Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the anointing

From chapter 1, "Joining Mary at the Feet of Jesus," in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Kings in the Ancient Near East were anointed with specially prepared fragrant olive oil. This set them apart. As Ann and Lois point out in their most helpful book, we see this in some passages in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament): Psalm 45:7-8; Song of Songs 3:6-7; 1 Kings 1:38-40.

The Mary who sat at the Lord's feet to drink in his words, is the one who anointed him with expensive perfume. Against the protests of his disciples who complain that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus says that it was a good deed by Mary, and the perfume meant to be used for the day of his burial. And along with that, as the authors of the book point out, it would have been obvious that this deed and the lingering fragrance on Jesus, would point to and underscore that Jesus was indeed a king. And could have lingered into the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, "the King of the Jews" (and indeed of the entire world).

We know by faith that Jesus is King, and Messiah, in Greek the Christ (transliteration from Greek: christos), the word "anointing" (chrisma) related to that word. This is not only personal, but meant for the entire world, and in every sphere. But it begins with us who are in Jesus the Christ. In Christ we have the anointing by the Spirit, meant to set us apart as Jesus' royal servants and brothers and sisters in him. It is a reality that is meant to help us point others to Jesus, and so that others might see something of Jesus in us, in how we live, in our deeds and words.

Ann and Lois point us to this passage which caps off well what is being said here:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16
This at least strongly suggests that our very presence as followers of Jesus, and because of Jesus marks us out. This "aroma" is tied to "the knowledge of [Christ] everywhere" we go. So this means to me that first and foremost we need to be out and about in the world, and mix with others, befriending them (and with no strings attached). We can't change them, but Jesus can. They will eventually catch a whiff of the aroma of Jesus on us, and the Spirit will help us to share our lives and faith with them.

What thoughts do you have on this which you'd like to share?

Next week, chapter 2: "Why a Jewish Rabbi?"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

grace at work

It is refreshing to see God's grace at work in a person's life. It's God's grace that brings us forgiveness in Jesus, and changes us, not our self-flagellation, or constant groaning over our sin. Grace at work means we take sin seriously, but that we also take God's forgiveness and transforming work in Christ just as seriously too.

God's grace at work in our lives is evident in so many ways. It is evident in a desire to really know and follow Jesus, better. It is evident when we're tired of the way we can be, and look to God for something better, a change of heart, a renewing of the mind.

Theology does impact Christians, and if one's theology doesn't reflect what Scripture is saying, it falls short. No theology is perfect of course. When Paul sees himself as the worst of sinners, and is marvelling over God's grace in his life, it's because of his past in persecuting those of Jesus, even to their death (insight from John Howard Yoder's, The Politics of Jesus). It isn't a theology of "I am a miserable wretched sinner, but inspite of me all the time, God's grace is at work." Sure, we're not sinless, but grace at work in our lives means we're to be followers of Jesus, and we're not to let sin have its way in our lives.

I am so thankful for God's grace at work, for seeing it in others, and for experiencing it together with other Christians in God's community in Jesus.

How do you see God's grace at work, or any other thoughts?

Tomorrow, we finish Chapter 1, "Joining Mary at the Feet of Jesus," in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. The anointing of the Messiah, the Christ, and we who are in Christ.

Monday, September 28, 2009

the unknown

On our journey in Jesus there is always the unknown and fear which we can wrestle with over that. It may not be over just the general unknown, since none of us know all that will happen today or tomorrow, much less the following year, or decade. But it can be over problems and trials that have come and hit us, and make us wonder what is next, imagining at times, the worst case scenario.

This is not to say that the worst case scenario such as a loss of job, or even death, will not overtake us. But it is to say that God is with us in Jesus to see us through, so that on the other side we come out looking more like Jesus.

That is so to the extent that we trust in God through Jesus, and hold on to God's promises. As God bound himself with an oath to Abraham which meant that if God didn't see his promise to Abraham through, a promise that to Abraham seemed less and less likely, then God would destroy himself. We can rely on God's trustworthiness, and that he will fulfill all his promises to us given in Scripture, through Jesus, as we simply commit ourselves to him.

Our faith may indeed be small, weak and wavering, but like a wobbly tire at the top of the hill as it begins to go down, becomes straight, steady and gains momentum, so God can help us to become strong and steady in our faith, even through the hard times. So that like Abraham of old, our faith will be a part of who we are, unshaken and unsettled by life's inevitable changes and trials.

