at a crossroads

Somehow, someway I think I’m either at a crossroads or have already entered into something new. Maybe it’s just a new way in doing some of the old, I don’t know.

There are some changes going on in our lives at this time. As for my life I don’t know what to make of it sometimes, particularly right now.

I have been rather in a kind of “give up” mood, and not sure what to make of it. To give up can be good and not so good. Maybe in my case it’s a little bit of both.

And so I go on. Not knowing what’s up with this, except the one to whom we call in and through Jesus. I lift up my eyes to the hills. I know that he is always faithful.

Together with others in and through Jesus for the world.

repentance and rest, quietness and trust

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”

I love this passage. It has a wonderful promise, yet with a warning. We are so inclined to want to live life on our terms. But God wants us to live life on his terms. Only then will we find the life that is truly life.

Repentance and rest. I find I need to repent, or turn, over and over again in life. And rest. Yes, I want to live much more in God’s rest in Jesus. In this repentance and rest we find a salvation not just someday, but today, now.

Quietness and trust. Quietness is not easy for me. I have to turn off the noise, even good noise. And listen, listen for the voice of God that somehow may be communicating something, whatever it is I need to hear. And trust. Yes, simple trust. I depend too much on trying to sort this and that out myself and not enough in simply trusting God in and through Jesus. In this I can find God’s strength, yes in and even through my weakness.

Hopefully the sad words spoken against God’s people of old will not be spoken against me, against us. “…but you would have none of it.” As if we can manage life ourselves quite alright. And we can after a fashion. But outside of the salvation and strength mentioned here. Outside of the grace the Lord longs to give us.

May the Lord help me, help us more and more to look to and rest in him. To be quiet as we trust in him. Together in Jesus for the world.

 

seeing improvement

I think the Lord in his grace lets us see, at times, inklings of our growth in grace in him. Ways that we may be becoming like him. I also think that when we don’t do so well and that is evident, that is also part of God’s grace in making us aware just where we are obviously falling short. Of course we need God to search us and reveal to us anything that is not pleasing to him, anything offensive, any sin. But sometimes we know well enough ourselves, and yet even during such times we need to ask God to reveal to us the depths of our sin.

But back to the main point of this post: It is such a blessing when we see God helping us to do better, to give up our pride and humble ourselves before each other. And to see that sustained over time, a new way of life. Improvement should be seen not just in an incident after which we retreat back to our old patterns, our old ways. But it should be seen as something by grace which is sustained over time.

I am seeing that at work. I had to give up my pride over something, maybe just a bit of pride, ha. But pride is pride. I did something a certain way different than I ordinarily do it, in line with how at least a couple others think it should be done, and in the kind of work we were doing (albeit a bit unusual) it did work better. I want that attitude which is quick to listen, with a submissive spirit. I work with other Christians in a ministry in a factory setting. I hope those of us who are older can be a good example to those who are younger, even as we appreciate and learn from them.

Nothing is more important than living in the grace of God in and through Jesus. I’m so grateful that in all the difficulties and even depths of darkness or pain into which we may descend there is grace, God’s grace in Jesus. That even in such places and experience, maybe I should say especially in such places and experience, God is doing a work to make us more and more like Jesus. Together in this in Jesus for the world.

preaching to one’s self

I’ve preached a number of sermons in my life, in fact I still do nearly every week at a nursing home. But I find that I need to preach to myself nearly everyday. And from time to time I have to give myself a serious sermon.

Of course in all of this I am in need of the Spirit to bring truth to mind and to light. Though oftentimes I find myself struggling to find water, or find air, simply to find the needed word in which I can rest. Of course we turn to scripture, to God’s written word. And we find through its pages that we are pointed to Jesus. We learn to see everything “in Jesus,” in his light. And we are given specific truth we need. One of the big ones for me is to be reminded that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But there’s many other things I also need to hear from time to time, some of it daily. And we depend on each other in Jesus, the church. Sometimes we need special prayer and a word of counsel from our pastor or from a trusted brother or sister.

A fellow worker once remarked how often I’m moving my lips at work. I work in a factory setting there, so there’s usually a dull roar going on while we work. And yes, I may be praying the Lord’s prayer, reciting the Jesus Creed, or simply reciting as best I can a part of scripture I need. Or just praying. Part of what is going on sometimes is preaching to myself.

