Saturday, October 31, 2009

at Ashland Seminary

I had a great time this week at Ashland Seminary, meeting Allan Bevere who graciously hosted me there. Was good getting acquainted with him in person. And getting to hear Scot McKnight on the gospel. Four great lectures on the gospel along with good, stimulating question and answer times afterwards.

What was reinforced for me is that the gospel is bigger than many of us have understood it to be. It is centered in Jesus and out from him comes the salvation that is meant for the entire world and all of creation. And it is meant for each person and each person in their totality. I gained new insights into this with reference to the gospels, the early witness in Acts, and Paul, and how we work that out in the present day.

Was great to have the privilege of chatting at a coffee place with Scot and Allan. Allan himself is a gifted scholar, pastor and professor. I wish I could have heard him teach or preach. And with Scot we had a most interesting conversation over theology and what is going on in their work and from others today.

I must add that Ashland Seminary is an interesting place, and it looks to me like a very good work is going on there. And beautiful days there as you can see from the pics.

Friday, October 30, 2009

thinking critically

If there's one thing that stands out in my mind right now, that I would like to have done better with my mind, it is the art and practice of critical thinking. We actually do something of the sort all the time, as we sift through what we think is of value and what is of lesser or no value in what we hear and see, in the world.

Critical thinking wants to hear and understand, and then critiques everything. For us in Jesus this means evaluating everything in light of God's truth revealed to us in Jesus in accordance with Scripture. This is an ongoing task as we keep working on both our understanding of this revelation from God, as well as our understanding of the world in which we live. I am reminded of John R.W. Stott's fine and helpful book, Between Two Worlds.

I should add that we need to keep being informed and formed by good theology based on Scripture and on the understanding given to the Church. Scripture is our basis, but we need to read it, and seek to understand it along with tradition, or how the Spirit has helped the Church to understand it over the centuries. And with the view of ever reforming theologically on the basis of Scripture, avoiding both the full and uncritical acceptance of tradition, and the rejection of tradition. The entire Church is united together, even though we don't live that out on many levels here, so that we must take into account the tradition which has been passed down for generations, while continuing to work on clearer and more accurate ways of understanding the truth in Jesus. But as those within the one tradition of the one Church. Of course, again, tradition is not infallible, so that we ever have to apply critical thinking, yet to depart from it is to fall into the error of departing from a primary means and agent of how the Spirit reveals God's truth in Jesus to believers.

This is just a beginning and limited sketch on this. What from your perspective might you like to share on this?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

talking past each other

A common phenomenon in theological circles as well as in other spheres, such as political, happens when two or more people are discussing an issue on which they to some degree don't see eye to eye, is the problem of talking past each other. In other words one or each supposes that the other believes such and such, so has the response ready. But the other becomes convinced that they are being misunderstood or not understood precisely as to what they're saying. And it goes on.

The answer to this is dialogue. The kind of give and take that insists on hearing each other out. Come to think of it, this can be quite important in a marriage. Sometimes the spouses are at logger heads with each other. But what about giving each a time, a set time, to share with no interruptions? And then the other can reply with no interruptions, and back and forth.

Humans will never agree on everything, and we carry our own perspectives into each matter. But we have to remember that even from those we disagree with, we can learn. That God may speak to us through them in some way. We need to be open.

In order to help others we must learn to listen well. To listen not with the idea of gathering an answer, but with the goal of understanding fully the other. And with no intention of an immediate reply. Indeed being willing to forego any such reply, at least at the time.

What have you learned in regard to this? Or any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

better understanding Scripture and Jesus

From chapter 3, "Stringing Pearls" in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Stringing pearls is a metaphor for the practice of Jewish rabbis bringing Scripture passages together which had common words. The passages were considered in their own context and then how they shed light on each other. Jesus used this and for us to begin to better study and understand Scripture, we need to learn to recognize it, and study accordingly.

I remember when I was a relatively young Christian engaged with an intelligent young man my age, over whether Jesus is Deity or not. He believed not, and I was trying to persuade him that Jesus is indeed God as well as human. I was probably using some conventional, popular evangelical ways of doing so, but did not get through to him. I wish I would have understood the truth which this chapter unfolds for us.

