Walls of Division Have Fallen

March 19th, 2020

For Paul in particular, the marvel of Christ’s lordship is that all walls of division between persons and peoples, and finally between all creatures, have fallen, and that ultimately, when creation is restored by Christ, God will be all in all.

— David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved, p. 89

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 17, 2020

One of Us

March 18th, 2020

By His life and example, Jesus shows that there is no human mediator between God and man, and that God has not separated Himself from mankind because of our sin, but has instead become one of us, sharing in our pain and releasing us from our shame. This teaching got Jesus in a lot of trouble with the religious leaders of His day, because they (rightly) understood that what He was saying was undermining the entire sacrificial system that supported the temple and the priestly class. Strangely, many religious leaders today side with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day in saying that the religious buildings, clergy, and sacrifices are all required by God. Of course, the religious leaders who argue this today believe that they are following the teachings of Jesus, but they twist the words and actions of Jesus to make it sound like they are in agreement with Him.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 149-150

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 14, 2020

Seeking Joy

March 9th, 2020

Hebrews 12:2 states plainly the reason Jesus went to the cross: joy. He didn’t sacrifice His own happiness for the sake of some larger goal. Rather, looking through the darkness to the light beyond, He was animated by the prize of joy, knowing that pursuing this would release joy to others.

An unhappy person cannot make anyone else happy. The only way to bless others is to be joyful oneself. Seekers of joy need have no worries about becoming narrow-minded; rest assured that life’s roughness and pain will seek you out, whether you’re open to it or not. As for joy, however, if you don’t search for it with all your heart, and commit yourself to doing whatever’s necessary to attain it, you’ll miss out. No one escapes suffering, but many lives are devoid of joy.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 157-158

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 4, 2015

Astonish the World

March 6th, 2020

Now, we can be astonished at the authority of Jesus, who calls us to love our enemies. Or we can just love our enemies and so astonish the world as to jostle it from its regular course.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 194

Hope Amid the Horror

March 6th, 2020

More than five hundred years before Jesus’ death on the cross, Second Isaiah proclaimed that the God who created heaven and earth was redeeming and saving Israel and forgiving their sin out of the infinite depths of divine compassion. This God is forever faithful and does not need anyone to die in order to be merciful. It is strange to contemplate how Christian preaching in the tradition of the satisfaction theory seems to assume that some seismic shift suddenly changed the divine character, so that Jesus’ death was necessary to win favor for sinners. One hears that he came to die, and without the cross we would not be saved, as if at some point the flow of divine mercy were shut down, needing Jesus’ death to start it up again. As we will discover, however, rather than making a necessary gift to placate divine honor, Jesus’ brutal death enacts the solidarity of the gracious and merciful God with all who die and especially with victims of injustice, opening hope for resurrection amid the horror.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 50

Photo: March 6, 2015, South Riding, Virginia

Stop Trying to Change People

February 29th, 2020

The upset we feel when others do not change in the way we want them to is what forgiveness resolves. Forgiveness helps us stop wasting our time trying to change people who do not want to change. Forgiveness allows us to regain control of our lives as we try less to control the lives of others. Forgiveness allows us to manage the effect of other people’s hurtful actions in our lives….

We can never forgive something as vague as a person’s traits, temperament, or personality. At best, we can forgive specific behavior that we hypothesize reveals the person’s character. This is an important distinction, and one that can save us a lot of pain. We can see behavior, but we can only guess at character. Criticizing someone’s character is not the best way to spend our limited resources of energy and time. To forgive, we need to focus on the behaviors, such as harsh speech and unkind action, that were at variance with what we wanted.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 160-161

Photo: Centreville, Virginia, February 6, 2010

Kinship

February 29th, 2020

No daylight to separate us.

Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakkuk writes, “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and it will not disappoint . . . and if it delays, wait for it.”

Kinship is what God presses us on to, always hopeful that its time has come.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 190

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 22, 2015

Victory Redefined

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

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

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