Mr. Standfast

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

June 30, 2005

Three for the Road

Last post before the brief trip back to the ol' homestead. I'll be out of action for at least five days, unless of course I feel like extending my blogging-fast beyond that. But before I sign out I just wanted to drop a few breadcrumbs for my readers:

1) Over at Abundant Life I found a link to the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. I'd read about these and and seen them quoted here and there, but this is the first time I've sat down and read them all. Amazing. Here's one of my favorites:

Resolution #25: Resolved, to examine carefully and constantly what that one thing in me is, which causes me the least to doubt the love of God; and to direct all my force against it.
And by the way, Jessica has a good thing going at Abundant Life. She says the Bible is a love story. And Jessica's blog is a lover's journal! Abundant life, indeed!

I thought I should collect together the links to all the posts I wrote recently on the subject of Paul's prayer at the end of Ephesians 3. Mostly for my own sake, but perhaps some others would be interested as well. So I've pulled together the links at Sifted, which is kind of my "Best of Mr. Standfast" blog.

3) Finally, I think I should leave you with a poem. Mary Oliver is perhaps the greatest living American poet. Well, that's my opinion anyway. This site, for example, has a nice little collection of her poems. Here's one of my favorites:

A Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
And on that note, fare well!

June 28, 2005

Totally Off-topic

I've discovered a new Internet toy: Google Earth. I found out about this from Search Engine Watch, which informs us:

Google has released its long-anticipated geographic search tool, a new application that combines local search with satellite images and maps from around the globe.

Google Earth is a standalone application that's essentially an enhanced and upgraded version of its Keyhole 3D satellite imagery product. As Google has done with several of its past acquisitions, the company has also made the application free to all users, dropping its annual subscription fee for the basic version. Google Earth Plus with additional features will cost $20 per year.
Think of spinning a big virtual planet earth, then zooming in, tilting the perspective and gliding across the landscape like a low-flying jet (you can choose your altitude). I've been trying to follow the landscape southward to the towns in Pennsylvania where I grew up (and which I will be visiting before the week is out). If you like, you can command the software to make the names of towns, roads, restaurants, pop onto the screen as you close in (not to mention bars, malls, golf courses, etc., and even crime statistics!). Just for fun, I've been trying to make my way "home" by following rivers and other terrain landmarks, not highways. But I've been getting lost a lot! The zoom feature varies from place to place, with greater resolution in some urban areas, less so for smaller cities and rural places. Still, when I finally arrived at the small town where my mother lives, and the very neighborhood, I check-marked the restaurant feature on the software and suddenly the name of the little "Mom & Pop" ice cream stand around the corner popped onto the screen, not to mention the seedy beerhall just down the street. Wow, does Google know all?

Memories of Books

Books have always seemed like good friends to me. I suppose there are some unfortunate people who simply would not understand that statement. But I have been conversing with books all my life, and that's something I seem to have in common with many Bloggers. The truth is, we are word people. We have been engaged, as readers, in a literary conversation all our lives. We have traveled far, and seen much; we have grown and learned, wept in sorrow or joy for people who were only characters in a book, after all. It is a strange thing, but true. We are better, rounder, more whole, as a result.

When I was five my parents were divorced and my mother took us, me and my brother and sister, to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. We lived on Union Street at first, in a small apartment. My mother instructed my big brother, who was nine, to take me to the library. It was one of the turning-points of my life.

The library was a longish walk from our apartment, or so it seemed to me then. Brent held my hand as we crossed one street after another. He was so big, at nine years old, and I felt guarded with him, and safe. The Osterhout Free Library had a high peaked ceiling like a church. The light poured in through great windows. The very hush of the place conveyed to me a sense of gravity. I was awed. And all this was for the sake of the books which lined the countless shelves that towered over my head. Here, certainly, books were honored and treated with care, and people walked softly, and so, I must have decided then, would I.

And I remember long summer mornings, and sitting on the back porch reading Stevenson and Verne and Dickens as a teenager. Dickens simply swept me off my feet. The books were huge and musty old tomes. Just to turn the pages seemed a delicious gift. Perhaps it was bright summer outside, but in the pages of the book it was a dank London evening, and that's where I was, swept along with Oliver or Pip in those fearful human currents.

I don't seem to read many novels anymore. Perhaps someday I will go back to Dickens, rediscover the old haunts along the Thames waterfront where Sikes plotted evil, but fallen Nancy plotted good, and where old Fagin both cursed and blessed the lost and orphaned Oliver.

I will be taking Marilynne Robinson's Gilead with me to my mother's house in a few days, and I'll be sure to sit on that back porch, the same one as all those years ago, and I'll taste of that delicious pleasure again of journeying into a story on a long summer morning. Give thanks, you who have loved books, for God has given you story, and song, and images, and by means of the gifted teller these things will ramify in memory for years to come.

June 27, 2005

Just Dropping By

Summer has finally arrived. Hazy mornings. Hot, desultory afternoons. You get the feeling that the best thing you could do would be, well, nothing at all. Just moments ago a groundhog scampered beneath my kitchen windows, on his way to some juicy leaves in the neighbor's yard. Soon he'll go underground, keeping cool in the moist earth. Smart groundhog!

Later this week I'll be headed to Pennsylvania, to my mother's house, for about 5 days, and will be out of blogging-range. Respite, I think that's the "sonorous" word I'm looking for here.

Can you tell I've got very little to say this morning? I did want to thank Kim, however, she of The Upward Call, for her kinds words about Mr. Standfast (here). It really blessed me, Kim, and it showed me that Mr. Standfast is the kind of blog I'd intended it to be. Again, thanks very much.

