Sunday, August 31, 2008

prayer of the week

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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

quote for the week - Philip Yancey on grace from the church

...I believe that dispensing God's grace is the Christian's main contribution. As Gordon MacDonald said, the world can do anything the church can do except one thing: it cannot show grace. In my opinion, Christians are not doing a very good job of dispensing grace to the world, and we stumble especially in this field of faith and politics.
What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, p. 242

Saturday, August 30, 2008

from hopelessness to hope

There have been certain times in my life when I felt hopeless in overcoming a problem. I can't recall the exact nature of all such occasions, except to say that they were matters relating to the faith and my walk in it. Some had to do with the mind and ridding myself of either false or inadequate teaching, teaching perhaps undermining the truth as it is in Jesus. Other had to do with overcoming what was sinful in my heart. Of course there are many matters we face which threaten us in some way or another. Usually not in your face kind of stuff, often subversive, undermining our faith in God through Christ.

Recently I had become weakened in my hope of getting over a problem in me, and I just could see no way out. But I was reminded again that our hope is never in ourselves, but in God in Christ, and in the promises of God to us in Jesus. I always use "in Jesus", or "in Christ", because this is the one locus, or place in which we can be assured of God's salvation and blessing.

I finally thought it wise to simply pray to God and ask him to change it, to intervene, really to change me. I knew the needed change was not in me at all; I couldn't do it, myself. It was something God wanted me to recognize and acknowledge as wrong in me, not according to his will. I confessed it to God and asked him to change me. Well, I believe he is. It's a walk of faith and is taking time, involving a process of change. One that has some ups and downs, on an upward trajectory towards "the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3). But one in which I'm amazed at the working of God. And am called to work out this salvation with fear and trembling, knowing it is God himself at work in me, so that I can choose and do his good will, what pleases him (Philippians 2).

This is very encouraging to me. And I hope it might be encouraging to a reader out there, in need of hope in what seems hopeless in your life.

Anyone like to share anything on this from your own life?

Friday, August 29, 2008

praying liturgically when depressed

I've begun reading Edward T. Welch's book, Depression: A Stubborn Darkness: Light for the Path. I like everything in the book so far, and the entire book looks good and balanced in important ways. And written in a way to help a depressed person read it. And others of you who don't battle depression will benefit from it.

In it he "talks" very well about the help "liturgical prayers" can be for those in depression, and then wisely points us to the psalms which consist largely of prayers. It is true that in depression one often has no heart to do anything, prayer certainly included. We read psalms which express human suffering in ways we readily identify with when depressed. Welch has wise, helpful words for us on this.

Just a couple of days ago my depression was weighing heavily on me (yesterday, much lighter, sometimes hardly present) and throughout the day I began to recite over and over, the Jesus Prayer: "Jesus Christ, Son of God; have mercy on me a sinner." As I repeated it, I more and more entered into it, this prayer becoming my very own. The cry for mercy is seen often in the psalms. We do well in Jesus, to come with confidence to the throne of grace for mercy and help in our time of need. I did so through that simple, Scriptural prayer, and I did find God's help that day.

I'll be blogging more on this book, as I think it's an excellent read for those of us who suffer with depression. Even for those of you who do not, this book has value, since we all can be down over the troubles of this life.

Any thoughts you'd like to add here?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What is it about politics?

Some say we should never talk to others about politics and religion, because it's so divisive. Where I work at RBC Ministries, there is probably more talk than usual on politics lately. I have found my views as a registered Independent, and neither sold to the Democratic or Republican party, not fitting there quite often, and sometimes unwelcome. So I steer clear, and usually don't speak my mind. Though I do have a tendency to speak my mind when I think others are amiss in some way. Though as time goes on, I am more and more reluctant to do so, and want to do so gently when I do.

Politics has its place and much good has been done through it, or prevention of evil. But I think much of the confidence in it by both the religious right, and the religious left, is misplaced. Where is God's work of the kingdom in Jesus, today? Scripturally, I think it's in the church, Christ's Body on earth. Not in any government or nation. Not to say God doesn't use nations, because he most certainly does. But the church is the people of God; America never has been nor ever could be the people of God. We're not one nation under God, and we never have been. At best our Christianity has been a cultural one. Yes, true Christianity has been here, but that has not played out in making our nation practice true Christianity. Though I don't necessarily see eye to eye or follow everything in this book, I have found it interesting. Written by a professor at Liberty University- Michael Babcock, who was friends of Jerry Falwell to the end of Falwell's life, who as I recall, changed his mind around 2001.

We do need some good Christian thinking on this subject. I like to put my thinking elsewhere, and part of that is the turtle syndrome, in which I'd rather hide under my protective shell, and not be engaged in every controversy, or cause a controversy in some matters. And unlike some of my friends who see everything as cut and dried, black and white, I find complexity in this issue, and in many areas of life. For example on abortion, I don't find it a slam dunk in knowing which way to vote, as far as the two major parties. I'm unconvinced of "trickle down" economics, which while having some truth is definitely not the entire truth. The number of abortions beginning to drop started in Bill Clinton's presidency, and continues going down to this day. Of course it would be nice to see Roe v Wade overturned which would simply send the issue back to the states to decide. And we need bipartisan work against the tragedy of abortion. I'm glad Senator Hilliary Clinton has said that every abortion is a tragedy. We need to work to cut down the number of abortions. I don't believe in a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy which means terminating a human life. But neither do I believe in voting for a party because of this issue, which has done little to end the holocaust. And I think Democratic policies tend towards less abortions. Though the whole matter is complex, and is a mirror of our national moral crisis.

So there you go. Just a quick glimpse of where I'm at. So I'll likely have the television on tonight. Yes, I wish I would have caught Michelle Obama's speech, and I will try to get it some other way. I'll have book in hand, and will be interested in the speeches, particularly Barack Obama's. Politics has its place. But our hope is in God, never in a nation, or a leader. Our allegiance is to God in Jesus, as the one holy nation scattered throughout the earth.

