On Post-Partisanship, Conservative Condescension, & Hope | Patrol Magazine

I love this post from Patrol last week, where Jonathan D. Fitzgerald replies to a recent post by David French at Patheos. In Fitzgerald’s piece, he encourages us to keep our post-partisanship and hope, no matter what “real life” might throw at us.

One point of dissent, though: what he calls “Idealism”, I think is a lot closer to “Realism”. Post-partisanship is very earthy, ground-level, and pragmatic, not simply conviction to an idea; it’s a commitment to the world that actually is, rather than a world conformed to pre-conceived “ideals” of right and left.

Christ isn’t pushing us to an idealized world, but rather a realized one. Just as in God’s Word and on Christ’s body, in the New Creation there will still be scars and grit and paradoxes–hardly an “ideal”–but there will also be the full realization of all the intention, promise, and telos of Creation.

This is all semantics, probably, but I think many in Church History (especially Neibuhr) would agree with this re-phrasing. Either way, read the post:

We Will Not Give in to Pessimism: A Response to David French by Jonathan Fitzgerald

I’m Obsessed with Myself (a blog fast)

I haven’t talked about it much (on this blog or to many people), but for the past 6 or 7 months I’ve been in professional counseling, primarily for anxiety (and it’s various outward expressions). There is a constant tension and busyness inside me that keeps me from living so many aspects of life. The counseling has been challenging, amazing, and painfully slow in the growth it has been producing in me.

But growth it has produced.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a week off from the blog, somewhat as an experiment. That week, I experienced more freedom from the various expressions of anxiety in my life than I had for years. I began to experience once again that communion with Christ I’ve written about wanting before. I was reading his Word, praying, and serving those around me with such calm and freedom.

I then thought to myself, “Wow. That was amazing! Now, I can go back to blogging.” I came back to the blog all last week, and all the anxiety came rushing back with it.

Continue reading

“Sleeping Alone”: for all those hurting in their singleness…

My good (online) friend Lore Ferguson (for whose site I recently guest-posted) just had an old post of her’s published on the site The High Calling. It’s called “Sleeping Alone” and it’s some of her meditations on the sustaining life of God in her singleness.

And wow, is it amazing. It’s raw, honest, unflinching, and gracious. Read it right now and then come back here. Here’s an excerpt:

Singleness is a beautiful thing and when I take account of the past decade I see a faithfulness to its beauty in my life in a way that only comes from grace, but I also see a succession of tiny funerals every step of the way. A cemetery full of them. Adventures I have had alone. Mornings I have woken alone. Moments I have reveled in alone. Each one bringing joy in its experience and mourning in its completion.

Life is meant to be shared and marriage is not the only way to share life, I know this, but the mystery of two flesh becoming one is a mingling that cannot be known by me, with my bed all to myself, 400 thread count sheets, open window, and quiet morning. And I mourn this.

Continue reading

The Early Church: not so big on grace, so why are we so obsessed?

As promised, today Lore Ferguson, over at Sayable posted my second guest post on her blog, as she is on a sabbatical. My first post went up yesterday. Originally, Lore had asked me to write a post on grace. Ironically, this was the first post I wrote for her (almost an anti-grace article–even thought it’s really not). Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Leave comments and, like I said yesterday, follow her blog. You won’t regret it. Here’s a preview of today’s post:

I grew up in a pretty stereotypical Evangelical setting, which led to a pretty stereotypical back-and-forth between guilt and self-righteousness. That is, until I heard the Gospel of radical Grace.

Many of us have this same story, where it has been so healing to hear that how God relates to us is not, in fact, based on our performance. Instead, everything necessary for God to be pleased with us has been accomplished on our behalf by his Son.

And so, in response to this, we fall in love with God’s Grace. We pray for it, long for it, and cry for it. We read books about it, write about it, and blog about it (I even did a five-part series on it myself). We try and speak it into others’ lives while trying to figure out why we don’t apply it to our own. We joyfully build our relationship with God on the glorious foundation of His Grace. It is fundamental, primary, and essential.

In short: we love Grace.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I fell in love with liturgy and forms of worship that were centuries-old, to begin noticing the utter lack of “grace” from the prayers and worship of the earliest saints.

Continue reading →

Going Medieval on my Atheist Self (on art & assurance)

Even back in my hyper-Calvinist days–assured that I was chosen, secure, and Elected unto salvation–I recognized the reality that if I were not a Christian, I’d certainly be an Atheist. If there was some way that I could be convinced that Christianity was a fraud (and here are some ways), I would not face any temptation to be a Buddhist or New Age mystic or anything of the like. No, No. I would be a hardened, militant Atheist.

How do I know this? Well, Christianity has the idea that within each believer is the “Old Self” and the “New Self”. This Old Self is, essentially, who we are apart from God.

That Old Self, though we fight it our entire Christian lives, won’t actually be fully snuffed out until the end of all things. And so, in a sense, if we’re sensitive to it, we can sometimes “feel” that “without-God” version of ourselves rolling around in there somewhere in our hearts.
Continue reading

The Children’s Bible: my favorite devotional [casual fri]

Okay, once again, I find myself in what many past saints have referred to as a “spiritual dry season”. I can’t count how many times on this blog I’ve bemoaned being here. And honestly, this is because I think I’ve spent more of my Christian life in these times than out. It’s kind of the norm. Don’t worry, I’m finally getting help.

As is the case with most people experiencing times like this, one of the first casualties is any personal Bible reading. I get to that place where I just don’t want to read the Bible–or, more precisely, I want to, but I just don’t have the spiritual strength to do it (anyone who’s been a Christian for any length of time probably knows what I mean).

