Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reading Reflections: Ragamuffin Gospel -- Chapter One (Part 2)

Manning goes on to reflect on how grace abounds, and the ability to believe, hope, love are all simply gifts, not

... rewards for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer.

It cannot be said enough or too much that we cannot and do not earn favor with God. We are like babies or little children who are completely helpless.

Grace is received through faith, but what is faith? Manning reminds us that it is more than simple belief in God's existence. It is rather a trust IN God, a matter of the heart.

Here is a summary of other key themes:

  • We are fully accepted, even and especially our failings.
  • A position of judgment and self-righteousness and denial of our own sin keeps us from the joyous awareness of forgiveness.
  • Following Christ is a process of sanctification. I am now a saint, but not yet made perfect. Real Christians can and do get "battered and briused by loneliness and failure" and real Christians do get "discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden."

  • Living as an integrated self with simple trust in and celebration of God's forgiveness for my failings is a message that God is reminding me of not only through this book, but from multiple sources.

    For example, this morning's message at Pathways Church contained a warning against "hyperspirituality" or "self-help" approach to life with God that turns the Christian life into a seeking after a series of spiritual experiences or products that purports to give us step-by-step contained approaches to try to force and mimic what only God can do in his timing in an organic, whole-life way that seems rather messy by comparison.

    In the Casa Teresa bible study we are about to begin the "Life's Healing Choices" small group study. I sat down today and started to read the companion magazine and found an article by Kay Warren with this powerful quote:

      Some of you are living as cardboard cutouts of yourself, afraid to face reality and reveal the truth. Everyone around you knows that truth: you're a sinner who needs grace and forgiveness. You might as well come into the light of God's presence; nothing you've ever thought, said or done is hidden from him. He's known the truth about you from the very beginning, and it hasn't stopped him from dearly loving you. Once you know it, you, too, will experience peace and the freedom to give your real self to those you love.

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