Monday, August 31, 2009

accepting difficulty

I have found that accepting difficulty is part and parcel of being human in a responsible way, and especially of being a Christian. A big part of walking by faith is to walk through the most difficult places, looking to God prayerfully in the midst of it. There is no doubt that life is full of difficulties and challenges. Obstacles which can make the strongest heart faint, if we let it.

Though we must remember that in our weakness we can find God's strength. And we must also remember that we're not in this life alone. No, we are part of a community of faith, faith growing mutually, by that communion with each other. And we're called to be in mission in this world.

Perhaps the biggest problem with difficulties is not the difficulties themselves, but our attitude toward them. We need to learn to accept them, knowing that in such acceptance we will find the God of peace, as we persevere through these difficulties by faith. We place our faith in God's word, and praying- we await God's good work in everything.

And we do this seeking to keep in mind, Jesus' Creed: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor- including our enemies- as ourselves. Knowing that this is at the heart of what God is seeking to work in and out of us to the world through Christ.

How do you accept difficulty? What might you like to add here?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dante and Scot McKnight on the love of the Triune God

In the deep and bright essence of that exalted Light,
three circles appeared to me;
they had three different colors,
but all of them were of the same dimension;
one circle seemed reflected by the second,
as rainbow is by rainbow,
and the third seemed fire breathed equally
by those two circles.

Eternal Light,
You only dwell within Yourself,
and only You know You;
Self-knowing, Self-known,
You love and smile upon Yourself!
...The reason we are special is that we came from this three-circled splendor of loving Light that also draws us back into that Light so that we might be restored by embracing grace.

The story of the Eikon derives absolutely and only from the very beginning. God's own inner perichoretic dance of love, Dante's three Circles of Light dancing amongst themselves in such a manner that one is not sure which is which. We can now slightly modify our opening definition of the gospel: the gospel is the work of the triune, interpersonal God to restore Eikons to God and others into that divine communion, and to unleash it into the rest of the world.

Scot McKnight, Embracing Grace, 36, first quote from Dante's Divine Comedy: Paradiso.

prayer for the week: for God's good work in us in Jesus

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, August 29, 2009

continuing on by faith

The story of Balaam is one which has to be read in the light of all that is said about him. Including the account in the Old Testament/Jewish Bible, as well as in the New Testament. The story itself (the donkey God makes speak, one children for sure remember, true of myself as a child), including a prophecy we Christians traditionally like to remember, is an interesting one indeed. Though his story has a tragic ending.

Our walk in Jesus is to be a walk of faith and obedience. The importance of obedience to his commands has stood out to me, in my recent reading of 1 John. And we need to proceed as those who are walking with God, in a relationship with him. As Jesus teaches us, this involves both loving God and loving our neighbor.

On the one hand we must avoid being on a reckless path, true in the case of Balaam. Can we Christians be on a reckless path in our lives? I don't think I have to answer that.

We must continue on by faith. And this requires an ongoing walk, and ongoing movement in the will of God as we understand it, by the Spirit and the word. This walk will be both in general terms: God's prescribed moral will found in Scripture, and in specific direction as to what we should or should not do in relation to our daily lives and circumstances. The two though separate are interwoven.

For me this is important. Sometimes because I don't have all the answers, or I have conflicting thoughts, I'm afraid to proceed in a certain way when all in all, having weighed everything, such a move seems good. In all of this we have to recognize our fallibility always, the need for us to be open to correction (we may be deceived!) and better understanding, and how in everything we need to become more and more like Jesus.

What have you found about this in your own life? Or what thought would you like to add here?

Friday, August 28, 2009

grieving over our own sin

Some say we are human, therefore we sin. Not good since God created humans in his image as his Eikons (Greek word for image is transliterated, eikon). But as fallen humans, yes we do sin.

