Thursday, May 31, 2007


This in a way could end up being at least in part a kind of personal confession. I really don't know well enough how just to have fun. Now that's really unfair, because I do have fun doing what I do. So maybe I'm missing the point of what having fun is.

I'm thinking in terms of a fun that involves something of an exploration of our Father's world in terms of enjoying something we just like doing or trying out something new. I enjoy the humdrum of reading. Though for me it's not humdrum at all, at least overall. It's like eating candy. Though I must admit we have a good time "cutting up" in jokes and especially mega-voices to each other, with pet nicknames on our factory floor, particularly me and this other guy; won't tell you what the names are, though I don't think it would offend most Christians.

My parents lived through the Great Depression days, and one thing I did learn from them is to work hard. But they didn't really know how to have fun. Life was all about work; this had become simply a part of their identity. Now I'm taking up a digital camera, and hope that will bring in something different that I can have fun with the rest of my life. Though my experience last night in trying to take pictures became nightmarish, but won't go into that.

What about us as God's people together in Christ? Do we have enough fun together? It's good to be around those who do well in this, though like all good things we can get a bit carried away. I know I do, even in the fun things, but I think sometimes that's good.

What does fun look like in your life, or what thought might you add here?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Maybe pride is not the primeval sin, but unbelief as in doubting God and his word (as I think Biddle says in what really is a most excellent book on sin, even if one does not agree with him across the board). Pride is on the list of the church's traditional seven deadly sins, and is considered "the original and most serious" sin of them all.

I like Dante's definition or description of pride: "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor." Pride seems to have been Satan's downfall. But it also is a danger to us as God's people. Even the Apostle Paul was given from God a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of satan, to keep Paul from becoming conceited because of the surpassing great revelations God had given him.

Pride is subtle. As soon as we think we're humble we easily slip into pride. In fact to think we're humble is probably well off the mark since the mark of humility is Jesus himself. He alone could say, "I am humble/meek and gentle in heart," and that be entirely true. Not to say we can't and shouldn't have humility. We can be "poor in spirit" and yet end up becoming lofty in our own estimation of that, and thus end up being proud.

John describes it as a part of "the world" which we're not to love: "the pride of life". We end up exalting ourselves; life revolves around us and all things (including God) are meant to serve us and make us happy. This is one possible common effect of pride. Another is to just simply put up with one's fellow inferiors. And think that what one has to say or do is what needs to be said or done. Or that there are only a few fit for my fellowship.

But I wonder if the best way to understand pride is to look at its polar opposite. We see that in Christ, and as his community we're to live that out. It's a love that values others above one's self and demonstrates that love in service and sacrifice, if need be even of life itself. But it's a love and humility that finds its continual source in God. Only in Christ and together can we really begin to live this out. But don't look too closely or think you see it, because then it is gone.

Any thoughts or stories out there to help us?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

in need of daily bread

How many times have we experienced a breakthrough only to awaken the next day left wondering? Oftentimes we err in wanting an experience back rather than looking for what lay behind and beyond that. Breakthroughs are usually just beginnings, beginnings of a new work that God is doing in one's life, a work that will take time and involves a process.

The Lord taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Here it means primarily temporal needs, but it also can be moved beyond that to include all the need we have as human beings. Humans do not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We need fresh revelation from Scripture by the Spirit to our hearts into our lives. And Jesus' reply to the multitudes' request: "Lord, evermore give us this bread," is important for us here: "I am the bread of life. Those who come to me will never hunger and those who believe in me will never thirst." This means we must press on, day after day to receive the heavenly manna. Yesterday's manna was good and important for yesterday, but it is no longer edible for us today. We need daily bread from God, not just temporally, but spiritually, into the whole of our lives.

Notice too that the prayer the Lord taught us to pray is not just for ourselves. It is for all of us in Jesus, his entire Body on earth. The answer to our prayers does not merely involve ourselves in our own locked up little worlds. It involves all others in Jesus, and really amounts to being in mission to the world. This was true of the manna in the wilderness with the children of Israel, and it's true for us today as the church, the Body of our Lord. This is a community endeavor. What I experience and do not only affects others around me; it is for others around me, as well as to myself.

What might you add to these rather scattered thoughts?

Monday, May 28, 2007

prayer for the departed

Eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life: Give to your whole Church in paradise and on earth your light and your peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have served you here and are now at rest, may at the last enter with them into your unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from The Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, May 27, 2007

prayer of the Holy Spirit

Almighty and most merciful God, grant that by the indwelling of your Holy Spirit we may be enlightened and strengthened for your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from The Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

Thanks to Every Square Inch, I'm the recipient of a Thinking Blog Award. Thanks, ESI for your gracious and kind words about this blog. It's a simple gift I have to share that really probably ends up being more for my own benefit than for anyone else's. Though I certainly hope and pray the Lord will use it since we're blessed to be a blessing, of course.

