Dec 31, 2010

What does it mean to lose our life and find it in Jesus?

I take this straight from Dallas Willard's book, Renovation of the Heart (Navpress, 2002). I would list it as one of the top contemporary books that I have read about spiritual formation, and of course, his classic work The Divine Conspiracy (Harper San Francisco, 1998) should also be included. He draws on the faith throughout the centuries to explain the process of spiritual formation. He isn't say anything new, but is explaining these truths for those in this day. These are two books I suggest that all read, especially those who are serious about following Jesus.

"When Jesus says we must lose our lives if we are to find them, he is teaching, on the negative side, that we must not make ourselves and our 'survival' the ultimate point of reference in the the world--must not, in effect, treat ourselves as God should be treated, or treat ourselves as God. Thus Paul shockingly said, 'Covetousness is idolatry' (Colossians 3:5 PAR). Isn't that somewhat exaggerated? No. Covetousness is self-idolatry, for it makes my desires paramount. It means I would take what I want if I could. To defeat covetousness means we rejoice that others enjoy the benefits they do.

To make my desires paramount is what Paul described as having a 'flesh mind' or 'mind of the flesh,' which is a state of death (Romans 8:6). Such a mind 'sows to one's own flesh'--invests only in one's natural self--and 'out of that flesh reaps corruption' (Galatians 6:8 PAR). 'Corruption' or 'coming apart' is the natural end of the flesh. 'Flesh' can only be preserved by being caught up with the higher life of the kingdom of God and thus 'losing' the life peculiar to it.

In other words, when Jesus says that those who find their life or soul shall lose it, he is pointing out that those who think that they are in control of their life . . . will find that they are definitely not in control: they are totally at the mercy of forces beyond them, and even within them. The are on a sure course to disintegration and powerlessness, of lostness both to themselves and God. The must surrender.

By contrast, if they give up the project of being the ultimate point of reference in their life--of doing only what they want, of 'sowing to the flesh' or to the natural aims and abilities of the human being--there can be hope. If they in that sense lose their life in favor of God's life, or for the sake of Jesus and what he is doing one earth...then their soul (life) will be preserved and thus given back to th em."

Renovation of the Heart (Navpress, 2002), 65.

Dec 29, 2010

Banging Your Head Against the Wall

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." I Corinthians 10:13. 

One of the most frustratingly painful things in life is to watch someone go down the drain--knowingly make bad decisions--that lead to ruin-- despite loving warnings. Do you know of a friend or a loved one who continues to make bad decisions (primarily based on their feelings)? Perhaps he or she thinks this time around it'll be different--even when wisdom says otherwise.

I must say that as a teenager there was a time when I made a string of bad decisions. It started with one decision. I decided to date a non-believer even though I knew that the Lord forbade it. That one decision led to five years of pain, disillusionment, and darkness (and I must say, it's not only unbelievers that Christians shouldn't date. Some professing believers are not worth dating because they are unhealthy--they are enslaved to self and sin). I wish someone had said to me, "Marlena, don't do this." But even so. I was still responsible for my disobedience and much of the destruction I brought upon myself. Looking back, I remember asking, "God why did you allow this to happen to me?" What I at first didn't see is that I brought it on myself. It wasn't God's fault. No, no, God wasn't culpable. I was.

Perhaps that it is why it is so difficult for me to watch friends and loved ones knowingly enter poisonous, destructive, life-sucking relationships or watch them slowly circle the drain and then eventually go down the drain. They ask for advice. I give it. They reject it. I want to bang my head against the wall--especially when I am giving advice straight from Scripture.

But I must remember, that much of the time advice is easier given than followed. It can be very painful to do the right thing after we've stepped into a den vipers. Their bites stun us. We know we'll get bitten when we try to escape. But Oh! Better to get bitten on the way out than to remain inside.

It can be painful to do the right thing. But that pain, leads to life and healing. Whereas continuing on the road of destruction leads to death. Every time take the way of escape. God always provides one (I Cor. 10:13).

What you and I need to do...after we've given the advice sought from us is leave the person/situation in the hands of God. We cannot control people even if we intend their good. We must continue interceding on their behalf.

