Friday, October 31, 2008

working hard

Yesterday at work I had a job that kept me active doing much the same things, but not coming from a machine. So it was up to me as to how much I would get done. Actually I enjoyed it for the most part, except for the hand taper and the big roll which kept giving me fits. But it was fun, time went fast, and I tried to do so as one in the yoke with Jesus while also doing it with all my heart.

Work is a blessing from God, we were created to work, and sin and the curse it did bring only resulted adding difficulty to our work, maybe like my hand taper and big roll yesterday. We were created to work, and in the new creation we will continue to work, a reality in Jesus that begins now.

Work is to be an expression of love to God and to our neighbor. And so we're to do it with all our hearts, souls, strength and mind. Of course I'm glad for some jobs in which I can meditate on Scripture, and even sing a song, like this one I was singing some yesterday.

You get home, and you're tired. I had a pleasant visit with Deb, another wonderful meal from her, then I pretty much went "out" until I awakened later. But rest and sleep is a gift as well as our work.

Does our work glorify God? Are we busy, doing our Father's business? Are we doing the works of God who calls us into his work with him- amazingly, while it is still called "Day", since when "Night" comes, no one can do this kind of work, anymore?

What thoughts might you like to add to this?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the dead places

There are times most everyday in our lives, in Jesus, in which there seem to be dead places. That can be for a good number of reasons, some which are our responsibility, and others which are just part of this present life and existence. They are inevitable, and they will come.

What I find though, is that over and over again, life becomes evident in and perhaps from these "dead" places. And life in surprising ways. Yesterday was an example of this; something unexpected to me, but life-giving and of God, even though at the moment I can't even recall what it was. But it was good.

Today I will enter into more dead places. In which the Spirit of God will have to hover over all the emptiness and formlessness to make something beautiful. It's important that we realize this, and look to God to do his good work, making what is beautiful in his time.

More dead places? Yes, I have plenty. But just more places for God in Jesus to do his good work, impacting my life and taking me "up" as a participant somehow, in what he is doing.

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

no cloning of Christians

No two Christians are precisely the same; no two people on the face of the earth or whom God has made are, for that matter, either. Even those identical twins with genetics the same are still different as well as having different experiences, and end up with different perspectives, even if quite similar.

I've been told I read too much by other Christians, some of them reading very little. Do I think reading is a good thing? And do I think more people should read, and that perhaps most everyone should read more than they do? Yes, to all of that.

But do I think everyone should read the same things, have the same interests, and want to read (I'm a "wannabe reader") as much as I want to. No, not at all. In fact the world would be a boring place if everyone was like me, and just like me on this. We need good variations to just begin to try to scratch the surface of all of God's works and of all that pertains to God's world.

When Paul suggested that people should be like him, he was suggesting that to be so in accordance with who they are. I'm never expected by God to be anyone other than who I am as he created me, and now is remaking me in the image of Jesus. Therefore I can enjoy immensely the good gifts of others without feeling in the least bit threatened. Why? Because God has given to each and everyone of us good gifts for the benefit of others. And ending up blessing us, as well.

So we need to relax, and just be who we are. And accept others as they are. With the one proviso that we continue to grow and become who we are meant to be, and who we are in Jesus. Together doing so, each a unique expression from God of Christ himself.

What might you like to add to this?

Derived in part from this book, Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another, by Rowan Williams.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

life in God

Life in God moves on; it's a living, dynamic, transforming reality. Of course this life is meant for all: from the Father, in Jesus, by the Spirit. We must first come to God through Jesus. And then we are swept up into this life, this torrent of love. It's a dynamic that won't let us go, if we will only keep ourselves in its life-giving flow. Maybe that's poetic, especially for me, but it is true in Jesus.

Even in the midst of the daily doldrums of life, in the midst of trial and error, in the midst of even failure, God's love in Jesus is present for us. This love, by grace through faith brings us into a new life, life in God. It's a life to be lived out forever, but it begins in this life, even in this present condition of sin and death. Ultimately to overcome all of that, as death is swallowed up through Jesus' resurrection life.

For me this is so very important. I'm as dependent on God through Jesus, as when I first came to God through Jesus by faith, that October day so long ago in 1973 (the 22nd). By the way, Deb came to Jesus just the day before, of course we would not meet until several years later, or marry until 1985. So 1973 has special meaning for us.

It really doesn't matter if we know the day we crossed from death to life. What does matter is whether we are living by faith in that life in God now. If we are, that can make all the difference in the world. We must continue in this grace, by faith, but as we do, God will see us through, and this life is of such a nature, that it will sweep others up with us, as we live it out, in Jesus.

What would you like to add to this?

Monday, October 27, 2008


Deb and I saw the film, Fireproof, and we'd highly recommend it to anyone.

It's not a perfect film. There was one scene I thought they could have done without, though it didn't detract from the story. For those wondering about objectionable material, there was none of that. Its rating is PG due to the nature and seriousness of the subject matter.

The story is true to life, involving a husband and wife whose marriage is in deep trouble. Faith and God's help through Jesus are key in it. That is expressed in a commitment to Christ which involves a change of heart and doing what is right and God's will, even when there is no breakthrough.