Here are five blogs I tap for the award:
1. Jesus Creed: Scot McKnight, writer extraordinaire, New Testament scholar and professor really is the one who got my interest going on blogging. And one can receive a theological education by working on his blog. Read his posts and if you are able, follow the threads. He is weekly working through a book, and works exegetically through Scripture as well as on some (often hot button) theological issue of our time.

2. Allan R. Bevere: Allan is a pastor and professor who keeps up well on the times and knows what "Israel" ought to do. There is helpful insight for us all from this brother.

3. Vanguard Church: When Bob Robinson is blogging he helpfully challenges our thinking theologically both in our understanding and practice of the faith with reference to the kingdom of God come in Jesus. Bob is the CCO Area Director of Northern Ohio, a campus ministry.

4. Wide Open Spaces: Charity Singleton has a thoughtful and warm way of blogging. She challenges us in thinking through how we might better live out our faith. And nice photos as well.

5. Faith Dance: Dan Brennan challenges us with a paradigm in Christ for cross-gender relationships. This is a blog that would do us all good to read and think through with him from Scripture, from his own thoughts and experience as well as from the books of others.

There are a number of others who really deserve to be put on my five. ESI would fit right in. And others like Alan Knox, Jamie-Arpin Ricci, L.L. Barkat, Michael Kruse, Jazz Theologian, John Frye and Susan Arnold. Really all the blogs I have linked on the side are worthy of this reward (besides others I run into). There are a number of blogs on my site worth special mention for mind-stretching; just to name three: LeRon Shults, Mark Galli and Mark Roberts. And I'm excited about John Michael Talbot joining the blog world.

Here are the rules as originally laid out to be passed on:

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Friday, May 25, 2007

help others as a friend

My (blogging) friend, Bob Robinson is starting a series that considers how we approach those we would want to help bring into the kingdom of God in Jesus. I look forward to his thoughts and work on this.

He points out that we need to see people as Eikons of God, therefore special, and affirm them in that specialness. Yet at the same time they (and we) are cracked Eikons, something is wrong. And we would help them see that they can begin to realize their created potential through Christ and the new humanity in him.

I am reminded of the Reformation teaching that humans are basically good though flawed with sin, likened to a container holding water which represents the goodness from God in bearing God's image. Just a small amount of ink representing sin, dumped into the water colors the entire water. So that while we're not pure ink, as in pure sin, sin permeates and taints every part of who we are (taken and adapted from Miroslav Volf). I would have some questions about this approach that I'm confident Bob will grapple with or address in one way or another as we try to find a more Biblical, Jesus-oriented way of evangelism.

This goes for us when we try to help each other, as well. If we can only hone in on the negatives about the person we're trying to help, then it will cast doubt on our counsel. We need to see the good, acknowledge that and help them see that we ourselves have our shortcomings, and maybe right in line with their problem.

And above all we need to seek to reach out and help others as a friend. Arguably Jesus reached out to Judas right to the end, calling him, "Friend." We might not agree theologically as to all that's going on here, but I think we can agree that Jesus's approach was consistent in this way. He lived and acted as one who was seeking to save that which was lost.

What insight or story or thought might you like to add here?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

love is key

Augustine said something like: "Love, and do what you please." I recently listened to C.S. Lewis reading The Four Loves and found it fascinating in its gist and where he was going with it, as well as challenging in its scope and detail.

Love as used by us in our vocabulary means many different things and takes on all kinds of different hues. It can have meaning or be descriptive of turning out toward God and others and being life-giving, or it can be turning inward on oneself and be destructive.

God's love as revealed in Christ is key to understanding the kind of love that should inform, transform and conform our lives to Jesus Christ as little christs and as his Body together and for the world. This love we experience is for others. But we are also always dependent on God and must know and experience God's love before we can pass that love on to others. And not only that, it is a love we have that is receptive to other's love in a kind of interdependency of one another as members of Christ.

This love forgives and receives forgiveness and accepts the reality that it is greatly loved in Jesus, the Beloved. The Trinity is a community of self-giving love, each giving of themselves fully and in a self-emptying way to the other and in that there being the dance of God, which in Christ God takes us in to be participants, even as humans, beginning now.

So much to say on love. I will stop here. I need to think of more stories to tell in sharing about it. Maybe you have something like that, or something to add here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

a missional community

The church, the community of God in Christ has been called a "missional community". We are a community that shares in the mission of God in Christ in this world; we are on mission.

