Wednesday, January 31, 2007

sacred or not?

I have a problem with much of talk radio. That's why I choose not to regularly listen to it. I'm referring to talk radio that has to do with politics. And specifically, I'm referring to the normal fare of attacking the character and person of the political opponents of the talk show host.

What is far more troubling for me is when I see Christians listening to these programs, then turning around and saying many of the same things they've heard. Belittling the people "on the other side". It is certainly good and right to express disagreement with a politician's political position or policy. But this should be done in a way that reflects the Jesus we claim to follow.

C.S. Lewis wrote/said something to the effect that the most sacred thing we see on earth is our neighbor, another human. Humans in Scripture are called "eikons" (transliteration of Greek word), or image bearers of God. This is true of all humans by creation. And those in Jesus are being changed into the very image of Christ. For us to look down on, despise and even demonize another human is unworthy of who we are in Christ. And who that other human is. Are they sacred or not?

While I may strongly disagree with someone, specifically here, in the political arena, I'd better treat them with respect, and I'd better listen to them, and be willing to dialogue and perhaps debate with them, but as one who is sacred and special by, and before God. Otherwise we lose something vitally important in our witness to the world. And really miss God's ongoing redemptive work in Christ, that we're to be a part of.

I have been guilty of this. Though I abhor it. And want no part of it. Even as one who may acquiesce to it, simply by listening and maybe even joining in the laughter surrounding it. Maybe we can gently help others, in wise ways, to see this, and repent, as we have had to.

Let's avoid this kind of radio or media. At least regularly. So we don't get swept up into the same habit, either by joining them, or opposing them, all the while picking up the same spirit and attitude towards others that is surely displeasing to God.

What thought(s) would you like to add here?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

gaining strength through prayer

In Scripture we're often told, in one way or another, to pray. When we are lost. Weak. Losing ground. Miserable. Tempted to what seems the breaking point to us- and beyond. Defeated.

These times, of course, are not the only times to pray. But they are prime and opportune times to do so, as we see in the Story we find, in Scripture. From which we continue, in the ongoing story of God.

It is especially important for us to pray, when we're in trouble (James 5, etc.). Though we should "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5). We're always in need of something beyond ourselves. We are never independent, but by nature are depedent on God. And interdependent on others. This is why we need prayers, especially at certain times, from our brothers and sisters in Jesus (James 5).

We also need, through repentance and realigning of our lives, to seek to follow God, as we pray in our weakness and defeat. Our prayer needs to become, truly the cry of our heart. If we half-heartedly pray, "Lord, deliver me," but really more than half-heartedly cling to any sin, then, of course, we have the promise that God will not hear our prayer (Psalm 66). Though we really don't have it in ourselves, to break away from our weakness- by God's grace in Christ, and through the Spirit and the Word, and in communion with God's people, we need to make the break ourselves, in repentance, from any known sin in our lives. And pray for God to reveal any sin we may be uanaware of.

Just yesterday, in my own life, I saw God strengthening me in answer to prayer. It began in the morning, as I sought the Lord. And continued on throughout the day. So that by the end of the day, I sensed, and even knew that I was living in new strength from God. And this strength was good to go, across the board. Helping me cope with the new pressures and challenges I would meet along the way, the rest of the day (as well as just to enjoy the good things).

Inevitably we will face more weakness. Days have their ebb and flow in our experience. Times when we feel low in one way or another. These can become reminders to us to look to God for his strength and help. That we might live in the good will of God for us, in Christ Jesus. With others and for the world.

What about you? Would you like to recount an experience you've had in this reality? Or any thoughts you'd like to share?

Monday, January 29, 2007

love wins

There is a bumper sticker I've seen a good number of times on cars, on our travels around here. It simply says, "love wins". I'm not much into bumper stickers. I remember putting one on when I was a young Christian which said something like: "Jesus is coming again". I really don't normally care for signs or bumper stickers. Which either can't say enough, or say too much (and in that, don't say enough either).

At first when I saw this sticker, I was not much impressed. I'd notice that on a number of vehicles, the occupants were possibly Christian as there might be a fish- Jesus decal accompanying it, or an area Christian college decal. Although I'm not interested in putting any sticker on our cars, I do have some second thoughts about this sticker.

I think the saying, "Love wins", has something important to say to the world, and to each of us, if understood aright. God has put something into each of us, as humans, through creation, which recognizes at gut level, and beyond, that much of what is happening in the world is not right and is not of love. Even the very notion of love itself, comes from God. So we humans have this notion by which we measure ourselves and others, built in us.

But for us in Jesus, love "is a many splendored thing". Love means so much more than meets the eye in creation alone, in the new creation in Jesus, coming in the kingdom of God. And this does have ramifications for all of life in this world. But we must begin where we live.

To begin to understand the love that wins we must look to the Story of God we find in Scripture. This is a love which we can find in this story. And it's a love that is alive with many expressions from the heart of God. And we find humans either responding to this love, or spurning it. But there is this tension that exists, because God's love is present. And won't let go.

We know the story. God creates. And creates us, humankind. We fail God. God pursues us. And does so by becoming human himself. This is an expression of God's love for the world of humankind. And in this expression of love, he dies.

But we know that is not the end of the story. There is resurrection. New creation. God's love wins. And in the end we see that God's love wins over everything else. Nothing else can stand before the powerful, penetrating, world-changing move of the love of God in Jesus.

"Love wins" to us humans in the here and now can be a rather glib phrase. It can mean pretty much whatever a person wants it to mean.

But I challenge myself, and any reader: Let's pray and think on what this "love" really is, that in the end wins. When we read Scripture we need to ask ourselves how we can better understand this love, and live in it, and practice it, in our lives.

In a sense, all of Scripture is the give and take of God's love being expressed to humanity, and humanity's response, or lack thereof, to it. So we need to be in Scripture. And think about it, asking God to show us the way, in Jesus.

One last thing. Love is a communal word. It must begin at home. And it expresses itself in community. The community of Jesus especially is to be a light of this reality to the world. So to better understand and live in this love that wins, we need each other.

