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when you are struck...

don't strike back, take the blow

don't protect yourself, expose yourself

don't lead with justice, lead with mercy

don't retreat into safety, advance into danger

don't retaliate with strength, retaliate with weakness

don't shrink into self-pity, move out into self-giving

don't insist on your rights, open yourself to wrong

don't cower in defeat, hold fast in meekness

don't stand on your dignity, stand on your shame

don't harden into bitterness, soften into tenderness

be defiantly peaceable

be immovably vulnerable

be steafastly gracious

be victoriously wounded

be like Jesus.

Who, when we lashed out at Him...

did not come in violence.  nor remain in indifference

did not strike back.  nor shrink back

did not retaliate.  nor harden

He absorbed the blow

And He turned again to us.

He upheld His offer.

Arms outstretched, even to His killers.

Especially them

Only them

You, even.

There is strength in this weakness.

Strength to redeem the world.

It begins with surrender.

Laying down your arms.

Receiving His peace.

It continues with service.

Following His way.

Absorbing your own blows.

Today. Every day.  Turning your cheek.

To this you are called.

To be lower than a door-mat.  Far lower.

A door-mat is passive

But you thow yourself under the feet of your enemies.

To be lower than a slave.  Far lower.

A slave walks his alotted mile grumbling in his heart.

You walk two miles with a glint in your eyes.

For you know the power of this weakness.

It reconciles the world.

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See also Turning the Other Cheek in the OT and Cheek Turning 101

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Hebrews 12:14-29 Sermon.  Audio here.  Text below.

Mountains are often thought of as spiritual.  A mountaintop experience is a spiritual experience.  People say they often feel closer to God or closer to spiritual things when they’re on a mountain.

And the bible begins in Eden which is described in Ezekiel 28 as “the holy mountain of God.”  Genesis 2 says that rivers flowed out of this mountain garden and down to the rest of the world.  So humanity began on high.  And the fall, was literally a descent down the mountain, away from God’s presence.

If anyone were to get back into God’s presence, not only would they have to get past the guardian cherubim, these angelic bouncers with their flaming swords barring the entrance.  They would have to ascend the hill of the LORD (Psalm 24).  And that’s just commonly the way the bible speaks.

The bible speaks of Jesus having descended from the heights.  And as He lived among us He lived the perfect life.  The life of other-centred love and sacrifice that you and I should live but don’t – Jesus did it.  And then He died the perfect death as our sacrifice for sins.  And then, when He arose, He ascended back into the Most Holy Place – heaven itself – and He went there as our perfect Priest.  We have a Friend in very high places.

That’s the argument Hebrews has been making for the last 12 chapters.  Jesus has come and lived our life for us.  He’s entered into the depths of our suffering and struggle and He’s lived the faithful life we never could.  But He did it FOR US.

And then He died the perfect sacrificial death on the cross.  And He did it FOR US.  You and I deserve to die in the depths because of our filth and uncleanness.  But His godforsaken death in the depths is counted before God FOR US.

And then He has ascended as the perfect Priest into heaven FOR US.  We don’t have the right to be in the holy presence of God, but He is there on our behalf.  He represents us in the highest place imaginable.

If we trust Jesus then we get joined to Jesus.  And His life is our life, His death is our death, His ascension to God is our ascension to God.

And after 12 chapters of this kind of argument, the writer says in this section: “Don’t you know where you are?  Do you have any idea where Christ has brought you?”

You are on the mountaintop.  You have reached the summit.

These verses are here to wake us up to our mountaintop experience with God.  And once we realize where we are – where Christ has brought us – then this passage will tell us how to move out into the world from these height.

That’s how we’ll study this chapter.  We’ll begin on the mountaintop.  We’ll appreciate where we are – secure on the high ground.  And then we’ll consider how we’re meant to walk out into the world

But first the mountaintop experience.

...continue reading "Feeling on top of the world? Hebrews 12:14-29"

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A meandering waffle...

