being willing to take second fiddle and serve

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke 22

I have never seen this connection before, and I like how the NIV in its paragraph divisions, brings all of this together in one paragraph. During the Last Supper, of all places, after Jesus told them that one of them was about to betray him, they began to argue with each other over which of them was considered to be greatest.

Jesus pointed to himself as the one who took the place assigned to servants; the more important, or considered greater people, sitting at the tables, being served. But that, because they had stood by him in his trials, he would give them a kingdom in which they’ll sit down and eat and drink, as well as sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The ways of the world easily rub off on us. We need to take care that we neither lord it over others, or expect them to serve us. Instead we need to appeal to them, and serve them. We especially need to be sensitive to those who have been hurt, and who might easily misunderstand our actions and words. But we also need to be open to the need for rough edges to be taken off of us.

I’m afraid that the world sometimes rubs off more on us, than our way in Christ rubbing off on the people of the world. We end up imitating what we admire. We need to learn to see the beauty of Jesus, and come to value that. And then see everything else in that light. Certainly that’s the way of humility and service. And in God’s grace by the Spirit, Jesus himself can live in us and help us. In fact, because of that, we can become more like him.

That is the key, but at the same time we need to be aware, and when need be repent and become like the little children of the Father in the kingdom, loving and serving each other, and the world, in God’s love, in and through Jesus.

no condemnation, or corresponding fear for those in Christ Jesus

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4

I believe strongly that it not only doesn’t hurt to go back to some level one gospel truths. All biblical truth in a way, is gospel truth, since in one way or another it’s related to the gospel. But when you start looking at such truth in scripture, you do best to read all of it in context. This is like music albums, when certain symphony or classical pieces are on the recording. Those are nice to have, perhaps especially for those who don’t have an appreciation of classical music. Maybe akin to precious promise books, which have certain verses and passages from scripture. I have two such albums I especially like, one supposedly for morning, and another for going to sleep at night. We all return to certain verses or passages again and again. But it’s best to along with that, look and listen to the entire thing, if we want to gain a keen eye and ear, so that we can better process and appreciate every part. Such is the case with one of the great passages of scripture, itself like a mountain, or beautiful place, Romans 8.

Let me preface these thoughts then to point out that to gain the best appreciation of Romans 8, we need to consider all of this great book. And then to understand the book of Romans best, we do well to be working through the entire Bible. All of that is a project which takes time, to be sure. But even if we haven’t done much there, it’s so good to look at one short passage, maybe even a verse, and then look at a paragraph out from that in whatever translation of scripture you use. And from there a whole section, since most translations nowadays incorporate headings.

The beginning of the Romans 8 masterpiece states that those in Christ Jesus have no condemnation from God based on the cross of Christ; his death taking care of the sinfulness of our flesh, our sin– the work of the Spirit in our life, corresponding to that. We can think we know these things already, but it’s important to keep meditating on them, and actually life itself along with our own propensities will make it essential for us to do so, if we want to keep growing, and going on with the Lord.

The end of this important section of this great peak in scripture is related to the beginning. Since there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, there’s no fear of that, either, because such are indeed God’s children, the Spirit bearing witness to our spirit of that reality, as we live in dependence on that Spirit, and do not live according to the flesh, which means the myriad of ways people live apart from the Spirit in the way of this world.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:12-17

Again, to really appreciate this fully, we need to read it more fully in its context. But suffice it to say here that we are simply different people in Christ, because God is our Father, and the Spirit helps us to live out that reality. And front and center here, condemnation and the fear is therefore never to be accepted by us.

Romans 8 stands on its own as a tremendous piece that we need to get into our eyes and ears, into our hearts, and into our bones. Into the very warp and woof of our lives. All of this in and through Jesus.

beauty in brokenness

Our society doesn’t embrace brokenness. Somehow it needs to be fixed, and the sooner the better. The leading candidate of one party for the upcoming presidential election is popular in part because he would not only never acknowledge such, but doesn’t believe in it. But Jesus did. Even if some of us, and even some churches might to some extent get caught up in something of an unbroken superiority complex.

