Saturday, May 21, 2016

Inviting Friends

Good evening friends! It's the end of another good day. It's the weekend of my niece Marissa's college graduation, so some of the family were at Bethel University for that event and then had lunch at the house that Marissa has been leasing with 7 friends. She'll be moving soon to northeast Minneapolis, also with friends. I really appreciated the messages given at the graduation ceremony, one by a student and another by an alumna, both of whom passed through painful circumstances to become strong, positive, women.

My niece is in a stage of life when friends are at center stage. Not to say that friends aren't important always, but in the years before marriage there seems to be more time and energy for building relationships with non-family members. Marriage is a great thing, but it does tend to shrink the field of friendship, and then when children come into the picture the world gets focused and small. And when families move from one town or city to another, as most do these days, friends, sadly, get left behind. We try to keep up sometimes but the importance and intensity of those young adult friendships probably won't be maintained.

EVEN SO, I believe friends are worth keeping even when it's not easy, or possible, to keep them fresh all the time. One thing I enjoyed in the past, when I was serving a local church, was having "visits" from friends that I had known from other times of my life. Fortunately, I'm still in a public job, so it's still possible for friends to visit me at work. and because I believe this job is a part of my current call from God, I'd love to share it with those who have seen me in my other roles. AND, if your job invites visitors, I'd love to come visit you at work! Or we'll make another time!

Friendships are precious, like all relationships. We're made to be like God, and God is all about relationships. As Joseph Tkach says:
By becoming friends of God, we also become friends of each other. Since we will each live with God eternally, we will also live with one another eternally, in a relationship characterized by love. We are reconciled not only with God, but also with each other. (Click here for the article that's quoted from.)
In the end, there will be no separation, so let's get used to keeping those friendships now.

So, if you're willing, come ride with me! I love my job and I'd love to share why. (The other day someone I knew in Cokato happened to be riding! That was fun!) You can ride with me any day, Monday - Friday through June 17 (except Memorial Day) on my really interesting current routes in Minneapolis. 

How can you find me? Well, if you have an hour to spare, come to Northeast Minneapolis and look for me on one of the southbound route 10 buses on Central Avenue at 19th, just after 3:05 PM. (There will be more than one, so if the first 10 that comes by isn't mine, just wave it by and I'll probably be driving the next one.) You can ride with me to downtown and stay on the bus until I get you back to the same corner (19th & Central) about an hour later. Or stay on that northbound bus and I'll get you back to your car after I'm done with my whole PM set of routes at about 7:00. 

 All my routes now are local or limited stop, much more interesting than the express ones that I'll start June 20. They're more interesting now because of the diverse crowd I get to serve right now.

Time to stop writing and publish this.

God's peace to you all.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Extraordinary and Ordinary Days

I started writing this blog post back in April, about 3 weeks ago. I'm not sure why it is that I've been writing less these days. It certainly isn't because I'm not thinking of things to write about!

The big event in our lives since I wrote what follows here was Dan & Shatera's wedding last Saturday (May 7). What a sweet and Holy Spirit filled time! The newlyweds have been on their honeymoon this week. I think they return today.

All three of our kids have married such wonderful people. Dan's Shatera is a delightful, strong and beautiful addition to the family. When I get a chance I'll post a picture of us all.

Toni and I were more or less in charge of the rehearsal dinner last Friday evening. (Toni more, I less -- way less. Toni's a champ when it comes to family events.) My brother Peter's family, Toni's friend Jody, our daughter Naomi and her husband Tim and who knows who all else helped Toni make the dinner at "St. Paul Fellowship" to be an extraordinarily lovely time. For me personally a highlight has been getting to know Shatera's family, and the many others who have blessed her life up until now. I, and we, are so thankful to the Lord for ALL He has done!

What follows here was written last month. You'll see that what prompted it was an invitation from my cousin who suggested that I take and post photos of "ordinary days."

--- Written Tuesday evening, April 19 ---
last week's guys "MOVE" group with
Jesse B. & his guitar

I have a few minutes to write at the moment. None of the guys who usually come on Tuesdays could make it tonight so I've had a little time to relax. We're postponing the second part Jesse's Bible study until next week.

