Thursday, January 31, 2008


Yesterday at a table in the breakroom a number of us guys had some good laughs. It was a good release for me, the hilarity, as life and the stress that comes with it, has been a little heavier lately.

I'm a believer in good humor and some downright good laughter, and it's especially nice when something seems genuinely hilarious, as was the case especially for me, today. Some were laughing in part, surely, from the genuine release of hilarity that was pouring out of me.

If we believe God is sovereign over all, then we can afford some laughter. Life doesn't depend on us, and we don't have to carry the world, not even our own world on our shoulders.

Ecclesiastes telling us that sorrow is better than laughter is in its context making the point that we need to empathize with others. Proverbs tells us a merry heart does good to us, like medicine. I know for myself today, it was a good release of pent up inward pressure, and the heaviness left me.

Life is a serious matter. Levity and constant lightheartedness can be the symptom of an inward emptiness or frustration towards life. It can be symptomatic of throwing in the towel as in, "What's the use?"

But at the same time having some consistent laughter and even some occasions of hilarity can indicate a faith and trust in a sovereign God, who himself made laughter. In Jesus we can know that while we live in difficult times, there is a good ending. And that God can take the burden we cannot carry- that in faith we can laugh, knowing he is God.

What would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

the change in waiting

Yesterday in a comment, Rachel reminded me and us, of the change that can come as we're waiting on the Lord. I find this to be true in my life at times. I may be aware of something about myself that is either plainly not right, or I'm not sure about. And in the meantime, I may not be sure what to do about it.

It's always safe and sound to bring it to God, and then wait. To keep bringing it before God and keep waiting, if nothing else, just to remind ourselves why and what we're waiting for.

I find myself waiting for a clear answer from God, as I commit myself to following him in obedience, no matter what he puts on my heart and mind to do. And as children of God, I'm sure we've all been there, when God seemed to clearly put it on our hearts what we should do in a difficult matter. And even when it was hard, all of the edge was taken off simply because we had a clear, unwavering sense that God had given and was giving that direction to us.

But I've found just as often, if not more, that God's answer is not so much to change the course I'm to take, but to change me which then subtly, or perhaps not so subtly, changes what course I take or am taking.

This waiting is sometimes crucial at certain times. But in a sense we're to be so waiting before God all the time. As L.L. Barkat reminded me yesterday it's more about what God gives us then what we do ourselves. From what God gives to us in blessing, we then give to each other and to the world in which we live.

What about you? What have you found in the change that comes by waiting on the Lord?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

praying through

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray....confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

James 5:13,16-18

How often when trouble comes do we just throw in the towel and give up. Or we settle for some easy solution, so we can go on with our sleepy lives.

The teaching of praying through is verified time and again in Scripture, from Jacob to David to Esther to Daniel to Jesus himself, and followers of Jesus. Too often we settle for rather sleepy, half-hearted prayer, and while that might be better than no prayer at all, yet it's not the kind of praying God is necessarily going to hear, as in answering.

This takes effort on our part. Effort against the grain of who we are; effort willing to get off our face and deal with any sin issue that needs dealt with. Effort to be there for others, interceding for them, as well as for our own needs.

Praying through also requires time. It takes some serious time. If this was so with Jesus himself, how much more so with us, his followers! Praying through requires faith that is focused on God and on God's promises to us in Christ.

Too often we settle for some substitute that soothes us, or makes us forget our trouble. But God wants us to get serious before him, and get our petition or request out to him. He alone can do what needs to be done, but he uses the prayers of his people to accomplish much of what he does.

For some, this will impinge on the sovereignty of God. But not so. God's sovereignty has a certain sense of mystery. In the mix is our prayers and the acts of faith we do. God's gracious sovereign rule is at work in every aspect of the human side of work, but it remains for us to do it.

I like this rendering of James 5:16b:

The prayer of a person living right with God
is something powerful to be reckoned with.

The Message

And this translation of the verse:

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.


I also like Eugene Peterson's rendering in the spiritual (I take it, primarily as against spiritual entities) warfare passage of Ephesians 6, concering praying in the Spirit:

In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters.

The Message

There is much more to be said in regard to prayer. Here and here are two good places to consider.

What might you like to share with us about praying through?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Is "the Lord is my Shepherd" enough?

We looked at Psalm 23 in our homegroup Sunday evening. It is a highly personalized psalm, as seen in the repeated use of "I" and "me". Though this is for all of God's people, it is instructive that the personal nature of this Shepherd/sheep relationship is important here.

Community is crucial in our life in God, inherent in fact. But we also have our individual part in the whole. This must never be lost. And God also takes us seriously as individuals, not just as individual parts of the whole, or one of the many. But his care for each of his sheep is complete down to the very hairs of our head.

Is "the Lord is my Shepherd" enough for us? Are we satisfied with that? As such he provides us each with needs met, rest, refreshment, guidance, protection, discipline, honor in grace before enemies, rich blessing, and God's presence for end of days. This is a blessed life in this present existence, meaning in a state of continued need in every way and protection from enemies. Of course we need all of Scripture to see this psalm or any other part of Scripture aright, especially passages in the New Testament that see this Shepherd imagery fulfilled in Jesus.

