Thursday, March 31, 2011

What kind of power does God use?

Here's a lengthy quote from Robert Farrar Capon that distills -- or maybe ferments -- some things I've been chewing on for some time. This idea came up again in a series of conversations with my good friend and fellow heretic Curt, who then proceeded to remind me of Capon, who is a good writer I almost never think about. But I dug out his book Kingdom, Grace,Judgment, in which he writes of God's desire to transform the world into a "city" or a "kingdom" -- two terms RFC uses interchangeably to mean that place where God rules as sovereign, making creation what he intended it to be in the first place. But God has a frustrating way of going about this project. Here's Capon:

"On theoretical presumptions, of course, God has all the power he needs to do anything he wants any time he chooses. But such theorizing is a very unscriptural way to approach the subject. It has exactly that let's-sit-the-Bible-down-and-read-it-a-theology-lecture attitude that does nothing but produce frustration with what is actually in the book. Come to Scripture with a nice, respectable notion of an omnipotent God and see what it gets you. Problems, that's what. Problems like: If God has the ability to turn the world into the city, why is he taking his own sweet time about it? Or: If the Bible is about an almighty, all-smart God, why is it so full of divine indirection and delay? Or to say it flat out: If God wants to turn this messed-up world into a city or a kingdom, why doesn't he just knock some heads together, put all the baddies under a large, flat rock, and get on with the job?

The Bible does, of course, have one recorded instance of God's having proposed just such a harsh treatment: the narrative of the Flood in the Book of Genesis. But even that story -- especially that story -- has little comfort in it for theology buffs who like their omnipotence straight up. Notice how it goes.

God, having found all human attempts to build the city hopeless, decides simply to wash everybody but Noah down the drain. By the end of the story, however -- when the final, scriptural point of the episode is made -- it turns out to reveal a different notion of power entirely: God says he is never going to do anything like that again. He says that his answer to the evil that keeps the world from becoming the city of God will not, paradoxically, involve direct intervention on behalf of the city. Instead, he makes a covenant of nonintervention with the world: he sets his bow in the cloud -- the symbolic development of which could be either that he hangs all his effective weapons against wickedness up on the wall or, more bizarrely still, that he points them skyward, at himself instead of us.

After that -- to the consternation of generations of tub-thumpers for a hard-line God -- the Bible becomes practically a rhapsody of indirection. God tells Abraham that he still intends to build the city but proposes an exceedingly strange way of going about it. He says he has infallible plans for the redeemed community but then proceeds to insist it be formed not at some reasonable site, but on the road -- and among the future children of a man who hasn't a single descendant to his name. Furthermore, even when Abraham's childlessness is remedied and God does indeed have a people with whom to build the city, he makes them spend an inordinate amount of time in slavery, wandering, and warfare before he selects a suitable piece of real estate for the venture. Finally, when he does get around to providing them with an actual location, it remains theirs (rather tenuously at that) for only a few hundred years -- hardly longer, it seems, than he felt necessary to engrave Jerusalem as an image on their corporate imagination. They certainly did not possess it long enough, or with sufficient success, for anyone to claim that the city definitively had been built.

As Christians believe, though, God did eventually show up on the property himself for the express purpose of completing the project. In the person of Jesus, the messianic King, he announced that he was bringing in the kingdom and, in general, accomplishing once and for all every last eternal purpose he ever had for the world. And, as Christians also believe, he did just that. But at the end of all the doing, he simply disappeared, leaving -- as far as anybody has been able to see in the two thousand or so years since -- no apparent city, no effective kingdom able to make the world straighten up and fly right. The whole operation began as a mystery, continued as a mystery, came to fruition as a mystery, and to this day continues to function as a mystery. Since Noah, God has evidently had almost no interest in using direct power to fix up the world.

Why? you ask. Well, the first answer is, I don't know, and neither does anyone else. God's reasons are even more hidden than his methods. But I have seen enough of the results of direct intervention to make me rather glad that he seems, for whatever reason, to have lost interest in it.

Direct, straight-line intervening power does, of course, have many uses. With it, you can lift the spaghetti from the plate to your mouth, wipe the sauce off your slacks, carry them to the dry cleaners, and perhaps even make enough money to ransom them back. Indeed, straight-line power ("use the force you need to get the result you want") is responsible for almost everything that happens in the world. And the beauty of it is, it works. From removing the dust with a cloth to removing your enemy with a .45, it achieves its ends in sensible, effective, easily understood ways.

