Tuesday, June 26, 2007

being quiet

By nature, I guess, I'm just not a quiet person. I used to have the Bible being read on tapes for a significant portion of time daily, driving my wife a little crazy. And then I'd turn on music which Deb didn't mind, but still grew tired of.

Those days are gone, but I still do play some music, listen to books being read when I'm doing work with my hands, and reading alot, when I have time. So there's really not much stillness in my life.

But I've come to see that I really need stillness in order to better hear God's voice to me in Christ and through Scripture. I may not hear God's voice to me at the times of quiet, but such times do better prepare me for hearing God's voice when I read Scripture.

What have you found to be true about this in your own life?

Monday, June 25, 2007

a new day

This is the day the Lord has made,
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
(Psalm 118:24)

Though this rendering may be taking the verse out of context (note TNIV here) I do think that this is a truth that is new every morning for us, in Christ. Whatever we might make of time, God is sovereign over it and there is a newness in what he is doing, even in this old, fallen world of which we are a part (and coming apart sometimes, as we grow older in years).

We need to see each day as something new and special from God because of Christ, and of which we are a part of, intimately, in the coming of God's kingdom into the world in Jesus.

This should give us hope in areas in which there seems to be little hope. And strength as we anticipate by faith, the Lord's goodness to us, and seek to live out of that favor, in service to all others.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

a prayer for today

God our Father,
you raised up John the Baptist
to prepare a perfect people for Christ the Lord.
Give your Church joy in spirit
and guide those who believe in you
into the way of salvation and peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.


(from Liturgy of the Hours)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lord, touch us

In the gospels we have accounts in which Jesus touches people and they are healed from their disease. We see our own soul diseases in our sin and brokenness, and we ask the Lord to touch us individually, and that is a good prayer to pray.

But we need to think and act in terms of community in Jesus as his Body in this world. "Lord, touch us together" might be an even better prayer oftentimes. Of course we need to focus on our own need instead of castigating others as being the needy ones. Yet oftentimes we do have compassion as we understand or sense something of the struggle of others around us. Instead of condemning them in their struggle which may include sin or temptation toward sin, we need to empathize with them and see our own heart and pray with us in mind, "Lord, touch us."

This goes along with the prayer the Lord taught us as his followers to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

As I found my misplaced copy of Bonhoeffer's Life Together, which along with Scripture has been my "meat and drink" lately, I will be praying this prayer today.

Friday, June 22, 2007

grounded in grace

I have to wonder sometimes if some of the problems we see among us Christians as to thinking badly about each other as to our theology/beliefs and life/practice is in part in many cases, because we're not sufficiently grounded in the grace of God in Christ.

When I came to the blog world, I was taken back greatly by the diatribes I regularly ran into of Christians against other Christians. I believe much of the problem lies in the fact that those attacking others (and then there can be counterattack, unfortunately!) have not listened well, or more likely, at all to the others. The only way you listen to the others is by hearing them out. You aren't listening if you pull this and that sentence/remark out to prove your point against their position.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote (in Life Together) that those who do not listen to their neighbor do not listen to God either. And to fail to listen to each other can end up being the death of the spiritual life.

I am learning to listen much better, though I have plenty of room to grow in that. I do believe that if we live in the love of God in Christ, then we'll seek to put the best construction on what people say and do, while if in dialogue, asking appropriate questions if we have any concerns or issues theologically and in praxis/practically.

I have to say sadly that some Christians who make the most out of "grace" are often the most graceless. Grace in Christ is always paired with truth. But truth bereft of grace is no longer truth at all, but has the stench of hell on it.

So much for my own little diatribe today. I will say that clearly none of my links of blogs has any scent like this whatsoever. They come from many theological perspectives in Christendom. But the common denominator they each have is a clear stance for truth and love wedded together in the grace that is in Jesus Christ. God help us to grow and live in that, grounded in the grace of our Lord.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

throwing ourselves into the will of God

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his Letters and Papers from Prison wrote:
I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.
This is a quote as is much of Bonhoeffer that is really beyond me, and I find Bonhoeffer's writings something to be grown into, thus reminding me of Scripture itself which in a true sense is ultimate for us in that way, especially as we look at the revelation of God in Jesus found in it.

