Saturday, May 31, 2014

The kingdom

Our business, as Christians, is the establishment of the kingdom. It is a kingdom that takes its beginnings here in this real world, and aims at the fulfilling of this world, of bringing this world to its destiny. But it is not a kingdom that can be identified with the Roman Empire any more than it can be identified with a capitalist paradise or a Marxist utopia. The dimensions of this kingdom reach to domains that politics can never reach, to the realms of the "kingdom that is not of this world." It is that extra dimension that Christians are called on to participate in making a reality. Politics, as well as everything else that is human and earthy, has its place in the establishment of the kingdom. But the political reality is not the ultimate value, nor is it the sole instrument for the bringing of the kingdom.

To accept any system as gospel is to accept the limits of that system, to refuse to see further than that system or to see more clearly or to see sooner or to render judgement on it or to prophesy against it. It is merely to ratify the limits such a system places on the kingdom. It is to turn our faith into a religion. And it makes little difference whether it is a religion of the right or of the left. Every time we have taken the gospel in to the political game in this way, we have ended up betraying the gospel.

Vincent Donovan, in Rediscovering Christianity, pages 165/6

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Looking in the mirror

Paul's method was to provide evidence from Scripture. This is an effective strategy.  
It had been a long day for the assistant at the cosmetic counter. Having been on her feet all day, she was looking forward to going home. Just before the doors closed, a man came running up to her frantically and said, “Tomorrow’s my wife’s birthday and I don’t have anything for her. What do you recommend?” The shop assistant brought out a nice bottle of perfume worth about £100. He gasped and said, “That’s way too expensive!” So she held up a bottle that cost £50. He said, “That’s still too expensive. What do you have that’s less expensive?” She searched some more and found something for £25. The husband replied, “That’s still too expensive! What else do you have?” She then brought out the cheapest thing she had at the counter, a tiny £10 bottle of perfume. He was now exasperated and said, “You don’t understand. I want you to show me something really, really, cheap!” She quickly reached under the counter, pulled out a mirror, told him to look into it and said, “Try this!”
The Word of God is like a mirror - we can see ourselves in it. James wrote: Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James1v23to24.
When it comes to paying attention to the Bible we can be like the man who took his portrait photos back to the photographer and said, "I want my money back, these pictures don't do me justice." The photographer looked at the pictures and said, "You don't need justice, you need mercy."

From John Reed's commentary on Romans 3:9-20

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rejoicing in the gifts of God

It seems to me that if a little flower could speak, it would tell simply all what God has done for it without trying to hide its blessings. It would not say, under the pretext of a false humility, it is not beautiful or without perfume, that the sun has taken away its splendor and the storm has broken its stem when it know that all this is untrue. The flower about to tell her story rejoices at having to publish the totally gratuitous gifts of Jesus. She knows that nothing in herself was capable of attracting the divine glances, and His mercy alone brought about everything that is good in her.

Thérèse de Lisieux

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

God is transforming creation

God is transforming creation. If we slow down and stay put long enough, we too will be changed into the likeness of Christ. The scope of our vision will also be changed. Instead of speaking in broad generalities about changing the world, we will find ourselves free to imagine in more specific ways the transformation of our own particular places. We can trust that God is orchestrating the renewal of all creation and that God will raise up people in other places who will care for those places as much as we care for ours.

C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison

Friday, May 09, 2014

An invincible hope

Wikipedia tells of the heroic rescue by Ernest Shackleton in 1916. 
Elephant Island is most famous as the desolate refuge of Ernest Shackleton and his crew in 1916. Following the loss of their ship Endurance in Weddell Sea ice, the 28 exhausted men reached Elephant Island after a harrowing ordeal on drifting ice floes. They established a camp at a place they called Point Wild where they were able to regain some strength.
Realizing that there was no chance of rescue, Shackleton decided to sail to South Georgia where he knew there was a whaling station. In one of the most incredible feats in the history of sailing and navigation, Shackleton sailed with five other men on an 800-mile (1,287 km) voyage in the open lifeboat James Caird on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, arriving at South Georgia almost two weeks later. His second-in-command, Frank Wild, was left in charge of the men on Elephant Island, waiting for Shackleton's return with a rescue ship. In his memoir Wild recalled “We gave them three hearty cheers and watched the boat getting smaller and smaller in the distance. Then seeing some of the party in tears, I immediately set them all to work.”
Many of the crew were already ill and frostbitten, and they were now also in danger of starvation. After four and a half months, one of the men spotted a ship on August 30, 1916. The ship, led by Shackleton, was the borrowed tug Yelcho, from Punta Arenas,Chile, commanded by Luis Pardo, which rescued all the men who had set out on the original expedition. It was the fourth attempt to rescue the men. The first three attempts were turned back due to a heavy ice pack surrounding the island.
In his commentary on the book of Hebrews, chapter 4, J Reed uses this story as an example, noting: 
Christians have a saving and a creative work to do: to reach the lost with the gospel and to make provision for the people of God. Shackleton was motivated to move mountains for his marooned colleagues by three things at least:
    (a) Love for his men
    (b) A sense of duty. They were his men and he felt an obligation to them
    (c) An invincible hope. He never doubted but for a moment that he would bring off the rescue.
I love that line about 'an invincible hope.' 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Loving God's world

If God loves the world, might that not be proved in my own love for it? I prayed to know in my heart His love for the world, and this was my most prideful, foolish, and dangerous prayer. It was my step into the abyss. As soon as I prayed it, I knew that I would die. I knew the old wrong and the death that lay in the world. Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of His human creatures, not for Himself or for the world or for one another. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow. To love the world as much even as I could love it would be suffering also, for I would fail. And yet all the good I know is in this, that a man might so love this world that it would break his heart.

Jayber Crow
in Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow

Friday, May 02, 2014

Encouraging ignorance

What I want to fix your attention on is the vast overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination of every kind of human excellence - moral, cultural, social or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how "democracy" (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods? ... In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when "I'm as good as you" has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish.The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers - or should I say, nurses? - will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

"Screwtape Proposes a Toast" in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters

Thursday, May 01, 2014


For every one pupil who needs to be guarded against a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.

C.S. Lewis