Friday, December 31, 2004

withered into nothingness

as quoted from Brennan Manning's "The Rabbi's Heartbeat" p98

May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted, may all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son and Spirit.

Larry Hein

Thursday, December 30, 2004

god of shazam

read Daniel 10... Daniel is waiting to hear from God, and after three weeks an angel shows up... says that God dispatched him on the first day Daniel prayed, but that the angel experience such violent warfare that he had to ask for more angelic help from heaven.
This story really helped me understand how God works and how some things happen in my life. I always thought that when I prayed, that God was a God of "shazam"... I ask for what I need... and I've learned to sometimes pray in a more broad sense... i.e. "Lord help me with my transportation issue" rather than "Lord, help me find a car" and I thought that God would do one of two things... either
"shazam, I am God and I have decreed the solution to your issue"
"you are not ready for my shazam yet, so I will not move until I see that you have remedied the deficiency that I see, at which time I will say shazam and your issue will be resolved or the answer will be clear to you. Good luck and I hope you fix what I'm looking at sooner than later."
This has put a lot of strain and concern on me, if God seems to be waiting on a critical issue for me, that based on the two options outlined above, I assume option 2 and wonder what it is that I need to rectify.
I now see that although God spoke the universe into existence, he chooses to use alternate means sometimes, and delays that I cannot understand may have causes that I will never really see until I ask Him personally what was going on. And there are many more options than
1. shazam, or 2. fix yourself then shazam.

barbequed goat

I agree with many conservatives that public assistance is not something that should experience growth if possible (government is rarely the best answer)... but as a Christian, this belief comes with an added responsibility... I cannot as a Christian allow people to go hungry and unclothed and uncared for... so if I vote for a conservative government that limits social assistance, and my vote helps win, I have therefore put MYSELF in a position that I PERSONALLY need to take up the slack. I need to present the love of Christ in a very physical and direct way... not once in a while, but continually. My vote has made a persistent difference in the care and comfort of people in need, so therefore I need to make up the difference persistently. What do each of us do EVERY WEEK that shows the love of God in a tangible way? Until four years ago, that answer for me would closely approximate "sweet diddley squat". My family and I consumed all I made. That'd make me a fat goat from Jesus' perspective, suitable for a long-term barbeque.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

love and money

Been thinking about the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated in contrast to what we as the church practice. I have come to realize that we manipulate people and "buy good behaviour" by alternately giving love and "discouraging bad behaviour" by withholding love. Donald Miller expands this out in his book “Blue Like Jazz”.

Love as Money, “Blue Like Jazz”, Donald Miller, pp 217-219

What metaphors do we use when we think of relationships? We value people, I shouted out. Yes, he said, and wrote it on his little white board. We invest in people, another person added. And soon enough we had listed an entire white board of economic metaphor. Relationships could be bankrupt, we said. People are priceless, we said. All economic metaphor. I was taken aback.

The problem with Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money.
... I could see ... very clearly. If somebody is doing something for us, offering us something, be it gifts, time, popularity, or what have you, we feel they have value, we feel they are worth something to us, and, perhaps, we feel they are priceless. I could see it so clearly, and I could feel it in the pages of my life. This was the thing that had smelled so rotten all these years. I used love like money. The church used love like money. With love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did.

yancey, tolstoy, and imperfection

Philip Yancey, “What’s So Amazing About Grace”, Pages 197-198

Leo Tolstoy, who battled legalism all his life, understood the weaknesses of a religion based on externals. The title of one of his books says it well: The Kingdom of God Is Within You. According to Tolstoy, all religious systems tend to promote external rules, or moralism. In contrast, Jesus refused to define a set of rules that his followers could then fulfill with a sense of satisfaction. One can never “arrive” in light of such sweeping commands as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Tolstoy drew a contrast between Jesus’ approach and that of all other religions:
The test of observance of external religious teachings is whether or not our conduct conforms with their decrees [Observe the Sabbath. Get circumcised. Tithe.] Such conformity is indeed possible.
The test of observance of Christ’s teachings is our consciousness of our failure to attain an ideal perfection. The degree to which we draw near this perfection cannot be seen; all we can see is the extent of our deviation.
A man who professes an external law is like someone standing in the light of a lantern fixed to a post. It is light all round him, but there is nowhere further for him to walk. A man who professes the teaching of Christ is like a man carrying a lantern before him on a long, or not so long, pole the light is in front of him, always lighting up fresh ground and always encouraging him to walk further.

In other words, the proof of spiritual maturity is not how “pure” you are but awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to grace.