This knowledge can help us face the unknown when we're not sure of what lies ahead. We need to put our faith in God through Christ, and commit our way to him, knowing that he is faithful and will see us through as we seek with others in Jesus to follow him.

What would you like to add to this?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ronald Sider on Jesus' gospel and messianic reign

Jesus' gospel includes the fact that the messianic reign has in fact began and there is now a reconciled and reconciling community whose visible life is a powerful sign of the kingdom that has already begun and will someday arrive in its fullness.
Ronald Sider, Good News and Good Works, 76, quoted by Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement, 117.

prayer for the fullness of God's grace

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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, September 26, 2009

enjoying the journey

There is no doubt that all human beings go through troubles in this life, some quite severe. Add to that for us in Jesus the trials that go with seeking to be a true follower of Jesus in this life. There's little escape from all of that, and we don't do well unless we're willing to walk through them with God who has promised to be with us in Jesus as our Help always and to the end.

But thankfully there is much to enjoy in the journey of life. In this part of the world autumn is beginning to set in, and with that we will see the change of colors of the leaves, and hopefully some good Indian summer days to come. We enjoy the companionship of our spouses or close friends, as well. I think we especially enjoy all of this, when we realize that it is a gift, and not to be taken for granted. We often don't know what we have until we have to do without it. But we need to appreciate these gifts while we have them, and not only with longing reflection for them, when they are no more.

So hopefully by God's grace we can see the good from him all around us, and with each other. And we can enjoy this well, in a way that is pleasing to God and to us. I love the prospect of another warm day, knowing that Winter will all too soon be on us. But even then I want to find the good, God's beauty and provision in this wonderful world he has made, and in the good gifts he continually gives us, big and little, and nearly everywhere we turn, even in this world.

What would you like to add here?

Friday, September 25, 2009


We all need sleep and though only some of us are morning people- me included, when we do come around we are renewed and refreshed. Sometimes we need a jolt in life to wake us up. Maybe waking us up to a need we have, or challenging us to grow in an area.

I shrink from being exposed, even if only to myself (at least in my mind), yet such exposure can bring new awakenings of both my own need and God's good provision for us in Jesus by the Spirit and in community (of his people) and for the world as a witness.

Of course God's word can awaken us as we meditate on it, and then pray to God concerning it. Life itself, as already intimated here, will do the same. We need to listen well to our lives and what God may be saying through them even to us, as Frederick Buechner, I believe has said. If we find something wrong we can bring it to God in prayer, and also look for God's voice to us through the word and life, including others, on it.

This does take an openness and indeed eagerness on our part to want to go on in Jesus and grow up in him, and not just by ourselves, but with others in Jesus, and for the world as a witness.

May I have the sensitivity to hear God in new areas of my life that need his redemptive touch, healing and transformation.

What would you like to add to this?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

we together in Jesus: God's dwelling

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:22

In context this is speaking of God's inclusion of the Gentiles or all other people, with the Jews because of Jesus' atoning work, through faith. Revolutionary in its day, most of us take this for granted now. Though we don't live out its implications all that well, it seems. We would do better by demonstrating to the world on Sundays that nationality and race are beside the point; that our unity is in Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit, one new humanity in Jesus.

What about those in Jesus with whom we either disagree or have had our differences with, sometimes to the point of separation? This happens, as we all know. We know in part and we have differing perspectives. Differences are bound to come, and sometimes they seem irreconcilable at the time. And maybe are.

This verse hit me yesterday. God is at work to dwell in all of us in Jesus, as his holy temple, where he lives by his Spirit. We are being built together to that end.

Though again this is simply speaking of the new humanity being built together consisting of all peoples, Jew and Gentile, I think ramifications include working through conflicts and differences. Each of us in Jesus are part of this holy dwelling of God. We need to remember that, and proceed from there when we think about making every effort to keep the unity given to us in Jesus, by the Spirit, through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4).

What would you like to add here?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

our "posture"

From chapter 1, "Joining Mary at the Feet of Jesus," in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

What kind of posture do we have in life? In other words what do we think about and what occupies our time in what we do? It could be any number of things. For Mary it was about "drinking in" the words of the Rabbi Jesus, as she sat at his feet. And as we learn in this book, it is listening together, as much as listening to Jesus in our own private times.

The authors begin to take us back into the first century world of Jesus. Much has opened up in the past century, and even recent decades about the setting in which Jesus lived. And for all the turmoil of that time including the Roman occupation, he lived in a devoutly Jewish setting. This can be helpful for us to better understand the gospels, and indeed with them the rest of the New Testament.