When it is realized all that "good shepherd" and "Son of Man" meant from the Hebrew/Aramaic Scripture, our Old Testament and Jesus' Bible, then we understand why Jesus' words were so powerful and scandalous to those who did not accept his message and mission. "Good shepherd" was an allusion to Ezekiel 34 where God says he will send a good shepherd to care for and lead his people, and judge the bad shepherds, or leaders of his people, in the process. And indeed will shepherd them himself. And "Son of Man" refers to Daniel 7 which Jesus quotes from during the trial to the Jewish religious leaders before his crucifixion. He is one like a son of man, which suggests this figure is more than human, and all peoples on earth worship him. And in Matthew 25, as the son of man, he separates the sheep from the goats, something ascribed to God, again in Ezekiel 34.

At Jesus' baptism we see passages from the Torah (Law or Teaching), Writings and the Prophets alluded to by the voice from heaven. So that Jesus is in effect called Messiah, Sacrificial Lamb, and Servant on whom the Spirit is so that he will bring God's good justice and reign to humankind and the earth.

This is a rich chapter. As true throughout this book, there is always something good for any serious Bible student, but one does not get bogged down or overwhelmed with too much. And good end notes for those who want to pursue further study. Along with good questions at the end of each chapter to stimulate further thinking or discussion in groups.

This chapter can help us better ponder and understand Scripture and Jesus' fulfillment of it as we learn more and more to read and see it as Jesus did. We then understand more clearly his claims and our place in his ongoing mission and work in the world today.

From any of you who read it, what stood out to you? And any thoughts on this from anyone?

Next week , chapter 4, "Following the Rabbi."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

on the edge

We would like to be on an even keel, completely calm, with no troubles, temptations, trials, or sins. This is not life in the here and now for us in Jesus.

Yes, the kingdom of God is a matter or righteousness, peace and joy by the Holy Spirit. And this should be a part of our experience. But we live in an existence contrary to the way of life in Jesus because of the world, the flesh and the devil.

So living in Jesus in this world involves living on the edge, so to speak. What I mean is not that we can feel free to deviate a bit from the straight and narrow. Not at all! But we must get comfortable with the reality that our lives here are not about being comfortable. That the way is narrow and difficult to life, and that we go through many hardships.

So we need to accustom and harden ourselves to the fact that life won't be easy here. Grace is free but not cheap, and full commitment alone is costly in terms of what is valued by humans especially in terms of this world. We are indeed people in process, and we are in a war zone no less, in spiritual terms, so we'd best accustom ourselves to this, and just accept it as a part of our lot in this world, together, in Jesus.

What would you like to add to this?

Tomorrow chapter 3, "Stringing Pearls" in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Monday, October 26, 2009

groans in our praying

Romans 8 tells us that we don't know how we should pray, but that the Spirit helps us with groans that words cannot express. Is this our groans or the Spirit's groans? I'm not sure, though it would seem grammatically that it is the Spirit who both intercedes and groans in us. But it seems that God's work in humans often includes humans so that we take on personally and from our hearts something of what the Spirit is doing, and indeed even the mood of the Spirit. I think I agree with Ben Witherington III who writes:
...Cranfield is probably right that what is meant are utterances or groanings that are imperceptible to the believer. The Spirit groans along with the believer, just as the believer groans as part of fallen creation.

Ben Witherington III, Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 226
N.T. Wright has noted how we as believers in Jesus groan with the rest of creation for God's full renewal of all things, which begins with the redemption of our bodies in the resurrection.

When we seek to pray, just groaning should never be despised. This can be among the most powerful kind of praying and prayers. Even though we may not be uttering a word, not knowing what to pray, just our groans to God can be taken by, and/or come from the Spirit, who intercedes in us according to the will of God.

I often feel near groaning, at least a good part of any given day. And such often is the case when I am troubled in trying to pray for someone or something. But we should turn our groans "upward" in prayers to God, seeing them as something God can take as we think of those in need of God's intervention. And for ourselves as well.

I think I've found this helpful. When my prayer life may seem dormant, groanings may end up finding their way in and out of the throne room of God for the good of others, and the world, as well as ourselves.

How do you look at groaning as potentially being a most powerful kind of prayer? Or any thoughts on this?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ed Dobson on his experience of seeking literally to live like Jesus

Thoughout this year, as I've tried to eat and drink with those who were outside the church, something interesting has happened. I'm beginning to feel more comfortable with those who don't know the Lord than I am with those who do know the Lord. Those who don't know the Lord are much less judgmental. They are open to new ideas.
Ed Dobson, The Year of Living Like Jesus, 174


Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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, October 24, 2009

putting God to the test

In the wilderness Satan tempted Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple, since God had promised that he would send his angels to rescue his servant, so that none of them would dash their foot against a stone. I know Jesus was going through the same temptations as Israel of old, but unlike them, he was succeeding as the true Israelite, the unique son of God. At the same time we in Jesus live in many ways parallel to his days then. Notice Jesus' answer: "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (from Deuteronomy 6:16)

We are all tempted, and sometimes we think it's okay to give in in little ways. We know God is a god of grace and there is always forgiveness, and that no matter what we do, God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (though we very well, in our sin, may be leaving him). And somehow we believe that we need something that God has not given us. So that in effect we are doubting God's goodness and provision for us.