It's funny. Perhaps God feels this way all of the time. He gives us his commands and wisdom in love so that we might have life, but we choose death. He provides ways of escape after we've gotten into the most complicated of messes, but we don't take them. We then wonder why we're in the messes we are in. And blame him.

He will not force us to obey even though obedience leads to life.

If I feel like I am figuratively banging my head against the wall, does not the Lord? Maybe not. He is much more patient than me.

Dec 20, 2010

What is that to you? The Folly of Envy

“What is that to you? You must follow me.” -- John 22:21

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Yet at times during the race, we take our eyes off him. What diverts our attention from Christ? Sideline distractions? Other participants?

Imagine running a race and then suddenly hearing the quick strides and controlled breathing of another runner. As the runner approaches, you sneak a quick peek to determine the runner’s proximity to you and whether or not you recognize the face. And then it happens: in the split second it took you to turn your head you drifted off the path, tripped and fell into a ditch. You’re livid. There’s no use getting up now. The other runner is way ahead. You’ll come in last for sure. So you lay there, staring at the sky, sulking in the ditch, bitterly complaining to the Lord, “Why’d you let me fall? You could’ve prevented it. You could’ve made me faster. It’s not fair that so and so is ahead. So and so is always getting ahead of me.” You grow angry at and envious of so and so. As you fume in the ditch, runners pass by. A few slow down, beckoning you to get up and keep running. You ignore them. You’d rather stay wallowing in the ditch of dejection.

In John 21:15-20, Jesus identifies Peter’s calling and reveals details about Peter’s death. Yet Peter didn’t ponder his calling or the specifics of his death. Instead, his first impulse was to turn when he noticed John and ask, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21). Peter wants to know what the Lord plans on doing with John’s life and how John would die. Jesus gently rebukes him, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22). In essence Jesus was saying, “Peter, don’t concern yourself with John, concern yourself with me. Keep your eyes on me, fulfill what I’ve just commissioned you to do and leave John’s life in my hands.”

Do you get tripped up because you’re too busy focusing on others instead of Christ? Do you compare and then become discouraged because of their abilities, beauty, or accomplishments? Do you question God about your own pace and wonder why he hasn’t given you the opportunities he has given them? When you do that, bitterness towards God and envy towards others creeps into your soul. Your race comes to a screeching halt. You’re in the ditch. In the sin filled ditch of envy, we project our values on God acting as if he values the object of our envy and the role he has ordained for him or her to play more than he values us. However, it is we who place a higher value on that person, not God.

When we do this, Jesus says to us, “What is that to you? Follow me.” Jesus did not let any person or thing deter him from accomplishing what he was sent to do.

“Envy is the ulcer of the soul.” --Socrates--

Dec 18, 2010

Do Not Judge . . .

 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37

Most of us, even those considered wise, have the tendency to rush into judgment. We hear one side of a story or a piece here and there and think we have the person or matter all pieced together--all figured out. We become smugly convinced of our own ruling in the matter.

Yet Jesus warns us not to judge others.  Does that mean we cannot call actions wrong that God clearly does?  Does that mean that we keep silent when others trespass against us and others?

Clearly, the answers to the two questions above is "no." We can question actions and call sinful sinful actions and behavior. We shouldn't always keep silent when people trespass against us and others; that could encourage oppression. Yet, some of us need to be more practiced in overlooking minor offenses.

I think Jesus is warning us not to assume insight into another's motives or to condemn people to nothing more than what we have pigeon-holed them. God knows all the circumstances, nuances, temperments and histories that lead a person to do what he or she does. We just don't have the knowledge, wisdom or evidence that God does. We can lovingly call people to the carpet for sinful behavior; we cannot render a judgment on their souls.

God is good and just. Any judgment or sentence he issues will fit the crime. Yet, we should be careful with how we label people or how we think of them in our hearts.

And if the Church must discipline for actions, it should be a communal decision, with  input from the wisest members. It should be careful to have as much evidence as possible.

I think Jesus was telling us to be sure to remember that God holds court and that we do not. God is the judge. We are netiher judge nor jury.

