Tag Archives: The Message

Worship Wednesday – A Long Obedience in the Same Direction – Eugene H. Peterson

Photo Credit: Eugene H. Peterson, Quotes.pub

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – Jesus – John 14:15

We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:5

This is love: that we walk according to his commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: that you walk in love.2 John 1:6

With four grandchildren, five years old and under, learning obedience is a part of their every day life. It’s a blessing to an older mom to watch adult children guide their little ones toward the wisdom of obeying and acting on what is right.

Jesus, in his great goodness and mercy, lived and taught obedience. So often we are drawn to act out of our emotions or in reaction to the actions of another (or a whole tribe of others). God calls us to a more even and measured walk in life. He calls us to choose obedience in Him. He calls us to trust Him with the outcomes of our obedience.

Writer and theologian Eugene H. Peterson may be best known for his rendering of the Bible in contemporary English. It is entitled The Message. It made the Scriptures understandable and beloved by many. Those many includes Irish singer/songwriter Bono (the friendship between him and Peterson – and their faith – has been highlighted in the documentary The Psalms.

Blog - Psalms & Bono & Eugene Peterson

Among Peterson’s many other published works is the 1980 book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.

I have not read the book yet and, in fact, did not know about it until recently. Last week, a notice popped up on my Twitter feed about a set of articles by writer Barnabas Piper. He posted 52 of his favorite quotes from Peterson’s classic book.

The Best Quotes From “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” – Part 1 – Barnabas Piper

The Best Quotes From “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” – Part 2 – Barnabas Piper

Out of Piper’s 52 quotes, I have pulled 14, listed below. Dear Dr. Peterson died in 2018. What a blessing he has been and continues to be to the Church, individual Christ-followers, and the Kingdom of God.

  1. On truth – “The moment the word God is uttered, the world’s towering falsehood is exposed—we see the truth. The truth about me is that God made and loves me. The truth about those sitting beside me is that God made and loves them, and each one is therefore my neighbor. The truth about the world is that God rules and provides for it. The truth about what is wrong with the world is that I and the neighbor sitting beside me have sinned to refusing to let God be for us, over us, and in us. The truth about what is at the center of our lives and of our history is that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for our sins and raised from the tomb for our salvation and that we can participate in new life as we believe in him, accept his mercy, respond to his love, attend to his commands.”
  2. On repentance – “Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision . . . Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.”
  3. On faith – “Faith is not a precarious affair of chance escape from satanic assaults. It is the solid, massive, secure experience of God, who keeps evil from getting inside us, who guards our life, who guards us when we leave and when we return, who guards us now, who guards us always.”
  4. On the Gospel – “The reason many of us do not ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it a rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts.”
  5. On the content of our lives – “We speak our words of praise in a world that is hellish; we sing our songs of victory in a world where things get messy; we live our joy among people who neither understand nor encourage us. But the content of our lives is God, not humanity.”
  6. On discipleship – “Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors.”
  7. On sowing the seeds of the Gospel – “The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it.”
  8. On the rightness of work – “Our work goes wrong when we lose touch with the God who works ‘his salvation in the midst of the earth.’ It goes wrong both when we work anxiously and when we don’t work at all, when we become frantic and compulsive in our work (Babel) and when we become indolent and lethargic in our work (Thessalonica). The foundational truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be all right. Work has dignity: there can be nothing degrading about work if God works. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works.”
  9. On the fear of the Lord – “To guard against all such blasphemous chumminess with the Almighty, the Bible talks of the fear of the Lord—not to scare us but to bring us to awesome attention before the overwhelming grandeur of God, to shut up our whining and chattering and stop our running and fidgeting so that we can really see him as he is and listen to him as he speaks his merciful, life-changing words of forgiveness.”
  10. On hope – “Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulation, of scurrying and worrying.”
  11. On temptation and trials – “When an ancient temptation or trial becomes a feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognize for what it is, for it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights.”
  12. On the past and the future – “If we define the nature of our lives by the mistake of the moment or the defeat of the hour or the boredom of the day, we will define it wrongly. We need roots in the past to give obedience ballast and breadth; we need a vision of the future to give obedience direction and goal. And they must be connected. There must be an organic unity between them.”
  13. On the God who sees and knows – “Everything we learn about God through Scripture and in Christ tells us that he knows what it is like to change a diaper for the thirteenth time in the day, to see a report over which we have worked so long and carefully gather dust on somebody’s desk for weeks and weeks, to find our teaching treated with scorn and indifference by children and youth, to discover that the integrity and excellence of our work has been overlooked and the shoddy duplicity of another’s rewarded with a promotion.”
  14. On the connection of our bodies and hearts – “You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; It is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms. Lift your arms in blessing; just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise. We are psychosomatic beings; body and spirit are intricately interrelated. Go through the motion of blessing God and your spirit will pick up the cue and follow along.”

Today we worship with the words from our older brother who long followed the Lord, in obedience.