I believe this has to color everything else, but I also believe what we're coloring is important here. We must first define "mission" and not only that, but we must describe what it's all about. It includes but is more than just getting people "saved". In our zeal to do better we can leave the basic behind. And while we need to do better we must also hold on to the basic truth of salvation from the guilt, condemnation and power of sin and salvation to forgiveness, reconciliation and freedom, in Christ.

We're to be little christs in this world, but even more importantly we are the Body of Christ. We carry on to fulfill his once for all ministry in this world, in him by the Spirit, together. It's a ministry of being servants to all and as we have freely received, freely giving of ourselves to others.

There is much more to say here, of course. What might you like to add for now?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jesus community requires commitment

This thought has nothing to do with this blog. Though I think whatever community we've had on this blog has not done badly in this regard (to find "Jesus community" go here, and I'm sure you can find it other places as well), I'm thinking of the community God has called all Jesus followers to in this world. It is a community of loving God with all of our being and doing, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is a call to us as one Body in Christ our Lord, having the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, the same God and Father of us all. Though our understanding in regard to these things differs in peripheral ways, the heart for us is the same in this glorious faith we have in Jesus our Lord.

Commitment is required for "Jesus community" to really flourish among us. It must begin in our families and out from that into our neighborhoods, in our church, and into all the world. Commitment first to Christ and the will of God in Christ, and from that, commitment to each other in Jesus (these first two can be reversed as far as one leading to the other), and from that, commitment to those who are lost, as well as poor and broken. In all of this we begin to see the difference that Jesus makes, for that is what "Jesus community" is, Jesus making all the difference among us.

Commitment means we each follow, seeking to follow Christ together as we're called to do. It means we seek to do so in every part and parcel of our lives, in prayer and in Scripture and in listening to God's voice through each other.

So much more on this, I'm sure. What can help us fill in this picture from any of you? Maybe a good story.

Monday, May 21, 2007

giving thought to our thoughts/thought life

It's easy to go on in life and give little thought to our thought life. Our thoughts play in largely to what we end up doing. More foundationally, thoughts play into who we're becoming. So we need to guard them so as to keep out the bad as well as take in the good.

I love Paul's words on this:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8; TNIV

These are great and important words to reflect on, to think about.

Paul also talks about taking every thought captive of those he was teaching, and making it obedient to Christ. Certainly this had to begin in Paul first; he had to do it for himself. And I believe he did it through the word of God, the message of Christ and living humbly in community.

What will we be thinking about today? What have I thought about through other days and how has that affected me? Too often in my own life I've thought about issues that made me anxious and worrisome. I've learned to combat that through getting into Scripture and prayer, as well as sharing it with a mature, loving brother or sister, especially my wife or a pastor or trusted friend. Though I do like to share with others my struggles at times, so they can take heart that they're not the only ones who struggle.

Here is something that is great to put your thoughts on. It started out slow for me, but ends up being worth every minute. Listen and be blessed to be a blessing.

What thoughts would you like to add to our thoughts on thoughts here?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

a blessing


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

(Northumbria Community)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

digital camera

Does anyone know how to get pics on profile with Blogger? I'm at a loss and give up for now.

Friday, May 18, 2007

is it just me?

Is it just me, or is anyone else out there tired of politics, and really would rather keep up on what's going on from a distance, if at all? On the one hand I'm for our participation and influence as those in Jesus of the kingdom of God. On the other hand I think we put too much confidence in politicians and political systems. What about you?

losing our heart in God

Some years ago I remember hearing a pastor and thinking he sounded hollow, or that something just didn't seem right, or at least that in spite of the way he preached which was an emulation or model of "good preaching", and that there was good in his message, I frankly was glad when it was over. Later it came to light that he was having an emotional affair with a woman from another city. I don't know if I had just been having a bad day or had been given a measure of some kind of discernment. But there are few issues I'm more concerned about than losing my heart in God, really none.

This doesn't have to be in reference to an adulterous affair. It could involve any number of things that move us away from God. Paul warns about the danger of wanting to get rich and that by so doing some had wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

A good Biblical case in point is David. A man, no less, after God's own heart. And yet a man who was losing his heart in God through his adultery and then murder (arrangement of the death) of the woman's husband. David ends up being miserable and from this escapade we have one of the greatest psalms to meditate on and work into our hearts and lives.

When I'm losing my heart in God I no longer feel quite at home in God. My heart is elsewhere. Isn't that idolatry? I find that in the recognition, acknowledgement and confession in turning back in penitence to God I begin to find my heart again in God, though this is an ongoing project for me to both guard and deepen. And I do fail at times but then can get back on track, and I've learned to endeavor to do so as soon as I realize what's going on (which probably means not very soon, like my annual factory hearing tests where for some time I don't recognize the small beep sounding in my ear).