Dec 17, 2010

Please Support The Dream Act (In The USA)

Hello friends. The Dream Act is very important. It passed the house and all of sudden came up for a vote in the senate. There will be a senate vote tomorrow, Saturday,  12-18-2010. I ask that U.S. citizens read this, consider this, and hopefully act!

I copied and pasted this report from:

UMNS Report

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

5:00 P.M. EST December 1, 2010

Carlos Amador, 25, and Sofia Campos, 20, grew up thinking they could be part of the great American dream that promises hard work and perseverance leads to prosperity and success.

The two bright, talented young people are waking up to the reality that despite excelling in academics and devoting a large portion of their time to community service, their dreams will probably not come true.

Amador was born in Mexico City and his parents brought him to the U.S. when he was 14. Campos, born in Lima, Peru, arrived in the U.S. when she was 6. Both are good, hard-working students. Both are also illegal immigrants.

Amador is in graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles, pursuing a master’s degree in social work. Campos is in her fourth year at UCLA and wants to go to graduate school for a dual program in law and public health. But when they graduate, their immigration status will likely prevent them from finding work in the United States.

They are two of more than 800,000 young people who could benefit from passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act.

The legislation would allow illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children — 15 and under — and have lived in the country for five years to apply to the Homeland Security Department for conditional legal status after graduating from high school.

Their legal status would make them eligible for in-state college tuition rates and some forms of federal financial aid. If they attend college or participate in military service for at least two years, they would qualify for legal residency and be on the path to citizenship.

Supporters say the act will encourage young people to join the military and attend college.

Opponents call the bill an amnesty program for children whose parents broke U.S. immigration laws.

Praying for a vote

As Congress reconvenes for the lame-duck session, DREAM Act students are rallying again in hopes that the bill will come up for a vote and pass.

Earlier this year, the Senate voted 56-43 against a defense bill that included the DREAM act as an amendment. The act has been introduced in Congress in various forms since 2003. United Methodist Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, introduced the DREAM Act in 2009. This is the third Congress in which Lugar and Durbin have introduced the legislation.

Opponents to the act say it would send a message to parents that violating immigration laws could eventually allow citizenship and access to taxpayer-funded financial benefits for their children.

”The DREAM Act is a nightmare for the American people. It is an assault on law-abiding, taxpaying American citizens and legal immigrants,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who has signed on as a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, said the act is an incentive for bright and motivated students to become responsible, valuable members of society.

“Every year undocumented children graduate from our nation’s high schools or receive the equivalent of a secondary degree. From there, they can take one of two paths: They can look at the hopelessness of their situation and get involved in crime, even join street gangs; or they can continue their education, find a good job and give back something to the United States.”

“Many of these young people make the shocking discovery that they are not American citizens when they attempt to get a driver’s license. When they realize they have no country, no future, no hope, this sends many of them into the depths of depression.” –Lori Stafford.United Methodist support

Amador and Campos are two of the “dreamers” Jeanne Roe Smith works with in IDEAS@UCLA, a student organization made up of DREAM supporters. Smith is United Methodist campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at UCLA.

“Their dream is to create legal pathways to citizenship by demonstrating their academic, moral and emotional fortitude and capacity to be recognized for what some of us already see — as incredible, gifted, committed, compassionate, productive members of our community, campus and world,” she said.

She said the DREAM Act would be a good first step toward correcting “a wayward and broken immigration system.”

Lori Stafford, a member of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas, said it breaks her heart to see the impact being undocumented has on young people.

Many of the students were brought to the U.S. as infants and have grown up as Americans, she said. She wonders why society would invest so many resources into education and then deny an opportunity to work.

“Many of these young people make the shocking discovery that they are not American citizens when they attempt to get a driver’s license,” she said. “When they realize they have no country, no future, no hope, this sends many of them into the depths of depression.”

William Lawrence, dean and professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, said education is an investment in the next generation of leaders.

In a column published on the religion blog for the Dallas Morning News, Lawrence addressed the moral argument for passage of the act.

