Sunday, May 31, 2009

quote of week: Scot McKnight on Pentecost and the atonement

We dare not forget Pentecost when we speak of atonement. Pentecost makes things right by creating the new covenant, filling all with the Spirit, and creating the ecclesial community and enabling it to live in love with one another. Put differently, Pentecost empowers all to be restored in all four directions: with God, with self, with others, and with the world. Pentecost crystallizes the intent of God's atoning work.
Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement, 77

prayer for the week

Collect of the Day: Pentecost
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, May 30, 2009

love's hope

In Paul's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, we read that "love....always hopes." This love Paul is referring to, is the love that alone gives value to what we do in Jesus. It's a love that has hope for every person because of God's grace in Christ.

It's easy to lose hope for someone. We may be seeing no progress, or them growing worse, and we falter in despair over them. Paul does put faith, hope and love together, as the most important aspect of how we live out our lives in God during this life. A triad that can't be broken.

As we love God, then we're to love others, and as we love them we're to do so with faith in God, hope in God's promises, and a love that acts on that: in prayers, loving words and deeds for others.

This hope that comes from God is one assured of his good promises being fulfilled. And one that in love hopes in faith that all will enter into the joy of this reality beginning in this life, in Christ.

In some small measure we may have lived this out by faith, for others. I hope to grow in this, so that this is a characteristic that marks my life. And is at least a reminder to me when I feel like giving up on someone, of love's hope in Jesus. And the difference it's made in my own life.

What would you like to add here?

Friday, May 29, 2009

growing slow

In their book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg make the excellent point that while Jesus did miracles, he did not make his disciples instantly holy. Instead he let them walk through the long and painful process (painful to him at times, as well) of spiritual growth in Christian formation- or becoming like him. Peter did not become a "saint" overnight.

They make the point that God may have chosen to work this way to help us grow in our sense of dependence and desire to be close to him.

This is quite encouraging. I have looked over my life many times over the years, and have been more than discouraged, practically in despair. But God in his grace in Jesus by the Spirit ("Amazing Grace") has kept me going and growing, now over thirty-five years in Jesus.

It should help us in looking at each other. We can lose patience with someone, but that fails to take into account God's longsuffering and patience, and faithfulness which is quite evident, when we think about it, in our own lives.

Wonderful. Mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord!

What would you like to add to this?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the Spirit's moving

Yesterday we had a powerful and for me convicting message from one of my very favorite chapel speakers, Doug Fagerstrom. From Acts 16 Doug shared with us how the Spirit directed Paul, stopping him twice in his tracks on the way to some special workings God was going to do. And then Doug shared with us how he and the seminary where he serves has gone through something like that, in the Lord's leading of them to help bring theological training into some needy places, in other countries and here.

I was gripped in hearing Doug speak, and intend to get the CD to relisten to it, as I think the Lord was speaking powerfully to us through his humble, seasoned servant.

It makes me wonder if I'm even much open to what God is doing and wants to do through the church we're a part of, as well as in my own day to day life. I do think there is an openness on my part at times, but I'm not enough in the stream of it.

A key word Doug brought out was that in this sequence of events, the word "we" is first penned in this part of the narrative of Paul's missionary journeys. God's work is to involve his people, working together in bringing the gospel and his love in Jesus to the world. This is how God works; he prepares someone, or something through someone somewhere, than someone else comes along from God to have something important to add. And this goes on.

So it's both a Spirit and cooperative endeavor in the work of God in Christ through God's people in this world.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

more grace

Although James 4:6 in context means something different, we can know in our struggles that "more grace" is available to us, in Jesus.

We've all been in situations that were difficult, because of the people we have relationships to. Not to say that none of the difficulty is due to us. But I'm thinking of those who may be domineering, critical, harsh, judgmental, etc.

Sometimes I figure I'm near "the end of my rope." There's nothing left, and I'm read to bail out.

But God's call to us in Christ is higher. After all, isn't it a call to love even our enemies? We are told "as much as lies in us" we're to live at peace with all people. This is not just a "live and let live" kind of peace. But more than that, it's a peace that longs for the blessing of the other, the ultimate, lasting blessing being found in Christ.

So we need to pray and ask God for "more grace." I've found he gives it to us, and that there are "grace moments" when his love again can reign supreme, even if our capacities for it are still small.

