How to Wait for Heaven

by John MacArthur, June 14, 2019

 

Focusing on our eternal inheritance is key to maintaining a proper perspective on Christ’s sufficiency, especially when you’re in the midst of difficult circumstances. That’s not always easy because we’re prone toward selfishness and desiring instant gratification. Advertising fuels that mentality by telling us we can have all we want—and we can have it right now! Of course “having it all” usually means buying on credit whatever product they’re selling. A steady diet of that philosophy has fattened our society with self-indulgence and impatience. People find it difficult to cope with life if they can’t instantly fulfill every desire. They want to eliminate any discomfort, difficulty, injustice, or deprivation immediately.

Scripture responds with two revolutionary concepts: heavenly-mindedness and delayed gratification. Heavenly-mindedness is taking our eyes off the world’s offerings for fulfillment and focusing instead on God’s sufficient provision for our satisfaction. It’s what Jesus meant when He instructed us to make the Father’s kingdom our first priority (Matthew 6:33). It’s what Paul meant when he told us to set our minds on the things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). And it’s what John meant when he said, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).

Delayed gratification is simply deferring to God’s will and God’s timing—the essence of patience. All of His promises will be fulfilled, His righteousness and authority will be fully realized, His Son and His saints will be fully vindicated—but in His time, not ours. Many of the difficulties we experience will not be resolved in this life because His purposes transcend our temporal situations. So there’s no point in running impatiently for relief to people offering “solutions” that ignore God’s objectives and timetable.

For example, the Holy Spirit encourages persecuted believers:

Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7–8)

I’m sure the dear saints to whom James was writing longed for God’s comfort and justice against their persecutors. But God wanted them to cultivate patience, strength of heart, and a joyful anticipation of Christ’s return. Those are far greater benefits than immediate relief from the difficulties and injustices they faced. God would vindicate them, but in His own time.

Heavenly-minded patience includes looking forward to our eternal inheritance with gratitude to God despite our temporal circumstances. Peter illustrated that principle in his first epistle, which was written to teach us how to live out our faith amid seemingly unbearable trials and persecutions. The emperor Nero had accused the Christians of burning Rome, and the resulting persecution was spreading even as far as Asia Minor, where the recipients of 1 Peter lived.

To help them focus on their eternal inheritance rather than their present difficulties, Peter gave them—and us—a threefold word of encouragement.

Remember Your Calling

We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). As such we are at odds with Satan’s evil world system and will incur its wrath. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised or intimidated by threats of persecution. That’s our calling:

You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:21–23)

Remember to Praise God

Bowing in praise is far better than bowing to pressure. In 1 Peter 1:3–5 Peter says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The main verb “be” (1 Peter 1:3) is implied rather than stated (“Blessed be the God”). The text could be literally translated, “Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In short, the sense of it is “bless God,” which is both a doxology and a command.

For Peter to have to command believers to bless God clearly illustrates the depth of our sinfulness. One of the joys of heaven will be our undiminished capacity to praise God perfectly and incessantly for His saving grace. The song of the redeemed will be on our lips throughout eternity. Yet now we struggle with apathy and familiarity. What an indictment! Praising God for our eternal inheritance should be the constant expression of our hearts, no matter what the temporal situation might be.

Remember Your Inheritance

Focusing on our inheritance is an important key to experiencing joy amid trials. The richness of our inheritance should motivate us to bless God continually. We’re aliens in this world (1 Peter 1:1), but we’re citizens of heaven and recipients of immeasurable blessings in Christ. This temporal world offers nothing in comparison to our imperishable eternal inheritance.

(Adapted from Our Sufficiency in Christ)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B190614

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How to Receive True Riches

by John MacArthur, June 17, 2019

You don’t buy or earn your way into an inheritance. The Greek word translated “inheritance” (klēronomia1 Peter 1:4) speaks of possessions passed down from generation to generation. You receive them simply because you’re a family member.

The apostle Peter describes the means by which believers gain membership in the family of God: “[He] caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We receive our eternal inheritance by means of spiritual rebirth—the only solution to our sinful condition and alienation from God. Jesus made that very clear when He said to the Jewish leader Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). John 1:12–13underscores the same truth: “As many as received [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

We were first born as sinful creatures, dead in trespasses and sins and indulging the desires of our flesh and mind. We were by nature children of wrath, separate from Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:1–312). We were no more able to change our condition than we could alter the color of our skin, or than a leopard could change its spots (Jeremiah 13:23).

