Monday, June 30, 2014

Humble Dependence on the Source of Knowledge

Hannah R. Anderson post:  Why We Pursue Knowledge

I attended a Christian liberal arts college, and during my junior year, I took one of the most sought-after courses on campus: Philosophy of Education. I was eager for this class because I had grown up in a home that valued learning. My father’s mother, Stella, was the first in her family to graduate from high school by walking three miles from her family farm to the high school in their small mountain community. At 16, my maternal grandmother, Ruth, traveled more than 700 miles from home to become the first in her family to attend college; while there, she met my grandfather, who was also the first in his family to attend college, due in large part to the GI Bill. So it wasn’t too surprising that my parents both ended up as teachers, and I grew up with more books than toys.
Settling in for that first session, I was ready for the professor to inspire me with the beauty and wonder of learning; more than anything I expected him to shore up my own presuppositions. I wasn’t prepared for him to turn them completely on their head. About halfway through that first class, he told us that the goal of all learning is to become fully human—so far, so good—but then he went further. Because education is the process of making us fully human, true education must, by definition, be Christian, because becoming fully human means being conformed to the image of God through Christ. 
In a word, education is about finding identity as image bearers.

God of All Knowledge

From the earliest moments of creation, God reveals himself as a God of knowledge. Jeremiah 10:12proclaims that he “established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” But God is not simply the starting place for wisdom; he is Wisdom; he is Truth himself. And this was never clearer than when Jesus was revealed as the Logos of God.
In the first sentence of John’s Gospel, he writes, “In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God.” Translators have struggled to find just the right English word to translate logos and have settled on word. But this translation has limitations because word doesn’t communicate all that logos means. Logos means both the expression of an idea (the word) and the thought that initiated it. So when John chooses to identify Jesus as the Logos, he is telling us that Jesus is the perfect embodiment of God’s thought. Jesus is God’s wisdom made flesh, dwelling among us.
The beauty of this point becomes breathtakingly clear when we remember what happened in Eden. As image bearers, our first parents were made to find their true selves in God who is perfect truth, but instead, they turned from him to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They turned away from true knowledge and were plunged into blind ignorance. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
When John identifies Jesus as the Logos of God, he identifies him as the true knowledge we all have rejected. What the man and woman lost when they grasped for knowledge apart from God—what we each lose every time we turn to something other than him for our sense of self—Jesus restores by becoming the perfect thought, the perfect wisdom, the perfect knowledge of God in human flesh.
From this Logos—from the very mind of God himself—all knowledge flows. Through this Logos—through the very person of God himself—we pursue knowledge in order to image him.

Women and Education

Even today, some question whether or not a woman should pursue education. They reason that women are primarily nurturers and life-givers, falsely believing that this responsibility doesn’t require anything beyond learning a domestic skill set. In response, others argue that certainly women must be educated but precisely because they are the mothers of society. They must be prepared to shape their children, to teach them well, and present them as mature, capable members of the church and society. Then, of course, some reject both of these approaches and stridently argue that women must be educated to free them from the shackles of domesticity. They must be educated in order to take their place on a rung of the corporate ladder.
As different as these approaches appear, they have something in common: all three presume education is primarily about a career. Whether that career is motherhood or being a CFO, they are all based on the assumption that education is primarily about generating a skill set for future work. But what if education—what if learning and thinking and knowing—is less about what you do with your knowledge than it is about the person you become in the process? What if education is first and foremost about becoming image bearers?
We pursue learning because God is a God of knowledge and thought and wisdom, and in order to reflect and represent him, we must become women of knowledge and thought and wisdom. This pursuit can take a variety of forms depending on context and personal giftedness, and it may not necessarily include advanced degrees or groundbreaking theories. But at the very least, becoming women who image him, becoming all we are created to be, means learning to love him, not simply with all of our hearts, but with all of our minds as well.
Ultimately the goal of all learning is to draw us back to humble dependence on the source of knowledge, God himself. True knowledge—knowledge that begins and ends with God—will humble us, because when we finally begin to understand who God is, we will begin to realize how much we don’t understand in the first place. And yet, in his grace, God promises that even though we may only know in part today, there will be a day when we will know him as we have been fully known. And when we know him this way, when we know the love of Christ both mentally and experientially, we will finally be transformed into the image bearers he’s destined us to be.
Editors' note: This excerpt was adapted from Hannah Anderson's new book, Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God's Image (Moody, 2014).