In the Bonhoeffer film there is the part in which Bonhoeffer's fiancee, whom he was deeply in love with, breaks away from the guards and throws herself into his embrace. This, for Krista Tippett was suggestive of what Bonhoeffer was alluding to and meant in the above quote about throwing one's self into the will of God, as met in all of the experience of life, to seek that will and then seek to live unreservedly in it.

Bonhoeffer is an interesting theologian, who has stimulated much thought and admiration both within and outside of Christianity. I see him as one clearly grounded and committed to finding and living in the will of God in Christ to the end. His Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship are considered classics, and I found both powerful and compelling. I look forward to reading all of his works (I say, by faith).

The above quote, I think means being open to being challenged as to one's paradigm they've arrived to in understanding the will of God. This never leaves Scripture behind, nor does it flout what the Spirit has given to the Church in the understanding of Scripture (as in orthodoxy). But it's open at all times to seeing God's creative hand in Jesus in all of life, in ways that may be missed if the endeavor to find and live out the will of God is like following a formula or a five step venture.

Bonhoeffer believed and practiced much time in Scripture reading and in prayer. He was pressed to find and live in the will of God during the extraordinary times in Germany of the "Third Reich".

Be challenged and edified by looking at Bonhoeffer's life. A great place to start is by downloading this program, then from my perspective I might recommend reading The Cost of Discipleship first, followed by Life Together.

You will find yourself, if you're like me, stretched to the breaking point and beyond. This is good, and the kind of material we'll want to interact with the rest of our lives, as we seek to imbibe and live more and more in the life of Jesus himself by the Spirit and in community, in this world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

reflecting Scripture/ the Story

It is important for us to be in Scripture regularly, and to be engaged in all of it over time. We do this not on our own but as part of the Church so that what others have said in the past as well as in the present is taken into consideration, and more importantly what the Church has agreed on as a whole is held to, such as God as Trinity, etc. Of course I'm referring to the reading of Scripture and its meaning.

What I call for here is for us to work at reflecting Scripture and the Story of God found in it, and doing so in a way that helps us enter by faith ourselves into God's story in Christ that continues to unfold in our world today.

While this is truly a lifelong work, we can begin right now and find identity and meaning, not on our own terms, nor on the world's terms, but on God's terms as we seek to remain true to his Word, Scripture. This can cause us to ask uncomfortable questions about ourselves and our world, and indeed it should. If it doesn't, it really means we're not engaged in this, and that we're really not hearing the voice of God in Christ through it.

Metaphorically, at least, we can and will, if we persist, hear God's voice through Christ, dim as it may seem. It will be more like impressions or waves on us of what, we may not know. But it becomes clearer as we keep digging and seeking to listen, clearer in the sense of us finding more and more our own place in the story even while there may be many things we continue not to understand.

Then I begin to find identity, my own, as I learn to reflect on God, his greatness and goodness, his active and interactive love. As I look at Bible characters and can see myself in them. And as I see the power of sin, but God's greater power of salvation and grace for us in Christ.

I'll keep working on this. What about you? How do you work on this?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

our eyes are fixed on you

There is an expression in Scripture, when in trouble and not knowing what they as God's people should do, that their eyes were fixed on God.

How often are we in those places in which we don't know what to do? We're at a loss, or we don't know precisely the best direction to take. These are special times of seeking God's face for his blessing in directing us on his way for us.

As we seek to fix our eyes on God, and learn better to do so, we can become transfixed, then transfigured, in other words, changed. And we will be changed by this gaze, if we'll only persist in it.

How do we do this? By meditation on Scripture, by contemplation of God's glory in Christ and as revealed in Scripture and seen in life. Seeking to do this through the dark places, of which there are not a few, and in all of life. Do we see everything with Christ as the Mediator, Christ between us and all else, and therefore finding something of God in all our views and perspectives?

This fixation doesn't ordinarily come easy to most, until we realize through the pressures of life that this is what we need when we know that we can't make it- the narrow way God has called us to in Jesus- on our own. And we do need to do this together, in special times along with encouraging each other in this.

Can you add a story here, or thoughts for us that can help?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Deb and I, and Deb and Mom

At my mother's
home in Ohio.

stopping life

Have you ever had the sense of something like: "I'd sure like to stop life right now for a time," or, "Just let me get off this merry-go-round of life"?

