Mr. Standfast

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

October 31, 2004

The Choice

Alright, folks. I've spent the past few months diligently avoiding the subject of politics on this blog. There are, I think, many good reasons for this, not the least of which is the simple fact so many other bloggers are doing politics quite well, and my voice would literally add nothing of importance to that chorus. However, it is now the last Sunday before Election Day, and so I thought I'd post my first and only message concerning the impending choice.

I am voting for George Bush. The main reason is, George Bush understands the threat we now face, and John Kerry clearly does not. Senator Kerry's critique of the President's policies, a critique upon which his entire campaign rests, has been constantly and grossly opportunistic. What he says, in other words, has lacked the restraint that moral clarity would give. His rhetoric is routinely riddled with falsehood, all in the name of one over-riding imperative: "Vote for me."

But columnist George Will said all this better than I can:

Tuesday's winner will not start from scratch but from where we are now, standing with the women of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Back in Washington recently, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said those women were warned that Taliban remnants would attack polling places during the Oct. 9 elections. So the women performed the ritual bathing and said the prayers of those facing death. Then, rising at 3 a.m., they trekked an hour to wait in line for the polls to open at 7 a.m. In the province of Kunar an explosion 100 meters from a long line of waiting voters did not cause anyone to leave the line.

Which candidate can be trusted to keep faith with these people? Surely not the man whose party is increasingly influenced by its Michael Moore faction. Surely not the man whose most important vote in his 20 Senate years opposed using force to expel Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. Iraqi forces had crossed an international border to eradicate a sovereign nation, but Kerry does not regret voting to oppose the forceful reversal of this aggression. . . .

Bush sometimes confuses certitude with certainty, but he understands that to govern is to choose, and that some choices must make one lonely. Kerry constantly calls to mind a three-time Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan: "The people of Nebraska are for free silver, and I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later."

So this column's conclusion is: "GEORGE! with all thy faults."
You may read the entire column here.

October 30, 2004

Still Traipsing . . .

. . . around the Christian Internet, that is. Finding lots of wonderful stuff (and I'm just in the mood for linking). For example, Greg Burnett provides the following A. W. Tozer gem:

Well, the world is big and tangled and dark, and we are never sure where a true Christian may be found. One thing we do know: the more like Christ he is the less likely it will be that a newspaper reporter will be seeking him out. However much he may value the esteem of his fellow men, he may for the time be forced to stand under the shadow of their displeasure. Or the busy world may actually not even know he is there --except that they hear him singing.
In addition, check out Christian Soldier (which happens to be the blog of a Navy Doctor in Iraq--who lists Mr. Standfast on his blogroll!). Here's a recent post in its entirety:

This week, I realize how quickly I have become numb to the surrounding, even in the mist of a war. Last weekend, we had an overflow of casualties from firefights and mortars, and I was humbled again how life is so fragile and precious. Working in the clinic, I get to see and triage to the various wounded as they enter into the trauma rooms, some in better shape than others, but all will have their lives impacted one way or another. See the news back home doesn’t report about the wounded that have lost an eye, hand, or limb, yet these injuries will take month if not years to recover, and how I wonder at their spiritual state of mind, and if they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope it doesn’t take a major incident or situation in our lives for us to turn to God, for it may be too late. In fact, do not linger in our walk, but always be as prepare as we can because we truly don’t know what tomorrow holds! I know for those of us who put our trust in the Lord, we need not be afraid about our salvation, but I pray that we’ll never be complacent about our sanctification. Please continue to pray for these young men and women, and especially those who have been wounded! God bless.
Finally, I wanted to point my readers to Eternal Perspectives Ministries. They put out a free newsletter which is always interesting and substantial. The latest issue is here (do check out the fascinating chart on page 4).

A Not So Random Act of Poetry

Traipsing about the Internet this morning, I discover that this past week has been Random Acts of Poetry Week upstairs in O Canada. My goodness, how did I miss it?

