Monday, January 31, 2011

A meditation on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

The Foolishness of the Cross

What do we do when God’s way seems like foolishness to us?

Scripture tells us that divine wisdom is often considered foolish by our human standards. Verse 18: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

Lord, I would never call your way foolish! But really, how often have I struggled with just those same thoughts – God, how could you? God, why…? You just aren’t making sense to me Lord.

One well-known theologian looked at God’s revelation and said, “You know what? I just can’t believe that… it is an affront to my rational mind.” And so he didn’t believe. And he promoted that unbelief as wisdom, and God’s revelation as foolishness. The world's media loved it, and many followed him, to their own coldness of spirit.

No, we wouldn’t do that. We wouldn’t be that arrogant, would we? But honestly, haven’t we struggled with God’s way – when it went counter to our own wishes, thoughts and intuitions?

When the cross hits on a personal level, it’s tough. I must confess that some of the hardest periods of my life have been when I can’t make sense of God’s ways, and answers seem far away. I've seen friends walk away from faith whenever they cannot understand tragedy or trial. And I don't mean that critically, but as a fellow human... it’s tough, isn’t it?

Verse 23 says that Christ crucified is a ‘stumbling block’ to Jews and ‘foolishness’ to Greeks [Gentiles].
A stumbling block for the religious: The image of a stone that makes one stumble… how can a man on a cross be a blessing for the world?
And foolishness for the non-religious: literally, “scandalon" [σκανδαλον]… the word from which we get scandal!

Two images: A stone of stumbling and a great scandal; one huge question: How can this stumbling block, this embarrassment, this scandal, be a sign of God’s wisdom?

It is so counter-intuitive for humans.

Here we are confronted with the question that will not go away: what do we do when the ways of God do not accord with our best wisdom? What do we do when God’s plan seems like foolishness to our normal modes of thinking and conventional wisdom?
Do we give up on God’s plan as something less than ours? Do we choose, unconsciously perhaps, to cling to our own wisdom and find fault with God’s wisdom – mere foolishness?

It is the stone of stumbling, the scandal that we all must face: God’s wisdom will be called foolish by our world’s wisdom – our internal desires, our natural wisdom, our business models… perhaps our family wishes and cultural convention… maybe even the plans we’ve drawn up for ourselves – these things will rise up and then stumble at God’s way. What then do we do?

Will we bow, and find greater fulfillment than ever we knew? Or will we stumble, and blame God and His kirk? Will we become like those who “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof,” or will we take the path of God – the cross and its mysterious power?

If you bow, you will find power, and life – Life that explodes the old forms, into newness and joy, Joy greater than ever you imagined...

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

There is coming a day when all that the world has called wisdom will crumble into dust. On that day, will we be standing in the foolishness of the cross, in the power of God?

To those who are called… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The hiddenness of God and our encounter with death

True philosophy is but a preparation for death; that is, an entrance into Life now

In the Phaedo, Plato says that "those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death." In light of that claim, Paul Moser asks the obvious question: If that is true philosophy, then how many contemporary philosophers are doing true philosophy? Probably not many.

Moser follows this thought up with a fine essay demonstrating a link between Divine hiddenness and human preparation for death. It is fascinating, that as we follow true philosophy and prepare for death, we really enter Life. Thus did Jesus talk about eternal life in terms of it entering the now -- eternal life as a quality of life in present, leading to endless life in the future.

God alone knows what life is enough for us to live

Likewise, George MacDonald, writing over a hundred years ago, offered this truth in several forms: the search for God, and the life-center of obedience, is but a preparation for death -- death that is as phenomenal and life-filled as our existence is to an unborn child.

If the world had been so made that men could easily believe in the maker of it, it would not have been a world worth any man's living in, neither would the God that made such a world, and so revealed himself to such people, be worth believing in.

God alone knows what life is enough for us to live -- what life is worth his and our while; we may be sure he is laboring to make it ours. He would have it as full, as lovely, as grand, as the sparing of nothing, not even his own son, can render it. If we would only let him have his own way with us! If we do not trust him, will not work with him, are always thwarting his endeavors to make us alive, then we must be miserable; there is no help for it.

As to death, we know next to nothing about it. "Do we not!" say the faithless. "Do we not know the darkness, the emptiness, the tears, the sinking of heart, the desolation!" Yes, you know those; but those are your things, not death's. About death you know nothing. God has told us only that the dead are alive to him, and that one day they will be alive again to us. The world beyond the gates of death is, I suspect, a far more homelike place to those that enter it, than this world is to us.


