The Reckless Love of God

 That fella next to me is my dear friend, Brian Eichelberger. He and his sweet family remind us of the love of Jesus all the time. 

That fella next to me is my dear friend, Brian Eichelberger. He and his sweet family remind us of the love of Jesus all the time. 

And just to be clear who this is for….

The gospel is for those who have been crushed by the weight of legalism. For those who have tried and tried to earn the favor of God by relentless church attendance, diligent Bible studies, unbroken prayer, and tithing.

The gospel is for those who have been content to warm themselves by the fire of God’s love but never had the faith (or nerve) to actually step into the fire and be utterly consumed.

The gospel is for those who think “Jesus Loves Me” is elementary. Perhaps you've “graduated on” to more robust theological, philosophical, sociological, psychological, and anthropological endeavors. You may have been to seminary. Yes, my friend, this is for you too.

The gospel is for those who get baptized or “go forward” every two or three years in order to secure their salvation because, obviously, it didn’t “take” the last time.

The gospel is for those who leave their Bible in the back of their car all week long, closed up in the sun.

The gospel is for those who think they’ve gone too far and committed the “unpardonable sin,” whatever that may be. The guilt-ridden and the shamed who think they’ve tapped out all of God’s grace and find it amazing that he let them get this far.

The gospel is for the promiscuous, the vagabond, the throwaway, the not good enough, the overachiever, the proud, the insolent, the angry, the forgotten, the brokenhearted.

The gospel is also for those who find themselves safe in the arms of Abba and walking closely with Christ, loving his Word, empowered by the Spirit, and obeying his commands.

The gospel is for the busy professor, student, stay-at-home mom, or the workaholic. The gospel is for the tired preacher and even more tired preacher’s kid. It is for the cage fighters, gamers, and athletes. It is for the Christian who knows Jesus as Lord, King, and Christ but hasn’t dared to accept his brotherhood or enter into embracing his most endearing term for us: the beloved of God. It is for those who have become too familiar with God and have lost any sort of reverence before him. It is for those who call God Creator but not Abba. Maybe you’re like me, and that word either keeps you guessing or makes you blush.

It is for those who have relegated and confined God to the outskirts of your mind and have opted to converse with him when convenient, on holidays, or the unexpected tragedy strikes.

The gospel is for black people, white people, brown people, yellow, red, purple (Tovah, my daughter, wishes everyone was purple), or any other people, all of whom are made in God’s image. It is for the rich. It is for the poor. It is for the middle class. It is for men and women. It is for homosexuals. It is for heterosexuals. It is for the friendless, the divorced, and the the addict. It is for the cheater, the drunk, the high. It is for the drug-dealer, for the image-obsessed. This is even for those who might’ve already fallen asleep in church this morning.

You see, the only way into Jesus’ choir is to sing off-key. The only way into God’s family is to own the fact that you don’t deserve to be in it. The only way to abide in the presence of the Holy Spirit is to accept that you are accepted.

Adapted from The Reckless Love of God: Experiencing the Personal, Passionate Heart of the Gospel, pp.15-17.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Marriage

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Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God's holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom.

In your love, you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.

As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 7.

Where is God Calling Me?

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Calling.

Oh that oft-used word in the evangelical circles that I was reared in that brought about such anxiety, fear, and constant second-guessing. My faith, if it can actually be called that, didn't amount to much. I discerned God's calling on my life much like the way I handled the magic 8-ball toy I played with as a 9 year old. As a boy, I'd pick up the 8-ball filled with some watery-fluid, ask it a question, "Will I make a million dollars?" give it a shake, and then look to see what triangle-shaped-bluish-white answer would surface. "Seems unlikely" it would say. The 8-ball was right.

I became so accustomed to hearing the language of "God told me to _____" (marry this person, start this ministry, write this book, move to this city) that I became obsessed with figuring out God's will for my life. Damn, if that wasn't a wild goose chase.  

