We Are Primal People

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What we make … makes us.

The things we make have a real effect of making us; from laws to malls, from social media to societal structures. The realities we as humans have made begin to mediate the ways in which we interact with and even imagine the world around us. Habits and regular practices shape and reshape our loves and our longings.

Liturgies, whether religious or secular, “shape and constitute our identities by forming our fundamental desires and our most basic attunement to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love.” James K.A. Smith 

*(Smith uses the term ‘liturgy’ to mean habit-forming rituals or cultural practices.)

Who Would Worship Something Man-Made?

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It is easy to mock and look down upon those people and cultures who made physical idols to worship. We wonder, how could they worship something they made with their hands?

Yet in all of our modern civility, we are no different. We worship the constructs we make. The focus of our worship may no longer be images carved from wood or stone, but their function and purpose remain the same. It could be money, careers, one’s nation, politics, economic policies, philosophical ideas, education, technology, sports franchises, or pop-culture icons. All of these are man-made constructs that are often ascribed ultimate worth and value. Their assets worth calls for sacrifices of our time, our resources, our interests, our lives to them in the conscious or unconscious hope they will deliver some measure of power, approval, comfort control to us. Sometimes we even sacrifice ourselves to these realities not to make ourselves happy directly, but to find joy in pleasing them.

Do All Paths Lead To God?

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There is a common illustration that presents all religions as merely different paths leading up the same mountain. The paths converge and unite at the peak: God. The lesson offered is that each path while different leads to the same place. Moreover, the traveler is warned not to worship their path but accept all paths.

Not only does this illustration arrogantly assume a position of god-like knowledge, and ignorantly projects upon all religions a belief in a singular god or any god at all, it also egregiously assumes that all religions serve the same purpose; namely that all religions serve as a means to reach God.

While much could be said concerning how each religion defines its purpose, I will only speak of Christianity. The narrative of the Bible presents a God who left the ‘mountaintop’ in pursuit of us. This is the story of Advent and the story of the Gospels. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.

The importance of the Trinity

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“The life of God—precisely because God is triune—does not belong God alone. God who dwells in inaccessible light and eternal glory comes to us in the face of Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Because of God’s outreach to the creature, God is said to be essentially relational, alive as passionate love. Divine life is therefore also our life. The heart of the Christian life is to be united with the God of Jesus Christ by means of communion with one another.

The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately therefore a teaching not about the abstract nature of God, nor about God in isolation from everything other than God, but a teaching about God’s life with us and our life with each other.”

Catherine Mawry LaCungna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life

Why Give?

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Why Give?

God doesn’t need our money. What he’s truly after is us. Yet, how we use money is a very accurate indicator of where our heart is and what we value. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Giving is an act of worship and an act of commitment; to

God doesn’t need our money. What he’s truly after is us. Yet, how we use money is a very accurate indicator of where our heart is and what we value. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Giving is an act of worship and an act of commitment; to the the community of believers, and those in need.

 

How Much Should I Give?

God has made us stewards, not owners. Everything we have belongs to God. So when we give something to God, we give him only what he has first given to us. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). When God created humans, He placed them in a position of managing the earth, not owning it (Genesis 2:15). This means the question is not, “how much of my money do I give God?” but “How much of God’s money to I keep?”

Still wondering how much should you give? A good starting point is to give 10% of your income. If that sounds like a sacrifice… Good, it should be. If it doesn’t, consider giving more.

As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities [giving habits] do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities (giving) expenditure excludes them.”

 

How Should I Give?

You should give cheerfully, sacrificially, and regularly and in response to God’s love. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8, “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.”

 

What Is An Example Of Scriptural Giving?

Acts 4:32-35 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

The paradoxical necessity of humiliation in exaltation

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Christ’s path to being lifted up (quite literally on the cross and from the grave) was through the means of being made less—taking on the form of a servant, becoming human, and humbling himself by becoming obedient to death by crucifixion. 

Likewise, our glorification necessitates we experience humiliation. The story of our freedom and salvation is not the story of our strength or greatness. It is the story of grace; a free and unmerited gift.  Therefore, if it is not by our strength or merit then we have no control over it. Pride and ego thus experience humiliation. If it is not by our by force or might, but through a crucified God, then human wisdom experiences humiliation.

“The way to Christ is first through humility, second through humility, and third through humility. If humility does not precede and accompany and follow every good work we do, if it is not before us to focus on, it it is not beside us to lean upon, if it is not behind us to fence us in, pride will wrench from our hand any good deed we do at the very moment we do it.” St. Augustine

The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone!” Psalm 118:22

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

A lesson from Church history.

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“Therefore, we as a body of Christians, while proposing to fulfill all obligations of loyal citizenship, are nevertheless constrained to declare we cannot conscientiously participate in war and armed resistance which involves the actual destruction of human life since this is contrary to our view of the clear teaching of the inspired Word of God, which is the sole basis of our faith.”
 
The Assemblies of God made this resolution to their bylaws on April 28, 1917. In 1967 they reversed their position, adopting a position of personal freedom and conscience. The ‘clear teaching’ of scripture was given a backseat to human reason and the desire of individual persons.
 
This is not to pick on the Assemblies of God. To be fair, many other American denominations also observed seismic changes in their doctrine and bylaws following WWII. Many factors contributed to these changes, but none greater than the fear of the great evil witnessed in WWII and the roaring nationalism that followed the war.
 
It could be said, that when the church looked up and saw world erupting in evil, they looked not to God, but to the Empire for answers. I don’t think this is entirely true. I don’t think the church failed to look to God. I believe the church misjudged the call to love their enemies as simply a strategy of getting what they wanted by other means. It failed. Whereas, the Empires’ solution, as old as Cain, proved effective. In fact, it is the effectiveness of war and murder that makes their offer so intoxicating. The ends, thus, justified the means, as the church forgot that its mission is not judged on the ability or swiftness to procure justice or peace. The church has been called to participate and bear witness to the work of God.
 
You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.” Matthew 5:43-48