Tuesday, March 31, 2009

being open to correction

Correction is needed, and for many of us as evangelical Christians, it has been largely, strictly a personal matter between us and God. After all, correction is one reason Scripture is given, in helping us to true Christian, spiritual formation.

But we need to be open to seeing how God uses the Body of Christ, that is other believers, to help us see deficiencies in ourselves. This happened for me, this past Sunday. I was taking a different slant on a case study we were thinking through with reference to the first part of Ephesians 4. Though Deb agreed (and at least another), that I had a valid point, I came to realize that my frustration over my point really not being heard or taken into account much at all, by the teacher (at least to my ears) was an indicator that something was wrong with me. At least a yellow light went on. And I realized that the subject matter we were on, was touching an issue that had troubled me over the years, in a way that could blunt my awareness of sin in my own attitude. I know this is nebulous, but I'm not sure that if I get specific it will be that helpful to getting this point across, as I will then be opening a new subject matter altogether (maybe for another time).

I was struggling, thinking this through as we went home. I had to hurry around to get ready for going to a nursing home to do a service, rushing to get some things down, as I had finally settled on what I was going to preach on, as well as tuning my guitar and getting some hymns down. Deb's prayers surely made a wonderful difference, as the service seemed to be a truly uplifting time for everyone, and most surely for myself.

But God in his grace gave me time to reflect on what had happened that morning at our church gathering. Indeed I need to gladly embrace all that might expose anything in my heart that is not according to God's will. And in my case it was getting over past grievances, and hardness in regard to them. Not that I'm arrived in that now, but it has become open to my awareness, so that it's no longer hidden somewhere in the dark, but in the light of God's truth so that it can be dealt with.

This is just to say we need to be open to correction and change especially when we take offense to something. Maybe, just maybe we need to stop and look and listen again. And be open to the fact that God might be saying something to us, for our own benefit.

What would you like to add to this?

Monday, March 30, 2009

God's kingdom now

Saturday's post on violence is a simple reminder that whether or not we agree on Christian pacifism, we are different in this world, as the people of God following Jesus.

Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom did not come from this world, though it most certainly had invaded this world. The kingdom of God came in the person of Jesus the Messiah and King. And it remains here, not only in the words of Jesus we have from the gospels, such as in The Sermon on the Mount. Living words to be sure, that can come home to the heart and begin to be at work in our lives, by the Spirit. But this kingdom is also present and living through the Spirit in the church. Though since this is a half way kind of station and place, in which we sinners are forgiven and being healed and transformed over time, it's not like the world is going to see a picture of exactly how the kingdom of God will have transformed all things in the end. Instead what is seen is the kingdom of God at work in and through the church. That is the way it's supposed to be.

Jesus said to his followers that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They most certainly had not "arrived," but grace was at work in their lives, and they were to both live out and tell others of this good news of God's salvation having come in Jesus. Of course that is a message of repentance and faith involving commitment. And being taken up by God into a new reality in Jesus by the Spirit. One that we should not underestimate, humble though it may seem.

What would you like to add to this?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

quote of the week: Scot McKnight on the Golden Rule

I used to think the Golden Rule was pablum, food for a child. I also thought that when I grew up spiritually, I'd put away pablum and eat meat. The older I get, the more experience I have in the church and with Christians, and the longer I seek to follow the Jesus Creed as developed in the Sermon on the Mount, the more the Golden Rule looks like the real meat and the supposed deep things look like commentary on the Golden Rule.
Scot McKnight, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, 109.

prayer for the week: for grace to remain fixed on God and God's will

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ 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, March 28, 2009


I hold to a Christian pacifist position, that is that followers of Jesus are to be people who follow in the steps of Jesus who taught us to love our enemies, and when hit on one cheek to turn the other.

Jim Elliot is often touted by Christians as a great example, but it is little known that he embraced a Christian pacifist stance, and was going to file as a "conscientious objector," if a draft was put in place.

I have been well reminded lately that the power we have as Christians is neither in the ballot box nor by the sword, but by the word of God. Not to say we don't vote, or that many Christians don't take up "the sword" as police officers, or in the military, though I don't accept the latter option. But to say that we are to be people who live out and speak the word of God, the revelation of God that is in Jesus.

This is a word that speaks against the ways of this world, the way of violence, and instead is about taking the way of the cross. As Christians, regardless of where we stand in what ways Christians can participate in society, and specifically in the state, we ought to be known as people who are followers of the Way, in the sense of being known as working for peace in terms of righteousness, which can only be realized through the message of Jesus- the gospel: Jesus' redemptive work for us, in his life, death and resurrection which we will soon remember and celebrate.