We don't help ourselves or our faith if we simply think the Old Testament is there with some good moral lessons for us, and to get us ready for the New Testament and new covenant. The new covenant in Jesus is indeed a fulfillment of the old covenant, and that fulfillment is essentially Jewish in nature. So that there is much in the old covenant that speaks to us as God's covenant people today. And we can learn from what the Jews learned over the centuries, since God gave to them his special revelation that they might bless all nations.

For me this book has been illuminating and helpful for my walk in Jesus. I can learn and benefit in a kind of direct way from what I read from the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament), and as a Christian, I see its meaning or goal realized in Jesus, as I read the gospels. And for me this means I need to adopt the posture of sitting at Jesus' feet, drinking in his words, and learning- so as to better follow him.

Here is a helpful study guide for the book written by Elisa Stanford. From it I take one question based on this chapter: If you were literally sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary, what is the first thing you would ask him?

What would you like to share with us on this, or any thoughts?

Next week we finish this chapter with another reflection from it on the anointing of the Messiah, the Christ, and we who are in Christ.

(Note that observations I make here are my own interaction from this book. Some of the thoughts are from the authors and some are my own.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

taking others seriously

There is a known epidemic in our nation of not taking others seriously. We see it on the cover of major news magazines, and hear it in the news media, both on television and radio. And we have a thoughtful, articulate president who wants us to engage in dialogue on issues, but he is effectively, or largely shut down, because that is largely not the culture of mainstream America.

We in Jesus know from Scripture that every person is made in God's image. Enough said already. That means everyone has inherent value and dignity, and deserves to be heard. Does that mean we buy anything or everything they say? Of course not. But it does mean that even when we do disagree we then seek to explain our own position and seek a response and dialogue.

In Jesus we are called to live out and proclaim a gospel ("good news"). And we must do so. But we must do so as those who are set and bent on blessing others. For us in Jesus that includes enemies. And everyone. And blessing is not cursing. Therefore we must avoid the plague that has swept our country of refusing to take others seriously. And just as important, we must consistently show a better way: the way of truth and love in Jesus. Including to those who put down others.

What would you like to add to this?

Tomorrow, Chapter 1, "Joining Mary at the Feet of Jesus," in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Monday, September 21, 2009

true pastors needed

These days we hear talk about how terrible it is to make a divide between God's people as in clergy and laity. I agree with that in large part. We're all members of the same Body who need each other, and we all have the same Spirit who gives to all for the benefit of all.

Just the same, in needing each other we must not discount the important place and role that pastors occupy. We need those in the church who have a shepherd's heart for the sheep. As shepherds under the Good and Great Shepherd, Jesus, we need those who hear God's call to feed and take care of the Lord's sheep, his people.

Yesterday at church my heart was hard and fearful. I couldn't get into worship, though I tried. I tried to listen well to the good message. Toward the end I realized we do have a pastor (and pastors, actually), and that I need to share my over-burdens with them. As soon as I realized that, the burden lifted and I was able to weep and be open to the Spirit. So I did seek one out later, and they gave me a good word of counsel and prayed for me.

I know the shepherd analogy has no direct connection with most of us in our experience; we understand it only from what we read and hear from others. But it's a powerful analogy that remains apt for us today, I believe, in helping us understand at least in part what is at the heart of being a good and true pastor.

What do you think, or what would you like to add here?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on rights trumping responsibility

The West has finally achieved the rights of man . . . but man's sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quoted by Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, 173.

prayer that we will hold on to what lasts forever

Grant us, Lord, not to anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things which are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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, September 19, 2009

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

Last evening Deb and I watched Beyond the Gates of Splendor. Named after Elisabeth Elliot's book, Through Gates of Splendor, wife of Jim Elliot, one of the missionaries who risked his life that others in Jesus might find true life.

In 1956, five American missionaries to Ecuador were brutally speared to death by a savage Stone Age tribe of Indians known as the Aucas. Two years later, the wife and sister of two of the murdered missionaries walked into the jungle to live with the same people who had murdered the men they loved. Today, the Aucas (now known as the Waodani) are a changed people. This is their story.

from the website of the movie
This is a wonderful film, largely a documentary talking to the actual people with shots of scenes of that time, including those from the camera which was discovered when the five bodies of the men were found. It is indeed a most powerful testimony of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform individuals, societies and systems of evil.

It is I think wisely rated "PG-13 for some violent content and thematic elements."

