Tag Archives: The Gospel of Yes

Are You Mired in Your Past by Unwillingness to Forgive?

Blogging Through the Book Part 5

We have arrived at week 5 of our project to blog through Mike Glenn’s The Gospel of Yes. It has been a great experience so far to explore personally some of the ideas in this book. The book is both inspiring and challenging. It inspires us to believe Christ’s promises, and it challenges us to personal disciplines and faith that may demand more from us that we are comfortable to give. Be sure you visit Dana Pittman’s blog where you can find links to other blogs exploring this book.

No discipline asks more of anyone than forgiveness. A new reader skimming the chapter headings of this book may wonder how forgiveness can possible be a “yes.” We have all prayed the Lord’s Prayer. We have dutifully recited the words, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We can say the words, but it is dauntingly difficult to forgive. Yet it is a subject that occupies a central place in the thinking of Christians. We chew over the problem, and we want to justify our anguish and our anger and our feeling of betrayal. What do I do with all those emotions if I forgive? Who will ever sympathize with me again if I forgive? What if the person who hurt me so deeply does not deserve to be forgiven? Don’t I have a right to be hurt? Angry? Shouldn’t the person who hurt me make up for it before I forgive? Shouldn’t this person at least recognize how wrong he was and ask for forgiveness first? I can’t just let go of this incident and pretend it never happened. I’m scarred. I’m crippled. The consequences of this person’s wrongdoing can never be removed from my life. Why should I forgive?

Many people remember the novel Great Expectations from high school. In that story, a woman became trapped in a single moment of her life and never could escape. She was so deeply wounded and so completely incapable of forgiving that she was trapped in her history. It was a tragic story.

The deepest wound of my own history was my relationship with my mother. We had a thousand different ways to hurt each other. We kept doing it right up to the day she died. I can’t count all the times I reveled in justifying my attitude toward my mother by explaining to complete strangers how she belittled me and mistreated me. Mike Glenn talks about the way the past bleeds into the present when we are unable to forgive, and I can tell you that it does exactly that. Things that happened when I was seven years old, or eleven, or sixteen, or twenty-five, were still rankling when I was forty-six and fifty-two. My past bled into my present and poisoned every interaction with my mother. Even during the happiest times we ever spent together, I suffered terrible trepidation that in the midst of the fun, she would throw a verbal brick at me, because it had happened before. I could not forgive the past, and I could not forgive what I thought might be the future. During a phone call shortly before she died, she blindsided me with a jab about things I could not possibly change even if I had wanted to. Once again I felt justified in not forgiving her, because, I asked myself, what would be the point? We would inevitably be at each other’s throats again, and I would have something new to forgive. When she died, I asked myself why my relationship with my mother could never be healed. I fretted over the blackness in my life where my misery and anger fed the loneliness of a motherless child. I felt motherless, because I felt I never could trust my mother.

Mike Glenn says that “[God] can heal the past right now so it will no longer bleed into the present.” He is right, but “right now” can only happen when you make up your mind to let him work. For me, it happened on Ash Wednesday, about nine months after my mother’s death. The pastor preached a sermon whose central message found a home in my deeply wounded heart. He said that each of us must throw onto God’s altar all the things that are barriers to God’s work in our hearts. We must allow God to consume the barriers with his holy fire. I realized that my unwillingness to forgive my mother, even though she was dead, was a barrier to a rich relationship with God. I made it my Lenten project to learn how to forgive my mother. By the end of that season, I was ready to attend the service of Healing and Reconciliation that preceded Holy Week, and I thought I had forgiven my mother fully. I soon learned that Satan is very tricky and can resurrect pain and anger we think we have buried, so we can never really be finished with things we think we have forgiven. Nevertheless, learning to forgive makes it possible to stand in Christ and reject Satan’s temptation to wallow in that dark, miserable past. As Mike Glenn says, “In the power of God’s ‘yes’ to us in Jesus, we are not victims of our past.”

The broken relationship with my mother is a very real memory still, but it no longer stands between me and my ability to love and serve God. Forgiveness heals the way I remember those ugly truths. Learning to forgive my mother opened the floodgates of forgiveness, enabling me to forgive others for a lot of wounds, major and minor. Learning to forgive my mother enabled me to forgive myself for a few self-inflicted wounds as well.