Preaching that is true is that which is by the Spirit of the word in and through the Word, Jesus. During especially the most difficult times I may need some confirmation for what I think I’m hearing, or what I’ve gathered up to preach. Sometimes that will come in the communion of the church, and sometimes in answer to my question.

And so when things aren’t right for me, I listen. Even as I seek to be centered in the one on whom everything depends and through whom God’s good will comes. In him, Jesus, together with others for the world.

respect and honor to veterans and prayer from a pacifist Christian

Today is Memorial Day in the United States in which veterans, especially those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice are honored. I too want to honor those who have served along with those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, since I believe scripture teaches me to do so. I know as well that the state is used by God for good, indeed his very servant to put down evil.

As a pacifist Christian (or a Christian pacifist, not sure which terms to use, the emphasis should always be on Christian and the common reality we share in Christ) I believe I follow the teaching of scripture quite literally on this in a simple, straightforward kind of way, Romans 12:17-13:7 being a prime example, as well as panoramic view so to speak I believe, of this vision. I have to say I think (based on a study of it) the words in the opening verses of Romans 13  apply at least mostly to something of a kind of police activity, rather than war.

We also are taught to make it a priority to pray for those in governmental positions of authority, that there might be peace in which we can live out the faith, as well as share it with others.

I want to stop and say that even though I think there is a significant number of Christians becoming pacifist (or almost completely so), across denominations, the majority still are of the “just war” persuasion. And there are many strong Christians serving in the United States military, as well as in other militaries, I’m sure, around the world. They share Christ and seek to live out their faith in those difficult places. And for those who do not share in the faith, I also want to honor as those who for the most part don’t want to be in harm’s way (who really does?), but have made that choice. And in large part to stop evil. I say that as one who believes that most of what America does militarily is for national self-interest. And yet I think there is often hope in all of that for a better world for all.

I close these thoughts with a prayer from Mother Theresa’s version of the prayer of St. Francis, and the prayer our Lord taught his disciples to pray:

Make us worthy Lord to serve our fellow men throughout the world, who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread and by our understanding love give peace and joy.

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.
That where there is hatred I may bring love,
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
That where there is error I may bring truth,
That where there is doubt I may bring faith,
That where there is despair I may bring hope,
That where there are shadows I may bring light,
That where there is sadness I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting self that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
Amen.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one,
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.

Eugene H. Peterson on God as Trinity being personal and relational, translated into life in and through Christ

By insisting that God is three-personed, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — God inherently relational, God in community — we are given an understanding that God is emphatically personal. The only way that God reveals himself is personally. God is personal under the personal designations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and never in any other way: never impersonally as a force or an influence, never abstractly as an idea or truth or principle. And so, of course he can’t be known impersonally or abstractly.

We are not used to this. We are schooled in institutions that train us in the acquisition of facts and data, of definitions and diagrams, of explanations and analysis. Our schools are very good at doing this. When we study persons, whether God or humans, we bring the same methods to the work: analyzing, defining, typing, charting, profiling. The uniquely personal and particular is expunged from the curriculum; and that means the removal of the most important things about us — love and hope and faith, sin and forgiveness and grace, obedience and loyalty and prayer — as significant for understanding and developing as persons. The fact is that when we are studied like specimens in a laboratory, what is learned is on the level of what is learned from an autopsy. The only way to know another is in a personal relationship, and that involves at least minimal levels of trust and risk.

Because of long training in our schools and an unbaptized imagination, we commonly bring these reductionistic, depersonalized methods to our understanding of God. But when we do, we don’t come up with much, for God is totally personal, interpersonal, relational, giving and receiving, loving and directing. There is nothing in Father-Son-Spirit that is not communal. And so there is nothing to be learned of Father-Son-Spirit except by entering the communion, entering the company of the Trinity: praying and listening, being quiet and attentive, repenting and obeying, asking and waiting. Trained as we are in the schools, it is the easiest thing in the world to use words abstractly and to treat the gospel as information. But Trinity prevents us from doing that. Trinity warns us against supposing that we can lock ourselves in a room free of all people and distractions and just read, study, and meditate and then expect to know God. Trinity is our defense against every soul-destroying venture into the Christian life that depersonalizes the gospel or God or other people.