A person in that condition must be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the new birth, the Spirit makes a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), taking up residence in the believer and transforming that person’s thinking and behavior—perspectives and values change, and the focus shifts from self to Christ.

God’s Word is essential to the new birth. Peter said, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. . . . This is the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:2325). The Holy Spirit works through the Word to activate faith, which results in the new birth (Romans 10:17).

Faith means trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Many people want to add other requirements to the gospel, such as religious ceremony, some code of conduct, church membership, or whatever. All of those things are human works. Salvation cannot be earned by works but is a gift of God’s grace (Romans 3:21–26). That is, God does not ask us to reform as a prerequisite to being saved; He justifies us freely, then works His transforming power to change us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Before Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3:2), he was undoubtedly like the other Jewish religious leaders of his day—living by an external code of religious conduct apart from true love for God (John 8:42). They thought they could be saved by their own good works. But Jesus shattered that illusion when He told Nicodemus, in effect, that he would have to assume the role of a spiritual infant by setting aside all his religious error and approaching salvation all over again on God’s terms—he needed to be “born again” (John 3:3).

Jesus illustrated His point by referring to a familiar event in Israel’s history. At one point during Israel’s wilderness wanderings, God had sent fiery serpents among the people because they had spoken against God and Moses. Many had been bitten and were dying. When Moses interceded for the people, God instructed him to place a bronze serpent on a pole. Those who looked upon the bronze serpent were healed of their snakebites (Numbers 21:5–9). That was the image Jesus called up in Nicodemus’s mind:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14–16)

That bronze serpent was symbolic of the spiritual healing that comes to all who turn from sin and look to Jesus, who was lifted up on a cross. Nicodemus had been bitten by the serpent of self-righteous religious legalism. He needed to acknowledge his helplessness and look to Christ alone for salvation.

The new birth gives “a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). It is perpetually alive because it is grounded in the living God, who will fulfill all of His promises (Titus 1:2), and because it transcends this temporal life. Also, our hope is living because it’s based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19) and, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25). Then He raised Lazarus from the dead to prove His claim (John 11:43–44).

Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Physical death is never the end for the believer—it simply ushers us into Christ’s presence, where our hope is eternally realized. We never need to fear the grave because Christ has conquered death and has given a living hope to all who love Him.

(Adapted from Our Sufficiency in Christ)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B190617

Apathy

June 14, 2019 by Discerning Dad

The best hammock overall

But whoever has been forgiven little shows only little love.  Luke 7:47

Apathy can strike us at any stage in life and at any area of our life. But what is apathy exactly? Apathy is an “absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement” or “a lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.” We can have apathy in anything from our jobs, school, spouses, family, children, politics, hobbies, and yes even, unfortunately, God.

If we look at Luke 7:36-50, we see Jesus at a house of a Pharisee. An unnamed woman (different than the stories where they name Mary wiping Jesus’ feet in the other gospels) who had been in a sinful life (possibly a prostitute) enters the house, pours perfume on Jesus’ feet and wipes it off with her hair. Jesus asked Simon question, “Two people owned money to a moneylender, one 500 and one 50. Both were forgiven, which of them would love him more?” Simon answered correctly the one who had the bigger debt. Jesus then honors the woman for what she did and calls out the apathy of the people in the house who did not do the same thing for Him.

We see an important example here of what can happen in the Christian life when we either grow up in the church or we have been a Christian for a while. We get apathetic for the things of God. We lose our first love (Revelation 2:4). We lose sight of the fact that we have been saved from an eternal punishment for our sin and we now have everlasting life where Jesus will bring to fulfillment a world with no sin, sickness, or death. I see newer Christians who have been saved out of immense bondage who have a freedom and joy many Christians never get to experience. To them, they have seen death first hand in the form of addiction, sin, new age, or the occult. They know the joy and freedom that Jesus gives and the removal of the curse over their life of death and decay. These newer Christians can be on fire for God and stand as an example for every Christian who acts apathetically before our Lord and Savior by refusing to read the Bible, witness to others, or love their brothers and sisters. Just like in the example from Luke, these newer Christians see fully the immense debt they were forgiven from.

