Tuesday, September 30, 2008

posture of grace

On Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, the phrase "posture of grace" from Marilynne Robinson's new book entitled, Home, was mentioned on a posting, yesterday. I like that phrase, "posture of grace". It got me to thinking and really kind of wondering just what it might mean.

All too often it may mean to many that we simply choose to "live and let live." That we tolerate whatever our neighbor does, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, though we know better. Or that we simply stand by, rightfully not wanting to be among those Christians who seem to want to force feed "truth" down people's throats. Or something else which really doesn't measure up to Biblical faith.

Just what might "posture of faith (grace, I meant)" mean in a sense that does measure up to Biblical faith, and would be fitting in the Story of God found in the Bible? One of the first things I think of now is just the posture of receiving from God. This speaks of dependence and is expressed in a lived out faith in God that he will keep his promises to us in Jesus. Promises to help us through all our troubles and enable us to live in him.

Another aspect of "posture of grace" might be one of gently giving to others in the attitude of loving one's neighbor as ourselves. Beginning in prayer, as well as in deeds and words. The heart of the faith is that God in love gave his Son to the world. Jesus told his disciples that just as they had freely received, so they were to freely give. We must do so even as God does, who gives sunshine and rain to both the just and the unjust. So this posture of grace is to be not just for our friends, or for those we get along well enough with, but even for our enemies.

A posture of grace will be difficult to be in at times. It is something that is to be characteristic of our lives and is all about God's blessing through us to others. Jesus was full of grace and truth. We must simply seek to live this out in Jesus, in God's grace to us in him.

I don't know what this looks like quite often. That is understandable when one is tired or feels like they've been ridiculed and misunderstood. But this is where the rubber meets the road as to whether or not we're in this posture of grace. It's the way of the cross in this life before friend and foe alike. All of life is meant to be lived in a posture of grace, for us in Jesus.

What do you think "posture of grace" could mean?

Monday, September 29, 2008

moving along

In Scripture God speaks to each person (e.g., Jeremiah) in their ways for their day. This continues for us today. Not only is it true that God's word would speak into John Wesley's day in a different way than today's, but it's likewise true it would speak differently into any number of different cultures today than our own.

The truth in Jesus remains the same. It's our task to see how it is to be lived out in every culture beginning with our own. This is part of the genius (not human genius) of Scripture: the truth as it is in Jesus will be the same truth but will be expressed according to each culture that receives it, both in terms of judging what is wrong and sinful and redeeming what is of the image of God in each culture. And this towards the goal of fulfilling the kingdom of God in the new creation in Jesus, which begins now (tried to link 2 Corinthians 5:17 to "now" but unable to this morning, either from the TNIV site or from Bible Gateway).

I'm guessing this is what can help us in reading challenging thinkers such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was trying to grapple with what it meant to live out the truth of Scripture which for him included the heart of the message of the Reformation, in his day in Nazi Germany. His was a stark message against nationalism, at least in warning that it can be an idol to Christians and the church, to lead them astray from truly following Christ, and therefore truly being Christians.

There is timeless truth in Scripture, but it must be shared in timely fashion. Of course how God's word is lived out in one generation or place differs from another generation or place. Not because God's word changes, but partly because God's word has within it a goal to which we must be moving along towards. We must seek to understand God's will in creation and in new creation in Jesus, and then find how we're to fulfill that in at least moving towards it in our own day and in whatever culture we're seeking to reach with the gospel of Jesus. This must be sensitive to each time and place.

Of course we all need to hear the same message of reconciliation through Jesus. That he is the Messiah fulfilling God's promises in the old covenant, and thus being a light to all nations, to the world. Beginning with each of us in bearing our sins in his body on the Tree, that we might die to sins and live to righteousness, that by his stripes we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

God's word must speak in fresh ways and it's meant to. The gospel is about each of us in Jesus, being reconciled to God through his death. But it goes beyond that to include all of creation. Therefore it has application to all of life. This must be searched out and lived out in the church for the world. With hopefully an impact on the world in transforming culture. God's kingdom in Jesus is not from this world (John 18:36; NRSV). But it's in the world to change the world. This is meant from top to bottom beginning now, even in a fallen world, and to be completed when Jesus returns.

This is why for me both a constant intake of God's word, and a study of the culture we live in and what is taking place, are both important. Only then can God help us know how we should live in our time and place. Of course always subject to correction and continued change as we continue to move along with God in his unfolding Story and work in Jesus.

What thoughts do you have here?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

quote of the week: Rich Mullins - "for children only"

Christ said that His kingdom - the world where He Himself reigns - is for children. He Himself said that if we don't need a miracle we will most likely have little interest in Him. If we are able to get along joyfully in the grown-up world of supply, demand, survival, aggression, sensations and consumerism, then we'd probably have too low to stoop and too much trimming to do to slip through that needle's eye gateway to Him. If we aren't sick, we don't need a doctor. If we aren't lost, we don't need a leader.

Rich Mullins, Home, p. 35

prayer of the week

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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, September 27, 2008


For me a powerful imagery of our life in Jesus involves following. We're called to follow Jesus, and part of that is to follow those who are closely following Jesus. You can't really do that in the blog world or through email. You need to do that in real life. Truth then being caught which is more how it's passed on, not just taught. Not to say we can't help each other in the venue of the internet.

I learn best from other people who have learned to follow Jesus. We need to see this in the writings of Paul and others in Scripture, as well as those who have passed on before us, like John of the Cross whose writings through David Hazard's paraphrase of them have impacted me lately.

Following means observing. Observing in this sense involves the work of the Spirit and the oneness we have in Jesus. And it involves nothing less than how we live. Jesus lived first, then taught. True for the first nearly thirty years of his life. And true in his ministry as well. It was more than what he did and said. It was something of who he was which captured people. Partly why Jesus asked his disciples who people said he was, and who they thought he was. Of course that involved mission, but it was about a love relationship with God and a new way to be human. Yes, Jesus is unique, no one is God and Human. But in Jesus we are to find what God intends for us all in the end, beginning now. Jesus is the way for us to God and to God's will for us in the new creation beginning now.

Let us learn to follow Jesus here, to the very end. Together, with those who are learning to do so.

What thoughts would you like to add to this?

Friday, September 26, 2008

overcoming ourselves

I like these lines from Christina Rossetti:

God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys

Myself, arch-traitor to myself;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.

Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free.

It is challenging to say the least when we realize that the biggest enemy we can have is ourselves. What we want can get in the way of what is good, what is truly good. Of course we think we know better.

This is part of the old life in Adam, and we in Jesus can fall back into that at times. Maybe even for long periods of time, before God's loving disciplining hand helps us come to our senses and repent.