Unfortunately, it has a whopping limitation. If you take the view that one of the chief objects in life is to remain in loving relationships with other people, straight-line power becomes useless. Oh, admittedly, you can snatch your baby boy away from the edge of a cliff and not have a broken relationship on your hands. But just try interfering with his plans for the season when he is twenty, and see what happens, especially if his chosen plans play havoc with your own. Suppose he makes unauthorized use of your car, and you use a little straight-line verbal power to scare him out of doing it again. Well and good. But suppose further that he does it again anyway -- and again and again and again. What do you do next if you are committed to straight-line power? You raise your voice a little more nastily each time till you can't shout any louder. And then you beat him (if you are stronger than he is) until you can't beat any harder. Then you chain him to a radiator till ... but you see the point. At some very early crux in that difficult, personal relationship, the whole thing will be destroyed unless you -- who, on any reasonable view, should be allowed to use straight-line power -- simply refuse to use it, in other words, you decide that instead of dishing out justifiable pain and punishment, you are willing, quite foolishly, to take the beating yourself.

But such a paradoxical exercise of power, please note, is a hundred and eighty degrees away from the straight-line variety. It is, to introduce a phrase from Luther, left-handed power. Unlike the power of the right hand (which, interestingly enough, is governed by the logical, plausibility loving left hemisphere of the brain), left handed power is guided by the more intuitive, open, and imaginative right side of the brain. Left handed power, in other words, is precisely paradoxical power: power that looks for all the world like weakness, intervention that seems indistinguishable from nonintervention. More than that, it is guaranteed to stop no determined evildoers whatsoever. It might, of course, touch and soften their hearts. But then again, it might not. It certainly didn't for Jesus; and if you decide to use it, you should be quite clear that it probably won't for you either. The only thing it does insure is that you will not -- even after your chin has been bashed in -- have made the mistake of closing any interpersonal doors from your side.

Which may not, at first glance, seem like much of a thing to insure, let alone like an exercise worthy of the name of power. But when you come to think of it, it is power -- so much power, in fact, that it is the only thing in the world that evil can't touch. God in Christ died forgiving. With the dead body of Jesus, he wedged open the door between himself and the world and said, 'There! Just try and get me to take that back!' "

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two sources, two styles, one message

I ran across two radically different sources saying more or less the same thing (at least under the surface) this week. Here's the first:

In his book, Luther for Armchair Theologians, Steven Paulson says this:

"Luther's insight was shockingly simple, as great ideas always are: God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does. That realization opened for Luther a new relationship that refused to make either creation or the law the means of salvation but to use them for helping others in need. God intends to manufacture good works through you for others, by hook or by crook, because there are real people and things in the world that need your help."

So basically he's saying that if you're right with God because of what Jesus did for you by dying and rising to new life, you live in the world in such a way that your relationship with God makes a difference. That you do stuff that changes the world.

A little earlier in the week I was introduced to Peter Rollins, a provocative thinker who has a different way of speaking about Jesus that is both challenging and uncomfortable. Here's a video clip of Peter talking about the violence in Christianity:

The Violence of Christianity from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

Peter takes a while to get going -- he does a little stand-up comedy at the beginning but once he gets to the point, it's great stuff. If you're not into comedy, you have time to grab a cup of coffee before he gets there (starting at about 4:15 or so). On the other hand, you might enjoy his particular brand of humor. You may have to right click (or ctrl-click for Mac) and turn HD off if you have trouble playing the video.

Either way, we're called to make a difference in the world. Big or small, the lives of Christ-followers should do violence to the world's systems of injustice. You can do good stuff in tiny ways -- paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru at Burger King, maybe, or mowing your neighbor's yard -- or in big ways, caring for dying lepers in the streets of Calcutta like Mother Teresa. But in the end, it's the same thing.

