not tossed about (on hot button issues)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Change seems to be in the wind today. If you are like me I want to study every side so as to best understand the positions, to put the best case construction on all, but not simply to think that I must treat each argument as equally worthy. Perhaps the leading hot button issue today, certainly one of them is same sex relationships. In the past decade the United States has experienced a sea change in public opinion now accepting of gay marriage. And a number of evangelical pastors and scholars have come out in support of “gay covenant unions,” believing that such a position is compatible with scripture.

Christian scholars of course don’t just go to their translations of the Bible but necessarily to original sources. Even Bible translations are dependent on this kind of study. Most of us can’t do much if any of the scholarly work due to limitations in academic training and time. We are necessarily dependent on others, on professional scholars to do that work for us. And we including our scholars must trust that God through the Holy Spirit is guiding the church, even and we can well say especially through the hard places.

So what are we to make of such issues and all the clamoring around them, even of the divisions among Christians themselves and questions that we with certainty can’t answer? We should consider carefully just where the differences lie and as much as possible try to discern what factors are involved that are influencing and effecting the call for change. And above all we shouldn’t think that we can figure it out for ourselves. None of us is foolproof; we all have blind spots and we all err. What we need to look for and desire is a consensus of the churches and among the faithful. Burden of proof for change should lie with its advocates (C. S . Lewis). Such challenges might lead to some kind of change even if only a refining of a traditional position. We need not disregard our own inclination, but we do need to treat it with suspicion as we seek to submit ourselves to Christ through our submission to the church and the church’s interpretation of scripture.

What does this mean for us practically speaking? It means we need not get hung up on or unsettled over the latest controversy. We can and therefore should be rest assured that the Lord will guide his church. We should continue on in the truth in Jesus as we have come to understand it. With all humility in dependence on the Lord in the communion of his church.

the true meaning of life found only in Jesus and the gospel (and yes, even in the church)

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

There’s an interesting article in which it’s stated that 4 out of every 10 Americans sense no purpose or meaning to life. Given the words in Ecclesiastes I am not surprised at all (see that entire book, one of my favorites if I can say that about a biblical book, unique in the wisdom genre). And that reflects my own experience. I’ve had years in the past and moments in the present when I seriously think, “What’s the point?” Of course if we settle for very little (as C. S. Lewis said) so that if we can just get a few kicks along the way, we are set and good to go, then we are settling for something far less which in the end and often (in a sense always) even on the way to the end will leave us high and dry.

Only in the gospel, the good news of God in King Jesus and God’s grace and kingdom come in him is the true meaning of life found, and no where else. In fact that even gives scripture its true meaning. Scripture as God’s written word is the story of God fulfilled in Jesus, finding its true meaning in King Jesus and God’s grace and kingdom come in him. Read all of it and don’t skip the oftentimes troubling and monotonous part on Israel which is one key to understanding the whole. God’s coming in Jesus in the his incarnation, life and teaching, death and resurrection, ascension and outpouring of the Spirit and the promise to return and “set the world to rights” and make all things new.

We enter into the kingdom by simple faith, the faith of a child, accepting God at his word. And we become disciples, learners as in apprentices in following Jesus in the fellowship of the church in mission to the world. We follow the way of Jesus but we do that together as his body the church, in word and sacrament, by the power of the Spirit being God’s witnesses to the world. The “Jesus Creed” of loving God and our neighbor being the heartbeat of all we do.

This and this alone gives life its real and true meaning and nothing else at all, as good as the other things can be. Everything good has its place, but can find its only proper place in relation to this. This is the true hope of the world and the end of the story. A fullness to which there is no end.

faithful to the end

Life is what it is. There are messes here and there, some big, many not. It is not neat and tidy. Bad things do happen, and we hurt when they happen to anyone. But any of that can happen to us as well. We don’t know what a day, a week, a month or a year may bring forth.

The one thing I want to be come what may is faithful to the end. Faithful to God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Faithful to the gospel. Faithful to the church. One who seeks to grow in the “Jesus Creed” of loving God and neighbor. One who with others wants to serve until the end.

I am grateful for a good wife along with me on this journey who has the same heart and mind. I hope by God’s grace to be faithful to his call in Jesus to the end.

spiritual warfare (defensive and offensive)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Those in Jesus are in a spiritual struggle. What scripture calls us in Jesus primarily to do is to resist the devil and stand our ground in the power of the Lord and by the armor he gives us, which mostly is defensive in nature with the exception of the sword of the Spirit, the word of God which may mean a word from God given for a specific moment or time in the warfare. At least for God’s workers in apostolic ministry there is an offensive warfare: by the gospel taking every thought captive to Christ. Leaving no one any room for any other consideration: either the hearers obey or disobey Christ, King Jesus.

We in Jesus do not engage in physical warfare, but in spiritual. I do not believe the follower of Jesus is ever under any circumstances to kill, to take the life of another. We are not called to physical warfare or violence even though God may well use the state to bring about a kind of justice through such means against evil and evildoers. We in Jesus are called to a deeper warfare against the spiritual powers arrayed and at work in the world. It is personal with us. We are under attack as those in Jesus. And through the gospel we penetrate into the darkness to bring the light of the gospel of the glory of God which is in Jesus.

waiting

Waiting is not something we humans particularly find compelling. This is especially true for some of us who would much rather take matters in our own hands and get the job done ourselves. But there are a whole host of things we can’t bring about. Not to say that there aren’t a number of good things we might and even should do beforehand.

The key for us is to be holding on to both the general promises of scripture we find in scripture and in the gospel as well as what might specifically have come to us personally. We have to be careful in regard to what has come to us personally to not think we know what the word to us precisely means even as we await its outcome. That is true for me right now and the passage which came to mind for me is Proverbs 3:5-6. I don’t know how that promise is going to work out. Excitingly it will, but only if I wait and walk through it all. On my way to whatever unfolds and comes true there will be questions and conundrums which if anything can help form me more according to God’s will. It is interesting to see how almost everything can seem to converge to whatever end God has in mind. Though at other times nothing may seem to make sense.

In the meantime I’m called to wait.

getting old(er)

I have been physically healthy throughout my life, never in a hospital that I can recall except for a couple of accidents in which I required stitches. But now something has come up on my report which I need to work at with the threat of a better chance of something in particular I want to avoid. Well, those of us who are getting older know the story or at least are aware of its possibility. Not that any of us are immune to this, even younger people can get less than good reports, but when one gets older there is a sense of inevitability in regard to this which sets in.

And this is not altogether bad. While it is good to exercise, eat well, get our rest and avoid undue stress, and hopefully through that prolong our good years, none of us can get a guarantee of what is to come. We certainly do need to be thankful for each good day we have and for each new year which has been given to us.

Sometimes we fight against the loss of security we’ve had, wishing for a good word which would put us at ease. Yes, we need to do what we can, to act well on the best information we can gather. But we also need to accept the reality of the limitations of this life along with what dangers do persist. That is part of living well in accordance with God’s will in Jesus in this life, and after all that is what it’s all about.

Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on who rightly prays the prayer “Thy kingdom come”

“Thy kingdom come”—this is not the prayer of the pious soul of the individual who wants to flee the world, nor is it the prayer of the utopian and fanatic, the stubborn world reformer. Rather, this is the prayer only of the church-community of children of the Earth…who persevere together in the midst of the world, in its depths, in the daily life and subjugation of the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Berlin: 1932-1933 quoted by Scot McKnight, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church, vii.