Wednesday, April 30, 2008

trying to connect

A reminder that next Wednesday, May 7 I plan to begin blogging chapter by chapter weekly from L.L. Barkat's new book, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places. We will begin with chapter 1, "Stepping Stones - conversion." If you don't order it, your local Christian bookstore may have it, or any bookstore. It's a great read and like the best books is good to take slow. Let's think together over it.

Yesterday I posted in the morning as I normally do lately, and received no comments throughout the day. In a way I don't care, but in another way I do. I don't keep track of who or how many people are coming to this blog: no site meter, though I realize there may be readers, and are, who don't always comment. But I do blog to share with others and this sharing is give and take.

Trying to connect with others is important for us in Jesus and somewhat related to the belated post I did last evening after erasing the morning post. It's kind of a mystery as to how it happens. I have a simple gift of sharing and try to do so in a straightforward, simple way, of my faith and our faith together in Jesus.

This reminds me of Paul's words in his zeal and passion to share Christ with others, how he had become all things to all people that he might by all possible means, save some. He did this in word and in deed I take it. Without sinning we need to get where people are, and appreciate the good there as well as listening to them and learning their perspective. So that we might be enabled by the Spirit to share Jesus with them as we seek to befriend them with no strings attached.

This is a meandering post, but what ways do you see helpful in trying to connect with others? Or any thoughts on this.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


When using the word shrinking here, you might instead use the word shirking. I'm thinking of just how easy it is for me to shrink from really seeking to fulfill God's calling as I understand it for me. Which ends up amounting to shirking my responsibility.

Of course how this would all work out is impossible for me to know. But that's not the point. The point is that I need to seek to fulfill God's calling to me in Jesus and I need to do so both as an individual as well as part of a body of believers.

This must begin with much prayer but it must not end there. We must seek to be obedient to God's will revealed to us in Scripture and in Jesus. This involves obeying commandments and exhortations we read in God's word. And we do so in the context of our lives, which means we'll have to venture to do it in concrete ways.

For me this certainly involves getting out of my comfort zone. I like to do not much more than curl up on a sofa and read a book. But I need to get out in my neighborhood, and one way I can at least make my presence known is by working on our yard. I'm interested in growing praire grass, particularly in our front yard as it's been hard with our sandy soil and all the concrete and heat coming from it to keep it healthy all summer long. I want to do so not only with the grass in mind, but with God's calling for me in reaching out to our neighbors in mind, as well. A few summers back we had a barbecue inviting all our neighbors on our block, and while most did not come, a good number did. I want to get into the mode of prayerfully befriending others, or being available to others with the hope that they'll see Jesus in us.

I have to admit though, after a busy day at work and knowing another day awaits me, it is not easy to get out there and do it. To do whatever is on one's heart in the hope that God will use us to help others. Of course we want to help them come to Jesus for themselves. And bring his touch into their lives through our lives. How? How can we know? This is a faith walk and by the Spirit. It certainly involves loving others in deeds and words.

Of course we need to think and pray in terms of community as well. We each have our distinct part to play, and it's meant to fit together as each of us does our part to see others come to know Jesus. One way our church is trying to reach out to the community is through having a community garden.

It just depends for me on whether I shrink back from it and end up shirking my responsibility and one aspect of my calling from God. We may not know what to do, but we need to pray and as we do that, we can try out different things. God then can lead us, as we look to him in all of this.

What idea or example might you share with us on this?

Monday, April 28, 2008

joy in seeking

This was a rather lazy weekend for me, but next weekend will be full. I'd like a happy medium, but it seems more often than not it's either one or the other. So I was getting some needed rest (though I've been better at getting rest during weekdays) and slacking off a little too much I'm afraid.

Took a nice walk yesterday evening for a little over a couple of miles. In prayer and with my small Bible in my jacket pocket (it was in the 40's Fahrenheit, though no breeze to speak of). I felt the need to get away from the house and seek the Lord in prayer and in his word. Took a long way around to get to the Stations of the Cross which is near us out in the open. I sit on the bench as far away from the statue of Mary with uplifted hands, as I can get. But while I don't accept all of Roman Catholic theology, I do respect what I know and understand of it, and don't cast it all in the same light as do some of my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Read from 1 Samuel 15 as well as 1 Samuel 3 as I made my way around the stations of the cross, meditating a bit on each station in what was symbolized in the statues concerning Jesus' suffering for us. And it ends in Jesus' resurrection and soon to be ascension, as I take it in the final picture. Than headed out, and as I continued in the neighborhood (none of this is really private because there are houses everywhere) I read the first part of James about trials then continued along, seeking to seek the Lord in prayer.

I've learned not to be distraught if I think I don't "hear" anything from God. And to be measured as to what I think I might be hearing from God. At any rate I was finally nearing the end of my walking journey of meandering down streets for a little over two miles and finally was winding down our street and near home. And the thought came to me something like this: Your joy needs to be in your seeking of me, of God. I need to be taken up with the joy of seeking him.

