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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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The Gifts Parents Give Their Children That Break Our Hearts (via Sammy Rhodes)

Sammy Rhodes’ book This Is Awkward evokes a lot of familiar emotions as he writes about his own experiences with his father, and the impact those experiences have on his life and relationships with his own children.
Our first gifts to our children are the characteristics they’ve either inherited or learned from us.
And sometimes when we see in them what has come from us it breaks our hearts.
The beginning of our consolation and hope for change is based in a better Father whose love never scars.

A few years ago we were at a wedding in Augusta, Georgia. My daughter was six at the time, old enough to figure out that she loved to dance. As we walked through the doors of the reception, she made a beeline to the dance floor and was by far the first one out there. It’s funny how different your children can be from you. My happy place at a wedding is in the corner with a plate full of food and a beverage in my hand. Hers is the dance floor.
As she was dancing, a few older girls showed up, and they really knew how to dance. And as they started breaking it down, I watched my daughter crumple on the dance floor, eyes burning like lasers through these girls. I could tell she was angry, jealous, and insecure. Later as we climbed into the minivan (I could write a whole other chapter on the shame of owning a minivan) to head home, she was still upset. I asked her what was wrong, doing that thing parents do when they try not to laugh and cry at the same time.
Through gritted teeth, she said, “Those girls. I hate those girls. They’re better dancers than me.” And my heart broke. Not because those girls could dance, but because I saw the same perfectionism I’ve lived with for almost thirty-five years worming its way into the heart of my six- year-old daughter. That perfectionism robs all joy because it fixates you so desperately on your own performance, with the promise that if you can just be perfect everything will be okay. What perfectionism doesn’t tell you is that nothing will ever be perfect, you most of all.
Anne Lamott wrote, “Perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward, Thomas Nelson, 2016, pgs 28-29.


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The First Awkward Moment Ever (via Sammy Rhodes)

The experience of awkwardness and shame is not to be minimised, denied, ignored or, worst of all, hidden. Owning shame is the precursor to experiencing grace.
From Sammy Rhodes:

If you look behind your awkward moments, you will almost always find shame. Shame is exactly what Adam and Eve experienced in the Bible in Genesis 3. After failing in a pretty spectacu— lar way, they were incredibly afraid to meet God, so they covered themselves with fig leaves and hid. It was the first awkward moment in the history of the universe; it was the first walk of shame, too, and it happened to be away from God. It’s hard to know exactly what Adam and Eve were thinking after they realized their sin. They seem to do a good bit of minimizing, blaming, and covering. Instead of going to God in their newly realized nakedness, they tried to handle it themselves. Why? Shame.
Shame, simply put, is the subjective experience of objective guilt. It’s that moment where we know and feel that we’ve done something wrong. It’s always easier to live in shame than in vulnerability, to try to hide and cover ourselves instead of going to God (and others) with our brokenness. Adam and Eve covered their nakedness and hid from God, rather than being vulnerable with him about what really happened. Shame is like the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter, except the reason you don’t want people to see you is that you’re afraid if they really did they would run.

Sammy Rhodes, This Is Awkward, Thomas Nelson, 2016, pgs 5-6.


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Unqualified Grace Is The Only Grace (via Michael Horton and Tolle Lege)

If you’re gathering in Christian worship tomorrow may you do so hearing and experiencing the pure grace of the Gospel.
Anything less is no grace at all.

The blog Tolle Lege quotes Michael Horton:

“The slightest nomism vitiates the gospel. For Paul, grace does not exist on a spectrum. Unlike a dimmer switch, it is binary: ‘grace would no longer be grace’ if works played any role as the ground or instrument of justification (Rom. 11:6).”

–Michael Horton, Justification, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2: 124.

source


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Giving Up Boundaries With Jesus The Boundary Crosser (via Sarah Condon)

It’s a constant challenge to live in the truth that people are our ministry, not an impediment to our ministry objectives. It seems modern ministry strategies judge people not on the degree they cling to Jesus, but on the degree they usefully support the local church’s program objectives.
From Sarah Condon at Mockingbird.

And nothing made the Pharisees angrier than Great Aunt Boundary-less Jesus. Because he took their boundary ridden law and raised it to completion in himself. He both ignored the boundaries and finished them. The failure to adhere to boundaries was no longer useful, because Jesus had come to be the Boundary. And mercifully, he had decided to let everyone through, no matter what.
By and large, I believe boundaries to be utterly useless, at least when it comes to the Gospel. I am not an idiot. I understand that there are people we need boundaries with. Abusive family members, angry people on the internet, and (maybe) even addicts. Boundaries in and of themselves are not bad. But as is her usual tendency, the Church takes a self-help concept and makes a gnostic gospel out of it.
The worst use of boundaries comes from the mouths of the pastors and priests of the church. All too often a “boundary” is insisted upon when the people in the pews are struggling with loneliness or mental illness or are simply annoying. But we label them as difficult and relegate them to the gnashing of teeth beyond our magically “self-actualized” boundary.
And woe be it unto the parishioner who has been labeled evil or even demonic for the sake of creating a hedge grove of shunning. But the hard truth is that people are not automatically evil if they get in the way of ministry. They are just people being very people-y. We would do well to remember that Jesus might have been able to cast out demons, but he had dinner with “difficult people” on the regular. And he loved them. Just as they were.
Of course, I am not certain that this insistence upon boundaries in the church is sheerly the fault of ordained people. I heard the word “boundary” used in seminary at least as much as I heard the name of Jesus invoked. Also worth nothing, you would be hard pressed to find many seminary professors who have run churches for any length of time. They do not know (or perhaps remember) that these are real people we are categorizing. They are not solely their sins. They are not their only their obnoxious tendencies. They are people marked beloved by God whether we like it or not.
In numerous parts of my life, I am unsure of What Jesus Would Do. But I do know what he has done. He was the great Boundary Crosser, the finisher of all of the boundaries we place around one another, and the Rescuer who crosses all of the practical and personal boundaries to get that one difficult sheep back into the fold.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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The Legalist’s Spirit (via Sam Storms)

Legalism among Christian disciples is the product of misplaced or misundertood trust that diminishes grace.
From Sam Storms:

Legalists feel good when they can identify another person’s errors. It reinforces their feelings of superiority. They actually think themselves more spiritual, more godly, and more favored and loved by God.
There’s a flip side to the legalistic spirit. In addition to being quick and dogmatic in identifying the small and rare failures of others, the legalist never acknowledges his own faults and failures. To admit and confess to sin or misjudgment is to run the risk of losing power, losing face, or losing prestige.
What drives this spirit? It is the belief that one’s own efforts and achievements merit acceptance with God and approval from men. Instead of resting in Christ’s achievements, confident of what he has done for us, legalists redouble their own works and take pride in what they do in view of what others don’t.
Look again at Mark 2:24: “And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” Or again, Mark 3:2: “they watched him closely” (niv). That’s the legalists’ spirit: always on the lookout for someone else’s sin; always scanning the horizon for someone’s failure to measure up to their rules, rules that aren’t in the Bible; always spying on the behavior and beliefs of the other person to root out the slightest deviation from their traditions. They nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge, nitpick and judge!

Read the whole post at the Crossway Blog.


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The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This” (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stop whatever you’re doing and read Stephen McAlpine’s post The Day Jesus Said “I’ve Got This”.
No excerpts, no quotes, the whole thing is a highlight.
Really.
Read it.