relationships

Jesus tells us that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our being and doing, and the second which is like it is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love is not just something good we do to another even out of a good attitude toward them, though that’s good as well. Love involves relationships.

Relationships are not easy. For one thing they end up invariably being messy. If you want a completely clean, trouble free existence, then you would have to avoid any relationship at all. The problem with that, though, is that we are made for relationships. We read that in Genesis when God says of Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” This need Adam had was for one who could help him, but who also would bring companionship into his life. Of course all of this works both ways. We humans are social beings. It is true that some may be more so than others. There is some truth in the tags, extrovert and introvert. But every last one of us needs another. And we need love and companionship.

Relationships involve commitment. Jesus’ words cited above are more than just a suggestion. We could say they are a loving directive. But literally speaking, the words are in imperative mode. In other words it is a command. That is a basic, essential part of what church is all about. We’re in this all together, in Jesus. And therefore, whether we feel like it, or are so inclined or not, we need to reach out in love to others. We want to give to them from our hearts, but we also want to be open to receiving. We need them as much as they need us. And sometimes, more.

And this starts in our relationship with God through Jesus. God is a person too, and is therefore personal. Relationship is part of who God is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And through Jesus, God brings us into that relationship, through faith. A relationship with God, and with each other.

What keeps us from good relationships? Do we screen ourselves off, and therefore miss out on relationships? What is holding us back from growing in relationships, both with God and with others?

 

learning a deeper rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I’m on vacation right now, and have appreciated some significant rest both in body and in spirit. Some things are happening which have brought me back down to earth a bit, and I know the daily grind is about to resume all too soon.

But through that and a cartoon someone shared on Facebook, I’ve been reminded of my need to learn a deeper rest, day after day, no matter what.

I say learn. Jesus’ call is to all the weary and burdened to come to him with the promise that he will give the one who does so, rest. And then he tells us to take his yoke upon us and learn from him. The result will be rest for our souls.

We probably dislike the idea of having to learn this. Or it seems counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t rest be simply an experience one receives. We certainly can’t make this “soul” rest happen ourselves. And yet the call from Jesus is to learn his way in and with him. With the idea that he will be right beside us, actually carrying most of the load. And that in doing this, we will find that rest.

I want relief, or this or that answer to whatever problem I’m facing. Instead, I’m invited to come to Jesus and learn from him, with the promise of rest.

It is what it is. There’s no formula to arrive to this. We need to take the words of Jesus at face value, as they are. Simple as that. What is implied here is a process. Not to say there won’t be breakthroughs along the way, because there most surely will. But by and large this ends up being a process. One in which we’ll see improvement in change over time.

We need to learn this rest in our relationship with the Lord, and we need to share this rest with others. First in the difference it makes in our lives. And then sharing in word how this is happening. “Show and tell.”

And so the Lord helps us, that we might actually work with him. May we take up the Lord’s invitation and learn to live more and more in that rest, along with others in Jesus, in and for the world.

our limited perspective

We look at life from a limited perspective. It is good if because of that, we don’t put all our weight on our take on things. This is true across the board in all kinds of areas. Really in everything we consider. This doesn’t mean that we can’t know quite a lot. We may understand a good number of things which are helpful to us, and do enlighten what is going on, or a particular subject. But we always do well to realize that we will never have a full, complete understanding of anything in this life. That at best we know in part.

Again, this doesn’t mean we should despise what we do know. It is often important and helpful. In fact we may know all we need to know to do well, though at the same time being open to more knowledge so we can do better.

I think this is true across the board, as stated earlier. So that as I get older I seem to be more firm on certain basics, but less certain in a sense even in regard to these basics, I mean how they are to play out. I end up being more settled, but where I am settled is a bit different. It is with more of a readiness for change, and hopefully a deeper and more steady trust in the Lord to guide us.

Contrast this to the attitude that one has all the answers, or at least all the answers necessary to navigate well through life. That kind of knowledge does not seem to fly with the kind of knowledge prescribed in scripture. We know within a relationship that is rooted in Jesus and is by faith. This kind of knowing is unsettling if one is looking for a plan that maps out everything in advance. This does not mean that we cannot, or even should not plan ahead. We should, but with the prayer that God will guide our steps along the way. Even as hopefully he has guided our thoughts ahead of time.