Give me the real, the human, the honest and suffering person, and there you will find someone who not only can be helped, but who more often than not enters into a beauty that is beyond them. Simply to be honest and reject all masks is beauty enough. There is a person I know who is up there in years, and supposedly has the cognitive ability of a two or three year old, and while I may not doubt that, I think assessing this person is more complicated than that. And even though she may not be pretty to look at, as the world sees it, I find her to be one of the most beautiful people I know, because she radiates and lives in the childlikeness which the Lord holds dear. “Except you change, and become like little children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And in our brokenness and humility, something of the greatest of all beauty can begin to break through: the beauty of the Lord.

Part of the difficulty in this condition is that although we’re close to being in rhyme with heaven, we are also close to being in rhyme with hell (Michael Card). I can find myself there a number of times everyday. Pushed onto that side for whatever reason. So that I realize I need more of the Lord’s work in me to overcome that. Perhaps too little in my eyes, and at least largely hidden from others most of the time, but important in God’s eyes, and as we learn to see more and more with God’s eyes, it becomes more important in our eyes as well.

Yes, we need a broken and contrite, humbled, penitent heart, because we indeed are broken. The ones most broken are those who don’t believe they are. But brokenness can be beautiful, when before the Lord we acknowledge such, and his beauty begins to be seen through forgiveness and cleansing, and even in the midst of our struggle and weakness and even failure. It is certainly not us we want others to see, but only the Lord.

remaining like a little child

There is nothing I like better I suppose then some good intellectually challenging stuff, of course within the realm of my knowledge and education, even if sometimes I like to be pushed by something which seems altogether foreign. And there are few things I dislike more than trying to solve some matter intellectually, which is bothering me, something like a brushfire, not challenging the faith for me, but certainly a challenge to my own faith.

I think it is okay for me to ask questions, pursue answers, even working through difficult places. But one thing I don’t do well to forget or leave behind is the need to remain like a little child before my Father God.

Jesus told his disciples that unless they would change and become like little children, they would never enter the kingdom of heaven. This life we are called to in Jesus is a life of implicit trust, as well as implicit obedience. Something we probably have to learn and grow into, something which hopefully becomes more and more a part of who we are. “Trust and obey…” And living in joy, the joy of the Lord.

This can be all very much a challenge for me, since it has been almost characteristic of me to not only encounter trouble, but to be very much troubled. I suppose this is not all that uncommon, but if we are overcome with this problem, we may do well to ask ourselves if we really are one of God’s children through faith in Jesus. If we are, we need to remember that and act on it, which may often mean not acting at all.

A good psalm to remember and pray and aspire to:

Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

acting on impulse

Some people seem to give pride of place to spontaneity. Life is about acting on the moment. Others see self-control as a paramount, if not the paramount virtue. So that they are always taking measured steps, rarely if ever acting on impulse.

At times I think I’ve put myself in not the best place by acting all too soon. Perhaps there wasn’t sufficient prayer, if any prayer at all. I have an answer, a ready one, and one that seems to fit well the occasion and perceived need, and I know that unless I share it then and there, that time will have passed, and besides, I will have forgotten the word, seemingly apt and in season.

On the one hand, we’re to be like little children to inherit the kingdom of God, and though we’re to mature as sons and daughters in Jesus, I don’t believe we’re to ever lose a certain kind of child-likeness that Jesus seems to indicate is part and parcel of the kingdom. Children certainly act on impulse out of love, we might even say out of faith, hope and love with reference to life, and their understanding as well as in the context of their relationships.

On the other hand, self-control likewise is important, and oftentimes underrated and all but forgotten in our society which seems more than less all about acting on impulse with the now old motto still alive and well, “If it feels good, do it.” In fact for us in Jesus it is vital, and a fruit of the Spirit. It is about controlling ourselves so that we don’t act on emotions that are inappropriate such as anger or fear, so that we don’t act on impulses that have their origin in the world, the flesh and the devil.

For myself there is no doubt that acting on impulse in the sense of acting on being led at the moment is important in what I do and in expressing who I am in terms of witness. Jesus told his disciples that when they would be brought to trial because of their faith in him, that they should not plan ahead of time what they will say, that the Spirit would give them the words to say when that time would come. And what we do in the moment is really an expression of what has been gathered days and years before that, for good or for ill.

