Thursday, April 30, 2009


I've been thinking about idolatry and how that plays out in the lives even of Christians. John Calvin wrote about the propensity of all humans to hold on to idols in the heart (from Ezekiel).

This can be anything other than God. For example I wonder how easily the Republican Party (or Democratic Party) can become an idol. Or an ideology of what it ought to be. My country America, as great as it is, can surely become an idol, either rivaling or being too closely linked somehow in one's mind, to the kingdom of God.

How about one's ideal of what life ought to be? Now I tread softly and hopefully carefully here. Because we are dust and frail, and God knows that. And God says certain things are not good, for example it's not good for the man (or woman) to be alone. The answer there was the bond of marriage. But many who would like to be married, are not. And in the case of those who are married, they can so fawn over each other (fawing itself is good, by the way- one example) that they can end up making their marriage partner and marriage an idol. Remember, anything at all other than God, can become an idol.

The paradox is that as we learn to really put God first then the gifts of God can become more precious to us than ever. But when we put those gifts first, they eventually dry up, wither and die.

Much more to say on this. What would you like to add here?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

love prevails

It is good when by God's work in Jesus love prevails. I'm not much of a bumper sticker fan, but one bumper sticker I wouldn't mind having on a car (if I had to) says, "Love Wins." Properly understood, that is indeed true.

In the end the love of God inherent in the Trinity, does indeed win. The love of God in Christ, which resulted in God's great redemptive work in him, wins. A love which by faith we can participate in, only because it is real and active, revealed to us in God's final word, Jesus. A love which makes itself known to me everyday, and hopefully through us in Jesus to others.

This is a necessarily short post today, because I overslept, and am still trying to shake the cobwebs off. But what do you think of the "Love Wins" bumper sticker? And what would you like to add here?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

true believers

God's mercies are new every morning. In this life it is true, we're beset by troubles on every side until the day we die. Though some have the disposition to not only see the cup half full, rather than half empty, but they see good on every side until the day they die, as well. Not that they deny the troubles. But they keep their cup full, in the Lord.

We need new eyes to see and new ears to hear and new hearts to understand. Too often worldly perspectives creep in and take over. And you'd never guess that the person talking is a child of God, or a follower of Jesus, and not of this world, but of the kingdom of God in Jesus. I speak from being there myself at times.

Being content and rejoicing in the Lord, finding our joy in him, and giving thanks to him for his goodness and good gifts to us- this is what needs to more and more characterize us. Do we really believe God's word? Or do we just barely do so, with doubts and struggles? Hopefully I'm growing more and more in my trust in God and in his word.

Let us live as God's children in this world. Of another kingdom. Not bogged down by the troubles on every side. That others might see, and believe along with us.

What might you like to add here?

Monday, April 27, 2009

at home

Life is likened to a journey in Scripture in which God's people are considered pilgrims, strangers, or sojourners through a land that is not yet their home. It is stated that we have no home or resting place in this world, but we seek one that is to come.

Actually in Jesus we begin to have that home right here. That doesn't negate Jesus' promise of preparing a place for us, but by the Spirit there is a place where we can begin to be "at home" even now.

We read that where just two or three are gathered together in Jesus' name, he is there. Even though this is in a certain context, it still applies to any gathering of God's people, such as when we gather on Sunday mornings, or at homes for fellowship.

Jesus claimed that his real family were those who obeyed God. His biological family was not necessarily where he was truly at home. Thankfully later we know that his biological (half-)brothers who had not believed in him, did, after his resurrection.

We can take for granted this oneness we have in Jesus, as Bonhoeffer reminds us. But it's a blessing, though with the tension of us not having arrived to complete maturity in Jesus. Though that's the goal we should all be moving toward together in him, now.

The point here is that we begin to be at home in God and with God's people through Christ by the Spirit. Even with the challenges that brings. This can begin to be true wherever we may be now. And someday will be perfected and true everywhere.

So we need to work at making each other be "at home," in Jesus, through the community we have in the one Spirit and one faith. And we need to help others through God's working into this same fellowship through Jesus, a fellowship of forgiveness and love. And we must show that love to members of our immediate and biological families. Not abandoning them, but praying and seeking their good in Jesus.

