Jan 29, 2010

A short thought on what it means to follow Jesus: Will Willimon

I am a sick girl today, can barely type. So, I'll post a thought that I got from the Peculiar Prophet's blog... William Willimon:

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus did not say, “talk about me,” he said, “walk with me.” He didn’t say “think about me” he said “follow me”?

Something to ponder. I'll return to the blog as I am able.

Jan 24, 2010

3rd Sunday After Epiphany: Are You Functioning Like You Were Created To In The Body of Christ?


From  I Corinthians 12:12-27.

The city of Corinth was a major player in the Greco-Roman empire. It was a center of commerce. You could find every type of religion there. The city was full of wealthy people although the Corinthian Church was made up of mostly poor people. One ancient writer noted that Corinth was a superficial place, even superficially beautiful, but lacked grace. In Corinth, everyone had a lord, someone over him or her. A definite pecking order was in place in that society. Ingrained in the pyche of the Corinthians was the thought that every action, every word, was calculated to gain or maintain honor and avoid shame. If we understand this part of Corinthian culture, we can see why Paul goes to great lengths to demonstrate that all members of the body of Christ are one, each one important and indispensable.

It is probable that some in the Corinthian church looked down on or despised those under them. Perhaps they despised the poorer or less educated people. Another thing that pecking order determined was when or if someone could speak. Maybe some of that carried over into the church. After all, it was only the rich who could host big dinners for church. And only the rich could arrive early to love feasts, because they didn’t have to work long hours all day. They had leisure. So they could get to the love feast, eat the food, and leave little if any for the poor. Their word usually influenced the turn of events in the church and in the city. They had power and prestige. They were at the top of the pecking order.

Of course, if there were people who thought they were better than others, than there were those who thought they were inferior, unworthy, too low in the pecking order to be counted in the Church.That’s why Paul was like, “Look, nobody is better than anybody here. We all have particular functions and gifts that God has given us.”

I remember when I was a student at Cedarville University. We had chapel every day as the school still does. I remember at one point in my life there, when I didn’t have a lot of confidence, I thought that the girls who sang on stage, the ones with beautiful voices, were really the important ones. Since I didn’t have a beautiful voice, couldn’t ever afford voice lessons, couldn’t be sure that even if I had voice lessons that my voice would be beautiful, I remember thinking they were better than me. They were a better body part than me, maybe they were mouths with beautiful lips and voices like angels.

Have you ever wondered what part you are? As I was thinking about what to say today, I had the thought, “A lot of people in the church must think they’re rear ends, because all they do is sit on the pews their entire lives.” But really. Do we realize that we as a church, both global and local church, cannot function if body parts are atrophied, or not functioning properly for one reason or another?

St. Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, one of the early fathers of the church back in the day, who lived in the mid three hundreds to early four hundred, said this, “even the thorn on a foot can effect the body’s entire well-being.” Do you see what he’s getting at? If one of us, as a member of the body, isn’t functioning the way we’re supposed to, than the rest of the body is affected. In fact, the sickness and disease of even one or two members of the body can derail a whole church. Are you or I derailing this church, and the church universal, because we’re sick and refuse to get treatment or because we don’t even know there is something wrong with us? Or maybe, we’re abusing one another. Is a finger poking out the eye, and mouth biting the hand? Maybe we’re refusing to function, because we think, well, I am not an eye, so I don’t matter. My work, my being here is unimportant. Well that’s wrong.

Suppose some of us are eyes. We do the majority of seeing for the body. We see that someone in this congregation or community is being abused, physically, sexually, or emotionally. Well, it’s not enough just to see. Maybe the mouth can let others know, that the abused one needs help. The mouth could speak words of comfort. The arms can enfold and comfort the abused. The hands pick up the phone and call the police or other authorities. My metaphor, because it is a metaphor breaks down, but you get the picture.

I think it is the same with denominations. Some think of denominations as merely divisive. I think of Jesus’ twelve disciples as mini pictures of our current denominations. Jesus had all sorts of people in that motley crew of disciples with mixed political opinions, mixed abilities, and gifts. Yet Jesus chose all of them to bare his name, proclaim his name, according to their abilities and functions. Each denomination can be considered a body part with a different function. The different churches here in Springfield, can be considered different body parts that make up the body of Christ in Springfield. Are we functioning well?

