Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family

“Microcosms fascinate because they tell big stories on an accessible scale. They are worlds you can hold in your hand. ...Family is the world, your very own living microcosm of humanity, with its heroes and victims and martyrs and failures, beauties and gamblers, hawks and lovers, cowards and fakes, dreamers and steam-rollers, and the people who quietly get the job done. Every behavior in the world is there to watch at the dinner table. You study them. You learn. You see how they change and how they stay the same. But if you think you really know them, you're missing the point. The point isn't how well you know somebody. The point is this: In a family you don't come from nowhere. You enter the world already part of something. The myths and behaviors are all there to model yourself on or against. You are who you came from. There is no escape, but there is transmutation. Family is how you become who you will be. It's through family you learn there are no limits on ideas. Nothing is strange ... if you believe in what you do, who cares what anybody else thinks? ...You were born with the chance to love them. You might as well. They're yours.”
~Patricia Volk

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

His Purpose

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me;
Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of Your hands.

~Psalm 138:8

Monday, June 28, 2010

Invocation & Call to Worship

The church I worshipped at yesterday used the following:

Invocation
We are grateful to You, our Lord God. We are grateful for life, for health, for peace and safety, for all You provide. And beyond that, we are grateful for Your grace. Show us the way of Your salvation, and let us walk in the steps of Jesus. Amen.

The Call to Worship
We are here to touch the hem of grace; to let go of the hidden worry, the crippling wound. To feel a surge of forgiveness, a rush of joy; to touch hope and linger in mystery. To hear our name whispered and life affirmed, to sing praises and dwell in peace.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Let Us Love And Sing And Wonder

Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior’s Name!
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.
He has washed us with His blood,
He has brought us nigh to God.

Let us love the Lord Who bought us,
Pitied us when enemies,
Called us by His grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears and gave us eyes:
He has washed us with His blood,
He presents our souls to God.

Let us sing, though fierce temptation
Threaten hard to bear us down!
For the Lord, our strong Salvation,
Holds in view the conqueror’s crown:
He Who washed us with His blood
Soon will bring us home to God.

Let us wonder; grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store;
When through grace in Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles and asks no more:
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God.

Let us praise, and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high;
Here they trusted Him before us,
Now their praises fill the sky:
“Thou hast washed us with Your blood;
Thou art worthy, Lamb of God!”

Hark! the Name of Jesus, sounded
Loud, from golden harps above!
Lord, we blush, and are confounded,
Faint our praises, cold our love!
Wash our souls and songs with blood,
For by Thee we come to God.

~Words: John Newton & Music: Darmstadt Gesangbuch

Thursday, June 24, 2010

He Blesses & Strengthens

“It is true, religion has an austere appearance to those who never have tried it; its doctrines full of mystery, its precepts of harshness; so that it is uninviting, offending different men in different ways, but in some way offending all. When then we feel within us the risings of this opposition to Christ, proud aversion to His Gospel, or a low-minded longing after this world, let us pray God to draw us; and though we cannot move a step without Him, at least let us try to move. He looks into our hearts and sees our strivings even before we strive, and He blesses and strengthens even our feebleness. Let us get rid of curious and presumptuous thoughts by going about our business, whatever it is; and let us mock and baffle the doubts which Satan whispers to us by acting against them. No matter whether we believe doubtingly or not, or know clearly or not, so that we act upon our belief. The rest will follow in time; part in this world, part in the next. Doubts may pain, but they cannot harm, unless we give way to them; and that we ought not to give way, our conscience tells us, so that our course is plain. And the more we are in earnest to ‘work out our salvation,’ the less shall we care to know how those things really are, which perplex us. At length, when our hearts are in our work, we shall be indisposed to take the trouble of listening to curious truths (if they are but curious), though we might have them explained to us. For what says the Holy Scripture? That of speculations ‘there is no end,’ and they are ‘a weariness to the flesh;’ but that we must ‘fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.’ [Eccles. xii. 12, 13.]”
~John Henry Newman