Poetry is seemingly a negligible piece of North American culture. And, since few people would voluntarily subject themselves to a live poetry reading, Canadian poets have decided, Mohammed-like, to take poetry to the people. I'm not sure what "the people" might do in return (fight? flee?), but here at Mr. Standfast I like springing poetry on my unsuspecting readers from time to time. So, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, I give you John Donne's Holy Sonnet XIV:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Continuing my traipse, I stumble on a blog called One House (by way of Abiding, through the amusingly titled Get Yer Goat--subtitled, "We can make a difference, one goat at a time"--who is simply following in the footsteps of Deegy at One Room). And so I found the following poem, which is by Edward Hirsch, from his book called, Lay Back the Darkness.

I Am Going To Start Living Like A Mystic

Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater
and walking across the park in a dusky snowfall.

The trees stand like twenty-seven prophets in a field,
each a station in a pilgrimmage - silent, pondering.

Blue flakes of light falling across their bodies
are the ciphers of a secret, an occultation.

I will examine their leaves as pages in a text
and consider the bookish pigeons, students of winter.

I will kneel on the track of the vanquished squirrel
and stare into a blank pond for the figure of Sophia.

I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
as if my whole future were constellated upon it.

I will walk home alone with the deep alone,
a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.

October 28, 2004

Thinking about The Church

I've mentioned (and quoted) Henri Nouwen many times here at Mr. Standfast. I subscribe to a daily email quotation from Nouwen, and lately these have been focused on the church. I also get something regularly from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. It so happens that a recent email from RZIM was also about the church. This one was written by Jill Caratini. Here's an excerpt:

In the community of believers we are encouraged and admonished, uplifted and stretched (some of the reasons I suspect many of us try to avoid it). As the priests called out to the crowds in the book of Nehemiah, we are called to attention, called to remember together the one who unites us: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting" (9:5). In community we are repeatedly shown that Christ has called us to die to ourselves and live in him.

Bonhoeffer reminds the cynical not to overlook the opportunity of Christian fellowship. "It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone."(2) Being in the presence of other believers is indeed a hopeful gift. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus repeatedly cried out to his disciples that they stay awake and keep watch with him. While in prison, the apostle Paul called for Timothy, his "true child in the faith", to come visit.
And, just for emphasis, here's yet another quotation from Nouwen:

To love the Church means to be willing to meet Jesus wherever we go in the Church. This love doesn't mean agreeing with or approving of everyone's ideas or behavior. On the contrary, it can call us to confront those who hide Christ from us. But whether we confront or affirm, criticize or praise, we can only become fruitful when our words and actions come from hearts that love the Church.
I would add the following: God's church is not just some sort of mystical union of believers, but an earthly (and earthy) gathering together, in place and time, of fallen/chosen would-be followers of Jesus. Emerging from the haze of theological babble, a real people, walking out their disordered faith, chosen-ness and fallen-ness mixed up together in all the frustrating impurity that makes life together almost inconceivable . . . and yet, for the faithful, it's not inconceivable. That's because, whenever that-which-is-Christlike-in-me meets up with that-which-is-Christlike-in-you, we two immediately notice the family resemblance, and we rejoice together like long-parted brothers. Yes, and it can even happen on Sunday mornings!

And as the preacher said with fervor, "GLO-ry to God!"

Pardon My Euphoria

Something strange happened during the lunar eclipse last night. Apparently, there was a micro-shift in the earth's crust, causing everything to look strangely out of joint. No, wait a minute, it's just that THE RED SOX ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!

October 27, 2004

God's Love for the Outcast

My reading this morning took me to the Genesis story of Hagar (Gen 16). I am moved by her naming the place where she had her encounter with God, The Well of the One Who Sees Me. She might have called it, The Well Where God Spoke to Me, or The Well of God's Promise, but her awe is with the fact that God saw her at all. That she was even on God's radar screen. That the Maker of Heaven and Earth deigned to notice a rejected slave-girl. D. A. Carson says that, in all of Near Eastern literature, Hagar is the only woman addressed by Deity directly. God's love for the outcast, the lost sheep, is awesome, and also a little bit convicting, is it not?