We're to guard our hearts and by our heart, seek God's face. Is it better to have our own way or live our own life not at home in God in our hearts? Or is it better to struggle in any number of ways and really be at home in God in our hearts, even if oftentimes the signal seems weak?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

good conversations

There are few things I like better than a good conversation. But this often seems so illusive. Of course I would have to define what "good conversation" means and then judge my definition by how others might define "good conversation", and most importantly how God, in view of God's Word/Scripture would define it.

I take "good conversation" to mean a talking back and forth between two or more people over matters of common interest. These common interests would be inclusive of any activity "under the sun" as well as anything pertaining to God and God's creation. It can include the sense of friendship, companionship and love in some sense.

Jesus drew people out into conversations and surely this was an aspect of him which others found attractive. From that Jesus shared his heart which was of course, the heart of God and with reference to the kingdom of God come in him.

For myself a good conversation can be about most anything. I like to get into theological conversations, though strictly speaking all of life I see as theological. I think good conversations promote mutual understanding and friendship.

Love for God and for neighbor should mark all conversations. This is why I often find myself uncomfortable if I think a conversation I'm around or engaged in is in some way undermining or violating this.

How would you define or describe a good conversation?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

one part of the nature of Christian growth/formation

If you haven't visited John Michael Talbot's blog, do so! The teaching posts are rich and helpful. And the other posts are good as well (I like the concept and practice of the hermitage and monasticism).

In one of his songs, The Sea/Laudable Exchange, with the words adapted from Clare of Assisi, are the lines:
Because* of this I have resolved
To always progress from good to better
To be faithful in his service
To always progress from virtue to virtue

*amounting to losing all things to gain eternal life
I found helpful a thought that came to my mind a couple days ago. I was consciously working on an issue of my heart and life and thought something like, let's aim for a little progress, small but real and substantial. The thought was answered and I saw real, substantial progress, even if indeed it was small.

I think this monastic thought does reflect God's call to us together in Jesus. That we are to follow on, adding to our faith, goodness, etc., working out with fear and trembling what God is working into our hearts and lives.

Our human minds are geared to do well at working on one thing at a time (at least my mind), though certainly God is at work in our lives, in a multiplicity of ways. So we need to do well with what is in front of us, in our lives, to seek to glorify God in seemingly small, incremental ways of growth in our lives, as we seek together to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

experiencing Christ's resurrection life

I've been meditating some of these days, recently on the book of Philippians. It is a book full of joy, the joy of the Lord. Paul was leaving the past: good, bad and all the rest, all that he was "in the flesh" to find Christ and live in the new way of the Spirit. This was a way that called him "upwards and onwards" far beyond where most Christians, it seems could even imagine (including myself). And yet these words, God's Word by the Spirit beckons us on to come and follow, yes, for all of us in Jesus.

After Paul remarks about how he left all that was considered necessary for life and indeed, in his case, everything behind him, he then tells us where he is going and what goal he is pressing towards. And this is in part what he follows after:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

(Philippians 3:10; TNIV)

To know the resurrection life of Christ in the here and now! That is what Paul speaks of and this is for each of us. It is alive and invigorating and strengthening for us, in our following on, in the way of the Lord. But it takes a participation with Christ in his sufferings and a becoming like him in his death. This means death to any and all known sin in our lives, through repentance and faith; this is ongoing and an embracing of the will of God in Christ. It is a death which severs us from the old Adam and the old creation, and brings us into the new Adam, the new humanity in Christ, the new creation- already ours in Christ and therefore what we should be endeavoring to live in and live out.

This is a life that we're to experience together as Christ's Body on earth. But in the terms Paul speaks of it here, it is a life that we must enter into individually, as individual members of Christ's Body, being helped by other members who are doing this, and in turn helping other members to do the same.

Notice though, that even Paul, who was not a baby believer at this time, was expressing a desire for this. He made it clear that he hadn't arrived. But he certainly knew that this was where true life is found. And he wanted to be identified closely to his Lord. Think of the stoning he experienced. Surely his body was pumelled and marked by these and other ways he was persecuted for Christ. Yet he got up and went on, after such a beating and other deprivations (to be sure, with Luke the doctor, nearby). Couldn't it have been in large part because of the resurrection life of Jesus he was already experiencing in his heart and out from that to his body? Though certainly not sharing in the resurrection of the body which we await.

I want to know this, to know the humility, love and life that comes with it, to know the One much better from whom this all comes.

What about you? What would you add to this to help us, or any thought you'd like to share?

Monday, May 14, 2007

established in uncertainty

The life in Jesus, together, is a living, dynamic and moving reality having its being in Jesus himself, as we his Body live out his life here on earth, by the Spirit.

This is a reality in which many number of things are going on at the same time. God is working on the individual parts in getting along with each other in love, in holiness of life. And there is a work of learning how to grow, live and serve together, in mission to the world.

