Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Staying Attached

My wife's grandmother, at the end of a family visit, would always say “Do keep in touch.”  Back then, it was through handwritten postcards, and letters posted in envelopes with stamps (remember those?). Her desire was to hear from her loved ones, and she often blessed them with letters and cards just to say hello, pass along the news, and express love. 

Our heavenly Father asks “Do keep in touch" in a much more intense and intimate way, because his love for us (John 17:23) is much stronger than our human love. He has sent his Spirit into our hearts, who constantly works to connect us to the Father: “It is because you really are his sons that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts to cry ‘Father, dear Father’” (Gal. 4:6, Phillips). The Spirit of God and of Christ is continually presenting to us the love of God, and the Spirit is the means of both talking to and hearing from God: "For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Rom. 8:26). The Spirit’s desire is to connect us with the Father and the Son, who together have one will  to reconcile all humans to themselves, into the circle of Trinitarian love. To “keep in touch” in other words. 

Since every day is a time to be drawn into the communication of love with God, we must find ways to pay better attention to the love he is communicating. There are many ways to approach it, but the basis of all of them is to stop. That’s right, STOP. I've just reviewed the list of spiritual practices in Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook and of the 62 practices she describes, every one requires stopping our ordinary busyness in order to interact with the Lord (or anyone else!) in a meaningful way. That’s tough for me some days — how about you?

Dr. Geordie Ziegler reminds us of two important principles of spiritual life. First, it is participation with the Spirit in the activities of Jesus; never something we do hoping to accomplish an important goal. Second, the goal is not “Christlikeness” or “being able to do what Jesus did” or “think like Jesus,” but more deeply and more importantly, Christ himself. “Apart from me you can do nothing”, Jesus says in describing the Vine and the branches, John 15:5. In verse 9, Jesus says “Abide”— not just live but remain (with an underlying sense of permanence, in the Greek) “in my love.” The goal of our whole Christian life is that we “remain” in Christ, and that Christ remains in us (a major theme in John 14-16). Thus, the goal is Christ himself, with his love filling us. “Abide” could less-intensively be said “Do keep in touch,” as abiding in the Vine is staying connected, resting in, and getting our life from the Vine. 

Should you have spiritual practices that are a daily and regular part of your life? Jesus seems to say so here. Which ones?  I would include three: prayer, reading scripture, and fellowship with the saints. Besides those, frankly, I don’t have an opinion for you, because each of us is different, and different practices will work for different people. The Spirit will lead us into the ones that are best for us, if we pay attention. So, I would say the same as before, the same the Spirit is saying now: Do keep in touch! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Continuing to Celebrate the Resurrection

The death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross was agonizing and drawn-out torture, ending with a final cry of anguish as a Roman spear pierced his side and his heart. Because he had accepted without argument the false accusations, the hatred and rage and vicious

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Jews and a Few Others?

Most scholars lay out a chronology for Holy Week with Jesus entering Jerusalem on Sunday to the acclaim of thousands of his followers and fans. The palm branches are mentioned in Psalm 118, especially v. 27, and the donkey ("foal of an ass") in Zechariah 9. Jesus was deliberately

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Lent Is About Giving Up

Lent is often thought about in terms of giving up sweets, or red meat, or alcohol, or movies, in an attempt to create an ‘attitude of repentance.' Those items are external to us, even though we can be awfully attached to them. What’s deepest is our

Thursday, March 28, 2019

What's Manure Got to Do with It?

There’s a parable in Luke 13 that we non-farmers may have a hard time understanding, featuring a fig tree that won’t bear figs, and a farmer that won’t cut the tree down. What’s going on? The people listening to Jesus heard an agricultural problem — the tree was messed up, and the

Monday, March 25, 2019

Set Someone Free Today

In Luke 13, Jesus notices a woman who has had "a disabling spirit" for 18 years, and sets her free. He does so on the Sabbath, the religious day of rest. His opponents complain he ought not be doing such work on the Sabbath, and Jesus argues that, if releasing a farm animal for water on the Sabbath is allowed, then surely releasing this woman is allowed also.

