Wednesday, October 31, 2007

when life seems out of tune

"Sometimes", as in the words of Rich Mullins (Hold Me Jesus), "my life just don't make sense at all." It has seemed a bit like that lately for me. Maybe it's because I'm out of tune with the Giver of all good songs. Maybe it's just a difficult season of life that inwardly I'm going through. Probably some of both.

I think sometimes I lose much or all of the sense of the Presence that is meant to pervade all, and in the end for the redeemed, will. God as Father, Son and Spirit, is the One in whom we as humans are meant to live through Jesus. But that sense of loss only drives me to seek God all the more in prayer, or to do so, period.

I think in this that God is at work, seeking to get me more in tune with who he is. I so easily get out of tune, but this seems more so lately. Maybe it's just that I've picked up a keener sense of God's tune and see that my life is not as much in harmony as I may have thought at brief moments. Or maybe it's just that I am more sensitive to the disharmony between myself and God and others.

Oh, to hear the music of God; I want to hear that music. And then I want my life with others to be lived in our harmonizing around that music in God. I speak metaphorically now, though our love for music and songs surely is somehow related to this. That is part of my prayer right now, that with others, we can hear and live in the "music" and "song" God has for us now. And that this sound would go out into all the world, in Jesus.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

servant leaders

Jesus taught us what it means to become a leader in God's eyes. It means leading others in the way of Jesus. This means becoming a servant of all, willing to lay down our lives out of love if need be, but active in the sense of a living sacrifice so that our days are spent in the love of God for others in things we do.

We also learn from Jesus that good leaders are good followers. He himself was a keen follower of the Father. We're followers of God by seeking to follow Jesus in the way he lived as we have given to us in Scripture, in the gospels and in the New Testament, and by the Spirit who conforms us more and more from glory to glory into the image of Jesus even in this life.

When it comes to learning how to be a good leader, I know there are insights out there to help one through all the rigamarole- I'll call it- of responsibilities and expectations thrown on a leader. But I think we need to be careful here. Often thoughts are brought in that are really at variance against the teaching of Jesus and Scripture. For example psychology in the sense of perhaps subtle manipulation can enter, which has no place at all in being a true leader in God's eyes. Paul says they simply lived and spoke transparently, not watering down the truth at all in life and word and doing it all in the love and gentleness of Christ.

When there is a sense of entitlement or that some work is beneath one, then there's no Christian leadership. Jesus is the perfect leader for us in that he completely followed God and also completely lived where we live, loving others to the end in his life, and then in his death. And we're to follow in this love and life, the only life that the Spirit gives us as God's children, a life of love in the love of God with and to each other in Jesus and to the world.

Monday, October 29, 2007

to be truly human

To be truly human ends up being truly like Jesus, or for those who are redeemed in Jesus, it is being changed into the image of God in Jesus.

Sin renders us less and less human, truly human. Centered in ourselves, turned in on ourselves we end up losing our true selves. When we use other humans we lose what it means to be really human. Rob Bell in Sex God has a helpful chapter on this. This is a part of being turned in on ourselves. Everything is to serve us, even God, if we believe in him.

We are naturally bent on a self-destructing mode; we want our way instead of God's way. Instead we must take the way of Jesus. In doing so, because of Jesus' true humanity, and he taking our falseness so we could take his reality to become like him, we begin to become what we were created in our unique ways to be.

This is neither something we can invent or imagine, or even understand so as to experience just by reading about it. It takes a commitment of faith to an ongoing walk in Jesus together- no less. To be truly human means being in right relationship to God as well as to other human beings, including ourselves, and to the world God has made.

We must shun all false paths, everything the world has to offer, taking only the path found in God in Christ and found in the Story we read in Scripture. We begin then to find our true story as part of the real Story, being truly human because we're in right relationship to God and to others through Jesus.

Just a little sketch on this. What might you add related to this?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

From Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 27, 2007

what's wrong with this picture?

We may not like it, but I believe we live in an existence and time when we'll have to be grappling with this question: What's wrong with this picture? Now we don't need to have a half-empty attitude or be always looking for problems and short-comings in others. But just the same, we have to be awake to reality, and it must begin with reference to our own lives.

I say this in terms of my personal life, of where I'm at in relationship to God and to my neighbor. In regard to any issues in my heart and life. To pooh-pooh this is to short-circuit much of what we find in Scripture. There's no getting around it. Not only will we have to ask this question at times about ourselves, but in a sense we're going to need to keep it in view all the time.

