Sunday, September 30, 2007

prayer for the week

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, September 29, 2007

the big picture

I think one of our difficulties in life is keeping our eyes on "the big picture". What I mean is we get zeroed in on one aspect of the picture and that can become for us "the big picture", but in doing that, of course, we lose sight on what it really is.

And let me add that it's so easy for us to lose focus. Yes, at the drop of a hat, practically. Though we need to be growing so that characteristically it's harder and harder for us to lose focus, and when we do, we quickly refocus. Though one thing I've learned is that when I lose focus- one example is when I hardly realize I have lost it, it can be much harder to get back on track than I would imagine. This isn't just about seeing, but living.

But we need to look at the big picture from God found in scripture, God's word. And we need to learn to keep our focus on that, daily. Jesus is at the center, and the work of the triune God is mediated through him. The picture is the same, but is seen a little differently by each of us according to the special person God made us to be, and perhaps certain things stand out to us due to the seasons and circumstances of life through which we are passing.

But the point here for us is focus, and seeing the whole with Jesus in the center. I need to do that, and I need to ever be open to God to help me see things as he wants me to. I find myself often in need of corrections along the way.

What about you? What would you say about "the big picture"?

Friday, September 28, 2007


Jesus used the analogy of pruning to explain how we are to grow in our Christian lives; like grape branches connected to the vine. One year my mother told me to trim all the grape branches. I didn't want to so I really did a wack job on them, I mean really cutting them back as if just to cut them out. We had the most amazing yield of grapes that following harvest and every year they kept getting a little less and less because no one wacked them back like I had.

Pruning in our lives certainly doesn't sound pleasant. It's actually a cutting out a part of who we are. But often parts of who we are are not good, at least not in God's eyes, and in the end not good, period. But in our sinful minds and hearts we hold on to these things for dear life, not wanting to let them go. Or wanting to want to let them go if we know they're wrong, yet gravitating back to them.

Pruning as in God cutting things out of our lives is necessary if we're branches that are to remain in the true Vine- Jesus. If we don't receive this pruning we're eventually cut off, we wither up and die. But when pruned we end up bearing much fruit, showing ourselves to be Jesus' disciples.

What are we aware of right now that we're holding on to, but we know is not right? It could just be a thought, but a sinful thought. Or attitude. We need God's pruning in that area by the word and by the Spirit through Jesus. It will be painful, yet afterwards will come the fruit of righteousness and peace.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

little by little

In scripture we see that we make great strides in the Jesus way really over time, little by little. Not to say there may not be those special turning points, not necessarily always perceived by us as to exactly when, that can make a world of difference in our lives. This fact of little by little is seen all throughout scripture and it ends up resonating with who we are and where we live now.

Life is a process. There are parts in it that we would all like to throw out. But they're there, and we have to deal with them. Too many times we can sweep these under the rug or pretend they don't exist, try to ignore them. But we have to take the good and the bad of who we are, what is really the case, and we have to work on it. This is a life-long project, this endeavor to follow Christ and become more and more like him.

But all this is little by little. We need to be content with that, but we also must want nothing less. Little by little means progression, even though it may be slow and painful at times. Or at times it may seem like no progress is being made at all, and instances when it seems and when perhaps we are going backwards. Though I believe God is faithful as we seek in our hearts to rightfully live in his will, to encourage us along the way- that we are growing in Jesus.

This will require a passion, and equally important, faith- from God, to carry on and not give up because of what little progress we see or don't see. And it involves community, living with other followers of Jesus, encouraging others daily. It's a walk, involving our thoughts, our attitudes, our words and actions. But little by little, through all the windings, ebbs and flows and even conundrums of life, we must keep going, until in his grace we reach God's end for us, in Jesus.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

reading Scripture

I think one of the most important things we can do as Christians for Christian formation is to regularly read Scripture. We need to be in Scripture daily, and even throughout the day and night. We need to be in Scripture prayerfully and quietly (as much as possible) before God.

Reading Scripture is to let Scripture speak for itself, as the word of God to us. Of course we read it with our lenses; it is a human book written to us as humans, as well as a book from God. So we have to read it with both in mind; it's as human as we are and reflects life as we know it. But it's from God as God's word, and so we want to hear from God and respond accordingly.

Oftentimes reading Scripture may seem to accomplish nothing. But if we want at all to live in God's will, reading it will have its effect on us over time. We need to keep plugging away at it, making it both common for us as well as sacred always.

I don't believe in letting up on my reading of Scripture. And I want to learn more on how to read it better. But the best way of learing this is simply to pray and do it.

What does reading Scripture mean to you, or what thought might you like to add here?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jesus, be the center

I think an important prayer for us to pray could simply be said in these words: Jesus, be the center.

What is central to us is another way of saying what is our god. Or we could say it is what is most important to us in determining how we should live. For many it is whatever is motivating them to do what they do, whether noble or not.