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Promised Land

"In the beginning I thought this country was clean and unspoiled, a place of promise fulfilled. Yet time has proved it a variation of desert, its beauty spectacular, but a desert nonetheless. Beyond each horizon emerges a new emptiness begging to be filled with our tears. Beyond it, promises the wind, lies the true and lasting land where life exults. If the wind from the promised land is at times cruel, it is to remind me that my journey is not yet complete."
~Michael O’Brien

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Psalm 40

I waited, I waited for the Lord
and He stooped down to me;
He heard my cry.

He drew me from the deadly pit,
from the miry clay.
He set my feet upon a rock
and made my footsteps firm.

He put a new song into my mouth,
praise of our God.
Many shall see and fear
and shall trust in the Lord.

Happy the man who has placed
his trust in the Lord
And has not gone over to the rebels
who follows false gods.

How many, O Lord my God,
are the wonders and designs
That You have worked for us;
You have no equal.
Should I proclaim and speak of them,
they are more than I can tell!

You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
but an open ear.
You do not ask for burnt offering and sin offering.
Instead, here am I.

In the scroll of the book it stands written
that I should do Your will.
My God, I delight in Your law
in the depth of my heart.

Your justice I have proclaimed
in the great assembly.
My lips I have not sealed;
you know it, O Lord.

I have not hidden Your justice in my heart
but declared Your faithful help.
I have not hidden Your love and Your truth
from the great assembly.

O Lord, You will not withhold
Your compassion from me.
Your merciful love and Your truth
will always guard me.

For I am beset with evils
too many to be counted.
My sins have fallen upon me
and my sight fails me.
They are more than the hairs of my head
and my heart sinks.

O Lord, come to my rescue,
Lord, come to my aid.
O let there be shame and confusion
on those who seek my life.

O let them turn back in confusion,
who delight in my harm.
Let them be appalled, covered with shame,
who jeer at my lot.

O let there be rejoicing and gladness
for all who seek You.
Let them ever say: "The Lord is great,"
who love Your saving help.

But I am poor and needy,
yet the Lord thinks of me.
You are my rescuer, my help,
O God, do not delay.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Word Is Very Near

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”
~Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Road Ahead

This is a good prayer for fathers on Father’s Day. It works for others as well…

“MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Amen.
~Thomas Merton

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Live in Love

“Life is not a blame game. We are only fooling ourselves if we think that by pointing accusing fingers at others we can make the world a better place. Our words should be few and our actions great. Only in loving others can we hope to bring about the Kingdom of God in our time. To live in love is to give without limit and without expecting repayment. To live in love is to banish every fear, every doubt, and every sin. To live in love is to overcome evil with good and to see all things with the eyes of God. To live in love is to be a part of the solution and not of the problem. To live in love is to hear God communicating to us through our profoundest concerns and interests. To live in love is to see God's fingerprint on our skills and circumstances, recognizing our gifts and talents as clues to discovering God's plan for us.

The Quaker minister Parker Palmer wrote, ‘Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.’ To live in love is to allow others to experience the presence of God through our actions. May we be faithful to our calling until that day when the Lord returns to take us into everlasting life.”
~Jerome Machar

Friday, June 18, 2010

Peace

“Did you ever look at an expanse of water, and observe the ripples on the surface? Do you think that disturbance penetrates below it? Nay; you have seen or heard of fearful tempests on the sea; scenes of horror and distress, which are in no respect a fit type of an Apostle's tears or sighings about his flock. Yet even these violent commotions do not reach into the depths. The foundations of the ocean, the vast realms of water which girdle the earth, are as tranquil and as silent in the storm as in a calm. So is it with the souls of holy men. They have a well of peace springing up within them unfathomable; and though the accidents of the hour may make them seem agitated, yet in their hearts they are not so. Even Angels joy over sinners repentant, and, as we may therefore suppose, grieve over sinners impenitent,—yet who shall say that they have not perfect peace? Even Almighty God Himself deigns to speak of His being grieved, and angry, and rejoicing,—yet is He not the unchangeable? And in like manner, to compare human things with divine, St. Paul had perfect peace, as being stayed in soul on God, though the trials of life might vex him.

