the wheels turning slow, more often than not, a good thing, but must be turning

The Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 is a momentous occasion in the history of the faith, when what is required of God’s people with reference to the coming of Christ and what we now call the old covenant, was nailed down. But it wasn’t something that was just slapped together in a trial and error kind of way in reaction to a problem. And when you think about it, it required some significant time to have the substantial basis for the answer the apostles and elders agreed to.

It was at least eight years after Peter had first proclaimed the message of the gospel to the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believing Gentiles through hearing the message. During that time Paul’s testimony of how many Gentiles came to faith during his missionary journeys agreed with that. Surely I would think that it didn’t take long for a group of believers, or some leader to insist that circumcision and old covenant requirements remained intact. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking that such was probably taken for granted by much of the early church, comprised entirely of Jewish believers, along with those Gentiles who had converted to Judaism as God-fearers.

On the other hand, as one can see from the text, it was in response to a problem which had arisen, that the council was called in the first place. So that we can surmise that it’s not good to put every problem on the back burner. Or maybe better put, we keep the wheels of deliberation turning, without some hasty reaction, which might have to be taken back, even repented of, later.

The council was called in response to a problem, like councils in the early church that followed and hammered out the teaching of scripture for the church such as Christ’s two natures: fully God, and fully human, along with the Trinity. All in response to teachings in their day which were off the mark.

I think it’s wise to move slow, and with consensus, especially among those who are leaders in the church, in harmony with the Spirit and the entire church. And yet there’s a time to make the critical move and perhaps the pronouncement which comes with it.

This doesn’t mean we should be afraid to act, or speak something into a situation. Maybe God is leading us to, maybe not, but when we have an inkling of that, we would do well to gently, but firmly do so. Yet at the same time, we live with the realization that change takes time, and actually that we’re a part of that. We need the time ourselves, to reflect on our own journey. In the case in Acts, it took Peter some time to come around and then be fully convinced and confirmed in the change. And not without a struggle, even backsliding (see Galatians 2).

God will keep us faithful to the gospel, even when we inevitably misstep along the way in details of how we’re to live it out, and be a witness to it. And it’s a process of growth into that, not something which happens overnight. With the new life in place, we might think we have all we need to do everything. But it’s much wiser to stay the course over time, looking to others, and to the church at large, as we continue in scripture ourselves.

May God give the church wisdom in all of this in whatever days and years remain before Christ’s return.

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mature thought

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good;
    haste makes mistakes.

Proverbs 19:2 (NLT)

One of the mistakes I’ve made along the way over the years is to at times jump to conclusions, or adopt a new way of thinking, or talk about something before I’ve thought it through efficiently enough, which includes carefully weighing the source, along with the thoughts of others. Something may seem either promising or good, but upon further examination and deliberation, it might well fall by the wayside.

We don’t like problems unresolved. We at least want to have a patchwork solution in place. All of this instead of being committed to the hard work of trying to come to a better understanding of the issue. And as another proverb says:

The first to speak in court sounds right—
    until the cross-examination begins.

Proverbs 18:17 (NLT)

We have to learn to wait and weigh things, and in that process, listen to others. Some things won’t matter as much as others, and may require a decision on our part before we really feel well enough prepared. But those are the kind of things where some trial and error are part of the equation. There are other matters that in their nature are too sensitive and consequential for us to experiment with. We will make some mistakes along the way, even in such matters, but we do well to take our time, and then own the degree to which we hold to any proposition. Pointing out what needs to be qualified as for example having an opinion based on the expertise of others.

At any rate, this is one area that I would have done better to follow more closely over the course of my life. Something I’m working on, so that I’ll reflect a more mature thought in days to come with the wisdom God gives us in and through Jesus.

the right time and way

For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
    though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Ecclesiastes 8

For people who act in the moment such as I, and who don’t really plan that much in advance, this is a needed, and wise word. Over the years I’ve come to realize more and more just how important this is, so that I’m much better in doing it than I used to be.

The danger might be in refusing to do anything at all, because no one can know for sure if the time is right. It might seem so, but long experience in life tells us that what might seem to be the case, is really not necessarily so at all.

It is important to pray, and to pray some more, and usually to sleep on it, at least. To not be in a hurry is absolutely essential if one is to act in wisdom. Oftentimes what is needed, or most helpful won’t come to one’s mind and heart except over sufficient deliberation and time. And besides that, we need to be in prayer for God’s preparation of whoever we might be talking to, that God would prepare their hearts to be receptive to whatever wisdom we might offer.

Ecclesiastes continues to be one of my favorite books. We need all of scripture, even if we can’t understand it all, track with it, or even like every part of it. Of course we find the end and final answer to it all in Jesus. In and through him. But that doesn’t mean that we neglect any of it. And Ecclesiastes in particular is one book I will continue to rather major on, I’m thinking, in trying to unravel the complexity of life. As I seek to be a follower with others of our Lord.

waiting for the fruit to ripen and be picked

Once in a while, I wish it were more often, we might become aware of something new, either on the horizon, or which has arrived already, through which we are going to be challenged in a new way, our faith stretched and shaped to be more like Jesus. That is when we need to pray and wait and seek to live into and find what God has for us. Some trial and error almost certainly involved in that, to be sure. This is not found out on paper, but in real life.

Too often we jump to conclusions one way or another. Either dismissing it, because it doesn’t fit into our paradigm of faith we now have, or imagining we know already what we’re getting into, and the full significance of it. In doing so, we limit God, his working, and what we can learn, and most importantly our growth in the process.

