Saturday, February 28, 2009


The Christian God is a relational god. This is at the heart of who God is as Father, Son and Spirit. God eternally dwelling within God's Self, each Person indwelling the Other, and loving the Other. This is one way to describe something that is beyond our understanding, yet evident from Scripture.

This is at the heart of our humanity, what it means to be human is relationships. All other truth points us in this direction: relationships. Of course the first and greatest commandment according to Jesus is to love God with all our being and doing, and the second like it, is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This love is to come from the face of God we experience in Jesus Christ, the face of the God who is love (as I was reminded of today, in Scot McKnight's 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed).

This is in large part why Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right to say that we must learn to listen well to our fellow human being. Otherwise we will find ourselves not listening to God. And in the end, our spiritual life will be dry and dead, while our religion may go on.

I don't care that much about what I know or what you know, not for itself. Yes, knowledge by faith is important. But the goal is relationship and communion with God and with each other. Of course only in Christ can people come to their senses and repent and thus find themselves found by God. The central need for relationship is inherent in us as humans made in God's image.

I love relationships, but I have to work at it, partly since I want to read and think and commune with other readers and thinkers. But in Christ's Body the church, we are made to be in a living, loving communion with all. And this being so through the common communion we have with God by the Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord.  A communion which longs to see all others come in and be a part, through Jesus.

What place do relationships play in your life? What place are they to have, and how?

Friday, February 27, 2009


Yesterday was as good for me, as the day before was bad. Good to have those days of laying down in green pastures and being led by still waters, in having our souls restored and refreshed by the Shepherd of our souls.

I was wondering why all "hell" so to speak had broken loose the day before. I was trying to understand before God just where I had went wrong, why God's disciplining hand was evidently at work in my life. 

There is mystery we can't unravel in our troubles. Just living in a fallen world, and seeking to truly follow God in this world brings all the troubles one might imagine. Of course we are told to accept all hardship as discipline from our Father's loving hand for our good.

I think it's key to learn to embrace the good and the bad. All God sends or allows to come our way. I don't mean we're to accept the flaming arrows of the evil one. Not at all. We have the shield of faith to fend those off, etc. But we have to arm ourselves to suffer in our bodies for our faith, just as Christ did, Peter tells us. And we have to remember that troubles beset us for a number of reasons. Just a cursory, quick glance at Job and others in Scripture makes that perfectly evident. But that God is doing his great, mysterious work in it all. Not Satan, or our own doings to our undoing. God is great and good and sovereign in it all.

And we must remember, to whom God entrusts much God gives much. But for us to be like Christ in this world will involve suffering. Some of the "richest" saints/Christians I know are those who have suffered and are suffering the most. So that in the end, along with the apostle Paul we can say that we worked hard, but not us, but the grace of God with us.

What would you like to add to these scattered thoughts on trials?

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Repentance is another subject not popular in our culture. It is important, actually vital to our lives in God now. Without repentance there is no salvation. Of course one might push back at me with the truth that we are saved by grace through faith. And I agree. Only, this faith is a submissive faith, one that is obedient in receiving the message and then continuing on in a new life of obedience to God through faith.

Essentially I see repentance as a change of life. The word from the Greek in the New Testament means a change of mind, and that's important for starters. But unless that becomes a change of life, it really doesn't matter, because true repentance is about the whole person, and it involves a 180 degree change. And a change that is ongoing. 

This has come alive in my life. In regard to a troubling relationship in which I harbored attitudes which I felt were justified, yet were not right. I struggled. But finally I acknowledged my sin to God and to the brother, and then I kept my mouth shut, seeking God's help in a number of ways. It's amazing, the new relationship I have now with this brother. And this entire scenario has impacted my life, I hope for good. So that I'll never be the same again. While realizing that God's work in me is ongoing, and a long way to go toward the goal of becoming more and more conformed to the image of Jesus.

Am I talking about sinless perfection here? Of course not! What I am getting at is that while being sorry for the right reason is good, it's not enough. While believing I'm wrong, that's not enough. What is needed is no less than a change of life. I must be quiet, pray, wait on God, and seek by the Spirit, to live in the new way in Jesus. I may have to get other Christians to pray for me, the first for me being my loving, faithful wife. And we may need counsel from some brother or sister.

And when we somehow get off track from the way in Jesus, we simply need to repent and ocnfess our sin sometimes to our pastor, or a good brother or sister, who can then tell us that we are forgiven in Jesus ("the power of the keys"- Luther, but more importantly, Jesus, here and here). We go in assurance of those words that our sins are indeed forgiven upon confession through the blood of Christ. And we pray "the Lord's prayer", or the "Our Father" prayer for the forgiveness of all sins we are not aware of.

