Pinebrooke Community Church
Wednesday, January 26, 2022

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Week of January 17, 2022

Wednesday, January 19, 2022
 

Weekly Blog

 

                One of the most impactful chapters that I have read period – and that is saying something when I consider that I am almost 74 years old – came from a little book that Gabe Lyons wrote some 12 years ago, Next Christians.  The title of the chapter is, “Creators, not Critics.”  The gist is this there are those in the years to come who will use their energy to create good culture rather than use their energy to critique culture.  That resonates deeply within me.

                In every encounter and opportunity in life am I invested in creating or critiquing.  It seems that it is quite easy to see what is wrong if we are shaped at all by the Word of God.  The great challenge remains, how do I create that which is clearly stated as the kingdom of God in my day-by-day interactions and activities.  God has always been the Creator of good, beauty, and truth.  Am I willing to walk in those same steps?

                As a follower of Jesus, I think that might be my mantra for each day and each encounter that is presented to me.  Creating good culture is something that seems to me is consistently reflective of Jesus.  The conflicts that arose only existed because there are “forces” that are bent on stealing, killing, and destroying.  Creating good isn’t always easy because it requires a stability, certainty, and wisdom.  Join me in this work, would you!?

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Week of January 10, 2022

Wednesday, January 12, 2022
 

Weekly Blog

 

                As I have been thinking about the contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man it seems that the difference is peace versus chaos.  Truly, chaos brings the worst out of us, and peace is the best of us.  Maybe that is because we were created for peace.  The further we go in the journey the more we understand that we were created for the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of man.

                Is it not true that Adam and Eve were genuinely created for the Garden and that their resistance was not what they were here for?  The fact is that we have been created with the freedom to choose.  So, it is our choice as to which kingdom we will live in.  Like most things in earth life what we experience comes down to choosing.

                It seems to be a very vivid circumstance in which we live.  We are surrounded by chaos.  To not live in chaos is a daily choice.  It takes genuine effort to focus on the invisible kingdom of God and it takes effort to position ourselves so as to not react to the chaos but to respond to the presence of Jesus day by day.  If in the Spirit, it still takes a pushing against the chaos rather than a submission to it.  Life takes effort that has nothing to do with earning anything.

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Week of January 3, 2022

Thursday, January 06, 2022
 

Weekly Blog

 

                According to the lectionary we are still in the season of Christmas up until Thursday with is Epiphany or the showing of Christ.  I’ve learned that for those in the Jesus Movement that the lectionary leans heavily on the Gospel readings throughout the year.  My education focused more on the Epistles as the living out of the Gospels which is good, but sometimes to the neglect of the Gospels except around Christmas and Easter.

                There is a tacit movement of Jesus’ story through the lectionary gospel passages and, in this week, the second week of Christmas we know that focus of the Magi was to come worship the King.  It is to our advantage to broaden our sense of certainty that God sent non-Jews, the Magi from an astrology perspective to confirm what God had done in the birth of Jesus.  It adds support to the Christmas Story.

                It behooves us to live at Jesus’ pace as we enter a new year of life.  His pace is resident in the Scriptures and given the three years of active ministry out of 33, there is a great deal of preparation in God’s time.  Scholars tell us that the Magi most likely came some two years after the birth, thus Herod’s assassination plot.  Isn’t it interesting that the whole story is reduced to one night in our celebration?  My main take away is that living at Jesus’ pace is a lot slower than we are inclined to live.  

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Week of December 20, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

 Weekly Blog

 

                As we approach the fulfillment of the Advent Season in a week, I am reminded to the declaration, “I bring you tidings of great joy!”  I’m concerned that we have lost the edge that we have been given as pilgrims of great joy.  Have we allowed the concerns of the day to rob us of our birthright?  The fear and confusion of our day is actually a perfect opportunity for followers of Jesus to rise to the occasion with sincere joy.  Speaking from hearts filled with the joy of redemption.

                We have been saved and are being saved not just for heaven but to bring the messengers of heaven on earth.  We pray that from time to time, “thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.”  For the kingdom to come to earth God has chosen his messengers, not angels, but his children to be the bearers of the kingdom.

                C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”  If that is so, and I think it is, we are meant to be the joy bearers.  Our message is the message of Gabriel at Christmas time, announcing the reality that cannot be seen except through the lives of the Christ-followers, “Glad tidings of great joy.”  Do you think our world needs to be reminded of that life-giving truth? 

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Week of December 6, 2021

Tuesday, December 14, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                The thread in our Advent season is the thread of love.  It’s not the love that strikes most peoples fancy, but the love that moved the Trinity to shuffle its dynamic at great sacrifice for humankind.  We love the gentleness of the Incarnation story, but the essence of that love is sacrifice.  Just as we have focused on the substance of hope being trust and the substance of peace being wholeness, so the substance of love is sacrifice.  One wonders about the prevalence of love in the midst of the redeemed.

                In the Biographical History of Christian Missions, Ruth Tucker tells our stories as followers of Jesus.  One of the constants among these known and unknown heroes of the faith is their commitment to sacrifice for the good of people who have never known the redemption story of God’s love.  That is what biblical love looks like.  It is important that we not lose sight of the central nature of love.

                Often times we are educated in the definitions of love, but that can cause us to lose sight of the power of love.  In non-religious terms love is often described as “making the world go ‘round.”  Maybe this Advent Season it would be a good time to let God define love.  His defining activity always brings us back to the soul-building sense of sacrifice.  What are we willing to go through for the sake of others?  I’m reminded of something missiologist, Ralph Winter once said, “Risk is not to be evaluated on the probability of success, but on the value of the goal.”  Love sees the value of the goal.

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Week of November 29, 2021

Thursday, December 02, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Suddenly the colors of the season have changed from green to Royal blue.  For those of us who are conscious of the liturgical seasons, we know something is afoot.  The weekly scriptures turn to the Jesus Story and the Advent of the Christ.  This year we begin with Jesus’ account of the Second Advent when things are different than the Story of the Nativity.  By nature, we love to remember the baby in the manger account, but we don’t like the power and upheaval of the Advent of the Judge.  We like love, but we don’t like holiness so much.

                The accountability of holiness is one of our least favorite sports.  I have a friend who told me a true story of a customer who refused to pay for the repair/replacement of her tire after she had hit a pothole and blew out her tire, because it wasn’t her fault that she hit the pothole.  It was the municipality or government entity who was accountable for the blow out.  It was the pothole’s fault, not hers.  In the mindset of our world, everyone goes to heaven, the world lives unprepared for the return of Christ.

                One of the things I most notice in the life of the Christians today, the lack of compassion for those who do not yet believe.  Luke 21: 25-36 is this week’s gospel reading.  Jesus tells us that when he returns and he surely will, he will come as the Judge, not the Savior.  It will be the market day for the sheep or the goats, this is the day when things will be seen for what they are.  It is my hope that we will return to the great compassion for men’s souls that lead us to step it up and step out.

