“We humans, with our deep-seated pretensions to being gods…”

christplaysFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places:

The salvation story is a God story. It is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is also God doing this in his own way and not to our dictates or preferences. He does not consult us regarding matters of timing.

This requires constant reiteration. We humans, with our deep-seated pretensions to being gods, are endlessly preoccupied with worrying and tinkering with matters of salvation as if we were in charge of it. But we are not. God carries out the work of salvation; not, to be sure, without our participation, but it is God’s work done in God’s way.

“God is not a part of creation that can be studied and observed and managed.”

christplaysFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places:

For biblical people, God is not an idea for philosophers to discuss or a force for priests to manipulate. God is not a part of creation that can be studied and observed and managed. God is a person — a person to be worshiped or defied, believed or rejected, loved or hated, in time and place. That is why the biblical revelation is so profuse with names and dates, places and events. God meets us in the ordinary and extraordinary occurrences that make up the stuff of our daily lives. It never seemed to have occurred to our biblical ancestors that they could deal better with God by escaping from history, “getting away from it all” as we say. History is the medium in which God works salvation, just as paint and canvas is the medium in which Rembrandt made works of art. We cannot get closer to God by distancing ourselves from the mess of history.

But most of us have a difficult time understanding history with God as the major and definitive presence. We have grown up getting our sense of history from so-called historians, scholars, and journalists for whom God is not germane or present in what they study and write. We are thoroughly trained by our schools, daily newspapers, and telecasts to read history solely in terms of politics and economics, human interest and environmental conditions, military operations and diplomatic intrigue. If we have a mind for it, we can go ahead and fit God in somewhere or other. But the biblical writers do it the other way around; they fit us into the history in which God is the primary reality.

“History is lubricated by tears.”

christplaysFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places:

…the death of Jesus provides our entrance into the reality and responsibilities of history: mostly, but not always, it is a mess: the daily round of failed plans, disappointed relations, political despair, accidents and sickness and neighborhood bullies. In this same mess of history in which we find ourselves, Jesus found himself. The remarkable thing is that he embraced it. This embrace involved him in enormous suffering and an excruciating death. The life of Jesus is not a happy story, not a success story. What it is (and we are coming to this) is a salvation story. His birth precipitated a bloody massacre of babies (Matt. 1-2); his entrance into public ministry plunged him into a forty-day wilderness ordeal in which he went to the mat with evil, tested to the limit of body and soul (Matt. 3-4). At the moment of what seemed to be a breakthrough understanding of his messianic identity among the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus’ lead disciple, Peter, turned out to have more affinity for Satan than for his Master (Matt. 16:15-23). And when Jesus was surrounded with the acclaim of Hosannas in that great Passover parade into Jerusalem, certainly a moment of festive celebration if there ever was one, Jesus wept (Luke 19:28-44; Matt. 23:37-39), wept for the suffering of body and the pain of soul in store for these men and women and children who were having such an innocently good time.

History is lubricated by tears. Prayer, maybe most prayer (two thirds of the psalms are laments), is accompanied by tears. All these tears are gathered up and absorbed in the tears of Jesus.

“…absolute, universal values…”

howshouldwethenliveFrom Francis A. Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?

It is important to realize what a difference a people’s world view makes in their strength as they are exposed to the pressure of life. That it was the Christians who were able to resist religious mixtures, syncretism, and the effects of the weaknesses of Roman culture speaks of the strength of the Christian world view. This strength rested on God’s being an infinite-personal God and his speaking in the Old Testament, in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, and in the gradually growing New Testament. He had spoken in ways people could understand. Thus the Christians not only had knowledge about the universe and mankind that people cannot find out by themselves, but they had absolute, universal values by which to live and by which to judge the society and the political state in which they lived. And they had grounds for the basic dignity and value of the individual as unique in being made in the image of God…

…A culture or an individual with a weak base can stand only when the pressure on it is not too great.