So repentance is ongoing. And at the heart of it is change. Change for a new life! The life God has for us now, in Jesus. 

What might you like to add to this?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

daily manna

The Israelites were given fresh manna every morning, and a double portion to gather the morning prior to the Sabbath, for both days. Jesus tells them later that he is the true bread come down from heaven, which if a person eats will give them life forever.

I need to be in God's word daily, but of course that word comes to us in Jesus, who likewise is called the Word. In the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus told the devil that humans do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

In my experience I find that God has something fresh for me daily. But I have to get it; it normally doesn't just come to me. One has to do their part, taking what God has given and "eating" it. This involves a meditative pondering on God's word. And by faith drawing on the life I have in the Spirit through Jesus.

I am blessed to work daily among Christians who seek to live out the truth of God's word in Jesus. We fail along the way, but God's word is there for us in all things, for us in those times. I believe the connection between Spirit-Word and Community made by Amos Yong is a quite apt one. His writings are challenging, but I do get that much. We need God's Spirit to help us through God's Word- both Jesus, and Scripture- to live in Community, ultimately the Community of God found in the Trinity, and one in which we share together as God's people in Jesus and seek to live out together in and before this world.

What would you like to add to this?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

God's judgment

Our culture does not readily receive or appreciate God's judgment as given to us in Scripture. In other places on earth where the wicked are running rampant, the message of judgment is welcomed, and rightfully so. Just finished the last book of the Bible, Revelation. It resounds with final judgments on the earth, before the consummation when in Jesus heaven and earth become one in the new creation.

There is no need to see God's coming judgment as threatening. It is meant to be not only destructive of evil, but constructive by grace in all places God's grace in Jesus are touching. So when Jesus returns we can welcome that, knowing that in our case the judgment will be constructive and for our good. This is the question for us all, "Are we living in the grace of God available to us in Jesus?"

What is your first response when you hear or see the words, "God's judgment"? What does it conjure up in your mind? Is it unsettling, settling, or maybe some of both? For me it's some of both. Though Jesus took my judgment by his death on the cross, so that I need not fear eternal condemnation for my sins, yet I still will be judged by a loving yet devastatingly piercing, God of light. The fear of the Lord doesn't just begin at salvation, but continues on throughout all of life. Along with a growing love of God, should be a growing awe and reverence and yes, even fear. A fear not in the sense of doubting God's love for us in Jesus. But a fear born of appreciation in beginning to understand who this God is, that God is holy, as well as love. God essentially is love, but it's a holy love, a love to be understood in terms of God's holiness.

Why does our culture have such a hard time with God's judgment? I think there are a number of factors involved in this. How can we as God's people hinder or help others in regard to this?

What would you like to share in reference to God's judgment?

Monday, February 23, 2009

saved into a community

When we are converted to Christ, we become members not only of Christ, but of his body the church. Our experience from Christ is not only in terms of our own relationship to God, but it comes as well, through our relationship with others. As Byard taught us yesterday, salvation while personal is not a private affair. But it is into relationships in Christ. Into a body, a supernatural family. And in that family we begin to experience Christ's care through and to us from others. So that hurts suffered in our natural families can begin to be healed from this family.

And this community is not made up of people we'd naturally hang out with. Or with those who agree with us in everything. God puts unlikely people together in the body, people we often are not comfortable with. The oneness we have is in Christ and by the Spirit, not over a common, club-like kind of existence and fellowship. One that is part of a new fellowship found in God through Christ by the Spirit.

I find this week after week in our church gathering. Yesterday I went largely out of duty, and found the testimony time (a different service) as well as the time in God's word in the class referred to, afterward, just what I needed. Christ was present with us, and was touching us through others and our time there.

To these few scattered thoughts, what might you like to add?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

quote of the week: Scot McKnight on the mustard seed and the kingdom

Why does a mustard seed attract comparison to the kingdom of God? Because for Jesus the kingdom is about the ordinariness of loving God and loving others. The kingdom is as common as sparrows, as earthy as backyard bushes, as routine as breakfast coffee, and as normal as aging. He hallows the ordinary act of love, making it extraordinary. Instead of finding it in the majestic, Jesus sees God's kingdom in the mundane. The kingdom of God is the transforming presence of God in ordinary human beings who live out the Jesus Creed.

prayer for the week: for love from the Spirit

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, February 21, 2009

bigger is not better

Yesterday, Deb and I finally played our third game of our new Super Scrabble Deluxe Edition. In the process of again rereading Scot McKnight's excellent book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, specifically in the enlightening chapter, "A Society of Mustard Seeds," I mentioned to Deb that just maybe regular Scrabble, though smaller, and less explosive (as to the way you can get points) is better. Of course even a normal Scrabble game can be long, but each move is more significant than in the bigger version of the same. The verdict is still out for me on that one, as both are, one could say, different versions of the same game. And Scrabble has been "our game" over the years of our marriage.