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pursuit of Joy

Jon Bloom:  How Can Self-Denial Be Hedonistic?

The Christian life is a journey to the greatest joy that exists. But “the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). Why is that? Because, paradoxically, as Jesus’s disciples learned in Mark 8, in order to pursue our greatest joy, we must deny ourselves.
It was a moment of euphoria for the disciples. Jesus was the Christ. Peter had confessed it and Jesus had confirmed it. The long-awaited arrival of Israel’s Messiah had come! And the Twelve relished their place alongside him.
Then, oddly, Jesus started talking about suffering many things, and being murdered by his enemies, and rising again from the dead. The disciples were confused: how could defeat be the path to the Christ’s glory? The Christ was to be victorious.
So Peter brought correction to Jesus, and Jesus called his correction satanic. Peter was stunned. What could be satanic about wanting the Christ to be victorious? Jesus’s answer was, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33).

Jesus Wants Us to Die?

Jesus knew that all the disciples, as well as the crowd following him, were thinking the same thing. So he gathered them all together and let go with one more wrecking ball to their worldview:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
The crowd stilled, a sea of bewildered faces. A cross? They all knew what that meant: Roman execution of the most horrific, fearful kind. They were all hoping that Jesus would conquer their enemies, free them from such tyranny, and “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). Carrying a Roman cross did not sound like the Messianic kingdom they were longing for. It sounded like death. Jesus wanted them to die?
Jesus’s kingdom was not of this world—not of the geopolitical world that these first followers knew (John 18:36). His kingdom was far broader in scope than any of them yet realized. And their true enemy was far more powerful and deadly than Rome. Rome was a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15). Their real enemy dwelled in them and all around them. Jesus had indeed come to conquer that enemy. In just a few days, he was headed to Jerusalem to strike the decisive blow.
So now Jesus was preparing them for the cross — his first and foremost, then theirs — and the multi-millennial mission to call out true Israel from all peoples into his kingdom. Jesus was teaching them to intentionally move toward death.
All present that day would die physically, some as martyrs. But all his followers would also have to die spiritually, to themselves. They would have to die to the desire for self-glory, die to the desire for worldly respect, die to the fear of man, die to the desire for an easy life, die to the desire for earthly wealth, and a thousand other deaths. Finally, they would have to die to their desire to save their earthly lives.

A Hedonistic Death

But Jesus wasn’t calling his followers to some stoic life of self-sacrifice. He was inviting them to joy beyond their imagination. The broad road of the world was lined with seductive false promises, appealing to and blinding sinful human heart-eyes and leading many to a horror beyond imagination. So Jesus was calling his followers to deny themselves the world’s paltry, brief joys so that they might have overflowing eternal joy. He was calling them to deny themselves hell, that they might take up heaven.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:35–38)

The Christian life is hard, sometimes agonizing, but we shouldn’t be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). The Christian life is hard because denying our fallen selves is hard. Our lives are our most precious earthly possession. Nothing displays the worth of Jesus more than our willingness to give away our lives (in small and large ways) for his sake.
The only things that Jesus asks us to deny are what will rob us of eternal joy. Like Moses in Hebrews 11:25–26, we are called to deny ourselves the passing pleasures of sin and consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the world’s treasures. How? By looking to the reward! This kind of self-denial is hedonistic.
Years ago, in a lullaby for my oldest daughter, I tried to capture, for her and for me, the heavenly logic of this paradoxical pursuit of joy:
There’s joy beyond your wildest dreams if you will just believe:
This aching thirst for joy you feel God only can relieve,
And that eternal life is what’s in store
For all who will believe that only he’s worth living for.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Self Deceived