Life is good and full. Toni's been able to be in Cokato with Jon & Breanna and their three girls (1½ year old Lydia and month old twins Amara & Karis). She's arranged her schedule to be free on Mondays. My parents got to meet the twins last weekend. Thanks to Jon & Breanna for making the trek with the girls to our Roseville home!

Last week my cousin Sandi challenged me to post some photos of "everyday life" on facebook. The guys group picture was from Tuesday. Monday's was of my running shoes, I've committed to starting to train for the Twin Cities Marathon... don't know I'll actually do it. I'm doing my best to stay in shape as I get close to my 60th birthday -- NEXT MONTH!

tried getting my uniform badge
in the pic but failed   :-p
My pic for Wednesday was of my morning bus. Yes, I'm still enjoying this "new" occupation. I've been on the job since July 15 of last year (after several weeks of training), and so far, amazing to me, I have had no accidents or negative marks on my record. I'll get a one year safe driving award if I make it another 11 weeks, but when I think of everything that could happen at so many moments during the rush hours I drive, I know it's very much a "one day at a time" prospect. Come ride with me and I'll show you what I mean!

The good thing about the job is that I do have some time for other things. I'm working about 8 hours a day, but that includes the double commute, so it really isn't a bad life. I'm so thankful.
at the new Bridging warehouse
My Thursday "ordinary life" picture was taken from the top of an industrial style storage rack at Bridging in Roseville. I've been volunteering in their warehouse for a few hours every other Thursday. I had wanted to keep active in some sort of social service work when we moved to the Twin Cities and the Lord opened the door to help out there. I've kept at it pretty regularly beginning in early January.

On the day I took this picture I was helping get the donated furniture ready for Bridging "clients" to choose from. The warehouse crew handles donations from individuals and businesses, and we load and deliver furniture and other household items. Other volunteers sort through piles of donated items, others work in the wood or electrical shops, and many others help about 13,000 families "shop" for free every year at the Bridging warehouses in Bloomington and Roseville.

Beyond the bit of physical warehouse work I designed a flyer that social service agencies and others can use to help their clients get to the Roseville Bridging. Suburbs aren't easy to navigate for those without cars, and those who benefit from what Bridging often don't have reliable vehicles -- many are just coming out of being homeless! [Since I wrote this in April I've been asked to make a similar flyer for the Bloomington location. I hope to get to that project before too long.]

By time time Friday rolls around I'm ready for a break. Here's the what got posted last week (April 15):

Ordinary Day photo #5 - Toni took this on our evening walk around Como Lake. I always look forward to getting off work on Fridays so Toni and I can do something in the city together. This is our second Friday in a row enjoying take-out and a walk at Como until dark. <3 br="">

So that's all I got written, more or less, on April 19. Now it's Saturday, almost a month later. I've been relishing a day without any real plans. I wanted to finish this blog post and now I'll go on to other things.

spring at 1490 Lydia Ave W in Roseville
the home we rent from Pastor Paul Anderson
I don't know how much blogging I'll do in the future. Back when I was serving as a pastor in Cokato I knew that at least some of the folks from my churches there were reading what I was writing, but now I don't have a captive audience like that. I do share, quite a bit, on "social media" (facebook and twitter). I'm continuing theological and biblical work when I have time and energy -- I've started explorations of Trinitarian Theology on this blog that I'll probably continue at some point, but the best way to keep track of what's up with me and the family is to personally connect, or to check out the social media

It's my hope and prayer that all I've written and shared here has been a way to give thanks and praise to the Lord who sustains and strengthens every day.

God bless you all.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Live Like Jesus

During his earthly life Jesus loved and gave without needing to see lasting return on his investment.

I want to live like that--not only in the wider world, but also in my closest relationships.

Praying for grace to live humbly and gratefully every day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

MOVE tonight

Tonight I'm hoping to meet, once again, with some of the young adult guys who have, at one time or another, come here to 1490 Lydia on Tuesday evenings for a group that I've called "MOVE." I've texted them but haven't heard back yet, which isn't unusual.

Most of the guys have participated in the Communitas Young Adult ministry that Paul Anderson and Nate Johnstone lead. (See "Communitas Minnesota.")

My hope is that we'll encourage each other to hear what God is saying to each of us, in the circumstances of our lives, and then to step out (i.e. "MOVE") in obedience to what God is saying. 