Half the battle surely is to realize the problem. The answer lies not in us, but in Jesus and our new found identity in him. Through Christ we can be victorious, more than conquerors, since our old "in Adam" self is dealt with, the death blow, in him. Of course learning to live this out by faith is ongoing for us in Jesus. Overcoming ourselves is more about looking to Jesus and finding our true self in him.

What would you like to add here?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the Bible front and center

Do we keep the Bible front and center every day of our lives? I know I don't every single day. But most days, especially with normal pressure on me, as in weekdays, I do so. At least in my own way.

I have a paperback TNIV Bible which I carry around on the factory floor. It is open to a passage I'm meditating on, yesterday this passage in 1 Corinthians 10. I partly work at memorizing, but with the goal to meditate and really take in the truths of God in Jesus, from the words which I keep mulling over.

On days with less pressure I still want to keep the Bible front and center, and sometimes succeed to some extent. But those days can be swallowed up with other activities which to a point is fine. Yet can be a loss for me.

The Bible front and center is a continuing by me, through the influence and help of others (like The Bible Experience), to meditate on the truth of God, and find my place in the Story of God in Jesus. My place not just for my life, but for that day. It is actually a seeking to open myself up to God's voice to speak into my existence here. A major goal of the Bible, God's word, is to make me a living word in the Word, Jesus. A living, loving word from God to others in the ongoing story of God unfolding before each one of us, everyday. From the word of love in Jesus I receive from God.

What would you like to add to these few thoughts?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

wisdom's appeal

In starting on Proverbs in The Bible Experience, I'm struck by the clear appeal and warning of wisdom to humankind. It speaks in a way which is the mark of wisdom, so that we need to take heed to wisdom's words here, and also wisdom's manner.

In the same way wisdom speaks in Proverbs we need to learn to speak to others. Appealing to them as human beings who can choose, trying to persuade them, and also warning them of the consequences of not heeding God's voice.

Of course we must first be committed to this wisdom to become a part of our lives before we attempt to help others. We must affirm wisdom personally before God and in our lives. Then we can seek to affirm it when opportunities present themselves, in timely and helpful fashion to those around us.

Being in Proverbs today for me was like being in the most refreshing water spot you can imagine in a desert. Maybe I wasn't quite that parched and dry, but I do think my being was welcoming the word of wisdom to my heart and mind and life.

We're to embrace wisdom; to love it and in return know its love. Not an easy calling since we're so prone to wander to our own devices, which are not in line with wisdom.

Jesus is said to be our wisdom from God, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom. In him we can set ourselves towards wisdom, and the way of wisdom. We can be led by wisdom's gentle yet firm and sometimes disciplining hand. Or we can turn our backs on it to foolishness, and thus get our own way down the highway to destruction. Proverbs minces no words for us there. There are just two ways: the way of life and the way of death. Let us choose and persevere on the way in Jesus, and truly know the wisdom that gives life.

What would you like to add here?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

truth a part of us

In Scripture truth is both said to necessarily dwell in us in Jesus, and we in the truth (as found in Scripture and in Jesus). Truth must become nothing less than a part of us.

Head knowledge can be both underrated and overrated. It's important that we keep working at loving God with all our minds, along with all the rest of us. But head knowledge alone is not enough. We must work the truth of God in Jesus into our lives. We must seek to live out the truth as it is in Jesus. Both individually in our private and public lives, and together with other people in Jesus in this world.

Christians are notorious for professing truth yet not living it out well. Hypocrisy is the word here. This is why we're to keep working at getting rid of all deceit in our lives. The truth of God in Jesus we find throughout Scripture can help expose us so that we can deal with the lies in our life. If my heart is moved in a certain direction away from God's will then I must repent and believe in God's deliverance for me in Jesus. It's important to see not only the truth exposing us, but the grace of God in Jesus bringing forgiveness, cleansing and new life. Grace and truth together in Jesus is what can change us. Only by grace can truth become a part of us.

Of course this is ongoing. We don't arrive in this life, and we do need both private and corporate confession of our sins.

Sometimes I grow weary of what I know is wrong inside of me. I know that my heart or my life is not measuring up with the truth revealed in Scripture. Sometimes I can feel as hopeless as humankind in Adam, rhetorically depicted in Romans 7. But I must not give in to that. We're not in Adam, but in Christ. It's a matter of life and nothing directly to do with how we're feeling or not feeling. And it's available to us through God's grace for us in Jesus. And it takes time; this is ongoing.

What might you like to add to my meandering thoughts on this, here?

Monday, September 22, 2008

review of The Blue Parakeet, by Scot McKnight

The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, by Scot McKnight

I was fortunate to be one of the readers of Jesus Creed, to receive Zondervan's offer of an "advance reader copy" of this book. This was offered to the first set number of those responding- I believe I got in on the second wave/offer of this- with the understanding that we are to post a review of the book.

For me this is an advance in my understanding of how we're to read the Bible. Scot clearly helps us see the different ways Christians read Scripture which he believes- and I agree- are mistaken. Here is his list, especially referring to difficult passages:
  • to treat the Bible as a collection of laws
  • to treat the Bible as a collection of blessing and promises
  • to treat the Bible as a Rohrschach inkblot onto which we can project our own ideas
  • to treat the Bible as a giant puzzle that we are to puzzle together
  • to treat one of the Bible's authors as a Maestro
(p. 209)

Scot deals with each to help us learn to read the Bible in a better way- reflective of the major place narrative has in its writing- as the Story of God in Jesus in which we can find our story, written with us in view and for us. As we learn to read the Bible as story we learn that God speaks through major characters (such as Moses and John) in their ways for their days. And that this is meant to be carried on in every time and culture in various ways for different days. Of course each "lead us to the person of the Story: Jesus Christ" who is "the goal and the center of each wiki-story." (p. 210)

Scot lists "the major elements of that story:
  1. God and creation
  2. Adam and Eve as Eikons who crack the Eikon
  3. God's covenant community, where humans are restored to God, self, others, and the world
  4. Jesus Christ, who is the Story and in whose story we are to live
  5. the church as Jesus' covenant community
  6. the consummation, when all the designs of our Creator God will finally be realized forever and ever
(p. 210)

Another important point Scot makes is that we should read the Bible with tradition, and not through (the lens of) tradition. In other words we can learn alot from "the Great Tradition" of the church, and not have to reinvent the wheel, or many of the good things that follow, and we should. But we also must remember that tradition is not infallible, while God's word, Scripture, is. So all tradition must be critiqued on the basis of Scripture.

