Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Hope 3

 tiqva - hope; a cord which leads to the future

Behold, you have instructed many and you have strengthened weak hands.  Your words have upheld him who was stumbling and you have made firm the feeble knees.  Now trouble has come to you and you are impatient with it.  Trouble touches you and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence and the integrity of your ways your hope? Job 4:2-6

Ah, Job, teach yourself!  All this time you extolled God, helped others, taught others, did you not think the promise was for you or did you think you would be excluded from the general malaise of humanity?

Some would say Job's friends were no help to him.  Okay.  This is kind of blaming, but did Job need to hear the truth of his own words?  Maybe.  Did he need to be pointed to the depth of his own purported faith and comfort that he once gave to others?  I think so. 

And then I think of myself.  The lessons I have taught others, I must cling to!  The care and comfort I gave, I must now accept!  That is my hope!  When I am fraught with disaster, in a weakened state, dare I hope for the help from others or mercy from my God?  Dare I ask?

Lord, help me to know how to be vulnerable enough to ask for help and thus receive hope from others!  My connection to them - the cord that binds - is what will give me hope.  Let me prove my dependence and awe of you when trouble comes by living by the hope of you, Lord, and the proofing of my claimed dependence on you.  Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Hope 2

 Miqve - the grounds or foundation of hope; a collection, a gathering;  bond together

As Ezra was praying and weeping and bowing on the steps of the temple of God, a huge group of Israelite men, women and children joined him in weeping.  Shecaniah:  You are right to weep, Ezra.  We have forgotten our true God and [sinned], but there is hope for Israel yet.  We shall make a new commitment with our True God....and you who are righteous (i.e. follow the law) must guide us...and we will support you.  Ezra 10:1-4

Hope must have a foundation...of truth and right living. Sometimes, hope rests on those who are in leadership, who live rightly.  When a group - here a nation - has completely abandoned the principles of God, their actions have amounted to a broken faith. Deep confession with a change of heart and path is initiated from within, when the people can see their wrongs as an afront to God. 

Then hope reaches out for leadership.

The people of Israel then build on their confession with a commitment to follow and support agents of change, their prophet and priests. It is never an independent faith.  Sin is often communal.  Righteous leadership can lead the community back to relationship with God.  

Lord, lead me to confession and to leaders who would give me hope and whom I can support in their effort to guide.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Hope I


hope; expectation of a desired outcome

literally: a cord; attached to the future

"...if I should say I have hope...." Ruth 1:12

Naomi has had husband and sons die:  she has no hope for her or her abandoned daughters-in-law.  She has no future hope, no cord, to offer them, let alone herself.  Without hope, they wailed.  

One daughter-in-law returned to her people, where she might secure a hope for her future.  Ruth, though, attached her hope to Naomi:

"Where you go, I will go and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried...(verses 16, 17)

To salve an unrequited hope, Ruth knew she would need family.  She would need intimacy, closely tied to her mother-in-law.  Later, we know her dedication to relationship would give her a new hope, a new husband with the same connections.

This is the hope of social capital.  When we stay connected to the people who can most secure our future, our continuation, hope survives.  This tells me that when I am in desperate straits, when I am feeling helpless, I need those around me who can connect me to the solutions, the relationships, the future I need.

Lord, give me the social capital, the connections to relationships so as to build hope for my future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Abundant Life

 ...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.   John 10:10b

It is deeply disturbing and unsettling of how accustomed we have become with death:  death on the street, death through violence and war, death of the soul.  I wonder if we have lost the vision of life before death, as a result, and not just life after death.

Where Jesus is, there is life.  There is abundant life, vigorous life, eternal life, which, because it begins now, allows us to envision life-before-death. We may need some definition on this abundant life.  Many verses actually describe this present life-before-death, but I will use my favorite:  John 17:20 - 26. 

In this, Jesus' prayers for you and me (all future believers). He tells us his request to the Father for us: that we will be unified with him and the Father, that we will share in Christ's glory, which will serve to facilitate the unity of the entire community with the Father and Son.  He prays that we would contain the love of the Father and the Son.

The love of the Father drove him to inhabit the earth and attempt justice and reconciliation for his creation.  Could we become so passionate and compassionate for life-before-death that we could?  

The "Passion" of Christ is not a one-off, tragic incident of God's intercession with humanity.  It is the final expression of God's passion - a devotion for and a costly response - for his exiled people, which is all of humanity.

Let me be so passionate for the lost world around me.  Let it be a passionate devotion, sacrificially offered, life-giving, relationship-restoring life.  New life!  Life possible before death, which leaves no room for apathy.  Self-sacrifice as Jesus modeled brings life into view today (before death). 

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Council of God

 The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him and to them he makes known his covenant.  Psalm 25:14

Here is a reference that is made several times in the Old Testament that is essentially about the company we keep.  With whom do we end up in close deliberations?  With what circle of friends do we engage that provides our foundational beliefs and guidance?  