For, as I have said, the Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not,—like some well in a retired and shady place, difficult of access. He is the greater part of his time by himself, and when he is in solitude, that is his real state. What he is when left to himself and to his God, that is his true life. He can bear himself; he can (as it were) joy in himself, for it is the grace of God within him, it is the presence of the Eternal Comforter, in which he joys. He can bear, he finds it pleasant, to be with himself at all times,—‘never less alone than when alone.’ He can lay his head on his pillow at night, and own in God's sight, with overflowing heart, that he wants nothing,—that he ‘is full and abounds,’—that God has been all things to him, and that nothing is not his which God could give him. More thankfulness, more holiness, more of heaven he needs indeed, but the thought that he can have more is not a thought of trouble, but of joy. It does not interfere with his peace to know that he may grow nearer God. Such is the Christian's peace, when, with a single heart and the Cross in his eye, he addresses and commends himself to Him with whom the night is as clear as the day. St. Paul says that ‘the peace of God shall keep our hearts and minds.’ By ‘keep’ is meant ‘guard,’ or ‘garrison,’ our hearts; so as to keep out enemies. And he says, our ‘hearts and minds’ in contrast to what the world sees of us. Many hard things may be said of the Christian, and done against him, but he has a secret preservative or charm, and minds them not.

…The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretence, no affectation, no ambition, no singularity; because he has neither hope nor fear about this world. He is serious, sober, discreet, grave, moderate, mild, with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man.

…May it be our blessedness, as years go on, to add one grace to another, and advance upward, step by step, neither neglecting the lower after attaining the higher, nor aiming at the higher before attaining the lower. The first grace is faith, the last is love; first comes zeal, afterwards comes loving-kindness; first comes humiliation, then comes peace; first comes diligence, then comes resignation. May we learn to mature all graces in us;—fearing and trembling, watching and repenting, because Christ is coming; joyful, thankful, and careless of the future, because He is come.”
~John Henry Newman

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Equanimity

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.”
~Philippians 4:4

“In other parts of scripture the prospect of Christ's coming is made a reason for solemn fear and awe, and a call for watching and prayer, but in the verses connected with the text [Phil. 4:4] a distinct view of the Christian character is set before us, and distinct duties urged on us. ‘The Lord is at hand,’ and what then?—why, if so, we must ‘rejoice in the Lord;’ we must be conspicuous for ‘moderation;’ we must be ‘careful for nothing;’ we must seek from God's bounty, and not from man, whatever we need; we must abound in ‘thanksgiving;’ and we must cherish, or rather we must pray for, and we shall receive from above, ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding,’ to ‘keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’

…Nothing perhaps is more remarkable than that an Apostle,—a man of toil and blood, a man combating with powers unseen, and a spectacle for men and Angels, and much more that St. Paul, a man whose natural temper was so zealous, so severe, and so vehement,—I say, nothing is more striking and significant than that St. Paul should have given us this view of what a Christian should be. It would be nothing wonderful, it is nothing wonderful, that writers in a day like this should speak of peace, quiet, sobriety, and cheerfulness, as being the tone of mind that becomes a Christian; but considering that St. Paul was by birth a Jew, and by education a Pharisee, that he wrote at a time when, if at any time, Christians were in lively and incessant agitation of mind; when persecution and rumours of persecution abounded; when all things seemed in commotion around them; when there was nothing fixed; when there were no churches to soothe them, no course of worship to sober them, no homes to refresh them; and, again, considering that the Gospel is full of high and noble, and what may be called even romantic, principles and motives, and deep mysteries;—and, further, considering the very topic which the Apostle combines with his admonitions is that awful subject, the coming of Christ;—it is well worthy of notice, that, in such a time, under such a covenant, and with such a prospect, he should draw a picture of the Christian character as free from excitement and effort, as full of repose, as still and as equable, as if the great Apostle wrote in some monastery of the desert or some country parsonage. Here surely is the finger of God; here is the evidence of supernatural influences, making the mind of man independent of circumstances! This is the thought that first suggests itself; and the second is this, how deep and refined is the true Christian spirit!—how difficult to enter into, how vast to embrace, how impossible to exhaust! Who would expect such composure and equanimity from the fervent Apostle of the Gentiles? We know St. Paul could do great things; could suffer and achieve, could preach and confess, could be high and could be low: but we might have thought that all this was the limit…