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Week of November 15, 2021

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

 

Weekly Blog

 

                What is your vision of the holidays of this season?  What is most unlikely is that we might have a difficult time sorting through the jungle of common notions to get at one of the most certain aspects of either Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Both events are rooted in sacrifice.  For the Mayflower pilgrims what is a significant part of the scene is the sacrifice of ordinary people to leave family and friends to travel to a new land in hopes of a better life only to be faced with a harsh land that would require great sacrifice to simply survive.

                Sacrifice is something that people both Europeans and Native Americans were willing to accept as part of living life.  There is a real sense of strength of character that is on display in all our sentimental scenes of the first Thanksgiving meal.  At least there is a clear notion of strength that carries the scene, and the strength is expressed in generosity and true community.  What was true is that the Europeans knew that they needed the natives in order to survive.  The Native Americans knew the nuances of survival.

                Whatever the strength of character that enabled our forefathers to survive seems to have ebbed away in our present-day culture.  The circumstance of pandemic seems to have captured our attention to the degree that our humanity has shrunk, and we are so much less than we have been for the most part.  We have in the season before us a clarion call to step up in the strength of our hearts to step into the gaps that exist all around us.  May this years’ celebration call us to the meekness (strength under control) that the circumstances that we face are asking of us.

 

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Week of November 8, 2021

Sunday, November 07, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

              The holiday season is right in front of us.  I know some dread the thought for various reasons.  It may surface disappointments from the past.  It may conjure up burdensome expectations.  It may produce frenetic anxiety, or it may generate buried feelings of loneliness.  In conversation with a friend, sometimes the temptation is to see the holidays as uninspiring obligations.  But in reality, I think they are given us as gifts to help us slow down not speed up.

               Take Thanksgiving for example.  We have drifted away for the agricultural culture that our nation was founded on.  The new emigrants from Europe, most of our forefathers, came seeking a new world and a new opportunity.  It was an unfamiliar land with unfamiliar inhabitants.  Thanksgiving was a celebration of God material provision and protection through the preceding year.  It was a celebration of life with new friends and families.  No matter what has happened in this past year, we are here and with much to be grateful for, so it behooves us to slow down and embrace the joys of the day.

              Then there is Christmas.  We should know better than to get caught up with the cultural parts of the American celebration that do not really matter.  There is a lot of fun to be had in the weeks leading up to Christmas day, but the season is about hope and peace and love and joy.  Don’t let the noise drown out those graces for your life.  What matters is that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but has eternal life.”  Maybe that is why “giving” has transcended everything else about our culture.  Somehow, we know that it is the season for giving.  So let me encourage you to let your giving be the fruit of your loving.  

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Week of November 1, 2021

Tuesday, November 02, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

              As I have been listening and reflecting on the consequence of the COVID pandemic for people, one thing has become clear.  It has caused people to pause.  What ever their normal speed of life, they have had to stop in some sense.  If they have come to work at home, or if they have lost their jobs, or if they have come to the realization that they are not in control of everything about their lives, they have experienced a pause.

              I have heard all kinds of reactions, some reflections, and some fears that they never realized.  What I have not seen a lot of is people coming to the end of themselves and asking the important questions.  Maybe it is because of so much noise and national emotion, but then again, maybe it is because of such a lack of self-awareness.

              Which raises the question for me, since God has such love for his creation, what will it take to get people’s attention and what will it take for people to actually come to the end of the rope of control in their lives?  I suspect that it will have to get worse to wretch away the grip people hold their lives with.  But, then again, maybe it is time for followers of Jesus to be bold in their conversations regarding the hope that lies in Jesus alone.

 

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Week of October 24, 2021

Wednesday, October 27, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

                As I talk with all kinds of people from many walks of life, it seems that most feel chaos deep down in their souls.  For followers of Jesus, it seems like you have to deny so much of what God has said if we choose the path of chaos.  Maybe it is an indication that we have hardly been shaped or formed by the Book that we say is so very important to us.  I suspect that our living notion of what God has said to us is only in slogan form.

                I’m not sure how we have gotten to where we are in the superficiality of our faith, but it seems like we are satisfied with placing our favorite biblical passage or phrase on a plaque and call ourselves disciples of Jesus.  I wouldn’t be surprised if God were to allow so much chaos in our circumstances just to get us to return to actually living by the Book.

                Our spiritual anemia seems to be rooted in the fact that we are hardly trained by and formed by the “inspired Word of God.”  In some ways it comes down to the basic question, “what is the revealed Word of God – the Bible” for?  I fear that we have separated life into compartments and disconnected the Word of God and the in Christ life from ordinary life.  Maybe it is time once again for Back to the Bible.

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Week of October 11, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

                Discipline is an important reality in kingdom of God living.  Surprisingly the scriptures tell us that “God disciplines those that he loves” and one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives is self-discipline.  On the one hand discipline by God is about bring correction or correcting the course that we have set our compass on.  On the other, self-discipline is about maintaining or orienting our focus.

                One of the phrases in Psalm 19 tells me that for a “man after God’s own heart” like David knows that there are hidden “hidden faults” that God is perfectly aware of if we are not.  The desire is for forgiveness, but more often it is inviting God’s discipline because not only is there a need for forgiveness, but there is also a need for change.  The confrontation of conviction of sin is painful but necessary for transformation.

                The self-discipline of the Spirit is because our focus is in need of regular refocusing.  Self-discipline also includes learning to restrict our mouths and our actions.  Not everything that our mind or heart is aware of needs to be expressed.  It is a natural struggle to discipline ourselves instead of expressing our selves.  The only place we need to always “get it off our chests” is with the One who loves us most.

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Week of October 4, 2021

Sunday, October 03, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                There are some basic things about a biblical worldview that sets the Christian apart in every generation.  In our present world and its concerns, it is a season of exposure, exposing what people genuinely think.  The season seems to be about fear, anger, and hopelessness.  Simply because the circumstance of life seems out of control.  The response of many is to accept anything that promises control.

                It leaves society in a state of panic and confusion, even in parts of the Church.  It seems to me that this is a beckoning call to those who say they are servants of the Faith to become people of faith, the verb.  Biblical faith is a relational faith in which God is the object of our faith and our faith is a response to Him.  Our calling is different than people who are not part of the Faith.

                The question is do we live life in response to God not a response to the panic of world culture?  Biblical faith requires a real communion with the Godhead, Father Son and Holy Spirit.  Maybe the weakness of our day is that it has exposed the lack of deep communion with God.  Are we willing to attend to the Voice of God in the scriptures and in prayer more than the voice of the panicked and confused?   

 

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Week of September 20, 2021

Thursday, September 23, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Yesterday I attended the memorial service of an old friend.  The time reminded me of a story that Tony Campolo tells of his pastor talking to the high school senior class in their church when he said, “You can live for titles, or you can live for testimonies!”  Well, my friend lived with a great well-lived out testimony.  She was one of the most faithful and faith-filled people that I’ve known.  I will certainly miss her.  She was a person who lived out the Word (Rom. 12:12).  She was a person who was faithful in prayer.

