Called to Wait

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Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash

In a rapidly changing world, we all face new seasons in our lives, some we choose and others that are forced upon us: one stage of life ends for another to begin; new career challenges lead to different jobs; new opportunities change our ways of living.

In these times, we have a tendency to believe that nothing good will come from this experience of waiting. But this is the most valuable time of our lives in Christ: when he draws near and works with us to align our wills to his purpose. This season enables us to respond to his call for the next phase of our lives. There is excitement in this time if we have the right attitude and if we can embrace rather than resist the challenges of the season.

Draw Close to God

God uses times of waiting to draw us closer to him, to ourselves, and to our loved ones. So many people have told me that in times of uncertainty they have drawn closer to not only God but also their spouses and others near them. In the battle for our attention, God often has to let us go through a period of adversity so that we might attune our ears to his voice and discern his direction.

In a frenzied world we often slot God into overactive lives, trying to force him to fit around our routines. This never works. A waiting period is a time to recognise that we have drifted into a world of expectation and instant answers. This is not the real world. Often God’s way is to waken within us a calling, but then to allow us to recognise that his greatest desire is to draw close to us.

In the book of Isaiah, King Hezekiah fell ill and received word from the prophet Amos that he was about to die. The king cried out to God for salvation, and after a short period of waiting, God sent Isaiah to inform him that he would now live. Unsurprisingly, the king was fairly relieved! But even before he was cured, King Hezekiah started singing a song of praise to the Lord.

In the darkness of his uncertainty, Hezekiah found himself drawn close to God—able to appreciate afresh the grace and love of his Savior.


Excerpt from the book “Know Your Why: Finding And Fulfilling Your Calling” by Ken Costa

Tomar decisões: princípios para boas escolhas

LIVRE ARBÍTRIO E A ÉTICA DA DECISÃO

“O homem pode ser livre para tomar inúmeras decisões importantes, mas há uma escolha que ele não pode fazer. O homem não pode escolher não escolher.” (Forell IV)

A VIDA DO HOMEM DEBAIXO DA LEI

“Permita-me ilustrar. É noite. Um homem está em um barco que está sendo levado lentamente pela corrente em direção a uma cascata. Esse homem, que está bem acordado em seu barco, não pode escapar de fazer uma opção. É verdade que todas as suas opções podem no final ser sem sentido. Ele pode começar a remar furiosamente e ainda assim ser levado pela corrente por sobre a borda para a destruição. Pode não fazer absolutamente nada e a corrente pode prender o barco contra uma rocha, conservando-o em segurança até o amanhecer. Mas esse homem não sabe qual é a decisão adequada, e percebe que não fazer nada também é uma decisão. A corrente está levando seu barco, quer ele goste, quer não. Ele não pode pedir tempo para ponderar as alternativas possíveis. Lá está ele sentado no barco, e tudo o que faz ou deixa de fazer o compromete. Não tomar uma decisão também é uma decisão. Ele não pode escapar de sua liberdade; está condenado a ser livre.”

Forell, George W. Ética Da Decisão: Introdução À Ética Cristã. 8th ed. São Leopoldo, Brazil: Editora Sinodal, 1973. Print.

Filósofo Luiz Felipe Pondé explica por que deixou de ser ateu

Ninguém domine sobre vocês (Col 2:18)

“De todas as tiranias, aquela exercida sinceramente em prol do bem de suas vidas talvez seja a mais opressiva.

É melhor viver sob exploradores ladrões do que sob a onipotência moral dos intrometidos.

A crueldade dos exploradores às vezes adormece, sua cobiça pode ser saciada em algum momento; mas aqueles que nos atormentam em nome do nosso próprio bem nos atormentarão para sempre, porque eles o fazem com a aprovação das suas próprias consciências.

Eles podem ser mais propensos a ir para o céu, mas ao mesmo tempo mais propensos a fazer um inferno da terra. Esta mesma bondade atormenta com insultos intoleráveis. Para ser “curado” contra a sua vontade, e curado de estados que podemos não considerar como doenças é ser colocado ao mesmo nível daqueles que ainda não atingiram a idade da razão ou que nunca o farão; ser classificado como bebês, retardados e animais domésticos.”

C.S. Lewis

 

O Evangelho não é para quem se acha “do bem”, estes não precisam do Evangelho, pois têm sua própria justiça, mas o Evangelho é a justiça de Deus aplicada em Cristo para perdão destes que se enxergarem em sua pequenez, se prostrarem diante de Deus e se reconhecerem como pecadores igual a todos. Em terminologia teológica: Arminianismo e pelagianismo. Uma receita que agrada ao ego e autoafirmaçäo das pessoas.

O Evangelho não é uma forma de autoafirmação e bem-estar físico, mental, espiritual e psicológico (mente sã, corpo são), como tantos o usam, mas simplesmente “boas novas”.