Is "the Lord is my Shepherd" enough? Most certainly in this psalm. And if so in this psalm, then true for our lives as well. By faith I must accept this metaphor that God in Christ is my Shepherd, that I am a sheep. And be satisfied with God's provision on his terms, not on my own. God's goodness and loyal love, or commitment will chase us all our days (Goldingay). And as sheep, how much each of us needs that. I know I do, as when I go my own way, or complain about my lot before God.

God wants us to find what true life in him means, a life more abundant, to the full. We'll find it only in this way, through the Lord who opens up the way to this life, and he being our Shepherd, and "we...the flock under his care."

What comes to mind here that you would like to share with us?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

prayer for the week

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 26, 2008

community (and blogging)

Community is inherent in us being made in God's image. God is a relational being: Father, Son and Spirit. So humankind wants community, because this is inherent in our makeup as Eikons (meaning, image-bearers) of God.

God knew it was not good for Adam to be alone; the animals weren't sufficient. From one of Adam's ribs, God made Eve. At last he was complete. We indeed are made for the Lord, and for each other.

Sin has messed up, or probably better- disrupts true community. Adam and Eve did not know how good they had it, until they lost it, in their shame and alienation from God and from each other. But this part of our humanity, this longing for relationship won't let us go, unless we're too far gone in our sin and living as less than human.

Sin is inherenly "me-centered" and therefore not relational since it's anti-God and therefore anti-human. Jesus came to bring us back to God and to each other. This is what the gospel is all about: God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and breaking down the walls that divide humanity. Bringing us to himself and to each other. Christ having becoming sin (or made a sin offering) for us, that in him (by simple faith) we might be made the righteousness of God (or made right with God in every way, ultimately).

We're to proclaim this good news, and implore others to so be reconciled. First in how we live, but part of that is words we say, after listening well- first to God, and then to the other.

I realize blogging has its limitations in that none of us have really met. We've met through words, sometimes through pictures, but we've neither seen each other or heard each other, face to face. Yet when we read Paul, we see his heart went out to believers he hadn't met, in the love of Jesus.

For me blogging is about sharing with each other God's work in our lives, and about helping others who may not know, by faith, this God for themselves. For me blogging is not only about dispensing truth, but about fellowship and community in the truth. In the Truth himself, who is Jesus. And in Jesus, finding our way back to the relationship with God and with each other in God, that can begin even now, as we await its completion and perfection to be realized when Jesus returns. What a wonderful day that will be!

What are your thoughts on community (and blogging)?

Friday, January 25, 2008

the small things

We read in Scripture that God does not despise the day of small things. What is small in our eyes, often is not so in God's eyes. And what is large in our eyes, often is not so in God's eyes.

There are those times to be there for someone in helping pull the ox out of the ditch by prayer and in works of love. But most of life hinges on the smaller matters. Faithfulness in the everyday things. Seeking to do well in all we're called to do. And thinking of small things we could do or say that in Jesus can go a long way in helping another. Praying faithfully for our loved ones, for brothers and sisters in Jesus and for friends and enemies- keeping at that in small ways, regardless how insignificant it may seem at the time.

Jesus said that those who are faithful in small things are also faithful in greater things. And those not faithful in small matters are unfaithful in larger matters. What we do in the small areas really does matter.

Am I negligent on a small matter because I'm too engaged in the big things? Too bad. That is normally wrong. We need to not let the small matters slip by, such as a faithful prayer, a faithful listening ear and heart, faithfully seeking to come into God's presence to hear his word in our reading of Scripture and his voice. Blessing others with attitudes of love, grace and forgiveness.

This is part of what God has been working on in my life lately. Never to despise the day of small things. But to seek diligently to follow our Lord, together, in everything.

What would you add to this?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

when we get off track

One of the most challenging problems I run up against for myself, is how easy it is for me to get off track in regard to my relationship with God in Christ. The great thing about this, though, is that God is ever present for us, in Jesus. And we can just as readily get back on track, as we got off. But we must want and choose this. This must be nothing less than a passion for us. Not only a belief. And we must also do so as soon as we realize this. To stay off track is to increasingly make it harder to get back on track.

I like how lost and miserable I feel when I'm off track. That indeed is an indication that I am. But getting off track can seem exhilerating or alright when we are doing that. Or it's like drifting. The point in this is that we're not following Jesus when we get off track. Our aim should be that we will follow him, no matter what, regardless of how we feel or what we're experiencing. And sometimes that will mean getting back on track in what could threaten to put us on a false track. This can happen often in many ways, seemingly small ways during one's day, and we have to learn to recognize this as it happens, so as to get back on, through realizing, acknowledging, repenting and by faith getting back on the Jesus way.