It felt as though God spoke often and crystal clear to everyone except me. In fact, his specific will for their lives was so abundantly clear that I wondered how in the world words like "faith", "mystery", or "trust" would even factor into their theological vocabulary. For me, I didn't hear an audible voice like some of my heroes claimed to have heard. I didn't have God's will written for me in the sky or in my Cheerios. As a result, I often thought something was wrong with me.

  • "Why won't God talk to me like that?"
  • "Have I upset him?"
  • "Is it because I have A.D.D.?"
  • "Is it because I'm terrible at math?"
  • "Is it because I don't know how to work with my hands?"
  • "Is it because I'm too emotional?"
  • "Is it the music I like?"
  • "Do I not fast enough?"
  • "What if I knew more Hebrew?"
  • "What if I gave more money to charity?"
  • "Can I purchase knowledge of the will of God?"
  • "If I go on a mission trip to a 3rd world country, will God speak to me then?"
  • "What if I get on a plane and go ask one of these evangelical superstars to point me in the right direction? Could that do it?"

The questions continued to mount and I was missing the chief benefit of this thing known as "the gospel." 

That's not to say that God was entirely silent most of my life. In fact, as I think through the years, I can discern a few key moments, though they're still mostly blurry at this point. Perhaps in another decade or two things will be more clear but I really don't suspect they will. Saint Paul was right, the glass is really smudged but we keep trying to see through it.

Does God call people to places? Sure. I believe he does more often through providence than anything else. Besides, in seminary I learned to read Greek, not Cheerios. What on earth was I doing? Rather than fixing my eyes on that which I cannot see, I stared into a soggy bowl of cereal. 

Today there is a better question, a more helpful question, a more freeing question to be asked regarding the calling of God on one's life. "Does God call me to himself?" That might sound boring to you as it did to me for so many years. That's not because God is boring but because I lack creativity, imagination, and wonder. Personally, an intimate relationship with God was secondary to me getting my instructions. Commandments are to be obeyed and instructions to be followed. Where to live, work, raise a family – those things are primary. I could catch God up at retreats or conferences or maybe even in Sunday worship. In those environments, I could show up worn out with working for him, have an emotional connection with him or just a good cry (because that's what we do when we're tired), and then head back to work. To be honest, I had no idea how much North American pragmatism had eeked its way so far down into my theology. I thought in such simplistic terms that it is embarrassing to admit even to this day. Here's some confessions.

I believed big churches were successful and small churches were failures.

I believed charisma mattered more than character.

I believed in insiders and outsiders.

I believed in winners and losers. (To be sure, the only ones who lose have this mentality).

I believed that ministry results were to be evaluated, numbers were to be counted, and square footage was to be measured. Those are the things that I thought were important to God's business.

Then there were words like "platform", "influence", and "impact" that carried more far more weight than words like "child", "serving", "relationships", "gentleness", "stillness", "belonging", "friendship", and "gratitude." 

That platforming, posturing, and positioning stuff will kill you. Call it "kingdom impact" if you want but deep down we all know it's our Daddy-issues that creates so much distress, unrest, and anxiety. We'd rather jump on the hamster wheel of ministry work because the thought of the nearness of a tender Father makes us squirm, blush, and look at the floor.

So here's something that I know to be true: God does call you to himself and in the stillness, as his child, in an intimate relationship, you'll sense the gentleness of Jesus as he reminds you, his friend, that you belong. It is from that space that gratitude bubbles up into joyful serving of God and neighbor. And it is from this place that we can then begin thinking better about where we might "live, move, and have our being." 

"You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance."

– Galatians 4:6-7, The Message
 

 

The Biggest Question and the Boldest Answer

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The first question in the Heidelberg Catechism is arguably the biggest question ever asked and the answer provided is perhaps the boldest answer we could give. 

Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Before moving on.... just sit with that for a full 60 seconds and think about how you'd answer that. 

