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Let’s not confuse optimism with biblical hope. Optimism says, “Don’t worry! It may not happen.” Hope says, “It may happen. But God will keep us.” Optimism says, “Things will become better.” Hope says, “By God’s grace we will become better, and better able to deal with trouble.” Optimism says, “Cheer up.” Hope says, “Look up. Your redemption is drawing near.”
–Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. in Beyond Doubt, p. 304
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once warned against cheap grace, and I warn now against cheap hope. Hope is not merely the optimistic view that somehow everything will turn out all right in the end if everyone just does as we do. Hope is the more rugged, the more muscular view that even if things don’t turn out all right and aren’t all right, we endure through and beyond the times that disappoint or threaten to destroy us.
–Peter Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus , p. 220
A promise is the declaration of a reality that does not yet exist. Thus, promise sets our hearts on a future..in which the fulfilling of the promise is to be expected. If it is the case of a divine promise, then that indicates that the expected future does not have to develop in the framework of…the present, but arises from that which is possible to the God of promise.
Jurgen Moltmann in The Theology of Hope, p. 103
I am always interested in parenting, primarily out of my love for children. I want to see very child grow to lead a fulfilled, productive, and rich life. Despite what many think, parents and families are the most critical influence in a child’s life. Better parenting (which may be done by parents, grandparents, or others) leads to more children growing into fulfilled adults.
So when Paul Tough asks these questions –which skills and traits lead to success? How do they develop in childhood? And what kind of interventions might help children do better? – -he has my attention.
Tough’s book requires some focus to read. He uses case studies, references and statistics to make his points. The reader who takes the time to read this book, however, will find valuable information on such subjects as: the physical damage stress inflicts on children; the way nurturing can counteract negative influences; and the virtues that lead to healthy, productive lives.
When you read the word “virtues,” don’t think about the characteristics of “do-good-ism.” Tough quotes important research on functional virtues like grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity. Think about those virtues for a moment. If you are in a family, raising a child, it is far different question to ask, “How can I make my child happy,” than it is to ask, “How can I help my child develop grit or self control.” Things you do to make a child happy are simply not the same things you do to help your child grow in persistence or to develop delayed gratification. Speaking of which – did you know that self discipline (a part of delayed gratification) is a greater predictor of your child’s GPA than is IQ?
I keep a section in my library that I consider Essential Parenting Books. Tough’s book is the latest addition to that section and I encourage anyone raising children to read it.
I mentioned this article in a sermon not too long ago and wanted to share it in it’s entirety.
In Christianity, the cross is the test of everything which deserves to be called Christian.
–Jurgen Moltmann in The Crucified God
A faith that has a cross at its center cannot be a faith that worships success.
–E. Stanley Jones in Abundant Living
“He goes before you,” says Saint Matthew. He goes before us blazing a path for us to follow, and where Christ has gone we need not fear. Christ went to the cross; we need not fear the cross. Christ went to the grave; we need not fear the grave. Christ has gone into the future; we need not fear the future. Christ inhabits life; we need not fear life. God gets our attention at long last by earthquake or sublime experience or terror. He tells us that he has come in Jesus Christ that we may have life and that we may have it more abundantly.
–Peter Gomes in Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living, p. 78
The death of Jesus was not the death of a martyr, it was the revelation of the eternal heart of God. That is why the Cross is God’s last word; that does not mean God is not speaking still, it means that He is saying nothing contrary to the Cross.
–Oswald Chambers, Conformed to His Image/The Servant As His Lord, p. 35
I first encountered W.E. Orchard’s prayer printed below in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Meaning of Faith. I was touched by the sincerity, the eloquence, and the need of the prayer. In this prayer and in the rest of the book, Orchard does not pray for current events. He makes no requests for friends or for things he wanted. He simply prays for matters of the heart and soul. I still wonder what was going on in this man’s life to write a prayer such as the one below. I still don’t know, but I decided I wanted to have the kind of heart it represented. I’ve purchased multiple copies of this book over the years and given them as presents.
The book is long out of print and can only be found at used booksellers. If I could only have one book of prayers in my library, this would be it. I study it to consider the kinds of things I should pray about for myself and for the congregation. This post gets linked to Prayers and to Bucket Books, which are the top 50, most important books in my life.