What other thoughts would you like to add? We need your input. This is only a little start in working on this subject.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, "Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:" Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

from The Daily Office of The Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 27, 2007

being led by God

The topic of guidance for the Christian from God, can be confusing. I've heard contradictory thoughts that seem related to it. For example, one professor, whom I much appreciate stated that almost everytime he's done according to his feelings or sense on something, along with the other things in place for God's will, he has been wrong. Then I heard a pastor, whom I also much appreciate say that we're too hard on feelings. That God uses our emotions to guide us (as I understood him).

I think it is most healthy and wise to distrust our emotions, even as children of God. I recently heard Lauren Winner mention that in regard to her own experience, and I think her point is well taken. I think it is wise to be careful not to act on emotion alone. We need to stop and consider everything prayerfully. Not be in a hurry to draw conclusions or act according to the emotion. It may be strong, and even persistent. And it may be wrong.

On the other hand, it is surely also wise to take emotions into consideration. If I have peace and joy about something, this may be an indication that God is at work in it, and I am to accept something as good and from his hand. God promises (for us today in Jesus, I believe) his guidance as we move along, or on our journey in this world. If, along with strong emotions to do something, we also have a sense of doubt or some troubling emotion, then we ought to stop, and reconsider. Of course this should include prayer. And especially if we can't get away from this issue, then we should seek another (or others) whom we can trust and look to for good counsel.

The bottom line for us is that in all things we are seeking to follow Christ and do the will of God. This should be the goal in all we do. Most of what we do will surely be clear enough, so that we don't have to give it a second thought, as we seek to live our lives in the Lord and in the community of his people in mission to the world. But other things can be challenging.

Wait. Slow down. Keep praying. And proceed, as the way is made clear. And keep doing what is God's will for us in Christ Jesus, through all of it.

What would you add from your own experience or thinking on this subject?

Friday, January 26, 2007

training ourselves to be godly

My posts lately have been about our struggle, as those in Jesus, against sin. And our endeaver to be and be becoming, holy. I was thinking this morning (and kind of discussing this with a friend yesterday) about the dynamic of Chrisian formation, and the human element in that. The passage in 1 Timothy 4, on training ourselves to be gody, came to mind. I like the way Eugene Peterson renders it:
Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart.
There is much I can learn in the way of "spiritual disciplines". There are many wonderful practices Christians have done over the centuries, to help them draw near to God, such as lectio divina. Growing up and remaining a part of "low church" traditions, has not lended itself to me, for growing, or even going into this area, intentionally. And though I'm beginning to see the value of them now, I still am hardly a novice in it.

I tie "spiritual disciplines" into the passage from 1 Timothy as one part of how we, in Jesus, can train ourselves to be godly. The best I do is reading Scripture- speaking or reading it out loud, even if just in my mind, at least twice daily, and in a prayerful way (when I do it best). And to pray afterwards, more than just a few words, at my very best in doing it.

When I do it, it can seem at times, somewhat "mechanical" or something I'm just doing. My mind can wander. But I don't let those elements discourage me from continuing in it, and keeping at it regularly. Because at the heart of such practice, is the desire to come close to God. To meet God. To be helped by God. To interact with God.

Training ourselves to be godly goes on during the day. What if I'm trying to discipline my intake of food, so I can lose weight. And everytime I see a doughnut, I go for it. Of course I'm defeating my purpose, and will never reach my goal to lose weight. This is indulging.

We can carry that over to our lives in thinking about becoming godly. Where is my thought life? Am I endulging in thoughts and actions, even if they're "little", that compromise training? I'm talking here about sin issues. If so, then I need to take stock (which we should, regularly, anyhow), and bring this before God in confession, and seek to live in his grace given to us in Christ.

The most important aspect of training is to remember why we are doing it. This training is never an end in itself. That in itself would be a sin. No. It's solely to come near to God. It includes saying no to certain things, as we say yes, to Jesus, in the salvation and the way he has set before us, to live in and follow.

And at its heart is the love of God. To live in that love. And in doing so, to love God with all our being and doing. And to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Jesus Creed.

What thoughts come to your mind about this? Or experience you would like to share with us?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

change and God's words

Lately, I've been meditating on Psalm 73. I can identify with the psalmist in the struggles they are having, especially at certain times along the way, in the journey. And like other Scripture, there are a number of ways or different experiences we can be going through, and be helped by this psalm.

How do we guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23)? I believe this psalm has something important to say to us, to help us do that. It is worth going over and pondering for awhile. I was trying to memorize certain verses of it, and at least in the process, was mouthing them, over and over again (verses 1-3, 13-17, 21-28). In this practice, I believe God's Word can become more and more our own words, coming from our hearts. But I speak them when my heart may seem far away from what they're saying, or even opposed to it. And as we engage in this, in a prayerful way to God, God can and will change our hearts, and help us live differently, in his love and in his love for ourselves and others.

These words in some ways seem strange to me. But they say something important to us as God's people, that we need to hear, and take to heart:

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

It is good to let a passage from Scripture impact us. And we also need to hold on, by faith, to what we saw more clearly as we were pondering it. We need to remember the truth we are gathering and learning. And seek to apply it, and live it out, more and more, in the rough and tumble reality of living.

What might you share from your thoughts and/or experience about this?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Pastor Jack Brown gave us a wonderful message, Sunday, entitled "A Renewed Humble". My notes from what he said:
Augustine said something like, "Rise by descending. A tower to God's glory (the thought, I'd guess) has the foundation of humiliation." We need to be becoming less and less (so Christ can become more and more).

From Philippians 2:5-11.
1. Humility rejects entitlement.
Laying down ALL expectations. Act of surrender giving God more freedom to work in our lives.

2. Humility embraces nothingness.
Architect of Billy Graham meetings, Charley Riggs: "I always asked the Lord to put me in over my head. Then I knew any good that happens is God working." (paraphrase)

3. Humility chooses servanthood.
Of course Pastor Jack had much else to say, which was very good. These are just thoughts that struck me, which I wrote down.

