Saturday, January 31, 2009


Humility involves a proper estimation of ourselves before God and before others. And it involves accepting and embracing the gift God has given us in Jesus, and going on. No matter what others might be doing. Yet in harmony with what others are doing.

I received a good dose of humility last night, as I listened with mostly rapt attention to a brilliant seminary professor on historical theology. I was kind of lost in awe and appreciation, not hardly knowing how to converse with him as this was in a field that I little know, yet so much appreciate (I mean the area he was explaining in reference to his field of study, and even outside of that). I hope it was a good time to unwind for him, and it was a nice visit Deb and I had with him and his gracious wife, as well as their youngest son, who was present.

Humility in Jesus means I accept with joy all the special gifts and places God has for his people. And that I refuse to compare myself to them. Except that I endeavor to learn from their lives what I can take for my own life and growth in Jesus. By that measure, even though I often felt rather lost, and outside my element, it was a splendid time.

And I'm reminded to just get back to first things: a devotion to God through Christ, continuing in God's word/Scripture to see it come alive in my life, and simply doing what God has for me to do- as simple as it seems, and is. So it was a good night for Deb and I. And I shouldn't fail to mention: Deb beat me in just our second game of Super Scrabble Deluxe. If you like Scrabble, you'll probably like this edition even better.

How has humility come alive in your life recently? Or any thoughts.

Friday, January 30, 2009

life's challenges

Often it seems we grow the most when faced with challenges. Challenges which are beyond us, beyond our ability to often understand or cope with. This is when we most have to lean on God. And in the process, I can be growing in significant measure in both understanding, as well as necessary change- from God. Yet those can be some of the most difficult places, as well as times, to live in. And we won't ever understand it all, nor fathom the work of God even in our own lives. A case in point from Scripture is Job.

I like it when I have some respite from challenges. Although in a true sense I see all of life as a challenge to follow on with the Lord. But we need those green pastures, and still waters, along with the restoration/refreshing of our souls. So it's good to just be able to relax and rest in God's presence as well, away from the noise and tumult of the times. I have to testify that my wife helps me immensely in that. And hopefully we are a buffer for each other through our help and prayers. Hopefully we can learn to be that way with each other in Jesus in our sojourn here.

We need to see life's inevitable challenges as opportunities to grow in Jesus. To do so as those in community with others in Jesus, and before the world. Living out together the very life of Jesus in this world. Showing the love of the Father, the image of the Son, and the life of the Spirit in a world that needs to see this.

What words or insights would you like to add to this?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jesus between us all

An early poem somewhere in Christendom describes Jesus between ourselves and all others. Between ourselves and our loved ones, ourselves and our neighbors, ourselves and our enemies, between ourselves and everyone. At least it seems to me I've heard and even been familiar with something like that (I did find a parallel, and maybe the one I was thinking of, though not precisely the same thought as here).

I think this is a good sound way to look at our relationships with others. That somehow by the grace of God in the work of God in Christ and by the Spirit, Jesus is in a true sense to be the intermediary not only between ourselves and God, but also between ourselves and others. We see this truth taught in Ephesians and in the New Testament, at least by clear implication. We in Jesus are told to love our enemies, and we can only do as those in Jesus and Jesus in us by the Spirit. And this can help us in living godly and well in all our relationships.

This reality in Jesus can surely help us work through and resolve issues in ways that are pleasing to God. It doesn't relieve us of responsible steps we need to take, including confession and asking for forgiveness, along with working at understanding just what God's revealed will is for us today in given situations. But it does provide the needed dynamic by the Spirit to carry this out, and see it through to the end.

I know this is a bit obscure, and hardly easy to understand even with simple words. What thought would you like to add here?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

spiritual warfare

In the twentieth century there were a number of Christian theologians who seemed to discount the reality of spiritual warfare in the lives of Christians. They had some valid, good insights into the meaning of principalities and powers in Scripture, but seemed to relegate them to governing authorities and perhaps spiritual powers, or intelligent entities behind them.

While the Bible is not loaded with accounts of people wrestling spiritual powers and entities, it is present. And in Ephesians 6 we in Jesus are warned that we will have to stand firm in God's mighty power and with his full armor on for us in Christ, against the wiles and strategies of the devil and his hosts. While that certainly has application from Scripture to refer to governing authorities resisting those in the faith, it would seem incontrovertible that it refers primarily to the spiritual powers and entities in league with Satan.

C.S. Lewis, in his The Screwtape Letters, has it right when he makes the point that the Christian church errs either in seeing the devil no where, or seeing the devil every where. Of course we must always beware of them, but we're not to be living in fear of them. Our victory over them is in Jesus and in his death, resurrection and ascension, and on that basis by the power of the Spirit. We have to stand our ground against the foe, in resistance, when they attack us. We need to learn the weapons of our warfare and put them into practice. This has made all the difference in the world in the lives of Christian missionaries who have testified of going year after year seeing little or no fruit, to seeing some good fruit come in conversions and Christian growth, over a relatively short period of time.