We're also going to have to ask this question about our fellowships and communities, and I think here in terms of faith communities. Here we must be careful not to project our own issues on others. And we must be prayerful and seek to see everything with much grace, while at the same time not being blind to the "big elephant" that's always in the middle of the room. All of this takes alot of prayer and reading of Scripture, as well as perhaps asking questions and listening well, whenever we may be concerned about anything.

Then we go to the world at large. As we pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," we must be sensitive to critique it so as to be a part of God's will being done here. This is in the sense of building it up, but in so doing, we may have to be a part of a tearing down process before new structures can be built in their place. We need discernment to know what we should do and how we should live in our contemporary present.

So let's seek God and his discernment for our situations, place and time. So that by God's grace we can begin to see more and more God's hand in the picture, so as to see what's right, and keep working in Jesus to that end, as well as to deal with what is not. And let's not forget to be prayerfully asking this question, looking first and foremost at ourselves.

Friday, October 26, 2007


I wonder why the Bible doesn't have more to say on humor than it does. Most of us love some kind of humor. Of course humor reflects the heart, so that can be a little scary at times, yes with myself in my craziness, and particularly so in the world when we run into the off-color stuff. Oh, by the way, two of my links are largely on the humor side: Martin Stickland and Lorenzo the Llama. For some good laughs, check them out.

I've heard that Jesus employed humor; it must be a sophisticated kind that's beyond me, though I can see some smiles in my mind's eye over at least one story he told, about removing the plank in one's own eye, and then being able to remove the speck of sawdust from another's eye. I remember one time laughing with side-splitting laughter for the first ten minutes of a movie, then afterwards, scratching my head and finding the rest of it largely unfunny. I did read a review that indicated that its humor was more of the sophisticated type.

We get it on at work in various ways. It's especially good to laugh alot among true friends. We end up laughing at each other and at ourselves, and sometimes get a little carried away in that, but in the context of mutual respect and friendship. I've had good times in such settings. I still enjoy laughing daily, and we have our share of it at my work.

Humor is God-given and can be an indicator of our faith. We can take everything serious in a wrong way, in the sense that we seem to think that life depends all on us. But when we know that we have a sovereign Triune God who loves us, then we can rest assured in that, and we can enjoy some humor, knowing that God is at work in our world, and so all will be well in the end, even when all is not well now.

I look forward to the humor we'll experience someday together in the new heaven and new earth, in God's immediate presence. What a time that will be, and surely humor, especially among certain ones with a special gift of it, will be there and will fit in well with the rest of the wonder of that place and time.

Are there any musings out there on this subject?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

real life

As believers in Jesus we begin to experience real life. Jesus said he is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). But all too easily we can seem bereft of or weak in this life. We seem too often to lapse into the pseudo life of the world.

I like Eugene Peterson's reference to "the replacement Trinity" and "the new Holy Trinity".
Here's how it works. It is important to observe that in the formulation of the new Trinity that defines the self as the sovereign text for living, the Bible is neither ignored nor banned; it holds, in fact, an honored place. But the three-personal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is replaced by a very individualized personal Trinity of my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings.
The real life in Jesus is snuffed out by this false complement, and really altogether false life and substitute. It's no longer about our unity and community in the Triune God, but instead, it's all about us and whether we're happy and doing well. And this popular false trinity has surely impacted and been a part of each of us, more or less at certain times in our lives.

Real life in Jesus means leaving behind the old and embracing the new. This is ongoing, but should in Jesus, become more and more a part of what we do, forming who we are. And who we are, forming what we do.

And Peterson points out that this new, real life in the Word: Jesus, is formed in us as we go to the text the Spirit has given us, Scripture itself, the word of God. Only thus can we be saved from the onslaught of this popular replacement that can be as much home among and in us as believers in Jesus as it is in the world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

appearance and the heart

Wouldn't it be nice if our good appearances would always match our true selves, who we really are. I can do the right things and look alright on the outside, and yet know in my heart that I'm not alright.

Among the most haunting words in the Bible for me refers to a certain king of Judah who did what was right, but not with his whole heart. It more than makes me wonder whether such a life is right or acceptable at all in God's eyes.

This is when we can look to God for the goal of having our actions and motives or heart be coming together so that we're not "double-minded" or double-souled, but true people of God, in whom there is nothing false, or no guile. Our true self will come out in our actions and lives sooner or later, or will be revealed in God's light.