We are so geared in our culture to "get at it" and "keep at it" and "be happy in that." I have to admit that more often than not I'm happy to get back into the regular grind of things. I seem outside of my element unless I'm pursuing my daily tasks however mundane they may seem to be. And that's not altogether bad, at all. I remember Brother Lawrence learning to praise God through the normal routine of things and practice the presence of God even through the clanging of the pans, etc.

There is a time to stop life in a sense, getting away from it in seeking to get into the presence of God or draw near to God. We can do this in a multiplicity of ways, but certain elements need to hold true. We should be at a place and time where we can focus in a fully engaged way on God. For me having my Bible and a notebook and pen to write down any thoughts, is important. To be still and turn away from distractions here, we keep working at. The effort itself is good, even if not fully successful, or at times, seeming largely to fail in this. This reminds me of Henri Nouwen's testimony of the time he was keeping before God.

Let's learn to savor these times of solitude and silence before God, times when our normal routines are interrupted and stopped. And maybe especially when we would be resistant to such times, knowing then that we are probably especially in need of this repose.

What have you learned or what thoughts do you have on this?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

morning prayer

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord.

(source and thoughts)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

being much in Scripture

I don't know for the moment where I misplaced my copy of Bonhoeffer's Life Together. But in it he conveys the importance of being much in Scripture. He believed that Christians should spend more time in it than they are comfortable with, say at one sitting. That we should be reading it from cover to cover regularly. And he advocated focusing for days at a time on one passage, verse or even word, in light of that overall reading of Scripture.

Bohoeffer believed that it was important that in a sense we should not think we are "getting it" when reading Scripture, that we ought to be overwhelmed in a sense in our reading of it, since this can lead us to Christ, these words pointing us towards that final Word. Not that we're not to live in or according to the words of Scripture. But that Christ alone unlocks the true meaning of where all of this is going. (surely my own words and thoughts added to that of Bonhoeffer's here, as I seek to make sense of this, myself)

I believe in being much in Scripture. In it we can pick up God's music and become aware more and more of the sound of his voice, in Christ as we live in this present existence. And we understand more and more the story of God that continues on with ever more happy endings (in the ends!).

Do these thoughts make you more curious to pick up that book (at the bookstore or library- haha, suggestion)? Of course there's alot more in it than this.

What's the downside of being in Scripture too much or better put, in the wrong ways? Or any thoughts you might add.

Friday, June 15, 2007

living in the love of God

Scripture tells us we're to live in God's love. This begins for us in this life in Christ, by grace through faith. Actually all humankind lives in something of this love of God, but through Christ there is an intimacy such as which the Triune God shares as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a communion and community of love.

Living in the love of God gets right to where we live. How do I relate to that difficult person in the fellowship? How does love cover a multitude of sins in living out this love?

This love is already a reality in Christ by the Spirit. We are made partakers of it and are taught by God to love one another, and then to grow in this experience and practice of love. It's a love that at times can be most difficult, a love that embraces the good while repenting and shunning sin, a love that even returns blessing for cursing, loving even one's own enemies. It's a love in which we can learn the freedom God has for us beginning in this life. And a love that loves to the end.

C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others have pointed out how "love" can end up being hatred. Love is created by God and participated by humans made in God's image, so that I believe even those who don't believe in God can experience something real of it in their marriage and in life. But love apart from the Creator who gives it also tends to become idolatrous so that the lover is given over to a less than noble end, such as in the case of an adulterer or with any number of loves that are not in harmony with the love of God. The light and life that God's love brings ends up resulting in darkness and death in this fallen human perversion of it.

Thank God though for the grace that can lift us up out of that muck and mire into the experience of God's triune love that will last forever and be known perfectly in the community of God in Christ. In the mean time we press on toward that goal.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

the will of God for others

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in the latter days of his life, knowing his end was in all likelihood drawing near, was taken up with a concern for others. Life in the will of God in Christ was not about his own troubles but the troubles of others. He was concerned for his fiancee who he lamented had suffered recent losses and was now troubled over his plight. And he was concerned for others around him in prison, who testified of the peace he lived in as he served them, right up to the end. All was centered for him, in the struggle of his life, in the love of God found in the will of God in Christ Jesus. This was his passion, to find that will and live in it.

