Archive for the ‘God’ Category

God Telling Stories

Friday, February 15th, 2019

And yet the scandal of the gospel is that one day the God of our theology books and religious debates showed up — as a person, in flesh and blood. And while God indeed delivered a few sermons and entertained a couple of theological discussions, it is notable that according to the Gospels, when God was wrapped in flesh and walking among us, the single most occupying activity of the Creator of the universe, the Ultimate Reality, the Alpha and Omega and the great I AM of ages past and ages to come, was to tell stories.

Lots and lots and lots of stories.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 158

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 24, 2016

God Is Not Angry at Us for Our Sin.

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

First, God is not angry at us for our sin. While sin is a serious thing, God is not concerned about sin simply because it is sin. That is, God doesn’t tell us to stay away from sin because sin offends, hurts, or angers Him. Purely from God’s perspective, sin just isn’t that big of a deal. The reason God is concerned about sin and wants all humans to stop sinning, is not because God Himself is offended or angered by sin, but because we humans are hurt and damaged by it. Sin is an issue with God, not because it hurts Him, but because it hurts us. God loves us so much, He tells us not to sin because He doesn’t want to see us get hurt by it. When God says “Don’t” what He is really saying is “Don’t hurt yourself.”

This leads to the second truth about sin to keep in mind: God does not punish us for our sin. Yes, we may get punished for sin, but this punishment is not from God. Sin carries its own punishment. In fact, the punishment that comes from sin is the pain of sin that God wants to rescue and deliver us from. God doesn’t punish us for sin; He works to rescue us from the punishment of sin. God loves us, and doesn’t want us to experience the devastating and destructive consequences of sin, and so He warns us against sin.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 54-55

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 6, 2019

God Is Love.

Friday, February 8th, 2019

God is Love from top to bottom, beginning to end — inside and out. The expanse of God who is Love is boundless, limitless, unrestricted, and unrestrained. His actions and reactions to every molecule and movement of your life is always Love. God is pedal-to-the-metal in love with you — always has been, always will be.

This is the Grace that has always been flowing like a river in your soul, seeking to break the dams of religiosity that hold you captive and well up in you with streams of life everlasting and overflowing.

— Chris Kratzer, Leatherbound Terrorism, p. 65

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 16, 2015

Forgiving Love

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Christian universalism, unlike the traditional view of hell, refuses to dilute Jesus’s radical message that God’s holiness and perfection is defined by a refusal to embrace retaliatory justice and limited forgiveness (Matt 5:38-42; 18:21-22). God’s holy perfection is not a retributive drive to punish sinners. God’s holy perfection is a restorative impulse to forgive sinners and, through a non-retaliatory love that absorbs sin, make reconciliation possible. Forgiving love is at the heart of who God is. Forgiveness isn’t just something that God does. Forgiveness, the willingness to take on the pain caused by others and to not strike back, is at the core of God’s being. The cross of Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s self-sacrificial and nonviolent love. In Christ, we see a God who refuses to fight evil with evil, but instead overcomes evil with good and calls us to walk the path that he pioneered for us (Rom 12:14-21).

The Christian universalist, then, will see living with forgiveness as essential to holy living. Because God is deeply forgiving and non-retaliatory, our journey of seeking to imitate God must then make forgiveness front and center for our way of life. There is no doubting the fact that the way of forgiveness is absolutely central to the Christian way of life (e.g., Matt 6:7-15; Col 3:13)….

On the traditional view, God essentially asks of humanity what God is not willing to do. God asks us to not seek merely retributive punishment and to forgive indefinitely, yet God is not willing to do this himself. On the traditional view, it is easier to write people off and condemn them because it is believed deep down that this is what God in fact does with the majority of people. On the universalist view, restorative justice and reconciliation are the ultimate reality. Because the universalist believes that the world is heading towards the reconciliation of all things, we are motivated and inspired here and now to begin to make that a reality.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 147-148

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 13, 2019

Loving as God Does

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Our frightened selves want only for the gathered to like us, to agree with us, or be intimidated by us. I suppose Jesus walks into a room and loves what he finds there. Delights in it, in fact. Maybe, He makes a beeline to the outcasts and chooses, in them, to go where love has not yet arrived. His ways aren’t our ways, but they sure could be.