Let's keep doing what's right, even if your heart is not entirely there. But let's confess and pray that God will change our hearts so that we do God's will with our whole heart, more and more.

It goes without saying that I'd like to hear from anyone who has something to share on this, and that's true on any post of course, whether I mention it or not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

wrestling and God's will

Jacob was renamed "Israel" because he wrestled with God and man and overcame. I believe Jesus wrestled with God and his will in the garden of Gethsemane, and understandably so in what he was about to do and accomplish as a human being as well as being of God.

Wrestling and God's will may seem insignificant to bystanders if they knew what we are going through. It may seem rather insignificant to ourselves at times. But we must remember that God takes the "little" matters in our lives and as we seek to find his will with reference to them, this can turn the hinge for much larger matters. Really this is about learning this as a part of our lives.

Why do we have to wrestle to find and live in God's will? Part of it is that we're prone to wander away from God and his will as sinners. And part of it is that we're completely dependent on God as human beings, even apart from being sinners. God wants us to learn to be satisfied with nothing less than finding his will and then learning to live in it.

This wrestling also involves learning a new way in our lives and that means unlearning our old ways. No wonder it involves wrestling, because often the old seems better and the new being new, is untested and untried by us. This movement of faith is accompanied with fear and that is a part of this wrestling that I think has to be a part of our experience in learning to walk in the way of the Lord in our lives.

What have you found in your own life about wrestling and God's will that you would like to share with us?

Monday, October 22, 2007

human weakness and God's strength

We were noting Sunday evening in our homegroup that God takes the weakness of humans to defeat his strong enemies. This is a weakness to be sure that is yielded to God, or in which God accepts as praise to him.

One constant in my own life is the sense of feeling weak. This is a posture, however, in which I can begin to sense something of God's enabling, working and strengthening in my life. This comes through prayer, pondering or reading Scripture and seeking to live faithfully in the community of God in Jesus in this world.

Paul seemed to learn to live in perpetual weakness and in so doing knowing Christ's ongoing strength. This may be something we need to learn to not only live in, but embrace, even as Paul did. Of course in Paul's case he had a special reason for even needing to experience such weakness. But we need to accept the fact, that to lesser degrees, we may need that experience as well. And it's written there for us, so that when this sense of weakness comes, we will learn to make the most of it, in God's will for us in Jesus in this world.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 20, 2007

why I am a friend of the emerging church

Thursday evening at Baker's Book House's main store here in Grand Rapids, there was a forum about "the emerging church". John Frye, Michael Wittmer, Andre Daley and Steve Argue along with moderator Sarah Cunningham made it a worthwhile evening and presented something of a clear look at what emerging churches are all about and the criticisms leveled at them.

You have a number of people and churches whose roots are primarily evangelical, but whose theology has been upended and hopefully (I say) will never be the same again. Some six years ago, N.T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus changed my theology in that way. I believe the gospel, while definitely including personal faith in Jesus Christ is inclusive of God making right all of creation by judgment and grace in Christ.

The emerging church sees the gospel as revolutionary for all of life, not just to get one saved so that some day they can go to heaven. It sees the importance of ministering in a post-modern culture in a way that connects with others, yet would take them to more of a pre-modern early Christian view into the story we find in Scripture.

There is plenty to say about all of this. I don't think most people who write books and critique the emerging church are fair. But I don't think the emerging church (a big umbrella, and people in it different in theology and practice) is foolproof either.

This is related to the reality that Christian orthodox theology is much bigger than we Americans often make it out to be. If you begin to study the theology of just the Protestant church back to the Reformation, you'll see this clearly enough. Take that back to Augustine, and then from there to the earliest church fathers, and you'll be "taken back" on just how true this is.

Of course we all need to understand this, not just the critics of the emerging Christians, or those of us like myself who in one way or another identify ourselves in some sense among emerging Christians.

One recent book that makes my point here, I think, is Scot McKnight's A Community Called Atonement. You'll find yourself challenged to the hilt to see Biblically and theologically a much bigger and better picture of what the atonement of Jesus is all about. This is among the best of what emerging Christians are all about.

In the end, I don't care to be labelled as anything except a Christian. I happen to be something of an orthodox Protestant evangelical and yes, anabaptist Christian. And emerging in the sense that I want to see how better to live in the story we find in Scripture that is ongoing today in Jesus together in this world.