…And yet he who ‘laboured more abundantly than all’ his brethren, is also a pattern of simplicity, meekness, cheerfulness, thankfulness, and serenity of mind. These tempers were especially characteristic of St. Paul, and are much insisted on in his Epistles.”
~John Henry Newman

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Steel

“To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do—to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst—is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed.”
~Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A New Self

“When our hearts turn to Him, that is opening the door to Him…then He comes in, not by our thought only, not in our idea only, but He comes Himself, and of His own will. Thus the Lord, the Spirit, becomes the soul of our souls… Then indeed we are; then indeed we have life; the life of Jesus has…become life in us…we are one with God forever and ever.”
~George MacDonald

“Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.”
~C. S. Lewis

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
~Ezekiel 36:26-27

Monday, June 14, 2010

Adore and Obey

“I was not born to be free. I was born to adore and to obey.”
~C. S. Lewis

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

~Excerpt from: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Words: Charles Wesley
Music: Beecher, John Zundel

Behold the servant of the Lord!
I wait Thy guiding eye to feel,
To hear and keep Thy every word,
To prove and do Thy perfect will,
Joyful from my own works to cease,
Glad to fulfill all righteousness.

~Excerpt from: Behold the Servant of the Lord
Words: Charles Wesley
Music: Thomas Campbell

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Great Shepherd

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”
~Luke 15:4-6

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
~Psalm 23:4-5

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pride

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people except Christians ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
~C. S. Lewis

“In order to overcome their pride, God punishes certain men by allowing them to fall into sins of the flesh, which though they be less grievous are more evidently shameful…From this indeed the gravity of pride is made manifest. For just as a wise physician, in order to cure a worse disease, allows the patient to contract one that is less dangerous, so the sin of pride is shown to be more grievous by the very fact that, as a remedy, God allows men to fall into other sins.”
~St. Thomas Aquinas

“Have you ever wondered why God does not give you more grace, as He certainly could, to avoid your many sins? Well, now you know. And you also know how to receive that grace: through eradicating the thing that blocks it, your pride. That is why Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, when asked what the four cardinal virtues were, replied: ‘Humility, humility, humility, and humility.’ If you think you have gotten beyond this single-minded beginning, you are proud; in other words, you have not gotten beyond it.

If you think you are not in serious danger from your sin of pride, then you certainly are. If you are even a little proud of your humility, you are terribly proud indeed.

…there are only two kinds of people: fools, who think they are wise, and the wise, who know they are fools.

…‘God alone is wise’ …The only way to become humble is to admit you are proud.”
~Peter Kreeft

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Difficult Circumstances

“The difficult circumstances of our lives are not just things to put up with. We are deluded if we think that peace and contentment will come if we can just figure out how to ‘improve’ our circumstances once and for all. God deploys the problematic circumstances of our life to awaken us, challenge us, educate us. For the way that we deal with our circumstances reveals to us and to the world just who Jesus Christ is for us. We think that, when something goes wrong in our life, our predicament is outside the all-embracing purpose and meaning of life. But God intends such circumstances to move us to discover this meaning.”
~Peter Cameron

