Friday, February 26, 2021

Prophetic Words

We all pay heavily for earlier disregard of the power of evil, of the essentially unredeemed nature of society, of the dangerous tensions of being human. I was unprepared for the shock of the sudden realization that progress is not automatic, that it may involve climbing a ladder of absurdities. Modern man’s discovery of the fundamental aloneness and solitude in a universe indifferent to his fate is due to an expectation that it was in the universe where care for what is ultimately precious was to be found. He now suffers from the collapse of naive self—deception and oversimplification.

Our era marks the end of simplification, the end of personal exclusiveness, the end of self-defense through aloofness, the end of a sense of security. We find ourselves in a situation in which the distinction between the affluent and the indigent, between the successful and the shlemiels, is becoming obsolete. In the realm of character, in the depth of the soul, in groping for a way out of a creeping sense of futility, in moments of being alone and taking account of our lives, we are all indigent and in need of assistance.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 22

<idle musing>
Indeed! How much truer today, after enduring four years of unrelenting lies, the even now are being repeated and amplified? Progress is never simple and automatic, as anyone who has studied history can tell you. And what we consider progress today isn't necessarily progress at all. We need the discernment that can only come from the Holy Spirit. May we be up to the task!
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 25, 2021

It's hard work!

Most people think only once in their lives, usually when they are at college. After that their minds are made up, and their decisions, utterances are endless repetitions of views that have in the meantime become obsolete, outworn, unsound. This applies to politics, scholarship, the arts as well as to social service. Views,’ just as leaves, are bound to wither, because the world is in flux. But so many of us would rather be faithful to outworn views than to undergo the strain of reexamination and revision. Indeed, intellectual senility sets in long before physical infirmity. A human being must be valued by how many times he was able to see the world from a new perspective.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 20

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A short summary of history

To the discerning eye the incidents recorded in the Bible are episodes of one great drama: the quest of God for man, His search of man, and man's flight from Him.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 16

Thought for the day

12 The LORD proclaims:
Begin each morning by administering justice,
    rescue from their oppressor
        those who have been robbed,
    or else my anger will spread like a wildfire,
        with no one to put it out,
        because of your evil deeds.
13 I am against you,
    you who live in the valley,
        like a rock of the plain,
            declares the LORD,
    and who say, “Who will come down to attack us?
        Who will breach our fortresses?”
14 I will punish you based on what you have done,
    declares the LORD.
I will set your forests on fire;
    the flames will engulf
        everything around you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Blind chance?

The claim of the Bible is absurd, unless we are ready to comprehend that the world as scrutinized and depicted by science is but a thin surface of undisclosed depths. Order is only one of the aspects of nature; its reality is a mystery given but not known. Countless relations that determine our life in history are neither known nor predictable. What history does with the laws of nature cannot be expressed by a law of nature.

Among many difficulties is this: There would have to be a leak, a flaw in the perfect mechanism of mind and matter to let the spirit of God penetrate its structure. To assume that the world for all its immense grandeur is a tiny cymbal in the hand of God, on which at certain times only one soul vibrates though all are struck; in other words, to assume that the entire complex of natural laws is transcended by the freedom of God would presuppose the metaphysical understanding that the laws of nature are derived not from a blind necessity but from freedom, that the ultimate is not fate but God. Revelation is not an act of interfering with the normal course of natural events but the act of instilling a new creative moment into the course of natural events.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 14

Monday, February 22, 2021

Thought for the day

 13 I replied, “Lord God, the prophets are telling them: ‘You won’t see war or famine, for I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”

14 Then the Lord said to me: The prophets are telling lies in my name. I haven’t sent them. I haven’t commanded them. I haven’t spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, worthless predictions, and deceit they have made up on their own. 15 Therefore, this is what the Lord proclaims concerning the prophets who are speaking in my name when I didn’t send them, and who are telling you that war or famine will never come to this land: Those very prophets will die in war and by famine! 16 And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown into the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and war. There will be no one to bury them or their wives and children. I will pour out on them their own wickedness. (Jer 14:13–16 CEB)