I know Christians who are sorry about their sins, but think that they can't help themselves. This is from an understandable, yet mistaken interpretation that we as Christians have two natures which are in a perpetual tug of war. And that according to Romans 7, we're going to do the bad we don't want to do, and we won't do the good we want to do; a tragic misinterpretation of that passage, which refers to all humankind in Adam, including Israel, under the law apart from the Spirit and grace.

There is that tension in this life in Jesus between moving in the direction of being conformed to the image of Christ, and instead being conformed to the pattern of this world/age. The two are polar opposites, but are experienced by us in Jesus in this life.

James minces no words about worldliness. And he tells us to grieve, mourn and wail over our sins. Not to accept them, but to humble ourselves before God. To grieve over our sins. And that as we do, God will lift us up.

We can't change ourselves, but we can confess our sins, knowing God will be faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is what I want to do. Instead of excusing sin, I want to meet it head on through Jesus by the Spirit, and in spite of all my weakness. I want to see God change my heart and make it more and more conformed to his heart.

Do I excuse any sin? Do I just chalk it up to being a sinner- which we have to acknowledge we are, since we do sin in this life-? Is sin something one can accept without consequences?

Or do I grieve over my sin before God, confess it to him, and want to by God's Spirit, put it to death?

Not a pleasant post, but not all of the Bible is pleasant. But it leads to a pleasant and good end for us, and for the world, in Shalom, in the true life through Jesus, that is real and enduring.

What might you like to add to this?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

remembering Ted Kennedy

My blogger friend, Allan Bevere, who is a bit to the right of me politically has an apt post on Ted Kennedy, well worth the read (not a long read, either). And another blogger friend, Andrew E. Larsen calls our attention to this report from NPR on Kennedy's work for civil rights.

I find it appalling when the only things Christians might be able to express about such a man are winks, laughs and words which are demeaning. I just don't fit into such a conversation, except to point to what is good about that person, or more likely just be silent, and hang my head, maybe saying a few words that might be appropriate.

Ted Kennedy most certainly had his flaws, but it's good to hear that in his latter days he sought to live differently with the help of his wife. I hope it was a true Christian faith which underlied that, as well. I certainly don't agree with his position on abortion. The goal in Washington D.C. should be to be rid of them altogether, by a good number of policies, some to help the pregnant women, so that they won't revert to "back-alley abortions."

But Kennedy's advocacy for the poor and minorities, and his work to bring good health care to all are to be applauded, even if we don't fully agree with him on how he wanted to accomplish those ends. And he sought to be a friend to those who were his political opponents, the way it used to be, and should be.

We in Jesus should honor such people and point out the good. Without burying our head in the sand as to what we strongly disagree with.

What might you like to add to this?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

God honors the faithful

Oftentimes we make much of the sin of unbelief, and it is a serious sin, indeed. But the hinge on which Israel of old failed in the Old Testament was unfaithfulness. They were not faithful to the covenant of their God.

Yes, we continue to walk by faith. But we're to walk by faith faithfully. I like the TNIV translation concerning Enoch:

Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him

Genesis 5:24

"Faithfully" is added, because that is what characterized this walk with God on Enoch's part. Of course it was by faith, and done with love and hope, to be sure.

Are we faithful to our God? In the little things, as well as the big. Are we working on shoring up our lack of faithfulness in any area or issue, where needed? God the Spirit is working on all in Jesus, that we may all be faithful to our God to the very end.

Let's remember too, Jesus' teaching that the one who is trustworthy in little is also trustworthy in much, and the one who is not so in what seems small, is not so overall, or in the bigger things.

Lord, Let me be faithful to you, and give me sensitivity when I am not.

What would you like to add to this?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

discerning the devil's lies

We are in a lifelong battle against spiritual forces that would more subtly than not, move us away from the path and way of the Lord. God speaks to us, but the devil, or those spiritual entities speak to us as well. We need ongoing discernment to detect so we can reject the devil's lies.

We need to be in the word regularly. Something there can hit us and help us just get a quick view of what is going on. As soon as we get that view, we need to prayerfully keep it in focus and in faith act on it. And then we need to seek to gather that insight from God to incorporate into our lives as part of our daily walk, or way of life.