We can pray this prayer for all of life, for everything we encounter. I see it as a biblical prayer because it is through Jesus that we come to God, and it is through him that we have fellowship in the communion of the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.

This prayer also helps center us in a Christian way, and helps remove ourselves from the center. It's no longer what we think, want and will, but it's about God's will for us in Jesus.

It is a prayer of faith, asking Jesus to be the center. Let's do that and keep doing it, asking Jesus to have his rightful place in our lives.

Monday, September 24, 2007

misplaced focus

Sometimes when we are trying to overcome a besetting sin, we can unwittingly give it ground by building our whole life around it. Everything we do can be with reference to it. There surely are some unusual times when this kind of action is wise, and at some points in struggling against any sin, some drastic measures may be required. And we may need to spend some extra time in prayer and in reading and meditation concerning the matter. Though I'm becoming convinced that this time should not normally be prolonged.

We have to be careful not to make our sin the focus of our lives; Christ must be the focus, and along with that we must endeavor to carry on with a sense of normalcy according to the life in Christ that God's word calls us to. Of course we must have confessed our sin to God, trusting his word in Christ for our forgiveness. And we must walk according to wisdom. This may mean being more guarded with reference to the sin. But when our entire life is built around avoiding the sin, we can be easily drawn back into the sin, since our minds being on avoiding it, end up invariably thinking about the sin our hearts have cherished.

Here's where we need plenty of wisdom from God. We must not only put off the old self in Adam with its sin, but we must put on the new self in Christ. This is not to be something ostentatious, purposefully put out into the open for all to see, as if we're proving something to ourselves and others with reference to our sin. But it needs to be as those whose lives are hidden with Christ in God. In other words our lives in Jesus are to simply take on the character of Jesus, the one who said that he was gentle and humble in heart. It needs to be unobtrusive, there but hardly noticed by others, except by God. I say this in terms of the sin one has been succumbing to and fighting against, as well as how we live out this life in general. Maybe another way of putting it is that this new life in Jesus becomes more and more a natural part of who we are.

The picture needs to become changed so that the sin, and the object of that sin is in a different part of the picture. That object or subject is still in the picture, but in no way is it in the middle of the picture. It is there in its proper place along with other objects and subjects. Of course these objects and subjects can refer to people or things. We can be struggling with reference to a specific person or persons. Or we can be struggling over certain matters, many not necessarily sinful in themselves while others are.

Somehow in all of this, by grace and through the work of the triune God, Jesus needs to be at the center of this picture. When this is more and more the case, then less and less will objects and subjects be out of place.

This suggests to me that our focus in some way in overcoming our besetting sin must be on Jesus. Only in Jesus can our lives begin to take on the order intended by God which will renew and remake us towards the true humanity through this new creation, made by God.

What does this look like in our lives? I think it looks like a life of simple yet profound faith. It takes shape by simple, humble obedience to the word of God, and a dependence on God of submissive trust. I order my world seeking to be through the blood of Jesus in rightful fellowship with God and with all others.

Again, in certain special cases I do believe we'll have to take drastic measures, and initially in many cases we may have to take drastic measures. We may need special help for a season, receiving prayer and counsel from others. Certainly always and in all things we are in need of the special grace of God in Christ.

What might you add to this sketch about misplaced focus?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

prayer for the week

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things which are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, September 22, 2007

what god is it?

When we use the word "god", a good question I think we should ask is "what god is it?" I hope this is not harsh; it is meant only to make us think. I read or hear the words "god" in connection with all kinds of earthly things as seeking or attributing God's blessing to it, but I wonder just how God sees it.

Gods are everywhere, and our view of God might just be more like a god than like the one true god. When we think God's blessing is on whatever we choose to do, we might be headed towards a different god than the one in Scripture to whom we're to pray:

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

I am fearful of losing sight of the Fear of Isaac and the God of Jacob. The same god, I believe who is the triune God of scripture: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A god who in no way we can figure out or trace his paths or understand.

Let us beware of bringing the name of God so freely as one who approves and blesses our will, our plans, our agendas. This includes the use of the name of God both on an individual as well as national scale. On an international scale this would be getting closer to what God is all about as we see from scripture, God's kingdom ruling over all. But even that use of the word "god" is subject to idolatry as we make God in our own fallen image, rather than in Jesus being lifted more and more into the true image of God.

So let's be careful about how we use God's name and with what we associate his name with. Let's be more sensitive and humble about this, asking God that we would know God for who God really is. That we would avoid making God into something God is not. And that our lives would be in line with God's will, not that God would be in line with us.

I know this is a heavy subject for a Saturday and a weekend. But what thoughts might you want to add here?

Friday, September 21, 2007


True freedom is found really only in Jesus. "In Jesus" means more than just being in Jesus through faith in Jesus, though it certainly starts there. It involves truly following him in all of life as part of his Body in this world. And out from that following, together or in the context of God's people, comes this freedom.