<idle musing>
Let those who have ears to hear, hear!
</idle musing>

An active and living God

The God of the philosopher is a concept derived from abstract ideas; the God of the prophets is derived from acts and events. The root of Jewish faith is, therefore, not a comprehension of abstract principles but an inner attachment to those events; to believe is to remember, not merely to accept the truth of a set of dogmas.... To ignore these events and to pay attention only to what Israel was taught in these events is like tearing out a piece of flesh from a living body.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 12–13

Friday, February 19, 2021

Hope for the world

Indeed, life appears dismal if not mirrored in what is more than life. Nothing can be regarded as valuable unless assessed by something higher in value than itself. Our survival depends upon the conviction that there is something that is worth the price of life. Our survival depends upon a sense of the supremacy of what is lasting. That sense or conviction may be asleep, but it awakens when challenged. In some people it lives as a sporadic wish; in others it is a permanent concern.

What I have learned from Jewish life is that if a man is not more than human, then he is less than human. Judaism is an attempt to prove that in order to be a man, you have to be more than a man; that in order to be a people, we have to be more than a people. Israel was made to be a “holy people.” This is the essence of its dignity and the essence of its merit. Judaism is a link to eternity, kinship with ultimate reality.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 6–7

<idle musing>
If that is true of Judaism (and I'm sure it is), then it is even truer of Christianity. Would that those of us who call ourselves "Christians" would live like we believe it!

And that is truly possible by the power of the Holy Spirit!
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Sound familiar?

One of the maladies of our time is shattered confidence in human nature. We are inclined to believe that the world is a pandemonium, that there is no sense in virtue, no import to integrity; that we only graft goodness upon selfishness, and relish self—indulgence in all values; that we cannot but violate truth with evasion. Honesty is held to be wishful thinking, purity the squaring of the circle of human nature. The hysteria of suspicion has made us unreliable to ourselves, trusting neither our aspirations nor our convictions. Suspiciousness, not skepticism, is the beginning of our thinking.

This sneering doctrine holds many of us in its spell. It has profoundly affected the character and life of modern man. The man of today shrinks from the light. He is afraid to think as he feels, afraid to admit what he believes, afraid to love what he admires. Going astray he blames others for his failure and decides to be more evasive, smooth—tongued, and deceitful. Living in fear he thinks that the ambush is the normal dwelling place of all men. He has failed to pick up in his youth the clue of the unbroken thread of truthfulness that would guide him through the labyrinth.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 6

<idle musing>
Remember, this was written in 1951! It could have been written yesterday. Watch for his solution tomorrow...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The wrong prescription

It is absurd to assume that we can heal our shattered souls by outlawing aggressive thinking, that we can revive our suppressed faith by substituting frantic nostalgia for sober conviction or worship of rituals for walking with God.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 6

<idle musing>
Truer now than when he first penned it in 1951! His was truly a prophetic voice from which we can still learn much.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

It's even colder!

Yesterday was cold. I looked at the temperature at 8:00 AM and it was -20ºF. Then, at 8:30 last night, I checked the weather. Here's what I saw:

It's kind of scary when a prediction of 9ºF is considered "much warmer" out! But, it wasn't as bad as they said. I checked at 8:00 AM this morning, and it was only -18ºF! Heat wave!

Imago Dei

If we are created in the image of God, each human being should be a reminder of God’s presence. If we engage in acts of violence and murder, we are desecrating the divine likeness.—Susannah Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, xxv

Monday, February 15, 2021

A cross perspective

Even though the cross is essential to the development of true spirituality, it does not hang over the life of Jesus and should never cast a pall over the life of His followers. Joy will always be the predominant spirit of Jesus’ approach to our life with God. Jesus was above all else a happy person, and a person remarkably free, free from the grip of material things, free from unhealthy attachments to people, free from obsessive hang-ups and neurotic needs. It is a pleasure to watch Him move so easily through life, even with His knowing the troubles that were always impending. He never allowed Himself to be obsessed with worry or with a sense of doom. Problems He handed over to His Father, as if that was His business. He just did what He knew He had to do each day. In living this way He was able to manifest a remarkable detachment and continually radiate a spirit of joy.— Never Alone, 111–12

<idle musing> And so ends this little book. Tomorrow we'll start going through Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, by Abraham Joshua Heschel.
</idle musing>

Friday, February 12, 2021

Peace, the gift of God

Once Jesus establishes His place in our souls, the first gift He shares is peace. That is why forgiveness is important to Him, it preserves our peace. Inner peace is the fertile soil in which our spiritual garden can grow. Where there is turmoil it is almost impossible to develop an inner life. There is just no room for the thought or reflection which is essential for the development of a spiritual life. Jesus talks to us in the peacefulness of our souls.— Never Alone, 96–97

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Baby, it's cold outside

Just checked the temperature, and it's -4ºF. But that's not what was the worst. Check out the screen shot. Tomorrow is supposed to be "much cooler" than today!