June 25, 2005

Transfigured Things in a Noble Light

Reading the P. T. Forsyth quotations over at Blue Goldfish caused me to rummage through the catalog of my local academic library, where I found Forsyth's little book on prayer, first published in 1916, called The Soul of Prayer. Forsyth was an Englishman, and he writes like one. Have you ever noticed the wonderful natural elegance that seems to pervade the prose of so many English authors? Writing in the dark days of World War I, even the dedication is a thing of beauty. Forsyth describes a winding path in the hills, and a small chapel along the way, "a wayside hermitage." It is a quiet place apart, and it is Forsyth's symbolic picture of the place of prayer:

So in our soul let us make a cornice road for God to come when He will, and walk upon our high places. And a little lodge and shelter let us have on it, of sacred stones, a shrine of ancient writ and churchly memories. Let us make an eyrie there of large vision and humane, a retreat of rest and refitting for a dreadful world. May He show us, up there apart, transfigured things in a noble light. May He prepare us for the sorrows of the valley by a glorious peace, and for the action of life by a fellowship gracious, warm, and noble (as even earthly friendship may be). So may we face all the harsh realisms of Time in the reality, power, and kindness of the Eternal, whose Mercy is as His Majesty for ever.
Well, I love that sonorous tone. This musty little book is no doubt seldom read these days. We moderns (and post-moderns) are all for the new, and we think we're living in very unique and unprecedented times. Well, maybe so. But probably not. God give me grace to hear the old voices speaking from musty books such words of wisdom and hope as may stand firm even when the foundations of this world are shaken.

June 24, 2005

This, That, & the Other

Blue Goldfish took a thelogical worldview quiz (here), and discovered that he was most influenced by Karl Barth and P. T. Forsyth. I only know of Forsyth because Stott references him frequently in The Cross of Christ, but here's a quote that's been rocking my foundations since I first read it:

It pleased God by the revelation of His boldness and grace which the great theologians taught me to find in the Bible, to bring home to me my sin in a way which submerged all school questions in weight, urgency and poignancy. 'I was turned from a Christian to a believer, from a lover of love to an object of grace.'
Now that's something to pause over. It is good to be a lover of love, but better still to know that you are an object of grace! Goldfish gives us more of Forsyth (not to mention Barth) at his post entitled Karl Barth and P. T. Forsyth.


I value the blogging of Christians who write about the presence of the Holy Spirit, and when I find them, they have a very good chance of making my Blogroll. I'd like to create a special category just for them, but haven't thunk up a pithy label yet. In any case, here are two such Charis-bloggers:

Gad(d)about is the blog of Matthew Self. His recent post, aptly titled Surprised by the challenge of experience, is a testimony of Matt's initial experience of the Spirit's empowering presence. It came in the form of (eee-gads!) laughter:

This was not the laughter of hearing a good joke. This was not the laughter of ironic observation. This was a welling up from my soul, as if the whole burden of my whole life was now being brought up in a bellowing howl. It was not mere release of burden, it was total relief of it. Imagine God reaching down into the pit of your stomach and violently pulling up all the junk you'd be carrying around.
Matthew, great post. Thanks for your boldness in Christ!

Bryans Nonsense is the blog of Peter Porter. A recent post is entitled, How to Preach and Draw on the Anointing. Pete is keen to keep first things first. The Holy Spirit always points us back to Jesus, and will empower those who gather around the cross of Christ.

The Anointing of the Holy Spirit always accompanies the cross and resurrection of Jesus. If you want the Lord to move in your midst, then, as Paul, preach Jesus and him crucified. In this alone is the focus of all God's dealings with man. By this the love of God is manifest to the world. By this sin is put away. In the cross is healing of all sickness and infirmity. Through the resurrection is all authority over all the works of the devil. And by Jesus death we have access to the presence of the Almighty. And in the ascension of Jesus we have received the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Bob Hoekstra is a Calvary Chapel pastor and author of a fine online devotional called Day by Day Grace. While we're on the subject of the Spirit, I thought I'd quote the June 2 entry from the devotional:

Again, this work of the Holy Spirit is not automatic or "robotic." Rather, it is a relational matter. It is realized in our lives through humble dependence. It is possible to resist the work of the Holy Spirit in us. "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51). It is when we depend upon the Holy Spirit to lead us in the path of obedience that we will truly live as obedient children of God. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).

June 22, 2005

Pushing Ahead vs. Drawing Near

Men just want to keep busy. They want to have their hands on things, manipulating, fixing, improving, making things work. In the spiritual realm no less than the physical, men want to have a job to do. They love Paul's talk of pressing on, of physical training, of fighting the good fight. They're quite comfortable with the idea of perseverance and discipline. They like markers, measurable progress, gold stars. Give them something to shoot for, to earn, and they're happy as pigs in mud. Back when I was venting my dissatisfaction with Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life, wherein Warren speaks of doing things on earth in order to get "promotions" in heaven, one friend of mine (who strongly disagreed with my negative assessment of PDL) said, "At least now I finally know there's something I can do!"

Oh how we yearn to earn! And it does seem such a relief to be told that, yes, if you work hard enough, great things will come your way. On the other hand, as Rob at Miscellanies on the Gospel makes clear (here and here), we can't work out anything that God has not first worked in. I am convinced that the great need today is not for still more activity, not that we "get it in gear," "hop to it," "look lively," or "push ahead," but that we draw near. Not that we run hard, but that we be still. What say you?

June 21, 2005

The Throne of Grace

A few days back I mentioned a book called Pleasures Evermore by Sam Storms. Today I want to extract a couple of fairly lengthy quotes from that book.

In answer to the question, Where shall we go for grace?, Storms writes movingly about the "throne of grace":

Because it is a throne of grace, nothing is required of you but your need. Your ticket to the throne is not works but desperation. God doesn't want sacrifice or gifts or good intentions. He wants your helplessness in order that the sufficiency of His grace, at work on your behalf, might be magnified. This is a throne for the spiritually bankrupt to come and find the wealth of God's energizing presence. "This is not the throne of majesty which supports itself by the taxation of its subjects, but a throne which glorifies itself by streaming forth a fountain with floods of good things."
That quotation at the end is from Spurgeon by the way. I just want to say that I for one am betting my life on the grace of God. I'm betting that for those who believe it is never a throne of judgment, but always of reconciliation, peace, and empowerment for holy living. Storms again:
This grace for which we confidently and continuously ask doesn't merely show us what to do, it stimulates and sustains us in the doing. Grace doesn't merely point us in the way of holiness, it infused power that we might actually walk in that way. Grace is more than words of exhortation and cheers of encouragement. Grace is more than reasons to obey and arguments to persevere. Grace is power. Grace is energy. Grace is God at work in us to change us. Grace changes how we think, giving plausibility and sense to ideas once believed to be false. Grace changes how we feel, bringing joy in Jesus and revulsion for sin. Grace changes how we will, creating new and deeper desires for what we once found unappealing. Grace changes how we act, equipping and energizing the soul to do what we have failed to do so many times before.