By the way, we're all in this together. None of us will see eye to eye on everything, though certain essentials remain as orthodox Christians. Let's not forget that, and let's be better listeners to each other. Let's above all, look to God and his grace to bring us into the unity of the Son by the Spirit as we seek to live out his grace, life and truth in this world.

Link: Jesus Creed: Weekly Meanderings

Friday, October 19, 2007

keep trusting

In spite of the bad news we receive and in spite of the troubles and setbacks that seem to come our way, we need to set ourselves on this: keep trusting. Keep trusting God in Christ. Keep trusting God's promises; hang on to them for dear life. Fall, as we will, on God's grace to us in Jesus.

L.L. Barkat's thoughts on lament are helpful here. We need to pray and let out our true heart and thoughts to God. But we also need to reach that place in our hearts, minds and will to keep trusting God no matter what.

When we do then we have to let go. And I mean this as ongoing; we don't just trust God once and that resolves it; it must be a daily, ongoing trust. This is a trust in God that lets the outcome of our concerns be in God's hands, not in our own. Our place is to simply trust and obey God, obeying God's word and following God's leading through the Spirit and in community with his people. This won't always look pretty or feel good. Quite the contrary, as we see in many of the psalms.

Through thick and thin; times of discouragement and encouragement: we need to keep trusting God. Will we? And how will that be evident in how we live? What will it look like to really keep trusting God in our lives? What is the outcome?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

please pray for Charity

A good blogger friend and dear sister in Jesus, Charity, has been given the bad news that she has cancer. Please read this and let's be praying for her through this difficult time in her life.

God's dearly loved children

I think an important part of our lives in Jesus in this world is for us to acknowledge God's word to us that we in Jesus are his dearly loved children, and then live like it.

Grace is needed in all of life, both in our individual responsibilities as well as our lives together as God's people. If we would just stop and realize that we're all siblings, all of us who belong to Jesus. Then, just as we're loved by God in Christ, dearly loved, so we're to love each other.

This means forgiveness, ongoing forgiveness. Even covering over a multitude of sins, which love- as we love each other deeply- does. It sometimes means putting up with each other; there are certainly unlikeable characteristics or habits of us all. It certainly means holding nothing against a sister or brother. And if there is a problem, praying about it and going to the person to gently resolve it.

If we can catch something of this and really begin to live it out, surely this will be a testimony to the world that we have something that is at least genuine in our lives and experience. And remembering this can be a big help to us as well, to help us live this out in the first place.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

everyone has their part

In Jesus, everyone has their part. This is important for us to remember and we'd better believe it. If we don't, then we're going to lose out on what God wants to do.

I was reminded of this today in our "devotions". We're just starting a study guide, this one done by Eugene Peterson on Psalms: Prayers of the Heart. I volunteered to lead it, so I did, but did so by attempting to get out of the way as much as possible, and encourage a discussion with each other over the questions pertaining to Psalm 1. It was a good exercise and reminder to me of what we gain when we seek to let everyone have their part, and what we lose when we don't.

Of course each of us has our part. It may be small and by itself it may seem insignificant, but when put with the rest it ends up being a rhythm and harmony put in place by God through the Spirit, a song of love in Christ to be sung, danced and lived out in this world.

I do get kind of tired of the notion that only certain ones really hit the notes right or make the right sound. This is so silly. God would have each of us hit the note or make the sound he has for each of us. Without the contribution of each, the song is missing something. When will we really believe this? I'm working on it, both to be willing to do my part and eagerly want each to join in with their part.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

godly thinking

Have you ever noticed how muddled our thinking can be when reading Scripture or a good book on Scripture and Christian theology? Of course we now "see through a glass darkly" and "know in part" (1 Corinthians 13). But I'm thinking here of our trying to understand God's revelation to us by sheer intellect. We can begin to understand only through "the mind of Christ." We're told in Scripture that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2). I take this "we" in context to mean believers individually as well as all of us together.

Gordon Fee in his commentary on 1 Corinthians says "the mind of Christ" "probably means the thoughts of Christ as they are revealed by the Spirit." (p 119). Sheer intellect, no matter how high is not going to get the things of God expressed in the word of God. It takes "the mind of Christ" given to us, and it's a mind set on obeying God's will. If we're holding on to sin, and not confessing and seeking to forsake sin in our heart and actions, then we're not really going to understand as we really need to understand the word of God. Of course God in his grace at times will make exceptions to get through to us or others. But this is true as a rule, I believe.

