God doesn’t need us and He loves us…

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“Let there be light.” With those words God turned thought into reality.  The Apostle
Paul writing to the Corinthians attributes the power of a mind grasping the knowledge of God in the Gospel of Jesus to the grace of God saying once again “Let there be light.”

1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:1-6

When God sparks the realization of “who He is” the understanding ushers people into a brand new world. I have appreciated Carolyn Weber’s confession, a memoir of discovery and faith, Surprised by Oxford, because of the beautiful way she expresses her journey from Canada to Oxford, and her journey from unbelief into vibrant faith.  In the text below she recalls a moment when the words out of her own mouth gave surprising form to the faith forming in her mind and heart. Her class was discussing Milton.

“I think Milton is trying to feel his way through the dark.” It just came out, as I had just done from the wardrobe. Obviously it, too, within me had been grappling for the surface. I tried not to look surprised. Professor Nuttham stared at me intently. “Go on,” he said. Linnea and Fred looked at each other, and then at me, nervously. Again Dr. Deveaux’s image came to mind. I realized that the answer swelling up in me came from a very real, very personal place. “He is going blind on one level. I can only imagine how particularly horrendous that would be, especially for a writer. But does he fear going blind, being blind, on another level even more so?” I heard myself saying, “Why, exactly, is he ‘justifying these ways of God to men’? For whom is he writing? God doesn’t need justification. He certainly doesn’t need us. God doesn’t need anything.”
The room stayed quiet. “Yet, it doesn’t make us superfluous or unimportant, the fact that God doesn’t need us,” I rushed on. “Actually, quite the opposite. It’s because He loves us in spite of not needing us that makes His love so, well, awesome.” Dr. Nuttham raised his eyebrows; slang was not encouraged in tutorials. “In the original sense of the term,” I quickly clarified. He lowered his brows in acceptance. Inside me lights began to go on, an electrical surge; though out of habit, I checked the swell in my heart. “Yes, I see what you mean,” ventured Linnea. “I tend to confuse what I desire, what I think I need, with what I love or pretend to love. Even with the best intentions, everything, at some point, gets muddled. Can anyone love perfectly?”


“For man,” I replied, “the trees grow so close together! I know I can’t always tell the vines apart, especially in the dark. But there is no pretense in a love that is not based on need of the giver, that is not based on consumption of the other, but only on magnification.” Everyone stared at me with that initial Yeatsian silence. I surprised everyone, including me. Where had all of that come from? I paused, collected my nerve, and then threw caution to the wind and added, “I think Milton is trying to show us the difference between Eden and heaven. Like the rest of us, he’s trying to feel his own way along that continuum.” Everything in the room stayed very, very still. I willed the clock to chime, but it didn’t.

“Despair is the greatest sin,” Dr. Nuttham finally responded slowly. “It involves forgetting that God is there. Forgetting that He is good and that all He is and does extends from and works toward this perfect goodness. That doesn’t mean that He allows evil, or creates it, or perpetuates it. That’s our entwinement. Rather, He uses even our evil toward His good. We all need forms of remembering this first great love . . . writing, reading, creating, being.” He paused, looking surprised too. Then he added, “I see,” and smiled at his own inadvertent wording. He continued smiling softly as he rose to make tea. Linnea leaned in and whispered, “Whoa.” She put her fingers to her mouth and puffed, as though to sign that I had been smoking the funny stuff before class. I made a face back at her. But I had to admit, I did feel a little high.

Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber

 

A humble mind & love

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“At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men’s sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvellously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”
Brothers Karamazov, “Conversations and Exhortations of Father Zossima” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

Humility is a choice. Its a choice made in response to God as revealed to us in the Gospel.  When we see Jesus coming from the throne room of heaven to take up the cradle of Bethlehem we can seek grace for humility. When we see Jesus coming from the communion of the Father and Spirit in order to be the Son on the cross we must seek grace for humility. Such love constrains us! Humility is a choice made in response to the knowledge of God.

 

 

 

 

Moral knowledge and public education

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Dallas Willard on morality, knowledge, and higher education:

So in fact higher education and the elite professional groups continue to pressure and teach on moral matters—good, bad, right, wrong—and if you don’t believe it just get crossways of what is advocated in morality by them and you will be subjected to full blown moral opprobrium. That’s because in fact no one can separate life from morality. Moral sentiment and moral opinions are always in full force, and perhaps more so now than ever, because they are not subject to rational criticism in open discussion. One of the things that used to happen in higher education and elite circles, though certainly not in a perfect way, was that moral teachings were surfaced, talked about, and subjected to rational criticism. Now they’re not. What is taught is taught by example, tone of voice, selection of subject matters and so on—oftimes by unguarded explicit statements—but there’s no rational criticism directed at them because it’s not taken to be an area of rationality or knowledge. Pressure, however, abounds.