                One of the consistent themes in Jesus’ parables is faithfulness.  If we are to live out the kingdom of God while we are on earth it will be through our faithfulness.  Faithfulness never makes the headlines because the headlines are always about drama.  Jesus’ faithfulness was such that he could go about his mission without distraction.  It makes me wonder about myself.  Does faithfulness describe my m/o?  Am I consistently willing to give up notoriety for faithfulness?  My friend certainly was!

                Maybe one of God’s strategies to bring light to the world is for his children to bring faithfulness into each encounter and faithfulness to the spirit of life.  My friend suffered greatly for a number of years, but she remained faithful in prayer for the world, for her friends, and for the church of Jesus Christ.  It makes me realize that her prayer was a great pillar that held up the highway to heaven.

 
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Week of September 13,2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Is it fair to say that we live in a “trustless” society?  Maybe at the root of the trust lessness is fear, but more likely having been deceived.  I wonder if there isn’t something within the soul of man that he needs certainty to be trusting and in trusting to be free.  So, what is certain, what is worth our trust?  It seems to me that we ought then in our society to be in the perfect position to find our soul’s center in God alone.

                It is my observation that in our contemporary culture that humankind will come up with all kinds of strategies to assuage their fears of deception – except to turn to God.  Control is the predominant force in many people’s strategy.  What I see is the anger expressed in judgmentalism and hostility.  It seems like everything is held with an “edge.”  Very little peace and joy!

                This ought to be an ideal time for followers of Jesus to step up into the maelstrom with the fruits of the Spirit.  Maybe that is not happening because we are not filled and controlled with the Holy Spirit of God.  Imagine what it would be like if love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control characterized your life and my life in all our human interactions.

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Week of September 6, 2021

Thursday, September 09, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

               God is a God of rhythm which is why He created the seasons of the year.  Each season of the year carries a flavor that also characterizes the seasons we go through in life.  Though it is unseasonably hot in September, still we have entered the autumn season of the year.  In agriculture this is a harvest season, especially harvesting grains and some fruits and vegetables.  In like manner we are encouraged by God to begin harvesting what was planted in our souls throughout the other seasons of the year.

               It is also a time in nature to gear up for the winter months.  In the wildlife in our part of the country this is both a time for bears to prepare for hibernation and elk and deer to mate.  It is a time of taking on astronomical amounts of calories for the winter season when the great sleep will begin.  It is calculated that bears consume 20,000 calories a day in preparation for hibernation.

               Autumn is also a spiritual season, not only of harvest, but also a time to take on the “calories of God’s Word” in preparation for the winter season or any hard seasons that are ahead.  This is a great time to begin memorizing scripture if you don’t already do it.  Personally, as I consider being in the last quarter of the “race” it is my deep desire to be shaped and formed by the Word.  The truth of God has always been, but even more so in our day, a key to living life to the full.

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Week of August 30, 2021

Wednesday, September 01, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Hope is demonstrated through faithfulness.  Maybe that is why there is so little hope in our world.  I wonder if most have succumbed to the panic of “quickness” and therefore have no substance of long-suffering (patience).  Most deadlines in life are arbitrary if not synthetic.  I wonder if one of our stressors is that we assume if something doesn’t happen now, it won’t happen.  Tyranny has become the opioid of our present reality.

                It brings to mind the prayer of the children of Abraham in Egypt.  Praying that God would deliver them from slavery was their continual prayer for 400 years.  Yet, God was listening to them all along.  It is hard for us to live under the righteous, yet loving hand of God.  It seems embarrassing to say, but don’t we think God should live under our hands of the tyranny of the present?

                Faith and trust take a lifetime to build and as our literary friend, Brennan Manning used to say, “Trust is deeper than love.”  I hear most often our lament is often, “If God loved me, he would….”  The truth is, it is not about His love, but about my trust.  We cannot not truly experience the depth of hope without the reality of trust and the requirement for trust is faithfulness.

 

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Week of August 23, 2021

Thursday, August 26, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                My grief in genuine!  When I read the accounts of my brothers and sisters in Afghanistan who are being martyred, I hurt.  I am aware that martyrdom continues day by day in many places in the world, so I keep that in my mind and heart, but when the anger and injustice is brought to our senses in a dominating way there is a new wave of grief.  It brings to my mind a song written early in my generation about the return of Christ, “I Wished We’d All Been Ready.”    

                The issue before us in not a doctrinal point of view, but the harsh reality of evil in the hearts of those who deny the “Fear of the Almighty” (Psalm 19).  As tragic as it is wherever martyrdom takes place among God’s children, it is a stark reminder that we always need to live “ready.”  It is never a surprise to God, but I do think he hurts with us when we encounter the works of the Serpent.  The challenge before us is to uncouple ourselves from the ways of our world so that we might be separated unto Him.

                I’ve been working my way through Psalm 19 very slowly.  The investment our lives in the “law of the Lord,” the “statutes of the Lord”, the “precepts of the Lord”, the “commands of the Lord’, the “fear of the Lord”, and the “ordinances or the Lord” prepares us for whatever comes our way.  It seems like God has made it clear that training is essential for readiness.  May we all live Ready!

 
 
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Week of August 16, 2021

Tuesday, August 17, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                In the midst of all the noise and calamity of life what are we being shaped and formed by?  Good question!  It is our choice as to what we let in and what we limit.  The “noise” tends to want to force its way into our minds, hearts, and souls, but we still have choices.  The most important practice is to know what is real and focus on that.  We combat the “forces” most effectively by homing in on what is, has been, and will be whether in the body or not.

                I just had a conversation with friends who encouraged me to “get up to speed” with what is going on so that I am not deceived or taken advantage of.  However, I remember something that I learned a long time ago.  For the experts to discover forgeries they needed to be expert on the real so that they could spot the counterfeit.  I think that wisdom remains in place.

                Life in Christ and being shaped and formed by the Word is essential to know and not just know about what is real.  It is as our minds and hearts are being formed by the revelation of God and enlivened by His Spirit that we come to know the truth in our being.  When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” that is something we can know in our whole being.  We then need to set out a vision to be transformed from the inside out so that we can consistently live the truth and reject the false narratives that we hear every day in the world.

                  

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Week of August 9, 2021

Tuesday, August 10, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

              For the first time ever, I entered a conversation on Facebook.  It is not something I expected to ever do, but I did.  I don’t really expect anything to come of it, but it was an act of obedience to God.  In July, Norma and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary and as a consequence some strange things took place.  I have a friend in New York who has been talking about “finishing well” for quite some time.  He is a year or two younger than me.  I have been giving it tacit agreement for a long time, but for some reason it is different now.

