Tuesday, June 30, 2009

do or die

There are certain times and places in life where one is at an either/or. Too often we would like to avoid such places, and negotiate life on our own terms. Yes, we want God's will, but we also want our own way. Of course the two don't mix.

Sometimes I'm especially weak, and "under it", "under the circumstances." But by God's mercy and grace I can come to realize that I can't afford to be "under it"- for the sake of others. No matter what I'm going through I need to rise above it, in Jesus by the Spirit, for others.

As Paul tells us in God's word in Romans 8, if we live by the flesh, or the sinful nature, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the (mis)deeds of the body, we will live. By faith we either do the good works God has for us, sometimes under much duress, or we lapse into faithlessness, or a weak faith, which can hardly "take hold of God" in prayer.

I hope to be among those who after receiving God's promises, do the will of God- and then receive what God has promised! God grant us the grace and perseverance that by faith we may be counted in that number.

What might you like to add to this?

Monday, June 29, 2009

God our Refuge and Strength

God's greatness, along with his goodness knows no bounds. God is infinite and limitless, but in a way that is beyond our finitude and limitations, in other words not infinite of what we are in our finitude, but beyond that.

We live in our limits; we are frail, weak and broken. Nothing about us has arrived, in fact the strongest aspect in us can become our undoing (example: Moses once angry, becoming the meekest man on the earth, and later lashing out in anger at Israel as he disobeyed God's command as to what he was to do).

In this psalm God is the Refuge and Strength of his people. We are surrounded by troubles on every side, and there's always more at stake than meets the eye. We are walking the path our Savior has blazed by his work for us, in his death and resurrection. Now we are both living in the old world, but explicitly said to be part of the new world that has come in in Christ. This means we have to embrace, take up our cross, and follow Jesus in this life, in the way he lived, somehow sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings here, so as to become like him in his death.

God is our Refuge. He will protect us to the end, that we may live well before him, and before the world, no matter what is happening around us. Is that going to be easy? No. But by faith we must stay in the protection of the Almighty.

God is our Strength. We are weak, but in our weakness his strength is revealed. His strength, not our own, but in his strength we too will find strength so we can mount up with wings like eagles, walk and not be weary, run and not faint.

Let's not succumb to our own weaknesses, to the voice suggesting to us that our end has come, that there is no hope for us, that we can't make it. Instead we need to remember the God who is near. We need to find our protection and all that we need in him.

10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46

What "amens" or thoughts would you like to add here?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

quote of the week: N.T. Wright on God at the center, and our role as humans

Now do not misunderstand me . . . Salvation is hugely important. Of course it is! Knowing God for oneself, as opposed to merely knowing or thinking about him, is at the heart of Christian living. Discovering that God is gracious, rather than a distant bureaucrat or a dangerous tyrant, is the good news that constantly surprises and refreshes us. But we are not the center of the universe. God is not circling around us. We are circling around him. It may look, from our point of view, as though "me and my salvation" are the be-all and end-all of Christianity. Sadly, many people - many devout Chrisians! - have preached that way and lived that way. This problem is not peculiar to the churches of the Reformation. It goes back to the high Middle Ages in the Western church, and infects and affects Catholic and Protestant, liberal and conservative, high and low church alike. But a full reading of Scripture itself tells a different story.

God made humans for a purpose: not simply for themselves, not simply so that they could be in a relationship with him, but so that through them, as his image-bearers, he could bring his wise, glad, fruitful order to the world. And the closing scenes of Scripture, in the book of Revelation, are not about human beings going off to heaven to be in a close and intimate relationship with God, but about heaven coming to earth. The intimate relationship with God which is indeed promised and celebrated in that great scene of the New Jerusalem issues at once in an outflowing, a further healing creativity, the river of the water of life flowing out from the city and the tree of life springing up, with leaves that are for the healing of the nations.
N.T. Wright, Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision, 23-24.

prayer for the week: for unity through the teaching of the faith

Collect of the Day:
Pentecost, proper 8

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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, June 27, 2009


Conflict can mean nothing more than reaching a point with someone in which there is an impasse which can't be resolved. It may be over a little matter soon to be forgotten, like some food, or sports discussion.

Of course conflict can and often does mean something bad is going on. James addresses it here, and when we feel anger arising in us from which we want to act, we need to be aware of what James in God's word is telling us. And then seek before God to get to the root of the problem in ourselves, instead of simply acting on it.

Just one little angle on conflict.

Anyone have words to share with us on this?