What about us? What's it all about for us? And why? Do we give in to difficulties or seemingly insurmountable issues that would subvert us away from the will of God in Christ Jesus? We know this will is provided for us in Christ Jesus, in the grace of God. It is something we cannot either merit or achieve on our own. And that is certainly ongoing.

But this should be our passion. To keep looking for and finding the will for us in Christ Jesus, daily, in all of life, in the hard circumstances of life, knowing that in this is all we need in ongoing forgiveness and new direction and life for us. This is something I'm working on in thought and life. It involves much more than what is stated here. But this is an important paradigm in which we're to live together in this world. A life taken up for others, by the Spirit, as we lay our own wants and concerns, our own will down at God's feet, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Anything you might like to add here?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

the will of God

In Krista Tippett's Speaking of Faith, there is a most interesting interview with Martin Doblmeier, who was the director of the documentary film on Dietrich Bonhoeffer that was premiered last year, 100 years after Bonhoeffer's birth. This program is limited in its scope and take of Bonhoeffer, but fascinating just the same.

One of the most fascinating aspects of it for me was the portrayal of Bonhoeffer's ongoing struggle to find the will of God so as to live in that will. One would believe they had the paradigm of what God wants them to do, but by the every mysterious God would be moved to realize that they maybe just don't quite have it.

This is not bereft of the will of God made known in the Word/Scripture or found therein in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. But it's a dependence on this God as one embraces and lives fully in the world of their existence, then being assured that God will make known through life and its struggle his will we're to obey and in which we're to live.

To be discovering and living in obedience to the will of God was a passion for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Many things along the way can cloud that revelation to our hearts and minds. But Bonhoeffer persisted in his gaze towards that, being much in the Word/Scripture and in prayer, and living in community, in interdependence on like-minded brothers.

I have struggled life-long, though less and less acutely, with fear of different kinds. Now, just once in awhile, it bites me and I'm infected for a short time. But living in the will of God amounts to living in the perfect love of God in Christ, which casts out all fear. This is "in Christ Jesus". And it's in radical trust and radical obedience to God and his will for us in Christ. Of course we have the ongoing need for confession of sin including our thoughts, attitudes and things left undone in our self-absorption, as well as the wrongs we do in word and deed. But it is there for us, the will of God. In it we can live and begin to know more and more the love of God in our lives as we seek to live in Christ in a way that pleases God. This is certainly an ongoing work for us and definitely for me in thought and in living it out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

capacity for God

In Dante's The Divine Comedy, as I traverse through the Pardiso (Paradise, Heaven) part, we run into thoughts about our capacity for God. In the poem redeemed souls are in the same places and full of delight and rest, perfectly satisfied in their state and in relationship to God and to each other. I surely add my own thoughts here which can alter Dante and which I don't mean to do in attempting to describe this.

Yet their capacities for God and for delight vary, according to their growth in grace during their earthly lives. So the apostle John and another, who on earth was "saved", yet whose life was little fixed on what is eternal and lasting, these two, side by side in fellowship with each other, nevertheless vary in their capacity for and delight in God and the light of truth.

We see this at work now among us. What are some keys? Trusting and obeying God's Word to us in Christ is one key. Continuing on in God through Christ all of our lives, practicing the means of grace or sacraments given to the church is also vital to our growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Capacity for God is a key thought. We don't know how much we lose when we choose a path of sin. Those who believe in "eternal security" may think they can go their own way, at a crucial time and fork in their lives. They can, but the error of their way will impact their capacity to receive grace. Even though that grace in Christ is just as fully available to them. What they face in repenting in not only making amends to the affected parties, often impossible in this life, but also in recovering their own sense of blessing before God is a question I can't answer, of course. God is a god of great grace and forgiveness.

At the same time, in Scripture there is a marked difference between God's people, it seems, as to their capacity for God and for receiving his grace. But great sinners should see their need of the great Savior. So in this way one who has chosen the wrong path can repent with a broken and contrite heart, and receive God's promise of forgiveness and blessing, and may very well outstrip his "older brother" in his appreciation of God's gift in Christ.

I really don't care in a way if my capacity for God is not the same as someone else's. This is all rather beside the point. I would rather think that we are together to help each other grow in our capacity for God. That we do so together, not content to leave others in their "lesser state" or capacity. So that we can all enjoy whatever "reward" we have from God, with others.