The way of Jesus. He kept on track himself, in following the road laid out for him, the road of the cross. A life of love and obedience to the Father. Only that kind of love can overcome all the false loves and idols we so easily become enamored by and even cling to. God help us to get back on track more and more readily. And to get off, less and less. That we might be among those who truly walk faithfully with God throughout our lives.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Difficulties of all kinds readily come into our lives. And some of them can be over major issues, though actually in a certain way, they're all important. Our first reaction tells us much about ourselves. Hopefully we can see that reaction change over time througb our growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

Difficulties give us an opportunity to grow in ways we probably would not have, otherwise. We may not see that at first, only shirking in fear or lashing out in anger- even if only to ourselves over at what has hit us. But in time, usually a short time, we can begin to see the good that can come out of it, as we seek to find and do the will of God for us in Jesus.

We do this through prayer and the meditative reading and pondering of God's word, Scripture. And through seeking to follow through in living that out. And doing so with a renewed dependence on God and interdependence on one another in Jesus.

What have you found to be true about difficulities, that can help us?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr

The busyness of the weekend on top of my news programs (This Week, and Meet the Press) failing to tape contributed to my forgetting about yesterday as a national holiday, appropriately remembering the life and gift to us all, of Martin Luther King, Jr. I did wear black jeans and shirt yesterday to honor the day.

We "white" caucasian evangelicals can hardly appreciate the history of "blacks", African-Americans. These brothers and sisters were brought over here from Africa as slaves, and often treated worse than animals. And then their skin color, and beauty from God was despised by members of my own "race", though in actuality we're all members of the same human race.

Martin Luther King, Jr., came on the scene at a most difficult time, when apartheid was the rule in the south, and effectively the general unspoken rule in the north. The vision of our nation's founders written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal", carried on in the words of Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address was not being realized in all too many places in this country. Martin Luther King, Jr. carried on this great tradition in his I Have a Dream speech. But he did so at much personal cost, knowing full well it could cost him his life. But he pressed on, as with a mandate from God. And I believe God was in his service to us.

I thank God for Martin Luther King, Jr. Much good has resulted from his work, but much more needs to be done. We need to be sensitive in listening to our African-American brothers and sisters, and appreciating the fact and sad reality that there is still plenty of racism, latent though it may be.

Someday in Jesus, all peoples and creation will be brought to complete unity, celebrating the richness of who we each are, as God's creation, in that new creation in Jesus. We want to see that in Jesus even now, and speak God's truth, even as my nation's founders did, and seek to see it realized in the measure in which it can be. To break down all the barriers and walls that sadly divide us. An ongoing work indeed. And one that should be most manifest and evident among God's people in Jesus.

What would you add to this, or like to say?

Monday, January 21, 2008

keeping a clear conscience

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16

Keeping a clear conscience, or the importance of conscience is a theme that runs through Scripture, particularly in the New Testament. Conscience "refers here to genuine inward purity, not to a mere feeling of innocence" (J. Ramsey Michaels, p 216).

Conscience could be definied as the moral sense of right and wrong that individuals and societies have (see Romans 2:14-15).

Conscience in itself is not infallible or foolproof. Simply following it in something like "following the angels of our better nature" is simply not enough. One needs the presence of God (lost the good quote I had in front of me, I think from Scot McKnight) and the cleansing work of the Spirit through the blood of Christ, i.e., the saving work of Christ for us in his perfect offering of himself unto death.

I like the thought I heard in the past, from Warren Wiersbe I believe, that we should let the Bible, God's word, be our guide, and not our conscience. But our conscience is to become more and more on our side, since Scripture takes conscience quite seriously as something that is an aspect of us, that we can sin against and damage, as well as something that by grace we need to keep clear. We do this by seeking to follow Christ in obedience, seeking to obey God's word to us, Scripture. And as we do, then by God's grace in Jesus we will begin to have a good conscience and peace that we are right with God, ourselves, others and the world.

But we must ever depend on the Spirit and the word to help us, and never on ourselves. And as we do that we will find our conscience sensitive more and more to God's will revealed in Jesus and in his word. And we will be helped to walk in the way of Jesus, more faithfully.

I'm working on this, as I think over the years I've not taken conscience as seriously as Scripture does. What would you add here for us to ponder and grow on in regard to keeping a clear conscience?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

prayer for the week

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 19, 2008

for the long haul

None of us knows how long we have here on earth before our time is up, or as we in Jesus say, before the Lord takes us "home". But I think it's important to note that while we're to live as those who are ready for our Lord's return- any day, now- we need also to be ready to honor God with our lives, over the long haul. This is what it means for us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, in gratitude for his mercies to us in Jesus- an act of true worship (Romans 12:1).

To be in it in this way is to be faithful to the end, not to the bitter end, either, though at times life may very well seem bitter. But God is with us in Jesus by the Spirit, to take off the edge, and add a sweetness that is of him, into the mix. This is how we're to live, not a down in the mouth, servile, grim existence, but a delighted, joyful, spontaneous, prayerful, sober, serious, hilarious even, trust in our God- kind of life and existence.

