Monday, March 31, 2008


Paul says something curious to the Corithian church in his first letter to them:

17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.

1 Corinthians 11

Of course we recall that the Corinthian believers divided into groups claiming to be followers of Paul, Cephas (Peter), Apollos, or Christ- to the exclusion of the others.

We live in a time in which differences among us, and among us evangelicals, are coming to the fore. And that can be alright and healthy, as long as we don't divide over those differences in a way that keeps us from being open to the entire Body of Christ in the world. Of course I'm not talking about the essentials of the faith, but over secondary matters which while important in their place, still should not be placed in the same category as essentials. There will be some debate here, as to what is essentials, though for the most part, the essentials have been settled, and in the interplay within Christendom are being settled.

One example I'm thinking of is a prominent leader who believes that people like myself do not believe in "the doctrines of grace", and therefore cannot teach at his church. I can understand that up to a point. I know one very good, godly man, a pastor, who believes something of the health and wealth "gospel", and I would not want him to be teaching that at a church I'm a part of, either. At the same time, we should work together as we can. And in the case of the first leader mentioned, we must remember that grace in Jesus underlies everything in all Christian theology considered orthodox throughout the centuries.

All things are ours, and all Christian leaders as well. Those who insist otherwise put themselves in a camp that at least reminds us of those early Corinthian believers.

What do you think on this? Is the point valid, and why or why not?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

prayer for the week

Second Sunday of Pascha

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; 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, March 29, 2008

faith keeps us going and going

I'm reminded of the Energizer Bunny now, with the statment, "Faith keeps us going and going." But this is actually true for us in Jesus. What keeps us going when so much seems to be against us, and we seem ourselves to be stuck in some quagmire of life, for a variety of possible reasons? Faith. Faith in God through Christ and in God's promises to us from Scripture, in Christ.

Faith means we're not going to give up and give in to anything less than God's will for us in Jesus. Faith means we're going to keep praying, even when we feel prayerless or defeated. Faith is ongoing, and is not dependent on anything except the willingness to be led by God and follow.

And we're in this together. This is important. We're not islands to ourselves. We're one Body in Christ, each having our role and work to fulfill as part of that one Body, by the Spirit.

So whatever you and I are facing today, let's not give up. Let's look to God in faith both for ourselves and for each other. And for the work of God's kingdom in Jesus to come to others, as well.

And as we continue in this faith, we'll find that we can in Jesus keep going and going in God's good will for us. No matter what the difficulties are. The Lord will see us, and others through, as we trust in him, however imperfectly, through everything.

What might you add to this?

Friday, March 28, 2008

when treated unjustly

We're told repeatedly in the New Testament that our calling in Jesus is a call to return evil with good, to refuse to retaliate for any wrong done to us, and thus to follow in Jesus' steps.

I have found this helpful for my own life. Who doesn't become angry over an injustice or sin done to them, particularly from those who should know better, that is from other Christians.

We don't want to be walking around with any martyr complex, but life does dish out some nasty little offerings sometimes, which do hurt. A typical worldly way of handling it is just to brush it off in a tough manner. Where is that way found in Scripture? The psalms are full of complaints to God over human enemies in view of the fact that these problems are not right. And God is the God of making things right in the bringing in of his salvation. This is evident in places in the psalms (one prime example).

And Jesus challenges his enemies, yet he goes on, embracing God's will for him in loving his enemies, and in his unique death, dying for them so that they might be saved. And we're to take the same path- so that sinners can be brought to the Savior and other Christians can be drawn closer to God and all of us to each other, in Jesus- yes, right in the face of the trouble.

And we must remember that God will make things right as we trust in him. He will vindicate us as his children, and he will vindicate himself and the truth as found in Jesus, in our lives, as we trust in him to do so.

This is an important aspect of the gospel we're called to proclaim, that we're to live out in this world. By God's grace in Jesus, we can do this. And grow in it, and thus be a blessing of God to others.

What thought might you have on this?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

acclimating ourselves to all of God's revelation

It is important for us in Jesus to work at acclimating ourselves to all of God's revelation given to us. I think particularly here of God's "special revelation" found in Scripture and in Jesus (within Scripture), not to discount God's "general revelation" found in nature, in the world of creation.

This means we have to keep reading through and taking seriously the Old Testament. With all of its conundrums and problems. For example, God's wrath in judgment is quite evident there, though you'll find it in uncomfortable, for us, places, in the New Testament, as well.

There's no use or value in sweeping those hard passages under the rug. Instead, we must take them seriously, if we're really to get the full picture God has given us. We must hold all things together.

An example of what I'm trying to think through and say comes from Miroslav Volf (and my memory, here). In one of his outstanding books I think (or possibly hearing him, recorded), he mentions how Mennonites, who are Christian pacifists like himself, at least some of them, have not liked how he brought in the judgment aspect of the Revelation into the mix of how we Christians today should work through issues of injustice in the world. Of course, as Volf points out (and perish the thought of me speaking for others, and especially for people like Volf, and this is filtered, of course, through me), God's work in Jesus is that of judgment and grace. We see this at the Cross in which Jesus took upon himself God's just judgment, so that it is really God taking the judgment for our sin on himself in dying there for us and for the world. And this judgment and grace plays out in a different and climactic kind of way, in Jesus, in the Revelation, the last book of the Bible.

