Sunday, June 5, 2016

Spiritual Coffee: Make the Most of the Things of Earth - We All Need Church History - Knowing Yourself in Spite of Technology

Three tools for inspiration to energize your mind for the week. Here's some help for enjoying the things in the world without loving God less, for taking an interest in church history, and for reconnecting your soul to God's gift of grace and mercy in spite of the distractions of so much useful technology.

Prior collections are tagged under Spiritual Coffee.

The Strange Brightness of the Things of Earth, Joe Rigney (Cities Church)
Rigney has brought a common dilemma of faith into clear focus: does enjoying things in the world subtract from our love for God, or can it help increase it? Should we be cautious and self-conscious about enjoying things too much? Rigney's writing and teaching is some of the most insightful work I've ever read or heard on this subject. Sermon transcript or audio at the link. This is part of a series, so you can look at the related sermons as well. Rigney also has a five-hour seminar available in audio here at the bottom under Media ("The Whole Earth Is Full of His Glory") that I strongly recommend for going deeper.
"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.
"What is the song telling us? It tells us that earthly things may have some brightness; they may have some beauty. They may bring us some joy. But when Jesus shows up, that brightness grows dim in his light. That beauty fades in comparison to his wonderful face. In his presence is fullness of joy, and therefore the delight we had in earthly things is now dullness and dust."
"That tension comes into focus when we take the dimness of earthly things in the light of Jesus and set it alongside the hymn we just sang, “This Is My Father’s World.”
"This is my Father’s World/He shines in all that’s fair/In the rustling grass I hear him pass/He speaks to me everywhere. 
"What does this hymn teach? Not that earthly things grow dim, but that God shines in them. “He shines in all that’s fair.” They’re not dim; they’re bright with his brightness. They don’t go silent when God shows up; He speaks through them. And there’s the tension: which hymn is true?" 
13 Reasons We Need Church History, Matthew J. Hall (TGC)
Excellent thoughts on why church history has special value and importance for Christians, and how to study it wisely. Although Hall doesn't state this directly, there's a lot of encouragement here for all Christians that we should care about knowing our history, and we shouldn't think of it as a matter only for seminary students and scholars. 
"Throughout Scripture, rightly remembering is critical to faithfulness. As early as Eden, Eve listens to the serpent, succumbing to faulty interpretations of the past and of God’s revelation in particular.
"Throughout the Old Testament, God calls his people to recall and retell his gracious saving acts. Yet Israel repeatedly forgets, fails, and strays. The New Testament is also clear: Historical events are at the heart of the good news.
"Our mission is to recount that history and call the nations to repent and believe in the Christ. Even the development of post-apostolic doctrine involved history. The early church fathers and councils had to determine, for example, what it meant to say with historical confidence that Jesus was both God and man."

Habits of Mind in an Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs (Comment Magazine)
The summer issue of Comment Magazine is available online now (free and simple registration required). It's hard to choose among the articles - the focus on how design and technology influence us and our faith is tackled in a diversity of forms. For an introduction, James K.A. Smith examines cutting-edge technological marvels against the potential to forget who we are (or what makes us human) in Our Built World. I chose Jacobs, however, because distraction and divided attention are major challenges for most of us. Having used social media and tech prolifically and personally himself, as well as questioned and criticized it, Jacobs speaks from real life with the benefit of examining himself and all of us against Christian thinking across several centuries. But what he grabs hold of here and leads us through is not a list of ways to tame technology; instead, it's a vital question of what happens when our perception of life and self goes wrong. Those who see only their own failures and imperfections and those who see only a world of outward problems in need of the right technological fix both suffer from a distorted view of the Gospel and self. Here is good medicine.
"So what do we do with the great majority of people for whom excessive self-examination is the last problem they're likely to face? I think this is one of the most important problems Christians—and especially pastors—face today."

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