Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

At-one-ment

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

With all my heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, I believe in the atonement (all it the a-tone-ment, or the at-one-ment, as you please). I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement, that through him we are reconciled to, made one with God. There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled by Michael R. Phillips

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

God Is Not Mad at You.

Friday, March 16th, 2018

What I want you to know is that God’s attitude, God’s spirit, toward you is one of unwavering fatherly-motherly love. You have nothing to fear from God. God is not mad at you. God has never been mad at you. God is never going to be mad at you. And what about the fear of God? The fear of God is the wisdom of not acting against love. We fear God in the same way that as a child I feared my father. I had the good fortune to have a wise and loving father, and I had deep respect, reverence, admiration, and, perhaps, a kind of fear for my father, but I never for one moment thought that my dad hated me or would harm me. God does not hate you, and God will never harm you. But your own sin, if you do not turn away from it, will bring you great harm. The wisdom that acknowledges this fact is what we call the fear of God. Sin is deadly, but God is love.

I know some will be quick to remind me that the writer of Hebrews tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And no doubt it is. In the hands of God, there is no place to hide. We have to be honest with ourselves about ourselves. In the hands of God, we can no longer live in the disguise of our lies. In the hands of God, we have to face ourselves. And that can be terrifying. When the prodigal son returned home and fell into the arms of his father, I’m sure the boy felt afraid. We can tell by how he immediately speaks of his unworthiness: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This wayward son has fallen into the hands of his father; his fate is in his father’s hands . . . and he is afraid. But there is no better place to be! This gracious father in Jesus’s parable is given to us as a picture of our heavenly Father! When the prodigal son fell fearfully into the hands of his father, forgiveness, healing, and restoration began. Just because the prodigal son felt fear as he fell into his father’s hands doesn’t mean he had anything to fear from his father. In his father’s hands was the only safe place to be. It was in the far country that the prodigal son was in danger, not in his father’s hands. When we fall into the hands of the living God, we are sinners in the hands of a loving God.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 19-20

Saints and Sinners

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Personally, I think knowing the difference between a racist and a saint is kind of important. But when Jesus again and again says things like the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, and the poor are blessed, and the rich are cursed, and that prostitutes make great dinner guests, it makes me wonder if our need for pure black-and-white categories is not true religion but maybe actually a sin. Knowing what category to place hemlock in might help us know whether it’s safe to drink, but knowing what category to place ourselves and others in does not help us know God in the way that the church so often has tried to convince us it does.

And anyway, it has been my experience that what makes us the saints of God is not our ability to be saintly but rather God’s ability to work through sinners. The title “saint” is always conferred, never earned. Or as the good Saint Paul puts it, “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). I have come to realize that all the saints I’ve known have been accidental ones – people who inadvertently stumbled into redemption like they were looking for something else at the time, people who have just a wee bit of a drinking problem and manage to get sober and help others to do the same, people who are as kind as they are hostile.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 7-8

Just Like Jesus

Friday, March 9th, 2018

I believe that God is just like Jesus, only greater yet, for Jesus said so. I believe that God is absolutely, grandly beautiful, even as the highest soul of man counts beauty, but infinitely beyond that soul’s highest idea — with the beauty that creates beauty, not merely shows itself beautiful. I believe that God has always done, is always doing, his best for every man, that no man is miserable because God is forgetting him, that he is not a God to crouch before, but our Father, to whom the child-heart cries exultantly, “Do with me as thou wilt.”

I believe that there is nothing good for me or for any man but God, and more and more of God, and that alone through knowing Christ can we come nigh to God.

I believe that no man is ever condemned for any sin except one — that he will not leave his sins, come out of them, and be the child of him who is his Father.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled by Michael R. Phillips, p. 269.

Listen

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Inspiration comes far more often during work as things get rolling than before you sit at the typewriter. This is because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen. To listen to the work and to go where it tells you to go. And this involves faith. Letting go of your own control and having faith in something you do not control.

To pray is also to listen. To move through my own chattering to God, to get beyond those words to that place where I can be silent and then listen to what God may have to say.