Grace and our response with obedient faith, alone will enable us to do this. And this is not a solitary existence, but one in company with others. Commitment to the Lord and to each other and others and to the world in which we are placed, because of Jesus. And through everything we encounter. We need to see ourselves as in it, in Jesus, for the long haul.

What might this mean for you, or what would you like to share here?

Friday, January 18, 2008

worldly efficiency versus the Jesus Creed

At work the other day, in our often hectic activity, I was reflecting with a coworker and good friend on a pet peeve I have as to a small matter that would make matters much easier in regard to a maneuver we must make from time to time. In talking it over with him it dawned on me that in the entire matter, while I could be on the side of efficiency, I may not be on the side of Jesus, in this; I being the only one sinning in this. And I told my friend that.

We're told, in "the Jesus Creed" that we're to love God with all our being and doing, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And the Jesus way is one of love and truth. While it is good and important for us to work well with all our hearts, it is never to be done at the expense of loving each other, or loving any other. Without this love, all our "right" activity is wrong, of course.

I was raised in a strong work ethic inherited from parents who experienced the hard times of the American Great Depression. And probably influenced somehow by the strong Protestant work ethic, which in its place is good. On top of all of this is at least the factor of an efficient American way of activity in getting the most bang for buck. And with all this, even for me as a Christian, one can fail to really follow Jesus.

So as I stood there in our work with my younger brother and friend, it was like a revelation hitting me, small as it was, yet large in significance. I had to tell myself to let it go. And instead of making an issue of it, accept the inefficiency. Maybe, in love, there could be a time and place to make a general suggestion. But even in the fast pace of work life, and perhaps especially there, we need to take care that we be followers of our Lord, loving God and loving others over all else.

What might this mean for you? Or what else might you add or tie in to this?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

politics again- how should we respond?

(sorry about the length; too long!)

Here in Michigan we just had our presidential primary. It's hot now on both major party sides, and interesting, as to which candidates will come to the fore. Though I must say, while I'm paying some attention, I'm not caring alot about which two they are. Though I do want to study where each stands on all the issues, as much as possible.

I try to look at this American political scene, as well as the international scene through the lens of the kingdom of God come in Jesus as well as from what we can tell from Scripture. In doing so, I must say I have a hard time being so personally invested in either my country's government, or for that matter any country's government, as well as the United Nations as a whole. I find my own country, the United States, good for a good number of reasons, while having its fallacies, and even enormously so- as it carries on as the world power of this moment and time- and this, just in comparing it with the rest of the world. In comparing it with Scripture and what I understand about governments and their responsibility before God during this present time, I again find much that is commendable, and some things that seem to me questionable or worse. But in comparing our country with the kingdom of God come in Jesus, I find that it's just another kingdom of this world, destined for the dust bin like all other "kingdoms" and empires.

For me all this means that we must honor our country as God calls us to in Scripture. We ought to honor our president, whether we would vote for him or her, or not- and the same with other elected officials. Here in America, thankfully there are term limits on the presidency (2 terms, 8 years-max) and other elected officials face reelection. There is something to be said for the say we have here, which is seen in other countries as well, though in other countries- not.

But what are we to do as Christians? How should we live, in view of civic activities? What are our responsibilities?

To start, I see us as Christians as the one holy nation of God in Jesus, scattered throughout the earth. We are citizens in many nations, but our allegiance is to one nation under God in Jesus, the holy nation. But it's of a kingdom not of this world, refusing to fight as the world does, but rather taking up the cross in following our Lord Jesus. Consequently I believe we must be careful about what kind of allegiance we give to any governing state on earth. While at the same time, we should seek to exert influence, according to God's revealed will in Scripture and in Jesus, where we can.

Being a part of the one holy nation which is of the kingdom of God come in Jesus, and really, which is the church- we do want to know how we're to live out what we are, as salt and light in Jesus, in this world. Not easy. Some think we need to be completely devoted to the one nation in Jesus in the sense that we give no place to any of the governing authorities of this world. Others seem to advocate the kind of allegiance to their varying countries, so as to obey them rather implicitly, unless clearly called to break one of God's commands. To fight in the wars of each, etc.

I'm not sure from Scripture that either of those options are right for us in Jesus. Scripture indicates that we're to honor the emperor. If we're to encourage the overthrow of any ruling authority in the name of Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not, then this command seems contradictory to that. Scripture also indicates that nations and kingdoms are held accountable by God for the righteousness and justice they administer. To turn a blind eye to what a governing authority does, because it is a "minister of God" (Romans 13) is to miss the point that they are ministers or servants, to carry out God's will in restraining evil. Maybe there is a place to resist evil done by governing authorites. Think of John the Baptizer. But even in considering John, and this, it seems to me there may be another way of looking at, and approaching this.

Yes, we speak, and above all, seek to live out truth in grace in Jesus, in this world. But in a sense, we end up living above the world, yet very much in the world. In the world, but not of it. Contrary to the book, "Colossians Remixed", we don't see Paul advocating, in Colossians, a direct confrontation with "Caesar" (see Scot McKnight's series on "Colossians Remixed" on "Jesus Creed"). Rather, those in Jesus are to live in this world, in every realm, as those of another world and kingdom, destined to take over all. And seek to live out and see, the anti-world, flesh and the devil, and the pro-Christ and the will of God values, lived out individually and together.

