Daily Riches: The Descent of God (Augustine, Joseph Hallman, Thomas a Kempis)

“To have no opinion of ourselves,

and to think always well and highly of others,
is great wisdom and perfection.”
Thomas a Kempis

“The Son of God came down and was made humble. …God was made humble for you.” Augustine

“…this is the truth unknown to philosophy. …not found in Epicureans, Stoics, Manichees, or Platonists. Although discovering the best precepts of custom and discipline, they never find humility. This comes only from Christ who became humble even to death on the cross. The humility exhibited by the Word in the Incarnation is the cure for pride, the worst of all sins. Only divine humility is true medicine for superbia [haughtiness]. …It is indeed correct to say that, for Augustine, ‘it is the humility of Christ which is the most striking feature of the Incarnation.’ Augustine has grasped precisely that the core of Christian faith is an acceptance of the divine kenosis in Jesus of Nazareth. To get a sense of the impression Phil. 2:6-8 made on Augustine one should consult the Index at the end of [his Corpus Christianorum]…. There are two hundred or more citations or allusions to this text in De Trinitate alone. Even more impressive is the fact that in Augustine’s entire corpus he cites part or all of this passage 422 times, and alludes to it 563 times. Thus he had it in mind nearly a thousand times when he wrote.” Joseph Hallman

“Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:6-8

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • When you look at today’s church–today’s Christian–at yourself in the mirror–do you see humility?
  • Consider the practices of silence, sabbath, listening well, loving well, receiving instruction, simplicity – think how each of these requires or teaches humility.
  • How formative is the Incarnation of Jesus in your life? Has what he did for you in that way ever really gripped you?

Abba, help me to learn to consistently think well and highly of others.

For More: The Descent of God: Divine Suffering in History and Theology by Joseph M. Hallman

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Emulating Rabbi Jesus (Keri Wyatt Kent, Rob Bell)

“When Jesus spoke of his ‘yoke,’ his listeners in that day and culture would understand it a bit differently than we might. A rabbi like Jesus would tell his followers how he interpreted the Torah … and the Prophets. His interpretation of how to apply God’s law, how to live it out, was called his yoke. For example, a rabbi’s yoke was simply his teaching on what it means, practically speaking, to ‘love your neighbor’ or ‘honor your parents.’ What specific things did you need to do to comply with those rules? And which rules were the most important? That’s what a rabbi’s yoke addressed. A rabbi’s disciples would take on his yoke, that is, try to emulate their master, try to live out God’s law by using the rabbi as a role model. That’s why, in the gospel stories, you often find people asking Jesus questions such as ‘Which is the most important commandment?’ or ‘Who is my neighbor?’ They are asking, okay, Jesus, what’s your yoke? Learning this (thanks to Pastor Rob Bell) was revolutionary for me. I had always thought of a yoke as a heavy burden, and I was confused about how a yoke could be easy or light. If a yoke is simply a way of life, a lifestyle that Jesus modeled, a way of life that says simply love God and love each other, then it is entirely possible. It could be something light. …The metaphor also reminds us that we are not working by ourselves. Instead, we are yoked to Jesus, and he shares equally in the burden of our transformation. He is at our side and is for us. We’re not carrying the burden of living the Christian life alone. Jesus is not the farmer driving the ox; he’s the other ox pulling with us. We need to slow down enough to notice that he’s there and work with him, not against him.” Keri Wyatt Kent

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you … and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus in Matthew 11:29

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Before we can “do what Jesus did” we need to live as Jesus lived. Jesus practiced simplicity, slowness and sabbath. Are you “emulating Jesus” in any of these ways?
  • Jesus loved God and others. Can you do that?
  • Do you ever feel like Jesus is “the farmer driving the ox” – and that you’re the ox? Where does that come from?

Abba, help me remember you’re right beside me. Help me work with you, not against you.

