Mr. Standfast

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

January 31, 2005


This has been an incredible month for me. Somehow I feel as if some old hindrances in my spiritual life, hindrances I can only partially identify, have by the grace of God simply fallen away. I have had a persistent sense of the need to be watchful, the need to be aware of my spiritual surroundings, the need regularly assessing my spiritual condition. That last phrase seems a little dangerous to me, smacking of morbid self-regard, but I'm going to stick with it. The key is to remember that all my springs are in the Lord of Heaven and earth, not in my own speculations or fevered attempts at self-improvement.

Maybe I should explain that comment further. I know people who are locked in self-assessment, striving earnestly to improve themselves, and yet one senses that they are simply running in circles. I see this tendency in many sorts of people, both Christians and unbelievers. The key, I think, is not (as I once believed) never to assess, never to look upon one's life in critical regard, but to see oneself with God's sight. And the key is not "self-improvement." The key is not striving and struggling, but abiding. Remembering the way of the Lord and being alert to my own tendency to drift, to wander, to stray from "the good way." (Jer. 6:16)

So, yes, self-assessment. But not only that, but trying to be alert to the guiding voice of God. What are you doing here and now God. Where would you have me go, what would you have me say? Also, I have begun to write down my prayers again, which has been a blessing, and has helped me to be more organized and focused in my prayer life.

So this past month has seemed, as I started out to say, like a time of release from hindrance, a time of restoration. Yesterday in church we had a healing service. Laurie and I prayed for several people at the end of the service. For Susan, who has suffered from migraines for 35 years. For Monique, who has been having trouble with her ovaries. For Renee, for restoration of her marriage and forgiveness for the way she's been treating her husband. For Angela, for healing from addiction and restoration of her family (her kids have been removed by the state authorities). I mention these names just in case anyone reading this might feel an anointing to pray for any of them.

Humility, etc.

C. J. Mahaney (of Sovereign Grace Ministries) has formulated a list of recommendations for cultivating humility. This is his list, and he doesn't suggest it be yours. He suggests you develop your own personal list. Why? Well, maybe because of this, or perhaps this. To name just two good reasons.

Sovereign Grace Ministries provides a lot of great PDF downloads. One of my favorites is their 7 page booklet, In the World, But Not of It. That's where you'll find this quote from John Stott's commentary on Galatians 6:8.

[The flesh is that] lower nature that is in each of us and remains in us even after conversion and baptism. It is one of the fields of our human estate in which we may sow. To ‘sow to the flesh is to pander to it, to cosset, cuddle and stroke it, instead of crucifying it. The seeds we sow are largely thoughts and deeds. Every time we allow our minds to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness. Holiness is a harvest; whether we reap it or not depends almost entirely on what and where we sow. JOHN STOTT, THE MESSAGE OF GALATIANS
We had a really wonderful time in church this morning. Our pastor preached on the ministry of healing, drawing much from George Eldon Ladd (not to mention the Bible heh heh). Oh, and yesterday Laurie and the Choir for Higher performed at a revival service that included a performance by Samputu. Everyone said it seemed as if the glory of God had filled the room, it was so powerful. The glory of god!
Ascribe to the LORD , O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

January 29, 2005

Saturday Blogtalk

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has some nice things to say about yours truly right here. Thanks, Joe!

You may have noticed an increase in activity around the Christian blogosphere lately, with new aggregators popping up like dandelions (see this article from Marla Swoffer for a summary), and even a Godbloggers convention in the works. Well, I seem to have caught a touch of that same fever. Just yesterday I added the Church Directory of the aforesaid Joe Carter, which is a list of 150+ Christian blogs. And as if that didn't lengthen my sidebar enough, I've now decided to add a Vineyard Aggregator as well. Hosted by Steve at Deep Calls To Deep, these are blogs of Vineyard church folks around the world. As a Vineyard guy myself, I thought this might be a way to find out what's happening around the Vineyard worldwide, and also to discover more bloggers from the charismatic side of the Christian blogosphere.

And already I've discovered some gems. Try, for example, As Kingfishers Catch Fire. Blogger, Christian, Poet. I need to meet this guy!

January 28, 2005

Mr. Standfast's Gospel Blogger Award II

It's Friday, and that means it's time for the Mr. Standfast's 2nd ever, altogether un-scientific, thoroughly subjective, Gospel-blogger Award! But before we get to this week's winner, I'd like to ask for your help. I invite you to nominate your own candidates. You can recommend a post of your own or that of another blogger. The only requirements are that it be recent (I'm no stickler here, just something within the past week or two), and that it be a representation in words of the Gospel of Christ.

Send your nominations via email or drop them in the comment box any time. I expect a trickle of nominees at first, but in time a veritable Niagara! After all, who doesn't want to win Mr. Standfast's Gospel-blogger Award.

Now to this week's winner. It was a tough choice. But the decisive point is, Was the post clearly Christ-centered? That word, "clearly," is important. Did the post point it's readers to Jesus? This week's award goes to The Irvins, for the latest in their excellent series on the names of God. The post is entitled Jehovah-raah, and yes, it points its readers unmistakably, unashamedly, to Jesus Christ. Beautiful.