Certainly this means we have to see a part of Scripture with reference to the whole, that is to the entire Story of God, and start with its immediate context, and then the context of like writings, and the same conjectured author (the Revelation being one of the books of the Apostle John, along with others, as most would agree). Working on the book of Revelation, and hearing it as depicted (and quite wonderfully, I add, if still strange to me) from The Bible Experience is definitely an experience (CD or MP3 CD). Seeing the Revelation as the end of the Story, of course a Story that really knows no end, but the end as found in the Book, is quite helpful, I think. But I need to keep working on it, along with everything else. In my own simple, slow way, crowded in with all the necessities of life.

It's not easy to realize you're not fully developed yet in your thinking and living. But that's important, as we press on to maturity together in Christ. And we do have the Spirit of God along with the word, to help us through, everyday, just where we're at right now, to live in and live out the grace and truth found in Jesus.

What would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

listening for God's voice

Yesterday in our "devotions" in Psalm 23, we were on the verse:
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Our discussion on that was good for me, hearing from brothers speaking from their hearts. And learning more about myself and how I can come across from one brother, prior to that, was good for me, even if I have my own thoughts on all of that. In everything I want to be listening for God's voice. What God is saying to me through whatever it is I'm going through in my life, including and maybe especially in the dark places. But really, everywhere and all the time.

To have ears to hear, I must set myself to listen. To do so, I must be in Scripture and in prayer. And in fellowship with all of God's people. And with a heart set on obeying God, which includes repentance and confession of sin along the way, of course. And I must be open to hearing God's voice in unlikely places. Even when what may be said and done may go against me, and be unjust at least to some extent.

Of course this needs to be a daily, ongoing practice and posture of our hearts before God, in Jesus, in all of life. To get past whatever else may be there so that we can truly hear God's voice.

What about you? What have you learned in this, or what might you add here?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

God has something for you to do

In Jesus, God has something for each one of us to do, something very special. Indeed, we're told that there are works prepared for us in advance by God, that we should walk in those works, that is, that doing them should be a way of life for us.

This is true no matter how down and out you may seem to be. No matter what seems to be against you and me. Or even true, no matter how we may be sinning at the moment, or tempted to sin. Or having to work through a disappointment or ongoing difficulty in our lives. Yes, God is there in Christ, with a special work for each of us to do.

There are general works, and there are specific or special works. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 open up general categories of giftedness from the Spirit to each person in Jesus. I believe there are both constitutional gifts and situational gifts (as in 1 Corinthians 14). They may go together or be related, but not necessarily always the case.

For myself I have something in mind that I can begin to work on for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be. And if I'm right, it's something I rather shrink back from and am disinclined to specifically, though regarding the task generally, it is something I'm very much drawn to.

Be open to the gift and creativity and blessing you can be to others. Whatever it is on your heart that is good, pray and work on fulfilling it. We can be, in Jesus, a blessing to others. God has something special for each of us in Jesus to do today. Let's pray that we have the faith to see what it is, and of course, prayer itself should be one part of it, and sometimes it's the only work we can do for a time. And for some, it is a big part of what they do.

What about you? What works does God have for you to walk in, or do, today and beyond?

Monday, March 24, 2008

don't give up, don't give in

In seeking to live out the faith we have in Jesus, we're often tempted to give up and give in to either that which is plainly contrary to God's revealed will from Scripture and in Jesus, or probably more likely, we're tempted to give in to something less, not really pressing towards the goal in Jesus to which we're called.

The call of God in Scripture is clear, and it's challenging, and it's goal is nothing less than the moving to complete conformity to Christ himself. It's a goal not only of us as individuals, but as those together in Jesus. So that I must not be only concerned about myself, but I must also be concerned about my brother and sister in Jesus.

Sometimes we're just plain overcome in our weakness or sin. This is when we have to stop in our tracks, repent and look to God for his help as we seek to get back into his will and working for us, in Jesus. When we see another brother or sister who may be struggling, then we need to pray for them, and seek to be present for them, primarily in listening, and afterwards, perhaps offering some prayerful words of counsel or instruction along with prayer. And we need to be open to such help ourselves.

What is most important here is just the point, when we're "under it", and we will be at times, then we must not give up and give in. We must instead look to God. Read a book from Scripture (I read Philippians Sunday afternoon from The Message and found it helpful).

What have you found to be true in this that can help us?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday 2008 at Redeemer's

Tiffany gets a nice pic of Deb and I.

Front of our church building.

Prayer for someone after the service by some of our people, as I'm on my way to join them.

Jack and Sharon are a great pastoral team.

Flags of nations in our sanctuary. Representing our call to missions and God's love for the world.

The website for our church.

prayer for Easter Sunday


O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Note: I take "Baptism" here to refer to Spirit baptism of which water baptism is a picture and metaphor for the Spirit's work in regenerating all who believe in God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.


O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(with help from Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed, this morning)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

prayer for Holy Saturday

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so may we await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Friday, March 21, 2008

prayer for Good Friday

Collect of the Day: Good Friday

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

truly a good Friday

The Friday which we Christians call Good Friday is truly a good Friday. It is the day we remember in awe with both tears and celebration what our Lord did for us in dying on the Cross. A most wonderful day in which God's "Amen" sounded clear and unmistakeably that first Easter Sunday in our Lord's resurrection from the dead.