How this is lived out can be misunderstood. Some think it means we have to let ourselves be rugs for others to walk on. But that is a misreading of Scripture, and misunderstanding of what Jesus brought and continues to bring through the Spirit in the church. We must be bold, but with a boldness that is of God's Spirit, not of the flesh; not of this world, but of the kingdom of God come in Jesus.

Just a few thoughts on this. A subject I've blogged about before, but has been in my mind some lately. What would you like to add to this? What objections might you raise to what I'm saying here?

Friday, March 27, 2009

being happy

Recently Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed had an interesting post on happiness, and a kind of happiness index on which the Netherlands came out near the top, having one of the most happy people, supposedly, in the world. And that nation just happens to be one of the least religious. The post and comments are good.

Of course while the world might get quite a few things right about what it means to be happy, other matters are not taken into account. And the Christian belief does not at all mean that nonChristians will live unhappy lives. God's blessings are poured out on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, and in common grace, God fills people's lives with good things, and hearts with joy. The goodness of God is meant to bring people to repentance.

Add to that, the Christian message is about a cross and following the One who was nailed to the cross. We're called to the same existence in this life. It's to be a life of joy in the Spirit, a blessed life in communion with God and others in Jesus. But not a life assured of safety from troubles, even famine, destitution, persecution and death. The promise is of a blessed life in God's love through Jesus.

We live in the midst of good news, a news we're to live out and share with others. But people must have a sense that this good news is about something they need, and this is where trouble comes since people can be offended. And there is the devil who is at war against God's people.

Most every day I experience happiness of one sort or another. But I can also experience a darkness manifest in different ways, and I can realize that I am to live out a life of faith in that darkness. That part is neither easy, nor happy, but I find time and time again, as I continue on in faith, I find God's blessedness going through it, and even by it.

I just noticed in finding Scot's post linked above, that it was not just about being happy, but being moral. Of course that's a part of God's image still on humanity, and from which in part God makes the appeal to us on how we should live as humans created in God's image, and to help us see how we do need a Savior. But we can leave that part for perhaps another time.

What thoughts would you like to share on this?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

head scratchers

When listenting this morning to the account about the 200 men who were too exhausted to pursue the rescue of their own wives and children, along with the other 400 men and David, I have to admit (and maybe this is the first time after going over this passage many times before), it was a bit of a head scratcher for me. I'd have to be practically dead to not be on my way, especially after the Lord had promised David that they would overtake the raiding party and rescue their loved ones.

Sometimes the critics of Scripture (and there are growing militants of that in Western society today) will call attention to passages like this one, in their disdain for Scripture and faith in God. But on the other hand, in Scripture, there is a refreshing realism in the stories, David's included, which as in Abraham Lincoln's portrait, includes "warts and all," just as Lincoln insisted.

I have experienced depression, and knowing how distraught the men were, how they were weeping and even suggesting treason by stoning David to death- I can understand why they might want to catch a cat nap, but why the others would refuse to wait, even for a half an hour. Of course I'm using my imagination here, and the text doesn't fill in the details, but we do need to see these as real life stories (not using "story" here as in the sense of myth, but in the sense of a special telling of events which happened).

The Lord gave special faith to David, and through him to many of the other men, I take it, during this crisis. And I would think the grace of humility to those who found themselves unbelievably exhausted. I could see myself in this portrait in more than one place. Maybe looking down on my brothers who didn't do whatever necessary to keep themselves going, and shaking my head literally over that. Or on the other hand, seeing myself as so completely exhausted, so completely spent over the deep depression, maybe even flagging in my faith, though one would think there was a renewed hope through the Lord's word given to David- I could see myself with others asking for a brief rest, maybe suggesting we'd be better off if we did.

I like what David did in insisting that the men who went and those left behind would share equally in the plunder, David making that a statute for Israel. Grace is needed all around. It's an attitude of needing each other, and not judging another, while exercising discernment, which I believe David did well at that point.

Good to think through, and especially to see ourselves in Scripture. And in all of that, to see our God and his ongoing Story at work in our lives and in this world through Jesus.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

no condemnation

We are told that for us in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. This is because Jesus took our just condemnation on himself when he died on the cross for our sins. So that we can go away, free from guilt by the forgiveness of our sins, and free to live a new life in Jesus by the Spirit. It's interesting how this passage ties the new life we're to live out by the Spirit along with Christ's death for us. Yes, in Jesus we're no longer condemned, but we're to live out that life of no condemnation.

