Friday, February 29, 2008

do you love me?

I guess of all the questions that face us in our lives as followers of Jesus, this one question is perhaps the most powerful and potent for us, the one Jesus asked Peter as he gently reinstated the one who had denied him three times: Do you love me?

This is a most searching question, if we face it squarely and honestly. It is one that searches our hearts and motives to find what makes us tick, what animates and drives us. In one way or another we live or die, or fail to live well, because of our love life.

There are different kinds of human love, and each of them have their place and are wonderful as gifts from God. They all elicit commitment, respect and response to each other, as loved ones: a mother to her baby and children, a father to his family, a husband to his wife and vice-versa, siblings to each other, as well as friends to each other. These things are all good and important in their rightful place.

In Richard Foster's fine, interesting and helpful book on prayer we read this quote from Augustine: "True, whole prayer is nothing but love." (p 1). Love of God beginning with the love from God, and love of our neighbor as ourself make up the two greatest commandments which are tied together by our Lord. This love in Jesus is even to go towards our enemies in praying for and doing good to them.

Getting back to our Lord's words to Peter, we find that this reinstatement by grace of this repentant Peter, was marked by directives as to what Peter should do: "Feed my lambs." "Take care of my sheep." "Feed my sheep." And ended with words about the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God, punctuated with the command to simply follow Jesus: "Follow me!" This was all given both to help Peter to a deeper heart repentance and love, as well as obedience in expressing that love to others.

As we really consider our love life in God through Christ, bringing all our loves into that light, then those loves can begin to take their proper place. They will be better than ever because underlying them will be the love of the Lord which not only never grows old, but never dies.

Of course we're so utterly dependent and needy and our emotional life rises and wanes, especially when we're tired, or face the challenges and griefs of a fallen world. But this love of God lived out in our relationships and in the world, is what will win out in the end. A love in Jesus that takes up the cross and follows to the end, no matter what. A love because of Jesus that is destined to take over the world. The love of God which never will know any end forever.

What would you add to this? Or any thought.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I like the thought of Eugene Peterson in his book, Eat This Book, that we're not just to be reading the Bible, but eating it, eating the Book. It needs to get into our hearts and the fabric of our lives.

I distrust formulaic Christianity that says, "Do this, and then this will happen." It has truth to it, but the Bible is not a self-help book for us to go to and use for our benefit on our terms. It comes to us as the word of God, yes- for our true good, but on God's terms, as Peterson reminds us.

The Bible, God's word, is meant to change us in Jesus. And this takes time. There are those special times of breakthrough in our lives, contributing to this growth, but most of the growth is not recognizable to us until days and even years after the fact.

But we're actually commanded to grow, as well as expected to grow. To do so, we must abide in the Lord and have his words abide in us (John 15). And we must be eating the Book. Letting the Story of God found there move us so that we become part of God's ongoing Story in Jesus.

Whatever state we find ourselves in, let's not give up and lose heart. Though if we have lost heart, let's come to God as we are that way, as well. Our struggles or disillusionment can help us realize our need for growth. And growth inherently takes time.

We need to see God's truth in Jesus assimilated into our hearts and lives, changing us, changing who we are. Not that such change ever ends in this life, because it doesn't. We need to be growing more and more into the image of Jesus, both in our lives, and together with all others in Jesus. This needs to be our goal.

How have you found this to be true in your own life? Or any other thoughts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

glorying in weaknesses

2 Corinthians 12 has a most interesting passage in which the apostle Paul tells about a glorious revelation or experience he had of which he was not allowed to share the whole. The apostle Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, no less than a messenger of Satan, to torment him. Why? To keep him from becoming conceited because of the surpassingly great revelations he had received.

Paul then pleaded three times with the Lord, in prayer, that this weakness would be removed. But the Lord's answer came to him:

My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Paul could then rest assured that it was okay. And he realized actually that it was more than okay. His response:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When Paul realized that Christ would become more evident through his weaknesses, he not only accepted them, but embraced and even revelled in them.

The lesson for us is obvious and rather in your face. Let's not shrink back from what might seem to be rendering us of no account in life. Or what might hit us at certain times, even with what I alluded to yesterday. The trials or issues may be hitting us to keep us from becoming conceited, or because we are being disciplined in love by the Lord, or they may just be the aftereffects of sin. Yet when we repent we can be assured of God's grace, and we can go on, even when our experience at the time does not follow with us. Knowing that in the weakness we experience, Christ can be made known.

I'm glad I don't experience many times like I did for almost an entire day beginning Monday evening. I don't seem to have to have much of any thorn in my flesh, though I am quite aware of deficiencies, and the Lord has humbled me over the years through my realizations of my own weakness and limitations.

I think we can take home Paul's words, and the word of God to us, both the Lord's words to Paul, and his response- quoted above. It's really not about us either looking or feeling good, but it's all about the Lord's power being made perfect, for the display of his person and glory. That others might see Christ in and among us. That is what counts.

