Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Too Busy Being Faithful

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Jesus was always too busy being faithful to worry about success. I’m not opposed to success; I just think we should accept it only if it is a by-product of our fidelity. If our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 178

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, January 28, 1998

Woe!

Monday, January 20th, 2020

But “woe” is not really a helpful translation for the Greek word. Its sense is rather one of lament — like a mourner keening in grief, wailing out repeated cries of “Oh, oh, oh” at the death of a loved one. Spanish Bibles simply translate the sound as “Ay, ay, ay.” I would translate the word as, “Alas.” The meaning of the Greek word ouai is first of all a cry of pain, like the word “ouch” in English. It can mean “woe,” but it can also express deep lamentation or mourning, as in the laments of the merchants and kings over Rome in chapter 18, “Alas, Alas, Alas, for the great city!” — the same Greek word ouai.

It is as if God is crying “ouch” or “alas” on behalf of the suffering world: “Alas for the inhabitants of the earth.” It is a subtle but significant shift in direction because “Alas” conveys God’s sympathy in a way that “woe” does not.

This is important because dispensationalists use Revelation’s “woe” verses to argue that God has consigned the world to cataclysmic destruction. Their arguments contradict the overall message of Revelation. In the tradition of the Exodus story and the Exodus plagues, Revelation makes clear that God sympathizes, grieves, and laments over the world’s pain, even while threatening plagues to bring about the world’s liberation from injustice.

As we ponder the message of Revelation, especially its difficult middle sections, we must remember the overarching promise that God still loves the world and cries out for its liberation. In the slain Lamb Jesus, God shares our cries and comes to deliver us. God does not curse the world. God loves the world enough to weep and lament for it, and even to come to dwell in it with us. God will never leave the world behind!

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 129

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015

A Heart for Us

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Jesus called Simon to join him as he was. He did not make him confess his sins, get a higher SAT score, or improve his resume for a few years and reapply. Jesus knew he could expand Simon’s capacity to love by offering him grace. When we realize that God has a heart for us, it enables our hearts to expand. That experience may be what allowed Simon to put his shame or his guilt in perspective. It may be why Jesus later changed Simon’s name to Peter, to focus his attention on his strengths and future rather than on his past.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 38

Photo: Overlooking Los Angeles, January 1, 2020

Universal Grace

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Grace universally given is still grace. A gift made to everyone is no less a gift, and a gift that is intrinsically precious need not be rare to be an act of the highest generosity. Conversely, that gift becomes no more precious — indeed, it becomes much less so — if it is certified in its value by being distributed only parsimoniously. Our very existence is an unmerited gift, after all (unless, of course, there really is an eternal hell, in which case it is also, and perhaps preponderantly, an unmerited brutality). More to the point, if Paul is right, then — whereas natural justice is wholly concerned with matters of law and proportional consequences — the supernatural justice revealed in Christ consists in God’s victory over all the powers that separate his creation from him, and to that degree is as “unjust” as any other act of wholly unmerited mercy is.

— David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved, p. 52.

Photo: North Cape, Prince Edward Island, September 26, 2019

Without Redaction

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

The goal of the gatherings is to create space where everyone can be the most real version of themselves and know that they have a place at the table. When you’re sure that your truest truth really is welcomed, you want to share yours. You want to be fully known. This is the heart of our church: the only person you need to be is the one you are at any given moment; flawed, failing, fearful, and loved by God and by those you gather with. Trust me when I tell you that it’s heaven on earth.

Community, spiritual or otherwise, is only redemptive to the degree that we are fully seen and known when we partake in it, when we no longer feel burdened to pretend, when guilt or shame or fear are no longer a threat. When we can bring our truest selves without redaction, then we are really free. This is the table Jesus invites us to. This is the table his example demands we set for the world. We, the filthy lepers, all get to dine with a Messiah, and none of us need to be clean.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 81-82

Photo: Greenwich Dunes, Prince Edward Island, September 25, 2019

Universal Reconciliation

Friday, November 8th, 2019

Universal Reconciliation is the belief that all people for all time will eventually be reconciled to God — that this lifetime is not the “only chance” to be saved — but that there is only one way to God, through Jesus Christ.

