Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Call To Men To Be Clear

April 7, 2015

Faith Venture

Adam should have spoken up. He didn’t. We’re all screwed.

That is the problem statement of “Men of Courage” by Larry Crabb and others. Men are too often silent when they should speak up.

I had the privilege of working as part of a small team of local men who had an idea for a men’s conference. Call to Convergence was held this past weekend. We had no clue how many men would show, but we picked 75 as a good target number. 70 registered. It was a good weekend.

Our principle speaker used that book as the starting point of his talks. Men are called to speak up, to share. Maybe not sharing every emotion like women seem to be wired to do. But, as one person said after the Friday night talks, it’s all about transparency. Not hiding.

The solution part of the book calls men to mentoring…

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The Measure of How We Love

March 31, 2015

He had great wealth. However, he also tried to be close to God by following all his commandments. From the very beginning of his life, he said, he had always kept the commandments.

But somehow he just didn’t feel as if he had arrived into God’s grace.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked the teacher.

“Sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow me.”

When the church begins talking about tithing or giving offerings, do our thoughts turn to ourselves? How much should I give? The question usually means, what’s the minimum amount I can give and still be considered good?

And usually we think in terms only of money. We ignore giving our minds to God in order to grow properly or to teach or preach more effectively. Or giving our bodies in service.

Jesus said, follow me. Give up everything in order to follow me. Anything that serves as a barrier to total commitment, get rid of. Just follow. We just love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. That pretty well covers it.

I read this in the Celtic Prayer Book. “It is not what we give of ourselves or our resources that is the measure of how we love, but what we hold back.”

Our teacher didn’t hold back. If we are striving to be a disciple, that is to emulate the life, of Jesus, then we need to stop and analyze our thoughts, feelings and actions. What are we holding back that interferes with being a follower?

Life in the Spirit

January 9, 2014

How do you read Revelation, he asked me in exasperation. The small group was studying the book based on a study guide that explained rationally one view of how to interpret signs. But the author of the study book explained the other view. Very well.

Then I said, both views are interesting–the Dispensationalists and the Reformed–but both are merely rational and only developed long after the book was written (19th century and 17th century).

I have thought about this for quite some time. How do you read visionary writing? Are there secrets in the Bible that only the “spiritually adept” can know? Despite writing where we learn that God hates fortune-telling, we still want to believe that we can know the future with certainty.

There was a group of people in the early years of the church. Paul fought against them. They were the Gnostics. Descendants of some Greek lines of thought. They understood secret spiritual truths. Their thought was dangerous according to Paul.

But Paul was not purely a rationalist. He understood life in the Spirit. Not only did he experience the risen Jesus, he had also written about having a spiritual vision–or experience.

I think that it is dangerous to read visionary writing, that is, writing about spiritual experiences, unless you understand such experiences. I don’t believe that purely rational analysis works, and it can lead people dangerously astray.

I know that this line of thought puts me at odds with the way philosophy, theology and literature is taught in the Western tradition. Been there, done that, have the T-shirts to prove it as the saying goes. Once you’ve explored life in the Spirit beyond the purely emotional and then the purely rational, then your eyes are opened to writers who report on spiritual experiences.

In the Bible, that would be Daniel, Ezekiel and John. But outside the Bible but in the tradition would be St. John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, the Desert Fathers, and many more. A German philosopher, Hegel, tried to bring intellectual, rational order to the movement of the Spirit with disastrous results. Think Nazi Germany.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist, began as a rational seeker of the inner Spiritual life. By the end of his life he was asked if he believed in God. “Believe? No, I don’t believe. I know,” he replied. He had experienced the Spirit of God.

First devote your life to living in the Spirit. Understand the Spirit. Then approach visionary writing. These works don’t hide “secrets.” God does not work that way. They describe how the writer experiences a vision of God.

Most seekers who have had visions of God in their seeking are reluctant to write about the experience because it is so easy to be misinterpreted. If you try puzzling out visionary writing, then you understand why these seekers were worried.

The Bible was written and assembled to show us how God has acted with people throughout history and to show us how to live a life in the Spirit. That is the best stance to take as you explore the writings. Or, faith and works as James would put it. James would like the commercial playing on TV right now–I like and better than or.

Prince of Peace

December 18, 2013

We’ve heard all the titles that the Gospel writers used to describe Jesus. Intererstingly, Jesus was not the original bearer of those titles at that time. Almighty Lord, Wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace–those belonged to Caesar, Rome’s leader, first. It is interesting because even though Jesus almost never mentioned Rome, His teaching and His followers completely upended the existing world order.

Rome was all about power. Jesus taught that the truly powerful were servants. Leaders must be servants of those who follow them. When asked how people would know His followers, he said that you will know them by their love.

We call this the “Christmas Season” and wish people “Season’s Greetings” and talk of peace. Sentimental images of a quiet baby in a clean feeding trough (manger).

No word should be practiced more than merely said at this time of year than peace.

Where is peace?

The world is still filled with war (US troops remain in battle zones in the Middle East, bitter civil war in Syria, Africa full of violence). American politics is filled with hate, cynicism, vitriol. Families find misunderstandings, past hurts, splits, anger, and the like amplified at this time of year.

