Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

September 28, 2004

Libraries and Me

I happen to work in a library (this one). I also live right down the street from my town's public library. I strolled down there yesterday and browsed the small religion section. Came away with a book called Pontius Pilate, by Ann Wroe. Now, I never expected to be reading this book, had never heard of it before yesterday, but as I walked home with the book in hand, I felt sublimely happy. Like I used to feel when I was just a kid, walking home from the library. Walking home with treasures.

The first library I ever remember visiting was called the Osterhout Free Library, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My brother took me there, holding my hand all the long way. The Osterhout looked like a church, with a high arching ceiling that inspired wonder in a small boy. The children's books were shelved just under the towering (well, it seemed to me then) cathedral-like windows in front. There was an awesome hush in the air. Everything there seemed beautiful and slightly mysterious. And that's also where I discovered Dr. Seuss.

A few years later, after we'd moved to a new town, I used to ride my bike to the Hoyt Library, then ride home clutching the handlebars with one hand, a brace of books against my side with the other. In those days I liked books about football, books about space travel, and books about Naval combat. Here I discovered Ray Bradbury for the first time. Also, I remember reading Mutiny on the Bounty during this period and vowing it was the best book ever written.

Later still, I frequented the legendary Boston Public Library. There I found a quiet interior garden, with trickling fountains and rare flowers. A place apart from the city's clash and clangor.

Wherever I have lived, I have joined the library. And still today, when I walk home with a new book in my hand, there is a stirring in me as of that little boy, excited about great adventures and distant places, and his special way of seeing and feeling comes alive in me as I walk. It's only for a moment, and it's only a kind of hint or afterglow, but it's lovely, and I'm grateful.

September 27, 2004

Emotional Health

Today I want to feature a post from Men of the Vineyard. It's about "the emotionally healthy and maturing disciple." Seven essentials are listed:

1. You must be willing to look deeply inside yourself.
2. You must work at breaking the power of the past.
3. You must live in brokenness and vulnerability.
4. You must learn to receive the gifts of limits.
5. You must embrace grief and loss.
6. You must make incarnation your model for loving well.
7. You must drink from the contemplative tradition of silence, solitude, Sabbath and spiritual direction.

What do you think? Is there anything missing from this list? Anything you would add? The same post goes on to suggest that, as a spiritual exercise, we should ask ourselves four questions about our emotions.

1. What are you mad about today?
2. What are you scared about?
3. What are you sad about?
4. What are you glad about?

The reason is, all these emtions are going on in us all the time. I find all this very interesting, and so I just thought I'd share it with you. Now I'm going to go away and think on these things while I mow my lawn for the last time this year. Wahoo!

September 26, 2004


If I am going to grow spiritually, I shall only do so on the basis of love. I shall never grow because I get a lot more teaching. You do not grow by teaching. That is the tragedy of attending conferences - that you may attend them for years and years and still be of the same spiritual measure afterward, and never grow: still making no greater contribution to the measure of Christ in the Church, still not counting any more than you did years ago in the spiritual battle. No, all the teaching does not necessarily mean that you grow. It is necessary as a background, but we grow by love. Do not let anybody think we can dispense with the teaching and have the love and get on all right. That would be a contradiction of the Word altogether. The teaching has its place, it is absolutely necessary; but though I have everything and have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13). T. Austin-Sparks

September 25, 2004

Blogs in Transition

Several of the bloggers on my blogroll have changed their titles lately. So, if you're looking for the former Blogging Teen, he's now at To Be Least. Meanwhile, Rainbow Creations has become Being a Disciple, and In the Spirit has become Rustling Leaves. I especially like this last change, because as everyone knows Jesus likened the Spirit to wind (John 3:8), so if you're truly "in the Spirit," your life will manifest the sound of "rustling leaves." That's pretty cool, Donna!