It's what Jesus called "the kingdom of God." It breaks into the systems and powers of this world and turns them upside-down.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guys' Getaway

This weekend is Central's "Guys' Getaway" -- a retreat for men that happens each year about this time. Five or six years ago a few guys got together and tried this for the first time. In the history of Central Lutheran Church, it had never been done before. Each year the retreat has grown. This weekend, we've filled the possible slots with over 50 guys. The growth is due to a couple factors. Certainly I want to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit has been working in the lives of men, creating a spiritual hunger that goes far beyond a men's retreat. Yet that hunger is reflected in the number of men willing to dedicate a weekend to getting away with other guys to grow in their relationship with God. There are many men who won't be going on this getaway who are reading their Bibles, serving in ministry, leading their families spiritually, and meeting with other men to sharpen each other. But the fact that over fifty men are taking a weekend away speaks volumes about the momentum that is building among men at Central.

So as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, "God gives the growth." But there are also some human factors in this growth. Think of them as tools that God uses to do his work.

One of those tools is a dedicated core group of men who see the value in this annual retreat and push for it each year. Some of these are guys who experienced that first retreat years ago and got hooked. Others have been pulled in along the way. These are guys who meet time and again to plan, to strategize, to pray. They talk about this weekend with their friends and acquaintances. They pass out business cards with information about the Guys' Getaway and recruit other guys to come. This retreat has buy-in and up-front endorsement from the pastors, but it also has a dedicated team of unpaid leaders who will tell you what a great event this is, and why you should be there.

Another factor is a comfortable but rugged facility. Timber Bay is a camp that mostly serves at-risk youth. It's near Mille Lacs Lake, about an hour north of Central. The accommodations are comfortable, but you won't find any floral print curtains or lace tablecloths. Log buildings, comfortable overstuffed furniture, pool and ping-pong tables, a massive stone fireplace and an antler chandelier make this a place that feels comfortable for guys. Too often churches expect men to fit into feminine surroundings, and we turn a lot of guys off before they ever hear a speaker or think about our topics. The decor tells them, "I don't belong here."

Most of the guys going on this retreat have a personal connection to one or more of the speakers. Instead of bringing in a big name from outside the church, we've split up the keynote sessions between four recognized leaders at Central. That personal connection can be the tipping factor that convinces a man to consider coming to the retreat. It also lets these guys have a sense of trust. They're not going to get guilt-tripped or beat up, spiritually speaking. It's hard enough to take a chance going away on a church retreat without worrying about what the speaker is going to make me suffer through.

Timing is another critical factor. Through a little trial and error we've found that late March works for a lot of guys. Ice fishing is winding down. Spring activities haven't taken off. There aren't any hunting seasons open at the moment. A few guys still struggle to make the timing work, but for many men this is a relatively low-demand season.

A generous team has made it possible for guys who can't afford this event to attend. Between donations and fundraisers, we've tried hard to make money a non-issue. This has removed a huge obstacle that would have kept several men from attending.

Finally, we've got buy-in from many wives. A woman often yearns for her husband to do something rugged and healthy and strong and spiritually healthy with other guys. She watches him get beat up at work (or worse yet, beat up being out of work) and she knows he needs time to get re-energized. I've heard a number of stories of wives who have helped cover responsibilities around home so their husbands can go on this retreat.

There are lots of reasons I'm looking forward to this weekend. One is that it's just plain fun to be part of a ministry that God is growing! If you're not at Timber Bay this weekend, pray for the guys who attend. Pray that the Holy Spirit would find a way to grow these guys closer to Jesus. Pray for good conversations, good food (never a problem at Timber Bay but this is really important on a guys' retreat!), and good fun.

It will be fun to see what happens next year, and the year after that!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


One of the things I thought about a great deal while I was at CLBI was the way we think about strength and weakness. I believe we have this quite backward as compared to God's perspective.

Honestly, wouldn't you rather be strong than weak? Wouldn't you rather be talented than not? Wouldn't you rather be whole than broken?

I think nearly any human would rather be strong than weak. We enjoy competence and skill. We admire, even worship, people who are "at the top of their game". When something gets in the way of our capabilities and our competencies, we are frustrated. (Think of the last time a cold tired you out, for instance, or kept you from being at your best.) Much of our medical industry -- certainly much of our pharmaceutical industry -- has developed to provide us at least the illusion of strength, to keep us from being held back by our weakness. Muscles sore? Buy an ointment. Nose stuffed up? Choose from dozens of remedies. Throat scratchy? Again, dozens of drops, lozenges, pills, or syrups can help take away your symptoms. Note that in many cases, that's exactly what we're doing -- we're treating symptoms, not the real disease. I've heard it said that with colds, the average untreated cold lasts about a week or a week and a half. If, however, you get lots of rest, drink lots of fluids, and take cold medications, it will go away in only 7-10 days.

