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?”

 

An old but relevant celebration of the mind!

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Over 1600 years ago St. Augustine wrote on the power of memory and its role in our relationship with God.

Great is the power of memory, a fearful thing, O my God, a deep and boundless manifoldness; and this thing is the mind, and this am I myself. What am I then, O my God? What nature am I? A life various and manifold, and exceeding immense. Behold in the plains, and caves, and caverns of my memory, innumerable and enumerably full of innumerable kinds of things, either through images, as all bodies; or by actual presence, as the arts, or be certain notions or impressions, as the affections of the mind, which, even when the mind doth not feel, the memory retainteth, while yet whatsoever is in the memory is also in the mind–over all these do I run, I fly; I dive on this side and on that, as far as I can, and there is no end.

So great is the force of memory, so great the force of life, even in the mortal life of man. What shall I do then, O Thou my true life, my God? I will pass even beyond this power of mine which is called memory: yea, I will pass beyond it, that I may approach unto Thee, O sweet Light. What sayest Thou to me? See, I am mounting up through my mind towards Thee who abides above me. Yea, I now will pass beyond this power of mine which is called memory, desirous to arrive at Thee, whence Thou mayest be arrived at; and to cleave unto Thee, whence one may cleave unto Thee. For even beasts and birds have memory; else could they not return to their dens and nests, nor many other things they are used unto: nor indeed could they be used to any thing, but by memory.

I will pass then beyond memory also that I may arrive at Him who hath separated me from the four-footed beasts and made me wiser than the fowls of the air, I will pass beyond memory also, and where shall I find Thee, Thou truly good and certain sweetness? And where shall I find Thee? If I find Thee without my memory, then do I not retain Thee in my memory. And how shall I find Thee, if I remember Thee not?

The Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Tenth Book.

Augustine’s celebration of the mind and memory moves me to consider the purpose of the mind in my experience and knowledge of God.

Jesus intends to create pathways of memory to bring us to Him.

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'” Luke 22:19-20

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:25-26

The Psalmist cries out that his memories are useful for identifying his thirst for a new and current encounter with the Living God.

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like parched land.” Psalm 143:5-6

I’ve been thinking about some friends who are new believers in Jesus Christ. If you are a new believer in Christ Jesus you have a short memory of God’s grace towards you. Grace is God’s activity on your behalf to do for you what you could not do apart from Him (Dallas Willard). You do not yet have a lengthy history with Jesus and His grace. So your mind like all believers must be renewed and the Holy Spirit is working to that end. I want to daily recall the Gospels and see Jesus again. The reading of His Word in the Gospels is not a mere activity to dutifully complete. No, the reading of His Word is the work of my mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit that can usher me again into the very presence of God. So it is with many of our disciplines:

The reading of His Word is an act of remembering drawing us to Jesus.
The listing of His blessings and giving thanks remembers and brings us to Jesus.
The confession of my sins is an act of memory bringing me to Jesus.
The lament for what I grieve is an act of memory bringing me to Jesus.
The giving of the tithe is an act of memory bringing me to Jesus.
The gathering with other believers is an act of memory bringing us to Jesus.
The singing of a song is an act of memory bringing us to Jesus.
The telling of a testimony is an act of remembering bringing us again to Jesus.

All these acts are meant to engage the mind not for the production of sentimentality or condemnation. Instead our growing memory of God’s grace towards us is meant to usher us again into the reality of His Kingdom, the promise of His full redemption, and acknowledgement of His Presence with us as Lord.

Remember.