None of us can function unless we are attached to the body, in Christ, in community. If you separate a body part from the rest of the body, what happens? It dies. It dies. I think we all know this, but let me repeat it, we cannot live the Christian life alone. We do realize that we are hurting the others around us when we're not functioning as we should, don’t we ? If we are suffering or in pain, do we realize, that others suffer, or would like to suffer with us? Whether for good or for ill, in the church, our function or lack of function, effects everyone around us, even if we’re not aware of it. We are all connected to each other.

Since those insecure college days, I’ve become aware of how God has made me. I have a better grasp of my strengths and weaknesses. I hope that I am functioning as best I can in the station in life that I am in. God doesn’t call any of us to do any more or any less than we can do. But he does call us to do what we can and be what he has called us to be. And some of us hands, want to be legs, and we’re messing things up. Let us accept what we are and be what we are with gusto, all for the honor of Jesus. Do you know, that God made us the way we are and gave us the functions we have? He ordained our function in the body of Christ.

When we as a member of the body do what we are to do, God through us, uses the body as a whole to set the oppressed free, to give sight to the blind and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In essence, when we function well, we as the body of Christ on earth are doing his will on earth as it is in heaven, and bringing in the kingdom.

And in closing, I pray these verses from the song "Yaweh" by U2

Take these hands

Teach them what to carry

Take these hands

Don't make a fist no

Take this mouth

So quick to criticize

Take this mouth

Give it a kiss


Jan 21, 2010

The Expansive and Consuming Love of God - Even in Death

"and to know this love surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:19

Have you tasted and savored the love that surpasses knowledge? Imagine that you are standing on the shore, gazing at the beautiful blue-green ocean. The water is clean and crystal clear. You're compelled to enter. So you step forward, delicately dipping your foot into the water in an effort to test the temperature. Suddenly, you find yourself waist-deep. You continue forward until the water is up to your shoulders. Will you go any further? You tremble at the thought. If you proceed, you could easily drown. Who will rescue when you're alone?

While you may not risk going deeper into the ocean for fear of drowning, drowning in the waters of God's love leads to life. Merely standing on shore, gazing at the beautiful water, is like the beginning of the Christian life. Yet every time you exchange some of your ways for his ways, you step deeper into the ocean of his love. The deeper you go in, the more you see and experience him, the more alive you become. This is truth, you become more alive in him as you continually die to yourself (John 11:24-26, Galatians 2:20). When in faith you surrender everything to him so that you no longer claim anything as your own, the waters of his love will sweep you away. You will never touch bottom again.

When you allow yourself to drown in him then you will be rooted and established and filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17b-19). You will not care where the currents of his love take you because you will know, in an experiential way, that his love surpasses knowledge. You'll remember his words to Joshua now meant for you, "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). You will trust, even if wherever means you're whisked into a hurricane. For everywhere his currents send you in the ocean of his love leads your soul to partake in his fullness. You'll realize how deeply in love you are when you can say like Job, "though he slay me I will trust him" (Job 13:15).
You will eventually learn to trust him even as you see the ocean currents ushering you through physical death into thre rest of life, eternal life. The culmination of your faith will be when you confidently say at death, "Death has been swallowed up in victory. 'Where, O death, is your victory?' Where, O death, is your sting?'" (I Corinthians 15:54-55) and then step onto the shores of the Promised Land.

I wrote this six or seven years ago, but could not share it on the radio or post it because of the 2004 tsunami. The metaphor was just too much. But, I share it today.

Jan 20, 2010

Forgotten By God? Lonely? Feeling Imprisoned?

"The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph, he forgot him." Genesis (40:23)

After Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, he was put into prison because of Potiphar's lustful and lying wife (Genesis 37:28, 39:20). Sometime later, the Lord enabled him to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh's chief cup bearer and chief baker (Genesis 40:12-19). God had given Joseph a favorable interpretation of the cup bearer's dream, so Joseph implored him, "But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in the dungeon" (Genesis 40:14-15). Joseph thought that his time to get out of prison had finally come but, "The chief cup bearer . . . did not remember Joseph, he forgot him" (Genesis 40:23).

