Archive for the ‘Intention’ Category

Can We Work Hard Enough To Earn Salvation?

February 23, 2016

I have a friend who is greatly concerned with faith versus works.

Jesus constantly picked on those Pharisees who placed priority on following the letter of the law. It’s really a matter of attitude. The Law essentially takes the place of God. In their view, they could only approach God by perfectly following the Law.

And they tried. They tried hard. It was a stress. It was also a source of pride. When it’s all about you and what you do, then you can point fingers and compare. You can say, “I’m better than you.”

That doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it?

Jesus picked on those people.

Paul addresses this in his letter to the Romans. He takes a long way to the argument that there is no way we can possibly follow the laws so perfectly that we can be made right with God.

It is only through grace freely given by God alone that we can be made right with him.

So, there are the Spiritual Disciplines or Spiritual Practices.

My friend worries at times that I am falling into the works side of grace / works. Certainly one could look at the Disciplines as works. If I pray every day, worship at every opportunity, serve when I can, study daily, and so on, then I am right with God.

Wrong.

A study of 17,000 Christians who had drifted away from church and faith and then returned was quite revealing. Overwhelmingly they said that what brought them back were spiritual practices–mostly reading the Bible daily.

Dallas Willard says, “The disciplines are activities of mind and body purposefully undertaken to bring our personality and total being into effective cooperation with the divine order.”

A key word–purposefully. Another word is intentional. We are intentional that we’ll practice certain spiritual disciplines in order that we will be brought closer to God. The goal is not the practices. They merely are used intentionally to draw us close to God.

Intention and attitude determine if we are mired in works or actively participating in grace.

Why You Do The Things You Do

February 11, 2016

“You’re doing it for all the right reasons,” he said to me.

That remark made me pause. I’m still thinking about it.

When I take on a leadership role, what is my inner motivation?

Do I have a need to feel important?

Do I have to be the boss?

Am I just contributing from my set of skills?

Especially in my church work, but also in my profession, does the work bring me closer to God? Or does it bring me closer to my narcissistic self?

Do I lack the ability to say no?

Do I just have a passion for that work?

In my professional leadership role, I work with other visionaries who are sincerely trying to move the industry forward with no other self interest. None will become exceedingly wealthy. But we care about the advancement of manufacturing and production. There is no room for an overly large ego.

In my church role, I can look inside and say that I really care about the spiritual development of other people. If I can get them involved, it could be life changing. It’s a missions role. Going outside the walls of the church building and helping others, even if it’s just through painting, building walls, constructing a wheelchair ramp so a person can more easily get inside their homes, these all have a deeper meaning.

When you focus on others and work in tandem with God, you actually succeed no matter the results or your personal gain.

Your motivation determines your reward.

Do You Want To Get Lucky

August 27, 2015

An old joke from the Newhart Show set in Vermont. The handyman, Tom Poston, finds a stray dog and takes him in. He names the dog Lucky, because he is, well, lucky to have a home.

Enter Stephanie, the cute young woman. Says Poston in his dry voice and deadpan face, “Stephanie, if you’re ever feeling lonely, you can come to my room and get Lucky.” <badda boom>

I have a fried who has moved from writing about technology and business to writing about life. He’s questioning his Catholic precedents right now. Happens to all of us at some time, I guess.

His latest writing was on getting lucky.

Are some people just lucky?

Are they lucky because they have a positive mental attitude?

Are they not lucky but practice “active consciousness” bringing good things into their lives (he read a book).

Two answers

I go with two answers.

First is the obviously practical. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

If you get the opportunity to speak on a subject or finally play an instrument in the orchestra, then you had better have been practicing for years so that you can succeed.

Second is not so obviously practical–but in effect it is.

You still need preparations–the disciplines of study, practice, prayer, service.

However, you also need to pray with intention. Not just wishful thinking. Not just vague prayers to God.

No. It is the hard work of prayer. It is engaging your mind and strength and soul in prayer. You have intention. You pray on purpose, with purpose.

You pray, “God please bring a person into my life who….” Maybe it’s someone to whom you can share the gospel message. Someone who offers a chance at a service or ministry you’ve been searching for. Someone who needs a mentor or friend.

Or you pray, “Lord, I feel you nudging me toward a mission, a ministry. Open my eyes and show me the ministry you have in mind for me.” I did that over theĀ  space of a year or more. Then I got a phone call.

Lucky? Or good? Or, ready when God calls?