10 April 2014

The Secret to Creating Community

The biggest problem people have in searching for community is just that. You don't find community; you create it through love. Look how this transforms the way you enter a room full of strangers. Our instinctive thought is, "Who do I know? Who am I comfortable with?" There's nothing wrong with those questions, but the Jesus questions that create communities are, "Who can I love? Who is left out?"

Here are two different formulas for community formation:

1. Search for community where I am loved: become disappointed with community
2. Show hesed love: create community
--Paul Miller, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships (Crossway, 2014), 100; italics original

09 April 2014

08 April 2014

'This Is the Morning'

Perhaps my favorite page of anything I've read thus far in my short little life.
And the very first person whom Aslan called to him was Puzzle the Donkey. You never saw a donkey look feebler and sillier than Puzzle did as he walked up to Aslan, and he looked, beside Aslan, as small as a kitten looks beside a St. Bernard. The Lion bowed down his head and whispered something to Puzzle at which his long ears went down, but then he said something else at which the ears perked up again. The humans couldn't hear what he had said either time. Then Aslan turned to them and said:

"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be."

Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often."

"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?"

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are--as you used to call it in the Shadowlands--dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. 
--C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

07 April 2014

03 April 2014

I'm a Complete Idiot

Can't wait to preach at my favorite church this Sunday.




01 April 2014

What the Church is For

Luther's Large Catechism, on Article 3 of the Apostles Creed:
Everything in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here.
Thus, although we have sins, the grace of the Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but continuous, uninterrupted forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other.
HT: Brian Martin

27 March 2014

Safe, Home

In 1892 B. B. Warfield's Princeton colleague Charles Aiken died. Preaching at the memorial service on 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Warfield reminded those present of every Christian's certain future, and how that changes the way we say goodbye to beloved friends here.
While yet our farewell to them on this side of the separating gulf was sounding in their ears, the glad "Hail!" of their Lord was welcoming them there.
May God grant to each of us to follow them. May he give us his Holy Spirit to sanctify us wholly and enable us when we close our eyes in our long sleep to open them at once, not in terrified pain in torment, but in the soft, sweet light of Paradise, safe in the arms of Jesus.
--quoted in Fred Zaspel, Warfield on the Christian Life: Living Life in the Light of the Gospel (Crossway, 2012), 225

26 March 2014

25 March 2014

Something My Generation Needs to Learn

'Thimbles and thunderstorms!' cried Trumpkin in a rage. 'Is that how you speak to the King? Send me, Sire, I'll go.'

'But I thought you didn't believe in the Horn, Trumpkin,' said Caspian.

'No more I do, your Majesty. But what's that got to do with it? I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You've had my advice, and now it's the time for orders.'
--C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, ch. 7

24 March 2014

Remembering Who God Is


   
   
   
   
   


I found myself wonderfully defibrillated by the two successive questions and answers beginning at the 20 minute mark of this recent Ligonier Q&A. Sproul (Sr) answers both.

Lewis' 'God in the Dock' comes to mind.

The 'What's wrong with you people?' at the 25 minute mark is not the only thing to be said, and probably not the first thing to be said--but it is a neglected thing to be said. Amen.

22 March 2014

What We All Naturally Believe

In 1526 Jacob Hochstraten scoffed at Luther's teaching on the "wondrous exchange" in which Christ clothes sinners in his own righteousness as they are united to him. Referring to the emerging Protestant teaching on justification, Hochstraten wrote:
What else do those who boast of such a base spectacle do than make the soul a prostitute and an adulteress, who knowingly and wittingly connives to deceive her husband [Christ] and, daily committing fornication upon fornication and adultery upon adultery, makes the most chaste of men a pimp?

As if Christ does not take the trouble to choose a pure and honorable lover! As if Christ requires from her only belief and trust and has no interest in her righteousness and the other virtues! As if a certain mingling of righteousness with iniquity were possible!
--quoted in Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther's Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church (Baker, 2008), 47

This quote represents the mindset of the flesh, a theology of glory, our settled intuition about how the world operates. It is what we all naturally, virulently, believe. The great, confounding inversion must settle in.

With this quote Hochstraten separates himself from Christianity and essentially lumps himself in with all other religions, every one of which is, at core, salvation by works. Though using the language of the Bible, this quote is closer to Islam than Christianity.

And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:13

20 March 2014

'Why Are People Not Satisfied With Islam?'

Fascinating Muslim fundraising video in light of their alarm at the growth of the gospel in Indonesia, a major stronghold for Islam internationally.

Probably a better plug for Christianity than Islam.



HT: Paul Miller

19 March 2014

Cultivation, Not Castration, of Masculinity

C. S. Lewis has a fascinating little essay in God in the Dock called 'Priestesses in the Church.'

In it he's addressing a 1950s Anglican/Episcopal issue, but the relevance to today's church scene is striking. Lewis argues that the office of priest should be open to men only.

At one point he says:
It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege, or the burden, which Christianity places upon my own sex. I am crushingly aware how inadequate most of us are . . . to fill the place prepared for us. But it is an old saying in the army that you salute the uniform not the wearer. . . .

We men often make very bad priests. That is because we are insufficiently masculine. It is no cure to call in those who are not masculine at all. A given man may make a very bad husband; you cannot mend matters by trying to reverse the roles. He may make a bad male partner in a dance. The cure for that is that men should more diligently attend dancing classes; not that the ballroom should henceforward ignore distinctions of sex and treat all dancers as neuter. (238-39)

18 March 2014

Thankfulness

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you . . ."
(Col 1:3)

Paul starts with thankfulness. Why?

Every one of us has a bunch of blessings and a bunch of adversities in life. Good and bad. Joys and sorrows. And every one of us at any given moment in the day is focusing on one or the other of these clumps of realities. We can be aware of both, but we can't simultaneously focus on both. One must always be in the mental foreground and one in the background. Ten seconds' notice of someone's countenance can usually tell you which is foregrounded for them at the moment.

Thankfulness is not false, painted smiles. It is not hollow words. It is not Pollyanna religion, pretending everything is better than it is. It is the gritty determination to focus on the blessings and not the adversities, even when, by the world's scale, the adversities far outweigh the blessings.

For those of us in Christ, it could be that just about every earthly reason to be thankful has been stripped away. But we are still in Christ. We still have the supreme blessing without which every earthly blessing is irrelevant and in comparison with which every earthly adversity pales.

Which is where Paul was at, most of the time. Destitute, beaten, forsaken, opposed. But he starts out Colossians, and most of his letters, thankful. Why? Because he had that one all-determinative thing, that one Friend. So he starts his letters thankful, before saying anything else. This is the tone-setter.

05 March 2014

An Eternal Welcome

Bishop Handley Moule's commentary on Romans from a century ago, though a bit overly Keswick-ish at times, might be the most beautifully written commentary I have ever come across, on any book.

Here's a snippet from his comment on Romans 3:23-24:
In the discovery of your necessity, and of Christ as the all-in-all to meet it, you see with little need of exposition the place and power of faith. It means, you see it now, simply your reception of Christ. It is your contact with Him, your embrace of Him. It is not virtue; it is absolutely remote from merit. But it is necessary; as necessary as the hand that takes the alms, or as the mouth that eats the unbought meal.

The meaning of justification is now to you no riddle of the schools. Like all the great words of scriptural theology it carries with it in divine things the meaning it bears in common things, only for a new and noble application; you see this with joy, by the insight of awakened conscience. He who "justifies" you does exactly what the word always imports. He does not educate you, or inspire you, up to acceptability. He pronounces you acceptable, satisfactory, at peace with Law.

And this He does for Another's sake; on account of the Merit of Another, who has so done and suffered as to win an eternal welcome for Himself and everything that is His, and therefore for all who are found in Him, and therefore for you who have fled into Him, believing.

So you receive with joy and wonder "the righteousness of God," His way to bid you, so deeply guilty in yourself, welcome without fear to your Judge. . . .

The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of the glory of God; but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine, and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they. So you thankfully give yourself up, side by side with them, if they will come too, to be carried to the height of divine acceptance, by the gift of God, "justified gift-wise by His grace."
--H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Romans (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1902), 96-97

Who knew one was allowed to write commentaries like that!

04 March 2014

Only One of These Can Be True

1. Isaiah 53:
". . . he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him."

03 March 2014

We Belong Elsewhere

From a short essay by Lewis called 'On Living in an Atomic Age,' expressing a key theme of Lewis' engagement with Naturalism/Atheism/Evolutionism:
Really, the naturalistic conclusion is unbelievable.
For one thing, it is only through trusting our own minds that we have come to know Nature herself. If Nature when fully known seems to teach us (that is, if the sciences teach us) that our own minds are chance arrangements of atoms, then there must have been some mistake; for if that were so, then the sciences themselves would be chance arrangements of atoms and we should have no reason for believing in them.

There is only one way to avoid this deadlock. We must go back to a much earlier view. We must simply accept it that we are spirits, free and rational beings, at present inhabiting an irrational universe, and must draw the conclusion that we are not derived from it. We are strangers here. We come from somewhere else. Nature is not the only thing that exists. There is 'another world,' and that is where we come from.

And that explains why we do not feel at home here. A fish feels at home in the water. If we 'belonged here' we should feel at home here. All that we say about 'Nature red in tooth and claw,' about death and time and mutability, all our half-amused, half-bashful attitude to our own bodies, is quite inexplicable on the theory that we are simply natural creatures. If this world is the only world, how did we come to find its laws either so dreadful or so comic?

If there is no straight line elsewhere, how did we discover that Nature’s line is crooked?
--C. S. Lewis, 'On Living in an Atomic Age,' in Present Concerns (London: Fount, 1986), 78-79 (italics original)