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The Highest Good

What is the meaning of life? This is the primary question that Oswald Chambers addresses in The Highest Good. Our conceptions of all things are meager, at best. Our perceptions of reality are finitely bound. At its core, faith is a simple thing.

How long does it take us to know what the true meaning of our life is? One half second.

So, what is the meaning of life? Consider these thoughts. (Click the tweet to read on Twitter or click to reveal the excerpts below.)

Whether we live for the Highest Good does not depend on our understanding, but on whether we have the life of the Highest Good in us.

The one great enemy of discipleship to Jesus Christ is spiritual obstinacy, the emphatic ‘I won’t’ which runs all through.

Preaching precepts while we ignore the Cross of Jesus Christ is like giving a pill to cure an earthquake.

We laugh at the Bible idea of righteousness; our god is the conventional righteousness of the society to which we belong.

To stand true to Christ’s point of view means ostracism, the ostracism that was brought on Him; most of us know nothing whatever about it.

The reason we do not see the need to be born from above is that we have a vast capacity for ignoring facts.

Our Lord centred His most scathing teaching [around] money & marriage, because they are the two things that make men and women devils or saints.

Jesus saw in money a much more formidable enemy of the Kingdom of God than we are apt to recognize it to be.

The more we try to reconcile modern principles of economy with the teachings of Jesus, the more we shall have to disregard Jesus.

It may be hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, but it is just as hard for a poor man to seek first the kingdom of God.

We won’t accept the responsibility of life as God gives it, we only accept responsibility as we wish to take it.

[Jesus] thoroughly realized, from first to last, that He had a work to do, so accurately arranged and fitted to the length of His life that every hour had its own part of the whole to clear off, and He was not allowed either to anticipate or lag behind. —James Stalker

If we try and live the life Jesus Christ lived, modern civilization will fling us out like waste material.

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Jesus Christ will not water down His teaching to suit our weakness.

The Lord can never make a saint out of a good man, He can only make a saint out of three classes of people—the godless man, the weak man, and the sinful man, and no one else.

Men living in sin don’t know anything about it. Sin destroys the capacity of knowing what sin is.

We gloss over our Lord’s actions with our civilized conceptions and destroy the meaning of His Gospel.

Unfold a scheme, dream, theory, long-cherished recollection within the reach of a man who loves destruction, & he will reduce it to nothing.

Lord, let our soul’s life after all these years rise stronger, wiser, cleaner for its tears.

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Are we postured in such a way to know this – to believe it? When Jesus says that the Kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit, do we yearn for such a poorness? The highest good can only be grasped by the humble spirit. This is the way of the cross – the way of all who would follow Jesus.

Reflect On 1 Corinthians 2:14, Revelation 3:17, and John 17:3
Praise God that He is good.
Offer Thanks that there is meaning to life.
Confess any penchant for self-sufficiency.
Ask God to draw you deeper into Himself and into His way.
Comment: What is meant by attaining the excellency of a broken heart?

 

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Listening to Least-Heard Voices

#BlackLivesMatter while society roils on. This fallen world in which fallen people feign control is ripe for the redemptive message.

From Ignorance

Do you pause when someone tells you that black lives matter? If so, consider why this is the case. I hope any pause would come not from disagreement with this simple and true statement. Realize that the alternative to saying black lives matter is to say that black lives don’t matter. Do these lives of our brothers and sisters matter to you? Say it out loud. Black lives matter. Do you hear the truth in it? Do you believe the truth in it?

I confess that when #BlackLivesMatter first began to garner greater media coverage, I would pause. I would pause and sit with so many questions. I identified two reasons for this. First, I realize that my life has not been, to any great degree, naturally exposed to the stories of my black brothers and sisters – and I have done little to move my life into such a posturing toward the ethnic diversity around me. Second, Black Lives Matter is a bold statement that empowers a movement. I am always hesitant to hop on the bandwagon of a cause simply for the sake of the cause or to identify myself with and endorse something I don’t fully understand. But, as I pray into these matters, I am coming to understand that Black Lives Matter is more than a cause – it is a rallying cry of the oppressed. We ought not dismiss it in these days.

Toward Sensitivity

In order to be sensitized to something, we must rub up against it. We must encounter it in a real way. A message from Michelle Higgins at Urbana 15 reframed my engagement with the movement. It made me face my apathy and led my ignorance nearer the light. I strongly encourage you to give it a full listen.

Redefine justice the way that God defines justice. Your God is not white. Your God is not Japanese. Your God is not Congolese. Your God is God and he made all of you. Thus, our stories must be heeded by one another. —Michelle Higgins

With the recent death of Philando Castile only blocks from where we used to live, I began more consideration of my place in this story. What have I done to perpetuate or to alleviate the divisiveness so prevalent in certain facets of our diverse society? How have I stewarded the good story of Jesus toward a restorative end? Have I made space to heed the stories of my brothers and sisters?