October 26, 2004

Loving the Church

This once again from Henri Nouwen. I simply had to share it:

Loving the Church often seems close to impossible. Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church - whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic - belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared. When we remember that, we may be able to say, "I love the Church, and I am glad to belong to it."

Loving the Church is our sacred duty. Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it in joy and peace. And without a true love for the Church, we cannot call people to it.

October 25, 2004

On Forgiveness

The best kept secret in all the world is that forgiveness changes things. That forgiveness is transformational. Mysterium Tremendum (the much-esteemed), wrote recently about this. It seems that some guests of Oprah Winfrey shocked Winfrey's audience by saying that they had forgiven the men who had sexually abused them. To the world this seems not only unbelievable, but an undermining of justice. In fact, it seems like sheer insanity. Aren't some things simply unforgivable?

A friend recently told me as much. He agreed that forgiveness was a noble idea, but in many cases too much to ask. This friend is a good man, soft-hearted, caring. He imagined that forgiveness might sometimes be a kind of impossible dream, producing only guilt when one inevitably fails to live up to so lofty a goal.

There seems to be almost an iron law of the flesh: sin against me, and I must forever hold you at arm's length, wary at best, or at worst your mortal enemy. The memory of the hurt will linger, so that when I see you or think of you, I will think also of what you've done. You will be forever associated in my mind with your sin, marked with an indelible sign of guilt.

This inner dynamic, this instinct, is familiar to all in varying degrees. I know a woman whose husband once held a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. The gun was not loaded. The metallic click sounded like thunder in her ears. Her husband laughed and said, "Out of ammo. Too bad." There is no way that I or anyone else can expect her to forgive him. Not in her own power. One of the kindest women I know, she says she cannot and will not do so. Her memories haunt her, and the more she remembers, the more impossible forgiveness seems. And the more unjust. It's a vicious circle indeed, but these are just the kind of bonds that Jesus came to break.

I know that forgiveness is a key to freedom. It is a wonderful reality of the Kingdom of God. For many years I held a grudge against my father for deserting his family. When I became a Christian, I tried to make myself forgive him, out of a since of duty, but I couldn't. Forgiveness came to me one day, as I was worshipping God with a body of believers. God simply took the grudge away, and replaced it with love. This remains one of the greatest miracles I have ever experienced.

Perhaps you have been forgiven by someone against whom you've sinned. Then you know how the centurion felt, looking up at Jesus on the Cross, after the Savior had uttered the words, "Forgive them, Father, for they don't what they're doing." This Roman soldier, who had taken part in the crucifixion, stood in awe and said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39)

Forgiveness is the inbreaking of Kingdom reality in this present age. It is the essence of Christlikeness. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory, working itself out through your very words and deeds. We do not do it in "imitation" of Jesus. We do it because Jesus lives and reigns in our very hearts.

October 24, 2004

Heads Up!

I want to draw your attention to a blog called aintsobad. It's really one fellow's record of his divine appointments, which is the kind of thing I really love. Here's a lengthy quote from a recent post, his basic instructions for practicing relational evangelism:

Live like you ought to live.
Strengthen the love relationship between you and God.
Invite people to walk with you, talk with you, eat with you and join your ministry so that they see what a ministry looks like and how a minister lives.

Here are some new guidelines.

Be the kind of person who talks with other people.
Be the kind of person with whom other people talk.
Listen, love and then lead.
Do not need to be right all the time.
Do not need to win since that implies someone else loses.

Jesus gives His first tactical command on evangelism in Matthew 9:38. It is the word pray, written in the Present Active Imperative (command of continuous action, meaning start doing this when you hear about it and do not stop). He gives instruction as to what to pray. This is significant because, though Jesus is shown praying in the gospels, His disciples have to ask Him to teach them certain prayers. This one He volunteers.

So, pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He send forth laborers to the Harvest. Then, imitate Jesus. Soon people will start to approach you in ways that you cannot now imagine.
Click over to aintsobad and spend the time. You might find he's well worth adding to your own blogroll.

