The Materialist Cosmos :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16.13-14
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.

Editor’s Note: Materialism today is more commonly used synonymously with Consumerism, but what Chesterton speaks of is a philosophy that denies the existence of anything other than matter

Materialists assert that there is not only no such thing as a soul, but no such thing as a mind or emotions. To a Materialist thoughts and emotions are just an illusion caused by chemical reactions happening in your physical brain.

This type of thinking is still quite popular today and is posited by many popular celebrity scientists who believe that a creator God is a farfetched concept yet have stated that it is probable we all live in a computer simulation.
— John

Reflection: The Materialist Cosmos :: Throwback Thursday
By G.K. Chesterton

If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The thing has shrunk. The deity is less divine than many men; and (according to Haeckel) the whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it. The parts seem greater than the whole.

For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves.

A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist.

But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies.

But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.

Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel.

The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman.

But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.

Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul thirsts for the strong, living God and all that is within me cries out to him.

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 30 (Listen – 3:14)
1 Corinthians 16 (Listen – 2:54)

Be Ye Perfect

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15.10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

We referenced this devotional in Monday’s discussion of the compelling Gospel of Billy Graham. It bears repeating. — John

Reflection: Be Ye Perfect
The Park Forum

“Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas,” warns C.S. Lewis. “Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.” Lewis, after examining how we cling to earthly pursuits, goes on to show how letting them go radically reorients the life of a Christian:

You must realize from the outset that the goal towards which he is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except yourself, can prevent him from taking you to that goal.

Many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would now leave us alone. As we say, “I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap.” And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble.

The discipleship process, then, is not defined by the Christian, but by the Scriptures, Church, and Paraclete. “The question,” Lewis says, “is not what we intend ourselves to be, but what he intended us to be when he made us.”

Likewise, if the Lenten season is reduced to what we want to gain or lose through fasting we miss the point entirely. Fasting is the process of winnowing the clutches of our flesh so that the glory of God might be fully realized in our appetites, attitudes, and actions. Lewis, imagining the words of Christ, writes:

That is why he warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. “Make no mistake,” he says, “If you let me, I will make you perfect. You have free will and, if you chose, you can push me away. But if you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my father can say without reservation that he is well pleased with you, as he said he was well pleased with me.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle: Who may abide upon your holy hill? Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart… — Psalm 15.1-2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 29 (Listen – 2:26)
1 Corinthians 15 (Listen – 8:06)

Where Wisdom Is Found :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture: Job 28.20-21
Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.

Guided prayers and meditations are a common part of Christian spiritual practice. Return to this prayer through the day or over the weekend, as it will be a different experience based on your mood and surroundings. — John

Reflection: Where Wisdom Is Found :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

In the last days of a short month, we pause to seek God’s wisdom beginning with the words of Job.

There is a mine for silver
and a place where gold is refined…
But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?

Reflect briefly on some decisions you have made. Move chronologically backward. Spend no more than sixty seconds weighing each one as wise or unwise.
Reflect on one from yesterday.
Then one from the weekend.
Then one from last week.
Then one from two weeks or more.

Now return to the words of Job on wisdom’s value.

No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
The deep says, “It is not in me”;
the sea says, “It is not with me.”
It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver.

Reflect on some places you have looked for wisdom.
Articles? Advisors? Academic research?

Thank God for human wisdom! We must, however, confess to God that human wisdom can only take us as far as human understanding, which even the greatest of scientists would admit continually finds more questions than it answers.

Ask God to open to us the true and timeless wisdom that comes from one unlimited source.

God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
…he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom.

Thank God for his wisdom that is first of all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Ask God for his continual grace to grant you his wisdom in each moment of the remaining week, the remaining month, and the rest of this year.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 70.4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 28 (Listen – 2:44)
1 Corinthians 14 (Listen – 5:40)

The Compelling Gospel of Billy Graham

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13.12-13
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I’m not going to Heaven because I have preached to great crowds or read the Bible many times. I’m going just like the thief on the cross who said in that last moment, “Remember me.” — Billy Graham

Reflection: The Compelling Gospel of Billy Graham
By John Tillman

Billy Graham’s message was never especially unique. He never intended it to be.

