Posts Tagged ‘spiritual formation’

Responding To Scripture

January 3, 2017

There was a man. He attended church regularly. One of those people of whom it is said, “If the doors are open, he’s there.”

No, he wasn’t a pastor. But he had been to graduate school studying his Scriptures. He really knew a lot. He’d memorized almost the entire thing.

Argumentative? Oh, yes, don’t try to argue with him. He could point out how wrong you were six different ways. And, wow, did he love to argue.

The Scriptures were, to him, a big list of rules with some stories interspersed. Those rules set apart those who follow them from those who don’t. And following the rules got you gold stars on your report card from God.

The way he dressed set him apart from the common people. The way he prayed in church was designed to impress others.And he did–impress them, that is. Trouble is that not everyone was impressed with him favorably. Yes, you can leave negative impressions on people.

Then one day he met a man. Totally changed his life. Suddenly he viewed Scriptures in an entirely new way. He now searched the Scriptures for hints on how God makes you right with him, not how you make yourself right with God. He discovered what the Scriptures said about the man he met.

Yes, that man was Paul, the apostle. But it has also been many other people–both women and men. Young and old.

He met Jesus. That meeting changed his life.

I’m studying deeper into Paul’s letter to the Roman church–known as the book of Romans. Many people feel intimidated by the letter. They’ve been told that scholars have written huge volumes of commentary about it. And they have. But Martin Luther read it, and it not only changed his life but it also changed the course of history. He founded the Lutheran reformed movement. John Wesley read it. It changed his life. He took the gospel out of the churches and into the streets and mines and other disreputable starting the Wesleyan or Methodist movement.

The book is not inaccessible. It shows the path of spiritual formation. Every time I read it, I am changed just a little more.

I’m teaching on the book again. If you are in the Sidney, Ohio area and open on Sunday mornings at 10:15 am, stop by Sidney First United Methodist. And if you are not in the habit of attending a church or if you are wary of being identified as a Methodist, well I have a solution. Our classroom is the first door on the left when entering the building from the North Street parking lot. You can park by The Alcove and walk in and walk out and no one will notice 😉

If God Is Calling Us, Then We Must Listen

August 30, 2016

President of Company: Gary, no one listens to me.

Gary: Huh?

President: No one listens to me.

Gary: Huh?

President: I talk and no one listens.

Gary: Huh?

President: Oh….

Sometimes I just had to get ol’ Dave out of his usual funk.

But, we all have that feeling. It seems no one is listening.

We have something on our minds to share. We have a problem. Or a joy. We’d love to tell someone else. But no one listens.

Must be what God feels like.

The other leaders of our small group decided that four classes in Ephesians was more than enough. They skipped through chapters 5 and 6 in 40 minutes and proclaimed we had learned!

But I’m still stuck in the letter. I’ve never studied it in detail. It is a marvelous piece of writing.

Paul prays for us to be filled with God. Then he shows us a glimpse of spiritual formation in the life of the church and the family and the household. Then he goes  back to the part about filled with God and extends it with the metaphor of spiritual formation as personal body armor in our fight against the evil one who attacks us with insidious thoughts, emotions, and desires.

So, right after he prays for us, he begs us

Be worthy of the calling to which you have been called…

If we have been called by God, then we must listen so that we hear that voice calling us. Otherwise, how do we know about that calling?

At Willow Creek, they teach about the whisper. Sometimes God calls us and it’s not a thunderclap. Like Elijah when God called him to a mountain top to talk to him. He spoke not in the mighty wind or the loud thunder from the lightning. He spoke in a whisper.

To hear a whisper, we had best be still. And attentive. And prepared to respond. Maybe God just whispers, “Go say hi to that person over there.” Or sometimes, “It would be good for you to volunteer for that trip.” Or even, “Quit your job, simplify your life, and follow me.”

Listening is the foundation of spiritual formation.

A Passion for Service

September 15, 2015

There was a sudden change at the top of management at United Continental Holdings (United Air Lines). According to reports in national newspapers, the problem could be ethics related.

My son was discussing the state of the airline industry and the lack of leadership at the top of the entire industry with me when I pulled out a quote from one article in The New York Times. The writer said something you’d usually only find in a small town local paper, “Executives usually have jet fuel in their veins.”

I think the writer meant that executives usually come from within the industry. And maybe that the have a passion for the industry.

Today almost all the leaders in the industry are either lawyers or finance people. None come from operations. None ever interacted with customers.

As a long-time frequent flyer, I observe the industry closely. I remember when Continental had a CEO who had a passion for serving the customer. Knowing that customers are served by the thousands of front line employees–pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, baggage handlers–that CEO put programs in place that motivated and rewarded customer service.

He was followed by a finance guy. As people with that training do, he was a spreadsheet manager and looked daily at costs to be cut. Soon the culture of customer service was replaced by a culture of  let’s just get by.

That’s a long introduction to why I was sitting in my chair this morning thinking about service.

I thought about how if we focus on serving others, we cut out time for whining, pouting, worrying, and otherwise focusing on ourselves.

I thought about how Jesus said that he left two commandments–love God and love our neighbor. When some local wise guys asked, “Who is our neighbor,” Jesus responded with a story. We call it the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story the religious leaders failed the service test while the outcast Samaritan man passed it.

Obviously Jesus was teaching that part of our spiritual formation comes when we focus on a life of service.

A life of service is tough. Even the little I do gets tiring sometimes. One of my service functions centers on soccer. By this time in the season, I feel drained at times dealing with the difficulties and the personalities. But in the end a few thousand kids get to play the game and develop physically and (I hope) emotionally. (Although following last night’s game, I heard a coach and a dad tell a player whom I had called for a foul to just keep doing it–other referees may not call it. Hmm, not a lot of emotionally healthy teaching going on there!)

Whether you’re a leader of a big organization or a small church or a non-profit or a committee–determine whom you’re serving and go out and serve them with passion. In the end, your spirit will have developed and matured. And you’ll earn a “Well done good and faithful servant.”