Tuesday, 26 February 2008

How often do I meditate on the wrath of God?

It's one of those topics that we know about it, believe in and mention - but I wonder how much I ever really think about it properly? The wrath of God often becomes for me one bit in a gospel presentation (box 3!) which I then move on from. I wonder whether, perhaps strangely, this leads me to be both legalistic and superfical at the same time. I haven't really gone down into the depths of the wrath of God in my own spiritual thinking so I can only 'use it' as something to scare myself and others with, rather than to use it to convict us of sin. It would seem to me that the main purpose of the Bible's teaching on God's wrath is not 'run-because-you-will-be-punished-and-you-don't-want-that' but 'your-sin-is-heinous-and-God's-anger-tells-you-just-how-bad-it-is.' I fear that we think of God's anger only as something to escape from rather than as a mirror to who we are. I know it sometimes takes people to get angry with me before I'll see that I'm doing something wrong. How much more true this is of God! Surely, as Christians we can meditate on this with great profit because we will see more of the holiness of God, the awfulness of sin and the wonder of salvation?

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A Crazy Idea

I had dinner with some American pastors the other week and they were telling me how they had started up businesses to help fund their churches. I think they were mainly internet businesses. It was really interesting to hear how they were using the money from the businesses to run their ministries. Now, that struck me as brilliant entrepreneurial spirit. We might murmur about how that's a distraction and how we need to focus on the right things - all the while we're strapped for money to do new stuff. So why not? I got thinking about how we might start up a business where profits might be turned back into church planting in inner city areas. Anyone out there with business acumen who knows how that might be done?

Give us our daily bread

I was reflecting on the Lord's prayer from Matt 6:9ff the other day and it struck me that this petition of giving me daily bread might be more radical than I had previously supposed. I think I've always seen it as basically metaphorical for basic dependence upon God for the things we need in life as well as an allusion to the spiritual bread we get in Jesus. But I wonder actually whether the prayer presupposes a situation that is a lot more radically dependent than I have thought before. The 'problem' with the prayer is that we don't really 'have to pray it'. After all, we seem to have what we need, don't we? When did I last pray for my food or clothes? 

Yet, perhaps there is a presupposition built into this prayer that His disciples are to live so radically free from wealth and possessions that they obviously have to pray this prayer. Perhaps a more profound dependence is being assumed here so that it is obvious that daily bread really will not be there apart from specifically answered prayer. This context of radical dependence makes sense given the allusions to the dependent, pilgrim OT people of God within the petition itself (also alluded to in "lead us not into temptation"). Further, we have Jesus's teaching in 6:25-34 on worry/security/possessions. The commands there not to worry about what we eat or wear are actually quite mindblowing - and they assume a situation where you don't know where your food or clothes are coming from. The kind of dependence that disciples need is so radical because of their call away form trusting in wealth and possessions.

Friday, 1 February 2008

The Subversive Christ

A meditation on Col 1:15-20 by Brian Walsh

"In an image-saturated world
a world of ubiquitous corporate logos
permeating your consciousness
a world of dehydrated and captive imaginations
in which we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted
to be able to dream of life otherwise
a world in which the empire of global economic affluence
has achieved the monopoly of our imaginations
in this world
Christ is the image of the invisible God
in this world
driven by images with a vengeance
Christ is the image par excellence
the image above all other images
the image that is not a facade
the image that is not trying to sell you anything
the image that refuses to co-opt you
Christ is the image of the invisible God
the image of God
a flesh and blood
here and now
in time and history
with joys and sorrows
image of who we are called to be
image-bearers of this God
He is the source of a liberated imagination
a sub-version of the empire
because it all starts with him
and it all ends with him
all things
whatever you can imagine
visible and invisible
mountains and atoms
outer space, urban space, and cyberspace
whether it be the Pentagon, Disneyland,
Microsoft, or AT&T
whether it be the institutionalized power structures
of the state, the academy or the market
all things have been created in him and through him
he is their source, their purpose, their goal
even in their rebellion
even in their idolatry
he is the sovereign one
their power and authority is derived at best
parasitic at worse
In the face of the empire
in the face of presumptuous claims to sovereignty
in the face of the imperial and idolatrous forces in our lives
Christ is before all things
he is sovereign in life
not the pimped dreams of the global market
not the idolatrous forces of nationalism
not the insatiable desires of a consumerist culture
In the face of a disconnected world
where home is a domain in cyberspace
where neighborhood is a chat room
where public space is a shopping mall
where information technology promises
a tuned in, reconnected world
all things hold together in Christ
the creation is a deeply personal cosmos
all cohering and interconnected in Jesus
And this sovereignty takes on cultural flesh
And this coherence of all things is socially embodied
in the church
against all odds
against most of the evidence
In a "show me" culture where words alone don't cut it
the church is
the flesh and blood
here and now
in time and history
with joys and sorrows
embodiment of this Christ
as a body politic
around a common meal
in alternative economic practices
in radical service to the most vulnerable
in refusal to the empire
in love of this creation
the church reimagines the world
in the image of the invisible God
In the face of a disappointed world of betrayal
a world in which all fixed points have proven illusory
a world in which we are anchorless and adrift
Christ is the foundation
the origin
the way
the truth
and the life
In the face of a culture of death
a world of killing fields
a world of the walking dead
Christ is at the head of the resurrection parade
transforming our tears of betrayal into tears of joy
giving us dancing shoes for the resurrection party
And this glittering joker
who has danced in the dragon's jaws of death
now dances with a dance that is full
of nothing less than the fullness of God
this is the dance of the new creation
this is the dance of life out of death
and in this dance all that was broken
all that was estranged
all that was alienated
all that was dislocated and disconnected
is reconciled
comes home
is healed
and is made whole
all things
whatever you can imagine
visible and invisible
mountains and atoms
outer space, urban space, and cyberspace
every inch of creation
every dimension of our lives
all things are reconciled in him
And it all happens on a cross
it all happens at a state execution
where the governor did not commute the sentence
it all happens at the hands of the empire
that has captivated our imaginations
it all happens through blood
not through a power grab by the sovereign one
it all happens in embraced pain
for the sake of others
it all happens on a cross
arms outstretched in embrace
and this is the image of the invisible God
this is the body of Christ."