What would you like to add to this?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

quote of the week: Scot McKnight on spiritual intake

...many of us live as if we were designed to eat like lions, as if one big meal (Sunday) is enough to sustain us for the week. Not so. Followers of Jesus are more like hummingbirds than lions. We need a steady diet of spiritual nectar if we are to live the kind of life Jesus asks us to live.

Scot McKnight, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, ix.

prayer for the week - third Sunday of Pascha (Easter): for revelation

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; 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, April 25, 2009

a nice weekend

Deb pulled out all the stops with a very nice birthday celebration for me yesterday- though just me and her, which in some ways make it nicer, of course! Along with that we planted a tree, as it was Arbor Day. I do love trees, so that's appropriate. This Red Point Maple, budding, as you can see here along with a needy lawn. This is how it looked when I walked in the door yesterday, greeted by my lovely wife, Deb.
I surprised Deb today with a visit to one of our favorite places around here, Meijer Gardens. I've shared pics from a past visit on this blog, before. We had high winds and heavy rain off and on, but still managed to have a very nice time there, seeing some butterflies indoors, red-winged black birds (a favorite of Deb's), daffodils (another of Deb's favorites), the horse sculpted in the tradition of Leonardo Da Vinci, a farm house and barn built as in the 1930's, and more. Some pics of our time there today:
After getting to our car and having our evidently too cheap umbrellas broken by the wind, we had a good time reading from Scot McKnight's 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, and a prayer and Scripture from The First English Prayer Book. And later, as we were walking around the park, and as we were leaving, I couldn't help but sing, For the Beauty of the Earth (the tune). Words so meaningful for celebrating life and our Father's wonderful world.

Last but not least the latest pics of our sweet granddaughter, Morgan!

Friday, April 24, 2009

in the low places

In spiritual warfare we're often unaware of the dangers that beset us. The harm to our inner person that can come when we yield to that which is wrong, or fail to follow God's way.

For some reason, yesterday I spent a lot of time in Psalm 31, particularly in these verses. I was thinking of the scene in The Passion of the Christ, of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, and being tempted by the devil there, and uttering petitions to his Father, probably from the words of this psalm, "Shelter Me, O, Lord. I trust in you. In you I take refuge."

The time was not an easy one for Jesus in the garden. Do we have our times which though they cannot come close to plumbing the depths of Jesus' experience, still are most difficult? I do.

I am thankful that we have that part of Psalm 31 I was dwelling on, all of Psalm 31, the rest of the psalms, and all of Scripture. We need it all, because we can't live in the low places too long. But we need to be open to what God may be trying to do, or teach us in those "places" during that time. We need also to remember that change by its very nature comes often with tremendous difficulty. For a good number of reasons.

What would you like to share on this?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

prayer books

A friend recently gave me The First English Prayer Book (Adapted for Modern Use), first published in 1549. I've been wanting to get into a prayer book, and become used to using one. This edition is a good one for me, since I like to understand the history behind a tradition. The Book of Common Prayer, in all its editions, stem from this first worship edition, compiled and written by Thomas Cranmer.

Although I prefer contemporary renderings both of prayer books, and of Scripture in the language of our speaking and thinking, I love the old language of Cranmer, who was skilled in his use of the English of that day. There is a beauty in the simplicity and grandeur of the language in this book. But most importantly, the truth of God in Christ and how that applies to us wonderfully resonates through the prayers and liturgy in it.

Of course I believe in sponataneous prayers with our own words, and in prayers referred to in 1 Corinthians 14. But I agree with Lauren Winner that prayer books help keep God in the center of our prayers. Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg's edifying book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, helps us understand the Jewish roots of the Christian tradition of liturgy and prayer books. I believe without a doubt that using them can help us immensely. I've believed this for some time, but have not really applied it well. But I'm growing especially in the conviction that this is true, and some in the practice. Scot McKnight's book, Praying with the Church, is an excellent introduction to prayer books and their use.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray the "Our Father prayer" (also here), so that this should be an important part of our prayer lives. Set prayers do help us keep on track. It's so easy to pray in ways that can end up self-centered, or being concerned about what makes people happy, more than God's will.

Again, liturgical praying should not be the only praying we do. A considered look at the psalms should put that to rest. But the words of liturgical prayers can begin to seep in our hearts and change our prayers and our lives.