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Síntese Cristã

A revista Veja de 13/7 publicou entrevista interessante com o filósofo Luiz Felipe Pondé, de 52 anos. Responsável por uma coluna semanal na Folha de S. Paulo e autor de livros, Pondé costuma criticar certezas e lugares-comuns bem estabelecidos entre seus pares. Professor da Faap e da PUC, em São Paulo, o filósofo também é estudioso de teologia e considera o ateísmo filosoficamente raso, mas não é seguidor de nenhuma religião em particular. Pondé diz que “a esquerda é menos completa como ferramenta cultural para produzir uma visão de si mesma. A espiritualidade de esquerda é rasa. Aloca toda a responsabilidade do mal fora de você: o mal está na classe social, no capital, no estado, na elite. Isso infantiliza o ser humano. Ninguém sai de um jantar inteligente para se olhar no espelho e ver um demônio. Não: todos se veem como heróis que estão salvando o mundo por…

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Unfolding the truth

“THE MEDIATOR – JESUS CHRIST…”

Michael Spencer

“Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because He shows us both God and our own wretchedness…” ~ Blaise Pascal

“One is struck with the personality of this text [Mt. 11:28]. There are two persons in it, “you” and “me”… Jesus says, “Come to Me, not to anybody else but to Me.” He does not say, “Come to hear a sermon about Me” but “Come to Me, to My work and person.” You will observe that no one is put between you and Christ… Come to Jesus directly, even to Jesus Himself. You do want a mediator between yourselves and God, but you do not want a mediator between yourselves and Jesus… To Him we may look at once, with unveiled face, guilty as we are. To Him we may come, just as we are, without anyone to recommend us or plead for us or make a bridge for us to Jesus… You, as you are, are to come to Christ as He is, and the promise is that on your coming to Him he will give you rest. That is the assurance of Jesus Himself, and there is no deception in it… You see there are two persons. Let everybody else vanish, and let these two be left alone, to transact heavenly business with each other…” ~ C.H. Spurgeon

“God, apart from Christ, is an angry, offended Sovereign. Unless we behold Him in and through Christ, the Mediator, the terrors of His Majesty would overwhelm us. We dare not approach the Father except in Christ because of our sins. We first fasten our eyes upon Christ, then upon the Father. If Christ does not bear our guilt and reconcile us unto God, we perish! Before any man can think to stand before the face of God’s justice or be admitted to the secret chamber of God’s mercy or partake of the riches of His grace, he must look to the Mediator, Christ Jesus…” ~ Stephen Charnock

Everything New Is Moralism Again: How The Law Is Emptying The Church

“Soon there will be so much applied Christianity that there will be very little Christianity to actually apply.
Em breve haverá tanto cristianismo aplicado que restará muito pouco cristianismo para realmente aplicar.”
~ J. Gresham Machen

Transcript

Speaker is another one of my great friends is the Rev. Jacob A Smith. We had the pleasure of meeting Jacob and his wife Melina, while we were in seminary at Trinity, and became fast friends and have been close ever since, and we, that’s where we all kind of got together, and have been walking along these paths, yeah, ever since. He is the Priest in Charge, which it basically means we’re all praying for him to become the rector of a church in Manhattan, and he, not to be given too much credit, because obviously the Holy Spirit was involved, but he was given to go straight out of seminary to a church that was, let’s say, had seen better days, and was as many churches are, not this one, sort of right.. had fraught with, we’d say administrative and leadership difficulties, and he has righted it in an amazing way, and so his work among the sort of culture despisers in Manhattan has borne much fruit with resurgent evensong, with lecture series and he is basically other than certain others who remain nameless of the model of exactly the type minister you would want in your church. So it’s with great joy – that was a joke about me. That’s what I meant. I didn’t wanna, that’s what, I’ll just, oh okay, okay, okay, thank you… but I just, without further ado, Jacob Smith.

Well, it is great to be here in Louisville Kentucky here at St. Francis in this amazing church, and it’s great because this is one of the first places, I’ve ever been to where I’ve been known as Mel’s husband, and so ‘cause a lot of you I know read Mel and Liza’s blog, and so that’s a real honor. Before I get started I just want to thank the Rector Robin Jennings and Jady Koch for their warm invitation to speak at this amazing conference. I think a conference designed to actually give you a gospel-centric view of life and spirituality, which if I might argue is the only view to actually have when it comes to life and spirituality. There’s a lot of options out there, and unfortunately there’s a lot of options even in the church, and churches that would brand themselves as actually biblical, and they’re anything but, and this is a real problem.

My name is, as Jady said, is the Rev. Jacob Smith and I’m the priest in charge of Calvary St. George’s, and I actually, ahem, the gospel actually saved my life. I mean if it wasn’t for the gospel I actually heard the gospel for the first time really, in seminary, that the gospel was actually for Christians and it changed my life, and if it wasn’t for hearing that message, primarily through Jady and Dave’s father, I’d probably be back in Arizona selling real estate, and, ahem, which is a bad option right now. So but this is, this is true, and so, when I heard gospel it was like I went through this like rage phase at first, I was like “how come I never heard this!” Like, why was every sermon I ever heard about like five steps to like financial advisor, what I can like I could do, I mean you can go to Rotary and hear any of that stuff, you can’t hear it in the church. And so I really, I began to study this and became enamored with it and what went so horribly wrong in American Christianity. And I went all the way to France to study it, and, ahem, but it’s true. And that the topic that I’ve been given “Everything New Is Moralism Again: How The Law Is Emptying The Church” it’s true. The topic is relevant and when we’ve been talking about Facebook and social media. But daily and this is not an exaggeration, daily I get about 15 emails or 15 Facebook posts, from friends and colleagues talking about how the church in America is dying. There was recently an article in the Atlantic, just about two weeks ago about how sports is America’s new religion. And I don’t know if this is a problem in Louisville, but it’s definitely a probably New York City. You know, all sorts of like Pop Warner football game or Lacrosse games, are now played on Sunday. Because Saturday is family day.