We always need God to uncover these lies, and this is evident when we are down. Too often voices come to us with the authority of God which are accusatory, rather than helpful as in an advocate to show us the way. God's way in grace lifts us up to where we are in Jesus, and what we are in him by the Spirit. The devil's lies, even through other Christians sometimes- perish the thought!- or maybe its our own ears!- would tear us down and leave us grovelling in the dust. God values humility, but not grovelling as if we aren't his children whom he easily delights in.

Just some thoughts on discerning Satan's lies. What thoughts would you like to add to these?

Monday, August 24, 2009


At times we can all fail. It's like we're cornered in our minds, with no way out; we feel trapped and think there is only one response. When that's not really the case at all!

When I say something I shouldn't, which normally happens with those one loves the most- sadly, then I not only want to get forgiveness immediately, or very soon. But I also want to learn from my sin and error. Sometimes that means I have to work through something, maybe with another, and maybe just with me and God.

Such times often bump us with the reminder of what we have been neglecting as of late. Quiet times in the word and in prayer before God. Seeking to draw near to God. Though we want to avoid meltdowns, they can work to our favor as we confess our sin to God, and to the offended party, and seek to start anew in our walk in Jesus in this world.

It's always good as well to be reminded of our weaknesses, so that in God through Christ and by the Spirit we can find his strength. And good for us to find our errors, so that we can find the truth as it is in Jesus.

What thoughts might you have on meltdowns?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

quote of the week: Craig Barnes on our quest for eternal meaning

What distinguishes humanity in creation is not moral superiority but the mark of a need- a craving to have meaning that is eternal and thus able to sustain us through the shifting tides of our years....This godlike mark, then, serves two functions. The first is that it is the source of our hunger for life's meaning, and the second is that it refuses to be satisfied with any meaning other than the eternal.

Craig Barnes, Yearning, 65 from Scot McKnight, The Jesus Creed, 161.

prayer for the week: for God to be made known through the Church

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirt, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, August 22, 2009

being yourself

While we need to listen to what others might think, and take wisdom from wherever we find it, especially from friends and those in Jesus, we need to beware of thinking we have to fit into a jacket that really doesn't fit us.

This is a precarious balance to keep, because a critique or suggestion may sound like it is off, yet it may have something important to offer.

A blogging friend recently told me that I ought to quit reading so much of this and that, and concentrate on God's word and working that into my life. Ouch, of course! But I think they had a valid point, and one I've been working on anyhow, lately. That at least validated part of what is on my heart, and what I'm seeking to work better into my life.

At the same time I have to be who I am. I can't be like that person, or someone else. So that I gladly began to read and work through a most challenging book, part of the time last evening when my wife and I were playing Super Scrabble. A very fun evening, by the way.

While at the same time seeking to hold close to my heart how God seems to be moving me in my life, which includes slowing down, which I mentioned in a recent post.

I am thankful for my wife who lets me be myself and even blesses that. But she gets after me where I need it. But I want to hear others as well, from whom God may speak into my life.

What about you on this?

Friday, August 21, 2009

restorative justice

Rereading for the umpteenth time the chapter, "A Society for Justice," in The Jesus Creed, made me think of how we American Christians tend to look at justice in retributive terms, rather than restorative.

Scot McKnight brings up in the book in the chapter on forgiveness, a Jewish scholar, Solomon Schimmel, who sees a difference between forgiveness as understood in Judaism, and Christian forgiveness. Judaism, and what we call the old coventant underscores the fact that it is God who forgives, so that any forgiveness would hinge on that. And that repentance is required. The only instance of humans forgiving each other is when Joseph forgives his brothers for selling him into slavery in Egypt.

Christian forgiveness comes from the new teaching and the new covenant in Jesus. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, doing good to them, blessing them, and praying for them. It involves "preemptive forgiveness" as when Jesus called out to the Father to forgive those who executed him. We see it at Stephen's stoning, as well, vastly different than what we see in the Old Testament. There is more to be said on forgiveness.