Friday, June 26, 2009

moving on

Life is all about change. Most change is gradual, and surrounded by routines and constants. For most of us, that is good. I know some jobs' routines are constantly variable, requiring ongoing adaptivity, flexibility, and creativity within the parameters and goals set.

Of course the story of the Bible involves change as well, all toward the kingdom of God in Christ, the new creation. The settings in Scripture one might call creation, "fall", Israel, Jesus, the church (I hope my list is representative of what N.T. Wright actually says in the book). And in the midst of it are different scenes, the scene of Jesus and his work on earth, especially in his death and resurrection, being unrepeatable ("once for all"), and foundational to what follows, and in a sense to what preceded, one might well conjecture, as well.

Sometimes there are indicators in our lives that change is needed for us, in usually small ways, though sometimes large and major. Maybe the changes are to be permanent, but maybe only temporary, until what needs to be learned, or take place is accomplished. I think of Keith Green and his story of how he became convinced as a young Christian that God wanted him to set his music aside, and he did so not knowing if he'd ever take it up again. But he did later, and we know the music in his ministry from the Lord, which followed.

I think we need to be sensitive to God's voice and that takes some quiet reflection, prayer, and waiting on God. God's goals in Jesus can be grasped by us to some extent, but not completely, since, though we are made in God's image, God is God, and therefore will always be beyond us, except by his Self-revelation to us, in Christ by the Spirit.

So I move on, this morning. Sadly, and tired. Life goes on, and I want to be ready for what the Lord has next, which actually is this brand new day in his new creation within which we live and are to move.

A kind of abstract post, but how might you identify with it, or any thoughts?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

a hermeneutic of love

I have yet to read Alan Jacobs, book, A Theology Of Reading: The Hermeneutics Of Love, and though it looks challenging in the language used, I look forward to doing so.

John in one of his letters puts truth and love together. In Jesus they go together, inseparable. Not that anyone has either down perfectly. Only Jesus himself did.

If we choose to put the worst case construction on someone, their writing, their lives, then we violate this truth in Jesus. If we try to find common ground with them, and how they are in the boundary lines of Christian orthodoxy, as well as to find good from them, then we do well. But if we jump on a statement they said, pulling it out of context, or refer to what someone else said about what they say, and we don't take the time and pains to do as I just said, then we do err.

Christians often are quite guilty in this. Truth and love are wedded together, forever, in Jesus. We must not let go of either. And that means we will consider what others are saying with love. And judge their words by God's revealed truth in Scripture, and in Jesus.

What might you like to add?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


An area I want to grow in is prayer. Certainly that includes the prayer we have as we go along throughout each day. And I'm especially thinking about those special prayer concerns we have for others, as well as for ourselves, from time to time.

I think of those regular times when Jesus met with the Father, during his earthly life. And how I want to come to God in prayer for others, and for special situations.

I have found that to do so does seem to take sheer will power and perseverance at times. This is so because I believe faith in prayer involves a time element in God's working. And God's working often involves the one praying themselves, as well as what they are praying for. And we must not forget there is a spiritual battle taking place. One way I see this is simply the difficulty I have sustaining ongoing prayer about any matter. Along with some of the wickedness that can get thrown my way in dreams, and in subtle, and not so subtle ways, which I take as being from the enemy.

But as I persevere in praying, I often arrive at a sense that God is in it somehow, perhaps in the praying, or in what is being prayed about- likely both. Weak though my praying may be.

I do try to pray according to "the Lord's Prayer," along with my understanding of their needs and how I would pray. Bringing in that prayer that Jesus taught us helps us pray God's will into the matter, and not just our own will and concern for that person.

Any thoughts out there related to this that you'd like to share?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


An important and necessary element to consider in the walk of faith is simply time. Time is essential for many reasons, but that doesn't go together well with our push button, instant everything society and culture in which we live. We want what we want now, and we can get it. But the walk of faith is different.

It is a walk no less, and requires an ongoing faith which in itself requires patience. It's an ongoing faith in God and in the promises of God given to us in Jesus. It's a faith in which the process might be more important than the answers that faith await. A mature faith will keep looking to God no matter what else is going on around us.

I'm glad faith is what is needed and not perfection. I must keep trusting God and looking to God both in my heart, and by what I keep doing, even when I know I don't have it together inside. Faith is not about moving on because of circumstances, but is more about moving on in spite of them in this life.

So time can bring about the answers we look for. Or move us toward them. The answers we're looking for being the ones God has made plain are his will for his people from Scripture in and through Jesus.