What about you? How do you look at this in your life? Or what might you like to share here?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

like the flu

Like the flu can be that issue that puts us on our bottoms so to speak, down but not out, in our walk in God. I encountered that again yesterday evening in a rare bout of anxiety. That's not why I've posted late. I actually am trying to do better in getting enough sleep, and am determined to do so. But back to the point. I know God is good. I know God is God. And therefore I know I should not worry. In fact, as a friend has pointed out to me in the past, it is a sin. And a sin is to be repented of.

I used to worry on a regular basis. A chronic worrier. It seems at least in comparison to that that I'm hardly a worrier at all anymore. So when this newest episode hit me, it probably hit me in more ways than one. "Here we go again! Same old, same old, and I hate it." I have to say I'm now over it by grace and by grace alone. Like the flu is what I call "anxiety" or the anxious feelings, or fear, which follow worry. And after sincere repentance of our lack of faith in God it takes some time for that emotion of fear to dissipate and be gone, as my friend pointed out. Maybe I have just some of the aftereffects of anxiety left, but in answer to prayer and by faith, I believe the Lord has taken care of it. Though I'm not sure how much faith I exercised in this; maybe more than I think as I'm used to such attacks coming and going fairly soon; this one held on longer.

This ended up being a case of others praying for me I think, or at least my wife doing so, although in the past I bombarded her with so many requests for such prayer, that it had become kind of an ongoing request. I'm sure she did, though. It's also an opportunity to grow so that I will be less likely to worry next time that temptation arises, and if I do to get over it sooner with the proper repentance needed. I hardly know how that growth occurs; it's more like an assimilation of truth as revealed by God from Scripture and in Jesus. It more and more seeps into our hearts and lives, becoming more and more a part of who we are.

Any of you out there with anything to say on this?

Monday, February 25, 2008

against a privatized faith

Often what we hear as to what faith in Jesus amounts to in living in this world, is some kind of personal, privatized faith, kept to oneself without interfering into the personal, private lives of others. But this is not the faith of the Bible, or of Jesus.

When Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world, the Greek translated better in this case in the NRSV means that his kingdom is not from this world. But in Jesus this kingdom has already entered into this present age. And it's a kingdom that has to do with the holy nation in Jesus, scattered throughout the earth. Not with any one recognized nation.

Jesus along with the apostles following, and the prophets in the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham there- the faith they held from God was not meant to stay with them, but to bless all nations, all peoples. And not only that, but to bless in terms of taking care of the land, being God's caretakers of it, and in the favor of God seeing their work overflow into blessings for all peoples, and even for the good earth and God's good creatures on it. This is something of what I see when it comes to the kind of faith we in Jesus actually have.

This gives meaning and value to all we do in helping others in any way. When done in the Lord there will somehow be meaning and value not only for this life, but also for the life to come in the resurrection of all things.

For too many people, Christianity is some kind of otherworldly religion that has nothing really to do with the down to earth, practical matters and existence here, except maybe to make people better so they can serve the status quo here and now. But in Jesus there is nothing less than a different dynamic, shaping different stories and outcomes than what would have been possible prior to Jesus' coming. This is why, while we see the Old Testament as foundational for what was to come, the fulfillment in Jesus in the New Testament, brings a new, living dynamic into the world. Of course the complete fulfillment won't occur until Jesus returns, but it begins now in us- in the people of God in Jesus.

So let's beware of any individualized, privatized faith. Yes, our faith is personal, but it's meant to become public. And in so doing bring God's new creation in Jesus to bear, in all of creation here and now.

What do you think about this? What would you like to share here?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

prayer for the week

Third Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, February 23, 2008


We often live too held in the grip of others' expectations of us. This begins in our youth when children naturally want to please their parents (should be a good thing, of course). Then it can carry on into adolescense, when we want to be "cool" to our peers. And it goes on from there, hopefully a person finding their niche in life, but often still largely beholden to the expectations of others: their employer and "boss" over them.

I have found that those people who seem to me to walk closest to God, are the ones who seem less concerned about meeting other's expectations. For them it's about following the Lord, being faithful to him and to his calling. And letting the chips fall where they may. Their part is simply to be faithful.

Of course this is a life that involves, not so much meeting expectations, but walking by faith. As we do that in Jesus, we end up more and more wanting to please God. And in that, it's not like a list out there of things we need to do to please him. It's more like, and increasingly so as we walk in this journey of faith- more like things that we also begin to love, which are loved by God. Priorities we can call kingdom priorities, which in our growing love of our God we take to heart as the things that are near and dear to God's own heart.

Therefore, I should want to do God's will more and more because I love the One whose will that is for me. Of course this doesn't always feel good. And often it does fly in the face of my wants and perceived needs. But just the same we in Jesus would press on, ardently and passionately given over to the will of our Father, by the Son and in the Spirit- to the will of our God, so that all other things, things people expect of us, or the world expects of us, are put in their proper places.

What do you think about this? What insights might you have to help us here?