What might you like to say on this?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lava Rock - witness, from L.L. Barkat

From Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Deb and I had the privilege of meeting L.L. Barkat. I remember her peering at us, and we at her. Both with questioning looks, like: are you the folks/person I'm/we're expecting to meet? At the end of a busy day, L.L. graciously met us where she was staying, and we had an hour together to get acquainted. But after reading L.L.'s book, I feel so much more acquainted. She knows what it means to be finding grace in hard and hidden places.

And this wonderful chapter on witnessing is no exception to that! We find L.L. struggled wanting to save people, just as her father did. And that while L.L. learned to accept that she is neither a Billy Graham or Paul, yet she enthusiastically and creatively finds ways to witness to people in sowing and watering, while others get in on the reaping end of that.

I too have not seen much fruit (an understatement) as far as professed conversions from my witness. And I must admit, that unlike L.L., my witness has not been as strong as it should be. But I'm awakening to addressing that. I always want to share Christ with others, I mean as a goal- though that can be lost in all the busyness and choices of life. And I think in terms of having a neighborhood Bible study at our home. Hopefully someday through prayer and love that will happen.

This chapter is both realistic and encouraging in an area in which many of us Christians are weak. Read it, along with the entire book! And slowly. And don't forget the helpful "discussion questions" in the back. Here are a couple on this chapter: "4. When it comes to telling others about the gospel, do you feel a sense of guilt or freedom? Explain. 5. If you were to conceive of yourself as a grace-bearer instead of someone who tries to save others, would this change anything in your life?" (p. 165)

What would you like to say on this?

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

Next week: "Climbing - Justice"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

humbling ourselves

Augustine in the book I quoted from in Sunday's post has some good words on humbling ourselves. I really don't have permission to copy the words, and it makes me wonder about my "quotations of the week". Don't know what to think on that, as I believe in obeying every law, and this just occurred to me yesterday.

Augustine says that we ascend by descending, as followers of our Lord. We must descend into the valleys, before we can ascend into the mountains. It is really quite good, and spoke to me clearly today. I would have liked to copy it for here.

I find this true, but can do it falsely, left to myself. Self-deprecation is not helpful here. Obedience to Christ in letting God be God in our lives, as we seek to trust and obey, owning up to our sins, and in all this, embracing the way of our Lord Jesus, in all of life, is key here.

And it's not just a one or two event matter. It's to be a daily and regular ongoing practice and way of life for us. We must let go of all pride and humble ourselves. Whenever we are aware of pride, we should immediately confess it to God and forsake it. And we may need to confess it to another, if it has shown up in our actions or words. Just today a sister in the Lord pointed out to me a fault I have. I was glad for her help, because I failed to see it, or appreciate it for what it really was. This can help me set a new tone and goal for my life in that area.

What about you? What have you learned about the grace of humility in Jesus, in your life, which can help us?

Tomorrow: "Lava Rock - witness" from L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Monday, August 25, 2008

changing my views

I think one constant we Christians should be open to, aside from the essential of our commitment to the faith, is openness to change. Around seven years ago my theology was dramatically impacted through reading N.T. Wright. And due to my Anabaptist background along with discovering that Scot McKnight had a blog, I gravitated back towards my roots.

Around a year or so ago, it seemed like I became a bit stale in my theological endeavor. But recently I've become reawakened to a rethinking of my theological positions.

Theology in a sense, I think, is a second order exercise. One of great importance, in that we are trying to take the truth of Scripture into our world view and let it impact how we're to live. But first order exercise is to be before God in the reading of Scripture, prayer, community in Jesus, good works, and mission in Jesus to the world. I see these as practices we're to be engaged in. The theology comes for all of us. It's simply an expression of what we believe, in words and works. Trying to make sense of it all but seeking to do so with reference to tradition (what the church has taught), reason and experience. None of those are infallible, though they all factor in to our reading of Scripture. After all, Scripture is a human book, though essentially even in that humanness, it is the word of God and therefore infallible, our one infallible source. But necessarily we must engage it through tradition, reason, and experience.

Now, what am I changing? That's the frustrating part, because I'm not all the way where I seem to be going, yet. But I'm headed towards nuancing our existence in the sense that while we're not of the world, we pray that God's kingdom come, his will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And that culture, while having plenty of the godless world system in it, is not intrinsically evil (even true of politics, mind you!). Culture also reflects the image of God. God's goal in Christ is shalom, and it's an earthly, material shalom. Yes, we look for a heavenly country, but the end result seems to be the wedding of heaven in the New Jerusalem, and earth together, in the new creation when it's completed in Jesus.

Here are posts worth reading on this, by Michael Kruse, an incessant and excellent blogger, whose steady work over the months is finally getting through to me in some key ways. Not that I understand or follow it all, but there is some really good stuff here to think on in the light of Scripture.

Again, I consider of utmost importance our first order tasks, though the second order stuff should follow.

What might you like to add here? Have you ever felt half-baked, or even up in arms as to what you believe on some issues? Me too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

prayer of the week

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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

quote for the week - Augustine on devotion to God

In all things that I contemplate as I am consulting you, I find no secure place for my soul except in you. And in you, I pray that what is scattered in me may be brought together, so that no part of me may be apart from you.

Sometimes when you are working within me, bringing my scattered self to you, you draw me into a state of feeling that is unlike anything I am used to, a kind of sweet delight. I know that if this spiritual state were made permanent in me it would be something not of this world, not of this life.

Confessions 10
Early Will I Seek You: A 40-Day Journey in the Company of Augustine: Devotional Readings Arranged by David Hazard, p. 15

Saturday, August 23, 2008

random thoughts

I've been thinking about quitting blogging entirely. Or changing the name of this blog. Some kind of crisis, I guess, as to what I'll do. But probably I'll just keep plugging away, as these thoughts are nothing new.