Here are two prayers from The First English Prayer Book (p 113-114):
Almighty and everlasting God, which hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that be penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, which dost see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep thou us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

the problem of evil - a comment from yesterday's post

Yesterday, I touched on "the problem of evil." As one of my commenters, ESI pointed out, the heart of the solution is in Jesus. Here are his words, well spoken:
I think theodicy is about the "justification of God"...and the problem of evil is one of the great philosophical challenges. But here's what God has done in the realm of theodicy - He sent His own Son, the only Blameless One, crucified for the sins of those who rebelled against Him. The greatest "injustice" is the cross of Jesus Christ. God's answer to the problem of evil is self sacrificing love.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the problem of evil

One of the issues atheists like to hoist as evidence against God's existence is theodicy, or the problem of evil. If there is a god who is both great and good, than why is there genocide and starvation? Why are there earthquakes and tsunamis which can kill thousands upon thousands of people?

Of course theologians and philosophers have grappled over this, but no one can give a satisfactory answer which pleases all. Even though some good work has been done on it.

Scripture takes the problem of evil quite seriously. Humankind was created to be in fellowship with God. This is not coercive/forced, but free in that God wants love returned freely. Humans are meant to be in a fellowship of love with each other. Of course sin is a power in the world in this existence. And with that comes grave consequences.

In the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) we see the story of Job. One gets glimpses of evil at work from those doing evil and from nature itself. Add to that an opposer to God and humankind, Satan, and you have a profound story of human suffering, which though having a happy ending, does not resolve the loss of Job's children.

Fastforward to the New Testament and we find the story of Jesus, God becoming flesh, one of us as a human. Jesus lives a life in our shoes, so that we can live a life in his shoes, so to speak. A life of love in giving one's self for the world. Of course Jesus is unique in this; he is the Savior. But in that salvation is opened up the new way in Jesus, for those in him to help humans in this world physically and spiritually. In Jesus a kingdom comes which is not about "navel gazing", but is meant to be lived out for others. Of course at the heart of this is "the Jesus Creed" of loving God and loving our neighbor.

Scripture does not promise followers of Jesus an easy life. Quite the contrary, starvation may even be a part of our existence, while living in and seeking to live out the love we have in Jesus. It's a love that will not pass the sufferer by in the name of religion. But recognizes that this is what true religion is all about.

Of course there's more to this. Jesus took on himself the full brunt of the world's evil and sin, so that the world could be given the gift of the kingdom of God in him. Christianity should major on mission and not on our own salvation and holiness. The latter is essential, but not complete. We must seek to follow Jesus by the Spirit in mission, starting in our own neighborhoods, or with some needs we see around us. Getting our hands dirty to do what we can, in the name of Jesus. And in that seeking to both live out and proclaim the good news of Jesus and God's kingdom come in him. A gospel that proclaims the forgivness of sins and eternal life, in Jesus.

In the end, God does intervene, righting all wrongs and making all things new. There is coming both judgment and grace. That is the hope we have in Jesus. We can rest assured in that, in God's promise to us through Jesus. But in the meantime we need to keep praying this prayer, and do our part in seeing it being answered here and now.

What would you like to add to these few thoughts?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

walking with a limp

John Wimber said something like, "Never trust a man who does not walk with a limp." In saying this, he was referring to Jacob, a man who was self-sufficient to the core, and lived up to his name, one who grabs the heel, a deceiver.

But after Jacob wrestled with the angel of God, and in so doing, with God himself, his name was changed to Israel. Jacob, now Israel, had a new walk with God, I take it, at least something of a different orientation in it. In the wrestling God had wrenched Jacob's hip out of its socket. The rest of Jacob's life, he walked with a limp. And with a new dependence on God.

I look for this in my life. I've surely unlearned the old Ted, and put on the new Ted in Jesus to a significant extent. Maybe I need something more of that same kind of wrestling with God, and refusing to let go until I receive God's blessing. And in that process, maybe there are some key aspects of my own self-sufficiency that I must let go. I'm groping a bit here, but this is on my mind this morning.

What can you add here to help us, or anything you'd like to add?

Monday, April 20, 2009

simultaneously saints and sinners

Martin Luther is well known for his saying, "We are simultaneously saints and sinners." A blogger friend has a post on this, and I thought I'd add a few more thoughts here.

