Archive for the ‘God’ Category

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

A Story

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

We may wish for answers, but God rarely gives us answers. Instead, God gathers us up into soft, familiar arms and says, “Let me tell you a story.”

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 221

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 28, 2019

Healing Shame

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

Jesus knows that we need him to help us deal with our shame and guilt. Shame does not need forgiveness, because it involves what others have done to us. We don’t need to be forgiven for being hurt, but we do need to heal. Treating shame takes honesty rather than confession. We don’t need to repent so much as we need to rediscover God’s beauty within us. God’s image is embossed on our souls. It is hard to see, under that grimy film others left behind, but shame can be cleansed. It has to be removed carefully, kindly, and often slowly. It takes time and patience and often the demonstrated love of close friends or wise counselors, but restoration is possible. Our hearts can grow this way and give us room for friendship and love to share with others.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 37

Photo: Zugspitze, Germany, July 17, 2000

Reckless Love

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Reckless love is different. It pushes us to cross all sorts of boundaries to help us love as God loves and commands us to love. Getting people to take a risk and do the unexpected is the kind of thing Jesus had in mind as he guided his followers to encounter surprising places and people. He has probably done something similar in your life if you have followed him for even a short length of time. Whenever we walk with Jesus, we have experiences that transform us. He takes us out of our comfort zones. Without apology or warning, he expands us, makes us afraid of what might happen, and then shows us how love is properly done. He is not content with sedentary faith.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 11

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 17, 2019

Away from Law, Into Love

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is providing a description of what life looks like for the person who will follow Him. Since the average Jewish person listening to Jesus attempted to allow their life to be guided by the Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition, Jesus frequently compares and contrasts His way of life with the way of life that comes from following the Law. When we approach the Sermon on the Mount with this in mind, we see that Jesus calls people away from actions of legalistic obedience to a set of laws and toward attitudes of love for all people.

The Sermon on the Mount is a call to love. It focuses on attitude, rather than activity. Following Jesus is not about going through the motions but about living in love that comes from the heart. Jesus is not adding to the law, but is showing that love is the fulfillment of the law. He shows, for example, that while the law says “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery,” such laws still allowed people to hate their brother or lust after women (Matt 5:21-30). In this way, it was possible to fulfill the letter of the law while completely ignoring its intent. But the person guided by love will neither hate nor lust, which fulfills both the letter and intent of the law. Jesus even goes so far as to call His followers to love their enemies (Matt 5:43-48), which is the ultimate representation of love and which no law could ever accomplish. The rest of the Sermon follows this same theme.

J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 98-99