Consider the following thoughts by Dr. Douglas Rutt (emphasis added).

Dr. Kolb illustrates the believers’ calling as priests by making a comparison with a Latin word for priest: pontifex. For those who understand Spanish, it is not hard to understand the roots of the word pontifex as “bridge maker.” According to this definition, the Christian task as priests is to construct bridges between the Word of God and people in the contemporary world. This task or calling is not merely to bark out words, although they may be true in themselves, but to build bridges. Undoubtedly, Dr. Kolb makes an important point because he emphasizes the need to know and understand people, their way of thinking, their opinions, their worries, their dreams, their hopes, their suppositions, their worldview, their passions and sins.

The only way to understand these things is to live among those people, to develop relationships with them, and to become a friend—in short, to become interested in the lives of others. To build a bridge, one must construct upon the firm ground on both sides of the gap. Normally, when a bridge is built, the builders don’t begin on one side and simply keep building until they reach the other side; rather, builders begin on both sides of the river, and the two sides meet in the middle. That is the way a bridge is built, and it provides interesting instruction for the task of Christian witness (recognizing that all analogies limp).

Intentional Exposure

You may know that I’ve largely abandoned Facebook, opting instead for Twitter. Unfortunately, few of my existing friends and family are on Twitter. Thus, my connections have been shaped somewhat independently from my “real-life” social spheres. I decided to look through the list of folks I’ve chosen to follow and was surprised at what I saw. The social sphere I had constructed was very black and white. Excluding non-personal accounts, these were the results:

168/220 • Male
52/220 • Female

195/220 • White
7/220 • Asian
5/220 • European
4/220 • African
3/220 • Asian American
3/220 • Hispanic
2/220 • African American
2/220 • Native American

As humans, the reality is that we are tribalistic – we tend towards those similar to us. However, I don’t think this is our natural state. Rather, it is a result of our broken state. It seems I’ve done little to push back – to create a space in which I might listen to the stories of my brothers and sisters of other races and ethnicities. So, in order to work on the other side of this bridge, I’ve unfollowed a good number of these folks (for a time, at least) and will be listening in on other voices. Please, let me know if you have suggestions of anyone I should be following who is not of my demographic (white middle-aged male).

Forward With Hope

I realize this is only one small step, but a step nonetheless. I recognize the general brokenness of our world and I pray that God might embolden and position me to take part in some sort of restoration. An old hymn comes to mind regularly these days – I’ve hummed it to Aelah, Simeon, and Isaiah when cradling them to sleep as babies. It often reminds me of this video. May it encourage and draw you toward hope.

Wherever you find yourself today, however you find yourself engaging your neighbors, and whatever wrestlings you find within and without, we can be sure of one thing and can return to one thing – we have a God who is faithful, loving, just, and sovereign. He has created all. He sustains all. He holds all. Your life matters because it has the image of God impressed upon it. May we honor that image in one another.

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

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Orbs

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We enjoyed some family time at the park this weekend. Bright, sunny, and not quite enough wind to keep the kite up.

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Nations Suffer & Christians Hope

Overwhelmed. Grieved. It is in times like these that we might begin to grasp the depth of human depravity and the undeniable need of a Savior.

The nations suffer beneath the weight of broken and misguided hearts. Yet, stories and dreams tell of another weight – a weight unbearable and beautiful. So, we call upon the name of the Lord. Jesus, heal us, create anew. Oh, how we long to be found in You, where peace is to be had. Let Your glory rise – let love rise.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. —Jesus

Here is a song I wrote years ago. It came to mind as I surveyed the news last night.

One Land

Station to station, oh, the news is feeding us our daily fear.
And in the papers, in the streets, they say, “The end is near.”
But what do words mean, when images come clear?
Oh, may we let the blood, the pain, & the tears draw near. Draw near …

Nation to nation, do we know our feet stand on one land?
And heart to heart, oh, when will we start to love our fellow man?

The mourning echoes on, heard from day to day & year to year.
But do we know our brother’s need & do we cry our sister’s tears?
When love & hate collide, oh, may we take a look in the mirror.
Then let Truth lead us on, from here to there, & there to here. Ohhhh.

In back alleys & backs of cars
In city streets & village bars
On planes & trains & banka boats
In forests, fields, & mountain roads
Oh, everywhere that money’s spent
And where they can’t pay rent
In orphan homes & prison cells
‘Fore altars & round empty wells
In restaurants & hospitals
With starving little boys & girls
Oh, every place you’ve never been
And right here, now, with a friend

When love & hate collide, oh, may we take a look past the mirror.
Reflected images of blood, pain, & tears become clear.
And lead us here to there, & there to here.

