Heaven… on earth

“The earth is preserved by salt; the world lives because of these poor, ignoble, and weak people, whom the world rejects… (This salt) penetrates the entire earth. It is the earth’s substance. Thus, the disciples are focused not only on heaven, but are reminded of their mission on earth… (Christ) brings them into his work… The community of disciples must remain what Christ’s call has made them. That will be their true efficacy on earth and their preserving strength.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship

 

The challenge of allegiance

Our current series at Heights Church is “Living in Babylon.”

There are some reflections I have on the Book of Daniel that won’t make it into a Sunday sermon.

Here are some basic thoughts from Daniel 3 I posted our church site. 

Our most severe tests come when we don’t recognize the idol right in front of us and everyone bowing seems like the “patriotic” thing to do. I don’t refer to just our own time. I give the illustration of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Germany as well. He faced tough decisions concerning allegiance and paid the ultimate price for it.

There is a testing that will refine us in these days. We need to learn that the heat brings out the best. It’s not meant for our harm.

The days ahead can be the best for the American church. We need our eyes open.

 

refiners-fire

Don’t cheapen grace

Some of my favorite lines from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on grace.

Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgive­ness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without cost…

Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.

The blessedness of rejection

In judgment and action those who follow Jesus will be different from the world in renouncing their property, happiness, rights, righteousness, honor, and violence. They will be offensive to the world. That is why the disciples will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Not recognition, but rejection will be their reward from the world for their word and deed. It is important that Jesus calls his disciples blessed, not only when they directly confess his name, but also when they suffer for a just cause. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer (from biblegateway.com devotional)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

 

Engaging the Kingdom — Overcoming Evil

“Our willingness to yield up everything when we are bidden to do so is our willingness to have enough in Jesus Christ alone, to desire to follow him alone. Our voluntary renunciation of counterviolence confirms and proclaims our unconditional allegiance to Jesus as his follower, our freedom, our detachment from our own egos. And it is only in the exclusivity of this adherence that evil can be overcome.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship

Engaging the Kingdom — Treasure

“They have their treasure well hidden, they have it at the cross.” (Bonhoeffer, Discipleship)

The pursuit of the Kingdom of God produces vast spiritual wealth. The treasure of the Kingdom is pursued, but it is pursued like no other treasure. The pursuit always goes through the cross of Christ. The road of abundance in the Kingdom has a narrow entrance: about the width of a cross. Jesus never lied about how to find his Kingdom.

In a day when we try so hard to downplay the cross, we are in danger of robbing people of the very DOOR of the Kingdom of God.

If Jesus never lied about the way of his Kingdom… why are we so desperate to hide that door these days?

What If Love Really DID Win?

I can’t help it. I have to weigh in on the discussion over Rob Bell’s book. It’s not deep. It’s just a question.

I just celebrated my 23rd wedding anniversary. I truly married UP, as they say. My wife is incredible. We met in college on a missions trip and I can remember so wonderfully the moment I knew I needed to get to know her better. It was a pursuit.

As we finally got to know each other (which only happened because I kept chasing and she finally got tired of running, I’m sure), I learned more about this wonderful lady. Spiritually, she was amazing. A true woman of prayer, heart for missions, and so much more.

In other areas, there were, shall we say, “CHALLENGES.”

The first time she cooked for me it was an experiment. (She does this all the time, but back then I had no idea.) Her wonderful meal was a half acorn squash filled with cracked wheat of some sort. It was an all natural meal. No meat.

Being a college kid, I left that meal and immediately went back to my room to order a Domino’s pizza.

And think.

Was this going to be my meal sustenance if I married this gal?

Over time I had to make a decision. I truly grew to love her. I had an idea she was growing to love me. Was this worth the commitment? Natural foods? Not much meat?

Guess what? My love for her and her love for me changed me.

Her love has caused me to willingly think over my life and over the years, as our love has grown, change occurs. It occurs for her and for me.

This doesn’t fully address all that Rob Bell brings up, and I don’t intend to attempt that. But as I think of some of his questions, and as I am reading Bonhoeffer’s biography by Eric Metaxas (along with meditating on 1 Peter 2), I am struck by this thought: Those who name themselves Christians at least should be exhibiting some change. Why? Because Christ’s love has touched them.

As I contemplate the descriptions of Christ’s radical love for us in 1 Peter 2, there is a responsive action! Peter calls his readers to change. Why? Because the love of Christ has touched you. We don’t change out of misery. We change out of a loving response.

If my love for my wife is truly there, I know I need to grow and develop as a man and a husband for her. It’s not always comfortable, and I don’t always respond well. Yet, if her “love wins,” I make some changes.

If the love of Christ truly wins, change happens. Not all at once. But if the love of Christ truly touches, there will be some movement out of loving gratitude, even if it’s over years of walking with Christ.

What we too often see in our newest version of American Christianity is no change. We seem to want to find ways to acknowledge that I am God’s precious child and he loves me just as I am and he demands nothing more. But we are mistaken in that assessment. It is not his demand. It is supposed to be about our loving response.

Bonhoeffer observed the dilemma in his day. People named the name of God and just lived as they wished. Was this the gospel?

He wrote in a letter to his brother-in-law in 1936 these words:

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of teh Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament…”

Now, this doesn’t address all the questions of eternity, those who haven’t heard the gospel, etc. I understand that, and I’m not trying to make that attempt. I AM just thinking out loud about true love and how we really WOULD respond if we ARE allowing God’s love to penetrate our lives. Especially as believers.

If love really did win, it truly would be noticeable because there would be a loving response.