Tuesday, February 28, 2006

truth-telling of our own story

In Scot McKnight's book, Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, he has some thoughts on "truth-telling" and on "learning to tell the truth of our own story". One is reminded (as Scot reminds us) of David's great psalm of confession (51) and of other passages, like 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (TNIV)

Embracing God's grace for us comes by embracing God's truth about ourselves. It's not pretty. Or impressive. But with the acknowledgement of what we know to be true of ourselves can come God's forgiveness, cleansing, healing and transforming. But to hide the truth about ourselves means to fail to embrace God's grace for us.

In a way, I find it amazing how getting into a book like Jeremiah (which I happen to be doing now) can become freeing. Jeremiah, telling the truth about God's impenitent (unrepentant) people, as well as the truth about himself. Not pretty reading, even though in good poetic form. But the truth, no less. Part of the necessary truth that can set us free.

Surely this needs to become, for us, a holy habit. Sin in our lives is ongoing (1 John 1:7-10). So the need for truth-telling about ourselves to ourselves, to God, and when needed to each other- and that, maybe more needed than we imagine (James 5:16) is all a part of really embracing God's grace for us in Jesus.

Father, I know I struggle often to have a good attitude and thankful heart. Let me expose myself completely to you. And let me not be ashamed, though in that broken nakedness, because I know you will clothe me with your amazing grace- your love, forgiveness and cleansing. Let me engage regularly in the holy habit of truth-telling to you, and when it would be helpful, to others. So as to embrace the grace you have for us in your Son. Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2006


"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes." (Charles Swindoll)

I have to acknowledge that one thing I struggle with nowdays at times, and maybe more or less all the time is attitude. I have a passion to teach, preach and pastor. But over the years I did not overcome a number of factors. Now that I've overcome many and in general all of them, what's left behind at times is an attitude. Though I cover it up well, most of the time, at times it can be near the surface, and reflected on me nonverbally in such a way that indicates I'd like people to see it so that I could share my heart and struggle with them, if they would listen.

But if Charles Swindoll is right, and I think he is, then I could have overcome much better than I have, up to this point. And I can do better with whatever days God has left for me on this earth. His words surely resonate biblically, and are encouraging us not to live under the circumstances, but in Jesus to rise above them (as A.W. Tozer said).

Perspective is important here. Seeing the stories of people in the Bible can help. Many of them lived with thoughts and dreams supposed to be from God, unfulfilled. Their stories are there, warts and all, along with God's goodness in seeing them through.

God, Let us live, not according to our take on anything, but more and more according to your take and your (good) will. Let us have the attitude of mind among ourselves that was lived out here on earth by your Son. Through your Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Change in Template

Today I will be working on changing the template to this blog, and will then restore the links. This is being done so that the reader can change the text size.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Psalm 138: Open Praise to the God Who Helps

Of David.

1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
before the "gods" I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.

3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.

4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,
when they hear what you have decreed.

5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great.

6 Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly,
but he takes notice of the proud from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.

8 The LORD will vindicate me;
your love, LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.


This "psalm of David", a royal psalm, helps us see how God is for us to keep us "more than conquerors" (Romans 8) even when "up against it". Not only is the psalmist surviving the trouble he's seen. He's thriving in it.

It is apparent that God's answer has come to his soul, but the psalmist has yet to see the full answer. But he is confident that God will keep his decree and complete what he has begun.

This confidence is expressed openly and boldly. And with songs of praise to God. The psalmist sensed that God had answered prayer and the fulfillment would come. And he continues to pray.

What about us? We will often find ourselves in the midst of trouble. "In this world you will have trouble," Jesus told his disciples. "But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." Through Jesus' overcoming, God can help us to overcome everything and be more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Father, Praise your holy name for your greatness and goodness to us. Expressed to us in your Son and brought to us by your Spirit. Let us exalt and be glad, for you will lift us up and help us to walk with you. In your victory. In this world. Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A global community, a holy nation

The Jesus community is a global community. We're a holy nation (1 Peter), spread throughout the entire earth. Yes, persecuted in some places, and poor in many, and often little understanding each other's situations, but nevertheless one holy nation.

This is our identity. We're Christians who happen to be American or French or Irish or Congolese or Chinese or Chilean or Turkish, etc., etc., etc.

How are we to be God's people where we are? And what's our responsibility to each other? These are two important questions. Add a third. Why are we scattered throughout the earth?

The scattering was promised by implication in Acts 1:8 by our Lord just before he ascended to heaven: "But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere--in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (NLT) And we see it beginning to unfold when persecuted believers from Jerusalem scatter and share the good news. And when people like Paul move out and see people come to Christ and churches planted.