And so people are talking about this, and Gallup actually did a very interesting survey a couple of years ago that said that about 60% of Americans attend church, on a Sunday; now compared to Europe that’s very significant. However the Journal for scientific study of religion by a sociologist C Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler, they looked at that survey and they said “there’s something wrong with this, this just doesn’t add up, this doesn’t add up.” So they began to do their own research, and there known for their scholarly research of the church, and said that these numbers definitely don’t add up, and what they found out when they released the study in August 2013 about this. They found that in actuality, it’s probably more like half, 30% of Americans attend church, and of that 17% attend church regularly, like every Sunday. And part of this is, is I think the churches has lost ground, because it is no different than what you can get in any self-help section at the bookstore. Actually at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square right by my house, Christianity is in the self-help section of the bookstore now.

The problem with American Christianity, that much of us know about and have been raised in, and maybe what I’m gonna say is gonna freak some of you out, you know because you are like, oh I thought that was Christianity, and it is not, it’s death. St. Paul actually calls it the Ministry of death. But the problem with American Christianity runs deep, it runs back to our earliest days. So what I want to talk about today, is, One: I’d like to give you a brief description of why I think the church in America is finally on a rapid decline. Two: I want to tell you, so if it’s in a decline, I don’t have an answer of how to make it grow, but it’s in a decline because it’s not giving the message. So the second thing I want to talk about then is: what is the message? And then the third thing I’ll talk about is how as the church, how is the church called to deliver this message to the world once again? And the and this how we are delivering it at Calvary St. George’s, I think it is true for everywhere, you know people always, oh New York City! It’s no different than Louisville. Your know, people there have a sick child, people that are struggling with their marriages, people there are struggling to find a job, and it is really expensive to live there. I mean, but people are the same everywhere. So the church’s message is the same, whether you’re in Los Angeles, New York, Branson Missouri, wherever.

Americans the problem runs deep in it goes all the way back to our earliest days, with even on the first and second Great Awakening with Jonathan Edwards even and those guys. But Americans are ingenious, and we are ingenious of taking things and making it uniquely our own, and we did this with the Christian story. We took the gospel, in the earliest days, we took the gospel, you know the message that God has fulfilled all of his promises for the salvation of the whole world in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what happened was is it as opposed to like what Saint Patrick did, he took Celtic culture and baptized it with Christianity. We took God’s story, the story of the gospel and we baptized it with the American ideas of manifest destiny, and conquering the world, living out your dreams. Contrary to most of our prevalent views, many of our founding fathers were not devout evangelical Christians, there were a few, but most of them were Deists. The idea of Deism is that God basically set the earth in motion, and took off to a celestial Acapulco, and it’s kind of like, it’s up to us to kind of figure it out, and we do that, and you know, and we are free agents, free to make our own decisions, free to stand on our own two feet, free to conquer the world. And what happened was that Deism baptized Christianity, and what happened was is you have a unique form of American Christianity.

Now early Christians in, and this was found in a lot of the mainline, early mainline churches, see, that had confessional roots, roots in a confession; ours is the Thirty-nine Articles. When guys like Jefferson became president in 1801, this was viewed by many actual Christians as a distressing event, ominous with the future of American religion. Now Jefferson was one of the first to begin the quest for the historical Jesus, and you can check out his Bible in Charlottesville, where all the miracles are completely cut out. The ideas of Deism were incredibly popular and became very popular in a lot of our colleges, especially those that were originally founded as seminaries, like places like Harvard and Yale, and that the ideas of deism in these these colleges just, it began to shape the religion. The Episcopal Bishop of Virginia William Mead, in the early 1800s, he declared that the College of William and Mary was the hotbed of French politics and religion. What happened was is that God’s story began to be shaped and became our story, our story of how we are making our way, our story of how we are making our way back to God in trying to find him, and what we’re doing for God as we conquer this country and expand out West. Deism and even atheism, interestingly enough took deep root along the frontier. The vast amount of space combined with the low density of people, made it difficult initially for the church, to have its missionary endeavors to have a very strong impact, especially confessional churches. The frontier was the place where those who sought to live out from underneath the puritanical moralism of New England sought refuge, even the early settlers of Kentucky, named some of their towns after prominent French Deists, such as Leroux, Bourbon, my favorite drink, and Altamonte. So all named after French Deist philosophers. But this all began, and so what happened was is you have revivalism, and Jonathan Edwards with his revivalism was his second generation. It was all located in Yale, they were like, they began a thing, “Oh, how can we keep this going, how can we keep this going this fervor up? And they became known as new divinity men. And what they began to do is they had a real heavy duty, an emphasis on predestination, and this idea of predestination of being predestined, which I mean in the Bible it’s true, but one of the things they did was, they began with the revivalism is, how do we know that you are predestined? Well it’s all about what you do. And you see this began to insert the will in this once again, and as the will became stronger, as the will became more of an important part of Christianity, well then it began to just just run rampant, and Christianity became in America, became all about the individual, what the individual does. What you began to see happen is moralism. This is where, you know, what you do defines you, came into Christianity. It shaped American religion and gave a moralistic version of Christianity, where God becomes the passive agent, and the emphasis is not no longer on what God has done for you, in the preaching of the gospel, but now what you should do for God. And so this is why oftentimes, you’ll hear, you know, “Okay Jesus is died for you, but now what are you going to do for Jesus?” This is why so many American Christians believe that if you do your part, God will do his. That God helps those who help themselves. Those two phrases are actually attributed to Saint Benjamin Franklin, who was a Deist and not one of the Apostles. [laughs]