September 24, 2004

Authentic Faith

Been reading a book called Authentic Faith: the Power of a Fire-Tested Faith, by Gary L. Thomas. Thomas seeks to act as a kind of correcting influence on what is sometimes called "feel-good-Christianity." The book is sub-titled, "What if life isn't meant to be perfect but we are meant to trust the One who is?" I think that line is quite wonderful.

Each chapter deals with a "discipline" that is often painful, often not something we would willingly choose, but which is an essential part of our growth in holiness. These disciplines are

  • Selflessness

  • Waiting

  • Suffering

  • Persecution

  • Social Mercy

  • Forgiveness

  • Mourning

  • Contentment

  • Sacrifice

  • Hope and Fear

  • Thomas calls these "Fire-testing Seasons from a Loving Father." Here's a sample quote, chosen more or less at random, from his chapter on mourning (p.155):
    The time will come when all of us will be done mourning--but that time is nopt now; that time doesn't exist on this earth. We need to mourn. Mourning invites us to a deeper life. It takes us beyond the surface to give us a glimpse of the world as God sees it. Biblically speaking, living life without some degree of mourning is worse than naive; it betrays a lack of wisdom. "For with much wisdom come much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief," Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:18
    Thomas has written a stimulating and I think important book. I highly recommend it.

    September 23, 2004

    Are You Awake?

    This from Henri Nouwen:

    Everything that comes from God asks for an open and faithful heart. We cannot live with hope and joy in the end-time unless we are living in a state of preparedness. We have to be careful because, as the Apostle Peter says: "Your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5.8). Therefore Jesus says: "Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life. ... Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:34-36). That's what living in the Spirit of Jesus calls us to.

    That expresses the essence of how I want to live. Wakefulness. Alertness. Watchfulness. Being alive to what God is doing around me. Watching and praying, as Jesus instructed his disciples. Taking note of the signs of the times.

    Start out by affirming that God is standing at your door and knocking even now. He desires to come in and have fellowship with you. That is, even now, God is pouring into you, speaking to you, gifting you, through his Spirit. The drama of this life is that God is speaking to us, and the question that hangs in the balance is, shall we listen?

    September 21, 2004

    God is always more than we know or understand!

    Back again after an un-planned absence from blogging. In the last couple of days I came down with a nasty head-cold. My sinuses were just 100% blocked, and my sleep was as a result fitful at best. The over-the-counter medicine I was taking was having no more impact than a water-pistol at a forest-fire, but Laurie prayed and laid hands on me last night, and this morning the forest-fire is nothing more than a few crackling sparks and embers. Praise God!


    I sense that I’m going through a sort of transition here, although I’m not sure where it’s leading. Laurie and I took the summer off from small groups, but now we’ve decided to join a new group, led by our friends Richard and Janet. We are very excited about this. It definitely seems like a piece of the puzzle that is our “new beginning.”

    You may remember that I had something to say about new beginnings a few days back (here). We have to remember that we are following a way, not making our own path according to our own sense of direction. We do not get to decide the landscape our path of faith will take us through. Any journey of length must come through some hard places, of course, but there are also those points along the way when you come out of a dark wood, where the view had been obstructed, and a new vista opens before you. It is a gift from God that he gives us these sublime and unexpected moments in the journey.

    Back on August 31 and again on September 1, I wrote in my journal that I was feeling a strong sense of some major change in the offing. It was not a sense of fearful foreboding, but it was a sense that something important and perhaps even cataclysmic was at hand. At the time, I connected this feeling somehow with September 11. That is, with the anniversary of the WTC terrorist attack, and I wondered if my country was going to endure another attack of that same kind on or before the anniversary.

    Well, the “event” turned out to be something more personal than that. On September 1 my mother called me to say that the doctors had found a tumor in my step-father’s lung, and that in addition to the emphysema he was now going to be undergoing radiation treatment for the tumor. Although she didn’t say so, I could tell that Mom had a strong feeling that the end was near. Jack died on September 5th, and his memorial service, as it turned out, was on the 11th.

