Friday, November 30, 2007

deeply caring about others

Deeply caring about others can get us in trouble if not done wisely. What I mean is related to "the Jesus Creed" which tells us that we're to love God with all of our being and doing, and we're to love our neighbor as ourselves. Of course those two commands are linked for us. This is how we as humans are meant to live, even beginning now in Jesus.

The trick in part is with loving our neighbor as ourselves. The question in part is really just how we're to love ourselves. We're to do so not in a self-indulgent, self-idolatrous way, but in the Jesus way. This is an important aspect of loving ourselves, surely; one in which we find our true lives in Jesus. I think this aspect would be taken for granted or imbedded in this command, as well as the thought that we naturally care for ourselves.

Grace must be applied here. And this grace of God in Jesus is not only an offering of salvation to all, but it's a grace which never condones what is displeasing to God. And insists on exemplary, pure lives beginning with each of our own lives, as we look forward to Jesus' return.

Let's keep working at deeply caring for others in the Jesus way, even as we endeavor to truly live in that way, ourselves.

What would you add here?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

more prayer needed

It's not like I don't pray. Nor that I don't pray much more than what I used to. Still my praying is paltry, deficient and lacking too often and too regularly.

More and more I recognize the importance of prayer, and I seek more and more to practice it. We can pray in the Spirit in all kinds of ways, and we need to.

I recognize that some things need prayer, and alot of it. It's good when we get others to pray with us on something. And when we join together for special needs. And we need to do it more together, not worrying at all about how we sound when we do it.

I like and use the weekly "collect" I've been posting on Sunday, from the Book of Common Prayer. I try to go over that several times a day along with "the Jesus Creed", "the Lord's prayer", and select passages- while I'm at work.

At certain times and occasions, more prayer than usual is needed. Jesus when living his days on earth seemed to spend much time in prayer to the Father. We are to do the same, to grow more and more in this practice of faith in this life.

Prayer is adding our amen to God's revealed will for us in Scripture and in Jesus. It is agreeing with God, yet it is also expressing ourselves before our Father: our struggles, problems, fears and needs. Coming boldy to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

I sense of one those times where I need to be in prayer and be growing in this grace of praying. We won't remain on the Jesus way or do well in God's will, unless we keep growing in our Christian life and walk, and prayer is one important aspect of it.

But don't get discouraged if you see no progress and even feel you're regressing. Remember, growth takes time, and there is necessary pruning along the way so that there will be times when we seem truly to be exposed and struggling along with straggling. It's important that we need to be awake and alert to what we are called to do, doing it when we don't feel like it and doing it when stirred by God's gracious working through the Spirit.

More prayer needed. Let's make this more and more our practice. What might you add to this to help us?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I like Rich Mullin's song, Hard. I distrust Christian spiritual teaching or theology which seems to indicate that one can arrive to a place in this life in Jesus where it is no longer hard to follow Jesus in this life.

Of course we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And as we are more and more confirmed in obedience, we will experience more and more God's good freedom in righteousness and holiness in the Jesus way.

Yet the Jesus way is one of taking up our cross and following to the end. Did Jesus' life get any easier as he lived? I think his hardest days were toward the end as he was fulfilling the Passion, or his appointed suffering. In that Jesus is unique, yet we in Jesus too are to partake of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death in this world.

The more we in Jesus can realize we're in this together, the better. That's maybe the one missing note from Rich's song: we're in this life, in this hardness- together. Not just in the good times, but in the bad, down times as well. We need to be in there for each other. I'm glad for people who are there for me in my life. And I want to be there for others in their lives. God made it so we do need each other as we rely in faith together on our God. The fact that this aspect is hard is all too evident in our churches and in our all too often wounded or broken relationships.

What would you add to this thought? How can we be encouraged in all this?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

obeying God's commands

Obeying or keeping God's commands is a theme we find all throughout Scripture. It is supposed to be the food of God's people. It is what we're to do, even though all within us would do something else. And of course we're never to be negligent of obedience when all seems good.

I love the words of the psalmist in 119. To obey God's word is to be a passion and goal for us, as well as a way of life. We want to do so holistically (and that's much more than just referring to ourselves and our performance of it), not just mere outward performance, but from the heart. At the same time we obey promptly whether our heart is right or not. Of course repentance as well as a broken and contrite heart are to be common for us as well.