October 23, 2004


Karl Barth:

"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."

October 22, 2004

The Garden of the Saints

The following is from Henri Nouwen:

The Church is a very human organization but also the garden of God's grace. It is a place where great sanctity keeps blooming. It is a place where great sanctity keeps blooming. Saints are people who make the living Christ visible to us in a special way. Some saints have given their lives in the service of Christ and his Church; others have spoken and written words that keep nurturing us; some have lived heroically in difficult situations; others have remained hidden in quiet lives of prayer and meditation; some were prophetic voices calling for renewal; others were spiritual strategists setting up large organizations or networks of people; some were healthy and strong; others were quite sick, and often anxious and insecure.

But all of them in their own ways lived in the Church as in a garden where they heard the voice calling them the Beloved and where they found the courage to make Jesus the center of their lives.

October 21, 2004

The Sin-Problem

Sin is the fundamental problem, the single intractable dilemma that lies at the root of all other human problems. Once we get this fact straight, we begin to understand ourselves, and we begin to understand others.

I know many people, Christians, who find this talk of sin somehow distasteful and unnerving, like talking about an embarrassing physical deformity. Something better left unmentioned. And of course unbelievers, even the best of them, I think, consider it needlessly negative and dangerously judgmental. This observation often angers Christians, but it is not without its grain of truth.

I myself consider the doctrine of sin a great mercy. This understanding of the human condition, revealed to us by God and confirmed to us every day in experience (not to mention our own hearts and minds), is a necessary piece of the Gospel of grace. We ignore it only at our own peril.

When I remember that all men and women, whether believers or not, struggle with this problem of sin, and when I recall the truth that I myself am in need of abundant grace because of my own sinfulness, I grow merciful toward others.

And this mercy is, to quote Van Morrison, "a part of the plan / for a new kind of man."

Folks, that's all I want to say. That's all I want to offer the world as I walk through it on my way to the Kingdom.

In Matthew 9, when the Pharisees take Jesus to task for consorting with "sinners," Jesus replies: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Many Christians today are operating under the same faulty understanding of sin with which the Pharisees were burdened, and by which they burdened others. It leads them into judgmentalism and self-righteousness, instead of mercy.

I have been there. I know this trap well. It leads to a myriad of problems. Not wanting to disregard sin, we stray into an us versus them mentality. We rank ourselves above others and say, Thank you, Lord, for not making me like one of them, when the truth is, we are more like them than we want to confess.

This is not a dour and morose doctrine. That old accusation must be put to rest once and for all. Those who think themselves righteous will never know their need for a savior. The Cross will remain for them an inexplicable and disgusting display. But Jesus went to that Cross for everyone, because everyone was caught in the dilemma of sin. God saw the dilemma, and mercy was His response. This is a doctrine of grace indeed, not of judgment.

So, should we who have been shown such mercy offer now judgment and condemnation to others? When we do so, the Devil rejoices. He used one little piece of the Gospel as bait (as is his way), taken out of context and twisted into a new self-serving "truth," and then he set the trap and waited. So many of us blunder in. Thank you, Father, for mercy.

The hunt for Red October continues!

The Boston Globe's lead is fabulous:

Forevermore, the date goes into the New England calendar as an official no-school / no-work / no-mail-delivery holiday in Red Sox Nation. Mark it down. Oct. 20. It will always be the day that Sox citizens were liberated from 8 decades of torment and torture at the hands of the New York Yankees and their fans. Boston Baseball's Bastille Day.
Read it all.