MacDonald, “A Lesson about Death,” Donal Grant, 332-3.
Paul K. Moser, "Divine Hiddenness, Death, and Meaning," Chapter 15 in Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues, eds. P. Copan and C. Meister (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A vision that redeems reality

A rainbow of hope and child of promise

Then, suddenly, as if out of the depths of despair, arose in him an assurance of help on the way to him, and with it a strength to look in the face the worst that could befall him; he might at least starve in patience. Therewith he drew himself up, crossed the street…

If only he could creep into his grave and have done! Why should that hostelry of refuge stand always shut? Surely he was but walking in his own funeral! Were not the mourners already going about the street before ever the silver cord was loosed or the golden bowl broken? Might he not now at length feel at liberty to end the life he had ceased to value?

There was no other escape; there was no sign of coming deliverance. All was black within and around them. That was the rain on the gravestones. He was in a hearse, on his way to the churchyard. There the mourners were already gathered. They were before him, waiting his arrival...

But alas! what if the obligation of a live soul went farther than this life? What if a man was bound, by the fact that he lived, to live on, and do everything possible to keep the life alive in him? There his heart sank, and the depths of the sea covered it! Did God require of him that, sooner than die, he should beg the food to keep him alive?

Hector turned down a street that led westward, drying his eyes, and winking hard to make them swallow the tears which sought to hide from him a spectacle that was calling aloud to be seen. For lo! The street-end was filled with the glory of a magnificent rainbow. All across its opening stretched and stood the wide arch of a wonderful rainbow. Hector could not see the sun; he saw only what it was making; and the old story came back to him, how the men of ancient time took the heavenly bow for a promise that there should no more be such a flood as again to destroy the world. And therefore even now the poets called the rainbow the bow of hope.

Once more his spirit rose upon the wave of a hope which he could neither logically justify nor dare to refuse; for hope is hope wherever it spring, and needs no justification of its self-existence or of its sudden marvelous birth. The very hope was in itself enough for itself.

And now he was near his home; his Annie was waiting for him; and in another instant his misery would be shared and comforted by her! He was walking toward the wonder-sign in the heavens. But even as he walked with it full in view, he saw it gradually fade and dissolve into the sky, until not a thread of its loveliness remained to show where it had spanned the infinite with its promise of good. And yet, was not the sky itself a better thing, and the promise of a yet greater good? He must walk onward yet, in tireless hope! And the resolve itself endured—or fading, revived, and came again, and ever yet again.

For ere he had passed the few yards that lay between him and Annie yet another wonder befell: as if the rainbow had condensed, and taken shape as it melted away, there on the pathway, in the thickening twilight of the swift-descending November night, stood a creature, surely not of the night, but rather of the early morn, a lovely little child—whether wandered from the open door of some neighboring house, or left by the vanished rainbow, how was he to tell? Endeavoring afterward to recall every point of her appearance, he could remember nothing of her feet, or even of the frock she wore. Only her face remained to him, with its cerulean eyes--the eyes of Annie, looking up from under the cloud of her dark hair, which also was Annie's. She looked then as she stood, in his memory of her, as if she were saying, "I trust in you; will you not trust in Him who made the rainbow?"

For a moment he seemed to stand regarding her, but even while he looked he must have forgotten that she was there before him, for when again he knew that he saw her, though he did not seem ever to have looked away from her, she had changed in the gathering darkness to the phantasm of a daisy, which still gazed up in his face trustingly, and, indeed, went with him to his own door, seeming all the time to say, "It was no child; it was me you saw, and nothing but me; only I saw the sun--I mean, the man that was making the rainbow." And never more could he in his mind separate the child, whom I cannot but think he had verily seen, from the daisy which certainly he had not seen, except in the atmosphere of his troubled and confused soul.


George MacDonald, Far Above Rubies, 34-37.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A pastel kiss of sunset on surf

For all you winter-bound denizens in lands of snow and ice, sleet and cold, here's a glimpse of classic Florida winter scenery. This is from Lover's Key State Park. Enjoy! :-)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The man or woman who would be strong

One with Origin, strength inexhaustible; apart from Origin, weakness itself

The man has begun to be strong who knows that, separated from life essential, he is weakness itself, that, one with his origin, he will be of strength inexhaustible.