For More: Breathe by Keri Wyatt Kent

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. If this was helpful, please share! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Why Racism Continues in the Church Today – Part II (Pete Scazzero)

For over twenty-five years, New Life Fellowship in Queens, has been developing a paradigm for the practice of unity in the midst of great diversity. Today’s post includes the remainder of Pastor Scazzero’s reasons why racism, one great source of disunity, continues in Evangelical and other church traditions:

“6. Isolation.

Most American Christians attend churches with people who look like they do, perpetuating a subculture of minimal contact with people of different races and cultures. As a result: ‘Despite devoting considerable time and energy to solving the problem of racial division, White evangelicalism likely does more to perpetuate the racialized society than to reduce it.’ Michael Emerson and Christian Smith*

7. Naiveté regarding demonic powers and principalities.

Evil, unclean spirits are real, feasting on the wounds of a split nation and church. To drive them [out] involves us in a spiritual warfare beyond discussions and statistics. It calls for our following of Jesus to the cross.

8. Lack of skills to love well. 

Learning to love well is among our most important tasks as Christ-followers. Learning to listen, ‘fight’ cleanly, and speak clearly and honestly (to name a few) are foundational for being a healthy community. Bridging barriers requires we create a new culture with a new language. For this reason we developed Emotionally Healthy Skills 2.0 out of our life together at New Life over our 29 year history.

9. Obliviousness of systemic racism.

Peggy McIntosh said it well: “I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” (See her “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack“)

10. Emotional Immaturity.

It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. To engage in this level of warfare without addressing people’s immaturities (e.g. unawareness, defensiveness, ignorance of how our families of origin impact us) is a sure recipe for further wounding and division.” Pete Scazzero

“grow up in all things into Him who is the head”
Ephesians 4:15

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your church helping to perpetuate our “racialized society?” Don’t be too quick to answer.
  • Did you read McIntosh’s words about white privilege. Are you oblivious to the reality of white privilege?
  • Does the ministry of your church help you be a more mature person? …a better human being?

Abba, help! We’re in deep waters.

*For More: Divided by Race: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. Thanks for reading and sharing my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Why Racism Continues in the Church Today – Part I (Pete Scazzero)

Pete Scazzero pastored New Life Fellowship in Elmhurst, Queens for over 25 years. The church reflects the demographic diversity of Elmhurst – perhaps the most demographically diverse zip code in the country. Over the years, the church has been forced to deal with racism in unsuspected and painful ways. Here’s why, according to Scazzero, this problem is so persistent:

“1. Failure to capture Scripture’s vision of the church as a multi-racial community that transcends racial, cultural, economic and gender barriers.

The gospel is the power of God that bridges the infinite gap between humanity and God as well as the ‘dividing wall’ between races, cultures, ethnicities, social classes, and genders.

2. Measuring success primarily by numbers.

We want to grow our churches. We want it to happen quickly. The problem is that bridging racial barriers is slow and will rarely produce ‘big’ numbers.

3. Superficial discipleship.

We focus on getting people ‘over the line’ into salvation and connected. We don’t spend an equal amount of time equipping them to be deeply transformed in their interior lives. ‘Who can your child not marry?’ The answer to that question tells us a lot about how deeply the gospel has penetrated a person’s life.

4. Failure to break the power of the past.

Sins like racism are passed on from generation to generation. At New Life we like to say, ‘Jesus may live in your heart but Grandpa lives in your bones.’ Each of us – African American, Latino, White, Russian, Jew, Arab, Serbian, African, Chinese, Korean, and Pole – must take the journey of Abraham. We must decisively leave our family, our culture, and our country and learn to do life in the new family of Jesus.

5. An inadequate, biblical theology of grief and loss.

If I don’t deeply feel my own losses, how am I going to deeply enter the world of those who suffer the sting of racism? Trauma is passed from one generation to the next. We see this most powerfully in overwhelming historical events such as the Holocaust and slavery. Unresolved loss gets buried behind a curtain of silence, incubating fear and shame. Biblical grieving powerfully heals and transforms.” Pete Scazzero

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

Moving From Head to Heart

  • How well is the foundational principle of Galatians 3:28 being worked out in your church? If favoritism is on display, can you show others a better way?
  • Are you sensitive to your own prejudices? How much does “grandpa in your bones” still affect you?
  • Is your church experience transformative? Are people growing more loving, inclusive, more humble over time?