Oftentimes we pay too much attention to the voices of others, including parents and spouses, other family members, bosses, wise adults and well meaning friends, who are probably, with the best of intentions, trying to get us to make positive changes in our lives. In the guys "MOVE" group my hope is that we'll learn to pay less attention to those voices. We do this, in part, by honestly saying to the Lord, "Help me to hear and obey you, and you only." 

The key verse for this is what Jesus says in Mark 1:15 - ""The time (KAIROS) has come. The kingdom of God has come near. REPENT (change your mind and allow God to take control) and BELIEVE (take steps of faith, move toward putting what you hear God saying to you into action) the good news!" The GOOD NEWS is the fact that God never holds your past against you. Every moment, every day is a new opportunity to be changed. 

Please pray for me, for Nathan and Nathan, for Greg and Aaron, and for others who God has continued to put into my life -- now, in the past, and in the days and weeks to come. There is always a new day coming! We know that because of Jesus.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Waiting Room

I'm writing this from the "Driver Room" at the Heywood Garage. (I don't have a camera with me so I just took a quick snap of the room with the low quality webcam that's came with this laptop.) You can't see it from the picture but there are 20+ of us here, most of us waiting out our "school cut" time. The Minneapolis schools are on break so quite a few of us have one of our routes that isn't running this week. It's the route 10 trip that's cut from my work, so instead of leaving the garage at 2:47 I leave at 3:32. Soon I'll go out and pre-trip the bus for the 3 trips that I'll still do today - one on route 59 and two on route 9. I'll get home at about 7:30.

Tonight I'm hoping to meet with one or more of the men that I've been connecting with through Paul Anderson's "Communitas" ministry. There have been five or six young men that have come to the "MOVE" group at our house, but tonight I'm hoping I can get to know a guy who just moved into our house in the last week. I've sent texts out to those who I've meet with in previous weeks and to the "new guy," hopefully there will be texts waiting for me when I get done with the driving I'm just about to do.

What do you do when you're waiting? What do you think God is calling you to do?

Time for me to run!

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The New Pick

Good evening friends! I'm writing at the end of another full weekend. It was particularly full because yesterday I finished working my way through the "no-cost, no-credit" introductory series of on-line courses offered by Grace Communion Seminary. Now I am looking forward to doing more, but I need to wait. Other things need to be done too.

Tomorrow I'll start the new "pick" at Metro Transit. This means all us drivers have new routes, and new routes mean I'll be driving with a list of left and right turns in my hand. Toni asked me how long it takes until I don't need to look at the list anymore, and I said it would probably be about 3 days.

All of us make choices every day. Sometimes we're not aware of it. Sometimes we're driven along by habitual patterns of thought and action--but even then the truth is that we are free to choose. We don't need to do the same things this week as we did the week before. We can change. (Jesus makes that absolutely true.)

My choice to take courses at "GCS" might be seen as a pretty radical change. Most of the formal theological study I've done before as been connected with the Lutheran Church. There was a major change for me in terms of denominational life a few years ago, and in 2011 I began serving a non-denominational church. If you have followed this blog, or have known me, you know something about that. I still value many good things about Lutheran teachings, and I still have many personal connections with Lutherans, but I'm less certain that "Lutheranism" as a whole best represents the Lord Jesus. So I've been looking around at other fellowships, and the deeply Christ-Centered "incarnational trinitarian theology" of Grace Communion International seems pretty on target to me.

But the truth is, because I'm not employed by a church right now, I don't need to leap in all at once. I've inquired about two other courses at GCS... one that begins formally on May 9... I'm waiting to hear about the other. As I took the "no-cost, no-credit" introductory courses I read slowly and carefully, making notes and writing out questions that I need to get answered. I don't want to take a big leap unless I'm pretty sure that God is in it. And that will take awhile for me to discern.

If you have any interest in learning about this "new pick" in regard to theological study, I'd love to talk with you. Drop me a line or give me a call so we can talk. I'd love to have company on this journey. As the Grace Communion Seminary Course on "Better Bible Study" says:
"... Scripture should be studied in the context of a community of believers. We are not all Lone Rangers. We admit that others have gone before us, have studied these same things, with just as much prayer and often a lot more expertise, and we cannot simply disregard all their work. God’s Spirit works in other people as well as in ourselves, and we have to at least consider their work to see if it is coherent with what we see in the Scriptures.