“Let's be clear. The places at publicly funded universities are available on a competitive admission basis, as everyone knows. While some … might try to push the notion that a dependent child of someone who entered the U.S. illegally could occupy a place that might be occupied by somebody else’s child, the reality is that all young applicants will compete for admission to such places — their grades, leadership gifts, extracurricular achievements, scores on standardized tests (SAT or ACT), along with other measuring devices, will determine invitations to enroll.”

In the 2008 Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, the church supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes students being able to get an education at an affordable rate.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society supports the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2009 (H.R. 1751/S.729).

“We hope that Congress acts quickly to enact this piece of legislation,” said Bill Mefford, director of civil and human rights at the agency. “Passage of the DREAM Act is one important step toward the just and humane reform the broken immigration system needs.”

The agency is urging United Methodists to pray daily and call senators and representatives in support of the DREAM Act. United Methodist Bishop Minerva CarcaƱo of the Phoenix Area has asked United Methodists on Dec. 1 to call their senators and representatives, and ask them to vote for and publicly support the bill.
Dream means everything

Amador participated in a hunger strike outside of Sen. Feinstein’s office last July. He said the students felt they needed to put their lives on the line to show how much the dream means to them.

After the bill failed in September, Amador said he is still hopeful it will pass and vows to continue to work for passage by the end of 2010.

“We are upset and saddened that our dreams have not yet become true, but I feel as many other students that the DREAM Act will pass sooner than ever,” he said.

From the National Association of Latino Evangelicals

Call now, and we'll connect you to a Senator still wavering on the DREAM Act: 866-587-6101. Colleagues, they’re saying the odds are against us right now, but we know better than to let that stop us. Last week, when the DREAM Act came up in the House, we were in the same spot. We didn’t have a clear path to victory. But we made over 70,000 calls to Congress on the day of the vote, and we won by a margin of 20 votes

Dec 14, 2010

Blessing Tied To Obedience.

You live your everyday life in obedience to God. The best you know how. But  no one notices. Then again, you're not anything spectacular, no one high-profile--even in obedience. You wonder sometimes if it is worth it--if God even takes note of your obscure, unseen life.

It's not that you want pats on the back--you just want to know if you're on the right path--if you're pleasing God. It'd be nice to hear from him sometimes. Maybe a little "I've noticed you, I've noticed your faithfulness. You're work is not in vain" would be good.

May I encourage you and myself with the truth that God pays particular attention to you? He notices every detail about your life. Strengths, weaknesses, sins, dreams and aspirations, hardships, faithfulness.
He sees your motivations and self-sacrifice. He knows that you love him deeply.

He doesn't waste your obedience; he treasures it. Your obedience brings forth his kingdom. And it makes you healthy and whole. Do you realize that? Have you noticed that as you obey, you are becoming more fully human--and healthy? It's true.

And you are overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Do you know that your obedience brings goodness and health to those around you (and in some cases, to those on the ends of the earth, those  you've never met)? Your obedience births temporal and eternal blessings. None of us are ever quite fully aware of the implications of our obedience.

Another beautiful thing about obedience, perhaps the most beautiful of all is found in a promise from Jesus in John 14:21:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

In your obedience you show that you love Jesus. And you, the one who demonstrates your love  of Jesus by obeying him, you are the one who is loved by the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son will show themselves to you. God has a special affection for you. A love you cannot comprehend.

To me, these are some of the most precious words spoken. God sees your obedience. Whether you're aware of it or not, your obedience is tied to both temporal and eternal blessings for yourself and others.

Now you and I, like Hagar can say, "He is the God who sees me."

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

God sees you.

*Note: I am not saying that these blessings are necessarily material blessings in this life.

Dec 13, 2010

Spiritual Poverty

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)

Most of us Christian folk think ourselves to be much holier than we are. We point the finger at others, not realizing that the very things we see and despise in them reside in us. Yet others see it. And we wonder why we are labeled hypocrites. If we could just resist pointing out the wrong in others and trying to right the wrong in others, maybe we'd see the wrong, or as Jesus says, the plank in our own eyes. If we are to confront, we should do so gently and lovingly.

In no way should we expect unbelievers to act like Christians or believe what Christians believe. When they do or say things we wouldn't...that should come as no surprise. Show them Christ and let him Christianize them.