Friday, February 22, 2008


Praying is a wonderful privilege we have from God. God wants us to speak to him. He actually listens, chooses to listen to our prayers. We have to cultivate this practice, but it's a practice in which we ought first, as a rule, to listen and seek to "hear" God. This is from meditative, prayerful reading of the Bible, God's word. And in silence, reflecting on what God may be saying to us as we reflect on our lives and on life itself. Not that we can't come to God when need arises, or trouble strikes. We need to cry out to God during those times, as we see repeatedly in the psalms.

God wants us to pray because this is an indication of true faith in him, and God desires communion with us. In Jesus we have this access to God, through Jesus' blood, that is, his death for us, and his resurrection, so that we can come to God in him, knowing full well that no matter how troubled we are, and sinful, he will hear us, if we come to him, in and because of Jesus. And indeed, we must ever come to him, just as we are.

There is nothing more encouraging than having a time of prayer with God in which I sense that I'm really praying to him and that he's hearing that prayer and helping others or myself- in my often poor, feeble prayers. It's like getting caught up sometimes into something beyond us, into the love and unfolding good will of God in Jesus. Though what we see others walk through, as well as what we walk through, will often be challenging in this life, and prayer will sometimes be difficult. To learn to pray during the bad times, as well as good. To be devoted to prayer. This is an important part of the will of God for us in Christ Jesus during this present life.

What would you like to add to this? How has God helped you in your prayer life?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

God's leading of us

I am thinking of an old hymn, He Leadeth Me. God is so good in the leading of us, his children. We see this theme in Scripture, throughout.

We need to be still, seeking to be so before the Lord. We need to listen to his voice in our reading of Scripture, and try to discern what he may be saying to us as we prayerfully endeavor to hear his voice in our lives. This takes patience in faith- through grace, a persistence that won't quit until the clear, calming peace of God helps us rest assured in his way, and that we are on the right paths for his name's sake.

I must say for myself however, that if I wait on a feeling than I'd seldom move. I have to in faith press on in spite of my fears quite often, to find that perfect love that casts out fear.

God's love for us is so deep and so infinite. Why we can't trust him to lead us is a deficiency in us. We need to be those sheep that can come to have a growing and deeper trust in the goodness of our Good Shepherd. Knowing he is present for each and every one of us.

What thoughts would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

looking good

Looking good is so overrated. What I'm thinking of is in our serving in ministry; how we come across. If people are blown away by us, then their focus is wrong; if people are unimpressed by us, then we're in good company.

We want, in Jesus, to be faithful. We want God's work to go forward through our prayers and lives and service. Whatever anyone thinks about us is beside the point. As God does his work, they can learn to see what's really important. That it's not about us, but it's all about him.

And what's most important is that they may see Jesus in and among us. Yes, by grace to actually see him in sensing that there's much more to us than meets the eye. Really nothing else matters at all. That is what counts in God's eyes, and needs to be our priority and passion.

What would you add or any thoughts on this?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

intercessory prayer

Intercessory prayer has the idea of interceding for someone before God. Bringing their situation, usually a troubling one to the Lord, for his intervention, answer and blessing.

Intercessory prayer is essentially selfless, but motivated by love. I'm reminded of Paul's words:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Intercessory prayer takes time and effort on our part. And it can involve a warfare. We certainly want and hope that we're praying like Daniel did, and in his case to the point of exhaustion. Or Epaphras, wrestling for believers' growth and maturity in Jesus.

Probably the most important aspect of intercessory prayer is to know that our Lord Jesus is interceding for us. And our intercessions are taken up into his perfect intercession. Because of that, we're encouraged to keep praying our often poor prayers, and those prayers are turned into something very good in God's will.

I have been encouraged, but I know that I am so much a learner in this. What help might you have to offer here, or any thoughts.

(much of my thought came from Richard Foster's book, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, from the chapter "Intercessory Prayer.")

Monday, February 18, 2008

read slowly

I guess I'm not a fan of speed reading, unless you're reading something not all that riveting to you, but having some importance, or else having to complete a heavy academic load. I think here especially of our Bible reading. When we read Scripture do we really let it have a chance, as God's word, to really get hold of us? To do so means more than to just read it, good as that is. I think it involves reading it slowly.

We read it slowly in a receptive manner, to receive it as what it is, the word of God. We may not know exactly what God is saying to us, or how this word is impacting us. But the important thing is that we're there with our Bible, in quietness before God, to let him speak or impact us as he pleases. It's not an issue of whether or not we have to sense that speaking or impact on us. No. We have to proceed by faith and seek to do so with a listening heart as in the words of Samuel, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."

Reading slow means to read letting the thoughts come to us. Letting the Bible speak to us on its own terms; thus truly opening ourselves up to the word of God and all that can mean for us.

This will take time on our part. Being unhurried. Reading Scripture can become monotonous and I think sometimes we have to fight through times of boredom and tedium in our reading of it. But often this is the case, surely, because we're not giving it the time and place it needs.
For my part, I tend to want to read it in large chunks and quite alot over time. But I'm afraid in doing so I may be running ahead of really letting the word of God speak to me.