Forgotten. Like Joseph, you have done nothing to warrant the dungeon of the situation you are in, but things seem to be going from bad to worse. Moreover, you've been in the dungeon much longer than you thought you would be or could stand to be. You've called on God, begging him to rescue you, but in your life, God seems to be playing the part of the cupbearer who forgot Joseph.

According to Psam 37:23, "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way." Although you feel trapped, imprisoned, God has not let you out of his sight. He is with you. He has ordered each one of your steps, just like he did with Joseph. In the midst of his affliction, Joseph could not see that he would (1) be sold into slavery so that he would end up in Potiphar's household (2) be falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and sent to prison so that (3) he could meet Pharaoh's cupbearer and interpret his dream, (4) be forgotten by the cupbearer until the exact moment that Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his dream, which led to (5) Joseph becoming the second in command in Egypt, which enabled him to (6) deliver the Egyptians, his family, and others from the famine.

God's thoughts are not our thoughts neither are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Be assured child of God, that although you cannot discern a purpose, God may be using this dungeon of difficulty. He'll set you free in due time. In the meantime, he will give us the power to persevere, moment by moment if need be.

Clarification. The point here, is that it was no accident that Joseph was in prison for the time he was in prison. We can be imprisoned by our situations and circumstances and be smack dab in the middle of God's will, right where he wants us. That is difficult to swallow, but true. However, I must give one disclaimer. If you are in any kind of abusive situation, please do not use this meditation as a reason to stay put. Seek help and get out! Fast, if you can! Seek help from a trusted person, or call a hotline, even the police.

Jan 19, 2010

The Death of a Dream - God's Pruning - Trusting God

"No good thing does he withold from those whose walk is blameless." Psalm 84:11

It is excruciating to stand by helplessly and watch as God casts the beautiful branch of our dreams into the fire. Pain envelops us as we watch our reasons for living turn into an ash heap. Although we've been told and maybe assent to it being for our good and his glory (see Romans 8:28), we are prone to doubt God's wisdom and grow bitter when his plans do not coincide with ours.

How can it be his will to discard our healthy, fruitful branch? In John 15:16, Jesus says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last." It is possible, and likely, that our branch of dreams was quite fruitful, but God wants us to bear more substantial, juicier, fruit. Sometimes, God deeply wounds us with his pruning sheers so that he can graft in his own (or new) dream for us.

When we abide in Christ, God the Father, our heavenly gardener (John 15:1), will not allow any of the branches he has grafted into us to wither. On the contrary, when he grafts into us the branch of his dreams, his dreams will become our dreams (Psalm 37:4). He will cause the fruit on it to multiply a hundred-fold if we leave it alone and allow him to be the gardener.When the Father joyously prunes our branches, he ensures that they bear fruit. Our fruitfulness brings him glory and demonstrates that we are Christ's disciples (John 15:8).

Once we've mourned the death of our own dreams and sought forgiveness for our unbelief (for calling God's wisdom into question), he will quiet our souls. We will find satisfaction in his will and finally be able to hear what he has been whispering all along, "I am a sun and a shield, I bestow favor and honor; no good thing will I withold from those whose walk is blameless" (see Psalm 84:11 above). And then he continues whispering, "No eye has seen no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (I Corinthians 2:9).

As our Father reassures us with his loving words of promise, our belief will take root and our souls will rest, even if we cannot see the tangible results of his gardening. In our rest, we'll be doing what the Father most longs for us to do--confidently trusting him with our very lives.

Jan 18, 2010

One More In The Name of Love - Reconciliation - Martin Luther King Jr.- Evangelicals and Institutional or Systemic Sin.

Early morning April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis sky, free at last, they took your life, but they could not take your pride. In the name of love . . . one more in the name of love . . . in the name of love . . . one more in the name of love . . .  Pride by U2

"Rescue those being lead away to death, hold back those staggering towards slaughter. If you say, 'But we knew nothing of this,' does he who weighs the heart not perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he as done." Proverbs 24: 11,12

"The only thing worse than hate is indifference."