We treat symptoms because we don't like our weakness. We don't like feeling like we can't breathe well, like we're dragged down and tired, like we can't speak without feeling like we have flax straw in our throats. I understand that.

What strikes me, though, is that the Bible talks very differently about weakness. The most famous example, certainly, is in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul struggles with a "thorn in the flesh." Paul says he prayed three times that God would take it away. (This is Paul, who often healed others and even raised people from the dead!) But God said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Is this the way we approach our own weakness? Do we really expect to see God's power made perfect when we are less capable, less competent, more broken, more frustrated? Of course not. We think that God needs our help, and so we should be strong and God should appreciate what we can do for him. (We may not think aloud in this way, but this is the way we so often act!) It is a rare individual who figures out this puzzle of weakness. It is the person facing terminal cancer, or the person with the chronic illness, who gains a strange sort of peace as they sit for hours contemplating their own weakness. They come to know the strength of God in a new and wonderful way. You and I, leaving their sick room, marvel at their spiritual strength, but we do not seek to be like them. We go back to our busy schedules and the illusion that God does his best work when we are at our best.

One wonders how we have become so confused. Could it be that we are still trying to live out what the serpent told Eve -- "Go ahead, you can be like God!"?

We even build grand Christian theologies of success that reassure us that God is really about us being strong. God wants you to be successful, we say. Or God wants you to be healthy, or God wants you to prosper. How many people have converted to Christianity, only to find that honestly following Jesus wasn't the pleasant walk in the park that they had heard?

I don't like being sick any more than you do. But I begin to think more and more that we would do well to rejoice (as Paul recommends) when we come up against something we cannot do, something that brings us face to face with our own weakness. We might find that there is a great truth here worth learning, and in fact that until we are weak, we cannot know God's strength.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I've realized it would be a lot easier to write if I was teaching rather than pastoring. The two weeks I spent at CLBI I actually thought through some things from start to finish. This was not because I had more time -- I actually had less discretionary time there than I do around home most weeks -- but because the "thinking" time I had came in large blocks and part of the job was thinking through things theologically or topically so that I could present them in class. What's more, many of the topics extended from one day to the next, so I was thinking through something for several days.

Pastoring is different. You get fifteen minutes here or twenty there to think, and most of the time that is focused on a sermon that will be quite different next week. There's little continuity to think something through in depth. Plus the nature of the job is that there are frequent interruptions that rightly demand attention. So it's difficult to take a topic and think it through to the point where one would even realize it's worth writing about, let alone actually getting it written. Once you know you want to write about something, it's not hard to set aside time for it. But most days I just don't feel like I've got a thought that's worth troubling someone else to read.

So there's today's insight -- that and the fact that when it rains hard, then snows, then rains hard some more, and the slush on the roadway starts to build up, it's VERY easy to hydroplane. Had several adrenaline moments this morning where the pickup decided to head for the ditch, but once speed dropped below about forty-five we regained control and got back into our lane. Lesson learned? Take your time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Transitioning home

For the last two weeks I've been in Camrose, Alberta, Canada, teaching a group of 28 second year students at the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute (CLBI). It's been a great time and I have had a blast teaching this intensely! I am flying back home this afternoon and I am incredibly glad to be seeing my family tonight. I have seriously missed Julie, Erica, and Teya. An addition to the frustration is that Erica's been on spring break this past week and I have missed getting to spend that much time with her.

The class was "Spiritual Formation" which is sort of a catch-all of personal relationship with God, theology, church history, and a few other odds and ends like exploring your family of origin and what spiritual assets and liabilities you have gained from that upbringing. I'll have to go back through my notes and post some of the things we discussed on this blog if I have time in the next couple weeks. One of the things that was fun was to be able to direct my CLBI students here to access some of the articles I've posted -- especially "Luther and Decision Theology" and "Hillside Reflections," both of which were directly related to topics we discussed in class.