As we read the New Testament along with the entire Bible, this thought of us being a global community and one holy nation has some important implications for us. And some matters for us to think through. In areas where we won't always agree. Though we can find much common ground and essentially work together in spite of such differences.

We are in this together. As one holy nation. As one global community. Scattered throughout the earth.

God, Help us as your light to shine for others wherever we are on this earth. And help us to be committed to each other, in all of our different faith expressions of the faith, but as one in you. Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The "charismatic" side

I believe in the "charismatic" side of spirituality. Because I find it in Scripture. 1 Corinthians 12-14 to be precise. Though also in Acts, Romans 12:6; Galatians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:18-20; Colossians 3:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 John 2:20,27; 4:1-3; Jude 20-23. There are perhaps other passages I could have included and some here that maybe should not be included. But I especially rest my case for the "charismatic" side today from 1 Corinthians 12-14. All Christians are said to have the charismata of the Spirit. Meaning grace bestowals, or what is translated "gifts".

While I believe that the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 (also Romans 12) are for Christ's body, the Church, today, I don't believe that those who are not sure or even deny such giftings for today, are therefore "outsiders". They may be outside as far as benefiting from such gifts, but they're certainly not outsiders as far as having charismata from the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6). I see all believers in Jesus Christ as "charismatic". That is, we all have the Spirit and giftings from the Spirit. Of course as the term is used today, some are "charismatic" (or "Pentecostal") and others are not.

This becomes tricky. I believe gifts such as prophesying, tongues, etc., are helpful for believers, especially in opening us up to the dynamic work of God in our midst and in our individual lives. But I have problems with calling churches or believers who receive of these gifts, or receive a "baptism of the Spirit", usually (or, often) accompanied with tongues- as "Spirit-filled" in contrast to the rest of churches and believers. They may very well be Spirit-filled, but so may other churches and believers who know nothing of these gifts in their midst and experience.

I understand that most evangelicals now are open to these gifts for today. But I think it is more of an exegetical openness, and of little practical relevance to them. I think on the one hand that is a shame. But on the other hand it is understandable, given the prominence of the health and wealth "gospel" more or less among many on the Pentecostal side. And word of faith teachings. Along with what seems often to be a hyper-emotionalism among so many of them. Little wonder even young believers, such as emergents, do not seem to have much interest in these gifts.

I plan to post some more on this in coming days. It is a subject I shy away from because it is so easily divisive. And it can appear to divide Christians into the "haves" and the "have-nots". Something that I don't believe is at all of the Spirit.

Are there any things any of you would like to share about this? As is always true on these posts, and maybe by nature especially on such a one as this one, the door is wide open. What do you think about this?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed has an interesting post on humility. I concur with what Scot is saying there.

Humility has been made to look like it has an obvious appearance and personality. Often like a self-deprecation that borders on self-hate. Or a false comparison of one's self with others; saying that others are better. Something obvious.

But surely humility is not that easily seen. Humility is a trait of those who simply accept who they are. And deeper humility understands more of the depths of one's self- good and bad, as well as understanding more and more the greatness and goodness of God.

Humility is able to see how one fits into the big picture. Not thinking too highly of where one fits nor thinking too low. Humility is quick to see the good and contribution of others.

Humility at its base has to do with identity. Self-identity. Knowing God. Respecting and appreciating others.

We get this identity from reading Scripture. From responding to Jesus' call on us. From seeking to follow Jesus in all of life as part of his community.

Humility accepts God's appraisal of us. Good and bad. We're made in his image; fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet we're fallen and apart from grace, sinners. And in grace, at times sinful.

But above all, by faith in Jesus we're God's children. A new creation. In his very family. Quite humbling indeed in the sense of awe and wonder. And we reach out to bring others in, whom God loves and are his children by creation.

God, Let us be humble. Let us humble ourselves when needed. And walk humbly in your grace and presence. Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 (TNIV)

As is true of all passages, this petition to God is best understood in its immediate context (Psalm 90, which we won't be doing here) and out from that in other contexts. The numbering of days seems to involve not just the quantity of them, but their quality as well. What we are doing with the time that we have. (see Marvin E. Tate, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100)

Time is part of creation that we exist in. The sun rising, the day, the sun setting, the night; our clocks, watches and calendars are a constant reminder to us of time. We know by experience that our time on earth can be cut short. People, for a number of reasons go "before their time". One of the number of healthy teachings in Ecclesiastes is the accepting of our mortality. That each day, each moment is a gift from God. And that only if the Lord wills, will we do this or that at any future time.

As I near my fiftieth birthday, I do think more about time. About the decades I've lived. And about the few decades that may be ahead. As well as increasingly coming to terms with my mortality.