I also seem to be drawn to the book of Revelation, really against most of what I think I know about it. The judgment and loud, chaotic scenes in it, hardly draw me. And what draws me even less is the way Revelation and the Second Coming of Jesus are portrayed in popular books by evangelical Christians. It's a book which many great theologians of the past have avoided. Maybe within it there are elements I need which are weak in my Christian spiritual DNA. I think I pick up a bit on that, already. I'm currently enjoying Ben Witherington's commentary on Revelation.

Deb had to work last night, but later we'll walk to the car show only around a leisurely 20 minute walk from where we live. Alot of hot cars there, even the original Batmobile this year. I'm not much into cars; Deb might be into them even a bit more than I am, but it's still fun to see classics and antiques all souped up and often looking brand new.

I think I need a deeper work of spirituality in my heart and life. I'm drawn to people like Bernard of Clairvaux from what I recently read on this blog. He emphasized regular readings of Scripture, drawing near to God, living communally, and doing good works in the world. I don't know all the details, but I think we need more of these kinds of communities in the context of a disciplined seeking together of God and application of God's truth- in Jesus in the world. Most of what happens in our churches from what I've seen, comes no where near this, or maybe I just missed where it does. Though I must say I love what our church does do.

Morgan is now around seven weeks old and she's doing alright. Here's a photo of me holding her a few weeks ago.

And here's a picture of Tiffany holding her baby Morgan.

What about you? Any random thoughts from your life you'd like to share here?

Friday, August 22, 2008

scaring the hell out of us

You may not like the title of my post (I don't like it either, really) or the subject matter (I'll agree with you there, to a large extent at least), or the tone of some of my posts recently (okay, I don't either), or in the past (to some extent I'll agree there, also). But I believe this is important because it's a part of Scripture, and I believe Scripture is the word of God speaking the message and Story of God to us. Which ultimately comes to us, in Jesus, God's final word to us.

I was raised Mennonite, but after my conversion at the beginning of my senior year in high school, I was soon influenced by my uncle who taught at the school and is a pastor, and I by and by embraced a Baptist doctrine, leaving my Mennonite beliefs behind. Of course eternal security was part of that teaching, and since I felt insecure, I found it helpful and liberating for me. And indeed, it is essential to know just how important and foundational God's keeping of us in Jesus is.

At the same time, I think what I understand Scot McKnight in a recent comment at Jesus Creed, to have said, is true. Many Baptists who believe in eternal security, once saved always saved, really do not believe in perseverance, that is that true Christians will persevere faithfully in God's will till the end, not perfectly, but they'll always come back and be saved in the end. I do think most Baptists believe we're to live holy lives, and only a few think that when you are saved you don't have to concern yourself with that.

But inherent in their position is the belief that once you're saved you'll always be saved. In light of the book of Hebrews, and in light of Jesus' strong warnings to his disciples, I think such a position takes the teeth out of such passages. The idea is that no matter what you do, you can't lose your salvation. That may be true. For example I knew a good young pastor years ago, at that time a youth pastor who believed that one would forfeit their salvation if they committed suicide. There is no way I believe that. Though at the same time I wouldn't want to fall into such a sin with all the awful ramifications and no opportunity in this life to repent of it.

What sinning can do for us is harden our hearts since sin is deceitful. We can drift away from the message of Christ and the gospel. Not just for those who have yet to taste and see that the Lord is good, but for those who already have. We are told in Scripture to make our calling and election sure. There are other arguments on this side, as well as on the other side. Good Christians will disagree on it.

My plea though is to take seriously the warning passages, and not somehow skirt what they're actually saying so as to take the teeth out of them. By faith we're kept by the power of God for salvation, but though we can't earn our salvation, we can walk away from it, at first perhaps not deliberately, but in the end no longer caring, hardened in heart and devoted to other things (idols) rather than God in Christ.

So I think we need to listen to the word of God and take to heart all that is written in it. We need to continue to rest in the grace of God for us in Jesus, trusting God for his good work in us, and working that out with fear and trembling.

Just some scattered and incomplete thoughts on this, this morning. One part of Scripture which is not pleasant, but is for our good.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

barely holding on

In Rich Mullins final album, The Jesus Record, he has a line in the song, "Hard to Get" in which it is said that Jesus was "barely holding on" at the Garden of Gethsemane. At times I feel that way, probably a bit every day lately. Life has its challenges and we have our weaknesses. This is part of the walk of faith that we walk through these challenges and responsibilities, rather than around them.

Barely holding on can be a call to us that we need to keep looking to Jesus, that we need to come near to God in Jesus. That we need to keep listening, so we can hear God's voice to us in Jesus. That we need to keep reading Scripture and praying, as well as seeking to live out God's call for us, in Jesus. And that we need to interact with other Christians in the fellowship of the Body of Christ. And it may also mean that we need a special get away, some small, maybe one larger and longer- to seek God and be quiet before him.

In the course of a day I normally always experience a sense of rest and peace, as well. Though sometimes the sense of "barely holding on" can be quite long. We simply must realize that following Christ in faith sometimes involves something experientially, that is hard. And that we should not let this throw us off. But really be a call to pursue God in Jesus, even harder.

Over at Jesus Creed there is a series from Alan Jamieson’s book Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Notice this post on it from Rachel. Much related, I think, to my few thoughts here.

What would you like to add here?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Sugar Face - forgiveness" from L.L. Barkat

Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places, by L.L. Barkat

Forgiveness seems elusive. We can say we forgive someone and really mean it, but in our hearts we may not have. And if we haven't in our hearts, then Jesus says we haven't done so at all.

L.L. shares her struggles in forgiving both her father and her grandmother. She found herself holding grudges against each of them, and as we read the story, we can understand why. How she came to really forgive them involved both seeing something of her father's own grief over mistreatment in his life by his father, and a revelation as it were, from God about her continued anger over her grandmother's deriding words.