All of this involves becoming established in uncertainty. We don't know what lies ahead in a day, or a week, a month or a year- and beyond. But we are willing to trust that in it all God's will can be done in our lives, as we seek and choose that will over our own and for the true good of the world, including ourselves.

We like predictability and easy "cookie cutter" ways. But God's ways are different. We inevitably will meet new struggles, opportunities, issues, etc., in those around us we know, as well as in our own lives.

This necessary establishing we need in Jesus involves both faith and works, practices of love which we do regardless of the day and circumstances we find ourselves in (of course barring special periods of rest or waiting on God). The more different or great the problems we face, the more the same we need to humbly plod on with our faith, established in Jesus.

Established yet in uncertainty, as we face a new week. Will we be willing to take this path together in Jesus? Or will I insist that things be the same and manipulate life, if need be, to that end? This may be a stretch, today. But I think this thought has validity for us as we live as Christ's Body in mission together, in this world.

What might you like to add to this?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

a tribute to Mom

Our mother has always been a faithful witness to the grace and salvation found in Jesus Christ. She was a witness first to her children at home. She read us Bible stories from Kenneth Taylor's The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. These were fascinating with the pictures helping me enter into something of the world of that story in my imagination.

She prayed, and witnessed and sang songs of the faith at home. And the Spirit finally brought me "home", and brought my two sisters home to faith in Christ largely through her love in witnessing and praying for us.

I thank God for the faith and love of my mother.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

many things beside the point

In our walk in God in this world, many things are rather beside the point. That is to say, they are fine in themselves and we can and even should enjoy them. But we must not become lost in them so that we're lost to the work and mission in Jesus, we're called to live here and now. This thought is a part of God's will for us in Christ Jesus and of the example found in the Apostle Paul and other like-followers that we're also to follow.

It is important to rest and enjoy God's good things. I think Christians, in our zeal to follow Jesus in mission can forget this. We're to use these things, and thank God for them, while not becoming engrossed in them so that the enjoyment of such is what our lives are all about, like as in "waiting/living for the weekend".

Weekends or whenever your regular time of rest, relaxation and recreation is should be a time of doing the fun or "laid back" things you like to do, and should also be a time of seeking to draw near to God in it all. Too many weekends and vacations in my life, I've been inadvertently lax on the latter. Certain disciplines of love must go on, even if they do take a much different form during such times.

God's will in Christ for us together is what it's all about as we seek to live in mission in this world. Blessed with God's blessings, so we in turn bless others.

What thoughts from your life or thinking would you like to share with us on this?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Christianity future-oriented

The faith we have in Christ is a faith that embraces in the present a future that is already present in Jesus by the Spirit in his Body in this world. We live as those in whom the past is important in some ways and fleeting in others. In Jesus, his person and work, we see God's great redemptive act in the past to bring into the present the future, now. What we've experienced and the roots of our existence "in Adam" are fleeting and "in Christ" are already a thing of the past. And our present is movement toward the goal in Christ we find in God, toward the perichoretic dance of the Triune God, and this worked out in the new heaven and new earth.

What might weigh me down from the past, or issues and problems in the present is to be lived out as those who are neither tied down by the past or the present, but look forward to more of what we're experiencing now in Jesus, indeed the fulfillment of that (not the best sentence, but the best I can do at the moment). How we get there is all found "in Christ", in his community of faith in mission to the world. It certainly involves leaving behind and forgetting all those things we think are so important, even necessary in fulfilling our humanity. And instead, pressing forward toward the goal to be fulfilled in the future in Christ. That begins now. So if we want to be living out what God intends forever for us, as his children, we can begin to do that now. Indeed by the Spirit we do, but to really live in it in this life requires a denying of self and a willingness to identify fully with Christ. It is a call that we can be overwhelmed in trying to answer and sustain. But it is a call by God in Christ. It is a continuation in the grace of God found in Christ in which we are being renewed more and more to live in God's truth and love. A call that includes all in Jesus until we all reach unity in the faith and become mature, attaining to no less than the whole measure of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4).

With these words I'm working on this, both in thinking as well as in faith and practice. This truth really does meet us where we live, but I must confess, "I see through a glass darkly" on this (1 Corinthians 13; KJV). But I in community want to keep working on this, and indeed, we must.

Any thoughts to help us here?

(This idea I took on from F. LeRon Shults, Reforming the Doctrine of God)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

being bound that we might be free

Proverbs speaks of certain practices that can confirm the soul/person/life in righteousness. These are things we are to do, no less and it matters not whether we feel like it. In fact we need to especially guard this truth and practice when we don't feel like it. Of course there's immediate forgiveness when we do falter. But we also need to practice immediately getting back on track of this confined path.