Over my life, even as a Christian, I've experienced many days in which I've felt condemnation. I've learned not to accept that so that those days have become less and less. I do have days in which the Lord is dealing with me in loving discipline. There is a big difference. We in Jesus must reject all condemnation, even if there is truth in the accusations to our hearts. Instead we must learn to rest in God, and seek the justification through Christ, which brings us peace no matter what.

I am glad God deals with me as one of God's children. So I don't accept the feeling of condemnation, even when I can't shake it. I simply seek to rest in God, and in the truth I find in God through faith in Jesus. The Spirit brings conviction to us, but not condemnation. A conviction over sin which helps us one step at a time deal with it in accepting God's forgiveness, making a clean break of it, while making appropriate restitution. Or, as in many times in my life, calling Satan's bluff, and standing on the truth that my sin is forgiven.

One other thing: Condemnation is on us and usually is hazy, whereas God's conviction on us is over our sin and is specific. And condemnation results in or would push us toward death, while conviction helps us find forgiveness and life in Jesus.

What thoughts on this would you like to add here?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

excuse making

Related to the post on repentance, yesterday, I think we humans, and in particular we Christians can be very good, and creative at making excuses for either not doing what we should do, or doing what we shouldn't do.

Yesterday I was quite tired at work, and part of the time for me, the work was hectic. Even when not, I really felt out of sorts, being as tired as I was from having finished a project the night before, too long into the wee morning hours.

Then I remembered how Paul mentioned his sleepless nights. I remembered too how I don't believe in coddling myself or indulging in self-pity. As I worked through that the Lord seemed to help me, and I began to pray for others. And the Lord seemed to give me peace and a conscious sense of his help much of the rest of the day.

I got home, had a nice visit with Deb, ate while we watched the news, was reading a book before enough was enough, and I was sound asleep for a few hours. I know we have to have a balance in taking care of ourselves, and how not getting enough sleep can make us more susceptible to feeling bad. As humans we must have sufficient sleep.

Just the same, I think we're good at making excuses for sin. Sometimes bad theology or unsound and at least questionable interpretation of Scripture helps us excuse ourselves, as well.

The call here is simply to remind us that while we can't follow Christ on our own, and are in need of grace at every turn and in every moment, we need to learn to cast excuse making aside. We need to recognize it for what it is, a lack of faith in God and in God's word in Jesus.

Maybe this thought can help me uncover other areas of my life which need addressed. Of course we need our Guide, the Spirit. We can't do it ourselves. And we need to do so as those humbly in community with God's people. With the goal toward mission and fulfilling of our calling through Jesus our Lord.

What would you like to add to this?

Monday, March 23, 2009

repentance that matters

According to Byard "repentance is a vanishing concept today, even in the church." We have mentioned something of this before, but what stood out to me yesterday, as we worked through some news paper articles for discussion on this is the truth that "the person repenting must have a firm purpose and a definitely expressed resolution immediately to break with this specific sin ('I have hated my iniquity')."

Byard talked at some length of how we can have deep emotions and sorrow over our sin, yet fall short of true, biblical repentance. And words spoken, or not spoken do matter. We looked at cases where the person made excuses, shifting the blame on someone else for the wrong they had done. Another expressed concern over the way their open sin was handled, while church leaders called on others not to judge.

So we're reminded that when we do sin against another we need to take full responsibility without excuses. And we need to express a resolve to not do the sin any longer, and to change. Of course grace is needed, but it's offered to all from God through Jesus Christ. And the church is called to hold sinners accountable for their sins.

This kind of teaching is needed. And as we hear it, it helps promote godliness in us all. While we examine our own lives and seek to prayerfully call those who have fallen into sin, to true repentance.

What would you like to share on this?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

quote of the week: Bonhoeffer on intercessory prayer

There is no dislike, no personal tension, no estrangement that cannot be overcome by intercession as far as our side of it is concerned. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day. The struggle we undergo with our brother in intercession may be a hard one, but that struggle has the promise that it will gain its goal.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 86.

prayer for the week: for the Bread of life

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

from Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Something I long for, but seem to too rarely experience is communion with other people. I would define communion as being in fellowship with others on a level that touches the deepest and most significant part of who we are.

On some important human levels we can have communion potentially with any other human being. And that's important, and not something we should despise. We are all made in God's image, even though broken or cracked through sin. We have much in common with others.

But what I'm thinking of today is the communion we're to have among those of us who are "in Christ": in union with God through Christ by the Spirit. Having a common purpose as Christ's Body in this world.

I do enjoy the communion I have daily with my wife, Deb. We share as those who are one flesh. So we can share with each other what is in our hearts and thoughts, and just be together in loving companionship and communion. Learning to see and let our differences complement rather than divide each other. And blessed in that we are also one in Christ.