This restorative justice has serious implications on how we see life today. We must see it in the light of the fulfillment of the old covenant in the coming of God's kingdom now present on earth in Jesus, and in which we as followers of Jesus live. We need to live this out among ourselves, and then seek to see it carried out in our prison systems, something Charles Colson's ministry seeks to do.

So that both a murderer who is repentant, and their victims can actually work through the evil that has been done, face to face if both should choose to. And then find forgiveness and healing, through Jesus. This has yielded dramatic results in some places. And it's something I'm working on, as I think through the forgiveness that is needed, ongoing among us, and is part of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.

Any thoughts you'd like to add here?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

engaged holiness

At the heart of engaged holiness is the Jesus Creed: that we're to love God with all our being and doing, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the watchword for us as God's people in Jesus in this world.

What does engaged holiness look like? Really caring about what is going on with our spouses, and our children and their children- to begin with. But it goes out into our neighorhoods, caring about those around us. And our fellow workers, and brothers and sisters in Jesus. And for all people ultimately. Especially having regard for the poor and the oppressed, high on God's agenda as we see in Scripture. Loving truly with actions.

Instead of throwing up our arms in despair, it's finding out what we can do, then doing it. As we pray the prayer the Lord taught us to pray.

What would you like to add here?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

disengaged holiness

Holiness as often taught in Christian circles seems to be all about "me and God". To be fair one would have to examine all of the teachings a particular author or teacher has given. When we think of holiness we need to think of it always in terms of the larger context. Of what God is about, and doing in the world.

Abraham was called by God and blessed to be a blessing. We by faith are in Abraham's line, and so we've inherited both the promise and the responsibility that goes with it in this covenant.

Let us beware of any Chritian holiness teaching which so emphasizes the importance of our relationship with God (and that is vitally important) that it fails to take in the whole picture. It can easily, then, become a holiness that is disengaged and inactive in the world to whom and for whom Jesus came- and died. So that true holiness is about becoming what God in Jesus is calling us to become, and do, in Jesus' steps in this world. Touching with Jesus' holiness the unclean, so that in Jesus they can become clean.

What might you like to add to this?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

slowing down

I'm not sure how I'm going to negotiate this, but I had inklings of it, already, before the trip to Texas. I realize that I push my body too hard, and I also realize that I need to be more like Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet.

So I plan to be slowing down. I still want to do what I do, being open to changes from God, of course. I like to read, and keep reading, and in the midst of my reading be stretched intellectually and in every way within my commitment to Jesus and to the Christian faith. But I need to make sure that I'm always majoring on my walk with Jesus and in the community of Jesus in mission in this world.

So this means I'll daily continue to work on this through being in the word and prayers, nothing new there, as well as daily in some devotional book, the book I'm using now for this, which has much in it to not only read, but digest into one's life.

Slowing down for me means more sleep. Less caffeine. And more relational time with others. I think I've been improving and growing in doing that with my wife, but I need to work on doing the same with others. That does take a commitment and effort on my part.

Have any of you thought about slowing down, and what that might mean for you? Do any here see the need for that? And why? Or any thoughts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Christian civility

Over on Scot McKnight's blog they are beginning "an American civil discussion" on the health care debate our country (the United States) is currently engaged in. Pertinent posts here, here, and today's here.

This led me to the thought or the question, is there a true Christian civility? Civility is the idea of how we conduct ourselves in words and actions, precisely with courtesy and politeness. Our American culture is marked with rudeness. It seems like being rude has won the day nearly across the board, at least in perception, even if a silent majority squirms.

I would suggest that there is indeed a Christian civility, one that is truly like Jesus. One that does not cower from standing up for truth, but one that is full of grace as well as truth, in Jesus. This is a civility, and humanity that is indeed of God, made in God's image and patterned perfectly for us in Christ himself. One we see through reading of his life here on earth, and one we can partake in together, by the Spirit in community, for the world.