This prayer, and need for "more grace" will be ongoing, no doubt. We can never think we've arrived in this life. But this promise along with faith presents opportunities for not only personal change, but relational change, akin and even attuned to the reality we have in the God who is love.

What would you like to add to these "notes"?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jesus the way, the truth and the life

I'm rereading the new, excellent book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. I will review it in the near future.

This book reminds me that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Our salvation is found in a person: Jesus. Because of his unique person, the God-Human, and because of his unique work in his life, death and resurrection.

This book reminds us well that it's not just truth about Jesus, but that Jesus himself is the truth. We are mistaken if we think that knowing certain true things about Jesus is enough. We need to come to know Jesus himself. And we need to see him as our Rabbi, which means Master and Teacher. So that the truth in Jesus is becoming a part of who we are, not only something we "know" or believe.

Jesus is also the way. Yes, he provided the way in his death for us. A way not just to get to heaven someday, although our resurrection hope is not only beyond the grave, but actually beyond heaven, to the new heaven and earth in the new creation. But Jesus is himself the way for us, the way to live here and now. Given to us by the Spirit and in community with his people in God's mission of love to the world.

And in all of this Jesus is our life. Both in giving us new life, so as to partake in his very life. And in helping us live out that new life day by day by the Spirit in the world. Something we do dependent on Christ and interdependent on each other in Christ, as we live it out in our daily existence.

I love the emphasis in this book- it certainly lives up to its title- on the Jewishness of Jesus and why that's important for us. It has well been said that truth is more caught than taught. We tend to see learning as gathering information from a lecturing teacher. But the kind of learning that God has for us in Jesus is more like an apprentice living with the one who is teaching them a trade. Like the disciples did with Jesus as their Rabbi. In our case we're living with Jesus by the Spirit, day after day. A life lived in community with other Jesus followers, and before the world in all our God-given unique expressions of it.

This is challenging yet uplifting to me. To think that I'm not on my own. It's a God-thing, a Jesus-thing, and not just he and I, but he- I and- others in him. The way he lived, but this way given to us to live out in him in a fresh dynamic way, by the Spirit.

Great teaching and stories in the book. And suggestions in helping us begin to see our faith transformed in Jesus. More to come on it. And an encouragement to me that I face life, the problems and challenges, not by myself, but as one among others learning life from the greatest Rabbi of all- Jesus.

What thoughts would you like to add here?

Monday, May 25, 2009

prayers for peace

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquility your dominion may increase until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; 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.

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer, and as seen this morning on Jesus Creed

Sunday, May 24, 2009

quote of the week: N.T. Wright on the Spirit poured out on God's people (after Christ's ascension)

...God doesn't give people the Holy Spirit in order to let them enjoy the spiritual equivalent of a day at Disneyland...But the point of the Spirit is to enable those who follow Jesus to take into all the world the news that he is Lord, that he has won the victory over the forces of evil, that a new world has opened up, and that we are to help make it happen.
N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 122.

prayer for the week: in view of Christ's ascension

The Seventh Sunday in Easter, The Sunday after Ascension Day
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I've not knowingly been much into poetry in my life. Actually I have loved poetry right along, in great hymns, Christian songs, and other songs.

L.L. Barkat, a writer (read that book!) and blogger has been encouraging other bloggers to try their hand at poetry. I finally did, after months of putting it off in something like, "That's not something I do, a completely new venture for me."

This simple poem I typed out on this post in the comments. Notice L.L.'s comments in relation to this in our exchange, as well. And actually this post on her blog probably pushed me over the edge, to finally try it. The poem reflects on my experience of the silent retreat Deb and I were part of last Saturday.

Naked before God.
Hidden before man.
Mute and blind.
Trying to hear.

"Accept My love."
But why this?
Trust Me.
Yes, I know I must trust you, God.

Weeping over hymns.
Trudging along.
Reading some Merton.

The end of silence.
Anointing with oil and prayer.
Holy communion.

Silence ended.
Bursting forth,
I overflow with words.
But I'm not the same.

Friday, May 22, 2009

God's vindication

In this life we can experience vicious attacks from other people. It is hardest when they come from another who professes the name of Christ. We hear them speak untruths about ourselves, putting the worst possible construction on us, on our lives.

Of course if our sins are considered, none of us would stand justified or right before God. And like Miroslav Volf reminds us, there is no completely right party in any conflict. Even if the one drawn into the conflict was innocent at first. We are sinners and we do fail along the way.