When we are baptized into the community in the name of the Trinity, our lives become relational in a more thoroughgoing and deeper way than ever, not only with God but with the membership of the baptized.

Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, 304.

prayer for Trinity Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

against the kingdom of Satan

I was looking at this book today: Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies, and ran across this important point: While the Roman empire was idolatrous, it wasn’t directly what Jesus and his kingship and God’s kingdom come in him were against. Rather, Jesus and God’s kingdom come in him are in opposition to the kingdom of Satan. That is a good point, I think, and I look forward to reading the book.

Some Christian scholars and Christians see the nations and particularly any world power or empire as the enemy which God’s kingdom takes down. And in the end, all nations will be judged, to be sure, in fact likely going through a sort of judgment already. But God’s kingdom come in Jesus could never be a part of this world’s system as say a political party.

But getting to the main point, it would not be a popular one today, even among many Christians. The gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, freeing us from sin’s penalty and power, and from the kingdom of Satan. We are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. In and through Christ, we are another entity altogether, not from this world, although for this world.

My guess is that such a stance might comport with a humble participation of Christians in the politics of the world. Maybe that would be a particular calling, and Christians could humbly be salt and light in aspects of it, such as seeking to pass legislation which would help the poor, as well as the unborn, etc. But first and foremost we need to recognize that the battle we’re in is spiritual, and against nothing less than the kingdom of Satan.

In Christ and God’s kingdom come in him, we indeed have the victory. It is a victory through the cross of Jesus,  for forgiveness of sins and new life through his resurrection. And in the way of Jesus as God’s resurrection people, the way of the cross. Together in this in Jesus for the world.

older and less sure

We recently heard a lady in chapel at RBC Ministries who is probably more “conservative” than I, some would call a “fundamentalist” (I’m sure there’s a good number that would call me that, as well). She took a clear stand on a heated subject (I agreed with her), but in the course of the talk, without hedging at all on the stand she had taken, she also made the remark that as she has gotten older (I think in her mid-sixties, or older) she is less sure on a number of things apart from her commitment to the Lord. I appreciated that thought and her message. And then recently in our team devotions our leader, in his mid-seventies if I remember right, stumbled through explaining something, after which I expressed appreciation, because I said that his thought reflected the ambiguity on that subject seen in scripture and in life.

As I get older I think I’m more firm than ever on the essential point: God has revealed himself in Christ and the basic things that follow that. But on so many other points, specifically on controverted points, I’m less sure. That being said, my uncertainty is not so much about specific points. For example I still hold to a pacifist Christian position, and on lesser matters, probably an Arminian view with reference to salvation, believer’s baptism (as opposed to infant baptism, which I believe God still accepts), etc.

What I’m less sure about is just how we live out this truth in the world. I have all kinds of basic answers from scripture and theology, and I think I hold to them as firm as ever. But sometimes somehow there seems to be a disconnect from those answers and life itself. I’m not necessarily thinking so much of my own life, though I’m sure it’s there, too. I’m especially thinking of just what the Spirit would have us do individually and together as church in the current culture in which we live.

In all of this we need the Holy Spirit to help us together sort through stuff. Yes, the church should be a centering point for this, even while we work through it in our own lives. We need people of wisdom who understand the times and what God’s people ought to do. Each generation needs to work on the application of the gospel for the specific time and place. And to be less sure ourselves means we can become more dependent on God, which is a good thing, a dependence in which there is interdependence on Christ’s body, the church. Together in Jesus in this for the world.

speak out

In Acts the Spirit comes on the believers and they begin to speak in other tongues/languages as the Spirit gives them utterance. In other places when one is filled with the Spirit they speak.

I think sometimes we who have the Spirit for one reason or another remain mute. Perhaps that’s a near impossibility when we receive a fresh infilling of the Spirit. I think even in our weakness we need to trust the Spirit to give us words for the moment. Our entire lives are in a sense preparation for that, as well as learning from God through scripture, tradition (the church), reason and experience. We need to trust the Lord that even in and through our weakness, he can speak through us. At the same time we must seek to speak his word and words, not our own. While realizing with all humility that something of our own words may get mixed in, which can not only be alright, but in fact an expression of the incarnational faith that is ours in Jesus.

And so prayerfully with all humility, let us seek to speak out, words of truth and love. To each other in Jesus, and especially to the world as his witnesses.