Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Spiritual Gem of a Book

Sometimes you come across a book that is a spiritual gem. Here is an excerpt from a book I can hardly recommend enough:
"The discipline of inattention---that is, apathy to matters of unimportance or detachment from matters that seem entirely essential---requires that we learn to ignore what is not important and that we know when to apply the discipline of inattention. Attentiveness, on the other hand, requires that we pay attention to what is important and that we know when to apply this discipline. In the parable [Luke 12:35-38], the slaves have to fight off fatigue to fulfill their task, and, therefore, they separate what needs their attention from what needs to be ignored, the essential (staying alert for the master) from the unessential (sleep). This discipline requires the reordering of our lives according to God's will, ignoring our desires, abandoning what is unnecessary (even though it may seem necessary), and concentrating on what is important. Particularly in Western societies, the trivial seems important, and sheer busyness passes for sincere dedication. Yet nothing is more important in the spiritual life than learning what to pay attention and when not to pay attention, what to pay attention to and what to ignore." --James Resseguie, "Spiritual Landscape: Images of the Spiritual Life in the Gospel of Luke:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Persecution in the USA

Matthew 5:10-12 (ESV)

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

As religious persecution of Christians increases in the United States, mourn for a corrupt society, not for believers.  Christians should rejoice and be glad, according to Jesus.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Communion Hymn Based on Luke 9:10-17


Luke 9:10-17 
English Standard Version (ESV)

10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven andsaid a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Barren Like the Endless Desert

Suggested tune: WORCESTER click on Glory be to God the Father 244 (http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/online/aTLH_Hymns4.htm).  Meter: 878747.  Based on Luke 9:10-17.  Words: William Weber, 2015. (after sermon, communion, this age/world, renewal/sanctification, Christology)

v. 1
Barren like the endless desert,
empty are our hungry souls.
And this world can never feed us,
nor our mourning hearts console.
Fill us, Jesus,
with the food that makes us whole.

v. 2
In this age that's doomed and fading,
weary do our souls become.
Pride, possessions, pow'r and pleasure,
for the soul are worthless crumbs.
Fill us, Jesus,
with Your life and with Your love.

v. 3
Dark the world by lust disordered,
this our heart apart from grace.
Jesus, may Your Spirit hover
over hearts by sin effaced.
Ever fill us,
'til the day we see Your face.

v.4
Who can fill this void within us,
empty, wild, a desert vast?
Who from danger great can free us,
souls by sin and lust harassed?
Fill us, Jesus,
Bread of heaven hold us fast.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Narcissistic Lyrics in the Worship Service


For a long time I have been of the opinion that we should put an end to singing "I" "me" and "my" songs in our worship services. Because the worship service is a dialogue --- God speaks to us and we respond to him --- our response is a form of prayer. Singing in worship together is essentially congregational prayer. Just as a person who leads prayer in a public worship service will almost invariably use "we" "us" and "our" language, the same should be generally true when we sing together.

The fact that our singing is so filled with "I" "me" and "my" songs, strikes me as rather self-exalting, which seems an odd thing when it should be our triune God who ought to be exalted in a worship service. Therefore, when I read these words from James Resseguie's book, Spiritual Landscapes: Images of the Spiritual Life in Luke's Gospel about the testing of Jesus in the wilderness, it was difficult for me not to think of the self-referential nature of our worship services these days. Notice the difference between the devil and Jesus:

"The devil's self-serving point of view feeds ferociously upon an irresolute ego. His self-referential posture is apparent in the tribute to himself.
To you
"I" will give their glory and all this authority
for it has been give over to "me"
and "I" give it to anyone "I" please.
If you, then will worship "me",
It will all be yours (Luke 4:6-7)
Although the passive voice ("it has been given over to me") acknowledges in a roundabout way that God delegates the authority to the devil, he buries this information within a paean to himself. First-person verbs and pronouns exult in the self. In 4:6, for example, the devil begins with "I will give" and closes with "I give." Like a persistent salesperson who is closing an important sale, his speech accentuates what "he" can do for Jesus: "to you" and "to me" are placed in the emphatic position. "'To you' I will give their glory and authority, for "to me" it has been given." His self-regarding posture elevates the material point of view to new heights as the "self" becomes the object of worship.  [As an aside, the relevance of this passage to worship is that the devil is tempting Jesus to worship him.  Thus, we have two contrasting ways of worship: one from the devil and one from Jesus! --Bill]

"By contrast, Jesus' speech is utterly devoid of first-person verbs and pronouns. Whereas the devil is full of himself, so to speak, Jesus is "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1). He repeatedly refers to God, not to the self. With a string of quotations from Scripture, Jesus, unlike the devil, shifts attention from himself to God. In 4:8, from Deuteronomy 6:13: "Worship the Lord your God and serve only him," and in 4:12, he quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." In the single instance where the self might surface, no "I" is found; only a generic reference: ""One" does not live by bread alone." (Luke 4:4)."