Father, you are so good. You gentle us when we would be fierce, you soften us when we would be hard, you slow us down when we would be headlong. You guide us with gentle cords, speaking to us in whispers because your thunder would be too much for our ears of flesh. You saw fit to save us, and have never once foresaken us. In Jesus' name I thank you. Amen.

January 26, 2005

Blogroll Browsing: The Generalists

I set out to summarize my blogroll and it has turned into a 3-post process (at least). I'm moving on now to the category I call "The Generalists." These labels of mine are of course gross over-simplifications, and this label especially. I created this category for the bloggers on my roll that I simply couldn't pigeonhole. Sometimes they're apologists, sometimes diarists, sometimes they get political, and sometimes they're just plain silly.

Dr. George Grant's King's Meadow, is almost never silly, but he's always engaging. He blogs sports, politics, Biblical theology, culture, and everything in between.

Phil Dillon pontificates (sorry, bad word) at Another Man's Meat. There are a lot of reasons to like AMM. I'm shoulder-to-shoulder with Phil's Biblical and theological understanding, but to tell you the truth, I like his many autobiographical posts best of all. Browse and read. You'll be glad you did.

CowPi Journal
is another favorite of mine. His is an encouraging blog, to say the least. His "quote of the Day" is always an eye-opener. He draws inspiration from many teachers, and would be the first to say that he gladly stands on the shoulders of giants. Want an example? Try this quotation from Evelyn Underhill:

We see in this muddled world a constant struggle for Truth, Goodness, Perfection; and all those who give themselves to that struggle--—the struggle for the redemption of the world from greed, cruelty, injustice, selfish desire and their results—--find themselves supported and reinforced by a spiritual power which enhances life, strengthens will, and purifies character. And they come to recognize more and more in the power the action of God. These facts are as real as the other facts…
Moving on, there's the often amusing anotherthink; and Mark Daniels at Better Living, who's been wondering if New England sports fans are finally getting jaded, now that the Sox and Pats are champions. Take it from me, Mark: the answer is, DON'T BET ON IT!

Also, don't fail to check out The Examined Life, compare notes with Crusty Curmugeon, and sit at the feet of Dime Store Guru. Since these guys are, after all, "generalists," it's hard to summarize their work. Just go there. Be surprised!

Finally, there are two group-blogs on my list. Now, I've always hankered to be a part of a group-blog, so if you Thinklings have an opening, consider Mr. Standfast. The other is Men of the Vineyard. As a man of the Vineyard myself, I just had to include them.

So there you have it. Enjoy the generalist-bloggers. Again I say, you'll never truly appreciate a blog till you've visited it frequently, over time. To paraphrase the voice that once spoke to St. Augustine, I say to you, "Browse and read. Browse and read."

[BTW, you'll notice I've now added the "Church Directory" (curtesy of Joe Carter) to my sidebar. That's a deep well (over 150 blogs), from which I expect to draw many buckets of refreshment. You too, perhaps?]

January 25, 2005

Blogroll Browsing: The Diarists

Now we come to the Diarists on my blogroll. These people do something far more valuable than simply list the quotidian details of their days. They humbly seek to relate their daily experience to the "big picture" of the Scriptures. This is what makes a fine diarist-blogger, in my opinion. Their blogs are personal, often anecdotal; their posts are letters to friends. In reading them, we come to know them. And care for them. And pray for them.

All forms of blogging come with particular temptations. There is the temptation to impress with one's erudition, or to inveigh endlessly against the world; or, in the case of diarists, to turn so completely self-referential, to keep one's eyes so glued to one's daily circumstances, to turn one's gaze so relentlessly inward, as to lose sight of the out there God who is above all our circumstances. But the diarists on my blogroll are delightfully capable of placing their lives, whatever they seem to be going through, in the context of God's providential will. This is not to say they don't struggle, of course. They struggle big time. But the reader is always impressed by their persistent humility, love, and good-humor.

Do you want examples? Deb, at Abiding (from my homestate of Pennsylvania, btw) has written a personal letter to her son, Ben, on his eighteenth birthday. Quote:

Ben, you are amazing. I am so proud of you. This year, I want to give you the gift of open arms so you can become the man God intends you to be. I want you to know that my arms will remain open so I can catch you if you stumble, hug you if you’re hurting and most importantly, lift you in prayer.
Next up, another Deb, over at As I See It Now. She, like me, was moved to poetry by the recent East Coast blizzard. Her recent post, The Brittle Years, is a fine example of working through the personal details of one's life to see them finally in the broader perspective of God's always benevolent will. Quote:
Step by step by step...Forward moving on Humility Street. There's a checkpoint there where they check your bags for pride and know-it-allness. Those things set off alarms in the scanner, so you have to leave them behind. If you refuse, you have to turn back.
Marilyn Griffith. I think hers is a very special voice. Like the estimable Lisa Samson at Author Intrusion, she is a writer in the old-world sense (you know, paper, ink, etc.). She is impassioned. She is the right stuff. Can you tell I admire her greatly. Read Choose Life and see why?