The film will likely hit home to every viewer in one way or another, directly or indirectly. I would like to see a study guide prepared, perhaps by the pastor and pastoral staff of the church which was involved in the shooting of the film. I think these kind of movies can do plenty of good, but so much more when there is followup and encouragement to live out the truth found in the story.

Not everyone cries easily, but if you do, be prepared to do so in this one. I went open in the sense of expecting good, but came away surprised at just how good it was. So, again I'd recommend this film. Especially good for spouses who are struggling in their marriage, but good for us all.

Have any of you seen this film and what did you think?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

quote of the week: Dorothy Sayers on doctrine/dogma

It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness.
Dorothy Sayers from her Creed or Chaos?, p. 3, quoted by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, p. 403

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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, October 25, 2008

the Spirit's teaching

From interaction with a friend and from a comment yesterday, I want to think a bit about the Spirit teaching us. Thomas gave this comment: "I think that people need to experience Jesus and The Holy Spirit. I know this is what I need. Yet it seems that there are few of us willing to lay down what we know in order to be instructed by The Holy Spirit." To which I responded: "...I think that work of the Spirit, while meant to bring to us clarity in understanding truth, will at...times prompt us in directions in which we really don't know where we're going, or we don't yet understand much to speak of, at all."

This doesn't mean that God doesn't want us to use our minds for most certainly he does. They are a gift from God and part of what makes us image bearers or Eikons of God. It does mean we must not lean (or even learn we might say- at first a typo but has truth), on our own understanding, and that involves faith. The Spirit through Jesus wants to teach us from the word (Scripture) and from and in the midst of life. This takes time, and it takes a commitment of faith on our part which is ongoing. This is especially crucial when we reach those points at where we're at a loss of what to think or what to do. Or maybe at points in which our faith is directly or indirectly being undermined, or challenged.

Do we trust God in Jesus? Do we trust the Holy Spirit? Do we believe God will help and guide us through everything, so that we can learn better to rest in him when we ordinarily would not? These, and more questions are important for us in our life in Jesus in this world. People need to see where our trust really lies: in God through Jesus. And this involves a commitment of faith in God through Jesus.

What might you like to add to these thoughts? Or, what have you learned in your own life about this?

Friday, October 24, 2008

in Jesus

If you pay any attention to this blog, you'll notice again and again the words "in Jesus". This is related to the way many evangelical Christians end most all their prayers: "in Jesus' name, Amen." Or other Christians, and I like this, who make the sign of the cross. You don't have to be either Catholic or Orthodox to do that; I'm neither and think it's a good practice, though I rarely do it at this point, and would not do so in front of Christians who don't.

"In Jesus" is our only hope. For me I go back to Jesus in the gospels (Matthew through John), but also Jesus in the gospel or good news he brings in his coming. Study Jesus, look to him, and see the difference that will begin to make in your life.

When troubled over anything I especially need to keep coming back to Jesus. I'm in the book of Hebrews at work, and that points us to Jesus. When I don't have answers, I return to Jesus. All of God's will for us as humans, and for this world is wrapped up in Jesus. Through Jesus the change has appeared and is beginning, and will end in never ending glory in him (Ephesians and Colossians).

I look forward to getting my own copy of the Book of Common Prayer; a friend and spiritual director or mentor is encouraging me to do so (and to get one for Deb as well). To pray and live in Jesus is important for us, even as we wrestle through difficulties and enigmas in this life.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

when Christians disagree

In my early blogging days, maybe around four years ago, I ran into this phenomena called blogging, and I began to run into "Christian" blogs. Of course anyone can start a blog, and there are numerous blogs like my own, which have minimal blog traffic, at least comment-wise.

I soon ran into Christian blogs which either had some comment traffic, or some which spent alot of time taking other Christians to task for not being true to God's word. Of course there's a place for correcting each other, but such blogs were all about just how lukewarm and rancid Christians had become, and just how error prone Christian leaders are.

I would leave my comments on such blogs, or in such discussions, challenging some of the assumptions made. But seeking to do so in a civil manner. Finally, I may have been about ready to give up blogging, or at least set it to the side, when I ran into Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed. I already appreciated Scot McKnight quite a bit, having read his two commentaries in the NIV Application Commentary series, on 1 Peter and Galatians. I found this blog not only an opportunity to keep learning, and learning alot, but a place of civil and loving discourse. There was plenty of disagreement on the blog, but most of the time it was done with words carefully chosen. Sometimes Scot would moderate in various ways, always making sure the thread was one of not only seeking truth, but of doing so in grace.

When Christians disagree, it's important for us to really hear each other out. We tend to easily move into a debate mode which we could possibly win, without really proving we have the better case. And that ends up being about who is right. This leaves "winners" and "losers" and all too often neither may be that close to the truth. But even if the winner of the debate is closer to the truth, at what expense?

Is there a place for debate, even vigorous debate in the midst of discussion? Of course there is, Paul employed it in Acts (and Apollos), and the early church fathers on their way to hammering out the creeds. In the midst of doing so, we may need to take back some of our words, just as I did this morning on my own blog (comment #12). We need to listen well to what the other is saying, and then present our case.

When Christians discuss issues, oftentimes we find we can learn quite a bit from the other side which we will need to account for. We may end up altering or refining our own view in the process.

