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You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
Are you concerned about the way our culture communicates via mobile? Are today’s apps turning us into sociopaths?
Orwell had it wrong. Little Brother is watching. How everything we do is recorded by someone.
What comes after “selfies?” Newest additions to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Wondering what all those texting and internet abbreviations mean but were afraid to ask? Try this Acronym Finder
How talking to your kids about sex has changed. The new conversation.
Only in America: one of my favorite features of The Week.
Check back, I plan to update this post with more quotes on forgiveness
See also, Hans Kung on the Kingdom of God.
Those of us who preach in mainline denominations know that we have a language problem in the church. Some of our best words have decayed from long use and rough treatment. Others have been kidnapped by strangers and yet others institutionalized by so-called friends. Charity is more likely to mean a tax-deductible donation to us than anything having to do with the heart. Mission is something every corporate business has, and stewardship is a dreary season in the fall. Other words have been used as weapons for so long that no one will go near them anymore. Repentance has come to mean “sorry” and sin to mean “wrong,” although both words possess far more promise than that.
Gail O’Day & Thomas G. Long, Editors, Listening to the Word. p. 207
God does not wait for our repentance; he loves us anyway.
Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, p. 207
Repentance involves the receiving of a totally new disposition so that I never do the wrong thing again.
The repentant man[sic] experiences the humiliating conviction that he has broken the law of God and that he is willing to accept, on God’s terms, the gift of a new life that will prove sufficient in him to enable him to live a holy life—not hereafter, but here and now.
Oswald Chambers, Conformed to His Image/The Servant As His Lord, p. 29
If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self, I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.
Charles H. Spurgeon
We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. I have heard others, and I have heard myself, recounting cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood as if they were no concern of the present speaker’s, and even with laughter. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ: if we have repented these early sins we should remember the price of our forgiveness and be humble.
C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain
No sin is so light that it may be overlooked. No sin is so heavy that it may not be repented of.
Moses Ibn Ezra
Repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven… It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance… is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace.
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 74
O God, too near to be found, too simple to be conceived, too good to be believed; help us to trust, not in our knowledge of Thee, but in Thy knowledge of us; to be certain of Thee, not because we feel our thoughts of Thee are true, but because we know how far Thou dost transcend them. May we not be anxious to discern Thy will, but content only with desire to do it; may we not strain our minds to understand Thy nature, but yield ourselves and live our lives only to express Thee.
Show us how foolish it is to doubt Thee, since Thou thyself dost set questions which disturb us; reveal our unbelief to the faith, fretting at its outward form. Be gracious when we are tempted to cease from moral strife: reveal what it is that struggles in us. Before we tire of mental search enable us to see that it was not ourselves, but Thy call which stirred our souls.
Turn us back from our voyages of thoughts to that which sent us forth. Teach us to trust not in cleverness or learning, but to that inward faith which can never be denied. Lead us out of confusion to simplicity; call us back from wondering without to find Thee at home within. Amen.
Events today in Ukraine make Brendan Simms’ book on European history most relevant. Simms, a Fellow at Cambridge, pours an incredible amount of information into 533 pages of text and nearly 100 pages of end notes. If you want a 600-year, historical perspective on what is happening in Europe today, it is worth the read.
Simms describes four, lasting and competing powers in Europe: England, France, Prussia/Germany, and Russia; along with two historical powers: Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Turks. Six hundred years of European wars and politics have been the result of these powers maneuvering each other for dominance. Alliances and confrontations are the consequences of each power working to keep the most threatening competitor in check. When Napoleon threatened much of Europe, Russia and England became allies. In the colonial period, when England threatened to dominate Europe, France came to aid of the 13 colonies, not out of love for freedom, but to preoccupy England militarily away from the continent and to weaken England economically.
The book shows how Russia and Prussia/Germany have historically viewed each other warily and have competed multiple times for geographic buffers for their respective homelands. Neither wants the other within reach of their native territory; thus, Eastern Europe has been their battle ground. Hitler’s offer to split the traditional buffer of Poland pleased Stalin because it kept Hitler at arm’s length without a war. Until Hitler reneged. Of course, at that point Hitler was much closer to Moscow because Stalin had misread his strategy and allowed Hitler access to half of Poland.
The Crimean war of the 1850’s pitted England and France – enemies during the Napoleonic years – along with Ottomans, against a threatening Russia who was encroaching on all of them geographically or economically. The Crimea was the buffer none could afford to lose.
Thus Ukraine and the Crimea are back in their historic roles as an economic resource for the dominating power, and a geographical buffer against military aggression, no matter how unlikely that may seem to Americans. The loss of Ukraine from their sphere of influence (following the fall of the Soviet Union) is not something the Russians will allow to continue without resistance.
If I could subtitle this book, it would be “Why Germany is the Center of All History.” Simms clearly sees the Germans (or their Prussian predecessors) as the pivotal power in Europe and, consequently, the world. He outlines in many places why he believes German interests influenced events on the continent and many other places, including the American continents and Africa. I am not a capable enough historian to confirm or deny some of those assertions, but his conviction is interesting and informative. I had never seen some of the connections he makes.
Europe is not an easy book to read. At many points I bogged down in reading intricate details that came in rapid-fire succession. It did provide me with a perspective on World War I and World War II that I did not have before. Of particular interest to me was the history behind the Central Powers alliance of Word War I (Germany, Austro-Hungary, and the Ottoman Turks). It also showed me how, if history is any indication, neither Russia nor NATO (representing the alliances on the other side of the first Crimean war) will easily back down in today’s tensions in Ukraine.