Abba, teach us a better way in the family of Jesus.

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Thanks for reading. Please share!  –  Bill

Daily Riches: Theological Bias and Hindrances to Hearing From God (Soong-Chan Rah)

“What is considered good, sound, orthodox theology is a Western theology that emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus with its natural and expected antecedent of an individual sanctification…. The critical issues and discussion in theology lean toward understanding issues relevant to individuals and Western sensibilities. …Theologies that speak of a corporate responsibility or call for a social responsibility are given special names like: liberation theology, black theology, minjung theology, feminist theology, etc. In other words, Western theology with its individual focus is considered normative theology, while non-Western theology is theology on the fringes and must be explained as being a theology applicable only in a particular context and to a particular people group. Orthodoxy is determined by the Western value of individualism and an individualized soteriology rather than a broader understanding of the corporate themes that emerge out of scripture. Because theology emerging from a Western, white context is considered normative, it places non-Western theology in an inferior position and elevates Western theology as the standard by which all other theological frameworks and points of view are measured. This bias stifles the theological dialogue between the various cultures. …We end up with a Western, white captivity of theology. Western theology becomes the form that is closest to God.” Soong-Chan Rah

Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied.
I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’”
Acts 10:13,14

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Christianity began in the East and was entirely Jewish. Much of today’s church is Western and Gentile. Imagine the difference in perspective. Has your theology ever been challenged like Peter’s was?
  • Many churches in the U.S. are mostly white, suburban, middle-class and led by men. Imagine how unreflected the concerns and problems of people of color, urban and/or poor people might be in such churches. Have you tried listening in your church with the ears of a poor person, a minority or a woman?
  • Considering “non-Western theology” as theology “on the fringes” only feeds our tendency as Westerners towards ego-centricity as individuals and a culture. Do you try to learn from those parts of the world, or from cultures, that are different from yours?

Abba, make me aware of my biases and prejudices, and help me transcend them. Help me know you better as my horizons expand and I think in new ways.

For More: The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: God … As He Really Is (Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen)

“So much depends on our idea of God. Yet no idea of God, however pure and perfect, is adequate to express God as God really is. Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about God.” Thomas Merton

“God cannot be understood; he cannot be grasped by the human mind. The truth escapes our human capacities. The only way to come close to it is by a constant emphasis on the limitation of our human capacities to ‘have’ or to ‘hold’ the truth. We can neither explain God nor his presence in human history. As soon as we identify God with any specific event or situation, we play God and distort the truth. We can only be faithful in our affirmation that God has not deserted us but has called us in the middle of all the unexplainable absurdities of life. It is very important to be deeply aware of this. There is a great and subtle temptation to explain to myself or others where God is working and where not, and when he is present and when not, but nobody, no Christian, no priest, no monk has any ‘special’ knowledge about God. God cannot be limited by any human concept or prediction. He is greater than our mind and heart and perfectly free to reveal himself where and when he wants. . . After having done everything to make some space for God, it is still God who comes on his own initiative.” Henri Nouwen

“He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
Isaiah 53:3

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • The disciples lived with Jesus for over three years and didn’t understand him, and the people of Jesus’ day misunderstood and rejected him. How often to you think you miss God or misunderstand what God is doing in our world?
  • How would you characterize yourself to someone else? Does you idea of God tend to reflect your image?
  • Think about your theology of God. How does it reflect the place and time in which you live?
  • Is there something beneficial to knowing that we know God so imperfectly?

Abba, give me great pause when I’m tempted to box you in, or think I can define you or explain you – to myself or to others.