I think Martin Luther is essentially right. Yes, in Jesus we're both declared and made righteous by faith. I accept imputed as well as imparted righteousness, both. We share in the righteousness of Christ by faith. So that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us for our standing in forgiveness, as well as imparted to us by the Spirit for the transformation of our lives.

At the same time we still sin, and can and do struggle over sin at times. Scripture makes it clear that we can and therefore should have victory over sin in our lives. I'm not talking about sinless perfection, but about saying, "No," to sin and learning to put off the old "in Adam" and put on the new "in Christ." This is both a decisive change at salvation, as well as ongoing. Yet we can also fall into sin, and actually we won't be completely transformed into the image of Jesus, until we see him as he is.
There also are sins hidden which we may be unaware of, sins of commission and sins of ommission. God will bring them to light as he works in us his children to conform us to the image of his Son.

I love the changed life in Jesus, but I also find that I can harbor sin in my life. But when we do so it's like holding on to death. We must make a clean, decisive break from sin, and this must be ongoing in our lives, in Jesus.

Any thoughts you'd like to share on this?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

quote of the week: John Ortberg on "the true indicator of spiritual well-being

The true indicator of spiritual well-being is growth in the ability to love God and people. If we can do this without the practice of any particular spiritual disciplines, then we should by all means skip them.

John Ortberg, The Life You've Always Wanted, 45 quoted by Scot McKnight, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, 97

prayer for the week: that we might live out what we profess

Second Sunday of Pascha

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; 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, April 18, 2009

all Scripture

We are told in 2 Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable." Yes, we need it all.

I'm thankful for how well rounded Scripture is, and how it helps us to the goal of God's kingdom in the new creation through Jesus. Like the people in Scripture we experience many things, and we struggle in many ways. This is why it's important for us to be in Scripture, and all of it.

For me, as I've shared here a number of times, The Bible Experience is a real gift from God in helping keep me in Scripture. And it's important to get into passages and see them related to the whole and how our lives fit in with reference to that. Takes time and an openness which refuses to force anything out of a passage or out of the Bible itself. But an openness which is receptive to whatever God may be saying to us about God's will on earth.

David is a good case in point. A man after God's own heart, who could celebrate with his whole being in the joy and worship of the Lord. Yet who could also sin so grievously in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. But did repent. Just one example among so many more of parts from "all Scripture" which we need.

Any more thoughts on this?

By the way, Spring is more than in the air here. Quite warm this morning, and we're loving it!

Friday, April 17, 2009


Meekness has to do with strength under control. We may think we need to put someone in their place either verbally or nonverbally. Meekness refuses to do that, but continues in humility. To be meek means we must lead by example, all the time being gracious and sensitive to the one we are seeking to lead.

This is about our call to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. We don't do that by abandoing meekness and either setting someone straight, often bluntly in one way or another, nor by rolling one's eyes and shaking one's head. No. We need to lovingly seek to lead them by example, being sensitive to them and what they might need at that time. And being patient in letting it work out over time.

Something I'm working on, and important for us, who may be in higher stress work for one reason or another.

What about you? How would you describe meekness, and what challenges does being meek bring in life?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

communication breakdown

We had a wonderful chapel today, a speaker (I can't recall his name, but will insert it here, later) who was once a part of the Acton Institute. He spoke from Joshua 22 and also told the story of the USS Maine and how the explosion which took place on it, killing all 266 men, may have been due to the furnace being next to the gun powder, or for other reason, other than Spain purposefully doing it. Though investigated time and again, there is no conclusive evidence as to how or why that actually happened. But at the time it was concluded that the ship had been attacked, and so began the Spanish-American War.

Back to Joshua 22, the nine and one half tribes bent over backwards to understand just why the two and half tribes of Israel, east of the Jordan had actually built an altar, in clear violation of God's command, and on their side of the Jordan! Before going to war against them, they even graciously offered that if things were bad in the land east of the Jordan where they had settled, they could cross over and share the land west of the Jordan with the rest of Israel. So they wanted to avoid war. The two and a half tribes were able to explain that the altar was not for use as an altar, but as a reminder to the nine and a half tribes, that the tribes on the other side of the Jordan were too, the Lord's people.