It is certainly a civility that is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. It involves a righteous life, one which we seek to lead through Jesus. It involves meekness in being willing to turn the other cheek, to be wronged, to let others have the last word even when we're convinced they are wrong, but speaking for the good of another even if it may seem detrimental to us.

An important aspect to remember that can tie this all together is the primacy of love. We know what the first and greatest commandment is, and the second like it, called "the Jesus Creed." If we seek day by day, through Jesus by the Spirit to operate with this creed, we seek to do well. And this will involve a respect for all as inherently special, made in God's image. Those whom God loves as his creation, and who he has, in Jesus, come to save. And those we care for and care about.

I am growing in this area. One of the ways that was important to me for growth was (and is) to seek to be more quiet; I can be full of words. And to be a better listener. And be willing not to speak at all. And to keep working on not interrupting others, even when it seems that I am counted out of the discussion, or can't get a word in edge-wise.

What about you? Do you think there is a Christian civility we can nail down from Scripture? And what is it? Or are we thinking in worldy terms here? Or any thoughts?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

quote of the week: Augustine on sin as its own punishment

God so orders sins, that those that were a delight to man as he sins are instruments for the Lord as he punishes.
Augustine, Ennar. in Ps. [7], from Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, 33.

prayer to by grace live faithfully in Jesus

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of this redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, August 15, 2009

wonderful time in Texas

Deb and I had the most wonderful time in Texas with my sister Maxine. Her and her husband Steve showed us the most wonderful time there. My sister Cheryl with most of her family came, and most of Maxine's family was present as well. It will be a time I'll never forget.

Deb and I in front of Maxine and Steve's house. It was hot, even if a bit cooled down part of the time for Texas itself.

We certainly did miss Tiffany, Chris and little Morgan. We knew they could not make it, but it's more than worth the mention.

My sister Maxine and I.

Me with my sisters Cheryl and Maxine.

Maxine and her husband Steve, with their youngest, Andrea. Their oldest daughter Angela could not be with us as she has been quite busy this summer in sales before college. We missed Angela.

Maxine and Steve's oldest, Douglas, with his girlfriend, Laura.

Cheryl with three of her four children: Jessica, Jason and Jenna. We missed Jamie, as well.

We enjoyed a very nice swimming pool in the back. And did spend one day at the best water fun place I've ever been at their Six Flags there. So we had plenty of water and sun. (That's Deb in the middle and Cheryl is barely in the pic on the right.)

Deb and I in front of The Sixth Floor Museum. The sixth floor of this building is from where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I still remember the day. It was a very moving time for me in the museum. Well worth your visit.

My sister Maxine, who took us.

The building itself, including the windows, I believe to the far right on the sixth floor as you look at the building, from where the president was shot. They had the boxes concealing the assassin just as they were on that day, November 22, 1963.


A beautiful time. So good to be with family. We missed Mom, and of course Dad, as well.

Thanks so much, Maxine and Steve.

Friday, August 14, 2009


There is one thing certain about time as we experience it: Time sure does fly. Another week is nearly finished, and we're well onto finishing another year. Year after year keeps going by, thankfully in increments of day after day, and in those days, hour after hour, the minutes and seconds ticking away.

I love the psalmist's prayer, Moses':
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
12Teach us to use wisely
all the time we have.
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom.
The older we get the more we should realize this. To fail to do so is to be living in denial, something we humans are all too prone to do.

And it would seem that while we'll always be aware of how we continue to fall short of full maturity to Christ, we should be able to look back a few years and realize that God has helped us to grow through that time. And wisdom in Scripture is not just about what one knows, but how one lives.

Hopefully my remaining days will be more and more filled with what pleases God, and really ends up to the greatest good and pleasure of us all.

What would you like to add here?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

the human spirit

It's nothing short of remarkable just how quickly people pick up the spirit of another. They might not be able to pinpoint precisely what is going on with the other person- probably not- but they will have a sense about them which if uncovered, will likely be verified.

