Drawing Sinners Close

August 14th, 2018

I confess that I am often baffled when defenders of the traditional view of an everlasting hell say things like, “God will not tolerate sinners.” I know this doesn’t sound very nice to say, but it really makes me wonder if they have ever paid close attention to Jesus’s life. If one thing is abundantly clear about Jesus’s life, it is that he not only tolerated sinners, he loved them, ate with them, and accepted them into fellowship with himself, to the chagrin of the top religious leaders of his day (Luke 15:1-2). If we believe that Jesus reveals God more than anything or anyone else, as Christians have always believed, then how can we ever come to the conclusion that God cannot tolerate sinners? The Pharisees were the ones who thought that God could not tolerate sinners, not Jesus and his followers.

God loves sinners and wants to be with sinners (people like you and me). What God cannot tolerate is sin, because sin harms and destroys the good purposes that God has for people. Because God loves sinners, God hates sin. God’s goal is not to damn sinners, but to destroy sin, and the way that God destroys sin is by drawing sinners close to his heart of holy love which burns like a refiner’s fire.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 51

Photo: Shenandoah National Park, September 16, 2007

The Unboxable Largeness of Life

August 13th, 2018

The course of a champion requires continual growth. For the person who’s growing, each day is different. Each hour presents new challenges that have to be met with new strategies. If we’re stuck in a rut, we don’t need new strategies; we can live by the same old rules and never change a thing. To joy this is intolerable. Joy requires freshness, newness, stimulation. Joy thrives on the unboxable largeness of life in all its bewildering variety. Depression feeds on sameness, but joy craves a steady diet of fresh, dangerous, wiggling, live game.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 82

[Photo: From Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland, July 2001]

The Value of Appreciation

August 11th, 2018

The ultimate issue isn’t whether people deserve your negative thoughts; certainly many people do. The more important point is that they are your thoughts in your head, and you want them to be as beneficial to you as possible.

It’s impossible to appreciate and feel devalued at the same time.

— Steven Stosny, Living and Loving After Betrayal, p. 67

[Photo: Assateague Island, October 24, 2016]

Love of Life

August 10th, 2018

When you approach work or any task with love of life, the task becomes so much easier, you gain more confidence, and start to see the positives in the work you are doing. You realize how much you enjoy your colleagues, or how nice so many of the customers are, or you simply appreciate going home with a paycheck. When you approach work with this love of life you have more mental and physical energy and are able to do a better job. You are open to see and seize opportunities to learn new things or take on a new job. It helps to move you forward in life. People who really love life are frequently not in the most important jobs. They may not need as much as others need in terms of stimulation, or reward, but they often, though, live much more satisfying and happier work lives than those who seek higher status.

— Lorna Byrne, Love from Heaven, p. 112

Photo: Rota, Spain, December 18, 2005

Crushing Guilt

August 9th, 2018

When we are feeling guilty, we withdraw, because we are afraid of doing the same thing over again. We either remove ourselves from the path of life or attack those around us to get away from feeling guilty. In the same way, if we lay guilt on those around us, they will respond either by withdrawing from us or by becoming aggressive back at us. Everyone hates guilt. It is the hot potato we always try to pass on to the people around us. We never want to take responsibility for our guilt, because it just feels bad. It is the destructive illusion that creates, either within or outside us, exactly what it is trying to stop. Our willingness to let go of our guilt allows us to remember our own and everyone’s innocence.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 324

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 12, 2014

New-Creation Work

August 8th, 2018

Evangelism needs to be flanked with new-creation work in the realms of justice and beauty. If we are talking about the victory over evil and the launch of new creation, it won’t make much sense unless we are working for those very things in the lives of the poorest of the poor. If we are talking about Jesus winning the victory over the dark powers and thereby starting the long-awaited revolution, it will be much easier for people to believe it if we are working to show what we mean in art and music, in song and story.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 405

[Photo: Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, March 17, 2012]

Forgiving from Strength

August 7th, 2018

Forgiveness is an act that shows strength. We can forgive from strength only when we know, have named, and shared those feelings. We can forgive from strength only when we have made clear we are hurt and that we are not ashamed of being hurt. Our strength can be an example to others.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 72

[Photo: Torrey Pines State Reserve, California, July 10, 2015]

God Isn’t Conflicted.

August 6th, 2018

God’s essential unity is destroyed when we assign to him conflicting actions, as though his love demanded one course of action, and his justice another, as though God the Saviour were one person, and God the Judge a wholly different one. Or, again, when we blindly teach that, if his judgments now mean salvation, they at the great day mean endless damnation. God, I repeat, in his “judgments,” in his “fires,” in “death,” in “election,” God in time and in eternity is one and the same God (Heb 13:8), and has, and must have to all eternity, but one unchanging purpose — is and must be for ever God our Saviour.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 231

[Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002]

Singing in the Midst of Evil

August 5th, 2018

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we can stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold’s funeral, that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, still we make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 201

[Photo: Great Falls, Virginia, June 14, 2013]

Value in Relationships

August 4th, 2018

You cannot criticize, stonewall, nag, manipulate, coerce, or threaten someone into genuinely valuing you. More important, you cannot feel valuable while exerting power over loved ones.

The secret of Power Love lies not in exerting power but in creating value, through interest, compassion, and care.

The self-empowerment that comes from creating value through interest, compassion, and care is its own reward, yet it comes with a significant bonus. The more value we create, the more cooperation and mutuality of giving we are likely to experience in love relationships.

You’ve probably heard the saying: “Living well is the best revenge.” Living well actually means creating more value in your life. Creating more value in your life in general and in your love relationship in particular is the surest way to become the partner you most want to be.

— Steven Stosny, Empowered Love, p. 176

[Photo: Oregon Coast, August 6, 2014]