A Whole New World

September 20th, 2017

Paul sees himself standing at the cutting edge of the revolution. The death of Jesus has opened up a whole new world, and he is part of the team leading the way into unexplored territory. He is not only to announce, but also to embody the faithfulness of the creator God to his covenant and his world. He is thinking of Isaiah’s vision of Israel’s “servant” vocation and quoting from one of his favorite chapters, Isaiah 49: “I listened to you when the time was right; I came to your aid on the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2, quoting Isa. 49:8). The remainder of that verse in Isaiah goes on, “I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people.” Paul is not summarizing the “works contract” (Jesus takes our sin, and we take his “righteousness”). He is doing what Revelation is doing: celebrating the fact that Jesus’s reconciling death sets people free to take up their true vocation. The Messiah’s death gives to him, and by extension to all who follow Jesus, the vocation to be part of the ongoing divine plan, the covenant purpose for the whole world.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 82.

Biblical Interpretation

September 18th, 2017

All this is to say that if you find yourself agreeing with my interpretations, don’t assume traditionalists are thick-headed or hard-hearted for not seeing what we see. On the other hand, if you find yourself disagreeing with my interpretations, don’t assume that your viewpoint is unquestionably the “real biblical position.” Christians have been reading the same Bible and holding greatly different beliefs for over two thousand years now. Awareness of this historical fact alone should make us quick to listen to others, and slow to assume our position is the obviously right one. It should also give us pause before accusing someone of denying biblical authority just because they question the legitimacy of our interpretations. In other words, in questioning hell we are not throwing away the biblical puzzle pieces we do not like, we are simply questioning if the picture on the lid that we have received from the dominant tradition actually gives us the best way to put all the pieces together. Perhaps there is a better picture that can make room for more of the pieces to fit together better. At this point we need to acknowledge that people who disagree with our own biblical interpretations are not necessarily denying the Bible, but simply questioning the lenses through which we currently see the Bible.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 5

Avoiding Joy

September 16th, 2017

Pain cannot be avoided, but joy can.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 52

Unsystematic Truths

September 11th, 2017

But with Job easy answers are not possible. Implicit in the book is the lesson that theology must not try to be any clearer about God than God is about Himself. This is where so much fundamentalist religion goes astray, as it seeks to pin things down that are unpinnable, to systematize truths that by nature are unsystematic. Pharisees theologize the life out of truth. They are so wrapped up in expounding the Word of God that they forget it is the Word of God which expounds us.

— Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job, p. 131-132

For or Against

September 9th, 2017

Being for something creates positive feelings of interest, passion, or joy, which improve health and relationships. Being against something foments negative feelings of anger, contempt, envy, or disgust, which have deleterious effects on health and relationships.

— Steven Stosny, Soar Above, p. 161

The Courage to Live with an Open Heart

September 8th, 2017

The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama had revealed throughout the week one of the core paradoxes of happiness: We are most joyful when we focus on others, not on ourselves. In short, bringing joy to others is the fastest way to experience joy oneself. As the Dalai Lama had said, even ten minutes of meditation on the well-being of others can help one to feel joyful for the whole day — even before coffee. When we close our heart, we cannot be joyful. When we have the courage to live with an open heart, we are able to feel our pain and the pain of others, but we are also able to experience more joy. The bigger and warmer our heart, the stronger our sense of aliveness and resilience.

— Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy, p. 261

Angels of Prayer

September 7th, 2017

No one ever prays alone.  When you pray to God, there is a multitude of angels of prayer there, praying with you, regardless of your religious faith or how you are behaving.  They are there enhancing your prayer, interceding on your behalf and imploring God to grant your prayer.  Every time you pray, even if it is only one word, the angels of prayer are like a never-ending stream flowing at tremendous speed to Heaven with your prayers….

I know it’s hard to believe that I see hundreds of thousands of angels of prayer flowing like a river toward Heaven, bringing a person’s prayers and presenting them at the throne of God.  But that is what I am shown; it’s as if angels of prayer bring every bit of the prayer – every syllable that is prayed for – up to Heaven.  When the person stops praying, the flow stops, but as soon as the person starts to pray again, the stream of angels of prayer resumes.

— Lorna Byrne, A Message of Hope from the Angels, p. 49-50

Inescapable Love

September 6th, 2017

The notion of suffering as an offset for sin comes first of all, I think, from the satisfaction we feel when wrong comes to grief. We hate wrong, but, not being righteous ourselves, to a degree we cannot keep from hating the wronger as well. In this way the inborn justice of our nature passes over to evil. It is no pleasure to God, as it so often is to us, to see the wicked suffer. To regard any suffering with satisfaction, unless it be sympathetically with its curative quality, comes of evil and is a thing God is incapable of. His nature is always to forgive, and just because he forgives, he punishes. Because God is so altogether alien to wrong, because it is to him a heart-pain and trouble that one of his little ones should do the evil thing, there is, I believe, no extreme of suffering to which, for the sake of destroying the evil thing in them, he would not subject them. A man might flatter, or bribe, or coax a tyrant. But there is no refuge from the love of God. That love will, for very love, insist upon the uttermost farthing.

“That hardly sounds like love,” you say. “It’s certainly not the sort of love I care about.”

No, how should you? How should any of us care for it until we begin to know it? But the eternal love will not be moved to yield us to the selfishess that is killing us. You may sneer at such a love, but the Son of God, who took the weight of that love and bore it through the world, is content with it, and so is everyone who truly knows it.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, edited by Michael Phillips, p. 261-262

In the Company of Artists

September 1st, 2017

When I look back on [my] decade of total failure – it’s been a mixture, both before, and since – there was, even on the days of rejection slips, a tiny, stubborn refusal to be completely put down. And I think, too, and possibly most important, that there is a faith simply in the validity of art; when we talk about ourselves as being part of the company of such people as Mozart or van Gogh or Dostoyevsky, it has nothing to do with comparisons, or pitting talent against talent; it has everything to do with a way of looking at the universe. My husband said, “But people might think you’re putting yourself alongside Dostoyevsky.” The idea is so impossible that I can only laugh in incredulity. Dostoyevsky is a giant; I look up to him; I sit at his feet; perhaps I will be able to learn something from him. But we do face the same direction, no matter how giant his stride, how small mine.

— Madeleine L’Engle, Circle of Quiet, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, p. 32

Our Vocation

August 25th, 2017

The remarkable thing is that the Creator, having made the world to work in this way – with humans functioning like the “image” in a temple, standing between heaven and earth and acting on behalf of each in relation to the other – has not abandoned the project. Yes, it gets distorted again and again. But it remains the way the world was supposed to work – and the way in which, through the gospel, it will work once more. The powers that have stolen the worshipping hearts of the world and that have in consequence usurped the human rule over the world would like nothing better than for humans to think only of escaping the world rather than taking back their priestly and royal vocations.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 80