Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Jesus Can See Us As We Really Are

December 12, 2016

So many people came to Jesus with a picture of themselves in their minds. I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man. But there were Pharisees and religious leaders who all thought of themselves as pretty great.


Some people are delusional. Some just clueless. Maybe their parents kept telling them how special they were. They never learned the other side.

Jesus would hold a mirror up to these people that showed them their reality.

On the other hand, sometimes he flipped those pictures (to hold the metaphor). There were people who came to him thinking they were like the bottom picture, and Jesus told them that actually they were better.

Think of Levi the tax collector and his friends. The father who said, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus didn’t always tear down; he also often built up.

Depends upon how they came to him.

During the energy crises of the 70s when we had oil shortages and long lines at gas stations, a speaker told a conference “the biggest energy shortage we have today is human energy.”

Rather than focus on tearing down pompous people–which our media loves to do, maybe we should be focusing on the Levis of the world. And those anguished fathers. And those adolescents who feel so insecure and worthless.

We can hold up a different picture for them. It’s a picture of possibilities. A picture of what they can do with their lives while living the with-God life. That’s what Jesus did. And we are followers, right?

That Spark That Helps Others

November 25, 2016

Who is it who has helped you grow in your career and as a person? Perhaps you didn’t even know it at the time.

I was pretty clueless about working with other people when I started out in my career. But there were John and Jack and Alex who saw something and put me in positions where I could contribute and grow. Of course I am grateful to them.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

Then there are teachers who taught more than their subject matter–Mr. Johnson who taught logical thinking that I still use, Mr. McCarty who pushed me to go to science and engineering summer camps, Mrs. Maxwell who taught literature and writing (she’d probably be shocked to see me doing all the writing I’ve done over the past 20 years!), Mrs. McGowan who told my parents I was smart and ruined my next six years (every time report cards came out, I got “the lecture” from dad about how my grades didn’t reflect my intellect–I don’t know, maybe they did 😉 but actually when someone compliments you that can be the spark.

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James

So, I hoped I sparked some good memories for you. And a sense of gratitude for what others have done.

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” John E. Southard

The challenge before us is to try to get even with those people. Many are gone now. But you can still get even by passing the torch. Who can I help today?

Living As If Jesus Meant What He Said

October 11, 2016

You guys must be “Red-Letter” Christians. You live as if Jesus meant what he said.

Jim Wallis from the Sojourners Fellowship was on a book tour when he was interviewed by a DJ on the radio in Nashville. The DJ made the exclamation.

The term comes from the old Bibles where all the words of Jesus are printed in red letters.

I’ve no doubt heard the term before. Searching for a couple of Tony Campolo books to read on Amazon, I came across a couple of books with that phrase in the title. I love reading Tony, so I bought them for my Kindle app.

This phrase popped out partly because a few months ago I decided my two or three year depth study of Paul needed a break. I know, I thought, I’ll just go back to the gospels and study not the stories but just the words that Jesus said. That’ll be interesting.

It’s not that the healings were not important. It’s not that the core is not Jesus’ death and resurrection. My curiosity was aroused by what Jesus taught. After all, Jesus really wanted us to change how we live.

That’s why yesterday’s thoughts were important. Jesus said “Listen”, or “Pay attention”. It’s like when Andy Stanley, Sr. Pastor at Northpoint Ministries in the Atlanta area, gets really serious about a point he’s about to make and says, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, listen to this.” We Americans need the speaker to repeat for emphasis, I guess. But I digress.

So I am in Mark. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that grows into a large shrub.

Listen all of you Christians who think we should capture the government and force people by the power of law to do what we say.

Do not look for the kingdom of heaven among the mighty and powerful. In Jesus’ day, do not look either at Rome or at the Jewish Temple leaders and Pharisees–both groups who put confidence in power relationships.

No, the kingdom comes not as the “Cedars of Lebanon” the usual metaphor for power. Instead it starts small yet provides shelter and sustenance. Don’t look for Jesus among the rich and famous; he’ll be found among the poor and sinful and ordinary people.

Those red-letter sentences–they make you stop and think.

The Joy of Learning

September 28, 2016

I hated school. Well, I was bored for much of it. Then I went through a period of not working hard enough. Then I learned the “game” of school and got good grades…and got out.

There was the time in graduate school when I looked at the professors and thought, “I don’t want to be them. I don’t want campus politics. I don’t like the picky hierarchy.” So, I got a job.

When you’re no longer doing something just for the grade, it’s liberating. Not that I didn’t learn a lot at university. I did. It’s just learning wasn’t fun.

Paradoxically, I’ve had on my mind for months the idea of the joy of learning. A couple of years ago, I went through about 1,800 pages of scholarly work on Paul the Apostle. Had it been a grad school assignment…well, who knows. But such a deep dive over an extended period of time brings an understanding of the person that can only be explained as a great joy in learning–and in understanding.

