deep calls to deep

Sometimes life is just too much for us. We can’t handle it anymore. All the hurt, all the disappointment, all the ways we haven’t measured up (according to the devil, and even Christian friends, who are not speaking for God). Of course we don’t measure up; who does? We are all sinners. Of course we won’t do well in and of ourselves. But there is more, so much more. Beyond the finger pointing. Even beyond our actual sins and shortcomings.

Deep calls to deep, in the words of the psalmist. That is, in the depths of our souls so to speak, God’s voice in its depth comes to us. Only through this can we escape the shallowness of life in which we live. But this must be ongoing. With the passion of, or longing for the psalmist’s thirst for God.

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, we humans settle for infinitely less. We may even have a relatively settled faith in God through Jesus. But we can live, not in the depths, but in a shallow existence not much different than the rest of humanity who live essentially as those whose lives are simply life in this world. With all its own wonder and beauty, along with all the subtle and open destruction of so many fronts on every side.

God calls us, and then through us calls humanity to a deeper life, found in Jesus which moves us into the realm of shalom: the sphere in which God’s love is the very life through which all live. Which we begin to work out now in the redeemed community, and out from that into the world. Inviting others through Jesus, and beginning to work out the meaning of it for this world. In anticipation of the completion of its fulfillment in and through Jesus when all things at long at last are made right and new in him.

This must begin now with us. Process and mission together. Yes individually, and together in Jesus for no less than the world.

don’t give up

Life sometimes seems to be slipping away. Hopes and dreams gone. And time running out. Or just settling in to what seems inevitable day in and day out. The hum drum of life. Oh yes, with its good things, to be sure. Hopefully a loving friend or spouse. That by itself means a lot.

But in Jesus there is so much more! Not to minimize or despise what we do appreciate. But there is a call and a way, and that call and way is found in Jesus. It meets us wherever we are. Wherever. It may take us some time to get acclimated to the call, and the way. And indeed it involves a lifetime of seeking to follow Jesus together in community in mission for the world. However long the time we have left in this life, it necessarily is taken up with this continued following of Jesus.

We find in scripture the directive from Jesus and elsewhere not to give up, or lose heart, not to become weary in well doing. We must continue on no matter what. Pushing forward, and learning in so doing to follow.

Of course in that there is much to learn. For example the directive mentioned above of Jesus telling us not to give up, or lose heart is preceded with the words that we should always pray. And then we need to read more in that context. And indeed see it all in the context of all of Jesus’ teachings, his life, death and resurrection. And how that plays out for us today who are in Jesus in this world.

So again, let’s not give up. Let’s press on. And learn humbly to follow, together in Jesus for the world.

how do we love?

Loving our neighbor as ourselves is a tall order. We know that we love ourselves. In fact too often we are the center of our attention. It is what we are going through which is at the forefront and uppermost in our minds. Instead of what another is suffering. And God too often is not at the center for us.

Of course our love in Jesus starts with God. With our whole being and doing we’re to love God. And in and from that we’re then to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus included our enemies in that. We’re to love them, praying for them as well as doing good to them.

Contrast the love which characterizes the world. It is a love which delights in another for one’s own self interest. Love does delight in its object, but never at the expense of that object. In other words, we want the highest good for everyone if we’re living in the way of Jesus.

How we love is challenging and something we’re to grow in together in Jesus and for the world. It is the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, but something we have to work out. Beyond ourselves, but given to us from God in and through Jesus.

forgiving each other

In any relationship, likely sooner than later, forgiveness will need to be extended on both sides. Along the way we have to overlook some faults, maybe even many faults. Love indeed covers over a multitude of sins. But there are times when we need to lovingly confront. Hard. And difficult, because in the confrontation we ourselves are vulnerable. In any give and take there is often sin on both sides. There is no easy way to do this. Jesus tells us that if a brother or sister sins, presumably against us, but I think this would include any serious matter, we first go to them and show them their fault. And then hopefully they repent. If they don’t, then we take someone along and again lovingly confront them. But if that doesn’t work, we take it to the church. If the second step does not include an elder or the pastor, the last step most certainly will. If they still don’t repent when confronted by the church, then they are no longer considered a part of the fellowship, and are then treated as one who needs to start over, and respond in repentance and faith to the gospel.

If we would follow this process that Jesus taught us, I think much good could be done along the way. I’m sure churches are afraid of lawsuits, but surely there could be some way to legally protect a church with a rule a new member would have to agree to, which would subject them to such a procedure, when necessary.

