the impact we have on each other

Going into this new year, 2014, I think of books which have had a major impact on my life, along the way. Of course the Book, the Bible being in a place all by itself. But other books, besides. But just as important as that, if not more are the people who have impacted me along the way, both for good and ill. I hate to say for ill, because I am sadly sure that I have hurt others at times in ways which require God’s redemptive work, no less. And actually in a true sense we are a mixed bag. We help and hurt each other in our relationships, though hopefully in and through Christ we are learning to live in the way of love and truth. Although in Jesus there is no way to make everything comfortable, since that is not what Jesus and the way in him is all about.

We have impact on each other just by being in each other’s company, being the people we are. That is a large part of what church is all about. In church a whole different dynamic is present by the Spirit, so that in God’s grace in Jesus we rub off on each other in all sorts of ways. In God’s love by the Spirit for good, even while we inevitably have to work through the hurts in our failings which we inflict on each other.

Actually, I am becoming rather convinced that an important place for change is to simply live in the melting pot of humanity. Particularly in the church and among other believers in Christ, but also among others. To enter into their world, and accept something of that world as part of us, as part of our own world. So that we can both give and receive from others, and in that process together find the one who has found us, God in Jesus. We need to remember too, that it is important that we love with no strings attached, even while we pray and hope for the best for everyone, in and through Jesus.

I know I have been impacted by those around me, through our church: Redeemer Covenant, through my work at RBC Ministries, through friends elsewhere such as online on social networks. Life as humans is lived in relationships and within community. That is where it finds much of its meaning. In fact the heart of all meaning is found within the Community of the Triunity of God as Father, Son and Spirit. We humans in and through Jesus are meant to be taken up into that Communion of God by the Spirit. We’re meant to live there, but not in some ethereal existence, but in a down to earth way. With all that is involved in our humanity in this life, and in the life to come within the new creation in Jesus.

And so I am thankful for the people I know and have known (as well as the books I have read and am reading). Wanting to do well by those nearest me in both my family, and in the family of Jesus. As well as all in this world, in my world, who regardless, are neighbors. That is what is foremost in my thoughts at the moment as we enter into this new year.

cool, calm, and collected

The idea that one should stay cool, calm and collected can be nothing more than manipulation of some kind or another. And really, no matter what we do on the outside matters not at all, if on the inside we are wrong or off. This is why we need to be in prayer, and seek to acclimate ourselves into a rhythm and place in which God is present* and at work by his grace to us in Jesus.

And yet, when we do pray, and seek to remain committed fully to God by his grace in Jesus, there is value in seeking to be calm and collected. I ought to add cool, because I can so easily become hot myself, and sometimes in ways that are not helpful.

It’s a matter of waiting on God, his timing, his working. Indeed seeking to be in his rhythm. I know so little of that in my life, and it’s really hard to get hold of. And whatever I may have experienced of it seems quite piecemeal and broken, and probably shallow, though at the same time real, I think.

Calm and collected means we not only stay that way on the outside, which I do want to stress here (no matter what our inside might want us to do), but that we seek to be calm and collected on the inside as well. We would like to take every single thought captive, to make our thoughts and attitude obedient to Christ. So then, when I have a disparaging thought, such as judging another, or whatever the thought might be, I bring it to God, lay it down so to speak at his feet. And I am careful not to act on it, hopefully to let it go.

We want the peace of God by his grace to us in Jesus to rule over us. And that will mean a love which can be at work in our lives, in our relationships, the love of God in Jesus by the Spirit. A love which helps us, and helps others. A love we can’t manufacture, or work up ourselves. But a love meant for us, that we need to learn to live well in.

And so when I’m tempted to give up and give in inside, and just shrug my shoulders on the outside or something worse, I need to recommit myself and my way to God through Jesus. So that I might come to be in sync with God’s working. In step with others in Jesus by the Spirit for the world.

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*God is indeed present everywhere, but there is a sense in which we can draw near to him, and then he to us, or in which we can withdraw, and seek to flee from his presence. We are to live conscious of his presence in and through Jesus.

great peace

Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.