I remember one of the killers of the missionaries coming to RBC Ministries for a very special chapel with Steve Saint, son of one of those who perished, Nate Saint. What a wonderful chapel. The grandchildren of the fallen missionaries call him Grandpa; there is a bond of genuine love that shows clearly the power of the gospel of Christ to save sinners and bring true reconciliation to humans in their/our relationship to God and to each other.

Have you seen the film, or read the book?

Friday, September 18, 2009

letting anger go

Injustice as in God's righteous standard not being lived up to is part and parcel in this life. Of course we need to see God's righteous standard now in light of Jesus and the coming of God's kingdom in him, and the vision of shalom that this brings.

James informs us that we're to be slow to anger because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Human anger takes one aspect of reality, and our judgment of it, and makes it the all determining factor, when grace must be wed to truth so that we emphasize grace with the realization that we ourselves don't hold the entire truth, or anything that's true in its entirety.

If we harbor resentment, this will result in anger, and anger at least holds us back from expressing the love and truth in Jesus that God desires. But it often makes itself known in subtle and not so subtle ways which can be injurious to everyone. And violate the Jesus Creed.

If we don't let anger go it will increase, like a pot of water being heated on a stove. The steam will escape some way. And God will step in and rebuke us when we fail in this way. We shouldn't get this far, though at times we will. We need to be sensitive to pick up and accept God's rebuke and repent. We need to turn it over to God and let our anger go.

It is best if we could work through something entirely with one who we believe has mistreated us. Sometimes that's possible, but often it is not. Of course it's not like we're squeaky clean in the whole thing, as I pointed out in the post yesterday. But no matter what, we must turn over our perceptions and thoughts and all that is inside of us to God. And humble ourselves before God and let ourselves be humbled in the eyes of others even when we think it's not just, knowing that they don't know the worst about us. In time we will find ourselves walking in and with Jesus by the Spirit, if we persist in this way.

Any thoughts on this?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

working through issues

Conflict is a part of life, even among Christians. I remember Paul's words to Euodias and Syntyche. Most of the time everyone should be able to get along among us Christians. But there are times when there is either misunderstanding or wrong done in attitudes expressed in words. And both sides need to be aware that it's rarely if ever that one is entirely right and the other entirely wrong. And there needs to be no winner and loser. Both need to come clean with each other before the Lord at the foot of the cross.

I believe that if there is a problem between myself and another brother or sister, I need to go immediately or as soon as possible to them, to resolve it. When I do so I need to listen well to what they say and seek to be sensitive to where my attitudes and actions in word and deed may have contributed to the fallout. I also need to be in the attitude of not defending myself, but simply seeking to get to the truth and expressing it in love. Yet also be humble in knowing that we know in part, here; only God knows all.

We can't change others, nor can we change ourselves, though we are to cooperate in God's working in us through Christ. We must beware of the attitude that since I can't change someone I'll simply wash my hands clean of it, and try to avoid them. Instead we need to seek to be as Christ-like in love toward them as possible. Not condescending, either, but humbly accepting where we are wrong and are not as much like Jesus as we need to become.

Grace should reign among us as Christians. That means there has to be conflict resolution, and it should be done between the two parties who are in conflict with each other. If necessary it is good to bring in another party to help bring a resolution to the matter. We have to beware of harboring critical attitudes toward another. But that is where forgiveness comes into view. We've been forgiven in Jesus, and we need to extend the offer of forgiveness immediately to others- as well as our own repentance when needed, then we need to work through our attitudes so that we forgive each other from our hearts. The former needs to be done immediately, but the latter involves heart change and therefore a process we must be engaged in over time. Scot McKnight in his book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, has an excellent chapter on forgiveness, "Forgiving in Jesus."

What might you like to add to this? What have you found true in your own life in this?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

preview of study of book and keeping God's commands

Next week we begin a study of Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg's book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. We will take a chapter at a time each week, but may remain in a chapter more than one week, as I want to keep these posts as short as possible. We certainly can't cover every detail of the entire book.

What I like about this book is that it opens up for us a world that we little know and understand. At least a few of us have heard somewhere that there is now a scholarly consensus that the New Testament in our Bibles, including the gospels (Matthew through John), and Paul's writings along with the rest are basically and essentially Jewish to the core. The way we can best understand them is through the Jewish world they lived in, including the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) that they were steeped in.