This makes sense because whatever we find of God along the way, as God reveals it to us is certainly not the end of our knowledge of God. What there is to know about God is endless, and better put, to know God personally and together as his people is also endless as to its possibilities in the depth of this intimate knowledge and love. And the opening up of our capacities for God likewise surely has no end. I'm guessing this will be a part of what the life to come is all about, though it will be heightened and experienced in ways we can only vaguely guess at, yet related to the taste of the Lord and of the good things he has for us we experience at points in time even now.

Joy in seeking. I need to not complain about what I do not know of God and of his beauty, love and greatness. Instead I need to take that as my cue to seek the Lord and find in him all I need and much more. But to be taken up with the joy of seeking God.

What might any of you add to this?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

prayer for the week

Sixth Sunday of Pascha

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; 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, April 26, 2008

a friend's blog, work, and troubles

I want to share about a blog I've sidelinked from a friend who is receiving medical treatment for cancer. Scott Steiner is exactly what this blog, Lessons from the Lathe depicts, since I've worked with him at RBC Ministries. He's a devout Christian who takes all his work seriously and does it all well, without compromise, to God's glory. He is discouraged right now, and could use our prayers and love. And he has a son-in-law in Kansas married to his oldest daughter (eight children in all) who is struggling with cancer and not doing well, in his twenties. It's a hard time for them.

You'll find his blog to be a blessing, and for those of us who might be interested and able, there is a most interesting product there to buy. So go there and check it out, and as you remember, please pray for Scot, his wife and children.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Imagine what would happen if gradually all the words of Scripture disappeared off the face of the earth. What would that be like? And imagine some time passing and what might occur among Christians and in the world after this phenemona. What might we learn from this? And then imagine Scripture gradually and fully reappearing on all the pages and places it had disappeared from. And what the end result might be, or at least the impact on the world at that time.

John Frye has written a recent and interesting short novel entitled, Out of Print. In it he works through this scenario with a number of characters one can identify with. From "ordinary" Christians to a Christian professor, a missionary couple whose painstaking work in translating Scripture into a language for the first time is lost, along with others. It is a good read, and two weeks from now on Friday, May 9 I will post on it to help us think it through. In the mean time you can order your own copy and read it beforehand.

I've had seasons in which I've slacked off in reading the Bible, and interestingly have often sensed more of the Spirit in my life during such times. They've actually been rare, as I've spent alot of my Christian life fairly heavy, relatively speaking I guess, in the word largely through hearing it and now largely through reading it, though I've begun to listen to it again.

A friend of mine thinks I may often be getting in the way of God. That I'm trying to do more than what God has done or is doing in me. Of course we're to work out what God is working in us. I think this friend has a point in what they're telling me. They're not telling me to be in the word less, but sometimes I think the way I'm in the word of God can actually get in the way of God's word getting through to me. It's like a steady drum beat that if one is not careful can become humdrum. I may be in it just to be in it, rather than be changed by it, or by God through his word.

I like to be in the word frequently throughout each day (though I do admit to slacking off often during normal weekends without missing my normal Bible reading for the most part) and in different ways: listening to it, interacting through a passage with others (our weekly team devotions at RBC Ministries), glancing at a passage I'm slowly working through throughout the day at work, use a different translation or rendering such as The Message, even working through a psalm from my small Bible while I'm driving, which you'll be happy to hear I don't do anymore (though Tiffany thinks I drive at least just as well doing that, which I hope doesn't tell you anything about my driving that's bad!).

Anyhow I look forward to thinking through John's novel together. It's stimulating and fun, and hopefully we can bounce some thoughts off each other and learn some things to both deepen our appreciation of the word, and promote its impact on us, or perhaps better put, God speaking into our lives.

What might you like to add to all of this?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

sons and daughters of encouragement

It is wonderful to be around people who are encouraging. The atmosphere is different than your normal spaces of life in which, too often, cynicism seems to win the day. And it takes everyone in this mix to add their bits of encouragement. Some are especially gifted in this way and we need people like that.

The bottom line in all of this is love. Do we love one another enough to think well of each other? This can be hard when the one we're thinking about does not think well of others, themselves. The ones Jesus came down hard on in his day were those who were hard on others, always thinking they were better.

Some think it's less manly to bend over backwards to show love to others and not offend them unnecessarily. And to think otherwise is evidence that one is thin-skinned.

I'm not at all impressed with that kind of thinking, because even in sharing the truth, we're to do so in love, knowing that we're as prone to error and sin, in ourselves, as anyone else. Those who think they have it all together are the ones who need the most help. And it can be difficult to reach them since they think they're better, at least it seems that way as you hear them put others down in subtle and not so subtle ways. They are to be pitied, and maybe there's not much more we can do for them than to pray, which in itself is the greatest thing we can do for others, anyhow, and can lead to us helping them in deed and word. Not that we all haven't been there at times, because I'm afraid I have, even if mostly in reaction to such people.