We need to be present with all our deficiencies, realizing we’re not ready ourselves, and therefore waiting on God in faith. Not moving on our own, but trusting in God to guide us, to help us know and accomplish what we’re incapable of by ourselves.

In all of this, we continue to trust in God in and through Jesus, hold to the gospel, and keep going back to scripture in the fellowship of the church. Knowing that God is faithful and committed to us and to the salvation of all in and through Jesus.

 

sometimes the only thing left

Sometimes the zing which somehow makes the difference, or the extra incentive is gone when all seems lost, or at an end. This can be a dangerous time if one no longer cares or is motivated in the same way as before. I admire and appreciate the zeal and idealism of a younger generation, who have a kind of impassioned expectation and delve in depth into all kinds of issues which I care little or nothing about anymore, but which in their place are quite important. We need the energy and openness and ability of the younger minds to help us in all kinds of things. I applaud and am all for it.

But for me, those days are gone, I don’t think ever to return. I know that even with a few more decades possible, I have to think in terms of the end coming, and what that means for me in preparation, and for loved ones. And that presents a good opportunity, because it is then that we are more prone to major on what is truly of major importance, and to minor on the rest.

For me, what’s of central importance is the gospel, the good news of Jesus, and what that means first of all in terms of my own response in receiving and seeking to live accordingly. And also in terms of what it means for those around me, and for the world. And related to that is what is called the “Jesus Creed” (Scot McKnight) of loving God with all our being and doing, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Our prayer lives are essential in all of this, and the Lord’s Prayer is something that should be front and center, so that we pray it weekly in our church gatherings, and regularly, preferably daily, ourselves.

Now that I’m getting on in years, turning 60 soon, I simply have chosen to cut out what used to be more or less a big deal to me, some things, while continuing to enjoy some other things. Anything I consider a hinderance for whatever reason, if that continues to be so, I’m losing interest in it. Being in the word, in scripture, remaining in the fellowship of the church, and working on growing in relationships are becoming more and more the staple of life. I used to get into some sports more or less heavy, and am glad for older folks who remain in that as not only spectators, but witnesses and examples of the faith. And who knows, that interest may be resurrected in me at some point. But for now, I simply don’t care who wins or loses, and though I can watch a game with appreciation, and even root for one team over the other, I would rather leave it than take it, having other matters I consider more important for what I’m focused on, and perhaps because of what God is doing in my life at this point.

And so I consider this a good thing, an element of which I wish would have been present decades ago. I always had an intense idealism, but something of this along with that would have been most helpful and formative in my life. One shouldn’t have to wait until they get older to live as if tomorrow might not come. As if they may be standing before God soon.

Of course we are all in need of God’s grace always. We want to be faithful to how God is leading us in the present, and not look over our shoulder to how God might be leading others. Even though we most certainly are in this together, and that’s of utmost importance, it is also true that God helps us all along in that as individuals. We each have our place and part to play in the whole. And neither should want, nor think we even can be or do what someone else is about.

A good time, even if a bit sad that so many decades have come and gone. But the God who was faithful throughout all of that time, in spite of my own weakness, ignorance and folly, will be faithful in my life (in my continued incompleteness), and in the lives of others in and through Jesus to the very end.

 

the passing of time

There is a mystery about time, what it really is scientifically and theologically. To us common folk it’s pretty simple and straightforward, and the older we get, the faster it seems to go.

I realize more and more that what I’ve taken for granted for so long will someday be gone. Hopefully not too soon, but all too soon enough.

This means that I can’t let the months and weeks and even days pass by without at least much thinking and more praying on what is really of first importance: relationships and what will last beyond my life as well as the present life and existence. To live poorly is to live with these on the shelf, or at best on the back burner. To begin to live well is to make these things a priority, indeed the priority of our lives.

It’s the gospel and what follows from that, the Jesus Creed. Jesus and what is laid out concerning him in his fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel for the world is the gospel. And to love God with all our being and doing along with loving our neighbor as ourselves are the heartbeat we’re to live by. The church in Jesus has a central place in all of this; it is not a helpful add on.

We need to measure our lives by this. And realize that another day may not come. And even if we do live a normal life span, that it will soon all be gone. A decade comes and  goes fast enough. Decades become a lifetime.

And so with the psalmist in this “prayer of Moses” is the prayer we do well to pray in light of this:

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

seasons of life

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

I am amazed in a way that it’s Friday already. And if I think much about it, I can be a bit amazed over my age, turning 59 in April. I am at a certain stage in my work life, although when “retirement” comes, I have no intention of retiring from life and activity. That will certainly be a new season in life.

I can look back with both appreciation and consternation over past decades. I can pinpoint both the blessings and especially I’m thinking now of the difficulties and challenges. I can see both the Lord’s hand in my life, as well as the schemes of the devil. Although very few would likely read it, I could write a book on it, not too long, not necessarily long at all. Which hopefully might help others. But in all of that I see seasons of life.

We can’t depend on ourselves or our faithfulness. That is no foundation to build one’s life on, certainly not one that will last beyond this life or will wear well in this life in terms of God’s will in Jesus. Instead we must learn to depend on God’s faithfulness in and through Jesus and found in the gospel, the good news of God’s grace and kingdom come in him. That is what we need to hang our hats on, indeed base our lives.

Let’s appreciate the seasons of life, the different stages that come and go. They all have their advantages as well as pitfalls that we do well to become aware of and avoid. It is good through the Lord’s help in answer to prayer for us to begin to understand and settle in well to the season of life in which we’re in, with all of its challenges and heartaches. Along with its many blessings. To learn more and more to go on in the way of Jesus in the fellowship of God’s people and as a witness to the world.