And so in humility, let us own our own ignorance. That we don’t know, ourselves. That we are ever dependent on the Lord for everything we do know. That in a sense it is enough, enough for now. But that it is not the end all. In fact only God ever possesses that kind of knowledge. As we go on together in Jesus for the world.

being yourself

Like so many other subjects, this subject is subject to abuse and error. We are all sinners, and therefore we are all prone to sin, which is part of “being ourselves” as sinners. This post is not condoning that. It is in God’s grace in Jesus in our brokenness and incompleteness that we need to accept ourselves where we are as we are. In that grace, of course, is God’s work in Christ by the Spirit to make us whole and restored in the image of the Creator, inside and out.

We can only be what we are both in creation, and then in new creation in Jesus. And the new creation work especially is a work in progress. I am not excusing sin, either way. Sin as described in scripture is actually that which deviates from true humanity, humanity as it should be. God sets the definition for that. This is not a suggestion to “pull one’s self up by one’s bootstraps,” and get victory over sin or what is wrong by self-effort. Such reformation or change is not at all the same as the new creation change that only God can bring through Jesus. Not that such change may not have value on some level, say a “natural” level. But it has no value at all with reference to the kingdom of God in Jesus.

I often find that I wish I could do what so-and-so does the way they do it. I wish I could undo some of my past. I wish I was different in this way or that. Some of my desires are good. But much of it is simply amiss. I can learn from others. But even then, what good I may be able to take from their lives and work into mine will come out different. And actually that’s the way it should be.

We are all different personalities with different backgrounds and experiences. We all have our weaknesses and strengths. When all is said and done we each have our niche to fill, humble though it may be. All good on every level is a gift from God, and we do well to simply seek to do well in what we are and in what we are becoming in Jesus.

Of course this means change. This thought is not static, but dynamic through the Spirit in the new creation in Jesus. But it also means acceptance of our place and part. Of who we are and are becoming in Jesus. Necessarily together with others in Jesus for the world.

intercession

Interceding prayer is one of the kind of prayers we are to be praying in the Spirit. We are to pray for all people, for those in authority, for each other, for others. There is nothing more important in all the world we can do for people than pray for them. That often will lead us to do more, or better spoken- be moved by God to do something more. But we can’t do more in a true sense than pray for them.

This certainly takes time and commitment. We are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. And with alertness we’re to be praying for all the Lord’s people.

I think especially of those who are on our hearts, maybe a loved one who is in dire straits of one kind or another. We need others to pray with us, but perhaps we’re called to carry the largest share of the burden. Something like what Job experienced and felt when he regularly prayed for his children.

Interceding means we are standing in the gap for another. We are praying for the Lord’s intervention and blessing on their behalf. And we are not wanting to let go until the Lord blesses them.

That may require prolonged prayer over a single time, or more likely over many times. And sharing the burden with others. So that we can carry well the burden that is ours.

We pray for God’s will and blessing in a person’s life. For their salvation. For the good even of our enemies.

May the Lord help us, help me to enter much more into the ministry of intercessory prayer. And see his answers to the blessing of others.

Eugene H. Peterson on life in Christ in his kingship

The ascended Jesus, Jesus at the right hand of the Father, Christ the King, launched his rule by giving gifts, gifts that turn out to be ways in which we participate in his kingly, gospel rule. This kingdom life is a life of entering more and more into a world of gifts, and then, as we are able, using them in a working relationship with our Lord.

Eugene H. Peterson, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ, 46.

Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday after Pentecost)

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

no condemnation

One of the ways I struggle, and am frankly tripped up by the enemy is having the sense of condemnation.  In Jesus we are told that there is no condemnation, period. Then comes an explanation both from a legal, grounding point in which we stand, and from an experiential growing point in which we live, or as scripture says, walk.

And yet over and over again, it seems I have to face this old nemesis. It rears its head at me, and its face seems to change my face since the face reflects the heart. I end up disheartened, or struggling, when I ought to be living thankfully in the complete forgiveness and acceptance of God in and through Jesus.