Maturing in faith requires growth in many areas, but I am beginning to think that forgiveness might be the most needful. When I teach Bible classes, no matter what the subject of the class is, someone in the class always wants to talk about forgiveness, and everyone else is always glad the subject came up. Life wounds us in many ways. Life is not fair. People are not fair. There is a great deal to forgive. If we can learn to forgive and if we can continue to forgive and forgive and forgive, we can let God burn up a lot of barriers that impede our happy and fulfilling relationship with him. As Mike Glenn says, “Forgiveness is how we … get a firm hold on the ‘yes’ of God offered to us in Jesus Christ.”

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Jesus Christ is Alive!

The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection)
The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blogging Through the Book Part 4

There is a big culture war in the US right now between people who want religion kept out of public life and people who don’t know how to live separate from their religion.

The key to the problem between the two groups is the resurrection. One group says that this world is all there is and we just make the best of it. The other group says that Christ rose from the dead, and this world is just the beginning. This group claims that the resurrected Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit indwells them, and they can’t go anywhere without his presence.

One point of great conflict is the subject of ethics. If this world is all there is, and if it is up to us as humans to figure out a good way to live, then there can be all sorts of variables in the mix. There is no absolute, no revelation, nothing eternal or permanent. Ethics can evolve and mutate.

On page 82 of The Gospel of Yes Mike Glenn says. “If Jesus is just a teacher [i.e. not risen from the dead], the Beatitudes are inspirational moral goals to which we should aspire.” Many humanists and even many adherents of other religions view the Beatitudes precisely this way. Christian humanists, if there can actually be such a thing, teach the Beatitudes this way. Mormons think of the Beatitudes this way. Other philosophies and religions, (Hindus, for example) see the Beatitudes as kind and lovely teachings to be admired.

If Christ rose from the dead, however, then this world is not all there is. There are eternal absolutes. There is a God who reveals himself and teaches us something better than we can even imagine on our own.  Glenn continues by saying that if Jesus is alive, then “the Beatitudes become the moral expectations of the coming Kingdom.” The Beatitudes are not about time and space; they are about eternity and infinity.

Christ promised his followers that the Holy Spirit would come, but he could only come after Jesus died and rose again. The resurrection was that important. The Holy Spirit is the power of the resurrection living in each believer, as Paul wrote in a letter to the church at Corinth, saying that our bodies are temple[s] of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)  We walk around all day every day in sacred space. The cultural argument about secular and sacred spaces makes no sense to us, because we live in sacred space all the time. We live at the intersection of time and eternity.

When a secular thinker reads Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7) he does not recognize the eternal and infinite dimensions of that teaching. He is like Simon Peter who asked Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times. The secular philosopher, who believes Jesus was an astonishingly good person who was badly misunderstood and mistreated, asks how we can ever be truly merciful. He believes that advocating the end of the death penalty sounds merciful, because he believes he is giving the convicted murderer the opportunity to continue living in the only world there actually is. The only mercy he can imagine is extension of life in time and space. He actually believes that the murderer is being given time to come to his senses and perhaps improve both his character and his life experience before he dies and goes out like a light.

When we read Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy, we know a living Christ who has already shown us mercy from the eternal and infinite throne room in heaven. We show mercy, because we have received mercy, and we will receive mercy in the Kingdom where the Beatitudes are the Word of the Father. Christ, God in the flesh, spoke those words. Christ is the Living Word of God for eternity. His words shape not just this world, but the world to come. We advocate for real mercy, for eternal mercy, when we share the good news of Christ and his mercy to us. We never live exclusively in the present world, because the indwelling Holy Spirit leads us to live in an eternal context.

This truth doesn’t make life easy. It puts us in conflict with people who want us to shed those eternal values when we are in the “real” world. The “secular” world. If the Holy Spirit lives in us, we can never actually be in a secular space or a secular situation. This is the reason that, for Christians, issues such as the death penalty and abortion and euthanasia and genetic selection of babies and even birth control are never simply secular issues. We are concerned about not only our own behavior, but also the behavior of people whom we influence. A Christian employer who operates a dry cleaning shop won’t choose health insurance or background music or the wages he pays simply on the basis of time/space values. If his eternal values conflict with the values of secular neighbors or a secular government, he may have some time/space problems. If he is true to his eternal values, however, Christ promises never to leave him and promises him eternal rewards for his faithful testimony.