This is in part why it's so important for us to keep our spirits open before God, before the Spirit of God. When I say spirit, I mean something of the essence of who we are as far as what animates and moves us. And why we live; what gives us life.

Something in us as humans, made in God's image, surely directly corresponds to the Spirit of God. And it's not just about we as individuals and God. But we together with others, and God. Both.

And while the human spirit can overcome deprivations of the body, like lack of sleep (I'm too experienced in that one!), our whole human person, including our bodies, is important, even to help us in our spirits before God and others. Jesus needed his sleep while on earth, and so do we. At the same time, we can still do well when deprived of basic needs, up to a point. I remember now, Richard Wurmbrand's remarkable testimony about his deprivations while in prison for his faithfulness to Christ.

What do you find helps you in regard to your human spirit? Or what might you like to add here?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

first things first

Mary attended to the Lord's word, while Martha was distracted by her busy serving. It wasn't that Martha was wrong in what she was doing, but that she was distracted. And maybe she should have stopped what she was doing to attend to the Lord and his words.

This reminds me of other things we need to put first. Of course our relationship with God through Jesus. And our relationship with others as well: our spouse, our children, our friends, our relatives.

I have to admit I like nothing, or few things more than just relaxing with a book in hand. In my own world, so to speak. That's okay, and good, as long as others are not neglected in my life, as a result.

It's a joy to see people treasure relationships. After all, Jesus pointed out that love for God, and for our neighbor is to be at the heart of our existence. How that's worked out in our lives is not some set static way for us all. But it's something we need to keep at the forefront of our minds in whatever we do, and especially as we consider our lives from day to day, and from week to week.

How do you seek to do this? Or any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

let your life speak

"Let your life speak," or more precisely, "listening to your life" is a thought that came from Frederick Buechner. And indeed it is a wise thought.

I often read (on blogs) or hear someone else, and rather wish I was like them in some way. But what's important for us is to let our own lives in and from God speak to us and to others. We need to listen to our lives, and more precisely to God through our lives.

This means that I don't worry about all my limitations, but I go with what I have, and look to God to do the work that only he can do.

It's a strength and a blessing to learn more and more to accept ourselves fully, where God has us, and to accept others fully where God has them. And to do so with joy, realizing all good is a gift from God. And that he indeed is speaking to us through our lives. And through the lives of others.

Any thoughts you'd like to share here?

Monday, August 10, 2009

accepting difficulty

I agree with Rich Mullins in his song, Hard. More importantly, it's in line with what Jesus taught us. If we're to be true followers of Jesus in this world, the way won't be easy. We will experience something of the love, peace and joy of God through the Spirit in our lives. But we live in a world at odds with God, and we ourselves are in stages of growth. God loves us just the way we are, but too much to leave us that way, as he works in us to conform us more and more to the image of his Son. And that involves difficulty in various ways.

Accepting difficulty is an important lesson that every would be disciple/follower of Jesus needs to learn early on, and hold on to. Often it's how we accept difficulty that is important. Troubles and trials are part of our lot, along with the good times. We find that part of the blame for our troubles rests on us, part of it is just living in a fallen world, and another important part will come in our desire and endeavor to follow Jesus. This world is still a world in which we must take up our cross in identity with Jesus, in becoming like him in his death, as God's resurrection people.

But does accepting difficulty make difficulty easy? Ha. It may make it easier, but of course not! Otherwise it would no longer be difficult, of course. Life gives us its challenges due to our sins or weaknesses, due to simply existing in a world which in itself provides no lasting security, and due to our desire to be true followers of Jesus here.

But I've found that these difficulties tend to drive me to God in prayers and in getting into and remaining in God's word. And through those difficulties, over time, and mostly imperceptible to us, we grow in the grace, knowledge and likeness of our Lord Jesus.