But it is also important for me to take special note of all such impulses and seek to understand their core. Does this act I’m about to do in word or deed reflect God’s good will in Jesus, or is it my own will in a context that is all about me? Sometimes we can see clearly the answer to this, but other times it is quite subtle. It may seem like I’m about the Father’s business, when in reality I’m bent on seeing my own will done. However we should not get too hung up on what might not be clear. Most of the time it will be clear enough for us, one way or the other. And if it’s not, then we do best to stop and pray.

And then when I do something which I thought at the time was good, I am a good one for second guessing myself. My wife Deb keeps reminding me not to do that. I did what I thought was best at the time, and I should allow for the possibility, or even probability that God led me, or is at least working good in it for good.

Acting on impulse. Something we can do in the faith, hope and love that are grounded in God’s revelation to us in Jesus, as God’s kingdom people, together with each other and for the world.

the Father’s heart

There are a number of points in which the Vineyard movement, what might better be called the Vineyard churches excel in, one of them being the importance of knowing the Father’s heart. We need to take to heart this emphasis because in Jesus by the Spirit, that is most definitely a part of our spiritual DNA.

Many of us did not have a close relationship with our fathers, who may have been distant, and in some cases even abusive. So we struggle with the idea of God’s fatherhood. And in a sense God’s nurturing of us, like a mother. That may especially be difficult if we never bonded with our mother.

Jesus lived in close relationship, heart to heart with his Father. Jesus knew and trusted his Father. He longed to spend time with the Father while here on earth.

We in Jesus need to know the Father’s heart. By the Spirit to call him, Abba Father. To learn to sit on his lap. To begin to know his heart of love, his care for us as his children, his care for me as his child.

We also see the Father and his heart in Jesus. God is like Jesus. Jesus’ heart bursts with love for us; like father, like son. We are one family in him, and therefore begin to understand and experience this love ourselves, and for each other.

And this heart, the Father’s heart is not only for us, but for the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is a love which is family, and yet knows no bounds. Even embracing, and longing to be reconciled with enemies.

The Father’s heart. Oh, how I long to know it better. How I long to know the Father better, and grow in that relationship in Jesus by the Spirit, a relationship of love.

being a little child

I think, think, and think some more. I recall the words from one of my favorite psalms:

I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.

I don’t think at all that this means we eschew the intellect. We have to take this psalm in context. What it does mean in context is that we are to live as children of God, learning to be as content as a little child with their mother.

We continue on as we are in the way God has gifted us. But as children, children of God no less. Jesus said that unless we change and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of God.

Therefore we must subject everything to God. Perhaps especially our strong points or propensities. If not, we can begin to have confidence in our own abilities, in ourselves. Rather than the confidence we need and find in God, in the way of Jesus.

Being a little child while loving God with all our minds is simply a matter of trust. We trust in God and in his way, even if it runs against the grain of our way, our thoughts and understanding. Maybe especially when it does. That means even more trust, doesn’t it? So that perhaps we can grow in our faith all the more. Learning to trust our Father so as to quiet our thoughts, and dispel our fears.

Oh to be like a little child content with their mother! Sitting on the Father’s lap and resting content in his love.

Together in Jesus in and for the world.

mindful matters

I’ve been told by good people that I think too much. I think other people think I don’t think well enough. I lean toward agreement with the latter. When one thinks, they want to consider all the factors involved, something one can aspire to only as an ongoing goal. You study and then make the best decision you can based on your understanding and evaluation of things.

I used to look at some people (I think to some degree I still may at times) and wish I would be like them. They seem not to ask questions, and go through life with a smile on their face. And oftentimes I see them as having a simple child like faith which I aspire to. Hopefully I do have something of that, and am growing in it. But unlike them it seems, I want to keep asking questions within my commitment to the faith.

It’s a good thing not everyone is like the likes of me, but we no doubt benefit from each other. Our differences contribute to the whole that makes up the human race, and our different gifts in Christ’s Body in love are meant for our good in growth to maturity and good works in Christ in the world.