This freedom has to do with being free to do and live in God's will. This frees us up to fulfill why we were created in the first place, as well as what it really means to be human. We're free to begin to move in the rhythm, music and rhyme of the love dance of the Triune God: Father, Son and Spirit. We do this as creatures here on earth, and we do it in all of life, no matter what it is we're doing. This is at the heart of what freedom is and where it comes from, as well as what it's all about and where it's going.

Freedom in this world is not always pleasant. It may mean martyrdom, which has been and continues to be true for many Christ-followers. It will mean for all of us, denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily to follow Christ. Only as we do that are we truly Christ-followers and can we truly live in this freedom.

So many things in us as sinners and in this fallen world cry out against that. That "freedom" we pursue ends up only in a bondage that won't let go. So when we're struggling with that, we may need to make a radical stand and cut off what in part may be entirely all right. It's just that we must live in this freedom if we're to truly follow Jesus in this life.

Getting there is not always pleasant, but it's worth it. We need to come with the attitude that we would rather be a humble servant in the house of God rather than living it up in the tents of the wicked or in the way that seems right to us.

Which will it be? Will I follow or not? And will I keep following no matter what?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

don't take the bait

Sometimes in life it's like a bait all the sudden is cast in front of you, and we grab hold of it only to find the hooks with the worm and we're painfully caught. We have to be ready for this at the most unexpected times. It just hits us, often our own thoughts, and we act on it.

Better oftentimes to refuse to act on it. Don't say what we're thinking or make a sudden and maybe rash decision or give in to an impulse. It's not fun to have to apologize or take it back or work out of what might become a compulsion. Though there may be a time where what we did and the tussle that follows can work out for good. But most often all too much of ourselves is in it, and not enough of the Jesus Creed. And that creed includes some difficult items like loving, praying for and doing good to our enemies and blessing those who curse us.

Key for me here is to recognize this as a time to be silent or stop myself and pray. Usually just a short time gets me past this lure, and oftentimes problems avoided can move us towards a solution on the issue, or keeps me from making a new problem as we seek in all things by grace to follow Jesus.

What have you learned about this? Or what might you add?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

seeking to please God

Jesus stated that he did not please himself, but the Father. Paul said that he made it his ambition to please God. So we're called in Jesus to a life of not pleasing ourselves, but God.

This makes life easier in one way, but in another way much more challenging. It is not natural in the human fallen sinful state to seek to please God. But it's natural for the new self in Christ and Christ in us to seek to please God. In fact when we are not doing so, we know something is wrong.

We in Jesus have the mind of Christ, but we're to let the mind of Christ have us, and completely. It's not that we're going to live perfectly in the new self, or that the old self won't have any hold on us as Christians. If such were the case, then we would not need to keep reading and heeding the call to put off old self and put on the new self, in Jesus.

I heard one of our visiting chapel speakers say once that we live, not by what we say we believe, but what we desire, what our hearts are set on, what our passion is. I agree to a large extent, and maybe in context of what he was saying actually agreed completely. But sometimes, and maybe more times than we would wish, we must by faith go against the grain of what we want. It's not about pleasing ourselves, it's not our will, but God's will that we're to choose to do. We're to be those who choose to please him in all things.

What if our "wanter" is weak at best and absent at worst? A good prayer to pray is that we would want to want to please God. Pray that for awhile, and surely God will answer as that would be a prayer prayed according to God's will. We may often have to resort to this prayer, perhaps overcome by a besetting sin that we're even cherishing in our heart. Or just overcome with life itself and our weakness in the midst of it. Here's a good prayer of the church for us to pray related to this.

As we do seek in Jesus by grace to please God, we'll find, paradoxically that this is the life that is most pleasing to us. But just the same there will always be that other side, more than ready to rear up its ugly head and insist that we get what we really want, that we please ourselves. Then paradoxically, as we would seek to please ourselves, we begin to lose our true self, and end up in the end with an emptiness since we can't fill up and satisfy ourselves in our sin. Only God in Jesus can fill us up and satisfy us as we hunger and thirst after God's righteousness for our hearts and lives.

What have you found about this that could help us, or anything you might like to share?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

grace needed

If there's one thing we need more than anything else throughout our lives as humans in this world and in our present existence, it's grace. Grace is God's gift of saving blessing, undeserved and unearned by us. It is grace given to us in Jesus and because of what he's done for us in his work on the cross. It saves us from missing why we were created in the first place.

We need this grace from God, and then we extend this grace in Jesus to each other, as well as to the world. It simply means that we stand condemned because of our sins but in Jesus forgiveness is offered as a gift. If any Christian may think forgivness is needed only before becoming a Christian, we neither have read scripture well, nor do we really know ourselves sufficiently.

It is important for us to be giving and offering the grace we have received and are receiving from God. We're in the fellowship of the undeserving ones, and our relationship with each other is of the same kind of importance to God as our relationship with him.