On the Cross just prior to his death (I capitalize "cross" because of the One who was nailed on it and died, and because of the significance of his death for us, for humankind, and for all of creation- in God's redemptive plan) Jesus declared these words: "It is finished."

What was finished? All that Jesus came to accomplish. By his death he would destroy death forever and the one who held the power of death, the devil. By his death all sinners could be set free from God's judgment, since Jesus himself took all of sin's curse and just claim on himself. By his death God offers to us a new life in Jesus, a life that begins in living out Christ's life here and now. And by his death there is complete, full reconciliation. God has reconciled the world to himself in Christ, not holding people's sins against them, and has broken down the barriers that separate humanity into so many hostile groups, to make us all one in Christ, in the communion of the Trinity.

What a terrible day that Friday was! But God took what was terrible, and what was actually his plan for this: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This was redemptive in the Father buying back in the Son all that had been lost to his good plan in creation, for the new creation. In this, Jesus made all things new.

But for any of us to know the goodness of this Good Friday for ourselves, we must look to the One on that cross, and repent and believe this good news. Yes, it's good news for us. And then we begin on a track that continues in this life: God turning what is bad into something good, through Jesus Christ and by his work for us that dreadful day, and yet by that act making it a most wonderful day, especially as we know the end of the Story.

What "Amen" or thoughts might you add here?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

the last supper

When we read of the last supper in the gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) we see it is around a table of fellowship with Jesus at the center. It was a meal in anticipation of his death. But also looking forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb, in which Jesus will eat and drink again with them, and with all of us, in his Father's kingdom.

The question of the real presence of Jesus at the Lord's Table (communion or the Eucharist) is an issue in which Christians are divided. But one thing for sure which we can agree on: Jesus is at the center. He is our Redeemer, Savior and Lord. We bow to him in worship, and give him thanks for his great and awesome sacrifice for us, for the world. We are in awe of this and of him. And that we can actually participate together in the receiving and partaking of this great salvation found in Jesus.

The Lord's Table or communion is more than a ritual; it is reality. What Jesus has done for us in dying for our sins, that we might, through his broken body and shed blood, have new and eternal life. What a wonderful salvation! What a wonderful Savior!

I know that just from my daily experience. God is good to us even in this fallen and broken down world of which we are a part. We begin now, by faith in Jesus to taste of this great salvation, to taste and see that the Lord is good. And we live with the anticipation of the completion of what we're experiencing now, in Jesus. Drawn up even now into that communion of the Father, Son and Spirit.

So let's not live on our feelings or be held back by our failures and weaknesses or the problems we'll ever face in this life. Let's realize in the midst of it all, Jesus is here. And this great salvation in him is for us beginning now, to impact every part of our lives, as we come just as we are to God through Jesus.

What might you like to share here?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

listen, speak and live

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out in his most excellent book, Life Together, the first responsibility we in Jesus have to God and to our fellow humans is to listen. We must listen and listen well. If we fail to listen to others, Bonhoeffer states, then we'll soon be failing to listen and hear God. And in doing that, we'll end up with nothing left but our own "prattle".

After we listen well, and are really hearing what the other is saying, then we can speak. We need to speak with grace, yet hold nothing back that is needed. As we're in prayer over this, the Spirit can help us so that we won't necessarily say everything that comes to mind. Oftentimes less is more and more is less, both as to how long we speak and how much we say. We need to have a kind of quiet yet bold confidence in what we're saying, but all the time accompanied with much humility, received from God as Jesus by the Spirit works his humility in us, as well as the insight we have from God about ourselves.

And then we must simply live it out. Not many things are worse than those who say one thing but do another, who do not "practice what they preach." If we really believe something than at least we'll want to live it out. This should make us think twice about what we actually say, since it needs to be from the bottom of our heart and something we're prayerfully endeavoring to adhere to in our lives.

What words of insight or anything, would any of you like to say?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

God's light

Here in West Michigan we've had a cloudier Winter than we normally have, I think I heard. We had only 17% of possible sunshine. I'm used to it, and I have to say I admire the strength of the sun, even through the clouds.

There are times in our life of darkness. The enemy can be on the attack. But then, as we wait on the Lord, light begins to move in to dispel that darkness. And that light exposes as well as warms and even facilitates life.

I am so thankful when the light comes back. Usually for me any darkness is so short as to hardly be noticeable, or not much to be concerned about. But recently I think I was under attack from the spiritual enemy, but in such a way that God could use it for good. At the same time I didn't handle it altogether well, and I take that as a growing point for me to do better, next time.

When we don't face God and his will so as to live in that will, we end up in our own darkness. But when we turn, we can receive the healing rays of the Sun of righteousness. I am thankful that in spite of my feelings, and like a bad cold when the virus is gone but the symptoms linger, so I sit here with some joy in my heart, but still a heaviness carried over from the previous days of struggle.

I want to be surrendered to God and his will for me in Christ. I can only do this, in Jesus. I want to face the light, the God who is light and in whom is no darkness at all. And keep walking in the way of the Lord, who has promised us that he will be with us, even in the deepest darkness.

What might you add here to help us?

Monday, March 17, 2008

God as living water

In my new TNIV Reference Bible Sunday evening, I was working on Psalm 23 for our Tuesday weekly "devotions" at work, going through the bottom "topical ties" on "God as living water."