Only this, in Jesus, is the way of freedom. All other ways constrict us in the end. In the beginning this constricts us, but as we learn to live in it, and it becomes a way of life for us, we find a freedom that is unique to it. And one that will last forever. Yet at the same time we will have a sense of being on a different path than what is common in this life, though pleasantly we will find others who are with us in this, the Jesus way.

Are you eathing well, in Jesus? What would you add to this?

Monday, November 26, 2007

did God really say?

There is at least one time in Scripture when it says that God left so and so to test what was in that person's heart. I think there are times in our lives when it just seems that God's way is not the right way for us, or that God didn't really mean what he said. This has been one of the biggest and hardest lessons in my own life- especially as a younger Christian- though sometimes true now, to really believe and live like God's word found in Scripture, is true- and that God means what he says. I don't mean here in little areas that we might misunderstand, but in big areas where there is no misunderstanding.

"Did God really say...? echoes the serpent's voice to Eve in the Garden. We know that Eve listened to the serpent's voice, and so oftentimes like ourselves, was deceived, sinned, then paid the price- and it was a big one with consequences for us all- even as our sins never affect only ourselves. Notice that the serpent was twisting God's word here, so we must beware of that as well. It may be as in "Yes, this is important, but really you can have what you want and in the end have heaven too. After all, you know God wouldn't deny you of what is really good, and of what you need and must have!"

One of the biggest deceptions that I think is common today is that we'll be better off if we sin because God's grace will be there, we'll be forgiven, and we'll have gotten what we want. This is playing with fire since, though I believe in God's ongoing sustaining redemptive grace, in which he does call us to repentance, to sin is to venture down a path of deception with an accompanying hardness of heart; in other words the danger of being confirmed in our own way.

We're called in Jesus to watch out for ourselves and for each other (book of Hebrews, etc.). And let's concentrate on living as if, through faith- whether we feel like that's the case or not- that God's word and every word of it is true. And that we choose to remain in the Jesus way in it. And let's pray and help others to be there with us. After all we do need each other in our dependence on God.

What have you found out about this, with reference to "Did God really say?" Or anything else related.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, November 24, 2007

looking forward

What is a big enemy of living well for so many of us and for human beings in general? I think it is often the failure to be looking forward to something. Looking forward has the sense of eager anticipation of something good to come.

For us in Jesus we have something to look forward to- the very best- and we have hints and even stronger of that in this life, as we follow faithfully on, after Jesus. And we want to do this together, not just by ourselves, though we must go on, even if others lag behind. But we must also seek to help them catch up, and perhaps surpass us. Though the picture I like is all of us together in this.

Looking forward. That means we're not mired in the past, or simply victims of the present. We have a hope that buoys us even now, and that puts an altogether new and different light on our past. The hope, blessed assured hope- in Jesus, whose incarnation and atoning work stops at nothing, beginning now, and fulfilled in judgment and grace in the end- in the new creation.

I look forward to more of, and a perfection of what I participate in Jesus with others now. A faith which then will become full sight and full realization. And for now by faith we can look forward to God's continued goodness and justice through Jesus- no matter what troubles and difficulties come our way.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Today is traditionally a big day of shopping here in the United States, the day following our Thanksgiving Day. It is fun to go out shopping, though I definitely am not a shopper. I do like to try to find something I like to wear. But above all, and this leaves everything out in the cold for me, I love to be turned loose in a good bookstore or with money to order good books, or a good book or two (budget always a factor for us).

Consumerism comes with the idea of negative connotations, though to sell and buy is just a part of life. It is when all our lives revolve around buying and selling that it can become, like anything else, idolatrous. As Jesus tells us, We cannot serve both God and Mammon/Money.

Let's enjoy good things, but lets keep our focus on where it belongs: our new life in Jesus. A new way, the way of being restored to true humanity, in which nothing replaces the centrality of relationship and relationships in our lives.

What words might you share on this big (in more ways than one) subject?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

a prayer of thanksgiving

General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Listen well to what another is saying. We need to do this when someone speaks or writes to us. I asked a person yesterday to repeat the two or three sentences they had just told me; my mind had wandered. They graciously summarized what they said, and I believe it did make a difference in my life, a good check for me.

Do we really hear first before we speak? The best teachers and ones who can help others, are the best listeners. This was the downfall of Job's friends; they failed to listen well to Job. Therefore they proved to be unfruitful counselors.