I was aware of the enemy's likely presence and activity yesterday. Yet I was still thrown for a loop. Hopefully a lesson learned for me. God has been moving in my life in certain ways, and helping me have some breakthroughs over some matters, particularly the same kind (anxiety, though most who know me never knew that) that had plagued me for years. And with Deb's help in prayer and in Christian fellowship, I was beginning to see more opportunities open up, or at least the opportunities I have used more evidently by God.

This is not a popular subject, and in theological circles does carry some controversy. But we need to consider it if we are to live in accordance with the full revealed will of God.

Does anyone have thoughts here, or perhaps a story you would like to tell that would relate to this?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

having eyes to see

Many of my posts are composed when I get up in the morning. And a good number of those are related to ways I've sense God is at work in my life. Or areas I need to work on. Firsthand kind of things. As I reflect on the day before.

Jesus taught us that we need to have eyes to see and ears to hear. We need to work at developing a sensitivity toward God, not dependent on anything except God's grace. Reading Scripture, and good books is helpful for us in this. Listening to others, Christian fellowship, and listening well to everyone (Bonhoeffer). These and more will help us begin to have discernment toward having a sense of what God is doing and speaking into our lives.

As we keep going through Scripture, we can get perspective on our own lives by viewing the lives of others. This is an important part of learning to "see" and "hear" well. Seeing God's work and will in the lives of ordinary human beings like ourselves.

Am I seeing and hearing well now? I wouldn't say that, in fact I believe at times I am not. But I think it's good to be aware of this need, so that we can work on our focus as well as to what and how we are listening: where our attention lies.

What thoughts might you like to add to these few thoughts here?

Monday, January 26, 2009

the Jesus Creed

Scot McKnight, in his simple, yet powerful and provocative book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, points out how Jesus changed the Shema, which was the confession of Israel. To love God continued to be at the center, but Jesus included with that the directive, from the Pentateuch (from Leviticus) to love one's neighbor as oneself. Jesus also changed the Jewish prayer, the Kaddish, reflecting the change he had made from the Shema, in the "Our Father" or "Lord's Prayer".

The Shema we can take to be the new confession of Jesus' followers, the Jesus Creed. Yes, it's a command, but it's likewise a confession. As Scot tells us in the book, as we learn to repeat it daily, just as Jesus and all religious and faithful Jews of Jesus' day recited the Shema, God can help us more and more make it a reality in our lives. And as we pray the "Our Father" prayer, we end up praying God's will. Not our own. The prayer reflects the Jesus Creed, and is really a prayer from God in that we are asking what God wants. It is good for us to recite that prayer, as well as hang our own thoughts and prayers on it, praying from it. This is not to say that we shouldn't be praying many other prayers. But it is saying that this can help us pray more, according to God's will.

I am once more rereading the book in preparation for reading Scot's 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, which I plan to do during Lent season, which begins February 25, Ash Wednesday (in Western Christendom, the Eastern Church's calendar is a little different) and ends this year April 11, 46 days later (Sundays are excluded in the count), Easter Sunday being April 12. So I plan to read prayerfully, with intentions for Christian formation in my life, Scot's book written for a 40 day period, and I think quite fitting for Lent.

Anything you would like to add? And has anyone read either of these books?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

quote of the week: Lauren Winner on a benefit of liturgy

Liturgy is not, in the end, open to our emotional whims.
Lauren Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath, 61, from Scot McKnight, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, 18.

prayer for the week

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 24, 2009

a powerful thought

Recently over at RBC Ministries, Mart DeHaan shared with us his thoughts and conviction in what we as God's people in Jesus should do during these times. This post and this post from his excellent blog are both helpful to us in sorting through difficult issues today. Mart doesn't pretend to have it all down, and these are over matters in which we Christians are sharply divided on, politically. I'm thinking here of Christians who agree for example, that abortion is the taking of human life, but are not in agreement on how to address the issue.

I quote from the first post I link above:

Maybe we need to return to the practice of the early church. In a society where abortion and infanticide were common, followers of Christ developed a reputation for not aborting their own children, and even for saving from the garbage other people’s children who were left to die.

I'm inclined to agree with Mart. What better good can we do for our country and for the world than simply living out a lifestyle that is in marked contrast to the "culture of death" surrounding us, to a culture sadly warped and crooked. In Jesus we need to be those who have and are experiencing God's salvation from this to a different way of life. They need to see a marked difference in our lives. This will make our words matter far more. And this will help us fulfill our true calling and vocation in this world as the salt and light in Jesus which we are.

I agree with Mart that we need Christians on both sides of the aisle in politics here in the U.S. And I believe Christians in both major parties as well as in other places. So I'm not speaking of disengagement from the political process. Not at all. But I'm referring to what we should be noted for. In how we live and what we do during these times.

What would you like to add on this?

Friday, January 23, 2009

come, Holy Spirit!

