I updated my Reading page today with the books that are currently occupying my time. Take a look. I’d love to hear what books are challenging and encouraging your walk of faith.
The Church is a burden that weighs heavily on my heart with both hopeful expectancy and frustrated irritation. I know you’ve been reading the blogs and papers; you’re aware of how much our humanness gets in the way of our living as the people God intends us to be. You’ve heard about the big and little fallings of notable of leaders and of compromise in the ranks. It’s saddening. Sometimes it’s downright pound-your-fist-on-the table maddening. Often it is personally convicting–my house is made of thin glass.
I’ve been reading Called: The Crisis and Promises of Following Jesus Today, by Mark Labberton. It is both soul salve and a swift kick in the Levis.
Here is a quote from my reading today:
Sometimes the church is just odd: habits, speech, attitudes, potlucks, whatever. Every church is something particular, and you smell it the moment you’re on the premises. The point isn’t whether a church is odd, but whether it’s odd because it imitates Jesus Christ. Does the church live that vocation? Surely this plain and unadorned questions is the one that people inside, and certainly outside, the church want to have answered. If the response is anything but yes, we have to ask ourselves what we’re doing and why.
Few outside the church measure it by a standard of perfection. What they seek is far, far more achievable: authentic people whose proclamation of their trust in Jesus is backed up by their ordinary but self-giving acts of grace, justice and compassion.”
What are we doing and why? I’m stewing on this answer. I hope you will too.
“And He [the Delight of God] bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side, and Jesus is the midst” (John 19:17-18). The Delight of God–crucified. He who was as the Jewel set in the heart of that pure glory, where the God of Heaven and earth prepared the sunrise for the earth; He to be hanged in shame between two thieves, that our eyes might see His salvation, which He had prepared before the face of all people; a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of His people Israel; that we, who sat in darkness, might see a great light; that to us who sat in the region and shadow of death, light might spring up–words fail, thoughts fail, before such love. “O come, let us worship and fall: and kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). ~Amy Carmichael, Though Givest…They Gather
His light is still shining. Do you sit in darkness, not sure which way to go? Do words fail? Thoughts too? Then set your eyes to the horizon of his coming. Wait for him. Let your waiting be as worship, for he is faithful and his light will spring up.
There are times when I read something that makes my soul inhale grace deeply and exhale big, big hope. Today it was this:
In terms of church life and work, gender differences are not dissolved but gender as a determinant of roles fades from view in light of the massive goals of aggressive world evangelization and discipling of new believers, doing the healing and delivering and justice-making works of Christ, and practicing the gifts of the Spirit to edify the church, until Christ returns. The criterion for who may pursue these precious kingdom goals is simply the whole body of Christ, with specialization directed by spiritual giftedness. At Pentecost, the Spirit fell upon men and women, as the Old Testament had promised (Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-29). The last thing one wants to do at Pentecost or in the perspective created by the experience of Pentecost is to stifle gifts that might bring advances in the reign of God; too much is at stake. If the goal of the Christ-follower is to seek God’s kingdom, the primary issue is not specifying gender roles but maximizing mission, effectiveness and impact. Again, it must be emphasized that this perspective predates the feminist movement and is grounded not on late-twentieth-century secular egalitarianism but in a gospel and kingdom focus.
Leadership and authority in family life and in the church are to be offered in humility, in mutual submission and in the context of the narrative of how Christ exercised authority. As the glorious Christ-hymn of Philippians 2 put it, in the incarnation and on the cross Jesus was self-emptying, humble, devoted to the needs of others and ultimately obedient to the authority of God the Father (Phil 2:5-11). This connects with Jesus’ virtues of humility, yieldedness to God and justice that we saw in the Beatitudes. All Christians are to imitate this pattern.
Mutual servanthood places limits on the exercise of authority by any Christian in any setting. The model of Christ shapes the perspective within which all authority is employed. Any member of the Christian community can hold any other member, including leaders (or husband or wife), accountable to conformity with Christ’s example. The kingdom or gospel-advancing purpose of the church and the Christian marriage is the goal to which all are committed and thus sets a standard for the exercise of authority. Any use of authority which might stifle spiritual gifts that could advance the kingdom is inappropriate. Meanwhile, with this great freedom to use kingdom gifts comes the responsibility to use such gifts only for the purpose for which they were given. So no merely autonomous or permissive understanding of freedom is envisioned here. Mutual servanthood employs yet constrains freedom, unleashing gifts for responsible use, directs authority, orders Christian community and participates in the kingdom. In love, mutual servanthood creates checks and balances on the exercise both of freedom and of power that preserve and advance justice. This is the best model for all relationships in the body of Christ, including those between men and women, and husbands and wives.
~Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, 2003
Breathe that fresh air in. Exhale hope.
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“Sharper than any earthly two-edged sword, the speech of God knifes through the curtain between heaven and earth…The sword is so sharp that it can separate even the ‘soul from the spirit,’ dividing between what really matters and what seems to matter. No one can hide from this speech act of God; the word God unveils every human life, laid bare before the eyes of God. The word of God takes an ordinary day and makes it ‘today,’ takes an ordinary moment and makes it the time of crisis and decision, takes an ordinary event and makes it the theater of the glory of God, takes a routine life and calls it to holiness.” ~Fred B. Craddock, Hebrews
Who will you listen to today? Will you continue to be confused about what really matters or will you listen to His voice? Will you live in the ordinary routine of just another day or in the today’s theater of His glory?
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