I also enjoy the communion I find weekly at our church gathering. All kinds of people gather, with all kinds of differences. Some of those differences that can be, and in this world are divisive by nature. Yet we are one and in communion because of Christ. The Spirit in love brings us together, and we find the basis of our fellowship to outweigh any and all such differences.

Communion with God through Christ by the Spirit is what I long for more of. And this includes communion with God's people. We remember this monthly, and for those who want to, weekly at our church gathering, as we gather around bread and "wine", in remembering and proclaiming the Lord's death by our participation together, of this "meal." This ends up being not only a personal matter between ourselves and God, but a matter between each other. Indeed this practice is called "communion" for good reason. As we recognize and acknowledge the Body of our Lord in both the elements used, and in our union together in Christ by the Spirit.

We were made to live in communion with God and with each other. Nothing less will satisfy us. And by the Spirit through Jesus we need to learn more and more about our life together in God. Being taken up into the love life communion of the Trinity, as participants by grace in that.

What other words might you like to share on communion? Or whatever else you might like to say here.

Friday, March 20, 2009


In Scripture we read in Joshua of certain things devoted to destruction. They were under God's judgment and sentence. Yet Achan sinned in regard to those things, taking some of them for himself.

I wonder what we take that is banned from us. Things that are under God's judgment. Of course there's a whole host of obvious things. And this gets into the area of addictions.

But what can end up being just as draining on us are more subtle areas, yet also addictive. This is where we need the direction of God, the guidance of the Spirit, in accordance with the word- in Jesus. We need by grace to set our hearts on truly following God through Christ.

While to say no to some things is obvious, other areas are harder to negotiate. God knows our hearts and we do well to keep asking God to search us to uncover anything wrong in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. To be led in that way is important in helping us avoid what is banned from us.

What would you like to add to this?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

when afraid

The fear factor is a plague which can hit us in any number of ways in this life and world. It is a major tactic of choice by the enemy. One that can come on me in a moment seemingly out of nowhere. FDR for good reason said that we have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Though of course that was only true in context of what FDR was talking about. By itself it's really not true.

But for good reason there is no command more frequent in Scripture than the command, "Be not afraid." Over and over again we need those words to our hearts and minds. That is why we need to keep going over and over, time and again all of Scripture. It's all there for a reason, even if we can't figure out why, for everything we find there. But it's a story, the Story of God. A story that is ongoing and for us to keep living out now, in Jesus.

What do you do when you're afraid? Of course we should pray. We should turn to God anew and afresh. Reading God's word, and committing ourselves to follow God through Jesus by the Spirit and in community with others who so follow, all this in mission to the world.

One thing I do besides is get busy. For me that can mean any kind of work. But especially reading. I set myself to read and learn, or just breathe in a part of life from a writer. Though most of what I read is theological and exegetical, apart from a special interest I might have in something. This seems to help me. Though I would emphasize what helps me the most is to read God's word in a prayerful, pondering way (or keep listening to it, as I do also daily).

Talk over your fears with your spouse, significant other, or a good friend. That too can help, as they listen, maybe share some thoughts they might have, and pray for you. I again appreciate my wife in this regard.

We need God's help to get a better perspective, and above all, faith. Faith of course involves a better perspective which can enable us to rise above our fears. But I have often found I can't wait for such faith, or an escape from my fear. I just have to move on in faith, in spite of the fact that I am afraid, or feel lost. That is a major way I overcome my fears.

What would you like to share on this which might be helpful for us? Or anything?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

life is more than work

My father taught me to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work, and I don't deny it. I'd rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh - anything but work.
Abraham Lincoln (from Al Gini, The Importance of Being Lazy, 15 quoted by Scot McKnight, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, 101-102).

While in Ecclesiastes we're told that God can give us enjoyment in our work, and in all of life, received as a gift from God's hand, nevertheless, I think these are words we need to hear, particulary in busy, businesslike American society.

As Scot McKnight says in the book mentioned above, we're not to be centered in our work. Our lives are not to revolve around it. Not that we're not to work hard, and sometimes have to do so for long periods of time.

Our work should be one expression of our endeavor to be centered on "God and God's ways" (McKnight, 104). And we need, somehow by grace, to find pleasure in our work. Not that that is always possible. But by God's grace and gift we can find such pleasure. As we endeavor to do it as an expression of love for God and for others.

And one of the blessings of work is the rest and relaxation which follows. Add to this that we should do what we enjoy doing. And this should include loving God with all our strength. Because toilsome labor in and of itself is not normally desirable. We need to keep who and what we are to be centered on, in Jesus, in view.

