Friday, September 18, 2009

A Praying Life - Following Jesus out of Cynicism

After having experienced an extremely painful trial over the past several months, one thing that the Holy Spirit has been revealing to me is that I sometimes walk dangerously close to the edge of spiritual cynicism. I often hear the voice of Job's wife whispering "curse God and die" in my ear when I think of how much suffering and pain is experienced in this life by God's children. The reality of how wicked the cultures are at most major corporations and how many Godly Christians have faced evil treatment at their jobs just because they don't fit into that culture is quite disheartening as well.

Most Providentially, Paul Miller has a chapter in his book entitled "Following Jesus Out of Cynicism." This chapter is chocked full of wise counsel and is grace-saturated through and through. Here are a couple of great excerpts that I found very true and encouraging:

"Cynicism looks reality in the face, calls it phony, and prides itself on its insight as it pulls back. (ouch!) Thanksgiving looks reality in the face and rejoices at God's care. It replaces a bitter spirit with a generous one.
In the face of Adam and Eve's evil, God takes up needle and thread and patiently sews fine leather clothing for them (Gen 3:21). He covers (their sin) their divided, hiding selves with love. The same God permits his Son to be stripped naked so we could be clothed. God is not cynical in the face of evil. He loves."


"Cynics imagine they are disinterested observers on a quest for authenticity. They assume they are humble because they offer nothing. In fact, they feel deeply superior because they think they see through everything.
C.S. Lewis pointed out that if you see through everything, you eventually see nothing... Lewis said that what was required was a restoration of the innocent eye, the eye that can see with wonder. That is the eye of a child."

Then Miller recounts the story of David and Golaith, pointing out that when David arrives at King Saul's camp, he has a childlike response to the shocking news that the taunts of the giant Philistine have pinned and paralyzed the Israelites. He blurts out, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26)
Goliath becomes enraged when the Israelites send David, a mere child, to confront him. In verse 43 he exclaims, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" to which David replies:

"The LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand."

At the end of the chapter, Miller concludes with an excellent application.
Here is my summary:
When the pure in heart begin with examining their own hearts -- confronting the beasts in the valley of the shadow of death -- they are able to see clearly later. Not seeing through everything like the cynic, but seeing clearly the abnormality of Goliath cursing the living God. The result is avoiding critical, negative cynicism and avoiding being captured by the spirit of the age and the culture around us. We will see the joy of the Lord, sing while we're in jail and calmly face seemingly overwhelming circumstances that are an affront to the LORD by trusting in His care.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Christian Warfare, book by John Downame

The Christian Warfare Against the Devil, World and Flesh
The sub-title:
wherein is first generally shewed the malice, power and politike stratagems of the spirituall ennemies of our saluation, Sathan and his assistants the world and the flesh, with the meanes also whereby the Christian may vvithstand and defeate them : and afterwards more speciallie their particvlar temptatiions, against the seuerall causes and meanes of our saluation, whereby on the one side they allure vs to security and presumption, and on the other side, draw vs to doubting and desperation, are expressed and answered : written especially for their sakes who are exercised in the spirituall conflict of temptations, and are afflicted in conscience in the sight and sense of their sinnes.

Now that's what I call a sub-title! Yeah buddy! Take your 140 word Tweeter limit and try to do that!

Anyway, this is definitely going on my wishlist ;)

UPDATE: I just tried searching Amazon for the book and only found one reference to the book in Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas by Kelly Monroe Kullberg
Here is the reference from this autobiography which I found extremely interesting:
"I began to spend time in the archives of Pusey Library and in the Houghton Library rare book collection. In the lobby of Houghton, visitors could view the only remaining book given to the college in 1636 by John Harvard himself. All the other books were consumed by the fire of 1764, but this one was "borrowed" by a student (before books were meant to be borrowed). The book's title was The Christian Warfare Against the Devil, World, and Flesh... And Means to Obtain Victory. Though the contents were inaccessible behind glass, I took the title as a mysterious inpiration."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Praying Life - Being a Mature Christian by Learning Helplessness

Excerpt from Paul Miller's A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, pages 56-57:

"Suprisingly, mature Christians feel less mature on the inside. When they hear Jesus say, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), they nod in agreement. They reflect on all the things they've done without Jesus, which have become nothing. Mature Christians are keenly aware that they can't raise their kids. It's a no-brainer. Even if they are perfect parents, they still can't get inside their kids' hearts. That's why strong Christians pray more.