In America it is nearly an accepted axiom that bigger is better. But not so according to Jesus. The kingdom of God does not work on or toward that basis. It's about humbly doing the little things well in loving God and loving others, in Jesus. From a parable of Jesus, a mustard seed, as Scot points out, does not become a mighty oak. Humble at its beginning, though becoming the largest of all the garden plants of Jesus' place and time. We must remember that unlike the world, God does not despise the day of small things. 

We may think our calling is small. But by grace to faithfully seek to follow Christ daily in every matter, to pray for others regularly, to do our part God gives us no matter how small it may seem, in God's eyes is highly significant. We must embrace our part and seek to grow in grace in it. God in Christ in the end by the Spirit is what counts. And we need to find our place in this great work of God. A work in which the last are first, and little is big.

What would you like to add to this?

Friday, February 20, 2009

one problem with self-pity

What often brings self-pity on is the sense that we've been wronged by someone. Sometimes that is indeed not without justification. And it can be quite hurtful. Or it may be that we are in a "woe is me" attitude. Believing all is stacked against us, and our lot in life is difficult at best, and certainly undesirable, not what we wanted.

When we fall into this, we're no longer living in the grace and truth as it is in Jesus. We begin to see all the bad around us, rather than in grace overlooking many things, and finding the good by God's grace that is present. As well as looking for that good in others. Instead, contrary to Scripture we really begin to look down and grumble to ourselves about others. Something God warns us against (even in the face of true suffering at the hands of others, in the passage linked).

We must beware of a self-help, kind of "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mentality. Instead we need the truth as it is in Jesus. That truth to bear on everything. And thankfully with that truth comes grace, grace for us all, in Jesus.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I wonder how many times in my life I've been in a self-pity party. Yesterday for me was one of them. For too long. But God picked me up, and now I'm encouraged and going on.

People of God in Scripture had such parties themselves. I think of Elijah and Jeremiah. God picked them up as well, and helped them to continue on in faith, and in service for God to the people.

There are dangers when one is down. We should always keep a close watch on what we say, and it's particularly important during these times that we keep our mouths shut, and that we be careful not to express ourselves nonverbally, either, in regard to any grievances we may have. We've all stumbled in this regard. But we can learn and by grace do better.

But most of all, we need God's grace to lift us out of that, and into his grace and love, the truth as it is in Jesus. To try to work with God in this life is not easy, either in regard to ourselves, or in seeking to help others. We do well to seek to major on prayer and on being quiet (the quiet is important in my case, since I tend to have plenty to say most of the time). And I do well during such times to keep busy, which just before God broke through to me yesterday, was precisley what I was able to do.

Of course much more can be said on self-pity. I've just touched on it a little, from my experience yesterday. What would you like to add on it?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

good Bible reading and study

Yesterday in Scot's study on James, he pointed out that we need to read the passage which tells us to "consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds," in light of the rest of book of James. Then Scot listed some of the problems going on there, mentioned in the book: essentially about the rich oppressing the poor, even among professing believers. 

While I don't think we have to exclude other trials not mentioned in James, I do think this is an apt example of how we need to read Scripture. We need to read a passage well, in its immediate context, be that a pericope (like a parable, or a story/event of Jesus and his disciples, etc.), or with reference to the rest of the book, and then from there with reference to books like it (example, other books by the same Biblical author, others of the same genre like wisdom or apocalyptic), and from there the same testament whether "old" as in the Hebrew Bible, or "new". Then at last with reference to all of Scripture.

I'm not against Bible promise books, but I think such tend to faciliate reading Scripture out of context. It is possible to miss the point of a passage, or verse entirely, possibly interpreting it concerned about our own interests and according to our own worldview, which may be at odds with the interests and worldview in Christ God is calling us toward.

Again, I commend that study at Jesus Creed. And that we learn more and more to read Scripture, God's word well, in its context. Such a study can help us toward that. It was a good reminder for me.