How important it is to let Jesus live in you this time of year and bring the presence of peace to everyone.


Hospitality as a Spiritual Discipline

April 15, 2013

I confess, I am not nearly as hospitable as God would have me.

One of my small groups is studying the stories in Genesis. We’re looking at the life of Abraham.

This story compares and contrasts (bless my old political science professor whose every exam began “compare and contrast”) three different stories of hospitality. Actually, many people either misread or misremember the third of these–but we’ll get there in a minute.

The story begins with Abraham resting under some oak trees by his tent. Three men appear walking down the road. Abraham immediately gets up and greets the men. He implores them to sit and rest and partake of his hospitality. They agree.

Abraham rushes into the tent and tells his wife to make some bread. He selects a choice calf and instructs the servant to butcher and roast it. He gathers some milk and cheese. And thus he prepares a magnificent feast for the travelers.

Now, it turns out that two of the men are actually God’s messengers on an errand to eradicate a couple of cities who were the “sin cities” of the day. The third one is The Lord himself in the guise of a man. (strange story, eh?) It so happens that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lives in one of those cities.

So, the second story is when the two messengers appear at the gates of Sodom. Lot “just happens” to be sitting by the gates and sees them. He, just like uncle Abe, recognizes them and offers hospitality of his house. They want to stay in the town square, but Lot knows what kind of place he chose to live in. He knows that the only safety they’ll find is under his roof.

The third story is actually the utter lack of hospitality of the men who populate the city. We don’t know what all manner of sins they did, but we know that they let their passions rule their hearts and they did many sins. In fact, they did not offer hospitality to the strangers but instead wanted to unleash their passions on these new people. Lot, because he offered hospitality, offered his virgin (but engaged) daughters to the crowd. Now that’s morality for you!

Some people read that third story as simply an anti-homosexuality morality story. But it is much, much deeper than that.

There is a man who is trying to live righteously (although who slips at times) and offers supreme hospitality. He lives and prospers–Abraham.

There is a man who knows the Lord and mostly tries to live righteously, but also who has chosen to live in a city full of passion and sin–think of it, can you imagine offering your daughters as sex toys for a crowd of probably drunken men?–and therefore is conflicted. In the end, he offers hospitality and lives, but not to a good end–Lot.

Then there are the men of a city who are slaves to every passion. They not only do not offer hospitality, they do the opposite. They are all killed.–The people of Sodom.

I think I can take a hint. God favors those who are hospitable. Maybe I need to clean up my act there. How about you.

Learning the With-God Life by Doing

March 22, 2013
Children learning by doing.

Children learning by doing.

Yesterday I wrote a few thoughts on some of the woes visited upon single-parent families–especially when there is no male influence in the household.

I’ve seen a decline in male maturity and responsibility for some time. Not every one, of course, but far too many. One factor that research is now validating is the lack of an influential male parent. I think another is the type of education we now have.

Most girls and a few boys get along well in the sit, read, answer the right question, memorize education system we have developed. Most boys and some girls (many more than we might think) are learners by doing. A friend of mine in the process automation field has often pointed me to a movement called project-based learning.

I think back to when I was learning electronics as a kid. I started by building simple circuits. I learned about the components–resistors, capacitors, coils/inductors, soldering, batteries–and how to put them together. Then I learned to read a schematic–just by looking at the pattern of the schematic knowing a tuner circuit from an amplifier circuit and the like. Then I learned math so that I could know more about the circuits–how much voltage and current is going out compared to how much going in and so forth.

When I went to electrical engineering school, it was all backwards. There was almost no doing. I was bored.

How many boys–and girls–are we losing because of the lack of doing as part of education? Or, how many half-educated people do we have wandering around, lost?

Learning to live with-God

For some reason this morning I got to thinking about all this in the context of Christian living. Are we too much into just memorizing and not enough doing?

I learned in electronics that the schematic diagram was just a representation of the circuit. It really didn’t show me how to do the actual wiring. Sometimes the Bible is like a schematic. I can read Romans and see Paul’s model for spiritual development. It starts with grace and ends with living a good life within that grace

But what if, instead of memorizing Romans, what if we had our “students” live out Romans and then come back to class and discuss how they felt grace in different situations? How they lived up to the expectations of God in a grace-filled life and how they failed?

Kind of like if you did a little mission ministry. You actually performed little acts of service. And you learned to listen to people. You learned to help people. You learned what it means to put other people ahead of yourself. You learned that if your heart was in the right place, then ministry happened. And if your heart just wasn’t right that day how it interfered with your doing. And how to get your heart back into its rightful relationship to God

And then you started to memorize verses because you found you needed to know more to answer questions that came from other seekers. And then you came together to celebrate with joyful songs and praise because of what God had done in the lives of those you touched.

Just a thought from a guy sitting in his living room with a laptop on his lap. Maybe today, I’ll minister to everyone I meet.