Then going home we saw a car ahead of us with the license plate having the letters: bhumble.

Funny (ha) how this is an important part of what God is teaching and working in me, lately, it seems. This is in regard to issues that I must put at the Lord's feet, so to speak. And gladly take my place, whatever it might be. Seeking to do God's will, and live out his will for us in Christ Jesus, along with other believers. And be here to be in mission. Hopefully following in the footsteps of Jesus.

How does this strike you? Or/And what has the Lord taught you about humility that you'd like to share with us?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

in over our heads

Pastor Jack Brown, on Sunday, mentioned Charley Riggs(sp?), who was the key architect of the Billy Graham meetings. People, including Billy himself, doubted Charley's ability to do this work. But he did it quite well. Right from the beginning (as I recall Jack's words). When asked towards the end of his life, the secret to his life, Charley said: (partly a paraphrase) "I always asked the Lord to put me in over my head. Then I knew any good that happens is God working."

What about us? Are we willing to take on new challenges of faith, that we know we can't meet ourselves? Things that are beyond our own resources? Or in territory unknown to us?

Really, when one thinks about it, this life in God in this world in the present, "not yet" existence in which we live, is truly beyond ourselves. This being beyond ourselves goes beyond this present life, of course, but is acutely felt in a world that is fallen because of the sin and the results of sin all around us, and at times, in our own lives.

To be in over our heads means we can't make it on our own. We need God's help. It's amazing how many times I have felt down, and nearly out, especially before some ministry opportunity. How during such times, God has so often met me, and met us together, in a way that was only from God, "a God thing", definitely not of me, or of us. At other times I may think everything is fine. I'll shoot up a prayer, or maybe a bit more prolonged, as I express concern that God will meet us. But I don't really think I'm in over my head. And at times, it seems flat.

What we need is not to be looking for some crisis mentality, that sees us in need of rescue by the Lord, all the time. What we need instead, is a sense that in all of life, we are in over our heads. That we live in that existence. But that we are comfortable, more and more, in that existence. Embracing God and his help for us as we live in the Lord by the Spirit in the community of his people. As those in mission to the world.

What thoughts might you want to add here?

Monday, January 22, 2007

an ideal in community

In thinking about an ideal community (and I'm not referring now to the New Jerusalem that's to come, but an ideal community on this side of existence), of course we have to try to find the vision in Jesus and from Scripture. We also witness, by trial and error, God's work and our participation, or lack thereof, in this. And what seems to help and not help each other in realizing and fulfilling God's call for us here and now.

What I'd like to focus on here is authenticity. I have to wonder if we really want our lives to be exposed for what they are, both in community as church at our gatherings, and in virtual community as bloggers. The ones who know our struggles best are those at home. Part of being at home is to be able to be more ourselves, yet accepted through that, as well as challenged to overcome weaknesses and sins, and grow.

Each of us, in Jesus, has a great capacity for goodness. (And really every member of the human race has this, as well, being made in the image of God, eikons of God, even as cracked eikons). But we also have a great capacity to express the old person in Adam. Characteristics that are not good in God's eyes, and often not good in anyone's eyes.

I struggle in some things at certain times and periods of my life. I have struggled in the past, and haven't done well. Though God in his grace kept me from disaster (only God's grace). I have my down times when it would be nice if, like a machine in danger of meltdown, it would simply automatically shut off. But a person does not.

This is when we need to grab for all the help we can get from God and from others. And we need to seek to be on the lookout for how we can spot and assist others who may be struggling and even failing.

The ideal community here and now does not come across as a perfect group of people who have it all together. On the contrary. The ideal community, in Jesus, are those who realize they do not. That they are not where they want to be. And that they are not always heading in the right direction. That maybe some one is sidetracked into something damaging to them. And maybe another has been drifting away from their faith. And maybe another is struggling in some temptation or another.

So the ideal community is a community that realizes that Christ-likeness comes only as we deal with ourselves as we really are. In the light of God's word/Scripture, by the help of the Holy Spirit, within the community of God in Christ. I don't grow in becoming like Jesus by coming across to everyone as "Mr. Saint". But I do so, only by facing my sins, issues and problems as they really are. Bringing them to God, and at times, bringing them to the community I am a part of. As we pray and confess, and bless one another's prayers and confessions, and pray for each other, than we can see the kind of change that we all need.

One last note. We can't pour out our complete ugliness just to anyone and everyone. Ultimately God is the one who can bear all we carry. But others in God can bear something of what we carry. And thus help us with our load.

Have you experienced this kind of community? What obstacles prevent it from happening? What should those do who believe in it?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

in Christ there is no east or west

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

William A. Dunkerely

Three other verses and the tune.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

what I like about blogging

There are some things I dislike about blogging. But I like to work on seeing the good side of things, the water in the glass as opposed to the part that's empty. I have to work on that, because in my past I've been "the glass is half empty" type of person. But in Jesus, I believe God helps me see that the glass is not only half full, but can be much more, even overflowing, in him. Well, away from my theologizing and back to the point of this post.
  1. I like to meet new friends from the blog world. These are people who share common interests, or who simply are there to share and help others. I think particularly of my brothers and sisters in Jesus. But I also include anyone who would like to enter in, to what hopefully can be a conversation.
  2. I like to converse. I am learning in this. It's an art of give and take, and more than that, of simply enjoying the other person, and what they have to share. I want to become more and more a conversationalist in blogging. This doesn't exclude an aspect of teaching/learning or even engaging in friendly debate, at times. But I'd like to see more conversation that helps us get to know each other better, and along with that, we can get to know our God better.
  3. The outlet for creativity. Some of you are particularly striking in this. I have my own simple outlet, and I enjoy it, and look forward to it. To share whatever I may, and to enjoy what others share.
  4. I do learn alot from others. Especially by reading their blogs. And sometimes when I'm challenged either on a comment I make on their blog, or on a posting I make on my blog. Also I am blessed by what others share on comments from their own life or thought, on a subject or issue.
  5. Last, but not least, I also want to see this as a ministry. I once believed the Lord was calling me to be a pastor. I went to schools, got my degrees, but God still needed to do a major work in my own heart. I was once called "an emotional cripple" when in my mid to later twenties, and that person, on staff at the school, and a counselor of mine, was right. But God did a work, and continues to do a work in me. And I want to share from that, and from whatever he gives me. And pray it will help others. I do think about how I might possibly be part of a community, in blogging, among those not of the Jesus community.

