Christianity 201

September 21, 2018

Relationships Need Presence

NIV I Cor.13.8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Six months later, we’re back highlighting the work Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds and Anxious. Amy is currently at the forefront of the intersection of Christianity and the study of mental health issues.  Her new book is Blessed are the Unsatisfied: Finding Freedom in an Imperfect World (InterVarsity) and you can read chapter one from the book for free at this link.

Your Long-Distance Relationship Is Not Enough

When my husband and I were dating, we spent some time living 1000 miles apart. I was in college in Illinois, and he was attending seminary in Colorado. During those months, we sometimes felt desperate to be close to one another. No matter how many much time we spent on the phone, there was no real substitute for face-to-face conversation and physical closeness. In fact, eventually we reached the point where we could no longer handle the distance and Trevor made his way back to Illinois. If our relationship was going to move forward, we had to be in each other’s presence more often.

For us, this separation lasted only a matter of months and came after we had already met face to face. Nowadays, many couples meet online and develop their relationships from a distance. But especially if they’re going to make a long-term or until-death-do-us-part commitment, there’s still no substitute for being together.

The same thing is true of your relationship with God. You may not have thought of it this way, but you are essentially in a long-distance relationship with him. Sure, he is close to you. Yes, you are always in his presence. Yet your limitations as a finite creature, your rebellious heart, and this cursed world mean you experience God at a distance. And there’s nothing you can do to bridge that gap. Jesus has made the once-for-all sacrifice necessary to bring us into true and close relationship, but we don’t yet experience the full impact of that reconciliation. We do not know or even fathom what it means to see God face to face.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (above) talks about this dynamic. You can know God’s love now, but you can’t know it as you will. You understand, see, and may even prophecy–but what you have is only a part of what you will have in God’s unadulterated presence. If you know and follow Jesus, you will see him face to face. You will know him without interference from your sinful nature, your limited understanding, or the boundaries of space and time.

It will be wonderful.

But in the meantime, you live with the distance. And here’s the thing: God doesn’t want you to be satisfied or comfortable with these circumstances. He wants you to yearn for him, just as you would yearn for a loved one you rarely see. Part of living well in this unsatisfying reality is living with patience. Part of it, paradoxically, is living in great anticipation and hope for what is to come.

The next time someone suggests that your relationship with God should be enough to satisfy all your spiritual and emotional needs, here and now, remember this. Your long-distance relationship isn’t meant to be enough to satisfy you. God wants you to love him enough that you long to be with him. He wants you to desire a deeper connection with him. He wants you to live in the hope that you will one day see his face.


If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, check out my most recent book, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied!



Our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud, ran a piece on Thursday morning about using our imagination and our smartphones to introduce people to the scriptures in places where it might not otherwise work for them to read from a printed Bible, or situations where they might otherwise refuse to do so.

I would love to share it with you and hear your thoughts; just click this link to read Your Smartphone and Family Gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

October 29, 2014

Bible Metaphors

Bible Imagery

Today’s reading is adapted from the book The Ransomed Heart: A Collection of Devotional Readings by John Eldridge, author of Wild at Heart.


The Bible uses a number of metaphors to describe our relationship to God at various stages.  If you’ll notice, they ascend in a stunning way:

Potter and clay.  At this level we are merely aware that our lives are shaped – even broken – by a powerful hand.  There isn’t much communication, just the sovereignty of God at work.

Is. 64:8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

Shepherd and sheep.  At this stage we feel provided for, watched over, cared about.  But beyond that, a sheep has little by way of true intimacy with the Shepherd.  They are altogether different creatures.

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Master and servant.  Many, many believers are stuck in this stage, where they are committed to obey, but the relationship is mostly about receiving orders and instructions and carrying them out.

Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

Father and child.  This is certainly more intimate than being a servant; children get the run of the house, they get to climb on Daddy’s lap.  These fortunate souls understand God’s fatherly love and care for them.  They feel “at home” with God.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Luke 11:2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father,…

Friends.  This stage actually opens up a deeper level of intimacy as we walk together with God, companions in a shared mission.  We know what’s on his heart;  he knows what’s on ours.  There is a maturity and intimacy to the relationship.