But it's wonderful to be a part of a group in which encouraging and helping each other is at the forefront of all that is being done. We need more of that, and we need to be thankful for our brothers and sisters who are especially gifted there, and often in positions of leadership which help facilitate that among the people they are serving.

What thoughts might you like to share on this?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

God's grace at work

Two weeks from today, May 7, we will begin a series of blogging chapter by chapter, weekly, through L.L. Barkat's book, Stone Crossings: Finding God in Hard and Hidden Places. This will give any of you who would like to get your own copy, time. It's in bookstores around here, or if you order it soon you should get it on time to join with us in a discussion of it. I read it last Saturday, and it's well worth the read, though better to do so, slowly.

I love this verse in Acts along with its context:
When [Barnabas] arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
What a wonderful thought, "what the grace of God had done."

In the end, when you think about it, this is what it's all about for all of us in Jesus and in our work in mission for Jesus to the world. It's all about God's grace at work in us and through us, out to others. No matter what we do, if God's grace in Jesus doesn't underlie all, it's to no avail.

Let's remember this and seek to make it a watchword and watch of our heart. That we might know that grace in our own lives, and see it in the lives of others.

What might you like to add about this amazing grace?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ideas do matter

Over the weekend I heard on Krista Tippett's program, Speaking of Faith, an interview between three generations of evangelical leaders, Charles Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne. They were talking about evangelical politics, and it's worth a listen.

All three represent different perspectives, though Boyd and Claiborne are closer in their perspectives than they are to Colson. At the same time Colson presents a respected and respectable Christian point of view backed up in the writings of C.S. Lewis and other great influencers of the Christian faith such as Augustine and Reinhold Niebuhr. I do tend to side more with Boyd and Claiborne in their more Anabaptist and I believe, early church perspective. But the debate goes on.

What I liked best about the interview is that I felt there was more light from all three of them, than any heat. It was civil, and we need this in our culture today, which is remarkably uncivil in so many places. I respect and esteem all three, and would gladly learn from any of them, and I would learn alot.

But the point I want to make in this post is that ideas do matter. What we think does impact how we live. The differences between the three evangelical leaders are not significant enough that they can't have good fellowship together as brothers, or do good works in cooperation with each other. It does mean, however, that one will serve his country in the military and the others will not. One will be politically active in and as part of the system and the others will not. Though all three want to influence society as the salt and light in Jesus that we in Jesus are. I actually think all three have some truth in what they're saying, though again I do side more with an Anabaptist position myself, but not one that refuses to engage culture. After all, what we are about in Jesus, is not apolitical. It involves all of life.

I like ideas and thinking, and have been considered by other Christians at times as a mind person while they are Spirit people. Or a person who would rather have intellectual knowledge than heart knowledge. While there may be a grain of truth in what they're thinking, I believe the mind is important in loving God, and that ideas do matter. Let's not look at ideas apart from God and our relationship with God in Jesus, and our walk in God's will in Jesus in this world. And let's work hard to understand what we believe and why, and to keep open and honest in this endeavor in our commitment to follow Jesus.

What idea do you have here about ideas?

Monday, April 21, 2008

loving each other

To love one another is a command that Jesus insisted had primacy for his disciples, just before he was to depart from them. I say depart, because even though after his death and resurrection, he appeared to them over a period of forty days, it still wasn't the same. This chapter was coming to a close, the time he has been with them day and night during his earthly ministry.

And Jesus qualified this command in shocking terms that was beyond the disciples at that point, and apart from grace remains beyond us today. We're to love each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus, just as Jesus has loved us. Or in the words of Jesus' command to his disciples, "Love one another, as I have love you."

I want to love others in this way, and I need their love in return just as much. This means an awful lot of patience and grace and mercy at times. I know I need it sometimes. And just as I know that, I need to readily extend it to others.

As we learn to practice this kind of love, in which we're not only willing to lay down our lives for each other as Jesus did, but we live that out from day to day in sacrificial love, we also can learn to love the world as Jesus did. Jesus practiced love to his enemies, asking the Father to forgive them during his darkest hour on the cross (though his time in Gethsemane may have been even darker).

This love is not bereft of truth. Indeed, we must live it out in truth. Love is not love apart from the truth as it is in Jesus. Neither is truth really truth if not in the love of God found in Jesus. Truth and love must be joined together, and this is only possible in Jesus.

I'm glad for brothers and sisters in Jesus who love us maturely enough to tell us the truth about ourselves. Actually I've found that such people are few and far between. Sometimes this is so because one loves well and in the truth in Jesus, but is just not far enough along in their Christian walk to be comfortable or ready to do that. But as we grow and mature in Christ, we need to be ready in love, in the love of God in Jesus, to gently bring truth when needed into a brother or sister's life.

