Wednesday, August 27, 2014

By far the hardest part of my calling

If I may speak of my own experience, I find that to keep my eye simply on Christ, as my peace and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling. Through mercy he enables me to avoid what is wrong in the sight of men; but it seems easier to deny self in a thousand instances of outward conduct, than in its ceaseless endeavors to act as a principle of righteousness and power.

-- John Newton

Important note:  The last part of this quote contains grammar that I find difficult to untangle.  I offer my own interpretation here:

It seems easier:

To deny self in a thousand instances of outward conduct,


To deny self in the midst of its ceaseless endeavors to act as a principle of righteousness and power.

An interpretation shared by this blogger:

"I have a very real sickness that attempts daily and even hourly to supplant Jesus from His rightful place in my life. It attempts to act, like Newton put it, "as a principle of righteousness and power." Yet what power have I? What righteousness have I?"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Called to carry crosses, not boxes

In a loud world — certainty is what sells. 

People love the hawkers, the big talkers, the bloggers that sell certainty.

Turn on the cranked up experts, click on the screaming headlines —  and what people are shopping for is certainty. Certainty sells because we like to take home our boxes — to put people in boxes, put our life in neat boxes, put parts of the world into manageable boxes.

Turns out what we want most is someone to just sell us some certainty about who is who, and what is what, so we can have this sense of knowing what’s safe — instead of knowing Who is the Savior who calls us to love in dangerous, upside-down ways.

But the thing is: Truth isn’t found in trite boxes — Truth’s found in the richness of Christ. Truth doesn’t come marked as simplicity — Truth comes marked with the fullness of grace, or it isn’t Truth. Truth is a Person and He is the complexity and the empathy and the integrity and the certainty and the supremacy of Christ.

Because the Truth is: We’re not called to carry boxes — we’re called to carry crosses.

Boxes carriers are about buying certainty for living. Cross carriers are about carrying the complexity of living.    
Box carriers strain for the power of controlled lives. Cross carriers surrender to the power of the Christ life.

Box carriers box things into simple. Cross carriers unpack things and sit with the suffering. 

Because it turns out: Christ-followers aren’t called to go buy certainty — we’re called to go walk by faith. 

Christ-followers don’t have a certainty to sell — we have a certainty who saves, and His name is Jesus. The absolute certainty we have is the Truth of Jesus — and He welcomes us into living the humble and complex nuances of a servant Faith.

Faith that says we are all just people who are both His good and our bad and He’s the only One good, Faith that requires His patient love and His merciful understanding and His servant actions and His willingness to suffer with and for the wounded.

--Ann Voskamp
from her blog post: here

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When Christian syllogisms are no match for pain and suffering

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a Christian who taught philosophical theology for many years at Yale. He and his wife have six children, but he lost an adult son.  ... He published his journal years later as a book entitled "Lament for a Son".
. . .

Wolterstorff’s harrowing account explodes the tempting notion that if we only grasped God’s will more clearly, if we only knew something we don’t know now, the wound would hurt less. But the Gospel is not ultimately a defense from pain and suffering, rather it is the message of God’s rescue through pain. In fact, it allows us to drop our defenses, to escape not from pain but from the prison of How and Why, to the freedom of Who. The answer to our pain isn’t finally found in a syllogism but in a Savior—a suffering Savior.

We are not responsible for finding the right formula to combat or unlock our suffering. The good news of the Gospel does not consist of theological assertions or some elaborate religious how-to manual. The good news is Jesus Himself, the Man of Sorrows, the crucified God who meets us in our grief.

--Tullian Tchividjian, in a blog post: here

What's a syllogism?

Friday, August 1, 2014

God's presence with us, symbolically stated

The ancient world was a vast field of magnificent temples. Only buildings bespeaking power, permanence, and ultimate authority could adequately proclaim the mystery of divinity. The gods deserved nothing less, or so thought the ancients. 
Then God set up a cross. 
It was forged by nameless servants of imperial authority. A bare, rude thing. A time tested instrument designed to evoke terror and coerce obedience through the application of unspeakable cruelty. Only the very worst, despised offenders suffered the fate of the crucified ones. The Romans lined roadways with them so that passers by would be forced to carry the weight of pitiful suffering and inhale the stench of rotting corpses. It was about as far from divinity as one could get. This is the symbol of God’s presence with us? 
God set up His cross where the four roads we travel most, meet: guilt, failure, spiritual poverty, and willful disobedience. The gift of God’s cross, the baptism into Christ’s death, is not given until I see that nothing in the world – nothing – can address my sickness unto death except this one, impossible, ridiculous sacrifice. For only by the shame, cruelty and utter godlessness of the cross can the true magnitude of our guilt – and God’s merciful love – be measured. The cross proclaims to us what our true position in life really is. No wonder we flee from it for all we’re worth. 
But Christ Jesus did not flee from the cross. He embraced it’s suffering and shame in love – for you. And three days after they laid His battered corpse to rest, God vindicated His trust and raised Him from the dead. 
...And since Christ Jesus embodies hope, He rightly calls us to hope – not in our efforts, our so-called free will or determination, but in Him, the crucified. This is the scandal of the gospel – Jesus appears in the defenseless form of the crucified God to put an end to our pretensions to righteousness in order that we might have a righteousness based on faith. A righteousness won for us, the ungodly, through His death on the bloody cross and His resurrection from the dead, where the true glory of God is revealed.

-- Pastor Mark Anderson