I think I've learned to slow down. Don't try to beat time. Live in it. Use time for what's really important. They say "time is money." There surely is a proverbial wisdom in that (Proverbs itself seems to say the same). Time like everything else from God is a gift to be used. For loving God. And loving our neighbor as ourselves.

A first use of our time must be to work at our relationship with God and seek his renewal of our souls. That comes for me in Bible reading and simple prayers. When I let up on that as a kind of pattern, then all else suffers. And that helps me get back in line to see that this is where my true life and help is found.

A favorite use of time for me is to be with my little family. Around the supper table. And just being together, whatever we are doing. And I'm learning to appreciate time with others, as church, which is also important for the renewal of our souls. And wanting more time, God help me, with those around us in our neighborhoods, where we live.

Through my good team leader at work, Mike, God has taught me the importance of relationships over the work process itself. I'm still learning. Our time and the use we make of it is only as good as the relationships we foster (make, build and maintain) in it.

To see God's kingdom having come and coming in Jesus is to have a sense of urgency as to being involved in works of that kingdom. These works are valuable in and of themselves as expressions of love for God and love for our neighbor. Jesus talked about that with reference to harvest fields. Ripe and ready. But few workers. And the night coming when no one can work. Paul said that the time is short and that the gifts we use we must not become engrossed in, since this present existence is passing away. What lasts in God's kingdom in Jesus is what we need to be about.

Father, Thank you for the gift of time, for all the time you give us. Let us enjoy it as those who use it well. For the renewal of our souls before you. That we might love you back, and truly love our neighbor as ourselves. Amen.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Update on Bob Robinson

Here are some new and some encouraging developments on Bob's condition.

Letting Go

Jesus taught that those who lose their lives for him and the gospel will find them. While those who keep their lives in this world will lose them.

Letting go is not easy, especially when we're focusing on that. Our focus then is on what we're losing. For one thing, we may be losing control. We like at least a certain amount of control. We're willing to follow, except... Except what? We may sing, "I surrender all", yet really hold on to our lives in one way or another.

How can we let go of our lives? A key is surely to be doing so with our focus on what we're gaining. In one of Jesus' parables, a man finds treasure buried in a field, then sells all he has to buy that field so that he can secure that hidden treasure. In the same way, we find our real lives by letting go completely of our lives. We do so knowing that there is a rich treasure to be gained, no less.

Let us not forget that this involves nothing less than denying self (self-rule, self-anything), taking up our cross and following Jesus. In other words we identify our lives with his life. We can follow his way because he has already pioneered and made that way for us.

This act Jesus says is daily. Every day we must continue to let go. We can take back that stance and hold on to something in our lives. But when we do so we are no longer following Jesus, and we are losing out on the real treasure.

Lord. Let us follow you. Let us let go of our lives in the here and now. That we may find our true lives in you. Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Psalm 133: Blessed Unity

A song of ascents. Of David.

1 How good and pleasant it is
when God's people live together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron's beard,
down on the collar of his robe.

3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.


In the Jesus community unity is among what is essential. We see in this psalm that it is good and pleasant. That it is like the olive oil used in anointing Aaron to the priesthood that ran down on his beard and collar. And like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion. In other words, it is good, and a blessing.

For where this unity exists and is maintained among God's people, that is where God's blessing can be found. This unity is a part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It is a unity with the Trinity, the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And a unity with all who, like us, are in union with God. Thus, it is sacred in and of itself.

This psalm tells us that God blesses his people who live together in unity.
There's the rub. It's anything but easy to really be seeking to live in that harmony that comes by seeking unity together in our Christian gatherings and communities.

It can simply be a unity that is coerced and exclusive. Cults have that unity. And I'm afraid there are churches that do, as well. Or it can be a unity that is voluntary and inclusive of any who would become a part of it. The unity Jesus calls us to. Or it can be in "no man's land", just not a part of what a gathering or "community" (in this case, a poor one) is all about.

All too often Christians seem eager to divide and throw stones at those who are not in their camp. I see it on blogs. Some blogs that sadly, seem devoted to nothing more than doing that. Calvinists throwing stones at emergents. Some throwing stones at seemingly almost everyone.

As God's people we must eschew all of that and be different! Let's make this unity that is blessed by God a priority. Especially where we can see that it needs "shored up", in the difficult places. At home? At work. As church. That we may see others join us in this blessed unity.

Do you see this unity as important? What does it look like? What gets in the way of it? How can we as God's people better live together in this blessed unity?

Friday, February 17, 2006


Are we accessible? Certainly to one another. And to all people. We must be so, in loving our neighbor as ourself.

