Saturday, March 31, 2007
The problem comes from the Fall and humanity's descent away from the call of God to relationship. Due to sin, all our relationships are affected with a brokenness that makes full communion challenging at times, and for some all the time and maybe ever falling short now of the communion in relationship we're made for to be realized in Christ.
I think of difficulties in families, in churches, among Christians, in workplaces, neighborhoods, all over. We can develop a kind of friendship or fellowship with someone, or a longing to do so and have that broken or unrealized for numerous reasons. Part of the problem can lie in ourselves as much as we want to reach out in love to another. And other parts lie in all kinds of factors: misunderstanding, priorities, disagreements, carcicatures of one another or of ourselves. How many times when I've felt down have I reverted to calling myself a name or describing myself in a way that I would not wisely do in public.
Love grieves and waits. It waits above all for God's intervention. God, who has moved in love through his Son and by the Spirit, we know on that basis will continue to act on the grounds of what he has done and accomplished in Christ. So we wait, knowing he is faithful to change us first and to change another as he sees fit. We wait for restoration and reconciliation.
It doesn't matter whether or not we like someone. Someday we will. Why? Because God made all things good and in Christ he is remaking all things and all who are in Christ. We need to reach out at least in hope and prayer as to what God can do in ourselves and in that other who may or may not be alienated from God. Is he able to make all things new, including the longning for relationship with that other that is in our hearts? Yes, of course.
And I can grieve when I don't seem to care anymore about a broken relationship, that God would renew my hope and faltering steps to both pray and to reach out in love. After all we know in the end that it is God who can take us both in into the joy of the perichoretic dance of love that is at the heart of who he is, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This will ordinarily happen in humble human ways, but isn't that what God is all about? He became human so that we might become one together with him. And it is to begin now, grounded in our relationship to God in Christ.
Let's therefore not give up. Let's reach out in love, and especially in hope and prayer to God. Someday we'll fully be realizing the love and potential that relationship brings, together in our God. But through Christ that can begin now.
What thoughts or experience would you like to share concerning relationships that you struggle with, long to see or enjoy?
Friday, March 30, 2007
Not only can I fall prey to complaining about others, mainly to my wife, but I am sorely tempted to retaliate in the form of challenging perceived assaults against me or others. And these are both, easily, fueled by the fire of hell rather than by the Spirit of God.
When sorely tempted to retaliate we should keep quiet. Or when cursed we should bless. This all begins with the heart. Are our hearts being changed by faith? Is God by the Spirit and the Word in community helping us to more and more move in the new way of the Spirit while rejecting the old way of the flesh?
Sins of the tongue are not only deadly but they seem to be acceptable among Christians. To cast a slur on someone, to say those words in a knowing way between the two, to be remarking at the incompetence of others, etc., etc., etc. The strife of tongues. There are few things I hate worse than gossip and slander. And I feel like when someone else is being put down or belittled than I am being put down as well. Didn't Jesus identify with the entire human race and each individual human when he became flesh and then took the sins of the world on himself and died for those sins and sinners? And we are in him.
Sins of the tongue divide people. This is a preeminent result of the flesh (or "sinful nature" as TNIV/NIV/NLT often translate sarx). God wants the human tongue instead to bring restoration, reconciliation and healing into human relationships. We do this by listening well, by speaking less and by choosing our words, in love, carefully.
In the blog world this is true as well. Blogs that don't practice what we're to practice face to face fail at this point. But all too often sins of the tongue are okay and explained away, I'm afraid, by Christians. We don't really believe that the tongue is a fire.
What thoughts do you have on this?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The Church's view of Eucharist/communion/the Lord's Table has, like much of our understanding of the gospels and Scripture, been affected by worldviews and philosophy (not to say there exists an objective reading of Scripture, for all reading is inherently subjective). Medieval thinking (as N.T. Wright points out as well) (arguably, I say) impacted the Church's view of Eucharist. And reformations of it either still held on to a significant part of it (like the private, individual affair going on between the individual and God in what happens at "communion"), or were in part, reactionary, so as to lose some of the good that did exist before in Church practice.
I like what Yoder is getting at and how he sought to recover what I think is a good and proper Scriptural view of the sacramental aspect of communion. I especially like his emphasis on the truth that we're to be doing this together. We see this clearly from the start when Jesus had the last supper with his disciples and told them to do this in remembrance of him. They were eating together. This was practiced clearly as a meal in the early church. We see it was abused at Corinth, but it surely was not to be abandoned as meal, as the church has done.
It is something we do together, a communion (koinonia; 1 Corinthians 10:16), participation and sharing in the blood and body of Christ. We are in this together and together we're one body (1 Corinthians 10:17).
As Susan points out, we need to make communion something we do, not only in the same room but together. And a meal would be especially good, being more in accord with Scripture and facilitating the communion that God wants his people to experience with each other in Christ.
In and from that we live as Christ's Body in the world, each one doing their part as one in Christ to bring his redemptive work of love that has made us one in him, to a world in need of him and of this love.
I barely touch on this. From Susan's posts or from here, what thoughts come to mind that you'd like to share with us? Or questions and other perspectives?
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I've been surprised too, at the liturgical language for baptism found in the Reformation such as in Lutheran and Calvinist liturgy, making it the means by which one comes into regeneration by the Spirit. It is more sacramental in their view, and I think there is something true in this as I consider passages on it. Faith ends up being critical for the person/infant who is baptized. And this is true in the Roman Catholic (and I'm sure Eastern Orthodox) practice as well.