Don Carson:  DEUTERONOMY 31; PSALM 119:97-120; ISAIAH 58; MATTHEW 6

HOW SELF-DECEIVED WE HUMANS ARE when it comes to matters religious. So many things that start off as incentives to repentance and godliness develop into vicious idols. What starts as an aid to holiness ends up as the triple trap of legalism, self-righteousness, and superstition. So it was with the bronze snake in the wilderness. Although it was ordered and used by God (Num. 21:4-9), it became such a religious nonsense in later times that Hezekiah destroyed it (2 Kings 18:4).
So it sometimes is with other forms of religious observance or spiritual discipline. One may with fine purpose and good reason start “journaling” as a discipline that breeds honesty and self-examination, but it can easily slide into the triple trap: in your mind you so establish journaling as the clearest evidence of personal growth and loyalty to Christ that you look down your nose at those who do not commit themselves to the same discipline, and pat yourself on the back every day that you maintain the practice (legalism); you begin to think that only the most mature saints keep spiritual journals, so you qualify—and you know quite a few who do not (self-righteousness); (c) you begin to think that there is something in the act itself, or in the paper, or in the writing, that is a necessary means of grace, a special channel of divine pleasure or truth (superstition). That is the time to throw away your journal.
Clearly, fasting can become a similar sort of trap. The first five verses of Isaiah 58 expose and condemn the wrong kind of fast, while verses 6-12 describe the kind of fast that pleases God. The first is bound up with hypocrisy. People maintain their fasts, but quarrel in the family (Isa. 58:4). Their fasts do not stop them from exploiting their workers (Isa. 58:3b). These religious people are getting restless: “We tried fasting,” they say, “and it didn’t work” (Isa. 58:3). At a superficial level they seem to have a hunger for God and his way (Isa. 58:2). The truth is that they are beginning to treat the fast as if it were a bit of magic: because I’ve kept the fast, God has to bless me. Such thinking is both terribly sad and terribly evil.
By contrast, the fast that pleases God is marked by genuine repentance (Isa. 58:6-12). Not only does it turn away from self-indulgence but it actively shares with the poor (Isa. 58:7), and intentionally strives “to loose the chains of injustice,” “to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isa. 58:7), to abjure “malicious talk” (Isa. 58:9). This is the fast that brings God’s blessing (Isa. 58:8-12).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Root Us Firmly

843 post:  A Beginning, Not an Ending

Jordan: There are two key Old Testament moments that point to the Jordan River. First, Elisha tells a high-ranking government official named Naaman to wash in the Jordan to be healed of his leprosy. He does and becomes a new man with a new identity. Second, Joshua leads the Hebrews from the wilderness to the Promised Land over the Jordan. They cross and become a new people with a new identity. Is it any surprise, then, that John the Baptist comes baptizing at the same spot—the Jordan River?
Jesus: Matthew writes, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him … And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” [1] When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the streams of history converged. “This was the moment,” writes N.T. Wright, “that would ever after define the people of God. The new covenant people were to be known as Jesus’s people.”
Beginning: His act of baptism, however, was not an ending; it was a beginning. It marked the start of his public ministry, not the consummation of it. And the same goes for us. “Baptism is our common beginning,” Wright continues. “It defines us as the covenant family of the one true God. With every Eucharist, as we say the Creed, we repeat the words that were spoken at our baptism, when, like Naaman coming up out of the water and finding himself cured, we declare that there is no God in all the earth except this one. And then, as we feast together at the family table, we discover that the God who called us into pilgrimage, and defined us as his sons and daughters in the waters of baptism, signifying our sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, now gives us the appropriate food to strengthen us on our way.”
Prayer: Lord, Baptism is our beginning. As we will read tomorrow, immediately after Jesus was baptized, he was tempted. This is our story, too. By the Spirit, we become new people with new identities, but then we have to live in our bodies and in this world. Therefore, we pray that you would root us firmly in our new identity in Christ. Amen.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


