Monday, July 28, 2008

sterile stoicism

isn't that a great expression? sterile stoicism... comes from the "quote of the day" in my reading of "The Gospel According to Job" (Mason).
Even today the concept of a feeling, suffering God is almost impossible for most people to grasp. Particularly where the influence of Eastern religions has been felt, God is often seen to be beyond suffering, and consequently so is love itself. In this view the whole purpose of religion is to wean people from their messy emotional lives so as to lift them up onto the higher plane of divinely dispassionate existence. Such sterile stoicism has no divine Person behind it, no real God at all. Certainly it cannot begin to embrace the God who loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son to be murdered for its sake. (p.239)

Friday, July 25, 2008

How To Read "The Shack"



I have just started (seriously only completing the first few pages) but I can't wait to dig into the book. I ran across this article yesterday and thought I'd post the link here!





See "Reading in Good Faith"

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/august/5.44.html

Good advice, IMHO, if you have concerns about the book!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Safety

My MD (middle daughter - age 15) wrote this paraphrase of Jonah 2 this morning. Too powerful not to share. (with her permission, of course!)

7.24.08 - Jonah 2

1. Jonah was inside his provided safety... a huge fish... and he prayed to the Lord, the giver of his safety.
2. "In terrible misery I called out to You. And You answered my call. I was so close to death I was in my grave, but you listened to me.
3. I was in the very heart... the very middle of the seas... and all of your waves and currents swept about me. All of your waves and water took me over.
4. I was so focused on myself. And I had been taken away from your sight. But I looked toward You.
5. The deep surrounded me. The deep... oh how it surrounded my being. The waters were a threat, and the seaweed clung to my head.
6. I was so deep that the roots of the mountains met me, and the earth beneath held me forever. But my Safety... He brought my life up from the deep.
7. (Ebb = the flowing of the tide back toward the sea; a passing away; weakening or lessening; decline) My life was weakening and flowing back toward the sea. But I remembered my Safety, and my prayers rose to You.
8. I was my own worthless idol. I clung to my own, and look where it brought me. Until I came to my senses I could have forfeited the grace that was mine all along.
9. But again, my Safety saved me. You gave me my salvation. So now I have a sacrifice of praise to offer You. What I have promised to You thus far will not be worthless. I choose this once forfeited grace."
10. Jonah's Safety heard him. He remembered Jonah. He commanded the huge fish that had kept Jonah to put him onto dry land. And once again, Jonah was saved.

only 153 shopping days left until...

You guessed it, Christmas is just around the corner. I read this from C.S. Lewis', "The Joyful Christian" this morning during my quiet time. I found it humorous, so I thought I'd post it here. If you're honest I bet you've felt this way a time or two... I know I have. Don't forget there are only 153 shopping days left until Christmas! Bah Humbug??
Christmas and Xmas
C. S. Lewis

Christmas cards in general and the whole vast commercial drive called "Xmas" are one of my pet abominations; I wish they could die away and leave the Christian feast unentangled. Not of course that even secular festivities are, on their own level, an evil; but the labored and organized jollity of this - the spurious childlikeness - the half-hearted and sometimes rather profane attempts to keep up some superficial connection with the Nativity - are disgusting.

* * *

Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn't go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a 'view' on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone's business.

I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to 'keep' it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out -- physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal every bought for himself -- gaudy and useless gadgets, 'novelties' because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don't know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I'd sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

systematic theology

I've been wrestling a bit lately with the concept of systematic theology - specifically our attempts to put God and how He works in our lives into some neat and tidy form. I've not come up with any profound answer as of yet. The longer I live the more I think God is way too "messy" to be put into a nice systematic configuration. With that said, my reading today from "The Gospel According to Job" summed up some of my recent thoughts fairly nicely.
To Job's friends, theology is a lens through which to examine reality, and for this reason they tend to see only the way things ought to be. But Job refuses to surrender his instinctive grasp of the way things actually are, and so he emerges as the greater theologian. His view of life is, in Lenin's famous phrase, "as radical as reality itself." Job's immediate predicament is one that rips away all religious pretensions, forcing theology to come out of the clouds and down to earth where life is lived. By Job's standards any faith that cannot actually be lived day in and day out, under all circumstances, is absolutely worthless. If it is the real thing, it must cover every conceivable eventuality. When any system of theology comes up against even one exception to its rules and theories, the system must be reevaluated. The scandalous suffering of the righteous Job is the Old Testament's grand exception to the rule of blessing for the faithful, the spectacular exception to that ultimately guards against God (or Satan, for that matter) being turned into an abstraction. By persevering in faith under conditions of chaos, Job preserves faith from being reduced to fantasy.

Does all this sound reasonable? Really it is not. The story of Job defeats reason. It is impossible to read or to think about this book without getting tangled up and stymied. It is all so messy, this business of suffering. It boggles the mind. It is so big, so monstrous, so untheological. Against the systematic tidiness that Job's friends try to impose upon the chaos, Job asserts a healthy belief in the present reign of anarchy. (p.232)

Monday, July 21, 2008

loneliness

"...even in a good church people experience a certain measure of isolation, a certain poverty of human fellowship, and this is not without purpose. For this loneliness, this place in our hearts that no other human being can touch, is the place reserved for God alone, the place that only He can fill. No human being can love us as God does. No other person can speak to us from the bottom of our own hearts as the Holy Spirit does. No one else can plumb the mystery of our character and discern our peculiar needs and gifts as clearly as we ourselves can, by the Spirit's light. Accordingly, all of us must discover what it means to have no other comfort except the comfort that we ourselves can draw from our God in the lonely privacy of our own prayers." (The Gospel According to Job, p.229-30)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

quote of the day

...we completely miss the message of the gospel, which is that we who believe in Christ are under no compulsion whatsoever to keep on obeying the incessant promptings of the world and the flesh. If we feel such a compulsion, it has nothing to do with God. Rather, we have one godly compulsion and only one, which is the compulsion to comply with the gracious movement of the Holy Spirit as He pours His new life into our hearts. In fact, if we neglect this "one thing . . . needed" (Luke 10:42), striving instead to keep up with the interminable pressures of a worldly life, then we will lose the grace to follow Christ. "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom. 8:13-14). In a few words Paul gives a seldom-heard definition of the Christian: someone whose life is controlled by the Holy Spirit. We might almost say that a Christian is someone whose only obligation is to live without any obligations - or at least, with only one, which is the obligation to the One who says, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:30). Which is easier, to live with a thousand responsibilities or with just one? As one writer expressed it, "Hold fast to Christ, and for the rest, be totally uncommitted."

To live this way is perfect freedom. Perfect freedom does not mean freedom from all responsibilities, but rather freedom from every inhuman responsibility. (The Gospel According to Job, p.222)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

quote of the day

Job is in the hands of Satan, not to be punished, but in order that his "faith... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (I Peter 1:7)."

The Lord is looking for people who can, by faith alone, stand in the midst of the fray, resisting not only the Devil but the world and their own flesh, and come out winning. Though the cost of this victory, like the cost of the cross, may from a worldly point of view be appalling, God wants people who know that by grace they are rich enough to afford such a cost. (p.203, The Gospel According to Job)