Ragamuffin Diva
is very much in the same vein. Passionate. Real. Pulling no punches, holding nothing back. Oh, and she writes poetry (always a plus in my book).

GraceReign. Her posts are never merely throw-aways, never easy, always memorable. Choose any number of them, read them, dwell on them, admire them, and praise God for what he is doing in this woman. Take, for example, her latest post, The Lie. It's a powerful examination of the process of overcoming the lies of the evil one by God's grace. Don't miss it.

Ah, the list goes on. There's Proverbial Wife, who's sincerity shows through every line. There's Feeble Knees, who is a friendly neighbor, and Susan at What a Beautiful Day!, who is just back from a return trip to China, and has a story to tell; and relevantgirl, who blogs devotedly (and devotionally) from southern France. Then there's Vicki at Windows to My Soul, whose eyes are always turned Godward, post after post.

In fact, that phrase, "windows to my soul" captures the essence of diary blogging. Sometimes it will simply be the stuff of daily life. Sometimes God will guide them into a word of wisdom or comfort: Soli Deo Gloria, Rustling Leaves, Promptings: The common denominator of them all is the freedom to reveal their hearts in blogging. I admire them for it.

I have definitely NOT saved the best for last, but I've saved the MEN for last. You may have noticed that the diarists among us are mostly women. I suppose there's an explanation for that, but I ain't goin' there. Nevertheless, the guy-diarists on my blogroll are a hearty bunch indeed. Greg Burnett is involved in the establishment of a house of 24/7 praise and prayer. His blog is salted with wonderful links, great pictures, and Spirit-filled words. Paul at Hill Country Thoughts has come through "the valley of Baca," and discovered joy on the other side. And Rich at nearlydaybyday, who writes with transparency about his own struggle to walk the walk. Here's a sample:
I looked toward the crucifix suspended behind the altar and wondered why He did it. Why did the God of the universe empty himself of unfathomable glory and clothe himself in inglorious human flesh? Why did He subject himself to hunger, cold, pain, thirst and a hundred other afflictions common to human frailty? Most of all, why did He permit himself to be mauled, whipped, spat upon, and finally nailed to a splintered cross?

Scripture tells us why. From the earliest hours of creation to its final curtain at the end of the age, God's love for us is woven into the fabric of human history.

Because He so deeply loves us, we have reason to remain focused on the journey. Because God stands beside us at every turn, every failure, every heartache, we can keep our eyes fixed on His Son on the cross. We can continue our journey because the Christ of the cross became the Christ of the empty tomb. And the Christ of the empty tomb promises everyone who loves Him the power to stay the course until the journey's end.
Finally, I should draw your attention to two Diarists who do their blogging in a very dangerous place. Tim at Christian Soldier is a Navy doctor, stationed in Iraq. It looks like he'll be coming home soon, thank you Lord. Training for Eternity, an Army chaplain also stationed in Iraq, unfortunately hasn't posted since December 30 (I pray that he's okay); read his Christmas post, Front Line Family, for a big slice of reality-pie.

And there you have it. I have tried to do them justice, but in truth blogs are only properly understood and appreciated when returned to frequently, over time. I urge you to pick one or two of these diarists that are for you new discoveries, and read them often. You won't regret it.

January 24, 2005

Blogroll Browsing: The Apologists

Well, the snow is piled six-feet high on either side of the driveway, and the Patriots are going to the Big Game once again. Just another New England winter, I suppose!

Today I want to spend some time just browsing the blogroll, and tipping you off as to some of the really fine new bloggers on the list (and a few not so new). This is an obligation of Christian blogging, I think, and I do it because it's a way to walk out (blog out?) the Chestertonian (and Biblical) principle of my tagline above: "Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace."

So, in that spirit, we move on to "The Apologists." These are the "defenders of the faith." They always do so with grace and spiritual sensitivity, avoiding the bitter invective that is sometimes the curse of this type of endeavor. First up, have a nice long look at21st Century Reformation. Brad is the co-recipient of Adrian Warnock's already-coveted blogging award, the Warnie. A good example of his work can be found in a recent post on sanctification, and then its excellent sequel, The Mediated Life, in which he calls us to "a militant attitude toward the obstacles to our spiritual advance." Good stuff, that.

The other winner of Adrian's Warnie is a blogger who's been on my blogroll almost from the beginning, Tim Challies. Funny thing, I don't always agree with Tim, but I read him almost every day. I have great respect for him as a blogger and as a Christian. For a really fine recent example of his work, read The Soul's Thirst.

The Irvins is a new blog on my list. Like many others in the Apologists category of my blogroll (Tim, Rebecca, David, and Doug), they take a strongly Calvinistic approach. That's not my background, but I admire them for their consistently high view of Scripture. The Irvins have really blessed me with their recent series on the names of God. Actually, these posts have been profoundly timely for me. Thanks, Irvins.

Another blog that's new to my list is It Takes a Church. Todd Bolsinger, its chief-cook-and-bottle-washer, is another pastor blogger, joining David, Mark, Buzz, and Milton. All of them thoughtful and tender-hearted. Oh, and did I tell you Todd was also an author. His recent book is called, Show Time: Living Down Hypocrisy by Living Out the Faith. Hmmm, interesting concept!