Our New Life Pattern

January 22, 2013

The Willow Creek Association conducted a huge survey of Christ followers. The results were interesting. I have heard of a couple that I noted. For those who had lost interest in church, the thing that brought them back into a life with Christ and his church was the development of a spiritual practice or discipline.

Considering the results from everyone in the survey–hundreds of thousands of people from many global locations–the practice that they overwhelmingly noted that kept them close to God was the practice of studying the Word.

That shows one reason why I think it is so important to develop the life pattern of rising early, reading Spiritual material–the Bible first and then good teachers and thinkers on the Bible–first, meditating on the Word, and holding your concerns in prayer before God.

So, we start by changing our personal story from “I’m not a morning person” to “I arise early and start my day with God.”

“I am now able to meet the day and my responsibilities with a new perspective.”

“I now have a new focus every day by starting with God.”

This does not assure a stress-free life. People and circumstances will always interfere. But now you are more able to cope and make clearer decisions.

Trust me. It works.

Mindfulness for Spiritual and Physical Health

January 21, 2013

I’ve been more interested in practical teaching to begin this year. New years can be new beginnings. And new beginnings begin with developing new patterns in our lives.

My last post dealt with being in the moment because that is a way toward happiness. We have long known both through ancient wisdom and through modern science that meditation has many spiritual and physical benefits. Simply slowing down for a few minutes a day can help lower blood pressure which leads to reducing risk for other ailments.

Slowing down is also good for the mind and for the spirit. When you meditate on the Word, you slow down your racing thoughts and probe more deeply into the meaning that God has for you that day.

Recently a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin concluded that mindfulness meditation showed a correlation to reducing inflammation. Inflammation is bad thing physically associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma — in which psychological stress plays a major role. Inflammation also seems to play a role in the development of dementia and Alzheimers.

People may think that mindfulness meditation is either Buddhist (and to be reviled by Christians) or New Age bunk. Actually, there is also a Christian tradition of mindfulness meditation–we just don’t teach it. The Western Christian church became so captured by proponents of reason and logic, that it became a religion of the mind rather than the Spirit.

It has been a source of frustration for me for many years that we do not teach people how to pray deeply. I tried a class on time about 15 years ago. The class wanted to learn about prayer, not how to actually pray.

In this TED Talk, Andy Pudicombe describes how to meditate mindfully. In reality, it has nothing to do with chanting, pillows, gongs, incense or any other physical stuff. You simply sit, stand, walk, even lie down, and let your mind just be in the present moment. You become aware of your surroundings–the sights, sounds, smells. If a thought comes into your head, you just let it play around and leave.

When I teach Yoga, I teach both the physical postures designed to strengthen and add flexibility to the body, as well as, teaching students to be aware of only the moment. Neither caring about past or future. Only where they are in the present.

Students always report leaving the hour refreshed. This practice actually develops the mind. It strengthens the soul. And it helps with physical well being.

Pictures of Faith

November 12, 2012

There are two types of people. OK, there are a million ways to say there are two types of people. I’m thinking about those who think in lists and those who think in pictures.

Give my wife directions to go somewhere, she just wants a list. I’ll use a turn-by-turn list, but I insist on have a map–a picture of the route.

Paul writes a lot of lists. I think maybe because he was writing letters and not stories. I have no idea what the education of a Pharisee entailed, but I have to believe it’s like the education of an MD today–memorizing lots of lists. So, it fit.

In Colossians, Paul makes two lists.

Here’s the list of bad traits: fornication, impurity, passions, evil desire, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, lies.

Here’s a list of positive traits: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, love, forgiveness, peace.

Instead of memorizing these lists, try picturing people. Do you want to be around any of the first type? How about the second?

Paul had to have studied Aristotle. Here was a philosopher who loved lists. He also developed deductive reasoning–starting from general observations to discovering fundamental truths through logical reasoning. Paul does that. He always starts with Jesus–life, death, resurrection. Then he deduces from that the way we are to live our lives day-by-day.

If we want to model our lives on Christian principles, we could memorize the list and then try to do those acts.

Or, we could put a picture in our minds of the types of people these describe. Since we become what we think about, by constantly picturing the type of person described by the second list, we can slowly become that type of person.

Trust me, it takes a lifetime to get there–at least for some of us.

Practicing Civility

October 29, 2012

Someone in church yesterday called my wife and me “idiots.” Well, not directly. But in hearing distance of quite a radius around her, she called everyone who doesn’t agree with her in this current national election an idiot.

I happened into a group of people as one person stated, “People [of the other political party] are so closed minded.” Me, being me, said, “Oh, I bet they would say the same thing about you.” And they probably do.

There are many reasons to like one side or the other. Sometimes it’s merely emotional attachment. Sometimes it’s rational. Sometimes flawed reasoning. (One of my economics professors said that most people really don’t vote their economic interest. Pulled out some backing statistical data. Then I thought, did he also teach the “economic man” theory that people always make rational economic decisions? Hint: we don’t.)

But none of that is a reason to hate each other. Or call personal names. Or spread slander across the Internet.

My study in Proverbs brought me to this nugget in the 24th chapter:

Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,

and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble,

or else the LORD will see it and be displeased,

and turn away his anger from them.