Let's not retreat into the wilderness in caves, in evangelical "ghettos." Jesus didn't. But neither let us think that the kingdoms of this world are going to be swayed into becoming bastions for the kingdom of God come in Jesus. Jesus didn't go there, and the book of Colossians doesn't seem to go either route. There is one holy nation, and we in Jesus are all a part of that.

But let's not think that there can't be pockets of resistance against the powers of this age, pockets of doing good in the Jesus way and of thus promoting God's will and kingdom come, in Jesus. There is much good that can, and thus needs to be done, and this could happen, I surmise, even in the White House. As long as we recognize the limitations any earthly kingdom has in the here and now. Remember, we in Jesus, alone, are the one holy nation (1 Peter) and with that, part and parcel of the kingdom of God come in Jesus.

What would you add to this sketch, written rather hurriedly, for me, with plenty of questions remaining, in my own mind?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

continuing on

Life is a journey. It can be likened to Pilgrim in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. He escapes the City of Destruction, at last loses his heavy burden at the Cross, then goes on through many dangers, toils and snares- at long last arriving to the Celestial City. It is a wonderful story, and I need to reread it.

Continuing on. We must be in that mode. This Jesus way is a way of change. And it is a way in which we're in that together. The only criticism I might have of Bunyan's tale is that Christian is journeying essentially alone. Though others do come his way throughout the story to help him in one way or another- or to hinder, as well. But the picture we see in Scripture is that we are sojournerers together. Each of us has our part to play; we're both to carry our own regular burden, and carry the overburdens of each other. Yes, we're individuals, but we're in community, we belong not only to the Lord, but to each other in Jesus.

Continuing on. It's exciting, the friends we make along the way. What we learn, and above all, becoming more and more like our Master, as we are closer and closer to him as our Head and source of real life, the life and love which has its origins in the Trinity. It's about relationship in love in Jesus. And this begins in this world, as we find that this is really what life is all about.

God is here for us in Jesus, who is God-with-us. He is in the midst of us all who are in him- also in my brother, and in my sister, even in each one of us, as poor as our hearts really are. But by faith we see him in each other. We do need this. This makes all the difference as we grow and go on together, continuing on in Jesus to the very end.

What comes to your mind about continuing on?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

blessed to be a blessing

We're blessed in Jesus to be a blessing to each other, and to the world. The good news or gospel was announced to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through him! Abraham was part of what God is all about. Blessing others. We're here in Jesus to bless others.

As Miroslav Volf reminds us, we need the outpouring of blessing on ourselves in order to be a blessing to others, and we also need to be sure that blessing is flowing out to others, lest it become a trickle and weak in our own lives. Not that we're in this to be blessed ourselves, but we're in it to be in a reciprocal relationship with others, and the channel of God's blessing in the love of Jesus to all people.

How can I be a blessing today- and everyday? At home, work, school, everywhere. An important and exciting question. It can involve what is unpleasant. After all, part of it is taking up our crosses in following Jesus by the Spirit in our lives and circumstances, even now, becoming like Jesus in his death, in God's love for the world. Of course we're just little christs, Jesus alone is the Christ, the God-human whose work of salvation is a finished work for all. We follow in his train, and in the way of Jesus, to bring that salvation in Jesus to everyone. Let's not forget the important work of prayer. That can make a true difference in people's live, as we keep at it. And to be zealous for good works, a large part of what the book of Titus is all about.

What would you like to share with us here?

Monday, January 14, 2008

receiving and giving advice

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.

Proverbs 27:9

It is wonderful to have people who care and are able to give good advice. I have experienced this here and there at important times, and continue to do so. And I want to be available to so help others.

I want to say here that it's all about relationship and loving others as God in Christ has called us to do. This proverb is quite interesting in expressing what makes a friend pleasant. It's when that friend really cares and takes the time to give advice in godly counsel.

Notice Paul's words in his letter to the Roman Christians:

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Romans 15:14

We need to have faith both to give and to receive words of wisdom to help each other. Of course to be "full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another" is not something that is automatically true for all of us in Christ. I believe Paul was expressing confidence in the believers at Rome. And that this is for all of us in Jesus. But that it takes some living in the way of the Lord, along with learning in an apprenticeship kind of way. We learn from others who are living this out, and through them from the Lord.

We are to become followers of Jesus, but we learn to do that by following others who are followers of Jesus. This is a way of life that is cross-formed and like Jesus. As we learn to live this out more and more in our real lives, we will begin to be enabled to give heartfelt advice and wise counsel to others, based on God's revelation from Scripture and in Jesus. Just as I have received excellent counsel from others, particularly from one person recently. This person is gifted in counseling and is a blessing to a good number of people. But in a general sense we're to be present for each other in this, ready to both receive and give.

And as we do, it is pleasant indeed!