We don’t take sin seriously enough* in our own lives, or in the life of the Body of Christ. That results in untold damage and indeed mars our witness to the world. The church is never perfect in this life, but is to be in the process of being perfected, or growing up into full maturity in Christ. This is a maturity in which truth and love are joined, permeated with grace in and through Jesus.

If we have a break of fellowship with another believer, we not only do well to seek to clear that up, but we are simply being obedient when we seek full reconciliation with them. Maybe at a certain point we don’t like them, but our unity is in Jesus, and as we seek to live and grow together in that unity, we will begin to find more and more common ground, as well as differences in each other that are good. More than that there is a communion in which we’re all to live in Jesus. That communion is not just an individual one between God and I. But it includes all who are in Jesus.

I struggle to take Holy Communion when I know that there is a break in my fellowship with another in Jesus which is not fully restored. Of course perfect fellowship is likely impossible in this life. I don’t mean we can’t experience snatches of it here and there. I mean that we carry all our weakness and sin into all of life. We just haven’t arrived. A big part of growing more and more into full maturity in Christ, is to realize more and more the unity that is ours in Christ by the Spirit. To live in that unity.

We do all of this not just for ourselves so that all is well with us. But for the world. The world will see Jesus in us only when we are living in communion together with him. When that is disrupted, our witness is at best, hurt.

Let’s take sin seriously first in our own lives, and then in the lives of those we know. Wanting to simply cover over faults along the way. But willing to prayerfully, lovingly and gently confront as a friend and brother or sister in Jesus, when need be. So hard, and yet if we’re to follow Jesus together, so necessary. As we seek together to live as those in Jesus for the world.

*Thanks to our Pastor Jack Brown who pointed that out, yesterday.

Augustine on when fasting profits us

Fasting chastens yourself: it does not refresh others. Your distress will profit you if you afford comfort to others. How many poor can be filled by the breakfast we have this day given up?

Augustine, Expositions on the Book of Psalms, 43.7. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 1, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), quoted by Scot McKnight, Fasting, 105.

See Isaiah 58.

prayer

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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

in the now

Life is lived “in the now.” The past is past, there’s nothing we can do about it. On the other hand we can learn from it. And in Jesus we live on what God has done in Jesus through his death and resurrection. One sacrifice, once for all, for all time. Neither can we live in the future. We’re not to worry about the troubles that may come our way tomorrow. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, since each day has enough trouble of its own. On the other hand in Jesus we live the future now. God’s grace and kingdom is present in Jesus here and now, so we begin to live that reality, even in the midst of the world, the flesh and the devil.

I think God wants us to work at being totally present to him first, and then to others around us. We’re to learn to live life fully “in the now.” We don’t know what the next day will bring, or for that matter, even the next moment. Of course part of living well in the now is to think ahead, as well as with reference to the past. But we can’t redo the past or live in the future. We can only live one day at a time. Some days in great difficulties, but our orientation as humans includes time, space and matter.* And that will always be the case, true in the age to come as we consider the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.

This is how God’s Spirit will help us live. Yes, not without struggles sometimes, maybe oftentimes. But we always are to endeavor to give ourselves in love to God, and then to each other with all that involves, day after day, moment after moment. Yes, in the now.

This is a slippery subject, maybe so especially to me at times, and why I’m trying to write on it this morning. What might you like to share on this from what you have learned in life?

*Not that I think time, space and matter will be precisely in continuity with the present time in the age to come, nor in discontinuity for that matter.

the status quo

There are people who like change, and then there are people who want to be settled. I think most of us like to get settled down into something  that agrees with us. We want life to go smoothly and well. Unfortunately that is not how life works. As far as circumstances go, and even in relationships with people we can meet challenges which at times can overwhelm as well as overcome us. And we may not be doing well in it. For the follower of Jesus the world, the flesh and the devil are in alliance and with that comes direct opposition.

Life can be quite unsettling at times. Broken or strained relationships, ongoing problems, and issues in one’s life. We all have them.

In the life in God through Jesus in this world, the status quo is never good enough. We’re getting ahead of ourselves, I think, when we want things to remain just the same as they are now. Actually even in the world to come while there will indeed be a settled state of shalom, change will still be a part of what will be a dynamic existence of love. Change I would take it in terms of growth and creativity. But while we begin to live that out in this life, be it in a small but real way, we face the tough and stern reality that we are in no less than spiritual warfare. That we need daily confession of sin. And that we need to continue to grow in grace along with others in and through Jesus.