I haven’t always been alert to the eternal connection of all my actions. I have been lured more than once into a secular answer when I should have listened to that indwelling Spirit. I have been deeply grateful for the mercy shown to me when I made those bad decisions. I am not likely done with making mistakes. However, I am learning to listen for the voice that speaks in sheer silence, the voice that speaks living words from the Living Word of God.

I am daily more grateful for the truth of the resurrection. And I am grateful to be resident eternally in sacred space.

 

 

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”

 

Why Was The Cross Necessary?

I used to ask myself why Jesus had to die such a brutal death. It is hard to imagine a death more cruel than this one. If a death were required in order for humanity to be redeemed, why couldn’t it be more like a lethal injection, or why couldn’t he simply drink hemlock?

I think Christ’s death had to be brutal in order for human beings to take it seriously. After all, Bible could have said, “Jesus fell asleep one Friday afternoon, and he was declared to be dead, so they put his body in a cave. Then on Sunday morning, they discovered it was gone. Christ had risen from the dead.” This story might be the truth, but who would believe it? Who would take it seriously as a sacrifice for all of us? Even if God did not require blood, people do. Plenty of people doubt the death and resurrection of Christ to this day. The story would be even less compelling if the death had been painless and comfortable.

There is more. Christ’s death had to be brutal, because Satan had to be shamed. Satan is, above all things, proud. There would be no way to defeat him with finality without shame. The brutality and inhumanity of Christ’s death was among other things shameful. It was intended by the Romans to be shameful. Humiliating. Cruel. Satan needed to know that God cared for humanity so much that God himself would lovingly endure this shameful death to set people free from Satan’s grip.

And the resurrection? Without the brutality of the death, the resurrection would have meant little. Jesus brought people to life many times during his ministry, but none of those resurrections did anything for humanity. The deaths may have been painful and miserable, but when those people came back to life, Satan simply grinned. When Christ endured the horror of crucifixion and then took up his life again, Satan was done. He still had his freedom to afflict us here in time and space, but that freedom has limits. The world where Satan runs free will come to an end, but Christ’s kingdom has no end. The resurrection promises us that life here and now is changed forever by the resurrection. Those who follow Christ live in time and space, but they live at the intersection where eternity pierces the envelope and redeems creation.

Mike Glenn writes, “In the resurrection Christ brought into reality all the promises God had given to his people.”

What promises is Mike talking about?

Start with Abram in Genesis 21:2-3

I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

The deaf shall hear and the blind shall see Isaiah 29:18

On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.

Nobody needs to go hungry any more 

Isaiah 55:2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

God is the God of life

For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: Seek me and live.

God will never leave us here at the mercy of evil, all alone

To Joshua in Joshua 1:5, I will not fail you or forsake you

To Joseph in a dream foretelling Jesus’ birth Matthew 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

And many more.

Some people say that Jesus was a great teacher just like other great teachers. However, if he rose from the dead, then he is very different from all the other teachers. He knows things no other teacher knows. If he says we must love our enemies, then we need to listen. A man who suffered on the cross, died and rose again, knows things about both enemies and love that we need to learn. The beautiful thing about the resurrection is that it not only showed us that Christ has power over physical death, but he also has power over “all other forms of death in [our] lives, such as relationships … and opportunities.” Furthermore, “the Risen Christ is not limited by time and space, so he is with us in the present, and he waits for us in the future.”

Some might try to argue that God could have arranged for Christ to die a less brutal death than the crucifixion, and I won’t argue, but I will say that anything less would not get our attention. Human beings are cruel. We don’t like wimps. Jesus was no wimp. He faced death in the most brutal fashion, and then he overcame it. He faced Satan, with love and grace, and then he overcame Satan. From the moment the first nail was hammered into Christ’s body, Satan’s last days were begun. The image of the great dragon lashing his tail and sweeping stars out of the sky in the book of Revelation reminds me of a three-year-old’s tantrum. Satan is much more dangerous and vicious than any toddler, but he felt as impotent as a toddler when Christ faced the brutality of the cross, and won. Because he did that, we all can join in that great crowd of people, myriads and myriads of people in the new heaven and the new earth at the wedding feast of the slaughtered lamb, the One who suffered shame, excruciating pain and death in order that we might live with him forever and ever.

Jesus said “Yes” to death in order that he might say “Yes” to life, “Yes” to redemption, “Yes” to transformation. Without the cruel cross and the resurrection, we would all be subject to Satan’s permanent “No.”