This is at least some of the reasons I enjoy blogging. What about you? What do you like about blogging?

Friday, January 19, 2007

don't give up!

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18

In what ways are we tempted to give up? How many ways, is more like the right question. Maybe it's not giving up entirely, but settling for something far less than we might aspire to, or believe is best, in God's will.

There is a healthy realism in life. That accepts God's will even in difficult situations and setbacks. And after disappointment and grief, presses on, seeing the good hand of God in life, or believing in God's goodness in spite of circumstances. This is important if we're to live as those who do not give up.

Jesus tells his disciples something very simple with a story. Comparing God to an unjust judge who finally reluctantly gives in to a persistent plea for justice from a widow. He tells them, and us, that if this kind of judge would finally give in, then wouldn't our good God answer prayers for justice from his people. Of course, he will. So we should always pray, and not give up. Doing so individually and together.

Yes, pray. What are we struggling with? What trials are we experiencing? What temptations might we be wrestling with? What obstacles seem to block our way? All this, and more, is really nothing to God. So we need to take these and everything else to God in prayer.

I've seen his answers whenever I do that. Maybe not instantly, but "in time". And when I haven't prayed? Or not persistently, as Jesus teaches in this passage? I have more or less given up. Caved in. Gave way. And therefore failed to see and experience God's goodness in his answer.

To not give up is to press on, in prayer to God. In faith. Believing he will answer according to his own good will. That he will work in our lives, and in the situation we bring before him. That is the way, according to Jesus, that we can avoid giving up.

Is there something from your life or thoughts you would like to share on this? Or have us pray with you about?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

we still have a dream

I want to highly recommend Bob Robinson's post on Martin Luther King, Jr. Listening to the three minute excerpt of the last part of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech is great in conveying the electricity that was in the air that day, as the crowd noise is picked up quite well.

Also the excerpt Bob requires students to read for his ethics class, linked on the bottom, is well worth the read. It is interesting to see how Caucasian American evangelicals differ in outlook from African American evangelicals on the race issue.

living with tension

We live in a world of creation, that is under God's curse, and looks forward, in anticipation, to the unveiling and revelation, in resurrection, of God's children (Romans 8). So, along with creation, we live in an already/not yet existence.

Disease or illness or lack of good health can occur because of environmental factors, which can be the chief or contributing cause to such. And if you want something to be afraid of that is in mainstream use, than go to Google search, type in two or more key words, and you'll find it.

This came to my attention yesterday as I was shopping for what I consider a need. Some friends express ideas about a number of things, and they could be right. This altered what I was trying to find, in the products I was looking at. I finally settled on something that I thought might meet their criteria. But later, on reflecting on it some more, I realized I just can't use this version of it, and be able to use this product in my sometimes dirty, sometimes greasy every day world. Haha.

All that to say there is a sense in which we now live in tension. Yes. We want to live well, in a way that promotes our health. But no. We don't want to spend all our time trying to live in a utopia, or in a creation in which we live with no uncertainty, and think we're safe.

Now I'm not saying to go all natural, as in lawn care, or not eat certain processed foods, etc., is a phobia. Not at all! In fact I want to, and have practiced these kinds of things. At the same time I'm unwilling to sacrifice my life, my thoughts and actions, to try to avoid living in or mitigating the environment that has been impacted by the fall, by humankind's abuse of the environment.

There is a tension here. And for those who are called into a kind of ministry or vocation, such as the friends I mentioned above, that focuses on some of this, that, I believe, can be fine. And for us to do the best we can in these areas, as we seek to fulfill God's calling for us in Christ, is also fine. And in some cases may be important for our family's health.

But let's be willing to live in the reality in which we live. Breathing air and drinking water, etc., that may not be completely free of the toxins of our environment. Just living in the real world. And in doing so, seeking to follow Jesus by the Spirit in the community of God's people in mission to the world. Like John Frye, who has a calling from God to go to Ukraine, as he does every so many months. In ministry to the younger generation of church planters and pastors there. Hardly a friendly environment when one remembers Chernobyl, right on their soil. But a land and nation that is a part of Christ's inheritance, and our inheritance in him.

So I'm taking back this impractical item. And will find something I can use, which, while not perhaps as safe, will remind me once in a while that there is a tension we live in now, that we cannot completely avoid.

Now find a happier post. Just click whatever links you may have, and you probably will!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

holiness is communal

Related to yesteday's post, I want to make the important point today, that, at its heart, holiness is communal.

With the coming of the Protestant Reformation, of which I am a part, I believe there were important gains and insights drawn from Scripture. At the same time there were loses in areas that eventually most in the Reformation left behind from their Roman Catholic heritage. One of those is the monastic orders. For all the negatives that can be said about them, there were good things, as well. And one of them is the aspect of community lived out by them.

There is a strong and overwhelming tendency to view holiness (i.e., in God's love in Christ, living in God's will, as those set apart from sin to righteousness, from self to God, in mission to the world) as primarily some individualistic, private reality and experience. People think of someone, maybe some great "saint" of the past, and say, "She was holy!" Then think of characteristics of that person, demonstrating her holiness. There is truth there. But the fact remains that holiness is never lived out in isolation. It is in the communion of God, and in the communion of God's people, and in mission to the world.

I love community. And dislike isolation, though we need some of that. It is good just to have fun with each other. But we also need to work at being intentional in other ways that help us in our journeys. And to see our journeys as converging in a real sense. Journeying together.