              I think I have to blame the Olympics for providing a metaphor for what I am thinking.  Because of my age I know I am in the last 100m of a 400m race.  As is true in any race including Paul’s in Philippians, it is about how you finish.  What has come into focus is how I think the Lord wants me to finish.  I think this is a good exercise for all of us.  How am I running the race and what will it take for me to finish well?

               Two things have come into view for me.  First, I feel led to focus my energies in being “shaped and formed” by the Word.  I want to be a part of the solution to what is wrong in the church today: people who neither know the Word for its reality nor are they truly shaped by it so that they have little impact in the world today.  Second, I want to be devoted to bold prayer, praying for what only God can do in my life and in the world.  Think about it!  What is in view for you?

 
 
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Week of August 2, 2021

Monday, August 02, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Change is upon us as we turn the page in the calendar.  Creation seems to also confirm that truth as it seems like summer is yawning in exhaustion from the oppressive heat.  Almost overnight God takes pity on what he has made as he is sending rain that the earth may now drink deeply of the life-giving refreshment.  The leaves on my lawn are not because the season is changing to autumn, but because they are all dried out and crispy for lack of water.

                It won’t be long before the seasonal change does take place in truth, but we endure the month of transition before it gets here.  As Mark Buchanan notes, “Summer’s warning is dehydration.”  We can be just like the trees in nature and burn to a crisp unless we intentionally drink deeply of the Spirit through the Word and prayer.  Just because we know “cooler” weather will soon be upon us, it doesn’t preclude our grasping hold of that which our souls most need in this season.  Summer is not over!

                I have grasped the Word in fresh ways this summer knowing that it is essential for staying “upright” in the encroaching suppressions in our contemporary life.  The Scriptures cannot be “squeezed” or drained of their Spirit inspired power.  In the midst of the delight of summer, distractions can suck the life out of us if we don’t remember that the core of our being still needs to be fed.  We never get past the need for empty space to sit alone with the One who loves us most and we can find Him in the Word and prayer.  All of that to say, finish the summer well.

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Week of July 26, 2021

Thursday, July 29, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                I’ve been giving gratitude a great deal of thought this week.  Like most things if we give it unhurried thought there is much to glean from most anything.  Gratitude or gratefulness is a chosen posture of life that can deliver a wealth of meaning for our lives.  Much has been made about purposefulness, but in a rather simple way gratitude can raise the attitude to such a degree that the angle of life is naturally purposeful.

                Norma and I are celebrating 50 years of a rich meaningful marriage that surfaces a very deep gratitude.  Like most deeply meaningful experiences of life God brings them to us and it becomes a source of richly held gratitude.  Much of gratitude comes in the form of being a recipient rather than a generator.  Gratitude is not something that I do, but it is something that I am.  Do I approach life responsively or generatively?

                Approaching our days as God acting and simply noticing, attending, and wondering about His acting seems most to produce gratitude within.  Seeing the hand of God is the source of richness in our experiences.  However, it requires patience and setting aside self-directed expectations.  We must walk at “Jesus’ speed” in order to see the hand of God daily.  When I think of 50 years with my life companion gratitude washes over me.  Noticing how much of life’s riches were simply beyond me.

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Week Of July 5, 2021

Friday, July 16, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                This Sunday we celebrate a specific American holiday – Independence Day.  The history of the day was to celebrate the founding of a new country set free from European control.  Obviously, it was a national freedom that came at great cost with the loss of many lives.  Over the past 245 years much good has been done through from these shores to distant shores.  When I think about the missionary effort within our own boundaries as well as to far off pagan lands that was incubated here, I am feeling blessed.

                One of the great threads that has been sewn into the fabric of our national psyche is freedom.  In the present as well as the past that freedom has continued to need to be contended for.  In the culture it is always under attack.  As fallen creatures we want our freedom, but at the same time we don’t want others to have their freedom.  What instead has surfaced is the paradigm of “offendedness.”  If your freedom offends me, then you ought not have that freedom.  Honestly, I just shake my head – sideways!

                Surely for those who are Jesus followers our focus is on the freedom of soul that He has provided to us by faith.  Freedom is an important value in the kingdom of God.  A word-study on freedom begins in the scriptures with Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.”  Jesus wanted us to be free from the bondage of sin so much so that He was willing to take on our sin upon himself on the cross that we might be free of it.  No matter the freedom of our circumstance we can live free in our souls.  It has been purchased for us.  Celebrate that this “Independence Day!”

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Week of June 14, 2021

Sunday, June 27, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                As if we couldn’t tell summer is upon us by the calendar, we certainly can by the thermometer.  But summer is also a spiritual season of joy and blessing.  As Mark Buchanan notes it is most like heaven itself.  With the invitation to play and rejoice it carries the spirit of heaven itself.  I find it interesting that most in our common culture look for retirement to have earned a life of leisure but fail to grasp the importance of the rhythm of the seasons in daily life.  I’m sure that God did not create us to eventually burnout and that the joy of summer was something to have earned.

                Yet God has given us the summer as a gift, not something to be earned.  But we have to learn how to practice summer as a normal part of life.  Summer brings with it both a warning and a particular blessing.  According to Buchanan, the warning is to avoid dehydration.  We know physically that dehydration is a matter of the need for water/fluid.  Spiritually it includes the spiritual practices that are core to health: the Word and Prayer.  Whatever is involved in the summer season of practices, the Word and prayer are always essential.

                The blessing of summertime lies in the “first fruits.”  Where we live the first fruits are the strawberries, bib lettuce, and early peas.  The first fruits of the season.  There is something especially sweet about the earliest crops.  The first fruits spiritually is in offering the best of ourselves to God.  My first fruits this summer is in making sure that my alone time with God comes at the beginning of my day.  For the summer (at least) I have made a commitment to memorize complete psalms and then to journal my way through it so that God might fully shape me through the Word.  Why not join me!

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Week of May 31, 2021

Monday, May 31, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                There is a text that I take out periodically called, Spiritual Rhythms.  It was written by Mark Buchanan.  Mark is a pastor in BC and is a very inciteful observer of the spiritual journey.  In this particular text he uses the seasons of the year as a metaphor for the spiritual life.  I just reread the season of spring and gained a fresh reminder of the natural activities of the season: plowing, planting, and cleaning.  He contextualizes these activities with three spiritual practices: listening, doing something new, and discarding that which is dead of any present meaning.

                Spring is a natural season for growth and freshness.  I love spring and I resonate with these activities of listening, newness, and letting go.  Sometimes I find it most difficult to “let go” of something, but spring has a forward lean to it and somethings just need to be prune out of life so that the best can find root.  The assumption often has been that if something was best it must always remain that way.

                The fallacy is to think that with God the journey is into the right box, but our understanding is so limited that God can only reveal one thing at a time.  When we engage the eternal, there is always more to learn.  I think that every time we read a particular scripture it continues to speak to us in greater and greater ways.  I think that is why there is no need for “new revelation.”  It is my experience that when we “dig deeper” the soil of reality has no bottom.  Therefore, never tire of engaging God’s Word.