"I believe in the Holy Spirit." Part of the Apostles' Creed. God is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as I understand it from Scripture is God's active Presence, Power and voice in the world. The Spirit bears witness through God's people to Jesus, as the Messiah and Lord of all, Savior of the world.

All who receive Christ, receive the Spirit, who indwells each believer individually and all believers together corporately. There is a sense in which the Spirit's greatest habitation is through God's people together. The Spirit makes us one in Jesus, part of our witness to the world.

The Spirit enables us to live a holy life. This is a reference to walking in the Spirit. We depend on the Spirit for our spiritual life breath, and for every holy desire from God through his word, Scripture. As we walk in the Spirit we live the life God has for us, the fruit of the Spirit becoming evident in our lives, especially in community. Of course that is interactive, we are not passive (not to say there are no times for passivity as in waiting on God). We depend on the Spirit, but we must walk or live out God's revealed will for us.

The Spirit "comes on" us to empower us for witness, filling us. We witness regardless, especially by our lives, but also by words, not waiting on any special feeling, while in much prayer. But there are those times when we have that sense of the Spirit on us to speak. We must speak, and we must listen to others so speaking. This is for the world of sinners, and also for God's people. The gifts of the Spirit are for each one in Jesus. The Spirit is on us to give us something quite special to do. So that it ends up being Jesus in us, and we in Jesus- doing a work. From a most humble, supposedly menial task that no one may see, to speaking before others, and many other works.

We in Jesus can grieve the Spirit and put out the Spirit's fire. And we need fresh fillings of the Spirit. I know I am empty. I need the Spirit. And we need the Spirit in our midst, as those in Jesus. The world needs the Spirit through seeing Jesus by the Spirit in us- in word and deed.

There is much to be said about the Holy Spirit. We need more of the Spirit. And we worship him, who is God. As the Spirit leads us to the Father through the Son. We worship the One Triune God forever and ever, beginning here and now.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Patience is listed as a fruit or a part of the fruit of the Spirit. Of course that list begins with love. A good list to study, relating the virtues or characteristics together. And the passage is about community together in Jesus, not so much directly about our individual lives with God.

I think a big part of patience is learning to "lie low." I mean to hang in there with people, even when it seems little or no progress is being made against whatever problem there is. And at times when there is inevitable (as is the case with us all sometimes) relapse or falling back into our old ways.

Patience means we hang in their for people, for everyone. That we do so praying and being there for them. Much of the time for me this means I'll be doing less. Listening yes, but talking less or trying to help, less. But there is a time to talk, and maybe so emphatically, though with the same patience. And to act. But never a time not to show forth this patience, through the Spirit who indwells us individually and together, in Jesus our Lord.

What would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

creation and evolution

I am reading up on creation and evolution. Normally I avoid divisive issues, but I think the evidence for a very old earth and an older universe is compelling and irrefutable, and that the evidence for evolution is nearly as compelling to the point that we can hold both to be true. I continue to read on this, so I'm in a learning mode right now.

God has given us two great books to read: nature and Scripture. Or in the words of Deborah B. & Loren D. Haarsma, from their helpful book, Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution, from God's world and from God's Word. We need to read them both and let them both speak for themselves, never letting one change the other. And we need to remember that the problem lies in us- in our lack of understanding, not in either of the books, when there seems to be contradiction between the two. That book is actually designed for use in churches, and is comprehensive in an introductory way to the issue of origins, and the interplay between faith and science.

From what I gather, much of Charles Darwin's science is good, and has been verified to the point that he is more influential now, near his 200th birthday- February 12- than ever before. Unfortunately he ended up letting his problem with Christianity as he saw it, impact his science to some extent. Although it doesn't impact the main point of it.

The problem that we as Christians have to battle, as I see it, is not differences where Christians lie on this issue, some for example, holding to Young Earth Creationism, as opposed to those of us who hold to a Theistic Evolutionary model. The problem is where an anti-Christian faith has impacted the science of such people, like Richard Dawkins. Their view would be a part of what is called evolutionism. The idea that all can be explained in naturalistic evolutionary terms, so that natural selection makes any notion of a god not only unnecessary, but undesirable. So that we end up battling evolutionism and naturalism, which in themselves are not scientific. By the way, in Richard Dawkins' case, his recent diatribe against faith in God has really undermined his academic standards, according to those who understand the scientific and philosophical issues involved in that, from what I have heard and am gathering.

There is more that I intend to read on this. So it's a formative time for me in my understanding on origins. There is so much to say here, and a good place to start is with the book I cite above. It interacts with different Christian views, and it comes out where these two scientists are themselves, both professors at Calvin College. They cover in an introductory fashion scientific and theological issues in this.

(Many of my thoughts here come directly through the book mentioned on this post. I take no credit for originality or first hand learning, here. Strictly based on reading others, and forming judgments from that, and especially in this post, from the book mentioned above.)

What might anyone like to add here?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Prayer for our New President, Barack Obama (from Jesus Creed)

Here is a prayer and a helpful example of how we should pray for our new President.

From Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed.

on Inauguration Day

Today, Barack Obama is going to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America. This occasion holds special significance because this is our first African-American president. This shows how far this nation has come, not that we don't have a good ways to go, but we've come a long ways at this point in race relations and against racism.

I have been quite impressed with Barack Obama. He has a gift of intellect, but along with that seems to be humble. He professes faith in Jesus, having spoken of a conversion experience he had in the past. He is a realist, influenced by the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr. That can help set him in good stead as President of the U.S.

I don't agree with him on abortion. Though even there I along with other Christians have high hopes that he will help the effort, hopefully in bipartisan fashion, toward the goal of reducing abortions 95% in the next 10 years, called the 95/10 Initiative. At least to his credit he has talked in that direction, not just sitting on a possible overturning of Roe v Wade, which in itself may not reduce the number of abortions in our country at all, or minimally.

I do find Obama good on many issues, such as wanting to help all Americans and people in this country have affordable health care, engaging in more worldwide diplomacy, and hopefully at this point finding a balance between getting the nation back on its feet financially (particularly an acute problem here in Michigan), while helping us adjust for the long term in a fiscally more responsible era, both in government and as individuals and families.

As Christians we are told to pray for our leaders. We little realize what a difference this can make, and often discount it, ending up disengaged from it. I speak here from sad experience. What if a number of us would covenant between ourselves and God that by grace we will at least seek to do better, and pray for President Obama and other leaders on a regular basis? And not let up when things are tough or go bad.

He is to be sworn in at noon today, EST. I look forward to it, even with bated breath, a moment I hope to always remember as a special day. A special day for many and for us all, one that transcends partisanship, not just being about politics, but about being human (thanks, Paul B., at work, as we applied that to MLK, Jr. yesterday, but the application is good for this, as well.)

What would you like to add to this?

Monday, January 19, 2009

on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I'm good at missing big dates except for special family ones, and today was no exception. I was not aware until I was off to work that today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I believe without any doubt that he was one of the most outstanding leaders of the twentieth century. Like most Bible characters he had his flaws, but what he was about, how he led those with him, and what was and is being accomplished through his work will live on.

On Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, there is a special tribute to him today, with a question as to how his legacy from the "I Have a Dream" speech can impact directly the presidency of Barack Obama. So let's not fail to remember this day, and this is one good way of doing so.

because it is written

Readers of this blog and surely those who know me well, know that I believe in experience along with tradition and reason, all in their rightful place. I'm struggling with a bad back (though it is on the mend, and seems especially so at the moment) and shoveling over and over the ice and snow the snow plows leave behind, and that twice- yesterday (though Deb helped me by doing it the first time, since my back pain was so bothersome then).

So I know I need to simply proceed in the way of Jesus according to what is written in God's word- in Scripture.

This means reading, listening, praying and staying in the word which is meant for us, for our lives, and involves confession of sin and all that we need in Jesus. We don't wait until we feel like it. And we don't proceed according to how we feel. But we proceed according to what is written.

The feelings will come. And they will go. But the stable life in Jesus moves on according to what is written, employing tradition (what the church has taught and teaches), reason and experience, as we look for ourselves at what is written for us both in the Old and New (Testaments) of our Bibles.

Any thoughts you'd like to add here?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

quote of the week: C.S. Lewis on the sacredness of humans

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 14-15, from Scot McKnight, A Companion Guide to Embracing Grace, 23

prayer for the week

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 17, 2009

a great blog

I would like to give highest recommendation to a blog of one whom I am privileged to be acquainted with, and a friend, and fellow worker at RBC Ministries. Entitled The Wonder of Creation. Dean Ohlman is an amateur naturalist, intellectual and really just a great guy. I wish they would have him speak in our weekly chapel, because the one time he spoke years ago on simplicity, is still etched in my mind. This blog is a part of the ministry there.

If you love creation, if you are not afraid of reading fully the two books of God- Creation/Nature and Scripture, if you love beauty and want to enjoy it firsthand for yourself, if you believe we are stewards and therefore have a responsibility from God for this earth, and if you want to learn to grow in your love and appreciation of God's good world, this is a wonderful place to stop. Dean regularly gives us thoughts worth chewing on and living out, along with some breathtaking and interesting photos.

On this posting this week, Dean talked about the sun pilllars, something I saw on the way home the day before. Along with other beauties and curiosities surrounding that morning.

Give this blog a look, and leave a comment if you are so inclined.

Any day I'd sit under Dean and learn all I could. And I'd best put into practice what he says in ending every posting:

"See you outdoors!"

Friday, January 16, 2009

our great salvation

Yesterday in listening to Lamentations from The Bible Experience, I was hit at just how great the suffering in Jerusalem was due to God's judgment. Well acted in spoken word, and I was caught in the grip of it. Yes, I could identify to an extent. Both personally, as God has had to put his hand on my life in some loving, firm, hard discipline for my good. And knowing that Scripture teaches God's sure judgment to come, and already present in some ways against those who resist the truth and do evil. So as the actor played her role well, I was surely weeping as I reflected on my own life and some of the difficulties we bear.