    I just thought I’d share that with you. I think the Lord was impressing something on me back at the beginning of the month, and I was receiving it and interpreting it in a rather fuzzy and garbled way. I don’t think we understand at all the real extent of God's presence with us and His "speaking" to us, and I think the part that we are conscious of is merely the tip of the iceberg. And even that small part we don’t pay much heed to, or we mix it with our own poor wisdom and wind up misunderstanding what God is saying and doing. As did the Israelites time and time again, of course.

    That’s all for today. I’m off to work now. See you on the flip-side!

    September 18, 2004

    Son Tim, the Strong and Good Posted by Hello

    A Bruce Caruso Update

    Back on August 19th I asked the burning question, What Ever Happened to Bruce Caruso? The post seemed to stir some of its readers to think about their own long lost friends. Lucy, for example, wrote, "Where is my friend James? Last contact we had was when I was 15. I tried to find him 5 years later, but he had moved out of the county, and noone knew where. A good friend, kind compassionate. I'd love to meet up with him again someday."

    Well, I really doubted that anyone who knew Bruce would read the post, but lo and behold, his brother-in-law wrote to me today, and then his sister. Bruce is alive and well and living in his old neighborhood. His sister, Lynn, writes:

    What a small world, I was just surfing on some ancestory links and somehow saw Bruce's name come up and it lead me to your site! I will be speaking with him later today and I'll let him know you were asking about him. He doesn't have a computer, so I will most likely respond back to your email address.
    So isn't that cool! Now I'm going to have to do another "Where is he now?" post and see if it works again!

    This and That

    Well, I've been in kind of a funk lately. The week at my mother's house was perhaps not as "emotional" as one might have expected. There was a lot of conversation, as I've mentioned, and also a lot of downtime. Even a lot of TV watching (for example, I feel I've come to know Ken Jennings quite well). One stunning development was the sudden death of a nephew (Glenn) of my step-father. He had visited us to pay his respects to the family only hours before his sudden heart attack. I did not know Glenn well, but to many the news of his death (at 49!) was emotionally devastating.

    Now, since arriving back, besides worrying about my sister's family in the track of Hurrican Ivan (as it turns out, the worst of that storm passed to their east), a co-worker of Laurie's was found dead in his apartment. John worked very closely with Laurie, so this has been quite a shock. There is also the secondary issue, which only complicates her emotional response, that she has been offered John's position. Whether or not she accepts that offer will be a matter of much prayer.

    All this is by way of saying, I don't quite know which end is up these days. I have to admit that these past two weeks have played havoc with my devotional time. But I'm confidant that will change. The upshot of all this shoulder-crying is: I (we) could use some prayer.

    September 16, 2004

    Jack L. Picton, 1927 - 2004

    The day after I learned that my step-father, Jack Picton, was dead, I sat down and collected my thoughts about him in writing. It amounted to a portrait of the man, which I eventually read at his memorial service on Saturday. My brother, Brent, suggested I post it to the blog, so here it is:

    Jack Lloyd Picton, 1927 ~ 2004

    He died in the house in which he was born. That is no mere item of trivia about Jack Lloyd Picton. He was rooted in that place. One could almost say, to know the house is to know him.

    In time, people began to call it “Picton’s Palace.” They were just being funny, because it wasn’t really a palace at all. Then again, it was. It was his world. It was the world he worked hard to make, as much as any king, or any billionaire, makes his world.

    I think he valued work above all else. For him, work was very nearly life itself. Work made all things possible.

    But, as you all know, he also liked good times when the work was done. When he was worn out, he treasured rest. He liked whiskey, cigars, jingling the ice in his glass out on the patio on a starry summer night.

    After he retired, he began the hard work of living with emphysema. From this work there was never time off, never rest.

    He was a master at cards. On the day he died, he played rummy with his wife after coming home from the hospital, winning his thirteenth straight hand. A baker’s dozen, he called it. Jack always made the most of every hand he was dealt.