What would you like to add here?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scot McKnight's study on James

Let me highly recommend a daily Monday through Thursday Bible study from Scot McKnight, on the book of James, which just began yesterday over at Jesus Creed. And I'm excited about the commentary from Scot, to be released by Eerdmans about a year from now.

tradition and interpretation

In Christian Protestant circles we are familiar with the term Sola scriptura, which simply means the one source from which we draw from for our faith and practice as Christians is Scripture. Of course not all Christians agree, both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox putting tradition in a place either almost or completely parallel with Scripture. Often in a kind of reciprocal relationship. While I believe Scripture must be our ground for faith and practice, we Protestants often little realize just how important tradition is.

Scripture itself promises that the Spirit will guide Christ's disciples into all truth. And that the church itself is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Of course Christ is the Cornerstone, the one on whom our faith is founded. The church was involved in that founding from Christ by the Spirit. The apostles and prophets receiving from God for us this faith that is ours in Jesus. And the church continues to be the entity/body in which we are to learn and grow in the Lord.

When I hear someone say tradition and interpretation don't matter; it's the Bible that is the word of God, I wince a bit. Whenever we read any of Scripture there is always a combination of interpretation and tradition occuring. Unless we're just doing so as an individual with our own interpretation. But that is not God's intention.

We can think we're reading the Bible for ourselves, and that is important. But we little realize just how much tradition and interpretation are present in our reading of it. Even in the translation of Scripture from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, there is invariably interpretation going on. True in the most "literal" translation, if it really is a translation. Because the translator is trying to get to the meaning of a manuscript in one language and put it in the closest parallel meaning of another language.

We all need to read the Bible, God's word for ourselves. The Spirit can help us in our own private reading if we do so prayerfully with the desire to know God more and God's will for us in Jesus. But we must not imagine that tradition either should not or does not impact us. It does. Nor should we think we're not interpreting as we read. Indeed we are. To think otherwise has resulted in people promoting errors from not reading Scripture well, and in context. And it has also resulted in unnecessary divisions among us Christians. That is not to say there aren't divisions that had a good reason for occuring at their start. But properly speaking such divisions must not cause us to be aloof from other true Christian churches and people. There is, after all only one body along with our one faith.

With our inevitable differences in interpreting matters that while important are not crucial for us being in the faith, let us seek to emphasize what is essential. In that we need unity in the faith. In nonessentials liberty. And in all things, love (from the words of Augustine).

What might you like to add to this a bit heavy theological post?

Monday, February 16, 2009

anxiety over money

We live during a time when people are losing their jobs and wondering about their futures. As Americans, we've been taught to plan ahead. Conventional wisdom is that it's good for most of us to own a house, now get our 401-K's or an equivalent as high as possible, so that we can enjoy our retirement. But like Sharon told us yesterday, we've made gods out of all these things. Not necessarily wrong in themselves, but wrong if we're depending on them, rather than on God.

For the most part I worry very little about our finances. Deb handles them (we've traded back and forth, but she does better than I on them, so I let her have at it, now for some time). Something happened which made me wonder what was going on, though nothing Deb did wrong at all. But this threw me for a loop on Saturday. But in that, I was able to pray and think through Scripture. And when I arrived at church on Sunday morning, I was asked to read the Luke passage of the parable of the rich fool along with some of Luke's equivalent of what I was looking at in Matthew (the entire passage). Then Sharon gave us a message that hit the spot. Quite an encouraging time, though because of being so tired, I did not make it through the Dallas Willard material on it in The Divine Conspiracy (but will do so today, or very soon).

Do we really trust God? Are we living as those who seek God's kingdom and his righteousness? Or is it to pile up many goods and possessions for ourselves? Most of us are not perfect in this. We need to take an unflinching look at ourselves, in prayer. And seek to grow in our faith and commitment to God on this. Being rich toward God is key for us, which involves doing good for others.

Many will be tested during this time, perhaps the next year or so. How well will we do? And we must remember we're all in this together. Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Not give me. Like Paul, I want to learn to be content in whatever circumstance. As long as I can serve God through Christ. And in that, know God will give us all we need.

Just kind of preliminary thoughts on this. What wisdom might you like to share with us- or anything in regard to this?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

quote for the week: Dallas Willard on freedom from anxiety over money (in the section "And the Lilies"- Matthew 6)

...when our trust is in things that are absolutely beyond any risk or threat, and we have learned from good sources, including our own experience, that those things are there, anxiety is just groundless and pointless. It occurs only as a hangover of bad habits established when we were trusting things - like human approval and wealth - that were certain to let us down. Now our strategy should be one of resolute rejection of worry, while we concentrate on the future in hope and with prayer and on the past with thanksgiving. it: "Don't be anxious about anything," he says, "but in every situation, with prayer and supplications, with thanksgiving, let God know what you want. And the peace which God himself has will, beyond anything we can intellectually grasp, stand guard over your hearts and minds, which are within the reality of Jesus the Anointed" (Phil. 4:6-7).