Many Christians are not purposefully apathetic. They can still love Jesus they just go through the motions. If we do not view our forgiven debt as significant (which it is), we can find ourselves thinking “well I was a decent person before I was saved”, “I didn’t do anything THAT terrible”, “I’ve grown up in the church, I’ve always loved Jesus, I never had THAT bad of sin.” We need to remember that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This does not only mean the sin we ourselves created, but the sinful nature we were born into. The sin we committed and still commit TODAY as Christians deserves death. We should never act so entitled to our salvation that we forget the great price that was paid by Jesus on Calvary so that we would not face what we actually deserved!

Now, there’s another aspect to this story of Jesus and the woman. The woman came in, overwhelmed with emotion, washing Jesus’ feet. Jesus told the Pharisees “her many sins have been forgiven- as her great love has shown.”

In other words, the woman was forgiven and showed her immense gratitude and love for Jesus.

THEN Jesus says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” What Jesus says about the woman He then says directly to her. But why? She already “knew” that her sins were forgiven which is why she was there in the first place honoring Jesus. I feel this is more of a personal reassurance to the woman. She may have been haunted by reminders of the past and overwhelming memories of her sin. Jesus reminded her of His grace for her and of her forgiveness she needed to accept, even though it had already happened.

Satan is the king of guilt trips. If we have been forgiven from sin, God removes it as far as “the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) provided that we “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). When our thoughts go to the past, we need to stop them before they snowball out of control. Our past can cause us to feel like we are unworthy of grace, unworthy to be used by God, and unworthy of love. We must turn these thoughts into love FOR God WHO IS WORTHY, just like the woman who wept over Jesus’ feet.

So how can we combat apathy in our Christian life? How do we not lose our “first love”? Apathy is also known as being “lukewarm” and is given as a warning to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:16). First of all it’s not easy; it takes a willful effort on our part to read the Bible, to pray daily, to love our neighbor, to listen to God’s voice, and walk where He leads. Not out of “going through the motions” but out of genuine love and desire for a relationship with our Bridegroom who came and died for us and is coming back again.

We need to make our prayer like David after the prophet Nathan convicted him of his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Discerning Reflection: How have I been apathetic or even lukewarm in my relationship with Jesus? What can I do TODAY to address this? Do I truly desire this and why?

Prayer: Lord, restore to me the joy of my salvation. Thank you for your work on the cross and may I never take that for granted. Forgive me of apathy I have had and give me a fire again for a relationship with You! Amen.

Tim Ferrara

Discerning Dad  http://www.discerning-dad.com

Apathy

Mene mene tekel upharsin

June 1, 2019 by Witness for Jesus

Dear friends,

Have you heard the expression “the writing on the wall”?

Usually we use it in the context that someone saw or ignored it, meaning that they had seen or ignored a warning, something unfortunate was about to happen if they didn’t listen to this warning and yet they continued doing what they were doing…

Did you know that this saying actually stems from a story in the bible?

Me, I didn’t.

Only today when I was reading the bible did I realize that this is where it came from.

I am talking about the book of Daniel chapter 5.

For many of you, the phrase “writing on the wall” will have rung a bell, but let me freshen up your memory or fill you in if you’ve not heard about it:

MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN

That was the title of the writing upon king Belshazzar’s wall.

The phrase appeared on a wall in the palace of Belshazzar, the acting king of Babylon.

He is referred to as the “son of Nebuchadnezzar”, although he was not Nebuchadnezzar’s immediate successor. The biblical account of the mysterious and frightening appearance of the phrase mene mene tekel upharsin has given rise to the modern expression “the handwriting on the wall,” meaning “a portent or warning of inevitable misfortune.”

Daniel 5 tells the story of the Babylonian ruler Belshazzar, a rich and debauched king, who gave a banquet to his court. During the drunken party, the sacred vessels from the Jewish temple, stolen by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, were used in a blasphemous manner. At the height of the festivities, a man’s hand was seen writing on the wall the mysterious words “mene mene tekel upharsin” (verse 25). The king was terrified. But no one could understand what the words meant. All attempts at interpretation by Belshazzar’s wise men failed until the prophet Daniel was called in.

Daniel was one of the captives from Judah brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was given wisdom from God to read and translate the words, which meant “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.” Daniel told the king, “Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:26–28). Peres is the singular form of upharsin. The Bible never identifies what language the words were in.

The handwriting on the wall proved true. In fact, it proved fatal for the dissolute Belshazzar. Just as Daniel had said, the kingdom of Babylon was divided between the Medes and Persians, and it happened that very night. Belshazzar was slain, and his kingdom passed to Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30–31).

