Archive for July, 2018

Jesus and Outsiders

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

If we are going to take Jesus seriously, then we need to see how he talked about hell and we need to pay close attention. Although evangelists most often preach about hell to try to convert people to Christianity, we need to reflect on the significance of the fact that Jesus never tried to scare people into the kingdom of God by threatening them with hell. The only people to which Jesus talked about hell were his own followers and especially to the self-righteous religious leaders of his day. We often assume that heaven is for good people and that hell is for bad people. But according to Jesus’ message and ministry, it is the reverse: heaven is for bad people and hell is for “good” people. Heaven is for people who know they are in need of large doses of grace, while hell is for people who alienate themselves from God and others through the self-sufficiency and self-centeredness of their own pride (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus didn’t see those who were outside the bounds of proper religion as the ones in danger of hell. He saw the ones on the inside as being in the most spiritual danger, because when we are on the inside, it is easy to become complacent and presumptuous and turn our focus on making judgments about others. This is precisely what many of the Pharisees, the self-appointed spiritual and moral guardians of society, did in their day. They were so sure of their insider status with God that they turned their energies towards using threats of hell to those who didn’t measure up the way they did. In most contexts, then, Jesus’s teachings on hell took the Pharisees to task by turning their judgments back on themselves. The threat of hell was primarily used by Jesus, not to encourage speculation about others in the world to come, but to encourage examination of our own lives here and now concerning all the ways in which our pride, greed, lust, anger, judgmentalism, and apathy may be leading us down a wide road to self-destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

When it came to “outsiders,” Jesus tried to love them into the kingdom of God. Jesus did not try to convert sinners by threatening them or heaping guilt or shame on them, as did many of the Pharisees (Matt 23:4). He tried to transform them by eating with them, by scandalously welcoming them into an unconditional embrace of love. This shockingly inclusive compassion that Jesus showed to notorious and egregious sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes was what magnetically drew the crowds of ordinary people to him, and at the same time enraged the religious leaders to conspire against him.

I am convinced that we Christians have for too long preached about hell as the Pharisees did, not as Jesus did. We have made it only about “them,” not us. You see, when we make hell just about what happens to outsiders in the next life, we miss the fact that Jesus made his warning about hell primarily in relation to what insiders do in this life.

— Heath Bradley, The Flames of Love, p. 39-40

[Photo: Los Angeles Rose Garden, July 8, 2015]

Enemy of Joy

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

The greatest enemy of joy is fear. The quickest way to send your joy packing is to become afraid that it will leave or that something will happen to take it away. What a pitiful way to live! Nothing can be deeply enjoyed for fear it will soon be gone. Paradoxically, however, the way to hold on to joy is not to cling to it. When trouble arises and I say, “Oh no, my joy is gone!” — then it will be gone. If instead I relax my grip on joy and release it to adversity, accepting whatever life may bring, then nothing can intimidate me and steal my joy. Joy dwells in an open hand.

What are we so afraid of? Fundamentally our fear is not just of losing battles but of having to fight at all. Overcome the reluctance to fight, and the fear of losing dissipates.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 75

[Photo: Ruines de l’Oedenbourg, France, September 28, 1997]

Fulfilling Your Purpose

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Fulfilling your purpose, with meaning, is what gives you that powerful spark of energy unique to only you. The result is an electrifying current of clarity rising from the deepest part of yourself. By tapping into that source, you will no longer feel like the salmon swimming upstream. Instead, people will finally see the highest, truest version of you and stand in awe, wondering how you achieved your dreams.

— Oprah Winfrey, The Wisdom of Sundays, p. 175

[Photo: Above Gundersweiler, Germany, July 1998]

As We Forgive

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

If we forgive not men their trespasses, our trespasses remain. For how can God in any sense forgive, remit, or send away the sin which a man insists on retaining? Unmerciful, we must be given up to the tormentors until we learn to be merciful. God is merciful: we must be merciful. There is no blessedness except in being such as God; it would be altogether unmerciful to leave us unmerciful. The reward of the merciful is, that by their mercy they are rendered capable of receiving the mercy of God — yea, God himself, who is Mercy.

— George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, p. 140-141

[Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012]

Proving Your Worthiness

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Emotions are sometimes complicated, but in terms of motivation, they’re not rocket science. You prove to yourself that you’re respectable, valuable, and lovable by respecting, valuing, and loving. There’s really no other way to do it. (Other people respecting, valuing, and loving you won’t feel genuine if you’re not respectful, valuing, and loving.) And if you prove these things to yourself, you won’t feel a need to prove them to anyone else. Respectful, valuing, and loving people will recognize these qualities in you. As for those who do not, you can sympathize with their need to heal and grow.

— Steven Stosny, Living and Loving After Betrayal, p. 62

[Photo: Haut Koenigsbourg, Alsace, France, September 28, 1997]

No Shortage

Friday, July 13th, 2018

There is no shortage of love; there is an abundance of it. The truth is that the more we reach out to strangers with love, the more love we will have in our own lives.

We each have the potential to love strangers because we are all connected.

— Lorna Byrne, Love from Heaven, p. 68

[Photo: Black Forest, Germany, September 27, 1997]

Living Our Purpose

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Living our purpose is one of the keys to finding happiness. Many of us wonder what our purpose is, but our purpose is not really something we do, it is something we are. The more we unfold ourselves, the more we develop ourselves, the more we hear the call to what we truly want to do, the more we find our happiness. Doing what we truly want to do, with integrity, brings us happiness and fulfillment.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 320

[Photo: Hug Point, Oregon, November 10, 2015]

Facets of Forgiveness

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Forgiveness is the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally, take responsibility for how you feel, and become a hero instead of a victim in the story you tell. Forgiveness is the experience of peacefulness in the present moment. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it changes the present. Forgiveness means that even though you are wounded you choose to hurt and suffer less. Forgiveness means you become a part of the solution. Forgiveness is the understanding that hurt is a normal part of life. Forgiveness is for you and no one else. You can forgive and rejoin a relationship or forgive and never speak to the person again.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 68-69

[Photo: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, May 25, 2015]

Elected to Bless

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

But the truer and deeper views of God’s plan of mercy through Jesus Christ — now in the ascendant I trust — teach us to affirm distinctly the doctrine of the divine election of “the few”: and just because we so affirm it, to connect with it purposes of universal mercy. For what is the true end and meaning of God’s election? The elect, we reply, are chosen, not for themselves only, but for the sake of others. They are “elect,” not merely to be blessed, but to be a source of blessing. It is not merely with the paltry object of saving a few, while the vast majority perish, that God elects; it is with a purpose of mercy to all; it is by “the few” to save “the many”; by the elect to save the world.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 228

Power

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Something has happened, clearly, that has unleashed this new kind of power into the world. That something is the chain-breaking, idol-smashing, sin-abandoning power called “forgiveness,” called “utter gracious love,” called Jesus. It isn’t that first you have to repent and then, as a result, God may decide not to press charges on this occasion. It isn’t that somehow you thereby gain “forgiveness” as a kind of private transaction unrelated to the truth about the wider world. It is, rather, that forgiveness is the new reality. It is the way the new creation actually is. All it requires to belong to that new creation, with that banner over its doorway, is that you should turn from the idols whose power (did you but know it) has already been broken and join in the celebration of Jesus’s victory.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 384

[Photo: Chateau Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, November 12, 2000]