Tuesday, May 30, 2006

God knows what he is doing

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"

35 "Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?"

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

(Romans 11; TNIV)

There are times in our lives when we wonder what's up with our God. When things not only are not coming together, but seem to have fallen apart. Times when we're hardly thriving, but more like surviving (trying to).

This Romans passage is in view of the big picture of what God, in grace is doing in this world, through Christ. Good news. It is astonishing in its scope and wisdom for Paul. Beyond understanding. Yet believing that God is doing well, and knows what he is doing, even though Paul -and us, cannot really track with it.

In our lives we need that same kind of faith. God is at work in our lives also. In Jesus, we are his precious sons and daughters. In all things he works for our good and for his glory, to make us more like his Son, Jesus (Romans 8). But we need to hang on to this in faith, especially when we can make little or no sense out of our circumstances and lives.

God. You are great, and you are good. We trust that you know what you are doing in our lives. We know we can't track with you. But let us have the assurance that you know. And that, that is enough. Let us trust and rest in you. Together. In Jesus. By the Spirit. Amen.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Here in the United States it is Memorial Day. Many of us pause today, in remembering those in our military, who have given their lives for freedoms that we take for granted, here, everyday.

With reference to Scripture, I recently read a profound statement somewhere (I think, from Scot McKnight). Something like this (with my thought added): As we get older, as Christians, when reading Scripture it's not so much that we run into new insights not seen before. Though that does still happen, especially in that through experience and the Spirit's work, we're prepared to receive insights that before our hearts and minds were not ready to see/really understand or receive. It's much more that we are reminded, again and again, of truths vital to our life in God and in living that out, in this world.

Peter talks about reminding his readers of what they've heard before. So does John, who says he's not writing them a new truth, but one they had heard from the beginning. Though that truth becomes new in Jesus, and in us, as a light in this world.

Unfortunately we as Christians often approach Scripture with the attitude, "I already know this. Why should I keep going over what I know (and often, have memorized)?" So we can become slack in our Bible reading.

This is dangerous for us. The writer to the Hebrews warns the readers to be careful, lest they drift from the truth. And that they should have been teachers, but were in need to be taught over again, the beginning truths of God.

Scripture is living and from God. Not just a one time thing in coming from God. But a daily thing in the life of the Church and of us as individuals in the Jesus community. We need it, to ever be reminded and taught by God, of our life in him. So as to grow in him, as individuals and together.

God, Thank you for Scripture, which is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, in this dark world and in our darkness. Let us ever hold on to this light. Not only for our way, but for others to join us in your love and truth. In Jesus. Amen.

Friday, May 26, 2006

responding to rebuke

Proverbs talks about the wisdom of listening to a life-giving rebuke, and so coming to be at home with the wise. I remember Dallas Willard, in one of his books stating that in this day and age, rebuke or correction is not a viable option. When one is corrected today, they see their very person as being attacked. Willard is into philosophy, so he understands philosophical influences on people better than most of us.

But I think, somehow, there needs to be space to lovingly correct each other. I can hardly read the New Testament and think otherwise. We need to be open to receiving rebuke or correction. We should not be in a hurry to do this. And it should be done in much prayer.

Recently I received a life-giving rebuke. The person told me that it did not come from him in love, at the time. But it brought home to my mind and heart, a revelation about myself that I had not seen before. I found that in heeding that rebuke God was with me. No, I didn't feel that at first. I was doing what I believed I needed to do. But the Spirit's grace and confirmation of that, did follow. And I felt a true sense of repentance and grace at work, in my life.

Lord, Thank you for your continued working. Let us be a part of that, to, in grace, receive and give needed correction, in your love, and by your Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

resisting the powers

One of the beauties of blogging is one can share thoughts that may be developing, so that they are not entirely thought through. And can have some improving or even correcting that can come in this process both individually and in community. Thoughts by nature, even theologically, should be open to revision for improvement, as we try better to say (maybe for our time and place) what God has revealed to us in Jesus and in Scripture.

Resisting the powers is with reference to thinking through our relationship, as the Jesus community, to nations and governments, said to have a God-given calling and authority in the world (see Romans 13). Many Christians in our nation are prone to a more or less strong nationalism based on an idealistic view and notion of our (the United States) founding as a nation. While we see, in many places in the world, Christians "up against it", having to live out their faith under authorities who, contrary to God's calling to them, make Christianity illegal or push it to the fringes (and beyond) as to what is acceptable and good for their society.