But this presents just a backdrop for the point of this post. I believe we're called to live out the reality of our baptism. Romans 6 I take, along with most of the church past and present, to refer to water baptism. The rich symbollism there speaks of a reality we enter into in Christ by faith. When baptized we're baptized into Christ which means being baptized into his death and resurrection. Our old self ("in Adam", not in this passage) is taken under the water (whether by immersion, pouring or sprinkling) and a new self ("in Christ") emerges. It is not enough for us just to get help. We need an entirely new "us". And this is true in Christ and through baptism (some take baptism in this passage to refer to Spirit baptism).
This passage, however, makes it plain that we must live out this dynamic. In Christ we can. But I think it is clear that this is not automatic. On the basis of this baptism into Christ's death and resurrection we're to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ. And because of that, we're to refuse sin's reign in our lives, no longer offering ourselves in slavery to sin and unrighteousness which results in death. But we're to offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. And offer every part of ourselves as slaves to righteousness and obedience. This results in holiness and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore, while I need to keep working through the dynamics given us in Scripture, and this will sometimes include a real struggle in a sin area, I need to do this from the standpoint of the new identity I have in Christ and in his death and resurrection. We are a resurrection people here and now. And this is to directly impact how we live. It is a new you in Christ that is alive. We need to reckon on that and live on the basis of that, by faith.
Sanctification/holiness begins at conversion. And it continues on as a process, we being conformed more and more into the image of Christ. But we need to do so on this basis we find in Romans 6, and seek to live out the truth of our baptism.
What would you like to add to this? Or do you have any problems with this, as expressed here?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Paul's prayer was for Christians to know this love of Christ which is beyond human knowledge, that we would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. And what kind of love is that except a Trinitarian love?
Jesus prayed that the love he experienced with the Father would be part of all believers' experience. This is a self-emptying love of the Father to the Son and of the Son to the Father, by/in the Spirit. Or one could say, from the Father to the Son to the Spirit to the Son to the Father in a never ending interconnectedness. It is a communion of interactive, interpenetrating love, the Father in the Son in the Spirit. And this communion God wants to share with humans!
This love than, is relational, obviously. And it is inclusive, as we see from God's call in Scripture and Jesus's ministry. It is engaging, in quiet as well as in not so quiet ways. It moves us in love to act. And it makes us unhappy with the kind of "love" and brokenness in relationships we see in this life, even among us Christians. If we're in Christ we begin to experience this Trinitarian love now. And we're called to carry that love in Christ's redemptive mission by the Spirit to all others, so they too can join in this fellowship of love.
There is so much more in this. What do you see that can help us understand better and more enter into this Trinitarian love that is ours in Christ?
(Terminology and concepts I have drawn from others, and couldn't find a source in time, this morning. How I have written this out may not be in harmony with any one of them, though I tried to be since what I gather of this teaching of Trinitarian love, I believe to be true according to Scripture.)
Monday, March 26, 2007
One needs to start at the beginning and work their way to the end. And like the monks and the Hebrews of old, we need to mouth these words to ourselves and God (even if in our minds), pondering their meaning as well as lifting them as prayer to God.
If we don't learn to be sensitive to our sin both in recognizing it, as well as in agreeing with God about it, then we need to ask God to give us that sensitivity. To be aware of our sins will help us to become aware of our salvation and of our Savior and Lord God, as we learn more and more to respond to this awareness in the ways David writes for us in this psalm.
To pick out one line as a favorite is like picking out one photo among the photos of wonderful scenes of creation. But one part I especially find compelling within the whole are these lines:
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;This is part of the heart that God wants from us his people. One that is not beating one's breast or back over and over, but one that is rightfully broken before God because of sin in one's life, be they "big" or "little" sins, accompanied by deep sorrow and repentance. This is the sacrifice that will make all other sacrifices acceptable and even delightful to God.
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
I find this more important for me as I go on through the years of seeking to follow Christ. What about you? What thoughts do you draw from this? Or thoughts you would share with us?
Sunday, March 25, 2007
(from The Book of Common Prayer)
Saturday, March 24, 2007
However, one important key to avoid misunderstanding is to acknowledge no understanding at all, oftentimes, or at least never a perfect understanding. We need to work at being open, open to what God may be doing in our lives, or what he may be trying to convey to us. And we need to be open to God's work in other people as well as in ourselves.
This doesn't mean being naive, or being unwilling to try to help someone without 100% certainty that what we say is what they need. There's a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3), and we need to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1). A good way to speak is to ask questions in seeking to help someone else who is troubled.
Being open means to not think we understand precisely what is going on in another's life, or in our own. Just yesterday I felt major condemnation/guilt about something. I realized I was tired, got home early (we have four hours left of a 40 hour work week right now on Fridays) and I snoozed. I woke up refreshed and found the air of condemnation had lifted.
We need to look to God always, realizing that though we may increasingly understand his ways in Jesus, we don't always understand well how those ways are being worked out in our lives or in the lives of those close to us. This often involves listening to trusted friends about concerns we may have with our children.