Accessibility means openness to help and be a friend. When one reads the gospel, one sees Jesus open to everyone: tax collectors and "sinners", as well as Pharisees and the like. Certainly with that comes vulnerability. If we're to be open with others, then that means an openness as to who we are. What we're all about. What makes us "tick".

How do I make myself accessible? Pray. We must not force ourselves on others. But we must give nonverbal and verbal communication to indicate that we are indeed accessible and open to be a friend and to help.

What's the first thing we do when they come? Listen. Listen. And listen some more. Pray while you're listening. Then share some. Not alot. Don't drown them in counsel. Give them something that, from interacting with them makes sense to them. Something that can help them answer the problem or question. If you don't have an answer don't force one. Just seek to be a help in whatever way you can.

To be accessible as those of the Jesus community, we must first be accessible to God. This comes by faith in Jesus. By confessing our sins. By praying the prayer that Jesus gave us ("Our Father..."). Then we seek to be accessible to those in the Jesus community. And those without.

Only to God are our lives completely open. To others we are open on various levels. But accessibility to others should include our whole selves, not just one part (like, our mind, thoughts, and not our resources like time or money).

Father, Let us have the goal of being accessible to all. Even to the ones who are hurtful towards us. To one and all. Let us show ourselves as truly your children. As we live before you as such. Amen.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Update on Bob Robinson

Here is more recent news on Bob's condition. Keep going to Jesus Creed for any possible new developments.

faith like a child- simplicity

Some time after I graduated from seminary I had the privilege of teaching children. When you're in school the book reading is heavy in volume and in content. Since there's so much to read, one hardly has the time to look up all the words one may not be sure how to define. And my reading and thinking were more abstract than concrete. But teaching the children in children's church forced me to think in very simple, concrete ways- thinking of simple words in telling and enacting stories that they could understand and relate to.

God was surely doing a work in some of those childrens' hearts to bring home to them, how Jesus loves them and wants to be their Savior, to save them because he died on the cross for their sins. I'm sure they couldn't understand it all. Of course it's only by faith that we understand, anyhow. And my efforts in speaking to them were surely not without fault in me not always making the teaching and story understandable and clear to them. But the effort made its mark on me.

To have faith like a child is to have a simple trust in God which nevertheless is profound. Jesus told his disciples that unless people repent and become like little children, they cannot enter the kingdom of God. One has to have the faith of a little child, Jesus said.

I appreciate good and deep thinkers. I am not averse to developing more of that in myself. One can be that, and still have a simple, profound faith. But I fear that all too often big words don't go together that well with a simple faith. People start thinking that it's what they know that makes the difference. But first, it is important who we know. That by faith we know God the Father and Jesus the Lord.

Also I find that Scripture itself, for the most part is profoundly simple and straightforward. Even in translations like the ESV or NKJV, which I don't consider to be the best translations of Scripture. And more clearly in better translations, like the TNIV, NLT, NCV and CEV.

There are some things that certainly are hard to understand in Scripture, as Peter says of Paul's writings. But by and large, our problem is not what we can't figure out, but what we know. This can also be seen in Jesus' teaching. Some hard teachings to be sure. And it took his disciples some time to really "get it". But still, plainly spoken. Even as one goes on from the milk, to the solid food of the Word, this does not mean a higher vocabulary will be required. It does involve increasingly more of an unfolding of what our life in Jesus means.

Faith like a child includes a simplicity which nevertheless can have depth and be profound. In fact often the most simple faith of a child can put us who are older in the faith to shame.

Father. We come to you today as your children. Let us have the faith that your children ought to have. Through your Son. Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Gospel

N.T. Wright helps us see a Jesus (I believe, the Jesus), from the gospels, who calls us to a repentance that is in terms of the kingdom of God coming in him.

This kingdom comes as kingdoms do. It has a claim. The whole world, no less. But it comes from the God who created the world. And in his Son, Jesus, God reconciles that world, the created order, to himself. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, as well as his ascension and return. And by the Spirit.

Since Jesus' resurrection, the new creation has begun. It is a creation, definitely in terms of restoring humans to God. Restoring humans to each other. Restoring humans to their good work on earth. And restoring humans to themselves, in the sense of becoming truly human in the one, most human, Jesus.

This gospel is a big gospel. Not just about me and God. Yes, that's important. But it can't stop there without damaging even that aspect. It's about all that God wants to redeem and bring back into harmony with himself and his plan. No less than all creation, reconciled to God in the death of his Son, Jesus.

Jesus laid the foundation and did the work, upon which we carry on, as the light of the world, the salt of the earth, a city on a hill- in him. We, as the Jesus community, are the new Israel, blessed by God to be a blessing in this world. In terms of our separate callings, in every sphere of life. Within our communal calling, to be the people of God among whom God's kingdom is making inroads, among us, and out from us into the world.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More on Bob Robinson

Here's a link for more recent news on Bob Robinson. Could be at a pivotal juncture now.