We will find all this so much easier, of course, once we have been freed from our old dependency upon the opinions of others and upon our "treasure" of material goods.

Dallas Willard from The Divine Conspiracy, 212, 213.

prayer of the week

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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, February 14, 2009

God's goodness

A big part of the life of faith consists in really learning to trust in God's goodness. We affirm what Scripture says, that God is good. Yet we struggle when bad things happen to us and around us. And we struggle with fears over what might happen, since we live in a world which is full of trouble. And there's no doubt that we will have troubles in this life.

To learn to begin to really rest in God's goodness is an important aspect of the life of faith for us in Jesus. As we persist in that, through the bad times and good, we will begin to see God's goodness at work in our lives, in a kind of unfolding way. In a way in which we can see progress in ourselves. And seeing change towards becoming holy and more like the Lord, is at the same time satisfying to us. We are becoming more as our Creator made us to be, more human. By grace we are tasting more and more that the Lord is good, and we are remaining in that goodness.

I am learning this in my own life. Certainly requires faith, and sometimes prayers from others to help us overcome our lack of faith, as well as dependence on God to keep going on in that. True for myself!

When we depart, of course the Lord is faithful to work to bring us to our senses. We all need to keep learning more and more to trust in God's goodness. To learn more and more to rest in that. And to even revel in it. Seeing it in the little things of life, as well as the bigger. And trusting through the dark and difficult times that God's goodness will prevail.

Anything you'd like to share on God's goodness?

Friday, February 13, 2009

being quiet

Being quiet I believe is underrated. Everyone likes to share their opinion or something of their life, and to some extent that's good and fine, and we can see it played out with all of our blogs.

I recently heard that someone who has shared plenty of words (a Christian, whose name now escapes me) said that they listen 80% of the time, seeking to really understand, and then they speak accordingly. This reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words of warning, telling us that we'd better learn to listen to others, or we'll find that we are not listening to God, no matter what we may be doing (reading or talking about God's word, etc.).

I am a talker by nature. But I find much more satisfaction in saying less. Listening more. And hopefully wasting less words. Of course there is a time to speak. Sometimes needed to break the silence, or even break the ice. But I'm finding that I want to be quick to listen, and seek to really understand others. And I'm also working on not waiting until someone is finished so I can say what I've already planned to say. Better to hear them out, think, and then perhaps offer some words that might be helpful to them or for the conversation.

Good too, surely, to be quiet before God. To pray, yes. But also to just be quiet, and seek to listen and hear God's voice speaking into and through our lives.

What would you like to add on being quiet?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

the gentle breeze of God

After a day which I interpreted as the hand of God on me for needed discipline, a difficult day indeed, yesterday was quite the opposite. It was like a gentle breeze engulfing one and changing the atmosphere inside and out. The life-giving, life-changing, grace-filled presence of the Spirit of God.

We need the hard days at times. Sometimes we need a good glimpse at ourselves. Or we just need some discipline from the Lord's hand. Such days prepare us for better days. We are humbled and seek to be repentant and really live out a repentant life. That is all part of the work of the Spirit for us as well. God doesn't let us go by the wayside when we go off the way of Jesus. And this is not only a "me and God" thing, but involves fellowship in the community of God in Jesus.

So it was a wonderful day. Those two days contrasted side by side something for me to remember. Most days have their ups and downs. But regardless, I want to learn to live more and more in the presence of God. And just rest in that presence, while growing and continuing to meet the challenges that come before me.

Of course I won't arrive. I'll have other times when God needs to get through to me over something. In small ways perhaps daily. But I'm speaking of obvious wrongs which God brings to our attention.

The gentle breeze of God. We are thankful for "the disturbing and comforting presence of the Spirit of God." (The Holy Spirit, by F. LeRon Shults and Andrea Hollingsworth, 10)

What would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

keeping up appearances

Jesus declared that religious leaders in his day, actually those who overall had the highest reputation, did everything to be seen by others. Their religion and their life was wrapped around what others thoughts of them. They wanted to be honored and held in high esteem. They were concerned about praise from people, not praise from God- that had no regard for them.

Reading that, it set me to wondering just how much we want others to think highly of what we do and say. Of course we want to be good examples to others. But this needs to stop short of others thinking just how great we are. Rather we should hope that others might see Jesus in us. And there is a beauty to that, but that beauty is not intrinsic to ourselves at all.