What might you add here?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

prayer collect for the week

First Sunday after the Epiphany:
The Baptism of our Lord

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 12, 2008

the hidden face of God

This is one of the many subjects I don't have much depth of understanding on, but one that I believe in, and one that I find fascinating: the hidden face of God. Michael Card, a very thoughtful, ongoing student (he's getting another degree of some sort right now, or has gotten it and I'm sure has always been reading; he was listening to Bonhoeffer's Life Together the same time I was working on that book when at last I had an opportunity to visit him, where I work) has a most interesting, and for me, edifying CD/music album entitled The Hidden Face of God. (Here's a short interview.)

A study of Scripture will reveal that we need the face of God for blessing, for shalom, for life to flourish; and when God turns his face away things fall into disarray. Of course there is the problem of the fact that no human being can see the face of God as it really is, and live. We have that problem ultimately solved in God becoming human, in the person of God's Son, Jesus. We read:
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.
For me, the hidden face of God is part of my life and experience (I don't like to use the word "experience", because I think we've practically come to idolize experience. Though experience in its proper place is important and indispensable.) and understood rightly according to the revelation of God in Scripture and in Jesus, is a marked improvement over so much popular theology.

Psalmists (see here for uses of "face" in the psalms; very good and helpful) repeatedly speak of seeking the face of God. This is certainly ongoing for us; we need to do the same.

We also have seen that in Jesus we see the face of God. This makes for us the revelation of Jesus central in our effort to see the face of God. Jesus is at the center; we never are. But by faith we fit into this wonderful ongoing story of God.

What would you like to add to this, or any thoughts?

Friday, January 11, 2008

slow down

I can imagine my wife, Deb, riding a horse, and doing whatever horseriders do, along with the words- something like: "Whoa. Slow down, Duke (name of her old, favorite horse). Slow down." If the Lord would speak directly to us individually- me, and many around me, I think he might say something much the same.

I am nearly always in a mode that I think is a step or two, or maybe even a half a step ahead of the Lord. Result is the same: I'm out of step, and therefore end up not really walking with the Lord at all. Maybe some of us lag behind, and in my getting ahead, I can end up knowing I'm lost, and then end up lagging behind as well. I suspect most Christians in my culture have this problem of getting ahead of the Lord, in our hurry to get this, that and something else done. And in our misplaced priorities.

Slowing down involves faith that insists that all in this life at the core is of God. If God is not in it, and if it's not a work of God, then it's not worth our while, or activity. Yet by nature we think we can do it. Of course there are necessary things to do that do crowd in on us at times. The question might be, How do we do those things? And in so doing, are we endeavoring to walk by the Spirit, and not by the flesh.

I feel lost even as I'm typing this post. It's almost automatic of me that I'm ahead of the Lord, and therefore not really myself, as God would have myself to be and as he is remaking me in Jesus.

So what then, and now? I have to stop. Listen. Wait. On the Lord. Pray. Read Scripture slowly, and preferably out loud, even if in my mind. I know that as I do this, in faith, God will help me to get back to where I belong as his child, and as a brother with our Brother, in fellowship with each other in him.

Then and there there is a quiet sense of rest, grace and peace. And that is where I want to dwell. But from which I so easily stray.

Well, hopefully there are a number of you who can help us in this. What would you add to these piecemeal thoughts?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

when wronged

When we think we've been wronged, or are being wronged, what do we do? Well, of course we ought to pray. This should be our first response. And we need to guard against making haste, or being hasty in spirit, and wanting to resolve an issue quickly. We need to ask the Lord to search our own hearts to find that which needs to be repented of in ourselves.

Of course we need to go to Matthew 18 and follow through according to the words of Jesus. That's in the context of the community of faith. To sidestep that is to cut ourselves off from the grace and truth of our Lord, which can impact a troubling situation for good. Not to say that God can't work when people don't follow this. Only to say it makes matters even more difficult.

Tell another of your problem in generic terms that do not expose the names of the people involved. A godly, knowledgeable friend. They often can help us see what's going on since they're bystanders, trying to look into the complete picture. And we need counselors who lisen well, are encouraging in spirit, but who gently will tell the truth about ourselves, in ways that identify with us. So that one has the sense they are fellow strugglers with us, and there for us, before God.

When wronged in the world, it's our opportunity to live out the gospel. Where we've failed that means openly acknowledging that. And where we've simply been mistreated, that means showing them the spirit of Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.

Again, let's get back to Scripture, to God's word when we are wronged. Back to Matthew 18. This is for the good of all who are involved, an expression of faith in our God, who has given us this word.

What might you add to these scattered thoughts?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

love edifies

We read from Paul that knowledge puffs one up with pride, but love edifies, or builds others up, according to their needs. I see this time and time again. Those who think they know it all, or who come across that way even as Christians, do not promote the love of God in Christ Jesus. But those who love really begin to get it, even when off in some matters- and aren't we all.

I see time and time again, within the spirit of love found in Jesus, a fellowship that is living, growing and open to the grace and truth found in our Lord. Though it does seem more often than not, and in most circles, though not all, to be an uphill struggle.