I don't want to discount that fact that Scripture plainly speaks to us with mostly words that on the surface are not hard to understand. But it takes more than just an understanding of their meaning, but a work of God by faith, so that we will take in the meaning and reality of the meaning in Jesus, into the very fabric of our hearts and out from that into our lives. We are indeed, to eat the Book (cf., prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and John on the island of Patmos in writing the book of the Revelation).

I am a believer in us reading through the entire Bible from cover to cover, repeatedly. But I also think we need to be willing to read it slowly, and sometimes the same passage repeatedly. And we need to do this regularly, at least as a rule, once a day.

Of course some of us can have it quiet much easier than others. For some with babies and small children, quiet for any certain length of time may be impossible. We just have to do the best we can to get a space somehow, where we can do this, however imperfectly. The Lord looks on our efforts, not on the actual performance.

What help can any of you offer on this? Or anything you might like to say.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

prayer for the week

Second Sunday in Lent

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, February 16, 2008

be faithful where you're at

When we read the Story from God in Scripture we find the Story involving a bunch of people who lived much of their lives on the margins, not in the center of the world. This was true of Abraham, moving from the center of civilization in his day, in answer to what must have been a rather obscure, even though clear call from God to leave and find a new promised land.

Even as great as David is in Scripture there is hardly a whimper of him in the annals of world history. And Jesus himself lived in the margins most of his life. Around the age of thirty he did most of his ministry in Galilee, north of the center of the nation, Judea- and Jerusalem. And even in his ministry in Galilee he avoided the big cities with hardly a mention of them in the New Testament. Jesus did most of his work in villages and small towns and in the countryside.

Too often I'm afraid I can be quite discontent where I'm at and think of my work and life as of very little consequence. Yet it's of big consequence to my wife and daughter and to those around me, especially those I see daily. As well as to those Christians who gather with me. Even to the few I have contact with in the blog world and on emails. Everything is important in its place and time.

Teaching a toddler to walk, letting them try and fall and praising them for the one or two steps they manage is like how our Father sees us. We believe in Jesus, becoming newborn babies. Then the time comes for us to learn to walk in Jesus. God is there to encourage and help us by his Spirit and his word, and through others he places in our lives. Learning this walk is big in God's eyes. And to trust and obey him in that- big.

Often this faithfulness is needed in the midst of difficulty and disappointment. That's big in God's eyes too, as we learn to better follow God as dearly loved children, even through these problems.

We need to take it step by step in our lives. We need to have eyes and a heart to see what God has set before us to do, and to not despise the day of small things. God doesn't. Indeed that's how God works in this world. He starts from the small and seemingly insignificant. And from that, God's kingdom and work in Jesus even through us becomes evident and real. Jesus himself is seen in us.

What would you like to add to this?

Friday, February 15, 2008

standing firm

In the spiritual battle we are in, the stance we are to have in the strength of the Lord and with the armor he provides, is simply to be standing firm.

Standing firm involves a good number of things for us in Jesus. We must start with this passage and see what it means in this battle we are in, and which at times seems particularly precarious and difficult.

I am most likely to fail to stand firm when I know I've either failed or made a mistake. But we notice that when the apostle Paul had the sense that all Christians had abandoned him, he stood firm, with the sense and reality that the Lord stood with him. He continued in the will of God for him. And we must do the same, in Jesus. Yes, it's not that we would compare ourselves to such a great man of the faith. But God's word through Paul calls us repeatedly to imitate him and his life.

Standing firm is a posture of faith. Faith is indispensable for this battle, both to accept this fight and God's provision for it, and to be enabled to fight this good fight well. The Christian life I think we can rightfully say, includes the good fight of the faith. And Paul stated at the end of his life that he had fought the good fight. Yes, Israel was called to stand firm, and see the salvation of God. Though at other times Israel was called to exert effort, even as we see in Ephesians 6. But as we do so we can be as confident as Israel of old at the Red Sea was called to be.

This faith means we resist the devil and all that would stop us or detour us, along the Jesus way. It's ongoing, though thankfully we have our seasons of rest, and in that can be good reflection on life and a new, fresh openness to his voice. But we must beware and be ready, for this battle will hit us in little ways, and big.

I think I heard it once said that the Christian life is like a three legged stool, the kind people used to use to hand milk cows the old fashioned way, I believe. The legs might be in this order: 1) sons and daughters of God 2) servants of God 3) soldiers of the faith- all, of course, in Christ. And if any one of those legs is missing, the stool topples over.

We in Jesus are in a battle. And we might as well get used to that. Otherwise we'll be toast. Though God in his grace is ever present to help us always, through Jesus our Lord. Thank the Lord for that, or I would have been out many times, and long ago. But I'm learning, and overall am doing better.

