His Possession of Us

John Stott

Christian exultation is something entirely different from the vapid boastings of self-righteous religious people.  The latter boast of God as if he were their private property, as if they had him on a leash and could lead him around and exhibit him like a pet dog, and as if their possession of God betokened exceptional merit in them and guaranteed complete immunity to his displeasure.  To them God is a thing, a possession, a toy.

But to exult in God is the exact opposite of all that.  It begins with the humble acknowledgment of our inexcusable guilt before him.  It goes on to wondering astonishment that in spite of this he should have loved us and given his Son to die for us.  it continues with gratitude that, when we despaired of ourselves and trusted in Christ, he justified, reconciled and redeemed us.  It concludes with the confidence that one day he will save us fully and finally.  We exult in this God, not in our righteousness on account of which we once blindly imagined that he accepted us, but in his righteousness, his righteous bestowal of righteousness upon the unrighteous; not in our possession of him, but in his possession of us; not in our merit or works, but in his.


A Decent Sort of Horse

The Horse and His Boy
C.S. Lewis

“It’s all very well for you,” said Bree.  “You haven’t disgraced yourself.  But I’ve lost everything.”

“My good Horse,” said the Hermit, who had approached them unnoticed because his bare feet made so little noise on that sweet, dewy grass.  “My good Horse, you’ve lost nothing but your self-conceit.  No, no, cousin.  Don’t put back your ears and shake your mane at me.  If you are really so humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must learn to listen to sense.  You’re not quite the great Horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses.  Of course you were brave and cleverer than them.  You could hardly help being that.  It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia.  But as long as you know you’re nobody special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.”

Ears to Hear

Luke 10:38–42

[38] Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. [39] And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. [40] But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” [41] But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, [42] but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

In this passage, Mary is seen sitting and Martha is busy serving.  Perhaps the lesson is, don’t get so busy serving and just enjoy Jesus.  But Mary is not just sitting.  She is having more than esoteric, spiritual experience by staring at Jesus.  Mary is listening.  In the Greek, this is clear as the main verb is “listened” and Mary’s sitting is simply describing the way she listened.  Mary comes to Jesus in humility, needing to be taught, needing to hear His Word and His truth and not her own.

Again, Martha is “distracted with much serving.”  We might imagine we are left with two choices: either listen at Jesus’s feet or serve.  But then this passage is preceded by another in which Jesus sends out 72 disciples to serve and do ministry as well as the parable of the Good Samaritan who loves and serves his neighbor.  So Jesus is not speaking against serving.  Martha is distracted for another reason.

See, Martha is annoyed at Mary for not helping her.  She is also annoyed at Jesus for not telling Mary to get up and help her.  Martha assumes she knows what is good and right.  She is distracted and consumed not with serving but with her serving, with the service she has chosen for herself.

Martha is focused on serving the Lord her way and it isn’t going well.  Mary is an obstacle to Martha’s goal and in a funny way, so is Jesus.

It is easy to imagine that we know how life and even faith work.  We have everything figured out and the problem is simply living it out, but this is not true.  According to the Bible, we do not know what is good and right.  We do not know what love or blessing are.  We do not know how to live and we need God to teach us.

With great tenderness, Jesus addresses Martha’s anxious and troubled heart.  He is telling her that she misunderstands her need.  Martha, like all of us, need to hear Jesus speak.  While it may be temporarily pleasing to hear Jesus say what we want to hear and tell us how we were right all along, what we really need is to let Him say whatever He wants to say and humbly receive His Word.  For it is not flattery or sentiment but the truth that will set us free.

Manute Bol: A Fool for Christ

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity
Jon A. Shields

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William “the Refrigerator” Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol’s life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior “humiliation” by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

Link: Complete Article

A Ragamuffin Prayer

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios.  Suddenly we have come to our senses.  We are sorry and ask You to forgive us.  Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.  Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love.  Amen.

Are We Still Listening?

[1] At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. [2] But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” [3] He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: [4] how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [5] Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?

– Matthew 12:1-5

As Jesus walks with His disciples, the Pharisees are suddenly and deeply offended.  Jesus’s disciples are breaking the Sabbath.  Sabbath-keeping is the fourth commandment.  Exodus 20 is clear.

[8] “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, [10] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…

In the Old Testament, breaking Sabbath was punishable by death.  So to avoid breaking Sabbath, the Pharisees had many rules.  There were rules about how far you could walk, how many letters you could write, and so on and so forth.  Eventually, they began to think that they had a complete set of rules regarding the Sabbath.  They had figured out Sabbath-keeping.

But then in v. 3-5, Jesus bursts their bubble.  Jesus is speaking to Bible scholars who had most of the Old Testament memorized, and He is playing them when He asks, “Have you not read?”

See, the Pharisees felt that they had figured out faith, that they had even figured out God.  They were arrogant and so they stopped listening.  We too can imagine that we have many things figured out.

We have relationships figured out.  We have parenting figured out.  We have finances figured out.  We have our list of needs figured out.   We have the future figured out.  And when we believe this, not even God can tell us we are wrong.

When was the last time God told us that we are wrong about something very important?  Are we still listening?