This can be a hard struggle. For some it is the avoidance of pornography, for others the avoidance of an affair, or of an addiction or whatever the besetting sin that we may be facing. For many it may be something seemingly less, but just as debilitating to one's walk in seeking to follow Christ, a big one being bitterness and unforgiveness. We must hang in through the struggle and keep working on it, even in the midst of all our weaknesses and failures along the way. We must not give up. Better to die in this struggle than to live in the sin.

As we keep working through this in Jesus and in fellowship with others in Jesus (for one can be in complete fellowship with Jesus only by being in complete fellowship with all members of his Body, I believe; we have a long way to go) we begin to experience the freedom Jesus talks to us about.

This freedom becomes surprising in many ways. One begins even now to experience the truth that what one gives up for the sake of Christ they get back and even more. And of course the vices that are only destructive of ourselves and others we don't want back. We want to hold others in Christ as God sees them, and in a relationship of love, grace and truth. And from that comes the joy and blessing of God, as he delights over us his children.

What would you add to this thought, or would like to say?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

listening for God's voice

It is good and important for us in Jesus to be in Scripture regularly. We need a vital intake of that so that we can better identify ourselves in God's ongoing Story. We see the Story of God in the Bible and from that we begin to see how our story fits in. We see our identity as those who are in need of God and of his grace and who begin to find our true, unique selves, together in Christ.

So that's important. But it's also vital for us, and this has been implied already, to be open during this unfolding Story to the part we play. This is improvisational in nature, in other words as it unfolds we pick up cues and do it, we do what is becoming natural for us to do in Jesus. This does buck up against what left to ourselves we would do as our old person, in Adam.

And a most vital aspect of all this is to listen for God's voice. God's voice can come from anywhere, but especially from another brother or sister in Jesus. We need to listen with a heart of wanting to obey God. And we must have an openness that ponders what has been said to us.

Of course apart from the first part mentioned, that being in the Word, in Scripture, in the Bible- God's voice will often fall on deaf ears. We won't have ears to hear because we won't be accustomed to the tune of God that we pick up in Scripture. I think I have trouble enough picking up the voice of God, even though being regularly in Scripture.

One qualification: God's voice comes through friends and loving conversation as a rule, not from those who though in God's grace in Christ are not practicing it. I probably won't hear God's voice through someone who looks down on others and puts themselves and their thoughts on a pedestal.

What might you add to this to help us?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

believing in God's greatness and goodness

When I was a boy the prayer I was taught to pray began like this:
God is great and God is good
Back then theology was not in the flux it is in today over God and what it means to think of God's greatness as in his power along with his goodness and what this means in a world preyed on continually by evil.

I believe it is absolutely essential for us to hold on to God's greatness and his goodness even for this world and for our communities in faith, our families and for ourselves. We must hold on to this for dear life.

But we must hold on to it contextually according to Scripture and especially according to God's revelation to us in Christ. For example, we're told at the end of one of the most glorious chapters of the Bible, Romans 8, that nothing at all can separate us who are in Christ from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Those nothings listed include the sword, famine, nakedness and death itself. In this life we're called to an existence that is anything but certain. Just ask Christians who live or have lived in places in which their simple Christian faith is not approved by the government. Or the mother whose baby is born dead. Or the young man who receives a bad prognosis from his doctor.

God is great and God is good. But how that is worked out in this life is not according to how we would work out greatness and goodness. Would we send our one and only unique Son, our very heart, love and life into a sinful, rebellious world, actually to become human and die a cruel death for the good of sinners and the world? This is beginning to get at true greatness and goodness, at least the kind we see from God in Christ.

God is great and God is good does not make him into some superman-like character who will rescue the world and make everyone live happily ever after, by and by. But he is one who brings in the new creation through his kingdom come in Jesus. And it's a new life characterized by death to the old and to what the old is all about.

So we need to think of God's greatness and goodness according to this new working of God, this redemptive, reconciling work for the world. As we do that we can perhaps better deal with the Job-like difficulties that can come into our world. Then we can say with the psalmist in confidence:
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
We know the ending which we actually begin to experience or catch glimpses and tastes of now, will be great and good.

What do you think of when you think of this, or of God's greatness and goodness?

Monday, May 07, 2007


I am rereading (again) Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? I think I'm entering a little more into the depth that is there.

I am trying to make better sense of the absolutely unconditional love of God's amazing grace and the importance of not sinning once one has received this grace through faith in Christ. Yesterday at the nursing home along with communion, we looked at living out the truth of our baptism from Romans 6. There Paul makes no bones out of the fact that grace is not to lead to further sin so that one experiences more and more of God's grace. Indeed it is to lead us in quite the opposite direction. My point here is to wonder if my own striving to be righteous can get in the way of God's needed grace, if from that I can get a case of ungrace. It can, but not necessarily, I think, depending on where my confidence really lies; is it in myself, or in the Lord and within the fellowship of his people?