The knowledge of the problem is half the battle you might say (as the saying goes), but only half. We have to take our stand on God’s truth from scripture in Jesus, and keep doing so, even when such does not seem to be the case.

I love the thought from the Apostle John that when our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things. That is where I end up having to rest my case. In and through Jesus I stand. I don’t stand on my own at all. My goal is to be found in him, and to be a follower of him, together with others in and for this world.

And so I continue on with others in Jesus. Believing beyond my sometimes skewed senses. Desiring to know more and more in my heart what I believe in my head. With others in Jesus as a witness to and for the world.

longing for a better country

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

As I get older I seem to appreciate more and more the beauty of the earth that I see, whether in pictures or in person. I love Ohio where I was born and grew up, and though “The Game” does not mean as much to me as it used to, each year during “Michigan week” I sing the first verse of the alma mater (the tune) of the Ohio State University (with tears) and am reminded of all the many things I have to be thankful for in my childhood home, family and upbringing. And now having lived in the state of Michigan nearly as long as I had lived in Ohio (about the same, if my stay in Canada in school is included) I can say I love the state of Michigan just as much as I love the state of Ohio. For all the problems one encounters, there is so much beauty and blessing.

But when I consider this life with all its promise and hope frankly not being realized on earth, with all the injustice because of the lack of love on the face of the earth, I long for God’s promise in Jesus to be fulfilled. Frankly the promises in scripture sometimes seem too good to be true to me. But by faith and through Jesus I go on, believing in a hope that seems to be alive, scripture says through the resurrection of Jesus. Experiencing something of God’s love, and desiring to love God in return with all my being and doing, as well as my neighbor as myself.

Yes, we thank God for this old creation which does groan as scripture says, and we are thankful for all the good we find here through the blessing of God. But we know this is a prelude, pointer, and whisper of the promise of what is to come in and through Jesus.

I long for the place and time when people will truly love their neighbor as themselves, myself included in that indictment. I want to do so, but I know I fall so far short. I long for a world in which love and justice reign in everything. Instead we live in a world that is divided and is suffering from the effects and tyranny of sin: human greed and self-centeredness, along with the other vices of sin.

I realize too that I am part of the problem. Not that I excuse even the smallest sin or sin pattern, and don’t want to repent and change. But I too fall short of God’s ideal expressed in his will in Jesus in scripture, and I want to follow on with others in Jesus toward the full realization of that will. The blessing from God to his people, as we see in the case of Abraham is for the blessing of the world. We in Jesus are indeed blessed to be a blessing.

And so in and through Jesus we press on. By faith looking to God for a better country. Even as we thank God for all the good and blessing we experience now. Together in Jesus for the world.

giving thanks

In the United States we have our traditional Thanksgiving today. Actually started by President Abraham Lincoln on the calendar day now set apart. And connected in our tradition to the thanks given by the Pilgrims in Massachusetts. And much more to that history.

In both cases, thanks was given to God after most difficult ordeals, hard winters and learning to survive in them, experienced by the Pilgrims, and in the midst of the Civil War, a most awful ordeal in itself.

I think this is the case in scripture as well. Thanks is given to God in the midst of need being met. Sometimes after great crisis. So that difficulty in life and thanksgiving are not mutually exclusive. And we need to give thanks when answers to prayer come.

We are told in scripture that to give thanks in all circumstances is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. Life is a continual unfolding of a story that may seem repetitive in some ways, but is replete with meaning in every way, even the smallest of ways. We need to thoughtfully take pains to consider God’s hand in all of life, even when we can’t see it. To keep praying and seeking to find God’s hand in the smallest of things, as well as the bigger picture, indeed in all of life.

God’s goodness is evident everywhere. But we need to look for it in faith. With the realization that the fulfillment of faith is ever unfolding, often in ways beyond us. Somehow God’s goodness ends up overruling in all things. In and through Jesus. And we in Jesus carry both that message and witness by word, deed, and life.

And so together in Jesus we give thanks today and everyday for blessings given to ourselves and others. For life itself and for the new life in Jesus. As we seek together in Jesus God’s blessing for the world.