Belshazzar had not lived his life for GOD, nor had he feared HIM. This is why this came upon him according to the bible and to this story.

When you hear or recall this story, what is it telling you and how do you translate it into your life today?

To me, this can mean two things for us and in our lives:

  1. Either it is a warning to us that something we are doing must stop immediately, because it is not of GOD’s will, that we are living our life missing what he wants for us, that we are not on our path, not obeying HIS calling for us
  2. Or it can also be a warning for our enemies that their days are numbered and that they are about to die – this will be spiritually most of the time, usually not in a literal sense, but it also can be…

Which of the two meanings apply to your current situation, you will know immediately and most likely, you have even known what the meaning is before I suggested the options…

This is how GOD speaks to us, this is why HE has created the bible, so that we can hear HIM, so that we can learn what HE wants us to learn.

For me, it is always fascinating and a mystery at the same time, how GOD directs me to the very story that I am supposed to read and hear that day.

This one came to me through a movie that I watched – I don’t watch secular movies any longer, just as I renounced and stopped listening to secular music a while ago, and I also don’t have a TV at home, because I find that the media are trying to manipulate our brains and wellbeing too much with their negative propaganda, spreading fear and also with the subliminal messages and attempts to control our minds being sent out through the media…

But I do sometimes like to watch a film for entertainment and when I do, I sometimes like to watch one of the many Christian, Nigerian movies  – there are many of them and if you are interested, you can find them on youtube, just type in “mount zion movies” to give you an example.
They are all “clean” in language, all of them have a Christian message and most of them even contain sound biblical teachings which I really like.
This one today was about a family who had come from Nigeria to the USA and had missed the mission why GOD had sent them there –  before they had left for the foreign land, their pastor had asked the head of the family to read the first 6 chapters of the book of Daniel – and when he said it to the father in the movie, I paused the movie and did the same…

I still continued watching the film and I enjoyed it very much.

But even more so did I enjoy how this phrase came to me –  I had not seen it before:

MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN

These words comfort and inspire me.

And they give me hope.

Because in this account, someone who was against GOD was punished and died.

It can be frightening or comforting to consider that GOD is a just GOD.

Regarding of how we live our lives, this will either threaten or soothe our soul.

The knowing that GOD is JUST.

Me, I am comforted by this reminder today.

Perhaps I am missing something in my life which is not pleasing to GOD and perhaps I am being self-righteous, but after a lot of soul searching, I found that I have diligently sought HIM, asked HIM about every decision I made in my life in the past few years (after I got born again to be precise) and that my intention and my deep, deep wish is to follow HIM and to serve the LIVING GOD.

Which means that if or when my life is in dire circumstances, that these are against GOD and about to die, just like the forces and / or people causing them.

This is a good assurance.

And I wanted to share this with you, my dear friends.
Because I know that some of you are in the same situation.
That they are being treated unfairly, that they are being oppressed, that they are being haunted, tormented, shunned, attacked…

I want you to know that GOD is going to bring you justice.
That GOD is a rewarder of those who diligently seek HIM and that HE will give you an expected end.

And those of you who will see and ignore the writing on the wall and have some changes to do in their lives, in their hearts, they better do them, otherwise they will regret it.

GOD will always win.

There is nothing anyone can do about it.

HE is GOD and above all things and all persons and all powers.

If we are on HIS side and in HIS team, increasing and serving HIS kingdom, this truth is GOOD NEWS, is soothing, comforting, reassuring… if we are not, it is the most frightening truth we could possibly hear.

So if you are not comforted by this, my friend, take the writing on the wall seriously and give your life to JESUS today if you have not done so!
Remember, Belshazzar died the same night, so there may not be a lot of time left, you better repent and do it now!

And if you are already HIS child and serving HIM, take this as an assurance that your suffering will be over any minute…

I hope and pray that this will bless and inspire you and that THE LORD will bless you abundantly in all areas of your life, that HE will keep you and shine HIS face upon you and bring you peace. In JESUS’ name I pray. AMEN.