But these ideas and whether you know it or not, shaped our piety. Because the American Christian story, if God is the passive agent and we are the active agent, and I mean this was really promoted by revivalist named Charles Finney, and that’s all I’m going to say about him, but I mean…. But we believe that somehow, some way, we’re the ones responsible for our Christianity. We’re the ones, maybe God got us in the club, but we’re the ones responsible for staying in it. J. Gresham Machen, when speaking about the rampant moralism in the church in the early 20th century once said: “Soon we will have so much applied Christianity that we will have no Christianity to apply”. And this is true, this is true we see it all over the place, and now where it’s all about, what you do and how you do it. Churches are no longer churches, but they’re kind of self-help centers. American Christianity now has become so associated with: what I need to do to make myself better, what I need to do discover my purpose, what I need to do to have my best life now, that this has contributed to its decline, and it’s contributed to its decline because it has lost ground in a sea of other religions, and in the sea of other programs, that will help you live your best life now too. This is why Christian books, the Barnes & Noble in Union Square is in the self-help section, ‘cause it hasn’t no longer anything to do with Christianity. Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, he shares the story of his own life in the Veggie Tales, and in a recent article in World Magazine, he actually repents of what he’d done in the Veggie Tales, and he repents of how he’s contributed to the young people’s decline in church attendance, in the promoting of moralism, and how that is led to decline the church. He says this, listen to this, this is very powerful… “I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. That was a pretty serious conviction. You can say hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so, or hey kids be more kind because the Bible says so, but that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. American Christians” he goes on to say “are drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of Protestant work ethic, the American dream and the gospel, and we intertwine them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true, it’s Oprah’s god. We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of ‘when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true’ and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different.” Finally, he says “There’s something wrong in a culture, in a church that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean we walk away from marriages just to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams, we hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.” But that’s heavy, but it gives us an insight and the problem and why the church is on decline.

Actually while I was flying here from New York City I sat next to a young woman, and she was like, what do you do? I was like, “are you ready for this?” And I was like, “well I’m a Minister. And she was like, “oh really, that’s interesting”, and she was like, she was like, “you know, I’m from Tennessee and, you know, I was really, I was raised in the church, but my husband is Jewish, this is the thing, my husband Jewish, we live on Long Island now. And you know, really it’s just about loving people and helping people, and that’s all that matters”. And, I mean, but that’s completely to miss the mark. Hear what I’m saying? if religion, if Christianity is all about what you do, if it’s true, if its validity is in, how it helps you, then what’s the difference between that and how Islam has helped somebody? What’s the difference between that and how, you know, going to Woodstock and like meditating with the Yogi Maharishi, how is that helps people, how is that any different? You see what makes Christianity valid is that it’s actually true, not that it’s helpful, of this amazing picture of these Christians being fed to the lions, it’s an old Roman woodcut about Christians being fed the lions, down below it says: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. But Christianity is valid because it’s true, what we believe and what we confess is that there is one man Jesus Christ, who came to earth and actually made the claim that he was God, preached forgiveness in himself, died on the cross and on the third day rose from the dead. If they find his body, we just pack up shop tomorrow, because it’s not true, and it hasn’t been that helpful to me, you know. But it’s true, that’s what makes Christianity valid and that’s the point of the church. This is my first point. Much of American Christianity, since its beginning, has essentially been in lieu of self-help deistic moralism. And while in the beginning, it may appear alluring, it may appear helpful and it may even appear attractive. As we see today, it is not lasting, and it is running its course. It is running its course, because it has nothing to do with the one thing that’s lasting, the one thing that’s unique about Christianity, and that is the gospel, that God in Jesus, actually saves those who can’t save themselves. God in Jesus Christ retains those who are beyond help.