God does need to give us a sense of who we are, and who God is. We then come to realize that we are worthy of God's judgment. But the fact is that Jesus took on himself God's judgment against humankind at the cross. In other words God took the judgment on himself/God's self. We need to rest assured on that, certainly knowing by faith what this great salvation can do and has done for us. And living in that reality in Jesus as forgiven and reconciled to God and potentially to all humankind through Jesus and the cross.

Lamentations and our lives can help us catch a glimpse of the great salvation that is offered to all in Jesus, as we see how great is our need. In Jesus' death for us, and in his resurrection to bring us into this new life in him. May we have broken hearts over our own sin, and over the sins of others. And may we have this as we contemplate, seek to live in view of, and proclaim this great and wondrous salvation we have in Jesus our Lord.

Any thoughts you'd like to share here?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

embodiment and spirituality

Right now we're being hit by (hopefully) the coldest part of the year with our air temperature at 2 degrees F (-16.7 C). I heard yesterday that wind chill temperatures to hit us will be at -10 to -20 F (-23.3 to -28.9 C). A little cold for me. More than a little too cold for Deb. On top of that, we're turning our furnace down to save fuel, and huddle in our bedroom with the heater made by the Amish, given to us by my mother. We do look forward to Spring, and even to getting into the 20's on Sunday! Supposedly some kind of January thaw is to hit us, temperatures even into the 30's by next week.

We are embodied creatures, and in God's world, in a true sense all material is spiritual. In other words God never meant for the two to be divorced from each other, but to become one through creation and redemption. We tend to separate them, somehow thinking we have to rise above the body and material, to the spiritual, and that this is at the heart of Christianity.

What is at the heart of Christianity and of God's world is incarnation. God in Jesus became one of us, yes- flesh. Completely human as we are, while still God. This forever puts an end to the lie that matter is secondary to spirit. The two are distinct yet are made and indeed will be remade through Jesus' incarnation and the new creation, to be joined together as one.

What does that have to do with cold weather? And what does that have to do with all human suffering? Jesus suffered for us, and we in Jesus will suffer with him in this life. Of course this refers to suffering because of our witness to Jesus in this world. And we enjoy many things with our bodies: this warm tea I am drinking (my bp was a little high at our health screen the other day, so I'm cutting back on the caffeine and drinking less coffee), the warmth we enjoy by a heater or under the covers, a good meal, maybe a fine glass of wine (for me, I prefer beer, but rarely indulge in it), a walk with our spouse or friend or even by ourselves on our sidewalks (or better yet, on nature trails), etc., etc.

The body is not to be despised but is an important part of our spirituality. God through Jesus by the Spirit inhabits our bodies, God's Temple, both individually as well as corporately- in us together in Jesus. When our sisters and brothers in the world suffer for their faith, we're to suffer with them. We're to pray and help each other, as well as all people with regard to their bodies, not just their "souls". Though we must remember as we do all of that, the priority of importance in their (and our) relationship with God.

So I am cold, and I am tired of the cold, besides having a bad back I somehow twisted over the weekend. Deb is as well. But God is good, no matter what. God will see us through as we look forward to the day when all is made new in Jesus. The resurrection and renewal of all things. When heaven and earth become one, and God becomes truly all in all. Thankfully that begins here and now in Jesus, already present yet not completed. Nice to know we have some relief to look forward to here and now, and especially beyond. In love we are taken, and all will be in God through Christ by the Spirit. Truly all will be one in Jesus. (I do look forward to the weather then!!!)

What would you like to add to this, hopefully from a warmer place?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

don't stand still

Life inherently doesn't stand still, it moves on. Sometimes in my life I've tried to stand still, mesmerized and overcome typically by some anxiety issue over a matter of real concern, a concern shared probably by many in this world. I am reminded of Jesus' words when he mentions "the worries of this life," which can choke God's word in our hearts, and make us unfruitful in our lives. Our standing still can be for a variety of reasons.

Journey is a good analogy of our lives, though the change in our lives is not just outward, but inward as well. I am reminded once again of John Bunyan's, the classic The Pilgrim's Progress. For whatever theological deficiencies that story has, it has a number of significant strengths. And one important point in it is that Christian moves on. In a number of places he could have settled down, or in one way or another deterred and stopped from his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.

We must not stand still. Sometimes along the way that takes special effort; it can be a struggle. We have to learn not to live on our feelings, not to allow our fears or whatever it is that is impacting us for ill (Jesus' words, "the deceitfulness [NLT- "lure"] of wealth" also comes to mind, here) to stop us from proceeding in God's will for us in Jesus.

For me this moving on takes place in a number of ways. Regular daily intake of God's word, prayer, fellowship with other believers, getting on with the responsibilities of life, and more prayer, more intake of God's word, more of everything that comes my way.

Don't stand still. Move on. Only then will we be able (and enabled) to participate in the life God has for us, a life never without troubles, but never apart from God's love for us in Jesus.