Every time I here the song Pride or think about the lyrics, my eyes well up in tears. Martin Luther King Jr. said he wouldn't make it to 40, and he didn't. He died at just 39 years old. I think of other people, not all Christians, but many of them professing Christians who were willing to live and to die for what they knew to be right, despite their fellow believer's criticisms. A prophet is seldom appreciated by the status quo, which often includes popular church culture.

Most middle-class white evangelical Christians think that racism is over. I don't fault all of them. They haven't been taught. But we fail to realize there is something called institutional or systemic racism. When we're confonted with it, we say, "Oh no, I am not a racist, I like black people, I have no problems with minorities." But when push comes to shove, those in power, do not want to relinquish power to those they've oppressed for centuries. Forget about relinquishing, we don't want to share power with anyone. How many blacks, minorities, or women for that matter, are afforded the opportunities to rise to the highest places in Christian organizations or even universities? Very few. And it's not because they're incapable, it's because real barriers exist.

                                           William Wilberforce.

Polycarp - Martyr
I've been told by many leaders in racial reconciliation that the only way a Christian institution or university is going to change from racialist to biblical reconcilist is to get a black or another minority on the board of trustees, a black or minority trustee with lots of money and influence (no money or influence, no trusteeship for you, even if you're wise and talented and smart as a whip). Why? Christian institutions and universities will quickly change their tunes, or minds, and suddenly amend their ways when money is offered or when someone threatens to pull money away. And when I was young and naive, only a few years ago, I thought that Christian institutions and organizations and universities bowed to Jesus not Mammon. Some bow to Jesus, but most to Mammon. I've learned that. And I've been disillusioned.

Yes, there is sin, systemic sin, call it institutional sin, in every church and Christian institution, just like there is personal sin. However, my brothers and sisters, my evangelical brothers and sisters, whom I love like all the rest of the brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God, have a hard time seeing that, or admitting that. In fact, many times they down right deny it.

Susan B. Anthony.

Those like me and others who talk about it, who fight against it, are called liberals by the powers that be. And with the term "liberal" we are summarily dismissed. But dear brother or sister, dear one who dismisses me, examine my life, and see if I do not love Jesus fervently. I love Jesus fervently with the rest of them and I think that my actions show it (though I am imperfect like all).

I am not saying anything new. Plenty have said this before me. I am just one more voice in a chorus whose voices are growing louder. Tony Perkins, Brenda Salter-McNeill, Ed Gilbreathe, and others who have been calling for reconciliation in evangelical circles have been saying this for years.

We have to defend the rights of the unborn, but we must do our very best, to also knock down the walls of seperation, the walls of power that oppress. And we can do this in the name of Jesus.

Frederick Douglass
Some of the loudest detractors during the Abolition and Civil Rights and Women's Suffrage Eras were those in the church. And those in the church who called the activists liberals and unbiblical now have historical egg on their faces. Let us fight for what is right. Let us, in Jesus' name, respectfully yet actively, work to reconcile brothers and sisters together, to share power.

It will not be easily done, because I said above, life and history show that those in power do not like to share power. And in the case of evangelical organizations and churches and universities, those in power, don't even think in those terms. Many don't realize, even I don't realize, how much we love power, how much we don't want to share it because that means we'd have to change our ways or give up some of our preferences or non-essentials.

But let each one of us be one more in the name of love. It will require sacrifice brothers and sisters, maybe even our lives if we are to follow Jesus and follow Jesus in this way. Reconciliation is part of the gospel.


Jan 17, 2010

I'm Aging

"From one man, he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him, and find him, though he is not far from each of us." Acts 17:26, 27.

I am starting to feel old. The feeling started creeping into me when I gave birth to Iliana at 29, and especially when I turned 30. To me, my face doesn't appear as fresh as it once did. It doesn't help that I live on a college campus and am surrounded by young bright-faced kids. I love them and love my life here, but that could be part of the reason I feel so old. My huband and I used to be the young ones in our congregations.
My home not withstanding, I still feel age creeping in.

