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The First Time Something Wasn’t Good And The Christianisation Of The Me Generation (via Chad Bird)

Chad Bird likens the action of the church in greeting the me generation with an emphasis on an individualistic experience of salvation to attempting to douse a fire with petrol.
His comments below are well balanced in that they do not make the fulfilment of Adam and Eve out to be marriage, as if any human that is not married has a less that complete life. What they do recognise is that the fulness of humanity cannot be expressed or experienced without relating to other humans.

From Upside-Down Spirituality:

The very first time God said something was “not good” was when someone was alone. The earth was good. The heavens were good. The animals and seas and mountains were good. But Adam, all on his lonesome, without another human being, without someone to complement him, live with him, and be his family, his helper, his own flesh and blood – that was not good at all. A private Adam who had a personal relationship with his Creator was simply not going to cut it. He may have been a glorious, regal, beautiful human being, but he was still not independent. Therefore God gave him Eve, built from his own body. He belonged to her and she to him. The depended on each other, leaned on each other, found fulfilment in each other.
Humanity was not truly complete until singular had expanded into plural, until I had become We.

Chad Bird, Upside-Down Spirituality: The Nine Essential Failures Of A Faithful Life, Baker, 2019, pgs 168-169.


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Forgiveness Is Not A Self-Help Therapy (via Chad Bird)

Chad Bird writes about forgiveness, observing that forgiving others is not something we do for our own therapeutic benefit.
Followers of Jesus forgive because we have to pass on the forgiveness that has been given to us.
From Bird’s post:

What does it mean to forgive? For the Christian, it means simply this: to see all sins and all sinners in the crucified body of Jesus. And I do mean “all.” From the Nazi guard to the pedophile priest. From the petty criminal to the gossiping octogenarian. From the racist to the road-rager. All. None excepted. Jesus on the cross was all humanity compressed into one person. The one righteous man became all unrighteous people to atone for us all.
Just as we believe ourselves to be forgiven because God sees us in Christ, so to forgive others is to see them as God sees them in Christ. To forgive, in other words, is to put God’s eyes in our eyes and our eyes in God’s eyes. And those divine eyes see humanity only through the cross of Jesus.
For this reason, Paul tells us, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, to clothe ourselves with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12-13).
Note that last phrase: As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. It echoes the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Notice the order: God’s forgiveness of us leads directly to our forgiveness of others.
But here is where something crucial emerges: the forgiveness we give is not truly ours. Forgiveness is not our personal possession. We don’t own it or control it or (worst of all) manipulate it. Forgiveness has one name written on it: Jesus Christ. He is the sole proprietor of this treasure because he is the sole cause of its existence. All true forgiveness flows from him for he is the one nailed to the cross of atonement. Absolution is the gold he mined on Calvary.
When we forgive, we do so as the Lord has forgiven us. The better we know ourselves, the deeper our awareness of the selfish, horrible, shameful thoughts and desires and words and deeds of which we are guilty, the more we know of what the Lord has forgiven us.

source


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Failing Into Love (via David Zahl)

David Zahl on grace in marriage from his book Seculosity.

Real love is not something we decide on. Nor is it something we earn. Love is more than something we fall into; it is something we fail into. What sounds like a somewhat more tragic view of life is actually a starting point for compassion, forgiveness, and joy. After all, we stand a better chance of loving our spouse (or neighbour) when we aren’t looking to them to do or be what they cannot do or be.
I think this is close to what the apostle John meant when he spoke of God being love. The love of God, as we seen borne out in the life and death of Jesus Christ, seems to assume from the outset that we are all severely handicapped in our ability to love other people, let alone our Creator. And yet, like a shepherd going after a lost sheep, it persists. It does not insist on proof of lovability but produces it.

David Zahl, Seculosity, Fortress Press, 2019, pg. 37.


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Happiness Is Not A Goal In Itself, It Is The Product Of Seeking The Right Goals (via Sammy Rhodes)

The pursuit of happiness will be futile if it is happiness itself which is being sought. Happiness can only be experienced as a fruit of seeking after that which endures.
Sammy Rhodes writes about modern relationships and the reasons they founder:

Wanting happiness isn’t a bad thing. It’s a human thing. The problem is that happiness is less something we can directly seek than it is a by-product of seeking the right things in the right ways. Happiness is like the endorphins that flow after a good workout. They’re a result of hunting another goal, not something you can get your hands on directly. They only come by working out. Or so I hear. I’m less a work-out guy, more a work—in guy. And by that I mean most days I like to work on getting an entire bag of chips inside me.
Jesus told us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his’ righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Blessings, like happiness, come as we focus our eyes on something other than those blessings. Jesus is teaching us here to think less like consumers and more like himself a covenant—making and covenant—keeping God. If Jesus had let happiness determine his choices, the cross would have never happened. Jesus’ choices were driven by his covenant promises, first to God, then to us.

Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward, Thomas Nelson, 2016, pgs 93-94.