It seems like a number of psalms are petitions for God's vindication of the psalmist. They are under attack from enemies, from God's enemies. And they seek protection and deliverance from God.

We can be a part of God's vindication in Christ. Jesus himself is completely vindicated by God, completely worthy of God's vindication. Does that mean we can do what is wrong, but still experience God's vindication because it is not vindication of us, but of Christ? No. Neither the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) or the New Testament will let us get away with that. Jesus didn't water down the requirements of the old covenant, but for those following him, we're to live them out, even though we will not do so perfectly. Yet we are to be living lives aimed at perfection, the perfection of our Father.

To be part of the vindication or victory of God involves being "in Christ." And being "in Christ" involves following Christ, not having a righteousness of our own. Living the "not I, but Christ" kind of life.

That is the way we will see God's vindication of us beginning in this life. Not something that makes us winners, and others losers, but better, living in Christ's victory here and now, to be completely experienced later. Which means embracing our cross and following him in this life, a resurrection life by the Spirit, meant to be lived out together, as God's people. And helping others through our lives in Christ, by grace to become a part of this victory.

What thoughts would you like to add to this?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

James on the tongue

Scot McKnight on his blog Jesus Creed has an excellent series on James, in which right now he is working through the passage on the tongue.

James is excellent on the tongue, akin to the Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). We learn that the use of our tongue is an important measure of how we control the rest of our body, and whether or not we are living as one who is wise.

James points out that those who don't keep a tight rein on their tongue deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. And he emphasizes the importance of being quick to listen and slow to speak.

Sometimes we just shrug our shoulders in trying to measure or spiritual progress in Christian formation. But considering our speech, what we say, is one important indicator of our growth in grace into Christ-likeness. Just because one does control their tongue, as Scot points out, does not mean they're becoming like Christ. But a major part of following Jesus is how we use our tongue both in avoiding what is destructive, and in speaking what is helpful and healing to others. And that includes wounds from a friend. And that goes both ways for us.

This is a big part of my life, as all of our lives. If you talk much like I can, or talk little, what you do say expresses your heart. It's not just a matter of managing our tongues, but it goes to our very hearts. Are we being transformed into Christ's image, by the renewing of our minds through the Spirit and the word in our day to day lives?

Any words you'd like to share on the tongue?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:24-26
Waiting involves a process. As well as the hope, longing and anticipation of a good outcome. Or perhaps dread, fear and anxiety in receiving possibly bad news, or in simply waiting.

Waiting on God for us as God's people in Jesus involves participation in a sense with God. It's to that end. So that we're not taking matters into our own hands, but praying, and doing what we know we should do. Leaving room for God and for his working.

How often in my life I've taken matters into my own hands, and have had to live with the consequences. And worst of all we don't learn faith when we do that. A big part of waiting is learning to trust God and believe in his promises through whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.

So waiting is probably as much for us who wait as it is for everyone and everything else that is involved in God's working. Therefore waiting is something we should not shun, but embrace and practice. Finding our peace and joy in God in the midst of it.

What does waiting mean to you? Why is it so hard for us? Or any thoughts on it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

the golden rule

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7

To apply "the golden rule" given to us by Jesus takes wisdom. I'm reminded of Solomon's wisdom which- of course- was actually from God, a gift from him. And therefore available to us all, as we ask for it. Although we will have to grow in wisdom to approach the same kind of stature Solomon had in it. And remember Solomon's fall.

Is it always pleasant, what we do to another in this? No. Though it should always be done in love. Not that our love will be perfect, but because of seeking to do it in love we don't do certain things: like get angry, give them a piece of our mind, etc., while we will do other things: pray for them, pray for restoration and reconciliation as needed, speak pleasantly to them.

But we need to be looking out for their greatest good, which is conformity to Jesus. This is a high and difficult calling, and in the process of seeking to apply this "rule" of Jesus, we will often fall short ourselves, at least inside. But we need to press on, in humility, in gentleness, in realizing we are in this together, that we need each other.

And we must be applying this same rule to our own lives, which means we'll often have to go for what is more difficult for us, rather than the easy way out, or what comes naturally by old ingrained habit.