Recently I've written about the glory of the triune God.  This glory is His other-centred love.  When He acts for this glory it's not because He or His glory are self-centred.  No He is other-centred and His glory is His grace.  But just because this is so, when God acts for the sake of His glorious grace He is simply determining to be Giver.

From eternity the nature of the triune God has been deferral and other-centred praise.  When faced by creatures, even creatures who would ignore and spurn such love, this God determines to love with an almighty 'nevertheless'.

It's like the mother who is faced by a naughty and manipulative child.  She could cave in to the tantrum or she could withdraw and ignore the child altogether.  But she condescends in love, not because the child is good (he's not) and not because she's weak (she's not).  She acts in accordance with her gracious motherliness, to love the child in spite of himself and in this way to lift him from his misbehaviour.

Put it another way, it's like the man who is struck on the right cheek by an aggressor.  By nature his instincts are fight or flight - strike back or withdraw.  But instead he stands his ground and offers his left cheek also.  He opens himself out in grace and continues the offer of relationship.  This is God-like glory.

Put it another way, it's like Christ crucified.  He might have remained in heaven or merely sent us to hell.  Instead He acted for the sake of His glory.  He absorbed our blow and rather than retaliate He offered reconciling love.

The cross was the triune love laid bare.  And this is not simply because the Persons demonstrated how much they love and act for one another.  More than this, they demonstrated how the glory of grace encounters what is outside this love.  In costly sacrifice the triune glory suffers what is outside in order to draw it in.

How do we respond to this glorious God?  Well we rejoice in the grace of Jesus shown to us - the terrible children and violent aggressors.  And we pass on the divine glory we have received.  Out of the fulness we have received we empty ourselves (which is precisely the dynamic we have seen from the triune God in the cross of Christ).  Out of the strengthening of Christ's Spirit we will adopt cross-shaped love towards others and in every circumstance imaginable practise costly cheek-turning.  (More on cheek turning here, here and here).

In this sense "What would Jesus do?" is exactly the question to ask in every ethical situation.  Just make sure your answer is always: To receive the grace of the Father and lay down our lives for the unworthy.  Once you're looking for opportunities, it's surprising how often you'll be able to apply the wisdom of the cross in daily, practical cheek-turning.  And this is what it means to 'glorify God.'  The glory of the cross lived out is the glory of the triune God applied.  Because the triune glory is the cruciform glory.

It's a wonderful thing to participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  But the very essence of it is taking up your cross and following Christ (Mark 8:34)


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It's only just occured to me - discipleship is not in the bible.

The word I mean.

Disciple is.  Obviously.

But not discipleship.

Is that significant?

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The Cambridge online dictionary describes the 'ship' suffix as...

having the rank, position, skill or relationship of the stated type

So a lord has the rank or position of lordship.

Scholarship denotes the skill of scholars.

Membership refers to the relationship of members.

So what does discipleship mean?

Is it a rank or position?  Well that's not really how we use it.  We usually just call someone 'a disciple' if we want to refer to their position.

Is it a relationship?  Well maybe.  Discipleship might occasionally describe how we relate to the lordship of Jesus.  Very occasionally.

But most often we use 'discipleship' to refer to the skill of being a disciple.  It's disciple-craft.  It's the art of following Jesus.

And my question is just this - why talk about the craft of following Jesus?  Why not just talk about following Him?

Or to speak more literally (the greek 'mathetes' is where we get the word 'mathematics' - it's about knowledge) - why not just talk about learning from Christ.  We're not primarily interested in the craft of learning from Jesus.  Shouldn't the focus be on the actual learning/following/walking/obeying?

We could study disciple-craft all we like.  We could be extremely knowledgeable in the art of discipleship and actually never be a disciple.

So maybe we should forget about discipleship.  Maybe we should just be disciples.

Or have I just shot my mouth off in total ignorance / irrelevance?

There's always that....

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I love this sermon.  And I love Radiohead.

The full 30 minute sermon is here.  It's in my all-time top 3.

Don't forget other classic Blackham sermons here.

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Sad businesswoman

A friend of mine was counselling a woman who'd been cheating on her husband.  She ended the affair and resolved never to tell her husband about any of it.  She said "If I told him it would put a bomb under our marriage."

