A "Going Down" Mindset

"Christianity is a "going down" kind of religion before it is a "going up" kind of religion. In communicating this message we do not attract people as though they were customers, but we address them as fellow sinners, confessing together that we have only one answer to our common need. Unless and until we are prepared to die to self, we will never be in a position to live for Christ."

- ChurchNext by Eddie Gibbs

In continuing to think about what it means for a congregation of people to be 'church' within a community I was struck by this quote from one Fuller Seminary's own professors. I think what Dr. Gibbs writes here is profound because he doesn't write that Christianity is a "going down" kind of religion. He writes that it is a "going down" religion before it is a "going up religion." The church is not a community of people seeking to be self-sacrificial as an end in itself. The church is a community of people seeking to be self-sacrificial if need be in order to participate in the coming reign of Christ.

The Incarnation, God taking on the form of a human being in Christ, and the crucifixion, Christ's death on the cross, were "going down" kinds of events. However, God did not take on the form of a human being to understand us better and to be able to empathize with our problems. God took on the form of a human being to save humanity! However, It was not through Christ's death on the cross that we are saved. It was through the power of the resurrection that we are saved. The conquering lamb was slain and yet lives to bring judgment and justice to the world.

Thus, as we we seek to live as church in our communities we are called to be a witness to the conquering lamb who was slain. We are called to be a witness to the death and resurrection of Christ, God incarnate; and in doing so, we must be prepared to witness to this truth to whatever end. We must be prepared to give up everything, to even be tortured and killed, or "we will never be in a position to live for Christ," as Gibbs writes. We must be prepared to be a "going down" kind of community in order to meet Christ in his "going up."


Dependence on God

A quotation from St. Augustine of Hippo...

"On your exceedingly great mercy rests all my hope. Give what you command, and then command whatever you will. you order us to practice continence. A certain writer tells us, I knew that no one can be continent except by God's gift, and that it is already a mark of wisdom to recognize whose gift this is. By continence the scattered elements of the self are collected and brought back into the unity from which we have slid away into dispersion; for anyone who loves something else along with you, but does not love it for your sake, loves you less. O Love, ever burning, never extinguished, O Charity, my God, set me on fire! You command continence: give what you command, and then command whatever you will."

Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 29, (New York: New City Press, 1997), p. 263.

This excerpt from Augustine's book of personal reflections, Confessions, shows his acceptance of God's command to him to be self-controlled, and also shows his dependence on God to enable him to do God's will.

Continence here means self-control, of any kind. Augustine struggled with many misplaced desires, and here we see his efforts to submit those to God. 

A guest lecturer for our Systematic Theology class, Benjamin Myers, brought this beautiful quotation to our attention, and illuminated for us the part where it says, "give what you command, and then command whatever you will." If you flip this phrase around, so as to see that Augustine is asking God to "command whatever you will and give what you command," it is easier to see this idea that Augustine is asking and trusting God to give him a command (show him his will), and then also give him what God commands (give him the strength to accomplish his will).

Thank you Augustine for sharing with us this convicting reminder that we can do nothing apart from God.


Passing Food at the Table

Food. It plays an integral role across cultures during the advent season. Whether the lack of food that is emphasized during days of fasting or the abundance of food that is present during days of feasting, food plays an integral role. Thus, it should come to us as no surprise that what we do with food during the advent season is of utmost concern in how we worship Christ Jesus.

I am reminded during this season of the parable in Luke 12:35-48 as I reflect on how Scripture speaks to how we handle food. In the parable Jesus speaks of servants waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast. They do not know the time their master will return, but the servants are called to keep watch. Peter asks Jesus whether this parable is for the disciples or for all, and Jesus responds by saying, "Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time?" He then goes on to say that if that servant "begins to beat the other servants, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk" that servant will be cut into pieces and put with the unfaithful. Similarly, those servants that knew the master's will but participated in the gluttony and debauchery will receive a severe beating.

How will you pass food at the table during the advent season? Will you heap food on your plate and drink until your heart is content without first offering to others at the table with hospitality? The table of blessing is a table of hospitality, for as often as you share food and drink with one another, you proclaim Christ's death until he comes.

Read more Advent reflections from Fuller Seminary students and faculty.


A Prayer for Blessing

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for help that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy my life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for. 
I am among men, most richly blessed.
- The prayer of an anonymous soldier 
(as found in Pastoral Theology by Thomas Oden)

Are we still concerned about what we are asking for, or have we stopped to reflect on the blessings we have been given? Even as I am quick to give an answer, I am forced to stop and reflect on the truth that some of God's greatest gifts I have often unabashedly considered inconveniences...


Why Art?

We have added a page devoted to art on our blog. Here is why:

"What then is art for? What purpose underlies this human universal?
One of my fundamental theses is that this question, so often posed, must be rejected rather than answered. The question assumes that there is such a thing as the purpose of art. That assumption is false. There is no purpose which art serves, nor any which it is intended to serve. Art plays and is meant to play an enormous diversity of roles in human life. Works of art are instruments by which we perform such diverse actions as praising our great men and expressing our grief, evoking emotion and communicating knowledge. Works of art are objects of such actions as contemplation for the sake of delight. Works of art are accompaniments for such actions as hoeing cotton and rocking infants. Works of art are background for such actions as eating meals and walking through airports.
Works of art equip us for action." 
- Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic by Nicholas Wolterstorff

The intersection of theology and art is one that is essential. Please browse our art page as it continues to grow with us.



How do you address recipients of your letters? Emails? Text messages? Have you ever stopped to think about why you address recipients in that way? Common greetings include, "Hi" or "Hey," and sometimes in more formal addresses, "Dear." What does that convey to the person receiving your letter or message?

The greeting that seems to have been used by the early church, and that we find in Paul's letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and to Philemon was this: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul also writes in his letters to Timothy: "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." Also worth noting is John's Apocalypse addressed to the seven churches (which probably means the church as a whole); it reads: "Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come..."

There is something that seems unfulfilling about writing "Hey" to begin an email. Even beginning a letter with "Dear" seems a little bit weak in comparison to the longer, more formal "Grace to you and peace..." So why do we use the greeting we do? Is it for reasons of economy of words? Do we value efficiency in our writing so much so that we cannot take the time to write more than two to four letters? Do we value efficiency in our life so much so that we cannot take the time to write at all?

If you answered the previous question affirmatively, be comforted in knowing that you are not alone. We also find ourselves in chains, bound to a fast-paced, ever-moving, ever-changing, technologically savvy, rushing and busy world and culture. Thus, we want to take a little bit more time to reflect and to grow with you. We welcome you to read and interact with our thoughts in the posts to come.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.