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Yes, yes, yes, 1000 times YES! I so agree with this:

I have no sympathy with people who tell us today that these are the darkest days the world has ever seen. The days in which we live are appalling, but they do not compare with conditions in the world when Jesus came into it. Historians talk of the Pax Romana and make much of the fact that there was peace everywhere, the Roman peace. Do not forget that the Roman peace was the result of the fact that the world had been bludgeoned brutally into submission to one central power.…

Notwithstanding the prevailing conditions, the dominant note of these Letters, revealing the experience of the Church, is a note of triumph. The dire and dread facts and conditions are never lost sight of—indeed, they are there all the way through. The people are seen going out and facing these facts—and suffering because of these facts—but we never see them depressed and cast down, we never see them suffering from pessimistic fever. They are always triumphant. That is the glory of Christianity. If ever I am tempted to think that religion is almost dead today, it is when I listen to the wailing of some Christian people: “Everything is wrong,” or “Everything is going wrong.” Oh, be quiet! Think again, look again, judge not by the circumstances of the passing hour but by the infinite things of our Gospel and our God. And that is exactly what these people did.

~ Believing the Gospel for our friends

~ This had me missing Belgian frites.

~ Pathological altruism. Fascinating stuff.

~ A little coffeehouse history

~ Obama hits a wall in Berlin:

Obama’s vanity is a wonder of the world that never loses its power to astonish, but really: Iseveryone in his orbit too lost in raptures of admiration to warn him against delivering a speech soggy with banalities and bromides in a city that remembers John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”? With German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting nearby, Obama began his Berlin speech: “As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders.” He has indeed said that, too, before, at least about himself. It was mildly amusing in Berlin in 2008, but hardly a Noel Coward-like witticism worth recycling.

His look is just not that interesting. And after being pointless in Berlin, neither is he, other than for the surrealism of his second term.

~ Bragging about books

~ Grumble gifts:

…But notice the next verse. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” So just as God elected individuals from before all eternity, he also has chosen our good works from before all eternity. And he didn’t just choose a broad and nebulous category of good works for us to each inherit. Just as he has chosen individual believers, he has chosen specific, particular moments of obedience for us. He chose your attitude about your co-workers this past week. He chose your love for your spouse this past week. He chose your patience with your children. He chose your humility about your paycheck and your financial means. He chose your prayers offered up in faith about the hardships of being alone. He chose your willingness to hand your health over to him and to trust him in what seems like an impossible situation. Each of these moments of obedience was a gift from him to you, a moment where you walked alive in Christ and felt the goodness of Christ’s righteousness.

Because these moments are hard, because these moments take great faith for us to obey, and because these moments often only come after the confessing of much sin, we are prone to think of them as us at our worst…

Do read the whole thing.

~ Wendy Alsup on Ebenezers:

If you are in a hard season, it’s easy to forget or diminish what God has done for you in the past. “If God really worked for me in the past, why am I having such struggles now?! Shouldn’t it be getting better?” But that has never been the nature of this journey of faith. Never, ever in Scripture is it portrayed as a steady positive climb. It’s portrayed as mountains and valleys, raging rivers and dry deserts. He leads us by still waters where we can drink deeply. But it is in preparation for walking through the valley of the shadow of death. His instruction to REMEMBER is key for surviving the drought and enduring through the valleys.

If you are struggling right now in such a season, I offer the simple suggestion that you go find some ebenezer from your own life.