I can pick up cases of "ungrace" in my heart, as well as thinking I see it in the words and actions of others. It is something we all battle with, since the grace of God in Christ is not a natural disposition of fallen sinners (though in Christ we are being renewed). We tend towards an ungrace that can easily look down on others while failing to see ourselves as we are.

Grace want to take everyone in, even the self-righteous ones (though self-righteousness stands in direct opposition to grace and its reception). We know that Christ alone makes the difference; it is not in ourselves or anyone else. Ungrace measures others and excludes those who do not measure up. But those who are doing that to others often stand out themselves because their attitude is all too evident, it seems.

We must hang in there through whatever we're experiencing or struggling with, in confidence that God's grace in Christ can and will prevail in our lives or in the situation we're concerned about. This is an important part of avoiding ungrace: refusing to be moved by the difficulties and trials of life because one is looking for God's ongoing work of grace in Christ.

May God help us to avoid ungrace by seeking to live in the grace in Christ that he provides for us, that we would do that together with others in Jesus that we might bring his grace to the world.

What thoughts would you add here?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

a confession of faith

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 124

Saturday, May 05, 2007

accepting and living in God's peace

John Michael Talbot at his blog has a wonderful piece on peace: The Road to Peace: John 14:1-6. You should read it, even if it means you don't read the rest of this post. Honestly!

God's peace for us came at a great cost in the Incarnation and sacrifice of love of God's Son Jesus for us. We enter in this grace of God, this gift, by faith and by faith we begin to live in the peace or shalom/wholeness God provides for humanity which will be the atmosphere we live in in the "sea change" that will take over the new earth someday.

In Jesus this begins now for us and we seek to bring it into this broken world now. Of course we need to live in it ourselves, individually and out of that in community, and from that in mission in Jesus to the world.

Living in this peace means I choose to trust and obey God no matter what. This involves looking intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, then letting our living be determined and shaped by that. This will be costly for us, as we follow the way of Christ. The way Jesus once for all set out for us, a new and living way, is blessed, but difficult. It is the way of the cross; it is the way of death to self and life to God.

I have been struggling lately over a number of problems and issues and have been consciously lacking in this peace. But God has been helping me to see what I need to see to take the next steps of faith and to turn away from that which is not helpful or view it better, in a different light. You have to come to that place where there is only one thing that really matters, and you're going to choose to follow and live in that. Of course this is a day by day exercise. Just because we seem to be more on track one day doesn't mean that we'll easily remain on course the next.

God's peace enables us to live in and experience his love; to be blessed that we might be a blessing to all around us. And as John Michael points out to us, God's work in all of this is creative. We need to trust him through a journey in which we'll need the peace of God that can keep our hearts and minds at rest and open when we don't understand.

What have you learned about this in your own life? Or what thoughts might you have?

Friday, May 04, 2007

the beauty of the Lord

I currently have this photo of a stained glass window on the "desktop" at home and on our main computer at work. I love it, especially from a little ways back, and imagining the sun shining through it (which it probably is on the photo).

It reminds me of the recent thought I read from N.T. Wright in his book, Simply Christian in which he sees beauty as being an echo of the voice of God to the world, and how this beauty is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus in bringing in the kingdom of God which ushers in the new creation. Of course we remember the beauty with which the Bible Story begins and with which it ends.

Tom Wright believes Christians should point to beauty (along with justice, spirituality and relationships) as being important for people to come to hear the voice of God in Christ, and that this is of great importance in a world that might see life as merely utilitarian. It's a beauty that is wonderful in itself, yet points beyond itself to the Beauty that we are called to behold, contemplate and even take more and more of its image on ourselves (some extra thoughts added here, I believe). And even enter into.

As I have been looking at the stained glass window for a number of days, it has helped me to want to meditate on, ponder and behold (and be beholden by) the beauty of the Lord. This is what icons are meant to do. They were made to be windows or pointers to draw attention beyond themselves, in this case to the beauty of the Lord and of his revelation to us in Christ.

Beauty is all over God's creation, even as it groans under the curse, awaiting the glorious resurrection of God's children. I love Spring when all is fresh and beauty can be seen nearly everywhere not obscured by concrete or the like. This beauty can lift us and help us to worship and want to live in the Beauty from whom all beauty comes.

What about you? Do you see validity in appreciating stained glass windows and icons in appreciating God's beauty and the glory of his revelation to us in Christ?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

national prayer day and nationalism

I venture to speak of that of which I little know, though that's more or less true all the time anyhow. But today in my country, the United States, there is a national day of prayer. It is a time when citizens and others here gather to pray to God for our country. It is inclusive in that people of all faiths participate. Of course it takes on different colors according to each participating group.