But O the day when we realize that we too are very much like those we perceive to be less mature than we are! Perhaps that is the day when spiritual poverty (humility, sense of weakness and reality--sober and accurate judgment of ourselves) will begin to reign in our lives.

Have you noticed that we thoroughly resist others when they point out our sins and shortcomings though they may be dead on?

Then again, once we do realize who we really are, we are tempted to fall into despair. But we need not. Let us see ourselves for who we are and beg for God's grace. In him, in our weakness, we are strongest. He is gracious to those who are humble. He resists the proud, not the humble.

We need Jesus desperately, Immanuel, God with us. We need the God who comes and is coming.

O Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.

Dec 11, 2010

Prepare For The God Who Comes - An Advent Meditation.

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "

Originally posted December 6, 2009.

Prepare the Way for the Lord!

In ancient times, inhabitants of cities built wide, straight, smooth roads when kings were coming into the city. The king had to have a special entrance. Craig Barnes tells us that:

One of the most exciting archeological digs going on in Israel is in Beit Shean which is uncovering a great Roman City. If you go there today you can see the main entrance into the city which is a wide, straight, even road, with magnificent columns on either side. That city is located at the juncture of the Jezreel and Jericho valleys. John the Baptist must have been by it all the time. Anyone traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem would have seen it. Everyone knew that a long straight road was what you made when a king was coming.[1]

The Romans spent a lot of time building good roads so that they could expand their empire. Roads were used as trade routes, for foot travel, and to move armies from place to place. And as I said earlier, the best roads were built to welcome the royal entourage. It is said that at the height of the Roman Empire, there were 53,000 miles of good road.[2] Of course the roads fell into disrepair when the empire crumbled. But some of those ancient roads are still used today, although they’ve been paved and repaved over and over again.

During Advent, we wait in joyful expectation preparing for the God who comes, for the God who is always coming as Carlo Carretto so beautifully put it. We need God to come because we are inclined toward destruction. Left to ourselves we make straight paths crooked and smooth places rough. We throw booby traps onto the road, make pot-holes or manholes that people fall into and can’t climb out of. Left to ourselves, we cut paths that depart from the way, the truth, and life without even knowing it, ending up God-knows-where. Left to ourselves, we become destroyers of the road and destroyers of all who pass by—robbing them, beating them up and even killing them. We pollute. We corrupt. We devalue the valuable and value the worthless. So you see, we desperately need the God who comes and is always coming and will eventually come to redeem all things.

I love my husband and daughter infinitely, but at times I say and do things that can destroy, things that mar the beauty of our marriage and family. I cringe as I think about a time when words that I meant for good, had an evil effect in the church, on a friend, because I didn’t think more about how to say them. And you know, as Coldplay sings, sometimes I wonder if I am part of the cure or part of the disease, the destruction. So you see, I desperately need the God who comes, who is coming.

John the Baptist has been considered by some to be the last Old Testament prophet. Although he wasn’t the Messiah, he paved the way for Jesus the Messiah. He was filling religious valleys and excavating spiritual hills and mountains. But his road construction didn’t just affect and threaten the gospel-less religious institutions, his message paved socio-political and economic roads that some didn’t want paved. He both intrigued and threatened Herod in the political establishment. However, neither Herod nor his wife would allow John the Baptist to build inroads. So eventually he lost his head, beheaded on the road to Zion. Sometimes that happens when you make ready the pathways for the Lord. And God will reward those who sacrifice their lives to pave the way for his coming.

John the Baptist still speaks. He speaks to us in the words of Isaiah the prophet in Luke chapter three and calls us to prepare the way for the Lord, to make straight paths for him so that every valley is filled in, and every mountain and hill is made low. Then the crooked roads will become straight and the rough ways smooth. But we’re going to have a hard go of it, a hard time making straight paths for others if we are all crooked inside. And all of us are crooked in some way.

It is said that the phrase, “I am stumped” comes from back in the day when tree stumps were left on wagon trails.[3] Apparently, when the trees weren’t completely taken out, when stumps were left, sometimes wagons got hung up on a stump, thus the phrase, “I’m stumped.”[4] Are we stumping Christ, stumping others or are we currently stumped?