While L.L. was stewing with contempt over her grandmother's past steadied, principled in her own eyes criticisms of her, these questions "rolled into [her] mind: 'What if the people whose love you cherish held you to the standard to which you hold her? What if your loved ones only saw your faults, of which you have many? What is your unforgiveness but an idol set on a pedestal - the idol of you set in perfection against others?" (p. 119) L.L. had never imagined herself as having a problem with idolatry. But the thought that she was looking at her grandmother with an exaggerated and untrue image of who she herself was, made the charge of idolatry ring true. She really was no better herself than the "sugar face" she and her children had seen of the sculpture of a man, eventually to melt away in the humidity of the day. It was finite and limited, not marble like she first thought- and we all are, as well.

I wonder about my own heart towards others, at times. People who are out and out sinners, I can readily identify with, because in my heart I know I can fit in that category. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." But people who look down on others I struggle with, because I am angered over the hurt they inflict on them, some of that directed at me. I find myself in my heart at times striking back against them, and often holding a grudge against them, or wanting to avoid their company.

But with L.L. I have to wonder if I'm actually viewing them with some exalted image of myself in view. An attitude of: "I thank God I'm not like them!" In fact, I can be the judge over them! Rather than seeing God as the only one who can judge. And seeing them "in Jesus" so that we're all taken up in him in our need for forgiveness and reconciliation to God and to each other. Do we extend the forgiveness through Christ we've received, even to our enemies, or those who have deeply hurt us? As we by grace are enabled to do that, they will begin to see not us, not the idol of ourselves we've concocted, but the Lord in all his beauty and glory, in his grace and truth. And as we all see the Lord, we will then begin to recognize and can acknowledge our own utter sinfulness, and God's grace in Jesus for each of us.

Again another chapter which hits home for me, and helps us look at forgiveness in a new, fresh way.

How can a true view of ourselves help us forgive others? How can a true view of God in Jesus help us forgive others? Is forgiveness just a one time act, or might we ordinarily have to do it over and over again? What did Jesus say on that? Or what thoughts would you like to share on this?

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

Next week: "Lava Rock - witness"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

not my own righteousness

To be like Jesus, in Scripture is to be like Paul, to some extent. And to follow Paul as he followed Christ involves not having a righteousness of our own, but Christ's righteousness, or the righteousness from God which comes through faith in Christ.

Paul states in the Philippians 3 passage that his desire was to be found in Christ. This seems to be something that Paul was not taking for granted.

In our evangelical world it seems to me that we do take this for granted. Once someone "accepts Christ" they are "in Christ" and this is no longer a concern. Unless I'm reading this passage wrongly, for Paul it was a passion. Paul knew what it was like to be righteous in his own efforts in keeping God's law. He followed the prescribed keeping of the law, faultlessly. There surely was a sense of failure though in seeking to keep the law. I think I see echoes of this in Romans 7, which I think looks at life in seeking to keep God's law apart from Christ and without the help of the Spirit. I believe the "I" there is a personification common in that time in writing, for humankind's efforts to keep God's law written outwardly and inwardly.

Oftentimes I have wondered about myself. I have been a Christian now for many years (nearly 35!), but so much of the time I have been more taken up with my own efforts to live the Christian life. Of course in that is failure, although "in Christ" God is always at work in us.

But like Paul, I want to no longer take this for granted. I want to be found in Christ and I want to know Christ better. I want my life to be answerable to Jesus Christ. Of course there is much involved in that, not least of which is our union in the Body of Christ with others who are in Jesus.

What about you? Do you see this as a concern in your life as a Christian? Do we take this for granted when maybe we should not? Why or why not?

Tomorrow: "Sugar Face - forgiveness" from L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Monday, August 18, 2008

we need help

Over at Mart DeHaan's Been Thinking About blog, there is a good post on Michael Phelps, and how what he achieved in winning the unprecedebted eight good medals was impossible apart from the help he received from his teammates in the relay races.

This reminded me of the importance Scripture gives to the truth that we are dependent to some degree on other people. This is true in so many ways in society, and true in the church as revealed in the New Testament, as well.

I really believe that what we do or fail to do can mean the difference between life and death for others. And for ourselves, as well. We need to believe in the truth in Scripture, that we need help from others, and that others need help from us.

This does not mean we're no longer responsible for our own failures and sins. But it does mean that God has made it so that we're not to see the life in Christ as just a life between us and God, but a life that includes all others who are "in Christ." And a life which calls others to faith in Christ, as well.

We need help. I believe this. I want to plug in better to other Christians and what they have to say, to receive the prayers of others, and likewise the warnings as well as the encouragements of others. And I want to help others through prayers and good counsel as well.

Too easily I can just be isolated, or when down go off somewhere to myself, even thinking of a getaway with just myself and God. Such a time has its place as we see even from Jesus' life on earth. But I'm seeing more and more that I need others, and in God's working of grace he uses me in other's lives, as well.

What about you? Do you believe you can make it on your own with God's help, or do you believe that God's help involves an interdependent relationship with others?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

prayer of the week

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of this redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

quote of the week: Dietrich Bonhoeffer - fellowship through Christ

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" - this is the Scripture's praise of life together under the Word. But now we can rightly interpret the words "in unity" and say, "for brethren to dwell together through Christ." For Jesus Christ alone is our unity. "He is our peace." Through him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 39

Saturday, August 16, 2008

interesting fun

Deb and I at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, yesterday. Much to write on it, and not enough time to do so. It was interesting fun and quite a walk/work out.

Friday, August 15, 2008

keep reading

We can be discouraged because we can see ourselves as not good readers, and thus we can fail to read, period, or do alot less reading then we should. Or we can pick up a book and lose interest in it, or have trouble finishing books we actually like. Or we can be slow readers. True of me, the best books I want to read slowly, though sometimes you can get caught up and carried along by a page turner!

I've been guilty and am guilty at times of all the above. But I've learned over the years not to let that discourage me. There is nothing I'd rather do every day than read. Doesn't have to be a long read, but I enjoy reading. We need to be encouraged to keep at it, as a part of fulfilling the Jesus Creed in seeking to love God with all our minds.