I'm grateful for the few who are willing to tell me the hard things about myself, but do so as those who love me as a brother or sister. And in turn I want to be ready to help others in the same way, remembering my own weakness as I in no way or sense look down on them.

Just a few thoughts on loving each other as God in Jesus has called us to do.

What might you like to add to this, or share concering it?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

prayer for the week

Fifth Sunday of Pascha

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, April 19, 2008

meeting L.L. Barkat

It was so much fun for Deb and I to get to meet L.L. Barkat, in town for the festival of faith and writing at Calvin College. She graciously took the end of a busy day, and really, busy two days, to meet with us. The hour went fast as we sipped on some tea, and shared from our lives.

L.L., like on her blog, is warm and engaging, and creative in her thinking. And real. I realized that while meeting someone like this is good, and you get a better sense of who they are, it is still limited. This reminds me of first impressions and the like. But I think our visit with her reflected pretty well, even in that limited time, who we each are. None of us are people who want to put on airs.

We had a good laugh as I remembered how at first, for a time, I thought L.L. was a man, and she reminded me that I had commented how I had thought L.L. was letting his wife do some postings or be involved in the postings. Funny, and I was a little chagrined when I found out the truth!

L.L. shared with us what she is going through with the success she is now experiencing in writing, and how this in some ways is more challenging to her. She has some important decisions to make in the coming days, and would appreciate our prayers.

This makes me want to read her book (which I find quite good as I'm reading it now) and books to come, as well as her blog, all the more. And to remember that we're all in this in Jesus for each other, to the end of helping others in mission in Jesus to the world.

I will be blogging on L.L.'s book, Stone Crossings, very soon. I think it's a great book for all of us, for who doesn't need to find God's grace in the hard places of life?

Friday, April 18, 2008

from the future to the present

(We had a wonderful visit with L.L. Barkat last evening. I will post on it tomorrow. And I'm fighting a healthy cold, which I was able to mask pretty well with strong, drowsy medications for our visit. So my head is still a little in the clouds this morning.)

The theological idea that God acts from the future into the present is one that I think indeed has merit. Of course God acts from the past as well, specifically from the work of Jesus accomplished for us and for the world in his life (of which his ministry is an important, strategic part), his death and his resurrection. This work done in the present is through Jesus' ascension as Lord, having all authority in heaven and on earth. And by the continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The future is God's will realized in Jesus. All God has done and continues to do has as its goal and working, moving us towards that future. This future is when God brings all things into conformity to his Son in his resurrection in which all creation is renewed in the new creation in Jesus.

It's good to know because I often live with the past haunting me, and the present often not encouraging me. But when I realize that God in Jesus is at work in my life to prepare me for the future, this is helpful. Actually it is not just helpful, but important, because we're to be ever changing toward God's goal for us in Jesus. And in that changing we're to do what God is doing, or better put, what God wants to do- and it's his work, through us! This is the work of bringing something of the new creation into this world even now. All we do in the Lord here and now, is not in vain! It may be an uphill battle, with many pitfalls and dangers along the way, but it's not just about us. God is working his future in us in the present, so that we can work this future by the Spirit into the present around us. In the lives of others by prayer, listening, love, acting and speaking. And with reference to all of creation, so that all we do as stewards of the earth and in fulfilment of God's will for us is, in Jesus new creation stuff (this includes potentially all we do, not just "spiritual" works), that somehow in God's mysterious and wonderful working, will have an impact now and in the life to come, when heaven and earth are joined as one, in Jesus.

(This comes from thinking in regard to N.T. Wright's latest book, Surprised by Hope, which no surprise, I'm not quite finished with yet!)

Just some thoughts to think about with reference to Scripture and life. What might you add to them?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I'm kind of excited today, and trying to fight off a cold at the same time. This evening Deb and I are going to meet our blogging friend and writer, L.L. Barkat. She is in town for the festival of faith and writing at Calvin College. It's a wonderful annual event, and I'm so glad she can be a part of it! And I can't wait to read her book, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places. All other books will be interrupted, put on stop, put on hold, as I read this book. I know I will be blessed in my own life, and I plan to give it to others. And I will blog on it.

Friendship is my favorite aspect of blogging. An important part of friendship is sharing something of our lives with each other in words. Our words, according to Eugene Peterson, can communicate our hearts and true selves to each other.

To know that we are friends, and to look at everyone as a potential friend is a good thing. This is in large part why Jesus came: to reconcile us to God to be friends of God, and because of that to be reconciled to each other as friends who in many cases were enemies. This is why Jesus had to come, becoming one of us, and had to die, and then be resurrected, to bring this new potential for true and lasting friendship into this old world.

We know that we'll be friends in Jesus, with L.L. forever. What a wonderful thought! And friends with each other in our Lord.

Anyone with a thought or line to chime in here?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

spontaneity and order

Listening to Kevin Vanhoozer recently online (see March 15-16, 2007) reminded me of the value of spontaneity and order. Vanhoozer likens the world and Christian life to a drama lived out. The analogy he draws is compelling, and this book is helpful in seeing his full work on that.