As I get older, I really like to steer away from areas in which we Christians disagree, because I believe what we have in Jesus and in God's kingdom in Jesus is so much more important and central. But with theology being in the flux in which it's in today, there's bound to be some differences among us, differences on how to look at difficult issues.

I'm thankful to be doing so with people who adhere to and follow the Jesus creed. So that at the end of the day, it's really not about who won or lost, or who was right, but about us all following Jesus- even when, in this life, we don't see eye to eye on everything.

Just a few thoughts on this. What would anyone like to add here?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

joy found in Jesus

It's natural for us to want to find joy in circumstances or in the good things God has created. Indeed, Scripture tells us that God fills people's hearts with joy over the blessings he pours on both the righteous and the unrighteous. And that God's goodness is meant to lead people to repentance.

But real, lasting joy, which is not dependent on circumstances- good in a fallen world- can only be found in God through Jesus Christ. Joy is found in the Lord Jesus.

Of course joy itself is not strictly speaking just being happy over circumstances. Though it includes happiness. But it's a joy that is happy because it participates in something more wonderful than anything this good, old creation has to offer. Not to denigrate or put down this old creation, because it is good, God made it, it is never to be despised, as it points us to God, and God gives us richly all things of his creation to enjoy. But we look forward to something even greater in Christ. We look forward to the redemption of the old creation into the new creation in Jesus.

This begins now, in this life, in this old creation, in Jesus. If anyone is in Christ, there is already a new creation. Here, the old creation has gone, and the new in Jesus has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). A joy which goes on, even when we are not happy and sorrowing, is found in Jesus. We need to approach life in this way, that we will find our deepest and lasting joy in the Lord. This spills over so that we more appreciate the good things of this life God has given. But it is never dependent on them, or even on good circumstances.

Yesterday at work, as I sought to slowly go over Scripture with formation and transformation as my goal, not information gathering, and as I sought by grace to live in accord with the Jesus Creed and the "Our Father" prayer, I experienced a joy which became more evident and I expressed it in song as well as in just being crazy me, while seeking to serve the Lord and others, in Jesus.

In the end in Jesus, we will be living in a glorious outpouring of love and joy, righteousness and peace. But this new life in Jesus begins now, in this old world, in the midst of our old existence with its problems, including our shortcomings and sins. Encouraging, and not dependent on how we feel or our circumstances. Easier for me to say than for many others, and only by God's grace can we experience this, but we must remember that nothing at all in this life can separate us from the love of God we find in Jesus our Lord.

What might you like to add to this?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

abortion and voting

Scot McKnight and Mart DeHaan had recent helpful postings on abortion and politics, respectively (here's Scot's new post on this, today). I am wrestling over the issue of how to vote in the general presidential election. I am rather decided, yet trying to remain open. I'm not a registered Independent in Michigan for no reason.

This is a difficult issue, because I’m troubled that for many Christians all other considerations have to be cast aside in considering who to vote for- that this one issue, as weighty as it is, trumps all else, and in such a way that is constricted to overturning Roe v Wade. This is for me a weighty matter on the scale of consideration, but not the only matter.

We do see through a glass darkly here. We need much humility in the way we view our politics, as well as that of others.

Biblically I think it’s pretty clear for me. I don’t hesitate to affirm life beginning at conception. Abortion has been the paramount evil to me for years, right or wrong.

But I don’t know how we can read the same Book, without being deeply troubled over other issues as well. For me to think the Republican Party is pro-life is unthinkable. How can we say “pro-life” is about abortion only? From my perspective neither major party here really has shown either in its platform/policy and practice that it is really pro-life. Actually there are good measures passed by the influence of both parties, as well as sins of omission and sins of commission.

We also need to appreciate the different takes we have towards solving the common concerns, and we need to appreciate the different traditions within Christian orthodoxy from which we view them. My paradigm which is to a significant extent Anabaptist will cause me to look at issues differently than another Christian whose faith is also in Jesus, yet sees through another theological paradigm. Sometimes we therefore do disagree, or we don't see eye to eye on how to handle the problem. Appreciating our different takes so that we can hash them out together, can be beneficial. We can learn from each other. Then I can bless how you vote, even if I don’t vote the same come November 4.

Much more to say and do on all this, and not merely to vote for someone who holds the promise of appointing judges who may (or may not) vote to overturn Roe v Wade.

I'll probably post some more on politics before election day here in the United States. But I probably won't disclose who I end up voting for, as this can be divisive in ways that are not helpful.

What would you like to add to these scattered thoughts?

Monday, October 20, 2008

praying the Our Father prayer

One thought that has particularly resonated with me lately is that when we say or recite "the Lord's prayer" or the "Our Father" prayer, we learn to pray more in God's will, and less in ways that are taken up with our own wills. Indeed, Jesus himself at the Garden of Gethsemane had to pray, "Not my will, but your will be done."

We need to be praying this prayer daily. Both in helping us in how we pray, but also in simply saying the words. Both are needed for us, as in set or liturgical prayers as well as spontaneous, personal prayers. Both have their place Scripturally.

