Archive for February 2015

Okay, So There’s a Little More to It

February 27, 2015

FarmWorkersSo here’s the paradox. The Sabbath-rest we talked about yesterday? Well, ends up that it takes a bit of work to rest: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest….” It’s not easy choosing faith over fear – fear doesn’t give up without a fight! The apostle Paul talks about our needing to “take every thought captive” to obey Christ. So a rest-full life requires a disciplined life.

Part of a disciplined life is spending time in the word of God: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

What I’m getting from this – and this fits my own experience – is that living a less anxious life, a life of resting in Christ and his Spirit, requires not just disciplining my thoughts, but something deeper – the actual transformation of my person and character. With the aid of Scripture, studied both privately and in community, God can and will do this. (more…)

Resting During Our Labors

February 26, 2015

YokeToday’s Hebrews reading includes the words: “Therefore, a Sabbath rest still awaits the people of God. For those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors, just as God did from his” (9-10).

The question that hovers over this entire passage is whether the author is talking about a future rest – in other words, the rest that will be part of the future kingdom of God – or whether he’s talking about a rest we can enter already today, within the present manifestation of God’s kingdom. Is this rest a future reward for present behavior, or is it a present possibility that we’ll experience more fully when Jesus comes back? (more…)

Here Goes

February 19, 2015

Oxygen Volume 11Okay. Today I want to address some of the very real challenges we encounter when reading Scripture, partly because our various lectionary readings bring them to the surface. Because this is just a blog post, I’ll have to keep my thoughts (relatively) brief, which feels a bit risky. But I hope that you will come back with any questions or concerns that you have. Let’s make this a dialogue.

The first issue has to do with God’s judgment. As much as people try to distinguish the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, judgment is found throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus talked about it. He warned the seven churches in Revelation about it. It’s everywhere, right alongside the love and grace and forgiveness of God.

One of the challenges, I believe, is that many of us tend to read the Scriptures almost exclusively in terms of what it’s saying to us personally. I’ve heard more than one pastor, for example, describe the Bible as a “personal love letter from God.” Please know that I believe it’s very important for us to allow the Bible to speak to us personally. I try to do that every day. But it’s actually usually speaking to groups of people — for example, the entire nation of Israel, or whole churches. (more…)

It’s Ash Wednesday

February 18, 2015

FruitSpirit2What is one of the primary marks of a vibrant, fruit-bearing church?

Repentance.

I realize that love is definitely at the top of the list. But the kind of love that Christ modeled and taught doesn’t happen without repentance.

I’m not simply talking about the repentance that provides an entry point into the kingdom. I’m talking about ongoing repentance, the kind that makes ongoing transformation possible and enables us to walk deeper and deeper into the heart of God’s kingdom. (more…)

Getting Ready for Lent

February 17, 2015

TemptationTomorrow, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the season of Lent. If we take out the six Sundays of Lent (when people didn’t traditionally fast), that leaves forty days, which commemorates the forty days Jesus fasted and was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

Which is interesting (sort of), but what does that have to do with us today?

We often view this season as an opportunity to tune up our spiritual lives, which is a fine thing to do. But is that what Jesus was about?

Matthew writes, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” So the Spirit led Jesus into the desert in order to be tempted by the devil. That seems a bit strange, doesn’t it? Isn’t the whole point to avoid temptation? (more…)