    He admired gadgets, inventiveness, and street-smarts. Near the end of his life, he manufactured a special bracket for his wheelchair, so that it could carry his oxygen tank. That was Jack all over.

    He loved football passionately, and I think I know why. Football requires courage, intelligence, and stamina. Jack was a man of courage, intelligence, and stamina.

    He revered his mother. The only time I ever saw him cry was at his mother’s funeral.

    He was totally devoted to his wife. Whatever was his, was hers. Right to the end, they spent every moment they could together. They seemed to require each other. It is a cliche, but nevertheless true, that they seemed to complete each other. They were best friends.

    He was a giver. One of the reasons he worked hard all his life was so that there would be more to give to the people he loved.

    As a boy, you see, he knew poverty. And he hated it. He never romanticized it, as some people do. I think this giving was his way of doing battle with poverty on behalf of others. This was the way he showed his love for them. When I was young I misunderstood this. I thought he was equating love with things. I decided he was “shallow.” But I was the shallow one.

    He was “old-school” when it came to emotions. You had to read them in the lines around his eyes, because he seldom spoke them out. Anyone who knew Jack knows that he could at times be gruff, infuriating. Most especially with those he loved. When my mother called to tell me he had died, she said, “He loved you very much, even though you might not think so.”

    The Apostle Paul once wrote a prayer for some people he loved. He wrote, I pray that you would be rooted in love, and that you would have the power to grasp how wide and high and deep and long is the love of Christ. Well, we don’t usually grasp that understanding all at once. Little by little we are shown . . . by people. Jack, in his own unique way, was one of those people.

    And if I could speak to him now, there is just one thing I would say. There is just one thought I would like to express to him with all my heart. If I could speak to him now, I would simply say, “Thank you.”

    By the way, you can read a more particular (and poetic) remembrance of Jack here.

    September 15, 2004

    Waiting for Ivan

    Pray for my sister's family in southeast Louisiana. They're sitting in the track of hurricane Ivan. My sister, Sheree, is up north with my mother in Pennsylvania, but her husband and children are waiting out the storm in their boarded up house down there in the Delta. Last word from them this afternoon was that it was dark as night outside, but as yet little wind or rain. For a close-up view from a weather-blogger, go to Ryan Towell's Hurricane Ivan Blog. My niece, by the way, has just become a blogger herself. I look forward to hearing more from her. I pray that the Father will calm her heart and keep her and her brother and dad safe.


    I have a tendency to look for opportunities to call some moment in my life a new beginning. This might be a silly conceit of mine, or it might be a recognition of the real nature of things. Or both. The poet Theodore Roethke identified himself as a “perpetual beginner.”

    Or maybe each moment represents a struggle between some will in ourselves to turn, to change, to erase yesterday’s pattern and make a new start, and another will, competing with the first, to settle in, to carry on, to build on yesterday’s foundation. The nature of the first impulse is to love revelation. It quests for the new thing. The nature of the second impulse is to love pattern, order, and steady comprehensible growth.

    The perpetual beginner is the artist. The other is the scientist. These are not water-tight compartments, hard-and-fast identities, but shifting impulses. The one captures the soul for a moment, only to be overthrown by the other.

    I tend to seek a perspective that recognizes the new thing here amidst the old order. I always want to claim the new beginning. I build the little monument each day and say, here, just here, we crossed our Jordan. Here was our new beginning.

    What I’m saying is: here’s a little pile of stones. It marks a spot from which there is no turning back. It is called “Today.” It is a new beginning. Look! Do you not see it?

    September 14, 2004

    A Groggy Hello

    Arrived home from Pennsylvania yesterday evening. The week at my mother's house was strangely exhausting, even though I didn't do very much at all there. Mostly listened to people talking. That's what I return with, the sound of talking. I close my eyes and even now, this moment, I here the voices. Almost never the words themselves, but just the sound of them. Like the sound of the sea in a conch shell.

