turning our attention to God

Scot McKnight has an interesting post on the gospel being focused on God, and John Walton on a podcast talks about something similar in his thoughts about the coronavirus and how the book of Job might direct our thoughts about that, not to some satisfying answer, but toward God, and from that simply trusting God in the midst of the mess. Which ends up being much more satisfying and stabilizing than even helpful answers.

So often when we approach Scripture, or think on life in general, it’s in terms of our own need, or the needs of others. And Scripture and of course the gospel address that over and over again.

But essentially in the end our attention is directed to God, and when it’s all said and done, we’re left contemplating God. And the sooner we get to that place, the better.

We need to become those who don’t look to God for God’s gifts, as if that’s all we need. What we need first and foremost is God himself. Blessings will come with that, but also hardship, just as we see over and over again in Scripture. We need to learn to turn our attention to God. And seek to be more and more transfixed there. In and through Jesus.

mourn and weep, then laugh and dance

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    …a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

In this life there’s always plenty of good reason to mourn and weep. Plenty. Right at our doorstep. Not only around us, but over our own mistakes and failures. And there’s a time for that.

But saying there’s a time for that implies that it is meant to be only so long. There’s also a time to laugh and dance. Notice that these two opposites: grief and mirth are juxtaposed in the poetry of this passage so that one indeed can’t miss the contrast.

As humans we can’t carry the weight of our own burdens forever. We’re meant to cast them on God in prayer, and to carry each other’s burdens.

There is a time as well for us to carry our own burden. In taking seriously the harm we’ve done, or being weighed down by our concern for others.

And the time to relax, to let it go only in the sense of no longer stressing over it. Not that we let go of the actual concern. But even with that, through trust in God, we’re able to relax and enjoy God’s gifts, and especially God himself as we seek to contemplate on him.

In and through Jesus.

 

 

the beauty of Jesus

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

If there’s one thing we need to see and become changed by it’s the beauty of Jesus and the beauty of the Triune God in him. As we contemplate that beauty we begin to be changed into that image so that we reflect something of it into the world.

This is both an individual and a church matter. The beauty of Jesus is seen in our lives individually especially in terms of loving God and loving our neighbor (which is the first and greatest commandment and the second like it). It is relational at its core since at our core we are relational beings, surely part of God’s image in us, God who is inherently relational as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This beauty is worked out or becomes evident in community, and in fact can be seen and transformative there. As well as in solitude. We surely need both, perhaps with a needed emphasis on community since we have inherited such an individualistic (and rationalistic, both versus tradition and authority) world view in the Modernist Enlightenment.

It is not as much a matter of being right as being good. However goodness does not exclude truth. Truth and love are joined together in scripture. Love does not belittle truth. While we hold humbly to truth as we’ve received it as the church from scripture, we above all see the truth in Jesus, who is “the truth” (“the way and the truth and the life”). In some ways this beauty is easily recognized and appreciated by us, but in other ways not. We need new eyes to see, and that’s what we receive in the gift of the Spirit. Without the Spirit’s revelation we simply won’t get it. This revelation is for each of us, but is not a privatized vision, but one that is affirmed over and over again by the church.

And so that is what I hope for: both to see and to reflect the Lord’s beauty as I more and more am changed into that image with others in and through Jesus.

no longer driven

What drives us as in what motivates us is a factor and fact of life. Especially in America, where individual liberty is arguably the highest value which means there is a drivenness across every sector of society, often top down, starting from those with the money who want more.

But drivenness is natural to us as humans, and likely we can say natural more so in our fallenness, so that it is a drive which carries with it at least much that when all is said and done leaves the soul bare (I think here of Ecclesiastes).

I think drivenness has characterized much of my life. Again, it is a part of modern, even post-modern (post-modernity does not entirely phase out modernity, or at least has not yet I don’t think, nor ever entirely will, my guess, in whatever the next era is labeled) culture. There is an idealism in modernity which pushes and drives to make more and more. Probably present in the world throughout history, in the institution of slavery, the push for perceived greatness, etc.

But in Jesus I find that I’m to grow toward no longer being driven, but led. I have a sense of being led by the Spirit, in my relationship to God and in communion with the church. Or at least that is the way God is changing me I gather, my experience in the best of my times. Drivenness is something I eschew, or do not want to embrace. (Recall the man driven by demons in “the gospels”, and then set free from that by Jesus.)

This is not to say there is not a time to joyfully “kick butt”, or not so joyfully. I do mean self-inflicted. I believe in working hard, with all one’s being, so I’m not suggesting we be lazy. But I do think we need to learn to work in a pace of worship to God, in which our love for God and for our neighbor as ourselves, is paramount. How that’s worked out is hard to say, and maybe not meant so much to be said, though it’s always good to find fitting words.

I sense that we need more contemplatives, Mary’s who sit at the Lord’s feet, rather than Martha’s who never see the end of the work that needs to be done. There needs to be some kind of sense of rest and leisurely pace, even in our work (some of this I imagine I’ve gleaned from Eugene Peterson).

Led by God, by the Spirit, perhaps driven at times in that leading according to scripture (though the passage I’m thinking of can mean sent without force), but by and large learning to walk by the Spirit, in step with the Spirit in following the Lord.

Perhaps there is a time as in event, or a certain period in one’s life when a sense of drivenness is needed. But that is not where one should end up. We are led, yes gently but firmly led by God in and through Jesus by the Spirit. Together for the world.