And now I’m off to work.
Happy Monday!
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“…his pockets were literally stuffed with literature…”

wilberforceFrom Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas:

Regarding his own improvement, Wilberforce resolved to begin immediately by making up for the time lost at Cambridge, where he’d frittered away the years and opportunities in idleness. “Books to be read,” he writes in his diary, “Locke’s Essay—Marshall’s Logic—Indian Reports.” This resolve to read was no flippant New Year’s resolution. For the next twelve summers, until his marriage, he would spend one or two months at some country home, assiduously studying nine or ten hours alone each day. He became renowned for reading everything—Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Blackstone, Pope—and for the rest of his life, his pockets were literally stuffed with literature on every subject. He would in his later years carry corked inkwells in his pockets too—for he was forever making notes and writing letters—and his clothing ever after bore the ebon blots of his obsession. Once, while he was kneeling with others in prayer, one fatally overstuffed pocket interrupted the devotional atmosphere by exploding under the strain of literature and pouring its contents upon the carpet.

almost there

Last night I took my Anglo-Saxon lit final and turned that in. Tonight I’m working to finish up my final paper on the distinctives of Anglo-Saxon Christianity. I’ve got books and papers and journal articles spread out all over, and I’m about to make some more coffee and indulge in some dark chocolate. I’m hoping to power through and finish this up tonight.

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I’ll have three weeks off before I triple up my school load for the summer. That gives me some time to catch up on the sleep I’ve lost this week staying up late. And I can read whatever I want!

Back to the books,

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“Look for stones in a young swallow’s stomach…”

I came across these home remedies in From Age to Age: Life and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England:

For swollen eyes:

Take a live crab, put his eyes out, and put him alive again into water, and put the eyes upon the neck of the man who hath need. He will soon be well.

For an earache:

Take garlic and onion and goose fat, melt them together, squeeze them on the ear.

As an antidote for poison:

If a man eat wolfsbane [an herb] let him stand upon his head, let someone strike him many scarifications on the shanks, then the venom departs out through the incision.

For a headache:

Look for stones in a young swallow’s stomach; and take care that they touch neither earth, water, nor other stones. Select any three of them that you choose; put them on the person in distress: he will soon be well.

And for lunatics:

In case a man be a lunatic, take skin of a mere swine, or porpoise, work it into a whip, swinge the man therewith, soon he will be well. Amen.

Now, if I can just find a young swallow…

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Random links & thoughts:

~ A living room made entirely of Belgian chocolate.

~ I was bummed to find out that Google Reader is going away this summer. I’ve used it for years to read my favorite blogs. I’m giving feedly a try.

~ The Holocaust was worse than we thought.

~ Here’s a peek at Trevin Wax on What We Talk About When We Talk About Rob Bell:

…Bell eliminates more paradoxes than traditional Christian teaching does.

It’s traditional Christianity that portrays God as holy and wrathful against sin while being gracious and loving towards the sinner. For all Bell’s talk about embracing “both/and,” it’shis vision of Christianity that emphasizes God being for us, to the exclusion of any idea that God would stand over us in judgment.

Traditional Christianity doesn’t just include “both” but “triple” truths – God against us in our sin, God instead of us as sinners, and God for us as the Justifier. Far from diluting the beauty of God in His transcendence, traditional Christian dogma leaves us with unresolvable tensions and paradoxes galore: free will and sovereignty, God in us and yet distinct from us, the Trinity, the inclusive call to salvation from an exclusive Savior. The list goes on.

The paradoxes of traditional Christianity multiply in ways that stimulate the imagination. Bell’s teaching lacks that kind of substance.

Bell’s book goes down easy, kind of like whipped cream without the cake. God is ahead of us, beckoning society forward, and (how convenient!) it just so happens to be in the direction that society is already headed. Who would have thought?

~ Nancy Wilson on Contentment

~ American girls charted by the Beach Boys

~ Janie has me itching to read Frank Delaney’s Ireland. When this semester is over…

~ You stand a VERY good chance at this point of winning my latest book giveaway.  Pop on over and check it out.

~ Speaking of books, this new series by Leland Ryken looks excellent.

~ I’ve been looking through some old pictures lately. Here are some of my babies and me:

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~ It’s a busy week of the usual with the added yuck of taxes. Blech.

I’m off to work to earn some money so I can send more to D.C. (Just as I finished typing that sentence, Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend came on my iPod. Coincidence? I think not.)
Have a good Wednesday,
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