What....

Is....

Your....

Only....

Comfort?

Take a deep breath and in what Brennan calls "the bright darkness of faith", look at the answer...

 

Answer: That I am not my own,

but belong – 

     body and soul,

     in life and in death –

to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. 

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,

and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way 

that not a hair can fall from my head

without the will of my Father in heaven;

in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,

Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life

and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready

from now on to live for him. 

 

 

 

Book of Common Prayer: For A Birthday (Jude!)

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Today is Jude's 7th birthday!!!!

We pray this together at each birthday as a family and then go around the table and tell the Birthday Boy or Birthday Girl what we're thankful for about their life. 

 

This comes from the Book of Common Prayer:

Watch over thy child, O Lord, as his days increase; bless and
guide him wherever he may be. Strengthen him when he
stands; comfort him when discouraged or sorrowful; raise
him up if he fall; and in his heart may thy peace which
passeth understanding abide all the days of his life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

All God's Kids Call Him "Abba"

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As a Christian, you’ve entered into a relationship with God that presses past knowing him as King, Creator, Judge, and Ruler over all things and have come to know him in the most tender, the dearest, the most intimate and heart- moving way. You know him now as “Abba.” This little word only shows up three times in the New Testament, but don’t let its brevity drive you to miss its immense importance. As Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood, knowing the brutal death that awaited him the following Good Friday morning, Mark writes, “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (14:35­–36). Paul uses the phrase two times. In Galatians 4:6 he writes, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” And in Romans 8:15, he says, “The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

Ronald Fung, research fellow of the Chinese University in Hong Kong, writes, “Abba is an Aramaic affectionate diminutive for ‘father’ used in the intimacy of the family circle.”[1] Commenting on Galatians 4:6, Protestant reformer Martin Luther said, “Although I am oppressed with anguish and terror on every side, and seem to be forsaken and utterly cast away from Your presence, yet am I Your child, and You are my Father for Christ’s sake; I am beloved because of the Beloved.”[2] Luther understood that no matter what was going on in his life, one thing was certain—he was God’s child.

The Christian God is three-in-one. Three distinct persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and yet One. This is known as the Trinity. Notice what Paul is saying, in the Galatians reference; the Trinity is at work in this Galatians verse: God sent sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! Father!” Believer, prop up your feet in the hammock of the love of God for you. God does not disown his children, though his discipline can be quite painful at times. Because you are in Christ, you are just as safe, loved, and welcomed as Jesus is right now. Jesus has dealt with your sin at his cross, he has gifted to you his righteousness, and your identity is secure.

The craziest idea in the whole universe—that God cherishes you, sings over you, delights in you, and is wild over you being his child—is actually true! All the demons in hell, the liars in the streets, and even the deceptions of your own heart are no match for the landslide of the love of God that has broken loose for you. Nothing can quench the raging, blazing, longing heart of Almighty God! Your Abba will always be tender, truthful, and available to you.

Excerpt from The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life: What Will Change, What Won't, and Why It Matterspp. 54-56.


[1] Ronald K. Fung, New International Commentary on the New Testament: Galatians, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids (1988), p. 185.

[2] Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, Fleming H. Revel Publsihers, Grand Rapids, (1999), p. 253.

 

What Are My Feelings For?

 This overlook is where one of my dearest friends processed some of his deepest pain. Love you, Mo.

This overlook is where one of my dearest friends processed some of his deepest pain. Love you, Mo.