What thought might you add here, about standing firm in Jesus?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

the love of God in Jesus

The love of God in Jesus has reached down to the world, down to us, to each one of us to lift us out of ourselves to find our true selves in God, to find our true home in him and in his good world among others. This happened through God coming down to earth, right where we live, and actually becoming one of us in his Son, in Jesus. Living a human life, then dying for us and for our sins. Resurrected to a new life, a new creation. Ascended and having poured out the Spirit through whom we live and know this love of God in Jesus.

This love changed my life radically, years ago. I was a renegade, angry at the world, angry at everything including God. But God gently did his work to bring me to repentance and faith in Jesus. One day I put my faith and trust in God through Jesus, simply commiting my life to God because of what Jesus did for me, for us, in dying on the cross. People saw overnight that the old Ted was gone, a new Ted had come.

Over the years this love of God in Jesus continues God's work in me. To love God, to love others, even to love myself as one created and loved by God. To grow involving ongoing change, so that I can more and more know this love with others of God's people. And that we can make that love known to the world.

This is a love that will not let me go. Not in my own sin and deceit; God has had to rescue me both directly and through his people. It's a love that we learn more and more to accept, to treasure, and to live in. A love that loves us, even when we're unloving and unloveable. The love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3

May we by faith come to know this love in Jesus, for ourselves, and for each other, and for the world. Through Jesus our Lord.

What might you like to share here about the love of God in Jesus?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

living sacrifices

How do we respond to God's love given to us in Jesus? A love that moved God to become one of us, fully human in his Son. And a love that lived that humanity, faithfully before God as a human- though God. A love that loved to the very end, expressing that fully through his death on the cross. And then this love made alive and living, through the resurrection, after which came the ascension and then Pentecost, when Jesus, from the Father, sent the promised Holy Spirit.

In view of God's love, through the mercies of God in Christ, we're urged to offer our bodies, our lives, as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- our true worship.

What is a living sacrifice? It's simply the offering of ourselves by faith to God. So that all of our lives are lived out as an offering, a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ.

We should honor the martyrs of the faith. Many of them throughout the centuries, and some are suffering for their faith in Christ to this day, their lives on the brink, and sometimes taken. We tend to cast them in a higher light than ourselves, and wonder if we too could follow in their train.

But just as compelling and glorious is a life that is lived as an offering to God in Christ through all the trials and temptations we face on a regular basis, and some great ones at various times. As well as through the good times when most all seems well with us and our families, and life in general seems good. Through those times, good times and bad times, to live our lives in every part as an offering to God in Jesus. This is what it's all about. A lifetime of that can be just as glorious in God's eyes, surely, as the faithful following of Christ to the death.

Life lived with all its seriousness, fun, tasks- mundane and interesting, friendships, love, testings, trials, temptations, challenges, recreations, pleasures- everything, lived out to God as an offering in response to the love-gift of God in Jesus. This is what life is all about for us, who call ourselves by that Name.

What do you see here, or what have you found to be true about this?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

our heart language

What is our heart language, as in how we think, then act and live? It is so easy to imbibe the world's many takes on this, drinking deeply of that just by default. There are many ways opposed to the Jesus way, as Eugene Peterson so wonderfully shares with us, in his recent book, The Jesus Way. And at least by the constant drip of it into our lives, we are affected.

Our heart language needs to be more and more the same heart language given to us from God in the Scriptures, God's word; and in Jesus, God's Word. Of course just knowing the words alone from Scripture and from there of Jesus, are not enough in themselves. Not to say that knowing the Scriptures is not important, because it most certainly is. Jesus chided some in his day, even Jewish leaders, who neither knew the Scriptures or the power of God.

But we must know the heart language of the Scriptures. We must know by faith, the God of the Scriptures. And in so doing, we can come to know more and more the heart of God in these Scriptures. Of course we see this supremely through Jesus, God's final Word. But we need all of Scripture for it. And we need to be in prayer and faith, to really begin to sense this language in our own hearts.

As we read Scripture, or hear it read (maybe from ourselves, as some do) it needs to be more and more natural to us, and of which we seek to drink deeply because the words of Scripture from the Spirit are meant to be personal, from God to us back to God and to the world. And they need to be and inherently are life-shaping. We need to get into the drip, drip of it, as well, by our regular intake.

So let's keep at it. The words in themselves won't do it. It's the God behind those words who will help us hear him- something of his very heart, so that we might imbibe that, and become increasingly, people after God's own heart, in Jesus. Finding in God's Story our story in Jesus, in this present world.

What insight or thought might you have here?

Monday, February 11, 2008

good ecumenicalism

Ecumenical was a dirty word in my theological vocabulary for many of my Christian years. It still conjures up a little concern as I know I'm not going to agree with any tradition of the Christian faith, across the board. And while my core beliefs won't essentially change, many of the peripheral ones have, over time. And we may have to pray, question and speak truth in grace at times to various segments of Christ's church (Revelation 2, 3).