Are we listeners? Do we let others speak their full piece? It is better, as a rule, to say less and hear more, than it is to say more and hear less. Our words will then carry much more weight, and usually rightfully so.

What have you learned about listening, or what would you like to share on this?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

keeping the body in line

Paul made it clear that as for himself, he was going to keep his body in line. Paul knew that unless he did that he could end up losing out in the race he was running for the prize found in Christ Jesus.

Our bodies are where and how our individual lives in Christ Jesus are lived. They are strategic in our quest to live for Christ. We serve God in Christ by faith through them, or else we fail God through them. Jesus talks about this when he speaks of our eyes, or our hands or feet. When we're to love God with all our strength- including our heart, soul and mind- our bodies are alluded to.

It does matter where I look and how I look, with my eyes as a male, or even as a female, for you females also, though maybe that's in good measure related to how you make yourselves appealing to us males, to some extent? It does matter where I go or what I do or even fail to do. Whatever it is in life, we can make or break our walk in God through our bodies.

Jesus used hard words to describe how we should view our bodies if they get in the way of doing the will of God. I take this to mean that we're to take drastic action. Of course such action isn't going to be easy. And we see that reflected in Paul's words alluded to earlier. It will take a ruthlessness and self-discipline from us, but which is of God and God's grace in Christ.

In my theological scheme this whole idea does not fit well, or sit well- though as I think about it, I think it really does. Yes, the body matters, but does so much hinge on what I do or fail to do? It's not like we're going to ever arrive to sinless perfection in this life; I don't believe that. But I've noticed just how crucial our bodies are in this faith that we're to live out in this world.

Does someone have some light on this subject? We could use it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"in Jesus" so important

Christian spiritualities need to stress the fact that by faith we are "in Jesus". Being "in Christ" is so key to our walk in God, and by God's grace is the only hope we have to go on, leaving the old life in Adam behind, and putting on the new life in Christ.

It's important that God helps us understand who we are, where we are, and where we should be going. Adam and Eve when they sinned felt ashamed and hid themselves. God immediately pursued them and asked them where they were. These are the first words showing God's seeking of lost humanity. Then knowing who we are, that we are Eikons of God, that is made in God's image, but broken or cracked as Scot McKnight puts it, due to sin. Cracked in our relationships to God, to ourselves, to each other and to the world. This is so important for our understanding of both who we are as well as the provision of God for us in Christ.

There is really no hope for myself apart from "in Jesus" or "in Christ". No hope at all. I know my own heart. Though in a sense only God does since it is so easily led astray or deceitful. But in Jesus God promises to change our hearts, to give us a new heart.

It's good for me and for us to know that. But we must press on "in Jesus". This is our only hope. We look not to ourselves or even to our just condemnation as sinners before God, though we need to understand this is true. Nor our broken or cracked relationship towards God and others, fundamental as that is. We look for God's salvation and restoration in Jesus. This is our hope, and our only hope. By this alone can we depart from sin and all that accompanies it. And by this alone, we embark on a new life, yes the very life of Jesus himself, lived out in this world even as he lived. A life of death to self and life to God; death to sin and living unto righteousness.

In Jesus. Believe in that. Rest in that. Know that all we need for this life is found in Jesus. Let's not give up but give ourselves to God through and in Jesus. God will take us through, whatever we're facing or wherever we are. We'll be going in a new direction, a new way, and God will see us through, through all the pain and even through failures along the way. Our hope is only in Jesus.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

30 Days of Thankfulness--Day 18

I fear I dropped the ball on this one, KM, and I repent. But this much show itself in action. So here goes:

What I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for God: Father, Son and Spirit, who in grace works to bring us into his triune communion of love (John 17 and other passages in John).

I'm thankful for Jesus Christ, by whom we have forgiveness of sins and a new life, his life, to live in this world as we leave our old life in Adam, behind.

I'm thankful for God's ongoing grace in Jesus for us, which we need always, both for forgiveness and for renewing us in his way.

I'm thankful for my faithful, loving and true wife, Deb. Deb is a godly person who loves God and others with a true heart. A good, faithful wife who lovingly serves and is dependable.

I'm thankful for God's goodness shown to us as a family. Tiffany continues to go to school to become a Medical Assistant. And we have a grandchild to come. She and her boyfriend Chris are talking of marriage. Pray for God's work in their lives.