What do you think being open to God, or being open in general includes? It certainly includes much more than I've mentioned on this post.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Being like young children among them implies a kind of innocence and acceptance of another, taking them at face value and wanting to be their friend. This certainly involves listening and taking the other person seriously, really getting to know them as they are. And it would mean playing with them. It certainly does not mean childishness in the sense of being selfish and wanting my own way. I think too it means an awe and wonder with life. Young children are still fascinated with new discoveries and in our Father's world there are still plenty out there for us to find.
Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. He didn't come to them with a long face and start a diatribe about how they were all going to hell in a handbasket. Instead he himself, I think, was like a young child among them, enjoying life and food and drink with them as he opened up his Father's world and kingdom to them. We're to follow his way, being like him in this. This is to become simply a part of who we are.
What thoughts come to your mind about this? How does being like young children relate to being in mission in this world?
Thursday, March 22, 2007
We need to learn more and more to think Biblically. When I say that, I don't mean only picking apart one verse. I also mean seeing that verse in light of the entire story of God found in Genesis through Revelation. We must understand the beginning of this story to appreciate the ending. And we must see how the story gets there as well as our place in the story.
Thinking Biblically involves finding our identity in the Story. Yesterday at Jesus Creed there was an interesting post and discussion on who "clergy" and "laypeople" identify with when they read Scripture, particularly in the gospels. In this Story we can find our own story and learn to understand our identity, who we are and what we can become in Christ.
I think it's important in reading Scripture to seek to identify with the people in the Story such as Peter and John, Jesus's mother Mary, Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler, etc., etc. Though we may not be able to step in their shoes, so to speak, we surely can see something of ourselves in their words and actions. We're capable of participating in the great goodness of God, but we're also capable of participating in the great evil of fallen humanity. And in Christ we should be more and more seeking to identify with him. Remember, Christ himself identified fully with us and because of that can fully empathize with our struggles against sin and with all our humanity.
If we're not thinking Biblically then by default our thinking is worldly in the sense of a fallen world. And how we think directly impacts how we live.
Let's ask God to help us find our place in is great ongoing Story. And let's open our Bibles daily to that end, as we continue on in the experience of our lives.
Any thoughts here? How do you work at thinking Biblically, or what might this mean for you?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
So what do we do about it? Scripture is loaded with help here, and we can begin with the Lord's Prayer (or, the Our Father Prayer). We're to refuse to judge and condemn others, and we're to forgive each other. So this must begin with us, personally, and out from that become an ongoing practice of community.
Sin does need to be dealt with gently and humbly in community, by those who live by the Spirit. It shouldn't be swept under the rug, or ignored. It needs to be addressed, and when necessary in any case, the work ongoing.
In all of this in our community life as God's people, we need to work at thinking the best of others. For some of us this may not be so hard, at least in reference to most people. When we're around each other very long, we often begin to see the good, the bad and the ugly that exists in each other's lives. We see that our ideal of who the other is, is simply not the entire story. Of course the older we get the more this should not surprise or move us, unless we never look into the mirror of our own lives.
We need to think the best of others. This seems to be in rhyme with the love spelled out for us in 1 Corinthians 13 that is to more and more characterize our lives. And this should be based, not on our confidence in another person so much- at least not as the basis of that confidence- but in our faith in God and his faithfulness and goodness to us in Christ. God is at work; he's on our side. He's there to help us in making us holy and good.
God is bigger than the things we don't like about each other. We should take those to him in prayer. And seek to be sensitive to our own faults and shortcomings.
I feel like I've left plenty unsaid, and that more should be added to this. What would you like to add for us, here? Or any thoughts.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
We're not simply here to "get saved" then wait for Jesus to come and make everything right and new. That's not enough. We're here to bring something of this rightness and newness in Christ from the incoming kingdom of God, here and now. Do we really believe this? And if not, why not?
A couple of key passages in the prophets giving us a vision of God's future can help us understand both what we need to be living out as God's people in community, and what we need to be speaking prophetically to the world.
The first one is from Isaiah 11:
They will neither harm nor destroyThe second is from Micah 4:
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
They will beat their swords into plowsharesI believe this is fulfilled completely in the age to come. But in the present there must be some fulfillment as well. Christ didn't come only to redeem individual "souls" and then burn up the earth afterwards, in judgment. But in his death, God has reconciled all things to himself in heaven and on earth. This means an ongoing stewardship that by creation, in spite of the fall and by redemption, has meaning that begins now and will never end. Think of one recent example. The work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a work that was grounded in the gospel of the kingdom of God in Christ. And it impacted not only a generation, but it impacts us today, as we see the truth better lived out, that we are all God's children by creation and potentially his born from above ones by the new creation in Jesus.
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Now to war. We must live out the vision of the future we find in Scripture. This looks like living in peace in our families and faith communities, as well as in our workplaces and neighborhoods. It may involve turning the other cheek, going the second mile, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who persecute us, showing them the love of God in Christ Jesus.
If we believe that we're not just of the present age, but also of the age to come, then we need to seek to live this out: like those who are part of the ushering in of the new era. Yes, that era like a wedding and the marriage afterwards will take over completely when Christ returns. But we as Christ's Body are those who not only announce this new age, but are part of it, already, here and now. And we're to be seeking to bring others in and influence this world towards that vision from God.
This will involve speaking prophetically as we can, to the powers, in light of God's kingdom come in Jesus. But above all, always, really living differently as those whose Lord is Jesus, and no other.
What thoughts do you have on this you would like to share or challenge us with?