What would you like to add to this?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the tenacity of faith

Faith must end up being tenacious, and this is especially needed at certain points in our journey. There will always be seemingly insurmountable problems along the way. These can take numerous forms, though often they are the same kind of struggles common to us as individuals in our different makeup and variables.

Faith in God through Jesus by the Spirit, and in community, the community of God in Jesus, will find a way. This can take time and certainly effort on our part. And at times, simply waiting on and trusting in God. We need to become more and more aware of God's revealed will given to us from Scripture in Christ. How this unfolds will be beyond us, indeed it is "a God-thing." But it will, if we in faith hold on in one way or another.

This is particularly evident to me lately. And this is a faith not just to see us through, although that's important so that we'll continue on in our faith, in the faith. But it's a faith that in that continuing, will help grow us up together into conformity to God's will in Jesus. Towards being like Jesus. Certainly again beyond us, but a big part of the work that God does here on earth. That others may see Jesus through us, God's people.

What would you like to add here?

Monday, January 12, 2009

theology and experience

I was just reading in this book on the Holy Spirit on how John Wesley's theology came in part out of his experience, not only dogma, or doctrine. I know enough of John Wesley to know he didn't live on experience, yet experience was important in his faith. There is the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of faith: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. They all play their part, though the part of Scripture for Wesley was primary, it being the word of God. Surely they are listed in logical order with experience at the end.

But while Scripture is primary, tradition following for good theological reasons, and reason as God's gift important within this commitment- experience coming in last doesn't mean it's not essential. "Taste and see that the Lord is good," makes it an essential. It does no good to only say I believe in this and that, in God's truth revealed in Scripture, in Jesus and in creation. Though a faith commitment including intellectual assent to what is said in God's word is essential for our experience. But plenty of people hold to a nominal intellectual assent, but have nonetheless failed to take the plunge of really experiencing for themselves the truth and reality of what they profess, or say that they believe. Indeed it sometimes is a struggle even for an "established" believer like myself. It matters not what I'm facing, if indeed I put my trust in God through Christ. This can seem like a leap of faith, and God knows our weaknesses. God accepts with favor our sincere faith, even when it is weak and vacillating at times. Though God wants our faith to grow, and this can be especially so through the challenge of the dark times.

Let's taste and see for ourselves that the Lord is good. The rest of that passage goes: "Blessed is the one who trusts/takes refuge in him." For me this oftentimes in my past, and now in the present over a certain matter, is crucial. Nothing is more important, nothing at all, than really following through and living in this reality that is ours through faith in God through Christ. We have God with us by the Spirit to help us. I'm doing a little preaching this morning at myself.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

quote of the week: Frederick Buechner on the claim that God is love

To say that God is love is either the last straw or the ultimate truth.
Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words, 231, quoted by Scot McKnight, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, 134.

prayer for the week

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ed Dobson on Good Morning America

Ed Dobson is a person I and many others love. He used to be our pastor at Calvary Church when we lived on that side of the city. He has since been stricken with a rare form of ALS, which I had heard is slower moving. I don't know really anything about it, so am not sure what his prognosis is.

As you'll see in the link above, if you care to, his story is an interesting one. And how that played out in 2008. I mentioned this story right after Christmas.

And here is the link I want to call your attention to today, from an interview he recently had on "Good Morning America." It's about trying to live like Jesus did, literally, for a year. Interesting. And I think to spend some significant time steeped in the gospels would be helpful to us all.

Friday, January 09, 2009

taking the rap

In seeking to follow Jesus and become like him, it is important to take others into consideration and be concerned for others' good, and not just our own. In any conflict we need to incorporate something of the African/American spiritual: "Standing in the Need of Prayer." But we also need to avoid the pitfall of condemnation, either from someone else or others, or from ourselves. That is not truth concerning us in Jesus.

I help others and arrive into true fellowship with them through Jesus, not directly but through him, and by prayer to God for them. And it's important to include ourselves when we're praying for someone with whom we may have an unresolved conflict or issue. In other words as I'm praying for them, I'm including myself in those prayers. "God, help so-and-so and I..."

Another important factor in this is to be open to taking the rap, and when I say that, all I mean is be willing to receive some hard words from Jesus, if he were present. I know Jesus is present by the Spirit, and I believe God can give us words today, even though I believe we have only Scripture as the written word of God, and all words are to be judged according to Scripture. But what if Jesus showed up in person, as he will at his return (second coming)? Many of us think he would take care of those opposed to us, but are not open to the truth that he would bring out into the open that which is not pleasing to God in our lives. He would make us all uncomfortable at first, or at least many of us- and I suspect this to be true of myself, before he would speak comforting words to us.

We often think negative thoughts of others. There can be truth in that, as well as sin. It ever needs to be tempered with love. And also with the realization that when we are in any conflict with someone, we are a part of that, and it's seldom if ever the case that we have no sin in such a matter, even if it's just our reaction to the wrong done to us.

