Monday, June 10, 2019

The Role of Christian Disciplines in Deepening Faith but Not in Receiving Grace

"[When preachers] present the Christian disciplines in isolation from the grace that motivates, sanctifies, and secures, such a portrait [of a readily-vexed God] necessarily emerges. If devotion to disciplines procures out position with God, then grace becomes something we manufacture by our works, making grace meaningless. And since no degree of human diligence can compensate the Lord for all we truly owe him, an insistence on more exercise of disciplines to satisfy God only makes those most honest about their merits less sure of their standing. Brownie points count for little in an economy in which absolute holiness remains the only acceptable currency.
   The true efficacy of spiritual disciplines is not their power to bribe God but their usefulness in opening our hearts to the expanse of his love and deepening our faith in his power and presence. Spiritual disciplines are not ways to barter for God's affection but means to feast on the bread of his Word so that we are strengthened and encouraged in our daily walk with him. The practices of prayer, Scripture devotion, and worship enable those made righteous by Christ's work to take in more of the spiritual nutrients that God freely and lovingly provides for the wisdom, joy, and power of Christian living."

~Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, pg. 280

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Near his Heart to be Beloved

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g]and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
~Genesis 2:19–25
"Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved."
~Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Friday, May 4, 2018

Lament as the Experience of God's People

"We must also be struck that these laments were not regarded as aberrations from the faith; they were part of the set prayers for the people of God. Questions and claims of betrayal were not relegated to private counseling sessions with an elder or priest but rather remained a part of authorized prayer services. Lament psalms, and individual laments in particular, compose the largest category of psalms, implying that distress and lament are not the exception to the experience of God’s people. Regrettably, lament has been all but censored from most Christian worship services. By always stressing the positive, such worship alienates those suffering pain and depression. And shying away from lament produces unnecessary guilt and, ultimately, a superficial faith.
        For us to come to terms with lament language, it is best that we understand its aim as both expressive and evocative, not merely informational. As words given to humans to speak in the midst of pain and distress, they seek to be true to the human perspective in the relationship. In other words, they display genuine feelings whether or not they are rational or theologically correct. They allow for the expression of emotions, not just facts. Since psalms are speech from humans to God, what is appropriate is determined not solely by who God is but also by who humans are, with all their limitations and weaknesses. These laments are thus true, not in the sense of teaching accurate theological information at every point but rather in the sense of being a true reflection of the divine-human encounter." 

~Broyles, Craig C. “Lament, Psalms of.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings, ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, 384–99. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

God's Just Judgment

"The presupposition of God's just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it. My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West... Soon you will discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God's refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die."

~Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. 302-304

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ultimate Presupposition

"Lord" in Scripture refers to the head of a covenant relationship. In that relationship, the Lord dictates to his covenant servants the way they are to live and promises them blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. He also tells them of the blessings that he has already given to them– his "unmerited favor," or grace, which is to motivate their obedience. Without words of grace, law, and promise, there is no lordship. To recognize the Lord is to believe and obey his words above the words of anyone else. And to obey the Lord's words in that way is to accept them as one's ultimate presupposition.

~John Frame, Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Beliefs, p. 4

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Return?

I must be in a nostalgic frame of mind. Just now, as I climbed the stairs and headed to bed, a whiff of something made me think of Strawberry Shortcake, the dolls my sister and I played with as little girls. I'm certain if I mentioned to Erin (my sister) that smell, she'd immediately be swept back in time as well. How powerful these memories are, and the hold they have on us for the rest of our lives.

A couple of days ago I thought about starting to post on here again. There was once a time when I wrote on here nearly every day, and then it dwindled to maybe monthly, and then, to my shame, I abandoned it completely. It takes time to blog, especially if you add pictures which you've enhanced in Photoshop yourself, and who reads it anyway? Blogs are passé, no? Does anyone use blogspot anymore? Should I have moved to Wordpress years ago? Does it even matter at this point? We've all moved on to YouTube anyway, and I, like a silent film actress, feel ill-prepared for the new media. But, here I am, feeling a certain nostalgia for days gone by and not quite ready to let the thing completely die. Dum Spiro Spero has been here for me so long– in March it was nine years, and I started the blog (have I admitted this out loud here before?) as a way to help mend my broken heart, or at least to provide a distraction from the pain I was feeling in connection to a breakup from a certain boy. I suppose it did that, and more, as I've loosely documented the passing years here.

Tonight I reread my "About Me" post. Was it prophetic? Did I realize when I wrote all those years ago that it would still ring true now, these many years in the future? And will it still be true years from now? Will I still be dreaming of the same things? I like what I wrote then– four sentences to summarize me, and I look at them now and I still think they were well written, and they're just as true as the day I wrote them.

When I first started this blog, I would quote bits of poems, and prose that I liked. There's one that I quoted ages ago that continues to loom in my mind and I keep trying to reference it as it seems so true. I'm quoting it here so that I can find it again when I want it.

To me it seems a very terrible thing to be a woman.  There is one crown which perhaps is worth it all-- a great love, a quiet home, and children.   We all know that is all that is worthwhile, and we must peg away, showing off our wares in the market if we have money, or manufacturing careers for ourselves if we haven't.  We have not the motive to prepare ourselves for a 'lifework' of teaching, of social work-- we know that we would lay it down with hallelujah in the height of our success, to make a home for the right man.  And all the time in the background of our consciousness rings the warning that perhaps the right man will never come.  A great love is given to very few.  Perhaps this makeshift time-filler of a job is our lifework after all. 
~Ruth Benedict, Anthropologist, 1912

Months ago, when Donald Trump won the election to become the 45th President of the United States, I cheekily posted on Facebook that in the wake Carla Bruni (wife to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy) and Melania Trump (both former models), I had a new aspiration, i.e., to be a first lady. My feminist friends responded and asked why I wasn't aspiring to be President, to which I refer them to the quote above. Nope, thank you very much, I want to be a wife and a mother. I am sorry if that is not ambitious enough for you.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my first blog post back after five months of non-posting.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

And When I Have Seen Him, I Shall Never Die

I shall rise from the dead... I shall see the Son of God, the Sun of Glory, and shine myself as that sun shines. I shall be united to the Ancient of Days, to God Himself, who had no morning, never began... No man ever saw God and lived. And yet, I shall not live till I see God; and when I have seen him, I shall never die.

~John Donne, from Sermon CXVIII, Preached at St. Paul's Cathedral on Midsummer Day, 1622