Archive for February, 2020

Victory Redefined

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Revelation carefully redefines the word “conquer” to make clear that the Lamb and his followers conquer only by their testimony and faithfulness — not by making war or killing. War is something done against God’s people by evil beasts and by Rome, not something that God’s saints or the Lamb practice in this book. Two verses of Revelation do indeed refer to Jesus as “making war” — Revelation 2:16 and 19:11 — but the way he makes war is crucial. Jesus makes war not with a sword of battle but “by the sword of his mouth.” The word is Jesus’ only weapon — this is a reversal as unexpected as the substitution of a lamb for a lion. These reversals undercut violence by emphasizing Jesus’ testimony and the word of God….

Thus, the message of the book of Revelation becomes a reframing of the whole concept of victory, giving victory first to the Lamb and then to us. Nowhere in Revelation do God’s people “wage war.” What they do is “conquer” or “become victors” (the same word in Greek) — and they do that by the Lamb’s own blood and by their courageous testimony, not through Armageddon or war. In contrast to Rome’s theology that defined Victory as military conquest, Revelation develops a counter-theology of the nonviolent victory (nike) of Jesus, God’s slain Lamb, in which “evil is overcome by suffering love,” not by superior power.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 121-122

Photo: South Riding, Virginia 2/22/2015

Never Giving Up

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Is it not the same with our own children, each their own yet fully out of us? When I think of the bond earthly parents have with our children, I know it is utterly impossible that God would ever ask us to lose a part of ourselves forever, any more than He would ever intend to give up a part of Himself. His answer is not damnation, but regeneration of all His children into purified sparks!

Jesus always esteemed children because He came to show the heart of the Father toward His children. A true father’s love cannot be earned, and it cannot be done away with. Just as we would never give up on our children, God will never give up on His children; His love will not fail them.

— Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell, p. 82

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 24, 2015

Free Will

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

Free will is a good thing, but sometimes obedience is more convenient.

Cog, by Greg van Eekhout, p. 180

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 15, 2020

Lavishing a Lavish Love

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

When we lavish love, we offer it freely and generously, the same way that God loves us and offers us grace and forgiveness when we ask for it. When we offer a lavish love, we offer love in abundance. Jesus asks us to lavish a lavish love. The more we love others, the more love changes our actions, our words, our character, and our lives. Before we knew Jesus, we really didn’t have that much motivation to love others “lavishly.” We were not beings void of love. We loved, but we exchanged units of love with those who repaid us in kind, as though it could be stored in a love bank account and withdrawn at will. We did not consider love to be a full-time job, a “constant” call on our lives. Our love was more like a side hustle. Some days we didn’t even show up to work. It was catch as catch can.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 14, 2017

Christ in Everything

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Christ is the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else. In fact, that is my only definition of a true Christian. A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 33

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, January 1997

Make Your Art

Monday, February 10th, 2020

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you.

Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

— Neil Gaiman, Art Matters, “Make Good Art”

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 25, 2019

Labels

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Real diversity demands that we hold loosely our preconceived ideas of what God looks like. Jesus didn’t dine with the sinners so that he could convert them all to Pharisees, but to remind the Pharisees that God speaks as loudly through prostitutes as he does through them. He was validating every story, always elevating the other. He was destroying the myth that spirituality needs to be dressed in the trappings of religion, that it has to be proper or conventional or uniform. We still struggle with this work because we are naturally a people of labels, always looking for neat and tidy ways of summarizing those who cross our paths, of easily categorizing them for quick understanding. Our labels help reinforce the ideas of who’s in and who’s out and make us feel safely sequestered in what we believe comprises our tribe. The problem is that people are far too expansive for any category we might place them in, and because of this all our efforts of relational shorthand fail. Whether our labels reference race, gender, sexual orientation, theology, or any other designation, they place in front of us a caricature of what we imagine that label represents — and they always fall short.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 90-91

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 12, 2015

Freedom

Friday, February 7th, 2020

The most civilized apologists from the “infernalist” orthodoxies these days, as I have noted elsewhere in these pages, tend to prefer to defend their position by an appeal to creaturely freedom and to God’s respect for its dignity. And, as I have also noted, there could scarcely be a poorer argument; whether made crudely or elegantly, it invariably fails, because it depends upon an incoherent model of freedom. If one could plausibly explain how an absolutely libertarian act, obedient to no prior rationale whatsoever, would be distinguishable from sheer chance, or a mindless organic or mechanical impulse, and so any more “free” than an earthquake or embolism, then the argument might carry some weight. But to me it seems impossible to speak of freedom in any meaningful sense at all unless one begins from the assumption that, for a rational spirit, to see the good and know it truly is to desire it insatiably and to obey it unconditionally, while not to desire it is not to have known it truly, and so never to have been free to choose it…. Here I can at least point out that scripture seems to support my view. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32): for freedom and truth are one, and not to know the truth is to be enslaved. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34): not seeing the Good, says God to God, they did not freely choose evil, and must be pardoned. “Everyone committing sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34): and a slave, needless to say, is not free. Moreover, it is simply obvious that, under normal conditions, we recognize any self-destructive impulse in any person as a form of madness. It makes no more sense, then, to say that God allows creatures to damn themselves out of his love for them or out of his respect for their freedom than to say a father might reasonably allow his deranged child to thrust her face into a fire out of a tender regard for her moral autonomy.

— David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved, p. 79-30

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015

A Substitute

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

While it is true, according to the New Testament, that Jesus is our substitute, the important point in the New Testament is that Jesus did not die “in our place to appease God,” but rather died “in the place of all the sacrificial victims we have killed in the name of God.” Jesus did not die because God needed or demanded a human sacrifice. God did not substitute Jesus in our place. No, Jesus died because we humans demanded a human sacrifice, and God allowed us to kill His own Son so that we might finally see what we were doing when we killed others in God’s name. Jesus did die as a substitute, but He was a substitute for all sacrificial victims of the world. He died to reveal the truth about sacrifice. What truth? The truth that God does not desire sacrifice; we humans do. Jesus died to reveal how we kill others in God’s name and to reveal that the sacrificial inclination comes from within our own hearts, not from the heart of God. Jesus died to reveal these truths to us so that we will put an end to the making and killing of all sacrificial victims.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 144-145

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999

Stories

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

In my current less-young age, I’ve learned that almost more than anything, stories hold us together. Stories teach us what is important about life, why we are here and how it is best to behave, and that inside us we have access to treasure, in memories and observations, in imagination.

— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, p. 179

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 20, 2019