Feelings. What on earth are my feelings for? How are feelings practical? What do they accomplish? If I feel one way, does that make me righteous? If I feel another way, does that make me sinful? What exactly are these things that I can't see but can become visible to everyone around? Am I responsible for how I feel? That's a serious question. After all, in the ancient Greco-Roman world

“Emotion was sometimes considered a force beyond a person’s control. Lenience could be granted to someone in a trial because their offense was committed under the influence of anger.”* 

I have the honor of serving as Pastor of Preaching and Theology at Redemption Church in Seattle. However, don’t think for a moment that the role implies that all I do is sit in my study with my "friends" (my mother's name for my books). In addition to study, I get to spend lots of time with our people and questions surrounding our emotions often arise. As we all know, our emotions can be extremely powerful. But are they beyond our control? The Scriptures teach us that human beings are not merely primal creatures with chemicals firing off in the brain, causing us to move in one direction or another. Rather, human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27). Contrary to what some believe, I don't think this is some sort of summons to ignore our biological make up. Rather, it means that we understand that part of being in God's image is that we are emotional creatures.

Many of us tend to fall off on one side of the horse or the other when it comes to how we view our emotions. Some believe that our emotions need to be ignored or suppressed because they aren't to be trusted. “It’s not about your feelings. It’s about your faith!” This kind of remark makes sense but it is only half-baked as we’ll see below. Others believe the opposite and choose to allow one’s emotions to have absolute rule over them throughout each day; way up one moment and way down the next and everything in between. 

 

MOVING TO A SPACE OF TRUST

As followers of Jesus, we are to submit everything in our lives, including our feelings to him. At the Last Supper, Jesus commanded the disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” So they weren’t supposed to be anxious about his departure? Where would they go? What would happen next? How can Jesus command them to personally take control of their feelings and to route them away from being “troubled”? How is peace possible when the circumstances are submerged in anxiety? The answer lies in the next statement. “You believe in God. Believe also in me" (John 14:1). It was natural to feel anxious in this situation, but Jesus calls the disciples to push past what they saw and what they felt and to move to a space of daring trust; to take him at his word that everything really will be OK. In fact, in the end, they'll be better than OK. Jesus is not saying "Ignore the pain and pretend everything's great." This is Jesus saying, "In spite of the pain, with heartache still in tact, take another step closer to me."

 

OUR EMOTIONS TELL US WHAT WE VALUE

For me personally, this has been a big challenge throughout my life.  To take ownership of my emotions and realize they are my responsibility has not come easy. It's been quite the battle. Perhaps being a 4 on the Enneagram explains it. Maybe it's biology. Maybe it has to do with the family I was raised in or the church I grew up attending. I don't know. But like everyone, I suppose, getting a grip on the human heart hasn't come easy. I'm grateful to my therapist and good friends (both books and real people) that have helped me along the way.

As with everything, our emotions are to be stewarded just like our resources and relationships. So why did God make us emotional? One reason God made us emotional is to help us see what we value. Catch that. Our emotions tell us something about what we truly value. We sometimes value the right things and sometimes we value the wrong things. Our emotions give us a good read on what we believe to be of worth. Here’s what I mean. There are things in the news today that ought to illicit emotions such as grief and anger. Jesus himself was angry on a number of occasions and it was right for him to be angry (Mark 3:5, for example). When injustice is done, amongst many things, anger should surface. When good deeds are done and someone experiences grace, freedom, and success, emotions like gratitude and joy are to be expected.  

 

EMOTIONS & VIRTUES

Before signing off, it is helpful to remember two things about our emotions and our virtues. Emotions, in and of themselves are not to be considered virtuous. They’re embedded within the individual. Thinking a good thought, though praiseworthy, (Phil. 4:8) is not the same thing as a virtuous deed. Christians are are repeatedly commanded to perform good deeds (Matt. 5:16, Eph 2:10, Titus 3:81 John 3:18. Or perhaps the entire book of James would be good to look at as well). And yet, these good deeds are to not to be done divorced from our feelings. Extending a helping hand, showing mercy, and seeking justice with disengaged or disingenuous hearts reduces Christianity to mere moralism, which isn’t Christianity at all. Thus, our emotions matter. Not only do our emotions matter, they are essential to those of us who dare to live the eternal life in the here and now.  