We need to be students of the word of God, of our life in God, of Jesus himself by the Spirit. This involves work over time, though any work at all has value, but we must keep at it. This involves prayer and being in the word, as well as reading good books like the one mentioned above (though what might strike one's fancy may not strike another's; find good books by people of God one might say).

From this can come a needed spontaneity which is a natural response or act coming from what is stored up in one's heart. In other words sponataneity arises from order.

Back to Vanhoozer: he describes it as in a drama. To do the best acting the actors must know their parts well; they must know the character they are acting out as well as possible. So that they learn to think like them, speak and act like them, be like them. And from that learning they must have the freedom to act it out according to the feel they have for it. It must become natural for them, in order for it to be good acting.

Of course the protest will come that mere acting is hypocritical if the heart is not really in it. And Vanhoozer covers that protest well in his second lecture (see first link above). For us in Jesus, as we study or better put, become apprentices of the way, the truth and the life, our hearts are changed. It's an ongoing process, but through it we should more and more reflect in our hearts and lives the one we are seeking to follow, Jesus.

Yesterday in our "devotions" it was brought up that for a number of us, hating someone seems hardly an issue anymore as it was when we were younger and before we came to know the Lord. This just goes to show that a heart change has been going on for us who are in Jesus. We receive a new heart at conversion, and through that we gradually unlearn that which is not in line with it and learn that which is. This is more than the mind; it also involves the whole person. So that who we are is different now than it was times before.

And this "drama" is lived out together in mission to and for the world (as my good friend, John Frye reminded me in a comment the other day). It's not an individual thing. Dramas involve a plot with leading and supporting roles. Everything must work together well for it to come off as a good play. The same holds true for us in the Christian life and experience. We must keep working at this: what we are and our role is in Jesus, together with others: who they are and their role in Jesus, and learn to do this for the benefit of each other and to help us in God's mission to us for the world.

What thoughts might you have, or ways of helping us think through this?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

unity in love

It's wonderful to see unity by the Spirit. This joins truth and love together in Jesus among ourselves. Humility is at the forefront here. Humility is simply having that sense of who we are, good and bad, and seeing others as just as valuable or important as ourselves, and treating them as more so.

I saw this yesterday in our team at work. A good atmosphere of love and respect for each other, in reverence for the Lord.

From this we can do the will of God in Jesus, for each other and in mission for the world. And without this we can do none of it, at least not very well.

What thoughts might you have about "unity in love"?

Monday, April 14, 2008

walking worthy of God

Again, in hearing God's word this morning, I ran across the truth that in Jesus believers can walk worthy of the Lord in this life. What does this mean? Certainly not like any of us will arrive in this life, and never sin.

It is good to read passages that speak of living worthy in their context to see what is being spoken of. I do believe it means that by grace we can live as true followers of Jesus. Involved in that for us will be repentance, though what is evident in the passages is the new life lived out in this present existence. It is a life lived out from God's life given to us in Jesus by the Spirit. A life of the new creation, destined by God to make all things new, but beginning with us now. This is a life in the here and now that can actually honor the Lord. And is seen in some true measure in every child of God in Jesus in this life.

In our zeal to honor the message of the Reformation, that works are not a part of salvation, we can cut off the importance of works altogether. We're not declared righteous by our works in this life, but only by faith. But in the judgment to come people will be declared righteous or judged by their works, by the lives they lived. Of course such lives and works acceptable to God through Christ are possible only by faith. Our works by themselves are dead, but saving faith works through love, or else it is dead.

There is a difference in our lives in Jesus, but we must grow in this grace if we're to walk worthy of God in this life, and avoid falling into sin. It's of grace and by the Spirit. I personally am working on making as a habit of my life to consciously seek to walk by the Spirit. And then, as I do, good works through the fruit of the Spirit will follow.

Anyone out there who would like to shed some light for us in this matter? Or who may question anything I say here?

(The links are like end notes. They can be helpful, and in this case are links to passages of Scripture, which demonstrate I hope, the truth of what is being said here.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

prayer for the week

Fourth Sunday of Pascha

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, April 12, 2008

refreshed in God

Yesterday in hearing "Peter" read 1 Peter and "John" read 1 John in The Bible Experience, I was refreshed on my way to work and on my way home. I think we have to keep after it in reading Scripture. But I also think there are those moments that jump out at us, as we read or hear God's word. Impacting us.

When that happens I want to take note, and see what the Lord may be speaking into my life, specifically. Yesterday I was reminded of the deep love we're to have for each other, grounded in the truth and love in Jesus. At other times I just am appreciative of the words I've read or heard time and time again, over past years. Yet they come fresh to me, and I'm refreshed and invigorated.

Again, I would like to recommend that you look into The Bible Experience. It has grown on me so that even though through various circumstances our finances are rather tight, I want to, down the road, get my own copy. Right now I've been repeatedly going through the New Testament with copies from our public library system, and have asked them to purchase the Old Testament of it.

