MAKE US HOLY – 1 Peter 1:3-2:3

holiness-2Recently I’ve been reflecting about the need for clarity on what the bible means by holiness.  In preparation for writing on the topic, I took another look at Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book entitled The Call To Holiness* and rediscovered the lovely hymn Make Us Holy written by his musically poetic wife, Julie Tennent. Every line is worth pondering:

You are holy – make us holy! Let our lives reflect Your name; By Your Spirit’s pow’r within us, be a sanctifying flame.  Not the work of human striving, but a change from deep within:  Redirect our core affections; free us from the bonds of sin.

You are holy – so our holy lives a shining light must be,  Purged from empty selfish living, filled with love that comes from thee.  Purged again of seed eternal, through the living Word of God;  Growing up in our salvation, tasting that the Lord is good.

You are holy, and You call us to be pure in all we do,  As your character is holy, so we would be holy, too.  Purified by true obedience, loving others from the heart;  Serving in the world with power which you Spirit does impart.  You are holy – may your church embody perfect holiness;  

May the love of Christ compel us to bring forth true righteousness. Let the strains of New Creation echo through your church today;  Sounding for the consummation of that glorious holy day.

–  Julie Tennent

The words to this beautiful song may be sung to the tune of Beecher (“Love Divine, All love excelling) or Ode To Joy (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”).

*Published in The Call to Holiness: Pursuing the Heart of God for the Love of the World, by Timothy Tennent, (Franklin, Tennessee: Seedbed Publishing, 2014), pp. 73-74.

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THE CALL TO BECOME SMALL

Immigrants USATo follow God at all is to follow him in being small. God not only entered this world, but came diminished and in lowliness. This is the message of When God Becomes Small by Phil Needham (Abingdon Press, 2014). This is a book worthy of a much more developed review, one yet to come. For the purpose of this note, hear Phil Needham’s voice in two paragraphs near the end of his book:

The Old Testament, prophets, gospel of Jesus, and the New Testament writers all teach us to side with those who are treated as small. As they are the ones who are vulnerable and powerless, so we become vulnerable and powerless. We come out from behind the security of our office, the power of our position, the protectiveness of the institutions with which we are identified. We risk alienating associates, neighbors, and even family. We stand with those with whom Jesus stood. We become small.

 This is not a call to large-scale social revolution, which often results in repression of a different sort. It is a call to personal courage, where we each refuse to keep our distance, refuse to overlook the overlooked, and refuse to justify our smug comfort. It is a call to claim the better part of who we are be getting beyond the fear that confines and weakens us. It is a call to shed the thick exterior of who we pretend to be and risk the compassionate center of who Jesus says, with him, we truly are.

 At this time in our culture, we have exhausted ourselves with overload and overreach. No time in our history has America been more powerful, more self-entertained, and more pampered by technology, and immersed in self-indulgent leisure. The paradox is never have we felt more lonely, lost, and longing for something that’s missing.  Rather than investing in large pursuits, and in bigger and better, greater and grander aspirations, it is time to become “big enough to become small.” It is time to come down to earth and pursue a deeper, closer, more intimate relationship with God and disenfranshied, marginalized and neglected others. It is time to become small by discovering the small in the countless small ways we value and connect with others.   It is time to especially bridge the gap between the world and those who are ignored, marginalized, poor and mistreated. When we do so, we find the blessing of their presence where God is present. There we find ourselves in the presence of God with whom there is no better company.

 

 

THE PRESIDENT & CHARACTER

 

us-presidential-sealAre you happy with the choice we have  to elect the next president on Tuesday, November 8, 2016?  Do the candidates reflect what you had hoped for in the candidates?

In the nation’s attempt to elect a new president, it is clear that the overarching characteristics we hope for in president are twofold: competence and character. Regarding competence, it is natural to look for evidence in a candidate’s history of past performance. Experience counts especially the kind of experience that matches the demands of the President’s job description. On the other hand, character weighs in calculating the acceptability of a candidate. Rarely do candidates run for office with a history void of flaws and mistakes (sin). Often the voting public exercises a level of common grace in response to the shortfalls in character for both candidates, mistakes that the media inevitably uncovers and makes public.

For many authentic Christians, competence matters, but character matters equally if not more. By authentic I mean Christians who are repentant about their sin, regenerated (born again), reconciled, and in continual state of obedient faith and restoration by the Holy Spirit to the likeness of Christ. This is in contrast to nominal Christians who John Wesley called “practical atheists,” who get to church from time to time, but live the same life as most others living with indifference to sin. For authentic Christians, character ultimately means progress in living in ways that are pleasing to God and living in holiness of heart and life. Authentic Christians look for evidence that a candidate’s life reflects a history of character, and hopefully of growth in grace and the likeness of Christ. Many would say that this sets the bar too high, but does it really? In putting forth a candidate in the primaries, and in knowing how power corrupts, should not both parties set the bar high for the highest elected position of power in the land and possibly in the world?

Could we hope that political parties would embrace such a standard of character in the future? Does that sound impossible? While it is not impossible, it is highly improbable in a nation that is realistically described now as in a “Post-Christian” era. But is it an essential standard for authentic Christians. The answer must be yes. Can authentic Christians be the leven in the bread that lifts the bar and sets a higher standard, one that acknowledges that candidates will not be perfect in skill and abilities, understanding, knowledge, or health, but that they will be candidates with observable love for God and for all others, mature in faith, hope, and charity; that they will be grounded in humility and understand that as a nation we are not sufficient in ourselves to solve our problems or to achieve our hopes and desires; to understand that without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing.  Such humility is a right judgment of self by a president, an awareness of one’s sinfulness and helplessness, and of human nature, that such judgment extends beyond self to the appreciation of the sad state of the culture.  Such a leader functioning at the level of the nation’s president implies humility and lack of hubris and disregards honor of self because he or she knows him/herself. Such an individual neither desires nor values the applause he or she knows they don’t deserve.  It implies a profound love for God and all others and that all honor and glory goes to God who is able to raise up servants to do his good pleasure for the nation and the world.

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It is not too soon to begin praying for the primary process of both parties that begins three years from now when the nation is back in the primary process of choosing candidates for the 2020 presidential election. But pray too, that in the next four years, the God of forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and holy character will shape the clay of the next President’s life who is soon be elected on the second Tuesday of November, 2016.