It was simply and elegantly, in the language of his time and of a hymn oft-sung at his rallies “to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.” (You may find the song at the 13 minute mark followed by a classic message on divine love.)

Graham’s gospel was compelling to hear, but more importantly, it compelled people to move and to act. They moved from their seats, yes, but they also moved compassionately into the world.

A few modern writers have been working very hard to try and write something negative about Graham. However, most of the negative things being said come from the man’s own confessions, both to the press and undoubtedly to God.

Methodologically he mourned when those saved at his events failed to enter the community of a church. Historically he confessed regret at being too involved with politics and not deeply enough involved in the civil rights movement. Although it strains the truth for some to assert that he spurned the Civil Rights movement or was on the wrong side.

The very gospel he preached compelled him to integrate his crusades and his staff in 1958. He held the first integrated public meeting in South Africa, by refusing to hold a crusade there unless it was integrated. He preached about integration, including tacit support for interracial marriage. And, although Martin Luther King publicly chided White ministers in general for not supporting his cause more directly, he publicly thanked Billy Graham saying Graham’s ministry aided his success.

Graham was also prophetic about today’s political reality. As the Moral Majority was formed in the 1980s, Graham warned that the far right has no interest in religion other than to manipulate it. Today his words are more true than ever.

There certainly exists a weakened, sickly form of the gospel promoted by progressive politicians and a similarly diseased and malfunctional aberration of the gospel pushed by conservatives. Though progressives and conservatives may manipulate many preachers and many Christian voters, the gospel itself, which Graham dedicated his life to, will not be manipulated.

The true gospel stands apart from political maneuvering and manipulation. We each may attempt to change it to suit ourselves, yet it is in fact working to change us.

We cannot stay the same once connected to the true gospel. As C.S. Lewis said, if we let him, Christ will change us, no matter the cost to us or to himself.

The gospel will kill every hatred in us and replace it with love. It will quench our lusts and replace it with an Agape kind of love. Our sole response to the gospel must be as ever it was at the end of a Graham Crusade—to surrender all.

As the gospel compelled Billy Graham, may we be compelled to act in our time. Like all before us, we will not act with perfect knowledge or perfect success. We will look back and see failures and we will wish we had done more. But we will never look back and wish we had done less for the gospel.

Hymn:Come to Jesus” — Chris Rice (Video by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 27 (Listen – 2:21)
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:23)

Finding God :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture: Job 23.3-4
If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.

Editor’s Note: Today we explore a new format for reflection.

Guided prayers and meditations are a common part of Christian spiritual practice. Today we will focus on some verses from today’s reading from Job and guide ourselves through a prayer through scripture and into our world. Like walking through a park on your way to work, let this guided prayer help you carry freshness and beauty with you through your day.

Return to this prayer through the day or over the weekend, as it will be a different experience based on your mood and surroundings…We begin with the words of Job…

Reflection: Finding God :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Even today my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.

Scripture often speaks of God’s hand being “heavy” in times of distress.

What complaint do you have to carry to God?
What weighs heavy on your heart in this moment from your personal life? From your city? From your nation or from world news?

Pursue God with your thoughts and prayer…If your surroundings allow, actually get up and walk for this portion of the prayer time…

But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.

Pursuit of God often begins as a pursuit of our answers. Our solutions. To place our arguments before him. We are hunting our own concerns and God is merely a means to our ends.

Slow the pace of your walking. Notice your surroundings. Notice others. Notice your need, not of your answers, but of God’s presence.

But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.

It doesn’t matter how wholeheartedly we seek the answer to a prayer, we will find God when our wholehearted search is for his presence, not for something else that we want.

Follow God’s footsteps through his Word, and pursue his presence over the weekend. He wants to speak to you. He wants to walk with you.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statues.
Hear my voice, O Lord, according to your loving-kindness; according to your judgments, give me life. — Psalm 119.145fff

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 23 (Listen – 1:43)
1 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 4:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 24 (Listen – 2:56) 1 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 4:20)
Job 25-26 (Listen – 1:52) 1 Corinthians 12 (Listen – 4:25)

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