What take do you have on this subject or my rambling thoughts in regard to it?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Deb's step-mother with the Lord

Deb's step-mother, Treva Kauffman went to be with the Lord on Thursday. She is a dear, loving lady in the Lord and Deb's father will miss her, along with her family and friends. It just makes us look forward all the more to our grand reunion together, in Jesus.

prayer of the Church

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.†

Saturday, June 09, 2007

a beautiful afternoon

I went to Aquinas College (Grand Rapids) today to play with my first, new digital camera, and primarily to spend some time going over Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together (for the fourth time, maybe), this time slowly and prayerfully/meditatively. Deb is working so I was by myself and took another picture of myself to balance out the other one I put on the blog.

Aquinas is a beautiful campus, known for its trees and vast varieties of them. Here's a pic of some recent work they've done on their campus along with another showing more of the simple beauty there:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Washington D.C. and the New Jerusalem

Someday, I believe, the New Jerusalem will come down to earth so as to bring its splendor and glory from God to all the earth. The full reign of the kingdom of God in Jesus will be known to all.

Now we live in a world of a different sphere. In a real sense there is nothing at all in common with the kingdom of God come in Jesus, the holy nation scattered now throughout the earth, and the kingdom of this world, made up of nations and peoples. This is not to say that God doesn't use the "kingdoms" of this world in his inscrutable but good ways. But that they are not at their heart part of the kingdom of God come in Jesus.

The New Jerusalem in Jesus, in its essence has already come, and it is subversively to be the means of change in the community of God in Jesus. We don't come in stealthily, but openly, with wisdom as Jesus did here on earth. Our message first must be seen in our lives together and individually, as a witness to the world. We must live out our calling in the reality of what we are as the Body of Christ in this world. This involves, from his heart, being his hands and feet, and speaking from him, the Word of God by the Spirit. All people need to see the love of God in Christ made manifest in Christ's Body on earth, as we love each other, our neighbors as ourselves and our enemies.

Political action such as in the case of William Wilberforce is good, and in that case was like a dynamo come down from heaven to earth to shake up and affect the world for good, according to God's will, in the abolition of slavery. Good can come from political action and we should participate in this sphere where we can for the good of our neighbor as well as for the cause of the gospel not to be hindered.

But we must also realize that when we participate in the political process now, we're part of a different sphere invading this good yet fallen world, in which much evil is at work. Ours in Jesus is the kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem, which is not going to make a treaty with Washington D.C. or any other nation, but has invaded to bless all, in Jesus, and someday will fully realize God's good reign of love to all.

Do you see this differently and how, and why? Or what might you add?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

human emotions

Jesus is said by the prophet to be "a man of suffering, and familiar with pain" (Isaiah 53:3). We don't read of an emotionless Jesus in the gospel. Sometimes he seems perturbed at the slowness or lack of heart he finds in people toward God and each other. A few times he is angry. And he weeps. I can't help but think that part of Jesus's appeal to despised tax-collectors and "sinners" was his humanness. He was a normal human being, really more normal according to God's standard than any human who had walked the face of the earth.

Human emotions in a modernist, individualistic context in which we, in the western world still live in part, gives short shrift and often none at all to emotions. While there is such a thing as one "wearing their emotions on their sleeves", I'm afraid this is too often just a declaration of independence from emotions and any person who is not afraid to show them, whether happy or sad, expressing anger or affection. Within Modernism itself was the reaction against human rationality trumping everything, found in Romanticisim. And Postmodernism for all its faults is also symptomatic of a recovering addiction to human rationality and recovery into a more holistic view of humanity, though often resulting in other equally destructive paths, in the light of the truth as it is in Jesus.

Human emotions. What do we do with them? In Jesus we bring them before God and in community. We grieve, we lament, we love and are at times angry, though hopefully slow to become angry. All emotions we need to bring before God, like the psalmist of old, and see them mediated in Christ and his work, and thus becoming a sweet offering to God (see Bonhoeffer's Life Together as he expresses something like this in a much better, fuller way).

The Holy Spirit gives us self-control, part of the fruit of the Spirit, so that our emotions are not to run roughshod over ourselves or others. There is a time to weep, laugh, mourn and dance (Ecclesiastes 3). But all these should be mediated through Jesus Christ., so that our emotions and his are more and more one. And this is lived in context of us being one Body in this world.