Be Perfect! But in what way?

He then tells them to be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect. The perfection He is referring to here is not perfection in the keeping of laws, but to what is mentioned just before, perfection in expressing genuine love even of your enemies. God’s perfection is not about the keeping of commandments, it is about the expression of His ineffable love. Love is the definition of God. It is His essence. It is What makes God God. So, in enjoining us to be perfect like His Father, Jesus is challenging us to love as completely and as unselfishly as His Father, particularly with the unrelenting forgiveness of His Father’s love.— Never Alone, 93–94

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Practical Holiness

Spirituality is not developed in a vacuum. All of our lives are intertwined and closely tied up with one another. God does not create us to live in isolation. He created each of us incomplete, so we would need one another, so we could help one another, so we could reach out and touch one another’s lives. Holiness is growth in godliness, and God is not self—centered. He is a giving God, always sharing the immensity of His infinite goodness with His creatures. Our holiness, then, is authentic when it is reaching out to others, sharing with others what God has poured so lavishly into our own lives. Though He works with each of us personally, molding in us His own inner life, He channels through ourselves and others what we all need for our survival and our growth, so we become the woof and warp of life’s tapestry. The real work of our spiritual life lies essentially in what subconsciously takes place beneath the surface of our daily life, as God uses events and circumstances as well as people to alter our thought patterns, clarify our vision, reset the direction of our life, and realign our personality to harmonize with Jesus’ own inner life.— Never Alone, 79–80

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Es macht nichts!

There are sins a lot less honorable than prostitution, but we do not penalize their perpetrators. Take an upstanding judge who mercilessly sentences to ten or twenty years a poor black who cannot pull strings to plea bargain, when he would give perhaps only a suspended sentence to a middle-class white person with connections in the exact same circumstances. In the eyes of God that kind of sin is heinous compared to prostitution, but the judge will still be highly respected in the community, while the prostitute will be looked upon with contempt. The remarkable thing about God is that He will still take the judge as He is and see goodness in him as well, and will work to transform his life into something ultimately God-like. 84

Monday, February 08, 2021

An easier way

We have to get past a preoccupation with our sins. The thrust of our spiritual life should not be sin- oriented or Satan-oriented. It should be God-oriented. We should concentrate on developing a personal relationship With God, and through openness in our prayer lives, let God into our lives so He can guide us. As we get to know Him we cannot help but fall in love With Him. The intimacy and warmth of that relationship will deepen our insights and understanding and will help us outgrow our sinful tendencies, one by one. As an example, before we met God we may have been envious of the success and accomplishments of others, eating our hearts out because we could not have the same good fortune that they had. Now that we have met God and know how special we are to Him and that He has a very special work for us that nobody else can accomplish, our lives are given a meaning and a value that takes all the envy out of our hearts. We could not care less what someone else has. We now know we are special and are important to God. The same thing happens with our other vices. One by one we outgrow them, and in outgrowing them we get rid of them. That is a psychologically healthy way to attack our weaknesses and our limitations, by getting rid of the underlying problems which cause the sins.— Never Alone, 71

Friday, February 05, 2021

Thought for the day

15 Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that murderers don’t have eternal life residing in them. 16 This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 But if someone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but refuses to help—how can the love of God dwell in a person like that?

18 Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. 1 John 3:15–18 (CEB)

<idle musing>
Let those who have ears to hear, hear!

I've been seeing a lot of activity by so-called christians of late that certainly doesn't meet the criteria of those verses.