Christians and war (part one)
Christians and war (part two)
Christians and war (part three)
Christians and war (part four)
Christians and war (part five)
Christians and war (part six)
Christians and war (part seven)
Monday, March 19, 2007
He will not quarrel or cry out;I must beware in my zeal for what I think is true, to keep my voice down. I am much better than I used to be at this. A large reason for that is God making me humble in the sense of knowing myself and my own struggles and shortcomings. Which is, of course what humility is: simply realizing and acknowledging the truth about oneself.
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
Jesus didn't have to shout to get his point across, or to have authority from God. It was there already for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear. Jesus didn't seem to have the outward charisma that we so often look for in Christian leaders. But he acted and spoke from God. And the beauty of his life was seen in his own, remarkable to say, humility. He was fully human as much as any of us (and in a real, true sense, more). And he lived in dependence on the Father, in love obeying to the end, even unto the death of the cross.
I have been blessed on Sunday mornings in recent weeks to sit under the teaching of Ken Soper. He has much that is very thoughtful and thought provoking, to say, and leads us to think things through together, a most enriching experience.
But I guess what has especially stood out for me is how soft-spoken he has been. It has been good for me to sit under that, because at times I can be rather fiery and come across, I'm afraid, in a way that does not always facilitate the work of God done in hearts by the Spirit.
Being soft-spoken. At least that may hold us back from expressing ourselves when we are angry. During such times more often than not, surely we're better off being quiet.
Not to say that Jesus never raised his voice in grief and anger. Matthew 23 is at least one place where surely there was plenty emotion in his voice as he spoke about those who were in opposition to God's work. And we know Jesus wasn't quiet when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers.
But characteristically he epitomized a meekness which was an expression of his confidence in God and in his call that he was seeking to fulfill. Meekness has a sense of being gentle and doing and saying powerful things in stride, as if this is just a normal part of living (which for Jesus, it was).
What about us? How do we relate to one another in our families, in our church communities, to our fellow workers, our neighbors, those in our world? Are we come across more and more in this same way as our Lord?
What might you like to add here from your own thoughts or experience?
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Let nothing disturb thee,
nothing affright thee;
all things are passing,
God never changeth!
Patient endurance attaineth to all things;
who God possesseth
in nothing is wanting;
alone God sufficeth.
+ In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
(from Midday Prayer of Northumbria Community)
Saturday, March 17, 2007
For me, this has been in the category of mind issues. But the root is from the ground of poisonous fear. Which becomes a paralyzing, deadening and debilitating fear. Keeping my mind in a fog. This kept hitting me in waves for years. And I couldn't seem to break from it for very long.
Just recently I was hit anew with it again. Through good influence in reading and practice (from Scot McKnight, and I'm sure, others), I would be mumbling psalms, as much as possible through that. And the Lord brought me through. To end up on a higher ground on the issue that troubled me, and greatly affected me, nearly daily, in the past. So that I am in a better place, on the issue, latent as I thought it was, and resolved, more or less (certainly improved)- finding that through this experience, in God, I would be brought to a better place. I told my faithful, good wife about it, who has no such problems, so she would pray. Now on that issue, only by God's grace, and dependent on God all the time in it, I am in a better place. (I could say why, but I won't go into that. Not the point, here.) A little redundant, but I want to get this across.
The point? We need to be open to go through those times when we feel the weakest, when we're struggling to connect with God and others (of course, that's ongoing, in some degree, as we seek to live out our life in God found in Christ). When devilish and desert might come to mind as our experience. In the end finding, that to hold on to God is enough. And to do so, more and more together. As those in community with God in Christ, in mission to the world.
What comes to mind as to your own experience, or own thoughts on this, you'd like to share with us here?
Friday, March 16, 2007
That is what Scripture reading often (or at least occasionally, and rather regularly) does for me. This morning I was reading from 1 Corinthians. And I was reminded once again that I'm not to be looking out for my own interests, or living with those in view. But I'm to be looking out for the interests of others.
That takes care of a whole host of problems: greed, lust, envy, jealousy. Being reminded of this helps us in seeking to follow the way of Christ. When we're so "naturally" prone to follow our own way.
We need the whole counsel/will of God we find in Scripture. That's why we need to be regularly in it, day and night. It encourages us; gives us new vision, lifting our eyes up to the Lord, from whom our help comes; convicts us of sin; calls us to obedience and faith, and a life of following our Lord together.
If you have trouble reading Scripture, or getting into it, let me highly recommend to you something I listened to, last weekend. Inspired by the Bible Experience is an awesome dramatization of Scripture, using the TNIV. I've heard a number of good readings and dramatization, a number I would recommend. But for sheer drama and the acting, along with the music involved, this one, for me, seems set apart. It is done, I believe, by all African-Americans. Jesus and Paul come across as gentle, strong, human, and having authority from God. When Jesus appears after the resurrection you hear people gasping and some crying. When Jesus speaks at a certain point, you know he is just getting down the fish he was eating. (end of Luke) I found it very moving. And though I am not currently thinking of buying Scripture read or acted out, I almost did. And may do so, down the road. I heard (or read) that Denzel Washington and his wife are working on "the Song of Songs". As the Old Testament project is being done.
For years I heard the Bible dramatized or read. That was how I did most of my Bible reading. It had its drawbacks. But I was in the Word alot, and went through it, normally, I think, a few times a year. There is nothing like it! We need Scripture; we need God's Word. One way or another, we need to be in it regularly.