N.T. Wright

You will notice on my links I include the N.T. Wright page. I was introduced to N.T. Wright by a pastor, Daryl Underwood. And his book, The Challenge of Jesus, revolutionized my theological understanding. Particularly with reference to the gospel. Though I haven't read all he has written (I do want to), I have found Wright to be a great and most interesting education by himself. Add to that some of the controversy that swirls around his writings, particularly from Reformed circles, and one is in for a most interesting time.

Though I have not bought into all he thinks as I understand it, "hook, line and sinker", there has been, for me, a revolution in my thinking that has changed my view of Jesus and the gospels, and from that Paul (he does work directly on Paul; see new posts at Jesus Creed on that), as well as the gospel message itself. And when this revolution was waning in me, along came Scot McKnight by his blog, Jesus Creed , to renew and get me on track, in that direction.

I had the pleasure of meeting N.T. (Tom) Wright, when he gave lectures, with questions and answers, through the book of Romans, on a snowy Saturday a few years back, at Calvin College. I had no intention of getting in line to meet him at the end, since so many people were doing so. I thought he is surely tired (not to mention, more or less, the rest of us). But friends I came with did stand in line. So finally I went up and had the pleasure of just shaking his hand and telling him what I honestly thought of his writings. How they had wonderfully impacted me. The warmth and grace in our exchange was something I'll never forget.

Tomorrow, I'll share some thoughts as to how Tom Wright's writing has impacted my view of the gospel. I'm certainly a long ways from being any kind of N.T. Wright authority. But I have found much in his basic premises to be compelling. And helpful in seeing how this gospel is to impact us, and impact the world.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Perspective, in a certain sense, is everything. Without it we are lost in a lost world. We as humans are certainly limited in all things, including perspective. We don't merely look at things objectively, whatever that means. We look at them subjectively, i.e., according to our take on them, how they fit in our view of things.

The only One who sees all "objectively", i.e., what anything and all things are, and where anything and all things fit, is God. God sees how everything fits into the picture, i.e., his Story. It's important for us to quit trying to figure everything out. Instead we need to give everything over to the One who knows all. And can work in what is bad for good.

How do I fit in God's Story? A good question. But do we need to know the answer? Joseph did seem to have a clear answer as to why he was exiled by his brothers to Egypt, which would surely include all he went through in preparation for the task God had for him. But Job, as to his experience in losing his children surely could not say the same. Certainly Job had a new perspective on himself and God. But beyond that there surely hangs a kind of mystery over his life. Albeit the profound wisdom he was enable to impart to others which continues for us today in that book.

As humans we do need perspective. This comes to us, in God's Story, in Scripture. And as we open up Scripture, I think it comes to us in terms of identity. Identity of ourselves, of God, of others and of the world. Scripture, God's Story enables us to see the real world, with real people, encountering a real God. Not with easy, pat answers. But with a life-changing view, that accepts the limitations we have, and the God who alone authors, and knows where each and every one of us fits in his Story.

God. Help us, as we start a new week, to have a fresh perspective from you. Realizing that you alone know all things. We are limited. Let us accept that we can trust you always. Knowing that, in the midst of our not knowing. Amen.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bob Robinson: News

The latest news on Bob Robinson.

Proverbs 8:22-36: Wisdom's Shout Out (part two)

22 "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;

23 I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth,
when there were no springs abounding with water;

25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,

26 before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

30 Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,

31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in humankind.

32 "Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.

33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not disregard it.

34 Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.

35 For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the LORD.

36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death."


Last weekend we looked at the first part of Wisdom's shout out (Proverbs 8:1-21). Today we come to a well known passage which New Testament writers surely saw as having an analogy to Christ (Koptak).

Wisdom, personified as a woman, now declares that she was given birth by God. This surely refers to wisdom's place in God's work of and within creation. Wisdom is present with God during his creation of the world. While Koptak sees her simply as watching God create, it seems to me that she is a participant, since God's wisdom is attributed, in Scripture, to his works. (Note also 3:19-20)

Wisdom describes what she was present at. God's creation of the world is given with some detail, noting his touch- both art and science, if you will. Wisdom is overjoyed in the work of God's hands, both in God's whole world, and in humankind.

Then, based on that, Wisdom makes her appeal. Calling for those in her presence to listen, and declaring blessings for those who keep her ways, and listen to her, daily and persistently (doors and doorway could refer to Wisdom's lips opening to speak- Koptak).

Those who find her find life and favor from YHWH. But those who do not, harm themselves. Those who hate lady Wisdom, love death.