John 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you

Bridegroom and bride (lovers).  Here, the words of the Song of Songs could also describe our spiritual intimacy, our union and oneness with God.  Madam Guyon wrote, “I love God far more than the most affectionate lover among men loves his earthly attachment.”

John 3:29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

Rev. 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.

Where would you put your relationship with God?  Why did you choose that “level”?  Has it always been that way?


 

This particular section of The Ransomed Heart is taken from The Journey of Desire Journal and Guidebook page 150. The scriptures are taken from the NIV and were not part of the original.

May 15, 2014

If Our Faith Stops at the Cross

Recently, this blog affiliated with The Fellowship of Christian Bloggers and I’ve been able to get a window into a whole new group of people who are pursuing the same aims at their blogs and websites as we do here at C201.  You can read a list of the 50-or-so listed in the Devotional category at this link.  Today I discovered Hajnalka Elleh who works as a translator and is therefore well-equipped to post every day in both English and Hungarian.  (As I was reading, her traffic meter showed all the other people online were from Hungary and Romania.) To read this at source, in both languages, click here.

The women had brought spices, expecting to find Jesus’ body wrapped in burial garments, lying in the tomb. “He is not here — He has risen!” said the angel. (Matthew 28:6)

Too many Christians look yet for their Christ, among the dead. They do not get beyond the cross and the grave. They see Christ, as only the Lamb of God who takes away their sin. They think of Him as accomplishing in His sufferings and death, the whole of His work of human redemption. They do not think of a living Christ who intercedes for them in Heaven, and who walks with them on earth in loving companionship.

The cross must never be forgotten! In a certain very real sense — Christ saved His people by giving Himself for them. The cross was the fullest, most complete revealing of divine love, which earth has ever seen! There the heart of God broke — that its streams of life might flow out to give life to the perishing world. To leave a dying Christ out of our creed — is to leave out salvation. The prints of the nails are the proof-marks on all doctrine, on all theology, on all Christian life. He who dims the luster of the cross of Christ — is putting out the light of Christian hope, by which alone souls can be lighted homeward. We must never forget that Jesus died — died for us!

But if our faith stops at the cross — it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ.

We do not merely need a Savior who nineteen hundred years ago went to death to redeem us — but one who also is alive — to walk by our side in loving companionship.
We need a Savior who can now hear our prayers. 
We need a Savior to whose feet we can now creep in penitence, when we have sinned. 
We need a Savior to whom we can now call for help, when the battle is going against us. 
We need a Savior who is now interested in all of the affairs of our common life, and who can assist us in time of need. 
We need a Savior who can now be our real Friend — loving us, keeping close beside us always.
We not only need a Savior who saved us by one great act wrought centuries ago — but one who continually saves us by His warm heart throbbing with love today, walking ever by our side.

Nothing less than a living Christ will do for us! That is what the gospel brings to us. It tells us of Him who lives. He was dead — the nail-prints are in His hands — but He is now alive forevermore! He is risen! He loves us now, today, always. He is ever with us!

It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ — that our hearts are satisfied. We crave a personal friendship which will come into our life with its sympathies, its inspirations, its companionship, its shelter, its life, its comfort. All this, the living Christ is to us.

“Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them!” Hebrews 7:25

**********

A living, loving, personal Savior (J.R. Miller)

We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved us by dying for us on the Cross. In an important sense this is true. We never could have been saved, if He had not died for us. 

But we are actually saved by our relation to a living, loving, personal Savior—into whose hands we commit all the interests of our lives; and who becomes our friend, our helper, our keeper, our burden bearer—our all in all. 

Christian faith is not merely laying our sins on the Lamb of God and trusting to His one great sacrifice; it is the laying of ourselves on the living, loving heart of one whose friendship becomes thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives! 

“The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!” Galatians 2:20


Today at Thinking Out Loud we posted a video produced by a local church which was also installed in their lobby for Easter Sunday. You can read more about it at this link. I wanted to also share the short, 3 1/2 minute video with readers here.