Such praying can help us more and more towards living for God's will in Jesus, and not for ourselves. Along with reciting "the Jesus Creed" several times daily, I am trying to pray the "Our Father" prayer several times as well. I want to see God change me more and more as a person who does not look out for my own interests, but for the interests of Jesus. Not to say we don't have human concerns that need to be addressed. Scripture makes it clear that we do, and that we should come to God as we are. And God wants to change us more and more to be like his Son.

How about you? Has anyone reading this found liturgical praying (as in using prayers like the "Our Father" prayer, or such as I post on Sundays) useful in your own life? Or what would you like to share here?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

quote for the week: Bonaventure - on experiencing truth for ourselves

To know much and taste nothing - of what use is that?
Bonaventure quoted from Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book, p.13

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession 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 The Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 18, 2008

having all the answers

I am weary of Christians who think they have all the answers. While we should want to speak a word in season for a need to help anyone, we also need to own up to the reality that we just don't know it all.

This is particularly tiresome during this political time here in the United States when, especially to those who venture from the beaten path, there are a pack of Christians who are ready to set you straight, whether or not you asked for it. True also in regard to theology. There are those Christians who think they're doing God a service by trying to get you on their theological track. It's good and fine to talk about theology and where one stands on it. Here's one good blogger who does a fine job of this. But it's another thing when one is hammered left and right and not let go, because no matter what you say, it's off somehow. Why? Really because you don't accept their particular theological paradigm. No two Christians who think and read are going to agree on everything, or maybe better put see eye to eye, having the same perspective or take on everything in this life. So why try to do the impossible?

Job's friends may have not had all the revelation we have today, and they certainly did not. But in this story we learn something true for us today. We need to stop having pat, cut and dried answers for everyone's problems. Instead we need to be living and speaking- in that order by the way- in a manner which we'll help all find their way in Jesus. Only God can meet each person in their need. We need to quit thinking we can solve people's problems for them. Instead we need to help them come to the one who can help them- Jesus. God knows and God understands; we do not.

Of course this doesn't mean we don't work at loving God with all our minds so that we do work on understanding more of God, his word and his ways in Jesus. We need to keep working on this. But to do so means an increasing dependence on God and less confidence in ourselves. That is to be a major part of what we believe as foundational truth, so that we can live in the truth that is only found in Jesus.

What might you like to add to this?

Friday, October 17, 2008

lacking love

The church in Ephesus was surely known for its zeal for righteousness and truth, and even for God. It was a church which believed in the truth God has revealed in Scripture and in Jesus. And it believed in judging error both in what people believed and what people practiced.

Though Christ commended this, there was one problem which was threatening its very existence as a church. This church had left its first love. Somehow other things became more important than that. Somehow God was not loved with the pure, ardent devotion which real love involves. We are called in the first and greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. The words in Revelation suggest that they left this love behind, something they did. But involved in that was likely the losing sight of God's holy love for them in Jesus. They had lost sight of the great love of God in Jesus. They were no longer acting in this love.

This is a danger for all of us in Jesus. It's not like if we do love that what else we do doesn't matter. Read on in the letters to the seven churches and you'll see other churches were in danger of no longer being a church because of other problems they weren't dealing with. But love is the first and greatest commandment. If we lack this love for God and for our neighbor, then anything else we do has a hollow ring to God.

I see zealous Christians who talk about the lack of truth and holiness in the church, and often seem to hold other Christians at arm's length. They talk about other Christians and churches derisively. I wonder if whether we love or not shows up in how we look at others and what we say about them. Those who know this deep, deep love of Jesus in their own life, will not throw stones at others who may be failing.

This must have been quite a shock to the church at Ephesus, to hear Christ threaten their very existence as a church over their lack of love. Even calling their love into question must have been a shock to them. But it was meant to be a wake up call for them, and can be for us as well. Do we really love Jesus? Those were life changing questions for Peter. And such a question is for us, as well. And what does such love involve? Yes, doing what God says, but there's more to it than that, because though the church at Ephesus was doing much of that, they were no longer doing what they had done out of love for Christ. God wanted that. A good question for me today, how have I departed from my first love? And why? Have I lost sight of God's love for us, for me- in Jesus? What do I no longer do that I used to do out of that love?

Any thoughts here?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

come to the table

In rereading again, Scot McKnight's book, The Jesus Creed, I'm reminded of how the table as in society, in Jesus is meant to bring in people, all sinners, to include all. Jesus invites all to come. This table is about fellowship and the fellowship at this table is centered in Jesus, though all enjoy and participate freely in it. We come just as we are, unlike the Pharisaical take on table fellowship, which was all about excluding any who did not keep/obey the Torah/Law of Moses, or Scriptures and their way of keeping it, and thus remaining pure.

Just showing up is important. We can't change ourselves, only God can. But our part is in making sure that we're present. If we sin we're sinners. So we always need a Savior. And we likewise see more change in us that needs to occur. This is the blessing of living among others; we then get to see our faults and more clearly and look for God's grace in Jesus among and with others. Jesus touches the unclean, making us who are unclean, clean.

And we need to keep the door open for everyone else to come. We not only must not give up on ourselves, because of God's good work in Jesus for us, but we must not give up on others. It's a table prepared for us not only in the presence of our enemies, but to bring reconciliation between us and our enemies, potentially, in Jesus. Jesus died for all, therefore all are welcome to come to the table.

