Comfortable Christianity in 1563

When you think of “comfortable” Christianity, what comes to mind? Tempur-pedic pews? Bubble bath baptisms?

The challenge in our day is not to reject comfort, but to redefine it. When we think of comfort, we think of entitlement, safety, independence, financial security, etc. But Christian comfort is different. It is comfort rooted in Christ alone. It speaks of true security and assurance, and because it is a perfect guarantee in Christ it provides a radical freedom to be others-centered, sacrificial, risk-taking, committed, etc.

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way:

Q: What is my only comfort in life and death?

A: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

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Robert McKee on Character

True CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.

Beneath the surface of characterization, regardless of appearances, who is this person? At the heart of his humanity, what will we find? Is he loving or cruel? Generous or selfish? Strong or weak? Truthful or a liar? Courageous or cowardly? The only way to know the truth is to witness him make choices under pressure to take one action or another in the pursuit of his desire. As he chooses, he is.

Pressure is essential. Choices made when nothing is at risk mean little. If a character chooses to tell the truth in a situation where telling a lie would gain him nothing, the choice is trivial, the moment expresses nothing. But if the same character insists on telling the truth when a lie would save his life, then we sense that honesty is at the core of his nature.

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The Valley of Vision

While in seminary, I was introduced to a collection of prayers from the Puritans of the late 16th and 17th century.

The first prayer in the book, “The Valley of Vision,” has been one I’ve returned to many times to be reminded that the Christian life is not as glamorous and exciting as we often long for it to be. It’s paradoxical. Losses are gains. I think of the Beatitudes. I find that as I relate to the Jesus I read about in the Bible I too am drawn toward the hurting and the broken.

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Praying Before Meals

Sometimes when I’m asked to pray before meals I feel foolish.

Who am I to represent the thoughts of a group of people before God? It’s hard enough expressing my own needs, desires, praise, and thanks.

There are times when, as I begin to pray, I start to think about other things to praise God about. I’d like to mention these things, but then I have to remember that people are just expecting me to bless the meal.

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Where I Belong

In his essay “The Inner Ring” C. S. Lewis describes the folly of finding our self-worth in social hierarchies. He writes, “Of all the passions the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things . . . The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”

Here’s how I think this works. We’ve been created with a need to feel like we belong, but ever so often we make the mistake of idolizing a certain group of people in order to get that sense of belonging.

“Maybe if I can get in with them, then I’ll know I’m okay.”

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You Need a Prayer Therapist

I found this little gem from a wonderful book called A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller.

Let’s imagine that you see a prayer therapist to get your prayer life straightened out. The therapist says, “Let’s begin by looking at your relationship with your heavenly Father . . . What does it mean that you are a son or daughter of God?”

You reply that it means you have complete access to your heavenly Father through Jesus. You have true intimacy, based not on how good you are but on the goodness of Jesus. Not only that, Jesus is your brother. You are a fellow heir with him.

The therapist smiles and says, “That is right. You’ve done a wonderful job of describing the doctrine of Sonship. Now tell me what it is like for you to be with your Father. What is it like to talk with him?”

You cautiously tell the therapist how difficult it is to be in your Father’s presence, even for a couple of minutes. Your mind wanders. You aren’t sure what to say. You wonder, Does prayer make any difference? Is God even there? Then you feel guilty for your doubts and just give up.

Your therapist tells you what you already suspect. “Your relationship with your heavenly Father is dysfunctional. You talk as if you have an intimate relationship, but you don’t. Theoretically, it is close. Practically, it is distant, you need help.”

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Carson on Progressive Revelation

“Sometimes Christians understand progressive revelation in a fairly mechanistic or linear fashion: More truth simply gets added to the pile, to make a bigger pile of truth. But this ‘mystery/revelation’ tension shows that often something is actually there in the Old Testament text . . . that was not seen until the coming of Jesus made it clear.”

D. A. Carson

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