Sunday, January 29, 2012

a longing deep

Following Christ was never meant to be easy, at least in most senses of the word.  A longing for holy living is not something that leads to a laid-back kind of life.  You might say that it would be difficult to market God's call on our lives in the way that one might market the latest ipad.

And yet - and yet people decide to join the church daily.  The choice to "pick up our cross and follow Christ" has been made by millions, making it the largest movement in history.  Certainly these people did not join because they thought it would be easy.

There is, of course, one thing that is easy.  That is the freedom from the endless struggle against sin and death that Christ brings to us by his life, death, and resurrection.  This incredible gift is part of what brings us to Christ.

Have you noticed it?  The deep desire of those in the church to learn to truly live in the life Christ gives to us?  This is not an easy path, but without doubt we long for it.  I read some words this week by Reuben Welch which seemed pertinent to the church of our age:

I may be exaggerating slightly,
     but I perceive that some of these words
          like sanctification and holiness and redemption,
               which at one time were profoundly relevant,
                    which were precious and beautiful
                         have, for many people, lost their luster
                              and much of their beauty and
                                                              Do I make myself clear?

Some of these precious words -- these life-words--
     at one time had juice in them;
          they had stuff in them;
               they connoted things;
                    they denoted things;
                         they were glorious words;
                              they were magnetic words.
But, for many, they have lost something:
     the juice has dried up;
          and they have become technical terms,
               and maybe shibboleths.

... At the same time, I see something else
      going on in the world where I live.
           While some of the old terms have
                                                                           lost their luster,
                                                                       I perceive there is
                                                                  a growing, deep-heart
                                                             hunger to be holy!
                                                        I believe that with all my soul!
Maybe this is the hunger to which
     all other hungers are related.
          Maybe this fundamental hunger to be holy
               is that God-shaped vacuum
                                                       in the heart of every person.
                                                                   And, oddly enough,
                                                        though that hunger persists,
                                                                it is seldom expressed.
I don't know if we can find
     new terns,
     new language,
     new lingo,
          that would help us.
          but I know that there is within us
          a hunger to be holy.
And I know that the heart-hunger
     of our Lord for His Church
          is that the people of God
               be sanctified and
     made meet for the Master's use.

Not surprisingly, this hunger for holiness of which Welch speaks in us is nothing new in the history of the human race.  Yet it must be addressed anew in each generation, even in each local church.

In what ways have you seen this deep longing in your own life and church?

photo credit laprimadona

Thursday, January 26, 2012

wisdom from Brother Lawrence

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is a book I have been meaning to read for some time.  Written in the 1600's, this little gem consists of conversations with and letters by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite in Paris.

Here is a profound thought I read this week that I want to share with you, partly to help me remember it.  
Brother Lawrence explained "that our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God's sake which we commonly do for our own."  (Fourth Conversation)

Now I'm sure you can think of exceptions to this, but that is not the point.  Applying this truth to our daily lives is a challenge, and one well worth undertaking, I think.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2011 in Books

My "2011 in Books" post is long overdue, I know.  To be honest, I've been having a hard time remembering the books I read this past year.  Here's the list that I could come up with.
  • Praying, by Packer.  I have to confess I was slightly disappointed by this book.  It has good content, but sometimes it is slow going and I wish they had been a little more ruthless in the editing process.  But overall I did learn some things about prayer, which is the reason I read it in the first place.
  • Surprised by hope, by N.T. Wright.  This is one of the more influential books I have read recently.  By influential, I mean influential on my spiritual life and thinking.  I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to seriously answer the question - what is the central Christian hope?  I have already written 4 posts on this book.  See them here
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by Rowling.  Yet another booksale purchase.  To answer your questions - no, I haven't read any of the others in the series (odd as this may seem).  I plan to read the rest of the series soon!
  • The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year, by Kiberlee Ireton.  This short book is one of my resources for my posting on the topic of the Church calendar.  
  • The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard.  A re-read, read with a young adult small group I am a part of.  See my posts on Willard's books here.
  • Taliesin and Merlin, both books in the Pendragon Cycle, by Stephen Lawhead.
  • Davita's Harp, by Chaim Potok Intense and well written, as most of his books are I think.  Slightly disturbing.  I liked the other books I've read by Potok better.
  • Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan  I can't believe it took me this long to get around to reading it! (I read an abridge version when I was younger but that doesn't really count.) This is a must-read classic, as many people will tell you.  There are a few strange points of theology, but still so much to learn from.  I will probably re-read it again next year.
  • Living the Resurrection, by Eugene Peterson.  This is the first book (other than the Message paraphrase) which I have read by Peterson.  He focuses on three ways of living out the reality of the resurrection: Sabbath, Mealtime, and Baptism.  He expands each of these three to include not just the usual definition, but to encompass every part of our lives.  For example, in the third section (baptism) he speaks of how the resurrection reality is experienced in the company of friends.  He argues that we cannot really experience the fullness of resurrection living in isolation, but that we are designed to experience it with other people (in the church).  His writing style didn't grab me like some other authors, but this is still a good book and has some things to say that are definitely worth thinking about.  Here are some posts relating to this book.

Any recommendations for 2012?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

finish, then, thy new creation

This morning in church we sung a well known hymn by Charles Wesley.  I was struck again by the words of the last verse, in particular:
Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
It speaks of our deep longing to be changed, our desire for God to complete his work in us, a work that often seems so incomplete in the present.  Best of all, it is a prayer - a request.  Yes, we long for it.  But it is not our work, but thy new creation.

Why is it so easy to forget this?  May this week be one of God's working and our surrendering, so that we may all see the wonder and beauty of his great salvation.