I like to think and talk about theological issues. I find that at times I can talk too much and we can lose out on the simple beauty of seeking to live it out in the ordinary every day aspects of life. And if I'm not careful, I too can fall into the trap of wanting others to think a certain way about me.

But Jesus told his disciples and he tells us, Don't call anyone your special or honorary teacher, don't think you're a head above anyone; you are all one family, brothers and sisters. We're to simply live in that grace and love we find in Jesus. To be humble and seek to learn from others. To be ready to confess our sins to another brother or sister.

What would you like to add to these thoughts about keeping up appearances?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

when feelings mislead

I'll never forget words spoken by one of my seminary professors for whom I have a most high regard: Dr. James Grier. He stated something like he had found most of the time that when he went with his feelings in making a decision (I take it, difficult decisions), he had been almost always wrong.

How can feelings mislead us? I think they can when our motives are not in accordance with God's revealed will found in God's word, in Scripture. Or we can have peace over something related to the decision to be made, yet not squarely on the decision itself. We may have some fears to overcome and matters to think through more clearly, in counsel with others, and with ongoing prayer.

God is always at work in our lives, and in Jesus that work is not going to stop. We can rest assured in that. Perhaps some of the issue is to let God help us get to the root of our fears. No matter what we face, including mistaken or bad decisions along the way, we know that nothing at all can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I know this is sketchy. But is there any insights on this you might like to share? Or any thoughts?

Monday, February 09, 2009

overwhelming, mysterious love

In a class going through the book of Ephesians, Byard Bennett (an award he won and I easily understand why- though I don't understand why different faculty come up on the award page!) is helping us see, both in ways known to the original hearers of the letter, as well as for us today, just what this book along with related writings from Paul is telling us, about our life in God through Jesus Christ.

Yesterday Byard helped us see how though we're involved in salvation, it's really not about a decision we make or anything we do, that's not what Paul is getting at at all. After all, we're dead in our trespasses (falling aside). So that we have no desire for God at all. Along with that we're set on our own ways, ways that lash out against God and God's will. (Unfortunately I don't take notes anymore, and Byard expressed it better, I go on memory here). There is no way we will turn to God ourselves; we are as good as dead.

Without believing in double predestination, the teaching that God simply chooses some of the human race for salvation through Christ, and lets the rest go to deserved eternal damnation, no, Byard and I reject that, Byard does not believe this is in Paul's thinking at all, neither here nor in the Romans 9-11 passage, Paul is teaching that God's love through Christ comes over those who believe in a mysterious way, which brings about salvation. Yes, the sinner is involved in it, but Paul makes no mention of that in the Ephesians passage (so far our track in the class: a "dense" passage, a lot in it). It's truly like through this love we end up overwhelmed and won over to God through Christ by the Spirit (who is not mentioned in that context of salvation, yet is mentioned in a different yet related context later).

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that all would repent and live. There is something mysterious about this salvation, not to be solved by any theologians. Yet we know the ground of it, Jesus Christ, his person, word, life and work for us, and the result of that work. So that all who hear the good news of Jesus, and in repentance believe in both an accepting and submissive trust, are saved. In Ephesians God's great love for the dead is seen to bring new life in Jesus.

This great love continues on in our lives. God doesn't just abandon us after salvation. It's ongoing, as truly our salvation in Scripture is: present tense. That's a good thing. Left to myself I would drift away. I would not work through the issues in my life as I need to. I would go back to what I was before Christ. Although it is said that in Christ we are a new creation. So something in our lives is different now in Jesus.

I wish each of you could have heard the great teaching (and the service and sermon were powerful yesterday, but the message is not up on our church's website yet). I try to replicate something of it here. Life changing. Byard played a clip for us from one of the renditions/movies of the Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing in which Benedick and Beatrice try to hold out to the end, denying any love for each other in the public setting. But when letters they had written for each other yet held on to, are brought to the intended recipient right there, they end up giving in and having to acknowledge that their hearts are changed and that they do actually love each other. And they end up embracing that love and each other. A picture of how our hearts are changed towards God through Christ.

What might you like to add to this?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

quote of the week: Dorothy Sayers on vocation

In the potent words of Dorothy Sayers, our vocation
is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.

It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred.
Dorothy Sayers from Creed or Chaos?, 6, quoted by Scot McKnight in The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, 81.

prayer for the week

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, February 07, 2009

a long, cold winter

This winter we've had plenty of snow as you can see from this picture of Deb. She stands beside one of the two major snow piles. I had to learn to use my legs more and my back less, through all the shoveling. Deb usually helps me more than well, but we now have only one shovel left. Deb is 4 feet 11 inches (149.86 centimeters). We're looking forward to Spring!

dropping "blogs' most recent posts"

I deleted "blog's most recent posts" this morning. I didn't want to do so; I think it's a nice feature from Blogger. But the bugs in it make me linking, for example L.L. Barkat's, Seedlings in Stone, with a multiple number of links from my blog. Hopefully that will disappear from that posting in time, and from all others.