50 reasons not to sin

(It has occurred to me that I often try to fight sin with 'sniper attacks' and 'special force incursions', rather than with a full frontal, total military assault. I try to apply a few truths here and there but I don't get hold of the whole range of what the Bible gives me. This list is an attempt to correct that...)

1. It cost Jesus the cross
(1 Pet 3:24)

2. I make myself guilty before God (Ps 32:3-5)

3. The promises of sin are deceitful (Heb 3:13)

4. I am the temple of God’s presence (1 Cor:19)

5. God’s wrath and judgement is coming against sin (Rom 1:18)

6. Christ and righteousness are more satisfying (Ps 16:11, Prov 10:28)

7. Sin enslaves me in habits and patterns (Jn 8:34)

8. It brings me death (Rom 6:23)

9. I am destined for a future life and a world free from sin (Rev 21:27)

10. My God hates sin (Jer 44:4)

11. The death of Jesus has delivered me from the power of sin (Rom 6:6)

12. It wrecks my character (1 Sam 15:16-26)

13. It 'ruins' God's reputation (Ezek 36:22)

14. It ruins the reputation of the church (1 Cor 5:1-2)

15. It ruins my reputation (1 Tim 5:24-25)

16. God is an impartial Judge and will not 'let me off' (1 Pet 1:17)

17. I have been raised in Christ to live for God (Rom 6:8-10)

18. Sin messes up God’s world (Gen 3:17-19)

19. My sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30)

20. It turns me into a fool and makes me ignorant (Rom 1:21)

21. I become like an animal ("brute beast") (Luk 15:15-16)

22. Sin hardens my heart even more to God (Ehp 4:18)

23. My heart has been 'circumcised' by Christ and the sinful nature done away with (Col 211)

24. Sin wages a war for my personal destruction (Eph 6:12)

25. I lose self-control and become filled with cravings (Eph 2:3)

26. I belong to Christ (1 Cor 6:20)

27. I break the whole law of God with one sin (James 2:10)

28. Sin implies a rejection of Jesus as my Saviour from sin (1 Pet 2:24)

29. It gives the devil a foothold (Eph 4:27)

30. My conscience loses its sensitivity (Rom 1:28-31)

31. It is better to have a crippling disability than to sin (Matt 5:29-30)

32. The LORD is a holy God (1 Pet 1:16)

32. Sin leaves me without an inheritance in the kingdom of God (Gal 5:21)

33. It is out of place for God’s holy people (Eph 5:3)

34. Sin is shameful (Eph 5:12)

35. God is present everywhere and every action, word and motive is laid bare before Him (Ps 139:1-10)

36. Sin breaks relationships and destroys community (2 Sam 11-12)

37. I am no longer under Law but living by power of the Spirit (Rom 7:4)

38. I have offered myself to God as His servant (Rom 6:16)

39. Sin excludes me from God’s presence (Exod 19:21, 23)

40. Where sin has increased, grace has increased all the more (Rom 5:20)

41. I have put on a new self and am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17, Col 3:10)

42. Sin destroys any ministry I have (2 Tim 3:2-5)

43. Jesus is coming back (1 Thess 5:4-6)

44. Sin leads to more sin (Gen 4:7)

45. God’s grace teaches me to say no to sin (Titus 2:12)

46. If I keep on deliberately sinning, no sacrifice for sin is left (Heb 10:26)

47. Sin will lead to the Lord’s discipline (Prov 3:11-12)

48. Sin is the result of idolatry and spiritual adultery (Rom 1:25, James 4:4)

49. It destroys my joy and peace, and disturbs my conscience (Ps 51:8, 12)

50. My life will self-destruct
(Prov 5:22, 11:25)