It was interesting to read the links provided, from Exodus 17:1-6 to Numbers 20:1-11 to Psalm 23:2 to Isaiah 55:1 to Jeremiah 2:13 to Jeremiah 17:13 to John 4:10-14 to John 7:37-38, ending at Revelation 21:6. May I add to this Ezekiel 47:1-12?

Especially pivotal for me in thinking on this theme is Jesus' words found in John 7:37-38:
On the last and greatest day of the Festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."
John then explains what is meant by this "living water" (verse 39):
By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
We who have believed in Jesus as Savior and Lord, have received the Holy Spirit, who is the very life of God: Father, Son and Spirit. The Spirit is God's interactive, interpenetrating, interpersonal presence and enabling dynamic for us in Jesus, in this world.

Through the Holy Spirit we experience union and communion with the Triune God. As Jesus prayed, we are to be brought into the same union of Jesus and the Father, being one even as they are one. And through the Spirit we are being made holy, that is in right relationship to God and to each other, and for our work in the world. There is much more to say about the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit for us, in Jesus.

We have a deep inward craving that physical thirst and the quenching of that thirst by water only points to. The deeper longing of our hearts, of our very beings can never be satisfied by anything in this world, as wonderful as all of creation is. We were made by God for something more, something only God can satisfy.

For some of us, we have deep natural longings, that either are not satisfied at all in this world, or they are not fulfilled as we would like them to be. That can be quite destructive to us, if we try to get the natural want or perceived need, according to our feelings, satisfied in any way possible. Of course the way of the world is to get what you want in any number of illicit ways. But for us in Jesus, that way is not open, and if we go there, we'll simply have to turn around in repentance and come back. Or be left in our sins when we choose not to come back, and in that process become less and less human.

God is our living water, who alone can quench all our inner thirst. I need that water. We can have a drink by faith in Jesus. He has promised to fill us to overflowing, so that this water can flow to others.

I'm thirsty. Are you? Then let's ask God to give us a drink of this living water, of the Spirit. Let's come anew and afresh to him, in repentance and faith, confessing our sins to him, and receiving his forgiveness and cleansing. And see our hearts refreshed and renewed for the new week and God's way in Jesus, set before us.

What might you like to add here?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

prayer for the week

Palm Sunday

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; 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, March 15, 2008

what to do

In my own simple way, I'm a mind person. I like to work, particularly on theology, and theology that is grounded in the word of God and down to earth, or for us. And the best work of this is done in community, in the context of past and present work of others. And I like exegesis, which goes together with good theology, that is, seeking to understand what God's word is saying to us.

This takes hard work and training and education beyond what I've received to do the very best one can do in it. Just the same, I would like to do what I can on something that perhaps I could contribute something to. I know that sounds far fetched, and there may very well be an element of hidden pride in it. I'm not so sure about that. I know we all stand on the shoulders of those who have preceded us, and we need each other, ever, in whatever endeavor we seek to accomplish.

The advantage of working on one thing, along with fulfilling everything else God has called us to in Jesus (and for all of us, that includes reaching out to others to help them come to Jesus for salvation and become established in him), is that I can keep reading and working on understanding all that I can, so that possibly this can lead to a better understanding of God's will for us in Jesus, in a given area. And even if nothing arises out of that, we can keep saying the same things in a more accurate and clearer way, and in accordance with the need of our day, from Scripture.

I know one might protest, there's nothing new for us to say. But along with the pastor of the Pilgrims before they came to America, John Robinson, I would say that we need to be open for new light to break forth to us from God's word. It's ever from the word and to be measured in that truth, in the faith God has given to the Church through the centuries.

An example of this kind of work is from a true scholar, Scot McKnight, in his book, Community Called Atonement, solidly grounded in Scripture and in the faith.

I know this is rather fuzzy, but it has been on my mind for some time, probably for years. Does any reader have similar sentiments? And what might you add or like to say here?

Friday, March 14, 2008

we belong, but are different

In Jesus we belong to each other. I mentioned somewhere in the blog world recently that I would like to take my Greek New Testament to church gathering on Sundays, but just can't do it, because I don't want the people there to think I'm not one of them. I also have to watch out for insidious pride, in thinking myself in any way to be superior. Though being able to read, in my case more than rusty and not an expert, but being able to read from that is no different than learning any language, and alot easier from what I've been told than classical Greek. And I could go into how having a good Bible translation, and there are many, is all one really needs with the help of God and helps God gives us, to hear his word and walk in his way in Jesus.

We are also different. Maybe this will help me to be able to take my Greek New Testament to church gathering. I happen to love language and trying to read from that book. I have my niche that I like to work on, though I'm no expert, really, on anything. More like a jack of some trades and master of none. But we have to accept the fact that though we're all one family in Jesus, and none better than the other, we also have different gifts, and we are a different gift to each other and the world, and even to ourselves, from God in the will of God in Jesus.

We each have something very special to share from God, whether in gifts of speaking or serving. Let's humbly accept who we are, and who others are, delighting in all the good gifts God has given to each one of us in Jesus.

What thoughts might you have here?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

loving Jesus and the gospel

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their
life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Mark 8:35

What does it mean for us to love Jesus and the gospel? In comparison to our love for Christ, all other loves are to be like hatred. We believe this ironically makes our other loves stronger and better, since our hearts are at last in the right place, not centered on ourselves, but on God.