So for me this means in a true sense, slow down. Though I can't slow down in some of my work, slow down in my attitudes toward God and others, and even toward myself. God in time will make all things beautiful in the end in Christ. And that's a process in the new creation in Jesus, which begins now.

What thoughts would you like to share on this?

Monday, June 22, 2009

faith trusts

An important part of faith is to be willing to move into a situation when we know in ourselves that we aren't ready. There are times when I have a sense of readiness from God, or assurance that this next step we're taking is going to meet with God's blessing. But often the walk of faith involves doing what we believe we're called to do, even when we know that in ourselves we are not up to that calling and duty, or doing.

Yesterday was a busy day for us. Doing a number of things that needed to be done, and then in the afternoon, heading out to the nursing home to sing some songs together, and give a message from God's word. Deb and I prayed, and she had prayed before we left the house, as well. When the time came we got out of the car, and at that moment I did so as a, "Here I go, to do what is before me here," with the sense that so doing was a step of faith apart from any sense of me being ready for it.

Oddly enough I have found that God's blessing has more often come when I have stepped out in that way. Not to minimize preparation beforehand, at all; that has its place. But if I think I'm completely prepared- having everything down pat, chances are there may be some trusting in myself which is not true faith in God, of course.

I think an important part of becoming more established or steady in our walk in God is the realization that it is a walk that is ever dependent on God for all that we need from him. It's a walk that presses us into a posture toward God, relational as God wants it to be with him. And also dependent on him to do the works in Jesus by the Spirit God has for us to do.

We did have an uplifting time in the word- one that spoke to me, as well as in song.

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

Sunday, June 21, 2009

quote of the week: Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg on being disciples of Jesus

So often we focus on Jesus' mission on the cross to save us from our sins. As marvelous as that is, it's critical for us to grasp the importance of his mission on earth as a rabbi. His goal was to raise up disciples who would become like him. As followers of Jesus, we are still called to live out the adventure of discipleship, becoming like Jesus through the power of his Spirit at work within us.
Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, 34.

prayer for the week for love and reverence for God's Name

Collect of the Day: Pentecost, proper 7

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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, June 20, 2009


L.L. Barkat has an interesting post on writing, and how on the one hand it can't be forced, but on the other hand it can. A good read, as is all of her blog. And I look forward to her second book, her first book truly a keeper.

For me writing needs to flow, and that is why at this time I don't like to figure out what I'm going to write on until I'm at the computer. Because assuredly the thoughts that come to me will be long gone by the time I get there. Of course what I do write on is related to my life, reading, and thinking.

Usually I not only do not know what I am going to write, but just how I'm going to write it. Or write at all, for that matter. So just to write most any post is a kind of discipline for me. True of this one, as I told myself I need to go to the computer and type- I know not what- for a post today.

But for us writers and creative people who have our blogs, your blog is simply an expression of who you are. Along with what you want to accomplish in your blogging.

My title sums up what I want to do: experience "Jesus community." But that experience can embrace the entire spectrum of human life, and really everything that can be considered, in light of the truth in Jesus. I enjoy sharing what is most important to me, and hearing from others the same. As well as working through theological issues. And lighter things as well, as no part of life is insignificant, really. But just as high is getting to know others, as limited as that is. Though I hope such fellowship doesn't push out, or replace getting to know others better with whom I have contact in day to day life, or on a regular basis, in person.

What about you? What thoughts do you have in how you do your blog- and goals you have in doing it? Or any other thoughts, here?

Friday, June 19, 2009

salvation's focus

Tom Wright in his latest book now coming to me in the mail points out how our theological thinking, even among the Reformed* who profess a God-centered theology, is man-centered, orbiting around man. As important as humanity is, and humanity is at the pinnacle of God's creation, God is at the center, and we along with all else, revolve around God.

That in itself is not the radical point Wright is trying to make in what little I've read of that book so far. Rather, when it's all about our/my justification, our/my salvation, our/my sanctification, our/my home someday in "heaven", then we've lost our way. Such a view is a misreading and often truncated view of Scripture, might be the thought here. God's salvation in Christ is much bigger, and our lives and sense of mission should reflect that.

God's salvation in Christ is for the entire creation in the new creation which begins now through God's saving of people and through those people to others and to God's world. Not to lose sight of our salvation because that's important and essential. But not to make that the end all, because through it God sets us in motion by the Spirit in his new creation work, both in sharing the gospel and in fulfilling his creation mandate for humanity.