Father. Give us attentive ears to hear your wisdom. And open hearts to understand. And ready feet to walk in the way of wisdom. Thank you for your Son in whom is all of wisdom. Let us follow him. And find your life and favor. Amen.

Update on Bob Robinson

Still very serious, but a good sign. Here's the update.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Look At Yourself

This is a title to an old Uriah Heep album I used to have. But the thought for us as people of the Jesus community is important. We're to look at ourselves before we look at others. When doing so we ought to be accepting and kinder of others. Or at least be more understanding.

Over at Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed, there are some excellent postings and stimulating conversations -from all sides, on homosexuality and the church. To know the full extent of Scot's take on this issue and the conversation, one would need to take in all of the posts (under "Generous Orthodoxy"), but here is the latest.

The gay issue is one of the hot button issues among many evangelicals. And it is a serious issue for us all. Professing Christians differ in their interpretation of Scripture on this matter. Scot's blogging on it helps us consider the Biblical background and texts on this issue. In the end I do believe that homosexual sex is outside of God's will and design, and is sin.

If we look at ourselves honestly we may find ourselves in the midst of a struggle over a sin issue. Really, don't we all struggle in that area, even if in little matters (which, of course, can become "big" if we don't deal with it)?

The point here is, let's be real about ourselves before we rail on others. If we look and really begin to see ourselves, warts and all, then surely we'll look at others differently. As those who are also deeply loved by God. And who along with us, are ever welcome to come and seek his grace in his forgiving, cleansing, healing, restoring and transforming work.

Since God's grace embraces each of us, we ought in that grace to embrace everyone. Not everyone will receive that embrace. But it's telling to them of another world, our Father's world, that would include them and in the end will transform this world in Jesus.

So "look at yourself". Then after we deal with that in Jesus we'll be able to look at others and help them find the One who helped and helps us. Amen.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Seventeenth Century Emergents

Over at Heart Soul Mind Strength Susan Arnold has an interesting take, along with some good thoughts from Philip Jacob Spener.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Update on Bob Robinson: URGENT

Bob Robinson has taken a turn for the worse. Please be praying.

Jesus' Life For Us: Repentance

A powerful thought from Scot McKnight's book: The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others I have found very helpful in my life. In fact that entire book (and his newer book I find second to none in helping us think through the gospel: Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us) is potent. This book is revolutionary for our lives because it helps us get to the heart of what life is all about in what was the creed of Jesus.

Scot McKnight writes:
Theologians speak of Jesus' "active" and "passive" obedience. "Passive obedience" refers to Jesus' suffering for us; his "active" obedience is his perfect life before God. (p 238)

The chapter in this section I wish to refer to is entitled "In the Jordan with Jesus". I am not summarizing it, and would highly recommend that you read it and the book. I am simply pulling out what I believe to be truth from it which on the surface is missed in our Bible reading and even in our study, ordinarily. The aspect of Jesus' life for us that we'll take a look at now is his repentance for us.

When Jesus went to John the Baptizer in the Jordan to be baptized, John protested that he needed to be baptized by Jesus. Jesus certainly did not need to repent or be baptized by John for himself. He was sinless. But by this act he repented and was baptized for us. He was more than identifying himself with humankind in what he did that day. He was actually enabling us, by his coming death as well as his resurrection, and his asension after which he sent the promise of the Father, the Spirit, to truly repent.

As Scot points out in that chapter, our repentance, though sincere is weak. But Jesus' repentance for us enables our repentance to become strong as well as true. Jesus is for us not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but also for our living in his way and will. In Hebrews 12:2 Jesus is called "the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (TNIV). Note this in its context of Hebrews 11:1-12:3.

Because Jesus "repented" for us in the Jordan our repentance can become a joyful turning from sin to God. Of course repentance for us as God's people is ongoing. Nevertheless it can be powerful and joyous. Because we are carried along by the one who perfectly repented for us.

You may protest and think this is majoring on a minor. And is this really true anyhow? Yes, I think there are basics we need to be taught. Like "Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures." Or, by Jesus incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and by the coming of the Spirit we by this grace, through faith become the people of God. But we need to try to understand all we can from this Story of God. And I believe this teaching is missed by many of us.

Jesus. Thank you for your death and resurrection for us. And thank you for your life that you lived for us. Thank you for repenting only so our repentance can be real through your perfect and complete repentance. Let us follow you, all the way. By your mercy and grace. Amen.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pray for Bob Robinson

Bob Robinson, a fellow blogger and his family need our prayers. Bob had emergency heart surgery Friday night. Scot McKnight at "Jesus Creed" has more information.

