not giving up

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

There’s plenty of wisdom in that general wisdom saying. It doesn’t take into account everything for sure. We have our limitations. The main idea is persevering in spite of problems.

That attitude is a part of genuine faith. A tenacious holding on to God in faith through prayer or listening in silence and meditating on scripture. This is especially important, even crucial when we are weak or all our feeling is gone or even seems to run contrary to our faith.

The Apostle Paul lived that out as we can see from among his last words that we have:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4

These things are not to be taken for granted; this is not automatic in our lives. But they should be characteristic of our lives as believers, as the faithful. We may have to get help from other believers, from the church in prayer and counsel. Whatever it takes we need to have this attitude that we won’t let go, indeed that we will persevere to the end. In and through the faithfulness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

not bypassing the mind

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
don’t rely on your own intelligence.
Know him in all your paths,
and he will keep your ways straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Scripture makes it clear that we’re not to rely on our understanding, on reason. But scripture certainly doesn’t tell us to bypass reason. The entire appeal of scripture is related to our understanding; after all, it’s written to be read and understood by the community of faith.

We don’t understand so that we might believe, but we believe so that we might understand (Augustine). But we do end up with some understanding, even while we understand that mystery will necessarily accompany that, since we’re referring to matters of God.

In what is called “the Wesleyan Quadrilateral” there is scripture first, followed by tradition, reason and properly understood, experience. Reason is always and forever in the mix. In fact it is indeed as essential as the rest. Yes, tradition necessarily precedes it. As scripture itself makes clear, what the church at large teaches concerning the gospel and that related to it matters and in fact informs us. But reason is never set aside.

We set aside reason only in the sense that our reason can get in the way of proper understanding from God through scripture and tradition. But we end up with something which does appeal to our understanding. And we’re to work hard at understanding well what God gives us.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.

Hebrews 5:11

Yes, we need to make the effort to understand. God appeals not only to our understanding, he appeals to us in the totality of who we are on the basis of beauty and all the rest. Our understanding is certainly in the mix.

We don’t want to fall into a cold, barren, essentially dead Christianity reliant on our own reason. But neither do we want to fall prey to a Christianity which ends up antithetical to reason, setting it aside. We live by faith, but it’s a faith which meets us where we live, part of that always and forever being reason. Rooted essentially in Jesus himself who is the truth as well as the way and the life.

what does it mean to be “pro-life”?

For a good number of us in the United States, the recent video of the Planned Parenthood official giving details about organs to be used for donation highlights for us the evil of abortion. Best case scenario in terms of the videos themselves, we consider this to be the taking of human life, the death of a baby in a womb which otherwise would have come to birth.

Last evening a Facebook share from an esteemed friend who seems often conservative in their politics, I found striking (as well as a bit surprising), and I shared it since I’m more in line with this way of thinking:

I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would you think that I don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there.

That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.

—Sister Joan Chittister
Benedictine Nun, Author and Speaker

Kirk Whalum on Instagram

I understand profoundly that there is a basic problem and issue with this statement. I know friends who are conservative Republican, some libertarian –and there are surely many– who do care about the poor. And many good works come from such. So this statement is a non-starter with them. And arguably the entire discussion may fall prey to the political issue before it even gets off the ground, which would be a shame.

What we need to grapple with is just what we’re facing as a nation and the factors involved. Of course the sexual revolution of the 1960s preceeded by a morality based on majority opinion with the blip being the needed resolve and sacrifice during World War II is undoubtedly an issue here. People think they can engage in sexual activity with no consequences as in no births. And the lie that the fetus is nothing more than a woman’s tissue in her body which she should be allowed to do with as she pleases. Of course there is mercy and forgiveness for all who have had abortions in and through Jesus.

There is the issue of how the poor should be helped. Some insist that the government should not be involved at all. In the United States, “we the people” are supposed to be the government. I’m afraid that has been no longer the case for some time due to “special interests,” the lobbyists, and to get more specific: corporations and banks. It seems to me that politics too often has become as much or more about getting wealthy as in serving the interests of the people who elected the politician.

But to the issue: I would argue that churches can’t do it all. And in fact overall seem to be doing not enough in their own neighborhoods. Many conservatives would likely argue that if the government would step aside and fulfill its calling, limited to Romans 13, than the church could step in along with private entities to help the poor. I think it’s not a question of either/or, but and/both. It seems to me that God judges every human society on how its people treat each other and especially how they treat the poor. Certainly for the church helping the poor among us as well as in society is a high priority on what we’re called to do.

If the poor are helped, then arguably there would be less abortions, which historically since Roe V Wade has supposedly been the case. And not only should the women in difficult places be helped so that they can give birth to the baby, but they should be helped to give the child a life in which the needs of the child along with opportunities to do well in life are in place. Encouraging as well, responsible choices on the part of everyone.

When I hear of pro-life as in some organization or candidate, I know it refers to abortion. That’s good, but not good enough. As someone aptly shared with me recently, if the money and effort to get “pro-life” candidates elected and Roe V Wade overturned would have instead been directed to efforts to help curb and eliminate underlying factors contributing to abortion, we may have reduced actual abortions significantly.