So, as I’ve said, there’s a lot of confusion, about what is the gospel versus the effects of the gospel in our lives. And this confusion oftentimes comes from from certain places in Scripture, like we taken them and we pull it out and we just apply it to ourselves. Like for example, the Corinthian verse in 1 Corinthians 12, the love passage. In there, there was there was an episode of Amazing Race, about five years ago, where there was this girl, she was reading 1 Corinthians 12, and she was like, “I just read this passage everyday and where it says love I just put my name in their, you know, Marcia is patient, Marcia is kind, Marcia is, you know,” and then the whole episode, it was such a setup, because the whole episode she’s screaming at her partner, and yelling at her, and like, you know, “get it together, I’m gonna lose!” And then there wasn’t much patient. Next time you read I Corinthians 12, where you see love put Jesus’s name in there, and know that it’s all for you. But just take a look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 10 through 12. I’ll read it. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” See that statement from Paul is rooted in Paul’s confidence and hope in Christ’s righteousness, the gospel given to him. Hunt that he somehow like, God’s is gonna be like awesome, Paul, you knew you did a great. No, it is rooted in this amazing confidence in what Jesus has done for him and given to him, that now, God would say, “Well done good and faithful servant”. He goes on, he says, “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others, but what we are is known to God and I hope it is known also your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you cause to boast about us that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearances, and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves is for God, and if we are in our right minded is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: That one has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for, and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves – self-help – but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on therefore we regard no one according to the flesh, a.k.a. what they do – There are seven steps according to an effective marriage. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That is in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ. God making his appeal through us, and we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin, who knew no sin. So that we might become the righteousness of God.”

Oftentimes what happens is with our can-do American Christian attitudes, we take this passage over and we immediately focus on this idea of trying to be a new creation. I’m just using this as one example, the prominent church. And what we must do to keep ourselves new, and this focus deceives people into self-reliance, and it’s this focus on what I need to do to stay in new creation, eventually empties churches. This week I’m a new creation, so I won’t be faithless like those other people over there. It begins to create an us against them mentality. I am going to try and pray more, etc. etc. etc., whatever it is, I’m not going to be like those people over there, And we fool ourselves into believing that a new creation is something that can be defined by reason, or can somehow be measured in my own life. And therefore, the mission of the church gets skewed, you see. And the mission of the church becomes all about making people better, and we spiritualize it. like talk about, like we hear it all the time in the Episcopal church, renewing the earth, or hear in certain pulpits, the renewing culture, renewing the, redeeming the city, making people fully developed followers of Jesus. Whatever it is the mission of the church is for us then to make new creations, and it takes the Holy Spirit right out of it. This is a misunderstanding and you see this is ultimately death. The issue St. Paul is addressing here in 2 Corinthians 5 is actually how are we going to stand before God. And the answer is, not how you made yourself a new creation, the answer Jesus Christ and what he has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. As Paul writes, “He who knew no sin became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God”. What a powerful line. This is my second point: A new creation is the effect of the gospel, not the gospel itself, it is the effect of being reconciled to God because God is the protagonist in the relationship, it is the effect of being reconciled to God and Paul tells us that God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself. I mean this is one of the powerful things about being a part of a liturgical church like St. Francis in the Fields, as we have this liturgy, you know, oftentimes it’s all about me inviting God into my story, and that’s awfully nice of me. But with the liturgy in what you are entering into here reminds you, is that you are brought into God’s story, he’s found you. I mean, he’s pulled you into his life, because he has reconciled you to himself, and he has made you a new creation, and listen he is God and you are the creature, and when he has declared you a new creation, you are, he is not about to let his creatures have the final say. You are a new creation, and there is nothing you can do to sully the newness. This is the powerful thing about the gospel. This is the power of God to save, this is the power of the church, to draw the whole world back to himself. See it’s in this confidence, this confidence that God is at work, by his son through the power of the Holy Spirit, that God is the protagonist reconciling the world to himself through Jesus Christ. And we are actually passive agents being worked upon. This is where the church begins to rediscover her mission, her mission to the whole world, and we see what Paul calls himself, and he calls the church. What is he saying in that reading? That we are ambassadors, we are ambassadors of Christ. Every year, I never got that really, until I went to this banquet, every year in my congregation we have a large West Indian population, and every year I go to a banquet, which raises money for a mission organization called the Mustard Seed. And that this is a mission organization that helps orphanages for handicap and handicapped children in places like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic in the Bahamas and the Caribbean and parts of Latin America, become self-sufficient and self-sustaining. They don’t have to rely on any government corruption. But one year they had at this event the Jamaican ambassador to the United States as the speaker, and I don’t know, but evidently the Prime Minister wasn’t very popular with the ex-pats in New York City; is he ever? But anyway – that was supposed to be funny – but anyway, so they began to press her on her views of what was going on in Jamaica, and what she would do. She said something very interesting at this banquet. She said, “Listen, I am not here to give you my views, I am here to deliver to you a message from the Prime Minister, not my own message”, I thought, gosh, that’s powerful, She’s taken the onus off of her and placed it where it belonged, on the Prime Minister. See, this is what Paul is doing, you know, we don’t have to come up with our own things. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time, on how to get people to stand on their own 2 feet, as we are regarding nobody any longer by the flesh, by what they do. To be an ambassador for Jesus Christ is actually truly freeing, because it takes the onus off of you and places it squarely where it belongs. It takes the onus off of you and what you do and places squarely where it belongs on our King Jesus and what he has done for you, for me, for the whole world. So that’s the mission of the church. In Jady’s office he’s got this powerful picture, it’s one of my favorite, of Luther in the pulpit and there’s the congregation, right in between is the crucified Christ, and there Luther is pointing to it. That’s what he’s doing, an ambassador for Christ. And as ambassadors for Christ with this message of the gospel, that Jesus has died, risen and is coming again for you. See this message, it’s timeless and it has the power to engage arts, it has the power to engage minds, and it has the power to engage souls, a broken people. We’re just exhausted by trying to get better.

