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Category Archives: Faith

“The Gateway to Our Homeland”

In his biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, author Eric Metaxas relates the martyred German theologian’s perspective on death.  Just over a decade before he faced the gallows as an enemy of Hitler’s Third Reich, Bonhoeffer spoke of death in a sermon.  His view on how the Christian should regard one’s own death as something transformative and good challenges as much as it encourages:

“No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence. . . .

“That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up–that is for young and old alike to think about.  Why are we so afraid when we think about death? . . . Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it.  Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word.  Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves.  Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him.  Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.

“How do we know that dying is so dreadful?  Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?

Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith.  But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.” (Bonhoeffer, p. 531)

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Bonhoeffer, Faith

 

A Slender Cord in the Hands of a Great God

Charles Spurgeon on faith and works . . . two passages on the merits of one and inadequacy of the other:

I am told that years ago a boat was upset above the falls of Niagara, and two men were being carried down the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which rope was seized by them both.  One of them held fast to it and was safely drawn to the bank; but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go the rope and clung to the log, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to.  Alas!  The log with the man on it went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the log and the shore.  The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety.  So when a man trusts to his works, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and Christ; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hands of the great God on the shore side; infinite power pulls in the connecting line, and thus draws the man from destruction. (All of Grace, pp. 45-46)

And another:

Those who hope to be saved by trying to do their best know nothing of that glowing fervor, that hallowed warmth, that devout joy in God, which come with salvation freely given according to the grace of God.  The slavish spirit of self-salvation is no match for the joyous spirit of adoption.  There is more real virtue in the least emotion of faith than in all the tuggings of legal bond-slaves, or all the weary machinery of devotees who would climb to Heaven by rounds of ceremonies.  Faith is spiritual, and God who is a spirit delights in it for that reason.  Years of prayer-saying, and church-going, or chapel-going, and ceremonies, and performances, may only be an abomination in the sight of Jehovah; but a glance from the eye of true faith is spiritual and it is therefore dear to Him. (All of Grace, p. 99)

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Book Comments, Charles Spurgeon, Faith

 

Dreaming and Doing

“Dreaming about a thing in order to do it properly is right; but dreaming about it when we should be doing it is wrong.” – Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers explores the fine line between taking the time to discover God’s will and using this pursuit as an excuse for procrastination due to a lack of faith, courage, or desire.  How often do I think of a good idea but then balk at working to bring about its actual fulfillment?  It’s not that I stumble as I begin to move in response to God’s prompting.  That wouldn’t be too bad . . . forward progress at least.  It’s that I don’t move at all . . . like I am nurturing a secret hope that mere imaginings at the threshold of faith would be sufficient.  But God says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  He bids us to love not “with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (John 14:15; 1 John 3:18)

Despite the noble goals to which it aspires, simple dreaming is thin soup compared to the sweet spiritual food that nourishes the followers of Christ—those who walk in His steps.  “Dreaming after God has spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him,” writes Chambers.  To truly follow, we must wake and rise.

We might look to the example of Joseph for inspiration here.  In the first two chapters of Matthew’s gospel, Joseph encounters God through the medium of dreams no less than four times.  The passage describing the birth of Jesus in this account is basically a story of Joseph’s faith and obedience.  The man makes what he feels is a good decision to divorce his betrothed quietly.  It’s a decision reflecting a balance of justice and kindness.  Yet after hearing the angel of the Lord in a dream, he doesn’t just listen . . . he changes his mind in faith and embraces the shame along with the hope that Mary’s child is indeed the promised Savior.

Joseph continues to hear from God in dreams, and his responses take his family from Bethlehem to Egypt . . . then back toward Judea and on to Galilee.  We can safely assume, I think, that Joseph wrestled a bit with these decisions.  They involved, after all, matters of life and death.  But we can also assume that he spent little time looking to the Scriptures for an explanation once he received his instructions.  Joseph, no doubt, acted without the benefit of God connecting the dots between prophecy and fulfillment as He did for us through Matthew.  In Joseph’s case, God spoke in dreams, and, each time, the dreamer woke to follow in faith.