This for me makes my tuning in to keep up on something of the news important. While never letting go of the primacy of the gospel, but also realizing its scope is bigger than we think. That it's not only about me and God, (or even us and God). To think it is, suggests Wright, is to hear the serpent's whisper, and not God's voice.**

What do you think on this? What thought would you like to share?

*To be fair, the Reformed do emphasize God's glory, but in their exegesis and telling of Scripture, it's all too often about how that relates to man's salvation, so that the glory given to God is in reference to that and then fails to see the bigger picture that Scripture itself presents, I believe.

**To be fair to Tom Wright, I think his reference to the serpent's whisper is the thinking that God's salvation is all about me, so that it's what I can get out of it, the serpent's pitch in the garden in its lie to Eve.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

under pressure

We don't need pressure all the time. As the psalmist points out, we need those seasons of quietness and refeshing.

But it's interesting to me how I often see the Lord's hand on my life most clearly, and see the most blessing during the hard, challenging times. If I'm not pushed to the limit, I can easily end up eventually drifting, and becoming lax in my faith and walk in God.

Life inherently in this existence comes with it problems, without and within. Compounded as we seek to follow Jesus with others in mission. Jesus' life is made manifest through us in the crucible of our struggles and weaknesses. So we should never give into despair, but see all of life as an opportunity to glorify God in seeking to follow Christ through good times and bad.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

where is our heart?

After Peter's denial of Jesus, and before Jesus reinstates Peter in love we read that once the disciples realized it was the risen Lord who was on the seashore, that Peter jumps into the water to get to Jesus.

The words from Michael Card's song, Stranger on the Shore (both recordings are great, but I especially like the original recording) come to mind:
The one who had denied Him,
who had once walked on the water
Jumped in and swam to Him
to be confronted on the shore
You need to be confronted
by the stranger on the shore
You need to have Him search your soul;
you need to hear the call
You need to learn exactly
what it means for you to follow
You need to realize
that He's asking for it all
This presents the question to us, Where is our heart? Though Peter had to be full of guilt and remorse because of his denials, there was still a living faith, hope and love that lingered. We can only imagine the peace and joy that settled on Peter, after the Lord reinstated him in love, and in spite of the Lord's words as to how he would die so as to glorify God. We are indeed called in this life to share in Christ's sufferings, if we are to share in his glory.

Where is our heart? James speaks of the double-minded person, unstable in all they do. Peter tells us that now that our hearts are purified we are to love the brothers and sisters deeply.

The world says, "Follow your heart." But that's only good if your heart is leading you in a good direction. Left to ourselves our hearts always do go astray. But because of God's grace in Jesus and by the Spirit, God gives us a new heart, which can only be satisfied in finding itself at home in God through Christ. Meaning in God's good will.

So Peter ran, as only Peter would (though I know at least a couple of guys who remind me of Peter!). I'm sure there were tears in his eyes while Jesus was reinstating him, just as there had been at least after Peter denied Jesus. Peter could never be the same. Indeed a broken and contrite heart God will never despise.

What if we could get our way in our hearts at times? We can ask ourselves for a good test, Where is our heart in this? Our hearts can easily deceive us, and if we don't believe that, then we don't believe it when Scripture tells us repeatedly that we can deceive ourselves. I like the words of Rich Mullins in the song My Deliverer (from The Jesus Record):
I will never doubt His promise
though I doubt my heart, I doubt my eyes
If we're struggling in our hearts, the great penitential psalm, 51, is a good place to dwell. Like Peter we can find our heart's home back into the arms and joy of our Lord, then out into the world, in sevice to him.

What would you like to add to these words?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

reinstated with love

After reflecting yesterday a bit on Peter's denials of our Lord, and on our denials, as well, today we take a look at Peter's reinstatement by our Lord. It ends up being a matter of love.

Of course Jesus, while telling Peter he'd deny him, also told him that when he turns in repentance, he is to strengthen his brothers. Peter had to remember those words. Then after Jesus' resurrection, the angels tell the witnesses at the empty tomb to go and tell the disciples "and Peter." Peter is explicitly mentioned, so that Peter gets the message that he indeed is included.

We come to the account in John, on the sea shore, where our Lord tells the disciples where to get the fish, as he prepares for a good fish "fry" on the beach. That had to bring back a vivid memory, to Peter. After they eat our Lord speaks to Peter. "Do you love me?" Although both agape, and phileo are used, most scholars today see them as interchangeable, as indeed they are, it seems, when reflecting on the Greek New Testament. So Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. And Peter each time says, he does, appealing in the end to Jesus' knowledge of him.