For More: Show Me the Way by Henri Nouwen

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Ministry and Contentment (Pete Scazzero, John Calvin)

“Looking over our shoulder to more ‘successful’ ministries is one of the most frequent sources of pain for leaders.  …We can learn a lot from the pattern of John the Baptist’s leadership as he responded to the news that he was losing people to the ‘new, big thing’ happening around him (John 3:26-30): (1) I am content. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. “A person can receive only what is given him from heaven.” Yes, God gives gifts and abilities that we want to steward well. But each place of service, employment, success, or failure (a lot of God’s closest servants seem to suffer martyrdom) is under God’s sovereignty. It is tempting to strive, manipulate, and anxiously toil to push doors open that God does not have for us. But we want to receive as a gift each task given to us by God regardless of the where it leads. … (2) I am second. “I am not the Messiah…I am a friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears him.” John’s self-knowledge enabled him to escape the deadly trap of envy. …May we never lose sight of the pure happiness found in listening to the lovely voice of Jesus in Scripture, as well as the privilege given to us to speak His words to the world. (3) I am disappearing. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John is happy to decrease, even to disappear. Are we? Calvin said it well: ‘Those who win the church over to themselves rather than to Christ faithlessly violate the marriage they ought to honor.’ You and I will disappear some day and God will continue to build his kingdom. May we too rejoice in that process whenever God opens doors for us to disappear.” Pete Scazzero

“A person can receive only what is given him from heaven.” John 3:27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If you live by the numbers, you’ll die by the numbers. Do you measure ministry success by numbers? Is your identity based on competition and out-doing others?
  • Many leaders are tempted “to strive, manipulate, and anxiously toil to push doors open” that God has closed. When doors close, what’s your response?
  • Your ego has a plan for you as a pastor – and it’s not “disappearing.” Are you aware of it? prepared to handle it?

Abba, give our leaders great contentment serving you.

For More: Open Secrets by Richard Lischer

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Cutting Through Political and Religious Illusions (Vernon Howard, Thomas Merton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“Every day that you attempt to see things as they are in truth is a supremely successful day.” Vernon Howard

“It seems to me that the most basic problem is not political, it is apolitical and human. One of the most important things to do is to keep cutting deliberately through political lines and barriers and emphasizing the fact that these are largely fabrications and that there is another dimension, a genuine reality, totally opposed to the fictions of politics…. My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In those depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. …It is not complicated to lead the spiritual life. But it is difficult. We are blind, and subject to a thousand illusions. We must expect to be making mistakes almost all the time. We must be content to fall repeatedly and to begin again to try to deny ourselves, for the love of God.” Thomas Merton

“The believer is neither a pessimist nor an optimist. To be either is illusory. The believer sees reality not in a certain light but as it is….” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus, in John 8:32

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Whether in understanding politics, your religion or the people in your life, do realize that you are “blind, and subject to a thousand illusions?” Do you attempt every day “to see things as they are in truth?”
  • With the passing of time, have you recognized “conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith?” Stop and really think about it.
  • Is there anyone (friend, author, opponent) that can help you in this regard?

Abba, break down my cocky certainty and keep me from succumbing to the many fabrications of my day.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Community of Sinners and Saints (Miroslav Volf and Thomas Merton)

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion – without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.” Miroslav Volf

“Strong hate, the hate that takes joy in hating, is strong because it does not believe itself to be unworthy and alone. It feels the support of a justifying God, of an idol of war, an avenging and destroying spirit. From such blood-drinking gods the human race was once liberated, with great toil and terrible sorrow, by the death of a God Who delivered Himself to the Cross and suffered pathological cruelty of His own creatures out of pity for them. In conquering death He opened their eyes to the reality of a love which asks no questions about worthiness, a love which overcomes hatred and destroys death. But men have now come to reject this divine revelation of pardons and they are consequently returning to the old war gods, the gods that insatiably drink blood and eat the flesh of men.  …To serve the hate-gods, one has only to be blinded by collective passion. To serve the God of Love one must be free, one must face the terrible responsibility of the decision to love in spite of all unworthiness whether in oneself or in one’s neighbor.” Thomas Merton

“love your enemies” Jesus in Luke 6:27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you reached the point where you have transposed your “enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity?”
  • Of yourself “from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness?”
  • Do you practice “a love which asks no questions about worthiness?”