It is interesting the contrast Paul brings up here. There is knowledge on the one hand, having all the answers, and knowing better than the rest. Then there's love: listening to others, knowing one does not have all the answers and even with the answers one has, that they are entirely dependent on God, in need of others, and don't get it as God does or fully. It's a humility that is glad to be taught of God from the most simple and humble servant of the Lord. Willing even to learn from the lips of a child.

It's about the love of God that is in Jesus and therefore among God's people. And as Paul is saying, it's a love that is ready to leave behind one's own freedom in regard to nonessential things, that the one thing needful might be promoted. Sitting together at the feet of the Lord, by the Spirit, and learning from each other. And therefore, in love, building each other up, as each one humbly does their part.

What might you like to add to this?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

bearing God's image

Last night, as I was preparing for our interactive "devotions" time, on Psalm 8, I was reading most helpful insights on us humans bearing the image of God. Almost everything stood out to me, but among them is the fact that we exercise authority from God, as God's co-regents (or, co-rulers), for God. And we don't exercise dominion over, in the sense of simply doing as we please in ruling over the earth. We are responsible to God in this authority given to us and are to seek to carry out God's will and bidding.

This distinction is important, and there is disagreement among us Christians on this. Some hold to the idea that the earth is under our dominion for us to use as we wish. But I found Dean Ohlman's take in his excellent little booklet, Celebrating the Wonder of the Wilderness (from RBC Ministries) helpful: every species (example: "over 350,000 variants" of beetles) is created by God, and therefore important. So we should be concerned that each should be preserved. Scientists don't know why certain species exist, what helpful function those species might have, but God created them, and so they each have their place, and we as God's co-regents are to exercise God's loving care over them. I think this alone counters well the notion that we can do as we please, plundering the earth for ourselves. Surely, instead, we have to exercise prudent care and use of earth and its resources.

There is much more involved in being God's image bearers, and the book I was reading on Psalm 8 is a good place to start.

What thought might you have on this?

Monday, January 07, 2008

worship and emotions

I like Eugene Peterson's emphasis, in The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way, in his chapter on Elijah on how true worship of God is grounded in the word of God and not in emotions. Peterson likens worship moved by feelings, devout as they may be, to Baalism. Baal was worshiped, along with Baal's consort, Asherah according to the perceived needs and feelings of the worshiper. And the appeal was to experience, as well as getting what the worshiper's perceived need or want, was. And doing so in a way that pandered to or completely fulfilled them emotionally.

Contrast to Yahweh worship, done in response to the word of God, done with the entire person, including senses involved, yet not on the ground of that person's wants, needs or feelings, but on the basis of God's word and in response to that. Experience could follow that, but true worship was and is not dependent on feelings or experience. We can truly worship God regardless of our feelings, whether we feel like doing so, or not. And there's danger when moved by our emotions that our worship may be driven by our experience of something good, rather than by the good itself, which is God. Of course good feelings can come from following sinful impulses as well, something part and parcel of Baal worship.

This emphasis of worship grounded in God and his word is what biblical worship is all about. As Peterson points out, true worship is not about what the worshiper gets out of it in either experience or goods. But it is simply something the worshiper does, worshiping God in response to God's word and revelation.

There is nothing wrong with emotions in worshiping; except for "the dark night of the soul", it's only human to have emotions. But the point here is that this worship is something we do, not something we feel or experience. Experience may and often will follow, though if we're looking for experience then we're not truly endeavoring to worship God.

And this is something we do by the Spirit. In response, again, to God's word. The best way to begin to "get" worship is simply by endeavoring to do it as an act of faith to God's word.

What do you think of these thoughts, or what might you like to say here?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

prayer for the week

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 05, 2008

politics and sports

In my last post I hammered a little on politics and sports. Actually I think both are quite alright in their good and proper place. And politics is important in that governing authorities are accountable to God to serve in a certain sphere.

Of course Jesus is political in that everything God does in bringing in the kingdom in Jesus touches all of life, including the political realm. There was not the separation we make between the religious and "secular" sphere back at that time, as we have now. And I believe politics, though never to be seen as "the second coming", is important. We need good policies and I am grateful for the religious freedom we have here, as well as for the strengths of our government, while at the same time acknowledging that it's not the kingdom of God, and that any utoia is out of reach in this present time and sphere.

Now to sports: My Ohio State Buckeyes- I'm from Ohio- get to play again on Monday night for the national championship. I like them in this game, though they may not win as LSU is a very formidable foe. But it should be fun. Maybe I'll even get a six pack and enjoy a couple through the game. Sports is good, especially to participate in, but it's fun to see a good game. It so easily gets too big for people like me, so I purposefully hold it at arms length, and rather out of sight, so as not to get too caught up in it. But it's fun, and we need some of that in life, to be sure.

In all things I want to be a true follower of Jesus. How would Jesus do it, and what is God doing in Jesus are two questions we need to ask, though I think the latter question is more the one we need to be asking so as to know how to live in Jesus now. Get into it; yes, I was even pulling hard for Michigan in their win against Florida! May God help us in this, and in all else to be growing in ways that please him and are a blessing to others.

