift from God is far closer to God than the “just” man who insists on being loved for his own merits. For the former will soon stop sinning (since he will be loved by God), and the latter has probably already begun to sin.

–Thomas Merton,
The New Man

Published in: on 02/20/2016 at 4:52  Leave a Comment  
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Love is the foundation

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Love is the foundation of all obedience. Without it, morality degenerates into mere casuistry. Love is the foundation of all knowledge. Without it religion degenerates into a chattering about Moses and doctrines and theories; a thing that will neither kill nor make alive, that never gave life to a single soul or blessing to a single heart, and never put strength into any hand in the conflict and strife of daily life.

–Alexander MacLaren
(1826 – 1910)

Published in: on 08/23/2015 at 17:59  Leave a Comment  
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Sowing and reaping

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You reap what you sow —
not something else, but that.
An act of love makes the soul more loving.
A deed of humbleness deepens humbleness.
The thing reaped is the very thing sown,
multiplied a hundred fold.
You have sown a seed of life,
you reap life everlasting.

–Frederick W. Robertson
(1816 – 1853)

Artwork: Vincent van Gogh

The power to do good

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Do right, and God’s recompense to you will be the power of doing more right. Give, and God’s reward to you will be the spirit of giving more: a blessed spirit, for it is the Spirit of God Himself, whose Life is the blessedness of giving. Love, and God will pay you with the capacity of more love; for love is Heaven: love is God within you.

–F. W. Robertson
(1816 – 1853)

When love takes over

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The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being.

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Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.

―C. S. Lewis
The Four Loves

Too Much Religion

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It seems odd to have to say so, but too much religion is a bad thing. We can’t get too much of God, we can’t get too much faith and obedience, can’t get too much love and worship. But religion—the well intentioned efforts we make to “get it all together” for God—can very well get in the way of what God is doing for us. The main and central action is everywhere and always what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. Jesus is the revelation of that action. Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.

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But more often than not we become impatiently self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents worth. We add on, we supplement, we embellish. But instead of improving on the purity and simplicity of Jesus, we dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity. We become fussily religious, or anxiously religious. We get in the way.

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That’s when it’s time to read and pray our way through the letter to the Hebrews again, written for “too religious” Christians, for “Jesus-and” Christians. In the letter, it is Jesus-and-angels, or Jesus-and-Moses, or Jesus-and-priesthood. In our time it is more likely to be Jesus-and-politics, or Jesus-and-education, or even Jesus-and-Buddha. This letter deletes the hyphens, the add-ons. the focus becomes clear and sharp again: God’s action in Jesus. And we are free once more for the act of faith, the one human action in which we don’t get in the way but on the Way.

–Eugene Peterson
Living the Message

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

Daily living of love

 

Francisco Ayala GressJesus does not propositionalize love, give norms and precepts for what love is, give applications for its use, or spell out in detail what love looks like in every situation—because love requires imagination and creativity and customization. What is Jesus looking for in response to His teaching? Not penitential acts or a Jesus worldview but a Jesus life and a daily living of love.

–Frank Viola

Published in: on 02/18/2015 at 7:13  Leave a Comment  
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Both love and truth are vital

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Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.

God’s saving love in Christ, however,
is marked by both radical truthfulness
about who we are and yet also radical,
unconditional commitment to us.

The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

–Timothy Keller

Hope, faith and love

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Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime;
Therefore, we are saved by HOPE.

Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense
in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by FAITH.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by LOVE.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint
of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love
which is forgiveness.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Published in: on 01/02/2015 at 3:02  Leave a Comment  
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Freedom

LookingWe have freedom to the degree that the master whom we obey grants it to us in return for our obedience. We do well to choose a master in terms of how much freedom we get for how much obedience…

To obey the dictates of our own consciences leaves us freedom from the sense of moral guilt, but not the freedom to gratify our own strongest appetites.

To obey our strongest appetites for drink, sex, power, revenge, or whatever leaves us the freedom of an animal to take what we want when we want it, but not the freedom of a human being to be human.

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The old prayer speaks of God “in whose service is perfect freedom.” The paradox is not as opaque as it sounds. It means that to obey Love itself, which above all else wishes us well, leaves us the freedom to be the best and gladdest that we have it in us to become. The only freedom Love denies us is the freedom to destroy ourselves ultimately.

–Frederick Buechner
Beyond Words

Love still grows

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The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.