In the meantime I need to take into account both the strengths and weaknesses of my tendencies, the difficulties along with, I trust blessings. I hope to do better with the weaknesses I have, such as being controversial publically sometimes to a fault. Along with learning to think better along with others. As together we follow Jesus in and for the world.


Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

1 My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

Our mind matters. We’re to love God with all our mind, along with our heart, soul and strength. We’re to grow in wisdom and knowledge. Indeed we’re to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And amazingly we in Jesus have his mind.

On the other hand, we’re not to lean on our own understanding. We need to be well aware of how easily we deceive ourselves. And we need to take every thought captive to make our thoughts obedient to Christ.

I am beginning to think that I over think, or over analyze my life. When I was younger, I didn’t know much else more. I’d land on a text and try to put my faith on that word from God, but then think and think and think about the problem or situation, turning it over again and again. With little satisfaction coming from that most of the time.

Now I like to develop the posture more and more of simply not knowing. This doesn’t mean that we don’t know a lot. By faith we accept God’s witness given to us in his word concerning Jesus, and all of scripture relating to God’s will and theme of the Story of God’s kingdom and grace come in him. We can be bold on the themes of creation, fall, covenant, redemption, new creation. Of the centrality of Christ himself in the Story. Of the importance of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. So it’s not like we know nothing. God has given us a good deal which we do understand, albeit ever so imperfectly, by faith.

I want to learn to not be in the habit that I’m afraid I’m still all too prone toward: thinking that with God’s help I can think anything through. Even along with others, which is actually much better. Not to say we shouldn’t think on things. And ponder them in our hearts, even as Mary, the mother of our Lord, did.

But we need to be as children before God. Yes, wanting to know. But above all trusting. Trusting in God just as a helpless child trusts in their parent. Not imagining that we know it all, or really rightly know anything at all apart from our relationship to our Father. That he loves us, and gives us all we need in and through Jesus, including all the understanding needed. In community with each other and for the world.

not yielding to condemnation

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, we read in Romans 8. The beginning of a wondrous chapter which all of us would do well to memorize and frequently meditate on.

My life has been full of thinking the worst of myself. My wife Deb will attest to that. Not to say I can’t be quick on a dime to defend myself. Though growth in grace and likeness to Jesus puts the damper on all such defenses. We are after all, sinners. I think I’ve been conditioned to think in an unhealthy way in regard to myself. Not from my wife! Something I may have imbibed no matter what the past for all I know. But naturally my defenses quickly arise and I bristle when others attack me. I find that often it is no attack at all, though sadly enough we do all too well at speaking ill of each other even if only in our hearts. Not good.

We in Jesus must not yield to condemnation. Jesus died for us, so no one can bring any charge against us. We have the Spirit to guide us as those who are no less than God’s very children–into all the will of God. Jesus not only died for us, but was raised to life, and is seated at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Interceding as in praying. For our lives now.

If God is for us, we’re told, who can be against us? So much in this chapter. It ends telling us in Jesus that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus.

I sometimes have to be quiet and still before God, and refuse to respond to inward, and perhaps even outward accusations, though the latter we must certainly take seriously.  Of course we always do well to pray the prayer of examen, as it’s called, as in the words of the psalmist: God, search me and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there is any offensive, wicked way in me. And lead me in the way everlasting.” We need to be sure before God that we are not cherishing sin in our hearts. Confession, and waiting before God are always good. And confession of our sins to others we hurt or sin against. As well as talking over our struggles in a spirit of confession with a trusted spiritual mentor. It should be our goal to be pleasing to God.

And then we rest in the promise, the reality that is ours in Jesus. Through his death for our sins, and his resurrection for no less than a new life. Beginning now. With a hope that is active for all creation, indeed for the reconciliation of the world to himself. In and through Jesus. A hope that is anticipatory of God’s sure fulfillment. Which actually begins now through the Spirit’s working and groaning in us.

And so we can leave self-condemnation behind, learn to leave it completely behind–though in the nature of things, it can be a more and more type of blessing for us. That we indeed might be a blessing, sharing this love of God in Jesus with all others.