Classic and contemporary excerpts

Longing For God

If we yearned after God even as much as a cow yearns for her calf, we would be the worshiping and effective believers God wants us to be. If we longed for God as a bride looks forward to the return of her husband, we would be a far greater force for God than we are now.

A. W. Tozer in Men Who Met God

The Difficulty Of Preaching

It is very difficult to persuade people who are committed to a general ideal to consider the meaning of that ideal in specific situations. It is even more difficult to prompt them to consider specific ends of social and individual conduct and to evaluate them in the light of experience.

Reinhold Neibuhr in Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic

“Except Ye Become …”

Calls to Christian development must be held in tension with a Lord who called the little children to Him, and told us that we don’t have a thing on them when it comes to acceptability before God. In fact, we could take a few lessons from the disheveled little brats. As my daughter develops into the often exasperating bundle of energy which is a four-year-old, I continually suspect that she is more joyful, more full of life, more perfectly what God had in mind when He thought up “human” than I am ever able to approximate.

James Sennett in The Wiltenburg Door (Dec. ’85–Jan. ’86)

“Christian” As Adjective

It doesn’t make any more sense to call myself a Christian writer than it would for me to call myself a Christian carnivore or my genetic material Christian chromosomes.

In fact, I am always suspicious when the word “Christian” is employed as an adjective instead of a noun. It is in such cases usually being used either to sell something or as an excuse for second-rate work, as though piety could make up for poor quality.

Virginia Stem Owens, “On Eating Words” in The Reformed Journal (June 1986)

God’S Amazing Creation

[It] is not that the Trinity manufactures the first duck and then the ducks take over the duck business as a kind of cottage industry. It is that every duck, down at the roots of its being, at the level where what is needed is not the ability to fertilize duck eggs, but the moxie to stand outside of nothing—to be when there is no necessity of being—every duck, at that level, is a response to apples of his eye, constantly juggled, relished and exchanged by the persons of the Trinity. No wonder we love circuses, games and the creative act of God.… The world is not God’s surplus inventory of artifacts; it is a whole barrelful of the magic: they prove we are in the image of God.

Robert Farrar Capon in The Third Peacock

Living In Reality

Just finished For Whom the Bell Tolls.… Would that I could get as aroused about experiencing God in life as these modern writers are aroused at just experiencing life. They make no comment, draw no conclusions, point no moral, simply state things as they are in simple words in up-to-date settings. Perhaps it is for this very lucidity that they hold such grip on one. Must we always comment on life? Can it not simply be lived in the reality of Christ’s terms of contact with the Father, with joy and peace, fear and love full to the fingertips in their turn, without incessant drawing of lessons and making of rules?

Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot

Good That Is Evil

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal in Lettres Provinciales

About those crosses …

A few years ago, the priest at a North Carolina Catholic church placed his usual array of Lenten crosses, draped all in black for Good Friday, out in front of his little church. Soon Father Ed received a call from the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce: “Look preacher, we’ve been getting complaints about those crosses out in your churchyard. Now inside the church, who cares? But out front, where everybody can see them, they are offensive. The retired people here don’t like them—find them depressing. The tourists will not like it either. It will be bad for business. People come down here to get happy, not depressed.”

William H. Willimon, “Have a Happy Day,” in The Christian Century (Mar. 19–26, 1986)

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