So as Peter denied Jesus three times, so Jesus asks him three times if he loves him. This breaks Peter's heart. Jesus tells Peter in the midst of this, to feed and take care of his sheep. Then he tells Peter how Peter will die, to glorify God.

At the heart of God's work for us in Christ, and our receiving of that gift is love. A love that hits us powerfully, initially. A love that works with us, in spite of us. A love which won't let us go, even when we do go astray. And a love that brings us back into God's arms in Christ. And gives us work to do, a task to finish, and the reason to live.

I'm glad for this unrelenting love, in my own life.

What might you like to add to these thoughts?

Monday, June 15, 2009

denying our Lord

When we read of Peter's denial of Jesus during Jesus' trial, at a younger age we may have shaken our heads in wonder. How could Peter, who had been three years with Jesus day in and day out, how could he have turned around during Jesus' darkest hour, and betrayed him?

As we get older, and sadly wiser about ourselves, we begin to understand firsthand Peter's denials. And we also understand Scripture's teaching more thoroughly, how we need to live by the Spirit, and how also we need to remain in the word and in prayer. So that Peter's denials more and more ring true when we reflect on life, and indeed on our own lives.

What ways in our lives do we deny our Lord?

Sometimes in our lives we may deny Jesus in big ways. In ways that are public. But sometimes in big ways that are private. In our innermost thoughts. Or with some secret practice we know is wrong. Or more often, perhaps, we do so in subtle ways, whenever we sin knowingly, in thought, attitude, word or deed.

I deny Jesus whenever I don't keep a short account with God over my sin. If I sin, and then don't immediately repent of my wrong, I in effect am denying our Lord. I'm saying, "I don't know the Man!"

Of course the direct application of this is to refuse to confess Jesus before others. But instead fall in with the crowd, and though ashamed of it, also ashamed of Jesus. To what extent are we ever ashamed of our Lord before others? To that extent we are denying him just as Peter did. Jesus promises to confess our name before his Father, if we confess his name before the world. But he warns us that if we fail to do so, then he won't do so to the Father.

Like Peter, the Lord in love will work on us his brothers, and sisters, to bring us back to him. God works in our lives, so that in love we will want to follow, and in so doing by our words and actions point others, in love to him.

What comes to your mind on this, which you'd like to share with us?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jimmy Dunn (of "the new perspective") on justification and self-righteousness

The insight granted to Luther has remained at the heart of Protestant Christian thought. 'Justification by faith' is a sharp sword which punctures all inflated thoughts of self-importance. It is a sharp knife which cuts away all reliance on human effort, on human cleverness. It is a sharp spade which undermines any attempt to build our own protective barriers or control our own destiny. It cuts through all human pretence, all human self-assurance, all human boasting. God accepts not the important, or the activist, or the clever, or the powerful as such. It is the sinner he accepts. That is an insight which has been applied over and over again in Christian critique of false religiosity and political systems. It is an insight which must never be lost from the gospel....

There is more to it, of course.
J. D. G. Dunn, A. M. Suggate, The Justice of God: A Fresh Look at the Old Doctrine of Justification by Faith , 8-9, from Scot McKnight, Community Called Atonement, 96.

Prayer for the Lord's keeping of his Church for mission

Pentecost, proper 6
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, June 13, 2009

doing and learning

I think the message from James has something vital to say to most of us right where we are. That we need to at last take seriously what we do know from God's word. Rather than think our problem is that we need to know more. Important for where we are today.

At the same time, however, I do believe we need to keep learning more. We need to learn from others, more Scriptural ways, or ways inherent to Scripture and to God's working in humans through Christ, to view life. God is our authority, and Scripture as his word is our light, in Jesus. And God gives insight to us all through each other by his Spirit.

So I must keep applying what I know, and repenting where need be- both. And along with that I need to continue to learn better how to be a true follower of Jesus in this life. Intellect is included, but it actually is about the whole person- our hearts, lives, mind, and strength. With a dependence on God and interdependence on each other.

Thank God for his multi-faceted grace through it all!

What might you like to add to this?

Friday, June 12, 2009

don't wait

I have always loved the subject of Bible translating. How one should translate, what group of manuscripts should be used, how they should be used, etc. One thing is for sure when you start looking at translations: none will say everything the way you think it should be said, that is if you read and study. This is probably more true of translations that are seeking to translate the text according to the way we speak, or close to that. In a style perhaps akin to what the original texts did, varying in their style, it appears, in different books of Scripture. The way the Bible should be translated, in my view, but not without its pitfalls. I could go on, because this is a big subject, but it's not the point I want to make here. So nothing is going to be done perfectly, here and now.