What would you like to add to these thoughts?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the faith of St. Patrick

Speaking of evangelists, today is St. Patrick's Day, of course, and Patrick was an evangelist. In fact he engaged in the kind of evangelism which took most seriously all of life, not only one's soul and God (though it certainly did include that). Patrick evangelized Ireland late in life for a number of years. We have St. Patrick's Breastplate from this Christian tradition (click "About Patrick of Ireland" here). This is a wonderful book on Patrick's evangelizing and how it can help us evangelize today.

I love what I understand of Celtic Christianity which flourished for some centuries after Patrick. It sees all of life as a gift from God. And it's essentially God-centered, centered in the Trinity. Patrick used a shamrock to explain the teaching of God as Trinity. Yesterday I was listening to John Michael Talbot's album, The God of Life, its words from that tradition. Wonderful.

So today I do have some green on. I thank God for the faith of Patrick of Ireland.

What would you like to add to this?

Monday, March 16, 2009

prayer support

I remember a flaming evangelist of a Mennonite denomination who preached at our church when I was a young man some years ago. He stated that he wanted to go to New Mexico to share the gospel with Indians there. But that he did not, because he did not believe he'd have the prayer support he needed. I found that interesting, and one of those words I won't forget.

I have a wife in Deb who regularly gets on her knees beside our bed and prays for me when I have something to do or get done ministry-wise. I find this makes all the difference in the world. It's like the story of the woodpecker, pecking away on the pole. Lightening strikes the pole and it is broken, and the woodpecker takes a bow (something like that). God answers prayer and all we can do is recognize that, and thank him.

I have often gone off to ministry feeling anything but wanting to do what I needed to do, though I've learned long ago not to be moved by my feelings or lack of them. And I've seen what a difference Deb's faithfulness in praying for me has meant. Of course it works the other way as well. I need to be lifting her up in prayers, for God's blessing on and through her.

In the church we are to be praying for each other, and for God's servants in ministry. This is no less than a spiritual effort, but we often want to fight a spiritual battle with "sticks and stones." But ongoing prayer in the Spirit is what's needed.

I'm thankful to God for my wife, for her example, and for her practice. And together hopefully we'll grow in praying. And see God move mountains to impact the lives of others for profound good, by the Spirit through Jesus who himself faithfully intercedes in prayer for us.

What would you like to share on this?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

quote for the week: Thomas Merton on prayer

We do not want to be beginners [at prayer]. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!

Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, 37 from Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? 267

prayer for the week: for protection

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus 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, March 14, 2009

your mind matters

John R.W. Stott, one of my favorite authors from years past once wrote a small, helpful book entitled, Your Mind Matters. I think that thinking Christianity is one of the biggest needs and challenges for our day.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. No one needs a degree to hear, accept and share it with others. In fact God chooses those of low esteem in the world's eyes, both in becoming followers of God through Christ, and helping others to come to do so themselves.

But just as this post indicates, Scripture mirrors life in complexity. We don't do well not to work at learning to think well, and in dialogue with others. Indeed Jesus calls us to love God not just with all of our hearts, soul and strength, but likewise with all our minds.

Back to a balance, I don't think we're just minds. We're whole people, and life is more than just figuring out what we need to do. Revelation is not just in terms of mind, but it involves experience and relationships. So this post is not a call for everyone to sit in a chair and read much of the time. Though some of us will do that (or try to). We're all gifted differently.

But this is a post to call us back to loving God with our minds. Learning to think well in reference to God's kingdom revealed and present in Jesus by the Spirit in the community of the church. And the new reality in Jesus that is touching earth in transformative ways now, eventually to make all things new.

Again another meandering post. But just some food for thought. As we seek to live out of a deepened communion with God as members of Christ in this world.

What thought would you like to add here?

Friday, March 13, 2009

a taste of heaven

I find it wonderful when in conversation with someone as with my mother yesterday on her birthday, there is in the air something like a taste of heaven. This happens among us in Jesus when we enjoy each other's company, and especially so when we're together to meet before the Lord. Of course by grace and through the Spirit we're always living in God's presence.

Sadly in this life we can experience a taste of hell, as well. I think of sins of the tongue here. Of course both the good and the bad begin in the heart. We think unworthy thoughts of others, maybe with some truth in them though surely distorted. And sooner or later if we don't deal with such thoughts through repentance and prayer, we find ourselves acting and speaking from them.