 

Original here

 

Why Character Is Making a Comeback

Character formation isn’t just an individual process, says Anne Snyder. It requires institutions.
INTERVIEW BY KATELYN BEATY| MAY 21, 2019

Why Character Is Making a Comeback

In a media landscape awash in flame wars and polarizing punditry, it’s a bit surprising that the topic of character formation is making a comeback. “Building character” is the stuff of childhood chores and onerous school projects, completed out of duty and little delight. Yet according to new research presented in the book The Fabric of Character, published by the DC-based Philanthropy Roundtable, character formation is a top concern among today’s leaders and charitable givers across the ideological spectrum. According to researcher Anne Snyder, anyone paying attention to social trends in the West recognizes that “the conditions under which good character is forged are in trouble—weakened as much by the decline of traditional institutions as by a culture that promotes ‘I’ before ‘we,’ pleasure before purpose, self-expression before submission to a source of moral wisdom beyond oneself.”

In the book, Snyder highlights several institutions—including schools, neighborhood renewal projects, and the Boy Scouts—as case studies of how organizations strengthen the moral fiber of their members. Snyder, the newly named editor-in-chief of Comment magazine, recently spoke with CT about why faith-based institutions are particularly good at teaching character.

When I hear the word “character,” I think of the dad in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip who is always making Calvin shovel snow because it builds character. It’s not a sexy topic. Yet as you note, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in it. Why?

I started this particular project for the Philanthropy Roundtable in early 2016. I used to joke that Donald Trump and the Democrats  are a huge gift to my work because suddenly a lot of people who I never would have anticipated being interested in character, regardless of where they fell politically—even if they voted for them—began to say, “Actually, we really do care about it in our leaders.” When I began figuring out how to build a bridge between philanthropists and practice, a lot of people wanted to talk to me because they had a lot of worries about what was going on at the top of national leadership.

More broadly, as people look at social trends—everything from rising mental illness to widening and debilitating anxiety, particularly among young people, to what I would call hyper-emphasis on achievement alone as the only way to define what the good life is—a variety of those social trends have raised alarm bells about how we’re raising our kids and telling them what to value. Whether people would say there’s a moral vacuum, there’s definitely been a realization that we haven’t attended to the whole person. As a society, we’ve somehow not attended to the deeper, often invisible moral fiber of life.

Why did you focus your research on institutions that create the cultures necessary for character formation and not on individual character?

The donor community that I try to serve and cast a vision for, frankly, a lot of them are older, male, and white, ages 70 and above, and they lament the decline of the Boy Scouts years. Early on, when people heard that I was studying character, most of the donors said, “We want to fix the Boy Scouts and make it relevant again.” They were referring to these big, national institutions formed during the Progressive Era 100 years ago. We used to have a bevy of nationally scaled civic institutions that brought people together, that formed our young people in such a way that we had a shared American moral norm. Where have those institutions gone? And with the decline of religious institutions and trust in religious institutions, what are the fresh institutions to take their place that can serve in a more pluralistic era? That’s why what I ended up doing was so much more institutional and sociological than just looking at how an individual becomes more honest.

Character is such a surprise minefield in terms of how people want to define it. The tribalism of our age seems to strike this topic more than I was expecting. I didn’t think it would be politicized. I’m sensitive to the baggage that even the word character has—of cultural imperialism of a certain kind. People on the right think I’m being crazy when I say that, but people on the left kind of roll their eyes at the notion of “reviving the character-building institutions of yesteryear,” because they see that as a euphemism for middle-class values that are not taking a lot of other things into account.

Character is a word like truth or goodness; we all think we know what it means, but we probably have very different working definitions. How do you define characteras it applies to your research of various institutions?

So true! Part of the minefield of this work was realizing that different folks wanted to emphasize different aspects of character. My goal was to diffuse some of the alleged disagreements by emphasizing the practices of a character-filled life, and the often-invisible cultural and institutional forces that shape those practices. Here’s the definition I offer in the book:

Character is a set of dispositions to be and do good, engraved on a person in multiple ways: by strong family attachments that teach what to love and how to love well; by regular habits that ingrain small acts of self-control; by teachers and role models who personify excellence and inspire emulation; by religious instruction on honest, courageous, and compassionate living; through institutions that establish standards for good conduct and mentors who inculcate concrete ways to execute it; by the reading of great literature; through experiences of struggle, positions of responsibility, and the blessings and demands of enduring commitments.

In Case Study 2, you profile the Other Side Academy, which takes ex-convicts through a rigorous residency and moral boot camp of sorts to prepare them for re-entry. Their approach is strict and no-nonsense. Is there a way in which character development in general sounds a bit like “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”? What is the role of grace in character formation?