Scot also helps us consider just how we pick and choose what directly is for today, what may be lived out today in another way, and what might have no bearing today whatsoever. Both in Old and New Testament passages.

The title, The Blue Parakeet came from Scot and his wife Kris actually seeing a blue parakeet in their back yard, and the reaction sparrows had to this strange newcomer. At first the sparrows were terrified. But then they began to imitate the parakeet, in rapt attention to it.

Scot likens that blue parakeet to passages in the Bible which leave us with clues of how God is working in ways that are surprising and outside of the norm. What women did in both the Old and New Testaments (WDWD- as in What Did Women Do?) is noted in some highlights. I agree with Scot on women and ministry, as well as the words in Genesis 3:16: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you," as applying to the fall, and not to be a part of the new creation beginning now, in Jesus. And he explains that well.

Scot takes a good look at 1 Timothy 2:9-15 with the interesting question as to how we live out all that is written there today. So far for me, along with the 1 Corinthians 14 passage (note the passage both in the book, an appendix and the footnotes, and its textual problem), this is the clearest and most compelling understanding of this issue. I think Scot gives us good reasons to understand from the passages, particularly from 1 Timothy that after women learn, and thus no longer need to be silent, then they can do what we find them doing throughout the Bible, and especially in the New Testament: both lead and teach.

This is a fine book written clearly for the entire church by a first rate Bible, New Testament and Jesus scholar. My wife Deb, read it and likes it, as well. It is a book I will want to refer to and reread, definitely one of those few books I'd buy, being on a relatively tight book budget. Pick it up and read. It will at least challenge your thinking.

inspiration and perspiration

We tend to think of inspiration as a sudden, clear and compelling light to our souls. And there's truth in that. I'm amazed at how much clearer everything can seem to be at certain times. Was true for me yesterday morning in our church gathering.

But I've also been amazed at the good I've seen that has come from sheer hard work. Of course prayer should be a part of that. But as we work on understanding God's revelation to us in Scripture in Jesus, so as to live it out, we can be helped in ways in which we may be amazed at, in looking back on it, later. Though when working through it, it may be more like a climbing of a mountain (and a steep, rocky one at that), involving hard work, with little appreciation of what we did.

Revelation from God can come in moments of special clarification, but more often comes through a ponderous, day by day endeavor to walk in the will and way of the Lord. And I think, frankly, most of Scripture was written with hard work involved. Though inspiration in Scripture is unique (God-breathed words through people carried along by the Holy Spirit), there is an ongoing inspiration given to God's people in proclaiming and living out the truth of God in Jesus in the world.

So let's not shun the times when it seems dark and most difficult. During such times we may end up writing or sharing something with God's help, which will bring light to others.

What would you like to share on this?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

quote of the week: Rich Mullins - walking by faith

We walk by faith and not by sight - not because we are blind, but because faith gives us the courage to face our fears and put those fears in a context that makes them less frightful. We walk by faith and not by sight because there are places to go that cannot be seen and the scope of our vision is too small for our strides. Faith is not a denial of facts - it is a broadening of focus. It does not deny the hardness of guitar strings, it plucks them into a sweetness of sound.

Rich Mullins, Home, p. 19

prayer of the week

Grant us, Lord, not to anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things which are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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, September 20, 2008


I've been thinking a bit lately on how to keep my life balanced. I like to be in Scripture alot during the course of a day (not to say I'm in it everyday like that). Of course we can't just be in Scripture, that's not what God's word calls us to do. We're to be meditating on it in the midst of our doing, our living. How I live out the truth of God's word in Jesus is what matters, not merely what I know about it. The kind of knowing in Scripture that God wants for us is both relational and active- to God and others in accord with God's revealed will in Jesus for us in this world.

Politics, the national and international scene I believe are matters that should concern us all. Sports, interests we have- all have their place. More important are our relationships with our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and how we live out the faith in Jesus, in the world so as to fulfill God's calling for us. Of course we need to keep all things in mind in relation to the Jesus Creed.

I do think what is best for us in the matter of balance always differs from person to person, and differs from season to season. I do find myself as I get older wanting to slow down and do what I do better, rather than thinking I would like to do x amount of things, while knowing there's likely no way I'll get all of that done.

How about you? How do you look at balance and how it pertains in your life?

Friday, September 19, 2008

nothing less than a new life

Yesterday I read another for me, helpful meditation from John of the Cross. I was reminded of the necessity of coveting but one thing: the attitude and mind of Christ, which comes from the eternal life found in Christ. If I'm living for anything else, whatever that may be, then I'm not only not living in the way of Jesus, but I'm actually living in opposition to the way of Jesus. This reminds me of "the hard sayings of Jesus," and is something we must face.

As the meditation reminded me, we can clamor after many things, even okay in themselves and in their place, though how we hold them in our hearts can be nothing less than idolatrous. Some things we may want are completely wrong. It seems that we tend to hold on to what is killing us. Instead, in Scripture we're told to put such things to death in Jesus, and to put on the new kind of life found in Jesus. And then to walk in this new life, by the Spirit.

This was refreshing to me, as I meditated on this passage of Scripture after reading that meditation from John of the Cross and David Hazard. It's a new kind of life which is not into finding one new experience after another. But instead finding an entirely new life of death and resurrection in Jesus. Living that out with each other and in mission to the world, in Jesus.

Read the meditation if you can get this book: "11 - Created Anew." But far better yet, read each meditation one day at a time.

What would you like to add to these few brief words?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

a second wind

Yesterday I was tired as usual at work. Really haven't been getting enough sleep. Didn't get a nap like I like to when I got home, but seemed to pick up "a second wind" late in the afternoon into the evening, as Deb and I walked to the public library not far from our house to return some items and pay a fine.

This "second wind" reminds me of God's faithful working in my own life in Jesus. Often I am rather quite winded, and out of breath as far as my Christian life goes. But by the Spirit, God gives me that "second wind" to keep me carrying on, motivated to follow Jesus in this world with the community of God's people in mission. I notice that that is frequent. This wind seems to come through many ways. Sometimes a person needs more sleep. God does give his loved ones sleep. Sometimes it comes through the prayer of another. Perhaps it's just our Lord's intercessory work in prayer for us.

This is the Breath of God which not only puts us on our feet, but makes us want to do God's will no less, than helps us do it.

