August 22, 2013

Lines (12)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 13     Humility      Psalm 131

pg 145  "Christian faith needs continuous maintenance."
Psalm 131 is a psalm of maintenance - a pruning psalm.

pg 146  "All cultures throw certain stumbling blocks in the way of those who pursue gospel realities."  (snip) "The way of faith deals with realities in whatever time or whatever culture."

pg 147-148  A discussion of the story of John Faustus and the way our culture has become Faustian to applause & admiration.  "It is difficult to recognize pride as a sin when it is held up on every side as a virtue, as profitable, and rewarded as achievement."

pg 149  "Our lives are only lived well when they are lived in terms of their creation, with God loving and we being loved, with God making and we being made, with God revealing and we understanding, with God commanding and we responding.  Being a Christian means accepting the terms of creation, accepting God as our maker and redeemer, and growing day by day into an increasingly glorious creature in Christ, developing joy, experiencing love, maturing in peace. By the grace of Christ we experience the marvel of being made in the image of God. If we reject this way the only alternative is to attempt the hopelessly fourth-rate, embarrassingly awkward imitation of God made in the image of man."

pg 150 "Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies."

pg 153  "We need pruning. Cut back to our roots, we then learn this psalm (131) and discover the quietness of the weaned child, the tranquility of maturing trust. it is such a minute psalm that many have overlooked it, but for all its brevity and lack of pretense, it is essential. For every Christian encounters problems of growth and difficulties of development."

pg 154 "And that is what Psalm 131 nurtures: a quality of calm confidence and quiet strength which knows the difference between unruly arrogance and faithful aspiration, knows how to discriminate between infantile dependency and childlike trust, and chooses to aspire and to trust - and to sing, "Enough for me to keep my soul tranquil and quiet like a child in its mother's arms, as content as a child that has been weaned.""

August 13, 2013

Lines (11)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 12  Hope  Psalm 130

p. 133 "To be human is to be in trouble."
"A Christian is a person who decides to face and live through suffering.  If we do not make that decision, we are endangered on every side."
"Psalm 130 grapples mightily with suffering, sings its way through it, and provides usable experience for those who are committed to traveling the way of faith to God through Jesus Christ."

p. 134  The psalmist here sets anguish out in the open, it is voiced in prayer before God - right out there, no holding back.
**How many of us think God isn't big enough to handle our cries?  How often do I pretend to have it together before the Almighty?  How stupid is that?!  I know He knows... what is the point in pretending?
My anguish does not shock him.

"You know, there is an American myth that denies suffering and the sense of pain. It acts as if they should not be, and hence it devalues the experience of suffering.  But this myth denies our encounter with reality." ~Ivan Ilich

p. 135 "The worst thing that can happen to a man is to have no God to cry to out of the depth." ~P.T. Forsyth
The Psalm shows us how to cry out - to face our suffering by bringing it before God - not to hide from it or avoid it - but to face it with faith.

p. 136  Because we have God - who is personal - we have the means to walk on through our suffering. He is with us, involved, caring and loving and absolutely merciful.

p. 136-137 "Eight times the name of God is used in the psalm. We find, as we observe how God is addressed, that he is understood as one who forgives sin, who comes to those who wait and hope for him, who is characterized by steadfast love and plenteous redemption, and who will redeem Israel. God makes a difference." (emp. mine)

p. 137 "And this, of course, is why we are able to face, acknowledge, accept and live through suffering, for we know that it can never be ultimate, it can never constitute the bottom line. God is at the foundation and God is at the boundaries."

p. 138 At the center of the psalm is the direction for participating in our reality - especially when it comes to suffering- the directions say wait and hope. These words are connected to the image of a watchman.

p. 139 "The psalmist's and the Christian's waiting and hoping is based on the conviction that God is actively involved in his creation and vigorously involved at work in redemption. Waiting does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions."
**I think there is also needed a level of acceptance that sometimes we will not know or understand these things - but that God knows is enough for us.

p. 140 "And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion of fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let him do it his way and in his time."
** Often - for me - this is the hardest part.  Trusting in God's ways and timing instead of what I think I want and when I want it.

August 4, 2013

Lines (10)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 11  Perseverance   Psalm 129

"Patience is drawing on underlying forces; it is powerfully positive, though to a natural view it looks like just sitting it out.  How would I persist against positive eroding forces if I were not drawing on invisible forces? And patience has a positive tonic effect on others; because of the presence of the patient person, they revive and go on, as if he were the gyroscope of the ship providing a stable ground.  But the patient person himself does not enjoy it." ~ Paul Goodman

pg. 122  Isaiah 53 paints a picture of someone extremely - painfully - persecuted and rejected and yet overcoming and righteous.  "The person of faith outlasts all the oppressors.  Faith lasts."

pgs 123-124  "Stick-to-it-iveness. Perseverance. Patience.  The way of faith is not a fad that is taken up in one century only to be discarded in the next.  It lasts.  It is a way that works. It has been tested thoroughly."

pg 125  "The life of the world that is opposed or indifferent to God is barren and futile. The way of the world is cataloged with proud, god-defying purposes, unharnessed from eternity, and therefore worthless & futile." 

pg 126  "The person who makes excuses for the hypocrites and rationalizes the excesses of the wicked, who loses a sense of opposition to sin, who obscures the difference between faith and denial, of grace and selfishness - that is the person to be wary of.  For if there is not all that much difference between the way of faith and the way of the world, there is not much use in making any effort to stick to it.  We drift on the tides of convenience. We float on fashion."

pg 127  "Perseverance does not mean perfect. It means that we keep going."
"For perseverance is not resignation, putting up with things the way they are, staying in teh same old rut year after year after year, or being a doormat for people to wipe their feet on.  Endurance is not a desperate hanging on but a traveling from strength to strength.  There is  nothing fatigued of humdrum in Isaiah, nothing flat-footed in Jesus, nothing jejune in Paul.  Perseverance is triumphant and alive."
      **I really grasp this more fully as I get older... we do not just carry on pitifully in our faith - we are conquerors in our struggles because of Christ and it is His strength that carries us on and sustains us in the battle.

pg 128  "The central reality for Christians is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment that God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God's faithfulness."

pg 129   In Hebrews we see a litany of people who lived by faith - people who centered their lives on the righteous God who is faithful through all things and by this they were able to persevere.  They had steadiness of purpose and admirable integrity - not that they never faltered, failed and sinned, but that by God's faithfulness they learned faithfulness.  Out of this we then read Hebrews 12: 1-2 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

pg 130  Purposes last - Christian faith allows us to build on the organizing center of life - God, in all His righteousness. "Christian discipleship is a decision to walk in His ways... It is the way of life we were created for.  There are endless challenges in it to keep us on the growing edge of faith; there is always a righteous God with us to make it possible for us to persevere."