When Spiritual Growth Seems Painful

Often as God increases our ministry and impact it can feel as though we are moving in reverse. Life seemingly become more difficult. Spiritual attack increases, isolation from others becomes more palpable, the life of spiritual freedom begins to feel heavy.

Be assured that this is because God is working deep within, exercising spiritual muscles never before used; transforming areas never before exposed to His light.

At these moments it is essential to recognise what is going on through spiritual rather than earthly eyes. Freedom is found not in walking away from this growth, but into it.

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David Bentley Hart on how religious ideas animate culture.

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“A culture – a civilization—is only as great as the religious ideas that animate it; the magnitude of a people’s cultural achievement is determined by the height of its spiritual aspirations.

The eye of faith, presumes to see something miraculous within the ordinary the moment, mysterious hints of of an intelligible order calling out for translation into artefacts.”

David Bentley Hart

How orthodoxy feeds our creativity

Jackson Pollock became a sensation in the art world of the 1950’s . For centuries everyone had used brushes; yet here was this man, like a dancer, dripping paint with sticks. The paint whirled through the air creating storms of colour that would hang in the air, before splashing across the canvas, creating huge, complex fields of patterned texture.

It was so contemporary. So cutting edge. So modern.

Holding it all together however was one piece of convention and tradition. An anchor of orthodoxy which allowed Pollock to ride upon the waves of creativity. It was the canvas.

The white stretched material created a frame of reference. A set of boundaries, a rectangular limitation.

Without this blank canvas, Pollock’s breakthrough abstract expressionist paintings would not hang in the greatest modern galleries of the world. Instead they would simply be dropped paint, mopped off of Pollock’s studio floor long ago.

It was the orthodoxy of the blank canvas which gave Pollock’s the freedom to truly create.tumblr_inline_mt8r7nWMR01rz9nx2

Our world is obsessed with creativity. It drives our dreams and our economy. Yet our world seeks creativity without limits, restrictions and tradition. This is the heartbeat of modernity. An attempt for the self to be utterly free of restrictions and limits. Ironically this is what ultimately imprisons us. Our desire to live without limitations and definition creates a culture which has turned upon itself; a self hating anti-culture.

Long ago the creator, when forming the universe, set in the grain of the cosmos limits, traditions and restrictions. The Word walked amongst us, his breath fell onto pages of scripture. Dogma and doctrine was formed. Humans needed orthodoxy.

The source of all creativity understood that to be truly creative, humankind needed these limits and restrictions, to soar upon the wind we needed to be tethered to a line held by the creator himself. We needed the orthodoxy of the blank canvas.

Orthodoxy without creativity is still true, but it remains upon the shelf unused, stale and irrelevant.

Creativity without orthodoxy ultimately destroys itself. Sawing off the branch upon which it stands.

However when you marry creativity and orthodoxy. When you realise that doctrine, dogma and orthodoxy is the canvas, you begin to dance like Pollock, filling the world with magnificent arcs of colour.

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David Wells on how ministers can find freedom by escaping a career mentality

“The source of freedom for today’s ministers in located at the very heart of their vocation. The source lies not in their professional status or their current location along the trajectory of a career. It lies in the fact that they serve the living God, who is no respecter of persons, in the fact that they are the servants of his Word and Son, before whom all will be judged. It is this understanding that gives ministers the freedom to remain in one location however long it takes to make theological truth a central and effective part of their ministry, regardless of whether their careers pass them by in the meantime.”

David F. Wells, No Place For Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology

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Jürgen Habermas on the Biblical ethics of love and modernity

” Christianity has functioned for the normative self-understanding of modernity as more than a mere precursor or a catalyst. Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.  To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in the light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.” Jürgen Habermas

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SPURGEON ON SUCCESS 

“Success exposes a man to the pressures of people and thus tempts him to hold on to his gains by means of fleshly methods and practices, and to let himself be ruled wholly by the dictatorial demands of incessant expansion.


Success can go to my head and will unless I remember that it is God who accomplishes the work, that he can continue to do so without my help, and that he will be able to make out with other means whenever he wants to cut me out.”

Charles Spurgeon

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OSWALD CHAMBERS ON THE INCARNATION

“The Incarnation is the very heart of God manifested on the plane of chaos and wrath; what Jesus Christ went through in a time phase is indicated in such words as these: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus Christ came right straight down into the very depths of wrath, He clothes Himself with the humanity of the race that had fallen and could not lift itself, and in His own person He annihilated the wrath until there is no condemnation, no touch of the wrath of God, on shore who are in Christ Jesus.”

Oswald Chambers, Conformed to His image