Michael Horton on Being Ordinary

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"My concern is that the activist impulse at the heart of evangelicalism can put an enormous burden on people to do big things when what we need most right now is to do the ordinary things better. We can miss God in the daily stuff, looking for the extraordinary Moment outside of his Word and conversation with Him in daily prayer, family worship, and especially the public gathering of the saints each Lord's Day. If we were more serious about these ordinary means of grace, I'm convinced the church would have a much stronger witness in the world today." 

– Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World

Holy Fun: The Peach Jolly Rancher

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Do you remember your first Jolly Rancher? The candy that could make your day or break your teeth is one that I’ll never forget. It's funny being 38 years old and a father of two that somehow lately memories that have been tucked away in the outskirts of my mind are being dislodged. Some are painful, some are beautiful, and some are fun, and some are holy. This memory is holy and fun. Those things can and should go together, you know? Don't let anyone lie to you and tell you that holiness is the enemy of fun. Holiness is no more the enemy of fun than Mickey is the archenemy of Pluto. They belong together. In fact, when one exists without the other, we end up sounding like a weary Solomon rather than a rejoicing Siemon in the temple cradling the Messiah or a Mary who knows how to pick the good portion and find a seat close to the Savior. 

 

I remember being about 9 years old in Panama City Beach on our family vacation. We loaded up in my mom’s Aero Star minivan and made the 6 or so hour trek down to what some call the “Redneck Riviera.” Maybe I was too young to notice or care for the snarky comment about where we went on vacation. My mom and brother were on the beach and my dad and I were to go grab something from our condo. My dad had the 80s vibe down. He was wearing short green swimming trunks, a white v-neck, and his flip flops. He also donned his aviators with the kind of swag that American Apparel today attempts to recapture. We made our way to the lobby and boarded the elevator. It smelled of bleach and there was sand in our sandals. You know that gritty-Florida-vacation-elevator-feel? It’s as good as Christmas morning or a Friday afternoon in the sun with a good book, friend, or both. 

 

When we arrived on the seventh floor, we took a right, and three doors down was the Early palace for the week. My dad reached into his right pocket and pulled out the key and opened the door. The bone-chilling air conditioning rushed out upon us like the wind of Pentecost. Nobody spoke in tongues and yet, I was standing in the middle a miracle and didn't know it. How do we not know it right then and there? Even the disciples didn't recognize the Savior on the Emmaus road, for goodness sake. 

For that brief moment in time, which lasted no longer than any other time a father and son walk through a door, I now believe that moment was filled to the brim with something sacred. As sacred as anything I've ever heard about anyway. Be it  Moses and the burning bush or Elijah's calling down fire or whatever other fantastical scenes I fall in and out of love with in the Bible. That fraction of a second in my memory is like a grain of sand under my toes. We were completely still I could not see his eyes. Rather, I saw myself in the reflection of his sunglasses, a shirtless little boy, gazing up like those resurrection-struck-buffoons at the ascension of our Lord.

I looked in his hand and he also had two peach Jolly Ranchers. I’d never seen one. I don’t know how I’d lived nine whole years on God's green earth and never actually come across one of these marvelous little creations. My dad handed one to me and said, “Here. Eat this. It’s peach.”   I took it, opened it up, and popped it in my mouth. He said, “Don’t bite down! It’ll break your teeth!” I listened. For maybe the first time in my life, I listened to my dad and I’m glad I did. 

 

To this day that was the best Jolly Rancher I ever had. I don't think I've had one since I was in high school. I did try grape and watermelon, and all the others. But the peach one… in the doorway… with the ghost of Pentecost blowing… and my reflection in his aviators…. peach is the best Jolly Rancher. 

Leaving Social Media

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Hey everyone! After giving it a good bit of thought, I've decided to walk away from social media for the foreseeable future. I just feel like it would be good for me. However, I do plan on updating my blog, sermons, and food posts regularly.  

