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The Quiet Of Easter versus Performance Almighty

It interests me watching modern evangelicalism struggle more and more about what to do with Easter.
Good Friday was a spiritual pause, a pause that lasted until the acknowledgment of resurrection on Sunday morning.
Now any thought of pause seems something to be avoided and Good Friday seems to be identical to Easter Sunday.
How can you pause and rest in God when the focus is on the productivity of your own response to grace.
We can never allow the weekend that focuses on resting in the work of God to become the primary example of a never-ending striving to perfection.
From David Zahl.

Faith that more often than not begins with an admission of losing and need morphs into a hectic competition for spiritual justification, in which we baptize our busyness with religious language. Before we know it, God has ceased to be a good shepherd and turned into the Taskmaster-in-the-Sky, or worse, another name for the persecutor within. “I just couldn’t keep it up anymore!” is the refrain I’ve heard from many a refugee from performancist churches.
If there’s a difference today, it has to do with the vanishing of outlets where the pressure of perfection might be vented. It’s easier to develop a sense of enoughness, for example, when your pool of peers is in the hundreds rather than the millions, when the primary venues of comparison close shop at 5:00 p.m. Similarly, it’s a lot harder to recover from a youthful indiscretion when the internet has made the record of your adolescence permanent and searchable.
Capital-R Religion once provided a space to come clean and maybe even be absolved of shortcoming and guilt. Church wasn’t busy. If anything, it was boring and full of silence, a respite from the noise of daily demand, a local repository of peace and forgiveness. The good ones at least.

Source


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Becoming A Christian Is Not Tantamount To Becoming An Extrovert (via Sammy Rhodes)

Sometimes I feel the effective Christian life is confined to one personality type. Or, at the very least, that it’s not fair that one personality type seems ideally suited for reaching out.
Sammy Rhodes gives some relief with an observation that the Good News is embodied in a community of all types of people.

One line in particular has stayed with me. “Becoming a Christian is not tantamount [to] becoming an extrovert.” We could also add that being a Christian is not tantamount to being an extrovert, yet a casual visit to almost any Christian gathering could lead you to conclude the opposite. This varies from group to group, but the pressure is there. Typically this is because we’ve exalted a method (or methods) over the message.
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If you have a method or formula more than you have a message or truth, then you implicitly rule out all the person— ality types that can’t pull off your method or formula. If you have a message, however, then you invite all kinds of personality types to embody and reflect that message through a variety of different gifts and methods. This is exactly what Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians when he compared the church to a body, with different members being like different parts of the body, all working together with none being more important than the other. How beautiful are the feet that bring good news, Isaiah tells us. But where would the mouth be if the feet couldn’t take it to places where it might be heard? Where would the feet be if the brain couldn’t tell them how and where to walk?

Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward, Thomas Nelson, 2016, pg 132, 133.


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God Moves In A Mysterious Way – The Legacy Hymn Of William Cowper

Scott Hubbard writes about William Cowper, who on New Year’s Day 1773 was about to slip into a depression that would remain for the rest of his life.
Anticipating that descending darkness Cowper wrote the hymn God Moves In A Mysterious Way.
From Hubbard’s article:

… before night fell on Cowper’s soul, he sat in the light of his remaining sanity, took up his pen, and wrote a hymn that has strengthened generations of staggering saints through their various shadows.
Take Courage
Cowper’s hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” is a song for every saint who sits on the edge. It is a guide for all who do not see fresh hopes rising over the horizon of the new year. It is a confession of faith in the face of darkness — one that flickers with enough light to carry us through whatever midnights this year brings.
At the heart of the hymn is a simple exhortation: “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take.” Take courage. Take courage when the clouds come thundering toward you. Take courage when the coming days seem covered in shadow. Take courage when you cannot understand God’s ways.
But why, we ask in the valley, should we take courage? Throughout the rest of the hymn, Cowper gives his reasons.

Read the rest of the post at Desiring God.

Here’s Nathan Tasker’s rendition of the hymn.
I wanted a version that has the lyrics to the forefront.


