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Yancey on Grace

On Philip Yancey’s website he tells of being asked to define what grace is. This is his illuminating response,

I don’t even try.  Jesus talked a lot about grace, but mainly through stories.  I remember once getting stuck in Los Angeles traffic and arriving 58 minutes late at the Hertz rental desk.  I walked up in kind of a bad mood, put the keys down and said, “How much do I owe?”  The woman says, “Nothing.  You’re all clear.”  I said I was late and she smiled, “Yes, but there’s a one-hour grace period.”  So I asked, “Oh really, what is grace?”  And she said, “I don’t know.  [They must not cover that in Hertz training classes.]  I guess what it means is that even though you’re supposed to pay, you don’t have to.”  That’s a good start to a definition.

Silent Benefits

During 2015 I spoke at Hope Church In West Bromwich about the use of silence as part of daily devotional time. I had no real theology of silence, I had simply found it to be a beneficial practice but that could do with clarification. Recently as I read Brennan Manning’s book, Abba’s Child, I found something that I think explains more the benefit of time in silence solitude. (I have added my own emphasis).

Brennan Manning writes, “Silence is not simply the absence of noise or the shutdown of communication with the outside world, but rather a process of coming to stillness. Silent solitude forges true speech. I’m not speaking of physical isolation; solitude here means being alone with the Alone, experiencing the transcendent Other and growing in awareness of one’s identity as the beloved. It is impossible to know another person intimately without spending time together. Silence makes this solitude a reality. It has been said, “Silence is solitude practiced in action.”

“It is like the story of the harried executive who went to the desert father and complained about his frustration in prayer, his flawed virtue, and his failed relationships. The hermit listened closely to his visitor’s rehearsal of the struggle and disappointments in trying to lead a Christian life. He then went into the dark recesses of his cave and came out with a basin and a pitcher of water.

“Now watch the water as I pour it into the basin,” he said. The water splashed on the bottom and against the sides of the container. It was agitated and turbulent. At first the stirred-up water swirled around the inside of the basin; then it gradually began to settle, until finally the small fast ripples evolved into larger swells that oscillated back and forth. Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the visitor could see his face reflected in the placid water. “That is the way it is when you live constantly in the midst of others,” said the hermit. “You do not see yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance. You fail to recognize the divine presence in your life and the consciousness of your belovedness slowly fades. “

It takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting. Any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew.

Guilt feelings may arise immediately. The shadow self insinuates that you are selfish, wasting time, and evading the responsibilities of family, career, ministry, and community. You can ill afford this idle luxury. Theologian Edward Schillebeeckx responded: “In a revealed religion, silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God. Failure to recognize the value of mere being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything is to gouge the heart out of Christianity.

If Christ came into this room…

In a letter published after his death, the poet Robert Browning cited several utterances of men of genius concerning the Christian faith, and among them this one from Charles Lamb:

“In a gay fancy with some friends as to how they should feel if some of the greatest of the dead were to appear suddenly in flesh and blood–on the final suggestion, ‘And if Christ entered this room?’ he changed his manner at once and stuttered out as was his manner when moved, ‘You see if Shakespeare entered we should all arise; if HE appeared, we must all kneel’
Published in The Life and Letters of Robert Browning

A complete Human Being

I have always thought of Jesus Christ as being the most prefect human being to ever live on planet Earth. J Oswald Sanders in The Incomparable Christ talks about Christ’s character and makes this comment,

The excellencies of both sexes coalesced him Him [Christ]. But while possessing all the gentler graces of womanhood He could never be regarded as effeminate. Indeed, He was linked in popular thought with the rugged Elijah, and the austere John the Baptist [Matthew 16:14]. There is contrast yet not contradiction in his delicacy and gentleness in handling people who merited such treatment, and the blistering denunciations he poured out of the hypocrites and parasites.

Jesus was not macho nor was he womanly. He was fully human, perfectly balanced in all character and emotional characteristics. He is to be admired above all.

Cow meat, a big thing

If you haven’t been following Indian life in recent weeks you won’t have realised that cows are big on the current agenda. Following on from the lynching of a Muslim man who was (wrongly it would appear) accused of eating cow meat (read beef) this issue continues to gain momentum.

In case you don’t know why it is such a big thing here is a BBC introduction to the subject.

Miserable Commercial Self-Interest

Yesterdays reading in Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, included this paragraph,

Beware of an abandonment which has the commercial spirit in it—‘I am going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.’ All that is the result of being right with God, but that spirit is not of the essential nature of Christianity. Abandonment is not for anything at all. We have got so commercialized that we only go to God for something from Him, and not for Himself. It is like saying—‘No, Lord, I don’t want Thee, I want myself; but I want myself clean and filled with the Holy Ghost; I want to be put in Thy showroom and be able to say—“This is what God has done for me.” ‘If we only give up something to God because we want more back, there is nothing of the Holy Spirit in our abandonment; it is miserable commercial self-interest…Beware of stopping short of abandonment to God. Most of us know abandonment in vision only.

It brought this scripture to my mind,
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31
And whilst you are thinking about what you do maybe it is a good time to ask if you eat or drink to the glory of God?

Miserable Commercial Self-Interest

Yesterdays reading in Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, included this paragraph,

Beware of an abandonment which has the commercial spirit in it—‘I am going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.’ All that is the result of being right with God, but that spirit is not of the essential nature of Christianity. Abandonment is not for anything at all. We have got so commercialized that we only go to God for something from Him, and not for Himself. It is like saying—‘No, Lord, I don’t want Thee, I want myself; but I want myself clean and filled with the Holy Ghost; I want to be put in Thy showroom and be able to say—“This is what God has done for me.” ‘If we only give up something to God because we want more back, there is nothing of the Holy Spirit in our abandonment; it is miserable commercial self-interest…Beware of stopping short of abandonment to God. Most of us know abandonment in vision only.

It brought this scripture to my mind,
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31
And whilst you are thinking about what you do maybe it is a good time to ask if you eat or drink to the glory of God?

Trusted Leaders

Brian Dodd wrote an interesting piece on trust and leadership (http://www.briandoddonleadership.com/2015/03/10/two-surprising-areas-many-pastors-and-church-leaders-are-least-trusted/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BrianDoddOnLeadership+%28Brian+Dodd+On+Leadership%29). In it he cited reasons that people trust pastors, his list included the following:

People trust pastors and church leaders who:

  • Return calls within 24 hours.
  • Complete assignments with excellence.
  • Have everything ready when people show up to meetings or events.
  • Are proactive.
  • Show up to meetings prepared.
  • Don’t waste others time.  It’s the only thing you can’t give back.
  • Ask good questions.  Are a learner.
  • Admit mistakes and ask forgiveness.  Are humble.
  • Include volunteer leaders in the decision and execution process.  Frankly, they’re probably better at it than most staff.
  • Apply volunteer skill to task.
  • Have meetings before the meeting.
  • Put on good quality events showing you have given it much thought.
  • Deliver sermons which answer the questions people are asking.
  • Demand and do things with excellence.
  • Have the courage to make hard decisions and be willing to live with the results.
  • Are committed to the vision and do not let others hijack it.
  • Build mutually beneficial relationships with leaders.
  • See potential in others and unleash it.
  • Showed you have studied and are prepared.
  • Finish on time.
  • Do things which are memorable.

For anyone who is in leadership it seems to be a list worth pondering on.