In Scripture we note that Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world. That it is from another place not of this earth (John 18). But that his kingdom, by his Person and words and work, and by his people, is present in this world. Inherent in that, and gathered from the New Testament as well as early Christianity, is the proclamation that "Jesus is Lord". Which flew in the face of what was believed then in the empire: "Caesar is Lord."

Paul accepted and used his Roman citizenship. But, like Daniel, he refused to bow his knees to the Emperor. He continued to proclaim the kingdom of God in Jesus until the end of his days. Do note, in Daniel's case, that he even served as a government official. But part of Daniel's proclamation, in his day, was that the Most High God is King of kings and Lord of lords. So, he too, I say, resisted the powers, as God has called all of us, his people, to do.

We are to honor those in power, at least with reference to their office and calling from God. And in terms of whatever honor they deserve. We are to pay taxes to them for their work of governing. But we are to resist them, whenever they impose laws on us, that contradict "the Jesus creed": loving God with our whole being and doing, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Obeying this "creed", means sharing the message of the gospel, that message being Jesus himself: the salvation and kingdom that is found in him.

When we may have to resist them, we need, like Martin Luther King, Jr., to do so as those of another kingdom, not of this world. As followers of Jesus, who taught us to bless those who curse us, and to repay evil with good. Resisting the powers is a vanquishing of them, in the power of the Spirit, by the blood of Jesus, proclaiming him, and by our own testimony, and it may even mean martyrdom (Revelation 12).

But in our country, and in western democracies (or the like of them, elsewhere), how do we resist the powers? We ought to be thankful to God for the good of our countries and our government, and in a certain sense, we can be patriotic. But we must avoid being nationalistic, in the sense of seeing our identity as steeped in being American or German or whatever. This is so, because our identity is in Jesus and in the kingdom of God. We are a holy nation (1 Peter), scattered all over the word as the Jesus community. We think of ourselves as Christians who happen to be American, or German, or whatever. But our chief citizenship is in heaven, as Paul himself, a Roman citizen, said (Philippians).

Jesus, We bow to you as Lord. Let us live and proclaim you and your Father's kingdom. Give us strength to be your servants in this world in whatever sphere you call us to. And give us discernment and strength to resist the powers when their call usurps your lordship, blatantly or subtely. By your Spirit and in your love. Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I believe in creeds

Yes. I believe in creeds. Sunday morning on Speaking of Faith, there was a fascinating (to me) interview with the recently deceased Jaroslav Pelikan.

I was raised in and remain a part of the evangelical "low church" tradition. But one that increasingly does respect (at least in theory, even if not much in practice) traditions of our "high church" brothers and sisters.

Reciting the creeds, I think can be helpful. The Church, through the early centuries formulated creeds as expressing the heart of the faith of Christians in their place and time. They were hammered out with reference to heresies, such as the Gnostic and Arian heresies. Forms of these heresies, along with others the Church addressed, continue to arise. So these creeds continue to express the heart of our faith in a way that speaks against abberations claiming to represent the true faith. The formulation of the creeds was a part of the Church fulfilling our call to contend for the faith once for all entrusted to God's people (Jude).

Creeds are human attempts to express truth from Scripture on crucial matters, that matter as to salvation and orthodoxy (correct/right belief). Heresy, earlier from a New Testament Greek word simply meaning "schism" or what we might call today cliques (or maybe sects) among true believers, came to mean departures from the faith, so that the result is to no longer to be in the faith. Yet claiming to be Christian. In this sense Jews are not heretics. Whereas anyone or group denying Jesus' resurrection, while calling themselves Christian, would be classified heretical.

Here is the Nicence Creed, one of the early creeds of Christianity still believed in by Protestants, Anabaptists, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, to this day:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Pelikan's 2003 interview with Krista Tippet is fascinating in his profound understanding of the creeds and their place. Also, to learn of creeds continuing to be made (as in Africa), to express the same faith in a different place was also interesting.