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Why Church Should Be Nothing Like Cross-Fit (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

I’ve been dabbling a little bit in personal fitness for a while now, so I’ve got lots of respect for those who exercise.
This article by
Connor Gwin on Mockingbird
interacts with popular thought about why gyms and exercise fill a space in some modern lives that used to be filled by church.
It wants to tease out that the thought that people can find more personally meaningful “content and wisdom and community” in gyms is because the church has been conditioning them to expect the wrong thing.
There are texts in the New Testament that utilise athletic metaphors, but they are not based so much in self-improvement as they are in increased resting in the finished work of Christ in order to grow more like him.
From the article:

What troubles me is that we so easily make the jump from church to gym.
This argument of the Vox article starts from the assumption that religion and religious institutions are “providers of content and wisdom and community.”
From the outside, this is an easy assumption to make. Those of us within the church can fall into this trap too easily as well. The church is not just a provider of content and community. Ritual is not “this really helpful way of making people think of something greater.” The church and the rituals contained therein are forms of participation in reality as opposed to the delusion of my own sinful understanding.
The church does not exist to “make people better” like CrossFit. The church exists first and foremost for the worship of Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. This sole focus serves to remind people who they are and to proclaim the Good News that we cannot make ourselves better but there is One who makes us whole.
The church is not a provider of spiritual wisdom, but foolishness. It does not exist for improvement or even growth. Saying that CrossFit is the logical home for those who no longer darken the doors of the church is an indictment of the church more than anything.
It shouldn’t be an easy walk from the pew to the weight bench, but it is made easy by a Christianity that looks more like a spiritual fitness program than a Gospel balm.
Any mention of “nones” and someone will mention the “dones,” those who are burned out and tired of giving their all to the church. For the “dones,” the prospect of endless burpees sounds better than one more sermon about the next political issue they need to care about or the next moral ladder they need to climb.
What is happening in the church when the Workout of the Day sounds like better news than the Gospel?
Jesus is not a personal trainer or a guru espousing wisdom. Jesus is Lord, and he calls to each of us, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 33

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 33

88.
Q. How many parts are there to the true repentance or conversion of man?
A. Two: the dying of the old self and the birth of the new.

89.
Q. What is the dying of the old self?
A. Sincere sorrow over our sins and more and more to hate them and to flee from them.

90.
Q. What is the birth of the new self?
A. Complete joy in God through Christ and a strong desire to live according to the will of God in all good works.

91.
Q. But what are good works?
A. Only those which are done out of true faith, in accordance with the Law of God, and for his glory, and not those based on our own opinion or on the traditions of men.


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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

62.
Q. But why cannot our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?
A. Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment of God must be absolutely perfect and wholly in conformity with the divine Law. But even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

63.
Q. Will our good works merit nothing, even when it is God’s purpose to reward them in this life, and in the future life as well?
A. This reward is not given because of merit, but out of grace.

64.
Q. But does not this teaching make people careless and sinful?
A. No, for it is impossible for those who are ingrafted into Christ by true faith not to bring forth the fruit of gratitude.


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Neither Spirituality Or Religion Is Ever Enough (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge skewers the central conceit behind the supposed superiority of being ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’: they’re both manifestations of the same condition.
Humans need neither.
What they need is justification through Christ.
From Rutledge:

Spirituality, too, like religion, is essentially a human activity or trait that stands in stark contrast to faith. To put it in the simplest terms possible, spirituality is all too easily understood as human religious attainment, whereas faith itself is pure gift, without conditions, and nothing can be done from our side to increase it or improve upon it. On the contrary, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
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…Human potential—which often takes the guise of “spirituality”—has itself become the object of worship.
So what is the antidote to the situation we find ourselves in, where in some places, attendance at “Celtic” services on Sunday evenings—with candles and chants and eclectic liturgies—far outnumbers church attendance on Sunday morning? Where so often, sermons are little more than assorted reflections having little to do with the biblical text? Where the high Christology of the creeds and councils has become mere “Jesus-ology”?
In today’s context, it is more crucial than ever to make a sufficiently sharp distinction between self-justification and self-sanctification on the one hand, and on the other, the utterly gratuitous, prevenient action of God in justifying humanity through his Son. The answer to our problem, then, is both simple and difficult: We need substantive, biblical preaching that drives home our need for justification through Christ.

Read the whole article at Christianity Today.