"... We also need to consider the present context... that we are in a community of believers. Does our understanding of the Bible make sense to them? Are we getting positive feedback, or negative feedback, from our spiritual peers? No matter how much work we put into our study, we need a little humility about our results..."
If you can't join me in this study, at least hold me in prayer.

I'd also love to have you ride with me on one of my routes. Let me know if you can and I'll let you know where and when to catch me on the 118, 10, 59 or 9, sometime before the middle of June, when we start another new pick.

Thank you, and God bless you now and forever, in Jesus' name.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What God Is Like

I decided, today, to take a class from Grace Communion Seminary.

Here's a quote from that I'll be studying as a part of the introductory course:
God is revealed to us most clearly in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is where God has chosen to make himself visible to us. Jesus is the Word made flesh—God the Son become human. He has revealed himself in a way that we could see him, touch him, hear him and see how he lives. Jesus is the way that God has chosen to reveal himself to us.

In John 14:8, Philip asked Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus responded in verse 9: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (New International Version).

Jesus is not saying that God the Father is 5 foot 8 inches tall, with brown hair and a Jewish nose. But he is saying that in his most important respects, his character, purposes, heart, and mind, God the Father is like Jesus Christ – and that is in terms of the way he interacts with others. The compassion that Jesus had shows us exactly what God is like. The zeal for righteousness, that’s what God is like. The willingness to sacrifice for others, God is like that, too. Jesus helps us see what God the Father is like – and the Holy Spirit is like that, too.

When Jesus became incarnated as a flesh-and-blood human being, he was showing us in a tangible and visible way what the Triune God is like. The apostle Paul says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Even though we cannot see God directly, Jesus shows us what he’s like, in a way that we can see and hear.

Colossians 2:9 says, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Jesus is the summary we are given of what we need to know about God. We can never know God completely – he is simply much bigger than our minds are capable of comprehending – but we are able to have an accurate understanding of at least some things about God, because Jesus embodies all that any human being can know of God, and he came to reveal God to us.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
(The above is quoted from

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Careful and Slow

I'm at mom and dad's in south Minneapolis right now (mid afternoon on Saturday). They're not here, I assume they went out to lunch and maybe to the store. They could arrive though any moment but since they're not here right now I'll take a chance and write a bit on this neglected but not forgotten blog.

It's a really warm day, near a record high again. Climate change and a multitude of other factors are providing beautiful warm days; I never put my bike away this winter, and now both Toni and I have been out riding... though it was just me this time. I biked down here from our Roseville home.

Toni is out in Cokato helping Libby and Steve Bayuk who had a house fire this week. From what Steve told me the fire was confined to the basement, but they're needing to move at least temporarily. When I talked with Toni earlier she was helping clean the place they'll be moving into. Thank God they're okay and that they'll have a place to live not far from their home until they get the renovations etc. done. (I guess their daughter had many of her things stored in the basement... so sad!)

I've been wanting to continue the writing that I started here back in January on "Trinitarian Theology." In between all the other stuff I've been doing I keep coming back to this subject, something that I think is really important. Back in early February I met with Per Nilsen, Doug Johannsen and my son Dan to open up the subject in a face to face conversation, and I've been doing some study on my own. Tomorrow, for the second time, I'm planning on going to a worship gathering of folks affiliated with "Grace Communion International." I'll meet the regional pastor of that group and hopefully continue to learn more.

One thing I think is really important is to keep checking with other Christian leaders as I study. Earlier this week I emailed the pastor of the Roseville church we've been attending to ask him what he would "recommend that I study in regard to the atonement?" I told him that "I've been reading some things that are quite critical of the 'penal substitution theory' and I'd like to check out what you might recommend on the subject."

Pastor Jason replied quickly and I've done a little exploring already, looking mostly for a name that he mentioned: "D. A. Carson." As I did, I found that "D. A. Carson" has almost 400 teaching pieces (articles, audio recordings, videos etc.) on the website, a site sponsored by the "Christian Publication Resource Foundation," an organization dedicated to supporting "the historic, Reformed Christian faith, combat doctrinal error, and stir the flame of devotion which a right knowledge of the Savior must produce."