David Mathis post:  Worship Like a Hedonist

Let me encourage you to take a very hedonistic approach to worship this weekend, and to every corporate worship gathering.
A hedonist is someone who thinks of pleasure as the highest good and tries, in everything, to maximize pleasure.
We Christians don’t believe that human pleasure in itself is the highest good, but we should believe that finding our pleasure in God is essential in our participating in the highest good — the glory of God. As we love to celebrate here at Desiring God, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
Since the glory of God is the highest good, and the way in which we glorify him most is by being satisfied in him — enjoying him or maximizing our pleasure in him — then the most important approach for us to take together in our weekly worship gatherings is to seek him hedonistically. To aim together at maximizing our pleasure in him.
Whether it’s the singing, the preaching, the praying, the reciting, the giving, or the coming together at the Lord’s Table, the most important obedience to pursue may be this: to rejoice, to delight.
In corporate worship, and in all of life, we’ll want to ask God to give us the heart ofPsalm 63:1: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
If you want a spiritual sensation to seek maybe it’s quenching your thirst. The picture from Psalm 42 is a thirsty deer, aching for water — call it “the hart of worship.” “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1–2).
Perhaps your experience resonates with those of us who would say, in the words of John Piper, “the revolt against hedonism has killed the spirit of worship in many churches” (Desiring God, 98). Surprising as it may seem, we would encourage you this weekend to ban any thought of disinterestedness — because “worship is the most hedonistic affair of life and must not be ruined with the least thought of disinterestedness” (98).
We believe that “the hedonistic approach to God in worship is the only humble approach because it is the only approach that comes with empty hands” (95–96). It is good news that “the enemy of worship is not that our desire for pleasure is too strong, but too weak!” (99).
So, as you prepare your heart for, and enter into, corporate worship this weekend, don’t tone your desires down or put your heart aside. Don’t just go through the motions. Don’t let mere duty be the driver. Come to feast on God and his goodness to us in Jesus. Come to satisfy your deepest longings in the very one “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
We come not to meet any needs in God, but to have our greatest needs met in his grace.
Let’s worship like hedonists.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Not Tame

Excerpt from 843 Acres: Revelation Is for Today


Lord, We confess that we often want to trivialize and tame you, making you a trifling thing. Yet the vision of Revelation does not let us do that. It shows a ferocious love, a violent salvation, a meal and a war. Therefore, give us discerning hearts that hate evil and love good, as we meditate on the Lamb who sits on the throne. Come, Lord Jesus! Come! Amen.



Excerpt from Don Carson:  Deuteronomy 26Psalms 117 — 118Isaiah 53Matthew 1


It is not that Dad would not listen to serious complaints; it is not that Scripture does not have other things to say. But every generation of Christians has to learn that whining is an affront against God’s sovereignty and goodness.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Be You

Jon Bloom post:  Jesus Wants You to Be You

God had you specifically in mind when he created you and called you to follow him. You are custom-designed for your calling. But when you face the difficulty of your calling, you may look at others and be tempted to wonder why they don’t seem to bear the same burdens you do. Don’t be discouraged; in John 21, the Apostle Peter faced the same temptation.

“What About this Man?”

After the resurrected Jesus served his sleep-deprived fisherman-disciples a seaside breakfast of miracle fish, he took Peter on a walk down the beach. Jesus wanted to tell Peter a few important things directly before Jesus parted physically from him for the last time in this age. John trailed them, about ten yards behind.
Toward the end of their conversation, Jesus dropped a bombshell on Peter: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” Then Jesus, as only he could do, peered right into Peter’s soul and said, “Follow me.”
Peter had already been dreading Jesus’s final departure, wondering how this small, fearful band of disciples would survive without him. Peter wondered howhe would survive. Now Jesus informed him that he wasn’t going to survive. Peter was going to die for Jesus. Only this time Peter issued no over-confident proclamation like he had during the Passover meal. Now he knew how weak he really was. Left to himself, he was a coward.
But Peter remembered that he would not be left to himself like an orphan; Jesus, though gone, would somehow come to him in the future (John 14:18). Peter believed this. Jesus had never once failed to keep a promise. But how Jesus would come to him at the moment of his execution, Peter could not conceive. He already felt lonely.
And Peter wondered why Jesus hadn’t spoken of other disciples’ deaths. Was he the only one who would have to die? Peter looked around for the others and he saw John, who was walking just where the cool surf gently pushed up and bathed his feet. Peter knew how Jesus loved John, and he wondered if Jesus was going to spare John the cost that he was asking Peter to pay. Gesturing back, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus’s brow furrowed as he watched two gulls quarrel over a dead fish. Then he looked at Peter and responded with his familiar tender firmness, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

“What Is that to You?”