Extending grace doesn't mean rubber-stamping what my brother or sister in Jesus does. But it does mean never holding one's actions or sin against them, and knowing that we need the same grace from them originating in God through Christ as we extend to them. This is an ongoing, reciprocal daily need and reality.

And to the world of people we need to extend this grace in Christ by how we live and relate to them, as well as introducing them to the one with whom saints and sinners felt strangely, and might I say at times uncomfortably at home. This grace ends up being a communion in which we're changed, a communion we need in Jesus for continued change, as long as this life endures. Grace from God in Christ is there for us, when all might seem lost, besides.

What would you add to these rather random thoughts on needed grace?

Monday, September 17, 2007


Beauty wherever it is found certainly attracts us. The danger lies in being distracted from the source of all beauty, in whom beauty lies, that is in God. We find a beauty in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as given to us in the Story in scripture, which gives the proper place and value of all other beauty. When God's beauty is not appreciated as the beauty we're chasing, then idolatry sets in in all kinds of ways, as we seek and crave other beauty. And ironically, all other beauty begins to lose its glory to us.

Beauty is a good gift from God in God's creation and not to be despised. But beauty is to be sought first in the Lord and in his word. Only then can we avoid the idolatry which puts something else as preferable to or, that is considered better and more beautiful than God.

Let us pray that we might be moved to catch a glimpse of the beauty of the Lord, and let us seek the Lord in all his beauty, so that we can rightly appreciate the beauty we find around us, to the glory of God we can find in beholding and enjoying more and more his beauty.

Where do we start in seeking God's beauty, except in the face of Jesus Christ? And what kind of action is this, do you think?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

prayer for the week

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(from Book of Common Prayer)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

humans and games

I enjoyed this program on Krista Tippett's Speaking of Faith, in which she interviewed a doctor, Stuart Brown, now in the "work" of understanding the importance of playing and games, in what it means to be human. It turns out that play is engrained in us as humans; it's a part of our humanity and when we refuse to play something vital for us is lost or lacking. And lack of play means lacking in nearly everything else as a result.

The good news is that like Stuart Brown, a confessed life-long workaholic, play can easily be picked up, something he did around the age of 60, since it's actually a part of who we are.

The kind of play advocated generally involves the entire body in movement. It can be nearly any activity which brings enjoyment, from dancing to some rough and tumble play of boys to nearly anything which involves the imagination. Parents within parameters should let their children be involved in activities which may involve some risk. The danger of anything serious in such activities is minimal while the benefits can impact for good the whole of one's life.

I was glad to see that even reading can be included in such activities, though I realize that for myself there is a need here to be open to doing some other things, such as perhaps trying out some outdoor games such as golf or more of bicycling, maybe even a motorcycle. Something that can be fun. I was raised to believe that life is work, and though there was good in that, this program helped awaken me to the fact that the saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," probably has alot of truth to it.

If you can podcast or listen to this on computer do so; it's worth the listen, say while you're doing household chores, etc. And listen to other programs of Speaking of Faith; I think you'll be surprised at just how much you can learn from other's perspectives.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Mission in Jesus takes us into territory unknown to common, ordinary, everyday thinking. It makes us think about things that would never occur to others. But that's what mission in Jesus does; we end up walking in the way of Jesus, in ways that make little or no sense to our world, and sometimes don't seem to make sense to us.

If our goal is to live something of the American dream, then the true way of Jesus will make little or no sense to us. If our goal is to live a long, secure life, avoiding all that could harm us, then the way of Jesus will at least give us pause. If our goal is to grab for all the gusto we can get in this life, then we put the way of Jesus for us in complete jeopardy.

The way of Jesus. It's a hard way for us sinners. But by grace through the Spirit in Jesus, it ends up being for us rest, purposeful activity and communion. Still it's not easy for us to unlearn our old ways. Yet that is exactly what we're to be in the process of doing.

As we do, in Jesus, we find we're on glorious mission. To be the people of God in this world. To participate in the very works of God in Jesus. This sense of mission is so important to us if we're to really live as God intends us to live here. We need to pray that God will help us see ourselves as those on mission in Jesus. Seeking to live out God's will for us in Christ for others, to bring them the good news of the kingdom of God come in Jesus.

What would you add here?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the people of God

I believe the people of God consists in scriptural language of all Jews and Gentiles, meaning all people who put their faith in Jesus as Lord, Savior and Messiah/Christ.

After the setting of Genesis 1-11 in creation, fall, judgment and redemptive promise and further judgment, we read of the call of God to Abraham and God's promise that in Abraham and in his seed all peoples on earth would be blessed.

Paul argues from this scripture that the seed refers to one person, Christ. Its fulfillment extended beyond the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in which there is one holy nation scattered throughout the earth, the people of God.

