A Priceless Experience

August 16th, 2020

It seems we acquire the most strength and wisdom
at those points in our lives that are the most difficult.
Later on, we think back on those difficult times,
on what we learned from them
and how we came through them.
Then we realize that they have been
a priceless experience for us.

— Haemin Sunim, Love for Imperfect Things, p. 161

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 7, 2020

Compassion, Not Contempt

August 12th, 2020

In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus looks upon the crowd gathered before him and is deeply burdened by what he sees, not because of what they are doing or not doing, but because of what is being done to them and what it is creating in them (9:35-38). He is moved in that moment, not by some moral defect but by their internal turmoil. Just as when he feeds the multitudes, Jesus is not concerned with behavior modification, as we so often imagine; he is most concerned with meeting the needs that prevent people from knowing their belovedness, and he offers an expression of God’s provision. Matthew records that Jesus, seeing those in front of him, notes not their conduct but their condition, observing that they are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” This realization prompts a passionate, public appeal for those who would do the work of restoration and healing in the name of God. The distinction between seeing sin and seeing suffering is revelatory if we really let it seep into the deepest hollows of our hearts. Jesus’ default response to the fragile humanity before him is not contempt but compassion.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 124

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 7, 2020

God Forgives.

August 7th, 2020

The blood of Jesus reveals that God does not lash out at human sin and does not retaliate or seek revenge. Though we humans do such things (and often blame our behavior on God), God always and only forgives, loves, rescues, and redeems. We thought we were pleasing and appeasing God when we killed Jesus, just as we thought that all blood sacrifices to God were given as propitiatory sacrifices, but in reality, this attempt to please God turned out to be the greatest sin ever committed by humans. And even then, what did God do? He forgave this sin, just as He always does.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 240-241

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 7, 2020

Our Actual, Non-Ideal Selves

August 6th, 2020

Christians should help one another to silence the voice that accuses. To celebrate a repentance — a snapping out of it, a thinking of new thoughts — which leads to possibilities we never considered. To love one another as God loves us. To love ourselves as God loves us. To remind each other of the true voice of God. And there’s only one way to do this: by being unapologetically and humbly ourselves. By not pretending. By being genuine. Real. Our actual, non-ideal selves.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 183

Photo: near Skyline Drive, Virginia, August 6, 2009

Not a Punitive God

August 4th, 2020

In his critique of his father and uncles, Jung recognized that many humans had become reflections of the punitive God they worshiped. A forgiving God allows us to recognize the good in the supposed bad, and the bad in the supposed perfect or ideal. Any view of God as tyrannical or punitive tragically keeps us from admitting these seeming contradictions. It keeps us in denial about our true selves, and forces us to live on the surface of our own lives. If God is a shaming figure, then most of us naturally learn to deny deflect, or pass on that shame to others. If God is torturer in chief, then a punitive and moralistic society is validated all the way down. We are back into problem-solving religion instead of healing and transformation.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 84-85.

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 1, 2020

Practicing Happiness

July 31st, 2020

Before you lay your head on your pillow and go to sleep,
recall just three things you were thankful for today.
If you continue to do this for two months,
you will see an increase in your level of happiness,
because instead of focusing on what is wrong with your life,
you will develop a habit of looking for what is good.
A happy mind-set needs practice.

— Haemin Sunim, Love for Imperfect Things, p. 66

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 2, 2020

Moralism

July 28th, 2020

You know moralism has displaced your life in Christ when living faith is reduced to a system of correct behavior and moral merit badges instead of a dynamic relationship with the indwelling Holy Spirit. We don’t acquire the presence of the Holy Spirit by accumulating moral merit badges.

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike Way, p. 72

Photo: Burg Lahneck, Germany, August 11, 2000

The Eyes of Christ

July 25th, 2020

Other followers of Jesus see something different when they look at the mess in front of them. They see pain. They see need. They see longing. They see an opportunity to bring restoration here and now. They are focused as much on this world as they are on the next. These, I’ll contend, are the eyes of Christ, and these are the eyes of those who would build the bigger table. We are learning to see differently than we once did.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 124

Photo: SchloƟ Dhaun, Germany, July 2002

Forgiving Even This

July 24th, 2020

God allowed us to sacrifice Jesus to expose to us the shocking truth that it is we who want sacrifices; not God.

Paul’s overall point is that God has never violently lashed out in the past when we humans committed sin. Instead, God has always overlooked and forgiven such sins simply because that is what a forgiving and righteous God does. So also, in the present time, God forgave and overlooked the greatest sin of all, the sin of murdering Jesus. Yes, it was necessary for Jesus to face a violent death on the cross, but this was so that Jesus would be the perfect revelation of God’s righteous forgiveness. The fact that God forgives humanity for the terrible sin of killing Jesus proves that God always forgives. In this way, God is proven to be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus.

The reason Paul makes this argument is because many people in his day (as in ours) believed that God was a God of vengeance and retaliation. But God’s revelation in Jesus Christ showed that He is not violent or vengeful. Instead, He is forgiving and righteous. To prove this, God let us kill His own Son, Jesus, in His name, as a “scapegoat sacrifice” (thinking that by killing Him, we were propitiating God and appeasing His wrath toward sinners), and then instead of revenge or retaliation He offers forgiveness. If God was really as we thought Him to be, then He would have destroyed humanity in anger and violence for wrongfully accusing and killing His own Son. But God did not do this. Instead, He simply forgave. Why? Because this is how God always behaves toward sin. He is righteous, and His righteousness is demonstrated through His free forgiveness of the worst of human sin. This is Paul’s point in Romans 3:20-26.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 239-240

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 19, 2020

Silencing the Voice of the Accuser

July 18th, 2020

What God claims to love, do not deem unworthy of that love.

What God has called good, do not call anything other than good.

What God has animated with God’s own breath and endowed with a soul and God’s own image, do not treat with anything less than dignity.

When that accusing voice is on repeat in your head, know that it is not the voice of God. God’s voice is found in the warm singsong of a mother to her newborn, the one who says, “You are beloved.” God’s voice declares us clean, justified, forgiven, and new. It imparts to us a worthiness that has nothing to do with our efforts or our accomplishments or our becoming some imagined ideal.

This is the use of Christian community, as I see it. We help each other silence the Accuser. We tend each other’s wounds, show each other our scars, see and forgive each other’s shortcomings, let each other cry, make each other laugh, and are absolutely adamant about grace for everyone. We insist on freeing each other from the grip of the accusing voice, and we amplify the voice of God.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 181-182

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 12, 2020