October 20, 2004

Praying for the Bosox

Well, the war between Athens and Sparta (or, if you prefer, David v. Goliath), has come to a head. I have been mostly careful not to stray into politics or baseball here at Mr. Standfast, but this is special. If you're a baseball fan, you know what I'm talking about. If, like me (and like Phil at Another Man's Meat), you're a Red Sox fan, tonight is a potentially momentous occasion. Don't ask me why it matters. I don't understand it. I've been up till unhealthy hours of the morning watching the never-say-die Knights of the Scarlet Hose. So please forgive me for the following sacrilege (hat-tip


October 19, 2004

# 300

The "teaching" last night was great. We had thirteen men there, most of them twenty-somethings, but with two or three "old guys" like me sprinkled in. But all of them HUNGRY. I spoke to them a little about Bonhoeffer, and talked about the difficulty we often have in loving each other. Isn't that the fundamental predicament of the human condition. How to love one another. As followers of Jesus we know we should, but in the midst of life we often fail. Failure to love is, it seems, woven into us. This makes forgiveness a matter of supreme importance.

Sometimes I think believers have a tendency to define themselves in relation to "the world" (i.e. the found v. the lost, the sighted v. the blind) rather than defining themselves in relation to God's holy standard. Jesus spoke of this in his sermon on the Mount. "Hypocrite, look to the plank in your own eye."

We need to remember that we are all sinners. But the sins of others, rather then provoking judgementalism in us, should provoke us to examine our own hearts all the more keenly, for the other's speck may well be a whole plank in us.


I've mentioned the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan a couple of times, and now I've place a link on the sidebar. I've only been at it a week, of course, and I do have a history of drifting away from these reading plans after a while, but all I can say is that it's really blessing me. BTW, hat-tip to Jollyblogger, where I found the link to the online M'Cheyne.


Finally, this is the 300th post to Mr. Standfast, and I've wondered about what I would say, if anything, to mark the milestone. Well, I know what I want to say. I want to give thanks to God for the faithful bloggers I have come to know, and especially those who have prayed for me at various times, and who so obviously have befriended and comforted me. I think particularly of Paul at Hill Country Thoughts, Susan at What a Beautiful Day, Rebecca at Rebecca Writes, Lucy at Being a Disciple, Donna at Rustling Leaves, not to mention frequent commenters like Elizabeth. And I just thank God for providing the Internet as a means for believers to build each other up, as these have built me up. So, to mark the occasion of my 300th post, I just want to pray that God would use the Internet in even mightier ways for the sake of his glory and honor. I lift up the Jesus-bloggers and pray that the Father would gift them for exhortation, encouragement, and most of all for the building up of the body of Christ even in cyberspace. All this I pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior, Amen.

October 18, 2004

Great Expectations

My son Nate lives in a large house with a whole gang of other believers. I guess you could say, in the current lingo, that they're attempting to live in and develop "intentional community." They're attempting to do "life together" as followers of Jesus.

Well, this evening I'm going over there for a visit. We're going to break bread together, then we're going to worship the Lord together, then I've been asked to bring a teaching from Bonhoeffer's book, Life Together. You may remember that I blogged at length about this book about two months ago.

I'm really looking forward to this. I don't so much want to "teach" as simply provoke thought and discussion around a few of Bonhoeffer's ideas, and then I'd really like to have an extended time of prayer for each other as a community.

I covet all the prayer I can get for this. I'll report back tomorrow. All I can say is, I know that the grace of God is going to fill the house!

October 16, 2004

Pray for God's Church in Iraq

There have been some church bombings in Iraq in recent days. Click here for a series of grim pictures from the BBC, and here for an accompanying article. As a side note, earlier today this same article featured a headlines to the effect that Christian churches were being attacked. But sometime during the day they changed it to "Iraq Blasts Mar Holy Feast," as if the real problem was a disruption of Ramadan, not Muslim violence against the Church in Iraq. Hmmmm. . . .

Journaling, Whale-watching, & God-Sightings

My friend John gave me a beautiful leather-bound journal last week. Now, I've been journaling for years, but this is the first time I've done so in such a handsome volume. So now in the morning after reading my four chapters of Scripture (the M'cheyne reading plan) I jot down my thoughts in this handsome and elegant book. It's been a real blessing.