John of Landsburg, a sixteenth-century monk, summarized this well in his class A Letter from Jesus Christ. He imagined Jesus speaking personally to us:

I know those moods when you sit there utterly alone, pining, eaten up with unhappiness, in a pure state of grief. You don't move towards me but desparately
imagine that everything you have ever done has been utterly lost and forgotten. This near-despair and self-pity are actually a form of pride. What you think was a state of absolute security from which you've fallen was really trusting too much in your own strength and ability... what really ails you is that things simply haven't happened as you expected and wanted.

In fact, I don't want you to rely on your own strength and abilities and plan, but to distrust them and to distrust yourself and to trust me and no one and nothing else. As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief. You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of me. You may hope and trust in me absolutely. My mercy is infinite."

Jesus isn't asking us to do anything he isn't already doing. He is inviting us into his life of helpless dependence on his heavenly Father. To become more like Jesus is to feel increasingly wary of your heart. Paradoxically, you get holier while you are feeling less holy. The very thing you were trying to escape -- your inability -- opens the door to prayer and then grace."


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Praying Life - Paul Miller

I've been pretty absent from the blogging scene for such a long time that I doubt I'll even have readers going forward. Nonetheless, given my present circumstances -- having endured painful betrayal by a Christian boss in the workplace that resulted in the loss of my job and transitioning to a new church over the past five months -- God has graciously provided a number of amazing gems that I am zealous to capture and share here.

The first "gem" that I plan to share in a series of posts relates to Paul Miller's wonderful book "A Praying Life." I've had the book for some time, but being unemployed has provided a great opportunity for doing some of the things that I have been putting off for too long, including reading this book. More on some of those other activities later.

Yesterday, I was returning home with my dad and step-mom from a family reunion in northeastern Pennsylvania. My father was listening to the 70's band Abba up front, and as each song began, he exclaimed, "Oh! This is a great song!" and proceeded to turn the volume higher. After about 8 or so songs, I could bearly hear myself think, even though I was trying to read "A Praying Life" in the back seat. I momentarily paused and prayed to God, "Lord, please give me patience and the ability to bear up under this music." Then I turned to the page to the next chapter which was titled, "Crying out to 'Abba.'" I read the first two or three paragraphs that talked about how "Abba" is such a powerful term for seeing God like little children as our daddy and how "Abba" is typically never translated from the Aramaic into Greek, English or other languages because of its uniqueness, etc.. Just then, my Dad turned down the music and asked me, "So, what are you reading back there anyway?" I had the opportunity to share with him that I was a reading a chapter about God, our Father, called "Abba" or "daddy" and explained the whole thing to him. I said to him, "Isn't that amazing?" He had no idea where the word Abba even came from andhad only ever heard of it to describe one of his favorite bands. He just thought that they made it up for themselves. God is so good. Isn't He amazing?

Well, I plan to do a series of short nuggets or "take-aways" from each of the chapters, mainly for my edification, but also, just in case anyone else stumbles onto this blog, maybe they'll also be encouraged.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Heresies of Love - TableTalk, Sept 2009

Link to Heresies of Love by Gene Edward Veith>>>
An extremely insightful look at various perversions of love. Here is an excerpt:

The Unitarian heresy applied to church would be the demand for unity that squelches all personal differences. This would include the forced conformity of cults and the coerced obedience insisted upon by megalomaniacal preachers. It also includes the social homogenization favored by many church growth experts, which results in congregations consisting only of people of the same age or demographic profile: young people, white suburbanites, or postmodernists.

The polytheistic heresy applied to church would be the “me and God” mindset that sees the individual, personal relationship to God as all that is necessary, with little need for gathering together with other Christians into a corporate body. It also includes congregations with no unifying teaching or confession, allowing all members to believe whatever they want.

Love is a unity of distinct persons.

When the Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4), it proves the doctrine of the Trinity. You'll want to click here to read the whole piece>>>