To know God as the beginning and end, the root and cause, the giver, the enabler, the love and joy and perfect good, the present one existence in all things and degrees and conditions, is life; and faith, in its simplest, truest, mightiest form is – to do his will.


George MacDonald, “Foot-Faring,” Donal Grant, 2 & 6-7.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The secret place that changes everything

From doubt, fear or bewilderment to fair hope

To know God is to be in the secret place of all knowledge, and to trust Him changes the whole outlook surrounding mystery and seeming contradictions and unanswered questions, from one of doubt or fear or bewilderment, to one of hope. The unknown may be some lovely truth in store for us, which we are not yet ready to apprehend. Not to be intellectually certain of a truth does not prevent the heart that loves and obeys that truth from getting the goodness out of it, from drawing life from it because it is loved, not because it is understood.


O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but your presence can avail;
Yet on the road your wheels are not,
Nor on the sea your sail.

My how or when you will not heed,
But come down your own secret stair,
That you may answer all my need,
And every little prayer.


George MacDonald, “Empty Houses,” The Lady’s Confession.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Scotsman's prayer in the morning light

O Thou who holdest the waters in the hollow of ae han'

O Thou who holdest the waters in the hollow of ae han', and carriest the lambs o' thy own making in thy bosom with the other han', it would be altogether unworthy o' thee, and o' thy Maijesty o' love, to require o' us that which thou knowest we cannot bring unto thee, until thou enrich us with that same. Therefore, like thine own bairns, we boo doon afore thee, an' pray that thou wouldst tak' thy wull o' us, thy holy an' perfect an' blessed wull o' us; for, O God, we are a' thine ain.

An' for oor lassie, wha's oot amo' thy trees, an' wha' we dinna think forgets her Maker, though she may whiles forget her prayers, Lord, keep her a bonnie lassie in thy sicht, as white and clean in thy een as she is fair an' halesome in oors; an' oh! we thank thee, Father in heaven, for giein' her to us.

An' noo, for a' oor wrang-duins an' ill-min'ins, for a' oor sins and trespasses o' mony sorts, dinna forget them, O God, till thou pits them a' richt, an' syne exerceese thy michty power e'en ower thine ain sel, an' clean forget them a'thegither; cast them ahint thy back, whaur e'en thine ain een shall ne'er see them again, that we may walk bold an' upricht afore thee for evermore, an' see the face o' Him wha was as muckle God in doin' thy biddin', as gin he had been ordering' a' thing Himsel. For his sake, Amen.


George MacDonald, "The Fir-Wood," David Elginbrod, 3.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Scotsman's prayer at end of day

O thou, wha keeps the stars alicht

O thou, wha keeps the stars alicht, an' our souls burnin' wi' a licht aboon that o' the stars, grant that they may shine afore thee as the stars for ever and ever. An' as thou hauds the stars burnin' a' the nicht, whan there's no man to see, so haud thou the licht burnin' in our souls, whan we see neither thee nor it, but are buried in the grave o' sleep an' forgetfu'ness. Be thou by us, even as a mother sits by the bedside o' her ailin' wean a' the lang nicht; only be thou nearer to us, even in our verra souls, an' watch ower the warl' o' dreams that they mak' for themsels. Grant that more an' more thochts o' thy thinkin' may come into our herts day by day, till there shall be at last an open road atween thee an' us, an' thy angels may ascend and descend upon us, so that we may be in thy heaven, e'en while we are upo' thy earth: Amen.


George MacDonald, "The Cottage," David Elginbrod, 18.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Florida winter scene

Florida often paints clear, compelling scenes in its winter light. Here the sky is so blue, the clouds so white... grass, water, leaves and trees in their respective greens, greys and browns -- gaudete masterpiece!

A diligent but empty woman

Diligent in business, not fervent in spirit, she was never idle. But there are other ways than idleness of wasting time. She was continually "improving herself," but it was a big phrase for a small matter; she had not learned that to do the will of God is the only way to improve one's self. She would have scorned the narrowness of any one who told her so, not understanding what the will of God means.


George MacDonald, "The Cousins," The Elect Lady, 18.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A meditation pic for today

Look at this picture for a moment. Then bow your head and listen...