I would like to see Blogger fix the problem. But until they do, I opt out of that feature, myself. I've noticed it hasn't been nearly so bad for others, so hopefully many of you will feel comfortable to keep it.

My guess is that the over 100 blogs I had on that list made my blog quite active so that blogs were receiving my links over and over again, and different ones at that.

Hopefully soon I'll list blogs on my sidebar. Just an explanation.

Friday, February 06, 2009

waiting on God

Last Sunday we had a good message and theme in our church on waiting on God. I think for us in Jesus this is a most important discipline of faith.

How often are we unsure what to do in a given situation? What should we do? I know what I have done way too often in my life. Take matters in my own hands. Or exhaust myself trying to figure out what to do. But what should we be doing?

We should wait on the Lord. By prayer. By being in the word. More prayer. Searching. In the word. And more prayer after that. I include searching, because, yes, we may need to get more information as well as counsel from godly, and knowledgeable (on the subject) people. But we must do so as those who are waiting on the Lord.

I think I've made progress in my life, but I still don't think I'm that good at waiting. Like our Pastor Jack, I too can be impatient, or want the answer now. We live in an instant society when most everything is readily accessible to us. So we can be flabby and weak in the practice of waiting on God.

Do we have a problem now, or a difficult decision to make? Chances are we might have both. Let's make it first priority with all else we do to wait. Wait on the Lord. I need to do so. And I have a wife that is better at it than I am. So I ask her to wait with me.

What thoughts might you have perhaps from your own life about waiting on God?

Thursday, February 05, 2009


The more I live and the more I read the more shaken I can become. I'm not sure about the latest a very good brother gave me, but it shakes me to the core. Evil. It is very present with us. This is why Jesus prayed for his disciples (and for us, by implication), that God would keep/protect them from the evil one. And why he taught us to pray, "Deliver us from evil/ the evil one."

What guise does evil take up? Good. It masks itself, and even thinks of itself quite often as good. Though surely we know better. This is in big part why I'm very opposed to putting so much confidence in any political leader, or any leader for that matter. I hear "black and white" (not racial, but used in terms of right and wrong) talk, and how one party is right and the other is wrong. I hear (though try to avoid and cannot stomach) talk radio's diatribe against this person or that person, and thinking their person or party is right, or in line with the truth. But we little know the evil that can pervade us all. And it is even more difficult to tell, and therefore insidious when it is done in the name of what is good and right.

This thinking is in terms of reality, and can help us live in a more helpful way. For example I disagree profoundly with President Obama on the abortion issue, not believing that a woman's right to choose includes aborting her unborn. But I also see Obama as good in other ways, and I see life for humans as concerning womb to tomb (thanks, the Wingnut for that good phrase). So while I won't give my wholehearted support to Obama and the direction he has gone, I do support him in some important ways. And, regardless I am called to pray for him and others (including those leaders who I find less affinity with).

Evil is present with us. If we look long enough into the mirror, we'll see it. Let's not imagine it's about us and them, as we were told as a nation, wrongfully in the past. It can hit and infect all of us. And we're only a moment away from falling prey to it, even if only in our thoughts (which is where it ordinarily starts).

What would you like to add about this? Another difficult, unpleasant, yet painfully real subject.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Christ the controversialist

It seems like many years ago, now, when I was a young man and bought an outstanding book on Jesus' life, and his dealing with his own people, entitled Christ the Controversialist. It was written by John R. W. Stott, perhaps the most influential evangelical leader of the twentieth century (according to Scot McKnight). He was a pastor in the Anglican church and a writer of a good number of books. And as one told me recently, he was balanced in a solid, Scriptural way, in a way that is attune to life in his writings. The book is an exposition of John's gospel in places where Jesus makes truth claims about himself. And the wall of opposition he faced.

We live in a world in which Satan is alive and well. Naturally, those whose eyes have been blinded by the god of this age will not readily assent to Jesus' truth claims concerning himself and the gospel, in other words, the uniqueness of Christ and his salvation any more readily than the people did in Jesus' day. We can go a long way in getting rid of unnecessary stumbling blocks and controversy surrounding us. Some of the controversy that surrounds Christians today is not inherent or a part of the true message of the good news of Christ. Indeed, too much so, I'm afraid.

