Archive for February, 2018

Unconditional, not Unconcerned

Friday, February 16th, 2018

The revelation that God’s single disposition toward sinners remains one of unconditional love does not mean we are exempt from the consequences of going against the grain of love.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 18

Real Self-Love

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Real love allows for failure and suffering. All of us have made mistakes, and some of those mistakes were consequential, but you can find a way to relate to them with kindness. No matter what troubles have befallen you or what difficulties you have caused yourself or others, with love for yourself you can change, grow, make amends, and learn. Real love is not about letting yourself off the hook. Real love does not encourage you to ignore your problems or deny your mistakes and imperfections. You see them clearly and still opt to love.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 16

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.

No Limit

Friday, February 9th, 2018

I find it quite interesting that many of those who are most vocal about endless punishment have no difficulty believing that God can forgive the worst sins right up to the point of someone’s physical death. They simply don’t believe that God’s love and forgiveness continue into the ages to come. Instead, they believe God places a limit on His grace. But God’s grace is far greater than mankind’s sin. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us, ” . . . where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

— George W. Sarris, Heaven’s Doors, p. 152-153

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

Commitment to Joy

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Yes, He does want His children to live in joy, and there’s a way to do it if we’ll trust Him.

The way begins with commitment. To become a Christian in the first place, one decides to follow Jesus no matter what. Why not make a similar commitment in regard to joy — to rejoice in the Lord always, no matter what? Isn’t it only a lack of faith that keeps us from this?

In conversations I’ve given up on trying to argue people out of their unhappiness. The more one reasons with them, the more their eyes glaze over. Theologically most Christians will probably agree that the Bible teaches and offers a life of joy, yet deep down they’re not convinced. They’re especially not convinced that such a life is possible for them, or for any ordinary person, right now. Neither seeing nor believing in the joy set before them, they’re resigned to unhappiness, and so that’s what they get.

Resignation is a form of commitment. In effect these skeptics are committed to their own unhappiness. Some may not admit they’re unhappy, yet neither can they claim to be deeply happy. They’ve stopped short of abundant joy, the achieving of which requires a determination to leave none of joy’s stones unturned. Happy times may come to anyone haphazardly, but if happiness is to be part of the character, one must resolutely take hold of it. One must choose joy, and keep on choosing it under all conditions, until gradually it becomes a habit, a self-sustaining reality. Lives change not through having some colossal experience but rather by making small, hard, daily choices.

In the same way that a commitment to love erodes selfishness, a commitment to joy provides a place to stand against all worldly vicissitudes. Do you want to live in fear, always wondering if some calamity will ruin your life? Then remain committed to the notion that it’s impossible to rejoice in all circumstances. But if you want to be free, commit to joy come what may. In view of all that can happen to foil happiness, resolve deep within, “Nothing will stop me. I’m fixing my eyes on Jesus, and I’m not letting anything interrupt my joy in Him.”

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 55-56.

Compassion over Pity

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Adults in the Toddler brain often confuse autonomy with acting morally or intellectually superior, only to be surprised by the negative reactions to what they think is compassionate behavior. Their presumption of inequality — “I feel sorry for you because you’re incompetent, crazy, abusive, or personality disordered” — will make any sympathetic behavior come off as pity. To a large extent, pity is the opposite side of the coin from contempt. That’s why we hate to feel pitied but long for compassion. You cannot be genuinely compassionate if you believe you’re superior in any way. When heartfelt compassionate acts garner a negative response, you can bet that the behavior, however sincere, was construed as pity. In the Toddler brain, compassion often feels like pity, and pity often passes for compassion. In the Adult brain, compassion is transcendent, freeing us from the prison of self-obsession. We soar above by caring more, not by pretending to be superior.

— Steven Stosny, Soar Above, p. 189-190.