I missed a couple of posts last week and I’m a little late this morning because I’m on the West Coast. Well, today I’m in Phoenix, not the coast for sure, but the same time zone. What am I doing? Learning. My job for the past 20 something or even 30 years has been to learn about a technology, digest what it means, and then explain and interpret it for others. There is joy in that exercise. The end result is to help others build machines and processes to improve manufacturing and production.

The same holds true for Bible study–or also studying great interpreters. It is the pure joy of learning what the Scriptures really say and then bringing it into a life that builds deeper understanding and a deeper response to life.

The challenge in this sort of study is to understand the gap between knowing and doing. Or as some writers have taught–the distance from the brain to the heart. There is joy in learning, but the goal is to change the way you live. That comes when the knowledge becomes embedded in your entire being. You change the way you live.

Improve Our Spiritual Formation By Helping Others

June 24, 2016

Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.  –Booker T. Washington

For more than 25 years, I’ve had a part in the development of young people through the youth soccer program. When you talk about giving responsibility and then trusting them, try teaching them something about refereeing a soccer match and then sending them out at age 14 or so with a whistle.

I take great enjoyment in watching young people develop into mature and responsible adults. It is the primary job in life for adults–to nurture the next generations.

Take another look at Paul’s letters to his protege, Timothy. He consoles him, challenges him, offers wise advice, and reprimands him. All in two short letters.

A friend told me recently about a thought he’d picked up that the church is called to equip people for ministry. Train them and then send them out.

I’m from the rural Midwest where there are still many people who remember the church as the social center of the community. Of course, almost everyone went to the same church. The public school was for all practical purposes an extension of the church.

For these people even unto today, the church is more like a club where you go meet your friends than a place where you intentionally train and encourage people for ministry.

People learn what they see and experience. If they see Christians as part of a club that withdraws from society once or twice a week, that is one thing. If they see Jesus-followers out in the community helping people, living like Jesus commanded, they learn something entirely different.

Our life is our witness. When our words are not congruent with our lives, then it’s what we do not what we say that is the witness to others. That is our challenge. To withdraw for spiritual nourishment and then live as if we learned something.

When we get that whistle and get in the game, do we use it wisely?

Starting Your Day

May 6, 2016

I’ve recently been slipping into the habit of reading the local newspaper first thing when I get up. Reading the Bible or other inspirational literature is better. I know it–intellectually. But the news is a quick read.

But then my thoughts turn to how the Republican Party could find itself in such disarray. Except that its own intellectuals have been writing for years about the impact of its policies on the widening income gap and how that surely will manifest itself in the anger of people, although socially conservative, angry at being left out of the economic pie.

And the along came Trump.

Well, that thinking can start a day off wrong.

Then there is the inordinate attention paid to athletes.

I think about spiritual formation. Sometimes that begins with people formation.

Elite athletes are picked out almost always by Jr. Hi. They are bigger, faster, skilled. Once picked, they are told that if they excel at their sport they’ll be millionaires. They are pampered. Given jackets and shirts and stuff under the table.

Some are elite enough to get a college scholarship. Some from the college ranks are elite enough to get huge contracts right away. Some are just under that elite of the elite. But still part of that personal development system. The system that usually looks the other way when some problem crops up.

Some (many) just don’t seem to understand the reason to develop as people, too. Where was that great mentor?

Today I read about a guy who tweeted he was going to get a try-0ut with the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s a chance at living the dream and making enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life.

Except, oops, a bullet-riddled car involved in a murder case shows up at his house. Is he trying to hide evidence? Or tamper? Or what? With everything to gain, why get involved in a homicide for pete’s sake.

Every day a new story. Pampered kid doesn’t understand consequences of stupid actions.

When are we as parents, coaches, churches, community going to devote ourselves to the personal and spiritual development of our youth? It’s not only the parents’ job. We all need to be aware of the people around us and try to help.

The loss of human potential is beyond sad.

Be Real In Faith, In Life

January 28, 2016

“I always look for the mask people are wearing,” said a friend once.

I suppose that comment is cynical, since he assumes everyone has ulterior motives or is hiding something.

But many of us are hiding something. Pain, uncertainty, feelings of being inferior, feelings of inadequacy. Or, we are acting a role. We want to convince people we’re smarter, better, more spiritual than others.

You can devote your life to spiritual practices. But, in the practices themselves, where is your heart?

Do you study not only to learn but also to impress others? Do you worship because your heart is joyful or out of duty? Do you fix a smile on your face and raise your hand in celebration, but you “really want to get away?”

More important is the question, is what I am doing helping someone else along their journey to God?

Maybe I have adopted the language, dress, and attitude of another group. I talk at them, not with them. How is that working for you? Or your worship music changes every year while seeking to appeal to a specific group.

But what do people, especially seeking people or young people, really  want to see? They want to see you being real.

When you talk about study, you can teach yet acknowledge that you still haven’t figured it all out, yet. When you discuss the with-God life, you confess that it is not an easy path and that there are times you get off the path.

Has the spiritual life helped you? And you can answer honestly where it has and where you still need to grow.