But I now see ecumenism basically as a strength, if viewed and acted on according to what we're called to do as Christians. Of course we're called to keep the unity of the Spirit together. And to hold steadfastly to the truth of Scripture and as revealed in Jesus. I believe in God's work in Christian orthodoxy, in giving us the great creeds of the faith. And Jesus prayed that all Christians might be one as he and the Father are One.

The truth of Scripture and the grace and truth in Jesus must be our goal. And a priority in that is that all of God's people in Jesus will love each other in spite of our differences, and will fulfill what God calls us to be, to one another. Of course this must start on a local level. And for me, anymore, it pretty much ends up there. But at the same time, I want to hope and pray for the best for all professing Christians worldwide.

I'm not a Calvinist, but I much appreciate Calvin College and Seminary here in Grand Rapids where I live. It holds to a Calvinist theology (and that's not all bad, in my book), but it does so with a generous ecumenical spirit, open to the best from the Church through the centuries to this day. We see more and more of this spirit and practice among Christian institutions today. Many churches no longer see themselves as the church, and all others inferiors. But instead we're recognizing the richness of Christ's Body in its many varieties worldwide, and right in our own cities and towns.

I know we have our differences, but let's underscore the fact that we are Christians. Not this, nor that. But Christians. Those who belong both to Christ and to each other in Christ (and in his Body) by the Spirit.

What has held you back from embracing a healthy ecumenicalism? What might you add here?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

prayer for the week

First Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Winter here at our place

A Norwegian Maple we planted in our front yard.
Notice the heaps of snow we shoveled from our driveway and from what the street snowplows left. This picture to me, hardly does them justice, probably because of the heaviness of snow and ice mix that we piled here.
A Norway Spruce Deb transplanted from our last residence.
Our dog, Cleo (short for Cleopatra). She is a Samoyed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

empathizing with others

To empathize means to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. To try to understand their perspective and what life is like for them. This is not easy to do, because we sadly tend to see everything and everyone in relation to ourselves, and how everything and everyone meets our own needs.

Really, God is to be at the center, and we're to be in the periphery alongside others. This includes those who know the grace of God in Jesus, and those who do not. It even includes our enemies. We need to listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from. We need to try to hear what they might really be saying behind the words they actually are saying. Or maybe even in their silence.

Jesus is the Empathizer par excellence. He became one of us, fully human, though God- yes, fully and completely human. He lived among us in relative silence for nearly thirty years. Surely part of that was coming to understand both first and second-hand, life here on earth as a human. All the ways that people clamor and grope for real life. What it is like to live as a human in a fallen, broken world. And to do so in relational terms.

Then for around three years he called those in Israel to a new kingdom, not from this world, but invading this world in him, the kingdom of God. And he called them to a follow him, but only in accordance with this kindgom come, and the new covenant coming with it. But even in the midst of this we find over and over again many acts and words from Jesus which show his clear empathy with others. But always in line with the will of his Father. Anything out of line was considered an enemy, considered even Satan himself.

This is the way we need to take, in Jesus. It's a way of utter empathy in listening to others. Seeking to hear what even the most rebellious are saying. Then it's the way of extending a heart and hand of healing in Jesus' name, by sharing ourselves, our love, and seeking to fellowship and enjoy their company. And in that, sharing the love of God to them in Jesus, and something of the reality of this kingdom of God come in him. To point all to the new covenant in Jesus which brings in the beginning of the new creation in him, even here and now.

I need to ever empathize with others. I do that by embracing the pain that's in my own heart and life. Bringing that to God. Seeking at all times to have God at the center of my life and existence, not myself. And seeking to help others on the periphery find this same God, in Jesus.

What might you like to add about empathizing with others?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

two classes of Christians?

Yesterday I mentioned that I don't think the popular theological idea found among many evangelicals of the twentieth century, that there are two classes of Christians, carnal and spiritual, bears up under scrutiny of the biblical records, particularly in the Greek New Testament and specifically in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

I'm short on time (long on excuses) so I'll go in some measure on memory and on some measure in glancing inside my Greek New Testament and the dictionary in the back. And in the nature of blogging, I'm not going to present some lesson on koine Greek or in the exegesis, roughly meaning study of a pertinent passage. Besides, I'm not really qualified to do so.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul tells the Corinthian believers that though in Jesus they have the mind of Christ (end of chapter 2), that he could not address them as spiritual (pneumatikois: those of the Spirit), but rather as carnal (KJV), people of the flesh (ESV), or worldly (TNIV) (sarkinois). His point there is that they are acting like people who do not have the Spirit of God, they are acting like nonchristians. Paul is not saying that there are Christians of the flesh, and Christians of the Spirit living among you. And the rest of his writings bear this out. For example in Romans 8 we read that we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in us. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they are not of Christ (verse 9).

I see this idea of two classes or groups of Christians in different places. For example in some churches one is expected to receive a baptism of the Spirit beyond their receiving of Christ. And when they do, they're called, "Spirit-filled". Churches are called "Spirit-filled" churches. In other places it's more of finding life on a higher plane, which invariably sooner or later, the newborn Christian is going to have to find, if they are not to remain in the valley of those Christians who really are not Spirit-oriented Christians.