Jesus calls each one of us to follow him (John 15:16). All of God’s promises are yes to each one of us in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). We each get to share in Christ’s inheritance (Colossians 1:12) and as members of Christ’s united body we need each other (Romans 12:5).
But we do not all have the same function (Romans 12:4). Each disciple, each individual member of the body, has a unique role. And each of us must lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him (1 Corinthians 7:17).
The question, “What is that to you?” is one you and I need to ask frequently. How God deals with other people is often of excessive concern to us, especially if their paths don’t seem to be paved with the same pain as ours.
The fallen part of our nature doesn’t look at others and glory in how each of them uniquely bears the imago dei (Genesis 1:27). It doesn’t revel in their distinctive refraction of God’s multifaceted glory. It doesn’t rejoice in the sweet providences God grants to them. It is not grateful for the blessings of their God-given strengths. It does not want to deal gently with their weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2). Full of pride and selfish ambition, our fallen nature uses others to gauge our own significance, how successful and impressive we perceive ourselves to be.

“You Follow Me.”

But there is gospel in Jesus’s words, “What is that to you? You follow me.” Do you hear it? It’s a declaration of liberation. Jesus died to make you “free indeed” (John 8:36), and this includes freedom from the tyranny of sinful comparison and coveting another’s calling.
God had you in mind when he created you (Psalm 139:13–16). He knew just what he was doing. You, your body, your mind, and your circumstances, are not an accident. Yes, he’s aware of your deficiencies, and, yes, he’s calling you to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). But God does not expect or intend you to be someone else. Nor does he want you to follow someone else’s path.
Jesus wants you to be you. The faith that Jesus gives you is sufficient for the path he gives you (Romans 12:3). And the grace he gives you to face your trials will be sufficient for you when the need comes (2 Corinthians 12:9).
You are your truest you, not when you are analyzing yourself or measuring yourself against someone else. You are your truest you when your eyes are fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), when you are following him in faith, and when you are serving others in love with the grace-gifts God has assigned to you (Romans 12:4–8).
So, no matter what today holds, be free from saying in your heart, “Lord what about this man?” For Jesus chose you (John 15:16), promised to supply all that you need (Philippians 4:19), and wants you to simply follow him.
If you humble yourself under his mighty hand, trusting him to redeem all your suffering, “thorns” (2 Corinthians 12:7) and weaknesses, he will exalt you at the time and in the way that will bring him the most glory and you the most joy (1 Peter 5:6).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We Need Salvation

843 Acres post:  The Meal and the War

Salvation: The alternative to salvation is optimism—an optimism that must minimize its perception of evil in order to retain its integrity. For optimism alone won’t cut it in the face of shootings, tsunamis, and racism. We can’t just look for good intentions when we talk about injustice, wickedness, and corruption. We can’t just focus on technological advancement when we address poverty, pollution, and psychosis. We need salvation, not just optimism, because spiritual evil radiates from even good actions. Only salvation is bigger than evil.
Visions: Here, in Revelation 19, John gives two visions of salvation—a meal and a war. The meal is called “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” [1] The war is led by “a rider on a white horse” and “the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” [2] Eugene Peterson writes, “The contrast between meal and war could hardly be more extreme, but it is complementarity, not contradiction, that we experience as we submit to the images. Salvation is the intimacies and festivities of marriage; salvation is aggressive battle and the defeat of evil. Salvation is neither of these things by itself. It is the two energies, the embrace of love and the assault on evil, in polar tension, each defined by the other, each feeding into the other.”
Meal: Today, we experience a foretaste of the meal at the Lord’s Supper. “The power of this eucharistic meal to keep us participant in the essentials of salvation is impressive,” Peterson writes. “This is the primary way that Christians remember, receive, and share the meaning of our salvation: Christ crucified for us, his blood shed for the remission of sins.”
War: We experience a foretaste of the war today, too. “The moment we walk away from the Eucharist, having received the life of our Lord, we walk into Armageddon, where we exercise the strength of our Lord.” We fight for obedience, endurance, faith, and courage. And our weapon is the same as that of the rider—“from his mouth comes a sharp sword”—what Paul calls, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” [3]
Prayer: Lord, Only salvation, not optimism, can swallow evil. For we cannot partake of the meal unless we partake in the war, and the war forces us to acknowledge that we need more than optimism; we need salvation. Root us in your Word so that we may fight well. Amen.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bear the Image of a Creator