We need godly thinking, no less. And such is found in Christ, as we endeavor seriously to live in Christ, walking in obedience to God in all things in our lives, even in this present existence and world. This starts right where we're at. And there are no exceptions in our lives. I believe that even as we stumble along in trying to live consistently in this way, God will encourage us and help us along.

And we do this with interdependence on other believers as well as full dependence on God. I'd rather hear the counsel of a "simple" believer, than the lecture of a most intelligent person not walking in fellowship with God. Let's not forget that we need each other. This is not an individual endeavor, but a community endeavor, in unity with each other in God through Christ and by the Spirit. The Spirit will confirm whether or not our thinking is godly not just to ourselves, but to other believers who have the same Spirit.

What might you like to add here?

Monday, October 15, 2007

thinking outside the box

I am eagerly reading Scot McKnight's new book, A Community Called Atonement. It is more than well worth the read, and re-read. It is written clearly about a subject that can be revolutionary for us as God's people in this world.

From this comes this thought: we need to be people who are willing to be thinking outside the box. Just what do I mean? First from a faith commitment to God in Christ as well as a faith commitment to Scripture as the word of God to us. And I also include God's working through the centuries through the church, while remembering that unlike God and his word, the church is fallible in its actions and words. Yet the church is what God has chosen to bring his truth and life to this world in Christ.

A Reformation teaching is that we're to ever be reforming. Within the faith commitments I mention above, I want to be among those who are thinking outside of the box. Of course this doesn't mean we're willing to throw truth away. It does mean I'm willing to keep studying and reading and listening to see where I might better understand truth, which means I might better understand how to live as part of those who are in Jesus in this world.

Scot in his book challenges us. And we best take up such a challenge, because this is a worthy attempt to faithfully reflect on Scripture, and the truth and story found in it.

I'm sure at least some of my postings will reflect some of this thinking outside of the box. It must become a part of how we see and read Scripture, hopefully letting Scripture say what it really is saying to us. It then must become a part of who we are as we see God's word changing us more and more into the image of Christ in this world.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

prayer for the week

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 13, 2007

our 22nd anniversary

Deb and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary yesterday. It was a nice, even if too short of a time for us.

The following is a special post from a special young writer: Rachel Starr Thomson. Enjoy and be blessed. And go to her posting and comment if you're inclined.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007
the beauty of fidelity

"Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers with thee.

"Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and as the pleasant roe... and be thou ravished always with her love."

Proverbs 5:15-19

I was listening to my favourite internet radio station, RadioCelt, last night. The playlist was depressing. Every other song dealt with the loss of love. It's struck me lately how many popular songs are like that. One laments, "I'm sorry/It's just too late/It wasn't meant to be like this at all." Great Big Sea, a Canadian East Coast group, says it most hauntingly: "How did we get from saying I love you/To I'll see you 'round some day?"

Genesis 2 gives the origin of woman. Unlike the animals, who were created by a word, and Adam, who was molded by God's hands, she was taken out of Adam's own flesh. The material that made her was warm and alive. She was created for relationship. For this reason "shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

We need each other. Maybe it's the primal nature of this need that makes us so vulnerable in it. Songs and poems, stories and tears testify to the pain involved when a spouse or significant other stops loving and leaves. It rips people apart. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes wrong "love" as "more bitter than death."

On the flip side, fidelity is beautiful. Monogamy is a powerful thing. It means cleaving--clinging, sticking--to one person, no matter the adverse circumstances or changing feelings that come our way. Monogamy says that the relationship between man and woman isn't just about satisfying ourselves. It's about taking two and making them one.

Equally, celibacy in singleness is beautiful. It pays honour to the relationship between man and woman by refusing to play around with it. It puts the fire on a pedestal where it can give light and heat to all, rather than taking it down and tossing it around until it burns the whole world down.

Labels: Proverbs

posted by Rachel Starr Thomson at 5:28 AM

Friday, October 12, 2007

slowing down

Sometimes I get in a kind of a "tizzy" where I seem to be downloading and uploading information and truth from God, as I take it, that leaves me maybe excited, but rather empty when all is said and done. When that's the case, as it was yesterday, I have to stop myself in my tracks and then slow down. I seek to do this with prayer and meditating on Scripture. But it is important during those times that I seek to get before God, and that I try to get out of God's way in my own life as well as in the lives of others.