If we are to have hope for holiness, we must have the heart-changing, mind-changing, will-changing work of divine grace that is sovereignly bestowed when heart-weak, mind-weak, will-weak people ask for it from the only place it may be found: the throne of grace.

Blogger Matthew Hall has also been thinking about The Throne of Grace.

June 20, 2005

Two Kindred Spirits

Bill, who is Out of the Bloo, is among that group of bloggers whom I consider true kindred spirits. In a recent post he meditated on Nehemiah 8:5-12. It's a wonderful passage. The returning exiles are confronted and chastened when they hear the reading of the law, but Nehemiah and Ezra and the priests say over and over (it is repeated three times here), "Do not grieve, for this day is holy to the Lord."

These band of returning exiles, in hearing the reading of the Torah, recognized not only their own sinfulness, but that in returning to the land of the Promise they were stepping back into the stream of God's plan and provision for Israel. They were stepping back into God's grand story, his plan to bless the nations through Israel, and at first the realization simply daunted them. But their priests went among them speaking the joy of the Lord, calling on them to not grieve but to celebrate. For the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

This is fertile territory for meditation. God will always bless those who dwell quietly upon His word. Thanks, Bill, for helping us to do just that.


Broken Messenger, another kindred spirit, has posted twelve questions for your consideration. These are good questions. Tough questions. Not questions that can be answered blithely, or quickly set aside. They are questions that confront, challenge, and lovingly probe the conscience of every believer. Print them out. Stick them in your Bible. Pick one at a time and let that one question resound in your inner being for a long while. Answer them as if it is Jesus asking, remember that He always blesses the poor in spirit. I believe that you will be blessed by dwelling on these questions.

June 17, 2005

The Consequences of Under-estimating the Love of Christ

I'm still not done with Paul's Ephesian prayer. Recall that he prayed that the Ephesians would get a firm grasp of the width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. Well, I've been wondering why. What would happen, what would be the consequences, if they didn't "grasp" it?

Paul himself says that by grasping it (even though it surpasses human understanding) they might become "filled to the measure with all the fullness of God." That's the consequence of grasping the extent of the love of Christ. But without such a grasp, then that fullness is, presumably, stymied.

Hmmm. I want to circle around this thought for a little while. I'm sorry, it's just doing me good to stay here and keep looking. This is my way, I suppose, of grasping that knowledge of the love of Christ. Ruminate on it. Then ruminate some more.

So Paul is specifcally talking about extent here. The sheer reach, the wingspan, of the love of Christ. I know that it is wide enough to leave no one out. Christ demonstrated his love for us at the Cross, where he died for all! No one is left out. The offer is made to every sinner, which is to say, every man, woman, and child that has ever lived. Come to the fountain. The water of life is free. Drink and be filled.

That's how wide the love of Christ is, but my ruminating question is, what if I didn't understand that? What if I underestimated the reach of Christ's love? What would be the consequences of that under-estimation?

I think it would leave me prey to uncertainly, doubt, self-condemnation for sin, and as a final consequence it would have the effect of "disabling" my spiritual walk. I mean, if I do underestimate the full extent, the extravagant generosity of the love of Christ, if I imagine it has limits, then I will eventually wonder if I have not stumbled across that imagined border-line, crossing over into the land of no-love, no grace, no forgiveness. I will then have to struggle to get back in His love, and the only way left to me will be the flesh. Having been saved by grace, I will struggle to bring about my sanctification in the strength of the flesh, simply because I had chosen to believe that grace was not enough. This is how the grace of God is made a thing of no repute, an under-cherished gift. We simply fail to recognize it's extent. And that failure has grave consequences.

Remember--I say again--Paul wants the Ephesians to grasp hold of the sheer extravagant wideness of the love of Christ so that they can be filled fith all the fullness of God. Do you want that fullness? Do you want to win the very next battle with your own carnality? Well, get hold of this simple fact: even when you stumble, even when you sin, the love of Christ for you is not one whit diminished. In the eyes of God, because of the what Christ has done for you, you are at this very moment as holy now as you will ever be in heaven. Even in the moment of you sin, His regard for you is not diminished. This is not to say He is not grieved, but His love is not diminished and his removal of judgement, accomplished once and for all at Calvary, is not undermined by your sin.

Christian, get this. Or as people used to say in old movies, "get this and get it good!" The love that the Father has for you does not rise and fall like the stock market, is not tied to the moral profit-margin of your day to day performance. The love that the Father has for you is wider than you can imagine, longer than you can imagine, higher than you can imagine, deeper than you can imagine. His love for you is ever victorious, ever powerful, ever yearning, never-diminished, never waylaid or deterred, never undermined or overwhelmed by something you may have done. It's big, Christian. Really big. His grace to you is a permanent and all-encompassing gift to those who believe. This grace is no permission-slip to sin, but it is power to overcome termptation from day to day. Your victory is by His grace. Get it?


1) A great post on spiritual poverty over at 21st Century Reformation. This one should really cause a little soul-searching among its readers. Have you, too, lost your poverty lately?

2) Paint at Play is new to my blogroll. He's an artist who blogs. Seems to be a rare combination, that. His art is featured regularly, and it's really pretty amazing. And his words are too, as this post will show.

3) Out of the Bloo is just a sweet spirit blogging. That's all I have to say about that.

4) Blogging pastor Mark D. Roberts writes with polish and zeal. His latest book is called No Holds Barred, and is about praying through the Psalms. In A Miraculous Beginning he writes movingly about the early stages of that book's writing process.

5) Have you seen the new Blogdom of God community page over at Truth Laid Bear. It ranks the 2300 members in terms of popularity. I'm 285!