Trevin Wax post:  The Symphony That Saved a City

One of most interesting books I read last year was Leningrad: State of Siege - the story of Germany’s siege of St. Petersburg from September 1941 through January 1944. More than a million people died of starvation during these years (more than U.S. and U.K. soldiers in WWII combined).
The worst effects of the blockade were experienced in the first winter. From December 1941 – February 1942, the Russian population faced three months of utter horror, prompting frightening testimonies like this:
“I watched my mother and father die. I knew perfectly well they were starving. But I wanted their bread more than I wanted them to stay alive. And they knew that. That’s what I remember about the blockade: the feeling that you wanted your parents to die because you wanted their bread.”
The slow starvation led people to chew leather, to boil wood and other objects, anything to dull the pain. As the siege continued and the citizens starved, the true character of people was revealed. Olga Mikhailova remembered:
“The blockade began to reveal things more and more clearly. You could straightaway see the good and bad sides of a person. Those who were greedy certainly grew worse, and tried to live at the expense of others. But goodness would flourish too.”
During the worst of the winter, the siege led people not merely to fight for food, but also for their humanity. People observed how corpses in open areas would be cut up. Certain neighborhoods became known for cannibalism, with citizens shocked to see their neighbors and family friends transformed into starving cannibals.
The Artist Defies Death
One survivor’s story is particularly moving, an expression of an artist’s defiance of death. As an 18-year-old girl named Elena Martilla lay in her bed, wasting away and recognizing that death was near, she cast aside her hopelessness and clung to anger to survive. She said to herself:
“If I am going to die, let me die with dignity, as an artist, with a brush in my hand.”
Autorretrato de Elena MartillaMichael Jones describes what happened next:
Martilla realised she would have to find a subject to engage her interest powerfully. She decided to paint a self-portrait. There was little light in the room – the kerosene lamp was weak – but she took out paper, blue paint and a brush and, looking at herself in a mirror, started to paint what she could see.
The room grew colder and darker, and Martilla’s brushstrokes became more hesitant. Inexorably, everything was slowing down. She could not find the strength to go on, and she paused, motionless, in the freezing silence. Then a last, defiant thought entered her head. ‘Maybe people will realise Leningraders do not give up that easily.’
Making a supreme effort, she began to paint again. Looking up from her picture, Martilla saw a faint glimmer of light through a gap in the curtain. Morning was approaching – a morning she had thought she would not live to see.
‘I felt a wonderful joy and serenity,’ she remembered. ‘And then I said out loud: “I did not die. I will not die. I will live.” As I repeated this, I felt a surge of strength, as if some force was permeating every cell of my being.’
Martilla knew something had fundamentally changed. Each day, she felt a growing power and certainty within her, a conviction that she would survive.
A week later, she painted another self-portrait. ‘In the first I looked at myself through the eyes of death,’ Martilla said. ‘Now I wanted to celebrate being alive.’
The Symphony Plays On
During the darkest days of winter, the citizenry began to collectively lose hope. As Jones describes: “The dead were engulfing the city, their bodies hacked and dismembered by the crazed living…” Into this vortex of chaos and despair, the announcement was made that the orchestra would gather and the symphony would go on.
The description of this orchestra’s fortitude is remarkable. The musicians were overcome by physical weakness and mental despair, yet they remained resolute in their decision to provide a work of art for the city’s feeble inhabitants.
‘Dear friends,’ Eliasberg began. ‘We are weak – but we must force ourselves to start work.’ But when the first trumpeter’s solo arrived, there was silence. ‘I’m sorry, sir,’ he said, ‘I just don’t have the strength in my lungs.’ There was a pause, then Eliasberg replied, quietly but firmly, ‘I think you do have the strength.’ The trumpeter looked at him, picked up his instrument and began to play.
ShostakovitchSurvivors credited the symphony for giving the city hope in the worst of times. Though thousands died that winter and into the next, the orchestra’s performance (which was blared through loudspeakers all throughout the city) was a turning point for Leningrad.
This story reminds me of the power of art in its relationship to humanity. We are made in the image of God. Only humans make art. We create, because we bear the image of a Creator.
Michael Jones describes the experience that night:
Waves of emotion surged through the concert hall. In the first movement it was anger; in the second, sadness. As the symphony reached its conclusion, some members of the orchestra faltered – they were utterly exhausted. ‘It was so loud and powerful that I thought I’d collapse,’ Parfionov confessed.
In a remarkable, spontaneous gesture, the entire audience rose to its feet, willing them to keep going.
At the finish there was silence. Someone at the back began clapping, and then there was a thunderous ovation. A little girl came up and presented Eliasberg with a bouquet of flowers.
‘People just stood and cried,’ Eliasberg recalled. ‘They knew that this was not a passing episode but the beginning of something. We heard it in the music. The concert hall, the people in their apartments, the soldiers on the front – the whole city had found its humanity. And in that moment, we triumphed over the soulless Nazi war machine.’


