Archive for May, 2008

Revival?

May 31, 2008
Update: I just about finished this and realized that I wasn’t writing in the first person. BIG mistake. If you read this, realize that it applies to me first. Then anyone else that wants to join up, feel free. 

“It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.”- A.W. Tozer

Don’t tell me about Lakeland. Don’t tell me about emotional “worship experiences”. Don’t tell me about spiritual gifts. Don’t tell me about programs, projects, and long term strategies. Don’t tell me about good preaching or sound theology. Don’t tell me about looking at the “fruit” of a church’s (or a preacher’s) ministry if you mean numbers in attendance, or even converts (remembering the parable of the sower). God may be at work in all these.

Then again, he may not be.

The fruit we should be looking for is found in the letter to the Galatians.

We’re called to discern the spirits. Well?

Do you see evidence of this, “… enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,…” in yourself, or the people in your congregation? Remember, this comes next, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Are your people, are you, more loving? Is this your aim, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2)

Are you increasingly more joyful? Does the joy set before you cause you to endure the cross and its shame? Is that joy your strength? Do newcomers to your group notice a deep seated joy that transcends circumstances?

What about peace? Are you a peacemaker? Are you known as an ambassador of reconciliation? Or does your proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom mostly convey strife and division? The Gospel will always have an unpopular, prophetic edge to those who smell death instead of life, but which direction are you headed as a people?

Patience? Are you content? When people interrupt your plans how do you react? Is the desire for your vision of ministry frustrated by the very people you are shepherding? How do you react to those weaker brothers?

Kindness?… anyone?… anyone?… kindness?” (read in your best Ben Stein voice) How do you measure yourself and your folks when you read this from Henry Drummond?

“‘The greatest thing,’ says someone, ‘a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children.’ I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered.” (The Greatest Thing In The World)

What about goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

(*crickets*?)

What about the first things that history tells us happened in almost all, if not all, real revivals. Prayer, and Godly sorrow leading to repentance?

Ruthlessly look at your own heart, see if you are at least moving the right direction, then I’m pretty sure you’ll know what real revival would look like.

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It’s about time a celebrity kept his mouth shut

May 29, 2008

This place makes me smile.

A Friend of a Friend

May 28, 2008

Here’s a quote from a friend of mine, as quoted by another friend of mine.

“We’ve been seeking crowds, not disciples. We’ve considered every possible means of getting the most people into our buildings and keeping them there, and we’ve attracted people on the basis of mere self-interest, so that what we have are congregations ecstatic to belong to some place that, in the name of the Lord, takes their self-interest as seriously as they do.”

Read the whole article here

(HT: Jimmy)

How Corruptible Are We?

May 24, 2008

This is pretty amazing. I wonder how much I’m under the influence.

 

HT- Subversive Influence

Holiness

May 22, 2008

For about the last month several things have come up, quotes, thoughts, feelings, conversations concerning holiness.

Here are a couple of the quotes.

“… God is much more interested in making us holy than He is in getting a job done.” Elisabeth Elliot

“When I encounter a Buddhist priest, I meet a holy man. When I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager.” Korean leader (this one kind of haunts me)

Scripture too.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Eph. 1:4

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Heb 12:14

“… for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” I Pet 1:16 (referencing the many times the phrase occurs in the old testament)

The one thought that keeps sounding in my head, and resonating inside, is that I need to be a Holy Man.

If you’ve got any thoughts on becoming a Holy Man, let me know. 

Contemplative vs. Pragmatic

May 17, 2008

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Life to the full

May 16, 2008

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (ESV)

The spiritual life is not a disembodied life. We are not redeemed souls trapped in damnable material bodies.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus (and our own in the future) should be enough proof of that to quiet any objection.

We are whole.

Too often I’ve viewed the body as an enemy to be battled and overcome. “For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

But my body is also the temple of the Holy Spirit. I’m to love God with heart, mind soul and strength. And how exactly am I to love my neighbor if not in concrete, material action?

I know this is not news to most of you, but It seems to infect a lot of what I see and hear. Don’t we seem to separate the intellectual from the material? I know I do. I tend to keep my theology as academic, and idea oriented as possible. The blogosphere is a perfect place for this tendency. I was reading the comments at another blog and came on this,”It’s nothing personal at all. I was just interacting with ideas.” I know what the guy meant, but it stunned me when I read it because it was a summary of a lot of my life with God. “Nothing too personal, please. I was just interacting with ideas.”