Jesus is simply the most winsome and loving person to walk this planet. He is true, in the highest sense of true. The children and outcasts love him, and find fulfillment in his presence -- indeed, they find themselves, their true selves, that is, in Light. No condemnatory words or attitudes, not even harsh facial expressions. Just Joy. Joy and laughter, trueness, wholeness and light -- abundant life.

Now, consider what religious people have made of Jesus. How harsh their spirit and controlling their actions! Is it any wonder that the religious people were most uncomfortable with Jesus?

All we have to do to love his Presence is to come as a child, or come in acceptance of brokenness. Then we will run and dance with him, sunlight on our face and grass beneath our feet: joy as if on the first Day, seeing flowers as if for the first time -- we belong!


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Champagne glasses in seaside gloaming

Got some great shots at Jeff and Lynne's wedding at Lover's Key State Park, 1-1-11. Beautiful wedding, very meaningful... poignant light, perfect wind and lilting air, divine setting. Here's a shot of champagne glasses in the seaside gloaming. Enjoy!

A MacDonald quote for the day

A divine motive behind that which causes human complaint?

“Unworthy men full of complaint against an economy that would not let them live like demons, and be blessed as seraphs!”

Fuller quote:

For him who complains and comes not near, who shall plead?--The Son of the Father, saying, "They know not what they do." He began to wonder whether even an all-mighty and all-good God would be able to contrive such a world as no somebody in it would ever complain of. What if he had plans too large for the vision of men to take in, and they were uncomfortable to their own blame, because, not seeing them, they would trust him for nothing? He knew unworthy men full of complaint against an economy that would not let them live like demons, and be blessed as seraphs! Why should not a man at least wait and see what the possible being was about to do with him, perhaps for him, before he accused or denied him? At worst he would be no worse for the waiting!


George MacDonald, There and Back Again, 277.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A divine relation higher than belief

Heir of all things when at home in God's presence

God is God to us not that we may say he is, but that we may know him; and when we know him, then we are with him, at home, at the heart of the universe, the heirs of all things. All this is foolishness, I know, to the dull soul that cares only for the things that admit of being proved. The unprovable mystery out of which come the things provable, has for them no interest, they say, because it is unprovable: they take for granted that therefore it is unknowable.

Would they be content it should be unknowable if things were all as they should be within them? When the eyes of those who have made themselves at home in the world of the senses and care for no other are opened, I imagine them saying -- 'Yes, He was after all; but none the less were you fools to believe in him, for you had no proof!' Then I seem to hear the children laugh and say, 'We had himself, and did not want it.' That the unprovable is necessarily the unknowable, a thousand beliefs deny.

'You cannot prove to me that you have a father!' says the blind sage, reasoning with the little child. 'Why should I prove it?' answers the child. 'I am sitting on his knee! If I could prove it, that would not make you see him; that would not make you happy like me! You do not care about my father, or you would not stand there disputing; you would feel about until you found him!'

If a thing be true in itself, it is not capable of proof; and that man is in the higher condition who is able to believe it. In proportion as a man is a fool he is unable to believe what in itself is true. If intellect be the highest power, then the men of proof are the wisest; if there be something deeper than intellect, causing and including it, if there be a creative power of which our intellect is but a faint reflex, then the child of that power, the one who acknowledges and loves and obeys that power, will be the one to understand it.


George MacDonald, "The Parson's Counsel," There and Back Again, 225-6.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The difficulty or freedom of belief in God

A source of struggle or peace?

It may seem to some incredibly terrible that one should believe in God and defy him! But do none of us, who say also we believe in God, and who are far from defying him, ever behave like Mrs. Wylder? It is one thing to believe in a God; it is quite another to believe in God! Every time we grumble at our fate, every time we are displeased, hurt, resentful at this or that which comes to us, every time we do not receive the suffering sent us, "with both hands," as William Law says, we are of the same spirit with this half-crazy woman. In some fashion, and that a real one, she must have believed in the God against whom she urged her complaint; and it is rather to her praise that, like Job, she did it openly, and not with mere base grumblings in her heart at her fireside. It is mean to believe half-way, to believe in words, and in action deny.

One of four gates stands open to us: to deny the existence of God, and say we can do without him; to acknowledge his existence, but say he is not good, and act as true men resisting a tyrant; to say, "I would there were a God," and be miserable because there is none; or to say there must be a God, and he must be perfect in goodness or he could not be, and give ourselves up to him heart and soul and hands and history.


George MacDonald, "The Parson's Parable," There and Back Again, 111.