But there’s one tool that God has given me that he consistently uses to draw me back to himself. I found myself picking it up again this past week and wanted to to share it all with you.
Continue reading

From His Father [GUEST POEM]

by Jen Huber

He can easily say what he has lived by:
God and belonging; known from childhood.

He was raised to believe in what was taught
To stand by his father’s belief in his Father
Accept the judgement of another,
The forgiveness of one another
Believing in something unseen

From generation to generation
This belonging to faith has remained
And grasped his life long-lived
And to know that his Father carried
Him throughout his time

He can easily say what he has died for

[image credit: Lauren Chandler]

a beautiful quote on our security in the Incarnation (by T.F. Torrance)

The stark actuality of Christ’s humanity, his flesh and blood and bone, guarantees to us that we have God among us. If that humanity were in any sense unreal, God would be unreal for us in him. The full measure of Christ’s humanity is the full measure of God’s reality for us, God’s actuality to us, in fact the measure of God’s love for us. If Christ is not man, then God has not reached us, but has stopped short of our humanity – then God does not love us to the uttermost, for his love has stopped short of coming all the way to where we are, and becoming one of us in order to save us. But Christ’s humanity means that God’s love is now flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, really one of us and with us.

— T.F. Torrance, Incarnation, 185

A good friend posted this on Facebook, and I just had to post it. It connects very well to a few of the Advent posts I did recently (namely the ones on Evolution, our Fallenness, doubting God’s “liking” of us, and how he makes us most human).

I’ve never actually read Torrance before, but I’ve heard a lot about him from people that were, at the time, reading his work. From what I understand, though, he is a theologian whose mind is brilliant and pen is beautiful–a combination sorely lacking in the Christian world today. I also hear that he is a theologian to which I would feel a certain affinity, so I look forward to reading more of him.

God loves me. But does he like me? (on being “Christ-like”) | Advent {8a}

UPDATE: Part 2 of this post is now up.

I have a quick confession. I technically ascribe to the “flavor” of Protestantism called “Reformed” that takes the roots of its doctrinal tradition all the way back to the leaders of the Reformation. The first church I really learned much of anything about Christianity and theology is Reformed…ish. The seminary I went to prides itself in being the bastion of orthodoxy for “Reformed” theology. My church is a member of the Reformed Church in America family of churches.

But, I’m not a good Reformed man.
Continue reading

Retelling the Story (in crisis, loss, & healing)

Why does healing take time? Have you ever asked yourself that? Why does pain, heartbreak, and loss seem to have a very real lifespan it must go through before the process seems completely done?

As I’ve said several times before on this blog, we humans live on the basis of story. Our life, our world, and our faith provide our lives with a grand “narrative” in which all of our “sub-plots” find shape. We can’t help but use this shape of the present story to fashion some sort of idea of where this story is going. We’ve all experienced this when reading a book. The entire time, we have a guess of where the plot is heading; as we receive more information, we naturally readjust our expectations and thoughts as to the goal or end.

In short, the only way we know to make sense of the various aspects of our lives is to give them shape, narrative, and an anticipated goal towards which they are moving. This is the only way we know to justify each step forward we take in this career, relationship, etc. It gives us our bearings and a point of reference.

Continue reading

to “why?” is human, to “what” is divine

One of the most impacting moments of Terrence Malick‘s Tree of Life is this moment where the son in the film prays to God: why do I have to be good if you’re not? Shortly after, there is this beautiful shot where the camera zooms in on the silhouetted back of the boy as he stands in an open door. As the camera approaches, we get a voice-over from the grown-up version of this child saying: Father, why do you hurt us? This moment is so powerful because you don’t know if he’s talking about his earthly father or his Heavenly one.

Fast-forward. The other day, as I was looking through The Economist and reading on all the loss, debt, crisis, and violence in the world, I noticed I kept having similar fleeting prayers go through my mind: why did that happen? or why did it have to be that way?

Neither the son in Tree of Life nor I found answers.

Continue reading

the cry of an anguished lover (may it be mine)

O my folly! The world of my plans, how narrow, and bare, and stale it is! And the world which breaks my plans, how living, and various, and wide, and glorious it is! And from every point in it a providence bears upon me, to make me the man you intend: here a claim, there a discipline, here love to cherish, there enmity to vanquish, and everywhere Christ.

“Be not anxious”, says Christ, not that he may make us careless, but that he may lift our faces out of the book of our calculations and sweep the cobwebs of self-obsession from our eyes. If I gave my attention to your handiwork, I should become your handiwork. Make me open to each thing and person in their turn, that I may not only love them, but be directed through the providences which speak in them.
Austin Farrer

Making the Father Real (when you don’t feel it)

Late last night I finished my own personal study through the book of Mark. I wrote about my love for this book a while back in light of some reflections on Ash Wednesday, and having finished it again, it was confirmed once more that this indeed is my favorite Gospel.

As I was ending it, I really wanted to see my Father in these words and be moved by Him. This last stretch I read was from Jesus being handed over to Pilate through the Resurrection–arguably some of the most dramatic and supposedly heart-string-pulling moments for the Christian. I mean, Our Lord is being unjustly mocked! He is being crucified! He’s being raised!

And yet, I felt nothing beyond the scan of my eyes upon the page offering the simple intellectual reminder of these events.
Continue reading

Prayer & the Christian Life [a teaching I did at liberti church] {AUDIO}

Last week, I posted the manuscript and audio from a teaching I did on the Bible from a series of seminars/discussions my church has been doing called “Summer Conversations“. This week I wanted to post the other teaching I did. This one was on the idea of Prayer. This was a really amazing thing to prepare for and the night went really well. Also, unlike last week, the audio turned out really clear.

Audio | download
Notes| download: pdf, Word, Kindle, ebook read: Google DocsScribd
Continue reading