The speaker adeptly applied this to the church: how we are one body, with one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father. But how we often don't live this out well before the world. And a big part of that is failing to be completely humble, gentle and patient, bearing with each other in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

I know I can fail because I can too easily jump to conclusions. First of all, I need to check from the outset any thoughts I might have. Instead of putting any weight on any surmisings I may have, I instead need to pray, and then perhaps ask questions to really find out what any problem might be.

If we fail to do this, we can be miserable, quickly. We can be prone to the devil's lies, and indeed we're good enough at deceiving ourselves without any help. I did this yesterday, by thinking something was evident when it was not. Fortunately it was fairly easily resolved, but it contributed to some misery for me.

What about you? What would you like to communicate concerning communication?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

David's mighty men

While I am a Christian pacifist I do find the list and activities of David's mighty men in Scripture (also here), inspiring and helpful. We as Christians may not be right in engaging in physical warfare, but we are most certainly in a spiritual battle. Add to that, there are certainly physical dimensions in this warfare (see here, as well).

These men could do great things individually, and in Christ so can we. But they also worked together, and were a mighty army in the Lord. This should be true of us today. Not that we see ourselves primarily as those who are at war, but to deny this aspect of our lives in Christ now, is a mistake. It's most certainly a different kind of warfare, but just as deadly with the stakes even higher in a true sense.

The thought of David's mighty men helps me press through a difficult task that may seem at least somewhat mundane. But all is to be done to the glory of the Lord, and we're to do so out of love for God with our entire being and doing, as well as out of love for others, as we love ourselves.

We are in a battle not against humans, but against spiritual forces and entities. Thank God for the times of rest, but this is an essential part of our lives now, and we'd best arm ourselves with that knowledge as we seek to live out our lives together in Jesus, in love as lights in this world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

let's be civil

I recently read an outstanding book, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It, by Os Guinness, the first (and only) book I've read from him. I borrowed it from the library, but I'm convinced I need to get my own copy and keep working on it.

Guinness is Irish and has lived in the States for some time now. So his view is from Europe, so that he sees more clearly than most of us here, the value and worth of America, especially because of the First Amendment.

This is a brief description of something of my understanding of the book in a nutshell. The genius of America which makes it stand apart (and if you know me, you'll know that I've spoken of myself as a European because of issues like health care, but this book has given me a needed perspective) is its insistence, now lived out after decades initially of not doing well that way, but insisting on the distinction between church and state, or in the terms of the founders, religion and the state.

The Secular Left is profoundly in error to think that Jefferson did not want religion to influence the state. What the founders did not want was a state church. What they did want was freedom for people to be completely themselves in the public square. For people and groups to bring their influence to bear, and thus have a vigorous, but civil exchange with all others.

The root of this idea is in a Judeao-Christian ethic which sees limits in what any nation can be. No theocracies, no utopias. But places where God's word has freedom to be proclaimed and lived out before others. Where people can live in faiths of any kind, or in no faith at all. As God's word tells us, we're to let the wheat and tares grow together, and live out what we are in Jesus, as the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.

This goes against the Religious Right who want a "Sacred Public Square", Christian only. And it goes against the Secular Left who want a "Naked Public Square", in other words people neutered and muted, not being able to carry into public what may be most essential to them.

Of course this requires civility both in the sense of how we conduct ourselves, as well as what we actually can do in the public square, in the realms of government and in other voluntary societies. While giving freedom for people to live out fully their beliefs, of course within certain limits (no child sacrifice as in some olden religions, etc.).

And because of this freedom, it has made America for all its many ills (and there are many, and always have been) flourish and be a bastion of freedom and hope for many all over the world. We need to see the good here, and learn to value it. But this book gets to the heart of that goodness and what might be slipping through the cracks, if we're not careful. I would add to this, for the faults of our President, Barack Obama, I do think he exemplifies well what Guinness is seeking to get at in this book. A most marvellous read, and one I'd highly recommend. My thoughts on this book, so read it for yourself to see what he is saying. See also the Willamsburg Charter which Guinness helped formulate.

What would you like to add here?

Monday, April 13, 2009

God's goodness

We need to look for ways in which we see God's goodness around us. In ways that may seem little, but in ways that add up to something really big.