This works out in terms of fellowship: having folks over to our homes, inviting them to our churches and to do other things that acquaintances and friends do. I'm not referring here to Communion or the Eucharist, though indeed any repentant sinner may share in that, as well.

In a sense we need to be at home with all people because of what Jesus has done. We're all in the same need, and we all need the same Savior- Jesus. God has made us for fellowship or communion with other people, and in Jesus this fellowship will in time take on a new, life-changing meaning.

What would you like to add here?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

God's love, in spite

There are so many in spites in our lives. We often are at our wit's end for one reason or another. Just a part of living in a fallen world in which even though we're in Jesus, we are not fully recovered.

This is where we need to remember God's love, in spite of all those things that hit us here and there. God's love is made clear to us in Jesus and in Jesus' reference to God as Abba or Father, as Scot McKnight points out in his excellent book, The Jesus Creed. Jesus chose Abba, the Aramaic word for father, and taught us to pray, "Our Father". He referred to God in prayer as "Father," except when on the cross he cried out, "My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?" as he prayed the psalm.

There is the certainty of trouble in this life. But there is a certainty that nothing whatsoever can separate us from God's love for us in Jesus our Lord. We need to learn to rest better in that love and live our lives, steadily in that love, more and more. It is most independent of whatever circumstances we face.

And that Abba love is made known to us in Jesus, in his life, death, resurrection and ascension, as well as his coming return. In him we share in the victory to come, which actually begins now as the new creation breaks in both through us as God's new eschatological people and through the multifaceted good works we do in the Lord which usher in something of God's new creation in Jesus by the Spirit.

But in all of this, while God's love reaches everywhere towards his creation, we must not lose sight, as Scot reminds us, that it's a personal love, this Abba love to each one of us from God in Jesus. And as we learn to live in that love, we can end up helping others do the same. Truth is more caught than taught. So it must become a way of life with us, and more and more who we are in Jesus.

What would you like to share to help us in this?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

do not be discouraged

It is easy to become discouraged when we see in ourselves things that shouldn't be. Perhaps in wrong attitudes or struggles from temptations, or whatever it may be. God tells us in his word, by the Story, not to be discouraged. Why? Because of his grace to us in Jesus.

The journey of our lives is ongoing and in that journey there is God at work in us to change us by grace, for our good and for his glory. As Christians or those on whom God is working, we can be quite sensitive to our sins and sometimes down over the temptations we encounter. Of course temptation is a part of life, though we can lessen them to some extent by not letting ourselves be exposed to that which we know is likely to bring some temptations on. In my life it's not so much a matter of avoiding those kind of things as it is about filling my life with the good things of God found in Jesus and from God's word, Scripture.

Our journey in this life is partly about being changed from glory to glory into the resemblance of Jesus. In ourselves we see blotches on that, and we can therefore be tempted to just give up and throw in the towel, giving in to something far lesser or even abandoning the journey altogether. But we must not think or act in this way.

Instead we must see our lives as in part, God's good work in Jesus, which he will carry on to completion the rest of our days in this present life, to be completed at the unveiling of Jesus in his second coming at the resurrection, when the new creation in Jesus is completed. We in Jesus will all be a part of that. Let's be those who keep on keeping on in the grace of God we find in Jesus.

What would you like to add to this?

Monday, October 13, 2008

life in love

Life "in love" surely makes all the difference in the world. We read that Jacob served Laban seven years for Rachel, but that they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. To know the love of God in Jesus can help us to endure much. And this love needs to carry over to God's loved ones, and even, as we learn from Jesus, to our enemies.

None of us are loveable all the time, maybe not much of the time. Of course it's a gift when we are loved, and when we can and do love. God is love, and our lives need to be lived in that love. A love which will lay down one's life if need be for the beloved, and gladly. But a love which also lives a lifetime of love for the beloved. And that when it's all said and done, they would be like just a few days, because of love. The greatest love being the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. A love which remains when all else may and will falter.

For me this is important, and a great blessing in life, though so little known in comparison to what is available for us in Jesus. The great blessing is to be coming to know more and more God's love in Jesus, and to return something of that to God and to others.

What might you like to share with us about "life in love"?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

quote of the week: Scot McKnight - the wedding wine- Jesus

What this sign reveals, John tells us, is "his glory." Jesus, who is himself the manifestation of God's glory, reveals his own glory - who he is and what he is here to do - in this miracle. When the water turns to wine and the eye of faith peers into the purification vessels, it sees not sacred water but sacred wine. The eye of faith sees not an image of itself but the image of Jesus floating on the surface of the wine. Jesus is seen in this wine for who he really is: the one who not only provides but is himself the joy of the kingdom.

All human yearning is ultimately a yearning for an abundance of the sort of wedding wine that is Jesus himself. This is to say that our yearning is really to know the joy that comes from knowing the love of God (in Jesus). The Jesus Creed reveals that what humans ultimately yearn for is love for God and others. To know that love is to know the joy of the wedding wine Jesus alone provides.
from The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, by Scot McKnight, p. 165

prayer for wedding/marriage

O GOD of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, bless these thy servants, and sow the seed of eternal life in their hearts; that whatsoever in thy holy Word they shall profitably learn, they may in deed fulfill the same. Look, O Lord, mercifully upon them from heaven, and bless them. And as thou didst send thy blessing upon Abraham and Sarah, to their great comfort, so vouchsafe to send thy blessing upon these thy servants; that they obeying thy will, and alway being in safety under thy protection, may abide in thy love unto their lives' end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

from The Book of Common Prayer

as Deb and I celebrate today our 23rd wedding anniversary

prayer for the week

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from The Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the love of God in Jesus

How great is the love of God in Jesus. If only we could just begin to understand. But it's more than just to try to understand, but to begin to experience.