Above all, we need to keep reading or hearing God's word, Scripture. This is a Book we need to get into, as well as it getting into us. Like Eugene Peterson reminds us from Scripture, We're to eat this Book!

How is reading clearly beneficial to you? And how can reading be a pitfall to us?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

hearing the word/ the Story of God

I guess one of the most important aspects of my life is simply hearing God's word. It has been true ever since I was a young Christian, listening to my grandmother's well worn small vinyl records of the KJV New Testament being read, and read wonderfully. After a time, I could play long segments of it in my head, it seems, and once in awhile, or at least I used to years later, still do so. Then I got a dramatized version of the NIV, followed years after that with a straight reading of the NIV. Now I've been borrowing The Bible Experience from our public library system.

We need to get a sense of the Story in Scripture- its breadth and depth, the beginning and the ending, and everything in between. As we do so we see that we indeed have a place in the Story. It's God's story, but we all have our parts in it. God is at the center in Jesus. We are to look to that center, and find our place in this story.

There are different places. But there is a place for everyone, no matter what your past or even present. Look to God in Jesus. There is grace for you in Jesus, no matter what sin you may be struggling with. No matter what sins you may have fallen into in your past, with all the devastating results or consequences. I know this by experience. As I look to God through Jesus, and remain in God's word, God moves in my life. I seek to come near to God, and as I do so, God always comes near to me.

A good place to begin your quest is in the word. And a good way to get into the word if you're a person like me, is to listen to it. I like The Bible Experience, because it's not hurried, and comes across more naturally than do some excellent readings of Scripture. A reader of Scripture I've found to be excellent is Max McLean. And I have used and like Steven B. Stevens. But there are other places to look, and you may want to find one from a Bible version you use. And likely something is out there from someone reading your favorite version. But do give it a careful listen before you buy it. And of course you can access this online.

We need to get into God's word, and we need God's word to get into us. And as this happens by God's grace to us in Jesus, we will begin to find our place in God's Story. A wonderful place, wherever and whatever it is. As we look forward to the day when the dynamic ending comes and unfolds in a way in which we find, like C.S. Lewis wrote, that the story is just now beginning. But the beginning is for us, for each of us, in Jesus, now.

What thoughts might you like to share on this?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Seedstone - healing" from L.L. Barkat

From L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Living in a fallen world and part of the fall ourselves, we all are in need of healing. In fact salvation itself in Scripture is likened to or called healing. This is to begin in Jesus for us now, but someday will be completed in the resurrection and consummation of all things in the new creation in Jesus. Then our healing will be complete.

Until then however, L.L.'s chapter helps us understand that God takes even the hard, broken things of our lives and in Jesus remakes them and gives them new life. Again L.L.'s frankness about her own brokenness is encouraging for all the rest of us broken Eikons (transliterated from the Greek New Testament word eikon, translated "image," with reference to humankind created in the image of God, and in Jesus being created anew in God's image, as the brokenness is being restored).

For myself, along with L.L., I'm realizing that the healing I need is not just in regard to the effects of sin in my past or of living in a broken down, fallen world. But also because I sin in the present (remember sins of omission as well as commission), even while righteous in Christ and practicing righteousness. I therefore need healing now. This gives hope as we know it's all by grace, that we are ever undeserving, that our only hope is in the Lord.

This chapter was good for me because I tend to look at healing as only for those who somehow have something together. But healing is for those who in themselves have nothing together. And like the man born blind, we must go by faith in our brokeness in obedience to God's word to us in Jesus, and walk by faith, not by sight, and through that begin to receive our healing in this life.

Again, this chapter was written in a way in which only L.L. can and does write! And if you want a book which just gives you 2+2=4 and puts everything down in a neat little bundle or formula for you to carry out, this book is not for you. But if you want a book which like the best books, and supremely like the Book, makes you realize anew your dependence on God and his great and full salvation in Jesus, then this is a most excellent book to help venture forth in that direction.

And again, don't forget to look at and think through the "discussion questions" in the back, preferably with others- after all that's what "discussion" means. :)

Any thoughts 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

Next week: "Sugar Face - forgiveness"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

the Jesus creed- refresher

I learned this term from Scot McKnight some time ago, and blogged on it here and there, especially in the earlier days of this blog. And I believe we need to go back to it again and keep going back to it.

The Jesus Creed is simply as follows:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.
Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."


It is important to our faith and life to be followers of Jesus, and how we're to live on this earth is summed up in these two commands: we're to love God supremely, in all our being and doing, and we're to love our neighbor, that is our fellow human being, whoever they may be- as ourselves.

After Jesus ascended and the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church, this did not change! Actually all Jesus taught was then implemented in the way it needed to be, in the way Jesus promised on the eve of his departure, by his death into his new resurrection sphere of life.

I was raised under the influence of evangelicalism, which in my younger years, even in my Mennonite church was influenced by the Scofield Bible. Not to put that Bible down, or its adherents, but its theology is certainly different than a sound Mennonite, Anabaptist theology. But the people in the pews are still influenced by the trends of the day, just like today with some of the winds of doctrine blowing around. We all need to be aware of how we may be impacted in ways we wouldn't imagine, just left to ourselves.

So it wasn't hard for me, and even for some Mennonite pastors I think, to see Paul's letters as being what we need to focus on. And don't get me wrong: those letters and homily, along with the rest of the New Testament, all have their place, and it's a vital and important place for our faith and life today.

But we do need to get back to a proper emphasis on the coming, works, words and work of our Lord Jesus, as given to us in the gospels. And "the Jesus Creed" found in them needs to be at the heart of all we are and do. If it's not loving God as in drawing near to him and obeying him, and if it's not loving our neighbor like Jesus did, then it's not according to God's will for us today.

Not to say that we ever keep these commands perfectly, though I believe by grace and by the work of the Spirit, there are surely instances when perhaps we are doing it at least without any conscious sin.

