This is a journal article by J.I. Packer. It’s longer than the normal links here, but quotes like this are why it’s worth checking out:
“Low expectations become self-fulfilling. Where little is expected from sermons, little is received. Many moderns have never been taught to expect sermons to matter much, and so their habit at sermon time is to relax, settle back and wait to see if anything the preacher says will catch their interest…It is now assumed that those who sit under the preaching are observers, measuring the preacher’s performance, rather than participants waiting for the Word of God. Many in our congregations do not know that there is any other way of listening to sermons than this way of detached passivity, and no-one should be surprised to find that those who cultivate such passivity often dismiss preaching as an uneventful bore. Those who seek little find little.”
“Attention is precious. It is that part of our soul we give to the world around us, the gateway to the self. ‘My experience is what I agree to attend to,’ William James said; ‘only those items which I notice shape my mind.’ What if, at the end of each day, you received a statement from the Bank of Attention updating all your recent expenditures, along with a heat map of smartphone use? Where did you leave your soul today? Did you blow your precious morning hours surfing ESPN, reading about a baseball player’s groin strain? I confess that I did.”
May we see more and more women ready to answer the call to motherhood this way:
I know my mothering days are not over because, as long as I draw breath, the call to fill the earth with image bearers will be incumbent on me. Just as my biological children needed me to train them in self-control, industriousness, and obedience, so also do young believers in the church need those who are more mature to train them in godliness. Every believing woman who grows to maturity becomes, in her time, a spiritual mother to those following behind, whether she ever becomes a mom in physical terms. She fulfills that most basic calling of motherhood: nurturing the helpless and weak to maturity and strength.
Distraction is a frequent reminder of our frailty and limits, that we indeed are not God. And since we are given to such unjustifiable, and frankly ridiculous, levels of pride, this is very good for us. Distraction humbles us and forces us to ask God for the help we so desperately need.
These life transitions remind me that identity is a complex topic and not something that can be reduced to one or two things, like being a wife and mother. There are many layers that make up who we are, but one most important layer is the foundation. What is the foundation of your identity? Foundations are vitally important, but in life, easy to forget. As G.K. Chesterton says, “We have all forgotten what we really are.” This is why so many people run around trying to “find themselves” and discover who they really are.
There’s much talk of self-love in Christian circles right now, the kind of self-love that promotes a perceived circumstantial happiness. When I hear of Christian bloggers or authors or even just professing Christians in my own private life diverging from orthodox Christian faith or values because it’s “too hard,” I feel a depressing weight on my shoulders. Their quest for happiness outside of orthodoxy demoralizes me in a way a combative atheist never could. They demoralize me in a way even my own particular burdens of suffering do not.
The degree to which self-love has seeped into the church should distress us all.
I find there to be a desperate need for this redemption, and I love that Jonathan connected this to discipleship:
I think we can learn a lot about the end goal of discipleship from what we’ve already looked at in Jesus’ own life: pointing others to the Father and repenting of sin. That’s the goal for us in a discipleship context, and it’s the goal in our friendships. Daily, through every interaction we have, our aim should be helping others get to know Jesus more intimately by getting to know each other more intimately.
We understand God best when we are in community with other people. As we sit in a circle and talk about God from a text from the Bible, we begin to see the fullness of who he is. That aspect of him will stand out to one, another aspect to someone else. As we make our way around the circle we begin to lose our truncated view of God and begin to see him in his fullness. We need each other to see more of God.