What I also like about the book is its emphasis on putting the truth we learn from this and from Jesus from our minds to our hearts and feet (lives). This can help us not only appreciate the Old Testament anew and afresh, but better enter into the world of the New Testament and see it more clearly.

In going through 1 John recently (and this is evident in James as well, which I'm in now) one of the things that struck me (and is also evident in the gospel of John) is the emphasis on God's commands, and in the importance of keeping them. In our Christian heritage I have frankly found and still find that grace means to many that we're always going to fall short of keeping God's commands. Or at least that this should not be the focus of our lives, but rather of God's forgiveness to us in Christ and our hope of complete change in the life to come. Good, but Scripture holds up more for us in this life.

This thought to me is surely at least in part a byproduct of having read and reread this book about the Jewishness of our faith. Keeping/obeying God's commands is central to our existence as God's people in this world. It's not that we're going to do so perfectly, or that we will be sinless, but by God's Spirit we will be working out this salvation we have in Jesus with fear and trembling, from God's work in us.

Certainly command keeping as part of what is important for us in the life in Jesus will keep us humble, yet pursuing and pressing on to God's highest for us individually and together in Jesus and for our witness to the world.

Do you have a copy of this book? Even if you can't get access to one, please follow along in our study. I think it will be fun as well as challenging in a way that won't leave us the same afterwards as we encounter God through his word to us in Jesus.

What thoughts would you like to add here?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

a true encounter

A true encounter with God and God's word changes us. But it changes us in line with the truth in Jesus and in this world that is missional as well as relational, reflective of humankind made in the image of God and God as Trinity.

The kingdom of God suggests mission when you consider this world and the kingdoms of this world. For the life of me I'm not sure why, at least I think so, that we Christians are so enamored with nations and particularly so here in America, now the greatest of nations on earth. Being a part of the kingdom of God come in Jesus suggests that we are on mission to the world, even as we do submit to God's order in his use of the rulers, authorities and powers of this world.

But back to the main point. When we spend time in God's word it is certainly in a sense private and personal, but if it's a true encounter with God it becomes public and corporate, or relational. It relates to others, wanting to share with them the love of God that is in Jesus Christ.

The focus ends up being on God in Jesus, not on ourselves or on the other person. We seek to help others come into this Presence that is full of grace and truth. This ends up being an important part of what God wants for us, to become a natural part of who we are and what we do. Not always easy, but a part of our calling in this world in following Jesus. And will more and more naturally take place when we have a true encounter with God through his word.

What would you like to add to this? Or any thoughts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

the book (other than the Bible) that shaped me the most

Mom read us books as little children and the one she read the most and that I remember most vividly is Kenneth Taylor's The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes (the original of it, 1956- the year I was born). The pictures stood out to me and for me as a child were surely iconic, as the simplicity, clarity and power of the spoken word came through clearly for a child in Kenneth Taylor's (the author of the paraphrase The Living Bible) words, with simple questions at the end of each short entry.

This book surely was the most formidable of all books for me as a child in influencing and shaping my thought and formation, the fruit of it coming forth in my conversion years later. But before my conversion I rarely if ever doubted the truth of the simple gospel, or of the Bible. It's only now, as I look back on it, that I begin to understand just a little the profound impact this book, and my mother's faithful reading of it to us, had on me.

The picture of Jesus hanging on the cross always stood out to me. Also the first picture of the book- of God creating the heavens and the earth, along with a good many others. Each picture was quite important to us, and the words were kept simple and few, with good questions afterwards, just right for a child.

I have many good childhood memories, but this ranks among the best. My guess is that Mom often read several at a time. I can't remember exactly how I felt during such times, but I'm sure it was formational for me and to this day has an impact on what I do in more ways than I can understand. I think what it did tell me is that the Bible is both true and true to life. So that I carried that belief with me, even through my years of rebellion.

There are surely better books out there for children now in expressing the truth of God's word and God's kingdom come in Jesus. But surely there's no better book as to the format that was used and captured me as a child, preparing me for a love for God's word and the story in it, which continues on to this day.

Do you have any similar story? What book or books shaped you the most through your formidable years?

Thanks to Diane, of Emerging Quaker, who both brought up this question to her readers and then asked me to develop my thoughts further.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dietrich Dietrich Bonhoeffer on persevering in mediation on God's word

Above all, it is not necessary that we should have any unexpected, extraordinary experiences in meditation. This can happen, but if it does not, it is not a sign that the meditation period has been useless. Not only at the beginning, but repeatedly, there will be times when we feel a great spiritual dryness and apathy, an aversion, even an inability to meditate. We dare not be balked by such experiences. Above all, we must not allow them to keep us from adhering to our meditation period with great patience and fidelity.