If spirituality includes mind, soul, heart and body, here are some new questions I’ll be asking folks I meet with.

Are you; getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well?

Do you have a sabbath time of rest and recreation?

Do you actually do stuff with (and for) family, friends, neighbors?

I, as much as I don’t want to, will be asking myself these same questions.

Quote of the Day

May 13, 2008

Sorry about the lack of content lately. Until such time…

“. . . Does any man know what the Spirit of God can make of him? I believe the greatest, ablest, most faithful, most holy man of God might have been greater, and abler, and more faithful, and more holy, if he had put himself more completely at the Spirit’s disposal. Wherever God has done great things by a man He has had power to do more had the man been fit for it. We are straitened in ourselves, not in God. O brothers, the church is weak today because the Holy Spirit is not upon her members as we could desire Him to be. You and I are tottering along like feeble babes, whereas, had we more of the Spirit, we might walk without fainting, run without weariness, and even mount up with wings as eagles. Oh, for more of the anointing of the Holy Ghost whom Christ is prepared to give immeasurably unto us if we will but receive Him!” – Charles  Spurgeon on the Work of the Spirit

 

Amen.

No Shortcuts

May 7, 2008

 I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. There just aren’t any shortcuts in the spiritual  life.

I know, I’ve tried to find them. I want quick growth and maturity. 

——-

I was thinking about Bradford Pears and Silver Maples this morning and how easily they split in winds that don’t bother other trees. These are the two main landscape trees we plant around here when we want a house to look “established” and “settled”. In other words, like it wasn’t built yesterday. Mature looking trees add a feeling of stability to a neighborhood. 

They grow quick, give lots of shade, and, in the case of Bradford Pears, are showy in the spring and fall. 

They are also shallow rooted, brittle and, again in the case of the Bradford Pear, structurally weak. 

Contrast that with most slow growing hardwoods and, long term, it’s no contest. 

——-

I would like to be established, settled, stable and mature. I would also like to look that way quickly. 

I’m pretty sure I can’t have both.

So I’m going to submit to the slow growth methods of prayer, scripture and real community, counting on the Spirit to make me deep rooted in Christ, and producing fruit in season. 

What if….

May 2, 2008

Is there a more dangerous game in all the world to play than the “What if…” game?

What if…

… I won the lottery?

… I had that house?

… I got that job?

… I could do that?

… I didn’t have to do that?

Or a little deeper and darker.

What if…

… I hadn’t done that?

… I had done this instead?

It plays both ways, it could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing. It can make you dream big. It can make you dissatisfied with what is. It can make you fearful of what could be.

Visions of “what if” sometimes lead to great advancement. Business, nation, and individual have all moved forward by playing the “what if” game. All innovation, all creativity, all invention at base come from someone saying, “What if…?”

There are also visions that make us wake up in cold sweat. What if I lost my job, there were an accident, my marriage falls apart, a bad test result comes back?

Scripture both tells us to take up something like a version of the game, and tries to help us not take it too far.

Luke 14:25-32

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Counting the cost is quite a bit like asking the what if question. “What if…

… I start and can’t finish?”

… I don’t want to die daily?”

… it’s too hard?”

Jesus does it again with the rich young ruler. But he doesn’t let him even play the game, he spells it out for him. He makes him count the cost.

Mark 10:17-22

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Playing the game in this sense isn’t playing at all, but a sober, assessment of what is likely to be required, or in this case what is actually being asked of us.

What I tend to do, however, is change it from a sober assessment to asking “what if” about things that might possibly be required, or asked of me.

I see Abraham asked to sacrifice his son, “What if I…?”. I see Mary’s reputation ruined, “What if that…?”. I see Paul’s multiple stonings, afflictions and persecutions, “What if I were…?.

In short, I see in scripture the lives of the saints upended and changed forever, and try to imagine myself in their situations. “I don’t have that much faith.” “That scares me to death.” I begin to brood about what God might take from me, and how I would react. It’s all fiction, but it makes me fear tomorrow. “What if…?”

God knows I”m prone to this, so here comes the help I need to try and put this stuff in perspective. 

“Don’t fear, little flock, the kingdom is yours.” “Don’t worry about how you’re going to live, your Father knows what you need.” “Don’t worry about tomorrow (“what if”), today (“what is”) is enough.” “Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray, and give thanks, asking your Father, and he’ll supply your need.” “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “You didn’t receive a spirit of fear, but of adoption, and power, and love, and self-control.”

Lord, have mercy.