Yesterday, our final day of class, we talked about my daughter Teya's baptism. When she was baptized, we knew we would be leaving Port Orchard, WA, where we had lived for seven years, and moving to St. Paul so I could attend seminary. Pastor Jan Otto preached Teya's baptism sermon to her, carrying her in her arms up and down the church aisle, talking about the Body of Christ that extends across the world, and how even though the congregation of Elim Lutheran was the church that got to baptize Teya, others would nurture her, teach her, and become a home for her. We have seen the reality of that so strongly in our lives -- from Roseville Lutheran during seminary, to Good Shepherd and West Prairie in Williston, ND, and now Central. God is faithful. We talked in class about how these students are like dandelion seeds, blown on the wind of God's Spirit, going where he leads them. They will land in various places and put down roots into new communities, drawing nourishment from the soil and from what God is doing already in that place. Hopefully they will blossom and reproduce, spiritually speaking, so that there comes a time when people are blown from their influence on the wind of the Spirit to new places, and the Body of Christ is revitalized.

So Christians are like dandelions.

I'm glad to be blowing home again. This is a good place, and CLBI has become one of those dear places to me -- a place where God is working in mighty ways, where people are doing exciting, innovative ministry, where the name of Jesus is not only lifted up but where people take his name on their hearts and their foreheads and go out into the world. Exciting stuff. But my heart lives at home, and it's time to go.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another lesson from this week

We spent some time the other day going through Matthew 6:25-34. This is a passage most of us could stand to read at least once each day.

Anxiety is a huge part of our lives, and much of our anxiety has to do with the daily details of food, clothing, housing, transportation, and so on. What does Jesus have to say about these concerns here?

Note that the whole section of scripture focuses on Matthew 6:33. That is the key to the whole thing. If we let Jesus have our hearts -- if we seek his kingdom and his righteousness, he will take care of the rest.

Can you believe this?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Family of Origin

I'm still overwhelmed, a bit. But thought I'd share just a tidbit of what we've been covering in class.

One of the things I've been teaching on, encouraging students to deal with both intellectually and experientially, is to look at their family of origin, especially at parents. Biblically parents play a huge role in teaching us who God is. Read Hebrews 12, for example. So it makes sense for students to look at who their parents (for the sake of example, let's start with fathers) are and say, "Does my father's identity mesh with who God the Father is revealed to be in scripture?" Often what we find is that because of an earthly father's faults or weaknesses, the student's perception of who God is has been twisted. It's a helpful exercise, then, to deal with that in a healthy way. How?

First, recognize that your earthly father's weaknesses are not legitimately superimposed on God.

Second, confess to God that you have done this.

Third, ask God to show you who he really is, what he's really like.

Fourth, seek him in the Bible and try to find out what his character is really like rather than making assumptions about him.

Note: Many times, we know intellectually that it's not legitimate to put our human father's weaknesses on God the Father. But we react to God at an emotional level because of these old wounds. If dad was distant, we think God is uncaring. If dad was a workaholic, we think God has more important things to do. If dad flew into fits of rage, we fear God's wrath. And so on.

God longs for us to know him as he truly is.

In fact, that is the point of Jesus becoming human. He became flesh, died, and rose again so that the dividing wall between us and God might be taken away, so we could have a real relationship with God. Don't let that just be theoretical -- seek to know God for who he really is!

Monday, March 14, 2011


I keep thinking I want to distill down some of what I'm teaching and blog about it. But every time I think I have a few minutes (and the spare time really does come in "a few minutes" here and there) I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of content we've been covering.

One of the more interesting experiences thus far was preaching in a local church here (not Elk River -- I'm actually teaching at the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute right now) that is going through difficult conflict. There has been substantial conflict between the church's board of elders and the senior pastor -- so the senior pastor has been suspended, and the associate is carrying the load of trying to lead a very divided congregation. To add to the complications, the senior pastor and his wife still worship in the church while they wait for resolution to the whole situation. So just before I stood up to preach, the congregation takes a coffee break -- which I think is brilliant -- and I found myself visiting with the suspended senior pastor and his wife for several minutes. The chasm between him and the board is basically a theological issue, so it was interesting to stand up and preach and wonder (in some disengaged part of my brain) while I was preaching how the various theological parties in the church were hearing this sermon. Kind of surreal.

This few minutes is about gone, so on to the next set of duties. More (hopefully) soon!

Friday, March 11, 2011


Whoa. I'm teaching this week and next week. And a little amazed by a) how much fun it is, and b) how much work it is. I thought I was going to have quite a bit of time to blog (don't you love how that is both a noun and a verb?) but such has not been the case.

