doing what we can

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

I once heard an excellent message from Elisa Morgan on the woman whom Jesus commended because she simply did what she could. In that case it was indeed lavish, but in a sense it was limited when you think about it. Both in terms of a past she couldn’t change and the present which would likely be difficult for her in that society. But the future had promise since she would indeed be a part of the society of Jesus.

Oftentimes we wish we could do something big and important, something that will have eternal impact. We lose sight of how God’s kingdom in Jesus works. It works through the smallest of seeds to the blessing of many. God does not despise the day of seemingly small things.

We need to think in terms of what we can do, specifically what God is leading us to do. God surely moved in the heart of this sinful woman (we are all sinners of course, by the way) to do what she did, although surely at the same time it was something that in all her uniqueness she thought through and chose to do. The same goes for us. How can we express our love and gratitude to the Lord for sins forgiven and new life? How can we honor him and be a blessing to others?

Doing what we can is actually what it’s all about* for all of us in the way of Jesus.

*Or one might say, the goal of our faith expressed out of love in the way of Jesus.

God’s peace after the storm

Sometimes we do experience God’s peace in the midst of trouble, in the midst of the storm. But often enough it can come afterward, after we’ve endured a feeling of unsettled darkness.

It is important for us that we simply maintain our faith, hold on. We can’t manufacture (for lack of a better word) this peace ourselves; it is a peace that comes from God, from the Holy Spirit. And it’s a peace which has to do with a certain direction called in scripture the path of the righteous, simply living in God’s leading.

We can expect as those who live in this present existence that our faith and way in Jesus will be challenged both externally and internally. Doubts, fears, whatever else will come and go. This is all a part of life, things we may well need to work through or let go, in a sense ultimately eventually always letting go. As we trust ourselves into God’s arms and he shares something of his heart with us. In and through Jesus.

Halloween and All Saints Day

I wish I knew the connection better, but like other pagan festival days, the Christians would make holy days (from which we get the word holidays) for the faithful and for a witness. In the case of what we now call Halloween, it was thought to be the night when the dead would visit the homes in which they had lived. And in some cases propitiation to appease any anger was sought from the dead by offerings for blessing as opposed to cursing. Of course contact with the dead in the form of séances is strictly forbidden by scripture. Ouija boards and the like play into this and are not something to be treated lightly, indeed we should avoid all such. There is a power behind it which may show up, and the power is at its core quite ugly and awful.

Christians made the night the eve of “All Saints Day,” a day to honor all of God’s holy people who have been recognized by the church as such. Of course in Christ all are actually saints, or holy and set apart to God. That day is followed by All Souls Day which acknowledges the faith of all the baptized. Christians wanted to make it clear that they did not share in the fear of that night which they called in our words, All Saints Eve (called All Hallows’ Eve by a certain time, cf: “Hallowed be your name” in “The Lord’s/our Father prayer”, see above link). Instead Christians honored the dead in Christ and celebrated their faith through the one who by his death abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

In their witness and in our ongoing witness of Jesus today, we want to make it clear that we have no fear of the dark powers which indeed can be active especially around these specific days. While we respect both the power they have and don’t think for a moment that we ourselves are any match for that, we know that we have the victory over all such through Christ, and through the power of his death and resurrection. We need not tread in fear of such, even as we look forward to the day when all such evil will forever be vanquished and destroyed.

Of course in our enlightened Modernist culture or the ongoing entrenchment of such in what may be a developing Postmodernism, we know better. But in many cultures in the world the reality and powers of such are only too well known. As C. S. Lewis pointed out such powers and especially the Satan behind such are only too happy for people to either see them everywhere or nowhere at all. Instead we need to be aware of their presence and diabolical, deceptive works and of our victory over them in and through the cross of our resurrected Lord and King, Jesus.

what is left

Sometimes there is nothing much more we can do in a situation other than to trust God, to trust in God. We could apply that to a good number of problems in this life involving ourselves and others.

We should indeed do what we can to solve problems. Prayerfully. But in the end we have to trust all results into the hands of something other than ourselves, many would say fate, but for me it must be God. I must turn the matter completely over to God and trust in his good hand to work in all things for good, and to work out all things to a good end.

God will set the world to rights and make all things new in and through Jesus. That reality is present now in this world, but someday to bring sea change even to this world when all things are made new and the new heaven and new earth become a reality when they become one in and through Jesus.

In the meantime, we continue to trust all things, our own problems and the problems of others into the hands of God, waiting for good outcomes now, even as we await the major change to come.

back to the basics

Sometimes we get caught up in a furor of this or that or something else. And the truth is we either may not know enough to say much of anything, or it is something which no one is going to know for sure anyhow.

This is actually when we need to get back to the basics of life, what I have in mind here the basics of the faith for us in Jesus. It’s not that we want to remain in some infantile, immature state in which we remain entrenched for years, hardly aware of our ongoing drift which may result in the shipwreck of our faith. But we need to remember the foundation of our faith, both from and on what we live in and through Jesus. And the emphasis here needs to be on a faith which not only necessarily knows certain truths, but is active in those truths shaping one’s life both in terms of understanding and practice. In other words if I believe that Jesus is the gospel and all that goes with that from scripture, if I believe that God is the Creator, etc., these truths should make all the difference in my life.

We need to go on to maturity in Christ both in terms of understanding and in practice. Depth in the way, the truth and the life in Jesus one might say is paramount here. But remaining on the basics, that is the foundation of our faith in Jesus, the rock on which Jesus builds his church in this world.

back to the basics

Sometimes we get caught up in a furor of this or that or something else. And the truth is we either may not know enough to say much of anything, or it is something which no one is going to know for sure anyhow.

This is actually when we need to get back to the basics of life, what I have in mind here the basics of the faith for us in Jesus. It’s not that we want to remain in some infantile, immature state in which we remain entrenched for years, hardly aware of our ongoing drift which may result in the shipwreck of our faith. But we need to remember the foundation of our faith, both from and on what we live in and through Jesus. And the emphasis here needs to be on a faith which not only necessarily knows certain truths, but is active in those truths shaping one’s life both in terms of understanding and practice. In other words if I believe that Jesus is the gospel and all that goes with that from scripture, if I believe that God is the Creator, etc., these truths should make all the difference in my life.

We need to go on to maturity in Christ both in terms of understanding and in practice. Depth in the way, the truth and the life in Jesus one might say is paramount here. But remaining on the basics, that is the foundation of our faith in Jesus, the rock on which Jesus builds his church in this world.

Brennan Manning on “the victorious limp”

One night a dear friend of Rosalyn’s named Joe McGill was praying over this passage in John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…. The Word was made flesh, he lived among us…” (John 1:1, 14). In the bright darkness of faith, he heard Jesus say: “Yes, the Word was made flesh. I chose to enter your broken world and limp through life with you.”

On the last day, when we arrive at the Great Cabin in the Sky, many of us will be bloodied, battered, bruised, and limping. But, by God and by Christ, there will be a light in the window and a “welcome home sign on the door.

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, 187.

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.