What would anyone like to add on this?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

quote of the week: Dallas Willard on "the narrow gate"

The narrow gate is not, as so often assumed, doctrinal correctness. The narrow gate is obedience- and the confidence in Jesus necessary to it. We can see that it is not doctrinal correctness because many people who cannot even understand the correct doctrines nevertheless place their full faith in him. Moreover, we find many people who seem to be very correct doctrinally but have hearts full of hatred and unforgiveness. The broad gate, by contrast, is simply doing whatever I want to do.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 275.

prayer for God's help to live out God's will

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your 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

Saturday, August 08, 2009

God's care

God's care for us extends to us in so many ways in this life. We tend to focus on what might happen or what has happened, in the troubles which do beset us in a fallen world.

But with and in spite of the troubles that are inevitable, we need to see that God's goodness and love do follow us all the days of our lives, in Jesus. That God has likely kept us from much harm in ways we little know, surely at times through his ministering angels.

And we need to learn to rest in God and his care for us, bringing our every care to him. To make every effort, or struggle, paradoxically, to enter into God's rest.

We will have our moments, and maybe even hours, and for some even longer, when this seems impossible. But God will help us as we look to him in faith. He is present for us, and indeed watches over us, our coming and going both now, and forevermore, through Jesus and by the Spirit. I have found this to be so, that we can live in his peace.

How have you found this to be true in your own life? Or what might you like to say here?

Friday, August 07, 2009


Surrender to God through Christ is important because we need to submit our wills to God's will, something at the heart of what Jesus showed us in his life and teaching.

Too often we see surrender as merely passive. We give up and give in, and then, so to speak, go with the flow. There is a true sense in which it is passive in that in true surrender we accept God's will and way for us, against our own will and way.

But surrender needs to be seen as also active. We actively pursue God's will, and seek to follow his ways. We seek to continue to unlearn the old "in Adam" as we seek to keep learning the new "in Christ."

Surrender involves joining a new side, and becoming active on that side. Finding a new way of life and purpose for living, that indeed gives us life through Jesus by the Spirit for God and for the world.

What have you found in your own life about surrender, or what would you like to add here?

Thursday, August 06, 2009


There are times in my life when all spirit seems gone, or flickering and near the end. By spirit I mean what drives us and gives us the impetus to carry on. Sometimes we may have felt like we've lost our way. Or that we've missed the way so badly in our lives, that there's little to no point in continuing.

But that's when something can kick in, something beyond me, likely in answer to someone's prayer for me. God puts something or someone in my path to awaken me to the reality that my life does have meaning, and meaning in everything.

Thank the Lord for the Spirit he gives us that gives us spirit as in life, to carry on, and hopefully complete what God has for each of us in Jesus during our lives here and now.

What might you like to add to this?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Screwtape Letters

We saw over the weekend a most magnificient rendition of The Screwtape Letters. A good friend of mine and brother in Jesus, Jonathan Schaefer played the role of Screwtape, and he did exceedingly well. I thought everyone did quite well, and that C.S. Lewis himself would have been pleased. Though I wouldn't want to be the one trying to adapt his book, because I'm sure he'd best know how to do it, since he wrote it.

A major challenge in watching it was to hang in there through all the darkness expressed in wanting to twist all that is good so that humans live lives separated from God. As well as the hatred. The lady who played Screwtape's sidekick, Grabslatter, with her flaming red hair, managed to keep on a most devilish, diabolical looking face. And hatred along with seeking to live lives in reverse of God's will, was at the heart of the demonic activity in seeking to destroy the life of one particular man.

While I'm one hundred times glad to have seen the play, there's no substiute for simply reading the book. This is one of the favorites from C.S. Lewis, for good reason. And it's more than just interesting, entertaining material. It speaks of life, and what is going on in our lives, especially undercover, and unknown to us, which we do well to become aware of.