What thoughts would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blood from a Stone - completion, from L.L. Barkat

from Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

We come to the final chapter in L.L. Barkat's remarkable first book. This chapter is important for us all, even if more directly important for us post-fifty people and beyond. It speaks of growing older and approaching death in developmental terms, rather than in debilitating terms. Of course the writer to Ecclesiastes is right; there is an age when we do begin to fall apart or lose abilities we had before. The writer may be writing from the beginning of that perspective, or drawing from others who are there, but even in that is value. L.L. notes all of that and more, in this encouraging chapter, calling our attention to finishing well in our lives, just as she finishes well in this book.

How we look at older age is reflected in what we do when people turn fifty, or even forty or thirty, as L.L. notes. Our outlook is important for ourselves as we approach older age. We live in a culture which wants to live in denial of approaching death, and of old age or the good one can do when old. Such are often seen as less valuable or even dispensable in our world. L.L. touches on that.

But God's Story we receive from Scripture is quite different. God will pour out his Spirit on all people so that the old will dream dreams from him. We find Simeon and Anna playing key roles in the revelation of God's Son to the world. We read in the psalms of those remaining green and fruitful in old age, as they proclaim the greatness and goodness of God. L.L. shares of older people she knows in her church fellowship who are active in ways they can be, and who have pronounced God's blessing over her so that she'll complete her journey and calling well.

I think of people I know and I've known, who to the end did what they could. And it was surely much more than meets the eye. We possibly stay younger in body, a study suggests, by keeping active along with an outlook which sees what we can accomplish and that God is evidently not finished with us yet, since we're still here.

I also look at myself and realize just how out of line my thinking can be, as I contemplate what I think could have been, where I am now, and how there seems to me to be no future for me. Deb lovingly challenges that, and I'm thankful for her. I don't want to limit what God wants to do through me or others. He has something special for all of us, regardless of our age or situation in life.

I end with L.L.'s final words of the chapter:
I want to be like this tree [she's referring to these two passages she's just cited], in which the birds of the air make a home. I want to offer shade and fruit. I want to be full of life and grace, for my family and the world. So I ask my elders to murmur the psalmist's vision as a prayer and a blessing for me - may I continue to live the adventure of stone crossings, but may I also take root by the stream . . . to show that the Lord is still upright. Even as I lay me down to sleep.
What about us? How do we look at the completion of our lives? Do we see growing older as a downgrade or in a sense an upgrade in continued development in Jesus? How can we avoid the seeming bitterness and cynicism reflected in the writings of Ecclesiastes over life (though that book ends well as we would expect)? Is it our goal to end well, whenever our journey is to end? And do we see that as possible?

See this beautiful review of L.L.'s book.

1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
9. Indiana Jones - fear
10. Old Stone Church - love
11. Goldworthy's Wall - sacrifice
12. Clefts of the Rock - responsibility
13. Olive Press - gratitude
14. Forest Star - humility
15. Seedstone - healing
16. Sugar Face - forgiveness
17. Lava Rock - witness
18. Climbing - justice
19. Roxaboxen - heaven
20. Blood from a Stone - completion

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

see the whole

Being reminded by Scot McKnight that the Bible is Story (the way I'm understanding him) helps me see how we need to see our lives in that context. Of course it's not about fitting the Story into our lives, but finding how our story fits into God's Story.

There are times during most days when if I'd just focus on those times I'd throw in the towel and give up. But there are normally times each day when my faith in God through Christ is reinvigorated and strengthened in one way or another.

We need to see the whole also in terms of the entire world God created and reconciled to himself in Christ. This includes all people and all creation. It's not just about our own little worlds or how we're doing in them. It's so much bigger than us. But in God's great plan, it includes us.

We need to learn to see the whole, and not get bogged down in thinking it's all about ourselves, or our church, even our nation. It's about the greatness and goodness of God who is love. A love that will not let us go, and will not let what he has created go. And we have our part in this great whole of God.

For me this is helpful especially during this political season in the United States. I generally steer away from conversations on politics, but yesterday while working with a good friend at work he patiently bore with some of my thoughts, and we had our laughs outside of that. Then I later continued on a thread on Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, a good posting on politics.

Anytime of one's life, but particularly when certain important matters can be blown out of all proportion, we need this reminder to see the whole. God is over all, and we can trust him entirely. We must be careful to look at the parts of our lives and of the world as not the whole. We must seek to see beyond them to what God is doing and what he's about in our lives and in the world. In light of God's revelation to us in Scripture and in Jesus Christ. So that we can better learn to live with God's priorities in view.

What thoughts might you like to share on seeing the whole?

Tomorrow: The final chapter: Blood from a Stone - completion, from L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Monday, September 15, 2008

from John of the Cross - real presence

Yesterday's meditation I read spoke of how we miss God and God's real presence, because we think we have God figured out in our paltry, idolatrous notions. How we need to bow and realize that there is no way we have God down at all. That we must be still and let God make himself known to us.

This doesn't deny the importance of the word of God in this revelation from God, but God still must reveal himself to us. This is compared to hearing about someone, with maybe even words they've said, and then getting to meet them and get to know them in person and personally. God reveals himself to us by the Spirit, giving to us not only the revelation of himself, but his "real presence".

I found it helpful for me to set aside everything of my own understanding, and to be open to God's revelation of himself. What surely helped me prior to the reading was my continual calling on God before getting up. I pray to God everyday, and hopefully throughout the day, though I can be slack at times. But to really call on the Lord and seek his face like I did out of a sense of need yesterday morning is all too rare for me.

God began to answer very soon, and in no small part through the reading of the meditation from John of the Cross. I wish I could just copy it here, but if you can get your hands on this book, it's good to start from day one in a 40-day journey. I've found that I have to think carefully at what John of the Cross is getting at sometimes, because I can be turned off by Christian spirituality teachings which seem to be hard on creation. At the same time I can also misunderstand such, and even when I don't, fail to see the good that is there. In the case of the meditations so far, I'm reminded of the difference between the good world God created, still good even though subject to the fall, and the world's system set against God manifested in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Each meditation from the book is best pondered and allowed time to sink into our minds and hearts. I do think with the help of John of the Cross yesterday, I did know that the Lord was, or had been there (in a manifest way- though I certainly believe God is always with us in Jesus), especially during our time of gathering and worship yesterday.

What thoughts might you like to share from these few thoughts from John of the Cross on "real presence"?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

quote of the week : C.S. Lewis - desire

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

C.S. Lewis quoted in Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, p. 186

prayer of the week

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 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, September 13, 2008


Outlook involves our perspective. While I don't like heights, I do like high elevations which feel safe to me. It's fun to look down and see for miles around. No matter where we are, we see things from that vantage point. Where we live I miss seeing the horizons, blocked by houses. But what we do see is interesting, as in trees, flowers, grass, houses, etc.

