Friday, May 29, 2015

Keep It Open Toward Faith

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child's faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.

What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you fell you can't believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God. ”

― Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ascenion Day Prayer

Ascended Lord, we praise you. In your death you "utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads. You completely annulled it by nailing it over your head on the cross." In your resurrection you gave us new life, free life, full of new possibilities. In your ascension you paraded sin and death behind you in your triumphal procession (Col. 2).

You are our guarantee of victory. You are our guarantee because you went through everything we struggle with and came through the other side. What you did, you promised to help us do. You will always be with us—not merely with sympathy but also with power. You are our guarantee because it is our nature, as well as the Godhead, that sits on the throne. It is truly "one of us" who governs now as Ruler of time and space. This, too, gives us confidence and courage for the future. You are our guarantee because, in going away, you released the Spirit on us. You are not distant from us but closer to us than ever before. The current of the Spirit works over and through us endlessly. It seeps and trickles into all the depths of heart and mind and will so that truly we are "like trees planted by water. We bear fruit in season, our leaves do not wither, and all that we do turns out well" (Ps. 1).

We bring our hopes, our needs, our desires to you. We are confident of access because you are "one of us." We are confident of answers because you are the Ruler of the universe. Yours is the name above every other name, the name before which every knee bows and every tongue confesses, "You are Lord," to the glory of God (Phil. 2).

Hear our prayers and accept our praises. May they rise like sweet-smelling incense before you from lives that are like altars set ablaze by the fire of the Spirit. Amen.

— Robert Westveer, posted on the Reformed Worship website

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Formation of Young People

A number of tweets that Jamie Smith posted that are taken from his upcoming book "We are What We Love." (@james_ka_smith) on the importance of Christian ritual and formation in the life of a young person:

Young people are not looking for liberation from ritual; they are looking for liberating rituals.

Don't be fooled by those who stick around to be entertained--effective Xian formation of young people might look like failure for a time.

By merely entertaining young people, we only swell the ranks of those who cry, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we attend every lock-in in your name?”

We have ceded the formation of young people to secular liturgies by importing them into the church under the banner of "relevance."

We have confused keeping young people in the building with keeping them "in Christ."

Youth ministry = formation, not merely pragmatic, last-ditch efforts to keep young people as card-carrying members of the evangelical club.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"God can only be revealed to the world when we love others with the love of God. When we are divided by suspicion, anger, and every other evil that destroys relationships, we obscure the love between the Father and the Son, which was given on our behalf."

"As we explore more deeply into the friendship of God, we discover to our amazement that the eternal character of God's love is that of love given, love received, and love shared. For the love of the Father "begets" the Son; the love of the Son is that of the "Begotten"; and the love of the Holy Spirit is to share and make the Father and the Son known to us, and realizable within us. To live out our relationships in the light of such transforming model is radical indeed for mere mortals."

--James Houston- The Transforming Power of Prayer

Thursday, April 02, 2015

My God, My God

MY GOD, MY GOD, why hast thou forsaken me?" As Christ speaks those words, he too is in the wilderness. He speaks them when all is lost. He speaks them when there is nothing even he can hear except for the croak of his own voice and when as far as even he can see there is no God to hear him. And in a way his words are a love song, the greatest love song of them all. In a way his words are the words we all of us must speak before we know what it means to love God as we are commanded to love him.

"My God, my God." Though God is not there for him to see or hear, he calls on him still because he can do no other. Not even the cross, not even death, not even life, can destroy his love for God. Not even God can destroy his love for God because the love he loves God with is God's love empowering him to love in return with all his heart even when his heart is all but broken.

-Frederick Buechner, originally published in A Room Called Remember

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thoughts on Lent

Thoughts on Lent (via City Church of San Francisco):

Lent is an old English word that means springtime. It was a way of speaking about a season before Easter, and over the centuries Christians have used this time of year before Easter to say, "I need springtime in my soul". It's a way to stop the cycle of spiritual status quo and to engage more fully with God and deal with those things in our lives that are out of conformity with Him. When we do that we actually find life in a story bigger than just our own. Whether you are only beginning to explore the claims of Jesus, or have been a Christian for quite some time, Lent creates space for us to reflect on the Story of Jesus and consider entering that story more deeply.

In his Pensees, Blaise Pascal put it this way, "Being unable to cure death and wretchedness people have decided in order to be happy not to think about such things." Lent counters this propensity and provides us a season as a community to take on the deep counterintuitive wisdom of Scripture. The way up is down, and the way to find joy is to honestly deal with our brokenness. As Jesus put it "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." Lent invites us to join Christ on the way of the Cross, a spiritual journey that begins with Ash Wednesday and ends in Easter celebration.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Psalm 23 by Calvin Seerveld

The Lord God is my shepherd too. I lack nothing.
In quiet spots of soft green grass the Lord lets me settle down in peace.
My shepherd leads me out to flowing waters giving rest.
The Lord bring me back to myself.
The Lord leads me in the tracks of doing what is right for the sake of God's holy name.

Even if I have to walk through the Valley of the shadows of Death,
I will fear no evil because you are with me.
Your shepherd crook and your strong club reassure me.
You set a table for me with a meal right in front of my enemies!
You annoint my head copiously with oil.
My drinking cup is overflowing!

It's true!
Your covenantal mercy and what's creaturely good shall follow me up
all the days of my life,
and someday I shall dwell in the house of the Lord God
for as long as there are days...