What about you? What ways do you get into Scripture which can be helpful to us? Or thoughts you would add?
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Today I would like to point you to two different posts from Scot McKnight on this issue. He too takes a Christian pacifist stance. The first post is from a handout he prepared to use in his church entitled, "Why I am a pacifist". It is worth a read, or at least a look. Here is an excerpt from it:
A Practical reality: How can a Christian “put to death” in the name of “Caesar” a non-Christian who needs to be evangelized and whose death would lead that person to hell? Or, how can a Christian “put to death” in the name of “Caesar” a believer when that believer’s allegiance ought to be more to “Christ and his Church” than to “Caesar”?The second post, "Paul and war", may be especially fun to grapple with. Here it is in full:
Had the Apostle Paul lived to see the war of Rome with Israel in 66-73 AD, what would he have done? Here are some considerations:As usual, Scot's posts are both enlightening at least to challenge us in our thinking from Scripture. And I think you would find the comments interesting, particularly on the "Paul and war" post.
I ask this consideration: Paul was not a soldier, but let’s put him either in that position or in the position, which is far more likely, to have been advising new Roman citizen Christians or Christians living in the Land of Israel.
1. Would he have fought on Rome’s side against Israel? (Citizenship duty.)
2. Would he have fought on Israel’s side against Rome? (Faith over citizenship.)
3. Would he have chosen not to fight because he was torn between two nations? (Pragmatics.)
4. Would he have chosen not to fight because he thought Christians should be concerned with the kingdom of God and the preaching and living out of the gospel? (Some kind of Christian pacifism.)
What do you think? And give a brief reason. This could be enlightening, and don’t be afraid to say what you think. We can’t be right or wrong about Paul in this specific question; we can only guess. But we guess with what we think Paul teaches.
Of course on this last post I would opt for #4.
In the discussion it has been questioned whether or not a Christian pacifist would defend their family under attack. For myself I would certainly try to get my family out of harm's way. And I would try to get the instigator out of the way of causing harm, not with a gun, nor with intent to injure, but with intent only to stop them. Others I've known take a stance that they would pray, but one only knows for sure what they would do if such a crisis would occur. If you know martial arts don't let someone rape you. Get them out of harm's way (they'll be glad you did after you're done with them). But I don't look at this in the same way as serving in the military where you take up weaponry to kill.
I'm not sure that this post ends this series, but it does for now. Thanks to all for the more than civil and good discussion.
Any thoughts here?
Christians and war (part one)
Christians and war (part two)
Christians and war (part three)
Christians and war (part four)
Christians and war (part five)
Christians and war (part six)
Christians and war (part seven)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I guess I'll start. I used to say Vermont. I love the scenery there (from pics). I still like it. I also like the idea of Oregon. For similar reasons. New Mexico sounds good as well. I love the scenery, and what I read of the weather. Arkansas, around the Ozarks sounds good to me. I love Alberta (I have been there). Really, it's hard to choose. So I don't know. Guess I'll go with....New Mexico for now. With Arkansas a close second. That way I get my wife, Deb, out of the colder weather, which she dislikes.
Before getting to the key New Testament passage on governing authorities we need to see the immediate context. Christians are told to be patient in affliction (12:12) and to bless those who persecute them (12:14). Then we get to an important passage on how we're to treat our enemies (12:17-21).
Paul makes it clear that we're to leave vengeance in God's hand, that we're to do good to our enemies as we read from the Lord in the gospels and that we're to overcome evil with good.
Then we come to the Romans 13:1-7 passage. An Anabaptist reading of this would be literal and literal maybe to a fault, though I don't think so based on the immediate context as well as the New Testament as a whole. The governing authorities and powers are established by God and called "servants of God" in their work. And this work involves bearing the sword to punish the wrongdoer, bringing on them God's wrath/judgment no less. When read in the context of Romans 12:17-21 we see an immediate answer to God's promise to avenge his people against their enemies.
The passage goes on to detail the relationship Christians are to have to the state. They're to submit to the authorities, pay taxes, respect, and honor them (13:5-7). Taken at face value the words don't seem to promote Christians participating in this work of the governing authorities. Does it necessarily exclude them from all governmental work? I strongly doubt it. But while this passage does not explicitly say Christians are not to be involved in the activities of the state as spelled out here, one can read in it an implicit denial of Christian involvement in this activity. It is a stretch to say Christians can be participants in this work since those so doing are serving God in it. That is an argument for the other side (one I used to accept and still respect). But it arguably is not letting the text simply say what it is saying.
What about governing authorities, the powers? And how should Christians relate to them? I see them as ordained by God for a fallen world. They are fallen as well and will be judged. But they are God's chosen means to bring order and peace (in the sense of holding down violence) so that God's work can go forward (I take it). To that end we're to pray for those in authority. And seek to promote the advance of the gospel, of God's kingdom work in bringing in the new creation in Jesus even in the here and now.
I plan to do another post on this tomorrow. That might end the series, though there may be one(?) more next week. Whatever discussion we may have may influence this.
How does this more Anabaptist reading of Romans 12 and 13 strike you? Or what would you add (or subtract) here?
