Thursday, December 14, 2006

JOY AT THE HEART OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
Advent 2006 - A Great Joy for All People

CONFIDENCE AMID PLURALISM. Listen to E. Stanley Jones speak of joy at the heart of Christianity. Jones, a Methodist missionary and contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, invested his life in unhesitating dialogue with many other faiths as British rule and all the legal "props" for Christianity were taken away in India. His spirituality is not a fearful, suspicious, protectionist faith, like that articulated by those who wage so-called "culture wars" on America's religious media airwaves. Jones' spirituality is rooted in unflagging confidence in the Word of God to pierce darkness with truth and win hearts through Christian love. I am convinced his voice needs to be heard and his writings seriously revisited today.

ESSENCE OF OUR FAITH. "Joy is the very essence of our faith. If there is no joy, there is no Christianity, for Christianity is joy. Them empty tomb takes away the empty gloom. When we can sing in the face of death, we can sing in the face of everything."

NOT IN POSSESSIONS. "Christians' joy is not in what we possess, nor in what we do , nor in what other do for us. It is in relationships that abide amid the flux of possession and nonpossession, of success and failure, of good treatment and ill treatment. Christians can do without anything on earth--even life on earth, for we have a permanent eternal life now which is rooted in eternity."

CENTERED IN GOD. "Make up your mind where your joy is going to center--in God. Only in one place in this universe can you put your whole weight down--on God. Everything else is a staff upon which, if you lean too hard, it will break and pierce your hand--and your heart. But you can lean on God, absolutely, and he will hold you, absolutely."

FROM SORROW TO JOY. "Don't try to protect yourself against sorrow, for it is bound to come. Face it in Jesus' name and turn it into joy. The attempt to stop up all the holes against sorrow is bound to fail.... The Chrisitan faith...exposes one straight off to the very heart of suffering, to a cross. And then it proceeds to take that suffering and turn it into salvation; the cross becomes an Easter morning. The worst is met and changed into the best. Pains are turned into paeans. A singing optimism is won out of a dark pessimism."

FINDING BOOKS BY JONES. Interested in reading E. Stanley Jones? Begin with A Song of Ascents, his spiritual autobiography, written at age 87. Or try Victorious Living or The Word Became Flesh, two of many of his books that are written as 365-day themed and connected devotionals. You won't find E. Stanley Jones in most Christian bookstores; they don't carry much beyond whatever the Christian Bookseller's Association is currently hawking as new, urgent, popular, etc. Check out an online used book resource for Jones' stuff. It will be a good search and find. Jones' library resides at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, his alma mater.

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