I understand that we have inherited many "I" "me" and "my" songs from our spiritual forefathers, and that the spiritual content of many of these hymns is good. Our generation --- the "me generation" built on the philosophy of self-esteem --- has just sort of put this "I" "me" and "my" trend into overdrive. But our spiritual ancestors were not right in everything they did! Jesus, the true worshiper, is a better model for worship than the enemy he defeated!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Amazing Paragraph about Allegorical Interpretation

An amazing paragraph:

"Allegory does not 'prove' anything, nor is it meant to.  The rule that nothing can be argued allegorically from scripture that is not also present literally is as old as Origen.  What it seeks to do is to hold us readers 'still' before Jesus, to disallow the clever reading strategies by which we would avoid Christ in the pages of scripture.  Nor is this quite heavily christological hermeneutic a license for avoiding the particular words and story of the Old Testament.  The Old Testament 'builds up a context, a matrix, in which the mystery of Christ can be incarnated."  Now that Christ has filled this womb, and so this world, with grace, and allowed persons to participate by grace in that divinity which he eternally is, we are given eyes to see his gracious presence not least on every page of scripture, but also throughout the created order.  Allegory is no movement away from the particular events of salvation history into a realm of timeless truth.  It is rather a movement into history: a dogged refusal to allow exegetes to evade the chistological significance with which all history is infused after the incarnation.  The result . . . is a symphony, as the various and quite distinct notes of the full sweep of scripture are joined into the concert of a 'harmonious composition.'" 

--Jason Byasse from his book "Praise Seeking Understanding: Reading the Psalms with Augustine"

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Overcoming False Beliefs that Lead to Lust rather than Love


For those who struggle with lust and strive for sexual purity, these words are extremely helpful:

"In the modern view, the body has been relegated to the realm of subhuman nature.  It may serve as a biological reference point, but it has nothing to say about the human person and the order of human relationships.  Much less does the body say anything about theology---about the nature of the divine mystery and God's love for humanity.  In this view, the person stands over and against his body.  The body does not call him to anything.  It makes no demands on him.  Modern man owns his body like a thing, and, as such, he believes he can do anything he wants with it.  The body and sexuality are then used as tools and a means to selfish pleasure, even profit.  The 'word' (or anti-word) inscribed in the body for modern man is 'self-gratification.'

"St. Paul, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in a sacramental, theological view of the body.  He knows the body 'speaks' a mystical language.  It speaks not only about the truth of the human person as male and female.  It also speaks about the 'great mystery' hidden in God from all eternity.  For St. Paul, the truth about who man is as male and female can only be understood in light of this 'great mystery.'  Recalling God's plan in Genesis for man and woman to join in 'one flesh,' he builds on the analogy of the spousal love of God for Israel and shows the fulfillment of the Old Testament image in Christ's love for the church.  In doing so, he calls man and woman to embrace the sublime vocation inscribed in their bodies from 'the beginning'---to love as God loves.  The Word inscribed in the body in Ephesians 5, therefore, is 'self-donation.'"

 ---from the book, "Theology of the Body Explained," by Christopher West

Key points to know and imbibe: 

1) The body is sacramental in that it points to the great mystery of life.  Like a sacrament, our earthly bodies point to heavenly realities.

2) The triune communion of persons in the trinity is a self-giving communion of love we are called to participate in and can participate in through faith in Christ. 

3) The triune communion of persons in love, inscribed in our bodies as male and female, is a self-giving, sacrificial love we are privileged to imitate.  We imitate his faithful, self-giving love by loving our spouse, if we are married, and our neighbors in faithfulness to our high calling, which God in his marvelous wisdom has written in our very bodies.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chesterton Quote about Original Sin

"Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. . . . They . . . deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it is a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat." ---G. K. Chesterton

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