Why does it matter whether or not there is moral knowledge? This is really the heart of the matter: Knowledge alone confers the right and responsibility to act, to direct action, to set policy, to supervise policy and to teach. Sentiment does not do that. Opinion does not do that. Tradition does not do that. Power does not do that. You expect people who act to know what they are doing, don’t you? You probably would not take your car to a shop that said on a sign in front of it, “We are lucky at making repairs,” or “We’re inspired,” or “We feel real good about it.” This is not a matter of convention. It is how knowledge actually works in human life, and it’s very important to understand that. Without moral knowledge there is no moral authority. Hence there is only “Political correctness,” even though it looks and feels ever bit like morality and often assumes a distinctively moral tone and force.

The Failure of Evangelical Political Involvement in the Area of Moral Transformation.

Am I Loveable? Part 2

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Stanley Park Pool — Vancouver Public Library

I used to play what could be called a “game,” but it was way more serious than the light-hearted approach I took with it showed my kids. We could call it “Who loves you?” When I was driving the kids to school, I would asked them a simple question, “Who loves you?” And they would answer with a sing-song list of those who had shown them love – parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, neighbours, Jesus. We had fun. We laughed. They teased me with their answers. But I knew something they may not yet have grasped:  the very quality and trajectory of their lives rests on the answer to that question.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus – reading from the scroll of Isaiah.
(Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

 

Our sense of place in the world is dynamic and subject to change. A traumatic event can shake our confidence of love-ability. But trauma is not required in order for us to be plagued by shame, guilt and fear. The “normal series” of events common to life can create disappointment among peers, teachers, and bosses leading us to shape a negative view of ourselves. To be taken over by the belief that we are not loveable  profoundly affects our capacity to love others and to receive the love of others.  In this situation we have actually been taken captive by a lie.

The truth: The love-ability factor does not ultimately sit with us — it sits within God who has made us and acted on our behalf. God is the supreme lover of our souls.

Jesus includes an understanding of our love-ability in his conversation with a lawyer about the greatest command:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

 

When we are locked up in a love-ability deficit, it creates a cascade of insecurity resulting in desperate acts of self-improvement and even despair. We may severely limit our engagement with people, hiding the truth about us, in order to manage pain and avoid anything that might bring up fear or the shame of not being loveable or powerful enough to command adoration. Though the sources of darkness ravaging the soul are varied, the experience of not feeling loveable or of believing you cannot be loved is common.

We must see Jesus acting decisively for us. 

Jesus has a larger narrative for the glory of God. He understands that we are participants in a cosmic struggle against the knowledge of God. He says, “the thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He was aware that the Evil One seeks to destroy people. What better way to alienate people from God than to attack our very receptors for the love of God?

Jesus’ life, His death, and His resurrection are an announcement of God’s love for us and the simultaneous in-breaking of God’s power ushering in His rule and reign. He is overcoming evil with good. He desires to make healing and the progressive health-making work of God available to you so He took up the Cross. Believing God, as He revealed Himself  in Christ Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, is to grapple with and accept a profound truth question:

Who loves you?

Am I Loveable? Part 1

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Photo credit: daoro – Jonas Boni

The humility and wonder of being loved by God

Charles Wesley writes masterfully of a moment when the idea of God loving him becomes a reality. I include it here so the question of being loved by God does not remain an exercise of a mind trapped in the illusion of a closed system — either a system in which God has somehow been closed out from us, or one in which we have been closed out from God.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain!
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be That
Thou, my God, should die for me?

Chorus:
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own

Most of our thinking and feeling about experiences since childhood can conspire to challenge our sense of love-ability. It is a fortunate person who experiences a warm, safe, loving family environment in which they are affirmed and built up as a love-able person. Our earliest, significant relationships are tasked with managing the space in which we are loved and can come to understand our love-ability. Our sense of love-ability is not just a feeling, its actually a set of beliefs about ourselves and our position in respect to others and even to God. And that belief — can be shaped by grace and truth. The Gospel creates new ground for understanding our love-ability from the perspective of Jesus’ Cross. When that happens we sing from the depths of our soul, “Amazing love! How can it be?”