God, Thank you for enabling your people to have discernment by the Spirit and Scripture, to see what is true, and thus distinguish it from the false. Let us be those who can express the heart of our faith, and above all, let us be those who live out that faith, in all of life. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, and is, and ever will be, world without end. Amen.

Friday, May 19, 2006

the devil

Jim Martin has some helpful thoughts to remind us that God does hear his children's prayers, even when it seems especially difficult to pray, and that God is distant.

I now embark on a dangerous subject. As C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters points out: On the one hand you don't want to deny the devil's existence. On the other hand, you also don't want to be seeing the devil and his brood as the fact and factor in life (my paraphrase of what he's getting at). Also, I need to read Walter Wink's work on the powers. It is important to avoid a dualism that would ultimately minimize to oblivion the activities of either one world or the other.

I do believe in the existence of personal entities, including the devil, who are out to oppose the purposes of God in Christ. And are ultimately antihuman as well as antichrist.

Scripture acknowledges a personal intelligence using deception to deter humanity from faith in God towards either a languishing apathetic attitude that misses God's promise to and in them, or a pride that would ultimately see God as unnecessary to them or the world (see Mark Biddle's excellent book, Missing the Mark: Sin And Its Consequences in Biblical Theology).

"Satan" means opposer and the "devil" means slanderer. There is a host of demons in league with Satan. This is what these entities do. They oppose God's good purposes for humankind and slander God to humans, humans to God, and humans to humans (and God's good creation, as well).

Paul references them in Ephesians 6:10-18 in his passage on spiritual warfare. He makes it plain that the wrestling there is not against humans, but against entities at work in the world of humanity.

Paul, in dealing with a sin issue in the church at Corinth, tells the church to be sure to practice restoration of the repentant party, indicating that he is not unaware of Satan's schemes.

In Job, we have a remarkable story. What goes on behind the earthly scenes is between God and Satan. The story on earth involves scenes and settings that are made up of the stuff of this good and fallen world. The problem of evil. And God's silence, hand and work, in all of this. Job, from what we read there, never gets wind of a devil or demons he would then, have to take into account and fight against. But clearly, that aspect is not hidden from us. James in looking back at it for us, says we should learn from the perseverance of Job when suffering, and the Lord's compassion and mercy in blessing him in the end (5:10-11)

In Jesus, we have the victory of God over all the powers of this world and of the spiritual world interacting with us. We need not fear them. But, just as we need to better understand our own fallen propensities, so we need to understand that there are entities, which would fan these propensities into flame against God and his good will. Note how Jesus puts to flight the devil in the wilderness, in the same way we can (Matthew 4:1-11).

So back to Jim Martin's posting: he doesn't mention the devil, and has no need to necessarily do so in that context. You can read whole books in the New Testament that may mention this entity once or a few times, but for the most part in their content do not. Again, we need to be careful not to pay overdue attention to him, as I'm in danger of doing, by blogging on this subject today. But neither do we want to fail to take this entity into account as we look at life, temptation and evil in this world. And what God has given us to resist and triumph over it.

Jesus, We thank you that you have won the victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. We who are in you are in that victory. Let us truly follow your example and leading, by the Spirit. Help us not to give the devil and his minions more than they are due, but let us take into account your revelation in Scripture concerning them. Keep us in your love and grace and power. Amen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

being likeable

In the last post, becoming like Jesus, I pointed out that as followers of Jesus, those of the Jesus community, there ought to be a certain sense in which we seek to be likeable to others. This has its limits, for Jesus promised his disciples that the world would hate them, and not receive their message, because the world hates Jesus. Not only so, but Jesus points out that there will be a time when "all" people will hate them (all here, likely is a hyperbole).

When I think of likeable in this context, I am thinking in terms of friendship. The Proverbs has a number of passages of friendship: 17:17; 18:24; 22:11; 27:6; 27:9. In Romans 5:7 we see a good person contrasted with a righteous person: "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die." (TNIV) I think of "good" here, with pictures of "the good Samaritan" (Luke 10), and above all, pictures from the gospels of Jesus.

There he is, eating and drinking with tax-collectors and sinners. Jesus stated what was said of him: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'" (Matthew 11:19; TNIV) Jesus was apparently liked by "the common crowd" who thronged to see and hear him (remember Zaccheus in the tree?).