So, where do we go from here? Firstly, take heart and know that the light is still winning. Secondly, pray until all Life and Light breaks loose again in you. Then, radiantly go and shine. With every moment, every breath, every word – shine your little heart out. The light is winning. The light always wins.

The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. (Psalm 50:1)

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Fear

Today’s Moravian Daily Texts speak of fear and of courage.

The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. (Zephaniah 3:15)

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

The world is rife with opportunity to exercise fear … or courage. God does not say that disaster, turmoil, and trial will not touch His children. He does say that He is in our midst. He does say that we ought to remain alert – for we will face danger. Yet, He is with us. We take courage. In His strength, what have we to fear?

How is it that we have allowed fear to infiltrate the church? Have we turned from the assurance of His presence? Have we failed to trust His promise? Just as broken trust takes great care to build, the habit of fear, once rooted, takes great determination (and love) to destroy.

Oh, that we might let love rise – that we might let love reign. There is a way that brings peace and joy – it is in Christ – it is in love. If you are shackled by fear, I pray that God might meet you today. I pray that His word might speak life again. Love has called your name.

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Floor Time

Enjoying some Sunday afternoon floor time with this little guy. He’s figured sitting this past week and is managing something more like a crawl than the hopping he’d been up to lately.

 

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Talks on the Soul of a Christian

Jesus Christ’s entering in means absolute chaos concerning the way I have been looking at things, a turning of everything upside down.

It took some time, but I’ve made it through another. This book seemed to have less of a common thread running throughout, though the quotation above may capture it best. Reading again through my highlights, I see an exploration of the conscious and unconscious experience of faith. Oswald Chambers defines “the soul” this way:

Soul is the responsible expression of the ruling personal spirit.

It is the essence and expression of that which springs from the spirit that rules our life – whether that be the Holy Spirit or the spirit of error.

There is great depth to our being — far more than we can grasp. The redeeming work of God is for us in all our complexity. His grace not only takes hold of our conscious life, but also of the life into which we might never knowingly delve. He wholly saves.

I will leave you with passages I highlighted and a few devotional considerations. Many of these quotations have (or will be) posted in reply to the tweet shown below. If you prefer reading them there, sharing them socially, or conversing with me about any of the excerpts, click through to view on Twitter and respond. Otherwise, click to reveal the content below.

Before the Spirit of God can bring peace of mind He has to clear out the rubbish, and He has to give us an idea of what rubbish there is.

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There is something infinitely more mysterious to the Psalmist than the great universe outside, and that is the mystery of his own heart.

The cry to realize ourselves is the cry to keep God out.

Are we sincere enough to ask God to search us, and sincere enough to abide by what His searching reveals?

We belittle and misrepresent the Redemption if we refer it merely to our conscious life.

We must beware of estimating God’s salvation by our experience of it. Our experience is a mere indication in conscious life of an almighty salvation which goes far beyond anything we ever can experience.

There are supernatural powers and agencies of which we are unconscious that can play with us like toys whenever they choose unless we are garrisoned by God.

There is only one Being to Whom we must yield, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sin is not measured by a creed or a society; sin is measured by a Person, Jesus Christ.

Beware of turning your back on what you know is true because you do not want it to be real.

It is a desperate thing to die if we have only been living in the conscious life.

The philosophy of life is based on the topsy-turvy reasoning of going into things in order to find out about them, which is like saying we have to go into the mud before we can know what clean water is. ‘I must know the world’—if you do, you will only know good through contrast with evil. Modern teaching implies that we must be grossly experienced before we are of any use in the world. That is not true. Jesus Christ understood as no one else has done, but He never ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Our Lord knew good and evil by the life that was in Him; and God intended that man’s knowledge of evil should come in the same way as it came to Our Lord, viz., through the rigorous integrity of obedience to God. It is only when a man is delivered from sin that the Spirit of God begins to give him an understanding of what sin is.

Iniquity means turning out of the straight. Whenever anything begins to turn you out of the straight, stop and get it put right, no matter what else suffers. If you don’t, you will grow in iniquity, and if you grow in iniquity, you will call iniquity integrity; sensuality spirituality, and ultimately the devil God.

If we have to find reasons for doing what we do, we should not do it.

Lust disputes the throne of God in us.

The basis of life is antagonism in every domain; physical, mental, moral and spiritual, we only maintain health by fighting.

How can we be of the slightest used to God if we are always whining about our own conditions? The compromise arising from self-pity is quite sufficient to extinguish the whole purpose of God in a life.

Never for one moment sympathize with anyone who says, ‘I don’t know how to get to God.’ There is no one in the world easier to get to than God.