In life we need nothing less than a change of outlook which comes from a perspective only God can give us. "In Jesus" is key for this, because by faith we can attain a new outlook through Jesus and his redemptive work for us. I use the word attain because I believe this faith requires some ongoing effort on our part. And that we don't ordinarily just arrive to a higher, godly perspective and outlook.

This is part of what I'm working on in my life. To have more and more of the outlook and perspective that God wants for us in Jesus. This comes by the work of God's Spirit in us for change through the word of God, in community in Jesus, as those living in the world in mission to the world. And this comes over time.

At certain points I believe my outlook and perspective can be weak and lacking. I am tempted at those points to give in to a mediocre kind of life, not the life God calls us to in Jesus. But in Jesus God calls us higher and higher, towards a heavenly life even in our present lives, to press on to fulfill nothing short of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus for us. Realized in that context in Philippians at the end of the race, but changing our outlook and perspective even during our present lives -evident in that passage- as well.

What would you like to share on this?

Friday, September 12, 2008

must we sin?

I used to believe that Romans 7 was part of the normal Christian experience, and while that interpretation may be correct, I now accept the interpretation that in keeping with the rhetoric of that time, and with earlier Ante-Nicene church fathers, it reflects all humankind in Adam, breaking a single command not to covet the fruit God forbade from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and in so doing- yielding to deception of the serpent.

I have good friends just as knowledgeable and equally committed to Scripture who disagree with me on this. And I can find good in thinking through ramifications if the interpretation they hold to is true. That when we're struggling over a sin issue in which we seem bound, or can't or won't get victory- and such can be over long periods of time, as most all of us know firsthand- we can be assured we're still in the grace and favor of the Lord. That he is working, and even can be pleased with us. Though for me, it can make a most murky and troubling experience.

I also know that they agree with what I'm going to say in this post that follows, with the exception of this thought: a seminary professor who is part of our church recently told me something like this: there is a perfectionist tendency in Paul's writings in how Christians are to live with the possibility of them fulfilling that. That seems to fly in the face of Paul never being able to do what he wants to do, and doing the very things he hates. When talking about himself in Scripture that would never occur to a reader as a problem he had. Unless of course, you interpret Romans 7 in an Augustinian/Luther and hence afterwards the traditional way.

I believe in Jesus that we can be shaped more and more into his image. That we are no longer under the law, but under grace. A grace which transforms us. That we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of Christ lives in us.

For me this makes a big difference. I no longer have to sin in thought, word and deed all the time. Though I actually believe we do sin in thought, word and deed daily. There is a true tension between what we already have in Christ, and what is yet to come. Remember that sin includes not only what we do that is wrong, but what we leave undone, or fall short of in God's will. Why do we still sin? Because in a certain sense we still are sinners. If we still sin it's hard not to deny that the sinner label fits us. But one distinction between those born of God and those not born of God is that the former practice righteousness, while the latter practice sin- as general characteristics of each. In another way we're now righteous in Christ, and this righteousness, while legal in justification is also accompanied by a righteousness in our lives which is a part of what we call progressive sanctification, or holiness.

I believe we're all helpless unless we walk in the Spirit, unless we know it's all of grace, and not of the law, in fulfilling the requirement of the law. As we learn to abide in Christ, the life we live is no longer our own, but of Christ in us. Yet we live it, it's unique to each one of us, and expressive of Christ in unique ways from each of us in his Body.

Those who hold to the other, Augustinian view (but see all of Augustine's work on Romans 7) of Romans 7 do not deny any of this truth. And indeed their understanding of Romans 7 may give them more hope in the midst of sin than those who deny that interpretation. Like disputed passages each interpretation has its difficulties as well as its strength.

But the point here is that in Jesus by grace through faith we can live lives that are pleasing to God and fulfill the requirement of the law, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Limited by our creaturely status and perhaps by sin (many believe even our best works are always tainted by sin, though while I think that's often true, I don't see why it always has to be so).

Kind of a heavy post, and especially for a Friday as we look forward to weekend. But what thoughts might you have on this?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

witness and authenticity

In our witness for Jesus are our lives important? Of course they are, we would agree. If the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, it's salvation from what? Basically from sin and its results. Although the unfolding of that can take a lifetime, and is not really completed until the resurrection when the new creation in Jesus is complete in the new heaven and new earth. And this is not just for us as individuals but for all of creation.

It's interesting that those who spoke the word of God to God's people (in the Old Testament) were called men of God. They were supposed to live out their message, and sometimes with explicit directions, as in the cases of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

I get a sense of God's salvation working in my life nearly everyday. If I don't, I think I'm in trouble. Why? Because I need it everyday. Salvation in the New Testament is set in past, present and future tenses. But mostly present tense. Salvation is God's ongoing work for us in Jesus by the Spirit. It is communal in that God's people are in it together; it's not supposed to be just a "God and I" endeavor. And it's missional, meant to replicate itself in showing to the world the power of God for salvation in our own lives so that others can find this salvation themselves.

This does mean that people need to see that we are real, and that the Jesus we proclaim to them is real as well. And because salvation is present tense (as well as past and future) we can have a fresh sense of both our need and of God's saving work in our own lives daily, as we trust in God and in his word to us in Jesus.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Roxaboxen - heaven, from L.L. Barkat

from Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

L.L. points out that between life and death there is normally a semicolon and not merely a comma (different editions of Donne's poem, "Death Be Not Proud"). To leave this life is not something which naturally comes easy. Sometimes a lingering, severe illness facilitates a readiness to do so, and for others, old age makes one ready to go. But all that is against nature in God's original creation before the fall, particularly humankind's place in God's purpose in creation.

But in Jesus God has redeemed creation, all things. And in that, death is vanquished in Jesus and swallowed up by life, eternal life. Heaven might be a good name for the intermediate state between our death and the resurrection to come of our bodies. The resurrection and renewal of all things in Jesus is probably a new earth in which heaven and earth are made one- this in Jesus awaits us beyond the pale of death.

Like L.L. tells us, there actually is little that is specific in Scripture as precisely what this "heaven" will be like. It promises to be wonderful to the point that if it was opened up for us, like it was for Paul, maybe we'd be clamoring for it in a way that is unhealthy. While we are strangers and pilgrims, or sojourners on earth, yet earth beings we are, and in a sense we're at home here. But death is the ultimate reminder that this life with all its joys and beauty is both fleeting and has its limitations. It points to something more, a fulfillment yet to come.

All these thoughts and many more come from reading and reflecting on this wonderful chapter by L.L. on heaven. It is rich and makes me long to live better on earth, with good works following me there, as she picturesquely reminds us, as well as to long more for a better country, that is a heavenly one, in which God has prepared for us a city.