    My mother is doing well. I think she is greatly relieved, actually. I reacquainted myself with my sister and her family, and with my brother. That's good. The trick now is not to let ourselves drift apart.

    And that's all for now. I am feeling rather disoriented. Hello to all my blogging friends, and thank you for your prayers. Back soon.

    September 07, 2004

    Just letting you know . . .

    I've spent the day calling people and making travel arrangements, and will be flying to Pennsylvania in the morning. I'm looking forward to seeing my brother and sister, since we haven't been together in some time. My mother seems to be doing well. My step-father's body will be cremated, and his memorial service will be on Saturday.

    So, that means that for the next five or six days Mr. Standfast will be "standing down." I am comforted to know that several of my blogging friends have lifted up my mother in prayer. I thank God for all of you, for God has used you many times to speak encouragement into my life.

    May grace and peace attend you, until we meet again. Mr. Standfast

    In Memorium

    My step-father, Jack Lloyd Picton, died last night, after a long struggle with emphysema. He was 78. His last words to my mother were, "Don't leave me, Pat."

    I have not written much about Jack in this journal, but will try to do so in the near future. Please pray for my mother. She was truly devoted to Jack, as was he to her.

    September 06, 2004

    My Back Yard

    Ah, the time is nearly right . . . Posted by Hello

    What are you waiting for?

    I've started reading a book called Authentic Faith, by Gary L. Thomas. He has a chapter on the subject of "waiting", and he rightly points out that waiting is a fundamental identifying element of the Christian walk. Jude 21 puts it second only to love itself: "Keep yourself in the love of God as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."

    There are many waiting verses in the New Testament. Associated with waiting is looking. Keeping a sharp eye. When Christ's disciples question Him regarding the end times, he says, "Watch and pray." Be on the lookout, because there are going to be signs. Simeon, a righteous man, was "waiting for the consolation (the peace, the reconcilation) of Israel." And when he saw Jesus, he saw the consolation for which he'd been waiting.

    So then the question is, what are we waiting for? What signs are we looking for? Are we waiting for things that have no spiritual importance? Are we waiting for our wishes to come true? Are waiting for the fulfillment of promises we've made to ourselves in the flesh, or that others have made? Are we waiting for God to satisfy our longing for comfort in this life, even though he promised that in this life we would have trouble? Are we waiting for our spouse or our children to measure up to our own perfect standards? Are we waiting for the winning lottery ticket? Are we waiting for the perfect mate? Are waiting for payday? The weekend? Lost innocence? Sleep? Or, like characters in a modernist play, for some man or god who never comes?

    All of us are waiting for that upon which we've set our minds and hearts. Many of us are waiting for illusions. If we are Christians, we are waiting for the mercy of God. We are waiting for Jesus. And waiting, of course, requires patience. Ah, but the Father will teach us that. Patience with others. Patience with ourselves. Patience with God. That's a mark of true reconciliation, is it not? I will wait for you, we say to one we love. Those whom we love, we wait for. Father, give us power to love, and patience to wait. In Jesus Christ's name, amen.

    September 05, 2004

    Sunday Church Pics

    Wesley, showing me his miraculously healed hand. Posted by Hello

    Matthew, the ever cheerful. Posted by Hello

    Jonathan, who is very cool. Posted by Hello

    Hannah, showing me the space where a tooth once lived. Posted by Hello

    Nate, just a chip off Mr. Standfast's block. Posted by Hello

    September 04, 2004


    Here at Mr. Standfast I don't ususally write much about world events. Though my nation is at war, and in the midst of a bitterly-fought election contest, till now you would have found no evidence of this here. But the events yesterday in Ossetia are simply two disturbing, too profoundly evil, to allow to pass without comment. The latest report from BBC News is here, and a series of photos from the scene here.

    But I needn't go on providing links. The world knows now that in a place called Beslan, in the province of Ossetia, in Russia, evil has once again cast off all reserve. There is nothing that can be said in the face of such horror, except to cry to God for help.