I love this prayer of Paul:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

To live in this love every day, the love that in Jesus we will live in forever. How wonderful. A challenge oftentimes, and of course we never measure up to the fullness of the maturity of that love in Jesus in this life. We can be filled with it, but God wants ever to enlarge our capacity for it. We want ever to grow and keep growing in that love. God will do it, as we keep trusting him and entrusting ourselves to his grace to us in Jesus.

Friday, October 10, 2008

walking through, not around

In Psalm 23:4 we read,
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me
An important "lesson" for me to remember and keep remembering, since I have such an excellent forgetter, is the importance of me maintaining the attitude and posture of faith, as well as the continued walk of faith and way of life, that I will be willing to walk through whatever it is that I'm facing or fear, with the Lord. And not seek a detour or way out from God.

This is not to say that God doesn't deliver us from troubles at times, or that he can't heal, etc. It's only to say that whatever we face, we must be willing to walk through it with the Lord.

Of course Paul wanted God to remove his thorn in the flesh, no less than a messenger of Satan which no less than tormented him. He rightfully pleaded with the Lord three times to remove it, but God wanted Paul to learn to walk through this trial, not around it. And in Paul's case it was to remain a trial, as far as we know, all the rest of his days.

In my life I have been beset with inner "demons" (not to say actual demons weren't involved at times) which have honestly kept me back, often at times, from really venturing forth in God's will. And that's true even if the holding back was with reference to my attitude at the time. Nothing but dread, fear and paralyzed anxiety. But God is reminding me again, through another bout like this yesterday that I must be willing to walk through whatever anxiety I may have, whether we're speaking about what I fear, or the fear actually happening. Only then, when I decided that I must go on (only after many hours in which I operated with relative inward misery) regardless did a sense of the dread lift. And I realized this lesson again, that I must walk through any darkness with the Lord, and not seek to escape from it.

When we look at Scripture, we often see that God's servants had to face trouble in this life, even death, of course the epitome of this found in God's suffering servant, Jesus. This can be a help for people like me, who at times like before I have had to preach have suffered much through one fear or another to the point where I was rendered quite weak in my thought and strength. Of course God can use the weakest things, and does. But we also need to find the glory of walking through our fears and actual troubles with the Lord, instead of living in a pseudo-faith world in which when all is well our faces are radiant, but when not, we are cast down. That is not the walk of faith. I'm learning, I hope.

What might you like to add to this for us?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

one's Achilles' heel

I recall an important spiritual leader and exemplar of my past, saying something like, "Everyone has their Achilles' heel." In my case I'm wondering if I have two Achilles' heels, not more being possible only because I have just two heels!

Back to the desert post of yesterday, which for me may become an important theme in days to come. It seems like the working out of all the confusion and struggle in our lives, while done with us and God, is also to be done in the midst of others. And not apart from others, or in what constitutes real life for most of us, and actually to remain in relationship with others is a part of real life.

I find this over and over in my life. When I awaken feeling like an Achilles' heel has either taken me down, or is making me limp with pain, I go through what I must do, including posting for the blog, go to work doing what needs to be done with others. And ordinarily, however it happens, the Lord gives me a sense of renewed vision and strength. Part of the desert for me may be partly in what can be seen as the daily mundane routine. Yet in that, as I seek God in his word, and in the midst of seeking to love God and love others, I find some sort of equilibrium as in balance, and some healing and renewing of spirit.

But our Achilles' heel can help us look to God, and keep looking to God. What if we really had no perceived Achilles' heel? Would God let us get away with that in this world? I think not. We remember Jacob wrestling with a strange man,
and in that wrestling- related to Jacob praying I take it, yet as in a real hand to hand struggle- Jacob prevails so that the man has to touch the socket of Jacob's hip to end the struggle. Jacob then went through the rest of his life with a limp, always a reminder of his prevailing with God, yet at the same time surely a reminder of his ongoing need for God. And perhaps of rising above one's own weaknesses in prayer to God so as to find God's answer to every need.

Yet with Jacob as Israel, this became a way of life. He walked through life with a limp. An Achilles' heel? I'm not sure. But the limp would remind him anew and afresh everyday just where his help really came from. Not himself, but the Lord. We are so prone to forget, so that a renewed sense of weakness can strengthen our sense of dependence on God. That is the blessing of an Achilles' heel. We need such to keep us humble and teachable as well as dependent on God.

What thought might you like to add about one's Achilles' heel?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the desert

The desert in Scripture is a place where the soul experiences need, and sees its need. It is expressed in terms of being parched and thirsty, and in a dry and barren land where there is no water. The blessing here is that one is given to see that apart from God all is a breath or loses its true meaning. Though humankind is now outside the garden due to the curse, there is much blessing from God's hand in creation. But trouble is part of the fabric of existence now on every side, both within and without, because redemption and reconciliation in Jesus are needed.