With that strong statement about "right knowledge" and "error" I thought perhaps I'd find some reference there to the perspective on the atonement that Trinitarian Theology espouses, but so far I haven't found anything on that, though I can tell that that "Monergism" website is fully dedicated to the "penal substitution theory." It could be that Trinitarian Theology isn't a subject of conversation in the world of "Reformed" theology," but perhaps I just don't know the right key words to search.

In January I referred to what I'm learning as a "Careful Turn" in my theological understanding, using a bus driving analogy. One could also consider this a "renovation," checking which pieces of Christian teaching need reinforcement and, and which may need to be replaced. The thing is that we can't just move into another spiritual house during the work. So it's a very slow process.

Another reason it's so slow is that I recognize that many of my more conservative Lutheran friends will be concerned about what I'm studying. Frankly the Trinitarian Theological teaching on the atonement might seem to be ELCA friendly. We'll see. And I will continue to study and compare what I'm learning to Biblical truth.

Doug Johannsen, the local Grace Communion International (GCI) pastor I've been talking with says I'll get to meet the regional GCI pastor tomorrow. Doug says that he (Rick Shallenberger) "has written a lot of articles for our (GCI) publications over the years (he’s about your age) and may just have the answer for you" in regard to how to find critiques of GCI's position.

It's time for me to head out, Mom and Dad did come back to their apartment and we visited a bit. It'll take more than an hour to get home, even if I take the bus.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Doing vs. Writing

Good afternoon! Life moves on even when this blog doesn't.

I see I've written only one post in February. That's a record low. And I'm not going to write for more than a half hour now 'cause there are other things to do.

I continue to be overwhelmingly thankful for the daily blessings of the Lord: living in this awesome location in the Twin Cities, working split shifts for Metro Transit, spending time with Toni and our kids and my parents etc., studying theology, volunteering a bit for Bridging, starting a group for young men, keeping physically fit, following recent political developments and learning more about the lives of others, particularly the thousands represented by those who ride the buses I drive.

I could write significant articles on all of these topics. It hasn't been done 'cause there's been so much "doing" and less writing these days. I do, however, still sense a call to share in this format. Something might have to be cut back so I can find time to write.

Here's an example:

Preview of an unfinished post from mid February
Back before mid-month I started writing a piece that was sparked by our friendship with more than one young adult who are having a hard time making ends meet financially. Entitled "$2.25" (rush hour local bus fare in the Twin Cities) it was intended to be a reflection on the need to help people with the basics of life so they don't get discouraged and do desperately stupid things to make life feel better for them in the short term. I was hoping to make it practically helpful (with links to organizations providing bus fare discounts) with strong roots in the Christian faith.

It's not done. Neither are my reflections on Trinitarian Theology. I met again with a Grace Communion International pastor this week; he gave me some ideas about where to start with some more in depth study. I told him I'd be sharing what I learn.

Like I said, I do sense a continued to call to share here. But somehow life needs to be balanced enough so there's time for it. And that's not happening at the moment. Right now it's time to go wash my car.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

Follow me on facebook or twitter to learn more.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Significant Visit

Good morning! It's been another very full week, and through it all I've been wanting to find time to get this blogpost ready to publish online. Of all the extraordinary activities God has given me the opportunity to do, I have the sense that getting this personal spiritual reflection "out there" is most important.

Why? What's so important about this? I've come to believe that, quoting something God gave me to put out on social media last Sunday morning: A completely grace centered understanding of God can bring revival and transform politics too. #‎prayerfullyconsider‬.*

I tweeted that out as I was standing in the back of Grace Church of Roseville's** worship gathering, getting ready to head out the door to visit New Life Christian Fellowship, a group that meets in a classroom at Luther Seminary. I had come with Toni to Grace, but then left there for this little church gathering held in a seminary classroom. It was the same classroom that I studied "Systematic Theology" in -- 30 years ago. Significant for me.

