‘Jesus shaped’ nothin’

There is a lot of ‘talk’ in the blogesphere these days, as well in the churches, of a ‘Jesus shaped’ spirituality. “Doing” our best to walk like Jesus, to talk like Jesus, to act like Jesus, to do the things that Jesus told us to do.Embrace

That certainly wouldn’t be a bad way to live, would it?  Of course not, in fact it would be a great way to live!

There’s just one little problem. We flat out refuse to live that way.

 “What would Jesus do?” Well, first off, none of us knows what Jesus would do in any particular incident that might arise in our lives.  Secondly, we are not Jesus…we are us.

I have said it before in this blog that I am reminded of these things whenever I come across a homeless person that I will not take home and feed and clean up. The same homeless person that is in every city, large or small, that no other Christian will step outside of his comfort zone to take care of. The same homeless person that might have been saved from a life scrounging through trash cans, or from drug abuse, or from mental illness that comes with living alone on the streets.

With so many professed Christians in this country you’d think that there wouldn’t be any homeless left to wander the streets.

I do imagine that the ‘Jesus shapers’ have taken a large number of these poor folks off of the streets and into their homes. They are not concerned with anyone stealing their goods, or attacking them physically, for Jesus would not have feared those things. They are not concerned about having to spend a bit more of their hard earned money on a stranger if it means bringing someone back into society and giving them back their self respect and possibly a job and possibly getting them back to church or in one for the first time. They are not concerned about what other people in their family, or what their neighbors might think. Jesus certainly would not care about what others might think.

“Well, I don’t have to do all these ‘Jesus things’ perfectly, I just have to make an effort.”  What is that all about? To me, that kind of talk is a cop out. That kind of talk is feel good talk for the self. A kind of balm for the conscience. That kind of talk allows me to continue to play the game. That kind of talk is not countenanced when Jesus says, ” Be perfect as thy Father in Heaven is perfect.” What kind of games will we play with that one?  All kinds.

I have a better idea. Why don’t we let Jesus be Jesus, and we just settle for being us?

Why don’t we just live as best we can, doing the best we can, and trust that the Lord will be there with us in all things. Why don’t we realize that our job is not to try and impress the perfect God with our feeble efforts at emulating Him, but rather we are to live our lives and help our neighbors wherever possible. And when we fail to do so in a way befitting our calling then we are forgiven.

Isn’t that enough?

A moral accounting

I laid there quietly, waiting for the alarm to go off in twenty minutes. I had time to think. I hate it when I have time to think. Rarely does it accomplish much. But today it did. No Looking Back . . .

I reflected on the past. I guess that’s a common thing to do in quiet times while one is waiting for the present. It played back in my mind the way a VCR would. Images of times past, people that I knew and loved, people that I hurt in many different ways. I knew the outcomes of some, but many I did not. I now know only that I knocked them off the path into the brush to fend for themselves. I remembered people that I thought I had long ago managed to expunge. But they were with me now in my quiet time. I could see the pain I caused them then, but could only guess where it had led them. Then I convinced myself that it was really nothing out of the ordinary and that they surely managed well to heal, as we all heal and get along with life.

What if I had not been so callous? Why did I put myself first? Why do I even care? 

I mentioned earlier that this experience of quiet time accomplished something. It surely did, and it was good. It was the mirror that I hate looking into. It was not the picture of the young man that was set to accomplish much, but rather it was a picture of someone gone wrong and who gave in to his own desires and who damaged a lot of people along the way. It was not a pretty picture, but it was good. Good to realize what I was, and good to recognize what still exsists.

It took awhile to shake it off, but I did. I realized, finally, that I am a forgiven sinner. I realized,  by the grace of God, that I am still loved in spite of my selfishness and in spite of my past. I realize that God has taken the sting out of these accusations, true as they might be, and covered them with His righteousness, never to be seen again, except maybe in my own guilty conscience.

What I was confronted with this morning was a full frontal attack of the law. It did it’s job and put me to death, if only for awhile. Did the devil bring this on? Maybe. Maybe he and I were in on it together. But I know there was no life in it…only death.

But my Lord has defeated death. He did so on the cross, and He did so for me in my baptism. As He has also done for you in your baptism.

Now that is the truth about me. And that’s the truth about you. Because He has said so in His Word. And that is enough.

Thanks be to God!

What does faith in Christ look like?

Faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may look like many things, but is success part of that picture?

What is it about success that is so seductive for this creature called human?