We have grown accustomed to think that loving as God does is hard. We think it’s about moral strain and obligation. We presume it requires a spiritual muscularity of which we are not capable, a layering of burden on top of sacrifice, with a side order of guilt. (But it was love, after all, that made the cross salvific, not the sheer torture of it.)

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 155

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 8, 2019

Saving the World

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

For God to resort to violence in order to save the world is not saving the world; it’s condemning the world. But John tells us, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God saves the world not through the impatience of violence but through the infinite patience of divine love. I understand the incredulity of unbelievers toward the idea that the world can be saved by love and without violence; it is this very incredulity that lies at the foundation of their unbelief. But it is the very inconceivability of God-saving love in Christ that Christians are to believe in most of all. If John 3:16 is to mean anything, it must mean that God gets what God wants through love, or not at all. If I believe that love never fails, it’s because I believe that God is love. To believe in the sufficiency of God’s love to save the world is not naïve optimism; it’s Christianity.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 206-207.

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 21, 2018

Compassion, Not Separation

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

According to the traditionalists, God’s holiness lies in God’s right to retributively punish sin forever out of being offended by human sin. However, Jesus defined God’s holy perfection much differently. He didn’t describe God’s holiness as God’s need to restore his offended majesty, but rather he explicitly and clearly defined God’s holiness as God’s unbounded love for God’s enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Remember, it was the Pharisees who defined God’s holiness in terms of separation from sinners. The Pharisees (whose name means “separate ones”) excluded sinners from their fellowship because they believed they were imitating the way God relates to sinners. Jesus, on the other hand, welcomed sinners into fellowship with himself because he believed he was imitating the way God relates to sinners. Jesus subversively redefined God’s holiness as compassion, not separation. When thinking about the holiness of God, it is crucially important that we let Jesus define divine holiness for us, since he is the pinnacle of God’s revelation to us. “No one has ever seen God,” the apostle John writes, but Jesus “who is close to the Father’s heart has made him known” (John 1:18). God is holy, to be sure, but traditional defenders of hell rely far too much on the vision of divine holiness put forth by the Pharisees, and not enough on the way Jesus revealed the holiness of God as compassionate love.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 146-147

Photo: Ely Cathedral, England, April 24, 2005

The Power of Love

Monday, December 24th, 2018

I hope you recognize love as the most powerful force for personal change and for changing the world around us.  Yes, we live in scary times.  Yes, people are hurting.  Yes, people are hurting one another.  But anger is not the key; revenge is not the answer.  The way of love — the love and power of God — is the key to our hope and to our future.

The message of God is very simple.  Love one another.  Take care of one another.  Take care of creation.  And while you’re at it, love me — love God.  Do that and you will find your way.  That is the core of the gospel.  That is the only sermon that matters.

— Michael Curry, The Power of Love, p. xvi.

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, Christmas 1996

Good News

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

Indeed, in Scripture, no two people encounter Jesus in exactly the same way. Not once does anyone pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” or ask Jesus into their heart. The good news is good for the whole world, certainly, but what makes it good varies from person to person and community to community. Liberation from sin looks different for the rich young ruler than it does for the woman caught in adultery. The good news that Jesus is the Messiah has a different impact on John the Baptist, a Jewish prophet, than it does the Ethiopian eunuch, a Gentile and outsider. Salvation means one thing for Mary Magdalene, first to witness the resurrection, and another to the thief who died next to Jesus on a cross. The gospel is like a mosaic of stories, each one part of a larger story, yet beautiful and truthful on its own. There’s no formula, no blueprint.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 151

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 12, 2018

Life Here and Now

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

In the New Testament, however, salvation is about much more than just getting our soul into heaven when we die, and evangelism is about much more than getting our name on the right side of the divine ledger. Salvation is about getting heaven, the realm of God’s saving presence, into all the different aspects of our life here and now. The early Christians did not understand their mission in life to be to simply get people to assent to certain religious beliefs so that they would have a good afterlife waiting for them. They believed that Jesus is the world’s true ruler, and so their mission was to live in that truth and announce it to the world. The first Christians believed that through his resurrection and ascension, Jesus was exalted as King over all, and so the way we enable God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven is by following Jesus here and now.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 137-138

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 17, 2018