This is often thought of in terms of making the ultimate sacrifice, and in many cases even in recent years, this has indeed taken place. We need to stand with and pray for both our brothers and sisters in Jesus who are being persecuted or are in danger and do what we can to help them, and pray for their persecutors as well. What would enable Elisabeth Elliot to go back to the Aucas and share the gospel after her beloved Jim was killed by them? Love for Jesus and the gospel.

But what about us in our freedom of religion we enjoy, in our soft existence in which many of us live? I believe to love Jesus and the gospel means that we love God by obeying him in all things in our lives. It means that first things must always be first. Yes, we like to enjoy life and we are grateful for all the blessings of life. But our number one passion and love is for Christ and the gospel. Knowing God's love through Christ we love God: Father, Son and Spirit, and we seek to be faithful to the end, in the grace of our Lord Jesus.

This is a new life, a resurrected life in Jesus to which we're called. A life we live now, as we renounce ourselves: our loves, passions and desires, so that we can follow Jesus and be true to his gospel to the very end.

What might you like to share on this?

God's strength

We as humans have our limitations. We need our sleep, and we can only do so much physically before we are overcome with the need for rest.

Right now at work we're on a busy schedule trying to catch up due to bringing in a new machine with the time it took to take out the old and install it. And it's running like mad. And that's good. And along with that comes so fast paced work at times, along with ten hour days.

I was reminded and blessed with this passage from the majestic chapter 40 of Isaiah, itself a majestic book in the Book:
but those who wait on the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
I put it on our computer screen saver at work, and it's a good reminder to us, there in the Lord's work, and really to all of us, because in whatever we do, we're to do it to the glory of God.

We're to wait in faith and in expectation, knowing God will give us strength according to the day, in Jesus. And let's remember that God gives to his beloved in Jesus, sleep.

What do you find about this in your own life?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the gospel is big

The gospel is much bigger than most all of us were taught or realize, much bigger from the pages of holy Scripture. Take a look at this excellent post from Bob Robinson on the gospel.

Yesterday in devotions we were in Psalm 103 (still), and in trying to bring out how big this salvation is, not only from that passage, but from the whole of Scripture and the story therein, I broached a topic (what a sidetrail!) from an article I recently read (if you lack time then read only the post from Bob Robinson noted above, and this article; neither are that long, and well worth the time), which conjectures what may have been if humanity would never have sinned. Would we have lost something precious, that be grace comes in the Incarnation and union of God with humanity in Jesus. The article taking the line that indeed, the Incarnation was still necessary even apart from sin, necessary within creation and in realizing the goal God has for humankind.

Such conjecture and theological discussion is in itself rather pointless as we should be thinking on what Scripture says, not what it doesn't say. But it does bring up a most worthy point from Scripture. What is involved in this salvation in Jesus, that goes beyond- without minimizing the importance- the forgiveness of sins? For one thing, humankind is realizing in Jesus the goal there from the beginning, that in God's terms, humankind, made in God's image, would become increasingly conformed and also confirmed in that image. A loss, and increasing loss of God's image due to sin, and letting humans have their way in sin with sin's consequences might be what the heart of hell is all about.

And this is only taking a glance at what salvation is for us individually. Salvation in Christ is much bigger than that, not to minimize the importance of the former. It is cosmic in scope, since all creation is involved, including all things visible and invisible, whatever dimensions exist. And this comes down to earth for us in us looking at how we can bring this salvation to bear on systemic evil around us. A great example of this kind of work is found in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that occurred in South Africa. A work that never would have taken place apart from Jesus coming, his teaching and the gospel.

The gospel has import for all we do in life. We need to think of the gospel in relation to all we do, and pray to God for creative ways of it making inroads into our work and culture, and out from that to the world. Big words, and really beyond me. And I have it easier that way, working for a fine Christian nonprofit organization and ministry.

I'm working on this. Going through again Scot McKnight's recent book, Community Called Atonement, and I'd also highly recommend his earlier book on this as well, Embracing Grace.

I'm not sure everyone in our "devotions" yesterday appreciated the discussion, but I thought it was good for us, to stretch us a bit, in things that are hard to understand. To help us begin to just get a glimpse into the truth of just how big the gospel in Jesus, really is.

What thought might you have on this?

our humanity

Yesterday, for a time, I felt "inspired" to do something along the line of prayer, and I sensed the Holy Spirit on me in so praying. This was a good time, right in the midst of busy work, which I had to keep doing, while doing this when I could. Afterwards we had our "devotions" which I'm now leading. That went alright I thought, though by that time, right after lunch, I'm usually ready for a nap.

The rest of the day for me was one in which I felt quite tired, a little discouraged because I thought the point I brought up in devotions was not entirely well received, though I think some did appreciate it. So in the midst of my even more busy work, I tried to talk it over with one, though being encouraged by another who had been present. But mostly, I was just tired and feeling kind of low, or more like in a survival mode in which you're doing well, but could use a nap. Then finally getting home I felt completely uninspired and hit the couch to get a good snooze, which lasted for a few hours.

This reminds me of Elijah, whom none of us would compare ourselves too, though Scripture says he was as human the rest of us. Elijah, bold in the Lord, confronted the false prophets of Baal, and after their frantic prophesyings and prayers to their false god failed, he rebuilt the altar of the LORD in the sight of all Israel. And fire came down from heaven and comsumed the water drenched sacrifice he had made. But then because of Jezebel's threats, he fled for his life, and was despondent enough to ask God to end it there and then. We then see God's care, provision and word to him.