The grace found in Jesus is what can make the difference here. It is a grace which by faith realizes that in Christ our own sins have been forgiven, and God therefore deals with us in love as God's dear children. And so we are to see others in Jesus in the same way, as those of our family in Jesus. And look at those outside of Jesus as ones for whom Christ died. And who are invited through Christ to join us.

What would you like to say about this?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

caught up in

What are we caught up in?

There's just a multitude of things we can be caught up in, taken up with, living for. I am not referring to what we might call subsets of what is most important, such as caring for our families, or doing our job well. But what drives us, what motivates us in life.

Again, it's the Jesus Creed which should motivate our lives, by grace, in Jesus through the Spirit. Loving God and loving others as ourselves.

May God bring us back to this again and again each day, day after day, as long as we have breath in this life. That we might be caught up together in God's will for us in Jesus in God's working and mission in this world.

What would you like to add to these words?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

change takes time

I was recently reminded of a maxim good for us to remember in the Chrisitian life: Change takes time.

When one comes to Christ in conversion, often they want to radically follow the Lord in everything, for indeed all things are brand new to them. That is good, and we should want to so follow.

But sooner or later the testings begin to come. After a time God may seem distant, or not present, certainly not as in the early days of salvation. And following the Lord seems more difficult.

Actually part of what is happening is that one is coming to a fuller realization of what following the Lord means, and who they are, their deficiencies. And that all is not well with the world. There's an actual battle we're in.

Change takes time. For me that is good when it seems like I have a day in which I seem to be going backward in my heart and walk in God. A day like yesterday. What is needed is grace. Grace to know that God is still God, that the true stable growth and change comes over time. It is incremental, certainly with growing pains, but also with needed pruning as in humbling. A deepening in our hearts in relation to God, to others, to ourselves, and to God's place for us.

What would you like to add to these words on change?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Related to the recent posts on repentance is the importance of commitment. During Lent these are good things to be considering and pondering in an inventory of our lives before God. 

True commitment has a power from God if it is truly a commitment to God. Related to this is the Biblical truth of covenant. Covenant in Scripture starts with God, but it needs to be reciprocated. In other words, returned to God. Of course this is all of grace, a gift from God, something we wouldn't do on our own. But since God takes the intiative in grace, I take it that we can respond in faith. Of course there is mystery in this. 

But to get back to the point I want to make, commitment if made sincerely to God has a power in God. This is a commitment that like repentance is of little if any value at all, if after it is made it is not lived out. One has to seek to live it out by grace day after day.

Within a commitment is an entrusting of oneself to God through Christ by the Spirit. This is intensely personal, but must be lived out in community. God gives us community in Jesus in order to help us live this out. This is where that commitment is tested (beginning at home, by the way) and in a true sense maintained, through ongoing confession of sin, and accountability, as well as sharing our faith in each of our unique, gifted ways, to each other. 

Of course commitment looks beyond one's own benefit, to following Christ in mission in this world. Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves is at the heart of all of this.

This was at the forefront of my thinking and praying yesterday. Life goes on for all of us. We need to ask ourselves about our commitment to God. Is is just one to get us through this life into the next? Or is it truly a commitment by grace everyday to really seek to follow Christ in everything? To do so in community and for mission to the world?

What would you like to say here?

Monday, March 09, 2009

repentance, continued

By request, Byard continued on repentance, and there was much discussion.

What stood out for me is how true repentance must have a God-ward focus. In other words one is not repenting because they're sorry about some loss they've received through their actions. But only because it offended God. That indicates, as Byard pointed out, a love for God.

Byard also noted how today in our society there is no agreed standard by which people can be held accoutable. Repentance among most any given group of people in our society therefore makes little or no sense. Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.

Part of the solution is for people to somehow get a vision of God. But that must begin with God's people. We can only understand God's law and the grace extended to us in Christ when we catch a glimpse of God, receiving a sense of God's holiness, sovereignty, goodness and love. We need to look to the "face" of Christ. In that face we see in contrast our sin, but we also see our salvation, God's love and forgiveness in Jesus.

That is why a true, healthy repentance- little by little (piece by piece, not dumped on one we've sinned against all at once) at the right times in God's timing does not shrink back from telling all: a frank, full confession. Only in that is there true and full salvation.

As I look at the handout we receive yesterday, I note that there may be more wisdom on this yet to come (the previous paragraph, one example). Our series on Ephesians continues to be interrupted, but considering repentance in depth anytime is a good thing, and is particularly fitting during Lent. 