We're all dependent on God and on his revelation to us in Christ and from Scripture. Apart from this, we can never be holy. But we're also interdependent on each other. God does not see us merely as separate entities, as important and precious as that individual relationship with God is. But he also sees us as those in community. I have an obligation, in love, to my brother and sister. And my brother and sister have an obligation in love to me.

Scripture talks about us confessing our sins to God and to each other, as God's people. And holding each other accountable. All, in love. And seeing each other grow in holiness. Giving room to struggle, and admit difficulty and even defeat. So that one can become, in God, truly holy. Growing together into the family likeness of our Brother, and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

How have you seen community help you in becoming holy? Or what thoughts might you like to add here?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

on hold

Did you ever feel like your life is going nowhere? That you're treading ground, maybe even losing ground? Because there is some sin issue in your life that you're not addressing well?

We all have. In reading Philip Yancey's new book on prayer, last evening, I was kind of struck by his reference to Psalm 51, as well as the testimony of a woman in how making that Psalm her own prayer, helped her address the sin issue in her life.

When we struggle with a sin issue, be it anger, lust, envy, pride, not forgiving, not caring, anxiety etc., we often find ourselves experiencing misery, fear, guilt, heaviness, etc. Often people, in spite of this experience, find it impossible, or at least more than they're able to do, to let go of their sin.

I think an important and helpful place for us to begin is to turn to this Psalm from Scripture, and begin to make it our own prayer to God. Regardless of whether we feel like it or not. As we meditate on the words, and pray them to God, we can, in time, more and more be making these words, truly our own.

David could only move on before God, and before people (though with difficulty and trials to come) after addressing his sin. First he was confronted by Nathan, the prophet. Then, after acknowledging his guilt and sin, he had to begin to work through his confession to God. It was not an easy and quick fix. It took time. It took effort. It took an open heart before God. Only God could forgive him. Only God could cleanse him. And make him whole again. So that he could serve God and humankind acceptably, in love, again.

Do we have any sin issue that has been entangling us? Does it seem like we're making no headway in it, and that our lives are on hold? Then we must learn to deal with it. In God's prescribed way. Even as David did. Not watering down our sinful heart attitude. Or sinful act. But bringing it before God. In Christ we have forgiveness and cleansing. And new life. But we must receive it in such a way that, more and more, we are leaving the old behind, and entering into the new from God.

What might you like to share with us on this, as to your thoughts or experience?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day is observed today, in the United States. I grew up not really understanding or appreciating who this man really was. In fact being suspicious of his intentions. And little understanding the radical racial divide that was a part of our nation at that time.

Now, years later, I am glad to say that I have a deep respect and admiration for this man. I believe he was one of our most important leaders of the twentieth century. A man who had embraced a vision of the kingdom of God come in Jesus. A vision that was, on the one hand, color blind. But on the other hand loved people of every color. A vision of peace that meant no violence, but more than that. People of all ethnicities and backgrounds, living together, hand in hand, as one. One human race.

Do we still need the vision he had today? This vision will always be needed. A continued need for healing is present, now. Both for African Americans who have been the victims of slavery and prejudice in our nation. And also for us perpetrators and occupants, whose souls have been deadened by our participation in and compliance to this sin.

I have noticed African American bloggers who have challenged the likes of me to really begin to understand the world in which they live. To really begin to see the Story in Scripture in terms of their story, and not merely in terms of my own, Caucasian American experience.

I think a key in doing this is to read, but much more than that, to really begin to relate, or develop relationships with others from different backgrounds. Really taking them into our hearts and lives, not just here and there, away from the safety of our homes. Starting where we're at. In simple ways. Reaching out. Listening. Learning. Letting our lives be impacted by this exchange. And hopefully seeing it grow, more and more. Towards the community our Lord prayed for. That we all might be one in this world, as he is one with the Father, that the world might see, and believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, sent from the Father.

In what ways have we failed to see and live out the vision of the kingdom of God come in Jesus, that would impact the continuing divide of "races" and cultures? How can we help others, and let them help us- to be "at home" and one, with each other?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Scot McKnight tagged me

Scot tagged me here, so here goes:

I’m supposed to give you five odd facts about myself most would not know.

1. My wife Deb and I met at Prairie Bible Institue in Alberta, Canada during the "pink and blue sidewalk" days (not literally). But we didn't date until we were back home, she in Indiana and I in Ohio.

2. I was raised Mennonite, attended our Mennonite church in Elida on the average of more than once a week for 17 years, later left the Mennonite version of the faith and now have come back full circle to be at least empathetic with the Mennonite, anabaptist teaching- though we happily are a part of a church that is in the Evangelical Covenant denomination.

3. In High School, students used to think I was high (I might as well have been). After I had my conversion during which there was a day I gave my life completely to God, based on what Jesus did for me on the cross (as I expressed that then or later), someone gave me the nickname "Father Goss", since I carried my Bible openly to school everyday, the rest of my senior year.

4. I was supposed to play a drunk in a lead role for a play we were to put on from my drama class my senior year, but as a new Christian, I developed a bad conscience about that, and opted out.

5. During our visit as a family, to the World's Fair in New York City, in 1965, I remember walking between two older people in conversation, from other nationalities in their national dress. We were probably striding right along, and I felt bad because I hadn't apologized ("excuse me") to them. By the way, during that same trip, my cousin Carol and I ran (and walked) up all the stairs to the top of the Washington monument.

If you are reading this, I’d like to tag Allan Bevere, L.L. Barkat, Lukas McKnight, Michael Kruse, and Susan Arnold (I'll e-mail them, too).

I will wait for my change to come

I like Fernando Ortega's song, I Will Wait For My Change (Job 14) (though he didn't write it). Job, in chapter 14, is longing for a change. For a release, or renewal. Job's circumstances were unique, to be sure. Though in differing ways, we all enter into something of that experience, ourselves. Otherwise, of course, Job would be good literature for us, but nothing more.

Who doesn't have struggle, in seeking to follow Christ? Who doesn't stumble and fall into sin, at times? Who doesn't experience tempation, or feel their own weakness? Who doesn't see need for change?