Jon Bloom post:  The Treasure Makes All the Difference

One of Jesus’s most powerful parables is also one of his shortest:
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field(Matthew 13:44).
Fifteen minutes before this man’s discovery in the field, the thought of selling all that he owned to buy it wouldn’t have crossed his mind. Even if it had, it would have seemed ludicrous. But fifteen minutes after finding the treasure, he was off to do it with joy. What made the difference?
The treasure.
This man suddenly found something that transformed his whole outlook on life. The treasure restructured his values and priorities. It altered his goals. The treasure revolutionized the man.
The treasure in this parable is the resurrection to eternal life. It was the same “treasure in heaven” that Jesus promised the rich young man if he would sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21). The rich young man, blinded by short-term worldly wealth, could not see the treasure, but the man in the parable did, and he jumped at it.
Now, there was a cost to obtaining the treasure. Viewed one way, the cost seemed high — it cost him everything he owned. But viewed another way, the cost was very small. Standing in the field, the man did a quick cost-benefit analysis. It didn’t take him long to realize that selling all his possessions was going to make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. He would have been a fool not to do whatever was necessary to buy that field.

The Treasure of Treasures

Now, when the man bought the field and obtained the treasure of eternal life, what specifically did he get? This is an important question, because the Bible makes eternal life a central focus for the Christian, yet provides few descriptions about what it will be like. When the Bible does describe eternal life, it often uses similes, metaphors, and symbols. Why?
One reason is that we simply are not yet equipped to comprehend the reality we will experience in the new age, for “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Through figurative language, God helps us transpose the glories we now see and understand into glimpses of future greater glories.
But I believe there is a more important reason God doesn’t give us more details:Eternal life is more about a Person than a place. What will make the kingdom of heaven so heavenly to us will not be the glorious phenomena of the new creation or the rich rewards we will receive, as inexpressibly wonderful as they will be. The heaven of the age to come, the Treasure of treasures, will be God himself — knowing and being with the One from whom all blessings flow.
Jesus himself said, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). And Paul expressed his deepest longings like this: “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:810). What we will enjoy most about the resurrection is having the dim mirror of this age removed and finally seeing Jesus face to face, finally knowing the triune God fully as we have been fully known by him (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Remember Why You Sold Everything

The resurrection from the dead is the single greatest hope of the Christian. It is the only prize that ultimately matters, and we make it our one great life goal to obtain it (Philippians 3:14). It is the culmination of the gospel (1 Peter 3:18). The whole reason Jesus came into the world was to give us eternal life (John 3:16). He died for us, that we might live with him (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Jesus did not come to give us our best life now. He came to “deliver us from the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) and bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).
Jesus is longing for this day with all his heart. He expressed this yearning to his Father when he prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Jesus’s great longing is that you will be with him. And when you are finally with him, “he will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Never again will you know any kind of separation from him (Romans 8:39), for you will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
That is the treasure you have discovered in the field of this fallen world. Jesus has paid for it all, and it costs you everything you own in this age to have it. Yet it is such a small payment for such an everlasting, never-ending treasure that only a fool would pass it up.
The treasure makes all the difference.