The Other Side Academy was originally founded in Salt Lake City, so there is some Mormon influence in the underlying teleology. That played a role in how they designed accountability and even the initial interview, as they described it to me, when people apply and come in off the street or out of jail. I was a little shocked at how eviscerating those interviews are. It’s a test of, are you willing to hear some of the hardest, ugliest things about the way you’ve lived your life thus far? It’s really bracing. But I saw one of the graduating ceremonies, and the entire secular “sermon” given to the current students and the graduates was on grace. Grace was described as an active chiseling process that comes to us in the form of a friend who will be there for us no matter what but who will confront us when they see us making a moral infraction.

These ex-convicts are there to change who they are on the inside and completely shift their identity. And to do that, they have to face the worst things they’ve done to others. Grace in their view is very real, but there’s often pain involved.

If we’re going to give it a Christian corollary, it’s like the discipline of the Father toward those he loves. That’s the spirit behind it: Pain is purifying. I don’t think this could thrive in small group church situation [laughs], but I’ve never been so morally humbled in my life by these ex-offenders. I want some of these people leading companies now.

In all the examples in the book of healthy institutions, one doesn’t have to dig far to find a faith-based orientation, or at least an openness to faith. Do people of faith traditions, whether Christianity, Judaism, or Mormonism, create the best institutions for character formation?

I don’t think it’s necessary that any organization shaping lives has to have some kind of theological infusion. I did find that today, because a lot of our institutions are secular, the moral categories are very politicized categories—terms like “social justice” on the left, or on the right, the virtue of manifested, individualized courage. Our secular institutions have lost a thick moral framework. Your average “character program” that’s trying to exist in a public education environment—it’s not grounded in a clear definition of the good.

A lot of character work out there is “we just need to pull kids out of poverty and teach them some soft skills,” where character formation is a means to an end and all about getting them to a broader success ethic. By contrast, a lot of the religious institutions that we looked at tended to think in communal terms, tended to think in accountability terms, and tended to believe that humans are dependent on something beyond themselves. They have resources to draw from in their own traditions to address the moral life in a coherent way. Because religion has a transcendent orientation, it’s one of the best spheres to equip people to think about ultimate ends.

You recently took the helm of Comment magazine. How will your faith inform your vision for the magazine?

For whatever reason—whether by grace or God’s wink—since becoming a Christian, my faith has been the core engine driving my creativity. It’s the integrating pulse for my questions, ideation, laughter, skepticism. So therefore I believe in the arts, hospitality, relationship, paradox. The Beatitudes and 1 Corinthians 1 will be hitching posts, both for what this next season of Comment will seek to embody and for the sorts of voices I’ll be working to attract. In a time of deep division and gracelessness in our public square, I see a need to cohere a community of thought and action that is exploring today’s toughest issues with a kind of transcendent curiosity—a curiosity that will pour itself out in hope, faith, and love.

 

Original here

What Happens When We Don’t See God Do What We Hope

April 9, 2019 by Dylan

 

I believe that it is the power of God’s Love which truly transforms and changes our world to be more like His Kingdom. As John 3:16 says, it was “For God so loved the world the He sent His Son…” and Jesus, His Son, is the Light that our world – and each one of us – needs. It is from the place of God’s Love that we have salvation, healing and true flourishing of life through Jesus.

My hope is to carry His Love to all His creation. Sometimes in ministering to others, we might try to seek to see a certain result that we want to see. We might want to see someone healed or someone have a radical encounter with Holy Spirit. But a question I’ve been thinking about lately is what happens when we don’t see something outwardly powerful occur? What happens when someone doesn’t get healed? What happens if someone doesn’t choose to give their life to Jesus right in the moment we might wish they would?

For some, even asking such questions might be viewed as not having enough faith, because our belief and expectation is always that God’s will is to heal and save, which certainly is true. Yet I propose that it is in those times when we don’t see what we believe and hope will happen, that we are actually invited into the gift of increased faith. Do we still believe that God is Good? Do we still believe that God is Love? Are we still showing others God’s Love and how much they are valued by not only God, but by ourselves?

People are not objects of ministry, to be viewed as something to save or something to heal. Others, like ourselves, all need to feel known, cared about and loved. No matter what happens, we can always experience for ourselves, and show God’s Love to all people.

 

Original here