I'm thankful for a good church of many loving people in whom Christ is seen.

I'm thankful for the work God gives us through which we can glorify him.

I'm thankful for activities we enjoy doing, such as, in my case reading; conversation- including this blogging; and any fun activities we enjoy.

I'm thankful for God's sovereign work in our world and how we can trust him no matter what.

I'm thankful for life itself in this world, that in Jesus there is always hope.

I'm thankful for what we have to look forward to beyond this life, and that in Christ, God will make all things right and new, in judgment and grace.

Okay, of course I could go on. But for any of you who would like to join in on your blog in this exercise, please do. If you do so you're to tag at least a couple of others. I defer, but encourage any reader to do so. Go to KM's blog.

prayer for the week

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, November 17, 2007

simple obedience

In reading about the first king of Israel, Saul, in Eugene Peterson's rendering, the Message, it struck me just how wonderful was his start, both in what God was graciously doing, as well as Saul's response, and the result. So far so good.

But what happened? It seems on the surface one little thing: disobedience. I'm not referring to no longer sinless perfection; this is referring to a major issue in which one of God's major commands in reference to loving God and/or loving human beings is broken.

How many times in our lives are we faced with difficult situations, or times when it seems like our calling is too much. We're tempted to quit, to give up. We feel defeated and maybe we really are. What can be the crux of the matter? Again simply failure to obey God.

If we can trace it down to that, then we can go from there to repentance and faith expressed in obedience. In Saul's case he didn't repent, but went on a tragic downward decline.

Of course all that goes in to changing us into the image of Christ is all that we find in Scripture, or better put, all Scripture contributing to that. And especially found in Christ or in the Person, words and works of Jesus as well as in being led by the Spirit.

Yes, this is about us individually, but it never is separated from us corporately. Any disobedience on our part affects the whole; it really matters to our "neighbor", even if we or our neighbor don't sense that. This begins at home in our families, and into the family of believers we are a part of as well as out into other circles of relationships we have, or maybe ought to have. But this is not, as to impact, simply confined to ourselves.

Is there something wrong? Are we down for some reason, maybe even down and out for the count? This may be what's the matter. We may be holding out or even walking out on some simple matter of obedience to God. Let's check up on ourselves before God and then go from there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

rivalry week

This week in college football my Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor to take on the University of Michigan in perhaps the biggest rivalry in all college football. Today I'll wear a sweat shirt (since I no longer have a t-shirt) with a Buckeye face. On Saturday I'll tape the game, but probably won't watch it live. It should be a good game.

I know firsthand all the sin that can go into watching this game. Fans hate the rival team. One of the sayings here in Michigan: "Oh how I hate, Ohio State!" And we had our special sayings in Ohio about Michigan. Even one of the traditional songs: "We don't give a ____ for the whole state of Michigan...'cause we're from O-hi-o."

I wonder how we in Jesus should look at all of this. Any readers may not really be into this. But you may be into something that has synonymous or related meaning, in which, like this, one can spend hours thinking about, and getting worked up over it.

I think it's great to have fun and enjoy a good game, and be happy if your team wins, and disappointed if they lose. But we in Jesus need to be careful not to imbibe the spirit of the world in all of this.

And at the same time, let's be involved wholeheartedly in those things that do matter. Not letting these lesser matters be blown up to be greater than the games or fun they're supposed to be. Or participating in something which undermines who we are in Jesus. This won't be easy for many, as many especially of us older Wolverine and Buckeye fans will admit (remember Bo and Woody?) and it involves taking a different direction in how we're involved.

Anyone with a prediction? Or better yet, some thoughts to help us on this?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

from the heart

Our Christianity and our lives are to come from the heart. We're to guard our hearts, since all we do flows from it. In "the Jesus Creed" we find that we're to love God with all our heart along with all the rest of us.

I have to admit that so much of what I do I so often don't feel like doing. Of course "heart" in the Old Testament (and carried over at least to some extent into the New Testament, I believe) includes our thoughts and will, along with something of emotion or feelings. Though the Hebrew expression for emotion is more like, literally one's inward parts as in, we would say, our guts. I do think "heart" in the New Testament does pick up a little more on feelings, though we still have a different word even there which means "affections" or feelings (again literally, inward parts).