–J. R. R. Tolkien

Published in: on 05/30/2014 at 8:50  Leave a Comment  
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He seeks to release us

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Of course, in our incomplete world God’s gentle offer and demand press upon us as fearful things, almost threatening. But God’s offer and demand are neither fearful nor threatening. God in his gentle love longs to set us free from the prison we have stumbled into—the loveless prison where we refuse both the offer and the demand of forgiveness. We are like a frightened bird before him, shrinking away lest this demand crush us completely. But when we eventually yield—when he corners us and finally takes us in his hand—we find to our astonishment that he is infinitely gentle and that his only aim is to release us from our prison, to set us free to be the people he made us to be.

But when we fly out into the sunshine, how can we not then offer the same gentle gift of freedom, of forgiveness, to those around us? That is the truth of the resurrection, turned into prayer, turned into forgiveness and remission of debts, turned into love. It is constantly surprising, constantly full of hope, constantly coming to us from God’s future to shape us into the people through whom God can carry out his work in the world.

–N. T. Wright
Surprised by Hope

The melody of the new creation

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The point of 1 Corinthians 13 is that love is not our duty; it is our destiny. It is the language Jesus spoke, and we are called to speak it so that we can converse with him. It is the food they eat in God’s new world, and we must acquire the taste for it here and now. It is the music God has written for all his creatures to sing, and we are called to learn it and practice it now so as to be ready when the conductor brings down his baton. It is the resurrection life, and the resurrected Jesus calls us to begin living it with him and for him right now.

–N. T. Wright
Surprised by Hope

The goal is to love

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To love is to be selfless. To be selfless is to be fearless. To be fearless is to strip enemies of their greatest weapon. Even if they break our bodies and drain our blood, we are unvanquished.

Our goal was never to live;
our goal is to love.

It is the goal of all noble men and women. Give all that can be given. Give even your life itself.

–N. D. Wilson
Empire of Bones

Published in: on 01/11/2014 at 3:48  Leave a Comment  
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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)

What life is about

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Life is rooted in love

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Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit. It is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great thing provided it recurs to its beginning, returns to its origin, and draws always from that Fountain which is perpetually in flood.

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Of all the feelings and affections of the soul, love is the only one by which the creature, though not on equal terms, is able to respond to the Creator and to repay what it has received from Him. For when God loves us He desires nothing but to be loved. He loves for no other reason, indeed, than that He may be loved, knowing that by their love itself those who love Him are blessed.

–Bernard of Clairvaux
(1091 – 1153)

Life and love

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We only live if we love;
we only love if we live
in God’s love. 

–Leonard Sweet

Published in: on 10/15/2013 at 20:31  Leave a Comment  
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Made in heaven

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Every bit of love and beauty and truth that anyone ever experiences on earth is made in Heaven and is a participation in Heaven. For Heaven is God’s presence; and God is present in all goodness, all truth, and all beauty . . . In God all goodness, truth and beauty exist, coexist and meet . . . God is the point of it all.

–Peter J. Kreeft
Heaven: The Earth’s Deepest Longing

Published in: on 10/05/2013 at 17:49  Leave a Comment  
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Beauty, love and shampoo

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The goal of all marketing is the reduction of a big desire to a small desire. In other words, you long for beauty, love, friendship, wisdom, and it is the job of the marketer to convince you that the way you will achieve these desires is to purchase a certain brand of shampoo.

–Kimberly Shankman

Retreating from Love

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All sin is rooted in the failure of love.
All sin is a withdrawal of love from God,
in order to love something else.
Sin sets boundaries to our hope,
and locks our love in prison.

–Thomas Merton
No Man Is An Island

Love’s compulsion

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Divine love
is incessantly restless
until it turns
all woundedness
into health,
all deformity
into beauty and
all embarrassment
into laughter.

–Beldon Lane
The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

The heart of every virtue

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If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude.

Every virtue is an expression of love.

No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.

–Richard P. McBrien

How to avoid a broken heart

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There is no safe investment.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change.

It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

—C. S. Lewis
The Four Loves

Published in: on 07/29/2013 at 6:10  Leave a Comment  
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Incomparable goodness

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“The Word became flesh” . . . His words and his deeds blended like the words and music of a song. He was so truthful that He was truth, so loving that He was love, so good that He was goodness, so morally beautiful that He was beauty, so living that He was life, so godlike that he was God.

–E. Stanley Jones

Credibility

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Love alone is credible,
nothing else can be believed,
and nothing else ought
to be believed.

–Hans Urs von Balthasar
(1905 – 1988)

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