How You Have Loved Us :: Throwback Thursday

Philippians 2.5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

By Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.)

How you have loved us, O good Father. You did not spare your only Son, but delivered Him up for us wicked ones!

How you have loved us. For Christ did not grasp to be equal with you, but “became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Christ alone — “free among the dead” — had power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again. For our sake, he was to you both victor and victim. For us, he was to you both priest and sacrifice.

Rightly, then, is my hope strongly fixed on Him, that you will heal all my diseases by him who sits at your right hand and makes intercession for us; or else I would utterly despair. For numerous and great are my infirmities — numerous and great are they — but your medicine is greater.

Terrified by my sins and the load of my misery, I had resolved in my heart to flee into the wilderness; but you forbid me. You strengthen me, saying that Christ “died for all, that we should not live unto ourselves, but live unto Him.”

Behold, O Lord, I cast my care upon you, that I may live and “behold wondrous things out of your law.” You know my unskillfulness and my infirmities; teach me, and heal me. Your only Son Christ — “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge ” — has redeemed me with His blood.

— Abridged and language updated from Confessions.

Today’s Reading
1 Kings 11 (Listen – 7:05)
Philippians 2 (Listen – 3:45)


Three Kinds of People

Philippians 1.21
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

By C.S. Lewis

The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort — it is to want Him. — C.S. Lewis

There are three kinds of people in the world. The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them.

In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them — the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society — and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on.

But the third class is of those who can say like St. Paul that for them “to live is Christ.” These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

Because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous.

It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us with enough to live on.

The Christian doctrine that there is no “salvation” by works done according to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.

— Abridged from CS Lewis, “Three Kinds of Men” in Present Concerns

Editor’s Note: I included this today as an extension to yesterday’s stirring thoughts from J.C. Ryle. These two men, in addition to their contributions to historic Christianity, articulate the tensions and glories that wait ahead of us on the journey of faith. Let us set our eyes on Christ, our hope and glory.

Today’s Reading
1 Kings 10 (Listen – 4:27)
Philippians 1 (Listen – 4:03)


The Inward Battle

Ephesians 6.11

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. ― J.C. Ryle

One of the Fruit of the Spirit is peace — a gift which we receive from God. Yet here, in Ephesians, the focus of scripture turns to war. Timothy Keller, in a sermon on spiritual warfare, quotes the 19th century Anglican bishop of Liverpool J.C. Ryle on the way spiritual war and peace exist in the life of healthy followers of Christ:

Let me talk to you about true Christianity. There’s a vast quantity of religion current in the world that is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster, it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing…
There are thousands of men and women who go to chapels and churches every Sunday and call themselves Christians… But you never see any ‘fight’ about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring they know literally nothing at all.

Let us consider these propositions.… The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians is the utter absence of anything like conflict or fight. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or even twice a week, but the great spiritual warfare … its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests … of all this they appear to know nothing at all.

Do you find in your heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Are you conscious of two principles within you, contending for the mastery? Do you feel anything of war in your inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. 
All true saints are soldiers. A real Christian can be known as much by his inward warfare as by his inward peace.

May the peace of Christ be in you as you fight the good fight necessary to cultivate the fruit of heaven on earth.

Today’s Reading
1 Kings 9 (Listen – 4:16)
Ephesians 6 (Listen – 3:17)


Buying Back Time

Ephesians 5.15-16 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 

We don’t think of most days as evil. Some days, perhaps, are best referred to as “inconvenient,” most are just “full.” Everything from devotional time to exercise demands a few minutes of a day. Add in work, friends, family, and life’s unexpected events, and the days are overflowing.

Even our digital artifacts reveal this. Every minute, of every day, the world’s 3.2 billion Internet users:
  • Click “like” on 4.1 million Facebook posts and 1.7 million Instagram posts.
  • Post 347,222 Tweets.
  • Upload 300 hours of YouTube video.
  • Download 51,000 apps from Apple.
  • Stream 77,160 hours of Netflix video.
  • Swipe 590,278 pictures on Tinder.
  • Take 694 Uber rides.

In light of this, calling most days evil seems disproportionate. Pastor and author Darin Patrick notes the meaning of the phrase “making the best use of”, “comes from the Greek word that means ‘redeem.’ Paul is literally saying, ‘buy back time.’” In this way our calling is less toward productivity and more toward our ability to give our time to restoring brokenness in the world.