I rarely seem to experience this “great peace” which the psalmist mentioned in this psalm. I all too easily can become distracted by the storm, the wind and the waves of life, and can become transfixed on them. During those times I know no peace at all. Usually the Lord meets me at a certain point not too far removed from such times, like less than a day, and I get some sense of relief.

But by and large I live in kind of the middlin’ country, in which I at least know in my head a kind of peace, or sense it, but rarely really seem to experience it. But there are exceptions, and I think the Lord is helping me to begin to realize those exceptions a bit more.

The psalmist refers to those who love God’s law, God’s instructions and word. When you read that psalm (the really long one) and the section where this verse is found, you read the witness of someone who certainly has not arrived. They suffer, and they don’t always have peace, this peace of heart and mind. Or at least a peace related to the shalom of God’s kingdom by which they can persevere in life without stumbling contrary to the law of God which they love.

When we love God’s directions to us, the path he calls us to in Jesus, we can begin to experience the peace which passes all understanding. Which goes beyond what we think we know, even what we do know to the God who truly knows everything, who knows our hearts, and every detail of our lives, our concerns for others, etc., etc.

At work I do best when I simply am set on the task at hand. Yes, looking forward to the breaks which bring some rest. But persevering, and not letting myself get distracted by this or that thought. In fact there are certain things I have to do at work, which if I begin to think about what I’m doing, I can lose track of what I’m supposed to do. Those few things I need simply to do as I’ve done now for years. And all is well.

It’s the same kind of idea here. We need to persevere in the will and way God gives us in his grace in and through Jesus. And then God’s peace can more and more settle and prevail in our lives. And out from our lives to others.

This is not only a peace from God for ourselves, but for others, even through our lives, witness and prayers. We are blessed with this shalom from God to be a blessing to the world around us in the ways God gives us to extend that blessing. The same in general things we all are called to do, but different for each of us, according  to our different gifts both in what we do and who we are. As we go on in this world, assured of God’s grace and peace to us through Jesus, together for the world.

fear

Fear is a factor which hits our lives here and there frequently for a number of reasons. Here in the United States many are fearing another recession, in fact that is so in numerous countries around the world, as governments and institutions work (we hope) at getting their financial house in order.

A major fear is the fear of death. Scripture addresses that in no uncertain terms. Jesus came to destroy him who holds the power of death, the devil. And free those who all their lives have been held in bondage by their fear of death. And we read elsewhere that Christ came to abolish death, and to bring life and immortality to light through the gospel. And we know death doesn’t have the final word. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death, in and through Christ’s resurrection.

Another fear can be the fear of not being able to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Sometimes we are simply overcome with life. With all the problems we face, and issues at times with another, or others. Sometimes there seems to be no answer. We do know that this life in Jesus is lived fully in God’s grace. Not in our effort, or goodness, or right answers. Strictly and completely in God’s grace in Jesus. Through that grace God does indeed miraculously enable us to be pleasing to him. The Father is pleased over his daughters and sons in Jesus far more than we realize or imagine. He is pleased with our desire to be obedient children out of love. And over our struggles to find him and his will even in the midst of our confusion and despair.

God helps us by daily carrying our burdens. And also by helping us see the bigger picture. God in Jesus is King over all; his kingdom may seem underground now, even covert, but it is actively at work in this world. Destined at the appointed time to take over the world in the renewing of all things in Jesus.

In the meantime we can trust and not be afraid. And when we are afraid trust. In God in whom through Jesus perfect peace can come to us now over and over again. And will come in the end, and forever.

divisions among Christians

From the Book of 1 Corinthians (even prior to that, in Acts a bit) to the present day, we see many divisions among Christians. Some are understandable in terms of culture and can be appreciated and overcome, while retaining the uniqueness of people groups. But others while understandable in terms of sin, are not acceptable in terms of God’s calling and will for us in Jesus.

Politics is a hot issue, as well as faith and science. On both of these tracks I take positions contrary to the status quo among most Christians I know.  Of course sports is not nearly as important, but you’d never guess that at times. A whole host of matters can end up trumping all else, and trampling on relationships. Even destroying the unity that is ours in Jesus.