I suspect there are some thoughts out there on this from your own lives and God's work in them. What might you like to share on this from that, or any thoughts?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

what is this world coming to?

I grew up in a Christian setting influenced by the belief that the world would become worse and worse, then the Antichrist would come, God would judge- with the belief that the church is gone in all of this through the rapture (now I believe the church is present through that time of tribulation)- and then Jesus would return to set up the Millennial Kingdom.

I now hold to a more complicated view. The light in Jesus becomes brighter through the church, and this shows sin all the more for what it is. The Spirit of God being at work through the church, and perhaps in some way, in other ways throughout the world in reaching out to people. But God being at work in the new creation already present in Jesus, but not yet completed.

In that I see potential for the world to be better at certain times and places, maybe even overall with exceptions to that rule, but the need for final judgment against those opposed to God and God's will, as some in their quest for power continue to wreak havoc on people and on God's creation. As well, the need for both the redemption of Jesus accomplished at the cross and it fruit or result in the resurrection, to be completed in the reconciliation of all things to God and in that, the renewing, or new creation in Jesus.

This has to be worked out more in my theological thinking, but this is kind of where I'm at now, in a few as well as hurried words.

I wonder if any of you out there has any thoughts on this in reference to how you may have it worked out. Or anything to add.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

a friendly word

I'm not into a lot of the psychological babble that is present and popular, and against some of it. Although we will pick up truth here and there akin in some cases to wisdom, even if not measuring up to the full wisdom found in the Proverbs.

But I think a good word spoken in season can't be underestimated. Early yesterday at work I was grilled by someone over what I consider a trivial matter and not a sin issue, who later apologized. That got me to thinking about how I've been wronged in the past, and just how much I hate loveless fundamentalism. The kind that goes after people regularly, and is always finding others on the short end (and they, evidently, on the longer end). So I stewed over that to a good extent, an extended portion of the day. Of course noting anything around me, that I could imagine fitting into my complaint.

By and by a person came and simply said a few friendly words in reference to the Ohio State- Texas game, in which my Buckeyes lost (a heart breaker). Just to hear his friendly words took me out of my stew and reminded me of God's grace which in Jesus transcends and overcomes all. And how apart from grace, we're all in a bad fix. Right along with that, I was grateful for the companionship of a fellow worker, one who is soon to leave us and who I will truly miss.

A friendly word. Let's reach out even to those who may seem unreachable. And even at odds with us. Maybe even as this person did to me yesterday. Seeing God's grace in Jesus prevail, a grace that will win out fully in the end.

What would you like to add to this? Have you seen this play out in your life?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Reading in this day and age of entertainment is not popular. Though more reading is done overall in recent years because of the Internet I suppose, yet other pastimes dominate on it, I would think. Not that games or movies and other entertainment are necessarily bad in themselves. I'm beginning to learn to enjoy games much more.

But reading takes us to new places and stirs us in the way of Jesus. Reading stirs us in all kinds of ways in that way. I often find in my reading that I have to press through parts that are tedious or to which I don't connect that well. The rewards are there as I do. There is not much better than sitting or for me, laying on the couch with book in hand and some Mozart or whatever playing in the background. At work I fellowship while I'm working, and on breaks and at lunch lately, I read while I eat. We have a great public library system covering a good portion of our part of the state from which I and my wife Deb order online, and then can walk to our nearby library and pick up when it comes in. Add to that the college libraries in the area, particularly for theology, along with an excellent Christian scholar's bookstore (and more), and we're blessed in this area.

I've been told I read too much. This is by people who either don't read themselves so don't see its value well, or perhaps think I'm reading the wrong things. Of course, as a Christian I believe we need to be first and foremost readers of God's word, Scripture. I've been doing that by listening to the Bible Experience, as well as going over my Bible (and Greek New Testament) at work as I can. We're all different, so some of us will be readers and others not so much so. But we all need to value reading, and not despise it, even if it means reading slowly. Actually the best reading is done slowly I think. John Wesley was known for reading slowly, as he did so on horseback, brilliant mind and learning that he had. So we should take heart and keep building little by little in our reading. Better to get what little we're reading than read in large swaths and get only the gist of it.

And don't measure your reading by what you remember. Often it comes to you as you need it. And reading has its value in its impact. In the end the content in some way has to become your own. A part of your thinking and value and worldview. This requires discernment, and patience, as well as some hard work. And it requires a thirst for knowing what God might want us to know in Jesus. For me that includes all kinds of reading, theoretically. From Christians and non Christians there is much we can learn, much that can be helpful to us, as we remain those committed to God in Christ through the Spirit in community and on mission in this world.

What about your experience and thoughts on reading?

Monday, January 05, 2009

in God's project

For me after more than a week off from work it's back to the grind today. Actually back to God's good will in Jesus.