Abba, let me overcome hatred with love.

For More: Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Transcending Obedience and Virtue (Walter Brueggemann)

“Job, and even more his friends, are models of ideological certitude. That kind of moral certitude, however, does not matter ultimately because we are not saved by our virtue. No one can stand in the face of the whirlwind on a soap-box of virtue. …Job learned what we all learn sooner or later. Virtue does not suffice. Integrity does not give life. Being right is no substitute for being amazed. Controlling will not substitute for yielding in awe and wonder and amazement. The shift to Job’s other language is practically urgent, as it is theologically imperative. The shift to doxology as a mode of life is theologically imperative because praise breaks our terrible idolatries. We live in a society of preferred virtues or convinced moralities, or exacting, relentless idolatries. As with Job, these idols of self-congratulations block healing, make us falsely at ease, prevent transformation, and reduce life to a set of slogans and technologies. The alternative good news of the poem [the book of Job] is that we are made for a second conversation that surprises us and that we can never anticipate. After our earnest behavior, we are invited to doxological yielding. The shift in language destabilized us, puts us at risk, debunks our control, eases our need to dominate, and lets us yield without pouting, submit without resentment, and receive as gift a new restlessness that is communion and praise. After the yielding lyric, we are like Job. We still must go home and live as virtuously as possible. We have, however, been decisively intruded upon, invaded, overwhelmed, reduced to stunned silence, taken seriously by eternity, and finally, like Job approved in our virtue (42:7-8).” Walter Brueggemann

“I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes
to show my repentance.”
Job 42:6

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If someone as admirable and exceptional as Job needed a “conversation” with God to change him and his perspective, how much more is this likely true of you or me?
  • Has your experience of God ever left you feeling “decisively intruded upon, invaded, overwhelmed, reduced to stunned silence?”
  • If not, are you open to an encounter with God that “destabilizes” you, and removes your sense of control, and where you “receive as gift a new restlessness that is communion and praise?”

Abba, in the face of the whirlwind may I never forget the importance of virtue – or the limitations of it in my life with you.

For More: Threat of Life by Walter Brueggemann

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. Thanks! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Dangerous Drowsing of the Laity (Karl Barth)

“No one, however, can be content at this point to be a mere ‘layman,’ to be indolent, to be no more than a passive spectator or reader. No one is excused the task of asking questions or the more difficult task of providing and assessing answers. Preaching in the congregation, and the theology which serves its preparation, can be faithful to its theme and therefore relevant and adapted to the circumstances and edifying to the community, only if it is surrounded, sustained and constantly stimulated and fructified by the questions and answers of the community. With his own questions and answers in matters of right understanding
and doctrine, each individual Christian thus participates in what the community is commanded to do. If he holds aloof, or slackens, or allows himself to sleep, or wanders into speculation and error, he must not be surprised if sooner or later the same will have to be said about the community as such and particularly about its more responsible members. How many complaints about the ‘Church’ would never be made if only those who make them were to realise that we ourselves are the Church, so that what it has or has not to say stands or falls with us. There can be no doubt that all the great errors which have overtaken the preaching and theology of the community in the course of its history have had their true origin, not so much in the studies of the well-known errorists and heretics who have merely blabbed them out, but rather in the secret inattention and neglect, the private drowsing and wandering and erring, of innumerable nameless Christians who were not prepared to regard the listening of the community to the Word as their own concern, who wanted privacy in their thinking, and who thus created the atmosphere in which heresy and error became possible and even inevitable in the community.” Karl Barth

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you thought about your responsibility to be a skillful and critical thinker in the congregation? …are you simply going with the flow?
  • Does your church encourage not only community but individuality? …not only conformity to Biblical norms, but sensitivity to violation of those norms?
  • Do you know the great Christian tradition well enough to know when it’s being ignored or perverted?