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I take the 1 Peter 2 passage (verses 21-25) to have reference to more than just Christian slaves in Peter's day, but to all of us as followers of Jesus. His suffering for us is for our sins. But it is also as an example, that we should follow in his steps. Here we find in Christ's atoning work both example for us and recapitulation. Recapitulation I understand to include the idea that Christ takes up, in himself and his work, the entire human race, so that humans can share in this new reality and life in Christ that he has lived out before us. In Jesus we are "called" to this.
So this passage suggests to me that we are to carry the same attitude and practice forward in Christ that he did in this world. And that Christ has prepared the way for us. That in him by the Spirit and together, we are to walk in that way.
I cannot see Christians in military engagement as not contradicting this call to us from God. It is a call not only to passive resistance, but to redemptive action. War may seem necessary. And killing, a necessary evil at times. But are Christians, we in Christ really to be involved in that kind of action? I have my doubts. This to me does not reflect the life of Christ and "in Christ" we find in Scripture. It's a life in mission to the world as the one "holy nation" scattered throughout the earth. A common life that does not resist enemies, but does good to them.
Tomorrow we'll look a bit at Paul, specifically at his writing in Romans 12 and 13. And a more Anabaptist reading of it, which I have been gravitating back to, myself.
What thoughts or questions come to your mind on this?
Monday, March 12, 2007
I think it's good to come to realize that, no matter what, God is faithful. Even when things don't work out, he is faithful. And to see that manifested in a heart of being content. Being at peace. And continuing to entrust all into the hands of God.
One of my favorite passages is at the end of Romans 8. We read there that no matter what we experience: hunger, persecution, even death itself, nothing in any way can at all separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do we rest in this promise? Are we learning to rest better in our Lord? And in his great faithfulness?
What thought might you like to add here? (This morning, we experienced a power outage where we live. So I type this quickly, here at work. God has helped me to rest better, in his faithfulness, through this little, trivial trouble.)
Sunday, March 11, 2007
(from Eastern Orthodox Prayers)
Saturday, March 10, 2007
A year ago on Jesus Creed, we had a couple of interesting (to me) posts and conversations on the Old Testament Apocrypha.
I have been charmed and challenged by what I've read from them so far. And I'm reading a book, right now, on the Apocrypha, by David A. deSilva, which challenges Protestants and evangelicals like myself, who have not taken these books seriously.
I will probably post more on this, as I learn more, and think through it, hopefully with others, like you.
You can find these books in editions of the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version). I have a parallel Bible with four translations, which include the Apocrypha (the NRSV, most complete in books included that have canonical status with differing Christian bodies), including the Revised English Bible, the New American Bible, and the New Jerusalem Bible.
I am not convinced that these books shouldn't be in our Bibles. Or at least, I believe they have value for us.
There are issues here as to what is considered deuterocanonical and what is not. There is mostly agreement between Christians who hold to them, but some exceptions. Deuterocanonical does not mean a lesser canonical status, but it means books that came later than the Old Testament books, during the Intertestamental period.
There is much more to be said on this, of course. What thoughts or experience might you like to share on this?
Friday, March 09, 2007
I am from the Protestant Anabaptist evangelical tradition. While I still hold to the reformation in a general way, times have changed. Even back then, God had his people on both sides of the divide. Today it is good to see dialogue. And straw men dismantled. So that we're really listening to each other. And better understanding what we believe and why. And our differing practices and tradition.
We can all learn something from each other. I love the richness of liturgy in the great tradition of the Christian church: in Roman Catholicism, and in Eastern Orthodoxy. I love the rather mediating position of the Anglican church. And I love the simplicity of faith and practice found in Reformation churches. In short here, I'm simply saying there is much to commend in churches we find everywhere.
At the same time we all have weaknesses and blindspots. In some of the great traditions, there tends to be a dearth in members and adherents really enjoying a personal faith in Jesus (a generalization). Though some of the richest Christians I've met are part of those traditions (for me, I've met or have been in contact with those on the Roman side). In our evangelical churches, our faith can sometimes be personalized to a fault, in which it can become all about "me". And on the Protestant side, we've been more open to the corrupting influences of worldly philosophy, such as from the Enlightenment. Not to say that we all don't struggle with worldliness in some forms.
This is not a call for us to simply discard what we believe in faith and practice. And unite as one. But it would be more like a call to remember that at the heart of who we are is Christ. And it is Christ's church first. Then our's as well. And it is, in reality, in spite of all our divisions: one.
Someday all of us in Christ will be united as one. What a great and rich day that will be. Can we just see this happening at the great wedding supper of the Lamb? When Jesus breaks bread and drinks wine with us. And we all celebrate in awe and wonder. The beginning of a never ending life together.
But this should begin now. By at least our acknowledging each other, in love. By our listening to each other. Praying for one another.
This is to be one of our high priorities and marks as followers of Jesus. So that we can be blessed from and be a blessing to each other. As we endeavor to be in mission, in Christ, to the world.
What would you like to add here?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Therefore I take Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), not only for his followers in their individual lives. But also for the entire community of God. How they are to live out what they are, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
We find those blessed, who are persecuted for righteousness, and because of their faith in Christ. Who endure it. We find those blessed who are peacemakers, being called God's children.
We're called to accept being struck. And to love our enemies, no less. To pray for those who persecute us. To be, in this grace and kindness, like our heavenly Father.
In Luke 6, the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus gives us more of this teaching.