I attended a large mega-church for a short time. All the signs of success were clearly visable. It was actually a bit ovewhelming.  The momemtum of success seemed to feed off of itself and create… more success.

There are a lot of things happening in certain large ministries. They keep many people involved in a church. They have many outreach programs and programs to build a better ‘everything’ and to repair anything in the life of the believer. They have many worship services and bible study groups for every demographic within that community. They preach and teach about Jesus and biblical principles for Godly living. They are actively seeking the lost.

The people that are involved in a church setting such as I’ve described are doing a lot of good for themselves and for others. The atmosphere breeds success in the way that the culture defines success. 

 What could possibly be wrong with that?

Food for thought and a few pertinent questions

“In the begining was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God.”Powered by Faith

Is the Bible the Word of God?  Is that all that the Word of God is…the Bible?

 Or, is the Bible just one of the forms of the Word of God?

‘Jesus said that it wouldn’t be easy’

  The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.  Jesus said that it wouldn’t be easy,  a sermon by Pastor Mark Anderson  Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA

Your thoughts are appreciated.

Law on the Brain


 Last night I went to a party and met a guy (a non-denominational Christian) who wanted to talk to me about Jesus.

Great! I love talking about Jesus Christ!  But for some odd reason the conversation just would not stay there… it kept going back to all the things he (this gentleman ) was doing to become the person that Jesus wanted him to be.  “Oh I know I am totally saved by grace, no one can add anything to that!” He  threw that line in there about every five minutes in a 45 minute conversation that seemed like it lasted 45 hours.

“Here’s what I’m doing to apply this biblical principle, here are the things that my wife and I are doing to have a more Godly marriage, here’s what I am doing to be a more Christlike employee, a more Christlike son, a more Christlike brother, a more Christlike… yada, yada, yada.”

It was one of the worst 45 minute stretches of my life.

Then I told the guy I was a Lutheran, and he followed me around (after I managed to break away from him) so that he could have a chance to straighten me out on infant baptism.

This is what happens when well meaning preachers don’t know anything about distinguishing the law from the gospel. ” Yeah, I know I’m saved by grace, but.” The ‘but’ will give you ‘law on the brain’.

This guy is a perfect example of someone who needs to be killed off to his own religious project.

These poor people go into these places needing that ‘old Adam’ killed off… and instead they get their ‘old Adam’ fed a nice large meal…of you know what.

Is anyone else out there running into these poor Christians that are covered in chains? What can we do to help free them? 

I do want to add that I admire this persons zeal to speak of Jesus to strangers and to share his faith. I know many Lutherans that would never dream of doing so. (and also quite a few Lutherans that would dream of it… and do it !)

Martin Luther on the ‘will’…

“The will is a beast of burden.  If God mounts it, it wishes and goes as God wills;  if Satan mounts it, it wishes and goes as Satan wills;  Nor can it choose its rider… the riders contend for its possession.” Kaká!

                                                      – Martin Luther



Is this what ‘spiritual warfare’ is all about, contending for the human will by God and the devil?

No More Dying?

Once we become Christians (however you think that happens) the dying is supossed to stop…right? From that point on in our life with Christ, it is upward and onwarDeath Becomes Med…right? We will have an immunity from the trials and tribulations that plague other people (non-Christians), and we will not have to deal with the little deaths along the rest of our journey in this world…right?

Any Christian worth his or her salt…I take that back, any Christian that has a pulse, knows that those statements are patently false.

St. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15:29-31, “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptised on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptised on their behalf? Why am I in peril every hour?  I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die everyday!”

“I die everyday.”   St. Paul knew the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. But he also knew that the power of Christ and His victory over death was the real truth about himself.

As Christians, we are not immune from troubles of life and the little deaths that occur as the result of the whirlwind of sin that we all contribute to and reap the benefits from. Death and dying, for the Christian is not a one time event when you are born again, or when you “accept” Jesus.

As Christians we all accept and reject Jesus each and every day…. many times within a single day, especially for someone like me who’s faith is at times weak at best.

Dying and rising (‘being raised’- to be more accurate) is the shape of the Christian’s life. Repentance and forgiveness…dying and rising, these are synonymous. This dying and rising is the process that we go through. It is the race that we run. But we don’t run it alone. We don’t go through it alone. Our Lord is right there to carry us along the way. We are carried in the forgiveness of sins, in our baptisms, like a boat carries you along through the water. And along the journey we are fed by His Word and His Holy Supper. And along the journey we return to our baptism, daily (as Luther said), and that is not hard for us to do because it is the boat in which we travel.