June 16, 2005

Enabling Grace

Lately I've been thinking about enabling grace. I Googled the phrase and found a few interesting things. The best was from John Piper (here). It's an expository sermon on Romans 1:1-5. Here's a sample:

Grace is not just forgiveness of our sin and mercy on our misery, it is also a divine power that comes to us through Jesus absolutely freely for the sake of ministry. Paul says in Romans 5:21, "As sin reigned in death, even so grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (my translation). Grace is the power of a king: it "reigns" and leads mightily to eternal life through Christ....

The decisive, enabling power for all ministry and all service is God's grace.
I intend to dwell on this matter for a while. Piper emphasizes that all our work, all our obedience and service, all our power to overcome, even to love, is by grace through faith in Christ Jesus:

I linger over this because if you get it early, the book of Romans will open to you like a flower. And if you don't get it, the book will not make sense. And I linger over it because this is the essence of how God means for you to live your life. God wants you to read verse 5 and in the end put your calling in the place of the word "apostleship." "Apostleship" is Paul's, not mine and not yours. You might put, "Through Christ I have received grace and the teaching role." Or: grace and singing. Or: grace and studentship. Or: grace and singleness. Or: grace and widowhood. Or: grace and motherhood. And what you should mean is: God has freely given me forgiveness and the power to do a calling, and fulfill a role which I accept by faith.
Oh, the riches of His grace! You cannot drain this well, my friend. You can only hold out your cup in yearning for more. Praise be to the Father, this stream is neverending. He freely gives enabling grace to his thirsting children.

C'mon, get happy!

Have I ever told you that I'm happy? Oh, not that I've always been that way. For much of my life I've been noted for a somewhat dour disposition. Sometimes difficult to get along with, complaining a lot, fighting my prideful battle with the world. But anyway, it occurs to me now that I'm happy. In marriage I'm linked heart and soul with a woman of extraordinary grace. I have two incredible sons who are men of honor and high spirit. I have a few friends that I know would stand against armies with me. And all of this is gift from God, of course. The thanks and praise and glory all belong to Him, from whom all good things flow. So in the end it is not so much, I suppose, a happiness with the things He gives, but a grateful joy in Him. And not only that, but this joy he gives turns into strength somehow (Neh 8:10). Oh, that's the really cool part. Want strength? Get joy.

Thank you, Abba. You're all I'll ever need.

June 15, 2005

This and That

Dan at Eucatastophe has quickly become one of my favorite bloggers. Lots of really interesting stuff on his sidebar, for one thing. There you'll find some great articles, including Gospel Driven Sanctification by Jerry Bridges. That's where I discovered this quote from the 17th century Evangelical divine, William Romaine:

No sin can be crucified either in heart or life unless it first is pardoned in conscience.... If it be not mortified in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power.
I've been wanting to post that quote to the blog for two weeks now. There. Now I'm satisfied.

Another Blogger I must note here is Rob at Miscellanies on the Gospel. Besides being a redneck NASCAR guy (God bless them one and all), he's also another Gospel-centered blogger, and has honored me with the first ever MOG POG Award. Rob explains the "POG" part, but I'm still clueless about the "MOG." Nevertheless, I do like getting awards. This is the first I've received since, oh, about the 4th grade. Cool!

June 14, 2005

The First 'R'

My long stint with the Ephesians passage has got me thinking about the enabling aspect of God's grace. I've collected together some Bible verses on this theme, and will be studying it further in the coming days. Last week I began flipping through a book I'd read a few years back, Pleasures Evermore by Sam Storms. This morning I noticed a brief section near the end called "Grace as Power." Ah, a felicitous re-discovery, that.

By the way, if you haven't discovered the writing of Sam Storms, I urge you to have a look at his website, Enjoying God Ministries. Lots and lots of good articles on the drop-down menus.

Meanwhile, in my zeal to get reading after spending a week without a book in-progress, I've now leapt into three at once. I bought Jerry Bridges' Trusting God at our church bookstore on Sunday. Then, this morning, a book I'd ordered last week came in the mail: Edmund P. Clowney's The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament. This is a book that I first heard about (if my memory doesn't deceive me) over at The Thinklings. From the back cover:

Beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing through to the last of the Prophets, Dr. Clowney takes a fascinating walk through the Old Testament, revealing Christ in places where He is usually overlooked.
Meanwhile, some of you may recall my American History reading plan. The idea is to read through American history (colonial period to the present) by means of a sequential series of biographies. The first in the series was a biography of John Winthrop (1588-1649), founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Now I've picked up the thread with an old book about Increase Mather (1639-1732), "the foremost of Puritans."

So there you have it. As you see, the first 'R' is doing fine at my place. The second 'R' is also doing quite well, but as to the third, hmmmm, it seems to have fallen into decay and disuse. Oh well, 2 outa 3 ain't bad!

June 13, 2005

Pray with Kingdom Purpose

We're coming to the end of this extended meditation on Ephesians 3:14-21. Of course I haven't done it justice. I've been pulling a few prayer-lessons out of it, and these seem to have been helpful to others with whom I've shared them, by the grace of God. As I've been writing these posts, I have continually felt the directing hand of God, as if this is exactly what I needed to be musing on, writing about, sharing.

Anyway, now we come to the great "so that," the most exciting conjunction in all of Scripture! Whenever you read "so that," you should know that a purpose statement is coming. In this passage, Paul's "so that" comes right in the middle of verse 19. It is a simple one-word conjunction in the Greek, rendered simply "that" in many translations, and bearing the sense, "in order that."

So when Paul prays that the Ephesians would know the breadth and width and height and depth of the love of Christ, it is "in order that" something might happen to them. In other words, there is a consequence to such knowledge. In this case, the consequence is that God would fill them.

It was Paul's passion not only to make Christians by preaching the Gospel in season and out, but afterward to equip those Christians. He wanted every believer under his care to grow, to mature, so that they might not only be blessed, but bless others. Not only receive, but give. Not only learn, but teach. Not only be healed, but heal. And to do these things, they would have to remain rooted in the love of Christ, growing continually in the experiential knowledge of that love, receiving the enlightenment of the eyes of their hearts so that they could perceive what the Spirit is doing on the earth and join in. This, in a nutshell, is being "filled to the measure."