What would you reply?

My friend's answer was inspired:

"The bomb has already gone off.  You've already exploded it.  It's torn through the heart of your marriage.  There are people bleeding to death and you're wondering whether you should tell someone?"

Maybe you're reading this and you're the one who's set off the bomb.  You must tell.  It's the only way forward.

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Always given to verbosity, here's what I meant in my previous post:

'I have been crucified with Christ' is profoundly ethical

'Take up your cross' is profoundly mystical

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A 2007 print media campaign for Cordaid: 'People in Need'.  Consumerism&Africa

 

Go here for full images.  H/T Mark Meynell

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A Disciple is a learner.

Mathetes is the greek word for disciple (from which we get 'mathematics').  It's a term for learners. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:3). 

To be a disciple is to be Jesus' family

Matthew 12:49

To be a disciple is to be included in Jesus' ministry to the world

Matthew 15:36

There are disciples of all sorts of Teachers, a disciple of Jesus must switch allegiance

John 1:37; 9:28; Acts 20:30

'Disciples' often turn back from following Jesus...

John 6:66

But true disciples abide in Jesus' word

John 8:31

We show ourselves to be disciples by loving one another

John 13:35

Discipleship is about reflecting the Lord's glory. 

2 Cor 3:18 - from the Lord outwards to the world

Evangelism makes disciples...

Matt 28:18-20 - we do not aim for converts merely but for disciples.

...and discipleship makes evangelists

The 12 disciples become 12 apostles (sent ones).  The call to Christ is the call to be a fisher of men - 'I believed therefore I spoke'.

Discipleship is not about getting people to do what they don't want to do.

Contrary to how it's often preached, the true learner is called to live out their new nature, not simply stifle their 'true desires'. 

The call to discipleship is not gradual

We think of ramping up our expectations for discipleship over time.  Jesus calls us to die from the outset  (Luke 14:27,33).  The little stuff follows

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From Cranmer, his commenters and some disturbing web research:

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Woman marries fairground ride

woman marries ride

 

“I love him as much as women love their husbands and know we’ll be together forever.”

 

In other news:

Woman Marries Dolphin

dolphin marriage

Dressed in a white dress, a veil and pink flowers in her hair, Sharon Tendler got down on one knee on the dock and gave Cindy a kiss. And a piece of herring.  "It's not a perverted thing. I do love this dolphin. He's the love of my life," she said

 

Woman marries Berlin Wall

mrs berlin wall

"The Great Wall of China's attractive, but he’s too thick – my husband is sexier."

While the rest of mankind rejoiced when the Wall, erected by the Soviets in 1961 to halt an exodus from East to West Berlin, was largely torn down in 1989, its "wife" was horrified.

She's never been back and now keeps models depicting "his" former glory.

She said: “What they did was awful. They mutilated my husband."

She is said to have shifted her affections to a nearby garden fence.

 

Woman Marries Eiffel Tower

eiffel-tower-marry

 

Erika La Tour Eiffel, 37, a former soldier who lives in San Francisco, has been in love with objects before. Her first infatuation was with Lance, a bow that helped her to become a world-class archer, she is fond of the Berlin Wall and she claims to have a physical relationship with a piece of fence she keeps in her bedroom.  But it is the Eiffel Tower she has pledged to love, honour and obey in an intimate ceremony attended by a handful of friends.

 

Man marries dog

India Man Weds Dog

The wedding took place at a Hindu temple in Tamil Nadu state. The "bride" wore an orange sari with a flower garland and was fed a bun to celebrate. Superstitious people in rural India sometimes organise weddings to animals in the hope of warding off curses.

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The point here is not to make fun of those who clearly struggle with deep issues.  We all would want to help these people.  But our first thoughts as to how to help them would not, I suggest, be to 'normalize' these unions as healthy and legitimate marriages.

The point here is our definition of marriage.  Are these 'marriages'?  If not - then let London Mayor, Boris Johnson's logic compel you:.

"If gay marriage was OK - and I was uncertain on the issue - then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog."

 

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