We probably all wear masks at times. But if we are trying to help someone else, we’ve got to drop the pretense. We are what we are. Struggling seekers longing for a better relationship with God.

Leadership Through Mentoring

January 22, 2016

We think of a leader as someone who has many people reporting to them. Maybe 10 or maybe hundreds. We picture them out front of the infantry leading the charge.

Surprisingly, often a leader is someone without an official position, yet they exert influence and direction through their ideas, conversations, persistence, relationships, and character.

But we are still thinking about influencing many.

Great leaders often are also great mentors. They find someone coming along with potential and begin to nurture them. Think perhaps of Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid.”

Think back in your life. People came into my life, often briefly, who guided me often without my even knowing it at the time. There was my first supervisor at Airstream, John, who put me in positions to learn. Then Jack came along. He did things for me to get me promoted into increasingly important roles, but I never realized it at the time. Awakening came later, but not too late.

Lately there has been someone where we share from our varied experiences.

When you mentor someone, it should be intentional on your part. But with full knowledge that you are not a teacher just taking knowledge from your brain and trying to enlighten the mentee. Rather, mentorship grows with a relationship. As you work together or have conversations, often it’s just a question you ask or a point you think that they should think about that works. You have to let them grow at their pace. Force does not work.

The quality of character counts for much. Paul, the apostle, described both in 1 Timothy and in Titus a good leader.

  • Not violent
  • Blameless
  • Not accused of debauchery
  • Not rebellious
  • Not arrogant
  • Not quick-tempered
  • Not greedy for gain
  • A firm grasp on the Word
  • Trustworthy

I get a picture of a strong, yet gentle, person. Quiet in demeanor. Observant of others. Passionate with being overly emotional. Intelligent and wise. Concerned for the welfare of the other before even his own.

Gosh, I’m describing myself—-I wish. Perhaps I’m describing you. If so and you do not have a younger person you’re mentoring, find one. Pray intentionally. God will provide someone.


He Came To Set Us Free

December 23, 2015

“He had come to set people free, and like Moses with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, he was confronting the powers that held people captive.” — N T Wright, Simply Good News

We are only a couple of days from celebrating the coming of Jesus into the world. It’s not really his birthday, as some sects believe and shun the day. It’s not a pagan holiday, at least for us, but it was certainly adopted as an alternative to the pagan Roman holiday celebrated about the same time.

I don’t care about all that. We just simply celebrate the coming.

Why did he come?

I like what NT Wright says in Simply Good News, “He had come to set the people free.” Pope Benedict XVI wrote essentially the same theme in his book titled, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

I like the Gospels–Mark for his great literary style of simplicity and movement; Luke for his attention to detail and lifting up women and the Holy Spirit; John for his devotion.

But Paul captures this idea of freedom especially in his letter to the Galatians. “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”

I’ve come to see among a great number of Protestant denominations and even among some Catholics the tendency to have it all in the head. It’s agreeing with the right statements, saying the right things, judging people according to whatever law they ascribe to. And the number of people searching the scriptures for hidden meanings and fortune-telling the future simply amazes me.

When I was young, I wanted to be an “intellectual”, whatever that meant. I studied broadly into different fields of inquiry. By personality, I’m one who thinks too much.

What I’ve learned is that most of us think way too much. The meaning is right there in front of us in plain sight just waiting for us to see.

Jesus began his ministry quoting, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

“Release to the captives!” Who are they? They are us–all of us. Paul would say we once were captive, but now we’re free.

Who wouldn’t want to go out into the world teaching this? Why do we corrupt the message with too much other stuff?

Jesus came, now we are free.

Speaking About What We’ve Experienced

November 17, 2015

Coffee lovers have come to the opinion that their drink must be incredibly strong to be good. That is the power of advertising and peer pressure where you go to places that must over-roast their coffees to make up for the variation in the quality of the beans. In process control it’s called compensating for the variables of the input material.

When the quality of the raw material is more carefully controlled which can be the result of the way the coffee is purchased from the farmer, then the roaster is free to bring out the true flavors of the different varieties of the bean. The result is a coffee that is more pleasing to the palate.

We cannot help from speaking about what we have seen and heard. — Peter and John recorded in Acts 4

Christ-followers call it “witnessing.” Originally it meant “speaking about what we have seen and heard.” For us it is speaking from experience.

Sharing an experience is powerful. It is your story. But it is a story that can relate to other people. It is a story pleasing to the palate.

Followers of our faith for centuries have given us a bad name by coming on so strongly like that overpowering cup of coffee. They try to force feed their beliefs–often emphasizing peripheral beliefs ignoring the central belief that we have experienced new life as a Jesus-follower after coming to belief in his resurrection.

I’m thinking about Galatians 5 and Paul’s description of changed lives. And also of the especially powerful first five chapters of Acts.

Think of the growth of the early church and the lives that were changed because they:

  1. Shared what they had experienced
  2. Served others with no thought for themselves or their own well being

And we wonder why we’re not growing and thriving.