Was Jonathan Edwards a “Mystic”?

Once, as I rid out into the woods for my health, anno 1737; and having lit from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer; I had a view, that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God; as mediator between God and man; and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace, that appeared to me so calm and sweet, appeared great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception. Which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me, the bigger part of the time, in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud. I felt withal, an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, than to be emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him; to live upon him; to serve and follow him, and to be totally wrapped up in the fullness of Christ; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity. I have several other times, and views very much of the same nature, and that have had the same effects.

I have many times had a sense of the glory of the third person in the Trinity, in his office of sanctifier; in his holy operations communicating divine light and life to the soul. God in the communications of his Holy Spirit, has appeared as an infinite fountain of divine glory and sweetness; being full and sufficient to fill and satisfy the soul: pouring forth itself in sweet communications, like the sun in its glory, sweetly and pleasantly diffusing light and Life.

Jonathan Edwards, Personal Narrative (c. 1740).

Artwork Courtesy of Matt Kleberg

 

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What Does it Mean to be Chastened by God?

“God’s chastening is not God’s way of getting even: God got even at the cross . . . the chastening isn’t God getting even; it is preparing that person for something better, more valuable and worthwhile. God chastens us ‘for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness’ (Heb. 12: 10). Often God chastens the very one who, as far as anyone could tell, didn’t apparently need it or deserve it.”

R. T. Kendall, God Meant it for Good, 68.

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Foolishness is a Passionate Conviction

Foolishness is a passionate, deeply embedded conviction . . . . It is not changeable by education. It’s changeable only by the power of the Spirit, which is often released through community, through soul care. Foolishness . . . is a passionate conviction that we need something other than God, and whatever He chooses to provide, to satisfy the deepest longing of our soul. Foolishness says, “Glad I have God. Good, I’m saved and going to heaven; that’s a good deal, but I know what I need to be satisified: I need to have a better marriage, need to have a better job, better ministry, better self-esteem, more psychological health, better physical health. That’s what I need, I need the blessings of God; God himself isn’t the point; He’s useful; He’s not somebody I worship and enjoy and relate to; He’s simply there as a useful powerful being so I can have what I really need.”

That’s foolishness. It’s a passionate conviction that something other than God deeply satisfies. It’s also a passionate conviction that nothing matters more than my immediate sense of satisfaction. Foolishness is a conviction that says that what matters right now is that my soul feels satisfied–that’s the point of everything, that’s what I am going to live for . . . .

[Foolishness] is a passionate conviction that I want to believe. I want to believe a lie. It’s a passionate conviction that my experience of satisfaction matters more than anything else in the world and that God is not reliably up to the job of providing satisfaction, so I better work hard to make sure that I get it, work hard religiously to persuade Him to give it to me, or work hard practically to get what I need to feel the experience of satisfaction. We’re foolish people. Every child begins life with a natural inclination to pursue personal satisfaction as their number-1 agenda, and to find that satisfaction in some source other than God. . . . there’s nothing wrong biblically with desiring satisfaction. I’m not condemning our desire for satisfaction. The Bible does not condemn it. In Jeremiah 2, God looks at His people and He says, “Your thirsty people who are going to the wrong place to satisfy your thirst.” He never condemns the thirst. The thirst is legitimate. The thirst is what, when embraced, drives us to God. When we see what we really long for, then we go to God. Primarily to relieve our thirst? No. Primarily for Him, which in the process relieves our thirst. What God condemns is not the thirst but going to the wrong place to satisfy the thirst.

Larry Crabb, SoulCare Foundations 201, Understanding People and Problems

Artwork courtesy of sampsoniaway.org

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Self-Loathing: Rooted in Pride

“The Lord shall fight for you” (Exod. 14:14)

“Be careful .  .  . not to allow your mind to dwell much on your weaknesses and unworthiness. These excessive feelings spring from a root of pride and a love for our own excellence. To become discouraged weakens your prayer life, and this is worse than your imperfections themselves. The more miserable you see yourself, the more it should cause you to abandon yourself to God. Press in to have a more intimate relationship with Him.”

Madame Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing God Through Prayer, 56.

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Do You Have a “Sweet Tooth”– for God?

10046239_s“Our longing for God . . . can never be assuaged or satisified, for it is a longing for the Infinite, a longing which the Infinite satisfies by making the longing itself extend unto eternity. God satisfies our desires for Himself, not by satiating us with His presence, but by intensifying our desire for His presence with every new manifestation of it. And those who have felt that desire long only to feel it ever more keenly.”

Richard B. Steele, “Transfiguration Light: The Moral Beauty of the Christian Life according to Gregory Palamas and Jonathan Edwards.” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 52:3-4 (2008): 438.

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Motherhood, Discipleship, and the Quiet Revolution

The following post is authored by Becky Swanberg. She graduated from Grace University with her Bachelors of Science in 2004. Becky describes herself as, “a wife, mom, writer, book lover, and Dr. Pepper enthusiast.”

