when in midstream

Oftentimes in life we are betwixt two, in midstream where there is a certain amount of ambiguity and uncertainty, when for one reason or another we can’t see straight, our focus is not real clear and we can feel more or less unsettled. Usually I partake of a bit of that everyday and there are certain times during which it seems particularly acute.

I seek during such times to remain settled on my feet and resolved in my will, one might say steadfast in mind as in not being moved from truth, especially the truth, Jesus. Standing on God’s promises in and through Jesus found in scripture, whatever may seem most appropriate at the time. One such promise, how that God works in all things for the good of those who love him.

Much of life in one way or another, in either big ways or seemingly small ones is lived in midstream. There is no clear resolution. There is the strong sense that it is ongoing, yes with its successes as well as its troubles. Plenty of issues swirling around to make the whole so that there almost always seems to be a certain amount of ambiguity about it all.

That is where we want to grow as a result, with changes as needed. Even as we seek God’s peace, the settling and tranquility that can come with that. Something not just of the emotions, but deeper than that. To keep us in God’s love in and through Jesus. As we go on in the transient yet sacred existence which is this life.

 

the degree of doctorate

If there’s one thing I regret academically, it is that I did not pursue a doctorate a couple decades ago or before. I pooh poohed the idea of the need for that years back. Now I see the value in terms of opening doors and also in terms of thinking through one subject, issue or area well. I did not see a lot in those days. And no one saw that possibility in me, either. I really didn’t hang out with people in academic circles, but preferred the simple folk. In many ways I’m one of them myself, so I felt at home there and still do. But I enjoy interacting with academics.

While I respect and appreciate the degree of doctorate, I do find it a bit discouraging that so much weight is put on it. I don’t understand the ins and outs of it, what it takes to do a dissertation, though I have what I think is a good notion of it from the academic studies I have undertaken (I happen to have a Bachelor of Theology and a Masters of Divinity). Perceptions matter. I find myself to be an academic at heart. But as a late bloomer who did not see many possibilities, well very few, I see myself in many ways as one who fell through the cracks.

The degree of doctorate does not make someone. It ends up being part of the package. Sometimes I have thought that it was all about the degree so that simply by that degree the person had respect and was listened to, even esteemed. Even if they really didn’t deserve that attention. Now I respect the degree to the point that I would simply be focusing on rooting for the recipient to do well with it given the work they undertook and the hoops they jumped through to accomplish it. I would still love to do it myself, but my age and our finances make that out of the question.

I don’t see myself as an intellectual, but more like an intellectual enthusiast. I love the effort of  loving God with all of one’s mind along with all of the rest of one’s being and doing. The attempt to do that. I have often wanted to know what one field I could pursue academically to get a doctorate without ruining the rest of my life in the process. Ha.

I used to think I have something just as important to contribute. I think in terms of the Spirit’s working and as a member of Christ’s body the church, I do, and so does everyone else. That is gold and even the most humble servant can teach the most learned academic something if that academic has ears to hear. I still believe that is so, but I value in ways I did not before the doctorate and I’m happy for those who are younger who have the opportunity to pursue it.

Jesus had no doctorate and in his case we can see why that was necessarily the case. He spoke with unique authority not only as a prophet with the very words of God, but as the Word of God himself. If he would have had letters from some institution in his day, people would have chalked up his authority as deriving from that. But his authority was from the Father and in his own person as well as by the Spirit. Unique then and now, even if in him we partake in something of that.

Along came Paul with all the letters so to speak, having been taught by a renowned authority of that time, Gamaliel. The brilliance, surely sheer genius of Paul is seen in his letters we have in the New Testament (as N. T. Wright has pointed out), all of that a gift from God, but developed well by him in his reading and study which was ongoing to the end of his days. In the church some traditions have upheld the value of the work of the intellect, while others have downplayed or even downgraded it.

While a doctorate does not necessarily impart wisdom along with all of the knowledge or make one a better person in and of itself, we should appreciate the value of rigorous intellectual activity.

In the end it is what we do with what we have from God which matters. We want to hear the words from the Master, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into your Master’s happiness.”

 

politics in the pulpit

The gospel of God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus has both direct and indirect implications for every aspect of life, including political life. I refer to politics here in terms of the order of societies and what goes into that. Whatever one’s political persuasion might be for example in the United States, that does not equate to the kingdom of God come in Jesus. That kingdom is not from this world though it is certainly for it.

There is no doubt that there happens to be some incidental overlap in details though never in quality. It is not that God’s hand in some provisional sense can’t be on nations and states for good as well as for judgment. But there remains only one holy nation, the church of the Lord Jesus the Messiah. So that there is one politic, agenda and platform we should buy fully into: that of God’s kingdom come and present now in Jesus in the church. A king with subjects destined to take over the world. That reign already present by the Spirit, but not yet reaching its fulfillment to take place when Jesus returns and heaven and earth becomes one in him in the final judgment and the new creation.

Does that mean we shouldn’t have political views now in terms of the politics of this world? Or that we should never speak out on political issues from the pulpit? I don’t think so. But we must hold up everything to the light of God’s kingdom come in Jesus, the reality present now in him and the vision that casts for the future. But with the realization that governments cannot live out the agenda of God’s kingdom in Jesus now. So that our expectations for them should never be that they can. Where that is to be lived out is in the church, the new or renewed Israel, the light of the world in and through Jesus. A light for the nations indeed, even now. By which they can seek to do better as well as be judged when they do badly.

What in part I’m trying to say, the main point is that we need to beware of seeing politics in terms of left, right, center, or whatever possible position in this world- as something we are to push, even in the pulpit (and unwisely alienate people sold out on one side or the other in the process). We need instead to press home the need for people, for all of us in light of God’s kingdom come in Jesus to repent of other agendas and receive that good news. And live accordingly even in this world as well as for it in and through Jesus.

how well do we love?

The Lord encourages what faith we have. We can have something of the sense of having arrived even though at the same time we should know better. We need not worry though because just around the corner we will be confronted with the realization of our lack.

That happened to me. I realized recently how I can get so caught up in my work that people and their non work related problems I can fail to take into consideration . I was convicted at how I can lack in love.

A major part of our growth in grace is the humility that comes with an increased sensitivity to sin, more openness to the convicting work of God’s Spirit. And so paradoxically for us in Jesus there is progress in the realization of our lack of progress. As well as understanding something of how far we have come.

How well do we love?  A good question for us to ask ourselves and God. As we continue on in the way of Jesus.

 

 

God-intoxicated

There are some who either want to deny the existence of God or who doubt God’s existence. Others see God as not only existing, but the basis in source and purpose for all existence. Even as important for us spiritually as the air we breathe physically. Existence for them is certainly material, but along with that, and not opposed to it at all in terms of creation, spiritual. With all reverence to God we might call these people the God-intoxicated ones. Everything is not only with reference to God in their heads, but for all of life. No matter what they do nothing excepted, they want to do all to the glory and praise of God in and through Jesus by the Spirit.

We humans we’re made for this existence. Not only life in this world and the new creation of it to come, but in the communion of the love of the Trinity, the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But even the God-intoxicated ones can sometimes feel the absence of God. Which for them is troubling. But because of this orientation to God they press on, even in the darkness. And into the light.

This is about living in God, not about ourselves. God is like the air we breathe, the song we sing, the life we live in and through Jesus.