I do. I see that for myself. Even though I can thank God for his good work in me, that is ongoing. And his good work in others, as well. Still, I know there is much more that needs to be done.

So in the words of the song sung, by Fernando, taken from Job, I fully concur. I look, in grace, for God's hand on me, and on us, now, for change. And I look forward to that great and good and complete change, and renewal that is to come. When at long last, we're really and fully at home.

Friday, January 12, 2007

praying the "our Father" prayer

Bob Robinson has a fine post on praying "the Lord's prayer". As Scot McKnight points out, this prayer is to be recited. And done so publicly (framed after a liturgical Jewish prayer), as well as privately. Dallas Willard writes that praying this prayer in his younger days, was important in his Christian formation.

What is our prayer life like? I would be thinking about that, because I'm reading Philip Yancey's new book on prayer. But I'm also thinking about that, because both personally, and corporally (other Christians), I see struggle going on right now, which this prayer directly addresses. Not only that, but I see this prayer helping center us in God's priorities, and what is important to him (which certainly includes the petitions for bread, etc). So that our priorities, worldview and goals, might more and more line up with God's will, and his great kingdom come to earth, in Jesus.

There is worship of God, and petition for his kingdom to come now. There are petitions for our daily needs ("bread"), forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others, petition for deliverance from and in temptation and evil (or, the evil one). Along with the final line, attributing the kingdom, power and glory forever to God, which though not in the older and considered better manuscripts, at least is from an old Christian tradition, in praying it. And the prayer in its entirety is framed in terms of us together. Which is how we should think and live.

We need to be praying this prayer daily ("Give us this day [or, today]"). Along with all kinds of prayers.

Unfortunately, for many raised in churches who do pray this prayer together, it has become an empty ritual. When they hear prayer prayed as if in conversation to a friend, this is like a new experience which has awakened their prayer lives. But for us raised in nonliturgical churches, praying this prayer can help give substance to our praying and prayer lives.

What is your experience in praying the "our Father" prayer? And what do you think about this?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

measuring politics, politicians and political events

I got to the couch in time, under the blanket, to hear President Bush's speech on Iraq. Soon after it began I was sound asleep. I did tape it, and may go back and catch some, at least the analysis perhaps, since we'll all have the text to read today.

It's interesting how we Christians differ in how we interpret an event like last night. Our worldview largely shapes how we see it. That is shaped by our theology. Which is shaped by the teaching we've received and accepted. Also we are all people of our times and places. So philosophy does influence us. All of us, more than we think. It is good to be aware of that. I heard a good professor once say that Augustine was more Biblically oriented, and less neo-Platonic, at the end of his life.

The end result? Well, on my team alone, at work, we find ourselves at polar opposites on the war. And different ones of us have different takes on a number of issues.

I think we have to approach all these things with humility, first of all. God does give insight along the way. But we also know God's ways are higher than ours. That we really cannot comprehend his works. We can begin to understand his ways. And see his works. But an important part in understanding his ways is to acknowledge a sense of mystery and awe. As Paul said, "How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33) Though he is speaking here of God's work in the world in regard to creation, the fall and redemption, as well as the difficult issues in regard to Israel in chapters 9 through 11, I believe this also applies to all of his work in the world.

I have my own belief about Iraq, the war, and politics and politicians. And I believe it's important to seek to see all in light of the kingdom of God revealed in Jesus. Better understanding our times, so that we as God's people, may better know what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). But at the same time, let's keep reading, praying, listening, engaging- and keep doing that. So that the end result may be, not to always be right on every issue, but to better see the hand of God in everything. So that we can better recognize and better live in, along with others, God's great salvation in Jesus, at work in this world.

What thoughts might you add here?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

avoid dualism

A dualism, as I'm thinking of it here, is a simplistic way of looking at the world in terms of good and evil, "darkness" and "light". It is not denying the two ways set forth in Scripture: the broad way that leads to destruction, the narrow way that leads to life. Nor that there are those who have faith in God through Christ, and those who do not. Nor is this denying the existence of good and evil, light and darkness.

The dualism I speak of here fails to see the complexity of what our world is. Of what we see. Of what we experience. As we can embrace the fact that there is much we do not understand, and there is much goodness in the same places where we can find evil (and look in the mirror, too), then we can more and more appreciate the good that is there, yet not be at all surprised to see the evil present.

I'll take one general example. If one studies the United Nations they will find that through that organization much good is occurring in the world. At the same time they will find scandals, surely double standards, inconsistencies, and failure. But that does not deny all the good it does in the world.

Failing to see God's work and handiwork all over, even a fallen world and a creation under his curse, is to miss an important aspect of the Story we are all a part of. And it fails to see the good that God can redeem in a society. What if Joseph would have taken a dualistic approach when he was sold to Egypt? He could have been pious. In a corner. By himself. Rejecting all Egypt had to offer. Instead, we see what God accomplished through him, even as he became a leader there. Same is true of Daniel. And I believe the same is true of us, as one holy nation, scattered throughout the earth.

I can enjoy and appreciate a contribution from someone who does not share my faith in Jesus. Would I like to see them come to share in my faith? Of course. And we can pray and love to that end. But we can't simply push them aside as an "other". Jesus calls us to be a "neighbor" to all.

What dualism might shape your view of the world and of others? Is it Scriptural? Why or why not?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

making all things new now

God's work in Jesus and the kingdom come embraces all things. And that work begins now.

Christianity has taken various views of "the world" and how Christians should live in the world. I was raised with the view that the world was them, the church or Christians is us. And what we do is rescue sinners from the world by preaching the gospel. A sinner is saved out of the world, and enters the church, becoming one of us. Some truth there, but leaves something, Biblically, to be desired.

It is true, as in Jesus' words, we, as his disciples are not of the world, even as he is not of the world (John 17). His kingdom was from another place (John 18). But God's kingdom come in Jesus has now come to this place, to planet earth, to this world of human beings and all that goes with that. And it comes as a transformative agent of God, to begin the work of making all things new now. Yes, if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5). But this new work of creation involves all that we do, all our labor, in the Lord, which ends up not being in vain (1 Corithians 15).