Of course this is grounded in a faith which looks to God and to God's promises found in Scripture and through Jesus. As we look in that direction we learn to see life differently, with a new perspective more and more. And we also can begin to see the mountains we would speak into the sea begin to move.

I am also reminded of Romans 8:28. Because of the way this can be misapplied, we can end up ignoring it altogether, a grave mistake. We need to see how God can work for good even in the bad that we experience in life. At least be open to that possibility, because we certainly can't see much of the time the good out of the trouble or evil we may be or may have experienced.

The goodness we see from God in our lives and in the world we live in should spur us to more faith and prayers and deeds and words of love, so that we can see God's goodness carried out to finish what needs to be done. God's work in Jesus in this world through us is a work of God's goodness. We need to look at problems in that way, how God will be at work in them for good. We must not underestimate God's greatness and goodness at work in this world. Something I need to apply to many issues big and small I see most every day.

How do you look at God's goodness? What would you like to add to this?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Lord has risen indeed!

quote of the week: N.T. Wright on the first Easter

Christians believe that on the third day after he was executed- on Sunday, the first day of the week- Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead, leaving an empty tomb behind him. That, primarily, is why we also believe that Jesus's death was not a messy, tragic accident, but the surprising victory of God over all the forces of evil.
N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 111.

Pascha prayer (prayer for Easter)

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in security and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, 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

Easter Scripture reading

Jesus Has Risen
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

The Guards' Report
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:1-20

Saturday, April 11, 2009

when all hope is gone

That first Holy Saturday as Jesus' body lay in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb, hopes seemed dashed. The disciples were either hidden (except for the women disciples), out of fear, or else they were pondering with sadness over their disappointment.

At times we experience this waxing and waning of hope, how it comes and goes. Of course for us in Jesus our hope is called living, alive through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But at times, it seems like all hope is gone. Even Jesus himself seems to have experienced that hanging on the cross, as he expressed the anguish of being seemingly forsaken by God.

I marvel again and again just how God keeps giving us hope, after we experience periods when all hope seems to be gone. Yes, we know by faith that certain things are true, but unless we enter into the experience of that, beginning in this life, it's really of little or no value to us. I think of the word, "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him!" It's not enough for us to simply say the Lord is good; we need to enter into that reality and experience by faith for ourselves.

This hope goes on no matter what. It's living, and destined to complete fulfillment in Jesus. But on that first Holy Saturday Jesus' disciples seemed at a loss. They hadn't yet cast their faith aside from what we can tell. I would guess that it was dormant. They continued to gather together, even if in hiding, and mercifully, the time between Jesus' death and resurrection along with his appearances to the disciples, was short.

I am thankful for this living hope which continues on to this day. We also experience our times of doubt and struggle. But before too long God makes himself known to us through Jesus by the Spirit, and often together. And all of this is not just for ourselves, but for our mission in this world of witness to Jesus through words and deeds.

What does this look like in your life, or how might you describe it? Or whatever you would like to add here.

prayer for Holy Saturday

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so may we await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Scripture reading for Holy Saturday

The Burial of Jesus
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

"Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Matthew 27:57-66

Friday, April 10, 2009

prayer for Friday in Easter week (Evening Prayer)

Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Good Friday reading from Scripture

The Crucifixion of Jesus
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means "the place of the skull"). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' " In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, "He's calling Elijah."

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him."

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.

Matthew 27:32-56

prayer for Good Friday (Morning Prayer)

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

correction concerning yesterday's post

On yesterday's post I made the mistake of stating that Jesus commanded his disciples to wash each other's feet, just as he had washed their's. Actually it is not a command, though it could be interpreted as having the force of a command. But not necessarily so. More like an "ought", that they should do that.

I picked that up from reading somewhere, as I recalled it, that Maundy Thursday was so named because Jesus commanded (maundy meaning command) his disciples to do this. Actually the command comes soon after, the command to love one another just as Christ had loved them.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

washing each other's feet

I was raised in a Mennonite church in which we had communion only once a quarter, four times a year (from what I can remember). And every communion we also had foot washing. The ladies would go downstairs to do theirs, as they had to take off their stockings.

I still remember doing that, how it felt. Ceremonial, but thought to be in obedience to Jesus' command that his disciples should wash one another's feet, just as he had done to them.