Of course applying this rule to others is done so in a host of pleasant ways, which involves every encounter we experience daily. Simple courtesies, refusing to judge another, refusing to jump to conclusions, listening well, etc. Here's an excellent description of a person who lives well by this rule.

What would you like to add to this?

Monday, May 18, 2009


On Saturday, from at least 9 am until 4:00 pm, we were silent. This silence was imposed on us as a group. It was a time for prayer, reflection, listening for God's voice. While we met at a Dominican Center, the only Catholic thing we did was to walk a prayer labyrinth like the one seen here, along with being silent. I found that prayer walk to be a good, profound experience for me, perhaps the most intimate of the day. And just being silent was good, even as we ate lunch together.

Like our Pastor Sharon said, a good share of God's working on me was over what annoyed me. Of course one encounters minor annoyances, not the least of which is having to pass people by and not speak. I really only had one annoyance, and it was a major one for me, but something God was able to use for good, even though it made part of my day uncomfortable. During the last hour, we had anointing with oil and prayer for those asking for healing or commissioning to service, and then holy communion together, before we left.

The result I can see from the experience is the desire to carry on more of the same into my regular daily life. Seeking God in more silence. And also an enlargening or deepening of my capacity to seek and want more of God and of his working and will in my life. Deb enjoyed it also.

Through silence hopefully God's word penetrates deeper into our hearts and lives. Sometimes before, or in the midst of this happening, we need to have our hearts exposed, coming to God in our helplessness and emptiness. That can be unpleasant, but often only through that do we begin to set our hearts on God. Although God works in different ways at different times, maybe giving us an extraordinary sense of his presence early on, while working on us later. For me there was no extraordinary sense of his presence at all throughout the day. But it was still a great day in God's presence with others of God's children.

Have any of you ever been a part of a silent retreat? Anything you'd like to share about that, or on this?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

quote of the week: Bonhoeffer on spiritual dryness

...may it not be that God Himself sends us these hours of reproof and dryness that we may be brought again to expect everything from His Word?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 84

prayer for the week: asking for love for God

Sixth Sunday of Pascha (Easter)
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; 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, May 16, 2009

God is in control

What God's sovereignty means is debated among Christian theologians and Bible students. I don't care to get into that debate here.

Sometimes in our lives, it seems life is out of control. Friends with cancer, the uncertainty of the economy and work, losing something you can't find, struggling with wrong attitudes or sin, and much more.

That God is in control means we can entrust ourselves and others into God's loving, powerful yet gentle, and wise hands. And we can be assured that God is at work in everything. Even when it seems all is lost or out of control.

At the same time in this working of God we have our part. God takes us up as humans into that working, through Jesus and by the Spirit. He wants us to find our rest in him, and from that proceed with him in his working in the world. And he wants us to do that together with others in Jesus.

I know I'm not in control. And that apart from grace I am out of control myself. But in Jesus we can find God's good will actively at work in our lives. I saw it in a little corrective way this morning, and it led to this post.

Anyone have anything they'd like to add on this?

Friday, May 15, 2009

seasons and the Potter's hands

Who doesn't like the four seasons? One is a little long for us up here in Michigan. But this Spring is beautiful to behold, a real Spring, a gradual warming, the trees in full bud and bloom against the blue sky.

There are seasons in our lives as well. Tomorrow Deb and I are attending a silent retreat at the Dominican Center at Marywood, here in Grand Rapids. Hopefully a time where I'll truly be endeavoring to draw near to God, along with others.

Maybe today I need to kind of step back and look at my life, what God has been doing or wanting to do in it. This past Wednesday in our chapel at my work at RBC Ministries, we had an interesting speaker who talked about the Potter's hands shaping us into the vessels he wants, and how we need to learn to feel those hands on us. It's hard sometimes in the midst of that shaping, if we know there's a defect, or if we're resisting the Potter's hands. Also when we get a glimpse or sense of just how far we are from where the Potter wants us to be.

It's also good to be encouraged and get a sense, that while we have a long way to go, we've come a long way. And best of all to live up to what we've attained to, in Jesus. That can be the challenging part. It's easy to make a commitment, but harder to live that out day after day, through all the circumstances life brings. But in all of that we can learn to sense and feel the Potter's hands on us. And be open and compliant to his working.

What would you like to add to this?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

the gospel

"Gospel" simply means "good news." JR Woodward is currently having a great series on the good news, with a host of contributors.