Is it not amazing that God wants to fill us? That God desires to place us strategically in the battle-lines of his great army, to use us for the taking back of creation from the reign of the enemy? What I am suggesting is, this little conjunction, "so that," is like a pinhole in the circus tent. Put your eye to the tiny hole and a vast panorama opens to view. It is no circus, though. It is the panorama of God's sovereign purpose on the earth.

Christian, God wants you to be filled with what he has to give you, and filled to the measure that he has ordained. He has placed you strategically in a home, a workplace, a town, for his purposes. He wants you to pour out what he pours in, to empty yourself daily in the mission and purpose he has prepared for you from the beginning of time. To wield the sword of the Spirit, to pray diligently for the lost in your circle of acquaintances, to love everyone. None of this is possible in your own power. Just as you were born "from above," you must be filled "from above." And this filling is closely associated, intimately bound up with, the recurring experience of the awesome love of God in Christ Jesus. Oh Christian, such is the fruitful and life-generating and grace-filled love that God has for you.

Although Paul does not says so here, it is my conviction that "the measure" he refers to in verse 19 is the portion that He has decreed for you this day. In other words, this measure is not the same from one person to another or from one day to another. It is the portion, the "measure," necessary for you to face what you're facing today. And God would have you filled to that measure.

In the last three chapters of Ephesians, immediately following this prayer, Paul himself unpacks the meaning of "filled to the measure." Live as children of light, he says. Imitate God. Live lives of love. Let thankfulness be the burden of your speech. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Respect one another. Put on the armor of God and do battle (because, I might add, the battle is going to come to you whether you like or not). In another epistle he says famously, "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice."

So prayer-lesson #4 is simply this: Pray with a Kingdom purpose in mind. Pray the plans and purposes of God in the lives of those for whom you pray. Pray not simply for the solution to problems, but pray with the knowledge that God wants do far more than solve problems. He wants to use us. He wants to fill each of us with a measure of spiritual-gifting that is absolutely necessary for us to fulfill all that He has purposed in our lives. So pray in allignment with the ultimate Kingdom-purposes of God.

Now, as I said at the start, I realize I have not done this matter justice. No one can. But I do believe that God has spoken to me through this passage and I have attempted to share it with you as best I can. Every blessing that God gives is meant to be shared, after all. I'll probably be moving on to other things now, but I simply pray that you, reader, have also been blessed by these musings. In the mighty name of Jesus, amen.

June 11, 2005

Pray in Wonder

So I'm still here, walking around and around Paul's prayer for the Ephesians. Or as The Broken Messenger prefers, pealing back the layers, one after the other. Up till now I've drawn two definite conclusions concerning prayer. I said, first of all, that we should pray big. Although I know that the Holy Spirit can and does give us accuracy in prayer, we should not let our prayers be limited by the range of solutions that we consider likely or imaginable. Second, I said that we should pray from the inside out. Pray for the inward disposition of a person first, understanding that the fruit of the Spirit is born from what God has placed within us. The main concern should be the heart, not the circumstances.

Well, so now it's time for the third lesson, I suppose. We've been talking about the extent of Christ's love for us. Paul prays for the inward power to discern, to grasp, the dimensions of Christ's love, and by that means the Ephesians might be "filled with all the fullness of God." We're going to come back to the matter of "fullness," but before doing so, we simply need to emphasize this matter of knowing the love of Christ.

I said yesterday that this phrase reminds us inevitably of the Cross, and the Cross reminds us of God's amazing grace. Paul's characteristic word is "riches." In his letter to the Ephesians he refers to "the riches of [God's] grace" (1:7), "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (2:7), "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (3:8), and "the riches of His glory" (3:16). My point is, Paul is everywhere expressing his wonder at the sheer bountifulness of God's love for us, always taking pains to speak of it, always making note of the awe-inspiring gracefulness of the Father's love.

And so, we move on to our prayer-lesson #3: Pray in wonder. Cultivate a sense of wonder, like Paul's, at the amazing grace of God, and pray out of that wonder. Study the grace of God. Understand it's full extent, the sheer greatness of His mercy, and infuse your prayers with that wonder. Dust off those too-familiar words, "hallowed be thy name," and really hallow it.

God's design, his purpose, for all creation has never been set aside, and one of the wondrous things about the grace of God is that He is working out that purpose through his children. By grace we are saved, and by grace we stand. By grace we pray, serve, offer praise, live, move, love. Grace is enabling. By grace we are enlightened, filled, and equipped for the work that God has prepared for us to do. The fourth and last point I will be touching on here is this enabling power of the grace of God. What Paul calls, in this passage, "fullness."

Breadth, Length, Height, Depth (2)

We have come to the width and length and height and depth of the love of Christ. It is beyond knowledge. Only by the power of the Spirit can we grasp it. Furthermore, we need to grasp it. To grasp this, to get ahold of it, to grab on to this knowledge that is beyond knowledge and to not let go, that's my mission. To know the love of Christ that surpasses understanding.

Where do we begin? As I said yesterday, we are on the threshold of the marvelous here. Retaining Paul's metaphor of extent, we might put it this way: if you were to start walking today, in any direction you should choose, and if you could walk for a thousand years, you would still not reach the other side of the love of Christ.

Ha, but this is a child's language, I know. We can do better. We have arrived, in coming to this verse, at the crux of the whole passage. The crux, yes. The Cross. We have arrived at the foot of that blood-stained instrument. We cannot, we dare not, speak of the love of Christ, of grasping it, of comprehending it even in the least, without looking to the cross of Calvary.

There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more? Luke 7:41,42
She was a prostitute, a woman to be despised by the respectable, the God-fearing, the righteous. But she knelt at the feet of Christ and bathed them with her tears of gratitutde. You see, she grasped it! She had taken hold of it for dear life. She knew how much she was forgiven, and so she knew, she began to know. To get it. And that was why she loved him so much! And then she heard him say, "Go in peace."

Let me say again: my mission is to grasp the love of Christ the way she did. I remember the time I fell to my knees and cried out in gratitude to Him, yes, just like that woman. There for a moment, I too got it! But Paul is saying, press on toward more of that knowledge, toward more of the intimate experience of the love of Christ. Seek, know, grasp, understand, His surpassing love. Lord, I want my life to be an intrepid voyage of discovery of the sheer gracefulness of Your love.