This Maundy Thursday in which this command was given is a good reminder that we are to be servants of each other, in Jesus. We are to serve each other humbly in love.

This is something we are both to do, and what should be a way of life for us. This should become second nature. I doubt that Jesus was telling his disciples to have a special service maybe once a year, washing each other's feet just as he had done, to symbollize the importance of serving one another. Washing feet was something servants routinely did, but not "regular folk". So what Jesus did was powerful in that context and culture.

But we need to have that same spirit in helping each other in our day. In a way which demonstrates the love we have for each other, a love in which we lay down our lives if need be, and in spirit live that out daily. But something not forced, but lived out by the Spirit in our midst, something both given and received.

Do any of you have something you'd like to share on this?

prayer for Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

regular rest

God made us to rest regularly. When I, for whatever reason don't get sufficient rest, it is sometimes an effort just to get through an entire day. Such was the case yesterday. I was up too late and didn't get enough sleep the night before. And the work was challenging enough. So when I got home, besides visiting with Deb, I mostly just crashed.

There are those times every day when we need our rest. But this rest as in physical sleep, surely has a correspondence to a spiritual rest as well. We need that time of special rest in God, however we may carry that out. For some, especially for evangelicals (my tradition) it means a daily "quiet time", or "devotions". I don't really do that myself, as far as having one special time each morning or evening or whenever. I choose to have it throughout the day, seeking to get in the word, and be in prayer throughout the day. Though when I finally get my own copy of a prayer book, I intend to use that daily, though how I'll work that into my routine I don't know, yet.

Both for our physical and spiritual strength, we need those special times of rest. I look forward to breaks and lunch at work. And I look forward to attempting to draw near to God in the word and in prayers.

And Deb and I look forward, hopefully in an opportunity in May, to go to a Benedictine retreat for a day, primarily of silence.

How do you look at "rest", and would you like to share any practices you do, and thoughts, which could help us?

prayer for Holy Wednesday

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

prayer for Holy Tuesday

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

being misunderstood

Due to a number of factors, it is quite easy and ends up being a part of life in this world to be misunderstood. And indeed we don't always understand our own full intentions. We may think we're pure and right, when actually we are not entirely so. Though by grace, I believe as a gift we can have good motives in what we do and say.

Usually the grief we receive is not without some grounds, even if given in an uncharitable, ungracious and skewed perspective. In the end we must give all over to God. God alone really knows our hearts, and we must ask him to search us. We must be open and aware as to how both Scripturally and in comparison to Jesus we do fall short.

Grace is so important, and if we want grace to be applied to ourselves, then we need to seek to apply it to others. Sometimes I just need to "step back" and pray over a matter, and give it some time.

Do you have some insights to share with us on this? Or anything you might like to add.

Monday, April 06, 2009

community's place in Jesus

I am enjoying and being edified in reading Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, written by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg who both live in our area (I will review it later). I was hit yesterday by a number of things, but especially by the Jewish insistence, carried on in Jesus' day and continued to this day, that the best study of Scripture is done in group, communal settings. And how, while solitude does have its place, and an important one, community should be the normal rule of life.

Like the authors point out, it's in community that we learn to love and get the rough edges knocked off.

I'm finding this book to be quite an insightful read, and I look forward to reviewing it later. Ann and Lois do a first rate job of helping us back to Jesus' time with a view of how to better read Scripture, and better understand God's call to our lives in Jesus. Written quite clearly, and no fluff.

But back to community. I have studied in seminary, and like to read at least some scholarly (and at times, difficult) books, along with books written for the entire church. But I've noticed time and again how God has spoken to me and to us in a group setting through the words of just any of God's people over a Bible passage, or with regard to God's working in our lives. Sometimes I share, and I think I'm sharing too much. But there have been times when I was mute, or largely so, and have been blessed in so being.

I too have been a part of an individualistic culture, and there's nothing I like more in an evening than being with my wife in the living room while we both read books with some classical music playing softly in the background. This thought was a good, even if a bit jolting reminder to me that I need to be open to what God wants to say and do as I rub shoulders with others in community. We need to think of ourselves as those in community in Jesus, not as individuals in Jesus who happen to engage in community activities here and there.