I see heart as what makes me tick, or an inward disposition. We need to lose heart in sinning or sinfulness, while gaining heart in righteousness or in doing God's will. This is surely a work of God in grace, at the same time including our walk in faith. It is also a matter of growth. Yes, at times we'll think that it seems our hearts are changed, but the real change normally comes over time so that we're changed into a new person more as to the direction we're going rather than as in having arrived.

Loving God from my heart, as well as my soul, mind and strength. It begins with the heart. If our heart is in it, than we'll live it out. If not, then we have to confess that before God, and ask for his forgiveness, cleansing, and for a change of heart. A broken and contrite heart, God will never despise.

What would you add to this exercise in thinking about what it means to live from the heart?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

misunderstanding each other

There are so many reasons why we so easily misunderstand the basic intent of another person. Misunderstanding is problematical in and of itself, and usually creates a new problem since what was communicated or what's the intent is not understood.

Surely the greatest obstacle to understanding each other, and the biggest impediment for doing so, as well as source for misunderstanding another is lack of love. Love hears well; lack of love does not. Love hopes for the best and thinks the best; lack of love has no such hope and easily thinks the worst. Of course we have love well described here.

Where do we need to begin when we have or sense a disconnect with someone else? We need to begin with love, and specifically love in Jesus, or the love of God in Jesus. I'm not a bumper sticker fan, but there's plenty of truth in the simple slogan I've read on a number of vehicles, if understood in Jesus: "Love wins." Love will end up winning because of the grace of God in Jesus. Though tragically not everyone will be on the winning side.

Of course this is a love that is defined in Jesus and in the Story of God we find in Scripture. Not to say that a real love doesn't exist in humans made in God's image, even though broken, cracked Eikons (eikon is Greek New Testament word for "image" and where we get "icon" from). But we recover our full humanity and thus find that enduring, sustaining love, only in Jesus. And this love can not only avoid misunderstanding, but result in a true understanding of each other, as we seek to walk in obedience to the will of God in Jesus our Lord.

Just a sketch, as usual, and hopefully to stimulate us to further thought on this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

growing older

Growing older has its pluses and minuses. Overall it seems like I have a much better perspective on life and more comfortable take on how to live and meet new challenges, though that doesn't mean I always do well in this in real life. I seem to be much more settled in my faith, while at the same time acknowledging that on a good number of issues I really have less certainty than I did in the past. But along with that a stronger dependence on God and interdependence on others especially those in Jesus.

Of course there is the downside. Losing the hair I used to like pretty well. Once in a while having a bad back. Seeing myself look my age, at least in my eyes (51). And realizing my days are more and more numbered.

This all reminds me of Moses' prayer in Psalm 90: "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Every day I see as a gift from God. I try more and more to use these days wisely. They are gifts and we're stewards of them. So I think I waste less time each day than I used to, at least in quality if not quantity. Though I still do waste plenty of time daily, I 'm sure- or at least water it down. Of course we should enjoy life and the good things God has given us. But at the same time, we need to live our lives with a sense of urgency and mission in Jesus. We want in Jesus to be faithful and really meet issues in our lives in a way which glorifies God in Christ. We want to be all that God would have us to be in this life in Jesus.

Oak trees, or as Isaiah says, "mighty oaks" do not grow overnight. It takes time and years. Of course we can't count on that time, but we're called to simply be those who are on that track of growth regardless of how long our time here will be.

One thing I'd tell any young person right now: Enjoy life, but don't live as if this day doesn't matter. It does before God. In Christ God wants us to see every day as a new event, even adventure, everything, including the seeming mundane, really mattering in God's eyes, so that it should in our own as well.

May we be those who are not only growing older, but growing towards maturity in Christ- really growing up in him.

Monday, November 12, 2007

our relationship to God

Recently in blogging, I was reminded of the fundamental importance of maintaining a close relationship with God in Jesus. What I mean here in particular is the importance of us each individually seeking God, drawing near to God- in prayer and in the reading of God's word. I'm once again thankful for the fellowship I experience in blogging and how that helps me get or keep on track better, in my walk in Jesus.

This is so important that we seek to have a vital time and ongoing walk with God, and this takes time, space (solitude) and silence before God. Then we must seek to live in that grace in Jesus throughout our day. Of course thankfully, God will be at work in us so that we do want this communion and new way in Jesus in our lives, and will be content with nothing less.