When I was 25, I told the Lord that I was now a quarter of a century old, perhaps most of my life nearly over. I can hear readers, and others say, "Ah, Marlena. Pish, pash (as they wave their hands), you aren't so old." But already, I can see that some of my youthful vigor has fled. I wanted to change the world, but perhaps I am realizing what Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making, gets at. He notes that we can change the little cultures, around us, our spheres of influence. And it's not like I want to be dictator of the world, or somehing like that. My hope is that those around me would taste and savor, and follow, our only God and Savior, Jesus Christ. That through him, they'd see his beauty and the beauty of the world, and realize that redemption is not merely an idea, but a reality that saturates our lives, changing our lives, as we live in him. God has unveiled himself and the glory of the whole universe for us. It's just we cannot perceive it all. We perceive it little by little. Our concept of God is too small.

Yet though I age, last night I prayed that I would continually become a little child. I think of one of my favorite quotes by G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy (I can't remember what page) "We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." Yes, O God, may I continually be awe-inspired, may I fear your love and beauty and goodness and judgment. You could snuff me away in an instant. And may I trust you, like a child would trust a good father and mother, even when she doesn't comprehend the reasons behind father and mother's instructions or actions. You, O God, are worthy of my trust.

(A picture of me and Iliana, my 2 1/2 year old)

O of course, I'd love to be physically beautiful, and youthful, and brilliant. But really, I am only so beautiful and so brilliant, and I am moving away from youth. But I hope to remain a child and to ruminate on that concept, that I might see what it means for my life.

Jan 16, 2010

What do you laugh at?

"Men show their character in nothing more clearly than what they think laughable."

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I like this quote. Goethe is saying that what we laugh at says a lot about us. Do I laugh at the vile? Do I laugh at the random? Do I laugh a lot? It is good to laugh, but not good to laugh at everything. I really don't think I need to add my two cents to what Goethe (pronounced Ger ta) said. I just want to laugh more, hopefully not at that which is inappropriate, otherwise, that says something about me.

Jan 15, 2010

C.S. Lewis On Giving To The Poor

Charity--giving to the poor--is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns. Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce that kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality. I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard of those with the same income as our own, we are are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them . . . .

Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbors, or employees which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position. For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear--fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as temptation.

Mere Christianity pp. 81-82.

Jan 14, 2010

Thoughts About Judging Others/God's Judgment on Haiti?

Recently, I hung out with some of my girlfriends. It was so refreshing just to relax and be myself and catch up with their thoughts and lives. As a result of a particular conversation, I ventured, "I am glad that God is the judge and not me." At times, we (I) think we can discern and diagnose and render our rulings or judgments on people or situations. We perceive ourselves to be accurate. And some of us are more accurate than others. But wisdom, life, and history show us that things are seldom clear-cut, seldom so black and white.

It comforts me to know that God is a just judge and he will and does render the right judgment, despite my inability to comprehend. I don't have all the facts. And even if I did, would I know what a just punishment is? No.

I am not saying that we shouldn't judge the rightness or wrongness of particular situations or actions (obviously Hitler's and Stalin's actions were abominable), because in the New Testament, St. Paul says we are to test all things. What I am saying is that we need to be careful.

Continuing in this vein, last night I read that Pat Robertson proclaimed the earthquake in Haiti to be God's judgment on its people. I understand that he probably thinks so based on God's actions in the Old Testament. And I realize that he has done many good things to help the poor and suffering all over the world, to spread God's love. So, I do not condemn him as a good-for-nothing (lest I be in danger of the fires of hell, as Jesus has said).

But I do caution him and others who proclaim that this natural disaster (and other disasters like it) is a result of God's judgment. We simply don't know. I do believe God judges but to say, "this is a judment of God" or "that is a judgment of God" may be going too far.

Take Luke 13:1-5 for example. This is what it says, "Now there were some present at the time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish! Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell, you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish!'"

When the people started pointing fingers at those who died--self-righteous because the tragedies didn't befall them, in essence Jesus said, "Take a look at yourself, they were no more guilty than you. You watch out, because if you don't turn from your sins, you too will perish."
Let us be careful then before we go prounouncing judgment on others lest we bring it on ourselves.