This is a subject we all have to face, healthy or not. Death is the great leveler, but beyond it, in Jesus awaits a life which makes the life we hold on to now with all our might "for dear life", utterly pale in comparison (see C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce).

In keeping with what L.L. has told me, I must share something of myself in this post. For me the thought of heaven makes me look, or want to look differently at everything here in this present life. It helps me know that some things are worth waiting for, letting all else go to which I so tenaciously and can idolatrously cling to in this life. I have to keep fighting against the tyranny of the urgent, or the now- even in terms of what I want. To hold on to what is eternal I must let go or hold loosely that which is not. This doesn't seem to come easier for me as I get older (now post-50), and I'm amazed at how strongly some older people seem to hold on to this life as they approach the inevitable. For them, perhaps, all they're looking at is in this life. I might do well to ask myself sometimes if I'm doing the same. Do I really think that "heaven" is the climax of all here, and the glimpse of that which we have now, and even this good life here and now, is paltry in comparison? Seems like God wants us to have a balance, being fully present and engaged in this life, but with an eye of faith towards the life to come- even as a factor for us in Jesus, now.

As in all the chapters, this is wonderful and a mini-book in itself. One does well to read, then reread, and perhaps read again each chapter as the rich truth begins to sink in and take hold of one's mind and heart. And don't forget the stimulating "discussion questions" in the back.

What would you like to share on this, here?

1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
9. Indiana Jones - fear
10. Old Stone Church - love
11. Goldworthy's Wall - sacrifice
12. Clefts of the Rock - responsibility
13. Olive Press - gratitude
14. Forest Star - humility
15. Seedstone - healing
16. Sugar Face - forgiveness
17. Lava Rock - witness
18. Climbing - justice

Next week: The final chapter: Blood from a Stone - completion

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

set free in Jesus

I'm beginning a kind of devotional "40-Day Journey in the Company of John of the Cross." I wonder what it means to be set free in Jesus. Jesus told those who had heard him and believed him that if they'd continue in his word, or hold to his teaching they are really his disciples, then they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free. And that unlike slaves, they are sons, and to live in the freedom of the Son of God. And that if the Son sets them free, they will be free indeed. We know from the rest of the story, that they ended up trying to stone Jesus.

In this life it seems like we have so many things that weigh us down, or even tie us up and can cause us to stumble and fall. And we can't escape the reality that we sin in this life; we don't arrive to sinless perfection in this life. So what does it mean to be set free in and by Jesus?

I believe that surely it is related to God's will for us here, in Christ Jesus. And that will does not mean that we won't be subject to all kinds of trials, both inward and outward. This was true of John of the Cross, as well as Martin Luther and many others. Yet John found a sweetness in Jesus. Song of Songs was a favorite of his, which in a tradition of the church, he read and wrote on as mirroring God's love relationship with his people. John found freedom perhaps in, as well as from darkness through this love of God made known to his soul in Christ.

To continue in Jesus' word, or to hold to his teaching involves a choice on our part, and not just one choice, but continuing to choose to adhere to God's word, because we're choosing to adhere to God. Of course this faith in God through Christ is what will see us through day after day, and over the long haul to fulfill God's will for us in Jesus. Jesus' words in John 8 are contingent on his disciples' obedience. Such obedience requires faith, a faith in the one who so promised which means trusting and obeying his words.

Yesterday at work I started on the first meditation in this book from writings of John of the Cross. So I turned my Bible open on the factory floor, to John 8. I love the words of that Scripture, but I felt tired, down and not free inside. These seemed to my senses like empty words, even though by faith I know better. So as I've done before, I did again. I kept in those words of Scripture, trying to do so in a meditative way over Jesus' words there. With probably not enough of, or any real prayer. The job was busy and often barely manageable due to machine issues.

But as I pressed through the day, seeking to keep my eyes on Jesus and my mind on his words, I experienced a wonderful freedom and joy in the midst of the craziness of books flying at us with often many machine issues. It was wonderful, really, even though the job itself was difficult and I was ever tempted to leave the place of trust and become upset. But God helped me by grace and I resisted that. Funny thing is that later, being tired from the day I seemed to lapse back into the old sense of tiredness and out of that sense of a nearly buoyant joy and freedom, almost like one walking on the water. I'm sure all of us in Jesus know what I'm talking about here.

So I must learn to apply this Scripture, these words of Jesus more and more in all of my life. So that I see all of life in this way, carried along by God's grace through my faith in Jesus. No, faith is not something I deserve to be patted on the back for, it is simply a receiving as a needy, blind beggar, God's great gift offered to me as a sinner and now as his child, in Jesus.

So we need to continue on, desiring nothing less than what God offers us in Jesus. And finding all our experiences and emotions to the contrary as simply necessary reminders that our hope and trust is never in ourselves, but in our Lord.

What would you like to add to this?

Tomorrow: Roxaboxen - heaven, from L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Monday, September 08, 2008

life in the Son

Life in the Son is an important part of John's first letter. And "in Jesus" is key in understanding our life in God as God's people in this world and beyond. It is "in Christ" that we have this new life, by grace through faith, of course.

Deb and I enjoy walking together, and we've noted lately just what a huge difference it can be when the sun is hidden behind the clouds. It feels much cooler and especially so with a wind or breeze. Then it comes out in the open again, and what a difference!

Life in the Son seems similar. And indeed God is likened to the sun, arising "with healing in its rays." A wonderful picture for us all. And one we need, much.

What a difference it makes for me, when God is either obscured behind the cloud of my sin, as compared to when I confess and receive God's forgiveness in Jesus! Yet there are also times when God is hidden behind a "cloud of unknowing" purposefully, it seems. This was true even in Jesus' life here on earth. He, being called the Pioneer and Perfecter of the faith, whom by his work for us, we're to follow. This means we can expect seasons like that as well, I take it. It seems part of our calling in Christ to drink something of the cup he drank, and that necessarily means we will experience some darkness in this world, even though we are "light in the Lord."

But life is in the Son, in Jesus. The life that goes on and on and is really true life. A life which is in God as opposed to the false life we make for ourselves, like even Solomon did, with all our idols- idols of the heart. That mercifully brings us trouble, as it did for Solomon. So that we might turn away from those things, and back to God in Jesus.