Of course though in Jesus we're all in the Spirit, that doesn't mean we automatically live accordingly. Certainly not! But as Paul tells us, and really in all of this, God's word, "You are light in the Lord; walk as children of light." (Ephesians) We are, in Jesus, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. But we must beware lest we fail to fulfill the purpose for us on earth, as salt and light in Jesus (Matthew 5).

Let's get rid of this notion that there are spiritual Christians and nonspiritual Christians. Yes, we each have our responsibility before God, and it's a most serious one indeed, to walk in the Spirit. But we are one body in Jesus. We belong to Jesus and to each other. We need to think in that way, so that we can help each other when any of us may be struggling or giving in to sin, and also help each other, particularly the younger in the faith, grow up in our salvation.

(Scratch the clergy versus laity distinction as well; I agree with Peterson on that, too, though haven't worked it out too well in my study and thoughts yet. Though I'm never an authority, but seeking to be a fellow learner! I make plenty of mistakes along the way.)

What might you add to this? Do you find a problem with anything here?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

prayer request

Please be praying for Kinney Mabry (Preacherman) and his family during this time.

the evils of perfectionism

Yesterday in leading our weekly "devotions" at work for our team at RBC Ministries, I did something different, sharing two readings from Eugene Peterson's outstanding book, The Jesus Way, each from the chapter entitled, "David: I Did Not Hide My Iniquity." Since Peterson wrote the contents of the study guide we're using, and since we're on Psalm 51, I thought this was appropriate. My first reading was from pages 78-79 on the evils of perfectionism.

I have to give you an idea of what Peterson means by perfectionism. It's something like a high, holy standard set for ourselves and for others, especially for other professing Christians, by which we judge ourselves and others, and which we strive to fulfill ourselves.

Peterson decries the division that has been made between "carnal Christians" and "spiritual Christians" (a misreading of Scripture, I believe, by the way, which I used to believe in for years), as well as the sad reality that many a Christian has been waylayed from the Jesus way because of their own discouragement in not meeting such standards. Along with my reading of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, how we should see ourselves and then live in Jesus, has been stewing some in my thoughts.

I think both Peterson and Bonhoeffer are right on this, though I don't know well how to think of this yet, and therefore how to express it in words. But I post on this today, to see if any of you have some thoughts on this.

I was raised in a pietistic church which emphasized externals such as dress, though we were the moderates among this spectrum of God's people, specifically among the Mennonites. This is not meant at all to disparage them; many good and loving people among them. Nor is it meant to judge any single one of them. But we did struggle somewhat with this evil of perfectionism.

Perfectionists see rightfully that Jesus walked in perfection here on earth, but they may be off in not noting how radically Jesus identified with sinners, like at his baptism with John the Baptizer. Also in the nuancing of his very humanl life, how Jesus depended on the Father, and was a down to earth creature, yes creature (as well as being the creator). And how our following of Jesus has provision for us in him, that was never needed by him, but is ever needed by us.

For example in John 13 on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus washed all of his disciples' feet. No one washed Jesus' feet. In the picture of salvation and its ongoing reality in our lives in Jesus (salvation is past, present and future for God's people, in Scripture) we are forgiven and cleansed of our sins by faith. Jesus told his disciples that they had already had the bath of regeneration. We are thus cleansed, but living in this world we are defiled by sin. Sin is all around us on every side. And we ourselves struggle with it. So we're impacted by this struggle, and we don't always succeed in resisting temptation to sin. Therefore, as Jesus points out, while we don't need to be born again, again, or born from above again, given new birth, we do need our feet washed which in their case with their open foot ware, became dirty in all the dust they walked through.

Perfectionism says we must, or at least should be always squeaky clean. And usually perfectionists have formulas and/or lists to help Christians get there. The formulas may even be taken out of God's word, though invariably when they do this, they are taken out of context. And added to them may be a list of do's and don'ts. Things you should do if you're going to be perfect, and things you must avoid. This varies from group to group among these folks.

I remember one church I visited, males to males and females to females all greeted one another with a kiss on the cheek. They all had their regulated garb on, of course even with my suit and tie I routinely wore in those days (and probably did that day, though I think I had a white short-sleeved shirt since I think it was summer) I was out of place. At that time, at least, guys never wore shirts that did not cover their arms completely, even in the hot summers there. Now while these people would acknowledge that others knew the Lord outside of their group, they were prone to judge them according to this standard of perfection that was set for them as the standard they should live according to, if they were to be holy.

The sad reality is that we're not going to be perfect as in without sin in this life. This must never mean that we ever excuse our sin. Nor is it saying we have to sin. It's simply helping us to be sensitive and remain aware and open to the revelation of sin in our lives. Over and over in Scripture, and one might say, preeminently in the life of David, a man after God's own heart, do we see this displayed.