This is not just an argument to draw different lines in a

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Give Up What???

“Lent — isn’t that where you have to give up something?” asked the barista at Starbucks the other day. Yes, giving up chocolate or something else pleasurable is part of Lent, but not the purpose, or even the main feature.

"Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, reminds us that,

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Which Way Now?

Jesus’ disciples had a hard time figuring him out. Even as he "resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) they were thinking he was preparing for revolt: since he was “the Anointed One of God” (9:20), surely their missions in chapters 9 and 10 were to build up a larger

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Christ in You / You in Christ, Part 4: The Presence of God

The Lord God made an astounding promise to Moses in Exodus 33:
"Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, "I know you by name and you have found favor with me.” If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people." The Lord replied, "My

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Christ In You / You in Christ, Part 3: The Holy Spirit

The last two weeks I’ve reminded us both what God says is true about us as his beloved and included children, and that we participate (or not, sometimes) in that reality by our perspective of how we understand that we are ‘in union with Christ’ or ‘in Christ’ and

Friday, February 15, 2019

Chosen from the Womb?

Several servants of God in the Bible are described as being known or chosen "from the womb" including Jeremiah (1:5), David (Psa. 139) and Paul (Gal. 1:5). I used to wonder if God had chosen me in the same way, due to certain circumstances and my own desire to be included. But my thoughts were too narrow and too self-centered. I wanted to be chosen. I didn't realize that through Christ, all of us are chosen; and through the omniscience of the Almighty, he knows every single one of us from the womb and has loved us, in all our junk, all those years, gently and patiently waking us from our slumber and bringing us to know him. 

You.Are.Chosen. You.Are.Precious.  Because God.Is.Love. 

Reflections on Love from Galatians

Some reflections on love, after Valentine’s Day: (previously posted on

Paul writes to us in Galatians about the love of God, contrasting that love, along with grace, with the law that someone had been preaching to them, which was going to “enslave” them, 2:4. Paul says that God’s love is given to us freely through Christ, 2:20, “who loved me and gave himself for me.”

When he gets to the application portion of his letter, he writes in 5:13 - “through love perform the duties of a slave

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Christ in You / You in Christ, Part 2

Last week I wrote that we already exist with God in a relationship of love and grace through the incarnation (coming to us and taking on our flesh) of Jesus as our Savior. That’s a fact, but our perspective matters: for example, I’ve noticed when I go to the beach, the ocean

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Christ in You / You in Christ, Part 1

Years ago, a friend asked me, partly in jest, “Am I in Christ, or is Christ in me?” I responded, “Yes!” because both are true. Many days, though, I toddle on thinking that I’m on my own to solve this problem or that question, and if I try hard enough or

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

God's Love for You

I remember my early years, with three older siblings and strict parents, as a curious mix of carefree play and tension. My father worked hard, putting in long hours on his job and often working on holidays for the bonus pay, and not having much patience for me when he was home. My siblings and I were very

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Source of Strength

Have you ever been struck by your own sins and mistakes, to the point that you were upset with yourself and in great emotional pain? It’s a blessing to see our sins before their consequences catch up to us, but sometimes we are struck by the consequences first, and they cause us pain that helps us reflect on our sins, and we can get overwhelmed. Today, we can learn from

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Too Much Wine?

There’s a passage in John’s gospel, chapter 2, that is attractive to those of us who enjoy wine. But of course, this being written by John, there are hidden meanings that are much richer than this surface story — or a good Burgundy or Merlot. What was John getting across? How did Jesus’ miracle of

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Only a Shepherd

Shepherds aren't the most socially-acceptable people, even in the best of times. They work outside, with smelly animals, they get dirty, and frankly, the smell of the sheep tends to rub off on them. Even when you stand upwind from a shepherd, you can find reasons to cringe. In the time of Jesus' birth, shepherds were