But the heads up here is that we must beware of putting God to the test. We can test and try God by our sin. When we make decisions that are questionable at best we do what Jesus refused to do: we jump off the high place and think there will be little or no consequences. God may give us what we want, but send judgment or discipline on us because he wants us to repent.

In what ways might we be putting God to the test? Is it presumptive on our part to assume that God will bless our disobedience, even in little things? Do we see that when we do this we are in effect doubting God's goodness and provision to us?

Friday, October 23, 2009

the humanity of woman and man

RJS over at Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed has had an interesting series on whether or not women are human, taking off from writings on this by Dorothy Sayers. It is nuanced and in no way am I critiquing what RJS has written, or Dorothy Sayers, for that matter.

Why would women in our culture be seen as less than human today? We know that Jesus treated them as equals in the sense that they are fully human. Is there something about a woman's femininity, or femaleness which fills out a full humanity? And is there something about a man's masculinity, or maleness which fills out a full humanity? This is not to say that either a man or a woman is not fully human. It begins to question what being human is or involves.

Part of being human is being in relationship. This seems to be one part of what it means to be made in the image of God. God as Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit, is inherently relational. We are made to be relational beings, relating to persons: to God and other humans. So to be fully human means we need to have relationships. Indeed it is not good for the man to be alone or apart from other humans, as Genesis 2 tells us, because something about being human is missing. Although Adam's need of another human was not gender neutral. Therefore God created the woman in the narrative. This was for marriage and procreation, but also for much more.

Read the above mentioned posts and the threads from the series on Jesus Creed for what others see and think about this.

Are women seen as less than human? This is obviously so in the past, but probably more subtly so now. And in what ways?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

weak can be good

I overslept so we will plan to do chapter 3, "Stringing Pearls" in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, next Wednesday. Read the chapter work through the questions following it. Like the book the chapter is most helpful for us to better understand what Scripture says.

When we feel weakness this can be a precursor to God's blessing. When we are weak we can identify better, and more closely with other fellow human beings, just as Hebrews points out about the priests in the old covenant, but even our Great High Priest in the new covenant, Jesus.

Feeling weakness in whatever way can also help us be more dependent on God and rightly interdependent on each other in Jesus. We know that we can't make it without him, so we cry out to him in faith, and look to him for the help that he alone can give to us. And we also look to others to pray for us, or offer any words of encouragement and insight they might have from God.

I have seen God's blessing come through either into my life, or through what I had to do into the lives of others, in the midst of my weakness. In answer to prayer the Lord makes his power known in our weaknesses.

This is part of our walk by faith and by the Spirit here. I find that I distrust myself more and more as I get older. Because I know God's blessing comes from God, not from me. And even when we not only are weak but look weak, God's power through Jesus by the Spirit can, and often will come forth.

What have you found about this in your own life?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

life is a journey

Recently I was reminded of how life is a journey, through hearing and then reading Ed Dobson concerning his one year of living as literally as he could, like Jesus. I look at my life and I think certain things are either missing in action, or are weak. I then tend to want to withdraw and bow out, really thinking what I have to share is secondary, or at least not as full as it needs to be. And in that assessment, I am surely correct.

But then I am reminded again that our lives are a journey. We are becoming, and we are to be following Jesus in this becoming. Jesus told his disciples to follow him and he would make them, fishermen as they were, to fish for people. I too want to be used by God to help the lost, the least and the last (as I just read recently somewhere). I want to get my hands dirty working in the Lord's vineyard. Since I work around Christians in my job, I don't have much contact with those who may not be believers. I'm inclinded to try to take advantage of that when I can, trying to strike up some fellowship with them.

We are on a journey in Jesus. We can't write off where we are if we're truly seeking to follow Jesus. We are weak and often failing, but we continue on. We know this is beyond us, but given to us in Jesus. We also know that if it's in our hearts to do what is good (like David, who wanted to build the Temple but was forbidden, yet made the plan from God and gathered materials for that work) and right, God values that, and likely we'll have our place and part in the work.

What might you like to share about this?

Tomorrow we are in chapter 3, "Stringing Pearls" in Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

one faith in Jesus

I am troubled by a Christianity which makes much of differences Christians have. My friend Allan Bevere shares here an extreme example of this.