Indeed, we have to underscore our own weakness and limitations in this life. Actually we will never know everything; to be all-knowing belongs to God only. And therefore whatever is done here on earth by humanity, even redeemed humanity, will not be without its flaws.

I want to get things right, but I want to keep moving in ways I think God is leading. So that I'm not waiting before we get everything right, which won't happen. And if we did think it has happened, we are mistaken on the faulty premise that that is possible.

God helps us as we seek to obey him, obey his word. Seeking to understand is important as well, but it needs to be in the context of being a committed disciple or follower of Jesus. In the context of commitment in seeking to live it out.

What might you like to add to this?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

need is needed

We need a sense of need. Jesus came, not as the means by which we save ourselves, but as our Savior. But we need to have the sense and conviction that we need salvation, that for some reason we need to be saved.

We see faith in Jesus come alive at the point of need in a man who had leprosy. And Jesus pointed out that he did not come to save those who were righteous, but sinners. The self-righteous have no sense that they need salvation, but those who know they are sinners and condemned, as well as not able to change themselves, are in a position to see Jesus as the one who can save them.

Not only we ourselves, but this world is in need of a savior. Jesus and the kingdom of God coming in him, is the answer, which begins now through us, his people. We need to help others see their need of Jesus, and we need to understand that Jesus as Savior extends to the needs of all the world, in every system and domain. So that what we do now, in his name, matters. And someday will be taken up into the completion of the new creation, in Jesus.

I'm glad for a sense of need in my own life, and more glad that Jesus meets that need. Every day, as salvation in Scripture is not only glorious past tense, but present. As well as future. We have much to look forward to, in Jesus, which can help us move forward in anticipation of that great, final salvation in him!

What would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I admire honesty in people, even when it hurts. My post this morning reflected honesty that could have been misunderstood as me having a sin issue with pornography. Not so, thank God! I simply was listing that as an afterthought behind drugs and alcohol.

But I do have my issues, and sometimes they can get you down. Anxiety, frustration, despair; these all can get me down. Yet I've learned not to let them take me out, and more and more reckon on the truth in Jesus that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12). So that I've seen God move in and through me during times I've felt broken in myself. Such as this past Sunday at the nursing home, when I prayed to be filled with the Spirit while we were singing. And the Lord in his grace gave us a wonderful time in song and in his word.

And of course as we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

As my good blogger friend Allan Bevere commented, on what I posted this morning, "It is always best to be on guard, but to always remember that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives can conquer anything, if we are willing." How very true!

This might be my weakest post ever, but it's simply meant to say that while I know I don't have it all together, I'm not living in defeat, either.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

are we ever worthy?

4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

Revelation 3

The short and ultimate answer to that is, "No." Christ alone as the Lamb slain is worthy (Revelation 5). No human being except Christ (who is the God-Human) is ever worthy in themselves. We are not.

But God through Christ gives us a new standing in grace through faith because of Christ and his work for us in his death (Romans 3). And while we have no condemnation because of Christ and his death (Romans 8:34), this no condemnation in this life is also tied to the work of the Spirit, and is contingent on us by the Spirit putting to death the (mis)deeds of the body. Romans 8:1-17 makes it clear that what we do does matter.

I am not condemned before God because of Christ, and through faith. But I will live in at least a sense of condemnation if I am not dealing with sin and endeavoring to walk in the light.

So those people in Sardis were worthy in status and standing because of Christ's worthiness. But through Christ, the Spirit does a work to make them, and us in Jesus, not only worthy in our standing with an imputed (declared) righteousness, but beginning to partake of worthiness also in their lives with an imparted righteousness through the Spirit. It's not I, but Christ in us by the Spirit who makes the difference, but it's a life we have to live out.

So I take it that God in his grace calls these believers "worthy," who have not soiled themselves with the world (see the entire book of James on what that means). Not because they are perfect, but because they are being perfected through Christ by the Spirit in this life.

So Jesus alone is worthy, but in grace God calls those who believe and follow Jesus in this life, "worthy." And when God speaks this indeed begins to be true, but true only in Jesus, yet true not only in our standing before God, but also in our lives even in this world.

Does this make sense of Scripture, or what thought would you like to share here?

Monday, June 08, 2009

sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus

Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg's Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, is a marvellous read. I like it in that it is both theologically sound and written to help us live out the faith that is ours in Jesus.