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Empathy – The Fellowship Of Suffering (via Rut Etheridge at Gentle Reformation)

Some reflections of nurturing a capacity to go beyond recognising a hurt to having a sense of the impact of the hurt – while not allowing the situation to be about your experience.
Rut Etheridge at Gentle Reformation:

Every emotion you’ve felt, the Lord has felt. I don’t know how that works, exactly. I do know that he’s felt your emotions and mine without the taint of sin. But that only means that unlike us, Jesus has felt what it is to be fully, uncompromisingly, relentlessly human, an image-bearer who never fell. He knows empathetically what it’s like to hurt as a human, but moving beyond what you or I can experience, he experienced the pains of a fallen world in the holiest and most holistic manner possible. What he never experienced was the corrupt and corrupting responses you and I daily conceive and enact as we face trial and temptation. He endured to the end, unstained by rebellion against his Father’s law. He was tempted in every way we are, but remained without sin (Hebrews 4).
As adopted, beloved sons and daughters of God, siblings of Jesus Christ, we are called to live as he did in this fallen world, learning sympathy as we suffer and ever straining toward empathy. We will never be our Savior, nor is any Christ-like suffering we endure ever identical to what Jesus endured and accomplished as the unique son of God, the spotless substitutionary sin-bearer. Jesus calls us to take up our own cross, not to carry his. But as Paul puts it so personally and poetically, it is the cry of the maturing Christian heart to come as close as possible in life to what the Savior endured and experienced in this world, through whatever times and circumstances the Lord would allot us (Philippians 3).
We are to seek empathy with Christ not in the sense of trying to mimic particular actions of his or trying to recreate historical circumstances and cultural conditions long past. We want to approach empathy with the Savior by having a heart made increasingly like his, filled with affections taught by God’s word and flowing forth in words and actions which draw attention to the glory and goodness of our heavenly Father (Philippians 2).
Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that he wants to know Christ, both in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering. Indeed, we often experience the power of Christ’s resurrection most truly and tangibly in the midst of our suffering the trials he calls us to endure for his sake. This is the case with my friends, and with countless other Christian sufferers throughout history.
None of this is to even come close to suggesting that only Christians suffer, or that Christians by definition suffer more severely than others, much less that only Christians suffer nobly and admirably. I wish that could go without saying, but sometimes Christian discourses on suffering can seem self-important and forgetful or dismissive of the pain shared by those who don’t share our faith and who endure that pain in an exemplary way. At the risk of falling into that same trap of self-importance, however, there is something unique not only about the purpose and principles of Christian suffering, but about the Christian’s capacity with regard to suffering.

Read the whole post here.


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Deep Communion vs Digital Communication (via Drew Hunter at Crossway Blog)

Drew Hunter observes that modern communication technology can be a helpful aid in growing relationships when it supplements face-to-face interactions, but when it becomes a primary or sole means of communication relationships will stagnate at superficial levels.

Deep Communion vs. Digital Communication
… Modern technology is a great tool for keeping up certain aspects of our relationships. Writing emails, sending texts, scanning posts—all of these helpfully complement true companionship. But they cannot fully replace it. These are the shallow ends of relationships. We find these tools convenient, but then we’re tempted to neglect the deeper waters of shared experiences and face-to-face conversation. Very often the way we use technology leads away from, rather than in to, stronger friendships. We often trade deep communion for digital communication.
Technology can hinder friendship in four ways. First, it often depersonalizes communication. We use it to connect, but over time, we feel less, not more, connected. We use it to move closer, but we end up farther away. We trade conversations and experiences for details and updates. We’re more connected to more people more often than ever before, but many of our relationships become more superficial and less satisfying.
Second, technology can disengage us from real communion. Sometimes when we connect with people through technology, we disconnect from those who are sitting right around us. Friends sit across the table at a coffee shop and enjoy friendship, but not with each other—with the friends on the other end of their phones. Once when I visited a workplace, I stepped into a break room and saw six coworkers sitting around a lunch table. The room was silent. Five of them stared at their phones while the sixth looked at her food. She sat at the table with them, but she ate her lunch alone. Surrounded by peers, she had no one to talk to.
Third, technology disembodies conversation. When we engage in person, we experience our friends in unrepeatable and holistic ways. We notice her expressions, intuit her moods, and learn her quirks. Embodied friendship is full of dynamic, realtime, give-and-take interaction. In contrast, digital communication doesn’t demand much more than fingers to flit around a keyboard. This has a place of course, but it doesn’t match experiencing a person’s real presence. For me to see Dane’s head roll back and hear his laugh, to talk through personal challenges across the table with Taylor, to see the romance in Christina’s eyes, to sense the sincerity in Bill’s encouragement, or to pick up the witty humor in Trent’s tone—there is simply no digital equivalent.
Finally, technology creates dependence on less personal ways of addressing personal issues. Confessing sin and admitting failure, or on the other hand, addressing sin and confronting failure—each of these is challenging, and digital communication seems easier. We take time to craft a statement, and we don’t need to worry about immediate reactions. But then we soon prefer to replace a personal meeting with a phone call; a phone call with a voicemail; a voicemail with an email; and an email with a text. Each step smooths the path for the next. Soon we can hardly muster the courage to say anything difficult in person. And without the reassuring eye contact, gentle tone, and responsive clarifications, we often end up adding complications rather than clearing things up.

Read the rest of the post at Crossway Blog.


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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 51

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 51

126.
Q. What is the fifth petition?
A. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That is: be pleased, for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to charge to us, miserable sinners, our many transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to us. We also find this witness of your grace in us: that it is our sincere intention heartily to forgive our neighbor.