'Nuff said.
</idle musing>

Self-centered spirituality

Concentrating on self-perfection and rooting out sin can become an almost total absorption, and can develop into a very self-centered spirituality. This was the spirituality of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticized so vehemently, a spirituality that deteriorated into an obsessive pursuit of self-perfection, and self-adoration rather than a life of self-forgetting love that flowed spontaneously from a deep relationship with God. That is the kind of spirituality Jesus was trying to instill in people’s hearts. And that is the path we should travel. 69

Thursday, February 04, 2021


Besides reading, prayer is essential. Our relationship with God grows from our constant awareness of His presence in our lives. At first it is difficult to think of Him. But as His presence becomes more real, our sense of His nearness blossoms into an intimate communing with Him in a beautiful kind of prayer. It may be a monologue, or it may be perceived as a kind of dialogue. In prayer God works on our attitudes. He alters our vision, our understanding of life. Over a period of time spent communing with God, we will notice our attitudes changing toward everything. We think differently about God. We think differently about material things. We think differently about ourselves and others. We think differently about rich people and poor people. We see God’s creation and everything in it as sacred. Given the time God will eventually transform our whole life. He does this so subtly we do not even know it. Others see it and might on occasion make the remark, “What a beautiful person you have become!” and the remarkable thing is that you do not even know what they are talking about, because God has accomplished this so quietly that you were totally unaware of what was happening. This is what St. Paul meant when he wrote, “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.”— Never Alone, 63–64

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

The problem of "self-sufficiency"

The more practical and independent we are the more difficult it is to be reliant on God. We are so used to analyzing situations and working out solutions to problems that to abandon ourselves to God and be open to His grace seems almost like a cop-out and shirking responsibility. Many people find it near impossible to understand. Yet, it is necessary if we are to develop a partnership with God, and that is what spirituality essentially is. We can do nothing without God because He has the key to the complex mystery of our lives, but He also needs us to fulfill His own plans for the development of His creation, which by His intention is imperfect and incomplete. It is our function to help perfect His creation. He will not, however, violate our free will and force us to work with Him, even though He needs our cooperation to accomplish His goals in the world.— Never Alone, 44–45

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Tozer for Tuesday

An important aspect of intentional Christian living is purity. This purity is the absence of additives. The evangelical Church has become most ingenious in this area of additives. We have so encumbered the Christian life that the average Christian is weighed down with such religious trappings they never get around to living the life Christ designed for them. Purity of life is a life free from additives. The intentional Christian life is not diluted with elements of culture or religion. The purity of our life is simply the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. No other level of purity will be accepted. As I intentionally live the Christian life, I am focused on His purity, and He is living His life through me unencumbered by other things or interests.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, 210

<idle musing>
So much of what passes for "purity" in the Christian world is anything but! Tozer pegs it here, or in the words of a chorus that used to be popular:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.
That is purity. That is holiness. Christ living his life through you. Or, as 2 Peter 1 puts it, "3 By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. 4 Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces." (CEB)

Or, as some translations put it, "partakers in the divine nature." That's a pretty big promise!
</idle musing>

Let go!

We are so used to being in control. We are brought up to be independent, self-reliant; “to be responsible” we call it. It is not easy to abandon that control and let God into our lives, much less submit to His control. But it is the only way we can function successfully, and indeed survive. It is even more difficult for parents to turn over to God control of their children’s lives. Parents often feel the only way they can protect their children is to control and direct their every move. When a child’s life gets completely out of control, an overly protective parent can fall apart. They are so afraid their child is on the road to destruction. Yet, to turn the child over to God is the only way to really help the child, who may after all be twenty-five, thirty, or many years older.— Never Alone, 43

Monday, February 01, 2021

It all has a purpose

You see the same thing in the lives of so many people who have had profound influence on others’ lives. What made them great was not an accident. It was the years of painful preparation and training as God steeled their souls for the future. They were scorched and burned and tried by fire and pain as God worked secretly in the depths of their souls sharpening their vision of life and focusing their wisdom and understanding for the work they were to do.— Never Alone, 37

<idle musing>
I was reading 1 Peter this morning. He has a lot to say about that. But it seems that christianity in the US has forgotten that part of the gospel, doesn't it? Or version of christianity is nothing but a vending machine god. And when he doesn't give us what we want, we do what you do with all machines that don't work: You kick it. If that doesn't work, you kick it harder. And if that doesn't work, you throw it away and find a new one...
</idle musing>