And it needs to be emphasized that "in Jesus" we're all in this together for the sake of the world. Jesus' coming and our being "in him" in this world is not just so we can know salvation here. It's missional at its heart, and we must not forget that. We're to love God and our neighbor with that in mind.

Alot of words here, and a bit scattered, but what would you like to add on this?

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

Monday, August 11, 2008

lament and union

Over the weekend I was thinking about lament and union with Christ. For a person like me, who has battled depression most all of my life, such considerations from Scripture as brought out by Michael Card and Andrew Murray (also here), I find helpful.

Card in his book gives us permission to acknowledge freely that not all is alright with us, and not everything is going well in this world. In fact, quite often, quite the opposite! The psalms are full of such lament, and he goes on to look at Job, David, Jeremiah, and Jesus himself.

Murray helps us see that a special life in Jesus in this world is not only possible, but within reach of every child of God. This life is not for the strong, but for the weak and sinful. Therefore it's for all of us. Of course we must first come to Jesus, but the rest promised to us is not just for the beginning, but for all of our lives in Jesus. The main passage is John 15 and from that we're encouraged to see that there is a life of abiding in Jesus in which the Father grafts each believer as a branch into the True Vine- Jesus. So that the life of Jesus, by his death and our union with him there, is available for us.

I have plenty more to learn or be reminded of- so that I can put it into practice. As Murray points out, we need to immediately put into practice, by faith, the truth in Jesus from God's word, that comes to us, regardless of our feelings, or even lack of understanding. I plan to meditate on John 15 at work. I want to know more of this abiding, in a deeper way, beyond just the basic way God has all of us his children, remaining in Jesus. To read that passage seems to make clear to me that there is more to it than just remaining in Jesus so as to be saved. There is surely a close life union with him, so that we bear much fruit.

I look forward to learning to live more in this reality while I go on lamenting over my own sin, the incompleteness of our redemption prior to the final resurrection, and life in this fallen world. How to put this all together, I don't know. I do think the lament should drive us more deeply into that union with Jesus, as we share in his sufferings and he with ours- in this world. And of course that this is not just an individual endeavors, but that we're also in this together, in Jesus in this world.

Any thoughts on this?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

prayer for the week

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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

quote of the week - Michael Card: lament in confession of sin

Depending on which commentary you pick up, you'll read that from one-third to over one-half of the psalms are laments. With the exception of one psalm (88), each lament turns eventually to praise, revealing an important truth that has been lost; lament is one of the most direct paths to the true praise we know we have lost. In fact, lament is not a path to worship, but the path of worship.

[There is] a time to weep.
But there exists within American Christianity a numb denial of our need for lament. Some theologians go so far as to say these biblical laments no longer apply to us. And so the language of confession sounds stranger and stranger to our ears. It is heard less and less in our churches, and when it is voiced, rarely are our sins genuinely lamented. Through lament, we regain both a sense of awareness and a language to express the hopeless depth of our sin. We discover a way to enter the Presence and there experience the despair that comes as a result of unconfessed sin. After all, can sins be sincerely confessed until their lamentable-ness is deeply felt by us and submitted to God for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus?

Our inability or refusal to enter into personal lament betrays the fact that we do not recognize the depth of our sin. We stubbornly refuse to have our hearts broken by it. The only result is that our sins continue to break the heart of God. It is only after lamenting our sin that our eyes can be truly open to the glorious truth that we stand forgiven, with the righteousness of Christ, and realize that we are in the Presence of the One who has heard our cries with tender and sympathetic ears.

Apart from lament, you and I are robbed of our true identity before God. We remain unaware of the depth of our fallen identities as sinners and blind to the reality and depth of the costly forgiveness that is offered to us through Jesus Christ. Confession is lament for the sin that began in the Garden. The painful honesty confession demands is the fabric of all lament, as is the deep need for forgiveness and restoration to God's Presence. It is as if worship and confession are one holy fabric held together by strands of lament.

The laments of Scripture can help us relearn this lost language. Characters like Job, David, Jeremiah, and even Jesus provide us paradigms of lament. They all freely spoke the language of lament that in the end cost them so much. They demonstrated for us lives lived in the freedom of lament. This book is simply an attempt to look at their lives and listen to their laments. This is not a book about some new way to get what we want from God. Rather, it is a biblical exploration of the spiritual lives of four broken men who gave up all they ever wanted to discover what it was that God wanted most to give.

Michael Card, A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in The Lost Language of Lament, 21-22

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Seven Facts: A Meme

Diane at Emerging Quaker has tagged me along with six others. Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

5. Present an image of martial discord (as in "war," not as in "marriage") from whatever period or situation you’d like.

Thanks, Diane. Here goes:

1. I like to walk and read at the same time.

2. I used to like my hair- especially decades ago; now I enjoy having no, or very little hair!

3. My favorite seasons are Spring and Autumn, perhaps in that order. Summer and Winter are alright, as well- and if I lived further south, I'd miss the four seasons.

4. My favorite pie is cherry.

5. Most of the time, I prefer to read several books at a time, especially if I'm doing heavy reading. Unless I'm particularly interested in a subject, or run into a page turner.

6. I like to hear the Bible being read, did so for years, then quit for awhile. Back to listening to a more dramatized version, and quite well done through The Bible Experience, and my wife Deb likes it!

7. We recently became grandparents, and I had the most fun last Sunday morning, getting to hold Morgan.

I had included a painting, later providing the link for it, but have removed it, and will just skip this part, since I don't really want to work through permissions to use copyrights.

Seven I now tag in alphabetical order: Craver VII; Halfmom, AKA, Susan; Laure; L.L. Barkat; Mike; Nancy.

Friday, August 08, 2008

friends and fun

Life has plenty of troubles and struggles. But it's always good to find true friends and along with that some fun in the mix.

We really need friendship with others, and we need a bit of fun, as well. Life can get really heavy at times for all of us. In Jesus everything created can be enjoyed. We need to be serious, but we need also to have some fun. We shoot a few rubber bands here and there at work. Can break the monotony. And always good to interact with true friends- people who accept and love us, warts and all- and we them.

