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).

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Time for Prayer and Study

Back in late October I was offered the opportunity to go full time at my job operating a bus for Metro Transit. Sometime last month the same offer came my way. I said no thank you both times, and when I'm asked again my answer is likely to be the same. I really enjoy the consistent Monday through Friday work schedule I have now.* It lets me have time to do other things, including deep times of prayer and study like I've been having over the last few days.

There's never, for me, enough time for this sort of thing. When my daughter asked what I wanted for Christmas, an extra day each week made the list. She said it would be hard to wrap. ;-)

Right now the topic that's front and center in my studies is that of God's Wrath. Yeah, I know, not something that most people would study in their spare time. I'm not most people, though, and as I make "A Careful Turn" in my understanding of the ways of God, I have found that it's really important to get ideas about it at least somewhat clear. I mentioned some of the whys toward the end of yesterday's "What's Wrong with this Picture" post.

So, as I was doing other things yesterday I listened to a sermon on God's Wrath by David Legge (based on Romans 1:18ff).** I started a slow read through a 100 page article on the subject too -- one that I found in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

I'm focusing on God's Wrath right now because I want to carefully consider whether the way "Trinitarian Theology" deals with the topic is as helpful as seems to be. Last night as I was getting ready for bed the idea occurred to me that perhaps what the Bible describes as God's Wrath (or anger, or punishment) might be more way human beings understand the consequences of turning away from God. Maybe it's not that God actively comes against people when they sin, but, instead, that the "turning away from God" that is a part of sin brings dreadful consequences that are experienced as God's anger. Perhaps it's not that God actively curses or destroys "unrepentant sinners." Perhaps it's just that apart from God there is no blessing.

In An introduction to Trinitarian Theology by Michael Morrison*** (click here to read it -- it's quite long, about 20 pages) the author warns his readers against reading too much into what he calls the "metaphor" of "courtroom terminology" that we find in the Bible. Here's a quotation:

Michael Morrison says:
"...What has happened here is that people have let a legal metaphor, a figure of speech, become the controlling description of what God is doing. Remember, all our words are based on human experiences, and the meaning of our words depends on how they are used in human affairs. And when God sometimes uses courtroom terminology to describe sin and salvation, we should not let our concepts of legal procedure to be the final description of what God is doing. When we say that the penalty of sin is death, we should not think that 'penalty' is an exact description of what is going on, as if God is obligated to inflict punishment for every transgression of his law. No, it seems that 'consequence' would be a more appropriate term. The result of sin is death, even without God having to step in to inflict it..."
There's a lot more work I need to do in this time of prayer and study on this topic, but right now I need to put this away. I've got some reading to do for my job (going through the Bus Operators Rule Book and Guide) plus we have friends coming over for the evening.

I'm grateful for the time my so-called part time work gives me to pray and study, but I'm still hoping for that extra day of the week. Maybe for my 60th birthday this May!


* My current M-F schedule takes me to Metro Transit for 3 hours in the morning (beginning at about 5:20) and again for about 5 hours in the afternoon (beginning at about 2:20). Those hours include my 20-minute two round trip commutes. I get about 6 hours 45 minutes of paid work time each day, which is paid right now at a rate that leaves us with more expenses than income, but we're confident that Toni's income from her massage therapy business will be increasing in February and March.

** David Legge's message "The Wrath of God" claims that a person (like me) must understand they are under God's wrath, that is, that God will be inflicting horrible punishment as the just and fair punishment for their sin. His belief is that unless a person understands that, he or she will not understand the good news of Jesus, who saves from that punishment by taking it on himself. I've heard the same belief being stated by many preachers over the years.

*** Michael Morrison is "a Dean of Faculty and Instructor in New Testament for Grace Communion Seminary." At this link you can find a long list of articles he has written, including one entitled "Does God Want to Punish Sinners, or Rescue Them." It's a reflection on the same scripture section David Legge treats in his sermon message mentioned above.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What's Wrong with this Picture?