I wonder if Pat Robertson regrets his words? I wish the soundbite would've been of him offering aid instead of pronouncing God's judgment. I am sure he and CBN are giving though.

Peace to you and prayers/giving for the affected in Haiti.

In Christ,

Jan 13, 2010


Let's pray on behalf of those suffering in Haiti and let us give to help them.

Jan 12, 2010

On Reading The Bible Well - Snippet from CRC Banner

I thought this was astute and helpful advice on reading the Bible well:

"We tend to hear things differently when we read with others, and a brother or sister can alert you to something in the text that you missed. Better still, if you really want to make sure you aren't just interpreting in such a way that you reaffirm everything you already believe, read the Bible with people who are different than you. Find people older or younger, richer or poorer, more urban or country than you. Find people of a different ethnicity or from a different political party or a different denomination and read the Scriptures with them!"

p. 2o of the Christian Reformed Church Banner Magazine ~ http://www.thebanner.org/

Jan 11, 2010

Eagerness to love God - Words From Richard Rolle

"The devil has got hold of many whom we count good. For he possesses those who are merciful, chaste, and humble--self-confessed sinners to a man, of course, hair-shirted and penance-laden! Very often indeed are mortal wounds obscured by the odor of sanctity. The devil may have the busy worker, or even the compelling preacher, but not, surely the person whose heart is aglow with charity, ever eager to love God and indifferent to vanity. The eager love of the wicked, on the other hand, is always for what is shameful. They have ceased from all spiritual excercise, or at least are flabby and feeble. Their love has no pattern, being given more to things that are of this world than of the next, more to bodies than to souls."

From Richard Rolle in Devotional Classics (edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith p. 133, Harper SanFrancisco).

Jan 10, 2010

Live Redemptively - Meditations

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" Luke 11:13

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3

We are prone to destruction, to destroy the good, the true, the beautiful. We drift toward squalor (as Pastor Bob proclaimed today). The Fall is repeated over and over again every second throughout the earth. Left to ourselves, we'd trash everything, including ourselves.

But an implication of Epiphany, of Jesus' manifestation, is that we are not slaves to destruction (or at least we don't have to be), to sin and its implications. There is another way. One implication of the gospel, really good news for us and all of humankind if they would hear and accept, is that we can leave the squalor behind. Our family backgrounds, our addictions, while strong and influential, do not have to have the last say in how we live. Neither does our gender, lack of power, or lack of riches, or social status. Neither do we have to continue destroying creation, but we can work to redeem the environment and stem the tides of destruction. And this isn't just empty talk. History shows the good that comes from the gospel (obviously people have used God and the gospel illegitmately to excuse selfish and evil behavior), and we can see the beauty and goodness that come from redeemed lives.

What does this all have to do with us? Well it is my hope that I, and anyone reading this would pause before we engage in destructive thoughts and behaviors. Instead of bringing more death and destruction, it is my hope that we'd allow Christ's streams of living water to flow through us and into the lives of those around us. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, for this to happen. But it is a grace that God promises to give to us. In I Peter 1:3, the Apostle Peter tells us that God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness. And in Ephesians 3:18-21 Paul prays that we would, "have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen!"

Didn't Jesus say in Luke 11:3 that he would give us the Holy Spirit, if we but ask? And in Ephesians doesn't Paul say that God can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask for or imagine according to Christ's power within us individually and the church collectively? And didn't Peter say we have everything we need for life and godliness, according to our knowledge of Christ?

Then with Christ's power at work in us, we can live prayerfully and bring redemption into the lives and institutions and lands we touch. We can break free from the bonds of destruction. We do not have to let the destructive cycle continue.

These are just a few of the implications of Epiphany and Easter. May you be encouraged in Christ.

Jan 9, 2010


"The moment we permit evil to control our imaginations, dictate the way we think, and shape our responses, we at the same time become incapable of seeing the good, the true, and the beautiful."

~Eugene Peterson in Leap Over A Wall p.39

Jan 8, 2010

On Unfaithfulness/Adultery

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30:21

And with the temptation, he will provide a way of escape. I Corinthians 10:13

What if you had a chance to have the thing or person you've always dreamed of?
Would you destroy everything and everyone around you in order to have it,
in order to have him or her?