What thoughts might you add on emotions? Are you considered too emotional by some, like I have been? Certainly my emotions have not always been coming from a heart that is much at all like our Lord. But have you noticed a reticence by others or yourself to express one's true emotions? And why do you think this exists in our western, and in my case, American context?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

pressed in to give out

I believe the pressures we face, often in line with the comment Charity Singleton left just the other day, are situations or circumstances God allows or puts us in so that we're pressed in to give out in the service of love to others.

In this process is God's working in us, to make us together what he wants us to be, lovingly, in Christ. It's a love that works to be rid of all that which is a part of us in Adam, and see us renewed together in the image of Christ himself.

It might be easier, and I think really is easier to draw back into some kind of false piety, living unto ourselves before God as "holy". But in reality God's work doesn't just stop with us individually and him. It goes on to all our relationships and even beyond them into the world of all, who like Christ died for his enemies. (Much thought here probably comes from my current rereading of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together.)

So we're pressed in, and the pressure may not seem fun or peaceful, though we need to learn to accept God's peace in this, to live in a love from God with each other, so that in Christ we learn to excel in the love of God in giving of ourselves to others. This must include all, no one should be left behind. And this love reaches out to all, even our enemies.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

love can sting

We're told in Scripture that the Father disciplines all his people he accepts in Jesus as his children. And that this discipline is not pleasant but painful, yet afterwards yields the fruit of righteousness and peace to those who are trained by it.

And we're told God does this in love. He loves us, therefore he wants his very best for us. Not second best, not just us getting by and getting in. He wants us to enjoy his full blessing. And ultimately and finally, we as his children will, but why not begin to enjoy that fullness of blessing in Jesus now? Why wait as we stubbornly are bent to have our own way?

We're told to accept discipline as just a normal part of being God's children, and that without experiencing it we show that we're not his children. So this love that stings, this discipline is going to be a part of our life in Christ. I think it's ongoing throughout our lives. Though I also think that we should be enjoying more and more the peaceable fruit of righteousness it brings and perhaps less and less of that discipline.

When you don't feel good over time you look beyond the symptoms to the root cause. I think of David in Psalm 32 and 51. I think of Job. God is certainly hurt by his love and Hosea was called to share similarly in his human experience God's pain. Receiving loving rebuke involves pain, but actually relieves one's suffering when accepted.

And this is a main point: God's love that stings also heals. God's love which causes temporal pain is meant to deal with the pain that is chronic and in danger of lasting forever. In my life I experience this. And I accept it as part of my journey in God and in community in Jesus. I want to receive any needed correcting pain and repent and be restored into the fellowship of love found in Jesus.

From this loving discipline there should be changes in our lives, beginning in our hearts and working out into our everyday lives with our families, neighbors, friends, brothers and sisters in Jesus, people at work and including those who are not friendly and are perhaps even enemies. This love that stings will bring change into our lives, as we respond to it.

Though Jesus never sinned he did experience something of the Father's love through his obedient suffering. Through prayer he embraced his Father's will even though it was not his own will at the time. This is a model for us, as we seek to accept as a way of life in Jesus, the Father's loving discipline, making us holy like Jesus.

What would you share with us on this that can help us? Or any thoughts you'd like to share.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Limbo is kind of a strange "no man's land" in which the inhabitants neither are condemned to hell, or at least not to the active suffering of hell (supposedly) nor deemed worthy of heaven. Of course in Scripture all people are under sin's power and are therefore under sin's condemnation (Romans). And all who by faith receive God's gift of grace through his Son Jesus are given eternal life and in Jesus are made worthy in a process that goes on in this life.

Limbo in Dante's The Divine Comedy is the place where people like Socrates and Plato, as well as unbaptized infants exist. They were responsive to light received (infants couldn't respond) but had insufficient light to be among the blessed in purgatory and then in paradise. This is the top wrung, so to speak of Dante's inferno/hell.

Of course I would like to try to tie this in to where we live in the here and now. Not that I buy Dante's picture in its entirety, laden as it is with medieval philosophy and thought, although it surely does have valuable insights for us. I see us either on a downward or upward path. For those who've never heard and theoretically lived in the light of what they had received from God, their place would be limbo in Dante's world. Limbo actually does not seem to be a place of no return for all it inhabitants, in Roman Catholic theology.