What thoughts would you like to add here? How is life in the Son like our need for the sun on earth? What does that mean for our life and walk now, in a dark world?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

prayer of the week

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; 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

quote of the week - G.K. Chesterton - simplicity

Men rush toward complexity; but they yearn for simplicity.
G.K. Chesterton, quoted in Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, p. 142.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

For Better, For Worse: 5 Ways Blogging Changed My Life

L.L. Barkat tagged me with a meme she invented herself. Here are the rules which she herself cheerfully broke:

1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
2. link back to the person who tagged you
3. link back to this parent post (L.L. Barkat is not so much interested in generating links, but rather in tracking the meme so she can perhaps do a summary post later on that looks at patterns and interesting discoveries.)
4. tag a few friends or five, or none at all
5. post these rules— or just have fun breaking them

How blogging has changed me:
1. Through Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, I have been challenged theologically both in mind and life. I found his blog and found some friends through it. But especially his writing and my participation on that blog were teeth cutting for me in learning the art of blogging. Allan R. Bevere, himself a pastor, professor and writer, has been a big encouragement to me, and his blog is a great one, as well.

2. Rusty Peterman urged me to consider starting my own blog. I pondered that and then I think to my surprise, began.

3. I can't recall exactly how I met everyone in the blogging world, but it was primarily through connections. So I can't recall how I met L.L. Barkat, except my guess is that she found me over at Jesus Creed, came over to my blog, and began dropping comments there, especially it seems (according to my memory) when no one else was at least on that particular post. So I began going to her blog and found it intriguing- she is quite creative and good with words, but oddly enough, for the longest time, I thought she was a man! I think it was something of a shock when I learned that that is not the case! I've been blogging through her book- ponderously in the eyes of readers, I'm afraid, but I do think through that, the book has gained at least a couple of readers. It has been a great book for me to work through- wonderful writing and challenging in its application to life, L.L. sharing continually from her own story and life.

4. By and by, and maybe through L.L., I met Halfmom, AKA, Susan. I found her blog intriguing, and good in exalting the sovereignty of God in our lives and how we can trust him. And she, being a scientist wrote in an intriguing way. She also was painfully vulnerable in being open about her life both on her blog, and as I recall on other blogs. What she said connected well with me and my own struggle ongoing for years. And finding out she is a counselor I believe beforehand, I emailed her and shared my own story. She has helped me immensely through her gift, and God has done and is doing a work which only God can do. So this has certainly been a life-changer for me. And Deb and I are now friends with her, though we haven't yet met in person.

5. I've made other new friends, and continue to do so. I like the balance between fellowship and learning. I'm not only into thinking through God's truth in Jesus for life, but wanting to do so with others, and getting to know others. Generally, I think guys seem to be more into sharing truth as they see it, while gals seem to be more into sharing relationship- with truth in that. Not to say I blog with Christian bloggers only, because not all the blogs on my sidelinks belong to Christians. I like a balance between sharing our lives and truth in Jesus with each other and the world. And simply getting to know others through their blogs.

6. Okay, especially early on I spent too much time blogging. But that was better than the one NFL football season I spent playing fantasy football, and I put alot of effort in that and made it to the championship game which I lost (my recollection is that it was the final championship game, though it may have been the championship game in my league; my memory sometime flatters me, unfortunately). But still, though more to my liking (though fantasy football is amazingly fun, at least it was for me that one season), I've learned to cut back. Reading and thinking through words is a big part of who I am, and in a pastoral way trying to be responsible theologically. Now Deb is reading my blog and likes what I do, and is helping me towards better balance in it, and in life, I think. :)

7. I have to end on a good note. Lately I've thought about pulling the plug on my blog, or curtailing it. I tend to do only what I do most everyday, barring Sundays. But it occurred to me, especially through this post over at Not Ashamed, that this is kind of a spiritual discipline for me. I have thought of that before, but being reminded of Bonhoeffer's thoughts on prayer in private and in community in a disciplined manner, helped me see that this is the closest I come to that kind of experience, at least for the most part.

Now I will tag some friends, and this won't be easy because I could tag alot more. But here goes, in alphabetical order:
Allan R. Bevere
Andrew Hall
Bill Williams
Every Square Inch
Halfmom, AKA, Susan

Friday, September 05, 2008


"The best things in life comes to those who wait." I find some truth in that from Scripture, in Jesus. Mary, Jesus' mother, is said to have pondered what was said about her son, Jesus, at his birth, as well as storing in her heart what Jesus did and said as a twelve year old. In that is a good precedent for us all. And I have to wonder if Eve would have been taken in and deceived by that old serpent, the devil, if she would have pondered God's word to her.

I may understand some difficult sayings in Scripture and elsewhere from people of God, in some sort of superficial way. Words are important, conveying concepts, and we can't minimize them, because God gave them to us through humans, and directly- as the word of God. So we need to use our minds in seeking to understand.

But we also have to understand that though our minds are a vehicle, in its nature, God's work is revelation from God. We don't get there simply through a mind exercise, but in a relational sense. Scripture is God's living word not only when it was given through the human writers, but also to human readers and hearers, now.

Pondering involves meditation. And we're to meditate day and night on God's word. We keep doing so as those who are seeking to hear and understand better God's revealed will to us. And in that pondering, we're also to be endeavoring to seek the Lord. This pondering is relational at its core.

For me this pondering is important. I take one of my Bibles at work, and lay it out to a specific passage on which I'll meditate, or ponder. I do so often by memorizing, or working slowly through a passage. Due to the nature of my work, memorizing is good, or going over the same passage and lines over and over again, as I do my necessary work. Like Mary, there's a reward as we keep after it. I can remember my pondering being as dry as can be, but by the end of the day I understood something of the reality to which God in Jesus was calling me, through that Scripture. A light was shining in my heart for the pathway of my life in Jesus.

What thoughts might you like to add here?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

God's working

Yesterday I had a true sense of God's working in me to change me. I think this was in answer to prayer, a prayer prayed on my back, so to speak, knowing I'm weak and helpless and hopeless in and of myself.

What can be more precious than God's working in us in Jesus? This is what we need to long for by faith, and hold on to by faith, and repent when we turn back from it. Recently in looking at Andrew Murray's book, Abide in Christ, I was reminded of just how utterly dependent the branch is on the vine, which is the branch's source of life. Life and health and fruit does not depend on the branch at all, but on the vine from which it flows. Jesus, of course used that analogy to speak of the relationship he is to have with us as his disciples; he is the vine and his disciples are the branches.

Our effort, our works, the fruit we bear is to come forth from that. So I must get back to that. Abide in Jesus. Be at home in him. Make that first priority over what I do or don't do. Even over my thought life, in a sense. So that everything is dependent on that. I'm definitely a learner, or seeking to so learn, follow and grow through God's working in Jesus.