At any rate we should have this conversation. Even if we agree in the end to disagree. As followers of Jesus and as his church, we have the same goal: to see lives saved and people flourishing through the gospel to the glory of God.

refusing to worry or fret

It’s a broken record for me, and anyone reading this is welcomed to lift up a prayer for me. But as I’ve said before and hopefully won’t say too many times again, I have had a strong propensity to worry, to fret, to be anxious over the years. In fact I think that was a tool of the devil (meaning demons, though the devil is one of them, the one in charge) to hinder me and keep me from simply fitting well into whatever God would have had for me to do. Of course there were other issues swirling around that, as well. It’s not that I couldn’t have overcome all of that by faith, because I certainly could have and in some measure I did. But to a significant extent I think I failed to step into all God had for me because of that.

I remember years ago, Pastor Herb Vander Lugt, a man of God who I am grateful to know as a friend, now with the Lord, had a radio call in program. At the time I was frustrated over sin, the sin I had in mind surely must have been the sin of worry. Of course I knew that we can’t be sinless in this life, that we invariably do sin from time to time (I would clearly say now, during the course of a day). I called in and asked the naive question, which was more from the heart and not much from the head, born out of frustration- if we could simply choose not to sin in this life. I don’t think at all I meant be sinless, though I may have not explained that when I asked the question. I had more in mind what John says here: “I write these things to you so that you will not (commit an act of) sin. But when we do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One, who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world.” (1 John 2, partly my paraphrase)

Pastor Vander Lugt wisely and succintly gave me a good answer. Of course we stumble along the way. Even Moses who struggled with a hot temper early on, but by and by became the meekest person in all the earth, later succumbed again to anger, his actions from that keeping him from entering the Promised Land with the rest of the Israelities.

I’m back though, now after these many years from that phone call (some twenty to twenty-five years ago?), hopefully with a more mature perspective and view of things. But wanting to not only honor, but put into practice the idea of a commitment to refusing to worry, fret, or be anxious, come what may.

This has to be with the need of ongoing grace in confessing my sin of not trusting in God entirely in any given matter. There is no doubt that in this world we do have responsibilities, which may seem mundane in themselves, but are inescapable if we’re to be good stewards. We are indeed fallible, and important matter do slip through the cracks for us. We want to do the best we can.

The bottom line for me here though, along with that, is the importance of keeping faith in God in the sense of trusting in him regardless of what is happening or what I’m up against. This can be nothing short of spiritual warfare, as I’ve said again and again before. I have often went from one obsessive worry to the next, thinking in the midst of that and afterward that it was surely an attack of the enemy. They can more or less last for a day and be a distant memory completely gone. The next one being perhaps around the corner, completely unexpected and usually largely unanticipated. I assume those will continue to come. Paul speaks of confidence that God will deliver him from every evil attack and carry him safely into God’s eternal kingdom. He may well have included physical attacks to which he was no stranger, but surely he especially meant spiritual ones which we all as God’s children experience.

And so, this is one of my immediate goals. There is much more to be said around it, or at least I could say more, but I’ll stop here for now.

Does anyone have a thought you’d like to share here? Of course I’m always happy to receive that on any post, but it seems especially apt on a post like this.

the love we need and are to offer to others

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7

The new life in Christ has one sure sign of existing: love for God and love for God’s children (1 John 5). And this love is evidenced in our obedience to God’s commandments. Love and truth are always together in scripture. We also must remember that final, thorough, infallible judgment belongs to God alone. And that in fact we’re called to embrace the mercy which triumphs over judgment in extending that mercy to those we instead could judge (James 2).

If we’ve experienced God’s mercy and grace, then we should be extending that to others in little as well as big ways. We must be friendly. There is no such thing as truth apart from the love which accompanies it. Truth is nothing more than falsehood apart from that love. In fact such “truth” is a lie, an illusion and I’m afraid often a facade for the real agenda.

Truth exists first in the Trinity of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And that is a communion of Love. Grace and mercy extended to us in and through Jesus to enter into that very Communion.

On the flip side, love strictly speaking does not exist at all apart from truth, ultimately the truth that is in Jesus. Not to say there isn’t genunine love in existence through creation. But the love from which that comes from will bring us face to face with truth. The farther apart love is from truth, the less genuine that love is.

In all of this we need God’s mercy and grace. Each of us need that just as much as the next person. A mercy and grace we’re to extend to others, always, no matter what– in the truth that is in Jesus.

anxious about nothing

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

A theme of faith I keep coming back to again and again is the command -yes, as  loving directive, but still a command- not to be anxious or worry. By the way, Amy Simpson has written a most helpful book on this subject, well worth the read: Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry.

Yesterday a new matter which greatly bothered me at first was coming to my attention so as to bother me again, as has often been true about various things in the past. And the thought hit me: we’re not only not to be anxious or to worry, but we’re not to be anxious about anything at all, period.

That seems so counterintuitive, but goes along with another passage that has been impressed on my heart and mind:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Yes, it’s important to be aware and do the best we can given the responsibilities and situations present. But first and foremost, we’re to pray, in this context to pray about whatever is a concern to us, before it gets to us and becomes a bother and burden. If it gets that far, we’re to cast that burden or care on the Lord, knowing that he cares for us, and that he will sustain us (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22).

Easy words to say, but hard to put into practice. But that’s the call to faith in this world we’re to live out. That hopefully more and more will become second nature to us. Potentially freeing. Confidence in a loving, wise Father who oversees everything and is at work in the world through his Son, our Lord Jesus, in the power, presence and person of the Blessed Holy Spirit. When we are tempted to or actually do become unsettled, we need to turn to him. And yes, not be anxious (or worry) about anything.