Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, has written, “To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through our attitude: ‘You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself.’ We all know well that we can do things for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves. To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.”
Dear Shadowland Family,
If you read Emily Groves’ email last week, you may remember this quote from her:
“I don’t remember well. In fact, I’ve never remembered well. I literally don’t recall my childhood prior to age 12 except for a handful of isolated events. And when it comes to remembering spiritual milestones and breakthroughs in my life, I’ve come to realize that I forget more often than I remember.”
I very much appreciate Emily’s admonition for us to “be a people who practice the discipline of remembering” I would like to build upon the idea that remembering is an essential trait of discipleship.
2 Peter 1:3-9 is a favorite passage and helps to remind me of the importance of remembering.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
There is a lot to glean from this passage. I find several key ideas about daily living in the kingdom of God.
God, the king, provides everything we need. When we enter the kingdom of God we surrender everything to His reign over our lives. We look to the king for not only sustenance but also protection and strength. Our days are shaped by our trust in our king.
In his kingdom we enjoy a relationship with the king that is deeply intimate. So much so that we are endowed with his very nature. He dwells within us. As we nurture that relationship, we will find relief from corruption and evil in our lives and increasingly enjoy the benefits of living under the reign of God our king.
Living in the kingdom of God brings the responsibility of being good subjects of the king. The fundamental trait of people living in the kingdom of God is that they are uncompromising in their trust of the king. For that trust to be demonstrated, we must use the knowledge and power he has given us to be effective and productive citizens of his kingdom. Our efforts are to be directed toward adding the qualities of goodness, knowledge, self- control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love to our trust of God.
If we are not seeing these qualities increasing in our lives, Peter says we are nearsighted and blind and have forgotten that our sins are forgiven. This is, for me, a critical aspect of understanding and living out the gospel in my life. As I consistently struggle with being a good citizen in God’s kingdom, what am I to do about my failures? And just as important, why do I keep failing?
In contrast to some Christian counsel on these questions which mostly insists that I “do better”, Peter defines the core problem: forgetting our sins are forgiven. Thus, rather than frantically running about doing better, or perhaps, giving up in despair, I need to remember and keep being reminded that my sins are forgiven. It is the power of the Gospel, the goods news, that enables and sustains me daily to be a good citizen of God’s kingdom.
I believe the need to remember and continually be reminded of our forgiveness explains why community (the body of Christ, church) is so important. In the absence of community, we give up the best source of and context for remembering our forgiveness. For that reason, I would suggest that an important metric for Shadowland is whether or not the Gospel is our centerpiece, and, to what extent every aspect of community life is in someway reminding me of the Gospel… my sins are forgiven.
Recently, I came across a blog post I had written seven years ago. Below is an excerpt from that post. It is still relevant today.
It is the power of the Gospel, the goods news, that will enable and sustain me daily as a good citizen of God’s kingdom.
How does that look in my daily life? My struggles continue. I am trying to understand and experience the presence of God in every aspect of my life. I strive (?) to surrender to God’s reign over everything. It is my desire to simplify my life, materially and financially. I have resolved to make relationships a priority, both restoring and building existing ones as well as developing new ones. I fight my need to be in control and work and serve for selfish motives. I am intentionally seeking to experience the fruit of the Spirit in my life. I am frustrated with my search for community but convinced more than ever how much I need community. There is much more, but the paradox is that I feel more peace and contentment than at any other time of my life. I believe that comes not from the absence of struggles but from a more profound understanding and confidence in God’s love and the forgiveness that comes as a result.
“Worship not performance” If we don’t get worship right, our Christianity is going to be toxic. I really believe that the purpose of worshiping God is to lead us into authentic delight. It is a restoration of the wonder that we experience as children before we lose our innocence. God does not need our flattery, nor is God giving us a grade on how emphatically we say hallelujah. God just wants us to experience our belovedness and stop trying to prove ourselves worthy.
There is a visible horizon with Jesus, because there are things I can understand and affirm in the creeds and confessions. But there is no actual horizon. His love, grace and majesty are never ending. My theology is a map, not a photograph. A sail, not an anchor. Faith is a mystery, not a certainty, because I can never be certain that my mind has captured more than a glimpse of his glory. A hope, not a possession, because nothing I possess can hold the one who holds me.
We live in a society that places great importance upon external signs of success. We have to assure ourselves and others that we are valuable and important—because we inherently doubt that we are! Thus we are often preoccupied with “one-upping” others. I am afraid that most lose inside of such a “winner-takes-all” society. We have great difficulty finding our inherent value with such a world view. Few have deep conviction about their own soul or the Indwelling Holy Spirit.
People living under capitalism find it almost unnatural to know their own center. Dignity must always be “acquired” and earned. We live in an affluent society that’s always expecting more, wanting more, and believes it even deserves more. But the more we own, ironically enough, the less we enjoy. This is the paradox of materialism. The more we project our soul’s longing onto things, the more things disappoint us. Happiness is an inside job. When we expect to find happiness outside of ourselves, we are always disappointed. We then seek a “higher” or more stimulating experience and the spiral of addiction and consumption continues.
We try to impress God with our perfection and impress others too. And what we tend to forget is that the moment we become impressive, we have diminished others’ view of God. When we try to cast a large shadow, we forget that God is the object of our worship and is the One we are to point others to, not ourselves.
Written for Shadowland Community Church weekly email.
As you can see, my blog is working again. Unfortunately there is about 4 years of posts missing. I do have a file of 370+ posts that I’m trying figure out how to import. In any case, I’m pleased to have saved as much as I have. I’ve been enjoying reading the older posts. You are welcome to browse through the years.