[Postscript: Usually our Worship Wednesday time together includes a song to enjoy together. With so many beautiful words posted above, basking in them before the Lord is today’s worship. For our “worship in song” lovers, below you will see linked three songs – the first from my childhood in revival services with long calls to the altar, the second from my youth inspired by Keith Green, and the third a more contemporary standard from Chris Tomlin. Do you have a favorite song on obedience? Please post in Comments.]

YouTube Video – When We Walk With the Lord (Trust and Obey) w/ lyrics

YouTube Video – To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice – Keith Green

YouTube Video – I Will Follow – Chris Tomlin – w/ lyrics

How Eugene Peterson Has Blessed Christianity – and 20 of His Most Powerful Quotes – Debbie McDaniel

Jesus Gives Us Reasons to Obey – Steve Fuller – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Eugene H. Peterson

Q & A with a Filmmaker – Nathan Clarke on the Arts, Authenticity, and the Christian Faith

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-05-18 23:32:55Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.comPhoto Credit: Christianity Today

Nathan Clarke is a filmmaker with Fourth Line Films. He is known for his documentaries and honest story-telling through film (see Wrestling for Jesus). Most recently, Nathan and team at Fourth Line, premiered a lovely and moving film. Produced through support of Fuller Seminary, this 20-minute documentary, Bono and Eugene Peterson –  The Psalms, is available to watch on YouTube.

I had the privilege of attending a preview screening of this film (reviewed it on this blog). After the showing of the film, Corey Widmer facilitated a Q & A with Nathan Clarke and the audience. What follows is taken from my notes on the Q & A and reflects some of his thinking on the arts (how faith might color them and the cry for authenticity). Here are my takeaways.

On hoped-for impact of the film “A lot of people who would only know Bono will now know Eugene and The Message. Those who only knew Peterson from the Message will now be introduced to his other books.” [The Message is a version of the Bible translated into the contemporary English language (of 1993) by Eugene Peterson. Although it’s over 20 years old, it still makes for an easier read for anyone new to the Bible. Peterson’s bold action for that very purpose has come under criticism over the years, with some calling The Message a paraphrase, not a true translation. For Bono, this version made Scripture come alive for him.]

Sidebar: I didn’t know Peterson wrote other books until watching this film. Bono praises Peterson’s book Run with the Horses as “a powerful manual for me”. Besides The Message, there are over 30 books available to us written by Eugene Peterson.Blog - Eugene Peterson booksPhoto Credit: YouTube – Bono & Eugene Peterson

This revelation reminded me of a tiny section of my bookcase, right beside my work desk, that houses the best of my “old friends”. Oswald Chambers’ classic My Utmost for His Highest is only one of several great wisdom books under his authorship. Thanks to Nathan Clarke, I will look into Eugene Peterson’s other books.Blog - Oswald Chambers Books

On making art as a Christian – Nathan told the story of making the film Wrestling for Jesus. As he filmed this documentary about Christian wrestlers, one of them, in the course of the filming, began to have his life fall completely apart. Was his “wrestling for Jesus” over? Nathan and team incorporated that story in the film. When he submitted the film to a Christian film festival, it was rejected because it wasn’t “family-friendly”. “What about David? What about Solomon?”, Nathan lamented. [The Bible is full of messy real-life struggles. Do we just white-wash those? In the film with Eugene, Bono sees Christian song-writers as being “vulnerable, open, porous toward God”; he implores them to “write honest lyrics” – about your bad marriage and…about how frustrated you are with your government. I’m suspicious of Christians because of this lack of realism in art, in life, and in music.”]

On art and the church – Nathan went on to ask the question, “Do we think of artists as just accentuating the decoration of the church?” [echoing Bono’s declaration on the arts as “essential not decorative”]  Nathan then implored, “All my work is out there – is there a place for it in here [the church building/the church itself]?” When asked how we can create Christian communities where artists could thrive and create, Nathan offered some practical suggestions:

  • Patronage – We should buy their work.
  • Offer effective and helpful critique of art – in a way that honors the image of God in who they are and still say, when necessary, “That sucks”. […this coming only out of a place of honoring…emphasizing this, as a mom of an artist.]
  • Business people can help artists with the business side of their work. Helping them learn from failures and from success; helping them to market themselves, run a business, do taxes. This is also a form of patronage.
  • Give space for artists to talk about their art, practice their art, display their art in this place (the church building). [There are just a limited number of paid positions within a church (ex. worship leader). Still, there are artists in our churches that could have a place to express the gifts God has given them…these songwriters, musicians, writers, painters, and poets.]

This was so helpful, Nathan. Thank you!