....We must center our attention on the Word alone and leave consequences to its action.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 83-84

prayer for the Spirit's rule in our hearts

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, September 12, 2009

keep walking

This is a recurrent theme on my blog. It may have to do with finally settling in to a walk in God that is accepting of both where I'm at and however God is working in my life. Of course that all requires God's grace and help, as we most certainly can't do it on our own.

The Christian life is a walk with many turns and pitfalls. Of course it's likened to a race, as well. And a sojourn as strangers in the world, and as citizens of heaven. I like the metaphor of walk when thinking of the Christian life because it speaks so truly to life as it is.

God's word is called a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. And Jesus is the light of the world, in whose light we're to walk so that in Jesus we become, especially together, the light of the world. It is a walk in and through Jesus, following in the way of Jesus. In this world we are like him.

God's hand in Jesus is there to help us onto our feet when we stumble and fall. And then with a renewed dependence on God to keep on walking.

What would you like to add to this? What have you learned about this walk? Or anything you'd like to add.

Friday, September 11, 2009

the priority of unity in Jesus

There is nothing that honors God more when his people live together in unity. This is to be lived out in spite of our many differences, including how we think theologically and politically. If love doesn't prevail so that we not only get along with each other, but love one another, then something is wrong.

This means how we carry ourselves and share in areas of disagreement matters. Some Christians are sharp tongued; not that I can't be or haven't been. I can react in rather blunt fashion, which can end up doing more harm than good. We do need to speak truth in love, as we understand the truth. But we need to do so with much humility, remembering that we all know in part. And we need to avoid character attacks which seem to have become acceptable in our society, even among many Christians. Speak the truth in love and leave the judging to God, while holding on to discernment. I don't trust the words of those who attack others. I say that sadly. Not to say I don't trust any of their words, or even many of them. But that is a fault to be repented of and uprooted.

Yesterday it was so wonderful to see unity lived out on our team. To see those who haven't always seen eye to eye work well together with each other, I being one of those parties. And I felt that God's blessing was on us as a team, that God smiled on us with an extraordinary good day in getting needed work done.

What about you? What place does unity in Jesus have in your eyes, and how do you think God looks at it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

following Jesus in his way

It's one thing to teach correctly, but it's quite another thing to live it out over time. Jesus' words to his disciples were powerful, penetrating, and life changing. But without Jesus' life, they would have made no difference at all. His disciples remembered his words, but it was more than just words they needed to learn from the Master. This is a remarkable posting (and if you have some extra time, read the links) from Lois Tverberg, whose book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, we're going to start an interactive study from, Wednesday, September 22. An excellent book with life changing truth. So I'd encourage you to get hold of a copy of Lois' book.

Living is a way of life. Of course that would seem to go without saying. There are many ways, however. The Jesus way is one we can learn from others. But we must pick up something of their spirit, something that maybe we are hard pressed to explain or describe, but that is real, nonetheless. We must live out by faith the Jesus life, so that others might see and follow Jesus. This doesn't mean we can ever think we've arrived. Though we may be trying to live this out before others, we need to find those we can watch, at least knowing that we're to ever grow toward maturity in Christ. And we're to do this together. So that we can appreciate seeing Jesus even in a young convert who is still an infant, feeding on the milk of the word.

What would you like to say about passing on the Jesus life to others?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

knowing and doing

Leo Tolstoy is known for some of the greatest writing ever, and for his powerful words on the kingdom of God and the difference that can make on this earth, and in this life. The problem is that he didn't live it out well, by some accounts. He and his wife lived in a love-hate (and maybe hate should be put in bold, or capitalized letters) relationship. (I learned this from this book)

We in Jesus know more than we do, or practice. As we go along in our lives, hopefully the gap is narrowing. I can look at my life and see how in some ways that certainly is true. The one who built his house on the rock in Jesus' story, not only heard his teachings, but based his life on them.

But is there value in someone's words, like Tolstoy's, even though it seems he didn't come close to living up to them? I think there is. He saw something in Jesus that was beautiful and true. Something that hopefully beckoned him on, and that most certainly helped him see that the answer is not in anything this world has to offer. A part of the hope in Jesus we have, as we pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

What do you think on this?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

meeting with God

Devotions is something evangelicals are known for, not that that many of us practice it. It's called "personal devotions," and is a time when one gets into Scripture, a passage in God's word, and prays. It is normally done in quiet, and so is also called "my quiet time." Many use a booklet such as Our Daily Bread (I work where this is written, and made, and know some of the writers).