 

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Week of May 24, 2021

Tuesday, May 25, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                If we are willing to slow down and think, the discoveries can be profound and transformational.  I have been aware of the notion that just as there are natural seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall, there are also seasons in our lives somewhat similar to nature’s seasons.  There are circumstances that arise that can be associated with nature’s rhythm, but there are also ways to intentionally identify with what God has created.

                Though it has seemed unseasonably cold and wet here in our locale, it is spring.  Spring is the season of new growth and in general newness of life as it follows winter which is a natural season of internal transactions.  Trees establish the solidifying of the growth rings that have taken place during the growing season.  Human beings face internal responses to their life encounters.

                But spring has now showed its colors, and this is an ideal time to slough off “deadness,” letting the “leaves that have hung on during the winter” fall.  It is time to consider fresh practices in the Spirit in order to open oneself to any new thing that God wants.  Our journey with Jesus is always evolving.  There is always more to the journey than what we have traveled.

 

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Week of April 19, 2021

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                This is a season of joyful celebration ignited by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  That is the theme of Eastertide.  No matter what is going on around us we have truth that has been entrusted to those who believe in Jesus that has given to us as a gift that ordinary man lives ignorant of.  Our joy is rooted in substance, the substance of Jesus overcoming death and dead-end living.

                In order to live out the truth in any meaningful way, we have to live with intentionality.  I have to choose to keep the Easter story alive in the quiet moments of the day, remembering who and whose I am.  I have a friend who used to introduce each Sunday’s worship with a statement about our being Easter people.  What he meant be that was an encouragement to embrace the joy that is ours.

                A critical part of life is rooted in the attitude with which we live.  Easter is meant to be an on-gong attitude that strengthens us in the midst of the “storms of life.”  And life can be quite stormy from time to time.  The Easter attitude requires cultivation and effort to engage the truth of God more than we engage the truth of man.  So, be encouraged this week to make space to sit with the Good News of who God is and what richness is resident in Him in us.

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Week of April 12, 2021

Tuesday, April 13, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                This season between Easter and Pentecost is called Eastertide in more liturgical churches and for good reason.  Like most things with God life is rhythmic.  Think about it!  Aren’t the seasons in nature’s realm different from each other?  Isn’t winter, spring, summer, and autumn God’s idea?  There are spiritual roles in each of these seasons in our life experience.  The winters in our lives are equivalent to the hard times when we are faced with the reality that God has to be enough.  The spring times are the seasons of new growth and recovery.  We need that to keep our breathing working.  Summer is the season of growth and rest.  Not everything can move with the same intensity.  Autumn is a season of harvest and preparation for winter.  We gather fruit from the seasons of growth and take on more of God’s word to prepare us to navigate the winter.

                Eastertide is the season of celebration of the resurrection with an eye fixed on the ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  It is a time of joy and gratitude, but also of anticipation that God with reveal Himself in his totality now to live within us in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  With our eyes fixed on the Spirit, it becomes a season of newness and power.  Where would we be without the resurrection, most miserable!

                In Eastertide we have the luxury of gathering up all the rich glory that came to earth through the Resurrected One.  Overcoming death is the last marker in our mortality.  If we choose to live in the life of the resurrection, all fear is now gone.  Life is now connected between the now and the not yet.  The movement is now the journey in the words of Dallas Willard, “moving from one room into the next.”  We are at home now and if we choose to live in it, we can live with a new assurance and power.

 

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Week of March 29, 2021

Monday, March 29, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                One could say that no week in one’s life is any more important than any other week, but the week before us could be different.  There are times and seasons rooted in the scriptures that seem to set us up as followers of Jesus to naturally open the aperture of our minds and hearts to something more.  I wonder if with the disciples that a year after the first Holy Week if they spent any time reflecting on the previous year.

                In each of the gospels this week’s journey from the two days before the Triumphal Entry to the early morning on the First Day of the week after the Resurrection the account is quite expansive, covering a large part of each gospel writer’s essay.  This week is one of those times that it behooves us to “drill down” into the story and using our God-given ability to place ourselves in the storytelling.

                 The great privilege is to surrender ourselves to the rhythm and sequence of joining Jesus and the disciples in an incredibly unique week in history.  At each place and in each day, you are there if you allow yourself to be.  Use your five senses to participate with Jesus and your fellow disciples.  We have the benefit of being able to sit with what we read.  Let it benefit your spirit.

 

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Week of March 22, 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Time seems to march on no matter what, does it not.  Here we are only a few days before the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for the final time.  I wonder what he was thinking and feeling as the scriptures tell us that he had turned his face toward Jerusalem knowing what was about to happen.  In the events before him the astounding statement in a way was that nothing caught him off-guard or by surprise.  Why is it that we are so often “caught off guard” or are surprised by what goes on?

                Learning to live in the “already” and the “not yet” simultaneously seems to me what it looks like to follow Jesus with every step in the journey.  I have a friend who used to introduce worship with the invocation, “Jesus Christ is in this place and anything can happen here.”  Isn’t that the truth of living in the kingdom of heaven here and now?  In the days over these next two weeks in Jesus’ life we are faced with the absolute worst and the absolute best.

                In these days leading up to Maundy Thursday (the upper room incident), Gethsemane, Good Friday, and Resurrection Morning I have been reading the story of eight women in recent history who have been persecuted severely for their faith in Christ.  There is so much history to support the fact that we need to learn how to live in the “already” and the “not yet” and not be surprised by the best and worst rolled up into the one life God has called us to live.  This isn’t heaven yet, nor is it hell.  As someone that I know used to say, “Good is often hard.”

 

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Week of March 15, 2021

Thursday, March 18, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                I wonder why in every season in the church year, prayer is always one of the primary disciplines?  What is it about prayer that seems so central to everything in our lives in relationship to God?  Is it like any human relationship – communication?!  I think that is what is essential with anything that is animate.  It is the difference between all that God created for the sake of relationship.  Is there a reflection on the Genesis statement that animals were created to fill the relational need of man?  Only to find them as inadequate.

                The creation of woman was for fulfilling the image of God as well as to fulfill the relational need of man.  Man was incomplete without woman and the purpose was to be completed in the relational dimension of human existence.  Relationship seems to be everything in the creation of humankind.  Relationship with the Almighty has everything to do with prayer.

                Some have defined prayer as talking to God, put the saints of old have helped us conceive of a much higher role for prayer.  As much if not more prayer is a matter of listening to God.  Throughout the scriptures, prayer has emphasized both if not more on the listening side.  The will of God is central to existence not the will of man.  From Adam through John of Revelations, prayer carries the weight of the relationship that begins with birth and carries on into eternity.