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Sometimes I reflect on where I thought my life would go. I remember how I wanted to live overseas and master a foreign language and study the culture all around me. I remember the smells of an open air market place and the sparse rooms in the orphanage and the ragged goats that wandered like cats down the uneven brick streets. I remember how I looked around me, gazed at round orphan eyes and wide gypsy grins and tired missionary shoulders, how I looked and I thought, “This. This matters. This is what I’m going to do with my life.”

Or maybe not.

A decade and a few years later, l’m settled into a life that looks a lot less radical and a lot more mainstream that I had anticipated. Omaha, marriage, kids, house, minivan. At times I wake up and think, “Really? This is where I ended up?” I ask it of myself, not with regret (I wouldn’t undo any of those choices) but with surprise, as if the reality and the speed of it all has caught me off guard.

Eight years into my journey as a mom, it’s been a gentle leading, that is for sure. There have been years of ministry and years of rest. There have been seasons of celebrating life and seasons of mourning loss- loss of babies and close family and changing relationships. My own kids are growing so quickly (my boys are eight and six, my girls are four and two.) I could say so much about the intensity of motherhood and the frustrations with myself and the reality that it just never ends. But what strikes me most is this: almost a decade in, I find that motherhood is a lot like discipleship.

Being a mom, much like following Christ, is a series of choices that are made every day. It’s not flashy, not particularly exciting in the midst of most days, and it asks more of me than I really have to give. As a mom (much like as a disciple), I am at my best when I can stop thinking about myself, when I can live my days with my heart fixated on others and my mind occupied on the eternal.

There are aspects of motherhood that I would change if I could. The endless tasks that seem to undo themselves instantly. The homeschool mornings that hint more of mutiny than learning. The laundry that multiplies. The goldfish crackers that are, somehow, reproducing under the backseat of my car. The fear that I might ruin my kids. The reality that these precious little people are growing up in chaos, not just the chaos of our living room but the chaos of a bleeding world.

In the midst of those thoughts, as I struggle to find my footing in a role that feels so heavy, I am drawn back to Christ and his grace for me and his love for my family. And in those moments, I think that maybe I didn’t need to go overseas to change the world, that I am part of a quiet revolution that is happening right here. But this revolution, this movement toward greater things and finding the kingdom and shepherding little ones who are fearfully and wonderfully made, this is the place where motherhood and discipleship meet. It’s a place of passionate restraint and ferocious gentleness and relentless pursuit of the hearts of four small, sweaty, mischievous kids. It’s a place of exhilarating weariness, a place of significant monotony, a place where character is forged despite us and in us and because of us.

I’m not sure if the teenage version of me would be disappointed with this turn of events, this surprise ending where I tie shoes and peel clementines for a living. But as I look around, past the dishes and through the cultural norms and beyond the internal doubt that I’m not getting it right, I look at my kids and think, “This. This matters. This is what I’m going to do with my life.”

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The Self-Deceived Are Deceivers

Optical illusion faces 3

 

“Now, since all falsehood is deceived, and all deception begins in self-deception, so is it also with this false Light and Life, and for he who deceives is also deceived, as we have said before.”

Theologia Germanica, Chap. 43

Illustration Courtesy of Picasa/Michael Child Photos

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How Does Spiritual Dryness Affect Our Prayer Life?

“Aridity or dryness in the practice of prayer consists in a certain inability to produce the necessary intellectual and affective acts, or in an actual distaste for prayer. It is usually encountered in the practice of mental prayer, and it reaches its most painful state . . . when it seems that God has abandoned the soul completely. Dryness in prayer may be caused by the individual, by God, or by the devil, but those who actually experience dryness should first suspect that they themselves are the cause. Among the internal and involuntary causes of dryness are bad health, bodily fatigue, excessive activity or absorbing duties, vehement and prolonged temptations that exhaust one’s powers, improper training in the practice of prayer, or methods of prayer unsuited to the individual. Sometimes, however, dryness is the natural result of one’s own imperfections: lukewarmness in the service of God, infidelity to grace, habitual . . . sin, habits of sensuality, vain curiosity, instability and superficiality, or excessive activism.

At other times dryness may be sent by God as a purification or a test. After a soul has become somewhat adept in the practice of prayer, God usually deliberately withdraws all sensible consolation so that the soul will be purified of any excessive attachment to such consolation, will be humbled at seeing how little it can do without God’s help, and will thus be disposed for the next grade of prayer. Throughout one’s advancement in the life of prayer, this altemation between dryness and consolation is usually perceptible at regular intervals, and especially when God is preparing the soul for some new advance or some greater grace. If the dryness is prolonged over a long period, in spite of the soul’s fidelity to grace and earnest efforts, one may suspect that the soul is entering upon the night of the senses or some other passive purification.”

Jordan Aumann, Spiritual Theology, 243.

photo courtesy of Karl Klemmick/Picasa

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