I have found that both friends and fun need a bigger place in my life. Both gave me a needed boost yesterday. My true friends helped me smile, right from the heart.

How about you? What place do friends and fun have in your life? I know friends are on a different level than fun, yet the two can mix of course.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

listening to "The Bible Experience"- Icons

Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed yesterday had a post on The Bible Experience and I weighed in a few times on it. I'm really enjoying listening to it, and unlike the listening of the Bible I did for years, my wife likes this.

I am in the Old Testament now, and I actually am able to borrow the CD's from our public library system and pick them up within easy walking distance of our house, which is nice. But someday I want to purchase my own, maybe an MP3 version.

You ought to give them a listen. I love certain aspects of them, and have found nothing I dislike, yet.

I like to hear Scripture read, and tend to learn by hearing. This is different in that you're hearing Scripture, but it has a strong element of dramatization in it, as well. Right now I'm hearing a voice for God's voice (in Exodus), and I think it's well done, but imagine how it might reflect more of what we can understand of God from Scripture. A great voice to portray God's voice in quality and manner, but clearly male. But then I realize there is an iconic quality to all of this.

Icons are not the real thing, but they help God's people reflect on the real thing, and press past the images to the reality. Of course icons in Eastern Orthodox are purposively austere and meant only to help the faithful reflect on and enter into the reality behind them.

My own preference is probably still for just a good straightforward reading of Scripture heard from one person. Even then interpretation is inevitable in how they read it. But it's much more text-driven (of course the text from the original, in translation involves significant interpretation). But even with the fine dramatization and all the interpretation that goes into that, we can know it's still just a representation, not the reality. Though it is God's word.

And if we remember that we are iconic ourselves, as humans, "Eikons" (from Greek rendering of the word) as Scot McKnight likes to put it, made in God's image- we certainly are not expressionless. Jesus himself is the perfect Icon and in that in him we find our way back towards full restoration as Icons of God.

So remembering that, I can be happy with the good dramatization, remembering all along that it is representative or a window to move us towards the reality which by faith we can begin to see and understand.

So give The Bible Experience a listen some time. Sampling it is okay, but the best way to appreciate it is to listen more and more to it. And for me, in my recent bout with depression, it's been a good way of getting me back into Scripture reading.

Any thoughts on my thinking here, or on The Bible Experience?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Forest Star - humility" from L.L. Barkat

from Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

This chapter is for me an amazing take on humility cast in a light which I've not seen, and certainly not as thoroughly. Along with the "discussion questions," this so far is the epitome of what I've seen again and again in this book.

I've seen myself as much of the time, generally humble. Not that pride never rears its ugly head so that I never have to struggle against it, because sometimes I do have that struggle. But most of the time, and for good reason in my mind, I don't see this as a major issue in my life. But this chapter makes me think twice on that.

Again L.L. shares transparently from her own life, and looks at two who overcame: Thomas Merton and Moses, along with those who did not: Satan and Absalom. This chapter along with the penetrating, excellent "discussion questions" in the back, makes me wonder just where I really am when it comes to humility.

The point in a nutshell is whether or not we are seeking any glory for ourselves in what we do. Perhaps we're unaware of that, but in one moment the ugly truth can become clear.

If we're blessed like Thomas Merton and Moses to recognize and acknowledge this, so that we can confess it to God in a renunciation which accepts God's word of forgiveness to us, then we can end up finding a glory that lasts, in a close love relationship with God through Christ in which God receives the glory, but we share in his glory (also here and here). We become, as it were, lights in the Lord, in whom God's beauty and glory can be revealed and seen by others. In the case of Moses, God steps in and stops him with judgment, but through that Moses knows the lasting good.

This chapter shook me, and makes me question where I really am in this, and reenforces that I want to be among those who seek no glory of their own, but live and do all for the glory of God.

What would you like to share from your life on this, or any thoughts?

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

Next week: "Seedstone - healing"

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

the Body

I think many of us tend to underrate and underestimate the importance of the Body of Christ in our lives. I think this plays out in our practice, individually and corporately. People might "go to church," but not really much to interact, though thankfully the church we're a part of is very strong in interacting.

For any who know me, they'll know I've struggled off and on with depression, most all my life. I have steered clear of meds, because the one I took wore off, and the other gave me splitting headaches at times. Recently, for some time now, I've struggled again with depression.

Sunday I went forward to get prayer from one of our pastors- Sharon (her husband, Jack, is our other pastor). She has a gift for praying and encouraging as well as counseling others. And she preaches quite well. Jack and her are a wonderful team at our church! Anyhow after she prayed for me I soon felt the urge for the first time in many days to pray. And I did. And since then my depression has lifted and has gradually gone away. So that now, I feel okay, and ready for more life.

The Body of Christ. Just how important are our brothers and sisters in our lives? Do we have a reciprocal relationship of receiving from them, and giving back from what God gives us through them? Little do we know the blessing in Jesus we can be to each other. And the blessing we can receive from others. I received a good reminder firsthand of the truth and power of this on Sunday.

What thoughts would you like to add on this?

tomorrow: "Forest Star - humility" from L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Monday, August 04, 2008

the need to persevere

I'm being refreshed in reading a number of books, and one of them, Kept by the Power of God, by I.Howard Marshall, I'm finding helpful right now. A Scottish scholar, Marshall shows us exegetically from Scripture the real danger that exists if believers in Jesus don't keep going forward in growth in grace. He proposes from Scripture that if we don't go forward, we will go backward, and we're in danger of losing what we once had- our salvation. Particularly in his work on the book of Hebrews, I think Marshall presents a compelling case for his thesis. I'm not done with the book yet, but I'm enjoying it because I think it brings out what so many, in one way or another, negate. And reading other books at the same time helps me avoid being suffocated by the difficult subject matter.

Any thoughts on this?