I am weary of gospel presentations which fail to take into account that the good news is for all creation. Yes, humans made in God's image are at the pinnacle of creation. But as such, we are meant to be involved in both the fellowship and works of God.

Sin has to be taken care of, and that indeed is ongoing for us in Jesus in this life. But we must not stop there. Too often gospel understanding does; it's all about forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

To better understand this, we need to consider more carefully Jesus' message of the gospel/good news of the kingdom of God. And we need to read the Bible more as story, how God is at work in the world and what his work is heading toward in Jesus. A work that begins now, in this life.

I believe the point of Scripture, or goal of the good news, indeed an important aspect of it is to help us see God's work in Jesus in the world, that we might become a part of that work in the kingdom and new creation in Jesus. It's written primarily as story, or story is at the heart of its writing, seeing it as God's story in the world, meant to catch us up and carry us along in the same story.

We don't want to lose sight of "the simple gospel," but neither do we want to see the good news as less than what it is, a news that is for all the world, to bring humans into no less than God's kingdom working and trinitarian community, in Jesus.

Not an easy post, and a subject I'll always be working on in this life, both to better understand and better live out.

But what would you like to add to these words?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


If there's one note missing from much of our Christianity over the centuries, and in the present day in my culture, it's the note of community. We're to be a community in Jesus. Too often an emphasis on the individual which has philosophical origin, has all but muted out the Biblical emphasis on community. The individual is still important, but as an important part of the whole, the community.

Of course there are often other missing notes as well. Take for example what Scot McKnight calls, "the Jesus Creed." But back to our thought now.

I am blessed to be in community everyday at work with other Christians. We live together as believers in our Lord. I miss contact with those who are not Christians. Though a few come in to do specific jobs there. But I also don't want to take for granted the blessing I have in being around fellow believers day after day.

I think what we chiefly need to do as followers of Jesus in regard to community is to keep meeting together, on a regular basis. When we do, and even before that (as Byard has taught us here, on Sundays), the Spirit is at work to make us a Body. That will minister to each other, and indirectly as well as directly- to the world.

This is a God-thing. Not something we can come up with, not program-oriented, not according to what we plan. Our one responsibility is to live as those who are joined not only to Christ, but to all who are in Christ. We need to live that out in practical ways, before the world. While reaching out to others to become a part of us, in Jesus.

What would you like to add to these few thoughts on this?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

God's goodness

God is good. We have that to rest on from Scripture and in Christ.

That truth and all attending truths, one getting probably even more at the heart of everything: God is love, these truths should help us through difficult days. Sometimes we have to live in the midst of troubles without and fears within. True of me for the past several days, actually.

But God is good. We can see it in Providence, that is in God's blessings in our lives. The sunshine-filled blue skies with the green Spring-ing to life trees. What beauty! The warmth in the air, the birds singing.

Strength for another day. The desire to know God and his will in Jesus. To follow Jesus. To love God and love our neighbor. All gifts out of the goodness of our Creator.

I want to learn well during the hard times. They exist for a reason, and like all else can be used by God in our lives for our good. And I thank God for all his goodness to me, to my brothers and sisters in Jesus, to all people, and to the world.

"Your kingdom come, Father. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

What signs do you see of God's goodness in your life? What helps you through the difficult days?

Monday, May 11, 2009

belated Happy Mother's Day

A belated Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers. And I hope it was a special day for all you women. We had a good time in Ohio with my mother. Here she is with my wife, Deb.

It ought to go without saying that women are as important as men, and in some ways more important. They shape their children in ways that are unique. And I believe females being subject to males is simply a result of the Fall, and not a part of God's original design and intent in creation, nor in the new creation in Jesus. In Christ there is neither male nor female. Not obliterating our sexuality which in Jesus is redeemed and will be glorified as part of who we are as persons. But simply insisting that in the new creation in Jesus we are all one, in all our differences united together.

I am thankful to God for the women in my life. For my mother, who built into me some important habits I have now: a love for reading, for good music, for hard work, and an appreciation for nature. For my wife who has stood with me through thick and thin and whose love for God and for me I simply see as pure grace and a gift to me from God. To one of our pastors, Sharon, whose ministry by the Spirit demonstrates to us God's grace and care, in the truth that is in Jesus. For many other women as well that I've known and know. I thank God for you all.

