Chosen

Happy 2018. I hope it finds you doing well. I have been reading a thought-provoking book recently, and I wanted to share an excerpt that I find timely as we move into the new year. May you live each day of this coming year as one who is chosen.

“…choice is no longer just a state of mind. Choice has become a value, a priority, a right. To be modern is to be addicted to choice and change. These are the unquestioned essence of modern life.

“…choice and change lead quickly to a sense of fragmentation, saturation, and overload. In the modern world there are simply too many choices, too many people to relate to, too much to do, too much to see, too much to read, too much to catch up with and follow, too much to buy.

“Each choice sprouts with its own questions. Might we? Could we? Should we? Will we? Won’t we? What if we had? What if we hadn’t? The forest of questions leads deeper and deeper into the dark freedom, then to the ever darker anxiety of seemingly infinite possibility.

“…ultimately only one thing can conquer choice—being chosen. Thus, for followers of Christ, calling neutralizes the fundamental poison of choice in modern life. “I have chosen you,” Jesus said, “you have not chosen Me.” We are not our own; we have been bought with a price. We have no rights, only responsibilities. Following Christ is not our initiative, merely our response, in obedience. Nothing works better to debunk the pretensions of choice than a conviction of calling. Once we have been called, we literally have no choice.”

The Call, Os Guinness; taken from pp. 175–177

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Spiritual Love

“Therefore, spiritual love will prove successful insofar as it commends Christ to the other in all that it says and does. It will not seek to agitate another by exerting all too personal, direct influence or by crudely interfering in one’s life. It will not take pleasure in pious, emotional fervor and excitement. Rather, it will encounter the other with the clear word of God and be prepared to leave the other alone with this word for a long time. It will be willing to release others again so that Christ may deal with them. It will respect the other as the boundary that Christ establishes between us; and it will find full community with the other in the Christ who alone binds us together.

“This spiritual love will thus speak to Christ about the other Christian more than to the other Christian about Christ. It knows that the most direct way to others is always through prayer to Christ and that love of the other is completely tied to the truth found in Christ.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Life Together
(emphasis mine)

An Ash Wednesday Reflection

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.
—Exodus 34:6–7

We can often rationalize sin away with the thought, “Well, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else…” We tend to think private, secret sins that don’t involve another are our business alone and nobody else’s.

I have mixed feelings about the passage above. It is God describing Himself to Moses, and it is beautiful and noble and awe-inspiring. But it kind of hits a sour note at the end. I am just fine with the guilty being punished, but to carry it on three and four generations down the line? Doesn’t seem too fair…

There are a number of viewpoints and commentaries on what this might mean and how it might work, but that’s not where my focus is.

What strikes me deeply is this: there is no such thing as a private sin. The people around us are hurt by our wrong choices whether they know about them or not. Our sin affects others. Period.

Ash Wednesday is a day of self-examination, confession, and repentance to kick off the Lent season. Although I did not grow up in a tradition that observed Ash Wednesday, I am now part of a fellowship that does.

In our Ash Wednesday service each person confesses his or her sin to others with the words, “I am sorry for the way my sin has impacted you.” It is a strangely liberating experience to have another look me in the eye and say, “You’re forgiven.”

So whether or not you observe Ash Wednesday, take some time this week to think about the secret sins in your life. Bring them into the light before our God Who is “merciful and gracious…forgiving transgression and sin”. Even better, find someone you trust and speak the words out loud. Let them offer words of forgiveness.

Because even our private sins leave a lasting impact if left unconfessed.

Listen with the Ears of God

Argh. Having trouble getting a full post written. Here’s a quote to tide you over…

“There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother’s confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects. Secular education today is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously, and upon this insight it has constructed its own soul therapy, which has attracted great numbers of people, including Christians. But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.

A New Beginning…

Well, it looks like it’s been a year and a half since I last posted. This is unacceptable. I recently paid $18 to renew this site for another year. Thinking I’d like to get my money’s worth, it is my goal to put up at least 18 posts this year. $1 per post seems reasonable.

They will not all be long entries (although I have one of those brewing right now)—some might be quotes from whatever book I’m reading, or just a photo. But there will be 18 this year. And this one doesn’t count.

So, you have that to look forward to.

See you again soon!