Arte y Pico award

Recently a new friend in the blogger, world, Laure at Sometimes... , who has a wonderful gift of poetry and art, honored me by including me in an award she herself had so deservedly been given, the "Arte y Pico" award. Thanks again, Laure!

For those of you who wonder just what this means (including myself, until I investigated further), here's an explanation.

I am to choose five bloggers to receive this award. I do so in alphabetical order, and it wasn't easy to choose. But here goes:

Halfmom, AKA, Susan at Not Ashamed is a scientist who has a special heart and mind for Christ and for people. Her words are helpful and fun, and she is a good friend to many. Her gift is both "art" and "science" as she shares from her heart. And her blog often has a life of its own when she's gone.

Lorenzo the Llama is a friend from across the Pond. She enjoys life and gets around. Particularly active around her house, and many wonderful pics. She must have a green thumb, for sure. And some lively conversations on her blog.

Maalie is a scientist from across the Pond, who has a passion for life and for science. His photos can be breathtaking, and I'm always learning when I go to his site. He enjoys the art one finds in science and in life, and you pick that up from him when you go there.

Martin Stickland, across the Pond at Combe Martin Life, besides his amazing pics, has alot of homegrown, between the toes, good humor, which always at least brings a smile to my face, and quite often leaves me laughing so that my wife wonders what's so funny.

Nancy at Sublime Transition (I guess she just changed the title of her blog, though I'm still used to her old title). Nancy is creative in words and in art. And unique. And she says alot in just a few words.

Simon Cotter at Bits n Bobs from "the land down under" gives us a glimpse of what's going on in the southern hemisphere, and it's really quite lovely over there. Great pics: I think he's an amateur naturalist from the heart!

I could have included more, but will stop here. I've broken the rules a little myself, but here they are for you I've awarded. It's pretty informal, and if you are willing and comfortable in doing this, fine. If not, that's okay.

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award, be it through creativity, design, or interesting material, and that also contributes to the blogger community, no matter the language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.
4) Award winners and the one who has given the award have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5) Show these rules.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

prayer for the week

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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

quote for the week- Mother Teresa on the Lord's keeping of her, and their ministry to the poor

Nobody can unbind me from God - I am consecrated to Him and as such I desire to die. - I don't know what the Canon Law has to say in this matter - but I know Our Lord will never allow Himself to be separated from me. - Neither will He allow anyone to separate me from Him.

(p 107)

I believe some are saying what use of working among these lowest of the low - that the great - the learned and the rich are ready to come [so] it is better to give full force to them. Yes, let them all do it. - The Kingdom must be preached to all. If the Hindu and Muslim rich people can have the full service and devotion of so many nuns & priests, surely the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low can have the love and the devotion of us few. "The slum Sister" they call me, and I am glad to be just that for His love and glory.

(pp 132-133)

from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light- The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta" Edited and with Commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

weary of politics

I am weary of politics and all the baggage it carries. It seems like it's naturally or at least easily just a point of contention for all who are engaged in it. We all have our view of how justice should be carried out and realized in this world. And we hold to our views passionately. But I wonder if we too easily dismiss the problems and limitations inherent in all of this.

For us in Jesus, we have a message from God of the kingdom of God come in Jesus. It's a message which cuts against the grain of both left and right. It's a message which refuses alliance with any kingdom or government of this world. It's a call to repentance and faith and submission to the one King of kings and Lord of lords- Jesus.

In light of that, I can't get overly excited about any one candidate any year. To do that seems to be in danger of selling out to one worldly "kingdom" or another. It's fine to be registered in one party or another, or to serve politically in either, don't get me wrong. I just think we have to remember what it is and what it is not. It is what it is, with all its limitations. But it is not either the kingdom of God or allied to the kingdom of God come in Jesus. It is neither! Government or "the state" needs to be much more humble than that.

The message to such is, "Here is the revelation of God in Jesus. You will be judged by that!" Of course it's people in the process who are so judged, not the platform itself. Inherent in that is the hope that governments can be influenced to govern in ways that will promote shalom and God's good will on earth.

So we need to be interested in these things with a grain of salt, and more. It has its place, but let's be sure we've first given Jesus, and the kingdom of God he brings, its rightful place. And that by itself is an ongoing project. Of course from that we must do good in this world. How that plays out for each one of us will vary, even on whom we vote for, or whether we vote at all, as well as what we do. Here's one thing in Jesus, we're all called to do.

What would you add to this?

Friday, August 01, 2008

a good anxiety?

Yesterday on Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog, was for me, a most interesting post on faith and anxiety. Seems in a Kirkegaardian, and really a Scriptural in Jesus way, that there is a good anxiety, along with the bad.

Of course we can say, anxiety is anxiety, and we're told in Scripture to be anxious for nothing, but rather to pray. However, I think there's an inevitable anxiety at work in our walk of faith in this life. It's an anxiety which is a part of what is at the heart of the nature of our faith walk. Inherently faith is a matter of trusting, in this case trusting God in Jesus. That means we're not in control and we're dependent. It also often means in this life that we just can't see the outcome. We're at God's mercy. And that is what faith is all about.

This good angst also involves asking the hard questions and not ducking from them. Too often we just give quick, easy, skirting answers to questions that ought to trouble us.

Of course we want that perfect peace promised to those who trust God. But getting it requires a faith that is willing to step out into what is unknown and unseen, trusting in God that he will be there and help us, each step of the way.

I know for me that anything new, which can include a new day, involves a faith that knows not the new situation thrown at me. It seems healthy for me to see life as a venture with God, rather than the predictable "same old, same old." I've been caught off guard at times by troubles that came, especially when from another person. But I think I would have been better prepared if I would have approached each day with that sense of faith that is committed to trusting in God and his word, in a way that is committed to the dynamic of God's ongoing work and the growth and change that comes with it. Then I wouldn't have been thrown to the ground as I have been at times. Or at least I would have been better able to walk through such times in a way that better honored God.

Go to that post and give it a read. Along with the comments. A good exercise in thinking, I think, about faith and life.

And what might you like to add to this?