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Divine Love & Mystery

"If you love... you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day."
~Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Here & Now

“Wherever I am, at home, in a hotel, in a train, plane or airport, I would not feel irritated, restless, and desirous of being somewhere else or doing something else. I would know that here and now is what counts and is important because it is God Himself who wants me at this time in this place.”
~Henri Nouwen

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A New Creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
~2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Battle

“Let’s say it’s June 6, 1944, about 0710. You are a soldier in the third wave onto Omaha Beach. Thousands of men have gone before you and now it is your turn. As you jump out of the Higgins boat and wade to the beach, you see the bodies of fallen soldiers everywhere—floating in the water, tossing in the surf, lying on the beach. Moving up the sand you encounter hundreds of wounded men. Some are limping toward the bluffs with you, looking for shelter. Others are barely crawling. Snipers on the cliffs above continue to take them out. Everywhere you look, there are pain and brokenness. The damage is almost overwhelming. When you reach the cliffs, the only point of safety, you find squads of men with no leader. They are shell-shocked, stunned and frightened. Many have lost their weapons; most of them refuse to move. They are paralyzed with fear. Taking all this in, what would you conclude? What would be your assessment of the situation? Whatever else went through your mind, you’d have to admit, This is one brutal war, and no one would have disagreed or thought you odd for having said so.

But we do not think so clearly about life and I’m not sure why. Have a look around you—what do you observe? What do you see in the lives of the men that you work with, go to church alongside? Are they full of passionate freedom? Do they fight well? Are their women deeply grateful for how well their men have loved them? Are their children radiant with affirmation? The idea is almost laughable, if it weren’t so tragic. Men have been taken out right and left. Scattered across the neighborhood lie the shattered lives of men (and women) who have died at a soul-level from the wounds they’ve taken. You’ve heard the expression, ‘he’s a shell of a man?’ They have lost heart. Many more are alive, but badly wounded. They are trying to crawl forward, but are having an awful time getting their lives together, they seem to keep taking hits. You know others who are already captives, languishing in prisons of despair, addiction, idleness, or boredom. The place looks like a battlefield, the Omaha Beach of the soul.

…I am speaking honestly about the nature of what is unfolding around us…against us. And until we call the situation what it is, we will not know what to do about it. In fact, this is where many people feel abandoned or betrayed by God. They thought that becoming a Christian would somehow end their troubles, or at least reduce them considerably. No one ever told them they were being moved to the front lines, and they seem genuinely shocked at the fact that they’ve been shot at.

…On and on it goes. The wound is too well aimed and far too consistent to be accidental. It was an attempt to take you out; to cripple or destroy your strength and get you out of the action. The wounds we’ve taken were leveled against us with stunning accuracy. Hopefully, you’re getting the picture. Do you know why there’s been such an assault? The Enemy fears you. You are dangerous big-time. If you ever really got your heart back, lived from it with courage, you would be a huge problem to him. You would do a lot of damage…on the side of good. Remember how valiant and effective God has been in the history of the world? You are a stem of that victorious stalk.

…I am here to tell you that you can get your heart back. But I need to warn you—if you want your heart back, if you want the wound healed and your strength resorted and to find your true name, you’re going to have to fight for it. Notice your reaction to my words. Does not something in you stir a little, a yearning to live? And doesn’t another voice rush in, urging caution, maybe wanting to dismiss me altogether? He’s being melodramatic. What arrogance. Or, maybe some guys could, but not me. Or, I don’t know…is this really worth it? That’s part of the battle, right there. See? I’m not making this up.”
~From Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Divine Work of Art

"Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life--the work which he loves, though in a fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child--he will take endless trouble--and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed us for a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less."
~C. S. Lewis

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beatitude (Part 4)

“The apparent kindness of the preachers who water down Jesus’ hard sayings is really arrogance. They are like mail carriers who arrogate to themselves the role of editors of the mail that is entrusted to them to deliver intact. Some preachers act as if Jesus had said, ‘Blessed are you when all men speak well of you.’ But the real Jesus said, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets’ (Luke 6:26). If we never offend anyone, we are not giving them Jesus.