There is no doubt that we Christians don't agree on everything. And we sadly don't always agree entirely on what is all important, because some of us insist that a good Christian must agree with us on this or that or else they can't work with us or really be one with us in the work of the Lord.

I'm glad to be a part of a denomination in which I can be a Christian pacifist, and believe whatever about Arminianism/Calvinism, or about the tribulation and Jesus' coming, and teach and be one in the work of the local church we're a part of.

I know that within evangelical Christianity there is a shaking going on. There are those who insist on a Calvinism which they see as front and center in their view and proclamation of the faith. There are others who believe that they need to save evangelicalism to what they believe it is about: an inerrant Bible which thus has to be interpreted literally (even when it may not be meant to be taken literally everywhere: an easy example: Jesus is not a gate, but metaphorically he is, for the sheep who metaphorically represent people) meaning we have to resort to a certain view of origins discounting science, etc. And there are others who believe we need to be open to what we can learn from other traditions of Christianity, as well as in science, etc., always reading Scripture at the same time as our basis for faith and practice while not discounting the rule of faith which has come through the church through the centuries. I'm sure I'm framing this too simplistically, and I don't mean to discount and write off those who I don't see eye to eye with.

But I share this to make a point. We have one faith in Jesus. God moves according to that, not according to our own understanding of theology. This is why we should not be confounded to see God's grace at work in the most unlikely places, which for many Christians would mean a different tradition, or even denomination, or sometimes even church within the same denomination (and sometimes even in churches and denominations which before have either denied or underminded the faith). God doesn't seem to value the same things we do. Yet at the same time God wants us to learn to see what is all important in our faith and practice, which of course must be joined together.

Okay. We aren't going to agree on everything such as mode of baptism, whether infants or only believers should be baptized, etc., etc. But we do need to demonstrate clearly to the world that we are one in Jesus, that there is one faith, one Lord, and that all who are true followers of Jesus are one with us in him.

Jesus considered the unity of all who believe in him as part of what is all important. And with other essentials such as Jesus alone as our Savior and Lord, the unity we have in Jesus and living out that unity must likewise become front and center in our lives and witness to the world. Not always easy. And others might not join in. But we need to insist on it, as we learn to pray and work together for others in the way of Jesus.

What might you like to add here, or any thoughts?

Monday, October 19, 2009

being last

Great message from Pastor Jack Brown at our church gathering on Sunday on what true greatness is. Being last as opposed to being first. The passage was Mark 10:35-45 which I promptly used at the nursing home in giving essentially the same message.

As usual Jesus turns on its head what the world values, this time in reference to true greatness. True greatness to the world means to be first, to win and rule over others, to be first in line to get the best of this life. But Jesus says that if one wants to be first, then they must be last of all, and servant of all. Jesus, of course is the epitome of that in coming to earth in becoming one of us, living as a servant here, and then giving his life for the world in a dreaded and despised death at that time, the death of the cross. Jesus paved and opened the way for us in this by his sacrifice for our salvation, his life given as a ransom for many. So that we can follow him in his steps by the Spirit, together, for the world.

When we receive Jesus by faith we begin a process in which we must participate. The process of no longer being conformed to this world, but rather, being transformed by the renewing of our minds. This means that we take on a new life completely contrary to the life and way of this world. This is a work of the Spirit in which we must participate. As we do we can find ourselves closer to Jesus. As Paul tells us, he wanted to know Christ better, and participate in Christ's sufferings, becoming like Jesus in his death. This suggests that to follow Jesus in this life, and remain close to him, involves being last and servant of all.

In Jesus this becomes a part of what we are becoming. This doesn't mean that we don't think we can't do anything. We seek to fulfill our calling from God, but we do so as those following Jesus in not seeking to be first, but last. And in so doing we will find that in God's kingdom we are where Jesus is. No better place to be, or to help others to find.

What would you like to add to this?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Scot McKnight on the Jesus Creed

Jesus' life, from front cover to back cover, including the dust jacket, is a life shaped by the Jesus Creed. He learned the Shema from his father and mother; he amended it for his followers in the shape of the Jesus Creed. Most importantly, he lived it. We are called to participate in that very life, for it is that resurrected life that can form our lives.

Scot McKnight, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, 292.


Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; 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, October 17, 2009

our 24th wedding anniversary

The Shack in Newaygo County, north of us, the main building. Place of our get away to celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary.

Deb and I in the love seat in our room. Beautiful wood, and we enjoyed a hot tub.