Late addition: Let me add that my mother was instrumental in leading me to faith in Christ because of her faithful witness over the years. And my wife was a good mother to Tiffany our daughter, endeavoring to teach her the faith, the Spirit guiding her at special times in Tiffany's life.

Anyone have anything they'd like to add to this?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

quote of the week: Jaroslav Pelikan on Christian doctrine

Christian doctrine is what the church believes, teaches, and confesses as it prays and suffers, serves and obeys, celebrates and awaits the coming of the kingdom of God.
Jaroslav Pelikan, Development of Christian Doctrine: Some Historical Prolegomena, 143, from Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, 399.

prayer for the week: to follow Jesus

Fifth Sunday of Pascha (Easter)
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

walking by faith

Walking by faith and not by sight in the context of that Scripture passage, means that we anticipate the promise of being present with the Lord in our present condition apart from him, and the new home we will have. Perhaps the passage speaks of the intermediate state between death and final resurrection, but it certainly speaks of an existence after death. And as N.T. Wright expresses it, we as Christians are destined for a new "life after life after death." Meaning resurrection of our bodies.

Too often I live as though I want to hold on with all my might to this present life, almost as if that is all there is. Of course it is faith to say it is not, because one can go only on promises allegedly received from God through Christ. Though there are evidences both external and internal for believers of the validity of faith in Jesus.

It's not as though we shouldn't see death as an enemy. It is not God's intention for humanity, and indeed Jesus by his death destroyed death. While we don't want to fear death, since we know it doesn't have the final word because of Jesus, we most certainly don't welcome it, either. Except for those who long to pass on, experiencing disease or the end of life.

To have new covenant faith as given to us from the New Testament, we need to learn to live with a future orientation. We need to see that already the future in the new creation has broken in, even into this world in Christ, its completion in fullness to be known in the resurrection of our bodies and of all creation through Christ.

I need to do this by continuing to focus not on this old world which is passing away, but on the new world, evident to us by the indwelling Spirit, with the promise that that Spirit will give life to and raise up our bodies, just as Christ was raised from the dead. What has begun now will be perfectly fulfilled in an even more dynamic existence. This old, decaying creation will paricipate with God's children in a new creation which we both live in now and await.

Of course those who insist that all reality is only what meets the eye, are not going to receive any of this. Such include atheistic science and a rigid naturalism which actually rules out any god and whose hope and practical belief is that science eventually will explain everything. And maybe indeed science will end up with some explanation of everything, though one should never imagine that any knowledge in such endeavor can be complete and final. And even if it could be, we Christians believe there's more to life than meets the eye.

This is important for us all, and in my case it is good in fighting against recurring anxiety bouts. While we want to live responsibly in this life, yet we want our existence here to be lived out in view of the life promised to us in Jesus, begun now by faith and through the Spirit.

Both in my thinking and most certainly in my walk, I am especially in process on this as you might gather from this post.

Would any you have something to share from your own thoughts and reflections on this? Or anything related?

Friday, May 08, 2009

loving the person

We all have issues. Sadly sometimes we lose fellowship with someone over them. It might be over a sin, or not, but our attitude because of it can become a sin. Perhaps it's over something we don't like about someone, an annoyance. It may or may not involve sin, but it gets to us, just the same.

I had one such problem recently and it came to me somehow, that I need to make a clear distinction between the person, and what I perceived to be a wrong attitude coming from them. After that thought came to me and I sought to do it, almost immediately, as God would have it, this person and I had a friendly conversation and it just seemed like a cloud had been lifted so that the sun was shining down on us and our relationship.

I find that I need to keep putting this in practice with something like the axiom in mind, "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." Or simply look over their faults and shortcomings, and see the person, as one like myself. One loved greatly by God. Having flaws and sins. But a person with whom relationship with, should be sacred, since we are made in God's image. And hopefully they will learn to cut for me the same slack.

What would you like to share here on this?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

during difficult times

Yesterday was a difficult day for me, and really this week. Though Deb is a strong, good support, and we had a nice and fun time Tuesday evening. While good fellowship and working relationships remain, work has had its challenges for us. I have a couple friends who have cancer. And I've had challenges on a personal level.