Have any of your read "The Screwtape Letters", and what would you like to add here?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

one's focus

Philippians 4:8-9 is an important passage for us all, and particularly for me, when I see what I think is wrong. This passage is not about positive, or possibility thinking. It's about learning to think in accord with God's good will and work in the world, in Jesus. It takes into account God's grace, as well as God's law. And it refuses to accept as the last word the wrong that is seen and perceived. I included verse 9 because it's not enough for us only to think well, but we need to show that in how we live.

Of course Scripture itself is to be a major part of this focus spoken of in this passage. And such a focus is not living in denial of what is wrong, and opposed to God and God's will. A healthy realism is a part of this. But this focus also sees that God in Jesus by the Spirit in community in mission to the world, gives answers and hope- pointing to the full realization of such hope to be completed by God the Father, Son and Spirit when heaven and earth are made one. So that we live by faith lives full of hope and love.

So one application here for me is to look for what is good, rather than dwelling on what is not. Not sweeping what is wrong under the rug, but seeking in all things to find a good measure of God's grace at work. Beginnning first in our own lives, and out from that into the lives of others.

What part does Philippians 4:8-9 play in your life? Or anything you'd like to add here?

Monday, August 03, 2009

finger pointing

I'm glad to be part of a fellowship/church in which there is no finger pointing. It's not to say there are absolutely no cliques there (though it's easy to break into and become a part of any group there, actually). While at the same time sin, and God's grace are both taken quite seriously.

What I mean by finger pointing is the tendency to judge others either on their practice or doctrine. This tendency is not exclusive to any one group, though in some groups it seems to be more open, as a part of who they are, and pronounced.

What I find in Scripture in Jesus is a desire to take others in, realizing that each is on their own separate spiritual journey, but can do better if they are received and included, so that God can use the lives and testimonies of others to help them, even as their own life and testimony helps the others.

What does this bring to mind, which you'd like to share here?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

quote of the week: Scot McKnight on letting the Bible be what it is

I have learned that when we take our hands off the pages of the Bible, read and listen to its words, and enter into its story by faith, something happens. It renews and continues to renew its powers. It becomes what it was meant to be, something both more intimate than an old pair of jeans and more unusual than alien creatures, something like a familiar stranger or an unpredictable neighbor or a pet lion whose presence invigorates its surroundings. Something like the glory of the ocean, which on the surface appears gentle and strolling and pleasant to observe, but under the surface there's a vibrant, teeming, swirling, dynamic world full of beauty and wonder. Or perhaps listening to the Bible is like having the most powerful person in the world sit down with you for coffee as a friend and chat with you.
Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, 36,37.

prayer for the week: for the Lord's preservation of his Church

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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, August 01, 2009

Mary's Song

In The Real Mary, Scot McKnight points out just how subversive and powerful Mary's Song was (and still is, at least in many places in our world today) in her anticipation by the Spirit just what her son, as God's Son and Messiah would mean, in the coming of God's kingdom to the world. Though Mary had much to learn about this, still her song is certainly right, and part of what she surely taught Jesus as he grew up.

This past Sunday in my mother's Mennonite church in Ohio, we had the pleasure of singing a song which I intend to work on. Because of copyright laws I don't feel free to reproduce it here. Canticle of the Turning, words by Rory Cooney based on this passage from Scripture, with a traditional Irish tune arranged by him. You can play part of it here. The words are powerful and the tune quite like Mary might have actually sang (in my imagination and from what little I think I know).

We don't have enough songs that mirror the concerns and passion of Mary's Song, which indeed is an important part of God's concern and passion. It's all too much about me and God, about God's great salvation for us. Those are good, important, and needed. But it must not stop there. We are terribly lacking in hymns and songs which address the theme which stands out in Mary's Song, how God's kingdom in Jesus impacts the kingdoms and evil of this world. And the film which came out the same year Scot's book here referred to came out, makes Mary more into the traditional Mary, who in the film seems quite overcome with the notion of bearing the Christ-Child, and hardly expectant as to what that bearing would mean.

May more songs like Rory Cooney's be written.

What might you like to share here?