Relationship with God must be first in priority and import to us. But from that can flow healthy relationships with others, particularly those in Jesus as well as all our neighbors which we are called to love as we love ourselves.

It is so easy to be in a hurry to get on with our "real" life in this world, to the neglect of our special time in the word and in prayer to God. I find that true for myself. But this needs to become and be the normal practice for us: an unhurried regular time with God. And then from that, again, seeking to live in that fellowship in all our hours to follow. Of course life ebbs and flows for so many reasons. So we will ever have to be seeking to renew our lives with God in Jesus throughout the day. As we seek to draw near to God, God promises to draw near to us.

I must not forget that in my quest for community inherent in God as Trinity, that I remember first things first, and what makes this all possible: the life of God as Trinity, God as a relational Being, for us in the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. And from that we live and move in Jesus, by ourselves and with each other in this world.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

prayer for the week

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, November 10, 2007

thirty, twenty, ten years ago...

I was tagged by Jim Martin. What were you doing ten, twenty and thirty years ago?

Thirty years ago: A relatively new Christian, I lived at home with my parents, worked as a house painter, and was an EMT (and even a Paramedic for a short time) on a volunteer emergency rescue squad. I was supportive of a church and group that purported to have the one thing needful for the world, purporting to have the unique understanding of that.

Twenty years ago: By that time I was married to Deb and we had moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I would soon be enrolling in Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary (now Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) in which I'd eventually complete my M-Div. Deb worked as a nurses assistant (a little factory work along the way as well) and I had found a job I ended up being at for around fourteen years, in a meat factory.

Ten years ago: I was still at the same meat factory and was serving as an elder in an IFCA planted church. By then we had Tiffany who was nine at that time.

Note: I really see my life as rather uneventful, though that's not fair either. Though I wasn't doing what I really wanted to do in life, we had the blessing of good friendships. There is really much more interesting things to say about my time of the past thirty years, but I'm afraid that doesn't fit well into the time intervals given to us here. Suffice it to say, my theology has changed dramatically less than ten years ago, and as a result I have a sense of being much more settled as to identity and place in this life, in Jesus.

Now I guess I have to tag a few others. I'll tag some I think may actually be more likely to do this, and as I remember, have not yet been tagged: Betsy Lin, Halfmom, AKA, Susan, KM, Kim Aliczi, Mary, Monica Tutak, Nancy, Odysseus. If you're comfortable to do this, great, and then pass it on.

Friday, November 09, 2007

reading and interacting with love

Scot McKnight in his great new book, A Community Called Atonement, again mentions Alan Jacob's book, A Theology of Reading, and says that Jacobs "radicalizes love as the only posture of hermeneutics" and lifts this quote from him:
Only if we understand this love of God and neighbor as the first requirement in the reading of any text can we fulfill "the law of love" in our thinking, our talking, and our manner of working.
Let me hopefully gently challenge a critique that I sadly believe from my reading of it, actually violates this point from Jacobs.

This article by Bob Burney, I'm afraid does violate this. Read it for yourself; it's not long. What bothered me in reading it was that what Hybels says and has done, and is doing is cast in the worst light possible. It takes his words to an extreme, and (arguably perhaps, but it seems clearly to me that it does) misrepresents what Hybels was actually saying. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek, for all the shortcomings, has done much good in God through Christ in the lives of many so I sadly find this article not only unhelpful, but hurtful to all.

It's important to really listen well, in love, and a big part of that is to ask questions and find out what is really going on. Behind the scenes at Willow Creek, small groups have been big as in important there. A well known evangelical author on apologetics, Lee Strobel as I recall- formerly an atheist, was reached through Willow Creek Community Church, and loves to be a part of churches like these because he believes they excel in reaching people like himself.

So let's beware of how we read and think, and in all of this how we're loving God and our neighbor. Yes, truth is critical, and it's only known if seen in love.

What do you think about my take on Bob Burney's critique and on this issue of reading and interacting with love applied to Hybels' recent words?

Link: Jesus Creed: Weekly Meanderings

Thursday, November 08, 2007

a great and good read

From Scot McKnight's new (and great) book, A Community Called Atonement: we are reminded of the centrality of the Cross. In Jesus' work for us in the Incarnation, he lives out his perfect life, dies on the cross, is resurrected, ascends to the right hand of God over all, pours out the Holy Spirit from the Father on the day of Pentecost, and is to return in judgment and grace for the consummation of making all things new.