I think some such practice can be helpful if it's a time of one seeking to come near to God, and hear God's voice so as to follow. If one wants some sort of mystical experience or encounter with God, then it will likely be unfruitful over the long haul, because it would be beneficial only as part of one's walk of faith, and devotion to God. If practiced it should become precious and important as a chief priority, because one is seeking to be close to God. And Jesus who is our example often got up mornings, early, to meet with the Father.

If I had been raised in a denomination that used liturgical prayer, I would be prone to want to use a prayer book for such times on a regular basis- and even though not, I do want to. There are advantages to that, and it does get one into Scripture, as well. One ends up praying the same prayers others have. We need both our own words, and the words of others who have come up with helpful, Scriptural ways of praying. Those words in time are helpful in that they can become our own words to God, praying those same words with other believers who use the same book.

But if from these practices we expect something dramatic in and out from our lives, we won't keep it up. It's rather a question of priority, as we seek to live close to the person of God, and be open to God at all times. Not comfortable oftentimes, but for those who really practice this, they will more and more become settled in it as a part of them. And as part of their life in God through Christ.

Two caveats here. First, I myself haven't practiced any kind of personal devotions for years. And even when I did, it was probably not kept up consistently. Or was done rather poorly, perhaps legalistically as in just doing something with little heart in it, and being done with it. I failed to see the value in it. Not to say I haven't had special times of drawing near to God. And we must beware of a spirituality that is all about us and God. We will hear God's voice in part only through others. God chooses it that way, because God, who as Trinity is community, values community among us.

We need to be those who are daily seeking to draw near and devote ourselves to God, no matter how we do it. The word of God and prayer are important for this, and good use of a prayer book can help. I speak as one who seeks to do it throughout the day, and in the course of a day. But I'm beginning to see the value of having those special times, along with that.

How about any reader here? What would you like to share from your own life on this? Or any thoughts.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Scot McKnight on what is coming next for the church

On these two videos, I found Scot McKnight's words quite interesting, and particularly toward the end of the last video. In answer to a question he mentioned how the trend in churches he guesses, will be a democratization, with "lay people" being much more involved in ministry and decision making. But then he added that after a time people will become burned out with all the responsibility and difficulties that come with that, and that there will be a return to trust in church leadership, as the people continue to focus on the callings they have within that. He also mentioned that the church has worked in much the same way over the centuries, with trust in their leadership.

I found that helpful, and even refreshing. Maybe it's partly my age, but I am content to let the leaders lead, and especially those in pastor/elder positions. We each have our work to do. While it's good for all to have their say, I don't think a church should be led by a strict congregational democratic process. Of course wise leadership will want to take into account what the congregation thinks, or where they are in their faith and understanding. I am leary, however, of a one man (or woman, for that matter) pastoral rule. So that what one leader says, goes. There ought to be a multiplicity of leaders, at least two or three elders.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

quote: William Shakespeare on what God's people do

Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray...
Shakespeare, Richard III, Act 4.4, line 75, from Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, 115

prayer to trust God and his mercy

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Paying attention to the news is complex since reporting is always subjective, even when trying not to be. What is reported and left out, and how people on a given issue may differ, all these play out and are heard differently by each of us.

I agree with John R.W. Stott that Christians need to be both in God's word/Scripture, and in God's world, which includes the news. It is important that we try to get some idea of what's going on, and who is thinking what. We do well to listen well to others. But in all of this we need to be those who are in the word and prayer, so that we can have discernment. And we must be humble in all of this, because Christians of equal conviction and learning are often going to disagree on key issues. Though the ninety-nine percent we do agree on can all but get lost in the shuffle over the one percent we don't agree on.

What is crucial as we take in the news is the paradigm out of which we are evaluating it. The question we need to ask ourselves is: Just how Biblical is my paradigm? Do we see all in light of the kingdom of God come in Jesus, in terms of the gospel of God's reconciling grace in Jesus, and according to the God who is love and has sent his Son in love for the world? Or do lesser factors determine much of our thinking in regard to this? Though some such factors do have some value. We have to weigh all of that in the light of Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit, not only by ourselves, but from others who will help us see more than we could see on our own.