Anyone have a thought to add, or wonder about anything here?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

quote of the week: Scot McKnight on The Jesus Creed

The Jesus Creed exhorts us to see that the most important commandments in the entire Bible are two: to love God and to love others. All the other commandments and prohibitions - and there are 611 others - derive from one of these two most important commandments.

prayer for the week: Second Sunday in Lent - for grace to all who have gone astray

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

slowing down

I find myself overly busy now with a project I need to get done, and other things I want to do. Too many things, too little time! Add to that, we lose an hour this weekend, for Daylight Saving Time.

Unlike some who are gifted and can go through a book in no time with good comprehension, I do best taking my time. Sifting, thinking, pondering, continuing to read. Some of us are wired to keep asking questions and search. Though I think on a certain level this is part of the dynamic God wants for all of his children in this life. And surely in a manner having both continuity and discontinuity in the next as well.

I think we do well to slow down in what we do. I remember one of my favorite people I've had the privilege to meet and get to know a little: Dr. Ted Rendall. He was the Pastor of Prairie Tabernacle and President of Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada when I attended there.

One time I visited him in his office. He told me he was a few months behind in work that needed to be done, yet he wasn't rushed at all while talking to me. He listened well, and talked with deliberation, just the opposite of being in a hurry. And our time was most helpful for me.

I imagine Dr. Rendall was behind in large part because he was so gifted and was an example of following Christ, to all. But Dr. Rendall had within him a sense of not being in a hurry, of doing what he had to do well, to God's glory.

I never remember one class or sermon which was not stimulating and interesting, and all he did seemed to have the blessing of God on it. I remember him for a number of things (like humility, speaking the truth in love, and "life"). And one of them was that he never came across as being in a hurry.

I find this in Jesus as well. He seemed to be on God's time, not on people's. Of course living in this world requires living on the same cycles as the rest of humankind. But how we live them is what's important.

Does this mean I should never be in a hurry? I have to be sometimes at work. But I'm learning to slow down and seek in that to be in time more with God. Something I know so little about, but I think related to the moving of the Spirit and God's leading in our lives. As well as walking by the Spirit.

Does anyone want to add to these ponderings?

Friday, March 06, 2009

a helpful quadrilateral

I find what is called the "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" helpful in approaching Scripture and life. The quadrilateral consists of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. John Wesley while well grounded in Scripture and in Reformed doctrine from his Anglican heritage moved beyond that in his time, anticipating what was to come in reference to a relational turn in theology and philosophy. And Wesley like Luther (I read)  emphasized the unity of the Spirit and the word/Scripture so that in God's work the two are never apart.

But to the quadrilateral. Scripture trumps all. But we never come to Scripture apart from tradition, reason and experience. Scripture stands in judgment of the others, but God also redeems them.  In this life we can't count on the latter three to be foolproof, but all three are an intrinsic part of our existence and humanity. So God is at work in all three. 

For example, tradition is important because in the church we find viable expressions of the faith, creatively different, yet bound together in what we affirm from Scripture. For me tradition is tied and related to the church and the work of God's Spirit in it. God gave us reason as a gift. Reason is submissive to revelation (general- nature/creation, and special- Scripture, Jesus), yet it is to be active, not passive. God gives us words (from Scripture) to reason through, and even calls us to reason together with him. Experience is where we live, and Scripture is given to us to help us learn how to live. The truth of Scripture and of God does us know good unless we taste of it! That again speaks of experience.

So Scripture, tradition, reason and experience I find helpful in seeking to approach and navigate life.

What do you think on this?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

tough love

Tough love holds people accountable. Too often I think we Christians sweep sins under the rug that we really ought to confront in love. It's true that "love covers over a multitude of sins." I think there are surely plenty of times when we need to look past sins of others. But there is a time to lovingly confront a brother or sister who is sinning.

We do each other no favor by simply ignoring sins. I do not grow if I'm not called on the carpet for sin, neither does my fellow Christian grow if I don't seek to help them see their fault and need for change.

This is exceedingly hard. And it's better to remain silent and pray, than to come on in a harsh manner. Better to empathize and ask questions than ramrod "the truth" down the sinner's throat. 

But at the same time unless the error of one's ways is not brought to light, there can be no hope of repentance unto life. I think of one sin prevalent among so many of us: the sin of the tongue. We grumble against each other, we talk about so and so, etc. I learned to hate such sins early on, since I saw firsthand the damage they did to others. Though I can fall into the same sin as I take apart those who are so sinning.

Unless we're willing to confess as well as be corrected in the Body of Christ, we really are not living out the community in Jesus that we in Jesus are. Tough love means we are willing to be held accountable, and willing to hold others accountable- before God and before each other.