What would you like to share on this?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"Climbing - justice" from L.L. Barkat

From Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Through a social issues reading club started by L.L., which met at her house, L.L. and some friends began to enter into some of the hurt and wrong of the world. This opened up not only the stories of those who have been wronged and neglected. But made them aware of their own sense of responsibility and inadequacy in doing much about it. But this is where the climbing comes in. Quoting Karangathe, "a worker in Kenya's green belt movement", the endeavor to see justice done on earth is taken one step at a time. The destination may be far, and may even seem inaccessible, but steps in the right direction, beginning with what one can do themselves, are taken.

One of the keys is to see how we ourselves are culprits or accomplices in the plight of those suffering injustice in the world. This is not an easy road to travel. But following in the path of Jesus, "the awaited tsaddiq...a straight-on justice incarnate person," through receiving "his tsedaqah when we turn to [God] and are saved" we are thus "little Christs, little tsaddiqim, little straight-on justice incarnates..." We must get beyond any sense of hopelessness in view of the scope of the problems, and beyond our own imprisonment in pain as those being healed in Jesus if we're to bring the needed justice and freedom in Jesus to others.

Justice itself is not that hard to understand. It has the sense of righting all wrongs against others. In the biblical sense, bringing shalom, God's blessing of prosperity to those in need in our world. This is nothing less than what is prayed in the "our Father prayer": "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." So in that sense it is an endeavor we must take on not just by ourselves, who neither have the vision nor the strength for it. But together, in hand with God through Christ, so that it is helping others not only to bread, but the Bread of life, Jesus himself.

Again, just like chapter after chapter, really the entire book, this was more than just a fine read for me. It really plumbed my own shallowness on this subject, and challenged me. I have to admit, I've been confused over the past many months not so much over the meaning of justice itself, but how we apply it in the world. It seems like the common answer that the really rich are contributing to the injustice of the world in systemic ways has some truth and error. So at this point justice is a bit muzzled in me over such issues. I have plenty to learn.

But we see injustice, such as through a couple we know, the wife not even yet fifty having had two silent and one normal heart attack, her husband let go from a job because he had hurt his back- even though he was still working, now in alot of back pain and working a minimum wage job at a gas station along with delivering papers, having the big expense in gasoline. And he has had to pay around $100 per week for health insurance which ended up covering only one of four required medications for his wife. So he dropped the insurance, thinking he can do better paying for her medical needs out of his own pocket. And he gets only a few hours of sleep here and there. There are no easy answers here, and what can we do as Christians in this? To our shame, we don't seem well versed in knowing what we can or should do. And the church has helped this couple. Add to that, the rising health care cost, and needed insurance is a national issue. It would be nice if private enterprises worked together to help the some 50 million Americans to be able to purchase affordable health care coverage, which now they don't have, and doesn't seem forthcoming. This is one major item on my mind right now in regard to justice, and weighs heavily in my thinking on the upcoming November election.

And we must not only prophetically critique and speak into the wrongs of our world, but we must be part of the solution in Jesus. We must begin the steps towards God's shalom by becoming informed and praying for the problems both as to God's solution, and our part in that. Not that we'll arrive to shalom in perfection before Jesus returns. But I believe in Jesus we're called to show the compassion of God to those in need.

Let's follow the true Jesus, who was not the meek and mild "just is" as commonly portrayed, but the straight-on justice incarnate person, who in passion and compassion acted for others. This chapter was a needed spur to make me think and pray again that I would be a part of God's work of justice in Jesus in a world so in need of God's healing and shalom.

How do you see this and the part we're to play in it?

1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
9. Indiana Jones - fear
10. Old Stone Church - love
11. Goldworthy's Wall - sacrifice
12. Clefts of the Rock - responsibility
13. Olive Press - gratitude
14. Forest Star - humility
15. Seedstone - healing
16. Sugar Face - forgiveness
17. Lava Rock - witness

Next week: Roxaboxen - heaven

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Pain is good, as we're reminded in a book by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Without it we wouldn't know that something was wrong with our bodies or our souls. No pain is the plight of lepers, as explained in that book. Pain in Scripture is the inevitable result of sin. God made that clear to both Adam and Eve after they had sinned. Her pains in childbirth would be greatly increased, and the ground would be cursed over which they would toil, Adam would have to work extra hard in what is at times a losing battle. And they would grow old and die. And their fellowship with God in the garden, would be only a distant and probably fading memory.

God steps in by grace. He pursued the guilty and fleeing pair, and he pointed to the way, right through them, the way of redemption. Yes, they would procreate the seed by whom the serpent's head would be crushed. It is moving that God in his grace would use the very ones who sinned and through whom came the fall, to bring redemption and restoration to all things in the end. But such was, and is the nature of God's redemptive work. It is incarnational. In the incarnation, God in his Son, becomes completely human while remaining completely God. And to the undoing of the serpent and all that was done in their very sin. God used them, the guilty pair, they were not set aside as useless. And he uses us today, even in the midst of our own sin and guilt. God brings redemption in the Seed, Christ. Through faith we enter in and become part of what God is doing in Jesus, even in the midst of all our pain, struggle and doubt.

Some of us do seem to go through so much more pain than others, whether physically or emotionally. And for all kinds of reasons. But by faith we can see the pain work for the glory of God if we'll just let it point us in the direction God has for us. God can take the pain away in answer to prayer, but it may be present for a good reason. More often God wants us to learn to live through the pain and honor him in it. That is the real miracle, as I read recently, and I believe that's true. That is experiencing God's grace and walking by faith. To keep looking to God even when all our being is impacted in some kind of ongoing pain. That is pleasing to God.

What would you like to add here?

Tomorrow: "Climbing - justice"
from L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Monday, September 01, 2008


Truth is in a Person, but truth is propositional from God's word, as well. We see that time and time again in Scripture. This does not mean we know it all, or that we know anything perfectly, but it does means that by faith we can and will have certainty of truth revealed by God in words for our understanding. We believe and therefore we understand (Augustine). To assert as some are doing, that we really can't know anything, seems untrue to what God tells us in Scripture. And of course that logic falls apart. How can we really know, then, that we can't know anything? We can't on that logic. And logic isn't just from modernism, but it's a part of who we are as those made in God's image. Not to say we'll ever be able to put everything together. With God, surely some sort of mystery will remain forever.

In a modern/postmodern world, truth is in crisis. Along with Pilate, the mood and even belief today is, "What is truth?" But in Jesus and in God's word in Scripture we do have truth revealed from God. In a healthy emphasis on story, we must not leave history and truth behind. Because this is what the Story of God in Jesus found in Scripture, is grounded on. These things are really true, and really happened.

Any thoughts here you'd like to share?