A church that engages the world as ambassadors, I think typically does this in three ways. And these three ways are all intertwined. And this is one of the things I’ve been trying to work out over the last couple of years at our church. But there’re all tied together, and there’s three specific callings of the church, I think, as ambassadors of Christ delivering this message of reconciliation. But the first calling is a triage unit. News you begin to preach preach the forgiveness of sins, the truth is weirdos show up. I mean, this is like, this is true. Real broken people come together, and come because they need this message, this is water of life in a world that’s constantly saying look within, find the power within. In the medieval Catholic Church, one of the popular images of Christ in the church, especially in the English church, was one of him pointing a sword at you. And that people oftentimes talk about the Puritans destroying all of the beautiful stained-glass, but this stained-glass, according to one of our friends actually know was in a lot of churches, and they were like get that thing out of here. It was Jesus holding a sword pointed right at you, and the message was, He is your judge, get your act together. And sadly this is still a popular understanding of Jesus, you know, a moralistic, therapeutic milieu of deism, that we oftentimes call Christianity. Although, he’s oftentimes a little nicer. You know, he can be your homeboy, he is relevant, wears skinny jeans, but he’s still, he still expects you to get your act together, and be a new creation. And this message, this image is not helpful. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on the fatal bullet wound, and saying okay be healthy, you know. I mean, this is why we.. if I could get my act together, I wouldn’t need to come to church. But a church that’s a triage unit, you know, it actually sees people as they are, and recognizes the fact that most people have walked on glass to get to church. They’re fighting with their kids to get there, they are fighting with their husband to get to church, they are fighting with their wife to get church, at a long long week and a harder weekend. And that the truth is that the church that’s the triage unit recognizes that everyone has had or has a broken heart, brought on by life, a failed relationship, a difficult job, a sickness, whatever it is, and in those times the truth is as our only hope is the gospel. As a triage unit you recognize that people are actually needy. They’re..I’m needy. I need to be needed I’m so needy. And we don’t just need help, that we need saving, we need the physician, who by his wounds on the cross has made us whole. We are here because we can’t get it together on our own. Calvary Church, one of the churches in my parish, is actually one of the places that AA started. The 12 steps, Samuel Shoemaker and Bill Wilson, is actually written in my office. AA if could you go across, any.. go across the country. We have one at St. George’s and one at Calvary, but these places, our basements are hacked on Saturday mornings. Packed to the gills, packed to the gills with people at AA meetings. And this is because nobody’s talking about getting better.They all begin every, every time they get up and speak they say, “Hi my name is Jake, I’m an alcoholic.” I, when I start saying, hi my name is Jake, I’m a sinner. This is because nobody there has gotten away with anything, and this should be all the more true with the church. We believe the church should be a place when you recognize that God is the one reconciling the world to himself, that when people cry out from the trials and tribulations of life, they cry out from a broken heart, and when they cry out with a broken heart in a place like this, not that they’ll find the gospel, but that the Holy Spirit the gospel is going to find them. And you find him, he will find them there, and he will find them here, because the gospel is clearly proclaimed with that assurance that when we cry out to God he will not turn them away. Gosh you’ve been working on being a new creation for a long time, I don’t know. You know, it’s 70 times 7 that your sins are forgiven, I do not condemn you either. And the gospel what it does in this triage unit? He comes and they get God in full in order to comfort, in order to cheer, in order to restore us. For Christ as proclaimed in the fullness of his gospel is a wonderful Savior and a wonderful God, who has removed the sword that points at us in the law, removes that sword by laying his life down for each and every one of us. And let me tell you if you’ve been a Christian for tons of years, this is for you, this is for you too.

The second role that the church should play as a cafeteria. It is here where the redeemed are nurtured and built up and fed by Christ himself in his Gospel, and we are nourished as Christians through both that word forgiveness and absolution and reconciliation, proclaimed but also through the sacraments in bread and wine, in water over somebody’s head. These are the places where Jesus has placed his name, which assures us of his grace and his mercy and the forgiveness of our sins, in order to send us back out into the world to serve our neighbors in our various callings, and to the serve them well, and to serve them honestly.

Finally the third role, the church plays as a school, should be the place where we teach the historic Christian faith, and what we believe and why we believe it. That is the important thing. So that you understand what the gospel is, and you can make a reasonable defence for your faith. This is my third point. The mission of the church that understands the gospel begins to see that this is not about making people better, with cleverly devised myths, as St. Paul calls them, because at the end of the day, God doesn’t want better people. He’s not the least bit interested, as Dave said last night. He is not the least bit interested in better people, rather instead the mission of the church is to be ambassadors for Christ. And what that means is as we don’t pitch our own message, whether we proclaim the message of King Jesus, which says you have been reconciled by him to God, you are a new creation actually right now. Because this is what God wants broken people. He doesn’t want them better, he wants them brand spanking new. Listen, anyone can dig a well. Anyone can give moralistic life tips. There’s only one institution under heaven and on earth that has been given the authority to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, and that’s us, the church. A new moralism is old news, and it is most certainly not good news at all, that is killing the church, because it’s a ministry of death. The good news we have been given is not our message, but God’s. And it is the power of God to save. It is my prayer that St. Francis in the Field will continue to be that great beacon of light here in Louisville Kentucky. You’re a tremendous encouragement to us in New York City. And that it would continue to be that beacon of light as a triage unit, as a cafeteria, and as a school. Ambassadors for Jesus, not declaring our own message, but the message of our King, who loves you, has died for you, risen for you and mark my words, is coming again for you. God bless you all. Amen.