My wife used to get tired of my continual listening to the Bible being read- and understandably so, since I wasn't open as I should have been to interruptions, but she likes this. I'm even listening to the songs interspersed here and there.

So check it out. Sample it at a bookstore if you can. And let's keep after our reading of God's word, as well as listening to it from The Bible Experience or in other ways- if you like.

Any thoughts here?

Friday, April 11, 2008


N.T. Wright in his latest book, Surprised by Hope, notes how the early Christians were noted as remarkable in their sexual morality. This was in sharp contrast to those whom they lived around in the various countries. And many of these Christians were Gentiles themselves, who had been raised in the cesspool of moral impurity. Of course it's not like those believers didn't have any problems. Paul has to get after the church in Corinth, Corinth itself known back then for its immorality wedded to pagan religion.

In recognizing that God in Jesus forgives the worst of what we do when we turn to him in repentance and faith, we can become softer on sin than what we see in Scripture. Paul commands his listeners to flee immorality and warns them against sexual sin.

This leads me to consider what goes wrong for any of us who get caught up in sexual sin. Of course it can be simply an objectifying of another, using them as an object to satisfy one's own sexual drives and twisted desires. When the act of sex between a man and woman is not accompanied with the covenant commitment of marriage, it is outside of God's will. Of course God will forgive when one repents and forsakes their sin. God forgives us in Christ. But there may be devastating consequences one has to live with the rest of their lives.

Passion needs to begin, for us in Jesus, with a desire towards God. That we would follow hard after him, in love, to the end. That from that love we will love others appropriately. That we will be true, in love to our spouses: in thought, heart, word and deed, whether present with them or absent. And for those of us who do not have a spouse, that we will draw all the closer to the Lord, as we commit ourselves to him and his good will and work. And we need together- in grace, fear, truth and love- to be there for each other in this.

Then passion- which is a gift from God, part of creation though twisted by the fall- can be a good part of our daily activity, fulfilled in many ways as we follow after the one whose passion for us demonstrably knows no bounds.

What might you add to this to help us see the truth as it is in Jesus better on this subject? Or any thoughts.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I like the word, integrity. For me it's being who I am everywhere. Dropping the pretence. Not wanting to impress others, and working against that. Yet having tact and manners; in other words this doesn't mean just doing what I feel like doing, or want to do. It really means for us in Jesus, seeking to be a follower of Jesus and to walk in the Spirit, wherever we are and in whatever we're doing.

Integrity here is not merely "steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code." It is the desire to live in this life according to God's will and in dependence on God. This involves interdependence on others in Jesus. It is a life we must live, but a life we cannot do on our own. We need both God in Jesus, and those in Jesus- to receive from others and give back to them.

Integrity openly acknowledges the reality that we don't always walk in integrity in this life. Integrity in this way is to always seek to walk before God in Jesus, no matter what we face, or have done or failed to do. It is a life in which we ever need the Lord both to know how to live, to have that will to do so, and then to do it.

Let's look to Jesus, and to those who followed him, in Scripture. While we know we don't measure up, let's look at this as our goal. To be growing and moving towards the one perfect humanity, together, found in Jesus. As we look forward to the day when we will all walk in perfected, confirmed integrity forever, in the grace, truth and love of our God.

What thought might you like to share on this?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

how do we look at others?

Yesterday in our "devotions", as we were considering "enemies" from Psalm 23, I made a rather half-baked statement to the effect that Scripture distinguishes certain ones as wicked or (I meant, special) enemies of God's people (seen in the psalms and prophets, and elsewhere). This brought about a debate, as a brother made the point that all outside of Christ are enemies of God, and therefore enemies of God's people. I then tried to get some discussion going as to how we are to look at those who are not in Jesus. Without going into the details of it, my brother and I ended up disagreeing.

Jesus teaches us to look at those not in him as valuable, in his stories or parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Enemies in Scripture are usually those who are hostile to the faith and actively oppose it. If we say that the theological truth that we are all enemies of God outside of Christ applies to Jesus' sayings in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 as to how we're to look at our enemies as in loving and praying for them, turning the other cheek, etc., then we water down Jesus' teaching.

Yes, apart from grace we are enemies of God. But in Christ and in the Cross or death of Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself, so that in a true sense, because of this, we can say, "God has nothing against you. Therefore, because of Jesus and what he has done for you, be reconciled to God."

The Pharisees made a big deal out of those who were in and out. But Jesus refused to live by their code, eating and drinking openly with the outsiders. We can't look at such as enemies, since we don't know people's hearts and what God may be doing there. And besides, we know we all stand on the same level; grace alone, that is the gift of God in Jesus, is only what brings us back to God, taking care of our sins and the fact that we are sinners, and bringing us to relationship with God and with all that this reconciliation brings.