Jesus must offend us, for He tells us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear, and sin has inserted a great gap between our needs and our wants. Jesus must surprise us, for He comes from Heaven; how could Heaven not surprise earth? Earth’s ethical teachers give us what comes from the human heart—fairly familiar territory. The Man from Heaven tells us what ‘eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man’ (1 Cor. 2:9). Most of our ethical teachers give us either old platitudes or new nonsense, safe old truths or dangerous new lies. Confucius is a good example of the former, Nietzsche of the latter. The first type is reliable but dull, the other fascinating but deranged. Jesus is wholly different. He gives us neither old orthodoxies nor new heresies, but the very mind of God, fresh water springing straight from the glacier of God’s heavenly mountain, refreshing the soul and welling up with eternal life. This is the reason that His words are literally inexhaustible. They are so simple that a child can understand them, yet so profound that no sage can exhaust them. They are like a face that way. They are a face: God’s face, God’s will, God’s personality.”
~Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beatitude (Part 3)

“Each of the Beatitudes is an outrageous paradox. Those whom worldly wisdom regards as the least blessed turn out to be the most blessed, and vice versa. Apparent losers are real winners, apparent winners are real losers. There is a staggering contrast between appearance and reality. No one can read these Beatitudes without his spirit staggering, unless it is already flat on its back asleep. Preachers and teachers are tempted to mitigate the scandal and prop up the staggering spirit for the sake of good feelings and acceptability—something Jesus never did. In fact, He seems to have done the opposite, making His teaching as uncompromising as possible to separate clearly the sheep from the goats.

Many preachers try to make Christianity in general and the Beatitudes in particular acceptable—that key word of modern ethics. Behavior must be ‘acceptable’ or ‘appropriate’ rather than ‘good’ or ‘right’ or (heaven help us!) ‘virtuous’ or (most unthinkable of all) ‘holy’. For if we are acceptable, the world will accept us. And isn’t that the Church’s business, to win the world, to get her message accepted?

No, it is not.

Jesus commanded us not to succeed, but to obey; not to sell the gospel, but to proclaim it. Jesus was not found ‘acceptable’; He was nailed to a cross. And He told His disciples to expect the same kind of reaction, for human nature will not change and the proclamation of the gospel should not change. It is not our job to convert the world or to fill churches; that is God’s job. Ours is to sow the seed, without sugar-coating it; God’s is to make it take root and grow.”
~Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Beatitude (Part 2)

Suffering is the crucial test separating happiness from blessedness. Suffering can be part of blessedness, but not part of happiness. Job is not happy there on his dung heap scratching his boils with a potsherd, deprived of family and fortune, blamed by wife and friends, seemingly forsaken by God. What arrogant nonsense to tell Job he is happy! But he is blessed, though he does not know it, because he is learning wisdom and coming closer to God, his true good, his true blessedness. It is startling to tell mourners they are blessed, but it is simply silly to tell them they are happy.

The typically modern mind is much more subjectivistic than the premodern mind. It seeks happiness rather than blessedness, feeling rather than fact. Thus its relativistic slogan is: ‘Happiness is…different things to different people.’ The response of the modern mind to the Beatitudes is: ‘Well, that may be O.K. for you, but not for me. For me, happiness is a warm puppy.’ Within horizons bounded by subjective feeling, no one is ever wrong because no one is ever right. It is indeed a warm, puppyish world. By contrast, Jesus is like a glacier, or an explosion, or the blast of a trumpet from heaven. As Matthew notes at the end of his sermon, ‘When Jesus had ended these sayings, …the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’ (7:28-29). Happy feelings do not astonish, but objective reality often does. Jesus offers us a plunge into the breathtakingly steep mountains and gorges of reality.”
~Peter Kreeft