In contrast, the authors of Scripture reveal all humanity’s ways to restore the world apart from God as “evil.”
It’s easy to identify the grand ways we try to buy back time through our own power: on one hand we try to control our external image — holding on to youth while our bodies age. On the other we try to manage our internal world — with our minds even, and tragically, trapping themselves in the guilt and pain of the past.

The billions of clicks, uploads, and views we dedicate ourselves to online are also ways of buying back time that are within our power. Life’s moments of beauty can be preserved, at least in part, through pictures and videos. Stressful days can be relinquished in the plot line of a mini-series online. Even the encouragement we miss during the workweek can be cultivated through the right post online.

Self-redemption, in light of the beauty and sufficiency of God’s redemption through Christ, is revealed for what it really is, “evil.” God wants your redemption and thriving so deeply he gave himself wholly to it. Ephesians continues; “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Today’s Reading
1 Kings 8 (Listen – 10:23)
Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)


Data-Driven Dating :: The Weekend Reading List


Earlier this week the AIDS Healthcare Foundation created kerfuffle in Los Angeles by taking out billboards that link dating apps Tinder and Grindr to Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Taking aim at the apps themselves, and not the behavior they promote, seems to call people to an all-in or abandon-ship decision.

Few cultural decisions for people of faith are this polar. More often than not we find ourselves the minority navigating a foreign land based on our understanding of Scripture and culture.

Ubiquity of Online Dating

As a category, dating apps are growing rapidly. New offerings include networks just for farmers and gluten-free singles, as well as Netflix tastes and bacon affection (for real… although the later is owned by Oscar Meyer).

“Of 19,000 couples married between 2005 and 2012, more than a third met through an online dating site,” The Financial Times reports about the $2.1 billion industry. Highlights from Pew Research Center study reveal that:

  • Online dating has lost much of its stigma. A majority of Americans now say online dating is a good way to meet people.
  • One-in-five adults ages 25-34 years old have used online dating.
  • 5% of Americans who are in a marriage or committed relationship say they met their significant other online.
Brokenness Online
This rapid growth has not come without problems. The reduction of a human being to data-and-picture has proven to be fertile ground for cultivating a consumeristic view of potential partners.
All the data on race I have is from dating sites, but on these sites black users, especially, there’s a bias against them. Every kind of way you can measure their success on a site — how people rate them, how often they reply to their messages, how many messages they get — that’s all reduced. — Christian Rudder, Founder, OKCupid

This week Salon highlighted three categories most prone to discrimination in online dating; “Fat people are ridiculed all the time. The plight of bald men has been well articulated by the likes of Larry David and Louis CK. And of course, anytime we talk about appearance, race will eventually come into play. Online dating apps provide fertile ground for these kinds of appearance-based biases to take root.”

The Illusion of Companionship
Most dating apps court users with the promise of a better experience and longer-lasting matches. Yet researchers can’t find data to back up these claims. “The ways online dating sites typically implement the services of access, communication, and matching do not always improve romantic outcomes; indeed, they sometimes undermine such outcomes.”

Encountering potential partners via online dating profiles reduces three-dimensional people to two-dimensional displays of information, and these displays fail to capture those experiential aspects of social interaction that are essential to evaluating one’s compatibility with potential partners. — Dr. Eli J. Finkel, Northwestern University

While there are success stories for those who meet online, there is also an abundance of disappointment and pain enhanced by the structure of the apps and the behaviors they encourage.

After managing simultaneous relationships, while fielding new requests off multiple apps, Debbie Weiss confessed:
Eventually I realized this was an addiction. I had fun stories to tell. I looked put together. I was having adventures and figuring out public transit. I was “getting out there,”
But it felt wrong.
I realized that online dating was not going to take the place of a real support network. I was addicted to having someone to talk to in the evenings, even if it was just a prelude to a meet-up that never happened. When someone was texting with me, I felt wanted, and less lonely. — Debbie Weiss

Questions for Community
Perhaps the best questions for Christians in regard to most online dating networks are not “if” but “how.” Singles in faith communities have the opportunity to meet people they never would have been able to meet in generations past. The Christian theology of humanity made in the image of God can spur conversations which uncover more than data can show.

Most compelling, a Christian’s ability to draw their chief happiness, satisfaction, and identity from God can upend marketers’ efforts to try and fulfill that in a potential partner. This shift in worldview heads off the liability that data can’t prevent — trying to draw from a spouse what can only be received from your Creator.

Today’s Reading
1 Kings 4-5 (Listen – 7:21)
Ephesians 2 (Listen – 3:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:10) Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)
1 Kings 7 (Listen – 7:47) Ephesians 4 (Listen – 3:58)

The Weekend Reading List