There are many other fine bloggers in the Apologist category, but I can't perp them all here. I do want to draw your attention, though, to OneLife. This is hardly a blog at all, since it's only posted to maybe twice a month, but the posts are well written acts of practical encouragement. For a taste of his approach, try this on for size:

Whether your soul is dying without God, or dying for more of God, there is only one remedy: a bigger vision of Christ and him crucified. And today, when ‘bestsellers’ are so light and empty; and God’s sovereignty is mocked; and his glorious foreknowledge is apologized for; and Christ is nothing but a gentleman caller asking for a dainty dance, rather than a mighty firefighter who can revive you to life and effortlessly carry you from a burning building before it crashes down all around you; when Christ isn’t able to save, only able to offer; when Christ isn’t an almighty Lord and Master of Creation but a candidate running for spiritual office over your life—it’s simply no wonder we’re starving!
Well, I'm running out of time, so it looks like this review of the the blogroll is going to require a second post, and perhaps even a third. Still, I want to point you to a couple more "apologists" before I'm out of here. Mark Loughridge at 3:17, for one. In his most recent post, Your God is Wise, you'll find Mark's elegant description of heaven: "the greatest possible pleasure for the longest possible time." So cool!

I still haven't mentioned the passionate aintsobad, the scholarly Leithart, the new Daddy reasons why, the truly devoted To be Least, and the redoubtable Jared at Mysterium Tremendum. Worthies, one and all.

And that's all for now. Up next (in a day or two), a similar review of "the diarists" on my blogroll.

Oh, yeah, and "Go, Pats!"

January 23, 2005


The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Ps. 19.1
See now the marvelous handiwork of God
in the form of flying icy crystals,
knifing wind;
see His white words drift along deserted streets,
silencing whole cities,
hiding cars;
O come and see the whirling speech of God poured out,
putting to rest the strivings of men,
turning the mouths of children
into wide O's of wonder;
O come and hear His whistling proclamation,
I am the Lord, the Lord Most High.

January 22, 2005

Poem: Jane Kenyon's "Notes from the Other Side"

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one's own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

from, Constance (1993)

Susannah Wesley to Her Son, John (1725)

Take this rule:

  • whatever weakens your reason,
  • impairs the tenderness of your conscience,
  • obscures your sense of God,
  • or takes away your relish of spiritual things;
  • in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind,

that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.

Saturday Book Notes

Saturday is for book-talk, remember?

Mark Loughridge at 3:17 reviews David McKay's The Bond of Love. Sounds like a good one.

Philosopher John Mark Reynolds provides a list of recommended reading for young people (elementary through high school) that includes everything from Curious George to Les Miserables. For list lovers who are also book lovers, a must-browse.

American Heritage, which is one of my favorite journals, is out with their 50th anniversary issue. They've asked 21 experts in American history to name the best books in their respective fields of study (colonial era, revolutionary war, etc.). Peruse the resulting list, America Unabridged, and its accompanying essays (subscribers only, I'm afraid), and your must-read list is bound to grow.

January 21, 2005

Mr. Standfast's First-Ever Gospel-Blogger Award

I want to start a new Friday series here at Mr. Standfast. My emphasis all this week has been to speak the essence of the Gospel of Christ. What I'd like to do each Friday is feature another blogger's post that seemed to me to be a poignant and inspiring distillation of the good news, the wonderful news, that Jesus saves.

Now, I just thought up this new series yesterday, so I haven't exactly had my eyes pealed for Gospel-posts all week, but yesterday Jollyblogger dedicated a post to quoting Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. And I suppose that the great Bunyan's words would be an appropriate place to begin such a series at a blog that just happens to be named after one of Bunyan's most memorable characters! For as Bunyan's Mr. Honest said of the original (and one-and-only) Mr. Standfast, "His name is Standfast; he is certainly a right good pilgrim."

Anyhoo, the first ever Gospel-blogger Award goes to the ever-readable Jollyblogger. The post is called, "The Greatest Words in All of Uninspired Literature." Here's the Bunyan quotation:

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. Isaiah 26:1. Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, "He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death." Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. Zech. 12:10. Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, "Peace be to thee." So the first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," Mark 2:5; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment, Zech. 3:4; the third also set a mark on his forehead, Eph. 1:13, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing,

"Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me!"

Bunyan, J. 1995. The pilgrim's progress : From this world to that which is to come. Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

January 20, 2005

Jesus is Lord

Sometimes all I really want to say is, "Jesus is Lord."

There's a universe in those three words. When you say them, you're saying that the man of Galilee, the carpenter's son, who was brutally executed by the Roman authorities, at the instigation and collusion of the religious elites in Jerusalem, just about 2000 years ago, sits enthroned in the eternals, and that all that happens, anywhere, anytime, is under His hand. That's Lordship.

And so we are led inevitably to the old questions regarding how it is, and why it is, that such a God as this, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, should submit himself to that, should humiliate himself so completely, should suffer so thoroughly the rage of sinful men; and finally our minds return again to that issue so central to the thought of the Biblical authors, but away from which our own thoughts seem always to stray: that is, the issue of sin.

