Saturday, September 30, 2006

an impression from Talking Points

There is excellent content from all the talks and sessions of the Talking Points we had, Monday the 25th. One impression stood out to me from my time there.

I am impressed with the need of presenting the gospel in a way that converts the repentant and believing sinner, not only to Christ, but also to the church. I speak here, under the influence of Scot McKnight's talks, but not using Scot's words precisely -as far as I know.

There is rampant among believers, at least in our nation, and among many I've known, the notion that church is good, but not necessary for our life in Christ. I really think something of this deficiency in our gospel has infected most all of us to some extent. So I'm not excluded from this, especially as I look back on my fifty plus years of life. But back to the common problem. It is something like this notion: "We can do quite well without the church, or too much of it. We have our Bibles, good books, television and radio to pick up good ministries, friends we can get together with over coffee, everything and more- minus some of the "religious" trappings. We can carry on and get along quite well, thank you, apart from any formal commitment to a local church.

Scot points out, and I agree: This is a problem of "individualism". We see each us as free, willing persons, unto ourselves. This is the heart of how we see ourselves and each other from our inherited worldly perspective. But it lacks the way Scripture sees us: as Eikons of God, meant to live as individuals in community, through union with God in Christ. When we are converted, we're not only converted to Christ, but we're converted to his Body- the Church. And this conversion is to be lived out. Not only as a follower of Christ, but as a member of his Body in a local setting.

Our gospel focuses on the individual's dilemna before God. We are sinners who cannot cross the chasm between us and God, because of our sins. Christ, through the cross and resurrection, bridges that gap for us, so that we can cross over to God. Thus our sins are taken care of, we're converted, and we go from there. Different than when the Lord confronted Saul with the words after the blinding light on the road to Damascus: "Saul, Saul. Why are you persecuting me?" Immediately put before Saul, was not only a vision of Jesus, but words that identified the followers of the Way with Jesus. It is clear in Paul's writings that to be converted to Christ, means to be members of his Body, with necessary functions in edification and ministry together. There is no other life for us. It's either that, or it's something other than what the Word of Scripture tells us.

Why is it that so much of the New Testament seems so foreign to so many of us? (Now I'm preaching, or meddling?) I'm thinking of the "one anothers" in it. Because the gospel is presented as having to do with me and God. My relationship to God. And the rest is kind of like an add-on. Even if we consider it important- maybe as in good or helpful, it is not at the heart of it.

Yes, we individually must be forgiven of our sins through Christ. But inherent in that forgiveness is a life that is lived in communion with the community of Jesus. If we don't live in communion with our brethren: with our sisters and brothers, than we don't live in communion with Christ. And like Jesus, we're to reach out to bring others into our community of grace and forgiveness in Christ.

So the way of life in Jesus has to do, not only with how we relate as individuals to God. But also how we relate as individuals to each other. This is weakened when we think of the gospel in individualistic terms. Individualism has no place in the gospel (and therefore no place in life). It's about each of us, and all of us together- in our Lord, and in our Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Together living out this salvation and communion, in this world, and forever.

What do you think about this? Does it seem off track? Impractical? Unscriptural? If not, how can this gospel impact our lives now? Would there be any changes in our priorities and practices?

For a good book to help us think through this issue, read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together. Not long, but challenging. And helpful to see the importance of living in community in following Christ.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

reflections from Monday's Talking Points

Monday we had a great time at the Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and "Talking Points", on "What is the gospel?". It was definitely a highlight for me, in getting to see Scot McKnight again- and kind of meeting him again, since I really didn't stick around long enough to chat with him last time he was here.

My wife and I picked Scot up 7:25 in the morning, and we headed off to IHOP near Celebration Cinema. Had a great time with some Evangelical Covenant folks there, pastors and leaders. We were starting to get into theology when it was time to go. Scot remarked how he could have been there earlier for more time visiting.