Why journal? Well, in my case, journaling helps me to be perceptive. You might say it helps me to "tune in" to what's happening around me, rather than going through my day in a convenient fog. I believe that God wants to draw us out of our self-concern, which can form a kind of insulating crust around our hearts, and into the dangerous world where people hurt and need help. Although Jesus had his times of retreat for prayer and meditation, these times were important because they strengthened him for the public ministry of reconciliation he had been given. That ministry drew him into the world, and in that world he was supremely perceptive. Take for example his ministering to "the woman at the well" in John 4.

How does all this relate to journaling? Well, in my private journal I concern myself with two primary topics. First, I make note of certain key points in my daily Scripture reading. These notes are by no means comprehensive or even particularly profound, and would often I suppose seem rather pedestrian to others. I simply want to put into my own words something about the reading, something that "jumped out at me." I'm trying to engage my mind with the text, and that's always a good thing.

The second matter that I concern myself with in my daily journal is to record what seem to me to be important divine appointments from the previous day, or what Pastor Mark Fee (who ministers here) calls "God-sightings."

Have you ever been on a whale-watch cruise? You stand on the deck peering at the water with eager expectation. A sea-swell in the distance can look like the back of a whale, and you fool yourself a hundred times with these false-sightings. But you're tuning your senses, you're trying to see with keener sight, because you really don't want to miss that whale. You're looking for spouts, for the gray hump rolling gently out of the water, or that sudden startling breach as the whale seems to leap for joy into the bright air. It's breath-taking, beautiful, and praise-provoking like nothing else I've ever seen.

But what does all this have to do with journaling? Well, to begin with, I think God wants us to be spiritually keen-sighted. Remember Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well? He perceived a whole gamut of things about her. Not only did he supernaturally know things about her life, but he recognized her stumbling blocks to faith, and he knew exactly how to address her need. Yesterday I saw someone do exactly this. I ran into a Christian acquaintance and I watched and listened as she ministered to a perfect stranger, someone she happened to sit next to on a bus. She showed deep concern for this person, listened with care and intensity to her problems, and quite obviously encouraged her profoundly.

Well, I want to live my days with this kind of spiritual keenness, eagerness, intensity, and perceptiveness. I pray for it, and when it happens (by no means consistently, I'm afraid) I record it in my journal. Thus, my journal becomes on one level a history of God-sightings. These entries become small markers, verbal sign-posts, recording the fact that on that day, in that place, God drew me into His Kingdom work. They are acts of praise. An appropriate title for such a journal would be, "My Testament."

For me, blogging simply "goes public" with this same concept. In my private journal, I edify myself as I pay attention in writing to what God is doing in my life. On the other hand, in blogging I hope to edify others. Not because I am such a great teacher, or have such profound things to say, but precisely because, as Wayne Jacobsen says, "We serve a relational God and I am convinced that almost everything Jesus does he does through relationships, not programs, models or works."

God doesn't show himself strong in my life simply so that I can sit in my room and congratulate myself. He reaches out through me to others, and blogging simply provides another opportunity, an avenue, for that reaching out. Only now the verbal signpost, the encouragement, is not just for myself, not just a private exchange between God and me, but it is definitvely "for others." If Mr. Standfast is not an avenue by which God can use me to lovingly encourage others, then it is nothing at all.

One more note. Last week someone reached out to me. Someone said, in essense, "I want to know you. Let's meet." So, in a couple of days we're going to do just that. I'm very excited about this meeting, precsiely because I think it's another divine appointment. The human predicament is the deep difficulty we have in forming truly loving relationships, and the Father's solution to that predicament is the Cross of Christ. Learning to love means letting Jesus reorder our perceptions, so that instead of self-centered living we are living the Christ-life in our relationships, and through it all remembering that not for nothing did the Father give us this day, this moment, or this person sitting next to you on the bus.

October 15, 2004

Glimpsing Horror

I live in a nice safe American bubble. Click here for a glimpse into the other side of things.