We can get mightily carried away in zeal for God, yet in that zeal we can easily get out of step with God and his word and working. I must not simply decide to do nothing since my doing is empty. Instead I must endeavor to get in touch with God and with God's word and working. Not easy to do, but the first thing I must do at times, and maybe more often than I think, is slow down.

When I did that yesterday, after realizing that I had gotten carried away in zeal and was running on empty, it took some time, but gradually I came to that place where I could sense God's voice and working again in my own heart. And I could move and act from there. The day ended on a note of good sharing between a brother and myself, as well as a sense of God's leading in a matter.

So- often for me and surely for some of you comes this word: slow down and seek to get in the flow of the working of God in Christ by the Spirit through the word, prayer and the community of believers.

What wisdom might you add to this? Or any thoughts?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

hearing God's word, today

In chapel at RBC Ministries yesterday, we were blessed to hear Dr. James Grier speak. As he spoke the word, I sat there enjoying it, but realizing I had hardly adequately prepared my heart, though I believe God had been working on me during the morning before that time. But I sat trying to be prayerful and concentrate on this wonderful message from Scripture, speaking of the presence of God from Genesis to Revelation.

Dr. Grier for me reminds me of how the Puritans preachers must have preached. It's spoken well and naturally, plain and unadorned (not the fancy language he is more than capable of) but flowing over with the word of God and application interspersed, all tied well together in this theme. I left with a sense of vision and what it's going to be like in the final dwelling place of God with redeemed humankind in Jesus.

I often am hit with the good of the message afterwards rather than when I'm sitting there hearing it. We need substance to come in from God and his word. Only that by the Spirit will change us, not any charisma, though if that's the personality of the speaker, then it's fine. But I appreciated the plain way Dr. Grier spoke, and it made me want to hear more of God's word and really let that word settle, shape and remake my life, even as in my eyes certain things seem (and really are left to myself) out of my reach. That reminds me of the prayer ("collect") for this week which I pray several times daily at least on weekdays.

How do you hear God's word? And how might we better hear, receive and respond to it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

new beginnings, new everything

Isn't it amazing in God's grace how we can have a sense of ongoing new beginnings and how even though life seems to be much of the "same old, same old", it is as if everything is new or has newness to it? Yes, this is the ongoing work of God in Jesus in bringing in the new creation into this old, fallen world, the beginning of Jesus making all things new.

I am tired; drained for a number of reasons from both physical and spiritual struggles probably in the norm of things at least for me at this point. Yet I sense a renewal in my spirit which helps invigorate me. And with that a desire to connect with God and live in God's will by grace in this world.

Of course this newness in Jesus really does need to start with us if we're going to help bring it to others and into this world and its workings. This sense of newness will keep us going no matter what. But for this to be the case, we must settle for nothing less than the grace of God in Christ for us, and seek to bring that grace through love and prayer to others. Others too can begin to sense and experience this newness in Jesus, through seeing the difference it makes in our lives, and then coming to know for themselves the One-in-Three who makes the difference.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

reminding myself of "the Jesus Creed"

Scot McKnight is making famous "the Jesus Creed" which simply means the creed or way of life Jesus espoused, to love God with our all, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I have a paper I carry around in my work daily, and the first part of it is "the Jesus Creed". After that is Scripture, the Lord's prayer, and the prayer of the week I post on Sundays from the collect of each day for that week from the Book of Common Prayer.

I go over this several times a day, and it is becoming more and more meaningful to me and seems to be seeping into my heart and bones so at least I recognize that it's there. I do think it keeps me in check at times, at other times it helps get me back on track, and even at other times I begin to feel it in my heart, wanting it to be worked out in my life. I'm testifying here much the same as Scot has, of which mine is a faint echo. I find going over this several times a day, day after day on weekdays (I want to do better on weekends) to at least be a good exercise for me.

Read the book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. It's a great read in this way of life and one of those books that deserves to be reread from time to time (I consider it a classic), and most importantly, the truth in it to become more and more a part of us and of our lives.

Monday, October 08, 2007

community blessing

This evening some of our church met together as a homegroup. It was a blessed evening. I came in kind of down and struggling, but came out renewed, reinvigorated and refreshed. We ate and chatted at first, then sang some hymns with guitar, worked through Psalm 1 together, and then had closing prayer for needs that were shared.