On Tuesday evening I posted "The Gospel in Chairs." That post included a few pictures from the very beginning of a video message that compares and contrasts the Protestant and Orthodox views of salvation. Here's a snapshot from Tuesday's post:
[Note: What's written here won't make sense unless you see that one first. Click here to read "The Gospel in Chairs."]

From there video message continues as follows:
"But God, in his love for man, sends his son, Jesus Christ, who becomes man and lives as we should have lived, in perfect communion and in sinlessness before God.
[Dark chair is moved around to face the light chair; both face inward.]
"Then at the end of his life, Jesus Christ is crucified, and when he’s crucified, God does the unthinkable: he lays all the sin of the human race on his son, and when he does that, because he is holy and righteous, he turns his back on his own son, and the son experiences the fullness of the wrath of God against us in our stead.
[Light chair faces away.]
So what's wrong with this picture?

In the typical Protestant view of salvation, God turns away.

God turns away both from sinful humanity and from Jesus on the Cross.

Protestants generally would say, following certain Bible verses, that God can't look upon sin so he must turn away. Protestants, and Roman Catholics, would say that God's only reaction to sin is wrath, that is, an impersonal non-emotional administration of justice. Those guilty of sin must be punished, whether they are the ones God loves (all human beings) or even the Beloved Son of God, that is, Jesus Christ. So therefore, God turns away, withholding His love, bringing, or allowing, sin and death and destruction to win out.

Here's the conclusion of Steve Robinson's portrayal of the Protestant view of salvation:
"Now, we sinners, if we believe that Jesus Christ has done this, if we believe that Jesus Christ has died for our sins, we, too, can now have this perfect fellowship with God once again.
[Dark chair is moved back around to the light chair; both face inward.]

"Because when God looks at us sinners, he no longer sees us, and he no longer sees our sin. He sees Jesus Christ in his blood. We are covered in the blood of the Lamb. We are, as Martin Luther said, 'snow-covered dung,' or as R.C. Sproul put it, 'Jesus Christ is our asbestos suit against the white-hot wrath of God against sinners.”
"But, if the human being who is sinful does not believe in Jesus Christ and his righteousness and accept the righteousness of Christ in his stead, then God cannot look upon him.
[Light chair faces away.]

"And in the end, the sinner will be cast into hell in eternal separation from God, suffering the eternal punishment he deserves for his sins, because he has not accepted the sacrifice of Christ.

"In a nutshell, that’s the Protestant view of salvation."
So what is wrong with this picture... specifically what's wrong with this picture of God?

What do you think?

What's missing from Steve Robinson's video explanation of the "Protestant view of salvation?"

Besides the fact that the this explanation entirely leaves out the resurrection of Jesus (!) I have started to see two huge stumbling blocks:
  1. We say "God is Love" but the typical Protestant or Roman Catholic view of salvation puts such emphasis on God's wrath against sinners. How can that work?

    (++ I'm hoping to find some resources to study the the doctrine of the wrath of God in depth. I reference to a book online called Reclaiming God's Wrath but I haven't found a copy that I can borrow. I don't want to pay $66 for a book that I'm not sure I even want!)
  2. Jesus says that He and the Father are One. The Gospel of John and many other places in the New Testament affirm this Unity--while also maintaining the distinction between the two. If that's true, how could God the Father ever turn his back on the Son? The protestant view says he does. Can that happen?

     (++ I'm hoping to gather a group of mature Christians to study Trinitarian Theology--a deeply Christ centered view of Scripture and God that seems to have such depth and truth to it. It would say, for example, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are forever together. One never turns against another! Their eternal loving relationship is what created the world! Their loving connection with one another forms the basis of all existence. It does need to be carefully studied, however. There may be some problems or contradictions in it that would say that it's on the wrong track.)

I'm studying and praying. I invite you to do the same.

Please know, however, that God is much more powerful than our ideas. I am confident, as I wrote at Christmastime, that the light of Christ shines in all darkness, and the goodness of Jesus comes through even when our understandings are imperfect. Praise God for that! (See my post "The Light Shines.")

It is good, however, to portray the ways of God as clearly as possible, and that's what I'm hoping to do in the days to come.

Pray for me as I pray for you.