Review of John Burke's No Perfect People Allowed: creating a come as you are culture in the church

This book is written from a pastor of Gateway Community Church of Austin, Texas, which multiplied as a new church exponentially in a few short years, largely by reaching those who would never darken the door of a traditional church.

The book is full of true stories from the church of how people's lives were reached and transformed. The emphasis was to get people in small groups that would accept them as they are and let them ask any questions. Truth is spoken, but only in a context of grace in the form of complete acceptance.

The premise is that only Jesus can transform the lives of people as they put their faith in him and commit themselves to follow him. Then Jesus by the Spirit and in the community begins to transform their lives as they respond to his working. This approach also does not push people to "make a decision" to want Jesus and what he did to apply to them (stated more than once as an understanding in the book of commital to Jesus). Recognized is the fact that most every conversion involves a process people undergo before they are ready to commit themselves to Christ.

A large proposition of this book is that the church community is meant to be a family to one and all who come. Only in this context can people begin to see and respond to the life changing love that is extended to them through this community in Jesus.

John Burke is also president of Emerging Leadership Initiative and has a strong call in the book for churches to find leaders who are gifted to plant churches. Their church and churches that are planted by them tithe 10% towards God's kingdom work in planting more like-minded churches. And leaders are systematically sought who could be the church planters and pastors of these churches.

Burke's vision is large. The book is challenging and inspiring. It does go against the grain of how churches often think and practice. Burke gives answers from Gateway's experience of what has helped people to come to faith. He is humble in acknowledging that they don't have all the answers nor is God leading all churches to do what they are doing. But he does believe that if more churches are not doing in their own God-led way what they are doing that the church in the United States will, in time go the way of Europe, evident in the steadily decreasing attendance to church of Americans each year.

A book that I believe could have an impact for good on every Christian and church.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I have to admit that football is my favorite sport. I thought as I would get older, the slower sport baseball would take over as my favorite. But from liking baseball, basketball and football equally as a boy growing up, I'd say football has clearly become my favorite.

Dr. Douglas Groothuis over at Culture Watch: Thoughts of a Constructive Curmudgeon has a very interesting take on football, and it's clearly thumbs down (including calling a boycott of the Super Bowl by Christians and churches).

I empathize with Dr. Groothuis' concern about the violence of the game. It can be a head ringer and I cringe along with others when there is a helmet to helmet hit. Dr. Groothuis sees this violent aspect of the game making it unredeemable and therefore a sport Christians should turn their backs on. He has some other arguments to try to show the superiority of baseball over football with some interesting comments attempting to refute him.

I find his arguments as is characteristic of him to be good. Why is it that so many of us Christians, especially men (and not a few women) love some hard hitting and good tackling? As well as a runner averting all of that on his way to the end zone? Is it a sin issue with us? Testosterone like my wife says? I don't know.

I can say I find it hard to get too excited about baseball with the drug issues and increasingly high salaries. Basketball has same salary issue. (Hockey is also violent and a mere penalty is slapped on those who want to slug it out.) And to attend a ballgame in any of the three sports in the big league level is too much moola for most any of us anymore.

I don't know what it is. It must be a cultural thing. Honestly I think football is a great game. I'd probably like it better if it was flag football. But it's a game I truly love. I think aside from the hitting it is simply fun to pass and catch a football, as well as try to run past defenders, or try to stop a runner.

Maybe there is hope for me. I used to really like boxing, but understanding the damage head injury can cause I really don't much care for it anymore. Maybe someday I'll come to see the light and repent and turn to baseball. Actually I'd like to like world football (soccer) over American football. But I guess I'm a person of my time and place.

And we minister to people who likewise are people of their time and place. Not a small number are lovers of football. Are Christians to see football as ungodly? And take a stand against it? First non-Christian football fans need to come to Jesus for salvation, to become his followers. Then maybe he will save them from that sport? Well so far he hasn't saved me from it.

And I have to admit I'll probably sooner than later be looking forward to the Buckeyes' season next autumn. And to keep rooting for the Steelers. Maybe a bit more sheephishly?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Proverbs 8:1-21: Wisdom's Shout Out (part one)

1 Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?

2 At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

3 beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:

4 "To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all humankind.

5 You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.

6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.

7 My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.

8 All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.

9 To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.

12 "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.

13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.

14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have insight, I have power.

15 By me kings reign
and rulers issue decrees that are just;

16 by me princes govern,
and nobles—all who rule on earth.

17 I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.

20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,

21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.

(For some good scholarly input and application to this passage and book, see Paul E. Koptak, The NIV Application Commentary: Proverbs, seminal with the scriptural text to my words here.)

Wisdom is personified as a lady who is calling out from a place where she can be heard by all. She invites her listeners to first pay attention to, consider, take in and integrate her words into their lives. Her words are themselves worthy. The wisdom and knowledge in them are worth more than worldly wealth. They are trustworthy and right.