God's grace, which we need to pray for and seek to live in seems especially evident and manifest to me when I meet with other believers and we share together in our gifts from God to build each other up and encourage one another. There is nothing quite like it.

Of course we must not stop at just building each other up through the Spirit in the faith. We need to go from this into mission. Whatever our calling in mission is in this world needs to flow out in some way, or be a part of who we are as a community of believers. This needs to become an intentional part of who we are together and individually.

We all have our special part to play not only in our meetings together, but also out from those meetings into the world of our homes, our neighborhoods, work places and wherever we go in this world. We're salt and light. The question is are we letting that light shine in this world or are we hiding it? Are we letting ourselves as salt impact society or are we becoming worthless to do that?

Community blessing is for each other- blessing us, but it doesn't stop there. We're blessed in Jesus to be a blessing to the world. We need to think more and more in terms of both. Not accepting less in either than God's will and his working in and through us in Christ Jesus.

What would you add to this?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from BCP

Saturday, October 06, 2007

nice evening with McKnight's and Frye's

Last evening Deb and I attended Cornerstone University's
Alumni Family Weekend Banquet. Scot McKnight was awarded "The Alumnus of the Year". And it was nice to chat with Scot and Kris again, as well as see John and Julie Frye there.

Scot is already working on a new book (at least one), and John has a new book coming out anytime, a novel (he called it a novella). Scot writes a foreword or afterword in this book.

It was a nice evening at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Nice setting, good food and great fellowship. We missed sitting at the table with the McKnight's and Frye's but we had some good conversation with them both. We got acquainted with some teachers at Cornerstone at our table. That was fun and interesting. Unfortunately I had problems with my camera when Scot and Kris went forward to receive Scot's award so I didn't even get a picture taken of that; it did happen faster than I anticipated.

pictures: Scot & Kris; Julie & John; Scot, me & Deb

trudging forward

Life consists of one step at a time. We like to think in terms of leaps and bounds or quantum leaps. We want to see progress now and we want all problems to be resolved and cease. But life does not work out that way.

I find this true throughout the Bible, true in the psalms I read daily, at least on weekdays; I need to incorporate this reading of them into my weekends. And true in my own life. I find that instead of God taking certain problems and issues away, I have to learn to walk with him through them. This reminds me of Halfmom, AKA, Susan's recent post. Instead of being whiny, fussy babies, we need to grow up and get with God's program of our lives in following Jesus in this world. It's learning to draw near and be close to God and be dependent on him in the Jesus way, rather than in our own self-oriented way.

At any rate, I want to keep on trudging forward, and doing that with others in this Jesus way. We're ever dependent on God and interdependent on each other in Jesus to keep on this path and walk in this life.

Friday, October 05, 2007

importance of Christian formation

I've been going through a heavy season of God working on me. My posts have reflected that and sometimes I think they've been a bit ponderous and heavy, and probably worked out more for my benefit than anything else, though I always hope for more than that. I doubt that everyone approves of this, as it seems to be too laden with self and sin. That can be true. But I believe it does reflect an important element in Scripture. And I believe we have to keep working on our Christian formation as we seek to be faithful to Christ as his Body in mission in this world.

I don't think this is a question of either/or. We need to work on our lives in Christ, as well as work on being the witness in the world we're called to be. I would challenge any who think that to be concerned about holiness and sin is to belittle grace and mission. Of course I certainly don't claim to be balanced myself. Nor do I claim that I'm where I should be at with reference to all of this. But I do think that we as humans go through seasons in which we have to deal with sin and Christian formation in a more direct, intense way than at other times. Gerald H. Wilson on the psalms points out the nature of Book 1 of the psalms (Psalm 1-41) and it's different than the other books. There is a season and time, and surely seasons and times for intense soul-searching before God and prayer, and even struggle.

Of course Christian formation, meaning Christ being formed in us, and we being formed in Christ, never ends in this life. We must carry on, and so that being the case, and my Bible reading as it does, I hope I never lose sight of the importance of Christian formation for myself and others. It is a vital part of the living dynamic of being in Christ in and before the world.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

true friends

Friends don't let friends down. Of course in the way of Jesus this says alot. This means along with loving God with our all, loving our neighbor as ourselves. When we do this, and only when we do this are we the friends God calls us to be.