Scot walks us through so many aspects of the atonement and what it means for us today. Initially, in my eagerness, I was flying through it, but before I finished, I decided to restart and read it slowly and thoughtfully. This is the kind of book that, while very accessible, deserves a most careful reading and rereading, and is among those books I will want to go back to.

Scot points out that God turns the horrible injustice in cosmological, political and spiritual terms into a glorious triumph through the Cross, in what ends up being an empty cross because of the resurrection. I can't wait to finish this book, but I gladly take it slow, like good wine.

It is a formative book, not bulky, well worth your time and effort, in fact you'll deeply appreciate it, if you like to work through a subject Biblically. And what more important subject for us than atonement in Jesus, and what that means for us in this world?

Get your hands on this book, and read.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

knowledge takes a hit

Why is it that people can be so hard on knowledge? Of course knowing intellectually by itself is not enough; that knowledge must translate into life.

God's word says that his people can be destroyed because of their lack of knowledge. And that the only way we know as we ought to know is through love, loving God with our being and doing, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. And as we obey in that way, in the way of Jesus, we come to really begin to know. Of course the fear of the Lord is called the beginning of knowledge (and wisdom).

I've been called a mind person (as opposed to Spirit people), or dismissed as just someone who crammed their head full of knowledge. Some truth in all that, since my gift is along the line of teaching and I can't get enough of the kind of books that are along my interests (though I do need more discipline at sticking to reading at times).

I'm not convinced that we as God's people know everything we need to know and that our task now is just to do it, or have the wisdom to apply it. I think while there is some truth in that, I'd rather settle with the thought that we have enough knowledge by faith to take the next step. But as apprentices to God in Christ, we have plenty to learn where the rubber meets the road in our lives. And that's what the Story of God is all about, in which we're to find our own story and part.

Let's not disparage knowledge. But rather, let's seek to know all the counsel and will of God in a way that meets us where we live, that takes us in the way of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

losing heart, taking heart

To become weary can mean to be in danger of losing heart. There are not many things more scary for a Christian than to end up losing heart. I then can find myself in a kind of stupor in which I think nothing I do matters much. Well, it's all of grace to be sure. But this grace lifts us to be a part of what God in Christ is doing in the world. To have our part together with others in Jesus.

Losing heart can be spread to others. But taking heart by grace can likewise help others do the same. I think this is conveyed to each other in our spirits by the Spirit, and it's through what in Jesus we are and do. But above all, it's in answer to prayer. We actually may feel quite weak and even struggling, but in answer to prayer God can give us "heart" to keep on doing good works and his will.

I think as we go on in Jesus in this life, we can learn more and more to take heart no matter what. Of course we can't retreat into a life of sin or indulging the flesh, in other words doing what we feel like doing, and then expect to find heart in God. Taking heart in God through Christ is only for us as we seek together, to follow the way of Christ. At times left by ourselves to do so, but always wanting to take someone along with us.

Monday, November 05, 2007


I have found myself weary lately in spirit especially, but somewhat in body as well. What keeps me going is the faint echo I hear of hope, and then God's encouraging to my spirit and mind along the way.

Weariness can be symptomatic of sin, or maybe simply of physical fatigue. Sin can be as subtle as not drawing near to God, not seeking God wholeheartedly. Though I find God's forgiveness and sense of presence can come just as quickly. The problem comes when I encounter this weariness over a few days. One can get to the place where it seems like one is going to give up and quit.

What is difficult about being weary is that any better sense is honestly beyond one's self. But for us in Jesus, we know that we can't think that when we run out of vigor and life, then that's the end. If that's the end, then we're not getting what we need from God. And from God in Christ we get all that we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1).

Weariness can help us unlearn all of what in us is not pleasing to God. Weariness can be a pointer that in some way there is something displeasing to God about us. And as God's children we don't find it pleasing either, since God does not stop his good work in us, and works in us both to choose and to do his good will.

But weariness is a dangerous time. What if we give up, and in so doing give in to that which might be damaging to us, as well as to others (Psalm 73)? What if we begin to go a completely different way, the way of the world- as did Demas? Or at least commit a sin that wreaks havoc in our world? We best beware and not go there. Better to take Jesus' words seriously and radically deal with any such thoughts.