Much to say here, and not an easy subject. What input might you like to give us on this?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

grace in community

I think oftentimes we lose the sense of unity that is ours in Jesus because of either too high or too low expectations of ourselves and each other.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his wonderful book, Life Together speaks of our vision of community being the enemy of real community. That is, we have a certain picture of the way it should be, and we want to help it to that goal that we see, our vision. But in doing so, we end up killing community, and in the end despair not only of it and other people, but also of ourselves.

On the other hand we can have too low a view of community. That is, we can think there's little or no hope for any true community in Jesus, and therefore we're not going to sweat it, but will calmly keep basically to ourselves and our few friends, and let the rest go as they may. Of course for those of us who attend large churches, or even medium sized, there is no way we're going to get to know everyone well. But I speak here of a mentality of simply keeping to ourselves and our buddies, because we find reaching out beyond that so hard, and unfruitful.

The answer, surely, is grace. We need grace on the one hand, to accept the fact that we are all sinners. That God has begun a good work in us through Jesus, and that we're in process. This means that we need to accept each (Romans 15:5-7 taken out of context, but has application) other just as we are, including ourselves. Yet also look to God in his grace to be growing us through our communion with him, into a fellowship that is a blessing to one another, and out from that to the world.

On the other hand grace is needed to believe that God is doing a work in spite of ourselves. And that we need to look to him and for signs and evidences of that work in ourselves and in each other. That we would not lower our expectations but believe that God can make us into a fellowship that in Jesus can bless each other and the world. That in the Spirit we already have a unity which we're exhorted to work hard at keeping.

So we need to work on keeping that balance.

What might you add to this, or any thoughts?

Monday, April 07, 2008

when faced with trials

Trouble is the lot of humankind under the fall. No sooner do we get out of one problem then there will soon be another following. Although I don't always handle problems well intially anyhow, I've at least come a long ways in accepting the fact of their inevitability.

Scripture tells us that when we're in trouble we're to pray. This is an occasion for our faith to be exercised and grow. Indeed all that comes to us passes through God's hands. Some of the trouble stems from our own sin in either doing something or failing to do what we should have done. And much of it can be just because we live in a fallen world in which bad things do happen in every sphere.

I wonder how Jesus looks at us and our reactions sometimes, to trials. Surely he is often just as disappointed as he was at times with his disciples when he was here on earth. It seemed like those closest to him at times, were slow to learn, while some who had no close association seemed to get it, or at least by their troubles were put in a place in which they found faith and acted on it.

I hope I grow in my faith when hit with new trials, regardless of what my first reaction may have been. And I hope I grow in regard to my first reaction. That I would trust God in it all. Not easy but that is faith. Faith in God through Christ by the Spirit and in the community of Jesus.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

prayer for the week

Third Sunday of Pascha

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; 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

Saturday, April 05, 2008

what would Jesus do?

What would Jesus do if he were here today? This reminds me of the seven letters to the churches in the Revelation. I think it would be shocking to most of us in some way. In fact I don't think what Jesus would do would be that predictable. After all, Jesus knows just what we need at the time. And what we need today may not be what we need tomorrow. But I'll try, hopefully not foolishly.

I think Jesus would reach out to the gay community, not condoning sin, but befriending them. And I think Jesus would rebuke Christians who spend alot of time trying to legislate against the gay agenda or at least the way in which some often make their point. I think Jesus would rebuke both the religious right and the religious left, here in America. And I think he would challenge churches to be committed to the kingdom of God and the holy nation they're a part of, and beware of a nationalism which puts national interest first, often at the expense of God's kingdom in Jesus.

I think Jesus would have a very sobering talk with me, and I think I would have many tears, yet when it's all said and done, I think I would be most encouraged, knowing of his full love for me. And I would be challenged to follow him much more closely in my life, and to do so more in the fellowship of believers, seeing Jesus in each other, loving each other just as Jesus loved his disciples when he was here on earth, even to the Cross.

The fact is Jesus is with us by the Holy Spirit. And we have the word of God, and we have each other in Jesus. Let's be in prayer that he will speak to us, and move us to know and do God's good will. Let's be open to rebuke, correction and change, from the inside out. Let's commit ourselves to following him to the very end.

I know I'm slack on talking directly about mission here. What can we add to this, do you think?

Friday, April 04, 2008

new beginnings

There's a restaurant chain in our area called "New Beginnings". They have a large breakfast menu and I guess, emphasize breakfasts in helping people get a good start on their day.

Anyhow, I was thinking of this, this morning, just the idea of new beginnings. Each day in Jesus is a renewing. And the seasons in our lives change as well, for some who are single in getting married, for some married in losing their spouse, in other lives job changes, for others sickness. And then there are those beginnings important for us in making some breaks from what has kept us from following as closely to the Lord as we should.

In my own life I can point to some things that I think are less than good, or even sins. Sometimes we can excuse that or rationalize that which in God's eyes may not be pleasing to him. There are those times when we need to be hard on ourselves only as God helps us see what is wrong or less than helpful. We give it over to God through Christ, and let him take it, while we leave it behind and go forward in God's will for us.