Meanwhile I was struggling with personal anxiety over a health issue. I just didn't feel like myself. But in God allowing this, he is at work to help me trust him more. Don't ask about the issue. It's really not the point. But I hate it when I am under something like that. Just can't relax and be myself very well then. But learning some good things through it, and hopefully growing as well. Especially in seeking to better apply faith in God through thick and thin.

The sessions at Talking Points were tremendous. I'm sure glad we can download them (here), because I was having flashbacks to my seminary days there when I worked third shift, and all too often, was dozing off. Yes, if Jesus himself were speaking, I'm convinced- even while thoroughly enjoying it, I could nod off anytime. I got the hang of it better, into the afternoon; a Pepsi did help.

Each speaker was very good. I really enjoyed David Turner's fine Biblical theological talk on "The 'Gospel' According to Matthew: What is the gospel of the kingdom of God?" Good reflections on his background, similar to the backgrounds of many of us there, and Matthew's impact on his theology. I look forward to hearing that again. And Ruth Tucker's fine presentation on "The 'Gospel' in our world today: Contextualization or Confrontation?" She's one of a kind, and was very moving; her husband also had a nice part. I think what she spoke of is increasingly important for us, in our growing pluralistic society, and mission to the world.

Best of all, was Scot. His first talk, "The Individualistic 'Gospel': What are the weaknesses of an individualistic gospel?" was tremendous. Though I'd read something of it before from him, it was good to hear it anew, and get a little more light on it. This talk went excellently (ha) with his second speak (I was "high" on Pepsi by then): "The 'Gospel' of Embracing Grace: What are the implications of a gospel that embraces grace?" While echoing the heart of what he says in Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, he added some additional significant stuff, we need to reflect further on. Really good and challenging for our call in Christ, in the world today.

Then last, but not least of all, was the question and answer time, moderated very well by Professor Peter Osborn. He ended it, while we were all wanting more. Better though than when we've had more than enough, though I think a few of us would have still been around hours afterwards. All three were good here. But Scot was the one mostly looked to. Maybe the questions written in advance by individuals in the audience, were mostly directed to him. But that was a great cap, to a great time together.

One thing I noticed about Scot was his high energy. During the sessions, but between them, as well. He got around, visiting people. He is a one who thoroughly enjoys people and life, you can tell. The love of God in Christ, I see as very evident in him.

All in all it was a great time. If you ever get the chance to hear Scot do so. The folks at GRTS did a great job for us. Dr. Doug Fagerstrom, their president, exemplified what I think GRTS is all about, a humble yearning to be a true servant of Christ.

So that is my reflection. An impression from it is coming soon....

Monday, September 25, 2006

let's be in prayer for Bob Robinson and his family

A great video from Bob and from his family. Let's "hold" him and his family "up" in prayer in regard to all of this.

embracing grace 4: cracked Eikons

Along with the beauty and wonder of us Eikons, reflecting the image and glory of God in our original creation, and especially in the new creation in Christ, there is another equally important truth. We are cracked. Cracked Eikons.

In western theology this means we're "fallen" in the sense of loss (like "Humpty-Dumpty" who had the great fall, and could not be put back together again). The Eastern Orthodox theologian, Auxentios says, that it "was not a departure from an originally static and perfect nature; it was the interruption--the cessation of a priceless process." As Scot adds to that: "They were on their way and they got lost."

Scot recounts a story in his childhood, depicting his own crackedness in the throwing of snowballs at unsuspecting cars. We can all relate with stories from our own lives. That while there is much good, there is also something wrong at the core of who we are. Particularly in our relations to God, and to each other.

Of course this all started in the garden. This is when the "tohu va-bohu" (see Genesis 1:2: Hebrew; this means a mess) entered into the human race, and through that, into the world. The garden was gone. In its place would be a struggle, at the heart of which is disrupted relationships.