The sheer gracefulness. The sheer grace-filled-ness of it. Paul says:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4,5
This is what we draw near to when we draw near to God in faith. We draw near to the fountain of his love, a love we have never deserved, but that nevertheless pours forth from the very heart of the Father. And by this means, by grace, in the knowledge of it, in the grasping of it, we are at last able to stand. Yes, and to hear the words of Jesus, "Go in peace."

And that is the purpose to this knowledge. Paul's prayer is not that we have knowledge for its own sake. By no means! It is so that we may "go in peace." That is, go and live and work and walk out our faith, standing in grace--by means of grace--in the very power of this deep knowledge of the undeserved but nevertheless all-sufficient and enabling love of Christ. Only then can we be grace-filled vessels of Christ's love for a broken and embittered world.

But wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. That's for the next post (or two) I suppose. The purpose of it all. The "why" question. Why do we need to know how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ? Why is it important? What are the consequences of knowing, of truly grasping, the sheer extent of the love that Christ has for us?

June 10, 2005

Breadth, Length, Height, Depth

I've been talking about Ephesians 3:14-21 for some time now, but haven't quoted it in full since the beginning of the series, so just in case anyone needs a refresher, here it is (NET Bible):

I pray that according to the wealth of his glory [God] may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
For the last two days I've been mulling over the idea of power in the "inner person", or, as I've been calling it, inward power. And I've pointed out that this is a power of comprehension, a power of understanding. Paul speaks often, in his prayers for the various churches, of the foundational importance of knowledge or understanding.

Which leads us now to look at the object of our understanding. What is it that we are to comprehend? And the answer is, "the breadth and length and height and depth" of the love of Christ. Okay, this is the place I want to stop for a while. See, I've been walking around and around this object, looking at it from various angles, and now I come to this facet, this feature, and the light seems to hit it just right, and I think I begin to see the whole more clearly. So I want to stop here and just look and look.

And I have two main questions right at the start. What is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, and why is it important that I comprehend it?

First step, let's understand the word "comprehend." The Greek word is katalambano, which means generally to grasp or lay hold of; in this case, to grasp or lay hold of "with the mind." In modern English, we might say, "Do you get it?" That is, have you attained to it, grasped it, laid hold of it? Have you gotten your mind around it yet?

Second step, and most importantly, let's look at this matter of extent: the breadth, length, height, depth. What's that all about?

And you know what? I'm out of time. So I'm going to leave it right there. Why is it so important to Paul that the Ephesians grasp the full extent of Christ's love? What are the consequences of such knowledge? We are getting to the very heart of Paul's prayer now. We are at the threshold of the wondrous here. In fact, things beyond knowledge are here, but by the power of the Spirit, they are brought within our grasp! It is good and right to dwell here for a longer moment.

June 08, 2005

Inward Power (2)

So I've been walking around and around this passage from Ephesians, looking at it from one angle and then another. As I warned at the start, I have allowed myself to be discursive, repetitive, and even achingly obvious in some of my observations. I'm not aiming at originality. Really I'm just wondering. Wondering over a keyboard, that's me. Paul's prayer has me thinking about prayer in general, and wondering what lessons might be learned from this example.

So far, I've drawn at least two conclusions. I'll express them in the forms of imperatives. First, Pray big. As a beloved child of God you are coming to your Father with open hands, asking that he bless you (or whomever it is you're praying for) out of the incredible wealth of his glory. Now that's a thought! You're praying for God's glory in someone's life. And as Paul reminds us, God can do immeasurably more than anything we can ever ask or imagine, so don't be limited by what you can imagine (as if we can ever imagine the glory of God), or what you have experienced in the past, or by the expectations of rationality. As Tim Challies has written (here), "We put God in a box when we 'know that we know' what God can or will not do." Tim's point: don't do that. Mine too.

Second, I think another lesson of this passage is this: Pray from the inside out. That's how Paul does it. He prays first of all for power (alt., might) in the "inner being." It is specifically power to comprehend something. He prays for an enhanced faculty of understanding in the Ephesians, so that they can comprehend something that is by its very nature "beyond knowledge." Notice that all the emphasis for now is on the inward. It is on knowing something. Paul is not saying, for the moment, I pray that you be loving and united and righteous in all your dealings, etc. Neither is he praying for safety, for wealth, or even for effective ministry (a broadening of their territory!). None of that here. No, here as elsewhere (see yesterday's quoted passages), Paul is putting all the emphasis on the inward, the hearts and minds of the Ephesians.

Now, Paul's prayer doesn't end there. There's a purpose to all this. As I said, he's praying for an enhanced faculty of understanding so that the Ephesians might know something that is, without the Holy Spirit's empowerment, beyond knowing. We are moving from the inside out here. This inward empowerment is going to have consequences for the outward, the life as it is lived from day to day. We're getting to that, and that is I think the most exciting aspect of this prayer. So the next two questions we need consider are, 1) What is it that Paul wants them to know? And, 2) Why is it they need to know that?

Inward Power

Well, I told you I was going to take my time with Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. I’ve been blogging about it for a week now, and there’s no end in sight! As Arlo Guthrie used to say (and probably still does) about his wildly extended live-versions of Alice’s Restaurant, “I could go on singing this song all night . . . I’m not proud . . . or tired.”

The heart of Paul's prayer is that the Ephesians would have inward power to comprehend the sheer mind-bending extent of the love of Christ. So in the coming days I want to think about this whole issue of “extent,” as I’ve been calling it (no doubt inadequately), but for now I want to consider this matter of “power in the inner being.”

You know, God gives gifts to his children, and it is not inappropriate to speak of power or supernatural ability in association with these gifts. But it’s interesting to me that Paul does not often speak in terms of outward manifestations or pray for these things for his churches. Instead, he prays for a continuing inward transformation. His prayers, exhortations, and closing benedictions are focused on the “inner being.” Here are a few examples:

Romans 15:13 -- Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:17-19a -- I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him -- since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened -- so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe....