About 20 people were gathered. They warmly welcomed me, there were prayers and songs and a message entitled "No Payment Required for Healing" based, in part, on John 3:19-20 -- ... This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Here's one a photo from the service -- in it Pastor Doug is leading a little children's story time over by the classroom window. Hard to see them against the light. (So it is with us when we come to the Lord! He shines SO bright. All our failings fade away.)

children's message time at New Life Christian Fellowship on January 31
I had gone over there last Sunday because Doug had asked for my prayers in advance of his message, a message that was going to deal with the Theory of Penal Substitution. I didn't know really why he had asked for my prayers until after worship. More about that below.

What's the "theory of penal substitution"? It's an idea that most Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians consider a basic part of the Christian faith, that is, the idea that God the Father punished God the Son to the death on the cross, taking out his wrath*** on him, instead of on us. Christians who know their Bibles well know many chapters and verses that point to this understanding of God's work in Jesus Christ. Check out "The Gospel in Chairs" and "What's Wrong with This Picture" to learn more.

In his message, Pastor Doug spoke specifically about a historical series of three Christian teachers (Augustine of Hippo, Anselm of Canterbury, John Calvin) whose life stories and teachings brought this "Penal Substitution" idea into an almost unquestioned position of dominance in both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Some "western Christians" have come to understand that there are other views, but this  of "Penal Substitution" view is so dominant that when it's challenged some believers can't help but feel that the bedrock and basis of the faith is under attack.
Penal Substitution article in Wikipedia
After worship on Sunday I enjoyed chatting with a few people who have been a part of this particular local church for various lengths of time. Then I drifted into a conversation that was going on at the table where I had been sitting during worship. Four or five church members were discussing Pastor Doug's message. There wasn't 100% agreement, and I was impressed by the patience and love shown by Doug and others as they talked.

The idea that God the Father was really pouring out his wrath at the crucifixion, that is, on the cross, punishing Jesus for the sins of the world--it is so fixed in many Christian minds that we can be scandalized when someone brings up other options. As I listened in, and then participated a bit in the conversation, I could understand at why Pastor Doug had asked for my prayers in advance of preaching on the topic! Thankfully, the Lord gave patience and prayer, and though there was no real resolution or agreement, there was still a sense of fellowship among those who were sharing their hearts at the table. Praise God for that!

Have you thought about what Jesus really did for us on the cross? Most Roman Catholics and Protestants have a basic background understanding of the faith that would be in line with the "Penal Substitution" model. Did you know that some Christians see it quite differently? Back in a video I highlighted on January 19 and 23, an Eastern Orthodox Christian layman presented an alternate understanding of salvation in a video. It's the best summary I can find at the moment. Take a look at it by clicking here.****

After listening in to the conversation on Sunday after worship, it became clear to me that a key point, both of the conversation and Doug's message, is about what "a good relationship" between people and God is, and what it does in us and for us. This is why, at the beginning of this post, I said that this spiritual reflection is so important.
  • The "penal substitution" theory of the atonement would narrow that "good relationship" down to being pronounced "not guilty" by a judge-like God. If what Jesus did on the cross was to (only or mainly) take our punishment, releasing us from the threat of hell and hell-fire*****, we as human beings can be imagined to have an individual source of life within us that can be either destroyed or enhanced by a good relationship with God.

    I could hear this in our after worship conversation as an advocate of this position down-played the idea of "relationship," seeming to consider "relationship" as a sort of add-on to being saved from God's wrath. Many Christians who have this "penal substitution" understanding of salvation have to discover a more loving and life giving relationship with the Lord after a period of suffering. When you begin by thinking about God as a stern, punishing Father, it takes a miracle to get grace down into your heart! Think about conversions you've heard about, or read the stories of Martin Luther and John Calvin to see what I mean.

    ... On the other hand, what I'm beginning to understand as Trinitarian theology ...
  • "Trinitarian Theology" is all about the life and love giving relationship God made human beings to share in with him from the beginning. None of us, and actually, nothing that exists in all creation, have any independent existence apart from our creator. In the case of human beings, every breath we take, every movement we make, all the interactions of the cells and electro-chemical reactions in our minds and bodies are dependent on God at every moment.

    A "good relationship" with Father, Son and Spirit means being wide open to sharing the life of His creative and energizing love. It's not just about not being punished, and God is always turned toward us in love, whether we know it or not. God's love toward us does not depend upon our reaction to it. We can grieve God, we can turn away from Him, but He will never turn his back on us. As I said to a young man this week who is honestly struggling with addictions, "Nothing you can ever do will make God love you less."

