being willing to be in process

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64

One of the most necessary aspects, indeed realities, in being a Christian, in following Christ, is being in process, unfinished, but on the beginning track of being conformed by God into the image of his Son, Jesus. This can be quite uncomfortable at times, and we can bail out of the hard places by flinching from them, rather than setting our face like a flint and going through them. Not easy, nor fun, I speak from experience.

We are people of experience, especially it seems, in this time. Existentialism to some extent, has gained the upper hand. “If it feels good,”, or it works, and we seem to be doing fine, we don’t give many things that maybe we once questioned, or even thought were wrong, a second thought. Of course God is a God of grace who will work in our lives in spite of us. Just the same, we do reap what we sow. And God’s word means what it says in its words of warning, as well as encouragement.

A most important thing to note here is that God is at work. This can help us in faith to hang in there, counting on God’s faithfulness. If we persevere, then God can do a lot that otherwise would not be done. So that later down the road, we won’t be back at the same place which wasn’t completed earlier. Each part is a juncture toward the end when God will complete his work in us, in and through Jesus.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1

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The United States and us fearful Christians

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

….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.

….Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 11-12

July 4 is upon us, this being the holiday weekend preceding it. And if there’s one thing for sure, so many of us, and I’ll include myself, are hardly past the election fervor, caught up in a presidency which may turn out to be the most polarizing in US history, aside from Abraham Lincoln’s presidency during those tumultuous and horrific Civil War days. Hardly any of us like what is going on in US politics, many for similar reasons, others of us for different reasons, some of the concerns being the same across the board. It is a difficult time for a good number of reasons in a nation which is not only polarized, but threatening to be on the edge of being torn apart.

The question on this post is this: When push comes to shove, just where does our confidence lie? What do we think will win and save the day, and why? And just why are we so upset and fearful?

This is not meant to be a critique of the United States, but there’s no doubt there have been seismic changes in society, and that the liberal, progressives have been all but dismissive of the conservatives. And there’s no doubt that the conservatives themselves have written off the liberals. You have few moderates, who by many would be seen as wishy washy and weak kneed. As far as I’m concerned, while I do have opinions about US politics, and especially concerning issues of the day, none of that matters in comparison to the main point of this post. While those things have an important and provisional place, they are not at all on par with what now follows.

We as Christians, and especially the older generation of us, which includes myself, and I plead guilty, we have lost our focus and therefore are weak in our faith, and weary, in danger of losing heart. Oh yes, there will be some who will fight to the bitter end either for the Democratic Party, or for the Republican Party, or their version of what they think America needs, and won’t seem to have lost any heart at all. They have a lot of hope for good, and to avoid what isn’t good through the federal, state and local government. And again, it’s not like that has no value at all. But we in Jesus are actually called to something else, even while at the same time we pray and humbly participate according to our convictions for the good of the state.

Our goal is something better, something much more. It is to be a follower of Jesus in whatever culture we’re placed, to announce and live out the good news of the kingdom of God in Jesus, in the truth that Jesus is King with the hope that follows. We should be those who are commended for our faith in God, both confident and assured that God will fulfill his promises come what may. And that includes whatever we may face in coming days, years, or generations, should the Lord tarry.

We need to quit thinking and from that acting as if all depends on what is happening or not happening in Washington, D. C., as hard as that might seem to us, for some of us for different reasons. Our eyes need to become fixed on Jesus, period, who shows us the way as the pioneer and perfecter of faith, and of course, is the way. Faith, plain naked faith, and I mean the faith that is in the God revealed in Jesus, that is what we live for, and if need be, die for. While at the same time we faithfully pray for those in government, and hope for the best for the nation, and the world.

That is our calling. This is what we Christians in America should be known for. In and through Jesus.

See Andy Stanley’s compelling message, Fix Your Eyes, which inspired this post.

 

life in the pressure cooker

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1

Have you ever noticed how through the difficulties and pressures of life you grow, but when things are easy, you can flounder? I speak for myself in saying that I readily identify with that thought.

Fortunately life is quite full in terms of both challenges and responsibilities. It is good to learn how to rest well, even to relax and enjoy, in fact probably more vitally important than what we think. I remember our Lord’s words to his disciples, “Come apart, and rest awhile.” They weren’t able to rest for long, though, with the clamoring crowds all around them.

I turn again and again to scripture, to God’s word especially when I feel under siege, but I want to do so through thick and thin. We can do that no matter what we’re facing, certain of God’s faithfulness through it all. Even in the trials, that God is at work for good. Therefore we need to hang in there, hang tough even in our weakness through the difficulties. Confident of a good outcome in and through Jesus.

a thought on Revelation

I just finished going slowly through the book of Revelation. It is quite heavy, but appropriate, when we consider just how heavy the world is, if we pay any attention to the news at all. It is not exactly nice, as appropriate for a bedtime story for children. Yet it addresses real evil, and brings in the true and final salvation for the healing and flourishing of all.