We live in God's project. It's a project bigger than any of us, but includes us all. It's neat to see how it can end up bringing so many disparate people together in ways as God builds us together in Jesus. It's a project that has nothing to do with the American dream or the way we ordinarily look at things. If I did that, which for some brief moments I did this morning, it would seem rather hopeless or at least not optimistic in some ways. But when we look at God's will revealed for us in Jesus, we can have an optimism based on the assurance in faith that God's good promises in Jesus will be fulfilled. We need to hang in there and see them worked out in the difficult places over time. And keep responding to God's grace in every circumstance.

It certainly gives plenty of assurance to know we are in God's project in Jesus. That we are a part of that. That in Jesus, what we do does make a difference through God in this world. How encouraging and reassuring!

So as I get back into the swing of it, or better stated the step and often tedious steps of it, I do so with a renewed anticipation that just as the rest was good, so the work now is good, in God's hands. That indeed, in Jesus, it's God's good project we are in, to be completed someday, but beginning and being worked out here and now.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

quote of the week: Vanhoozer on what is most basic to Christian faith and life

The ultimate authority for Christian theology is the triune God speak-acting in the Scriptures.
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine, 67

prayer for the week: The Second Sunday After Christmas

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, you Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, January 03, 2009

when our love comes up short

I have to wonder at times whether or not I'm living well according to "the Jesus Creed". At times I don't think I'm living as well with reference to that, as at other times. But it's a creed we do well to recite daily, and to prayerfully in Jesus seek to live out.

I'm not one who wants to analyze all I do. Yet I want to remain open to God's correction. God knows our limitations and weaknesses. Jesus grew tired of his disciples at least at one point, but he certainly never abandoned his love for them or for his Father. But Jesus lived within himself. What I mean here is that he lived as a human being, getting sleep, yet getting up early regularly to pray to his Father. I have to think that living as a human Jesus did that out of necessity- knowing he needed to, as well as out of a sense of longing and love. And he lived by the Spirit.

I know that God's work in Jesus prevails in our lives as we in faith carry on. Even when hitting those rough and difficult places which at times seem to come out of no where. Sometimes I must acknowledge that these are times when I really question my commitment of love. But God lets me in on where I need to learn more obedience, as well as where I need to grow, and where I fall short of God's goal for me in Jesus.

Thank God for his faithfulness in showing us where we may be falling short, as well as God's encouragement along the way in helping us see how we are growing. We need both, and God is faithful to give us both, as we follow on in Jesus together here and now in this world.

What would you like to add to this?

Friday, January 02, 2009

back to real life

It has been a wonderful vacation for me, for Deb and I. She is back to work later today, and I on Monday. So we're back to real life again, the normal everyday, every week routine. But the rest and recreation has been good for us.

Nothing like the crucible of life helps us grow. God's work seems to be in both indicatives and imperatives. Those come together, and so we see God's word in Jesus being planted and sprouting in our lives. So that even when we may be reluctant, yet we end up wanting to change and be changed. God gives us a holy dissatisfaction with where we are, and openness to him, as to where we need to be. There is nothing like real life to help us see our dependence on God and interdependence on others.

God will be with us in Jesus by the Spirit. Always and in ways beyond us, ways we don't comprehend, as well as in ways we do, as this begins to dawn on us. Back to real life involves being in some hard, dark places at times, places in which our faith in God will be tested so that it can be refined and grow. We have to realize that, but we can be glad as well for the rest and refreshment God gives us along the way. I certainly experienced that here at home with Deb, and in Ohio visiting my mother and two sisters and their families. It was wonderful to see God's goodness in that. But we can find God's goodness in the hard places, and I find they're often hard because I need change. And I often find in those hard places that God's Presence especially becomes evident.

What about you and "real life"? And the special times of rest and refreshment? What might you like to add here?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

prayer for the new year

Eternal Father, who gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

a blessed new year to all!

I wish and pray a blessed new year to all, and to anyone who reads these words. It is a day at least in our nation that is a holiday, probably many getting over their hangovers. And a day to watch parades, like the Rose Bowl Parade and to catch a football game or two. Deb and I ushered in the new year playing Scrabble and listening to Bach and Handel on the piano (nice to have them here through the wonderful playing of Murray Perahia, on CD). We look forward to getting the Super Scrabble Deluxe Edition (with "Christmas money" largely). Probably the game Deb and I like to play together the most.

We had a wonderful visit to my folks in Ohio. And they loved our granddaughter Morgan. Yet no matter how well things go, I'm reminded again and again how in this fallen world we must proceed on in Jesus, seeking to follow our Lord daily in the resurrection life which is both our call and reality in Jesus. But it's nice to be able to kick back and relax some. I hope to be reading while I root for Michigan State and Penn State (my Buckeyes play on Monday, I think). And hopefully during that time Deb and I will get in another game or two of Scrabble.

I continue to enjoy The Bible Experience. It really is growing on me, and I'm going through the Bible again now, working through it daily, through that recording. We need to be in the word and let God in Jesus impact us in our lives, with each other and for the world.

Again, to all, a most blessed and joyous new year! May the Lord more and more have his rightful place in our lives as we then find our place and role to play in the ongoing Story.