Daily Riches: That Busy, Deadly Work for God (Willie James Jennings and William Britton)

“The scene Luke paints in verses 6-12 [of Acts 25] is horrifying. Paul is surrounded by his hateful accusers shouting charges against him. As horrifying as this is, we must never lose sight of the humanity of his enemies because they believe they are doing a good and righteousness thing. They by any means necessary (by lying and bearing false witness) are seeking to bring about the death of a heretic, one who they believe is a direct threat to diaspora faith and life.” Willie James Jennings

We might blanch at the suggestion not to lose sight of the humanity of Paul’s enemies, but we’ve forgiven Saul, now Paul, for the same hateful behavior. Here’s how he describes his (pre-conversion) “busy work for God” (:12) “I thought I was under obligation to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and that is what I did in Jerusalem. I received authority from the chief priests to shut up many of God’s people in prison, and when they were condemned to death I cast my vote against them. I punished them many times in all the synagogues and forced many of them to blaspheme. I became more and more furious against them, and even pursued them to cities in other lands.” Acts 26:4-11 (Trans. by N. T. Wright)

Moving From Head to Heart

The Apostle Paul “thought he was under obligation” to fight again Jesus and his followers. He helped imprison them and voted for their deaths. We don’t even want to imagine what he did to force them to blaspheme. After his conversion, the religious establishment would turn on him, hoping to exterminate him–thinking “they were doing a good and righteous thing.”

  • Have you seen zealous believers turn in hate on those who differ from them in doctrine or practice? . . . who seem like a threat? . . . like heretics? (And not in the past only, but now?)
  • From inside it looks like faithfulness and zealousness (even though it involves perjured testimony, and conspiracy to commit murder)–right?
  • It’s hard though, like “kicking against the goads” (:14)–since, for example in Saul’s case–you have to forget what you believe, e.g., that all people are made in God’s image, that all people (not just they but we) are sinners, that all people are loved by Yahweh–and perhaps also, some first century version of “The ends don’t justify the means.” And yet he persisted. Perhaps in his “zeal” he was too blinded and “busy” (:12) for such considerations. Is your zealousness ever that kind of haste and blindness?
  • Paul was “busy on this work.” Wow. Imagine all those today, whether from the right or the left, who are “busy” that same way–justifying lies, scheming, disloyal to their own core beliefs–in the cause of their truth, party, faith.

Abba, may my zeal be that which “discerns every operation that places creaturely life on this path [of destruction] and presses against it with all the means at [my] disposal as a citizen.” (Jennings)

For More: Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible by Willie James Jennings

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Daily Riches: The Church of the Future (Joseph Ratzinger)

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes … she will lose many of her social privileges. …As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members…. It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek…. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.” Joseph Ratzinger (These words are from 1969.)

“At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, ‘Are you also going to leave?’”
John 6:66,67

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If the church shrinks through atrophy and persecution, so that only those who are truly committed to Christ remain, will you still be there?
  • Would you still be a Christian if it didn’t come with social privileges and power? …if it meant being part of  something “weak”–”a little flock of believers?”
  • Think of your church. Does it need to become “poor” before it can rich enough to be seen as “man’s home?”

For more: Faith and the Future by Joseph Ratzinger

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and God seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

Daily Riches: Suffering and Grace (Jim Palmer)

“I used to be ashamed of my depression,

but now I see it’s a secret trapdoor to God. When it hits, I sink down into that black hole and often find Jesus there. … now when I am asked [who Jesus is], I am most inclined to say, ‘Jesus is the one who sits down close to me in my black hole of despair, offering himself until it passes.’” Jim Palmer

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”] away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have some weakness, hardship, persecution or difficulty that causes you to sink down into a “black hole of despair?”
  • Can you imagine Jesus “sitting down close to you” in that dark, painful place and “offering himself until it passes?” Do that now.
  • We often despise our weaknesses, and ourselves for being weak, but the apostle Paul says he is glad for his weaknesses and delights in his difficulties. The next time you visit your own painful “black hole” of trouble, can you wait there for God to make himself known to you in a new and saving way?

Abba, thank you for desiring to make yourself known to me in the midst of my most painful experiences. Help me to notice, to listen and learn, to submit, to give thanks, to be comforted, to be changed.

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For More: Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God by Jim Palmer

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