Later, when confronted by Pilate about being a king, Jesus makes it clear that his kingdom is not from this world. And therefore his servants will not fight for his release. I take this to mean that while we are citizens on earth, we live as citizens of heaven. And refuse to fight because we're part of a new kingdom that is not a part of this present world system. But is invading it to bring in, no less than the revolution of the kingdom of God come, in Christ. And with that the beginning of the new creation. Which in the end, after judgement, is to make all things new.
We in Jesus must be countercultural in many ways. We're not to live as this world does. This may seem problematical. Is war and killing intrinsically evil? After all, there were certainly physical battles sanctioned by God in the Old Testament. But we see that even David, the man after God's own heart, was not allowed to build the temple, since he had fought in so much warfare. War may not be intrinsically wrong in itself, though no war fought here and now is without wrong being done on both sides.
But Jesus brings in, understand it all or not (and we don't) a new way to be Israel. That will not render to Caesar what does not belong to him. Since their identity is those whose Lord is Jesus. Not any Caesar. Because of that, I take it, they will not go into battles for nations. Because as the one holy nation, scattered throughout the world, their ethic is redemptive, in Christ. They are part of the mission to bring God's salvation and reconciliation, through the good news of his kingdom, in Christ, to all.
Next week we'll resume working on this. In the meantime, what problems do you have with my thought so far? Or what would you like to add?
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
What is your favorite time of the year, and why? I have to say Spring is mine. Autumn is next. Then Summer. And finally, Winter. I do like the snow color, especially against the blue sky. One of God's awesome created wonders.
Here in Michigan we have the tulip festival in Holland in May. A wonderful event, though it can be pretty brisk (chilly) then. But to see new life. And the cold more and more dissipate. At least by June, we can be pretty confident of warm weather here.
When Jesus came, Israel had various factions with differing agendas. There were those who were benefiting from the Roman government, and occupation (Herodians and Saducees). There were others who were in caves, awaiting the coming of Messiah and God's judgment and vindication of them, as the new covenant people (the Qumran community). There were those who were devoted to Torah, and were looked up to, in general, as the most true adherents to the Law/Torah (scribes and Pharisees). And there were those who were determined to overthrow God's enemies in the Old Testament tradition of "holy war" (the zealots).
But Jesus comes. The "Intertestamental period" had prepared Israel for a longing for one, the Messiah, (meaning, "anointed one"), called "the Son of Man" in Daniel 7. He would through God, bring to fulfillment the Old Testament prophecies and picture of a restored (from exile), renewed Israel. That would be a blessing to all nations.
So Jesus comes. And does proclaim himself as one who has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. But it doesn't look like anyone had foreseen. This new covenant in his blood, that Jesus brings, and the proclamation of the kingdom of God that went with it, is different in some important ways, from the covenant Israel had been given from God to Moses for Israel, on Mount Sinai.
One key point, before we get to Jesus' life and teachings (tomorrow): Jesus told the Jews (especially directed to the Jewish leaders) that the kingdom would be taken from them and given to a nation/people that would bear its fruit for God. There was to be a new Israel. A new nation. And it ends up, in mission, being scattered througout the earth. Sent to all nations. Blessed to be a blessing, in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.
This is the setting for Jesus' life and teachings. A small sketch. But important to get a feel for how Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of God's covenant to Israel. And what Israel is to become, in view of that. And we in Jesus, being included in this.
Tomorrow, we'll get to some actual teaching from Jesus, along with related Scripture, on the Christian and war, as I read and interpret it, along with Christians from the present and the past.
Any thoughts, questions, corrections- on what I've typed so far?
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I was raised Mennonite. So as a young Christian, at the age of 17, I took it for granted that Christians should not go to war. But I was influenced by a godly relative who pastored a Christian sect, and eventually left the Mennonite church and its version of the Christian faith. Coming to embrace something of a Christian just war theory.
After reading N.T. Wright a few years back, my theology was revolutionized into a kingdom of God in Christ, new creation predominating paradigm. I had been prepared for this in some ways by George Elton Ladd, Vineyard and dissatisfaction with Christianity as I knew it (even thinking about considering Roman Catholicism). Scot McKnight has helped solidify my stance in this. And there is much more reading I want to do around this issue of theological paradigm in general, and application from it.
What has influenced me to go back to reading the Bible more the way I read it as a Mennonite, is the truth that as Christians we are members of a different kingdom, not from this world. And the Lord's "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). I believe both have been largely lost in evangelical theology. Through the influence of dispensationalism (which by the way, in the name of "progressive dispensationalism", today is far better). Dispensationalists have said that "the Sermon on the Mount" is not for today or for the church. And that the gospel of the kingdom is for the Jews to proclaim. That we live in the gospel of God's grace. Never mind that Paul preached the kingdom of God.
This is the groundwork for a few more thoughts on this, in (a) post(s) to come. Today I just leave us with the encouragement and challenge to get into the Sermon on the Mount. An excellent place to start is where the sermon itself starts, the Beatitudes. Let me say upfront that I certainly don't question that there are people in the military seeking to follow Jesus, who can end up walking just as closely to him, as the most ardent Christian pacifist. Regardless of what we think about Christians and war, we can find much help in understanding the kingdom of God come in Jesus, through reading and meditating on this passage (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6:17-49 a rather parallel, "sermon on the plain"). This is at the heart of who we're called to be as the church. As the people of God in Christ living in this world.