I would love to stay in touch with all of you. Believe it or not, I'm good at responding to emails. You can contact me here on my website or at Alex@redemptionchurchseattle.com

Love to you all! 

Abba's Child,

Alex

Timothy Keller on Being Known and Loved in Marriage

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“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

– Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, 101. 

15 Questions: Examine the Conscience

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I'm slowly reading through Brennan Manning's very first book, Prophets and Lovers: In Search of the Holy SpiritLike everything he wrote, it is wonderful. I heard him mention these questions in sermons on a number of occasions. Seeing them again this morning... well... they're as sobering as they ever were. In 1976, Brennan was asking:

  1. Have I missed the message of Chicago, Birmingham, and Detroit and failed to take the initiative in working for social justice?
  2. In reading the daily paper and seeing a black youth being torn at by a police dog, a black priest having Catholics refuse to receive Communion from him, wretched living conditions in ghettos, full grown men still unable to get jobs, and youth of every race and color wasting away from alcohol, sex and narcotics, have I ever felt real anguish for the misery of others?
  3. Have I had habitual contempt for others: less educated people, people of different national, racial or economic groups? 
  4. Dismissed all old people as medieval ("My father is 10,000 years old," said a young co-ed) and never tried to make them feel their worth as persons and their dignity as members of the human community?
  5. In any way stifled the personal development of another? 
  6. Sought to be respected without respecting others?
  7. Often kept others waiting? 
  8. Forgotten or not kept a date?
  9. Been difficult for others to reach or too busy to put myself at their disposal?
  10. Not paid attention to the person speaking to me? 
  11. Refused to become involved in the troubles of others and dismissed them with a pat reassurance, "Don't worry. It will work out."? 
  12. Kept silent out of human respect when different personalities were pulverized? ("We do not have the right to be silent watchdogs and silent sentinels," wrote DeFoucauld, "We must cry out when we see evil being done").
  13. Seen only those whose friendship might prove profitable?
  14. Blackened the character of anyone by harmful remarks (false or true)?
  15. Betrayed a trust, violated a confidence or involved myself in others' affairs through indiscreet words and actions?

Chapter Three, pp. 54-55.

Trinity: Persons, Not 'Parts'

The very first course I had in Systematic Theology was in 2001. I was a student at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina. My teacher was a gentleman named Walter Johnson. Dr. Johnson was a tall man, well-bearded, and wore round glasses. (Standard theologian attire). He was very bright and had a wonderful way of helping us students really grasp the content of what we were studying day in and day out. Dr. Johnson was the first person to press me (and probably most of my classmates) to think and articulate myself much more specifically than I had up to that point regarding the Christian faith. Like my cluttered shed out back; there were Bible words that were in my vocabulary that needed attention and I suppose this will always be the case. Some of those words needed to be thrown out (Rapture!) Others needed shaping up. There were also a few (not many!) that were perfectly fine, in need of no repair.

For example, God. When I'd say "God", it needed some shaping up. I mostly meant God the Father. This was good, not great. It was good because when I said "God" I was not thinking of Allah, Vishnu, the Dali Lama, an impersonal space deity, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or any other religious idea about the divine. I was vaguely thinking of the God described in the Old and New Testaments. This was good but still wildly incomplete (and I fully acknowledge that to this day, my thoughts remain incomplete. I cannot and will never be able to think at once about all of who God is, what he has done, or will do. He is omniscient. I can't find my keys on a regular basis). Though I believed in Christ his Son and the Holy Spirit, it wasn't natural for me to think much of the Trinity. One day Dr. Johnson pointed this idea out to me in class. I said, "Well, yes. Of course, I believe in the other parts of God." He stopped, looked at me, and kindly said,

“Parts? What do you mean by ‘parts’? God doesn’t have ‘parts.’ God is a Person and Persons. God doesn’t come in ‘parts.’”

