Sunday, February 28, 2010

The mind is a funny thing. I have in my head all these thoughts - good candidates for something which you might find interesting to read - and yet they refuse to make themselves into a coherent whole. Perhaps it is just because I am tired. To solve this problem I have decided to let you do the work by asking questions.

The winter Olympics have just finished. What can we learn from them? Is such an event given too much attention, given everything else going on around the world?

What is the significance of winning a medal at the Olympics? Is that the primary goal of all the athletes?

On Friday I heard a good talk on one of my favourite passages:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-3)
Writing from a cultural context not so different from our own, Paul uses sports images. This is a challenge to pursue a life of endurance and wholehearted focus, to run "the race marked out for us" with everything we have. In what ways is our 'race' similar and different from those of the Olympians?

The biggest challenge to me is throwing off "everything that hinders". What is hindering you?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

a stumbling block

There are so many things I have been learning and reflecting on this past week - about how much we need silence and solitude, about how even as children we are born selfish and not seeking God, about seeking the Kingdom, about understanding God's spiritual and physical presence in the world, about Lent. But over all these things I keep coming back to the contrast between God's wisdom and our wisdom (Jer 9:23-24, 1 Cor 1:18-31, 3:19, James 3:13, etc), most clearly stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians (emphasis added):
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

... It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

So this week I will refrain from going on and on about my own thoughts and simply challenge you to seek hard after God's wisdom, for:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom ...
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the LORD.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

the surprising work of God

When you stop and think about it, God's way of working seems a bit crazy. Why would an infinite, all-powerful God choose to work out his plans through finite, fallible, free-willed humans? Wouldn't he have every right to just abandon us to our own devices and wickedness and delight in something else? And yet that is just the opposite of what he does - he delights in working in this world. This is the astonishing Kingdom of God - not astonishing because God is King, but because he invites us to join him in his kingdom work, in and around and through us.

Added to this is the mystery of an infinite God inhabiting a finite space that Augustine wonders about when he asks
Do heaven and earth, then, contain the whole of you, since you fill them?... Or is it that you have no need to be contained in anything because you contain all things in yourself and fill them by reason of the fact that you contain them? (Confessions, Bk 1, section 3)
What, then, is our response to this? First, I think it gives us incredible hope. Secondly, it is an invitation to join God where he is at work. Oh, that every moment of every day would be governed by this!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

vocab

When chat rooms and IM became popular I dimly worried that we would eventually lose our rich vocabulary and ability to express complex things in ordinary conversation, finding our conversation reduced to ... IDK, but AISI, nothing but LOL or ROFL -- GTG!

Obviously this is not happened yet (although I have actually heard people say lol (and they were clearly not doing so)). But has something similar happened in the church? Have we lost our ability to talk about and to God? I was so excited when I first read this passage a few years ago in Augustine's confessions that I copied the whole thing down. Here is someone who can talk about the complexity and wonder of God. It's a long passage but I'm going to post it here in its entirety. I encourage you to try praying it.
What, then, is the God I worship? He can be none but the Lord God himself, for who but the Lord is God? What other refuge can there be, except our God? You, my God, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you. You are the unseen power that brings decline upon the proud. You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. You support, you fill, and you protect all things. You create them, nourish them, and bring them to perfection. You seek to make them your own, though you lack for nothing. You love your creatures, but with a gentle love. You treasure them, but without apprehension. You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same. You welcome all who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts. We give abundantly to you so that we may deserve a reward; yet which of us has anything that does not come from you? You repay us what we deserve, and yet you owe nothing to any. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you! For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe you. (Book 1, Section 4)