Monday, March 15, 2021

What I've been learning

'For the first time in my life, I connected God's justification of me with how I related to another person. The result? I didn't defend myself. I quietly rested in "the righteousness from God that depends on faith". My silence was a form of love. Love comes from faith'

The J Curve, Paul Miller, p.43

This year a friend texted me to tell me 30 years ago we were on an Alpha course together. I had encountered Jesus in my last year at university and had moved to London. Someone suggested I should do an Alpha course which I duly did. The person who led it (who is now a dear friend) remembers me being one the most disappointing people he ever had on a course. I am a slow starter and learner.

One of the first letters in the Bible I read as a Christian was Philippians via a book called 'A life worth living'. The title captures a problem I think many new Christian's experience, which is that we think we've invited God to join in with our life, when in fact it's the other way around. It took me over a decade to grasp this basic principle which is why perhaps I struggled a tad. 

This letter is the most joyful of Paul's communications and seemed to be one of the more functional churches he planted. Apart, of course, from a couple of ladies falling out with each other. Other than that, Paul insists that what God began would be brought to completion however gingerly you begin. I can testify to that. In fact, many a keen bean in those early days have long since bailed. Little old me, with the dunce hat at the back of the class, find myself a pastor with 30 years of mileage on the clock and still driving, however slowly and inadequately.

I'd never dwelt much in Chapter 3 which is a section about death and resurrection. I've come to see recently, not only from this letter, but also from painful experience, that a life worth living will be full of many dying and rising moments. 

What put me on to this is a book I'm reading called 'The J Curve' . It was this Best Books of 2020 post that brought it to my attention: 

'Brilliant book. So much theology, so much of life, is made sense of by the J-curve. Before I knew this book existed I built my logo around, and wrote this article about, The J-Curve. I wish I wrote this book, but I don’t have the wisdom, humility, life-experience, or holiness to write like Paul Miller. What a gift of a book. Deeply study this book and it will give you new eyes.'

Now I see that dying and rising is all over the letters and has huge implications for how we live. Most of you won't read the book, though I commend it heartily (together with 'The Praying Life' which is also terrific). So here is a talk that nails the key idea in an hour and, be prepared, Paul really does enjoy a chart!

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