There is no getting around it. There is no gainsaying, excusing, justifying, ameliorating, or underestimating this problem. The chasm, in human terms, is too wide. God is too righteous, man is too fallen, and so if he is to love us, as was always his intention, if he is to have fellowship with us, it is he who must act. We are enslaved, he is free. We are helpless, he is strong. We are fallen, He is risen. We are defeated, he is victorious. The cross, that's where all this happened. Understand this, and you understand God.

God's love was acted out. It wasn't merely a feeling in His heart, but a full-fledged act of self-giving on our behalf. If we claim to have intimacy with God, yet we spurn the blood of Jesus as unnecessary, our intimacy is a delusion, a wishful fancy, a whistling past the graveyard.

Jesus of Nazareth, who died on Golgotha's tree, is Lord.

January 19, 2005


The apostle Paul tells us, "The things which are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18b). It is the eternal things in this world that cannot be burned, bruised, or outdated. ATM machines will one day be no more. Airplanes will be historical artifacts. Computers will be buried in archeology. Yet marching above time is our champion Jesus Christ, whose voice thunders that he makes all things new! One day the wrinkles with be smoothed by resurrection. And all the things in life that pointed us toward spiritual and emotional maturity will bring our gratitude, for they pointed us toward the things that cannot perish, neither can the gods or kingdoms of this world take them away.
Dale Fincher (Ravi Zacharias Ministries)

January 18, 2005

More on Knowing God

Yesterday my friend Todd brought over The Gospel of John: The Film, and we watched it up through, oh, about chapter 15. I think what struck me most about this particular portrayal of Jesus is his beautiful heartiness. The look on his face as he preaches the good news is one of joy and eagerness to share. He speaks of the free offer of salvation with a burgeoning smile on his lips and a tone of excitement in his voice. That contrasts with my (perhaps skewed) memory of earlier portrayals, in which Jesus seems always somber and slightly ascetic, as of someone just getting over a long fever. Here he is quietly robust, engaged it seems in the project of living his life to the fullest, serenely real and touchable.

I spoke yesterday of the "knowable-ness" of God. It strikes me now that this is the mission of the Christian. To bear this message to others: that God may be known, and that the time to know him is now. The disciple called John, who spent several years in intimate companionship with Jesus--not only sitting at his feet as a learner, but walking the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee with him, feasting with him, praying with him, and then later watching him brutally slain, seeing the blood and water pour from his side--said of Jesus, "We have seen the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth." And again, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." And in another place, "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make your joy complete."

"Seek the Lord while He may be found," the ancient Psalmist said. The revolutionary message of the Gospel begins with this: the Lord is seekable and findable and knowable. Indeed, the Lord is so willing to be known, He would have us call Him Papa. Let no one deceive you with false humility. The curtain on the Holy of Holies was rent in two when Christ died on the tree. Jehovah became accessible. This is no boast of men, for it was all His doing. Knock, and the door shall be opened.

January 17, 2005

Knowing God

Wow, I've just taken 4 days off from blogging! How can it be? Actually, I'd not intended to do so, but it simply happened.

Several conversations of late have got me thinking about God's "knowable-ness." What grace, that Jehovah, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, should choose also to make Himself known to us. His name, His attributes, His very nature.

Much hinges on this. God's invitation to fallen men is that we may know Him. God's gift is to make Himself knowable. To presume that He cannot be known is simply intellectual arrogance masquerading as humility.

God's invitation is to knowledge. Such knowledge can only come from above. Imagine God lived at the top of a high mountain peak. We mortals are all climbing, picking our way, grasping for footholds, trying to get to God, but the sides of this mountain are just too steep. We can't make it. We cannot, in other words, think our way to God, philosophize our way to God, or good-deed our way to Him, any more than we can flap our arms and fly to Him.

No, He must come down, and does. For no other reason than love. Amazing, isn't it? He enters into our world of darkness, stress, and conflict, and the darkness and the stress and the conflict cannot stand against Him. Relentlessly He makes Himself known, His peace, His lovingkindness, His power, and the knowledge of Him breaks us and repairs us, brings us to our knees and lifts us up again, sometimes at the very same moment.

This knowledge must result in love, since God is love. To know God is to know love, and to love Him back is the only natural response. Knowledge of the one true God releases us from bondage to lies and distortions. Knowledge of God grounds the logic of our lives in truth at last.

And where does the Galilean prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, fit into all this? He is that truth of God made visible, touchable, even hurtable--human--right here in our walking-around world. Jesus is the Father's ultimate revelation of Himself. I want you to know me, he says. And here is how I will make myself knowable. I will come among you, in the form of a man, and yet I will remain, throughout, the great I am! What I do then, what I teach, what I demontrate by every word and deed, that is a window into the very heart of the maker of Heaven and earth.

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let You go
You've taken me from the miry clay
Set my feet upon the rock and now I know

I love You, I need You
Though my world may fall, I'll never let You go
My Savior, my closest friend
I will worship You until the very end

January 13, 2005

Are you a Fool for Jesus?