I wonder what is the truly Christian and Jesus way to participate in this. Would it be to withdraw and pray the Lord's prayer along with making it (or another day) an international prayer day, including all nations? Such a day would not be a bad idea.

I have taken a Christian pacifist stance on war and there are Christians who would respectfully (and very well possibly praying at the same time, with thanksgiving for this country) would abstain from saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

My position at this time is to participate in this day. At my workplace, RBC Ministries, we participate in it every year. For any who would in Christian conscience want to participate in a different way, or abstain, I'm sure this would not be a problem there, as long as this is considered within the parameters of Christian faith (and it would be, say, if some Mennonite would participate differently).

Nationalism strictly speaking is something I really don't want to countenance, support or be a part of. We in Jesus are "a holy nation" consisting of all ("Jews and Gentiles") who put their trust in Jesus as Messiah and Lord over all. And we are from every tribe, people and nation- ultimately, on the earth, scattered everywhere. So our allegiance and loyalty is to God; Jesus is Lord, not any other nation or ruler. I know this alone does not answer the issues on which Christians disagree. It is good to keep working on such issues and at times we'll have to, in love agree to disagree, of course.

As salt and light in Jesus, we should be good citizens wherever we live. We should bring God's light in Jesus to bear on issues and problems that concern our nation (if we can, which we can here; others can find this much more difficult), reflecting that light in our lives and good works to those around us. This can involve participation in politics in a way that would bring in something of the kingdom of God, something of the new creation- in Jesus.

Whatever you decide or have decided about this day, for you who live in this nation, let's be sure to lift up a prayer for God's mercy on us along with repeating together the prayer the Lord taught us to pray.

What would you add to this? Or what's your perspective and thoughts on it?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

finding the good in our struggles

Jesus lived nearly the first thirty years of his life in relative obscurity. He lived in Nazareth, pretty much ignored and even looked down on by the rest. He shows up at the temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve and wows the teachers there. But other than that we read nothing about him until he comes to his cousin John the Baptizer to be baptized.

Did Jesus encounter struggle during those silent years? We know he did struggle in the garden of Gethsemane. Surely he did so along the way in his life too; surely he struggled at times which prepared him for his encounter in the wilderness when he was tempted by the devil. We know Jesus was tempted in every way as we are with the difference being that he never sinned. Temptation was as real to Jesus as it is to us, but of course, temptation itself is not sin. Though we can in our sinfulness subject ourselves to unneccessary temptation, I believe.

What good comes out of our struggles? We can be tempted sorely in something that may seem trivial or another matter which is not trivial at all- knowing, of course that no sin however big or small is actually trivial. Though some can be catastrophic in our lives. What about when our hearts seem full of paralyzing and deadening fear? Or we can't shake the heaviness that seems to take the life right out of our "souls"?

I remember Dr. James Grier once telling us that he believed God looks higher on the Christian who is struggling and may not look pretty, but is maintaining their integrity before God and others, over the Christian who seems to be walking on air all the time (my paraphrase and additions to trying to get at the thought Dr. Grier was conveying). We read in Scripture that Paul struggled, and more importantly (in some ways) Jesus did so himself! I'm reminded of Job, and of many of the psalms. Their's was not some "happified" existence. Michael Card's recent book and musical album (both very good, by the way) both hit on this theme.

Only those who struggle can empathize with other strugglers. Only those who know what it's like to live in "the dark night of the soul", or are working through intellectual doubts, or feel in danger over some temptation, etc., etc., can empahthize with others. Even some failure can be good here, if we've known the grace, forgiveness and restoration of God along with that. And we all know failures along the way.

Struggles can also deepen our walk in God. They can drive us more to Scripture to meditate on and chant (as I like to do sometimes). And drive us more to God, in prayer and trust as well as learning a costly obedience. And as we continue on in God's way for us in Christ, these struggles can confirm us in the sense of more habituating us to that way as well as to more conformity to Jesus. And so much the better as we in Jesus seek to do this together. In fact we need each other, unless all the "one another" passages in the New Testament mean nothing.

What might you add here?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

accepted and beloved

In Jesus we are all accepted and loved by God. And we in Jesus are to accept and love each other.

This is a love that often is full of pain, because many won't receive this acceptance and love. Or a number depart from it. Or we can struggle sometimes ourselves to rest in it.

But if we don't have this then we are not Christian. This is at the heart of what it means to follow Christ, to be the people of God in Christ, to be the church.

May God help us live in this today, and encourage others to do the same. By the grace found in our Lord Jesus Christ.