Much more to say on this. Would you like to add something?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

misled by feelings

Emotions are a gift from God not to be despised. In fact I've heard that laughter can be quite therapeutic for us, releasing endorphins, which can bring a sense over us of general well being, and actually are for our well being.

The other side is just as real too. In fact gloom can put us into a darkness in which it is not easy to think straight, or well. Not that we can't, but it makes it hard or harder to do so.

It is good to experience the full gamut of emotions. Jesus wept, the Spirit grieves, there is the joy of the Lord, etc. Some seem especially prone to a darkness in which all hope is gone, despair sets in, and life is lived in a kind of survival mode mentality.

Yesterday I realized that there was no good reason I was aware of that I should be back in gloom. If I live by the truth in Jesus and see life from that perspective, what mattered before which was bringing me down, does not matter anymore. The truth in Jesus trumps all of that. 

Of course we do need to pay attention to our feelings, because they can be symptomatic of something that needs taken care of in our life (perhaps even lack of sleep). But I don't want to be hung up on how I feel, and be living by that. Or be hung up in looking at myself trying to figure out what is wrong. Instead we need to get a glimpse of God in Jesus, and like Isaiah of old, then we will get a true, healthy, helpful view of ourselves that will, like him, put us on our feet, ready to do God's will.

What would you like to share on this?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


In seeing our granddaughter Morgan crawling and standing as she held on to something, swinging her arms with her smiles, and expressing herself with words that are not yet intelligible to us, I was hit with pure joy.

If you know me, you know I've struggled some in my life with depression. Again the numbness of depression had descended on me in recent days. But seeing Morgan lifted my spirits and banished my depression so that the numbness was gone. And later hearing how God has helped my sister, Maxine, was a blessing as well.

Joy is built into life, if we have the eyes to see it. Yes, we live in a fallen world, impacted to its core by sin. But we know by faith that Jesus won and wins the day. And that victory of God begins even now, in this life. So that we can go beyond the joy in creation to where it points: the joy of the new creation in Jesus which will last forever.

Of course we're back to this life. A life filled with problems, difficulties, trials and sometimes tragedies. But even here, besides the common joy we share from our Creator, we can begin to experience the joy we find in the abundant life given in Jesus. A joy which is beyond circumstances, which like Paul said can accompany even sorrow. A joy unruffled in the depths of our being. Only because it is something beyond us, secure in Jesus. A joy from God which gives us strength for our days.

Much more to say on joy. Part of the fruit of the Spirit and part of the kingdom of God reality and experience. 

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

Monday, March 02, 2009

more on repentance

Byard taught and reminded us well, yesterday, concerning repentance as he and Shalini his wife, gave us some helpful teaching related to Lent. Byard mentioned that the elements of true repentance are contritition (sorrow over our sin), confession and remuneration- can't recall the word he used here (making it right where we can, as Zaccheus did).

What I especially liked was the simple teaching that repentance is essentially a 180 degree turn of going from one direction in sin, to the opposite direction toward God. And that through Jesus Christ. A true message of repentance always leaves one with good news, the gospel. And never with a sense of condemnation. The good news being that Jesus became one of us in the Incarnation- God became human, lived the life we are to live before God but cannot, and died for us to take our place for our sins. And that he rose, and that by faith we die and rise with him, to a new life, which begins now, and someday is completed at the resurrection.

I wonder what our experiences of hearing repentance preached have been like. Have they left us with a deep sense of guilt and condemnation, with no answers? I remember when I was ten years of age, I went down to the men's restroom at our "church" and cried out in a loud voice to God over my sins. I found out later that others could hear me, even though they were upstairs and behind closed doors.

But did that acknowledgment by me do any good? Not at all. Because there was no gospel, no good news in it. I needed to understand that my salvation was not in my confession or repentance, but in Christ. Through Jesus I could then truly repent and begin a new life. But that was not to come until some seven years later.

What about you? Would any of you like to share from your own lives on this, or any thoughts?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

quote of the week: Scot McKnight on facing the face of God

The Jesus Creed...flows from the face of God's gracious love. We learn to live the Jesus Creed when we begin to face God. Sometimes, like Adam and Eve, we hide our faces from God, hoping God might not find us as God strolls through the garden. We hide from God for all kinds of reasons: Perhaps we did not learn to love well from our parents or family, or perhaps we have experienced or are still in a deeply wounding relationship, or perhaps we are tired and weary from seeking intimacy. Such experiences can turn our face from God. But, facing God heals us and empowers us to become lovers of God and lovers of others.
from Scot McKnight, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, 24. Passages added in links from chapter and book.

prayer for the week: First Sunday in Lent - help against temptations

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer