But God!

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The Apostle Paul writes:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Because of our rebellion against God, we were dead, BUT GOD….

We were in bondage to evil powers and our own desires, BUT GOD….

We were objects of God’s wrath, BUT GOD….

But God, being rich in grace, mercy and love, made us alive, seated us in the heavenly realms, and has reversed the conditions of our sin. We have “been rescued,” writes Peter O’Brien.  And this rescue is from “death, wrath, and bondage and [includes] a transfer into the new dominion with its manifold blessings.”

And so as many of us sit around a table this Thanksgiving season and enjoy family, friends, and fine food, we would do well to ponder “But God!” If not for His mercy, grace, and love, the greatest need we have would not have been met. And the greatest gift we could ever receive would not have been given.

Thanks be to God!

 

 

 

 

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Scripture Metabolized

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How do we approach Scripture? Do we feed on it? Does it transform us? Eugene Peterson, in his book Eat This Book has an encouraging and challenging thought in regards to the role of Scripture in the life of the believer…

Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nourishes the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hand raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.

(Eat This Book, p. 18)

The Holy Pursuit Of Happiness

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Blaise Pacal, the 15th Century French mathematician and Christian philosopher, wrote:

All men seek happiness, this is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.

More recently, Tim Chester has written:

Everyone is trying to find salvation. They might not ask, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ But everyone has some sense of what it is that would make them fulfilled, satisfied, and accepted.

Bottom line: Everyone is seeking happiness. That which we long for and that which we will sacrifice all that we are for is happiness. The problem that we have is that we look for happiness in all the wrong places and in all the wrong things.

C.S. Lewis writes:

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could “be like gods”–could set up on their own as if they had created themselves–be their own masters–invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside of God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. 

The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. 

Our pursuit of happiness therefore, is one that is holy in nature as it is found in God. To live for the glory of God and to live holy lives brings infinite delight. We were created for His glory and no true happiness can be found apart from why we were created.

But as C.S. Lewis points out, we have been duped into believing that we can attain happiness on our own apart from God. In fact, the world, in both subtle and not so subtle ways, continues to tell us that God is a cosmic kill joy. The world says that to really live you must loose yourself from all religious shackles. There is no way one can be happy while being obediently tied to God.

The Psalmist, however, writes that in God’s presence there is fullness of joy; at [his] right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Paul shares with the church in Philippi that there is nothing that compares to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. In fact, Paul considered all things rubbish compared to knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8). And Jesus tells us that for one to really have life and to have it to the fullest, he/she must come to Him (Jn. 10:10).

We as believers must remind ourselves of this glorious truth that joy is found in Christ alone. And we must communicate it to the world around us as well. We are many times quick to mention the cost of following Christ, and that we should, but we must not forget what we receive.

Jesus told us that the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Mt. 13:44-46).

The truth of what Jesus tells us about the Kingdom, which is Himself, is that it is invaluable treasure. What one loses or gives up because of it is of no concern. The greatness of the Kingdom outshines anything in comparison.

So, let’s pursue happiness, but as Lewis writes once again, let’s not be too easily pleased, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. 

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From Worry To Prayer

Here’s a good and challenging word from Paul Miller in his book A Praying Life

When you pray continuously, moments when you are prone to anxiety can become invitations to drift into prayer. A traffic jam, a slight from a friend, a pressured deadline can serve as a door to God. You’ll find yourself turning off the car radio to be with your Father. You’ll wake up at night and discover yourself praying. It will be like breathing.

When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again.

How Do You Read The Bible?

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When we think about reading the Bible, do we ever imagine that there might be a danger of reading it wrongly? Consider the words of Eugene Peterson in his book Eat This Book

Reading the Bible, if we do not do it rightly, can get us into a lot of trouble. The Christian community is as concerned with how we read the Bible as that we read it. It is not sufficient to place a Bible in a person’s hands with the command, “Read it.” That is quite as foolish as putting a set of car keys in an adolescent’s hands, giving him a Honda, and saying, “Drive it.” And just as dangerous. The danger is that in having our hands on a piece of technology, we will use it ignorantly, endangering our lives and the lives of those around us; or that intoxicated with the power that technology gives us, we will use it ruthlessly and violently.

For Peterson, a way to read Scripture that “guards against depersonalizing the text into an affair of questions and answers, definitions and dogmas; a way of reading that prevents us from turning Scripture on its head and using it to justify ourselves,” is the lectio divina. 

The lectio divina comprises four elements:

  • Lectio – we read the text. This reading of the text involves listening to the text. “Just because we have read it,” writes Peterson, “doesn’t mean we have heard it.” And we must be careful not to “assume too much” of the text but to “listen to the counsel of our Christian brothers and sisters who tell us, ‘Read. Read only what is here, but also be sure that you read it the way that it is here.'” This involves developing good hermeneutics. This reading does not bypass the grammatical-historical method of interpretation.
  • Meditatio – we meditate the text. “Mediation,” writes Peterson, “moves from looking at the words of the text to entering the world of the text.” It is not about making things up, but instead weds us “to a historic faith…that trains us to read Scripture as a connected, coherent whole, not a collection of inspired bits and pieces.”
  • Oratio – we pray the text. Peterson declares that “Scriptures, read and prayed, are our primary and normative access to God as he reveals himself to us. Prayer detached from Scripture, from listening to God, disconnected from God’s words to us, short-circuits the relational language that is prayer.”
  • Contemplatio – we live the text. “Contemplation,” says Peterson, “means living what we read, not wasting any of it or hoarding any of it, but using it up in living. It is life formed by God’s revealing word, God’s word read and heard, meditated and prayed.”

For Peterson, the lectio divina is the method of reading which guards against us turning the Scriptures into an academic book or a book such as Aesop’s Fables. He wants us to enter the text and allow the grand story of Scripture to rewrite our own personal stories. This, for Peterson, is reading the Bible rightly!

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