So we might as well acclimate ourselves to the reality that there is no status quo in this life for us in Jesus. Not only will there be trouble, but we are in the process of being changed more and more from sinners to saints (holy ones, God’s people). Into no less than the likeness of Jesus.

So we must press on. Ever leaving behind the notion that there is such a thing as a settled state of life for us in this world. But longing for that peace in and through Jesus which goes beyond all our understanding and misunderstanding. As we seek to faithfully follow our Lord.

why

Why do we do what we do? I am reading again in a book on conversion: people converting from Christianity into what is freedom in their minds, from Judaism to Christianity, from Catholicism to Evangelicalism, from Evangelicalism to Catholicism. It is based on case studies, and is quite an interesting read.

Maybe what we ourselves do or don’t do is not so much a puzzle to us. But we look at other people and wonder why they do what they do. And if we think about it more, then we do well to acknowledge that there are underlying reasons why we think and act as we do. Not that those can’t change over time. I’m thinking of life changing decisions or actions.

Of course there are things we do on a smaller scale which still can carry plenty of weight in our own thinking. There are mindsets we have which influence or determine why we do what we do. Not that we give everything much thought. In formative stages thought may or may not be involved. How we act is a part of who we are, or comes from who we are. As scripture says it is out of the heart that we live.

So we sin because we’re sinners. We do good and right things in God’s eyes because through Jesus we are being saved, being made holy. And then there are the debatable areas, areas in which God allows freedom, although where those parameters lie is also debated.

We do well to live and let live in a proper sense. Only God through Jesus can change anyone. And that comes no less than from a personal faith in Jesus through his person, words, works and in his death and resurrection for us. Of course we can come to that through community, through participation in church, to be sure.

But to ask why can help us cope both with our own actions or tendencies which may not always be helpful, as well as actions and tendencies of others. We need wisdom from God, continuing to pore over scripture, the wisdom literature in it especially providing insight into the human condition. And simply asking God for wisdom.

We often end up having to live with our differences. Sometimes that is difficult if the person with whom we differ sees our differences in terms of right and wrong. We all know what that is like, and it surely can be quite unpleasant.

Part of the struggle is living in the time in which we know in part, in which we normally see only well enough to know in a rather halting kind of way. With certainty through faith, but awaiting the fulfillment in the time when through Jesus all will be made clear, and all will be love.

Until then we need to be humble. Realizing there are reasons people do what they do. Listening to them, and seeking to live in the way of Jesus. So that more and more it is because of God in Jesus by the Spirit that together we live as we do. That we might live in God’s blessing to be a blessing to others in this world.

when alone

There are times when one feels alone. Well not necessarily alone alone. I mean in my case I have a good, faithful wife, who is present for me everyday, and I hopefully am present for her as well. But there are times in life when for this reason or that we feel isolated, or largely so. We are with those we don’t see eye to eye with, but we are trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. And then, of course there are all the divisions that concern our identity through which we struggle to relate to those who don’t so identify. Or whose identification is different, often not only contrasting ours, but even contradicting or in conflict with it.

Of course the answer for this for us and for the world is in Christ. In Christ is our only hope amidst all our diversity of unity and community, of the communion that is meant to be in God for humanity.

But aloneness now carries with it some blessing. We need solitude. We need to come before God in silence, and yes, by ourselves, as well as with others. We need both. Out of the times alone with God, even if through loneliness in the midst of people, we can begin to find our true bearings for life.

But that takes a commitment. Although sometimes we are just there. We are isolated. Perhaps those we are in sync with are elsewhere with their work to do. While we have to work closely with those who see some key matters differently. But that in itself can be good, as we learn to work through differences. On the other hand it may only help us to really seek God, to draw near to him, to get the grace we need.

We remember that Jesus would get up early and meet alone with the Father. And if anyone would feel alone in the midst of humanity, surely it would be Jesus. And yet Jesus did find companionship with friends. But above all, and in and through it all, he lived in communion with the Father and the Spirit.

We are in the way of Jesus. We all need that space alone with God. And yet we need each other as well.

Not really a finished posting, but maybe that makes it better. I wonder how any reader out there might process this, or approach this in their life.