Philippians 1:9-11 -- And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

Colossians 1:9-12
-- For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

See the point? It is Paul's way to pray for the "inner being" before he ever prays about outward circumstances. But that's completely the reverse of what we most often do. We tend to look at the difficult outward circumstances, try to imagine the best outcome, and then pray for that. Now, I'm not condemning that sort of prayer in every case, but I'm just noticing that it's not Paul's way. He prays for the "inward" first. He prays for the hearts and minds of the people in his care.

So I'm getting to a perhaps familiar aphorism. God works from the inside out. Men work the other way round, from the outside in. We think that if we take care of the outside, then we'll "feel better" inwardly.

Hmmm. More on this next time. This post is already way too long (like Alice's Restaurant). If anyone is hanging in there with me on this, well, you are certainly gifted with much patience. See you next time!

June 07, 2005

Glorious Riches

Continuing to muse over Paul's prayer for the Ephesians:

The Ephesians need to be strengthened with power, through the Spirit, in their "inward being," so that they might grasp the sheer extent of Christ's love that surpasses all understanding. Notice: it is a prayer for the miraculous, since Christ's love "surpasses knowledge." Nevertheless, God is able to give a "measure" of this knowledge, because he is always able to do more than anything we can ask or imagine. Now, it is of overriding importance to Paul that they have this Spirit-endowed understanding of Christ's love. This supernatural grasp, or understanding, of the extent, the surpassing greatness, of Christ's love, seems to be of special importance for the unity of the Church (an overriding concern of Paul's) and the holiness of life of those for whom he prays. But all of this, as Paul makes clear right at the start, comes from the glorious riches of God.

Note: the prayer begins with an acknowledgement by Paul that what he is praying for can only come from God (it is supernatural, above and beyond human capability), and he ends his prayer with an acknowledgement that this "big" prayer is not too big for God. I just want to hang on to this for a moment. Paul is praying for something that surpasses understanding. He is praying that a mountain be thrown into the sea, and he is praying it with confidence (after all, as he says in verse 12, we may approach God in freedom and confidence).

On the subject of God's glorious riches (the NET Bible says, "the wealth of his glory"), I refer you to the words of Mr. Spurgeon:

There is no measure which can set forth the immeasurable greatness of Jehovah, who is goodness itself.... Notes of exclamation suit us when words of explanation are of no avail. If we cannot measure, we can marvel; and though we may not calculate with accuracy, we can adore with fervency.
Or we have Paul's words from Romans 11:33-36, worth repeating here:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!

For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has first given to God,
that God needs to repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.
The prayer of Paul for the Ephesians is a prayer for something glorious, something that can only come from the fathomless riches of God. It is a big world-changing heart-transforming prayer, prayed with confidence in the awesome generosity of our God, who is the source and the destination of all things. "To him be glory forever. Amen!"

June 06, 2005

Awesome God

Prior to his prayer for the Ephesians (3:16-19), Paul reminds them that they have confidant access to the Father. We are allowed to be bold, he says, because we are after all his children, bearing his family name. Then, just after the prayer, Paul reminds them that God is able to do immeasurably more than anything they can ask or imagine.

That's the immediate context of this prayer. Now, one of the things that the letter to the Ephesians is all about is the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ. This is a great mystery, an unheard of, unimaginable thing in its day, but Paul is saying, "Don't limit God to what you can imagine. He can do more, and he can do it better, than anything you can ever imagine. So go ahead and pray with boldness and confidence, because you are his children, and he loves you with a love that surpasses all your expectations."

One of the most valuable bloggers out there is Tim Challies, and he wrote a helpful series on this theme recently, called "Putting God in a Box." If you go to the last in the series, Recovering Awe, you'll find links to all the previous posts.

In Recovering Awe Tim writes:

It is crucial that we maintain or rediscover our awe of God. Too many of us have reduced God to a predictable formula. People complain when their jobs are too routine or that each date with their spouse feels the same as the last. In the same way we can feel that God has become part of a boring routine. When we feel this way, it is probably true that we have, in our minds, placed limits on God's character and His actions.
Later in that same article, Tim elaborates on a point that is, in my opinion, quite profound:

What I have come to understand is this: that we as humans we cannot be in awe of what we fully understand. We lose the mystery of what we master. It is easy to be impressed by watching wild animals in their natural habitat, but there is far less to appreciate about them when they have been caught, stuffed and mounted on the wall. To continue with the analogy we used earlier, we no longer worship the moon because we now understand it enough that we have removed its mystique. So when we place God in a box, we see Him as far less awesome than He really is. When we catch Him, stuff Him and mount Him on the wall, we reduce Him to the level of a creature that can be fully understood.
Wow, that's good stuff. And, well, it's also Bible truth. Paul has this same truth in mind when he says that God can do immeasurably more than anything we can ever ask or imagine.

Let's begin to treat God as an awe-some God, to whom the only appropriate response is wonder, and yet a God who offers -- and this is perhaps the most wondrous part -- free, bold, and confidant access, as of a loving Father to His precious children. Awesome!

June 05, 2005

I am an Ephesian

So I was talking about Point A and Point B. Point A is the position of every Christian. Free, open, unhindered access to God. Point B is the state of being “filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.” And getting from A to B has to do with “power in the inward parts.” But not simply power–after all, power must be put to use. This power business provokes all kinds of questions among believers. Nobody wants to be powerless, and yet we also fear the abuse of power, the misuse of power. We know for example that there is a power of evil in the world. But Paul explains himself in this prayer quite clearly. In this passage, anyway, it is power to comprehend something. Power to grasp something. We might think of his “renewing the mind” passage from Romans 12. And in this case it’s a power to comprehend, to grasp, the sheer extent (height, depth, length, breadth) of Christ’s love for us, which he says, by the way, is incomprehensible. Ungraspable.

Me, I’m taking it as a given that I don’t grasp it yet. Oh, I get it a little. I’ve got ahold of the hem of his garment, and I have been miraculously healed. I’ve “experienced” the love of Christ in my life, but do I know how long, how wide, how high, how deep that love goes? Of course not. When Christ has passed by, do I want to be left reminiscing about the high point of my life when he was present with me, or do I want to follow hard after? Do I want to be in his presence continually? Do I want to drink in more and more? And Paul says here, I do not want you Ephesians to be at peace with your meager measure of knowledge. I want you to grasp the ungraspable. It will take supernatural power, but I’m praying that for you, because that is the way to “fullness.”