We don't want to get drowned over much news. Some will want to take in more than others, of course. And we need to be those who are steady in God's word, and endeavoring to walk truer and truer in the truth as it is in Jesus. So that in Jesus by grace we can be more and more a part of God's work in this world.

What do you think of the news? Does it get you down? How do you evaluate it? Or do you simply avoid it? Is that good? Why or why not?

Friday, September 04, 2009

moving through life

It's good to get a little taste of heaven. I did yesterday in what turned out to be preparation for me in receiving bad news, but news we'll work through. It was one of those unusual (I wish I didn't have to say that) days for me, when God's Presence was persistent and clear.

Now to live in that Presence all the time, and be changed by God more and more into the image of Jesus. That is what I want. And in that changing is a calling that is challenging. It involves faith, hope and love to the end. And it's marked by following the way of Jesus in this life as God's resurrection people, the way of the cross. And really caring about not just our own lives with God, but for our neighbors and beyond.

I'm grateful that confession to God means forgiveness and that we can go on, cleansed with a new start. And that God will be with us in Jesus by the Spirit to the end. That we can bear witness by our lives and words of all God's faithfulness to us through Jesus.

What might you like to add to this?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

redemptive critique

Right now in my listening of Scripture I'm in Jeremiah, one of my favorite books, but a difficult one, indeed. It is full of judgment over the people's sin. Yet it is redemptive. God's ultimate end for his people, in spite of all the judgment is redemptive, giving them a future and a hope.

I must say that when I hear some Christians, I'm wondering just how redemptive the critique is.

A critique is redemptive when it lovingly and faithfully points out the sins which need to be repented of. This is loud and clear in Scripture. But it is not a critique which tries to find something wrong somewhere, or is prone to think the worst. That critique can be more like the devil's, one of accusation and of being an adversary rather than an advocate for the sinning person.

God in Jesus comes alongside those who are sinning, offers his hand, lifts them up, then tells them, "Go, and sin no more."

I believe we should seek to find the best in people, not the worst. And that we should be faithful in how we live, and what we say as in testimony and teaching. God alone can convict sinners, and bring the dirt out of their lives to save them. We also must be very careful what we say about God's children. They may be in error, and in sin, but they are in God's image, and well could be his children in Jesus, part of our family.

I'm thankful God's critique is redemptive, because if it were not, there would be no hope for any of us. But in Jesus there is always hope for everyone of us. As we seek to live in the grace and truth that is in Jesus our Lord.

What would you like to add to this?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

knowing our weaknesses

As we go through life, we become all too aware of certain weaknesses we have. "Besetting sins" is the old word, taken from Hebrews 12. It probably is referring to sin in general in that passsage. To understand our problem- indeed our sin- is important, if we're to confess it to God, and find God's deliverance for us from it.

For me one problem has been to overreact. I'm so thankful that I understand this well, and that overreacting is much weaker in me now. Just the same I have to be on my guard to avoid overreacting when bad news or discouraging thoughts come.

For all of us accountability is important, and especially so for anyone caught in sinful addictive behaviors. All the time God is working to break us free from anything big or little which we run to for our god to give us pleasure, soothe us, help us make it through the day. I'd be wary of calling cigarette smoking or the like a sin, though it certainly soon becomes a physical addiction. Aren't we all thankful, too, for God's ongoing grace in our lives!

It's wonderful to know that someday we in Jesus will be completely conformed to his image. And it is also wonderful to know that we're in the process of being so conformed, here and now.

What thoughts from your own life would you like to add here? Or what would you like to say?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

continuing on in Jesus

In this 1 John 2 passage, we are told that we are taught by God to abide or remain in Christ. And that if we continue in him, when he appears we won't shrink back or be ashamed at his coming (same Greek word, each of the italics).

There are so many things that hit us day by day, some hard, others not so, but maybe subtly so, to get us off track from continuing on in Jesus. But our only hope is to remain and abide in him. To be at home with him more and more. Not just by ourselves, but with others in Jesus, and not just for ourselves, or just for them, but for the world. We need to keep all of this together in our perspective, and as to what we're all about.

Continuing on in Jesus is vital for ourselves, but also for others. We need to not waver, and when we do waver, to simply endeavor to carry on in Jesus. We can be sure this will be tested time and time again, and that such testing surely won't end in this life. But we need to make such testings occasions to bind us closer in our weakness to Christ. To make us more dependent on him.

We don't know what a day may bring forth, but we want to be those who continue on in Jesus, no matter what. So that God will have his way in our lives, together, and for the world.

What might you like to add to this?