When reading through this book, it’s not like we should just see it as metaphorical, and not really happening. I don’t believe world events will happen precisely as given in the book, because the book is chalk full of symbols, and symbolic imagery. Awesome, world-changing and shaping events will take place, and evil will at a point be purged, but we need to avoid what is surely the crass literalism of the “left behind” approach.

One is struck with just how strongly the Revelation shakes out to be a fulfillment in the sense of ending of the entire Bible, of the First (“Old”) Testament, as well as the Final (“New”) Testament. No one should think they are a faithful Bible reader and student if they don’t take the entire Bible seriously from Genesis through Revelation, of course including everything in between. Some things might not appeal to us, we might not get it, but we need to hang in there, and try to understand, and keep working at it over the long haul, little by little.

Revelation reminds us of many biblical themes, like salvation in the final sense, the kingdom of the world as in the world system, persecution of those who hold to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus, the kingdom of God in King Jesus, the goal of all creation with strong parallels to Genesis, etc.

It is a hard book to read, probably for me  because it hits up against my Modernist Enlightenment influenced sensibilities, and one might even say, Anabaptist tendencies rooted in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The latter takes evil seriously, and simply takes the way of the Lamb in opposing it. The former cringes at the thought of actual evil (“we can educate it away”), and even more against the notion of judgment. And there’s the broken down systems of justice in our world today, perhaps adding to a cynical view of traditional approaches. Therefore, though a heavy read, Revelation is surely a much needed read for us today.

So if there’s a next time for me to go over Revelation, I hope by God’s grace to be more ready, and hopefully will be able to take more in, so that along with others, we can in faith faithfully endure through Jesus to the very end.

the shaping of a saint

Recently I have been thinking of Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What stands out to me is the thought that we are God’s handiwork. God is shaping us to be his saints, his holy people. Certainly for the good works he has prepared for us to do.

If we are to be fully formed in every aspect of our lives, no part is going to be excluded. Even those parts that in our own wisdom we most certainly would leave unchanged, thinking our way is better. And sometimes in the process we may think we’re not able to bear it. That somehow or another the process will do us in.

We have to remember that it is God’s work, and that we want to be completely yielded to that work, even as the clay to be formed into a jar is completely yielded to the potter. We are indeed the work of God’s hands (see Isaiah 64:8). It may seem hot at times, and we may not understand the shape we’re taking, or this or that which may be changed. We need to entrust ourselves into the hands of the God who is good, trusting that what he is doing is good, and that the outcome will be good.

continuing on

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.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV ); see 3:10-4:8

It is good to have encouragement along the way in the form affirmation through the words of others and especially in one’s heart and mind. A shaft of light bringing clarity and along with that some inner joy and peace. Most of the time however it is more of a case of needing to plod along in spite of this and that, in spite of many things. Sometimes in the face of great trial, and often with this or that trouble.

We must go on regardless. Ever mindful of our need of God and ever engaged in his word. Not only in reading it, but in both seeking to practice as well as teach it. Notice the reference to “the Holy Scriptures” and what they are able to do: “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” While this passage refers to the servant or minister of Christ, it has application for all of us. As we follow Christ we are all spiritual leaders of someone: whether in our families as parents for children, or to our neighbors who may not know the Lord. These words apply secondarily to us, even while applying to those who are set apart as examples as well as ministers to the church.

That is my thought for myself today. Whatever else I do I want to be much in the word. And not just today but everyday as I seek to continue on along with others in the light and life of the gospel for us and for the world.

never give up

One of the primary tactics of the spiritual enemy the satan and its cohorts is to get people to simply give up in despair for any number of reasons. The list could go on and on as to why, some major mistakes and sometimes major failings. All the way to the minor ones and the accumulation of such.

But in and through Jesus there is forgiveness and a way out of the wilderness, even if the way out takes some time. We need to be grounded in Jesus, that is putting our faith in him and his once for all sacrifice for us on the cross, for our sins and for new life. We need as well to be his followers, seeking to follow him in all of life come what may. Obeying his commands, yes, and seeking to live close to him in his love and in the love and kingdom of the Father by the Spirit.

I now look back on my life and wish I would have lived it with more thoughtfulness at times, especially pertaining to one matter recently. And I wish I would have lived with much more maturity in the past, refusing to justify attitudes or actions which were not in line with scripture. Not that I don’t have any blind spots now. I hope that if I know better I will repent and seek to do better. If scripture is true then I can but only in and through Jesus, not in my own strength.

The point of this post is to never ever give up and give in to the lie that we can’t go on in Jesus and do better and end up doing well in and by God’s grace. We need to do whatever it takes to do that, prayer and fasting, and especially seeking to live in humble obedience even in all our brokenness before the Lord and others.

We want to do so in love by the Spirit, not by our own strivings. And yet striving in God’s strength, a striving which will include serious resting in Jesus, in God, but a rest out of which we can live in love and do the good works God has for us to do out of love for God and for our neighbor and particularly to help those in need, especially the poor. This is what I want my mindset more to be now until the end.