Her (Wisdom's) words help us get on the right path. In doing so, we find that Wisdom is walking alongside with us. Notice that Wisdom is upfront and forthright about what she is saying. Unlike the wayward woman who, in Proverbs, stealthily manipulates and misleads her victims so that they go to their destruction, Wisdom speaks the truth, yes, in a winsome, persuasive manner. But nevertheless the truth. And Wisdom herself walks in that truth.

By her counsel those in authority rule. This counsel is applicable to us all. We are often responsible in some way to those we are teaching or supervising, or at least by our example, and when children come, certainly to them. And in our neighborhoods, to show the goodness of uprightness in our relationships to others. Wisdom is relational in her call and concern. It's not about some absract truth. It's all about our relationships with people, and how we live. This is clear in the passage and throughout the Bible.

Notice in Wisdom's summons that all have hope. She calls out to the simple and foolish. If they listen and begin to reconsider their ways, the beginning of wisdom in their lives can be the end of their foolish way of life. They learn to love wisdom and hate all that is opposed to it.

Wisdom's call means to choose her and her way over money and material wealth. That is clear and must be one's attitude always. At the same time it's not as if what is needed at least, and perhaps wealth besides, won't come. It's a wealth that, unlike that gained by fools- will last. With it one is to do good to others (as kings were to do, considered then to be "shepherds"; and as we see from Scripture- example, 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Galatians 6:9-10). And enjoying God's creation and his gifts as well.

Wisdom calls. Do we hear? Are we listening? If we think we are doing so already, has it made a difference in our lives? And are we continuing to listen daily?

Lord, Help us to hear you, in this call. Let us walk in the way of wisdom. Let us see the blessing, in the way of wisdom, to ourselves and to others. Amen.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Our View of God

In our family "devotions" we are going through Scot McKnight's book: The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. This evening we were reading about "Hosea's Open Secret: God is a Lover" (p 44).

There is surely nothing more important for us than our view of God (Tozer). How we see life, how we look at ourselves, how we view people are related to what kind of god we think God is.

Is God a wrathful god? Is he a god that is ever angry at sin? Is he a god whose anger could flare up any moment because of sin? This view of God could belong to those who selectively take passages out of the Old Testament that by themselves could cause one to misconstrue God in this way.

Yes. God does judge sin. And this judgment is his wrath against sin. But this is not the heart of who he is. Wrath properly understood involves a righteous jealousy which involves love. God is at heart a Lover.

Hosea (in the Old Testament) was a prophet whose message and life prescribed by God, made clear that he jealously loves his wayward, "adulterous" people. God's love, as Scot points out, is in terms of alluring or romancing his people. He wants their heart; he wants to win their love.

How does that view of God compare with your own view? And how does your view of God affect you? On his blog Jesus Creed, Scot, in his review of the book, Gracious Christianity: Living the Love We Profess (Baker, 2006) by Douglas Jacobsen and Rodney J. Sawatsky writes:
...what both believe is the final statement is that God is love. And, though they do not quote Augustine here, they could have: “views about God that encourage us to love others are more likely on target than those that cause us to hate others or to hold them in disdain” (32).
To get the best view of God we need to go back to the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. To begin to "see" Jesus is to begin to "see" God. Our human language can't plumb the depths of all that means. But one thing is for sure: clearly God is love and loves every human being he has made.

God is a god of love. He demonstrated that love by taking on himself in his Son the ultimate sacrifice of dying for everyone.

If we really begin to believe that, it will affect how we look at God, how we look at ourselves and how we look at others.

Thank you Father for your rich, never failing love to us in your Son Jesus. May we begin to receive and know that living, overflowing love in our lives. Flowing by your Spirit into our hearts and out from them into the hearts and lives of others. Amen.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. John 1 (TNIV)

Grace. Without that we're all sunk. Day after day. Moment after moment.

As humans we have ups and downs in our experience. And we often fail in our attitudes and actions. But God's grace in Jesus stays the same. It keeps on coming.

I would like to think of grace as what God is like and what he is all about. God so loved that he gave (John 3:16) and from that keeps giving. But we must be open to receiving that gift (John 1:12,13) and to keep on receiving from that. Each morning we can find God's grace anew (Lamentations 3:22-23).

My life is a disappointment that I have to deal with every day. But I find God's grace in Jesus to be there, fresh every day, because it just keeps on coming. And he gives us a newness that brings life and purpose into our being and doing, regardless of anything else.

So in Jesus, let's count on this grace. No matter what. His grace will be there for us. We only have to count on that, receive it, and keep receiving it, over and over again. Amen.