What’s Creation All About?

Blogging Through the Book
The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn

After Chapter 3, the author asks, “When has creation prompted in you a response of worship and awe toward God? This question doesn’t go nearly far enough in probing what creation evokes in our lives. I have been awed by the experience of storms at sea and reminded there how infinitely powerful God is. I have been forced to my knees in worship by sunrises and mountains and by seeing through a microscope single-cell animals swimming in a drop of water. But that is not all that creation does for me. I feel immersed in the joy of creation most of the time. Joy, delight, amazement, discovery, appreciation – and more. I can be stopped in my tracks by the sight of a tiny flower that has sprung up in the grass between the sidewalk and the curb. I am richly blessed when I hear a birdsong. I’m not measuring or weighing these events. I just enjoy them. I am constantly in awe at the fact that God’s creation is beauty and it is fun. I agree with Ian Steward that beauty is truth and truth is beauty, so when I have all these beautiful experiences, I am learning truth.

There are many ways to experience creation, and they are not all capable of being weighed or measured. When I plan a meal, for example, I certainly take nutrient value, a scientific measurement, into account. I eat three times a day, and over the course of the day I want to ingest the right nutritional components in the right quantities to sustain healthy life. However, I never plan to eat a survival tablet. I want a meal, and a meal nourishes me in ways that no scientist can actually measure. My nutritional needs are science, but my other needs are part of my own unique creation story. Mike Glenn says, “We were placed in the world to creatively engage the world.” One way I engage the world creatively is at dinner.

My meal planning begins with the food elements, but there is much more to it. Appearance, for example. The colors of the foods on the plate or in a bowl. The shapes. The way some colors and shapes look good together while others do not. I consider flavors. I don’t want every dish in the meal to be spicy; there needs to be a cooling flavor like blue cheese dip for a rest from the zing of spicy wings. I consider mouth feel and texture. One crunchy item is enough for a meal and is nicely balanced by a silky sauce. I could feed my body with survival tablets, but my spirit, that part of me that lives at the intersection of time and space with eternity and infinity, wants more from creation than the things science can measure. In creation, God has provided food in so many forms that I will never run out of options for delicious, colorful, flavorful, satisfying, and yes even nutritious food.

To top off my meal planning, I want someone to share it with. I can eat alone, but food eaten in pleasant company tastes better. I love to eat with my husband, and I love having guests, because the conversation and interaction with the meal and with each other fulfills hungers over and above the biological need of my body for nutrition. So in addition to nutrition, I need an experience that transcends time and space, yet is experienced in a place over a period of time.

I love the way creation richly provides for my needs, because God created a universe in which beauty usually trumps utility. Everything in God’s creation has its scientific purpose and value, but everything in God’s creation has a bigger purpose than its physical presence. My food, for example. If God thought in a human, secular, scientific way, the nutrients in a green leafy vegetable would be provided by a green leafy vegetable that grows everywhere in just the quantities needed by the population. Instead, God provides a proliferation of green leafy vegetables that grow in different shapes and different environments all over the world. They aren’t even all the same shade of green. Some have red or yellow stems. Some are broad leaves, and some are narrow leaves. Some of the leaves are actually fuzzy. Some leaves look like elephant ears and some look like knives. Such abundance. Such variation. Some taste better raw. Some taste better cooked.

God’s creation clearly was not designed by an efficiency expert or a budget control officer. The “cultural confidence in science” leads many people to think they need to interfere with creation, because they think it is out of kilter. It also leads them to believe that human beings can overpower God’s creation and destroy it. This is arrogance on steroids. God certainly gave humans the responsibility of stewardship of creation, but he did not give them the power to break it. Creation will end in God’s time and God’s way. God’s forgiveness for our ignorance, and even for our arrogance, is built into the resilience of creation. Time and space will end at a time and in a way that is part of God’s perfect plan. We should use science to learn how to be better stewards, but we should trust God to carry us through the learning curve. Creation is a blessing, and God determines the quality and duration of his blessings. We cannot overpower his plans and purposes even when we make really big mistakes. Because God is sovereign, not human beings, we can trust God for now, for all of time, and for eternity.

Be watching here next Wednesday for more about The Gospel of Yes. 

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.”  2 Corinthians 1:19-120

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”