Is it really worth it? Would not this thing or person grow bitter in your mouth,
or sour in your stomach once you've tasted?

Some of us our willing to unleash Pandora's Box, to destroy our beautiful, God-given worlds and gifts and families for the forbidden fruit, for what in the end turns out to be an illusion.

And we are all tempted, let none of us think we are beyond temptation. We have to recognize that each one of us, I say each one of us on the road to Zion, is one or two steps away from the abyss. That is why we cannot turn to the left or the right. We have to keep our eyes on Christ in the midst of community.

And we have to take God's escape routes when he presents them.

Don't open Pandora's Box.

Jan 7, 2010

Blinded By Pleasure

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." Ecclesiastes 7:4

What are fools blinded by? The answer: pleasure. They seek contentment through amusement and self-fulfillment. The ruler of this world uses these devices to keep them from truth. One of his tactics is to anesthetize them so that they do not feel pain, lest they should turn to God. The worst thing they could do is turn to God, start thinking deeply, ask questions, and seek answers.

It sounds harsh. But it is the wise person who considers what ultimately matters. The fool chases only after the wind of pleasures. But let us be vigilant lest we foolishly become blinded and/or anesthetized. This happens when we are distracted and tempted to find our satisfaction in another thing or person. When tempted to devolve into unhealthy self-gratification, let us remember that the enemy uses it as a ploy to keep unbelievers from entering the Kingdom of God and believers from bearing fruit.

Jan 6, 2010

Epiphanies come during silence, while we listen - repost

When I was younger, I couldn't figure out why certain monks and nuns took vows of silence. It seemed like an empty ritual. How foolish I was! I now realize these silent monastics are acutely aware of the toxic waste that flows from the mouth. They keep silence to save the earth. Perhaps I should join them.

Advice to those of us who consider ourselves righteous but have no control of the tongue: Let's be eco-friendly by keeping our mouths shut.

That way, we won't pollute the earth.

Jan 5, 2010

Eugene Peterson on Rejection Slips and Writing and Vocation

"My writer-crisis came when I was asked to ghostwrite some material for an individual who at the time was well known. I had been submitting articles, poems, and manuscripts to publishers for several years and getting them returned with rejection slips. The reprieve from uninterrupted rejections seemed providential. I accepted an assignment without thinking very much about what I was doing, except that I was being appreciated. I was paid well. What I wrote was published by a firm that had rejected several far better written manuscripts that I submitted under my own name. I knew then that I could continue to be published and paid for it if I continued to write this way. It would be honest and useful work. But I also knew that what I had just written, while being factual (except for attributed authorship), was not true in any living way. It was a job, not a vocation. I remembered Truman Capote's sneer, 'That's not writing, it's typing.'"

~ Eugene Peterson in Under The Unpredictable Plant p. 56 (Wm. B. Eerdmans)

Jan 4, 2010

Full of Yourself? The Last Will Be First - Words From Fenelon

I have often observed that a rude, ignorant sinner, just beginning to be touched by a lively sense of the love of God, is much more disposed to listen to the inward language of the Spirit of grace than those enlightened and learned persons who have grown old in their wisdom. God's sole desire is to impart himself. He cannnot, so to speak, find where to set his foot in souls so full of themselves, who have grown fat upon their own wisdom and virtues. But, as the Scriptures say, "His secret is with the simple."

But where are they? I do not know who they are, but God sees them and loves to dwell in them. "My Father and I," says our Lord Jesus Christ, "will come unto him, and make our home with him." Ah! a soul delievered from self, and abandoned to grace, counting itself as nothing, walking without its own thought, moving at the will of the that pure love which is its perfect Guide--that soul has an experience which the wise can neither receive nor understand!

From Talking With God - Francois Fenelon pp. 63-64.

Jan 3, 2010

The Kiss of Life - God Lifts Us Up - George Macdonald

"Whatever it is that keeps the finer faculties of the mind awake, wonder alive, and the interest above mere eating and drinking, moneymaking and money saving; whatever it is that gives gladness, sorrow, or hope is simply a divine gift that comes with salvation. It is the gift of life, through Jesus Christ, that lifts us out of the mire and up on the rock. It keeps a way open for the entrance of deeper, holier, grander influences emanating from the same riches of the Godhead."