Boas Novas para Cristãos Ansiosos: 10 Coisas Práticas Que Nāo Necessitamos Fazer

Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to DoBoas Novas para Cristãos Ansiosos: 10 Coisas Práticas que Não Necessitamos Fazer por Phillip Cary

Snopse

Da mesma forma que em uma sucessão de dietas mal sucedidas, as técnicas bastante apregoadas que supostamente servem para nos aproximar mais de Deus “no nosso coração”podem, em vez disso, nos deixar ansiosos, frustrados e oprimidos. Como podemos nos aproximar de Deus e conhecê-lo com uma alegria perene, sem experimentar a vida cristã como uma série de decepções geradoras de culpa?

Tomando como base o seu trabalho com estudantes universitários, Phillip Cary mostra aos cristãos que discipulado é um processo gradual e de longo prazo, que vem através da Bíblia experimentada na comunidade cristã, e não de uma lista de tarefas criadas para nos ajudar a viver a vida cristã de “forma correta”. Este livro, lucidamente escrito, fala sobre 10 coisas que os cristãos não têm que fazer para se aproximar mais de Deus, tais como: ouvir a voz de Deus no seu coração, encontrar a vontade de Deus para suas vidas, e acreditar que sua intuição é o Espírito Santo. Apresentando uma abordagem do evangelho consagrada pelo tempo, que é bela e libertadora, Cary habilmente revela as riquesas da espiritualidade cristã tradicional para levar a verdadeira Boas Novas para cristãos de todas as idades.

Sumário

Prefácio
Introdução: Por Que Tentar Ser Cristão nos Deixa Ansiosos.

  1. Por Que Não Temos Que Ouvir a Voz de Deus em Nossos Corações.
    Ou, Como Deus Realmente Fala Hoje.
  2. Por Que Não Temos Que Crer Que Nossa Intuição É o Espírito Santo.
    Ou, Como o Espírito Molda Nossos Corações.
  3. Por Que Não Temos Que “Deixar Que Deus Tome o Controle”.
    Ou, O Que Significa a Obediência Para Adultos Responsáveis.
  4. Por Que Não Temos Que “Descobrir a Vontade de Deus Para Nossas Vidas”.
    Ou, Como a Fé Busca a Sabedoria.
  5. Por Que Não Temos Que Ter Certeza De Que Possuímos as Motivações Corretas.
    Ou, Como o Amor Procura Fazer o Bem.
  6. Por Que Não Temos Que Nos Preocupar em Separar a Razão da Emoção.
    Ou, Como a Razão Recebe Bem a Emoção.
  7. Por Que Não Temos Que Permanecer Sendo Transformados o Tempo Todo.
    Ou, Como as Virtudes Operam Uma Mudança Duradoura em Nós.
  8. Por Que Não Temos Que Sempre Experimentar a Alegria.
    Ou, Como Deus Justifica os Aflitos.
  9. Por Que o “Aplicar Isto À Sua Vida” É Tedioso.
    Ou, Como o Evangelho É Lindo.
  10. Por Que Basear a Fé nas Experiências Conduz a Um Futuro Pós-Cristão.
    Ou, Como a Fé Cristã Necessita do Ensino Cristão.

Conclusão: Como o Evangelho de Cristo É Bom Para Nós.


O ebook está disponível como EPUB, Kindle (arquivo MOBI) e uma versão básica de impressão (arquivo PDF).

* link para download do arquivo EPUB (aprox. 684 KB, via dropbox)
* link para download do arquivo Kindle (aprox.188 KB, via dropbox)
* download da versão básica de impressão (aprox. 1.9 MB, arquivo pdf)

Amostra: Contém Prefácio, Introdução e Capítulo 1

A Vontade de Deus e Tomada de Decisões

train-tracksNo Centro da Vontade de Deus

Se nossa vida estiver de acordo com os conselhos gerais de Deus para seu povo apresentados na Palavra escrita, então estaremos dentro da vontade geral e moral de Deus. Se, além disso, recebermos uma palavra específica de Deus relacionada a um assunto particular e a obedecermos, então estaremos totalmente dentro da vontade específica de Deus para nós quanto ao assunto em questão.

Mas, suponhamos que a palavra específica não nos venha em alguma questão de grande importância em nossa vida. (Por exemplo: devo estudar nesta ou naquela faculdade? É melhor morar aqui ou lá? Seria bom trocar de emprego?) Será que isso significa que quanto a essa questão não conseguiremos estar na vontade perfeita de Deus ou que só o conseguiremos por sorte, após adivinharmos, com ansiedade, o que Ele quer que façamos?