October 14, 2004

Feeling Quotatious

In the past few minutes I've come across two quotes on other blogs that reinforce each other nicely. The first is from Wayne Jacobsen (the whole post is well-worth your time), but I found this excerpt at Wanderer of the North (who is new to my blogroll, btw).

I spoke with a friend recently with whom I’d shared home group life until I moved away some years ago. They used to have lots of friends and how they’ve lost touch with everyone. We talked about how much work time he’d invested in friendships in the last few years and he admitted it was little. Work, commuting and home responsibilities crowded out the time they used to devote to building friendships. Having Jesus-centered friendship is an investment. If we don’t take time to build relationships we’ll find ourselves alone. That’s no way to live. We serve a relational God and I am convinced that almost everything Jesus does he does through relationships, not programs, models or works.
The second comes by way of the inimitable Jollyblogger, who is quoting the excellent D. A. Carson:
Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements - but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.
Excellent. I want to second these two statements with all my heart. And by the way, while I'm linking to other bloggers, you might want to check out another newby on my blogroll, Another Man's Meat. More good reading there!

A Close Encounter

I had an interesting spiritual encounter this morning. When the weather is nice I usually walk to work, and along the route I must walk up a pedestrian ramp that is attached to the side of a high bridge. This morning, as I was doing so, I could hear the voice of someone on the bridge above me, walking along in the same direction as me, so that our paths would meet where the ramp met the bridge. This person was shouting incredibly obscene threats, cursing wildly, and then intermittently I could also hear a second voice, higher-pitched, as of someone younger. These two seemed to be in some kind of argument, and I imagined myself walking right into the midst of it.

Quickly I began to pray that God would protect me and that He would calm the two people on the bridge above me. As the level of the ramp approached the level of the bridge, the source of the voices came into view. It was only one person! He was still carrying on, screaming obscenities, and at one point he pantomimed wielding a knife, lunging with his imaginary weapon, all the while shouting,"Slice! Slice! Slice!" Then I heard the second voice, like a woman's. Although the words were garbled, I had the sense that this man was enacting a struggle between himself and the woman, playing both parts.

Anyway, when I came into view the voices suddenly stopped. We passed each other, and I began to pray fervently to the Father on his behalf. I prayed in the name of Jesus that the demons would be denied and cast out, and this man saved. There is no doubt in my mind that God brought me along that sidewalk just at that moment for this very reason. It was frightening, but my fear was not for myself. My fear was for the woman he imagined himself slicing, and for him. I pray that God will rescue him.

October 13, 2004

The Big Picture

Peacock, early in his book, New Way to Be Human, speaks of understanding the story of Jesus, as well as our own personal salvation story, as embedded in the context of the OT, and indeed, in so far as we understand it, in the future history of God's creation. Peacock warns of the dangerous subjectivity that occurs when we see our own relationship with God as somehow entirely personal, exclusive of the panoramic narrative of Scripture.

In the past few months I've been reading through the OT and enjoying it immensely. But now I'm starting over. That's because this morning I began reading D. A. Carson's daily devotional, For the Love of God, which is tied to Robert Murray M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan. Carson, in his introduction, says much the same thing as Peacock. "My aim is to show, in however preliminary a way, that reading the whole Bible must stir up thoughtful Christians to thinking theologically and holistically, as well as humbly and reverently."

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. Isa. 66:2

October 12, 2004

Being Human, Athens vs. Sparta, and a Haiku Moment

This morning I started reading a book called New Way to Be Human, by Charlie Peacock. I think I'm really going to like this book, and will probably be featuring key quotes from its pages in upcoming posts.


Then there's the Red Sox. My corner of the universe is just a wee bit excited. I've studiously ignored the upcoming presidential election here at Mr. Standfast, but I cannot ignore Athens vs. Sparta. Go, Sox!


And Now for Something Completely Different:

Mr. Standfast happens to love haiku. It's an acquired taste. It's best to read a lot of them at once, withholding judgement, since they have a kind of cumulative impact as they gradually reorder our way of seeing. For a nice introduction to the form, look here, here, or here. The following is my own latest try:

Windy October--
trapped in a disheveled web,
ripped leaves, brown needles.