I've been reading Richard Foster's Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, and am liking it as much as I do all of Foster's writing, which is a good deal. I'm actually reading the book twice. I'm reading along on my own, and then I'm also reading it aloud to Laurie. This seems to work well for us during these long Maine winters. And since she knits while I read, someone's going to get a pair of socks out of the deal!

I'd also like to recommend an article by Brennan Manning called Fools for Jesus, in the latest edition of Christian Counterculture. Here's an excerpt, just to whet you appetite:

Let us be bold enough to ask ourselves, as Christians, whether the church of the Lord Jesus in the United States has anything to say to our nation and its ideologies of materialism, possessiveness, and the worship of financial security. Are we courageous enough to be a sign of contradiction to consumerism through our living faith in Jesus Christ? Are we committed enough to his gospel to become a counter-current to the drift? Or have we so accommodated the faith of our fathers to consumption that the question of simplicity of life, sharing of resources, and radical dependence on God's providence no longer seem relevant? How do we build the kingdom of God on earth if what we incarnate in our lives is the dogma of our culture rather than the revelation of Jesus?

January 12, 2005

Wednesday Blogspotting

"Always in the middle of things," I said yesterday. That's our spiritual condition. "Building project in a war zone," I said. But by the grace of God, even in the midst of the rubble, we have peace. This sets us apart. This marks us. This is a sign of maturity in the Lord.

Blogging captures this partial-ness. "The view from my particular here and now," that might be the caption for every blog. And a reminder, "There is no end to this story. Nevertheless, read on."

That's why I love, most of all, the "diarists" on my blogroll. These are the bloggers who willingly reflect the "momentary" nature of their work, but who simply share it nevertheless. Among these are a few newcomers to the list. For example, set your cursor upon WhimsyMim. She is a blogging-friend. Drop her a word of encouragement, too, why don't you? Just as Donna at Rustling Leaves, who is always sweet, has done.

Then there's Ragamuffin Diva. What a discovery! She's been blogging since May '04. She's a real crafter of words. I can pick any number of outstanding posts for an example, but just read For the Journey. It's a beaut!

Then there's GraceReign. Her tagline: "I'm a regular person learning to let go of my boxes and walk in the adventure of grace." Letting go of my boxes. I like that.

Speaking of "grace," I'd also like to mention Marilynn Griffith's Rhythms of Grace. Marilyn is a gem. She exhorts with passion and sensitivity. What I am about to say is a tired cliche, but utterly true in this case: she shares her very heart with her readers.

Finally, drop by nearlydaybyday. Fellow named Rich minds the store here. Thoughtful, intimate, searching. That's how I'd describe his posts. I'm happy to add him to my blogroll.

January 11, 2005

On Beginning Again

It is the finest and sweetest grace in this life simply to begin again. The poet Theodore Roethke called himself, "Beginner, perpetual beginner." Does such a label conjure for you impressions of fruitlessness and frustration? That may be because you're thinking of earthly endeavors. To always be starting the project--let's say, building a house--but never finishing, that would seem sheer hell. The future, for such a one, is utterly bleak.

And yet the spiritual project set before us is not "complete-able" in our lives. We must live with this nagging sense of being always "in the middle of something." That's why the first and last pages of a good book are so satisfying. Or the opening images and again the final shot in a great movie. It's the illusion first of freshness, of starting from scratch, and then of completeness, of conclusion.

These are sensations life seldom affords us. We live in a world of continual partial-ness. Sometimes life seems like a building project in a war zone. No sooner do you construct one wall, working diligently amid the rubble, than the bombers destroy another. What makes it worse is that we are lousy builders, and sometimes the walls come down on their own. What makes it worse still is, sometimes we knock them down ourselves out of sheer spite.

What a mess. Always we're trying to build our little kingdom, our little circumference in which to rule, but here is Jesus saying, "Seek first my Kingdom, and I'll take care of the rest."

In heaven, I believe, we will experience these two seemingly contradictory impressions (of beginning and of finishing) at once. We will have a sense of the "completed-ness" (what the Bible calls "perfection") of all things (like the final scene in the greatest movie ever) including ourselves. A sense, in other words, that the race has been run, and the laurel wreath bestowed. And yet also we will have the sense of an adventure just beginning at every moment, like the opening paragraph of the greatest adventure novel ever penned.

January 09, 2005

Concert in the Living Room

It's evening, and Mim is here, along with Nate, and they and Laurie are in the next room singing Angel Band, the old Stanley Brothers standard. I just wanted to say that. I just wanted to say that that's happening right now, and it's really lovely. Oh, wait a minute: now it's Down to the River to Pray. Aaah, concerts in the living room. That's a good thing!