É certo que não! É necessário resistirmos com firmeza à tendência de jogar a culpa pela ausência de uma palavra de Deus ao pensamento de que isso significa que nos afastamos do caminho e estamos fora da vontade perfeita de Deus. Se vivemos em devoção sincera ao cumprimento dos propósitos de Deus em nós, podemos ter certeza de que Ele, que veio até nós em Jesus, não vai resmungar, implicar conosco nem nos enganar quanto a nenhuma atitude específica que deseja que adotemos. Por mais que eu enfatize esse ponto, nunca será demais, já que a tendência a pensar da forma contrária é, obviamente, muito forte e está sempre presente.

Pense da seguinte maneira: nenhum pai bem-intencionado ocultará suas intenções de seus filhos. Um princípio geral para interpretar o comportamento de Deus em relação a nós aparece nas palavras de Jesus: “Se vocês, apesar de serem maus, sabem dar boas coisas aos seus filhos, quanto mais o Pai que está nos céus dará o Espírito Santo a quem o pedir!” (Lc 11.13)

Quanto mais do que nós nosso Pai celestial dará instruções claras aos que pedem com sinceridade, sempre que Ele tiver orientações a dar? Quando Ele nada disser, estejamos certos de que isso é o melhor para nós. Então, qualquer coisa que esteja dentro da vontade moral e que for feita em fé é sua vontade perfeita. Não é menos perfeita por não haver sido ordenada por Ele de forma específica. Aliás, talvez seja mais perfeita exatamento por Ele não ter visto necessidade de dar ordens específicas. Ele conta com nossa escolha, confia em nosso bom senso e avança concosco pelo caminho que tomamos.

Diferentes cursos de ação podem, então, estar dentro da vontade perfeita de Deus em uma determinada circunstância. Deveríamos presumir que isso é verdade em todas as situações em que caminhamos de acordo com a sua vontade geral, ouvimos sua voz e, ao buscar, não encontramos nenhuma orientação específica. Em casos assim, é comum haver várias opções que agradariam a Deus, embora Ele não nos direcione para nenhuma delas em especial. Todas estão perfeitamente dentro de sua vontade, porque não há nenhuma melhor do que as outras para Ele, e todas são boas. Ele não mandaria você escolher outra que não a que você está seguindo. (Claro que estar dentro da vontade perfeita de Deus não significa que você não erra mais! É possível estar na vontade de Deus sem tornar-se um ser humano perfeito).

Em seu livro Decision Making and the Will of God (Tomada de decisões e a vontade de Deus), Garry Friesen critica com maestria a visão de que Deus tem um plano especial para ser seguido em cada situação, que a decisão correta depende de descobrir qual é esse plano e que, se não conseguirmos, estaremos apenas na vontade permissiva de Deus, na melhor das hipóteses, e seremos cidadãos de segunda classe no reino de Deus. Contra essa visão danosa, Friesen afirma:

O ponto principal é: Deus não possui um planejamento de vida detalhado, criado sob medida para cada crente e que precisa ser descoberto para tornar-se decisões acertadas. O conceito de uma “vontade individual de Deus” [nesse sentido] não pode ser abalizado pelo raciocínio, experiência, exemplos nem ensinamentos bíblicos.

Assim, a vontade perfeita de Deus pode oferecer, para uma pessoa em particular, várias alternativas diferentes. Por exemplo, para a maioria, várias opções ao escolher-se cônjuge (ou ausência dele), vocação, instituição de ensino ou local de moradia podem estar, de igual forma, na vontade perfeita de Deus, não sendo nenhuma delas, por ela mesma, melhor ou preferida por Deus em relação ao resultado final que Ele deseja alcançar.

Quem busca com sinceridade deveria assumir que isso acontece e avançar com fé em Deus se não receber nenhuma palavra específica sobre o assunto que o preocupa após um período de tempo razoável. Tudo isso é coerente com a existência, algumas vezes, de apenas uma opção que se insira perfeitamente na vontade de Deus para nós. Precisamos pensar em nossas escolhas uma de cada vez, exatamente como vivemos um dia após o outro, confiando em Deus.

Assim como o caráter só é revelado quando nos permitem, ou exigem, que façamos o que queremos, também a intensidade e a maturidade de nossa fé só se manifestam quando não recebemos nenhuma orientação específica. Uma fé robusta e madura não faz apenas o que mandam. Pelo contrário — nas palavras de Willian Carey, quando foi para a Índia como missionário pioneiro –, a fé inabalável “tenta grandes realizações para Deus e espera que Ele faça grandes coisas”. Essa fé acompanha ativamente o trabalho a ser feito, a vida a ser vivida, confiante na companhia bondosa do Pai, Filho e Espírito Santo. A redenção não anula a iniciativa humana; antes, a intensifica imergindo-a no fluir da vida de Deus. Quem possui uma visão amadurecida de Deus e experiência em seus caminhos não precisa viver em ansiedade obsessiva para fazer o que é certo. Na maior parte do tempo, sabe o que é certo. Porém, a confiança não está em uma palavra do Senhor, mas no Senhor, que permanece conosco.

– Dallas Willard, Ouvindo Deus, p.256-259