Archive for July, 2008

Prayers

July 28, 2008

Update-My family friend who was most severely injured is now more stable and, it appears, out of the woods so to speak. He is in for a long recovery, and your prayers are still appreciated.  

Some close family friends were shot yesterday in the church shooting here in Knoxville. Prayers would be appreciated.

“Kingdom” Pt 1

July 26, 2008

I’m posting from the kitchen table of my wife’s brother’s family home in Brookfield, Wisconsin. It’s early and no one is up yet. Lot’s of fun stuff to do, and family to be with, so it’s all good. Took in a Brewer’s game last night, going up to Green Bay today. Just a quick update on the Garrett travels for those who might be interested. Now on to the post….

For a quick intro to what this post is about read this.

Here goes.

Lift up your heads, O gates!
   And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
   The LORD, strong and mighty,
   the LORD, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
   And lift them up, O ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
   The LORD of hosts,
   he is the King of glory! Ps 24:7-10

And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. I Sam 8:6,7

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousnessfrom this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isa 9:7

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever…. Dan 2:44

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne,and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? Isa 66:1

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. I Cor 15:25

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. I Tim 6:13-16

They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” Rev 17:14

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Rev 19:16

“If Christ is the King, everything, quite literally, every thing and every one, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus…A total renovation of our imagination, our way of looking at things–what Jesus commanded in his no-nonsense imperative, ‘Repent!’–is required.” ~ Eugene, Peterson, The Jesus Way

“If Christianity should happen to be true — that is to say, if its God is the real God of the universe — then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true. [All] things not only may have something to do with the Christian God, but must have something to do with Him if He lives and reigns.” -G.K. Chesterton

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46

A Letter Worth Reading

July 19, 2008

I’m going to post this today instead of a follow-up to the “King and His Kingdom” because, 1) I just found it today, and 2) it’s really good.

Here’s a letter written by Evelyn Underhill that I think is as timely today as it was when it was written.

(HT- Brother Maynard)

A letter from Evelyn Underhill to Archbishop Lang of Canterbury  

(Found among her papers. c.1930)  

MAY it please your Grace:  

I desire very humbly to suggest with bishops assembled at Lambeth that the greatest and most necessary work they could do at the present time for the spiritual renewal of the Anglican Church would be to call the clergy as a whole, solemnly and insistently to a greater interiority and cultivation of the personal life of prayer. This was the original aim of the founders of the Jerusalem Chamber Fellowship, of whom I am one. We were convinced that the real failures, difficulties and weaknesses of the Church are spiritual and can only be remedied by spiritual effort and sacrifice, and that her deepest need is a renewal, first in the clergy and through them in the laity; of the great Christian tradition of the inner life. The Church wants not more consecrated philanthropists, but a disciplined priesthood of theocentric souls who shall be tools and channels of the Spirit of God: and this she cannot have until Communion with God is recognized as the first duty of the priest. But under modern conditions this is so difficult that unless our fathers in God solemnly require it of us, the necessary efforts and readjustments will not be made. With the development of that which is now called “The Way of Renewal” more and more emphasis has been placed on the nurture and improvement of the intellect, less and less, on that of the soul. I do not underrate the importance of the intellectual side of religion. But all who do personal religious work know that the real hunger among the laity is not for halting attempts to reconcile theology and physical science, but for the deep things of the Spirit.  

We look to the Church to give us an experience of God, mystery, holiness and prayer which, though it may not solve the antinomies of the natural world, shall lift us to contact with the supernatural world and minister eternal life. We look to the clergy to help and direct our spiritual growth. We are seldom satisfied because with a few noble exceptions they are so lacking in spiritual realism, so ignorant of the laws and experiences of the life of prayer. Their Christianity as a whole is humanitarian rather than theocentric. So their dealings with souls are often vague and amateurish. Those needing spiritual help may find much kindliness, but seldom that firm touch of firsthand knowledge of interior ways which comes only from a disciplined personal life of prayer. In public worship they often fail to evoke the spirit of adoration because they do not possess it themselves. Hence the dreary character of many church services and the result in the increasing alienation of the laity from institutional forms.  

God is the interesting thing about religion, and people are hungry for God. But only a priest whose life is soaked in prayer, sacrifice, and love can, by his own spirit of adoring worship, help us to apprehend Him. We ask the bishops . . . to declare to the Church and especially its ministers, that the future of organized Christianity hinges not on the triumph of this or that type of churchman’s theology or doctrine, but on the interior spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience of the ordained. However difficult and apparently unrewarding, care for the interior spirit is the first duty of every priest. Divine renewal can only come through those whose roots are in the world of prayer.  

THE TWO things that the laity want from the priesthood are spiritual realism and genuine love of souls. It is by these that all Christian successes have been won in the past and it is to these that men always respond. We instantly recognize those services and sermons that are the outward expression of the priest’s interior adherence to God and the selfless love of souls. These always give us a religious experience. On the other hand, every perfunctory service, every cold and slovenly celebration (for these are more frequent than the bishops realize because when they are present, everything is at its best), is a lost opportunity which discredits corporate worship and again reflects back to the poor and shallow quality of the Priest’s inner life… It is perhaps worthwhile to recall the humbling fact that recent notable secessions to the Roman Catholic communion have been caused by declaration by a felt need of the supernatural which the Church of England failed to satisfy, while the astonishing success of the Oxford Group Movement among young people of the educated class witnesses to the widespread desire for an experience of God unmet by the ordinary ministrations of the Church. History shows that these quasi-mystical movements among the laity do not flourish where the invisible side of institutional religion is vigorously maintained.  