I find the Beatitudes to be foundational as to what God's calling looks like among those who are following Jesus in this world. If these things are characteristic of those who are blessed, than we must look at our lives and churches, to see if this is characteristic of us.
How has "the Sermon on the Mount" impacted your life? What does it mean in your theology, thinking and life? Or what might you like to add here?
Monday, March 05, 2007
I used to live in a never ending cycle of quagmires. Always seeking to solve some problem that had come to my mind. This was one of those issues that really slowed down progress in my life in God. I lived close to being on edge, most of the time. Wondering when the next problem would come that I would need to resolve.
I'm not sure what's happened that this seems to be a thing of the past for me. It's not that I never have questions that may go unresolved. And uncertainties. But I believe I've learned to live in more dependence on God and interdependence on others, in Jesus. And that I've learned to rest content in who I am, and what I can do. Rather than being unhappy with not measuring up in some way.
Though I think I've really crossed a hurdle, I certainly don't see myself as having arrived. So that I'm never troubled anymore, with uncertainty, questions or doubt. But I also don't care about alot of the issues that used to trouble me. Plus I have more confidence in a good God in Christ, at work in my life and in the lives of others, and in the world. And that I can leave questions and uncertainty about the past, present and future, in his hands.
I doubt that we'll even care to raise many of the questions some of us think we'll bring to God someday. When we're in his presence in the fullness of the kingdom and the new creation, we'll be happy just to rest and live in that presence. Not that no questions might not be raised then.
What helps you live with unresolved questions and uncertainty?
Sunday, March 04, 2007
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.
Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will;
Blessèd Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
words: Dorothy A. Thrupp; music: William B. Bradbury
Sang at our wedding, October 12, 1985, by my cousin, Pastor Ronald Boyer.
My beautiful bride, Deb, picked Sheep May Safely Graze by Bach, as our wedding march song, since Bach was (probably still is) my favorite classical composer.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
I have found that there just seems like there are moments and times when we're to act and do something. Usually it's something that has been brewing in our minds and hearts for some time. We just have a sense that we should, and at times that we want to do something that we think is good. Or that just seems good for us to do at the time.
Then I can find afterwards, that having done it, it seems like something beyond me. I did it. It's finished. I pray. And God, as always, is doing his work.
Of course all of this is on a course of seeking to follow Christ individually and communally. Being in Scripture/the Word, and in prayer. God directs us as we do this. Putting in checks and stops and guidance along the way. If we're only open to receive it.
The bottom line, though, is to proceed with confidence. As we seek to walk in communion with Christ and his Body, we can continue in this way, by faith, knowing that God will continue to lead us. That whatever questions or doubts we have along the way, will never stop his faithfulness to us, as we look to him, and listen for his voice.
Friday, March 02, 2007
I really think this includes more than just those I remember, or that stand out to me. It includes all those with whom we have a kind of Christ-encounter with. Those in whom we catch something of a glimpse of the beauty of the Lord.
I think of pastors, a lady teacher and friend, a lady Sunday school teacher I had as a boy. And people I know today.
In our communal following of Christ, we need to think about what imprints our lives might be leaving on the hearts of others. And how, by the Spirit- in the love, grace and truth of Christ, we can be a blessing in this way to others.
John along with his brother James were called, "sons of thunder", by our Lord. But we know that John became "the apostle of love". Certainly the love and truth of God in Christ was at the heart of John's thought as evident in his letters: 1,2,3 John. God, through the imprint of Christ on his heart, changed his life. How does Christ do that today? Through his brothers and sisters. Through his Body, the church.
I want to add that bloggers I've had some fellowship with, have made an impact and imprint on my heart. These are people who came and made a comment on a post, probably more than anything else, to be an encouragement and friend to me. And whose own life, in their honesty, humility and pursuit of communion in God, has really left its own imprint on my heart.
Do we think to pray for each other, as bloggers and people? It would be good to get into the habit of doing that, as we blog. And of course, to be doing that for others in our lives. That we would be a blessing to each other, in this way.
Of course we need to be working at becoming people of prayer and in Scripture. In communion with God. The kind that would bring all others in, to that same communion. In song. In love. In fun. In listening. In prayer. In much patience at times (and that's a two way street, we know). In forgiving. In delighting in the good we see in others. In praising our God together.
What about you? What imprints have others left on your life? Or what would you like to share here?
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Another problem I have is nonverbal unacceptance of others. This is done in mostly subtle as well as not so subtle ways. Not including someone in a conversation when there are more than two involved. Interrupting someone when they're talking. Or not saying anything when one is finished, as if what they have to say is not worth acknowledging, or talking about.
We must be careful not to go along with any of this when it happens. Otherwise we become participants in it.
If we have the heart of Jesus, and indeed that's what we're to have more and more by the Spirit, then in our following together, we will never leave another behind. This is not always easy. We must bear with each other's weaknesses. We must be committed to valuing others above ourselves. If we're to really follow Jesus communally.
Last but not least, we must reach out, in love, to those who are sinning in this way. We know we have done the same. Perfection here is not the issue. Though we should hate it when we do sin, and confess it to God, and others when need be. But as we seek to walk in the Spirit, we need to at least pray for such. And perhaps, in love, take them aside, and talk to them about what they're doing. So that there can be repentance, restoration and change. Not easy, but necessary, if we're to really follow our Lord together.
What would you like to add here?