Oh by the way, part of that is to be able to discuss both politics and sports with congeniality- a bigger word than I like, but meaning agreeably even when disagreeing. Either one can become a source of contention and can trip us up. We need to listen well, and learn. And see everything in its proper place. These things either have their limitations, or in the case of my Buckeyes, really don't matter at all. But having said that: Go Bucks! And maybe you can get a glimpse of the political debates on ABC this evening; I plan to, along with catching how big Ben -his father Ken was a high school classmate of mine, and a good quarterback himself- and the Steelers are doing in their game.

What about you?

Friday, January 04, 2008

human fellowship

God became human to have fellowship with us. This is in large part the purpose of the Incarnation, though it is staggering in its full meaning and implications.

I don't care too much about chatting with someone on politics. Or sports. Or a whole host of things that with this world are passing away. What we do commend and appreciate is a fellowship of love that is caring for the other person. To listen to them, to understand what their struggle may be at the time, or to be able to share one's own struggle or problem with someone is such a blessing, and an important part of true human fellowship.

Jesus as Immanuel: God with us, connects with us in a true special way, and this connection, in a sense connects us in Jesus, all with each other. Isn't it amazing how we find this to be true. But it's a fellowship that is grounded and centered in our Lord. And by that, we begin to participate in the fellowship of who God is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

With everyone, let's seek this fellowship and see if we can find Jesus present even in the most unlikely places. He may be there to help woo a loved one or friend to himself, even an enemy. And let's treasure his presence in our fellowship with each other, giving us an ongoing and growing knowing of each other, and above all of God himself, in Jesus.

What would you like to add here?

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Newness in Jesus includes being carried by God, or coming to know more and more that rest in him that carries us through those inevitably difficult places in life. This reminds us of the promise in Isaiah that those who wait in hope on the Lord will renew their strength and mount up with wings like eagles, running and not becoming weary, walking and not fainting.

There are numerous reasons why we need this. For all kinds of reasons we can become discouraged. The passage referred to in Isaiah says that the young themselves can lose their strength and fall. This is an occasion to look to the Lord, to wait on him in the hope and assurance of faith. When we do, we find the faithful God, and we find the rest in him that we need. To carry us through, and at times even over, the low and sometimes gloomy or gray parts of life in this world.

Carried. I like that. I have my part, but it's one of learning more and more how to be carried in God. How to wait on him for that new strength and posture in faith, to live above and beyond so that we can run and walk through this life as those pleasing to the Lord.

What thoughts might you like to share on this? Or is there a metaphor in Scripture about our lives in God related to newness, that has been helpful to you?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

fresh starts

Part of the newness we experience in Christ is to experience needed fresh starts. Of course we need to be endeavoring to be on the Jesus way and all that's involved in that.

There are times in our lives when we need major fresh starts. If we've been failing in regard to a major sin issue that has a grip on us. Or if we've had to work through the crisis of a broken relationship or have experienced the death of a loved one. Sometimes major fresh starts are needed for character breakthroughs. While gradual growth is the normal way of change in Jesus towards likeness to him, there are times when a character flaw in us can push us against a wall in which we meet face to face with the sheer necessity of change, or else- whether entirely fair or not. Of course in all of this, God's hand is at work in the lives of his children.

Also surely fresh starts as needed on a daily basis. God's mercies are said to be new every morning. These starts may be smaller, but they're big in keeping us in the way of the Lord and away from the inevitable sense of vanity, meaningless and transitoriness that makes us life in this world. We experience them in the Jesus way- the way of God's truth and life in Jesus, as we walk in that way.

What comes to your mind on this?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Though I can't say I'm excited about a "new" year, I am rather taken with the newness we experience together in Jesus. And because of that alone, I can look forward to the new year.

Moltmann, who I want to read sooner than later has written something like: The hope we have in Jesus is a hope that is related to all we experience in this life now- not merely about the future. I don't have the exact words nor can I get to the source at the moment. But this seems to me to be related to the words in 1 Peter that we have a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It looks forward, but even more it lives in a forward mode, an already though not yet finished mode. It's a hope that gives us certainty, by faith, of what we look forward to. But it is alive in that we experience by the Spirit something of that future hope now.

Newness is not just about us, but it's about what God is doing in Jesus in the bringing in of the new creation for all the world, which by judgment and grace is beginning to touch the world now, and will make all things new. Our lives individually and together are a sign and indication to the world of this new creation in Jesus, and actually, along with the gospel, the primary means God uses in Jesus in beginning this now. So we should not be surprised to find this newness spring from areas that have been dead, and even under God's judgment, and this should encourage us in our lives and witness.

Scattered thoughts here, but I'm simply thankful to God for this ongoing newness to us in Jesus that despite the wearing on us of this life, gives us a sense of knowing this is the path of life, ongoing life, as opposed to the death of all else.

What thought might you like to share here?