Sin, to be understood correctly is about violating relationships. Toward God, and toward other human beings. Jesus' teaching emphasizes this, as reflected in "the Jesus Creed". And in his instruction to the rich man. After naming the second part of the Ten Commandments- violations against other humans (the first being violations against God), Jesus adds the command from Leviticus: "and love your neighbor as yourself." Sin is not, at its heart law breaking. Certainly God is King. And humankind ought to obey their king. But more so, sin is relational. Our union with God is diminished, and obliterated. Our communion with each other is under strain, and involves struggle. As Scot puts it:
Union with God was weakened, communion with others was twisted, life became mortal, and the glory faded.
"Post-moderns" recognize this. They have a healthy scepticism about the goodness of humanity. There is more to it. Humanity is flawed. And their approach to life is measured in their view of politicians, religious leaders, and really everyone (themselves included).

Scot gives the interesting, and in some ways, inspiring story of Alexander Cruden, called "Alexander, the Corrector". He was a person who was devout towards God, but cracked in his relations to humans. He got in trouble, but in the midst of that worked for years in compiling the first complete concordance of the Bible. As well as working for prison reform and against the practice of putting those considered ill according to society, into "madhouses".

Sin disrupts relationships across the board, but it also disrupts God's good creation. The garden is indeed, gone. The problem is not only relational with personal responsibility. But it is also systemic; the system is wrong. In the words of Cornelius Plantinga:
Sin is the disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony.
God is for shalom and therefore against sin....Sin is culpable shalom-breaking.
In sum, shalom is God's design for creation and redemption; sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to their architect and builder.
Scot adds:
If Shalom is another term for the kingdom of God Jesus came to establish, then sin is anything that impedes the kingdom of God.
How do we view our sin and sinning? Do we see it as violating relationships? Or just as breaking a law (and getting caught and convicted)? How should this view of "cracked Eikons" help us? We conclude with Scot's words in his fine study guide of this book (there is also a helpful study guide to The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others):
Commit yourself to confessing your crackedness and to the plan of God to restore cracked Eikons.

(In this posting is a little more of my own interaction than usual, so hopefully there is not any misrepresentation of what Scot is saying in this chapter.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

let's pray...

...for fellow blogger Steve McCoy's mother, who has cancer. And, for Steve and the rest of her family and friends.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

the kingdom of God in Christ is political, but...

The kingdom of God, come, in Christ Jesus is political, but this doesn't mean we're now to take over, politically, the United States or any other nation, much less the world. Or that we're to be about our Father's business through political means.

I believe politics in the world is important. Don't get me wrong. But God's kingdom come (already, though not yet in its fullness) in Jesus, while political, since it concerns ALL of life, does not deal with life, as governments of this world do, and in some ways, must do.

I'm reminded of God's word to Joshua, as, in the angel of the LORD, Joshua is confronted by him. Joshua asks: "Are you for us, or for our enemies?" God's reply through this being: "Neither. But as Commander of the LORD's armies, I stand before you." (my paraphrase) Then Joshua falls down in reverence. And the work of God begins.

Remember, we march to the drum that the world cannot hear. It cannot join us. Except in Christ. Not either in the Democrat or Republican party. Nor through any other entity in this world. The victory of God in Christ is not a victory for either, or any of these.

Let's not forget it. Let's remember where our allegiance lies. And learn to live in that allegiance. As those in Jesus who have our feet on the ground, but whose orders are ultimately always from "God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15; TNIV)- Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2006

embracing grace 3: the story of the Eikon

Scot McKnight now helps us see the importance of looking at God to understand who we, as human beings, are. We are not Eikons of creation, but Eikons of God himself.

Before getting there, it should be noted that humans have a sense that something is amiss, something is terribly wrong. In that is a realism of life, but with it a sense of something far better. Leo Tolstoy was a clear example of this. What the issue is here is our eikonic status. What does it mean to be Eikons of God?

Who is God? What is at the heart of who he really is? Jonathan Edwards, considered America's greatest theologian, saw God in terms of intratrinitarian love. And a love that desired to share itself and pulsate throughout all God's creation.

In the thought of earlier theology, from Gregory of Nyssa based on the gospel of John, God is all about perichoresis. This is the teaching of Jesus, that he is in the Father, and the Father is in him. Speaking of the Trinity, it is about the interpenetrative movement and relationship of mutually indwelling love- of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And God created humans as his eikons, to share in this communion, through union with him.