But back to my attempted application. This scheme held to by the Church for centuries, but not built well, altogether, from Scripture, is quite interesting as attempting an explanation of the afterlife for all people. One thing we can know for sure, God is good and right in all he does, including his judgment. We have to hold to a kind of "not knowing" about details of this judgment, but that there is a division that will take place between the righteous and the unrighteous.

For us in Christ limbo is not something we go in and out of in our experience. I don't find it helpful that way. We're either on the way of life or the way of death in Scripture. There is no alternative route or road that seems to be in between. This is where Christian theologies can be at logger heads with each other, albeit on minor, but for them vital points. Example is infant baptism which cleanses original sin, though the infant must, down the road repent and believe. Of course many Christians don't hold to this and theology is what it is, the Church's reading of Scripture subject to some changes along the way, as well as some internal differences in many circles of Christianity.

I would venture to say there are times in our lives in which God's patience in grace is active. That can be for those who are not in Christ as well as those who are. Strictly speaking, however, this doesn't fit limbo. This instead is God's active grace at work to draw people to himself and his ongoing work of salvation in his kingdom come in Jesus.

Limbo seems to me to be a human attempt to explain what God has not explained to us. The Church as from Rome would disagree. In the meantime we must not view ourselves or others as in limbo. We're either on a downward turn or an upward climb in God through Christ. Limbo, if true is more in God's territory, who alone knows the hearts of all. Grace is extended to all in Christ; let us be a part of that grace both in receiving it and seeking to help others do the same.

What might you like to add to my stammerings on this subject?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

morning prayer

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Our daughter Tiffany graduated (when my new digital camera did a burp that I didn't resolve) and today we celebrate with a little party. This certainly marks a milestone in her life.

Most of life is process: day in and day out. We rarely see a day as life-changing. Rather our lives ordinarily change over time with many factors including our own decisions and habits involved.

I think it is good to mark certain times perhaps to see where we are in our lives, where God has brought us in our faith and practice. And we need to do this individually as well as communally. Good to do so in families and in ongoing community.

In Jesus there do seem to be some crowning moments. These are times when we can tell some things have come together in our lives, or moments when something unusual does happen, like Job moments. Or times we can mark as a community in Jesus in thanksgiving to God for where he has brought us.

I believe we need to see milestones in our lives, individually and in community in Jesus. This is all towards the goal of conformity to Jesus and living out the life of Jesus himself in this world and day after day.

I know there are certain breakthroughs I think I may be coming closer to that may provide new milestones in my own life. And in God this can certainly happen in surprising ways. Though in a true sense, each day should provide little milestones we can mark along the way as evident of God's goodness to us.

In what way might you be into milestones?

Friday, June 01, 2007

what is blue like jazz?

I've been listening to Don Miller reading his book, Blue Like Jazz, and I must say it's a pretty cool read, at least for me to listen to. In it he bangs away against what he views as an empty or wrong-headed, wrong-hearted Christianity, without demonizing other Christians. But he also shows another way that he has learned and is learning. A Jesus way, which ends up wanting to live out, then talk about Jesus and the gospel. And I find myself in agreement with much of what he says.

Above all for me, this is a testimony of what Jesus does for "tax collectors and sinners". It is a book about continued, repeated brokenness and Jesus continually reaching out to heal, redeem and restore a broken human and broken humanity. It's also about people in Jesus gathering to really seek God so as to love him and love all others in practical, down to earth ways.

Some will find this and that in the book offensive. But I like even that aspect of things because we don't have here what M.R. DeHaan would call a sanitized biography, one of which he would not want to be a part of. Instead we have the real Don with real people living in a real world seeking the real Jesus, and seeking to live out the reality of Jesus in this world.

Does this book really connect with me? In some ways, yes, very much so. And for a younger generation, especially those who might be interested in Jesus but have been turned off by the church, this book could be a real God-send. It's a book talking about people Jesus was changing even in the midst of their drunkeness, drugs and sex.

I'm not done with it yet (mostly done I think), but I know of enough friends who've read it to rest assured that it's worth a read, or in my case, a listen. (This way of getting through a book is the only hope I have to get through The Lord of the Rings in the future.)

Have any of you read (or heard) this book? What struck you about it?