If weary, wait. Let's wait on God; let's seek God and renewing of communion with him- and from that with each other in Jesus. And let's keep doing it.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

prayer for the week

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

present tense salvation

Yes, what matters about salvation is not so much some commitment we made in the past, what we might call our conversion experience, nor some future hope of "heaven" that we're trusting God for- not to negate either. What matters really is where we are in the present in regard to this. Are we experiencing God's salvation now?

To think we don't need God's salvation now, in Biblical terms is lacking and more precisely is simply a mistake, and a fatal one, potentially, at that. I have those moments and intervals in time, thankfully not often, where I'm at the complete end of my rope, where all in me seems lost and helpless and hopeless. Where without God's saving work I'm sunk. Do you ever feel that way?

That's when we must in faith keep looking to God in prayer. That's when we must ask God for what we can't imagine, for that which seems completely beyond the possibility of our own heart. That's when we seek to pray according to God's will. We seek to pray through God's grace in Jesus, in the Spirit. Or just in our deadness seek to pray to God, at all.

Then God comes by the Spirit for this special need. This will happen if we wait on God, if our hope is really in God. God comes and gives us a new, renewed hope; a new, renewed sense of well-being; a true sense and experience of God's salvation. And from that we do new acts of faith and love.

This all I experienced yesterday.

What might you add about this present tense salvation that I believe is prominent in Scripture, and that we're in need of daily?

Friday, November 02, 2007

ignoring sin

I think one of the biggest hindrances to knowing and experiencing the love of God together in communion as God's people is our failure to deal with sin issues. In our evangelical circles so much of the time there is a strong belief in "eternal security" in the sense that once someone makes a commitment to Christ and is really converted, then they're safe (and more or less sound, might be added). Whatever other reasons there are, I think that we too often ignore sins and issues that need to be dealt with.

Love does cover over a multitude of sins, as Scripture tells us. But we're also told not to let any brother or sister become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, but to help each other daily.

We're all inherently part of the problem. Therefore we must always be seeking to deal with sin issues in our own lives, before we can be helpful to others.

When we see another sinning, or perhaps sinning, we can pray for them, and John tells us that God will give them life. There is also a time to prayerfully come alongside them, ask them questions, listen to them- though I think we shouldn't be in a hurry to do this. There ought to be sustained prayer beforehand. Of course the nature of the issue comes into play here as well.

Scripture indicates that sweeping sin under the rug does not mean it will go away. It will only grow and defile others. As Bonhoeffer points out, sin in the fellowship even when unknown to all except to the one sinning, is damaging to the fellowship. This is one major reason why too often we seem to know so little of the love and life of God in Jesus among us.

But we must start with ourselves. Are we ignoring sin in our own lives? Are we excusing it and justifying ourselves in it? Or are we confessing it to God, and if necessary to another, one we've offended? Are we seeking by God's grace to forsake it and go on in the way of Jesus?

As we do that we can then pray for our brothers and sisters. And pray that together we will experience anew the love and life of God.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

asking questions

The Socratic method in asking questions to draw out the learner to really learn so as to understand for themselves, and in the Biblical priority, live it out, is most helpful. Both Scripture and Jesus employed it (not necessarily because they learned it from the Socratic method; I rather doubt it unless it had become a part of societal practice in that day).

When one is spoon fed all the answers, then one is dependent for more spoon feeding. But when one is taken off that by being trained to gather food for themselves, then, in the long run, they are much better off.

This is a new way of teaching for me as well as discoursing that I'm right now learning and putting into practice. So far, so good. For the most part I've stuck to it, though my old propensity to feed them too much information myself, like in lecturing did resurface regretably just this week. But this confirmed to me the tact that I've already been taking as well as making me determined to learn to do this better.

I'm not saying there's never a time for lecture or explanation; we at least need to have pointed questions that end up being helpful towards the goal of a lesson or in making a point. But I will say that generally the best learning occurs from give and take, listening well and drawing out the follower of Jesus or anyone else with questions to help them think through issues and find answers themselves. Too often I have a ready reply for everything, not necessarily in a pat answer, but some kind of reply. But I need to keep framing the knowledge I gather as well as my take on something in question form to see if this will draw others out to do just as well or better. And this is a great way to facilitate learning together.

What have you learned about asking questions?