There is more to this, of course. Jesus being liked did not translate into Jesus being followed. We know many of his disciples turned away from following him, in response to his hard sayings (John 6). And Jesus certainly had his enemies, especially among the leaders.

There is much to say on enemies, but to keep this post from being way too long I will mention a few things. Proverbs promises that when God takes pleasure in someone's way, that he will cause their enemies to live at peace with them. We are told to bless those who curse us. To pray for our enemies. Do good to them. On our side to do all we can to live at peace with everyone, doing what is right in everyone's eyes (Romans 12), to give food and drink to them, to not be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good. This is important, because we're always going to be bumping into people who don't like us.

The Church and Christian spirituality, especially as practiced in evangelical, fundamentalist circles, often (not always) seems to see little if any value in being liked. This needs to be a part of our relationships with each another in the Jesus community. That we would be friends as those whom our Lord calls his friends. This takes commitment and must be ongoing in being exemplified, because it won't be automatic (some we like, and some we don't, in any group). We can train ourselves to genuinely like others by finding the good in them, as well as any common ground.

From there, we seek to build friendships of liking and being liked, with those in the world. Like Jesus, we want to be the good person, not just the righteous person, who would lay down our lives for others.

Lord, Teach us what it means to follow you among each other, and among those who are not your followers. Let us love our neighbors as ourselves. Take away from within us, all that would unneccessarily repel others. Put within us the fragrance of your love and joy; your fragrance. That we might be real friends to others, and see them won to you. Amen.

Monday, May 15, 2006

becoming like Jesus

I like a Rich Mullins song that expresses that it's hard to be like Jesus (find here words to Hard from the album, a liturgy, a legacy & a ragamuffin band). I have to agree with (Saint) Benedict, that living out this faith and becoming, is best done together, in community, with other Jesus followers (I picked this up from Scot McKnight's new book, Praying With the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today). This is what Rich Mullins did with the Kid Brothers of St. Frank (an evangelical version of a Franciscan order).

Notice in Rich's lyrics of Hard, that he doesn't water down what becoming like Jesus means. It's not some Americanized Jesus. Who is on the side of the political left or the political right. Or on the side of America or any other nation. Nor is it a Jesus in the image of any other worldly power or idealogy. It is no less than the Jesus of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). The one who calls us together, to radical discipleship (see Dietrich Bonhoeffer), in turning the other cheek when slapped by an enemy, loving and praying for and doing good to our enemies, trusting in our Father's provision as we seek first his kingdom and righteousness in our lives, etc.

Becoming like Jesus involves a following which involves a focus on the goal. That goal is found in Jesus. It will be perfectly realized in God's kingdom to come. But it is to be pressed towards in the here and now. We're to press towards this mark, of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus (like Paul- Philippians 3). We're to take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus (Luke 9), becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3).

This can involve finding where we're in pain. Because where there's pain, there's usually some kind of "infection" or trouble. What is getting to us is usually an obstacle that can become an opportunity for growth towards Christ-likeness. This can be in the form of being hurt at other's (especially other believers) that we perceive are mistreating us. This is hard. But we must repent of our reactions to it, whether public or private. And we must set ourselves towards the goal of becoming like Jesus. In this case it means a love that is redemptive in its aim. That is willing, in love, to cover over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). That seeks to become likeable in a Jesus kind of way, rather than mired in our own kind of way (note Proverbs 16:7). But regardless, shows love to the end, as Jesus did to his disciples and even to Judas (John 13; Matthew 26).

It is important to remember that the picture of the kingdom to come is to be our goal now, even as it is already present among us, in Jesus. Sure, we won't realize that goal perfectly in this life. Someday we will love one another deeply from the heart in a complete and ever growing sense. But we must follow after, no less than this as our goal, now, if we're to be truly following after our Lord. And I believe, as Francis Schaeffer once said, that we can experience substantial (not perfect) righteousness, holiness and love in this life. (Though we can know the perfect love of God, which drives out all fear- 1 John 4).

Lord Jesus. Let us truly be your followers. Let us see you more and more, by faith. And be changed more and more by the Spirit into your image in all of our being and doing. Keep our eyes on you, and our steps to follow you, even after we've gone astray, we pray. Amen.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

happy Mother's Day!!!