One of the things Deb and I enjoy doing the most.
Deb loves horses and they love her.
As you can see it wasn't warm outside.
It is on a lake. Leaves nearing peak, and this pic doesn't do justice to some of the beauty we saw in the colors of the leaves.

Friday, October 16, 2009

back to a quiet time

Not long ago I posted on "meeting with God." From that exchange, specifically through Every Square Inch's comment which got me to thinking, and from whatever else along the way moved me to do so, I went back to having my quiet time first thing in the morning after I grab my coffee. It has been good, and I see that as in a sense my favorite time of the day when I seek to draw near to God.

I had reasoned that I am with God all day, in Jesus we live in God's Presence. So that I did not see any special need of a special time daily to draw near to God, since I was more or less trying to do that all day. But there is wisdom, I believe, in setting aside a time and not letting anything interfere with it, a sacred, quiet and cherished time when I seek to come near to God. Of course when we do we have God's promise that he will come near to us.

This move was verified by a retired professor who visited our church last Sunday during his excellent presentation in which he noted quiet time as one essential in the life of a follower of Jesus. Also contributing to my thoughts and reflection on this was a poem by Marcus Goodyear entitled "Stumbling out of Heresy."

This goes to show the impact blogging does have on us, surely in ways we don't realize, but also in ways at times when we do. And how we can impact each other for good.

Do you have anything you'd like to share on any of this?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

wisdom comes slowly

God has promised wisdom for those who ask him and do not doubt his goodness. But we have to wait. We can get in the way of the wisdom God wants to give us in answer to our prayer about a particular matter or trial and then miss it altogether. Wisdom comes in its own time. And wisdom comes slowly.

Of course in a certain sense wisdom takes a lifetime. Our lives in a sense are a kind of testing, though God's testing of his people is to bring them along to full maturity as again we see in James. It is more like a growth toward maturity or analogous to advancing from one grade level to another. It is interesting that even Jesus grew in wisdom, though we should expect that since he became fully human.

It takes all of Scripture and all of life to gain the wisdom God wants and has for us. We want to shun the part that is unpleasant and not deal with it. And that ends up to our loss. Ecclesiastes imparts a certain kind of wisdom that Proverbs does not, and vice versa.

Wisdom comes slowly and I don't like that. Sometimes I'm restless and want wisdom now in regard to a particular situation. God will give it, but I must wait and receive it from him. Through prayer, and maybe through a passage in Scripture, or a friend or other person. I must keep my hands and heart open so to speak, knowing I need it and don't have it on my own. Ready to receive whatever God might be wanting to give me. And I can be a slow learner, and more like a no learner indeed.

There is certainly more to be said on gaining wisdom from Scripture.

What has God shown you about gaining wisdom? If we grow, or increase in wisdom over time, what does that say about where we are at now? Does that mean we shouldn't act with what wisdom we now have?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jesus as Rabbi (part two)

From chapter 2: "Why a Jewish Rabbi?" from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Jesus came not only giving us the word of God, words from his Father, but he came as the Word of God, and the last word God has spoken and is speaking to his people. As such it is to be expected that what we find Jesus doing much of the time in the gospels is teaching. And living.

Rabbis not only taught their disciples, or followers how to live, but had to be examples, and exemplary in what they taught. As the authors point out, while Jesus came as Messiah, Deliverer (Savior) and Redeemer, still Rabbi as in "my Master" and Teacher was not only at the heart of what he did as we see in the gospels, but is also at the heart of what he does today by the Spirit through the word within the church for the world.

Too often people see Jesus as Redeemer and Savior so that their sins are taken care of, and they have a place in heaven, period. But Jesus came secondarily as the way to heaven. Jesus is the way that humans are to live in relationship to God, to others, to themselves, and to the world. We today have a Rabbi who perfectly exemplifies what he teaches us. And his name is Jesus.

What thoughts do you have from or on this?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

the power of good works

Good works is an important theme in Scripture, and a part of our lives in Jesus. They come in different boxes so to speak. It's about what we both do and don't do. It's about helping others to find Jesus and be united with us in him. And it's done out of love, love for God and for others.

Good works often help us with what ails us. I find that so in my own life. Of course I must work at maintaining my relationship with Christ in abiding. That is how we bear fruit, as John 15 tells us. God has made it so that we not only need him, but we need each other. And we need the good works that come in this, even if only a simple smile, a ready listening ear, a nonjudgemental spirit, a readiness to acknowledge an offense and repair and renew a bond with another, creativity in thinking of good things we can do for others, and with no strings attached.