January 08, 2005

Saturday Book Notes

Peace Like a River reminded me at first of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also of Huckleberry Finn, as well as the story-telling voice of Garrison Keillor. Yet it rises above all these likenesses and may become, I suspect, a book to which others are compared someday. It is by turns somber and joyous, earnest and gleeful, fearsome and sweet. Not only has Leif Enger told a completely satisfying tale of childhood danger, he has done something few writers have been able to accomplish in our day. He has told a story in which people of faith are treated as not only interesting, not only "deep," but even heroic. Although I thought sometimes of Twain, and sometimes of Harper Lee, and even (fleetingly) of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, in the end the one lingering comparison was C. S. Lewis. Peace Like a River is a book about many things, written in a voice that is utterly unique and beguiling, painting a family portrait that no reader will soon forget.

January 07, 2005

The Ministry of the Present Moment

Somewhere I think I've read the phrase, "ministry of the present moment." And yet I just Googled it and came up with nothing (it's a rarity to drop the Google-bucket into the well of the Internet and come up dry). I am thinking about that phrase this morning, because it seems to describe the way God desires to use me right now. I am not thinking about building a "ministry" in which there are webpages and mailing lists and speaking engagements, etc., but a ministry of the present moment, a ministry of the here and now, wherever I am, living a life of love, moment to moment, so that in the end it is a fragrant offering to the King of Kings.

I want to speak only affirming words, building people up. This is very important to me. It is the foundation of all encouragement, which is a Spiritual gift. There are many who live in bondage to self-condemnation, based on destructive words that were spoken into their lives perhaps long ago. Words that punched them in the gut, left them gasping, and from which they have never fully recovered. I wish to come against these false words with the authority of the Spirit of God, speaking into broken lives the affirming love of Jesus, to whomever God chooses to place in my path. Nothing more than this: to live a life of love (Eph. 5:1-2). This is "ministry" enough.

January 06, 2005


The snow is flying outside. I'm home early from work and the house is quiet. No dog to greet meet, wagging her tail, helpless with happiness. You can hear the plows passing in the street outside. I love this sweet world, and I know it makes no sense. When we were at the vet's the other night, they took Clementine away for a few minutes to insert the IV in her leg. We waited in silence, feeling uncomfortable. The TV was on in the lobby, and the news was about kidnappers stealing young tsunami victims, even from their hospital beds, for the purpose of enslavement. I should write the words again, and you should repeat them slowly: "for the purpose of enslavement." This is happening now, in our world.

I have been part of many gatherings lately. Gatherings to mourn, gatherings to worship, gatherings to share and pray, to talk, to cry, to sing, to send off. In all these gatherings I have had the sense that now, just now, is the opportune time, the time of fullness, of ripeness, of harvest. The devil is abroad, and desperately seeking whom he may devour. "Be very careful how you live--not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." So let your yes be truly yes, and your no be once and for all no. I love this sweet world, but nevertheless, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

January 05, 2005

Reading High and Well

I've been intending to write a sequel to My Reading Year, looking briefly at my "reading plan" for the new year. That plan is really simple. Read high and read well. That is, this year I want to aim high, reading only what is excellent (Phil 4:8), and I also want to read with a commitment to comprehension--reading with understanding.

In the course of the year I'll want to read some history, some fiction, and some biography (something I didn't make room for last year). Of course I'll also be reading much Christian writing, but I hope to concentrate on the great classics, drinking (as it were) only from proven wells. I'll keep you posted.


Thanks to all of those who wrote kind words concerning the loss of our beloved dog, Clementine. The occasion has served, I think, to strengthen the bonds of love between all who were involved. Also, following as it did on the funeral of my friend, John, I feel as if circumstances are conspiring to urge upon us a stronger realization of our mortality, and a more urgent sense of the significance of each passing moment. We must love one another. We must hurry to the task, for time is short. Did you perhaps forget? If so, be advised. And love well the people God has places in your path. This is your high calling.


A good friend of mine is now blogging. She is, I think, a natural. She will take to it like a Great Blue takes to the sky, will stunning aplomb. Her name is Mim, and her blog is Revelations. Her first post (A Series of Fortunate Events) is, well, a "fortunate event" in itself.

January 04, 2005

Goodbye, Clementine

We just got back from the vet's, where we said goodbye to Clementine. Nate and Tim were with us, of course, along with our good friends Meghan and Paul. Clementine died surrounded by her family. She was a border collie and spaniel mix (along with, more than likely, a half-a-dozen other breeds). She was the runt of the litter, but Laurie picked her because she was the one that cuddled when all the others squirmed. She was, like dogs generally, fiercely loyal and intensely loving. She lived thirteen years.

We held her, the six of us, until she died. Then we walked out into the parking lot, into the cold night air of a Maine winter, and formed a tight little circle there and prayed for strength and comfort, thanking God for Clementine, and looking forward to seeing her again in the restored Heaven and Earth. Then we hugged each other again and again.

She was a good girl.

January 03, 2005

Spiritual Report

Well, so much has been happening around here. I have a sense of real Spiritual work going on in my relationships lately, and in me. I was a part of a group that ushered the new year in with a "First Fruits" offering of 24 hours of worship and prayer, and that was just an incredibly inspiring experience. Then, yesterday, a group of us got together to share our stories and pray for one another. It all started when I'd heard from my friend Meghan something I had not known: that her father had died a few years ago in a tragic boating accident. Since my father also died that way, I told her I thought we should get together and share our stories. Then I remembered that my friend, Todd, who is a true brother to me, also experienced a tragic loss to drowning (Todd witnessed his own grandfather's drowning when he was just seven years old), and so I asked him to come along too. Before you know it our friend Ting had joined us as well, and then of course Laurie was with us, and so the five of spent all of five hours sharing our stories and praying for one another. It was simple awesome!