October 11, 2004

Scenes from an Autumn Stroll

Posted by Hello

Posted by Hello

Posted by Hello

Posted by Hello

A Weekend of Celebration

I had a wonderful time this weekend at John and Janel's wedding. It was up in the fine old city of Bangor, Maine, at the Abundant Life church. In the morning I attended church there and had a great time of worship, led by Kent Henry. Awesome!

After the wedding ceremony, at the reception, I had the honor of proposing the toast to the newlyweds. I thought I might share these words with you today:

As John's best man I am afforded the signal pleasure of proposing a toast to the bride and groom. I consider this a serious responsibility. In a few moments, we as a group, a family, are going to lift our glasses to declare our delight, our joy, at the birth of this new thing under the sun: the marriage of John and Janel.

But before we do that, and because I happen to have the floor at this moment, I'd like to address the newlyweds. Janel, I've known John for a few years now. He's what I call "one of the good ones." He's sensitive, earnest, thoughtful, and funny, as you have no doubt discovered.

John, I don't know Janel well yet, but I know that in her you have found your life and your destiny. You are, as the Bible says, "highly favored."

To both of you I have a few words of simple advice. Marriage is the crucible of love. After 26 years of marriage I can say that my experience has confirmed the truth of Scripture that "love never fails."

Let me repeat that. Love never fails. It always works. John and Janel, I take this opportunity to urge you to love one another patiently, enduringly, consistently, creatively, and repeatedly. Neither one of you being perfect yet, your love for one another is going to cover--let's face it--a multitude of sins. In marriage, love is your life raft.

Okay, having thus spent my proverbial two cents worth, I now move on to the toast. Ladies and gentleman, raise your glasses please to a new thing under the sun. The two have become one! I give you, John and Janel.

Now I think I'll take a walk. I'm going off to Hinckley Park with my camera. Pix (maybe) next post.

October 08, 2004

A Semi-Sabbatical?

Getting ready for a big weekend. I'll be "best man" at my friend John's wedding on Sunday. What an honor. I'm so looking forward to this! It means, though, that I'll be out of town for a couple of days, so in terms of blogging I guess I'm still in a semi-sabbatical mode.


I said in my last post I've been feeling sort of inexpressive lately. I think that that's going to change when I get back into a small-group, which is going to happen next week. If God has been telling me anything lately, it is to focus on His love. That love, God's love, is the ultimate thing, the all-conquering thing, the bringer not only of consolation but of victory. But unfortunately we have a tendency to talk about love, even God's love, in a kind of generalized or fuzzy way, as if it were more a theory than a reality.

Austin-Sparks, whose work I'm gradually making myself acquainted with, wrote with clarity and precision on this subject in His Great Love. I've only read a small part of this, but what I have read is really inspiring. More on the subject in days to come.

Oh, and by the way, Rebecca Writes is working on a post on the subject of God's love. What exquisite timing!

October 05, 2004

Books in the Mail!

Okay, I'm back. It's been nice to take a little break. As I mentioned in my last post, I simply don't seem to have much to say lately. I've been feeling very dull-witted and inexpressive. Even in my prayers. There may be several reasons for this, but in any case, I think I'm coming out of the haze.

One of my usual birthday presents is a 50 dollar gift-card from Border's. This year I spent it online rather than going to the local outlet (choosing clicks over bricks). I picked up three books, their combined price coming to exactly 50 bucks! Two were by D. A. Carson: a daily devotional called For the Love of God, and a book about 1 Corinthians 12-14, called Showing the Spirit. The third book is a classic Scriptural exposition by the inestimable Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I've read his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount before in a library edition, but decided I really wanted to have my own copy. So it looks like I've got some good reading ahead of me. Yippee!

October 01, 2004


I seem to have little to say lately. No explanation. Perhaps, like Not Perfection recently, I'm simply taking a sabbatical. His lasted seven days. I'll see you when I see you!

Oh, and BTW, today is my birthday!