Aside: how much did Peter, just for one example, really grasp it right at first? Did he understand how wide and long and high and deep was the love of Jesus, the one he called Master, right from the start? Did Peter get it – even as much as he ever would – right at the beginning when he first decided to drop everything and follow Jesus? Or did it take him a while? Did it take walking with him, asking him questions, hearing him model prayer, seeing him model love and mercy, sitting at his feet for into-the-night conversations where truth after truth was revealed to him in both majesty and simplicity? That, you might think, should have been enough. But the love of Christ is surpassing. That means it surpasses all our understanding. It surpasses human measurement. There is always more th grasp. There is always the need for another conversation.

And I think of Peter denying Jesus three times, just as the master said he would. And then, later, that moment by the lake, when the risen Jesus said to him, in essence, “You’re still mine, Peter. After all, my love for you is an everlasting love. So feed my sheep.”

When that moment comes when we see our sin and our smallness more clearly and undeniably than we ever had – when we have no excuses and can claim no so-called mitigating circumstances – then we begin to grasp something of the sheer extent of God’s love. Just like Peter.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is going to be a long series of posts, I think, because I’m really meandering! In the future I want to look at these matters more closely:

• access to God
• the wealth of the glory of God
• inward power
• grasping the love of God
• filled to the measure

The love of Christ is surpassing, and it is everlasting. There is a reason we need to understand that better. We’ll be wondering more about that question in future posts. Suffice to say for now: I am an Ephesian.

June 02, 2005

Ephesians 3:16-19

The passage in question is actually Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church. Here's the NET Bible translation:

I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
I expect to venture a bit beyond the confines of these verses, simply in order to understand the context, but it's here that I want to focus.

For now, a few things to bear in mind. Paul is praying for Christians. He is praying for people who already have, in that they are born again believers, Christ in their hearts. So what Paul is praying for here is a kind of Spirit-enhanced faith-walk. He is praying for their Spiritual quality of life. This attitude is at the heart of all of Paul's writing, I think. He is always urging the believers in his charge to GROW.

All I want to do this time around is to make note of something Paul says about the prevailing Spiritual condition of the Ephesians, and also of the way he describes the "Spirit-enhanced" condition that is in fact the object or goal of his great prayer.

The prevailing Spiritual condition is this: immediately prior to the passage here Paul says that the Ephesians, as well as he himself--being, as the are, "in Christ"--possess "boldness and confidant access to God because of Christ's faithfulness." Now, I'm sure many other things can be said about the Ephesians, but in the immediate context of Paul's prayer, this is what he says of them. He reminds them that they have free and unhindered access to God "because of Christ's faithfulness." Keep this in mind.

Second: The result that Paul is praying for, the enhanced "quality of life" that he desires for the Ephesians, is described in verse 19--he wants them to be filled up [NIV: "filled to the measure"] with "all the fullness of God."

Note: the Ephesians are Christians, they are born again, they have the Spirit of God dwelling within them, and they have free and confidant access to the Father. But they are not "filled up." To be filled up is the goal. So we have Point A (access to God), and point B (filled with the fullness of God). And Paul's prayer for the Ephesians amounts to this: he is praying that they move from point A to point B.

That's about all for now. Next, we'll look a little more closely at the means of transportation between these two points: "power in the inner person."

A Note about the Writing (and Blogging) Process

First a note. In my view, the writing process is, in large part, a pursuit of understanding. This means that through the very process of writing a greater degree of understanding, of clarity, may be achieved. Now, what the reader usually sees is a finished product that represents a well-ordered recapitulation of all that the author has learned throughout the process. At this last stage, the author is a kind of docent or expert, imparting knowledge through the written word. He or she speaks and writes with authority in his or her subject, and the reader sits at the author's feet, drinking it all in.

But that level, the level of authority, is really seldom achieved. Most who write--bloggers, people who keep any kind of personal journal, and even real "authors" while still at the beginning stages of a project--write as seekers of knowledge, not at imparters. Not as teachers but as students. Not out of expertise, but out of thirst. As historian Paul Johnson has said, one of the best ways to learn about anything is to write about it. And at this fundamental stage of the writing process, the primary beneficiary is the writer, not the reader. In fact, until blogging came along, there was, more often than not, no reader at all. But one valuable result of the development of blogging technology has been to open up these early and "“unfinished" and rather personal stages of the writing process to others, which has produced a largely beneficial interaction that can actually move the process along toward its goal, which is (keep this in mind) understanding.

I say all this as a matter of prologue and of explanation. Although there are many genuine "authorities" in the blogging community (and I value them greatly), what you most often see at Mr. Standfast is not an authorial recapitulation of knowledge but the pursuit of clarity through the process of writing down my questions, surmises, speculations, guesses, thought processes, etc.

And that'’s what I'’m going to do in the next few days with regard to Ephesians 3:14-19. I'm going to take a very brief passage of Scripture, and kind of walk around and around it like a patron at an art gallery, drinking it in, mulling it over, testing, speculating, wondering. In the process I'm probably going to say many things that will seem quite obvious--no-brainers--because, well, that's how I work. And I have a hunch--an inkling--that it will all be worthwhile. I do this mostly for my own sake, but if it also blesses you, dear reader, that'’s overflow. God is graceful that way.

[UPDATE: Lo and behond, the excellent Jollyblogger has just posted on the very same subject (and with much wisdom). Go read!]

June 01, 2005

Just Stopping By

Lately I've been dwelling quite a lot on Paul's prayer at Ephesians 3:14-19. God is really showing me the riches of these few verses as I reread them to myself, pray them for my friends, and journal about them in my quiet time. I don't know, but it seems that God is really up to something in me these days. Have you ever felt that way? I hope so. I don't have time just now to go into detail, but I think in the next few posts I'll be sharing here what the Father has been sharing with me, especially with regard to this passage. As said Pooh, "Baksun!"