I was thinking of these words from this psalm this morning:

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
In seeking to honor the newness of the new covenant, while acknowledging differences between the Old and New Testaments, I believe we sometimes draw false lines between the two. In this psalm is the fear of the Lord, and vows made to God. The former is just an intrinsic part of knowing God. God is a father, and a god of all grace, but he is not a god to be trifled with. His name and person (in three persons) should be held in reverence and awe. And vows today are replaced with our simple words. We should make commitments and carry them out.

That is important because we need to understand this prayer in context. We don't simply pray for a lifeline from God and then go on living our lives in our own ways, apart from God's will, in disobedience to him. And as we were reminded at my work in chapel yesterday, in our weaknesses we can find God's strength.

So it's important for us both to be those readily acknowledging our need to God, and committed to living in faithful obedience to God. We certainly will fail along the way, and that's where confession of sin and God's continued forgiveness to us in Christ comes in. But it is a mistake to believe that we can't live lives of faithful obedience to God. That can become a pattern of life for us, deviations from it being exceptions.

Does this make sense to you? What would you like to say here?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Last evening Deb and I enjoyed visiting Holland, Michigan which has the Tulip Time Festival on now. We enjoyed the Klompen Dancers again, and of course the tulips planted in the downtown area.

This area is rich in its culture, many Dutch people having settled here generations past. "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much." I'm not aware of Deb or I having any Dutch ancestry, so I guess that applies to us!

Culture is simply expressions in various ways of what it means to be human. It is interwoven with both good and evil. Expressions of our humanity reflect God's good creation. But we're all impacted by the Fall, which means that what is sinful becomes a part of human culture, and what is good in human culture can become sinful, when we let it take the place of God in our lives.

I'm reminded of the book of Ecclesiastes. The perspectives there are from people who seem to want to live life to the full in content and in manner. The writer (or writers) wants to experience everything, and he wants to do so, so completely that these normally good things become ends in themselves, or the end and goal for himself. In other words they become idols in one's heart.

But in the end the book comes around to the abrupt conclusion: "Fear God and keep his commandments!" Knowing that God will bring every hidden thing into judgment, whether it is good or evil.

I don't think Ecclesiastes pushes culture aside. It simply warns us to see culture for what it is: in part God's good gift to humanity, but impacted by human folly and sin.

I saw nothing sinful about the Klompen dancing. The costumes are delightful, and the wooden shoes. And the dancing. We do well to embrace our humanity. Culture to a significant degree is a gift from God. Though we need discernment to see what might creep in that is not reflective of God's goodness and will.

At the same time we must not let culture or any part of it become our center. God in Christ and his kingdom must be our center. Then all God's gifts can be for us a blessing and not a curse. And an expression of the very image of God in us as humans in ways that reflect not only God's good creation, but his new creation in Jesus. Ultimately redeemed in Jesus.

Just a few thoughts. It was fun; we both enjoyed it. Was nice to be there and spend time together in that way.

What might you like to add here?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

knowing Christ

If anyone knew Christ, surely we might think it was Paul, who after all had a blinding appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus, which completely turned him around, and by God's working altered not only his life, but the lives of many, to this day.

Yet we read from Paul in words of great aspiration:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death...

Paul's drive is evident in this passage, and in those words. Yet we would think that Paul already knows the Lord. And he does, just like every person who has a living faith in Christ does. But I wonder if at times it seems like we hardly know the Lord at all. We can get so taken up with other things that our communion with Christ can become something we take for granted, or don't treasure as we should.

Part of the joy in getting to know someone is the longing and anticipation for that knowing. I think this is in part what Paul may be getting at in this passage. He wants to know Christ so much better. He has tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good, and he wants much more. And I think God grows our capacity for more intimacy and communion with him, so that what may have been good for us three years ago or less, is not good enough now.

Participation in Christ's sufferings and becoming like him in his death are words with an aspiration which may seem foreign to us. Yet if we're to be true followers of Christ this aspiration needs to become more and more our own. Not something we can do, but something done in us by the Spirit as we seek to follow on with Christ in the new life in him.

I'm seeking to be a true follower with the same aspiration, by grace. Which surely means some hard times, inside and out, but with a closer communion with Jesus and others in Jesus, while seeking to bring others into that same communion in him.

What might you like to add to this?

Monday, May 04, 2009

science and faith

On an earlier post I came out for a belief in evangelical faith and evolution. Of course I know nothing about origins myself, but made my decision on the basis of what I was reading from others.