And what does it mean to have that circle of friends be the LORD almighty?  This word and verse have caused me to enter prayer looking for the viewpoints of the triune God.  The God of the universe who holds foundational authority has something to say to me.  His Son, the co-creator, Messiah and my brother has a word for me.  The Son's revealing, enlivening and engaging Spirit wants to provide wisdom and direction.

I am reverent before them and astonished to be in their circle.  I bow low before their greatness and availability, especially to the fact they want to make known the foundational knowledge of their intent and will for me and mankind.  This is their covenant they want to portray and give to us.

What is this covenant?  Just the commands?  In the original language, covenant comes from a pair of words that engages the communal meal, which is intended to feed, and then dispatches its members into action.  It is the relationship energy of this counsel, which can be seen in other uses in the Old Testament.

Jeremiah 23 (verses 16-17 is about lying prophets) and verse 18 sets the contrast of a different prophet: Who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and hear his word, or paid attention and heeded God?  Verse 22:  If they had, they would have God's truth to tell and people would turn away from evil...

Amos 3:7 The Lord does nothing without the secret council, revealing his secret to his servants, the prophets.  (spokespersons, inspired persons).

So, God's movement within people groups doesn't happen independent of those he intends as truth-tellers.  He is working in his prophets who are in deep relationship with the triune-ness of his being and can be trusted to give clear access to the ways of the LORD:

     from God the Father, the final authority;

     through Jesus, His Son and our brother;

     with the Holy Spirit, indwelling and revealing.

I am in awe and reverence of the communal experience and my inclusion in his council, which translates into good counsel for my life, my purpose and God's purposes for the community.  It can turn me into a good prophet, ready to love, first, and vanquish lies and heavy burdens for his people, next.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Very Good!

 Richard Rohr points out/says that we, as part of creation, were made good:  in fact, “very good” as the crown of creation. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good...Genesis 1:31

I note that "very good" was the assessment that God made when he added mankind to creation. 

If you made a list of the "good" things in life, 

would you be on the list? 

If we are highly Christianized, we would argue that "there is none good," quoting Paul in Romans.  I'm going to argue for a different view of ourselves based on Old Testament revelation.

We are taught about original sin and how we all sin.  Well, sin is prolific in personal and community life, but I am not sure about the original sin bit.  The original sin doctrine did not get formulated until the 300s by St. Augustine.  He argued that God made us sinners.  I'm having trouble balancing that with a lot of scripture about our original goodness, even as unique individuals. (Psalm 139) God did not intend bad for us.  You cannot read that anywhere in scripture.  He, rather, intended good, of which there is tons of scripture, including "he works all things out for the good in those he loves..." (Romans 8:28)

We can embed our identity in this goodness, especially as we explore identity and flourishing, spoken of as "righteousness" in the New Testament, which means "being as one ought to be, as God intended."  He intended us to be good.

This makes us all the more responsible for our sin.  It is not innate in us, though prolific around us.  We have the core identity of what God has given and the chance for spiritual power to overcome all these principalities' sin offerings.  

I wanted to find that inherent goodness that God intended for me.  I want to live it out.  I want to ride it into the presence of God so we both can find joy in the creation evidence in me. Paul even tells us how to join God in that pursuance:

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, rejoice.  Aim for restoration, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.

  • Finally – what remains (final pursuit)

  • Rejoice – be well, thrive. 

  • Restoration - returned to original intent - be made complete - make one as they ought to be.

  • Be made complete –mend, repair; outfit, equip; strengthen; find the good ground/foundation of one’s being.  “frame of oneself”; be as one ought to be (as created/intended by God)

  • Be comforted – parakaleo – call for/draw alongside of

 those who console, encourage, strengthen

  • Be like-minded – phronea – understanding, be wise

 about yourself, modestly humble yet with honest assessment

 (savor truth)

  •  Cultivate peace – irenea - protection during vulnerability and tenderness (as in protection for young plants in the spring)

  • God will be with (with/after/behind) you -denotes accompaniment
That would be Very Good!

Friday, January 28, 2022

Be a Monk

 I love history and have often passed through studies around the monks of old, of several religions.  They are an interesting lot!  I decided that monkism needed a modern definition so I could be one, too.

Here is the old definition:  Usually a member of a religious community living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Here is a new definition for the Modern Monk:  A member of the family of God who decides to live in the world, yet under a different pretext and premise for life:

  • To engage in poverty that is non-indulgent in goods and wealth that interfere, cloud or block the full presence of God, yet accessing the "good" goods in order to join in the joy of God's creation and God's work.

  • To rest in a definition of sexuality as God designed it in order to enhance our goodness and as a way to enter the good of God.

  • To respond in obedience to the love of God, carrying out love-actions through compassion, inclusion of all people, and justice-seeking.

All of these exclude me from the world's way of thinking, its culture, but doesn't preclude me from the world's needs and issues and my proper place in it.

Do you want to be a modern monk?