On authenticity as artists who are also Christians – “If you look at God as artist, he didn’t make art a utilitarian thing (a means to an end). He expressed art as an end in itself”. Nathan talked about how affected he was by the film In Pursuit of Silence. He quoted Greg Hindy, a student/pilgrim, in the film:Blog - Nathan Clarke - Greg Hindy on Silence - newslookupPhoto Credit: New York Post

“Silence should be explored not explained”. Then Nathan applied that to art as being best “explored not explained”. Art is better served not with the end in mind but through illumination that comes in the making of the art (as he discovered in the filming of Wrestling For Jesus). Even as Christian artists try to explain what part God played in their work, how can we really know or compartmentalize that? [As much as we would hope art could have an impact on our culture, for instance, can we shape or manipulate the art toward “making that happen”? Is that right/honest/authentic?] Nathan responded with “Art that seeks to catalyze will never affect change, but good art catalyzes change.” He talked more about the role of the artist who is also Christian as a “faithful presence” (from James Hunter’s book To Change the World) – honoring God through his craft and serving others with it.Blog - nathan Clarke - faithful presence -azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

Christian artists, like others, walk a fine line here, and Nathan stated he felt that tension all the time. Filmmakers manipulate light, color, mood, materials, sequence… He aims to be as authentic as possible in the process – “We lie so we can tell the truth”.

__________________________________________________________________________

I would have kept the Q & A going even longer because of all that was stirring in my heart and mind. It was exhilarating both to see the film and to hear the process of it coming to fruition in the words of the filmmaker. I wish they had filmed the Q & A honestly (or maybe they did…who knows?). Anyway, there was one other question that struck me, given my son is a musician. Nathan was asked the difference in the craft – film vs. music. With film, he says there is a wrap. You may spend hours filming, weeks and months in production and then editing, but then it’s done. With musicians, they must get tired of singing those songs forever (I wonder, Bono…do you?) Still, says Nathan, “the filmmaker, poet, and painter all want to be rock stars.” That immediate feedback. After 15 months of working on this film, this evening, this screening, was the first time he experienced that feedback “hearing people laugh at the same time” at the funny parts.

With all the arts, there is a cost…but there is so much gain…for all of us.

Thanks again, Nathan, and Fourth Line Films.

Art and the Bible Quotes – Francis A. Schaeffer

In Pursuit of Silence – a Quiet Movie with Much to Say by Carl McColman

Faithful Presence – an Interview with James Davison Hunter by Christopher Benson

Bono and Eugene Peterson – The Psalms – a Film and a Friendship

Blog - The Psalms, Bono, Eugene Peterson - atu2blogPhoto Credit: atu2blog

Last night, in Richmond, Virginia, I had the opportunity to attend a preview screening of the film (premiering today on YouTube). The film is a 20-minute documentary highlighting the friendship between musician Bono of U2 and theologian Eugene Peterson. Blog - The Psalms - Bono & Eugene PetersonPhoto Credit: ThirdRVA

Their sweet and surprising friendship began when Bono contacted Peterson to express thanks for his translation of the Psalms.Blog - Psalms & Bono & Eugene PetersonPhoto Credit: Twitter

U2’s song 40 was inspired by Peterson’s translation of Psalm 40 (The Message: Psalms). During their 2015 Innocence + Experience Tour, the production included dropping pieces of paper, like confetti, onto the audience; these were excerpts from  Ulysses, Lord of the Flies, the Psalms, and Alice in Wonderland falling from the ceiling like confetti. (Wikipedia) Bono seems enthralled by both the societal relevance and the personal meaning of the Psalms in his life. He owes that to Eugene Peterson.

This documentary is beautiful in its simplicity, honesty, and mutual regard between Bono and Peterson. It’s a conversation between them, and our experience as audience is being brought close in by the filmmaker…as if the only thing missing was our cup of coffee at that table.

How the film was conceived came through the efforts of David Taylor, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. He was a past student of Eugene Peterson’s. He had some way to reach out to Bono (unclear that connection but I’m sure it will come out as the film becomes known and loved). Finally, Taylor also knew the work of Nathan Clarke’s Fourth Line Films. Somehow he pulled all these principals together and with the generous support of Fuller Seminary, this documentary was created.

You will love it!

There is such a God-honoring, person-honoring purity to this film and the conversation between Bono and Peterson. Two very different people with very different lives and from different parts of the world…and yet a sweet friendship developed because of the profound impact that the Psalms had…has on both their lives.Blog - Bono - christianexaminerPhoto Credit: Christian Examiner

Blog - Eugene Peterson - the MessagePhoto Credit: Twitter

Thank you, Fuller Seminary. Thank you, David Taylor. Thank you, Bono, Eugene Peterson, Nathan Clarke and Fourth Line Films. Thank You, God, for inspiring the writers of the Psalms – honest, real, passionate, hopeful.

Finally, I have a confession…keeping it real and all. I went to the preview of this film because of the Q & A with Nathan Clarke. I would see the film at some point but I wanted to meet the filmmaker. It was a fascinating and satisfying finish to our watching the film. I write about the Q & A here.

The film closes (forgive the spoiler) with Bono saying his goodbyes to Mr. & Mrs. Peterson and bounding up the rock steps from their lakeside home. As he was hurrying up the steps, Mrs. Peterson called out, “Don’t run!” He slowed up, to stay safe – as friends do for other friends. So perfect. So comfortable…and sweet.

Enjoy the film…and get to know Bono, Eugene…, dare I say it, God…in a whole different way.

Postscript: U2 sings Psalm 40 from The Message Bible:

Fourth Line Films

Eugene H. Peterson Quotes

More Eugene H. Peterson Quotes