Yet I am hoping to have time to do some more reflecting, thinking, and pondering, and to have time to write about it and share it with you. I'm learning lots, just not having a ton of time to reflect and write!

One tidbit - I have been reminded (just today) that so many of the ponderable theology questions -- like free will, predestination, and more -- have been carefully considered and addressed in a particular Lutheran document called "The Formula of Concord" that was written in 1580. So if you're interested in some of those difficult questions like "Do humans really have free will?" or maybe "Does God predestine some people to go to hell?" you might want to do an online search for the Formula of Concord. It's good stuff. Just look for a readable translation because there are several out there, and some of them are pretty tough to decipher.

Got to go do teacher stuff. More soon, I hope!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


This is a devotion that my daughter Erica shared with her college (Bethel University) wind symphony at their rehearsal today. I thought it was worth sharing here. Thanks, Erica!

I grew up in the church. I believed that God’s ultimate goal for me, for you, for all of us, is to be “happy.” Because that’s what the Bible teaches. When I want something, I ask God for it. When I’m hurt, I ask God to make the pain go away. God wants me to be kind to other people so that they experience the hands-on love of Christ, are happy, and therefore I am happy. So what would happen to my faith if God was no longer part of the equation? I was reading the other day, and I want you to consider this question that I found.

"The critical question for our generation -- and for every generation -- is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?"

I don’t really think that God’s ultimate priority is for me to be happy. But I think it’s easy for us at Bethel to fall into this pattern. Regardless of how much we laugh about being penniless college students, we are all incredibly well-off financially. You’ve heard all the platitudes, like people asking you how many pairs of shoes you own, and then metaphorically beating you over the head with them because children are barefoot in Nigeria. Instead of focusing in today on Third World poverty, I want to, just for a minute, look more closely at what it means to be in spiritual poverty.

God does not ask us to obey him so that we can experience happiness. If we focus our lives on obtaining warm fuzzy feelings, we might well do great works and help others. We might organize groups to work at Feed My Starving Children, or perhaps we start a thriving Bible study. There is a difference, though, between following warm fuzzies and following Jesus.

Jesus did not call his disciples to endure a comfortable life. When he called Peter and Andrew to follow him and become fishers of men, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” God is calling us to radically depend on him. In an affluent community -- that would be Bethel -- it is easy to see God as the icing on the cake. I know I’m guilty of that; I’m guilty of this every day. Instead of seeing God as a sort of genie who appears to grant wishes and then disappears back into his lamp, I want to challenge us to live radically for Jesus.

I’m going to read a few verses of Psalm 63 that go along with this.
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

Will you pray with me? Jesus, thank you for bringing us all here together today. Thank you for putting us in a place where sometimes our biggest worry is an exam. Help us to realize what a gift this is. At the same time, Jesus, challenge us. Draw us out of our comfort zones. Help us to lay down our nets, whatever they might be, over and over again. Teach us to become fishers of men, working with you, and finding joy in that. As we live for you, Jesus, be active and present in our lives and show us the joy that comes when we are truly surrendered to your will. And also, Lord, I pray that you will be present in our playing today. Help us to make music today in a way that both honors you now and that also prepares us to share your beauty as we play tomorrow night. Amen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

... continued

The quote goes on:

"The heart always provides for what it values (Matthew 6:19-34), and if we value God first, our capacity to love him and others will expand. If we value the world first, we will miss out on not only the joys of knowing God but also the joys of this life. Relationships will degenerate into contacts, and we will seek to manipulate people to get what we think we want. We will be driven to accomplish and impress, and this will detract from quality time with those we love. Activities will take precedence over intimacy, both with God and with people. The idol of accomplishment will erode the aesthetics of the spirit and leave us busy and weary. We will work harder to influence people, and by seeking our security in their responses, we will become disconnected from our true security in Christ. The only way off this treadmill is repentance and return to the pursuit of Christ in place of the pursuit of the world."

Quote for the day

From Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image:

"Jonathan Edwards observed that the ultimate good in life is to treat things according to their true value. The converse is also true, and we face the ever-present danger of treating the eternal as though it were temporal and the temporal as though it were eternal. The world system switches the price tags and encourages us to pursue things that will not last. "That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15b). If we want to be rich toward God (Luke 12:21), we must give our lives in exchange for the things God declares to be important."