This is related to my post yesterday about walking in/by the Spirit. I know I can only live this life in Jesus, and follow on, through the Spirit. I hardly know where I'm going or what's up next, or even what I'm leaving behind or the change I need. But that's not that important. What is important, I believe, is that I'm set to go, by the Spirit, in the direction God has for me. Of course toward the goal of conformity to Christ with others of Christ's Body in mission on earth, and related to that, fulfilling the work God has for me, in the love and blessing of our Lord Jesus.

I go that way, knowing it's only possible through God, in fellowship with Christ's Body to do his work in the world.

New beginnings. What might that mean for you, now?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

walking by/in the Spirit

Lately I've been pondering the importance of walking by the Spirit, as we read in Paul's letter to the Galatians. Gordon Fee, an eminent New Testament scholar, says:
The first instruction [in Galatians 5:13-6:10] , "walk by the Spirit", is the basic command in Paul's ethics.
I was taught and again have noticed that the filling of the Spirit seems mostly related to speaking as in proclaiming the word of God, the wonders of God, the gospel of God. People often talk much about being filled with the Spirit, and I think that seems to me Scripturally, to be more related to the gifts, at least generally. But to walk in the Spirit concerns more the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.

This is a command (an imperative), no less: present tense meaning it's ongoing for us, and active- we do it. Yet it's of the Spirit. So that we must walk or live in all of life, by the Spirit.

Fee thinks the Spirit's presence was more overwhelming or evident to the believers Paul wrote to, than to many of us today. So that Paul doesn't tell us how to walk by the Spirit. But it was certainly true then, as now that we in Jesus can grieve and quench (or, put out the fire of) the Spirit.

And Fee points out what he wrote had at least up to that time, been missed in most commentaries: how this command is community-oriented. Looking at the passage we can see this to be the case. Yes, we're individuals but individuals coming into and living in community.

This is something I want to work on for my life. So I'm realizing it must be community-oriented, and I'm a rather slow learner here, though gregarious by nature. Steeped in the tradition of individualism, but longing to know better the richness of community in Jesus and out from that, in mission for the world.

And I want to understand better in my life, what is ours in Jesus by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit. Not by the flesh, which as Fee points out is of our old life apart from Christ, not to be in our present existence even now. And doing this in community. More on this in future posts.

What thoughts might you like to share on this?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

moving on

Someone somewhere, recently, in my reading, was stating how the bumbling of Christian in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, is so different from the way Christians and Christianity is so often portrayed today. I think they have a good point. Too often the Christian life is made up to be rather simplistic, a kind of formulaic endeavor, that if one just does this and that, they'll succeed. This is an indication, in part, of modernism's grip on us. The Biblical picture takes us beyond modernism and postmodernism and all the world views, which with all the good and bad in them each, essentially at their heart are not of God, or in line with the Story of God.

Moving on means we have to accept reality, and call sin sin in our lives, confess them- as well as when we don't do that well in a new situation or testing, to learn from that, and learn to do better.

I like Michael Card's album, The Hidden Face of God, because I think it flies in the face of the assumption that everything should be clean, cut and pasted well in our lives, so that we are Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. "Have-it-all-together". Not so at all. We keep moving on in a dynamic of God on a journey, in which we have, oh so much to learn. We'd better quit pretending otherwise, and get on with it.

What might you add to these few words on our pilgrimage in this world?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

friends don't let friends

We know the slogan over here: "Friends don't let friends" which can be for a whole host of reasons. One bumper sticker I saw from someone on our street: "Friends don't let friends vote Republican." Not to get into politics here, at all, today.

In Jesus we're meant to be there for each other, and also for those in the world. We need a humility and senstivity, along with discernment from God, to know what is best and what is needed, in any given situation. Perhaps we must major on listening, then offering some words that may be helpful. Our goal must be to help the other to Jesus, and that all of life and relationships would be seen and experienced through Jesus.

This is not easy, because we're all too accustomed to seeing all of life and relationships through our own eyes, and with our own interests in view, even if included is the interest of someone else. Instead, we in Jesus need to set ourselves to radically begin to see more and more through Jesus. Something like Jesus being between me and anyone or anything else. (from a poem of Celtic Christianity, which I can't recall, but sung by John Michael Talbot on this album; from the song, "Betwixt Me")

This will result in God being at the center of our lives, displacing us as the center, or maybe even something or someone else, in ways that are not good, since none of us are good for anything in such a place, as idols. God in Christ must be at the center and heart, and the way to do that is to help ourselves by prayer, and each other to seek to go through Christ in all of our thoughts and relationships. Taking every thought captive, by prayer and faith, to obey Christ. Not just for ourselves, but with humility and sensitivity, being open and ready with God's help to help others do the same.

What thoughts do you have to help us better understand and practice this? Or any thoughts.