Thousands of people are ‘losing their life’ for the sake of a cause; this is perilously wrong because it is so nearly right. Anything that rouses us to act on the line of principles instead of a relationship to a person fosters our natural independence and becomes a barrier to yielding to Jesus Christ. Have we recognized that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, or are we jabbering Christian busybodies, so taken up with Christian work that we have no time for the Christ Who started the work, no time for him the morning, no time at night, because we are so keen on doing the things that are called by His name? What we have to watch today is the competition of causes against devotion to Jesus Christ. One life yielded to God at all costs is worth thousands only touched by God.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ awakens an intense craving and an equally intense resentment, because it does away with any other ground to stand on than that of the Atonement of Our Lord.

At first we trust our ignorance and call it innocence; we trust our innocence and call it purity, and when we hear the rugged things Our Lord says we shrink and say, ‘I never had a heart like that.’

Beware of any belief that makes you self-indulgent; it comes from the pit however beautiful it sounds.

A repentant soul is never allowed to remain long without being gripped by the love of God.

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God’s providence seems to pay no attention whatever to our individual ideas because He is after only one thing—’that they may be one, even as We are one.’ God has one prayer He must answer, and that is the prayer of His Son. It may look like a thorough breaking up of the life, but it will end in a manifestation of the Christian self in oneness with God.

That last image gives some pointed and convicting words. How do we measure our love for Jesus? Are we to measure love? Indeed, as humans, we have hearts that fail and wills that skew. It is in Jesus only that we find grace for today and strength for the way. Truly, whatever I need give up – if I’m left with Christ alone, I am left with enough.

Reflect On Psalm 139 and 1 Corinthians 2:14
Praise God that He is all in all.
Offer Thanks that the blood of Christ covers all.
Confess any calculations you make toward loving Jesus.
Ask God that He might search your deepest recesses.
Comment: How do we go about knowing the things of God?
Is there a point at which we should stop probing these “higher” things? What is that point?

 

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Subterranean

Some time ago, I began following @danwhitejr on Twitter. I don’t recall how we connected, but I’m happy we did. Soon after I followed him, I realized that he would be publishing this book. His tweets are dripping with wisdom, so I was excited to read a full work from him. The book delivers. So, should you read this book?

  • If you’re questioning the state and direction of the church …
  • If you’ve become disillusioned with the church or Christianity in the West …
  • If you could benefit from a swift kick in the spiritual butt …
  • If you wonder what it means to follow in the way of Jesus …
  • If you’ve forgotten the purpose of the table …
  • If you’re wondering how to best communicate truth …
  • If you consider your home and neighborhood as a space for missionary living …
  • If you think conversation is a lost art …
  • If you think you’ve no time for the practice of patience …
  • If you’re okay with your life being interrupted …
  • If you aim for greater availability and vulnerability amongst those around you …
  • If your contentment has been ransacked by idealism …
  • If you desire a home of sacred hospitality rather than protective security …
  • If you wrestle with the idols of image, information, ingenuity, or impact …
  • If you question the dichotomy of church attendance and church presence …
  • If you long for the restoration of rootedness …
  • If you desire to live from fidelity …
  • If you’re doubtful or ignorant of the post-Christendom manifestation of church …
  • If you have no good reason not to …

… read this book.

As I read through Subterranean, I tweeted highlights in reply to the following tweet. Click through to read short excerpts from the book.

Read reviews and purchase the book online from the publisher or Amazon.

When you do read it, let me know your thoughts.

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Bedtime Stories 📖😴

At the outset of this year, I put down a list of intentions. Number one on that list was to continue regular blogging. It seems the year has taken me by some other path. I’ve written little. And yet, I’ve read much more than I often do. A good portion of that reading has come in the way of bedtime stories. For a good long time, when putting the kids to bed, we would leave them with a nightlight and a few books. Sometime around the new year, they began keeping one another awake after we’d leave the room. Since then, after prayers and a Bible story, Adrienne or I will read from a chapter book. Most often, they do well to listen. We really appreciate that they love books. I was encouraged by Uncle Ed’s advice on Facebook:

I will remind everyone of my single piece of parental advice I always give new parents… that i knew was not going to fail me, and I attribute most of my kids performance to… Reading to them every night until they ask you not to. I swear, if there was one single thing you could do for your kids, that is it.

And, though, we don’t always read until they ask us to stop, we have worked our way through numerous books. Since the new year, Adrienne has been read through a portion of the Little House series. I have read through Hittie: The First 100 YearsPippi LongstockingA Bear Called PaddingtonCharlotte’s WebLittle Pilgrim’s Progress, and Stuart Little.

Recently, if I’ve the choice, I most often would pick up non-fiction to read. So, personally, this time has been a nice return to the art and adventure of fictional story. Any suggestions for what we might read next?

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