Originally, a blogger friend put me on to this book. At first I was hesitant; so many books I want to read, and I've never heard of these authors. And while the title seemed largely acceptable and interesting, it did make me wonder just where the authors wanted to take the readers. After some deliberation, I decided to give it a chance, and it is truly to my profit that I have.

After reading it through the first time, I was not only struck anew and afresh with the Jewishness of our Christian faith, but I was appreciative of where the authors actually did take me. In a thoughtful way, they navigate the reader through the gospels and Jesus' life in regard to key themes, and how Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant.

So I'm glad now I decided to read this book, and actually reread it. This book is truly a keeper.

Spangler is perhaps to some extent the writer, and Tverberg is the teacher. Lois Tverberg is a scientist, and was a professor for some time until she decided to make the study of Jesus as a Jew, and what that means to our faith, her full time pursuit and work.

I much appreciated the careful writing, along with the end notes which show the work of one who thinks through everything with painstaking care. And a big plus for me as well is that the book is written clearly for all the church, so that nonscholars along with scholars can appreciate it. In fact it is really written for those who may never care to read a scholarly book, yet want to learn more of what it means to follow Jesus. It is evident that the authors themselves have this as the goal for their own lives.

I intend to write a formal book review, and would like to have a weekly interactive study from the book. I would highly recommend that you get a copy, and then we can start working through it, probably no sooner than August and no later than September.

What thoughts come to mind that you would like to share?

Posts referring to this book.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Kevin Vanhoozer on the Trinity and the apostolic witness

The doctrine of the Trinity . . . summarizes the thrust of the central apostolic testimony that "it is not possible to turn to the God of Israel without at the same time turning to Jesus."
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine, 81; quote in italics from David S. Yeago

prayer for the week: to see God's Trinitarian glory

Collect of the Day: Trinity Sunday
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, June 06, 2009

a wonderful Spring

This has been the most enjoyable Spring for me yet, I was telling Deb recently. Maybe it's simply appreciating more and more God's creation. It is partly the weather, as we didn't just jump into Summer from Winter, as it seems like we've done before (to the harm of Michigan fruit crops, by the way). I love to see life springing forth again, from the trees, plants, hearing the birds singing, green everywhere.

They say it may be a milder Summer, and I won't argue against that. Deb does like the heat, at least well into the 80's, if not much more than that. Summer is her favorite time of the year, and I can understand that, since I've seen her shiver even in the Summer (over cold, cold homemade ice cream, to be fair). It is a good time to enjoy the outdoors, and go camping and/or hiking. Autumn with the relief from the hottest part of Summer, the beautiful change in colors of the leaves, and the festivals that go traditionally with harvest time, is a not distant second for me, to Spring.

I like Spring, Fall, Summer and Winter, in that order. I like them all, but we "Michiganders" can be prone to complaining about the long Winters here. Winter is beautiful, and I am thankful, given all the lake effect (from Lake Michigan) cloudy days we have in the Winter, particularly through the first half of it, that we do have snow, which for the issues it brings does brighten the atmosphere considerably. And snow has a beauty all its own, especially right after it has fallen. We've had close to record amounts of snowfall over the past two winters. In spite of the difficulties of Winter, I'd miss it, if we lived in a warmer climate.

What is your favorite season, and why? Maybe what is your least favorite, or the order you would rate them?

Friday, June 05, 2009

justification and vindication

There is a buzz in the evangelical theological world over N.T. Wright's latest book (I have yet to get my copy) on justification, in response to his critics, especially John Piper. Justification in Paul's letters is a judicial, forensic term having to do with God's declaration of righteousness to those who trust in him and in his word to them in Christ.

The issues lie in differing interpretations of texts, and for me the issue is exegesis of the relevant texts. The problem being that one can read into the texts their theological point of view and axiom, that for them in nonnegotiable, instead of letting each text speak for itself, and then seeking to integrate each with the whole, the entirety of Scripture.

I see this over and over with those who make much of their theological system. It's not that we don't systematize, for all of us automatically do that, if we consider Scripture over any length of time at all. It's that we can inadvertently, or for better reasons, set such systems in stone, because they are "right," and all in opposition is wrong in some set (and labeled) way.

I don't mean to suggest that anyone is immune to this, for such is not the case. But we should want to let each passage speak for itself before putting it into the context of another passage as well as all of Scripture. And it's important for us to keep reading those who are taking special time and pains to work through such things, such as Piper and Wright in this current debate.