What would you like to add to this?

prayer for Holy Monday

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, April 05, 2009

quote for the week: John R. W. Stott on the centrality of the cross

There is then, it is safe to say, no Christianity without the cross. If the cross is not central to our religion, ours is not the religion of Jesus.
John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, 68 from Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement, 61

prayer for the week: Palm Sunday

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; 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, April 04, 2009

cast on God

At work when I can I've been meditating on Psalm 22 from which Jesus quotes on the cross in his sense of abandonment by God. It is wonderful to slowly work one's way through a passage, and specifically this passage, pondering as one goes along.

Yesterday, among other things, I seemed especially struck with this phrase: "From birth I was cast on you..." (note these two interesting renderings of this).

For the psalmist this began at birth. But it's ongoing through all of life for God's people. I believe it includes all of humanity, but we need the eyes of faith to see and believe it.

To be cast on God for us is ongoing; we never outgrow this need. I think we readily see our need of this through the inevitable troubles we face in life. Some of them are problems we're used to, and up to a point we think we can handle. Though we should learn that our every breath and action is to be done in dependence on God and interdependence on others, particulary others in God.

I think especially of those troubling times and trials which hit us. They can be personal attacks against us. Scripture is filled with examples of that; Psalm 22 is a good example. They can be fears that hit and beset us at times. Anger in reaction to perceived injustice that we know we need to keep in check and deal with, while appropriately acting on it, primarily if not solely through prayer. I'm just trying to think of examples here, in which we are reminded anew of how we need to be cast on God.

It's a blessing to be cast on God, but also a necessity in this life in following Jesus. As we learn to cast ourselves and our cares on God, then we will find God's help and consolations. But this is ongoing for us in Jesus in this life. Part of being weak in Jesus so that we can be strong by God's Spirit to live out God's will for us.

What would you like to add to this?

Friday, April 03, 2009


In Scripture, being blessed is far beyond being happy. Happiness is a gift from God, though when people are happy it may be misplaced, and often is in this fallen world. Yet there are a good number of gifts given to humans that bring happiness that are good, and of course from God.

Blessedness carries us toward God's great and good end in Jesus and so it goes beyond happiness. Though it certainly does not exclude happiness, or the good gifts God gives to all. But it does bring its challenges and challenge, because to be blessed by God means to be in covenant with God, and to be different: in, but not of this world. It not only anticipates the world to come, but it actually is, or consists of the world to come, even in this world. So it's a blessedness not of this world, but breaking into it, in God's kingdom present in Jesus.

Of course blessedness began prior to Jesus among God's covenant people Israel, and actually to all who responded to God by grace through faith prior to that.

Blessedness! I love it, and I am afraid of it. But in Jesus along with others, I want to embrace it and live in it, and live it out, through Jesus by the Spirit in this world.

Any thoughts on this?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

thinking well

In loving God with all our being (and doing) we need to keep working hard on our thinking. I like what N.T. Wright said, something to the effect, "I want to know what you are thinking, not how you are feeling."

Oftentimes in my own darkness, I've been helped into light through thinking about truth. Of course it is the truth in Jesus that sets us free, and it begins in the mind, but is to change our hearts and be worked out in all of life.

This does not deny the need for a simple childlike faith, which doesn't insist on understanding everything, but simply trusts God and his word. But we must not underestimate the importance of words and the meaning behind them, especially we who are people of the Book, though really being people of the Spirit and the word/Book.

But above all, we need to love. Love helps us know as we really need to, and to know as God intends us to. In a relational manner, and not in an abstract and therefore lifeless way.

What comes to your mind that you'd like to share from these thoughts on thinking?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

an important aspect of resting

Resting certainly involves physical sleep, something I did quite a lot of, since I've been home from work, yesterday (after doing taxes, and running into difficulties in doing that, the day before!). But resting for me also involves being quiet and saying little at times, and refusing to express myself nonverbally, as well.

What I'm resting from is my own activities, be they physical, mental, even spiritual. Although this exercise of resting is rather a spiritual exercise in itself. But in so doing, I find that God is finally given room in my life to begin to get through to me, as he wants to.

I easily can take that back along the way, and fall into my own muddledness. But I can easily move back into that rest, in which I come "to myself" again in God. God again being able to break through to me. So that my words and actions can be helpful, and more "of God".

What would you like to add to this?