Again, this is part of our life in Jesus in this world. Not something we can simply conjure up on our own. But it's something God is working in us as his handiwork, nothing less than a way of life.
How have you found this to be so in your own life, or what would you like to share about this?

Tomorrow we continue from chapter 2: "Why a Jewish Rabbi?" from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Monday, October 12, 2009

not "me" but us

Today is our 24th wedding anniversary. It really doesn't seem possible. God has been good to us throughout the years in spite of ourselves at times, and it's nice to celebrate our special day, and God's goodness to us today.

One of the biggest lessons we can learn in the school of marriage is that it's about us, not about me. Of course the us includes seeking to meet each other's needs, so that we both give and receive. And we do so out of love. Couples need to build on the love they have, rather than wish for some dreamy love they think they saw on a screen or elsewhere. And above all look to God for that love to them for each other.

But the "us" needs to not stop there of course. It's a love which goes to our children and grandchildren. And then to our brothers and sisters in Jesus. To our neighbors and coworkers. Even to our enemies, as Jesus teaches us. So that we're not talking about an exclusive us mentality, but an us for others, as well as for each other.

So Deb and I continue to learn on this. And it's good. God has been good to us, and we thank him for his goodness in our lives, and we look forward to all he has in store from day to day, as we seek to ever grow in this love from him for each other and for the world.

Any thoughts you'd like to add?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ed Dobson on not having all the answers

...when I started in ministry I thought I had all the answers. As I enter more deeply into the lives of real people, however, I realize how few answers I really have. In life's most difficult circumstances, the best I can do is to be present to represent Jesus and the community that we call the church. I am there to love, pray, and encourage. I'm not there to answer all the questions.
Ed Dobson, The Year of Living Like Jesus, 22, 23

prayer for God's grace to be given to good works

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; 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, October 10, 2009

The Year Of Living Like Jesus

Ed Dobson's journey in following Jesus

I love Ed Dobson. Deb and I, both. He was our pastor at Calvary Church (of which he is again a part) when we lived on that side of town. As you may know he has been stricken with ALS. It's the slow moving kind, and he continues to be active in sharing his faith and his gift in the community and beyond. Though at the advice of his doctors he stepped down from being a pastor.

Last evening he was at Baker Book House here in Grand Rapids. Quite a crowd of young and old alike; it was wonderful. He shared about how he came to seek to live a year like Jesus did, living like a Jew, and trying to obey Jesus' commands and follow his example, while being kosher. And sharing about his new book on this as well, The Year of Living Like Jesus. I have my copy and look forward to finishing it soon.

I found it edifying in being both convicting as well as encouraging in what God can do as we seek to be true followers of Jesus in this world. As you may well know Dobson voted for Obama and said he would do the same again, though he acknowledges that he may well be wrong. But he did so on the basis of which candidate of any party he believed comes closest to what Jesus taught. He explains this in a chapter in his book, and his view on abortion and how he wrestled through it. He said seeking to follow Jesus for a year leveled remaining arrogance he had, so that he doesn't think that he is necessarily right on decisions such as his vote. I found his thoughts on politics and the kingdom of God quite compatible with my largely Anabaptist theological understanding.

Christians on the "right" trashed him, telling him they'd never listen to him preach again, or believe anything he says. The ones Ed found it easy to live with were the needy sinners (of course we're all needy sinners) whom he found in bars and drank beer with, and continues to do so as he shares with them his faith and seeks to follow Jesus. Though after the year he dropped the kosher and Jewish laws. As you can well see, he still has his beard, trimmed once a year.

I look forward to learning more, and being impacted for my journey with others in following Jesus.

(I am downloading a video from my camera from last evening so you can hear him, but finally lost patience waiting, and may post it later.

Couldn't post it for whatever reason, so posted the Zondervan video from YouTube instead.)

Friday, October 09, 2009

our focus

Years back I did a high ropes course. Some 30 feet high, the first year when I got to the top I was terrified when I looked down. Went across one rope and fell at least once doing so. And got down after that first crossing, as soon as possible!

Next year I determined NOT to look down. I did the whole ropes course without falling (falling would have been a good test, and not sure I would have passed it!) because I refused to look down, but instead concentrated all of my focus on the ropes and their trajectories, etc.

An analogy, and imperfect as all analogies are, but this reminds me of our walk of faith now. In this part of the new covenant, being God's resurrection, new covenant people, in the days of our humiliation (prior to our glorification) in following Jesus, as we see through a glass darkly and know in part, we need to make all the more effort to keep our focus on Christ in this life, just as Hebrews 11 and the first part of 12 points out to us.