To get to the point of the title just a bit, our justification and vindication before God is in Christ. And it plays out not only in declaring us, the guilty, justified, or declared to be in the right only because of Christ. But it also sets the stage for the immediate working of the Spirit in our lives to make us in our character and living, righteous. And in the end, even though it's not of ourselves at all, we will be judged by Christ as righteous.

Any thoughts you'd like to share on this? Has anyone here followed, or even been aware of this current debate?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

being there

Nothing can replace simply being present for someone. We go to meet with them, not thinking we can solve their problems. But to listen in God's presence. And maybe to offer a humble word, along with encouragement to them.

I recently had the privilege of meeting with a dear brother in Jesus. I went with a sense of brokenness, not thinking I had anything helpful to offer, in fact thinking I am in need of help myself.

But in the midst of our time, I could sense God's presence with us. As I sought to listen and share a bit, with some encouraging words to a brother, made in God's image, and being remade into the image of Christ.

How can we be present for others? What should we do during those occasions, and what should we avoid doing? Do we always have to say anything at all?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

managing life

How easy it is to want to be in control of our lives, at least to some extent. If we wrote the story of our own lives, we might put in a few twist and turns for effect, but we'd want it to be out of harm's way. It would be different than the way life often works out. Of course it would be vanilla and quite predictable, maybe with plenty of charm, if we could write it out while we are living (gas prices might go down instead of up, right now). We could then solve all the world's problems, or at least our own!

But we have little control over the outcome of our lives, or what happens around us. Though through the Spirit's work in us, self-control in love can make a big difference. But a part of that self-control will put us at odds with the world, as we endeavor to take up our cross and follow Christ, being a witness of Jesus as we seek to live out this new life out of death, in him.

Having the sense that little is in our control, and that the best we can do is to do our part by the Spirit as part of Christ's Body, we can then focus on God anew, placing our lives again and again in his hands. In that we will find a moving in us to move us out of our own safe places and into the adventure and challenge of the unfolding will of God.

I'm groping my way in this, but I want to learn to walk in it.

Any insights or thoughts on this?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

stepping aside

If you're like me, you like to see everything through to the very end, at least in theory, even if practice can get a little rough and tumble. The problem is that only God can and does see everything through to the end. We as humans, even in Jesus, have our limitations.

Sometimes we do well to step aside or no longer engage in something, maybe because we're either not approaching it entirely correctly and wisely, and/or maybe just because our part in this work of God is finished.

I ran into something like that. I felt like a failure in parting from it, and I don't pretend I was flawless in it. But for my own peace, and even for the best of the other involved, I believe it was an appropriate decision on my part.

God's work in this, including in my own life in relation to it, goes on. God will finish it, and see it through. Of course how we humans respond in all of this is in a true sense up to us. We can't just say that God will do it, and that we have no responsibility in it, because we surely do. But apart from God there would be no hope for any of us, no hope to keep growing together into the likeness of the one to and in whom we are joined.

Does this prompt any thoughts or sharing from your own life?

Monday, June 01, 2009

we are bodies, too

We live in an age when, as Scot McKnight reminds us in his new, provocative book on fasting, many of us look at our bodies to a large extent, as beside the point, while at the same time piling food and drink aplenty in them.

As Scot points out, we westerners have inherited a dualism which fails to see the unity humans are, that the different aspects of us: body, and soul/spirit, are united together in what it is to be human. So when we see spiritual as just about our inner person, we're missing the boat, because spiritual is to pertain to all of us.

When we fail to see this unity in humanity, how part of the real me is my body- just as much as my soul (which essentially just means "life" in Scripture), spirit, or heart, we read in a way inherited from the ancient Greeks, but not the way the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) or New Testament means. To be sure they are referring to different aspects of our humanity, so that we can divide them that way. But to make up the real us, they need to be seen as united together.

This is why our hope is not in life after death, but as N.T. Wright calls it, "life after, life after death." The resurrection of our bodies in Jesus is our hope, not the intermediate state as wonderful as that will be.

This is important because too often we think we can be holy by being right inside, but being holy also involves what we do with our bodies. Read the book of James with this in mind, which hearkens back to the Old Testament in which what one says and does matters. Our inner and outer self matter before God both in this life, and the life to come.

For me this speaks powerfully in various ways into my daily existence. For example I can't let my body do something (whether eyes, lips, etc.) that in my heart I want to do, if it's not according to God's will. And I know I must deal with the sin in my heart, when this is the case. Same goes on the opposite end: when I have a good thought in my heart, but fail to carry it out with my body, as James would say, "What good is that?"

What might you like to add to these few thoughts?