From The Best of George Macdonald pg. 88.

Jan 2, 2010

God's Timing and Temptation -- Thoughts From An Old Journal Entry and Today

"My hour has not yet come." John 2:4

All throughout the book of John, Jesus says to different people, "My time has not yet come." In John 2:4, he said it to his mother before he turned water into wine at the Cana wedding. As I mentioned in other posts about waiting and even in yesterday's, we get all out of sorts when God doesn't operate on our time table. You'd think we'd learn that he seldom if ever does, especially when we are pining after something (even a good thing). Sometimes I imagine myself as an Israelite in the wilderness, having to stop and go according to the cloud by day and fire by night. I imagine that sometimes I'd be irritated or impatient because I am ready to go, but the cloud or pillar just sits there and sits there days on end, barring the nation (and me) from moving forward. I'd want to know what the hold up was and be irritated that I didn't get an answer.

A big temptation for us is to take control and try to manage our lives, to be sovereign over our lives and lives around us. This gets me back to a journal entry from August 26, 2004:

Matthew 4

When Jesus was being tempted--it was not wrong for him to turn stones into bread. The problem was that the devil was trying to get him to assert his power outside of the will of the Father. Jesus knew God had timing for everything. God the Father would provide the manna. Perhaps the devil knew that all the kingdoms of the world would be Christ's, but he was trying to get Jesus to be greedy, and most of all, do the unthinkable--worship him! Again, he was trying to play upon truth in order to get Jesus to obtain the kingdoms of the world in an illegitimate manner. The devil may not have given the kingdoms to Jesus anyhow. But if Jesus would of done the unthinkable--acquire his rightful kingdoms and glory in an illegitimate fashion, Jesus would've forfeited his soul (now I am not sure about the forfeited his soul, but that is what I wrote. Jesus would've sinned and who knows what would've followed from that).

Seeking to acquire that which God promises by our own means is illegitimate. There is quite a training of our faith involved in waiting on God to give us what he has promised. We have to wait without grasping, wait without grumbling. This is a grace that may take years to develop. And just when we think we've acquired it, he gives us another situation that tests us and requires us to trust him as never before. Jesus too was tempted to illegitimately acquire what was rightfully his. Isn't that paradoxical? Why should he have to acquire what was his? But he did and he had to do and be according to the Father's will.

I welcome comments and insights.

His grace and peace upon you.


Jan 1, 2010

Idolatry Creeping In

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind." Matthew 22:37

Is idolatry creeping in or have I just become aware of it? I think I've just become aware of it. Isn't that how it always is? The idolatry has to do with the desire of my heart--a desire that I am convinced God birthed. So that is a good thing, right? It is of him. However, when I start to try to control how and when it comes about (in an unhealthy sort of way I mean), when my mood is determined by whether or not I perceive progress to be taking place, that is a red flag indicating it is becoming an idol. The good thing is stealing my time and attention and joy because it is not materializing at the rate at which I desire. Is it stealing my love of God? Is it becoming a love? Am I loving the gift more than the giver? Well, the fact that progress or lack of progress is controlling my moods means something is seriously wrong. Idolatry lurks. I should not be controlled by my ambition, a godly ambition at that, I need to be controlled by God. How cunning is Satan, how cunning are my own desires and ways. Idolatry can be clothed as an angel of light. In fact, it most often is. We may not bow down to an image, but we may bow to circumstances. Bowing to circumstances and even godly ambitions, instead of God, is idolatry. Think of pastors who neglect their families for church or even someone who is a workaholic, doing good things for everyone else save her or his own family.

So daily, sometimes momentarily, I have to check myself or rather stand before God so that his holy light can penetrate the darkness residing within me. I must love him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I have to obey, lest in enouraging others to follow Christ, I myself become disqualified in the race. It is a scary thought and real possibility in me and in all of us.

I have asked him what he wants me to do. I believe he is in the process of answering.

Let none of us think we are incapable of idolatry. It's when we're following God whole-heartedly that we can be most tempted--just like Jesus in the desert.