Abba, may we love you with our minds as well as our hearts.

For More: Church Dogmatics: A Selection … by Helmut Gollwitzer

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Gargoyles and God’s Therapy (Malcolm Muggeridge)

“Newcomers to the Christian faith, the Journalist finds, are considered, by the nature of the case, to have lost their sense of humour: How funny he used to be! and now, alas, how solemn! how portentous! What an unconscionable bore he has become! This assumption that a sense of humour and a Christian faith are incompatible is totally mistaken. In point of fact, the writers of the great classics of humour – Rebelais, Cervantes, Swift, Gogol – have all been deeply religious. …The true function of humour is to express in terms of the grotesque the immense disparity between human aspiration and human performance. Mysticism expresses the same disparity in terms of the sublime. Hence the close connection between clowns and mystics; hence, too, the juxtaposition on the great medieval cathedrals of steeples reaching up into the Cloud of Unknowing, and gargoyles grinning malevolently down at our dear earth and all it’s foolishness. Laughter and mystical ecstacy, that is to say, both derive from an awareness, in the one case hilarious, in the other ecstatic, of how wide is the chasm between Time and Eternity, between us and our Creator. Let us then, while, as we should, revering the steeples, remember the gargoyles, also, in their way, purveyors of God’s Word, and be thankful that, when the Gates of Heaven swing open, as they do from time to time, mixed with the celestial music there is the unmistakable sound of celestial laughter. … How wonderful it is, this marrying of the ribaldry of gargoyles with the sublimity of steeples, this seeing of a saint in every clown and a clown in every saint, and the Fall of Man as being, at once, the measure and fatality of all our afflictions and the old banana-skin joke on a cosmic scale. …Laughter, indeed, is God’s therapy; He planted the steeples and the gargoyles, gave us clowns as well as saints, in order that we might understand that at the heart of our mortal existence there lies a mystery, at once unutterably beautiful and hilariously funny.” Malcolm Muggeridge

“What are mere mortals … that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:4

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you noticed the “immense disparity” between your aspirations and performance? Have you noticed it in everyone else too?
  • Can you laugh with the gargoyles at this situation – “unutterably beautiful and hilariously funny?”
  • Imagine “how wide is the chasm” between you and your Creator. Now imagine that Creator being undeterred by that chasm in his love for you.

Abba, thank you for the gargoyles.

For More: Conversion by Malcolm Muggeridge

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share it. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Outcasts and the Conversion of the Church (Richard Rohr, Philip Yancey and Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“Those at the edge, ironically, always hold the secret for the conversion of every age and culture. They always hold the projected and denied parts of our soul. Only as the People of God receive the stranger and the leper, those who don’t play our game, do we discover not only the hidden and hated parts of our own souls, but the Lord Jesus himself. In letting go, we make room for the Other. The Church is always converted when the outcasts are re-invited into the temple.” Richard Rohr

“In a world ruled by law, grace stands as a sign or contradiction. We want fairness; the gospel gives us an innocent man nailed to a cross who cries out, ‘Father, forgive them.’ We want respectability; the gospel elevates tax collectors, prodigals, and Samaritans. We want success; the gospel reverses the terms, moving the poor and downtrodden to the head of the line and the wealthy and famous to the rear. …To follow Jesus [means] to respond as he did, against all reason to dispense grace and love to those who deserve it least. …We see ourselves as on the side of Christ by giving to the needy. The new Testament makes plain, however, that Jesus is on the side of the poor, and we serve best by elevating the downtrodden to the place of Jesus.  … the direction of charity is not condescending, but rather ascending: in serving the weak and the poor, we are privileged to serve God himself.”  Philip Yancey

“There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated – in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and to action.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith
and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
James 2:5

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If a church is “converted” by “outcasts” that it welcomes, to what degree is your church being converted?
  • How is your church doing at “dispensing grace and love to those who deserve it least?” Are such people even showing up in your church?
  • What do you do that helps you to see “from the perspective of those who suffer?” Is that something you desire? What would be the point?