There are umpteen things that break my focus on God through Christ. I probably couldn't name them all, or if I did I'd be in danger of losing my focus by being distracted by any one of them! But that's where what we do by faith matters. What do I do when I lose my focus? Hopefully I pray, and get into God's word. And begin to ponder as I slowly work my way through a passage. Then most assuredly in time as I am hearing God's voice in some way to me through Scripture, I will pray. And will be regaining anew the focus I need in this life which is darkness apart from the object of that focus which is God's word to us in Scripture and in Jesus.

What might you like to share from your own life on this which can help us, or any other thoughts on this?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

faith and feelings

In the near future (or not too distant) we will be looking at Matthew Elliott's book, Feel: The Power of Listening to Your Heart. I have found it an interesting book and I'm not really sure if it contradicts, or refines what I believe on the subject of feelings, or not.

Feelings certainly are important. We're humans and feelings are a big part of what makes us human. Our emotions are surely a reflection of being made in God's image. God while in essence not human- though having become fully human in the Son, Jesus- still is said to have emotions. Some think that is only an accommodation by God to us. But surely it is more. God's love and anger is more than just decrees that come from a passive, unemotional being. Of course God's emotions are untainted, without sin, and God is unlimited unlike us.

I can't live on emotions and feelings. Often, being a morning person, I'm naturally more into things and "psyched" in the mornings, and especially more so than in the afternoons, during which I'd do well to take a nap. I live by faith, in spite of feelings many times. But feelings do come and we need them. I should feel love toward my wife. I should feel love toward God and toward others.

I see feelings as an important byproduct of faith. Normally they should be present in some measure, but if they're not that doesn't mean our faith is empty and void, or unreal. There is "the dark night of the soul." We need to press on in faith, and press through to the reality of God in Christ by the Spirit, and in community with others in Jesus, for the world. And we need to live this faith life out, with all that accompanies it, through everything.

Much more to explore on this, and if you're interested check out the book I refer to above.

What thought might you have on this?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jesus as Rabbi

From chapter 2: "Why a Jewish Rabbi?" from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Jesus' calling and vocation was to be the one who was to come, the Messiah, through whom all of God's promises would be fulfilled. And we know that at the heart of this fulfillment is Jesus as Redeemer of God's people, and of the world.

But a crucial part of Jesus' calling and vocation was to be a Rabbi. As the authors point out, although the rabbinic era did not begin until after the fall of Jerusalem at 70 AD, still rabbis were important prior to this. Rabbi means "my master." Rabbis gathered disciples who lived and traveled with them as they taught. And rabbis first had to live out what they taught. What they taught was a way of life.

This is radically true in Jesus. He came as the one who would be what God had called Israel to be, as well as to fulfill all of God's promises to Israel, and through Israel to the world. Of course we in Jesus are called to continue in that mission because of what Jesus has uniquely done as Savior.

While Jesus was more than a Rabbi, his work as Rabbi is significant in the gospels in scope both in quantity and quality (content). Going through all four gospels one soon discovers that teaching is one central part of what Jesus did. And as already noted these Teachers, or Rabbis were not just imparting knowledge, but an entire way of life. Jesus' teaching was about living in the kingdom of God as God's new covenant people in him.

When you think of Jesus as Rabbi, what place do you believe this has for us today? It was important to Jesus' disciples and the people of that time, but how important was it for the early church? How important do you think it is for us today? And regardless of what you think on the last question, how is Jesus as Rabbi to impact us today? What are some of the ways we can begin to try to live this out today?

Next week we continue in the chapter, picking out another truth within this theme and question, "Why a Jewish Rabbi?" Plenty of time to get this book, and well worth both the reading and rereading of it, as well as studying and pondering its content.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

is wrestling with God bad?

On Halfmom's blog, Not Ashamed!, there is an excellent post and interesting discussion about wrestling with God. We agree that Jacob's wrestling was an expression of lack of faith on his part, but I think it was also an expression of faith. For if Jacob would have had no faith, he wouldn't have bothered to wrestle with God, but would have taken matters into his own hands.

Not all wrestling in Scripture is bad. We need to want God's blessing so badly that we refuse to rest until we enter into God's rest. I believe God is pleased with any expression of faith. Though God is not satisfied unless we're growing in our faith. Jacob wrestled with God because his situation looked dire. It looked to him as if God's promise might fail. Certainly a lack of faith there. Contrast an older Abraham (than the younger one, who also failed on this score) who when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac- in whom God's promises lived- obeyed.