    As it says in the verses Doug Johannsen read on Sunday (John 3:19-20), the judgment comes simply from our unwillingness to turn toward God. God's attitude toward us is always one of love. He doesn't change. That's why "believing" and trusting in Jesus, the one who revealed the Father's heart, means we will not perish (the only option we have if we don't receive life from God!) but have eternal life (John 3:16). And that's why we want to get the good-news gospel message as clear as we can, even though God works through imperfect presentations all the time.
As I've been praying over this during the past few days, the words of Psalm 104 came to mind. In that ancient Hebrew poem, God is pictured in a deep and life sustaining relationship with all of creation, a creation which is dependent to an absolute degree on God for each breath. All creatures, says, "look to you" [God] to give them what they need and, even beyond that, quoting (verse 28) "When you open your hand" (like a parent or spouse gives freely to their beloved) "they [all creatures] are filled with good things."

Trinitarian theology highlights the sweetness of our relationship with God. I think of another Psalm verse in this regard, where David says of the Lord, "I have no good apart from you" (Psalm 16:2).

Much more than being simply declared innocent and free of punishment, this view of salvation means  appreciating and rejoicing in that "good relationship" with God as the source of ever-flowing blessing and constant joy, the same blessing and joy that flows between the persons of the Triune God. And Jesus came to change us so we would believe and appreciate and enjoy the goodness of God.

This blog post is long and probably needs a lot more work to make it understandable. Sorry about that. I've been at this for a couple hours this morning, plus time on and off all week, and I just want to get it published now. Please ask questions or bring up objections. The "equal-sharing" mission is to promote conversation, sharing, among co-equal brothers and sisters in Christ.

On Monday I'll be meeting with Doug and another Christian leader to talk about this some more.



* I'm wanting to get this published because I believe the topic Doug addressed at NLCF on Sunday so that "what Jesus did for us by incarnation" can be proclaimed clearly. As Doug said to me in an email early last week, the "Theory of Penal Substitution" needs to be challenged because it (1) dominates so many of the denominations and Christian movements in the "western church," and (2) could very well be "wrong (and harmful to the faith)." He asked for my prayers and I ask for yours. (BTW - ‪It's called a "theory" because in the worldwide Christian church there are a variety of ideas about the "atonement," that is, what it is that Jesus did to bring at-one-ment between Creator God and our suffering world. Oftentimes Roman Catholic and Protestant believers think of the atonement as what Jesus did to allow God to forgive sin and be merciful instead of being angry or wrath-full against sinners... but that assumes that God's mercy was not fully present before Jesus died on the cross for us. Eastern Orthodox Christians and others have a different view.)

** Grace Church of Roseville where Toni and I have been participating most Sunday mornings since October.

*** I haven't yet finished my homework on the "Wrath of God," something I mentioned in "Time for Prayer and Study."

A © Reuters / Sputnik photo from <here>
**** By the way, I heard on the radio yesterday that an important Orthodox leader and the Roman Catholic Pope will be meeting this month. It's the first time in a thousand years that such a meeting has taken place. There are many reasons for the division between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but perhaps this meeting will lead to a deeper conversation like the one shared on Sunday after worship at New Life Christian Fellowship.

***** As I commented in 2009, in a post entitled "Because of the Name," it's not clear what the word "hell" means anyway. Commenting the English word "hell" as it is translated from the original Aramaic ("gehenna") in Mark 9:43,45,47 I wrote:  "...As soon as we hear the word "hell" we think we know just what Jesus is talking about... the place where sinners will burn forever… but it's really not that simple. The word "gehenna" refers to a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem--fires and worms were there in that dump... honestly, it’s not that simple in scripture—the idea that sinners will burn forever is taken from analogies, not from clear teachings of Christ."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Finding Rest

Come to me, all of you who are weak and burdened, and I will give you rest. - Jesus
What follows is from chapter 17 of the book Across All Worlds: Jesus Inside Our Darkness by C. Baxter Kruger. I was given the book by the pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship (part of "Grace Communion International"), but I found a moment ago that I could download the whole book in pdf format. (It might work for you to get it at this link.) I'm planning on hearing Doug Johanssen preach there tomorrow at 10:00 AM.