How much like us. We are human; we are weak. This up and down thing is just a part of our lives. We need during those down times to get our rest, and to be still before the Lord, to seek to hear his voice, to wait for him. And to never measure ourselves according to our experience, anyhow- whether up or down, but to ever trust in the goodness and faithfulness of our God to lead us in Jesus, through all the changes and conditions of life.

What would you like to share that could help us in this? Or any thoughts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

we are deserving of wrath

We read in Ephesians 2 that before faith in Christ, "like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath." Humankind was created by God from whom all good comes. Of course a big part of the good is love, and this is a love that God freely gives, of course God is love (true, but also needs to be read in its context). God made Adam and Eve free beings so that they would return his love freely.

Of course humankind sinned in the garden, in Adam and through Eve- both guilty- and therefore became sinners deserving of God's wrath, which means God just judgment. Of course wrath includes anger; God is not an unemotional Being. And I take it that God's anger and wrath, along with everything else about God, is an expression of God's love. God's love is violated, therefore he is angry. God sees sin as destructive to others, therefore he is angry with the wicked.

But back to us plain, ordinary sinners, if there really is such a thing; isn't all sin great in a bad sense, and in light of the holiness of God? God's standard is for us to obey him. In the beginning there was only one prohibition, not to eat of the one tree, while all the rest was theirs to so enjoy. But now that we are bent on disobeying God there are a good number of prohibitions, quite well summarized in the Ten Commandments. And we've broken them all, if not in actions than in our hearts (also here).

We are deserving of God's wrath. But one truth of God's atoning work in Christ, and I say just one, not the only one, and not even necessarily the main one, though I think it's important and at least part of the heart of what God has done, is that God, in becoming human- one of us, takes our just punishment on himself at the cross. Yes, Jesus is God having become human, and he took that punishment for us, so that we might not be under God's wrath and just judgment any longer, even though still deserving it, and might come into full fellowship again with God. God has done that. By faith we must accept this verdict and truth about ourselves and God's remedy in Jesus for it. And return to the God whose arms in Jesus are opened for us. Then we are accepted.

Have you accepted this, in Jesus, for yourself? Have you come back, in Jesus, to God?

praying for each other

What can be a happy effect of praying for each other is that we end up both benefiting.

Let's say for example that I'm down or out in some way, and I share that with my wife, or with a brother or sister in Jesus. And then they pray for me. In time, God graciously answers their prayer and in God's good wisdom and working I'm out of my trouble.

But what then? Knowing this fresh outpouring of God's Spirit in my own heart and life, I turn that into prayer for others, including the ones who I shared my own trouble with. And God works for us both.

This is one important part of us being Christ's Body in the world, being blessed in Jesus that we might be a blessing in him, to the world. That Jesus in us will make a difference in what we do and say; that God's love in Jesus will be poured out on us so that we can share that love with others, and in the hard places of our world.

What would you like to add or share in regard to this?

Monday, March 10, 2008

the gospel

Gospel means "good news". This is the message of the Story we read from Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation. It is the Story of creation, fall, redemption, new creation. It is a Story of a love that will not let us go, and that would have everyone repent and believe this good news.

God in Christ comes, becomes one of us- fully human. To bruise, or crush the serpent's head, to take our death on himself- paying the penalty for our sins by his death on the Cross. Resurrected to new life so that all who put their faith in him can begin to know this new life even now and forever. Ascended to the right hand of the Father, so that the Holy Spirit can be poured out on those who believe, so that they can be a witness. And to return so that what has begun now in Jesus, in God's kingdom coming to earth in him, can be completed and fulfilled, in all its glory.

This must begin with each one of us. There is a law in ourselves that we can't escape. We would like to, but we can't. We know that how we live and how we ought to live are more often than not, two different things. It does no good to say that, "No one can be perfect." That's true. But beside the point, here.

The point is that we don't measure up to what we know is right and good. We are special as human beings, created in God's very image. Yet we have departed from living accordingly, and violate what we know to be true. We often neither do the good we should do, or refrain from doing what we shouldn't.

The remedy for us is Jesus Christ. He is the perfect image of God, and by faith in him we are being renewed back into that image. This involves getting back to what we were created for, in the first place. For relationships, with God and with each other. For good work, doing what God has designed for each one of us to do, in our unique, God-given capacities.

The gospel is good news, and it's an ongoing good news for us all. That there's forgiveness for our sins, that we're not left to ourselves and the dead end ways we take. All found in Jesus.

See this excellent post: Is Our Gospel Too Small? from Bob Robinson.

a black Bible

Recently I bought a new bonded leather TNIV Reference Bible. It's bigger than what I'm used to carrying around, and I'll have to make sure it's used well, before the next revision of the TNIV occurs. I used to steer away from black Bibles, but black was all that's offered, so black it is. Just like my shaven head, black is also something people seem more used to.

I like the cross references, and especially the topical ties at the bottom of the pages. And the single column and black letters (no red letters); I like all of that. But for me the best study of Scripture is to keep reading it, all of it. If anything, I'll have to get used to all the clutter of small letters beside words. My other TNIV's (medium and small sized) which contain the plan for reading through the Bible, will continue to be my main reading Bibles, I think. This may become my main teaching and preaching Bible, and study Bible.

I also like what Billy Graham once said, something like, "The best Bible is the one you use." In other words, we need to be in the word of God, doing so as those who want to hear from God so that we can walk by grace in the way of Jesus.

Would anyone like to share what your main Bible is, including the color, and why you think it's a good edition of it?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

prayer for the week

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, March 08, 2008

a new life

A while back I was expressing to a friend by email how I've been very well exposed to the teaching of the crucified life, from very good sources, in the past, that I had heard plenty of the "death to self" message. And that was true not only from my reading, but also from messages and teachings I heard, even if it was more in the way I heard it than what was actually taught.

My friend replied that they didn't see it as death to self, but as life, a new life, life to God. That really kind of hit me as a needed word for me. Maybe by temperament and experience, I looked at things mostly negatively over the years. This outlook, I'm afraid impacted my entire life. But this new life in Christ, while not one of "Everything is great!" or "I'm okay; you're okay," is one much better. We're given, by faith in Christ a brand new life and existence that has no part with the old life, leaving it behind, but in doing so finding the real life, and that life in actually everything and everyone, in Jesus.

C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce is awakening me to this truth in Jesus. I had read it for school years ago, but recently saw it at our public library read on CD, well done. And got a new copy of the book to replace my underlined, over marked copy. It is a most remarkable read, and if you can get hold of both, it would be good.

It helps us see how this life in Christ is to begin even now, as a life in leaving the old "in Adam" existence behind, and embracing the new life "in Christ." In Jesus, God makes all things new, beginning even here and now in our hearts and out from that into our lives, and through our lives for others.

I am learning on this, and still working on the book by Lewis. Heard it once and want to keep working on it for a time. Pick it up and read.

Any thoughts?

Friday, March 07, 2008

coming to

We read of the prodigal son that when he came to himself, or his senses, then he realized, or at least had enough sense to leave his dilapidated life behind, and return to his home.

Coming to. It's an important part of the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives, in Jesus. We need that grace at work in our hearts and lives, so that we can have that strong sense that we want to continue on in our Lord.

What happens before that? When we're lost, as all of us Christians are sometimes. Faith then can do many things. Faith presses on in seeking God diligently and expecting to be rewarded in doing so. But, as you recall in Jesus' story of the prodigal or lost son, at the heart of this coming to is relationship. The lost son humbly acknowledges that he is not worthy to be a son, but hopes to be received as a servant. But deep down inside, he must have had hope that his father would receive him back with love. Little did he know.

How great is the Father's love for us! It is so wonderful, and we must ever remember that. In Jesus, we must hold out for that love, always and ever, no matter what. May that love in Jesus fill each and everyone of us. That we might keep "coming to", knowing that God in Christ is ever there for us, with a heart of love far greater than we can conceive or take in.

What have you learned about this, or would like to add here?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

dialing down

One of our greatest enemies is pure expectation, and I mean the kind that revolves around our wish list, having to do with our perceived needs, wants and feelings. Not that these things aren't important in their place, but they're out of place in us humans, because of sin. They displace God himself: Father, Son and Spirit. And the irony is that in the end they're only really satisfied and fulfilled in God. Which means we must leave the old path of pursuing our needs, wants in accordance with our feelings, behind.

What we need, of course it begins in Jesus, and apart from him this won't happen...., but what we need to do is to "dial down." I mean we need to put our perceived needs, wants and feelings into the hands of God. As we do that, displacing them so that the Triune God through Christ becomes the center, than we'll find that our desires eventually begin to be fulfilled.

This is not easy in this life where sin is simply turning good things into idols so that those good things, no longer received as from their Creator, God, end up sending us down a long and winding dead end path. We may get what we want, but we'll have lost something of ourselves, of our true humanity, in the process. So that what is left is less satisfying to ourselves and others around us.

To dial down for me means to quit my own expectations about life, or what anything in life ought to be. Instead I need to see what is already there and present as gifts from God. And I need to give thanks to God, worshiping only him.

We can do so only in prayer. We need to give our wills over to God and embrace his will, even when we don't understand or maybe just don't like it. Dialing down will end up getting us in on the real good, while failing to do so will see the good not last forever. In God through Jesus the real good does last forever. And better still- along with that- we'll be lost in wonder, love and praise for our God.

This is a process, and like everything else in this life involves growth on our part which will involve repentance from our old ways and repeatedly so, faith open to God's ways in Jesus so that we increasingly are on that path and grow. So that we become more and more confirmed in this.

What do you think about dialing down?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Call me burned out, but I just can't get all that excited in the political process here in the United States in election year, this time around. I am wary and weary of the culture war and diatribe dished out on talk radio, which I don't listen to, and its impact on people, including us Christians. The lack of civility in all of this, is not helpful for clear thinking and needed dialogue to try to understand others and be open to constructive critique. And the confidence placed in a candidate, any of them, can be near idolatry or just overblown.

Do I think there are important policies that we as Christians here in America should be concerned about? Yes. A number of them. I find that most all of us Christians have basically the same set of moral values, but we don't always agree on how they should be achieved. We see life from different perspectives and we need to hear each other out, instead of thinking the other is lax or wrong in this or that.

Do I think politics has its place? Even as one with Anabaptist leanings, I certainly strongly believe this to be the case. And we can't compare America directly with the Roman Empire of Paul's and Jesus' day. There are similarities: Paul most certainly used his Roman citizenship, and there are differences: we have some say on what happens in the local, state and national political scene.