I wish I didn't wrestle over certain matters. But I'm not there yet, to a faith which is at rest no matter what. But I want to press into that. To make every effort to enter into God's rest in Jesus and through his promises.

What do you think? Is wrestling with God bad? Or what might be good or bad about it? And I wonder what Jewish tradition on the passage of Jacob wrestling with God, might teach us.

Tomorrow, chapter 2: "Why a Jewish Rabbi?" from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Monday, October 05, 2009

needing each other

Christianity is never a "one man band." It is true, instead, that we need each other. This is in part what church is all about. That we are there for each other, through good times and bad. Advocates rather than adversaries.

I saw this in action yesterday as a brother reached out to me and I could be honest with him, and we could again try to set a time to get together soon. And through my wife's prayers, I had a sense of the Holy Spirit with us, and helping us yesterday, when I was at the nursing home with my guitar, singing hymns with them, sharing a message from God's word, and visiting afterwards.

We do indeed need each other. God has made it so that we're both dependent on God, and interdependent on each other. Of course this works two ways. We are there for each other, both to give and to receive.

Do you see this as important for us who are following Jesus? How can this be healthy and good? And what might make it unhealthy? Are there times when we must carry our own load? Is it important that we come across as always having it all together? Or do we do better in following Jesus to be open as to our brokenness and troubles?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jurgen Moltmann on what is central to our faith

At the centre of Christian faith is the history of Christ. At the centre of the history of Christ is his passion and his death on the cross.
Jurgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 151, quoted by Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement, 61.

prayer for God's mercy and help through Jesus

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 03, 2009

a better name for this blog?

When I first started this blog, I entitled it, "the community of Jesus." Later I changed it to "the Jesus community, " and then simply to "Jesus community." I just don't find this an apt title for this blog anymore, at least in one important way. But I just haven't come up with a name to replace it.

"Jesus community" ideally for me means that there is blog interaction in a way that shares our lives, and what God is doing in them, insofar as this media can do that. In that sense this is certainly not happening. I've been too tired to do blogging justice, and for hours during a day I have no access to a computer. Of course this involves visiting each other's blogs, not just interaction on one blog.

I still like the title in that it represents for me something of what is central to us in Jesus and in our mission in this world. It's a mission centered in Jesus and lived out in community. So with that in mind, I can still happily keep the title, while being open to a better one.

What might Jesus community mean to you? How do you live it out? Or maybe better put, how is God moving you along that path over the months and years?

As the fine, helpful poem by Marcus Goodyear, "Stumbling out of Heresy", found here, points out, God's work takes time, indeed a lifetime.

Friday, October 02, 2009

the apostolic mindset

Going through 2 Corinthians is again a fresh reminder of what life is all about for us in Jesus. Although we aren't apostles (not to say in some sense that there might be apostles today, I believe there surely are according to Ephesians 4, but none of the apostles in exactly the original sense) we follow in their train in our following of Jesus. For the Apostle Paul, this was not an easy train. And it was one beset with fears from within, as well as from circumstances. He and his companions even felt the sentence of death on themselves, but this helped them grow in their dependence on God, being cast on him.

As I noted yesterday, it seems like I've been going through a short season of fear, at least largely irrational. Usually I just press through it and more or less ignore it, and it goes away as I continue to seek to follow Jesus and simply go on with life. Though sometimes I investigate concerns I have. But no matter what I read I still have to come back to trusting God through it all.

The apostolic mindset is what we need to put on and live from. It's not about us, or about our comfort, wishes, desires, longevity, etc., etc., etc. But it's about Jesus and our witness for him, and our love for God by following Jesus, and our love for our neighbor as ourselves, for our brothers and sisters in Jesus, for our enemies, for everyone. It's about the kingdom of God come in Jesus, our participation in that, and from that to the world.

What have you found about this, or any thoughts related?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

grace when needed

God is faithful and his grace to us in Jesus comes when we need it. I don't know why life can seem so hard, and why I can be so fearful. I seem to be going through a season of fear right now, and I suspect it's related in part to the fact that I am more in prayer lately for people. It is evident that when more of God's light comes into our lives, the enemy's darkness can pursue us. But that helps us to become more dependent on God, and certainly more humble. More cast on him.

I find it wonderful that in answer to prayer God gives us the grace we need when we need it. It is like Scripture says, a multifaceted grace, and applies to whatever need we have. But it's answered in accord with God's will, and not our own will, or what we think we need, though we most certainly can ask and should ask in specifics. And we can be thankful for our strong sense of need, and realization that we do need him.

What have you learned on this that you would like to share with us?