This leads Scot to make a modification to his earlier definition of the gospel:
the gospel is the work of the triune, interpersonal God to restore Eikons to God and others into that divine communion, and to unleash it into the rest of the world.
What do we see in our world that reminds us of this perichoresis? What is at the heart of our existence and purpose? What is the antithesis of this, experienced by humankind at the Fall (Genesis 3)? What does God's restoration of us look like now? And what will it look like when God is "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15; also Revelation 21, 22; note Scot's reference to Dante's Divine Comedy)? Heavy theological questions. We do need to boil these down to where we live, as well as where all of us eikons live, throughout the earth.

embracing grace 2: the beginning of the gospel

In chapter two, Scot McKnight takes us to the beginning of the Bible:
The gospel begins at the Bible's beginning. If we fail to begin there, we will miss the gospel.
This beginning has to do with our identity as human beings. First, God creates the heavens and the earth. And only after he creates humankind, does he pronounce his creation "very good." (Genesis)

Humans are said to be created in the very image of God. The Greek word used to translate the Hebrew (in the Septuagint- LXX- the very first Bible translation, and used by the apostles) is eikon. An eikon reminds us of icons in Orthodox churches, or computer icons. They are like windows, that can lead the viewer into the reality which they represent.

Humans are not just individuals, to fend for ourselves as to our identity. Instead, we are Eikons of God, made to embrace God, ourselves, each other and the world. In response to God's embracing grace of us, in Christ, by the Spirit. And thus, we can "glorify God by enjoying him forever." And live in community for the good of each other and the earth. God's gifts to us of "freedom and relationships with others" are inherent to us being eikons. We freely relate to God, ourselves, each other and the world, as God relates to us and his creation.

Mister Fred Rogers, himself an ordained Presbyterian minister, impacted a generation of young people in helping them see that they are not dirt or scum. But very special. And as such are to live as those in their neighborhood- seeing others also, as very special.

The rampant individualism of our culture has left people out in the cold as to who or what they are. In isolation from the Story of God, they can only fend for themselves. But as C.S. Lewis wrote:
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
Then Scot McKnight adds: "The gospel begins right here."

How do you see yourself? How do you see others? Why are these considerations the beginning of understanding the gospel of God's embracing grace? And what would this embracing grace look like in your world? What changes may this involve?

(These postings are more or less interactive with Scot's chapters. And therefore do not necessarily represent precisely Scot's thoughts. Though my goal is mainly to represent his thoughts. We can do more interaction with them on comments.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

against prosperity message

Ben Witherington put up a great post (see the Time article, also) in response to the prosperity message/gospel that seems to be sweeping our country with signficant popularity. This prosperity teaching has a good dose of American thinking that is not in line with the truth of the gospel as it is in Jesus. Both Jesus and Paul, as well as the rest of the New Testament come from quite a different perspective. And my reading of Bonhoeffer, of late, has cast even more of a shadow on that thinking, for me, as well as bringing to light the word of truth, in this matter, in Scripture.

Thought this might be helpful to others, who, like myself, while never having bought into this propserity (or "health and wealth") gospel, still struggle with "worldly" thinking in regard to money, making money, and the like. It helps me better embrace the lot in life that I have. And want to get back to square one, in following Jesus, even if "poor", at least by the standards of "the American dream".

Thanks to Drew Moser, on his fine blog, rural praxis for calling my attention to the Time article.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Real Mary

From Scot McKnight:
This Christmas Hollywood is handing us an opportunity we simply have to seize: for the better part of at least 200 years most Protestants have ignored Mary as if she were an exotic aunt who shows up for the entire month of December to celebrate Christmas with us. With the production of The Nativity Story, we will all be confronted not only with a sketch of the events that led to the birth of Jesus — the movie is a traditional account of the birth of Jesus with no controversies — but also with the significance of Mary.
Two reviews of the upcoming book:
"[The] domesticated image of Mary, and the silenced Mary of Protestantism who only shows up quietly at Christmas, need to be dismissed as unhistorical. It is time for a Mary upgrade in the Evangelical world, and Scot McKnight has both the hardware and the software to deliver the goods. Highly recommended!”
-Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

"In all of the gospels, Mary may be the most overlooked character. She has become an unwitting dividing line between Catholics and Protestants while we have missed the remarkable story of her life. Scot McKnight peels back the layers of controversy to reveal this compelling woman in whom God found such great favor."
-Nancy Ortberg, columnist, Today's Christian Woman

Click here for:
The Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Why a book about the real Mary?
Chapter 2: "May it be" Woman of Faith

And click here for a special offer from Paraclete Press.

Here's the website of the film to be released December 1, The Nativity Story.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

embracing grace 1: performing the gospel

Scot McKnight describes and depicts the gospel as something to be done:
The gospel is more like a piece of music to be performed than a list of ideas to endorse.
Another key thought in this chapter:
A local church always performs the gospel it proclaims....because its performance is its proclamation.
This can be either good or bad.

Jesus' and Paul's teaching are "designed to transform life as it is lived in the here and now." Jesus makes that clear when he tell us that it is by their fruit, or works, that we know a person. Profession or proclamation must be backed by performance.

People today don't care what churches say. They want to see what they do. And what churches do, needs to conform to the real gospel. People want a real gospel for real people in the real world. Not easy or spectacular. But a story, as part of the Story, performed. To draw people closer to God, to each other, and for the good of the world (to slightly paraphrase one of Scot's sentences).

Patrick of Ireland, St. Patrick's grand story is told along with a couple of present day churches, which are performing the gospel, and seeking to do so in holistic ways.

What do you think of using the word perform, in thinking of how we are to live out the gospel? Do you find it postive or negative, and why? Also, what does performing the gospel look like to you? Is it individual-oriented, community-oriented, and how does it relate to those who really may not be tuned in?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

intro to "the gospel of embracing grace"

With Scot McKnight's book: Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, I'd like to interact one chapter at a time.

In the prologue Scot gives this definition of the gospel:
The gospel is the work of God to restore humans to union with God and communion with others, in the context of a community, for the good of others and the world.
Scot describes "the flow of grace":
God embraces you and me and
God embraces others and
God embraces the whole created order.


You and I embrace God back and
We embrace others and
We embrace the entire created order.
He summarizes:
...the gospel is about forgiveness, about justice, and about the community of faith. And it is about each of them, together.
This sets the groundwork for the book.

God's grace in Jesus is seen, in this picture, to embrace all. Christ's salvation is cosmic in its proportions (Colossians). All of God's good creation is included in his redemption. Those who refuse that redemption and good kingdom of God are judged in the end. All else is saved and united together in Christ (Ephesians).

We therefore, must not truncate the gospel, and make it something less than what it is. It must include the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus and his death and resurrection for us. It also must include justice, living according to the promise that all things will be made right by God through Jesus. This especially pertains to us humans, the broken Eikons (image-bearers) of God that we are. And also to the creation that awaits humanity's full redemption in Christ, so that it too may be set free from its own bondage to decay (Romans 8). And it concerns a community: the people of God in Jesus. This is a community of the kingdom of God come to earth in Jesus. And a partaker in the dynamic union and communion of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This salvation does bring us into that community, and as part of that- missionally, to bring this gospel of God's embracing grace, to the world.

As we go through Scot McKnight's book, we will focus in on these points closer. Though our thoughts on this blog will be only summations as well as trying to interact with the main point, or points of each chapter.

I invite participation. In questions. Thoughts you may have. Or perhaps in just reading. Both for those who have yet to read the book. And for those of us who have read it.

To begin here: What comes to your mind as to what the gospel is? Or, how would you define the gospel?

getting ourselves together

For various reasons, we probably have a sense of needing to "get ourselves together", when we've reached the end of a week into a weekend. Weekends are at least a good change of pace, though they can be packed with different kinds of pressure. I at least want some time away from pressure.

The work week takes its toll on us, and really takes a part of us. This is especially true for some. Especially for those of us working in jobs that, while we are blessed to work, really are not up our alley. Getting the job done, even when we have good relationships going on (which itself takes work) is part of what are the high points of such days, yet we go home spent, and by the end of the week we're glad for a break from it all.

That gets to the point of this post. How do we "get ourselves together"? I know as one in Jesus that we really do need God's help in all of this. How do you get yourself together after a challenging week? Of course we all have some "to-do" list, if only in our heads. The tyranny of things that need to be done. Though without the pressure of the expectations of the workaday world.

While we need to work at "attending" daily to Jesus, in our prayers, in "devotions", surely it is good when we magnify such times during weekends. It is all too easy to let that get buried in work at home, entertainment, nice getaways or just sheer doing nothing- all of which, of course, have their place. I like to do all of this in the context of family. I have a sense of at least needing to be with others, even if we're engaged in our own projects or past times. Yet spending time together.

And of course, there is the vital need for meeting with the community of Jesus. To work at the fellowhips and edification of the Body of Christ, of which we are a part.

Are there any thoughts out there on this anyone would like to share with us?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

a glorious day

Glad the day is over. The plate was full. But it was a glorious day. God was with us. Through thick and thin, in the challenges as well as the struggles. Emmanuel.

We need that sense together, that God is with us. How much he loves his children! How much he loves the world! To be in Jesus is to be in communion with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Being in that communion together as the people of God in Jesus. And living that out before the world.

We live now, as Christ's Body on earth, in the humiliation preceding the glory. Sharers together in his sufferings, that we might be sharers together in his glory. Seeing, in our weakness, his strength made perfect. That means it won't always look pretty, or spectacular. In fact, I take it that often it won't! But God will make it beautiful, with true greatness.

This looks like love; the love of God. What God teaches us and works in us by his Spirit. A love which is creative. But especially committed to each other. A love which doesn't stop when difficulties inevitably arise. Even relational struggles. But refuses to be moved out of love for Jesus. Keeping God's command to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another, as he has commanded us (1 John).

This means avoiding the bad, our oft propensity towards darkness through various sins, especially against others and therefore against God. Instead doing the good- including confessing our sins, and thus living as the light in the Lord, that we are.

Every day, a new day for this! Every day, Emmanuel, God-with-us! Amen.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

running on empty

I think too often in our lives we can be running on empty. Yes. We're still running. Maybe busy, doing this and that. Even trying to serve Christ. Yet, nevertheless, empty.

I have felt that way, as of late. Going back to work, back into the challenging grind of factory work, albeit for a Christian ministry. Back into the challenge of often fast pace, and all one meets in the real, work world.

What about it? What does one do, when they seem to be running on empty?

First, an inventory. Look at our life. What we've been doing. And not doing. What about sleep? How about our life in God? Our family life? The use of our time?

Next, I think we try to do what is right. Make adjustments we think should be made. Then wait. Yes wait.

Times of empty can be preparation for God's filling. When we realize our emptiness, that can open the door to his fullness. Yes, we're already full in Christ (Colossians). So we need to wait. Take care. Don't get overly worked up. This too shall pass. We will find him. Better, he will get through to us. And meet us. As we seek him. Amen.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Christians disagreeing in the blog world (and really, anywhere)

I have been blessed today, and in recent days, in seeing Christians in the blog world, talk through disagreements. In an agreeable spirit. At times disagreeing. But at other times coming to a better understanding of each other's postion -and maybe their own (my experience).

There are times to take a strong stand. This is when someone is denying the truth, and in essence in danger of denying the Truth himself. In fear and trembling, along with love and even with a spirit of tears (if not the reality), we need to gently, yet firmly warn such. But first of all really probe, so as to understand. So as to avoid any possible misunderstanding.