To all of you mothers out there, "Happy Mother's Day"!

I thank God for my own mother who, in the midst of many difficulties in caring for her own mother who had MS, brought me into the world as her firstborn. She sacrificed greatly and daily for many years for me and for my two sisters. She spoke to me the gospel in word and song, over and over. So that between her and Billy Graham, the Spirit brought me to a saving trust in Jesus.

I thank God for my wife- Deb, who has remained steadfast in doing good and being strong in her faith, as well as having fun with our daughter Tiffany. She is a blessing, as a mother here. Her contribution was crucial for Tiffany's life in every way, great and "small".

Thanks to all the mothers out there. Have a blessed and special day!

Friday, May 12, 2006


I'm not one who cares to watch much television. My main programs are "Meet the Press", and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos". Last evening my wife and I were laughing to a favorite show of her's, "Keeping Up Appearances", and to a kind of overall likeable show to me, "Red Green". Lately Lukas McKnight posted a link to Lark News on a supposed draft of seminary graduates into pastorates. Which I found funny, though some at the Christian organization I work at did not; some did. That kind of humor is another topic by itself. Though to touch on my take of it, I think it's good when we as people, and as Christians, can laugh at ourselves.

Humor is a gift from God (note Ecclesiastes 3:4) that sometimes, we as Christians, can view as unsanctified. Too be sure, much of the humor that we experience, even in the best of shows does go over the top at times. And what may not seem wrong to one, may come across as wrong to another. Some "humor", to be sure, is sinful. To find what I would call good, pure, clean humor, is not easy. Too often one has to wade through a swamp of moral filth to get some tidbits of actual humor. One has to use their own discretion and make their own judgment as to what they're willing to view or take in, to enjoy some humor. This includes reading, as anyone can testify, who goes to the humor section at a store like "Barnes and Noble."

Humor can be enjoyed, and I think at times it is good to be carried away in it. But we must be able to get our feet back on the ground quickly, or in the midst of that. We are told in 1 Peter 4:7-8: "The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (TNIV) We don't want to lose that edge, by overindulging in any gift from God. In this case humor. At the same time, we do not want to deny any gift from God. And we can give and receive it as those, who are walking with Christ, by the Spirit. So that in one minute we can have a good laugh. And in the next minute, we can be interceding in prayer for another, or reading Scripture.

Lord, Help us in this matter of humor. Let us enjoy the gift you give to us as humans, of humor. A gift evident in some of your sayings to us. Let us be those who walk in reverence, yet with a light step, as your people, in this world. Amen.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Christians and the tradition of partisan politics

Things are heating up again, on the political scene, as this November's congressional elections draw closer- and for other reasons, for that matter.

I grew up in Ohio in a county predominantly of registered voters of one of the two big parties here (Dems and Repubs). We were with the majority in that county, and quite partisan (I won't say which party).

Now it's certainly not wrong to be either a Democrat or Republican, or even have a sense of being partisan to your party. We need Christians active to influence both parties, and politics in general in our country.

What I do have a problem with, though, is Christian's propensity to generally "rubber stamp" whatever their party officials' positions are, on any given issue. I've seen problems related to this on both sides. It comes with this view: Our side is right, the other side is always wrong. With that view, comes a questioning of the other side's integrity. At least of their intelligence, and sooner than later- it seems, their very character.

The rationale (?, or is it, excuse) given for cutting down, usually character-wise, people from the opposing party (I call that: slander- Titus 3:1-2), is that these are elected officials. Somehow that is supposed to mean they are no longer in the position of "authorities", since they, in a sense, represent the people who voted for them. In no way, though, does that relieve the Christian of acting like a Christian is called to act, in this or any other context. Nor does a democracy mean there are no longer authorities we are to acknowledge as to their position, or love as our neighbor.

Does that mean we can't question and criticize a politician? No. I think we'd all agree on that. A democracy is meant to promote citizens' views to be on the table and everything open to debate. But how do we do it? Do we do it as those who love the politician? Or as a typical American response of "trashing" the politician?