Today there are popular television preachers and books they write which insist that ethnic Jews are the people of God. I'm not saying they deny that we in Jesus are as well, but evidently they see two sets of people as being "the people of God." To insist in this is to insist that the Old Covenant is still in effect. But we know that in Jesus Christ the New Covenant has come, and that therefore the Old Covenant is a thing of the past.

This same problem occurs related to the above, when these books and people insist that Israel has a right to all the land promised by God in the Old Covenant. On what ground? On the ground of the Old Covenant. But in Christ Jesus, in the New Covenant, the whole earth is promised to the people of God. This is what is in effect today; the Old Covenant is no longer.

The Old Covenant is still important for us as the starting point and basis for the New Covenant that God has effected in Christ, in the Story of God. And I believe that God is at work among the ethnic Jews and has not forgotten them, as Paul clearly says. But let's not make the mistake of thinking that ethnic Jews apart from faith in Jesus as Messiah have any claims on God's promises. Nor let us assume that the promises of the Old Covenant as they were given, are still in effect today. They must be read through the lens and promises of the New Covenant in Jesus. They are fulfilled in the New Covenant in Jesus.

What might you disagree with on this and why? Does this interpretation of scripture deny that God is at work in the world, including what is happening today in the Middle East? (I hope not!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


What is gossip? Some Christians think it's okay to talk about others if what is being said is "true". But does this practice meet the standard of the "Jesus Creed" of loving God with are all and loving our neighbor as ourselves? We know better.

I'm amazed at how the flaws and foibles of people are consistently pointed out by Christians who themselves have flaws and foibles. And don't we all?

It's said that in a business context or workplace there is a time to talk about the weaknesses or downside of others. I suppose that's true, though I grudgingly give it that much.

When someone is not doing well in something why can't we as a friend take them aside and first listen to them, while sharing with them our concern? Why do we have to bat it around with others?

The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs). Let's be careful what we say, and what we hear. Let's not countenance any form of gossip. We'd better look at ourselves in the mirror first and pick on ourselves before we say a disparaging word about another.

Any thoughts here? Where might I be off, a little (or more)?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"truthing" in love

In Ephesians within the body of Christ and really as a model in Jesus to the world we're told that we're to be "speaking the truth in love"- and as Miroslav Volf points out in Exclusion and Embrace, this means in the original something like "truthing in love" which includes speaking but living as well.

Why do we struggle to understand the truth at times, and maybe many times? Volf suggests that it is often because we fail to will and live out the truth, or we fail to want to want to find and live in the truth.

Truth is more of a character issue than an intellectual issue, though thinking is a part of our humanity as well. To do anything less than to seek and will to live in the truth from God in Christ, is to perpetuate deceit and error. Since this is a character issue, what lies behind our refusal or failure to seek after truth to live in, is the desire to hold on to our own "truth" because of our own self-interest, Volf points out. We see this time and again in scripture and in life, yes- in our own lives haven't we?

And not only are we to seek to live in the truth from God, but we're to do so "in love". If we seek to be "truthing" but not do so with the goal of embracing others, than we are not really seekers of truth, but we are holding on to our own "truth". "Truth" is related hand-in-glove to trust and relationship, and indeed scripturally truth has to do with living in relationships in according to God's will primarily, not only knowing intellectually.

Of course we all fall short, though we're to be aiming and striving toward that goal. We do so in Jesus who is the Truth and the Life, so that our hope to grow in this and to live lives of loving integrity is only in him. But scripture makes it clear that this is possible for us in this life. Truth is not truth apart from this love, and love is not love apart from this truth. We indeed can, and must learn, more and more to be "truthing in love".

(all of this taken from Miroslav Volf, but certainly not pure Volf-just go and read him)

What strikes you about this, or what thought would you add here?

Monday, September 10, 2007


I think "winning" or "losing" in the Christian life is all about mindset. When I use those terms I'm not thinking about success or failure as these are often viewed, of course. Victory here would be with reference to following Christ, while defeat means not or no longer doing so.

Mindset is so crucial. We need to feed our minds on the truth of God's word, scripture. I'm thinking about the story of God as found in scripture, both the broad sweep of it, as well as important details in it given to us.

Winning or losing begins in the mind. If we have the mindset that everything should be perfect or just a certain way, that we should be without sin or struggle in this life, that if we're tempted to sin we're in trouble and a whole host of other untruths that it seems easy for us to be living by, then we're setting ourselves up for failure and defeat.

But if we set our focus of faith on Christ, and acknowledge that this life is one in which victory comes in a salvific way, in other words God's salvation for us in Jesus is ongoing and is daily needed. And if we live as those confident in that salvation from God in Christ, not trying to avoid difficulties and troubles in this life, then we're setting ourselves up to be those who are more open to God's grace, so that we can exercise faith no matter what we face.

I get in trouble when I focus on the problem. If I keep focusing on that then I'm failing to see the grace God offers to me in Christ. I'm failing to hear God's word to me in Christ. And I'm failing to act, not in my own strength, but with faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God in Christ for us.