O God, who hast sent us to school in this strange life of ours, and hast set us tasks which test all our courage, trust, and fidelity; may we not spend our days complaining at circumstance or fretting at discipline, but give ourselves to learn of life and to profit by every experience. Make us strong to endure.
We pray that when trials come upon us we may not shirk the issue or lose our faith in Thy goodness, but committing our souls unto Thee who knowest the way that we take, come forth as gold tried in the fire.
Grant by Thy grace that we may not be found wanting in the hour of crisis. When the battle is set, may we know on which side we ought to be, and when the day goes hard, cowards steal from the field, and heroes fall around the standard, may our place be found where the fight is fiercest. If we faint, may we not be faithless; if we fall, may it be while facing the foe. Amen.—W. E. Orchard.
From my files, here are more quotations on sacrifice:
Robert K. Greenleaf writes these things in his classic book Servant Leadership:
Let us briefly consider the four dimensions of moral authority, the core of servant leadership. (1) The essence of moral authority or conscience is sacrifice—the subordinating of one’s self or one’s ego to a higher purpose, cause, or principle. — p. 6
I define moral authority as Our Moral Nature + Principles + Sacrifice. Many of us know we ought to behave in a certain way, but sacrifice enables us actually to behave in those ways that are in alignment with universal principles. Therefore, sacrifice is the essence of moral authority, and humility is the foundational attribute of sacrifice. — p. 11
And from David Livingston:
For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us.
I never made a sacrifice.
– African missionary David Livingstone, at Cambridge University, December 4, 1857.
This coming Sunday we will worship around the theme of sacrifice. The meditation text will be printed in the order of worship and is already online, down the main page to the right.
The internet searches I performed on “sacrifice” produced dull and repetitive results. So here are some insights on the concept of sacrifice from my quotation library
1. Sacrifice of self is a feature of all rich and purposeful life. The moment a person cares intensely for ideals he has started on a way of life that makes great demands and yet it is also a way of great joy. Nobody who knows would ever prefer the way of ease and quick reward.
–Rufus Jones from The World Within – p.86
2. The religion that costs nothing, that demands no hard sacrifices of other things, that does not lift the life out of low-level motives, is worth little and makes little difference to the life. The type of religion on the other hand, which costs the all, which makes the cross the central fact that dominates the life as its one driving power, becomes an incalculable force and turns many to salvation.
— Rufus Jones, from The World Within — p. 43
3. Quoting F. von Hugel: The mystery revealed, in a unique degree and form, in Christ’s life, is really a universal spiritual-human law; the law of suffering and sacrifice, as the one way to joy and possession, which has existed, though veiled till now, since the foundation of the world.
–Evelyn Underhill from The School or Charity — p. 51
Love, after all, makes the whole difference between an execution and a martyrdom.
–Underhill — p. 55
The Church names the sixth Deadly Sin as Sloth. It is the sin which believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.
–Dorothy Sayers from Creed or Chaos? — p. 108
“The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires.”
― from Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard
One of the first books I purchased for Bible study was William Barclay’s The Mind of Jesus. Before attending seminary I used it as a reference book whenever I studied a gospel passage. I had not yet purchased any volumes of The Daily Study Bible, so The Mind of Jesus was my all-purpose commentary. I used the index in the back to deduce where he might be examining a particular passage. My copy is held together by clear packing tape, but still the pages are loose inside and marked with many notes.
In honor or all Barclay’s works, I’m putting this book on my top 50 list. There are more elite and more thorough commentaries, but I imagine other pastors of my generation have used Barclay as much as I have. One thing I noticed about his Daily Study Bible series: he never shied away from difficult phrases or verses. I’ve used some commentaries that address portions of a verse, but ignore another, difficult portion. Barclay never does. He tackles it all. The Mind of Jesus is the second of my Bucket Books.
As we approach Holy Week, I came across a prayer found at Ravensbruk concentration camp during World War II. It caused me tothink of Jesus on the cross, asking God to forgive those who put him to death. My desire would be to demonstrate a spirit similar to the Ravensbruk Prayer had I been in similar circumstances.
Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will also those of ill will. But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us.
Remember the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering–our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the
greatness of heart which has grown out of all this.
And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness. Amen
Thus Jesus introduced us to the shocking power of sacrifice,which can turn something that looks for all the world like loss into something that feels for all the world like gain. According to Frederick Buechner, “To sacrifice something is to make it holy by giving it away for love.”
— Barbara Brown Tayor in Home By Another Way