Newness as in new creation of God in Jesus, beginning with us here and now, is meant not to stop with us. It's meant to be working its effect on others. On our neighbors, our schools, our communities; the arts and sciences; government- all the world around us, and on this globe. If this is not the case, than God's salvation would not be spelled out in cosmic terms (Colossians). God does not reject his creation. But after the Fall, he comes in Jesus and his death and resurrection, and the pouring out of the Spirit on the people of God, to redeem and save all of his creation. Not all will be saved, but this is God's goal, in bringing in his new creation in Christ.

This theological concept has been a struggle for me. Especially in terms of how we as Christians are related to the world. "The world" in Scripture has different meanings. In some places it means all of God's creation. In other places it means all human beings. And still in other places it means fallen humanity, bent personally and systemically against God and against his kingdom.

Too often Christians have lived as though we're in some kind of bubble, or space ship. In alien land. And we get others, through Jesus, to get their own bubble, and come in and be a part of our alien community. Then someday, zap, we'll all be taken away in the space ship in Jesus. And bid good riddance to this world that God then trashes in judgment.

Quite unlike the Incarnation in Jesus. Who becomes one of us, fully human. Comes to live among us. Identifies himself fully with us, even in our sins, though he never sinned. Dies on the cross for our sins. Is raised to new life, which we all, as believers, share by the Spirit.

Then someday, the climax of what is beginning now. Heaven as in "the new Jerusalem" comes down to earth (Revelation 21). Making all things new. But this climax is from what is going on now. Not just in terms of the radical change of newness that will occur when Jesus returns.

I have much more work to do in trying to understand theologically, in a Biblically satisfying way, this aspect of the Story of God. And with that, even more to learn and enter into, in living it out.

What about you? What has been your view of "the world" and of Christians' relationship to it? How has that impacted your thoughts and action?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Christian maturity

Yesterday someone brought up the issue of Christian maturity. It was related to what was being taught and discussed from Ephesians 1. But not directly. So it was only mentioned.

But it got me to thinking. What is Christian maturity? On the surface the answer seems easy, something like: being conformed to the image of Christ, or, becoming like Jesus. This is a large point of what it means to be a Christian.

I believe, however, that the only way we're really going to begin to understand and experience this maturity, is to remain in Scripture, in a commitment to a body of believers, i.e., to a church, and in reading good Bible scholars and theologians, all the while going back to Scripture to verify if their contribution is helping us understand the Story of God. There are other authors, but the two who have had the most impact on me during the past five years are N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight.

Of course when it comes to Christian maturity, in Jesus, we're all works of God in process. So we must always be open to change, though most of the change we will see, will be gradual and over time. Usually only striking in that we can tell that our current life and experience is different from our past. Journaling is nice here, though I haven't done much of it, myself. But I can look back on what I wrote years past, and compare that to what I would write now, about my experience.

While Scripture and Christian community are the most crucial for our Christian growth in maturity, I don't want us to discount the help Christian authors can give us. There are a good number that can help us. They are gifts from God to the church. To help us grow into and realize what we have and are and are equipped to do, in Christ, in this world.

What have you found helpful in promoting spiritual growth in your own life? What difficulties have you experienced in this?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

let's keep doing it

At the beginning of Rich Mullin's album, A Liturgy, a Legacy & a Ragamuffin Band (1993), prior to the first song, "Here in America", the band is getting ready to start. One clears their throat and says, "...I'm barely ready to do this, but let's keep doing it, so don't get mad at me." I believe Rich's voice intercepts that with "Alright. Amen," amidst a laugh. Another says something like, "That's the way we all feel."

I think there is some proverbial-like kind of wisdom in this. Yesterday I received news of a personal nature (not health, nor my own employment; the first two places your thoughts may go). After dealing with it, expressing my thoughts, but then coming to accept it, I experienced a peace, an unusual sense of peace in my heart and mind, uninterrupted for that time. Certainly of God's amazing grace. But later when I found something the way I don't like it, that struck a kind of irrational fear in my heart (ha, I won't go into details here; probably under the category more than less of personal idiosyncrasies), that experiential peace was gone. It was so striking before. Helping me through a kind of mini-crisis in my mind. But now just as striking in the opposite direction. Fear used to be a factor in my experiential life, in "my heart", holding me back. Now it seldom appears to that degree, though it does once in awhile. Here it was (and is- haha) in full force again!

So I try to do the spiritual disciplines, as I do them. And I do believe strongly in regularity in doing that. And I add extra prayer. And seek to put into practice some of the helpful things the Lord is teaching me recently. But to no avail. I still have that fear in my heart, that makes me feel like a muddler.

What comes to mind as I think about a couple of possibilites for a post this morning? This. This reminder. In spite of felt and known inadequacy, "Let's keep doing it." Yes. Just keep doing it. When you don't feel like doing whatever you believe God has called you to do, or what he has put in front of you to do, or what your hand has found to do (Ecclesiastes), go ahead and do it anyhow. With all your heart, even if you feel weak.

The kind of service God blesses is oftentimes done with a true sense of weakness. Paul is a great example of that. And he points to our Lord as the supreme example of that. So let's press on. In the love of God. In the faithfulness of God. In the communion of the saints, God's people. Let's keep doing it!

Any thoughts or testimonies here?

Friday, January 05, 2007

keep your eyes on the ball

Though we don't have our resident baseball expert with us, Lukas McKnight (former catcher in their system, and now scout extraordinaire for the Chicago Cubs), I want to look at a baseball analogy that came to my mind yesterday. Baseball players, when they come to the plate as hitters, must keep their eyes on the ball, since their goal is to hit it solidly with their bat. Other things are involved in good hitting too. But we look at this basic fundamental in becoming a good hitter.