Am I pulling for a particular candidate? Yes. But mildly, and wanting to remain open to hear them all out. Though I must confess I've not been listening well lately.

As those who profess allegiance to Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords, let's be careful not to think that anyone here is the answer. They all have feet of clay, and any of them will and do fail along the way. We need to voice our values and concerns, participate in the process, pray for those elected, and above all, know that God alone is the only sovereign. Our hope, confidence and allegiance is supremely and finally to him.

What might you like to add here?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Struggling is not popular in our present feel good, shallow, pop Christianity, nor in our culture, for that matter. I hate to come across as negative here, but I believe that there is a disconnect from the stark honesty and realism we find in Scripture, and much of what we see portrayed as Christian today.

Struggling is a part of life. We see it in nature, natural processes from God enabling life, for example the process by which the caterpillar becomes the butterfly. It's all over the pages of Scripture where we read time and again of people struggling with life, with God and God's will. True even of Jesus in Gethsemane.

I'm thinking of struggle here in general terms, but it can include struggle over sin, over life itself and disappointments and troubles we're encountering, over any number of things generic to this fallen world.

Sometimes we can look down on our times of struggle as down times, or times when we were unspiritual. But these can be times of much growth and even breakthrough into something better in our lives in Jesus. Struggle is not to be despised. Instead we should seek to learn from it. We can ask ourselves before God, why we're struggling, and pray to God who indwells us to search our hearts and reveal to us anything contrary to his will. And look to him to change us.

If you're struggling before God, keep at it. Keep doing so before God, as one in Jesus. Find a trusted friend, preferably one you can count truly as a mentor or spiritual director to whom you can share your struggle with, and confess any sin. That can be a tremendous blessing and help. Don't air it out to everyone. That won't be helpful either for them or for you. And above all, keep bringing yourself and your struggle to God, in faith that he can help you work through it, and grow because of it. These are seasons of potential growth and change.

What might you add here?

Monday, March 03, 2008


Deception is all around us everywhere. We live in a world permeated by it, after the Fall. Of course deception through listening to the lie, then actual willfull, careless disobedience after Adam and Eve's choice to sin, entered into the world. Humankind in Adam and Eve let themselves be taken in by the serpent's cunning to clearly cross a line God had set, by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The result was firsthand experience of sin and its effect and impact: fear, alienation, shame- whatever the tree of the knowledge of good and evil actually means.

Even as one in Jesus, I find that I can get near that line and be sorely tempted to cross it at times. Or not think I'm sorely tempted, yet it's thrown in front of me in my mind in a way that distracts and for awhile may even bring some disorientation. This can be a part of our spiritual warfare in this life; I'm convinced that it is. And sometimes it's a part of our not being diligent to put on in Jesus what we have for that battle. Or failing to walk humbly by the Spirit, in the grace and truth of our Lord.

We all sin; we read that if any of us thinks they have no sin, we then deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. So we all experience some deception on some level. This is where we need the senstivity from God to recognize it in the light he gives us in Jesus, as we endeavor to walk/live in the light. And as we do, then we can confess it to God, get his forgiveness, cleansing and strength to carry on.

The alternative to deception is to live in the Truth, in Jesus. This means a following that is relational to the core in loving God and loving others. It means sometimes not knowing but trusting, not having all or any answer at the time, but seeking God and his will and way in Jesus.

But we must ever be aware of this pesky intruder. Part of our spiritual warfare, and part of dealing with our sin, in this present life, in Jesus.

What might you like to add to this?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

prayer for the week

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, March 01, 2008

routine and rest

Routine and rest. I think both of these are important for us in living out the Christian life. But at the same time both often seem impossible to us, as we see from Erika Haub's wonderful post here. So for any of you in situations that resist routine and rest, we can only pray for those of you we know, that God will give you special times of rest and a sense of routine and rhythm during this time of your life and journey.

Routine is good for me. It helps me forget my troubles. It is a part of what makes us human, we have six days to work and a seventh day to rest built into the fabric of creation. So routine and rest, however played out in our experience, are important for us.

What does routine look like for you? For me it's about things I do regularly, such as getting up, reading Scripture, getting ready to go to work, etc., with prayer interspersed through all of this, hopefully. And learning to open my little "prayer book" with written lists to help me remember to pray for others and for special requests. This routine goes until evening, and an important part I'm working on now is the need for proper, or I should say, better, as in more hours of sleep.

What does rest look like for you? For me it's about hopefully getting a little time to curl up my feet and under a blanket leisurely get some reading in. And at the end of the week, it's hopefully, either Saturday or Sunday (sometimes part of Friday included), get in some significant relaxation in more reading and doing something together with Deb, and usually more sleeping than I can get during the week.

I'm not getting into the Sabbath or what that means for us today. That's a big subject, and I'm not sure of it, though I'm more sure as to what I practice in relation to it, and how I look at it in general. It has more than one application, I believe. But the important thing here in this routine and rest, is the sense of rhythm, I believe, that we as human beings need. Both in how we practice our days, weeks, months and years- and how we look at our walk of faith in this life, with the good works in Jesus following.

These words, as limited as they are, give me strength right now. I have to avoid that which is contrary to them, and which can set me off into a self-pity party or something that is neither pleasing to God or helpful to anyone, including myself.

What other words might you like to share about routine and rest?