We need to think more about mindset and how that can help us or hinder us, according to scripture.

What might you add here that could help us?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

prayer for the week

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, September 08, 2007

the gift that keeps on giving

I was tagged by Halfmom, AKA, Susan.

Rules of this tag:

1. Name the person with link who tagged you.

2. Complete the questionnaire without changing the questions.

3. Tag 6 or more people.

Q1. Are you happy/ satisfied with your blog, with its content and look? Happy would be stretching it as I think others have better looking blogs, but I'm not computer savvy enough to worry too much about it. It has been fun to begin to add pictures and I would like to improve on this, though it doesn't particularly worry me.

As to the content, I really would like to improve on that. I type an awful lot out of what I'm experiencing as well as a bit from what I'm thinking about. I figure what I'm working on in my own life and theology (the two go hand in hand) could be blessed by the Lord to others in their own lives. I particularly like interactivity with others, and I see my blogging as just a simple, humble, down-to-earth attempt to share with others, and just as much if not more, think through hard issues for myself. So I like it when people comment saying anything that might come to mind including a greeting. I learn from others and I enjoy interacting with others.

Q2. Does your family know about your blog? Yes. Our daughter Tiffany doesn't check it out, as far as I know, and my wife Deb has a little. She is starting to get on computer more, lately, so she may look at it more. My sister Cheryl has read it and made some comments, and my other sister Maxine has read it fairly regularly at times.

Q3. Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or you just consider it as a private thing? I don't feel embarrassed and people at my workplace and on my team have read it, and a little interest towards it seems to be picking up lately. This is not the place to record private matters since it's accessible to all on our planet.

Q4. Did blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts? I owe alot to Scot McKnight and his blog, now considered media, Jesus Creed. Scot has been so kind to me, and his blogging has served an excellent model for me on how to blog on controversial matters in a "Jesus Creed" kind of way. Of course the answer is in the affirmative beginning with Scot's blog. But I appreciate all the blogs I have listed on my blog, and others besides, even if I don't always agree with the content (I won't agree with all I type either sooner or later). Blogs and bloggers (you don't have to have a blog to be a blogger) certainly stimulate and challenge my thinking.

Q5. Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or you love to go and discover more by yourself? Usually just the ones I link on my blog, and that by itself isn't easy as you can see from the growing list. But yes, I definitely try to make it a point to get to other's blogs who comment on my own. Or with whom I have what I think is some engaging conversation over at their blog.

Q6. What does visitors counter mean to you? Do you care about putting it in your blog? I was intrigued by Susan's answer which is a good one. As for myself, I really didn't want to be counting hits, since gregarious creature that I am, surely half of them would be my own, anyhow. If I can have a "ministry" to one person I should be happy with that. I really don't want to think in terms of large or even dream of comparing my blog and its number of visitors with others' blogs. So I decided awhile back after scratching my head on this one, not to have a site meter. Maybe down the road I'll change my mind.

Q7. Did you try to imagine your fellow bloggers and give them real pictures? I'm not sure I do that though I confess I do wonder what people look like at times. My photo is one I took of myself early this summer with shaven head, now grown back quite a bit (of what is still left!). I have other photos of family, etc. Though on most of my posts I don't have pictures like some of my blogger friends do, and do so well.

Q8. Do you think there is a real benefit for blogging? I've touched on that already, but certainly! I've met people and made friends on it, and I've gained alot from the insights of others. And I enjoy human fellowship and some fun thrown in. Really in a sense this is like a game to me. In another sense of course it's very serious. But yes, it is fun and kind of an outlet of who I am. And I do it daily just because I find that most important things we do should be done daily, though I do break at least on Sundays, just leaving a prayer for the week from the Book of Common Prayer.

Q9. Do you think that bloggers’ society is isolated from real world or interacts with events? We can be, but if we're conversing or sharing about anything that matters at all it should be about the real world in which we live, and in which all people live. For me this is only Christian.

I do tire of getting into politics, because I think this is overblown and that something is wrong with the picture on both the religious right and the religious left in the United States. Politics has its place, and I will continue to blog on it here and there, and I do believe God's kingdom come in Jesus is meant to touch and impact all of life on this planet- but the conversation within it I think is often amiss, as well as the confidence placed in it.

Q10. Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it’s a normal thing? I don't know what it is, but I hardly have received any criticism when blogging. Of course it might be annoying if I think we're not hearing each other out and really trying to understand each other. Then afterwards being willing to appreciate the good in their thought and seek to continue to be open while having sometimes to simply agree to disagree. We're all works in project and that certainly includes our thoughts. Blogging is not publishing. Therefore, while I don't want to blog something that is not according to Scripture, I want to be open to knowing how to say things better, and to the possibility that I might be off on some things.

