“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.” The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned–our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.”
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”
I’m just starting to re-read Tim Keller’s Book on Prayerand was amazed (again) and the challenging and beautifully written quote from Flannery O’Connor on page 11:
“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of the moon that I see and mt self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all of the moon … what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the way.”
Here is such a help quotation from Paul David Tripp on the challenge of living at the intersection between faith and the reality surrounding you:
When you’re in the intersection between the promises of God and the details of your situation, what you do with your mind is very important. In this intersection, God will never ask you to deny reality. Abraham did not deny reality. Romans 4 says that he “considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” Faith doesn’t deny reality. No, it is a God-focused way of considering reality..
Jeremiah had a ringside seat in the arena of this reform. It is hardly conceivable, though, that he remained a spectator. He was not the sort of person to stand on the sidelines. He helped. He participated in the reform with his preaching. We have fragments of his sermons.
“You’ve solicited many lover-gods, like a streetwalking whore chasing after other gods” (Jer 3:2). The people had abandoned the God who loved and called them into being and had given themselves in reckless prodigality to every god and goddess they met. Moral pollution works the same way as environmental pollution. The waste products are careless living work insidiously into the soil of thought and the streams of language, poisoning every part of society.
Jeremiah pleaded with them: “Plow your unplowed fields” (Jer 4:3). Superstition and idolatry form a tough crust that makes us insensitive and unreceptive to the word that God speaks in mercy and salvation. Ploughing is a metaphor for the repentance that prepares the ground of our heart to receive what God has for us.”
Jeremiah was scathing and sarcastic: “And you, what do you think you’re up to? Dressing up in party clothes, … putting on lipstick and rouge and mascara! Your primping goes for nothing” (Jer 4:30).
Through it, all Jeremiah conveyed hope: “Ho stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road. then take it. Discover the right route for your souls” (Jer 6:16). There are old paths, well-trodden and clearly marked, that lead to goodness and to God. The Scriptures–in this case the Deuteronomy scroll–map the roads. If we ignore them, we stumble over obstacles. Jeremiah’s preaching was tireless in insisting on the plain, obvious truth: that God is among us, that we can and must live in faithful love with him.”
Is your vision too small and parochial? How would you even know?
Psalm 67 is a great vision stretcher!
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us— 2 so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. 4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. 5 May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
6 The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. 7 May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
There are times when the truth will receive a wide hearing and times when it will not. Jesus had a congregation of five thousand one day and four women and two bored soldiers another. His message was the same both days. We must learn to live by the truth, not by our feelings, not by the world’s opinion, not by what the latest statistical survey tells us is the accepted morality, not by what advertisers tell us is the most gratifying lifestyle. We are trained in the biblical faith to take lightly what the experts say, the scholars say, the pollsters say, the politicians say, the pastors say. We are trained to listen to the Word of God, to test everything against what God reveals to us in Christ, to discover all meaning and worth by examining life in relation to God’s will.”
Today I’ve finished Paul David Tripp’s book titled ‘Suffering’. I think this is probably the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of Suffering. Yes, I’ve read the classic ‘Problem of Pain’ by C.S. Lewis and D.A Carson’s magnificent book called ‘How Long Oh Lord?’. However, both of those books try to address the subject of suffering from a Biblical /Philosophical perceptive. This book by Tripp, addresses suffering from a deeply pastoral perspective. I again and again felt like I was sitting on a sofa opposite Tripp and he was helping me to process the pains and disorientation that often comes with suffering. It is a truly wonderful book! Here is a quote from chapter 2:
“you never just suffer the thing that you’re suffering, but you always suffer the way that you’re suffering that thing. You and I never come to our suffering empty-handed. We always drag a bag full of experiences, expectations, assumptions, perspectives, desires, intentions, and decisions into our suffering. So our lives are shaped not just by what we suffer but by what we bring to our suffering. What you think about yourself, life, God, and others will profoundly affect the way you think about, interact with, and respond to the difficulty that come your way.”