The desert involves having become surfeited on this world's goodies to the point where we've had enough. Or in facing one's own emptiness before God. In the desert one either grumbles and lives a miserable existence, or seeks God and finds their needs met. The desert is meant to be a "place" where we meet God on God's terms, not on our own. Where we strip ourselves of all we put on to hide from the Truth, and instead come to the Way, the Truth and the Life, just as we are.

The desert experience is not meant to be lived in complete isolation from others. There is a kind of isolation involved when a soul is seeking to meet God, but it is lived in and for this world, for God and for others, in the end finding one's own true unique life in God, in it. But it's not just a once for all experience, but ongoing. It is an attitude as well as a practice, a way of life- in Jesus for us all.

This is drawn out both from Scripture and from the fourth century Christian hermits of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, the Desert Fathers and Mothers- from the book, Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another, by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. I'm halfway through that book, and this is my understanding of just part of what is said in it. And I find its basis in Jesus and in God's word.

What might you like to add to this? What does the desert mean in your life?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

blessing from evil attacks

In Job's story, we see in the end how that even though Job had spoken what was right about God, and his friends had not- and I take it that somehow Satan was behind the words of his friends in their misapplying God's truth and their lack of understanding in it- and in spite of all Job suffered in losing seven children, as well as losing his health, yet through it all God blessed Job, not only temporally (of course he never got back the first seven children), but also spiritually. Job gained new insight as to who God is and thus who Job was, as well. Not merely a head knowledge, but an encounter with God in seeing God through his great works, as well as anew and afresh in his own life.

I want to give a plug for a new blog of a friend of mine at work, Dean Ohlman. He joins Mart DeHaan, who has an equally fine blog, blogs from RBC Ministries. I'm especially excited about Dean's blog, because it addresses a deficiency I have, and a longing. To know God more through his creation. Creation is so wonderful, "the natural world." The older I get, the more I love it. Dean is an amateur naturalist, and a wonderful thinker and writer. Take a good look at his blog and just see the beauty there, both in pics and in words.

Back to Job. God is at work even in Satan's attacks. Yes, Satan was attacking, not God. But God uses all, including Satan's attacks, to work to draw Job closer to himself. Through the encounter, Job sees God and himself in a new way. Though righteous and no one on earth like him before, he is closer to God after this trouble and encounter.

I think this is true for us. It involves both the impact of life itself, which often includes our sin and consequences that follow, be they little or big. And it involves the new way in which we learn to live as a result. Not based on feelings, but based on a relationship with God through Christ in which we seek to live in God's way for us in Jesus. Thankfully grace is there to help us. The goal being that living in the way of Jesus becomes more and more natural to us. That this is more and more who we really are, as we increasingly grow in conformity to the image of our Lord.

Just a few thoughts related to the post yesterday. What would you like to add here?

Monday, October 06, 2008

every evil attack

I recall the words of the Apostle Paul, how in confidence he declared that the Lord would rescue him from every evil attack and bring him safely into his heavenly kingdom.

I think it's true that when God is present and doing a work, that the enemy the devil is sure to attack at some point. Charles Spurgeon once said that the greatest sign of the Lord's presence is the devil's roar (like a lion). Some truth in that. At least we can expect evil attacks in this life, and we must be ready for them.

Jesus himself experienced this when challenged by Peter not to take the way of the cross. Peter was at that moment an opposer, but it's likely the opposer himself, Satan, was in Peter's words. So we have to be ready for attacks both from within- ourselves, and from without- others. Many subtle and others not so subtle.

I've experienced a few of these lately, and hopefully I'll benefit from them. God is at work to use those very attacks for my good and growth in his grace, and of course, for his glory. This is not to say that our lives consist of being attacked, but simply that we must be ready when it does happen.

What might you like to add to this?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

quote of the week: Henri Nouwen - hiding from God

I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making it difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who is looking for me while I am doing the hiding.
Henri Nouwen, quoted by Scot McKnight in The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, p. 70

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 04, 2008


We live in a troubled world where trouble and death are inevitable. We want to live out full lives, but in doing so we experience all the good and bad that comes with getting older and aging.

A difficult aspect that hits me at sometimes inopportune times - and really is any time opportune for this? - are what some would call "anxiety attacks" or bouts with anxiety. Those around me may not notice it, but it eats from the inside out and thus affects my life. I let something get through to me last weekend before I dealt with it a day late by meditating on and trying to live out this passage. And soon after being up this morning I experienced an old nemesis to me which renewed anxiety in regard to it.

Life goes on and God keeps me busy with this and that, which thankfully can be helpful. And we must endeavor to live out God's revealed will for us in Jesus in this world, and a large part of that is how we negotiate troubles. Do we do so as those looking to God in Jesus, and putting our hope on his promises?

It's good that we are tempted like everyone else, because God can use our failures for much good, as we share with others God's forgiveness and help to us in Jesus. And as we learn to walk by faith better in this fallen world of trouble, we can be a help to others who see us do so.