Q11. Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them? If they're anything like talk radio, then I would, with all due respect, want to avoid them. It is easy for me to pick up the spirit that we hear on much of that, berating others and insisting that they alone have it right. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but nevertheless that spirit comes through loud and clear too often, I'm afraid. Thoughtful blogs like Red Blue Christian are helpful, and I do tape This Week With George Stephanopoulos and Meet the Press (Tim Russert) weekly. But I spend hardly any time at all on political blogs. I'm sure there's some good, thoughtful ones out there, but I have to draw the line due to time.

Q12. Did you get shocked by the arrest of some bloggers? No, I'm in the dark on that one.

Q13. Did you think about what will happen to your blog after you die? Not really. I hope my life in the Lord leaves a good legacy. As to the blog, I'm not sure it will matter to anyone then, unless to an interested relative.

Q14. What do you like to hear? What’s the song you might like to put a link to, in your blog? I hardly ever have music on when I'm blogging. I prefer silence because music, especially with words will keep me from being fully engaged in the task or matter at hand. As for a song to get others to link to if they might like, I don't know. There are so many good ones.

Now it's my turn to tag some others: L.L. Barkat, Nancy, Every Square Inch, Joe, Kim Aliczi, KM, Llama Momma, Mark Goodyear, Monica Tutak. Hope you enjoy it and I look forward to your thoughts on this. I tried to tag bloggers I thought would be interested or open to doing it, and they are all, of course, good bloggers.

Friday, September 07, 2007

new challenges

Life throws at us all kinds of new challenges at various levels as we seek to go on in following Christ and in our life in the Lord. These challenges involve growth in grace, dealing with sin issues and really everything related to "the Jesus creed" of loving God and loving others, as well as being rightfully related to God, others, ourselves and the world.

We have to find another car, as we just found out today they are "totalling" our good car. This is a new challenge we didn't want, but now we must face, and do so, hopefully in God's grace. I ran into another new, kind of old challenge today and this alerts and informs me in a way that can help as in my foolishness and weakness I reach out to Christ for his wisdom and strength, found in him.

Life in a sense is a challenge all by itself. We're either going on and growing in the Lord, or we're drifting away. I don't think it's okay to stand still in this, to stand still means to drift away (Hebrews). Unless one is talking about the standing still of faith and rest in God.

But back to life as a challenge in itself. Life is a dynamic in which we're either following Christ in the community of God in Jesus, or we're losing out and missing some important additions that God wants to bring along and help us make part of our lives. 2 Peter 1 reminds me of this, but really all of scripture in one way or another is related to this. Even in reading Leviticus recently from the Message, I was struck by both Eugene Peterson's introduction to that book, as well as the content of it, from this fresh rendering of scripture. And I had to thank God for this great salvation we have in Christ, and would do so as well for God's commitment to our lives, that every part of them would be holy.

New challenges, just as new thankfully as God's new grace to us every morning. He will be faithful to us to the end, as we continue on through each and every challenge as well as this great challenge of life in following Jesus in this world along with others, and for others.

How do you look at new challenges and what helps you in facing them?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

training to be godly

Life is lived from the heart (Proverbs 4). If my heart is in something, it will show; but if it's not, that often shows as well.

What if my heart is into something that isn't right? What if I regard iniquity, or cherish sin in my heart, so that as the psalmist tells us, the Lord will not hear my prayers? Of course when we recognize the sin, then we simply need to confess it as such before God, whether we still cherish that sin in our heart (likely we will) or not. We need to be those who do not excuse sin, and indeed are working on it, through Christ. And I often find that as I do I end up wanting to turn my back on that sin, not that I can't gravitate back towards it again.

A big part of what we're to do here, I believe, is training ourselves (first us, but in a way, each other?) to be godly, as Paul writes to Timothy. I think in these cases we do what Paul mentioned elsewhere: he beat his body black and blue (I take that metaphorically) and made it his slave, so that he would not end up losing out on the prize the Lord wants to give to all of us, his children, in the end.

I take all this to mean that when my heart is wrong, I don't let my body follow suit, and I repent when I do wrong. But training oneself to be godly would include directing our bodies, and hence ourselves and our hearts toward God and his will, setting our minds and our hearts on heavenly things, not on fallen earthly things as Paul tells us in Colossians.

Realize this is training. Does training change one overnight? No. That is why we have to keep at it, day after day, week after week, month after month, even year after year, so that over the long haul we'll really change in ways that please God. In the short haul we'll have moments, seasons and days that seem especially difficult or when we may fail. But we need to hang in there in such training for the long haul.

Obedience attempted from the heart by grace is a big part of this training to be godly, while we keep at the basics of Scripture reading, prayer, and engagement in the community of God in Jesus unto mission. And of course this involves no excuse of any wrong, no matter how justified it may seem to us. Sometimes we need to turn those wrongs into creative endeavors to do God's will in regard to whatever the issue may be.