 

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Week of March 8, 2021

Wednesday, March 10, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Repentance as a theme in the Lenten season is probably one of the least appreciated and understood of the Jesus Way.  It is most commonly perceived as confessing sin and feeling bad about it, but is that really what Jesus was calling us to?  You are probably quite aware that the Greek word in the New Testament is metanoia or to change one’s mind about.  That repentance requires so much more from us than sorrowful emotions.

                Repentance is seeing things as they are.  It is not unlike Paul’s word in Romans 12 when he calls us to “sober judgment” or having an accurate judgment of ourselves.  Repentance begins with facing ourselves in truth.  What is the truth about me in thought, word, and deed?  Is it possible that in light of repentance we have been living in denial of what God says about us?  For instance, am I living with false narratives about God, myself, and life in general?

                In that sense repentance is not reserved for the season leading up to “The Day the Revolution Began” to use N.T. Wright’s title.  It is meant to be a way of life in which we are growing aware of falseness within ourselves, both in the sense of unrighteousness as well as distortion within our hearts.  In the Lenten season there is a fresh emphasis to own thoughts, words, and actions that are less than what we were created for and what God says.  Repentance is not my enemy, but my friend.

 

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Week of March 1, 2021

Wednesday, March 03, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Sacrifice is what this season is about.  These days are all leading up to the price Jesus paid for the forgiveness of sins and what it took to introduce the kingdom life on earth.  The price was sacrificial, it was the laying down His life for ours.  Sacrifice is not understood in our day with deep respect and appreciation, not just on Jesus’ part, but on anyone’s part.  The only sacrifice that has a path in our world is one that would eventually be remunerated, usually with money, power, or prestige.

                I’ve been reading the stories of eight women in history, some in the century behind us and some quite contemporary.  The consistent theme is the theme of sacrifice, sacrifice their faith demanded of them.  I wonder if there is a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of our faith, my faith, your faith?  Or, have we become so weak that we will no longer sacrifice in the face of persecution, easy persecution or life and death persecution?

                The mantra Jesus taught anticipated how his sacrifice would be viewed when He said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  I wonder, is there enough in my faith to merit persecution?  The issue it seems to me is, “Has the quality of my living faith enough to be a threat to the ways of my world?”  Living differently no matter what the difference makes our world uncomfortable.  Is there a difference in our lives, the difference that sacrifice creates, to make my world uncomfortable?  Lent should remind us of that difference.

 

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Week of February 22, 2021

Monday, February 22, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                I did not grow up with any knowledge of the seasons of the church year, so I didn’t know anything about Lent as the 40 days before Easter to give ourselves to enter the last 40 days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  I did not know what it was to give oneself to “preparation” for the Cross and the Resurrection.  They were just an extra day off from school (Good Friday) and new clothes for Easter morning.  How shallow and cheated my spirituality was.

                Since this past week beginning with Ash Wednesday, we have entered into a sober season that our sin created for Jesus and if I’m going to take my apprenticeship to Jesus seriously wouldn’t I want to be with Him in these days.  The traditional spiritual practices for this season include repentance, fasting, prayer, and alms giving.  I’ve learned that those are good not just for Lent, but as an ordinary part of one’s life in Christ.  But I’m sure there are other disciplines that may also be helpful in this season.

                The point is to “turn our eyes onto Jesus.”  I know it is also a consistent challenge to “always keep Him before us,” but specifically this is the time to focus on the heavy season that we learn to carry His concerns all the way to the Cross in hopes that we will be readied once again to join Him in His heart for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration in our own hearts and for the sake of the whole world.  Look for something that you can attach yourself to that can gain your attention.

 

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Week of February 15, 2021

Monday, February 15, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                The culture hangs onto religiously oriented holidays, but for different reasons.  St. Valentine was known for doing good out of a heart of love, so what can secular culture do with that?  Of course, all that natural man knows is the romantic love between people but lacking a more substantial love as in “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a delight to share romantic love if you have a spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend, but I doubt that we need to be reminded of what we “feel.”

                What might be a greater need is to have a holiday to emphasize, “love your enemy, do good to those that persecute you…”.  I guess that is what sets the Christian faith apart from all others.  Maybe in light of Valentine’s Day we could make space to consider who we think of as “your enemy” and set aside a day to make a list and then consider praying God’s blessing on them one at a time.  What if we were to set aside one day a week to pray for our “list of enemies?!”

                I suspect the reason that we don’t do that is because we doubt that it will change them or us and besides, “we don’t want to.”  We would rather use the negative energy that “enemy” provides to energize our anger or hatred for those persons, rather than invite God to change us and bring transformation in them.  Since we all get exercised about politics and politicians, why not start with them in praying God’s blessing.  That is the “cold water” that we can pour on them while releasing the pent up feelings within us.

 

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Week of February 1, 2021

Monday, February 01, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                What after all is the “good?”  When Paul writes that “all things work together for the good,” what is the “good?”  It seems when we turn to the pages of the Scriptures, “good” takes on an expanded meaning.  If we were the center of the universe instead of God, “good” would have a limited meaning since we are finite creations.  Our finiteness makes “good” to also be finite.

                Like every other quality or virtue God defines the terms.  The amazing (to me) reality is that God always has my good in mind as he works through my mind.  My “good” from an infinite perspective is not necessarily my finite sense of comfort and convenience.  Sometimes it is, but most times not.  As God’s creation I have little natural sense of the eternal.  It has to be revealed to me.  When God says something in His Word as truth the issue for us is trust.

                Am I willing to trust God for his plan for my life (Jer. 29:11)?  It is more difficult for us to trust Him from a distance, than it is to trust Him up close.  Therefore, once again we are faced with what Paul had learned from his desert experience with Yahweh way back in the Arabian desert soon after his conversion.  When he writes this affirmation in Romans 8, he has experiential data to support what he is declaring.  The practice of reflection sets us up for confidence in the truth.  It is not hard to believe when one gathers the evidence.

 

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Week of January 25, 2021

Monday, January 25, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Facing ourselves in truth is the foundation for personal transformation.  If we give ourselves to an honest openness in dealing with ourselves in the midst of everyday life, we position ourselves in the healthiest way to capture reality.  It gives us the gift of seeing what God is doing in our inner person as well as recognizing needed changes.  Facing ourselves is an exercise that the Holy Spirit is glad to engage in with us taking the lead.

                It seems that it is easier to seek to live out life in Christ by committing to certain principles rather than to live in response to the direct leadership of the Spirit.  In some ways to live by principles is no different than arranging life around the Old Testament law-keeping.  The New Testament provides a testament of the will of God as well, but there is a difference between living out an ethic and living out a living relationship with Almighty God.

                Living by principles leads us to think that we know God’s will in any particular situation.  It is a messier process to “seek his face” to listen to Him, converse with Him, and ask Him for his help in following through personally in an immediate circumstance.  There is a great diversity among people who are “trying to live out Christian principles.” Sometimes those approaches are in conflict with one another.  Our own subjectivity, or ourselves, is the most determining aspect to how we see and then act.  The most effective aspect of living out truth remains, “facing ourselves in truth.”