I know that recovering the ordered interior life of prayer and meditation will be very difficult for clergy immersed increasingly in routine work. It will mean for many a complete rearrangement of values and a reduction of social activities. They will not do it unless they are made to feel its crucial importance. This will not be achieved through “schools of prayer” which stimulate the mind rather than the spirit. But the solemn voice of the united episcopate, recalling the Church to that personal, realistic contact with the which has been since Pentecost the one source of her power, will give authoritative support to those who already feel the need of a deeper spirituality and will remind the others that the renewal of a spiritual society must depend on giving absolute priority to the spiritual life.  

I venture to put before the conference the following practical recommendations: (1) Education of Ordinands— That the bishops shall emphasize the need and importance of a far more thorough, varied, interesting and expert devotional training in our theological colleges which, with a few striking exceptions, seem to me to give insufficient attention to this vital part of their work. (2) The Clergy— That they should call upon every ordained clergyman, as an essential part of his pastoral duty and not merely for his own sake: (a) To adopt a rule of life which shall include a fixed daily period of prayer and reading of a type that feeds, pacifies and expands his soul, and deepens his communion with God; b) To make an annual retreat; (c) To use every endeavour to make his church into a real home of prayer and teach his people, both by exhortation and example so to use it.  

 

(Courtesy of the Austin Fellowship) 

A King and His Kingdom

July 11, 2008

There are four main images God uses in His word to clue us in to what He is like, and in turn, our relationship to Him. 

 

  1. Shepherd and sheep
  2. Husband and wife.
  3. Parent and child
  4. King and subject

 

We would do well to spend time meditating on each of these. Each one gives much needed relief and even correction to what ails us today. 

Over the last several years each one of these has captured my thinking and imagination for a season. Currently it’s the image and institution of a King and His Kingdom. 

For me, the more I think about something, the more it’s on my mind, the more I begin to see it everywhere. (Kind of like when I get obsessed with some “thing” I want to buy, and suddenly everywhere I go I see it. I didn’t notice it before, but now it seems like I can’t turn around without seeing it again and again.)

In this case though, it’s a good thing. Everywhere I look, especially in scripture, I see the King and His kingdom. So over the next few posts I want to look at  some of those passages. I may or may not offer much comment, I might even quote some folks way smarter, and more importantly, way farther along the Way than I am. 

I want to increasingly see, and begin to live in, the reality of The King and His Kingdom.

An Apprentice

July 2, 2008

Here’s a great quote from Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart. (I found it at Darryl Dash’s blog. Go check it out, he’s got some good stuff.) It gets at something that has bothered me for quite a while about the whole mindset of western Christianity. And that is that “salvation” is the end game.

It’s not. Disciples are.

“It is, I gently suggest, a serious error to make “outreach” a primary goal of the local congregation, and especially so when those who are already “with us” have not become clear-headed and devoted apprentices of Jesus, and are not, for the most part, solidly progressing along the path. Outreach is one essential task of Christ’s people, and among them there will always be those especially gifted for evangelism. But the most successful work of outreach would be the work of inreach that turns people, wherever they are, into lights in the darkened world.

A simple goal for the leaders of a particular group would be to bring all those in attendance to understand clearly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to be solidly committed to discipleship in their whole life. That is, when they are asked who they are, the first words out of their mouth would be, “I am an apprentice of Jesus Christ.” This goal would have to be approached very gently and lovingly and patiently with existing groups, where the people involved have not understood this to be part of their membership commitment.” 

 

I love that descriptor, “I am an apprentice of Jesus Christ.” No membership dues, pew reservations, or emergency roadside service/member benefits when you join the church. 

You sign up as an “apprentice” to become a “master”, or at least enough like your Master to apprentice others in The Way.

Henri Nouwen wrote an article titled “Moving From Solitude to Community to Ministry”. The simple summary is that we should follow Jesus’ example when He chose his disciples. He went away to pray all night, then chose his 12 and, then sent them out in ministry. Solitude to community to ministry in that order.

Our typical order is reversed. We come up with an idea for a good ministry, talk it up until we find enough volunteers to make it work, and the go at it hard until we burn out and have to take some time away, alone.

Without the foundation of an interior spiritual maturity, ministry and community are too heavy and burdensome for us to bear for long.

About 18 years, or so, ago I decided I needed to get serious about the things of God. I began to study and pray, and ask those around me how they were really doing spiritually. The surprise was that they’d actually tell me. Everything. Mostly it wasn’t good. After about a year of doing this, I had to quit asking. It wasn’t that I didn’t care anymore, it was that I didn’t know what to do with it all. I had no answers, I had nothing to offer them. I was ministering to them with no foundation. Sure I knew the scriptures pretty well, I’d grown up in the church, knew the stories, the principles, the creed, the sunday school answers. But I didn’t have the maturity of experience, and the wisdom born from applying the knowledge in my head to my life daily. I had to take some time to grow, myself, before I was able to offer anything to other folks. Then, and only then, could I bear the burden of a brother’s sin and brokenness, with something more to offer than an empty platitude.

 

I’m gonna say something else that will likely upset someone’s apple cart.

Your local church’s main job isn’t ministry.

At least it’s not your minister’s/staff’s job. His job is to equip you to do ministry. The problem is you and I have put him in an impossible position. We have hired him to “do ministry”, to do our job.

And we’ve made him so busy doing our job, he doesn’t have time to do his. 

His job, as I understand it from scripture, is to make sure that you and I are ready to do the good works that God has planned for each of us to do. Not to do them for us. 

Ministry mainly, or should mainly take place outside the walls of the church. By us, in our own “personal mission fields” to borrow a phrase from T.M. Moore.

So allow your minister to do his job. Then go do yours too.