This Advent, Christ is knocking at the door of our hearts asking if he can come in to make the rough places in us smooth. Are we going to be hospitable to God? Are we going to allow him to get to work and fill in the valleys and bring low the hills and mountains in our souls so that we can do the same in the world? We must. For as Saint Teresa of Avila says (as quoted in A Guide To Prayer For Ministers and Other Servants):

Christ has
No body on earth but yours;
No hands but yours;
No feet but yours;
Yours are the eyes
Through which is to look out
Christ’s compassion on the world;
Yours are the feet
With which he is to go about
Doing good;
Yours are the hands
With which he is to bless now.[5]

Missing His Coming

We know Christ came, is coming and will come again, but we need to remind ourselves that it is possible to miss his coming. Many who looked forward to his coming, missed it because he came unexpectedly. Most of the educated religious people of his day missed it. And today, we can miss him because we’re too busy. Too busy paving our own roads while claiming to be doing his work. Notice that the word of God came to John the Baptist in the desert. The desert wilderness was a place where people went to hear God.[6] Sometimes God sends us into the wilderness to get us away from our busy lives, so that we can hear him. Sometimes, we have to pack up and head there ourselves if we are to hear him. What I mean is, we have to have silence and solitude to hear God. It could be in our rooms or in a park in the city. But we have to make time to hear him speak.

Why? Because our incessant busyness puts us in grave danger of missing Christ when he comes. We want to advance ourselves, sometimes in the church or in Christian institutions. So we miss him as we play church or play at Christianity. It is a very real danger. In Matthew 25, at the end of the age, when Jesus rewards those who were hospitable to him, who noticed him when he came, he says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”[7] We can’t say, Oh Jesus, I wanted to, but I was too busy doing things (or paving my own roads) to welcome you when you came. He’ll tell us to depart, that we never knew him. May that never be for anyone here. May we not miss Jesus when he comes.

I close with a poem written by monk John L’Hereux reprinted in the book, Monk Habits For Everyday People by Dennis Okholm:

Christ came into my room
and stood there
and I was bored to death.
I had work to do.
I wouldn’t have minded
If he’d been crippled
Or something—I do well
With cripples—but he
Just stood there, all face,
And with that d—ned guitar.
I didn’t ask him to sit down:
He’d have stayed all day.
(Let’s be honest. You can
Be crucified just so often;
Then you’ve had it. I mean
You’re useless; no good
To God, let alone
Anybody else.) So I said
To him after a while—
Well, what’s up? What do you want?
And he laughed, stupid,
Said he was just passing by
And thought he’d say hello.
Great, I said, hello.
So he left.
And I was so d—ned mad
I couldn’t even listen
To the radio. I went
And got some coffee.
The trouble with Christ is
He always comes at the wrong time.[8]

Christ is coming this Advent, may we be prepared for his coming and pave the way for him to come into the lives and institutions and the world so that all humankind will see his salvation. Amen.

[1] Found online at:
[2] Found online at:
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ruben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants, (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1983), 22.
[6] Found online at:
[7] Matthew 25:34-37 NIV.
[8] Dennis Okholm, Monk Habits For Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, (Grand Rapids, Brazos Press, 2007), 88.

Dec 9, 2010

All This Jesus Talk . . .

"Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." James 3:1

"Not many of you should become teachers" or seek to become teachers Saint James says. And I think to myself, "Am I seeking to become a teacher?" Not in the strictest sense. However, by writing and talking and living in the situations I do, I find myself in a tutorial position. And then at times I become self-conscious and tremble with a real fear. I see how far short of the glory of God I fall--how far short I fall of the very things I speak about (see Romans 3:23).

Should I not speak of such things then? For I do have the sneaking suspicion that I am going to fall under the category of those who will be judged more strictly. But then I think of all of us Christians who talk an awful lot and read an awful lot about Jesus, about his ways, about the Church, about our heavenly father.

We mistake our talk for a life lived (We're full of God-talk but quite God-less). In a sense, God cares not how much we talk about him. What he cares about is if our life is consistent with how we talk. And of course we need his grace for our life to match our words. But if our words far out pace the life of Christ in us, creating a large gap, we better rethink what we actually believe. Because we live what we actually believe, not what we think we believe.