There are some dear ones that Toni and I have loved and cared about down through the years who I would love to share this with. Maybe there are people you'd like to share it with too.

I'm still working through the theological and biblical basis of all this, but what follows just seems to resonate with truth.

Chapter 17 - "Finding Rest" from the book Across All Worlds

"To find rest for your soul, look with Jesus into his Father’s eyes. Accept yourself as the Father’s beloved child. Acknowledge that the Father Himself is proud of you. In the freedom of His pride, acknowledge that you are blind. Face the fact that something within you is hesitant to believe. Confess that something within your own heart whispers, “No, it cannot be this simple. God cannot be this good. I could not be this wrong.” As the beautiful life of Jesus with his Father and Spirit exposes your hiding and pretending, your shallowness and fear, do not run. Do not shut down. Do not pretend. Stop and face the pain. Embrace the exposure, own it, take responsibility for it, and right there in the midst of the pain dare to look into the Father’s face. It is all about receiving the Father’s love. “Come unto Me” means nothing more than “receive my knowledge of my Father, believe in my Father’s love. Declare war on your own vision of god and his neglect, his indifference, his eagerness to judge. Listen to me, your brother. I know the Father’s heart.”

"Inside your mind and heart there are two different visions of God: the god you have created in the darkness, and the Father, Son, and Spirit. Which God do you believe in now, at this moment? Who is your God today? Stop and take a moment to think about your failures. Think of what you have done wrong, and all the of things that make you feel ashamed. Think of the whisper. Think of what you hope no one ever knows about you. Now, look at all of these things and see the Father’s compassion. Do you honestly think that Jesus’ Father is unaware of your secret list of personal disasters? Is He blind to your striving and hiding and pretending? Does He not see the religions we have created in our darkness? Do you believe that He has turned away from you, that He cannot bear to look upon such a mess? Jesus’ Father loves. He sees the mess and His heart never flinches. He loves you.

"The irony of the kingdom of the Father, Son, and Spirit is that it is in facing ourselves, in being honest about what we have done and not done, in staring our shame in the face and feeling the sheer sadness of it all, that we encounter the Father’s unflinching heart. How can this be? All these years you have believed you are not worthy, not good enough, too bad for His love. Now you hear that it is in being honest with your failures that you get new eyes to see His face. Evil twists forgiveness into an unforgiving god, but Jesus meets you in that fear with his Father’s love. “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick: I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
"Father, in the freedom of your endless love and in the safety of your embrace, I acknowledge to you that something happens to me and I get lost in the darkness. Instead of living in your joy, I get crippled inside. I change. Instead of receiving your love, my soul is disturbed. I become needy. I shut down and withdraw. I become selfcentered, angry and frustrated. In my pain I hurt those I love. I waste time and life. I am embarrassed. I am scared to look at myself. Forgive me for blaming others for my problems. Speak to my soul, Father. Tell me again that there is more to me than I know. Help me believe that my existence, my life, my future is part of yours. Help me see that facing my life and my hurt means liberation and fullness, not death. Jesus, give me your eyes. Help me to see myself as you do. Holy Spirit, bear witness to my soul that I belong to Jesus and his Father forever. Show me where and when and how I am not receiving Jesus’ Father’s love. Show me how my fear is attached to people and places, events and smells and things. Transform the triggers and associations of evil into sacraments of the Father’s love. Forgive me for what I have done and said, and for what I have not done and not said to your children."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

For This Day and Every Day

What follows is from today's My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. What Joy there is to know Jesus' undying and perfect love. Jesus is Lord! Jesus is God! You and I can trust Him for every "today!" Wonderful!
"Do not worry about your life…" —Matthew 6:25

A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it.

“I say to you, do not worry about your life….” Our Lord says to be careful only about one thing— our relationship to Him. But our common sense shouts loudly and says, “That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, and I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.” Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing yourself to think that He says this while not understanding your circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things to the point where they become the primary concern of our life. Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship to God first.

“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). How much trouble has begun to threaten you today? What kind of mean little demons have been looking into your life and saying, “What are your plans for next month— or next summer?” Jesus tells us not to worry about any of these things. Look again and think. Keep your mind on the “much more” of your heavenly Father (Matthew 6:30).