Abba, may I see you and serve you in serving the maltreated of my day.

For More: Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey

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I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill

 

Daily Riches: Community, Stability and Spirituality (Joan Chittister)

“Everything in life, contrary to Madison Avenue’s guarantees, can’t be cured or resolved or eliminated. Some things must simply be endured. Some things must simply be borne. Some things must simply be accepted. Community and relationships enable us to do that. …It is in community where we find out who we really are. It is life with another that shows my impatience and life with another that demonstrates my possessiveness and life with another that gives notice to my nagging devotion to the self. Life with someone else, in other words, doesn’t show me nearly as much about his or her shortcomings as it does about my own. In human relationships I learn how to soften my hard spots and how to reconcile and how to care for someone else besides myself. In human relationships I learn that theory is no substitute for love. It is easy to talk about the love of God; it is another things to practice it. That’s how relationships sanctify me. They show me where holiness is for me. That’s how relationships develop me. They how me where growth is for me. If I’m the passive-victim type, then assertiveness may have something to do with coming to wholeness. If I’m the domineering character in every group, then a willingness to listen and to be led may be my call to life. Alone, I am what I am, but in community I have the chance to become everything that I can be. And so, stability bonds me to this group of people and to these relationships so that resting in the security of each other we can afford to stumble and search, knowing that we will be caught if we fall and we will be led where we cannot see by those who have been there before us.” Joan Chittister

“Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you discovering “who you really are” through your life in community – perhaps as a spouse, sibling, parent, roommate, employee, church member, neighbor? What about you needs to change?
  • Have you discovered in your relationships that some things won’t change and “must simply be endured?” Are you doing that well?
  • Are you engaged in community life so that, you are not only learning about yourself, but changing? Is a probationary approach to relationships hindering your transformation?

Abba, help me to submit to this messy but essential part of spirituality.

For More: Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by Joan Chittister

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog.  I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Inconspicuous Piety and the Santification of Trifles (Abraham Heschel, Teresa of Avila, William Wordsworth, and Aldous Huxley)

“The path of spirituality is a knife-edge between abysses.” Aldous Huxley

“We are ready to applaud dramatic struggles once a year in Washington. For the sake of lofty principles we will spend a day or two in jail somewhere in Alabama. But that prosaic demand for housing without vermin, for adequate schools, for adequate employment – right here in the vicinity of Park Avenue in New York City – sound so trite, so drab, so banal, so devoid of magnificence. …The [Hebrew] prophets field of concern is not the mysteries of heaven, the glories of eternity, but the blights of society, the affairs of the market place. …The predominant feature of the biblical pattern of life is unassuming, unheroic, inconspicuous piety, the sanctification of trifles….” Abraham Heschel

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” William Wordsworth

“Let there be no disappointment when obedience keeps you busy in outward tasks. If it sends you to the kitchen, remember that the Lord walks among the pots an pans.” Teresa of Avila

“Among my people are wicked men
who lie in wait for victims like a hunter hiding in a blind.
They continually set traps to catch people.
Like a cage filled with birds,
their homes are filled with evil plots.
And now they are great and rich.
They are fat and sleek,
and there is no limit to their wicked deeds.
They refuse to provide justice to orphans
and deny the rights of the poor.”
Jeremiah 5:23-28

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • When is the last time you carefully read the Prophets? Have you drunk deeply enough there to be aware of their “field of concern?”
  • Are you committed to heroic, “dramatic struggles” on behalf of the poor or others? Does that keep you from “remembering the Lord among the pots and pans?”
  • Are you engaged in spiritual practices? Is your aim something like “inconspicuous piety?” Does that keep you from activity to address “the blights of society?”
  • What, in really concrete terms, would it mean for you to practice the “sanctification of trifles?”

Abba, balance me on the path which is a knife-edge between abysses.

For More:  The Insecurity of Freedom by Abraham Heschel

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”