Now the baseball player may enjoy the atmosphere. The game. The colors, sounds, smells, etc. Even some past good hits when they were batting. But unless one keeps their eyes on the baseball, seeing it into the catcher's mitt, if they take (i.e., don't swing), they surely have less of a chance to be a good hitter, or to hit the baseball. The best hitters, I've heard, can see the spin on the ball, though I can't understand how that is so when there's a fastball coming up 100 miles per hour or more, or even 90 mph, from only 60' 6'' (18.39 m) where the pitcher throws.

In our lives we have to remind ourselves what is most important. What is greatest in priority in God's kingdom in Jesus. Maybe just in regard to keeping our feet on the ground, our hearts in sync with God's heart, day after day. And sometimes when we are in an especially difficult or critical time, such as in the ninth inning with two out and a runner in scoring position, and the batter steps to the plate.

It is easy to have bad habits as a baseball hitter. That do not give one as good of a chance to hit the ball. Same surely goes for us as followers of Jesus. We can fall back into old habits and sin patterns. We can lose focus on what really matters. What is really important in a given situation? What are we facing? What is at stake?

In drawing from this simple baseball analogy, we're referring to life which itself is often much less simple in our experience. Interwoven with all kinds of issues of heart, living and relationships. But to get back to basic things, and then live according to those things, is important, to be sure, in learning to better follow the Lord in our lives.

The Lord has been working on me in regard to something. And in learning to wait, working on what I need to do in this waiting, I have found God's help in grace given to better live and move and have my being (and doing) in him, in this matter.

How does this strike you? What helps you keep your eyes focused on Jesus and on what really matters in life, or in a given situation? Or anything else you might like to share.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I am blessed to be working among a community of "saints", or redeemed sinners, or "righteous" in Jesus- people. We have our issues and struggles, but by and large it is quite a blessing to have this fellowship, this sharing in community with other brothers and sisters during, for us in our part of the ministry, largely ordinary work.

Community is what God made us for. It is inherent in God himself, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When God created Adam, he soon said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make one that is a suitable companion and partner to complement and commune with him." (my paraphrase) And in the end we see a city, the new Jerusalem. Jesus also mentioning his Father's house in which there are many rooms, or plenty of room, in which he would prepare a place for his people.

To grow in the Lord, we need his Body here on earth. His Body of others who in turn need our contribution to members of it. This is why it is so important that we refuse to live in isolation. Not to say that we don't need our space, and some special space at times. But we must live in ongoing regular communion with the saints, if we're to really be experiencing the communion in God that is ours. Communion in God includes communion with his people.

So you may have to look for fellowship with another sister or brother in Jesus. And work at experiencing more of this in your gatherings as church, and beyond those gatherings. As well as extending communion out to others, all others, whom the Lord would invite to his table.

What is your experience of community? What are some of the difficulties encountered in seeking to live in or experience more of community? Or what other thoughts might you like to add?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


There is a sense in which our faith needs to be active by being passive, at times. We see this in Jesus, who resisted evil, not only by doing good, but by refusing to retaliate for wrongs done. We see this over and over in Scripture, when God's people in obeying God set themselves up for ridicule, scorn and persecution (and even possibly death). Yet simply do God's will, and leave the outcome in God's hands.

I find this faith in waiting, an act of passivity. This kind of waiting I'm thinking of here, is the kind that realizes things are not right in a situation. That wrong is being done. Or attitudes are not right. And that sometimes even one's own attitude may not be right. But this waiting is active, in that it's a wait on God. In prayer. In silence, except on the rare occasion when we seem moved to speak in love, or act in some way, in love. I realize things are out of kilter, things are not right. But I wait on God. To change me from wrong to right, or more into conformity to him and his will. To change others. To do what only God can do.

I can be praying "the Lord's prayer" and other prayers. Pondering Scripture and waiting in silence before the Lord, even in the midst of other things I may have to be doing.

And this waiting takes time and persistence on our part. And an openness to the Spirit and to others to hear God's voice and see his answer. We can be confident we're on a good track, because in this kind of waiting, our goal is to see God's will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

If we follow through here, we may not see the answer come as we may have thought. But at least God will certainly change us. And help us, together with others, to be people after his own heart, who will do, in our lives (not pefectly, but habitually) all of God's will.

What has God taught you in regard to waiting, especially in the way we're thinking about here? What might you like to share about this?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

the evil day

(wow, I nearly completed a post and completely lost it. here goes again; is this "the evil day"?)
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13; TNIV
Recently I had a day (or somewhat more than a day) when I felt like I was slipping. Kind of like as in slipping out of God's hand, out of his will, away from his grace. Thankfully I honestly can't remember a day like that for quite some time, though some days seem especially beset with trouble.

We live during the time of the evil day, and certain days during this time, are especially evil, in our experience. This passage of Scripture from the Apostle Paul reminds us of this, and what we're to be and do because of that.

We're to remember that we are in no less than a spiritual battle. And some days, I believe, are especially blatant. Though every day is included. And the subtle can become deadly, if we're not awake and aware.

This evil day can come to us in the form of temptations to sin of any kind. Or as simply encountering troubles that would "drive us to our knees". And hopefully help us to reach out to God, as well as to a trusted friend in Jesus.

This is a reality, and part of our experience in the journey in Jesus in this world. Knowledge is often "half the battle". To be forewarned is to be forearmed, they say. And we must learn to avail ourselves, more and more, of the resources we have in the Lord. So we can stand, and hold our ground, and keep on keeping on, in the way of the Lord.

How is our spiritual warfare like the warfare we see waged in the world (Paul using this analogy from warfare in his own time)? How is it radically different? What is at its heart? And what other thoughts about living in"the evil day" might you like to share with us?

Monday, January 01, 2007

looking forward to a new year

I really haven't been much into new year's celebrations. Last night typified my own. I fell asleep at home over a book, some time well before midnight. And woke up several hours later.

I like Karen Spears Zacharias' description of how she sees a new year.

It will certainly be one of challenges and blessings for us all. One of seeking to learn to live more fully in God's kingdom come in Jesus. One of personal growth, and growing together in community, and in outreach to those around us and beyond. Yes, alot more than just what we can get out of it for ourselves (the wrong focus).

May each of you and yours have a blessed and happy new year!!!