(Pronounced with a long “I.”)
Lucy was born March 8 at 9:02.
At 5 pounds 14 ounces and 20 inches long, she is lighter and 3 inches longer than her sister. She may be a tall one.
It is an old preachers joke.: On a snowy Sunday only one man shows up in a rural church. The pastor is elated when she sees who it is: the resident church hypocrite. The two exchange pleasantries and decide the pastor should proceed to the message, which the man will be glad to hear. What a captive audience, the pastor gives it her best, taking direct aim at the man’s very public sins. He was known for vulgar language, so the pastor started the sermon preaching about the dangers of profanity. Because the man was also known to be stingy beyond compare, the second point of her message spoke to the blessings of generosity. And so it went for 45 minutes as the preacher addressed the known hypocrisies of the man in the pew. The sermon and service finally over, the pastor went to the back door to greet the man as he left the building. She was full of hope that the message had hit the man in the heart and that he might repent of his evil ways in that tiny vestibule. The man shook the pastor’s hand and with deep sincerity said, “You really gave it to them this week pastor. I’m just sorry they weren’t here to listen.”
Those who preach know the experience. Preach about generosity and the widow who gives a mite will express sorrow she can’t get give more. Preach about fidelity, and the couple with a 60 year marriage will thank you for challenging them to love each other more. The people you hoped might listen have gone into a protective shell, guaranteeing your message will bounce harmlessly off them toward people in the next pew. And if we pastors are honest enough to admit, we don’t always hear the Word of God that would speak to us. We all assume the challenge of the gospel –the claim of the gospel on the way we live — is meant for someone else. We think we are doing well; it’s the other people who need to change. We are faithful; its’ the other people who need to repent.
So here we are at Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. This is the time of year when we “give up” something until Easter. Some give up alcohol, others give up sweets. the very brave give up Facebook or video games. Often the act of giving up is described as a “fast.” Of course fasting originally applies to giving up all food for a period of time to heighten the attention on prayer (fasting by itself is not common in the Bible). Now we speak of removing something from our life for a temporary period of time as a fast — as in “I’m fasting from TV,” or I’m fasting from my iPad.” These are the modern observances of Lent.
In the Old testament passage for Ash Wednesday, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the fasting performed by the people in Jerusalem. They have fasted and seem to find little spiritual blessing in their many sacrifices: “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” (v.3).
Isaiah responds with God’s assessment: “Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.”
In other words, all their worship has produced no change of heart. It has made no difference in their lives. Isaiah goes on to tell them how their actions need to match the profession of their faith. When justice, generosity, and kindness toward the poor become part of their lives, then it will be clear their beliefs about God are real and their practice of fasting effective.
How had they missed the inconsistency in their lives when it seems so obvious? They are a lot like the man in the joke: they thought the word of scripture was for someone else. Their protective shells were up, deflecting the Word at others. It seems they were a lot like us, always thinking it is someone else whose life is not consistent. We never notice our own lives lack justice, generosity, and kindness toward the poor. We bear the same grudges, continue the same quarrels, and show the same rigid spirit to those around us and wonder why others never change.
Why are we like this? Pride. It is the basic sin of pride that will not allow us to imagine or admit that we might – might – be wrong. To paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr:
There is a pride of power in which we assume our own self-sufficiency and self mastery and imagine ourselves secure against all possible changes. We refuse to admit the dependent character of our lives and believe ourselves to be the author of our own existence, the judge of our own values and the master of our own destinies.
Our pride just won’t allow us to imagine our need for repentance, change, or for God’s forgiveness. We see it in everyone around us, but not in ourselves.
If we are to fast this Lenten season, let us take a fast from our pride. Let’s put pride on the shelf for 40 days and allow God’s spirit to speak to our hearts. Not for the sake of feeling bad or guilty, but for the sake of realizing our dependence on God’s grace, so that we might turn and be healed. So that we might receive the gift of forgiveness that remains unused because we thought we had no need of it. Let us fast from pride in thinking we are already everything God wants us to be so that God’s spirit might work and move us toward all we can be.
I close with this prayer by Eric Milner-White (1884-1964):
Suffer me never to think that I have knowledge enough to need no teaching, wisdom enough to need no correction, talents enough to need no grace, goodness enough to need no progress, humility enough to need no repentance, devotion enough to need no quickening, strength sufficient without thy spirit; lest, standing still, I fall back for evermore. The Oxford Book of Prayer, P. 121
Meditation Text for the order of worship:
“Christianity…does not say that, in spite of appearances, we are all murderers or burglars or crooks or sexual perverts at heart; it does not say that we are totally depraved, in the sense that we are incapable of feeling or responding to any good impulses whatever. The truth is much deeper and more subtle than that. It is precisely when you consider the best in man that you see there is in each of us a hard core of pride or self-centeredness which corrupts our best achievements and blights our best experiences. It comes out in all sorts of ways—in the jealousy which spoils our friendships, in the vanity we feel when we have done something pretty good, in the easy conversion of love into lust, in the meanness which makes us depreciate the efforts of other people, in the distortion of our own judgment by our own self-interest, in our fondness for flattery and our resentment of blame, in our self-assertive profession of fine ideals which we never begin to practice.
Malcolm Muggerridge, quoted by Philip Yancey, in Rumors of Another World, p. 123 f