I plan to post some more on this. But I'm much interested in your take on this subject. Does anyone out there have something you'd like to share on this?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I believe a part of human life in this present existence consists of some level of boredom. For some this may not be true, but for most of the rest of us, I think we do encounter a sense of tediousness, as we go about our daily routines and at times, our less than exciting jobs.

It is interesting that most of Jesus' life is unrecorded. He was about thirty when his ministry began which lasted around three years before his death, resurrection and ascension. But prior to that, the only mention we have of him was when he was at the temple at the age of twelve.

Jesus by trade was a carpenter or something of some sort of trade (depending on the meaning of the word), and seemed to live a quiet existence in Nazareth. Certainly Jesus knows firsthand what it meant to face the same responsibilities day in and day out. To grow physically tired, yet to maintain a love for life that surely meant he was not bored, at least not in the way I can become at times myself.

I work at a factory; we do the same kind of things everyday. It can get tedious, but I find that it's a blessing to keep active and busy. And in the midst of it all, to seek to keep my focus on God in Christ, to try to meditate on Scripture, to pray, to be in fellowship with others, to seek to be obedient to God, cast my cares on God, and confess my sins to God. To view all I do as part of our worship of God; barely started on that one.

When I'm bored that usually means I'm unhappy with the present and want to move on, not a part of the will of God for me in Jesus. It could just mean I need some rest, as in sleep. (Wouldn't a daily early afternoon nap be nice!)

But let's not despise the days and years of what seems to be the mundane. Let's remember that Jesus lived through that most of his adult life. And by the Spirit, he can walk with us, and we with him through our daily existence with its peaks and all its valleys.

What have you learned about boredom in your life?

Monday, February 04, 2008

counting on God's faithfulness

I think oftentimes we sell God short in our own lives and in the lives of others. If we can just get hold of the truth that God is utterly faithful to us in Christ Jesus, this is how we can begin to see real change in us over time. And sometimes there will be highlights where we're gripped with something new, like being grieved over our sin, or a certain sin.

We must believe that God will never leave us, or fail to complete the good work he has begun in us in and through our Lord. There will be times when we feel utterly lost. Or that there is no hope for ourselves, or for another. This is where we must hold on and seek to draw near- in faith. In this way our soul can be anchored, in spite of everything that is hitting us in our lives. And believing this in prayer for others, that they would also be so anchored in Jesus through the storms of life.

God is utterly and completely faithful. This is true for us, no matter what we're going through. No matter how unfaithful we may have been or feel at the moment. Let's never give up, but keep steady in our faith in Jesus. Remember, we come to him just as we are, and he does the work through his blood, forgiving and cleansing us of all unrighteousness.

I have to count on this. I do so by keeping at what really matters most to us in Jesus: our time with him, and seeking to live that out through the day, meeting issues of the heart and life as they come. And refusing to give in to discouragement, but pressing on to follow and know him better, with others in him. That others might find this same faithful God through seeing Jesus in us, as they see that while we're just as human as they are, there is more to it than that in our lives.

How can we count on God's faithfulness for ourselves and for others? Or whatever thoughts you might have about this.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

prayer for the week

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, February 02, 2008


I'm probably in some respects a noisy person. I'm one who can so easily talk too much and too long; I really try to avoid that, and succeed for the most part, though I most easily slip in that mode here at home with Deb. Sometimes I do have to make an effort to be quiet.

In the past I almost always had background music on, and when not that, I was listening to Scripture being read. A habit of years, I mean the nearly constant music, not easy to break.

I still don't see myself as a person of silence, but I'm recognizing how I value it in my life now. I really want no noise, or at least try to block it out with ear plugs when I'm reading Scripture in the morning and at night. And when I'm sitting down to post something here, I want it quiet, so I can try to discern what to say, trying to discern something of God's voice in my life. Silence facilitates that for me. Helping me to focus in on seeking to hear and discern what God might be saying to me.

What about you and silence? Are you friends? What might you like to share on this?

Friday, February 01, 2008


Recently I heard that age 44 is either the average or median age for adults worldwide feeling at their lowest. Of course we refer to this as "mid-life crisis." By that time there is a sense of having given up on one's dreams. And one is vulnerable then, to make huge mistakes. I've been there; done that. And remarkably I was 44 or close to it, when I had my worst down time.

Expectations. They can be good and they can be not so good. Often people can live for years with their lives built around something that is not really them. We can live to prove others wrong about ourselves. Or to impress others.

Healthy expectations come from a good self-understanding. Understanding the gift God gave us in ourselves. What we really like to do and do well. Also understanding well and accepting our limitations. This is important if we're to live well, according to God's call for us in Jesus.

Just the same, we'll ever be facing an uphill battle in this life from other's expectations of us. We need to try to meet those, when appropriate. But above all, we need to show them that we walk and live according to Another's expectation of us. That while we want to please them in its proper place, our unflinching concern, no matter what, is to please God. And that we would do this in the grace and truth and love found in Jesus.

What have you found to be true of expectations?