What is worse than what we worry about, is our actual worry itself. Being anxious means I'm not trusting God. And that causes a break in fellowship between us and God. When anxieties arise they are opportunities for us to commit ourselves to trusting in the Lord with all our hearts and entrusting our lives into his good and loving hands.

What about you? What would you like to share with us that can help us with anxiety?

Friday, October 03, 2008


Seeking to glorify God in all we do. Sitting at the Lord's feet to learn as a follower of Jesus. Saying the Our Father/Lord's prayer daily, as well as the Jesus Creed, and seeking to live that creed out. Not getting too taken up with the election here in the United States and politics beyond one's own calling, knowing that its importance is limited. Wanting to draw near to God and seeking to do so. Doing good to others, even if one can't do as much as one would like. Dealing with the plank in my eye, so I can see clearly to help my brother get the speck out of his eye.

Simplicity takes on many forms in Scripture and the Story of God we find in it. It takes interesting shape in such people as Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Esther, John the Baptizer, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the sister of Martha (and surely Martha herself, later), the apostles Peter and John and Paul- and many others. To see Scripture and find our place in God's ongoing Story from it requires simplicity for us. In all things being integrated around the Jesus Creed, which is the first and great commandment, and the second like it.

Of course in Jesus there are many things needed. But it all centers "in Jesus" and we need to endeavor to be meeting God and all the issues of life in him. This simplifies everything in that we're not looking for the latest self-help book or therapy. We know we find the answers in Jesus and in Scripture, much good there for us, and we need it all. And we do so in community with God's people and in mission to the world- a part of God's design for us. But all from simplicity in Jesus before God with each other in and for this world.

What would you like to add on this that can help us, or anything you'd like to share?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

the struggle

I remember one of my seminary professors saying something like, "God values more the faithfulness of a Christian who is struggling, over the faithfulness of Christians whose world is 'all good.'" I think there is surely some truth in this.

We have to keep doing what is right, even when it seems all hell is pitted against us. But we will fail at times. But then we have to keep getting up back on our feet, to continue our walk of faith.

I have struggled over the years with depression. Some see easy ways out of depression; I was recently told so by a brother who is a committed and intelligent believer whom I respect, but who reminded me of one of Job's friends. I believe in ever seeking to live out God's truth from Scripture (here's just one good passage among many for any depressed person to meditate on). This book I am reading and will be rereading and referring to the rest of my life I think, is easily hands down the best I've read on depression, and in helping us see from God's word especially, what we who struggle with depression should do.

Sometimes we may not know why we struggle as we do; at other times it will be clear enough such as in a sin issue. But I accept struggle as a part of living in this life. We struggle due to weaknesses because of a number of factors. Sin has been mentioned and who doesn't struggle with that from time to time, perhaps over a wrong attitude, or over temptations that come our way, or over the impact sin has in our lives when we give into it. Repentance and faith in confession to God is important here. As well as proper confession to another or others.

And there are other factors, such as learned ways of thinking about ourselves which need to be unlearned. We easily gravitate to the old life in Adam, even for us who are in Christ in the new way of life. We have to unlearn the old and learn to live in the new in Jesus. And "the flesh" as that which represents this old way of life found in the world and fanned into flame by the devil, is a factor as well. We who are in the Spirit and not in the flesh are to thus walk by the Spirit.

Physical factors in this fallen world can affect us as well, as we know. In extreme cases medication can help (you can tell I'm not a fan of meds, but they have their place, I believe). And personality. I look at some people who seem to be effervescent most all the time, while others are quiet and seem placid to the point of what might seem to border on boredom. We have to be careful not to expect others to simply line up where we do, nor should we expect to line up easily where we think others are (and God knows each heart). We do need to share our struggles with God and with trusted friends who can pray, listen and encourage and speak helpful words in season.

Just some scattered words on struggling. So much more to say on this, and I've only looked at just a small part of what struggle might be, and really only a small part of that.

What might you like to add here on this?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

timely truth

Often we hear that God's truth is timeless, and that's true. Timeless as in going beyond just the time in which it is written. For example in any time and place, I would think that John 3:16 is pretty straightforward, and requires little or no new special nuancing, to be understood.

But truth needs to also be spoken of as timely. In other words, truth is communicated to us in our contexts in ways that not only resonate with us in helping us understand, but which also moves us towards God's goal of the kingdom in the new creation in Jesus. For example not only are masters told to do well to their slaves in Scripture, but also within Scripture we believe there are powerful seeds planted which in the end do away with all slavery.

Truth doesn't change, so in that sense it's timeless. We need the entire will of God given to us in Scripture, but it takes on different emphases and can be shared and lived out in fresh creative ways depending on the context where we live. Although all of Scripture is the word of God, there are times when certain things in it will jump out at us as needed as a word aptly/fittingly spoken for the occasion, time and place.

Timeless truth in Jesus remains. How it is lived out must ever be subject to new and fresh ways of both speaking of it and living it out. In other words we need to be timely and fitting in our ways of expressing and applying it. I think Scot McKnight is right, that we must not read Scripture through Tradition (whether Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant Reformation) but with Tradition, always open to new ways God may be giving us both to see and express the truth given to us in Scripture and in Jesus.

I get a sense this is a bit fuzzy, so I'll keep working on it. Maybe it's just this early hour in which I'm up. But what would you like to add to this, or what questions might you have here?