This evening we are nursing a beloved dog, Clementine, who may not make it through the night, so the vet is telling us. This will be a hard blow to Laurie. She under a lot of work-related stress right now, and she loves this dog intensely. Please pray for her, would you?

January 02, 2005

My Reading Year

I read a lot of good books in 2004, but only a few great ones. In 2005 I want to increase the ratio of great to good. I know that Christian advertising (that's an oxymoron if there ever was one) seems to regard every book published under a Christian imprint as somehow "life changing," but I discover that very few books are truly that. Still, that rather vague term, "life changing," has sometimes infiltrated our own mental store of hyperbole, so that you will hear people declare, after having only just finished reading the latest Christian bestseller, that the book has changed their life. I find this kind of talk naive. Books, the rare and wonderful ones, do change our lives, and some few might do so in rather momentous ways, but most, even the best, have a marginal and incremental impact. I mean, folks, the flesh is tenacious! Life, that over-arching syllable we use to describe everything we are and everything we do, is like an iceberg--not so easily turned.

All that having been said, I want to recap my reading list in 2004. What follows is a list of the books I read, sorted into broad categories.

The Tolkein and Lewis books were the best in this category. There's no way to pick one as the stand-out. Both these authors have effected my thinking deeply, and all of these books were "rereads" for me. Lewis thought that one should only read books that are are worth rereading. Not many of the books on this list meet that standard, but the Tolkein and Lewis titles are worth rereading any number of times. They enriched my reading year.

The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King
Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Shadow of the Torturer
The Flame Tree

Only two in this category, but both excellent. I pledged to myself when I put down L'Engle's Walking on Water that I would read more of her non-fiction, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Walking on Water
Tuesdays with Morrie

Some excellent titles here. Washington's Crossing is a wonderful book, and Quenching the Spirit, while it's not a thorough history of revival, provides an interesting and informative take on how some revivals have been "quenched." The Long Truce is more a book of powerful ideas than a historical narrative, and probably one that deserves to be read again.

Paul Revere's Ride
Washington's Crossing
The Long Truce
Quenching the Spirit

Christian (Inspirational)
This is that catch-all Christian category, the category that has helped put Christian publishing "on the map." It's the category that gives Christian publishing a reputation for shallowness at times, and yet it's the category most represented in my reading list for 2004. If I were to pick one outstanding title in this lot, it would be God's Relentless Pursuit. Only because it's by an author I know personally and admire a good deal.

The Power of Encouragement
Ruthless Trust
The Power of Encouragement
Ragman and Other Cries of Faith
God's Relentless Pursuit
Messy Spirituality
by the Word

Authentic Faith
The Call
Crafted Prayer

Christian (Theological)
These are the Christian tomes of a more serious and perhaps even scholarly nature. The one book on this list that stands out is The Meaning of Hope. That's an outstanding little book, now undeservedly out-of-print.

The Message of the New Testament
The Story of the New Testament
The Meaning of Hope
The Sacrifice of Christ
Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy
Showing the Spirit
The Challenge of Jesus

And that's almost the lot of them. Except for the following award winners. The Silliest-and-Most-Incosequential-Piece-of-Fluff Award for 2004 goes to:
Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs

Hey, but I got a few laughs out of it. "Inconsequential," but funny.

The award for Most Over-hyped, Over-rated, Over-talked-about, and Over-blown Book of 2004 (you guessed it):
The Purpose Driven Life

Finally, saving the best for last, I chose the following book as the stand-out book of my reading year. It's also a reread, and I hope I am not done mining its wisdom.
Dietrich Bonheffer's Life Together

So there you have it: my reading year. In my next post I hope to discuss my reading-goals for 2005.

January 01, 2005

Have a Spirit-filled and God-glorifying 2005!!

Well, it was almost 15 hours into the new year and before I finally slept! Not like me at all, that. The memorial service for John was simply wonderful. It was actually the first truly Christian funeral I've ever attended. We entered sadly, but we left rejoicing. The name of Jesus Christ was lifted high throughout, and even John's mother seemed to gain a measure of assurance and joy. John and Janel's church family was simply amazing. And Janel was, well, inspiring.

After the service we drove home (2 and a half hours) and I joined in with a group of people who had committed themselves to 24 hours of worship and prayer as a way to usher in the new year. They'd begun at noon on New Year's Eve, and I joined them about 10:00 in the evening. Most of my time was spent at a church made up largely of immigrants from central Africa. Man, these folk can worship the Lord. It was an awesome experience. So, after celebrating the life of my friend John in the afternoon I joined in praise and prayer that went through the night and on to noon the next day. There was a powerful anointing on this whole period, and much Holy Spirit ministry, as we consecrated the coming year to the Lord. It was awesome!