    One more link: Adam Nicholson (here)writes:

    Each carried body is a bitter parody of a sleeping child cared for in the arms of its father, in which every line is the same as it should be, but the meaning of every line is the opposite of what you hope it might be. The death and wounding of children - by women terrorists, for goodness sake - shown like this, when the wounded parents must do the carrying, and carry on doing the carrying after the crisis is over, is the denial of everything that matters most in life: the chance that the future might be better than the past; and the hope, which is in each child's face, that the world will be good to them.

    It is a reminder that pitilessness lies near the heart of the universe.
    Nicholson goes on from there to question, in the face of such horror as this, any religion or creed "that implies somehow that God is good and capable and has organised a good and kind universe."

    Finally, Nicholson says this:
    Faced with Beslan, with the blood-soaked children lying on the stretchers, with the grief-shattered faces of the waiting parents, with the knowledge that the pain you see is only the beginning of the pain to come, I don't understand how anyone could maintain that this is a good world.
    This is not the time, perhaps, for disquisitions on religion. This is the time for mourning. But Nicholson's words force me to recall that as Christians we should not be surpised by what has happened. And indeed, it will happen again. But it is not that God is pitiless. God's sorrow is greater than mine or Adam Nicholson's or anyone else's at this moment. I don't have any sugared words of consolation for those who grieve. There is no consolation at this moment. I only wish to say this: let us not attribute pitilessness to God because men do evil. Let us, rather, look to the evil within ourselves. It is pity, indeed, in the heart of God, that has till now prevented him from destroying this once "very good" creation that sin has stained now again with the blood of the innocent.

    This warfare began long ago, and it will continue till Christ comes to redeem creation. In the meantime, let us not resign ourselves to defeat, as if evil must at all times win. In Beslan we see vividly the nature of our enemy. How we respond now makes all the difference. As Lincoln said, "This fiery ordeal will light us down in honor or dishonor." The question now is, as it always has been, which side -- or more precisely, whose side -- shall we choose?

    Lord, in grief and horror we lift up the families of the Beslan dead. Like them we are confused, we are angry, and we know not what to say or do, but we turn to you, Father, and lay it all before you. Have mercy on us. Give us light. Save us. Let not our response to this evil do nothing more than compound the evil, as is so often the case, but let both justice and mercy be served at once. Strengthen us, Father, and give us hope. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

    September 02, 2004

    More Thoughts on Dying to Self

    Andrew Murray said,

    As believers we know we are to die to self and live for Christ. Therefore look upon every day as lost that does not encourage both this death and this life.
    This is a kind of dying and living we will never be done with, as long as we remain in the flesh. Let us not think we can dispense with the dying part. Spurgeon, discussing the withering ministry of the Holy Spirit, says:
    The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of our souls and cause our beauty to be as a fading flower. He must so convince us of sin and so reveal ourselves to ourselves that we will see that 'the flesh profits nothing.'

    All Flesh is Grass

    The voice said, "Cry out!" And he said, "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass, and its loveliness is like the flower of the field." Isaiah 40:6

    I mentioned a couple of posts ago about the "withering work of the Holy Spirit," which is the subject of a chapter in Charles Spurgeon's book, Holy Spirit Power. Spurgeon's writing always seems very solid and inspiring to me, as it has to many others over the years. Spurgeon says that Isaiah 40:6 is not simply about mortality, as it has so often been understood, but about that aspect of our sanctification that involves the dying to self, the withering and fading of the prideful inclinations of the flesh.