What about our response to those governments participating in genocide or injustices? Here we must pray for justice to be done. Such are completely out of step with God's calling to governing authorities. And Christians can speak the truth in love. Though in doing so, we need to be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves. And we are here to give the witness that there is one Lord: Jesus. And Caesar is not.

Father, Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be a light in this world. In the way we think and speak of others, particularly here, of governmental officials. Let us work in this world, as those who would bring in, wherever and to whomever we can, your kingdom in Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

identification in prayer- 2

It is important in praying to be able to identify, at least in a general way, with the one or ones we are praying for. As we looked at on the previous post.

It is also important in our praying to be able, and really, enabled, to identify with God and his purposes. This is not static, but dynamic, and in need of the Holy Spirit's work in us, as well as Scripture's ongoing impact by God, on us.

This is part of what it means to pray in Jesus' name. It doesn't merely mean tack on "in Jesus' name, Amen," at the end of our prayers, though we can do that. And it certainly includes meaning that we come to God on the basis of Jesus and his work for us. But it also means we come to God as those who are identified with Jesus in his ongoing work by the Spirit through his people in the world.

The prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Matthew 6:9-13) illustrates this two-fold identification we are to have, in our praying. In the first part, we identify with our Father and his will and purpose in the world. Then in the last part, we identify with our needs as humans in the Jesus community. The two parts do overlap in that God's kingdom is for the good of all humankind, and our needs being met are in relation to God's righteousness being sought by us. And this prayer certainly includes the desire of God that all would be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-7).

God, Let us be those who love your will, and desire it- more and more. Let us be enabled to pray, as those who want no less than your good kingdom to come and and be increasingly realized, in our lives and the lives of others. In Jesus. Amen.

Friday, May 05, 2006

identification in prayer

A key element in praying is to be able to identify with the person one is praying for. This begins in the general level that whoever we're praying for is human, as we are. Being human means being an eikon of God, or, made in his image. With that is the potential of becoming like Jesus, no less. Also being human involves being broken in our lostness from God's goal for us as humans. This is a lostness that is moral- in us being sinners. And with that come consequences because of the soul and systemic damage that sin brings with it, in its wake/path.

The Old Testament priests are said, in the New Testament book of Hebrews, to have been able to sympathize with the people they represented to God, since they too were beset with human weakness and sin. Jesus, unlike them, is holy, undefiled and separated from sinners. But like them, he too was/is completely human. He too, was tempted in all points like us, yet without sinning. So Jesus too, is able to empathize with us humans. To help us in our weakness, as we call to him. And because of his work for us, here on earth, he intercedes/prays for us, his brothers and sisters, now.

We are told in Scripture, as those in Jesus, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep- in the Jesus community. We are to identify ourselves especially with our brothers and sisters in Jesus. And also with the entire human race. We certainly see this with Jesus, who became like us as a human, and then took the sins of the world on himself in his sacrifice for humankind. He lived with his disciples and loved them to the end, and called Judas Iscariot "friend", to the end. And he wept over Jerusalem, since it refused God's kingdom coming- in him.

To really pray in interceding/petitioning God for another, it is good to have a sense, wrought in us, by the Spirit, through knowledge and experience, of an identification with the person we're praying for. So that we, by the Spirit, really love another, as we love ourselves. So that we have genuine empathy that is expressed with deep concern in prayer, and praise and thanksgiving when prayers are answered.

Jesus, Thank you for becoming one of us. Even taking on yourself our sin in the mystery of your redemptive work for us. Let us be those, who are like you, taking on ourselves the woes, including failures and sufferings of others. Draw us into this, for your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Jesus is at the center of God's revelation to humankind. This is especially clear in the gospel of John (see chapter 1). And consider the New Testament book of Hebrews. Then read the entire New Testament, and you'll find this to be true.

Jesus pointed to the Scriptures (our Old Testament) as bearing witness to him. The New Testament brings with it the story of God coming to its fitting end in Jesus. God becoming flesh/human is a key to God's revelation to humankind. God thus becomes what we are, so that we might become like him.

Jesus said that when he would be lifted up on the cross, he would draw all people to him (John 12). He was sent into the world to save sinners. To save us in our brokeness and incompleteness. To help us back to the purpose of God for us. To be completely human.