What about those Christian bloggers who blast those who don't see eye to eye with them on theology or on the culture war, or various other issues? I think we need to let them know that our blog or conversation, will not allow for that kind of exchange. Hard words of disagreeing are okay, if done in a way that is respectful. Out of that can come an exchange that could result in change, or better understanding. But otherwise, there is nothing left but the smoke from heat, not warmth and vision from light.

Back to the original point: I think listening to each other, and respecting positions, regardless of whether or not we have any agreement with them, or not- is important. And like Jesus. Susan Arnold and Allan Bevere have been a blessing to me, in talking through an issue about which they each deeply care about. We must be careful, that in our discussions, and even debates, that we keep the spirit of Jesus. In listening, speaking truth in love, with humility. Knowing that we haven't arrived. And willing to learn and concede when we are wrong, or can improve our understanding on something.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

one of those days

Today was one of those days. It seemed like nearly whatever might go wrong, did. There were a few highlights. Getting to visit some with an overly busy daughter. Purchasing a cheap copy of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship at Bakers. And last, and almost least, since it was so hard to watch, yet worth it- Deb and I watched World Trade Center.

I won't go into all the craziness that happened today. But in this case, I think, much more important than the adversities and disappointments, was my reaction to them. Not the best. The day started and was hit with difficulty. But ended with some good time reading and reflecting.

I realize anew and afesh, in the words of Rich Mullins: "Oh, we are not as strong, as we think we are." We may know that in our heads, but little appreciate it, until we get a fresh baptism in it.

Lord. I know you are there in my weakness and woe. Thank you that such days end up driving me to seek you, as I know afresh my deep and utter need of you. And also deepen my sense that it is not I, but you by whom I live, in this life of faith. Amen.

daily following Jesus

I like the Lukan version of the Jesus saying:
23 Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

Luke 9

This intimates to me that unless we're following the Lord daily, we're not following him at all. It must become engrained, as part of who we are, as what characterizes our lives.

Now Jesus is no longer present with us in the same way he was with the disciples. He is glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father, someday to return. However, we in Jesus are his Body. We remain here on earth. And by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is intimately with all of his own. Therefore we can continue to follow him, by the Spirit, in fellowship with his Body, living missionally as a light in him to the world.

But it must be daily. Whatever that might mean for you, or for me- it certainly does mean denying ourselves. In other words, no longer living for ourselves, or with ourselves at the center. But living as those who by faith have Christ living in them. Living with Jesus as the center of our focus and walk. And it means taking up our cross. Each of us has one. And with it, following Jesus. Which I see as simply losing our lives in this world, for Jesus and the gospel. That should be our passion. That, by the Spirit, should become our daily way of life.

This doesn't mean that we live by a set of hum-drum rules and regulations. Instead it is an adventure with God. Into the unexpected. Especially in blessing. And really living in our Father's world. Yet ready to face hardship and trials. And even die on our cross. Lord, help us to so follow you. Amen.

Friday, September 01, 2006

intimacy with God

(A friend and co-worker asked me to be among those, who would write for him- in a paragraph or two, something like, what intimacy with God means to you. This is to help him in a ministry at his church. So I thought I'd share this here.)

Of course that comes through Jesus Christ, and in fellowship with his Church.

I think it comes from obedience. If we don’t obey, than our faith is spurious. We seek to follow Christ, and express love for him by keeping his commands. I don’t mean to sound legalistic here. Anyone who knows me knows also that I make an effort to avoid that, and sometimes get carried away in doing so.

But the friendship we receive from God in Christ by the Holy Spirit in the communion of the Church, is one that, while having similarities with our friendships, also has stark differences. Look at the life of Jesus. Also look at people in Scripture like Job, Joseph (both of the OT and NT) and Mary, the mother of our Lord. And read “the Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), which tells us what our kingdom living is all about (as well as the rest of the gospels and the New Testament).

Intimacy with God means to begin to truly walk with him. It’s a path, by the Spirit, that shares in his sufferings and becomes like him in his death (Philippians). But that is the path on which we begin to see his glory. And know he is present with us, even when, at times, it seemed he wasn't.