— Madeleine L’Engle, Wheaton College Writing and Literature Conferences, quoted in Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase, p. 132.

Make the Story Our Own

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Even before we get to Paul, we find the challenge of the cross reaching us in quite new ways. It is indeed revolutionary. Nothing is lost. We do not (of course!) have to give up the idea of Jesus “dying for our sins.” Indeed, that remains at the very center. But that idea is refocused, recontextualized, placed within a narrative not of divine petulance, but of unbreakable divine covenant love, embodied in the actual person, life, actions, and teaching of Jesus himself. This means that in order to appropriate this for ourselves, to benefit from this story, it is not simply a matter of believing a particular abstract doctrine, this or that theory of how “atonement” might be thought to “work.” No doubt that can help, though with the abstractions can come distortions, as we have seen.

No, the gospels invite us to make this story our own, to live within the narrative in all its twists and turns, to see ourselves among the crowds following Jesus and witnessing his kingdom-bringing work, to see ourselves also in the long-range continuation of that narrative that we call, in fear and trembling (because we know its deep ambiguities), the life of the church. In particular, as followers of Jesus from the very beginning have known, we are to make the story our own by the repeated meals in which the Last Supper is brought to life once more. If that was how Jesus wanted his followers not only to understand, but also to appropriate for themselves the meaning of the death he was to die, there is every reason to take it seriously as the sign and foretaste of the eventual kingdom, carrying within it the assurance that we too are those who share in the “forgiveness of sins.” And, with that, the gospels give to those who read them the energy and the sense of direction to be Beatitude people for the world, knowing that the victory was indeed won on the cross, that Jesus is indeed already installed as the world’s rightful ruler, and that his way of peace and reconciliation has been shown to be more powerful than all the powers of the world.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 224-225.

Increasing Accountability with Self-Forgiveness

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Surprisingly, it’s forgiveness, not guilt, that increases accountability. Researchers have found that taking a self-compassionate point of view on a personal failure makes people more likely to take personal responsibility for the failure than when they take a self-critical point of view. They also are more willing to receive feedback and advice from others, and more likely to learn from the experience.

— Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct, p. 148.

God Doesn’t Do Control.

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

What does the power of the cross mean for us? Or for those who suffer? It means the same Christ crucified on Good Friday now fills the universe with his cruciform love. He does not passively and powerlessly witness the abuse of his children or the oppression of the poor and ‘do nothing.’ Rather, enters the suffering, experiences the anguish, lives the sorrow for all, with all, for all the time. The Christlike God drinks our cup of suffering. The Lamb slain bore it all, right down to the foundations of the cosmos. Secondary causes nailed him to the Tree of affliction. And what did Christ do? In love, he consented to co-suffer with us in solidarity.

In that sense, I say God is in charge, but he is not in control, because he doesn’t do control. Sometimes I wish he did, but as I scan history and humanity, I don’t see him controlling. Sometimes he seems and feels absent, distant and silent, weak or maybe even dead. Did God simply die and abandon us all to go to ‘hell in a hand basket’?

No! Rather than control and coerce, God-in-Christ cares and consents to suffer with and for us. We don’t concede to the false image of a ‘lame duck’ dad who sits by silently, watching his kids getting beaten by the bully. Instead, we look to the true image of the cruciform — Christ himself — the One who heard our groans and came down to suffer and die with us in order to overcome affliction, defeat death and raise us up to live and reign with him.

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God, p. 133

A Historical Belief

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

It is a historical fact that there have been orthodox Christian leaders and thinkers from the beginning of the church who have embraced, if not an outright belief in universal salvation through Christ, at least a strong hope in this grand and beautiful story that God is writing.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 12

Faith is Obedience.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Theory is not faith, nor anything like it. Faith is obedience; theory, I know not what. Trust in God. Obey the word – every word of the Master. That is faith; and so believing, your opinion will grow out of your true life, and be worthy of it.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled by Michael R. Phillips, p. 268.