I do tremble. And I pray, "God have mercy on me a sinner." My worst nightmare is to make God look bad because of how I live in my everyday common life. I do not want to misrepresent him in the mundane, even in the unseen--in my thoughts.

God have mercy on me a sinner. This day. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Fully Present? Living Incarnationally? CT Post

Here is something I wrote recently that was posted yesterday. This article highlights the question: What does it mean to live incarnationally, to be fully present to one another? Are you fully present to those around you? That is something I must ponder.

Dec 7, 2010

God Doesn't Fly Off The Handle

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." Psalm 103:8

Earlier this evening my daughter was being naughty. She wasn't listening. I was becoming frustrated, but trying to be patient. I was thinking about whether or not I should fight this or that battle with her (she is supremely strong-willed so every little thing can turn into a battle when she is on a roll) or whether I should chalk up some of her misbehavior to being tired. I wasn't really sure what to do.
And in the moment, in the midst of all this, I had the thought, "I am sure glad that God doesn't fly off the handle. I am glad God is patient and kind with me." The thought fueled my own patience; I wanted to be an icon of God even if she doesn't know that was my purpose.
Do we view God as someone who flies off the handle? Do we think him cruel--just waiting to pour out his wrath upon us at our very least trespass?
God does judge. Yes, he does. But he is patient and kind and makes a fair and righteous judgment. He delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth.
This is what the LORD says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:

that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.

Remembering about how good God is to me,  how patient, and how kind he is...and how much he loves me, enables me to be more patient with my daughter and others close to me. Hopefully, it will allow her and others to be patient with me. God doesn't fly off the handle even if that is what we do.

Dec 6, 2010

Cold creeping in . . .

There is a cold advisory tonight for the region I live in:


And I think of all the homeless people or those that don't have the wherewithal to heat their homes. Sometimes the warmest place for children is in school. The warmest place for an adult may be a convenience store, a grocery store, library, or restaurant. A snow day is so hard for some children because they go home to cold dwellings and no food.

Lets pray for them and for those in such need no matter where we live. And perhaps the Lord would now have us do something in one way or another. Are we doing what we can? We must now and throughout our lives.

Sometimes we think we have little to be thankful for when really we have so much.

May the God of peace and love protect you and be your refuge.

Dec 5, 2010

A Contemporary Testimony

All spheres of life --
family and friendship,
work and worship,
school and state,
play and art --
bear the wounds of our rebellion.

Sin is present everywhere--
in pride of race,
arrogance of nations,
abuse of the weak and helpless,
disregard for water, air, and soil,
destruction of living creatures,
slavery, murder, terror, war,
worship of false gods,
the  mistreatment of our bodies,
and our frantic efforts to escape reality.

We become victims of our own sin.

In all our striving to excuse ourselves,
we stand condemned
before the God of truth.

But our world,
broken and scarred,
still belongs to God,
who holds it together and gives us hope.

Contemporary Testimony from the Christian Reformed Church 16,17

Dec 3, 2010

Evangelical Dishonesty

I received this link from a friend. It is very poignant and compelling. Convicting. It comes from Randy Alcorn at Eternal Perspective Ministries.

Dec 2, 2010

Compassion: Being in the World Who God Is

Father Greg Boyle writes, "If we long to be in the world who God is, then, somehow, our compassion has to find its way to vastness." He goes on to quote Wendell Berry, "You  have to be able to imagine lives that are not yours." And then he continues, "Compassion isn't just about feeling the pain of others; it's about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what  God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. 'Being compassionate as God is compassionate,' means the dismantling of barriers that exclude. In Scripture, Jesus is in a house so packed that no one can come through the door anymore. So the people open the roof and lower this paralytic down through it, so Jesus can heal him. The focus of the story is, understandably, the healing of the paralytic. But there is something more significant than that happening here. They're ripping the roof off the place, and those outside are being let in."

~ Father Greg Boyle in the book Tattoos on the Heart pp. 66,74,75

Dec 1, 2010

Taking the Long View

"It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Oscar Romero
Original Post 6-10-2010