 

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Week of January 18, 2021

Monday, January 18, 2021
 Weekly Blog

 

“In the world, but not of the world!” It is always easier said than done. The world in which we live has a competitive pull on all of those who belong to Jesus. The “pull” is the tension that exists between the two kingdoms that we live in, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. The challenge is in the fact that we live in a temporal world with the calling of the eternal world. Our vocation is holiness, and our worldly environment is power.

In this season of testing, it is a “refiner’s fire” of sorts. What will be burn off and what will rise to the surface. I hope that you recognize the stressors for what they are. If we choose to listen to the eternal Voice in the midst of the noise, we will benefit if we listen to the noise, we will suffer. This a great time to sort out the voices.

The season we are in is the time to listen for Jesus words to us. This is an ideal time to immerse yourself in what Jesus has said to us in the gospels. I would highly recommend that we devote ourselves to the memorizing of the scriptures and to prayer. How we respond to the chaos around us is dependent on the condition of our inner man.

 

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Week of January 4, 2021

Tuesday, January 05, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                After the cultural holidays how do you approach your days?  For some of us with the reduction of activities we begin to feel the backwash that can lead us down, but in the realm of the kingdom of God what we have before us is the “sacrament of the present moment” which can keep us engaged in the movements of God right in front of us.  One of our challenges is to let God lead us into each day looking for his presence or his direction.

                One of my favorite verses was expressed when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prayed, “Glorify me Father for I have done what you showed me to do.”  As we enter each day, we can bring that prayer with us.  I’ve learned to pray, “Father show me what you want me to do today.”  There is more than enough agenda in his hands for each day. 

                Part of our spiritual disciplines includes living in light of Jesus’ agenda for our lives as his followers.  That way we can know that each day has enough in itself and we don’t have to depend on the way of our common culture to decide what is of value.  The hard part for our natural egos is to learn to live responsively – responsive to God and his will.

                We often quote Jer. 29:11 as an encouragement, but what is in his promise is the challenge to engage the plans (will) of God each day.  The promise requires our daily participation in those plans.  This is meant to be a very active interactive participation.

 

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Week of December 28, 2020

Tuesday, January 05, 2021
 

Weekly Blog

 

                As I contemplate Advent and Christmas, I know that I used to think of life differently than I do now.  I used to move from event to event, not even season to season.  I see things differently now.  It has become a major mantra to me, slow down, slow down.  As I think about that one of my favorite songs from many years ago is entitled by those words – “slow down.”  The gist of the song is to slow down so that you may encounter the Holy One.                                                                                                                                       It is quite difficult to fully encounter anything or anyone while in a hurry.  The wisdom of Richard Foster’s response to the question as to the major obstacle in today’s world to the spiritual life is obvious – distractions.  Whether technology, speed in its many forms, or superficial appetites a distracted life tends to squeeze all the meaningfulness out of human existence.                                                                                 Therefore, it is essential to learn to make empty space for God alone.  Isaiah’s prophecy identifies Jesus in the terms that we desperately need: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  God works independent of the circumstance, but I think it behooves us to do our part.  And that part is to slow down and make empty space for God.  Intimacy with Him takes that empty space for God to transform our experience with the counselor, God, the father, and the prince.  Join me in the “emptying” way this year.

 

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Week of December 21, 2020

Sunday, December 20, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

 

                “Do not be afraid.  I bring you glad tidings of great joy that will be for all the people…”  Yes, we are quite familiar with those words, but what do they actually mean for you?  We have a hard time thinking about a time when we did not know these words.  We know the story.  We rehearse it annually.  But what does it actually mean for me?  What is the joy of having a Savior?!  The promises that seem destined for the future, like “when I die” or “when Jesus comes back” are hard to hold in the frontals of our minds.

                There is a difference between historical truth and spiritual truth.  History can be confirmed through an intellectual process, but spiritual truth is quite another thing.  Spiritual truth is entered in through our Creator/creature experience.  Spiritual truth has to be revealed and cannot be known any other way.  We cannot come to spiritual truth simply through our intellect, God has to bring it to us.

                What was the spiritual truth that came alongside the historical truth of the Incarnation?  The spiritual truth was that this Jesus, fully human and fully divine was sent to enter into personal experience with each who would receive Him.  Reception included a complete makeover of our human experience.  We were then invited into a real relationship with our Creator.  How then would you describe what that relationship means in your ordinary life?  The Nativity that stands before us this week is not just historical, but fully spiritual.  Can you enter the spirit of that good news this week?

 

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Week of December 14, 2020

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Our Advent week before us is focused on love.  Certainly, it is the character of everything that has to do with Yahweh.  It is out of love that the Incarnation was conceived.  What we have before us is a standing call to love as God so loves.  However, most of the love intended in our day is the feeling it gives the one who loves, and we miss the sacrificial nature of God’s love.

                We need to know what loves is generated out of and I think love as it relates to followers of Jesus is captured by the great American theologian and pastor, Jonathan Edwards when he said, “A true love of God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this.”

                I think we know so little of true love, so it behooves us to gather the wisdom of others to capture what is truly transformative in the Incarnation.  More recently the wisdom of MLK is helpful at this point when he said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”  In the sense of these two Christian thinkers Advent love is about overcoming the gaps that naturally form in our lives.  May this Advent Season bring you the strength to overcome the disappointments and wounds that our life has brought you.

 

 

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Week of December 7, 2020

Thursday, December 10, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Times and dates change but truth does not.  Jesus remains the Prince of Peace though it was heralded so very long ago.  Matthew Henry said it so long ago, “What peace can they have who are not at peace with God.”  First things are always first!  Our weakness is when we ignore the power of our inner life and settle for a reduction of conflict in our public life.  The substance of life is often ignored for the sake of image.

                Our lives are actual inside out affairs.  What the reality is, is what is on the inside of us.  Thomas `a Kempis brings us wisdom in this Advent Season when he said, “All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.”  Ironically, real peace comes through our surrender to Christ.  Why wouldn’t we do that?

                It seems to me that we are too busy and frenetic to actually embrace the peace that Jesus offers to us day by day.  Empty space must be created to dwell in the peaceful Presence of the “Holy One of Israel.”  In order to pass on the peace of Christ to the other, we must experience it ourselves.  That is surely the way of God in everything.

Week of November 30, 2020

Tuesday, December 01, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

                I’ve been giving thought to foundations upon which we build our lives.  As we make space to listen to the pain and thinking that guides our day, it seems like the foundations have to be recalibrated.  I’m wondering if each new generation needs to revisit the foundations that set the disciples of Jesus apart from those who are simply Jesus admirers.  What does it mean for us to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your mind?”

                I’ve been rereading the work of A. W. Tozer, solid disciple of Jesus in the middle of the 20th century, The Knowledge of the Holy.  What stands out is that we are almost completely ignorant of who God is and how God works in our day.  The renewal that is needed in the church it seems is to restore the truth of God as our foundation.  Rather than our shaping God in our own image, it behooves us to let God shape us in His image.