“Birds of a feather flock together”, but when it is Christians, we should flock together for one reason, and for one reason only: Jesus, and the reality of God’s grace and kingdom in him. If we divide over other issues, then we are essentially denying that unity. We are saying that unity must include something other than Christ, or something more than Christ.

This doesn’t mean for a moment that we have to agree on everything. Nor that we can’t discuss and seek to work through issues, even if in the end we agree to disagree, after hopefully better understanding and even learning from the other. But it does mean that when all is said and done, the love and unity that we have is in Jesus. That where each of us is right and wrong is secondary always to that. That that trumps everything!

“In Jesus” is the reality in which we in him live and move and have our being. We learn to live together and work through our differences within that reality. Which is characterized by love, so that our working through them must always be characterized by love. So that we might hate divisions which deny the unity of the Spirit that we’re to make every effort to keep in the bond of peace, in Christ.

This ends up being for our well being, for the well being of our brothers and sisters in Jesus, and for the blessing of those that don’t know him. That they may see Jesus in us, and that they may know we are following him. So that they too may believe and follow.

silence

Today I’ll be heading out to an area Dominican center for a silent retreat put on by a couple of local churches of our denomination, including our own church. After the maelstrom of another quickly passing week, and just trying to survive, this may be a welcomed experience. The last and only time I attended this, it was not easy during the time, though overall I rather enjoyed it. But I was surprised by the new sense and freshness of life which I had afterward.

I still remember that time with appreciation. This time Deb won’t be there with me. I remember sitting with her over a delicious meal at lunch time, no one saying a word. We can write, read, prayer walk, whatever, both inside and outside there. But we can’t speak for a time short of eight hours.

Life is so full of words. And I’m a word, and therefore often a wordy person. This is a time to be silent so as to become more aware of God’s words to us, of what God might be saying. Perhaps people like me who so often are full of words especially need times like this. God is speaking, and is at work in our lives. The question is: Are we attentive? Are we open to what God might be doing and saying to us? Are we learning to live accordingly?

This kind of event hopefully can make a difference in helping us to a new way of life. Events mean little or nothing to me if they don’t move us to that. Of course events in themselves are special and need to be so. After all a good event is meant to be a life changer, or more accurately, move us in the direction of life change. And growth in what is good, in the grace of God in Jesus.

So I anticipate something good out of this. And since it’s from God, I also anticipate it being different this time around, and in ways I may not get very well at first, or for a time. The essential thing is that I am open to whatever it may be that God is trying to get across to me. Or to his working, even if I don’t get what is going on. A fresh sense of God with other people in Jesus present. That Jesus’ Blessing might rest on us for the Blessing of the world.

don’t judge

Scripture warns us, indeed Jesus did, against judging others. I think this works on at least two levels. We’re most definitely not to judge another in the sense of any final judgment which only God can render. And we’re to be wary of jumping in to correct problems in others unless we are ruthlessly doing the same first to ourselves.

Much of the time for us it’s better just not to make any judgment of others at all. Scripture does tell us that we will know people’s heart by their fruit, meaning works and life. Not in some complete, final, or in/out sense, but something of what people have in their hearts at the time. And we in Jesus not only need God to search our own hearts so we can understand whatever might be wrong in them, but we need the Spirit’s searching as well in order to try to help anyone else. But again we need to be slow to undertake any such endeavor. In fact it’s best for a time that we refuse to judge another at all, instead being sure that we ourselves have our own house in order.

I think we are best most often to refuse to judge another because it really takes time to begin to discern all the good along with what might be wrong in another. If our attention is on someone, it may be a problem we have in our own hearts, as well as possibly a problem they have. Or it may be something evident to us about them, even if we can’t put our finger on it at the time. But even if we think we can, we need to step back and slow down and pray. And be slow to think such and such about a person. We need to learn to “read” another person and maybe something of what we can see of their life with love. And we need to remember as well that love covers over a multitude of sins. We need that from others ourselves.

In the end we’re all in this together in Jesus, and together in this for all. God makes it so that we do need each other in Jesus. All mediated by Jesus, but for and through us to each other, as well as in regard to and for the benefit of the world.