Religion

My Soul is Silent Before God Who is My Help

The following is an excerpt from a sermon preached on 15 July 1928 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Barcelona, Spain.  I enjoyed it, and thought I should share it.

Our relationship with God must be practised, otherwise we shall not find the right note, the right word, the right language when He comes upon us unawares.  We have to learn the language of God, learn it with effort, we must work at it, if we too would learn to converse with Him; prayer too must be practised as part of our work.  It is a grave and fatal mistake, if one confuses religion with a heightening of the feelings.  Religion means work, and perhaps the hardest and certainly the holiest work that a man can undertake.  It is pitiable to be content with the remark ‘I am not naturally religious’, when there is a God who desires to possess us.  It is an excuse.  Certainly, some find it harder than others to do, but no one, and of this we may be sure, has achieved it without effort.  And here is the reason why being silent in God’s presence requires work and practice:  it takes daily courage to expose oneself to God’s word and to allow oneself to be judged by it, it takes daily energy to delight in God’s love.  But this brings us to the question:  What shall we do, in order to penetrate into this silence before God?  Well, about that I can only tell you, in all humility, just a little from my own experience.  Not one of us lives such a hectic life that he cannot spare the time, even if it is only ten minutes in the morning or the evening, to be still and let the silence gather round him, to stand in the presence of eternity and to let it speak, to enquire from it about our condition, and to gaze deep into himself and far out, beyond and above.  It may be done by taking up a few words from the Bible; but the best is to abandon oneself completely and let the soul find its way to its Father’s house, to its home, where it finds rest.  And whoever attempts this, working at it seriously day by day, will be overwhelmed by the riches which will flow from these hours.  Of course, all beginnings are difficult, and whoever sets out upon this undertaking will find it at first an unaccustomed experience — indeed it may be quite an empty one.  But it will not be long before his soul begins to be replenished and revitalised and to receive strength, then he begins to know the eternal quiet which rests in God’s love; stress and anxiety, hurry and restlessness, noise and clamour are stilled within him, he has become silent before God who is his help.

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Before the Flood

So, here is the other book that I picked up at the library the other day.  Recent research seems to indicate that the Black Sea was originally a freshwater lake and that as the world sea levels rose at the end of the Ice Age, the Mediterranean suddenly and catastrophically flooded the region.  Mr. Wilson points to this research and claims that this event is the real-life basis for the Noah tradition.  He goes on to point out various cultural developments, such as domestication of animals, crop cultivation, metallurgy and religious beliefs that all seem to have originated in Turkey and spread from there.  The arguments are well-researched and persuasive, although I do not find all of them convincing.  The reading is a little dry in general, but if ancient history is your thing, you might enjoy reading this one.

I enjoy reading books that cover the intersection of science and faith.  Although many authors today address such topics with an unspoken agenda of proving traditional Christian beliefs wrong, I really don’t mind the challenge.  I find that my faith in God is strengthened in the process.  That’s not to say that I read these works only to dismiss them out of hand.  I believe that God gave us the ability to reason and a free will to decide because He expects us to exercise them.  Many books, although I do not agree with the argument they present, can still provide information that I find interesting and useful.

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10 Things…

I went to the library the other day with Elizabeth and Ben. I was in a weird mood and couldn’t decide what type of book I wanted to check out. Now, our library isn’t very big, but occasionally I’ll find something that will pique my interest. I wandered over to the non-fiction section and discovered a rather large (comparatively) section on religion. I saw several books that looked promising but I only ended up taking two home. One of the books I checked out was 10 Things Your Minister Wants To Tell You (But Can’t Because He Needs the Job) by Oliver “Buzz” Thomas. I picked it up because a friend of mine had recommended it. It’s a small, short book, weighing in at just over 100 pages, so I’d finished it within a couple hours time. The issues addressed are:

1. How did it all begin? (Creation)
2. Why are we here?
3. What is the Bible?
4. Is there really such a thing as a Miracle?
5. How do I please God?
6. What about women?
7. What about homosexuality?
8. Other religions
9. Death and Beyond
10. How it all ends

I was pleasantly surprised with the book. Although I did not agree with everything the author said, there was much that resonated with my own beliefs. He presents his thoughts on the various subjects in plain, everyday language and supports those views without coming off preachy or cherry-picking “prooftexts.” I think that the title makes the work seem a bit more provocative than it actually is, but then I have a degree in theology, so most of these ideas weren’t new to me. I realize that I’m not the target audience, and perhaps if I were the book might have seemed more risqué.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a quick read that will at least make you consider your beliefs, I recommend this one. I probably wouldn’t pay full price for it, but definitely worth consideration.

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The Season of Lent

Cross & Bible

For the past few years I have begun to observe the Season of Lent.  Growing up in a Classical Pentecostal setting, this was not something that I had ever done before.  In fact, I wasn’t even really aware that some Protestants observed Lent until I came to college.  It all began with a flyer from a group at Lee University called the Liturgical Charismatic Fellowship, sponsored by the Rev. Mitch Baker.  I decided to attend the Ash Wednesday service more out of curiosity than anything else.  During the service, Lent was explained as a time of prayer, fasting, and devotion to the simplicity of the Christian faith.  It sounded good to me, so I decided to give it a try.

Skip forward a couple of years, and although I still get some strange looks and responses from the people around me, I’ve found that I really enjoy setting aside this portion of the year to really focus on God and my relationship with and to Him.  If you have never observed Lent before, I encourage you to consider it this year.  Lent can be a great time of introspection and evaluation, and I think you will find that the sacrificial aspects are far outweighed by the spiritual benefits.

The Lenten devotional that I’m using is entitled “Holy Habit for the Holy Season of Lent”.  Today’s devotion was about prayer and how it serves to keep us connected with the Source of our life.  Therefore, I will end this post with a short prayer:

Holy Father, as we begin this period of prayer and fasting, I pray that you would help us to focus on You and Your Word.  Help us to slow down enough to truly engage You and listen to what You would speak into our lives.  Thank you for this opportunity to draw closer to you and to return to the simple foundations of our faith.  Strengthen us as we daily submit ourselves to You, and let Your Holy Spirit rest upon us in new and powerful ways, so that we may show Your glory to the world.  We humbly request this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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