                For all the desire in recent days to make the gospel of Christ relevant in our cultural milieu, it seems that our calling instead is to call the common culture to the gospel of Christ.  I am struck with Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Enter though the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  In these days of an ever increasing volume it seems that Jesus calmly calls us to just live the gospel and our Father will rejoice.

Week of November 23, 2020

Sunday, November 22, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

 

                In anticipation of a holiday instituted by presidents (Washington and Lincoln), Thanksgiving Day has more of a biblical spirit than a cultural one.  In the culture most make Thanksgiving a favorite simply because of celebrating family, food, and a break from the “hurriedness” of most people’s lives, but from a biblical worldview it is something much more substantial.

                Thanksgiving is about gratitude in the midst of whatever is the cultural circumstance.  Few of us were alive during World War II, but I’m confident that Thanksgiving was celebrated even in the midst of war, or even the Great Depression.  Thanksgiving provides a deeply needed heart posture – gratitude.

                Thanksgiving reminds me of Millet’s famous painting The Angelus in which two peasants with bowed heads are expressing their heart-felt thanks for God’s simple provisions in life.  Thanksgiving is a time to bow our heads is genuine gratitude for God’s beauty, goodness, and truth.  Personally, I intend to make space this week to take each area of my life and “count the blessings” of what God has done.  Do you want to join me in that?!

Week of November 16, 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Absolute necessity!  As we seek to follow Jesus and be shaped and formed by the Scriptures – God’s revelation to us we each have different lenses.  In a political world we tend to develop a hierarchy of values as to what is most important down a ladder to least important according to what we see in the pages of God’s Word to us.  Therefore, what is highest on that ladder is an absolute necessity.

                The hard part of living life together is that our hierarchy of values can become ways of separating ourselves from people instead of understanding that God doesn’t use that same set of values to decide who he loves and who he doesn’t love.  That which joins Christians in family relationship is something else.

                As John says in his first epistle three things, three times a true believer: believes the truth about Christ, walks in the light, and has love for the brethren.  We are going to have differing hierarchies of values.  Our focus is meant to be on what is truly is a biblical absolute necessity.  It needs to come from what the scriptures treat as absolute.

Week of November 9, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

 

                Righteousness is a unique phenomenon in our world today.  It maybe that for most, we are either ignorant of the blueprint or the Source or both.  It seems that we suffer from the myopic notion that we, individually, are the center of the universe and therefore, we are in the vaulted position to massage reality to fit our personal preferences.

                However, it seems that we are set up to experience the consequences of that false thinking.  Righteous is naturally beyond everyone of us.  We have the Source and the sources necessary to live in light of righteousness, but it requires a humbling of ourselves to understand that true righteousness is not self-generated.

                We have been blessed with the gift of the revelation of God both in the flesh, Jesus and in the written text, the Scriptures.  It would seem to me that we have lost touch with both and are left somewhat high and dry.  With the givens of our culture, this is certainly the time to renew our commitment to learn Jesus Way, Truth, and Life and become genuine people of the Word.

Week of October 26, 2020

Sunday, October 25, 2020
 Weekly Blog

When asked what the chief obstacle to spiritual progress in our day Richard Foster responded, “distraction.” There are issues that we ought to be cognizant of in our day, but not to the extent that we are living distracted from that which is of eternal value, our on-going relationship and intimacy with Jesus. Some things are more important than other things.

In fact, the deeper we walk with Jesus, the better prepared we are to respond to what is placed before us. “Issues” can move us away from living in the present which is all that we are accountable for. Living in the present moment and finding God’s presence and purpose in it is eternal work. I cannot live tomorrow today, but the best preparation for tomorrow is being fully present to God today.

It is the shape of our character that contributes most to today and tomorrow and being present to God is the most dynamic aspect of character shaping. The scriptures say something about that when it is said, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isa. 64:8).

Week of October 19,2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

                We are all familiar with a variety of scriptures that we most likely agree are true, but in fact we hardly ever do what those scriptures teach us.  Maybe that is because we think that since we know the scriptures that is all that is needed or we haven’t been able to “read” the reality of our situation in order to see what it is that we need to “do” in the midst of it.

                It seems apparent to me in these days that the evil one has been successful in sowing mistrust in our society to a seemingly “victorious” extent.  Between mistrust and hate does it not smack of the “thief” who Jesus said would “steal, kill, and destroy?” Look around at what is being stolen from us.  Look around and see what is being destroyed?  The “killing” has grown exponentially in taking life, taking speech and taking hope.

                But what has God given us with which to battle the “thief?”  “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  The successful strategy is laid out for us.  Will we participate as the soldiers that we are? 

 

Week of October 12, 2020

Wednesday, October 14, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

                I ran across something in my quiet time several days ago that I think could be helpful for us every day, but especially in our present politically violent context.  The general focus was on living the compassionate life and the key passage was Luke 6:27-28, “… love your enemies…”.  In this period of history, most differences are treated as personal enemies that are painted with the “hatred brush.”

                Hatred is not a new thing, but an old thing, as old as Cain feelings toward Abel.  I think the hatred today reminds us that humankind, both personally and collectively is sinful and fallen from the grace that was offered in the Garden.  Choosing rebellion against God either passively or actively colors the heart of every human being.  This hatred makes people into enemies.

                I found great wisdom in the words from MLK.  This is why we must obey Jesus.  “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate.”  “Hate scars the soul and distorts the personality.”  “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”  “We must love our enemies, because only by loving them can we know God and experience the beauty of his holiness.”  Obedience to Christ is always better for everyone.

Week of October 5, 2020

Wednesday, October 07, 2020
 

Weekly Blog

              In the midst of the chaotic world in which we live, I’ve given thought this week to the notion of nobility.  Back in the day nobility was a social status which was relevant in days gone by, but I’m wondering that we might gain a sense of the scriptural sense that is not a matter of social status, but a matter of individual character.  I’m wondering if part of what David is getting at in Psalm 139 is the created nobility that is shaped in each one whom God has made.

              In fact, the wonder that David wonders is in the nobility that lies in the reality that each of us are first of all, made in God’s image.  There is I think a nobility in the path God has called us into as reflections of him.  As we usually use the term nobility is a human calling to rise above the ordinary to the place of extraordinary.  I suspect that God has given each of us the potential to “rise above” where we have been.

              I think the reality of nobility involves courage, perseverance, and risk.  Our greatest nobility is in arising to challenges that have been placed before us.  In that we have to have a sense of the invisible world of God’s kingdom life that calls out from us at least circumstantially our very “best self.”  When faced with the challenge, are we willing to lay aside our personal comfort and convenience for the sake of a greater good?  I think that is the question.  Any time we say or hear, “these are challenging times” it ought to be a clarion call to “step up” to accept the challenge.  I think that is what human nobility looks like.