At the same time, there is no way that in any part of life Christians who hold faithful to Jesus and to the message of the gospel are not going to have to meet opposition. We will. And indeed we should speak prophetically into our times and world. This is a message that points to Christ, and in doing so, is really pointing others away from what is not of Christ, all the various pursuits and gods people clamor after. One example: "the American dream." Indeed not all is bad in this "dream", but oftentimes in the way we pursue good things- e.g., Ecclesiastes- we settle for something less than God.

Our message does not cut off much of what the world is interested or involved in. It simply helps people find the true reality and fulfillment of these things in Christ. So that I don't have to retreat from science, or philosophy, or psychology, music, art or any good number of things. I can see them come to life and flourish because of my faith. I can appreciate the good work others do, while seeing what comes into that work at times that is part of the lie which began in the garden.

So we might as well face the fact that we're going to be controversial. I don't want it, but I don't shrink from it. But how I carry that is all important. Do I do so in the humility, meekness and love of Jesus, or do I do it out of my own pride and in impatience with others? We must be ready for controversy, yet seek to win people with our lives and words. That others might see Jesus in and among us, as God's people, and be led to him.

What would you like to add on this? What do you think about controversy?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

finding one's life

Over and over again Jesus told his disciples and he tells us that those who hold on to their lives, and hoard their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for Jesus' sake, who give up their lives to God through Christ, will end up finding them, finding their true life. Something that begins in this life.

True life is in Jesus. This is where we find the (good) kingdom of God. And where we really begin to lose the false selves we hang on to for dear life. Even as we know that deep down inside something is wrong. Are we willing to let God do his death dealing of us so that we can end up living, truly living? Finding the life that God intends for us, the life he made us for, of the new creation in Christ? Or does this just seem like empty fiction to us? So that we hold on to what is real to us, while wondering what we're missing in Jesus?

These are the kind of questions I'm asking myself. And maybe they are more the kind of questions we should be asking (among others). Questions either voiced in Scripture, or which arise from Scripture; questions that indicate God's word at work in our lives to show us our real selves and God's death and life dealing for us in Christ, and by the Spirit.

I have been thinking about this through some of my reading, and of course we know it well through the gospels. And I have found myself rather numb and just sensing that God is at work in me, lately. I don't live on feelings, but I do pay attention to them, especially anything out of the ordinary, to see if I can understand what they might indicate.

How can we who have trusted in Jesus miss out on this kind of life? Why do we? (a multitude of answers to these questions, seems to me) Or anything you'd like to add here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

live and think widely

Of course we are to be on the narrow way to which Jesus refers. This is the way of Jesus, the way of following him, the way of the Lord for God's people, the way of life as opposed to the way of death.

What I'm referring to here is our need as those in Jesus, in our own differing ways, to get out into God's wide world. Not only as a witness, but also as those who get to know others and better understand their culture and thinking. Only in that way can we be those who like Paul endeavor to be all things to all people so that we can see some of them come to salvation in Christ.

I'm also referring to our need to appreciate what we can learn from others, including nonChristians and really everyone. Of course there are those whose words can be destructive in misleading others away from faith; we need to be on guard for ourselves and others. We certainly need discernment in all things.

But there is much we can learn from others, while remaining in the word and in prayer and in fellowship with God's people at all times. I am sorry for the great fear Christians have over science. I was told not long ago by a good, intelligent believer as I marveled over the stars that scientists can know nothing about them.

Granted, we do find scientists who say very unscientific things, and write unscientific books. And to be fair any good Christian scientist, this especially evident in particular fields, will be influenced in their work by their faith. However Christians need to look at data for themselves and make up their own minds. God has not given us the world of creation, or nature to contradict his word, Scripture. Both need to be studied for themselves. I find such study fascinating, and I'm thankful for those Christians who do not run with fear from such study, but learn much in these fields from which the rest of us can draw knowledge.

We need to be those who keep asking questions, intent on learning more about God's wonderful world, as well as about what is going on in the world. We as individuals will take this in and process it differently. But only as we keep on reading or learning in some way will we keep on growing. Of course some of you will read a lot of fiction and poetry. Others of us will read other things. I especially appreciate learning from other Christians who have been able to study with depth into different areas. Reading from them, I can gain some good insights into God's world and life in it. Learning to see things in a better light myself. Of course while remaining in Scripture ourselves, and in prayer, as well as in fellowship with God's people (a good repetition).

What other thoughts might you add to this? Any objections?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

quote of the week: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the responsibility of the church to the state

The not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, quoted by Philip Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace?, 238

prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; 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