    The Spirit blows on the flesh, and what seems vigorous becomes weak. What was fair to look at was smitten with decay, and the true nature of the flesh is discovered. Its deceit is laid bare, its power is destroyed. There is space for the dispensation of the ever-abiding Word and for the rule of the Great Shepherd whose words are spirit and life.
    I've been coming across quite a bit of this sort of thing lately, so I suppose it's something God wants me to focus on. For example, there was this quote from Henri Nouwen in my Gmail inbox:
    When we have been deeply hurt by another person, it is nearly impossible not to have hostile thoughts, feelings of anger or hatred, and even a desire to take revenge. All of this often happens spontaneously, without much inner control. We simply find ourselves brooding about what we are going to say or do to pay back the person who has hurt us. To choose blessings instead of curses in such a situation asks for an enormous leap of faith. It calls for a willingness to go beyond all our urges to get even and to choose a life-giving response.

    Sometimes this seems impossible. Still, whenever we move beyond our wounded selves and claim our God-given selves, we give life not just to ourselves but also to the ones who have offended us.
    That's just something to think about. In the next few days I'll be passing along more quotations like this--things that either I or the Lovely L have come across in our readings.

    September 01, 2004

    Confession: Breakthrough to Certainty

    Bonhoeffer's 4th breakthrough of confession is the breakthrough to certainty. To the certainty, that is, that we are indeed forgiven. That our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west, and that its ultimate consequence, death, has been defeated by the sheer forgiving love of God.

    We know all this in principle, but sin continues to afflict us, and when we sin, though we may ask God to forgive us, yet we feel unclean, guilty, burdened by the memory of what we've done and the knowledge that we remain weak, it seems even helpless, in regard to sin. Simply put, we don't "feel" forgiven.

    The problem here, in my opinion, is not that we fear the condemnation of God, but that we continue to condemn ourselves even though God does not. We keenly feel our own unworthiness, and lacking the faith to trust in God's forgiveness, we replace God (who forgives us) with Self, from whom we also now require forgiveness.

    Am I being clear? I don't want to offend anyone. Many people I know and love have defined their own struggle with sin as the struggle to forgive themselves. But this is a real predicament. Since they sin often, they require this self-forgiveness often. And it is difficult. It's difficult to be a forgiving judge, when the offender is returned to your bar again and again, each time having committed the same offense, each time crying for mercy and promising never to do it again.

    This is what God has been impressing on my heart lately: whatever is of the self is destined to wither like grass: and that's including even the forgiveness that is of the self. We dare not place our own judgment regarding sin above God's. What God has taken away, we dare not reclaim. He has taken away our guilt, at the cost of His Son, and we dare not take that guilt back. It is as if to say, the blood of Jesus may have been enough for you, God, but not for me?

    I fear I might offend someone here, and I don't want to. I know many people who struggle with this problem. I want to say to them: when you pray, don't ask God to help you forgive yourself. Ask Him to help you receive and trust in His forgiveness. To trust that forgiveness is to walk it out. To know and experience it in your own spirit and then to live your life in that light.

    Bonhoeffer says:

    "And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness? Self-forgiveness can never lead to a breach with sin; this can be accomplished only by the judging and pardoning Word of God itself."

    Confessing our sins to one another is one way we actually "walk out" our faith. After all, is not our faith a faith in the forgiveness of God. And so we are not afraid to say to a brother or sister in the Lord, "I have sinned. My guilt is always with me, I can't escape it. I need to hear again the word of forgiveness."

    It is as if our sin smeared its muck over our faith. In times like this we need a brother or a sister to come beside us and say, "Though your sin is great, the love of God is greater. Be at peace. The Lord your God has removed the guilt and washed you clean again. The blood of Christ has accomplished this. Rise and walk."

    In our uncertainty, our confusion, our blindness, "mutual brotherly confession is given to us by God in order that we may be sure of divine forgiveness. . . . Who can refuse, without suffering loss, a help that God has deemed it necessary to offer?"


    This is the last of my Bonhoeffer posts for a while. I hope my readers have been aided in some way. I hope I've been able to shed some light in a few dark corners for them. I'll be moving on, in the next few posts, to some other matters, but Bonhoeffer's Life Together is going to continue to inspire me in the knowledge that to live life to the fullest in the Kingdom of God is to live, to walk it out, with others. Brothers, sisters, you are not alone!