Jesus said we are his friends if we do whatever he commands us. More than just his servants. And his command is that we're to love each other just as he loved his disciples throughout life to the end, and willing to lay down our lives for each other. Our friendship with others is not just for ourselves. We delight in our friend's good, while we also appreciate their friendship given to us.

Sin breaks relationships, and true friends in Jesus as we speak of here, can't thrive in their friendship when sin is between them. Or if I'm sinning towards my brother or sister.

True friendship is a wonderful foretaste of what awaits us forever, together in the New Jerusalem, as we live together in the holy communion of the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The best we experience now will be common place, and even better surely, then, and we'll delight in it.

But now, to be a true friend in this way can have its hard aspects. Let's be willing by God's grace to do that now. To help each other through prayers, tears, kindness, gentleness, mercy, goodness, concern, faithfulness, and a heart that listens before we speak.

What would you add about being true friends in Jesus?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

the inactivity of faith

As a rule, faith by nature is active. If you know me, and you are getting to know me a bit through blogging, you'll soon see me as prefering to be active. And that preference I find (and others too) can have its downside. All too often I keep doing or talking when I ought to be still and quiet.

Faith has as part of its practice the need for inactivity. Sometimes we need to be quiet and still. And I do mean this in the context of prayer, reading and meditating on Scripture, in humble fellowship with others in Jesus with both ears eager to listen and a mouth shut or slow to speak. I have found that a grace and peace comes as we try to, in a submissive stance before God simply look to him, waiting for him and for his help.

Now I can enter into this sense of grace and peace, but I can just as quickly abandon it by my overactivity. Yes, we need to become active again, but we need to seek to do so as those who do not speak or act on every impulse. I find that what I say and do as a rule goes much further if the quantity is turned down. I can get in the way of what God wants to do in and through others as well as in and through myself. I have to hold myself back, and especially so at times, when I want to speak or act. God's humbling work in our lives also helps us to do this.

This aspect of faith is for my own good which in turn ends up being for the good of others.

What about you? What have you learned about the inactivity of faith?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

in for the long haul

Halfmom, AKA, Susan left a comment recently that I believe the Lord used to minister to me and help me. She simply quoted Hebrews 12:1-2 which is a great reminder to us in Jesus that our lives are a marathon race along the path that God has laid out before us. And the point that ministered to me especially is that we're in this for the long haul.

Endurance seems terribly unexciting and even grim, like "grim and bear it". But this is exactly what we need to do. Much of life will seem mundane at times, even though in Jesus nothing is really mundane. But we'll be bored, and worse than that at times, sorely tempted to quit.

Why do so many Christians seem so enthusiastic for the Lord yet seem by and by to flag and lose out entirely in their enthusiasm? Could it be that we fail to realize that this life in Jesus is an endurance race we're to run? I think this can be a large part of the problem for many of us.

Of course in this race we're to throw off all that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us and we're to focus on Jesus, on his life, how he lived. All the while running, yes living out this faith as those who are committed to running the race to the finish.

Hopefully this will encourage someone out there as it encouraged me today. And more than that, help keep us on track in the way of Jesus for the rest of our lives.

What would you add to this?

Monday, October 01, 2007

God's faithfulness

An important focus for us as people of faith is to learn to trust and rely on God and God's faithfulness to us in Jesus. This faithfulness has to do with God's reliability as a person, and indeed as God in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It has to do with God's promises we find in Scripture, God's word. And we see this faithfulness time and again throughout Scripture, though not in ways humans could naturally accept and go through, apart from God's saving and sustaining grace.

I believe our only hope of being faithful and of fulfilling our commitment as God purposes that we do is for us to learn to depend on God's faithfulness. Of course our fulfillment will not be perfect. In our weakness and sin at times, we will fail in our hearts and in our actions. But at the same time we're to find that God is there to help us through the Spirit, and that we're all in this together in Jesus. Part of God's faithfulness to us is through others, as well as mediated through his word and directly to us in his grace by the Spirit.

We get in trouble when we don't see our commitment in terms of God's covenant to us in Christ, in terms of God's utter faithfulness to us. When we look at ourselves and all depending on us, then we're sure to fail, in fact we're already failing, even if we think we're doing so well.

God is faithful. And as we learn to trust and rely on God's faithfulness, we can learn faithfulness, even in the most difficult areas of our lives and through the most difficult times.

What would you add to help us in this, or any thought?