 

That may sound a bit pedantic to some. (And believe me, some theologians appear to have minored in pedantic studies). But he wasn't being unnecessarily punctilious. He was helping me big time. He was good theology. That rainy, Thursday South Carolina morning at 11:00 A.M. he was teaching me to think about what the Bible says and to use words that the Bible itself uses to describe God. "Parts" wasn't the right word to use when describing God. Person(s)? Now that's a good word. A better word. A truer word. A clearer word.

The God of the Christian faith is a personal God, a knowable God, a relational God. Ontologically speaking, the Trinity is a loving, harmonious, glorious relationship (perichoresis). God relates not only amongst the members of the Trinity but to creation in general, and to his children uniquely. God isn't to be broken into parts like some impersonal, nonliving, machine that can be disassembled, studied, and put back together. God is eternal, lacking nothing, unchanging, and has no weakness in himself... with the exception of the ministry of Christ; in which the eternal Son humbled himself ... but that discussion belongs over in the field of Christology... and see? We're off to another doctrine altogether! Isn't theology fantastic?!

In short, be reminded today that God is personal, relational, and beautiful. In His grace, he has reached out to us. Give yourself a full, undistracted 60 seconds to sit still and be mindful of our great God who knows us and invites us to know him.

 

Oh... and here's the great Dr. J. 

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It's You I Like by Fred Rogers

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It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair–
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you–
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys–
They’re just beside you.

But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like.

Henri Nouwen: A Friend Who Cares

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"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

– Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, 38.

G.K. Chesterton on the Easter Garden Jesus

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"On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.”  

– G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, 192.

John Stott on "Where's the Salt?"

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“God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?” 
– John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 65.

Charles de Foucauld: Prayer of Abandonment

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Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Charles Spurgeon on Preaching the Law and Gospel in Hopes of Seeing Conversions

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"... what else should be done if we hope to see conversions? Assuredly we should be careful to preach most prominently those truths which are likely to lead to this end. What truths are those? I answer we should first and foremost preach Christ and him crucified. Where Jesus is exalted souls are attracted – I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me." The preaching of the cross is to them that are saved the wisdom of God and the power of God. The Christian minister should preach all the truths which cluster around the person and work of the Lord Jesus, and hence he must declare very earnestly and pointedly the evil of sin, which created the need of a Saviour. Let him show that sin is a breach of the law, that it necessitates punishment, and that the wrath of God is revealed against it. Let him never treat sin as though it were a trifle or a misfortune, but let him set it forth as exceeding sinful. Let him go into particulars, not superficially glancing at evil in the gross, mentioning various sins in detail, especially those most current at the time: such as that all-devouring hydra of drunkenness, which devastates our land; lying, which in the form of sander abounds on all sides; and licentiousness, which must be mentioned with holy delicacy, and yet needs to be denounced unsparingly. We must especially reprove those evils into which our hearts have fallen, or are likely to fall. Explain the ten commandments and obey the divine injunction: "Show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins." Open up the spirituality of the law as our Lord did, and show how it is broken by evil thoughts, intentions, and imaginations. By this means many sinners will be pricked in their hearts. Old Robbie Flockhart used to say, "It is of no use trying to sew with the silken thread of the gospel unless we pierce a way for it with the sharp needle of the law." The law goes first, like the needle, and draws the gospel thread after it: therefore preach concerning sin, righteousness, and judgement to come. Let such language as that of the fifty first Psalm be explained: show that God requireth truth in the inward parts, and that purging with sacrificial blood is absolutely needful. Aim at the heart. Probe the wound and touch the very quick of the soul. Spare not the sterner themes, for men must be wounded before they can be healed, and slain before they can be made alive. No man will ever put on the robe of Christ's righteousness till he is stripped of his fig leaves, nor will he wash in the fount of mercy till he perceives his filthiness. Therefore, my brethren, we must not cease to declare the law, its demands, its threatenings, and the sinner's multiplied breaches of it."

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students337-338.