What thoughts might you have on training to be godly? I'm working on this.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

keep praying

I was struck a little, especially looking back on it, on the emphasis N.T. Wright puts on prayer, in my recent reading of him. We're to walk through this world in Christ as agents of new creation, taking seriously the sufferings of this world, and so suffering together with the crucified God, being much in prayer through the entire endeavor, as we're often dumbfounded in this world and existence (my take from him and what he was saying, a little Bonhoeffer thrown in; I'm sure N.T. wouldn't mind that at all).

We need to keep praying as we continue to walk in this life as those who as part of the one Body, seek to live in the calling of Christ in this world. This is praying that includes our personal concerns. But it goes beyond that to embrace God's concerns and kingdom and interests in this world. It is prayer in Christ, that is not only with reference to Jesus and on the ground of Jesus' person and work for us. It is prayer in Christ in seeking to enter into something of what he is engaged in by the Spirit in this world. And yes, while we pray individually, it is mostly to be in prayer as those together in Jesus in this (even when we pray alone). So every chance we get at praying together, even with our sister in Christ wives (women, reverse that), or our brothers and sisters in Christ anywhere, let's develop that practice of praying together and resonating in Christ by the Spirit with each other and especially seeking to do so with God in Christ as we bring God's acts of new creation into another's life as well as into the dry bones of life (really death) around us which need to hear the life-giving word of the Lord.

I love the simple fact that praying does matter. When I'm "inspired" to pray, when I'm not inspired to pray. We're to keep at it all the time, for all God's people as well as for all people in general, for the realization of God's good will for all in Christ.

No, my praying is not fancy, and is sometimes so weak, and lacking of any eloquence. Is it from the heart? Is it from a will that has chosen God's will, in spite of ourselves? Is it with the desire that God's will would be fulfilled, that God would be pleased?

Don't despair if your prayers seem self-centered. No! Keep on praying. Look at the psalms and the prayers there. Let's not give up, and let's look to God for his help as we pray.

What better argument for us to pray than to know that this is what Jesus regularly did? And to also pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, and by extension, taught us to pray?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Jesus knows

This theme may sound like a syrupy hymn or song, but it rings true regardless: Jesus knows; Jesus knows what we're going through. It may seem unreal or unreasonable if others heard it, but not so when the Father hears it from us. And in the person of Jesus, God knows firsthand by experience what we're going through. Even if the precise experience differs, the nature of the experience does not.

Of course in our experience sin is involved. Who can say they have no sin in a given trouble they are encountering? Jesus was the only one on the face of the earth who could always say that, though he was tempted in every way, and suffered in many ways, surely. If we're aware of sin, then we need to confess it to God, and to another, if we've openly sinned against them.

With Jesus' knowledge comes Jesus' help, we read in the book of Hebrews. Since he suffered he is able to help any who are suffering. We can trust God in Christ to see us through. It is a help that goes beyond words and knowledge, as important and helpful as that is from God. It is a help that is alongside us by the Spirit, and a help we can find in fellowship with God's people as those who are members of Christ's Body.

I sometimes especially need this myself when the weight of what I'm going through seems too much to bear. These are times when we especially need to come to God through Christ, looking to God for the help that he alone can give. When all hope seems gone this is when our real hope can be found: not in ourselves, but in God through Jesus.

Monday, September 03, 2007


We all like holidays and times just to rest (today being Labor Day in the United States, has become basically a day of rest or the last breath of vacation before school and Fall activitites begin or are in full swing). We need them.

At the same time I find that after some good rest, if I don't make seeking God and his will intentional during those times, then I tend to drift and lose whatever spiritual edge I may have attained to by grace before.

It seems like in the challenge of the normal daily routine, it is easier for me to be tuned in and honed on spiritual disciplines, not just because I'm practicing self-discipline, but more like because I both need and want to be living as one in Christ and in the community of God in Christ, knowing this is how I must live, and that really this is our life in Christ in this world.

Holidays, while a needed blessing I believe, also can end up being a timeout from how we live, in that sense dangerous, while in the sense of a timeout from the normal routine for rest and enjoyment, healthy.

It is especially wonderful to get out and enjoy God's good creation, and that alone can be an antidote to the dangers of drifting from God and grace during a holiday. Another good antidote is to visit family and friends around some grilling. These things can help me stay on track in God.

Too many times though, if nothing out of the ordinary is going on, and wife has to work, as has been true for us this weekend, then I must make the best of it, and seek to intentionally draw near to God in a special way. I need it!

Well, just some ramblings about holidays and really related to my struggle during this beautiful weekend and past weekends like it. I hope each of you have, or had a good day today with some fun (I'm assuming most readers will be from the United States).

How do you enjoy your holidays or vacation times? And how do you avoid the danger of drifting spiritually during those times?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

prayer for the week

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from BCP

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Deb is safe

Deb is safe. She does have a sore jaw and some slight burns from the airbag.

We'll find out about the car. Someone rear-ended a car in front of her and she in turn did the same, skidding into them. No one was hurt in the accident.