Today I want to share a new web site and blog from a renowned, well respected scientist who is also a Christian evangelical, Francis Collins. RJS, herself a fine scientist and professor, having written many interesting, helpful posts on Jesus Creed, introduced both the blog and the website. I want to learn all I can from both, having found Francis Collins' book, The Language of God, both interesting and compelling.

While Christians, especially here in the United States are going to disagree on origins for some time to come, I think it is good to see other options which still hold to Scripture as the word of God with a commitment to the orthodox Christian faith.

My interest in this is due both to my concern for people unnecessarily losing their faith when seeing the scientific evidence for an old earth and universe, and for evolution. And just because I like to see and try to understand what people have studied and observed, and are thinking. A reading true to Scripture is not at odds with mainstream science. The problem in mainstream science is when it adheres to a naturalistic bias which not only rules out the possibility of something beyond what can be scientifically observed, but lets their science be impacted by that in a way that actually hurts their work. Of course, again, I take this from second hand reading from scientists. Theologians committed to the faith and Scripture are beginning to work on this, alongside such scientists.

I know this is a heavy, controversial subject, and I tend to shy away from controversy, unless I think it serves an important purpose. And in this case, I believe it does.

What would you like to say on this? Anything at all. Some of the most intelligent (more so than I) and committed Christians I know disagree with me on this. But I welcome anyone's thoughts.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

quote of the week: Henri Nouwen on intimacy with the Lord

When we have met our Lord in the silent intimacy of our prayer, then we will also meet him . . . in the market, and in the town square. But when we have not met him in the center of our own hearts, we cannot expect to meet him in the busyness of our daily lives.
Henri Nouwen, ¡Gracias! A Latin American Journal, 21, from Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, 30.

prayer for the week: to be close to the Good Shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Pascha (Easter)
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, May 02, 2009

politics: what to do

I have a certain ambivalence when it comes to politics. On the one hand I think we Christians should be impacting the world as salt and light, and that impact will certainly include the political sphere. On the other hand I'm afraid we end up losing our identity as salt and light, too easily in the political sphere. Over and over again we see this I believe, both with the Religious Right, and with those who want to espouse another vision too often in step with the other extreme. Nor am I saying there's some right middle.

Life is messy, and none of us are going to negotiate it perfectly at any turn. Mistakes will be made. Better to make some mistakes in seeking to live out our faith as the new Israel in this world, rather than washing our hands of it, which is not in keeping with the call we have in Christ.

Discernment is needed all the way around. To evaluate what we're doing as God's people, what needs to be corrected, and where to go from here. Of course we won't all agree. We know in part in this life and part of that is involves not only differences of perspective, but differences in undertanding. And we need to impact all sides. So we need to always have humility.

Yet there needs to be a clear vision from our differing theological perspectives on just what we as God's people should be doing in bringing the gospel both to individuals and to the world. It is a gospel that has ramifications well beyond personal conversion, though it must start there.

Just some preliminary, seed thoughts on this. What do you think?

Friday, May 01, 2009

wisdom's call

I was nearly reveling in a meditation of a passage in Proverbs yesterday, while at work. Wisdom is depicted as a woman standing in a prominent place where important life decisions are made, calling out to all humankind.

The whole passage rather struck me, but especially the rendering which the TNIV chose from the Septuagint: "set your hearts on it," that is on prudence, or wisdom.

While wisdom is indeed a gift from God, it is something that requires effort on our part. We are prone to wander and our hearts apart from grace are not set on what is right, but actually on what is wrong. And often the wrong deceptively seems right to us, though we come to learn that something is indeed wrong. And if we persist in that way we will see the results of it in our lives. So we can't help ourselves, but need help from God, and God's help is a help that won't leave us helpless.

Wisdom requires not just a one time decision, but continued appropriation in being careful to stay on the path, because if we don't, we'll sooner than later wander off. We want to end well, not just begin well. And to end well, we're going to have to learn to walk well through life, and all the vicissitudes (or, changes; I might say disruptions) and challenges life brings.

It needs to start wherever we are now, through Jesus. God will help us. But we also need to walk by faith in it, however halting and stumbling our steps may be. To keep getting up and moving in the way of wisdom, depending on God all along the way. A way that sets us on a path with others in Jesus, not just for ourselves, but to help each other, and others join us in the way in Jesus.

What would you like to add to these thoughts here?