 Baptism is not a one time event that we do, or that is done to us by a pastor, priest, or minister, it is something tangible, done to us by God Himself. Baptism moves with us through life and carrries us though life. It promises us and gives us new life…over, and over, and over again, as we need it, each day, everytime the circumstances of life, or the results of our own sin, or the sin of others, or the work of the devil, bring us to the point of death. And again we are washed clean and riased  with Him to new life.

I think the advocates of ‘after you are born again, there is no more dying’  defend their point of view because they somehow believe it is preserving God’s power.  I think, that they think, that if you believe in a cycle of dying and rising that somehow God’s power hasn’t really been enough to squash the powers of darkness and evil in the world. Also, if you believe that salvation is a process, you somehow are tying this in to man’s efforts to save himself. I think they believe these things because they fail to recognize the paradox that is the life of faith. What apprears to be so, really isn’t, and vice verse.  Failure to recognize the paradoxes in Christianity will naturally bring about a desire to nail everything to the floor and make it understandable.

The one thing that all of us ought to remember is that God’s ways are certainlly not our ways.

Do I know everything about God and the Christian faith? Hah! That’s a good one! Of course I don’t. I’m going by what I have been taught, what is in scripture, and of course what the Spirit of God reveals to me as truth.

I always appreciate it when someone is able to straighten me out when I might be in error. So here’s your chance to do something good for a brother in Christ! Thanks!

   – Steve Martin

‘Are We Sitting Comfortably?’ by Howard Nowlan


“The Kingdom of God is like”….


What is it that makes a good movie or novel?
No doubt we could all identify several key aspects or ingredients that we look for, but there are a couple of things that are probably essential.
The first, I would say, is where the story takes us. When we get to that final scene or chapter, we want to reach a point of genuine satisfaction with the resolution. It no doubt is part of the reason why we will recall the story, perhaps read it again or recommend it to others – we feel it got somewhere. The other, which is equally important, is our journey with one or more of the characters in the tale. We often connect with their thoughts, insights and desires. We recognize and even identify with their growth and perhaps triumph through hardship and we revel in their moments of joy. It’s all (to re-work a phrase from a popular movie) ‘ a pleasant fiction’, but the really good stories, of course, are much more – they often reflect and can even teach or confirm to us the realities of life.

 This week I’ve been thinking that the ‘story’ of Creation may well be just like that.
Becoming thirsty allows us to truly appreciate the value of a cool refreshing drink. The bleakness of winter brings into sharp relief the majesty and joy of the arrival of Spring. Could it be that all the present travail of our present world is actually the pain of purpose – the ‘birth pangs’ that are necessary for a creation not merely complete in the glory of its physical splendour, but crowned with a life which resonates with the knowledge of the healing goodness and mercy of God?


The Scriptures make it clear that the events which have unfolded since we exiled ourselves from Eden are not a mystery to our Creator. The pain and misery we have brought upon ourselves have been allowed to run their course, but not without purpose. Amidst the very ugliness of such trauma, God has woven a use to death, an engagement with our agony, a point where all that is broken and violated by sin meets with the rich depths of His unmerited mercy and become changed by such. The place is in the broken body, the shed blood, the resplendent forgiveness given in the death of Jesus Christ.


This one moment is where all the pain and anguish of our existence in a ‘far country’ is drawn and salved, that we might taste of a far greater life, made possible by His bruising for our transgressions.

At the end of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, Red and Andy meet for the first time in many years on the edge of a faraway ocean. They have been deeply changed by their lives, by their experiences and by their knowing of one another, and all of this has brought them to the point where they can now begin a new life – building a boat to explore a new vista.


All of history is moving to a point when the trails will end and such a new day can begin, but it will be a day where all that has been done of value, all that has been learned that holds meaning, will underpin that venture that is to come.

                                                                          – Howard Nowlan 

                                                                                     Rebel by Nature, Righteous by Force                                                                                       


Are you Working? Hard Enough? Are you Sure?

“Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but his due.

And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”

– St. Paul   Romans 4:4&5

“Yeah but’, you just can’t live any way you want! ‘Yeah but’ you need to show God you are thankful and serious. ‘Yeah but’ yada yada yada yada. ‘Yeah but’ wah wah wah wah wah. ‘Yeah but’ you gotta XY&Z. ‘Yeah but’….”‘Yeah but’..NOTHING!  Go back and read it agaelmer-fuddin. Go get a shotgun and blow that cute little ‘Yeahbut’ to kingdom come!  It’s either you or him, one of you has got to go!