It is indeed eighteen hundred years since Jesus Christ walked here on earth, but this is certainly not an event just like other events, which once they are over pass into history and then, as the distant past, pass into oblivion. No, his presence here on earth never becomes a thing of the past, thus does not become more and more distant--that is, if faith is at all to be found upon the earth; if not, well, then in that very instant it is a long time since he lived. But as long as there is a believer, this person, in order to have become that, must have been and as a believer must be as contemporary with Christ’s presence as his contemporaries were. This contemporaneity is the condition of faith, and, more sharply defined, it is faith. Lord Jesus Christ, would that we, too, might become contemporary with you in this way, might see you in your true form and in the surroundings of actuality as you walked here on earth, not in the form in which an empty and meaningless or a thoughtless-romantic or a historical-talkative remembrance has distorted you, since it is not the form of abasement in which the believer sees you, and it cannot possibly be the form of glory in which no one as yet has seen you. Would that we might see you as you are and were and will be until your second coming in glory, as the sign of offense and the object of faith, the lowly man, yet the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, who out of love came to earth to seek the lost, to suffer and die, and yet, alas, every step you took on earth, every time you called to the straying, every time you reached out your hand to do signs and wonders, and every time you defenselessly suffered the opposition of people without raising a hand--again and again in concern you had to repeat, “Blessed is the one who is not offended at me.” Would that we might see you in this way and that we then might not be offended at you!
- Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity XII.1 - XII.2
As I read the Scriptures
Two great and undeniable themes.
It is as if these
In an interminable tension.
The other floods.
Yet I do not know which does which.
Under grace I tremble
And mercies unceasing and inexhaustible.
Under judgment I rejoice
Knowing every iniquity, yet redeeming.
The loving-kindness knows no bounds.
Neither time, space, nor matter.
It is grace that blazes
And judgment that floods
And the other purifying.
Or one purifying
And the other refining.
The fire and the flood enfold one another.
It is in the Christ
A terrifying grace
And a welcome judgment.
I believe that teams that are willing to have open conversations about the most pressing challenges before the church today will have a lasting impact. In the future, the churches that grow will be the churches whose leaders courageously hold the most honest conversations and then take action.
- Carey Nieuwhof, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversation That Will Help Your Church Grow
Most people, in every church I have been a part of, desire that their church be healthy.
And one aspect of church health is growth.
Growth can be measured in different ways.
The missing element in churches that are not healthy beyond vision (health) and intention (commitment) is the means (conversation).
I read a variety of books. I read academic theology and biblical studies. I also read popular theological works and even church leadership books. I have a tendency to be suspicious of growth techniques and plug and play ministry programs.
But I am deeply confident in the Holy Spirit, and the possibilities that can emerge when those people who are mature and wise in Christ come together and are open to God's will and direction.
My congregation is in a season of transition. There are good signs. Everything is not perfect. But the possibilities are many, and the avenue toward becoming a healthier congregation is conversation among the right leaders, with the right degree of urgency, and a full dependence on the grace of God.
I pray that we would have the courage to speak the truth to one another in love, the wisdom to discern the will of God, and the strength to do the will of God, as it becomes clear to us.
Often when I have prayed I have asked for what I thought was good, and persisted in my petition, stupidly importuning the will of God, and not leaving it to him to arrange things as he knows is best for me. But when I have obtained what I asked for, I have been very sorry that I did not ask for the will of God to be done; because the thing turned out not to be as I had thought…Do not be distressed if you do not at once receive from God what you ask. He wishes to give you something better--to make you persevere in your prayer. For what is better than to enjoy the love of God and to be in communion with him?
- Evagrius the Solitary, The Philokalia, vol. 1, as quoted in Tell it Slant by Eugene Peterson
When we say the word God, we refer to a personhood, known in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As it is when we relate to persons, so it is when we relate to the Person of God. We may ask for those things we think good. And God, being the Person that God is, patiently bears with us, even when those things we ask for would not tend toward the good, either for ourselves or for all people. This God, being patient, kind, and loving beyond measure, so uses our petitions to refine our character, and to bring us nearer to the person God intends for us to be.
The end of prayer is not the answer to our prayer, but God, which may in fact be the longing underneath all of our longings, that being, union and communion with our Creator.
The Christian story claims that such communion has been made possible in Jesus Christ.