The Church is Jesus' body in the world. Unlike its head- Jesus- the Church is far from having it all together. But a key to finding Jesus is to find him in his body, the Church. One may have to look pretty hard, even in the confines of a local church or churches. But you'll find him, among his people (and at times- in spite of us), in spirit and truth.

Jesus came and shared the good news of God's kingdom, to set the world right. It's a good news for each one of us, and for no less than all of the world- which begins now. And someday it will completely take over. Now it begins to invade through Jesus' people, the Jesus community, spread throughout the world.

If you have trouble believing this, all I can say is, "Come and see." Amen.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

relationships over being right

In a true sense to put relationships as being opposite of being right- is wrong. Truth is important. Grace and truth are put together in Scripture (John), of course. Meaning that truth without grace, or grace without truth- is missing something vital. Truth is the basis for our understanding grace and relationships. Yet grace is the way we receive truth, as a gift from God. Therefore both are really inseparable in God's universe.

I am sorry to see relationships take a back seat to being "right". None of us is entirely "right". Does that mean we vacate truth and say truth doesn't matter? Of course not. Does that mean that there are no evil people in the world, or people who in word and deed lead others astray? Scripture makes it clear that some "Christian" teachers can be false. And therefore they and their teaching must be rejected.

What I'm getting at is how we in the Jesus community seem, often times, in the tenor of our spirituality, to value being right over being in good relationship with God and with our fellow human beings. Jesus didn't say that the first and great commandment and the second like it amount to being right in one's orthodoxy or even orthopraxy (practice of the faith). But that one is to love God with their entire being and doing- and one is to love their neighbor as themselves. True, mind is included in our loving God. But this is still talking about relationship.

If we're to be like Jesus, let us put first things first. First, our relationship with God. Second, but like it, and parallel to it, our relationship with other human beings. Jesus didn't care that others misunderstood or were taken back by his association with the tax collectors and sinners. Nor did Jesus draw back from loving even Judas to the end, calling him "friend" on the eve of his crucifixion.

A healthy Jesus community is characterized by love for one another. And love for the world of people. And this love expresses itself in deed and word. Pointing others to the God who is love. And who so loved the world that he gave his Son to save it.

Lord, Let us love one another, just as you have loved us. And let us do so to the end. And let us open ourselves up to loving others, even the unloveables. Let us be known, not for being "right", but for how much we love. Amen.

Monday, May 01, 2006

expanding our horizon

In my current reading of Mark E. Biddle's book: Missing the Mark: Sin and Its Consequences in Biblical Theology, I am reminded of the phrase "expanding your horizons". There have been a series of posts on Jesus Creed concerning this book. And I am finding it to be one of those rare books that is pushing me to look at foundational matters, in this case sin (and along with that Jesus' atoning work) in a broader, and more Biblical way (even if I may not see eye to eye on every jot and tittle of what Biddle says). In any case, this is an example of letting ourselves be pushed so as to expand our horizons.

I think a great way to expand our horizons is to read books. Books by Christians and nonChristians. I do this as a person of faith in Jesus. Therefore I will be reading Scripture and seeking to follow Jesus through this all. And doing so as part of the Jesus community. So I don't open myself up to expanding my horizons as a supposedly neutral person. There really is no such thing as neutrality and pure objectivity anyhow. We all have our experiences and beliefs (presuppositions) that influence how we see things and our response to anything.

I try to listen daily to NPR , mostly their news features/stories (and BBC, the same, at times), to try to better understand the world and other's perspectives and insights. One program on Sunday morning I'm trying to get into the habit of listening to (it starts 7 am here) is Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippet. One can download their programs. I hear Christians and people from worldwide religions on there and can find out, sometimes with remarkable clarity, what people believe and practice as their religion.

I think one of the best ways we can expand our horizon is to listen to others. While being friends. And share with them. As those learning together. And appreciating each other's thoughts and experience. Even when they may not be a person of faith in Jesus. We do have the good news of Jesus and God's kingdom. But we share it as fellow travelers with them. Not as those who are superior. Yet we do so as those who have faith. And because of that faith we seek to live and speak accordingly. But we do so as fellow human beings together.

How do you expand your horizons?

Father, help us to ever be growing in our appreciation of this world, your world. Let us listen and learn and play our part. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Even here and now. Amen.