Through a very intentional plan that reaches into future ages, I believe the true Gospel is that all people for all time will be willingly and joyfully drawn by the unconditional, irresistible, compelling love of a Father into a relationship with Him through His Son. In the end, every knee will have bowed, and every tongue will have confessed Jesus as Lord, giving praise to God (see Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10).

— Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell, p. 6

The Kind of God He Is

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

To begin with, let us state the obvious: Jesus Christ was sacrificed. As many Old Testament Scriptures prophesy and many New Testament Scriptures explain, the death of Jesus was a sacrifice. But the key to understanding the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross is to recognize that it was not God who demanded or required the death of Jesus; it was humans. Jesus did not die to please or appease God, but to please and appease men. In the Gospels, it is human beings who wanted Jesus to die; not God. Human beings called for His blood; not God. The sacrifice of Jesus was not a sacrifice from men to God for the purpose of pleasing and appeasing God, but was instead a sacrifice from God to men for the purpose of exposing sacrifice for what it truly is, thus bringing an end to it.

Yes, God sent His Son to die as a sacrifice, but this was not because God Himself wanted or needed the sacrifice, but because God wanted to reveal and expose to humanity once and for all the violent and sinful tendencies that reside in our own hearts. God did not want or need the death of His own Son in order to satiate His wrath toward sin and extend forgiveness to us. No, God has always loved and always forgiven all humans for all their sin, simply because that’s the kind of God He is. He doesn’t need or demand payment for sin. (In fact, if He did demand payment, then He wouldn’t be forgiving; He would be getting “paid off.”)

Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, by J. D. Myers, p. 121-122

Photo: Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, the Haunted Wood, September 23, 2019.

Throwing a Party

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

In Luke 15 Jesus tells three parables of repentant sinners, and at the end of each we’re invited to rejoice. The shepherd announces, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (verse 6); the woman exclaims, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin” (verse 9); the father of the prodigal crows, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate” (verse 23). At the heart of the kingdom of heaven, a celebration is going on. What’s the occasion? It’s not that all wars are over, or all suffering ended, or all the world converted. No, the occasion is that one lost sheep has come home. Joy, overlooking all the good reasons for pessimism, throws a big party over one lovely flower, one bird call, one child’s smile, one earth-shattering change in a human heart. How about leaving our somber studies to join the revelry of angels?

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 150

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 25, 2019

God’s Redeeming Care

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

The act of redeeming is motivated by divine mercy or compassion (rahamim). If we knew Hebrew, we would realize that compassion is a cognate of the word for womb (rehem). When the people of Israel heard, “With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says YHWH your Redeemer” (Isa 54:8), they understood that the redeeming God was pouring out on them the kind of love a mother has for the child of her womb. In Phyllis Trible’s careful analysis, this journey of a metaphor from the wombs of women to the compassion of God is a powerful clue to the divine being, unfolding as it does unsuspected female dimensions of the image of God whose mercy is greater than we can imagine….

From its original financial meaning the verb “redeem” expanded and came to refer to rescue from physical, political, and spiritual bondage; from slavery, exile, and other kinds of oppression; from persecution, troubles, and enemies; from sin and from death. Individuals as well as the community as a whole were the beneficiaries of God’s redeeming care.

This rich tradition flows into Second Isaiah who used it to awaken hope of redemption in people being held captive, based on the endearing goel relationship between YHWH and Israel: “But now thus says YHWH who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1).

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 45-46

Photo: Rhine River, Germany, March 12, 1997

Community and Kinship

Friday, September 6th, 2019

If we choose to stand in the right place, God, through us, creates a community of resistance without our even realizing it. To embrace the strategy of Jesus is to be engaged in what Dean Brackley calls “downward mobility.” Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them. The margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase them. The trickle-down theory doesn’t really work here. The powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the “other” will only be moved to kinship when they observe it. Only when we can see a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 177-178

Photo: Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park, Virginia, August 31, 2019