Tag Archives: belief

Motives of Goodness

 

charity workers

Take a moment and think about your last choice to do the right thing. It have been an internal motivation, but dig a bit deeper. What is behind that? What worldview?

Oswald Chambers describes how our view of authority, obedience, and the human spirit work together.

 

There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral virtue in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders. If this recognition does not exist, even the one giving the orders may view the other person’s disobedience as freedom. If one rules another by saying, “You must do this,” and, “You will do that,” he breaks the human spirit, making it unfit for God. A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless behind his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.

Oswald Chambers (click here for his full article)

Perhaps you can take just a moment to think of God’s holiness. And think of why you obey. What supports that? And what can improve your practical ethics.

I’d love to hear your ideas.

Traveling Light with Crazy Love

Francis Chan

We don’t just have upon us a crisis of faith, but also a crisis of faithfulness.

We’ve been reviewing Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. I encourage everyone to read it. It’ll do you good. Also, it makes an interesting and thought-provoking small group study, or Sunday School class.

"Crazy Love" by Francis Chan

This last lesson was on Risk and Faith. Chan asked everyone to do something in their regular life that requires faith. He asked that we abandon the typical planning we do to minimize our risk. We should do something others could think of as silly, and allow ourselves to live and act in a more vulnerable way. We shouldn’t rely in our stuff to satisfy us. We should live bigger lives.

Along the same lines, Rolf Potts leads this sort of recommended simpler type of lifestyle. He calls it vagabonding. (I found out about Rolf through the Tim Ferriss site. Thank you, Tim.)For Potts, a travel writer, his style is not just a method of travel, but a way of life. It’s unlike the American way of life, because it does not trust in stuff.

I’ve wondered if it’s the case that in America we seem to act like “in god we trust” refers to the money itself, or the things we can buy with it.

We do a lot to feel safe. We buy insurance to minimize various kind of threats. We buy things we feel sure will help us, or at least soothe us. What is the lasting consequence of this approach? A false sense of control? Feathering our pillow of self-sufficiency? Other things…

Rolf Potts takes the theme of traveling light to a whole new level, as he now begins his No Baggage Challenge: Traveling to 12 countries in 6 weeks—With NO baggage (not even a man purse/satchel). [His blog details his travels, and his packing techniques are also quite useful.]

The journey of faith is the same way. When we seek out the comfortable, and we travel heavy, by preparing (mentally or physically) for every potential event, challenge, or threat–something important gets left behind. Perspective for one thing. But what else?

In the life of faith, “taking nothing for the journey” means that one must trust in God’s provision (and his way of providing), trust others, and build relationships. It’s not about what we’ve packed (prepared) for, it’s about the trip itself. It’s about being brave, and opening up to others, and the experience of not being weighted down (both literally and figuratively) by our presuppositions: What we think the trip should look like, and feel like.

You don’t like bumps, you say? Sorry, it’s bumpy. You just might have been insulating yourself. For some perspective… Think: padded cell.

The spiritual journey (journey of faith) is undertaken so optimal preparedness is removed as an option: It’s a method of living, not to be comfortable, but to survive, live, and eventually thrive, where you are, as you are. You come as you are. When the going gets tough–and it will–you stay. [The only thing you “plan on” is love and loyalty.] You work it out. You don’t let yourself have but that choice. You live has though you don’t have a chance/option to flee–like we are too often ready to do. We trust others, and God with abandon, despite the risks, or pain that may/will come.

Why? Because it is the surest way to growth, more rewarding experiences, and a sense of being in a Story bigger than yourself and your self interests. In spending ourselves, we gain our lives.

When we take a risk to help or love (without examining the our potential losses, and assessing all the personal risks) we live by and in faith, not by sight.

[Now, realize, I’m not talking about a life of folly, or veritable reckless behavior. I’m talking about being okay with discomfort, and sacrificing the known and manageable, for something greater at stake.]

What could that look like for you?
Please-Leave your ideas.

Maybe giving away the extra car to someone who needs it? Opening up your home for someone else to live in? Inviting a family to your home for supper once a week? Using a paycheck to buy someone groceries?

What kind of faith will you live by?

In this sense, a little pain goes a long way. Soon, our sights move away from ourselves in pursing selfless faithfulness.

AND-How light can you travel? (on vacation, etc.)

Comments, thoughts, and questions welcome.

Blooming Rose of Sharon, evangelism, and spiritual conversions

For mother’s day my family got me a Rose of Sharon plant.

Rose of Sharon blossom (from my yard)

My Rose of Sharon shrubbery

As you can see it’s nearly in full bloom. Although a lot was happening in the life of this new floral addition to my yard, it is the blooming that get us to notice it most, and think of it as really “coming to life.”

Working this week doing the Bible lessons for Vacation Bible School has gotten me to thinking a lot about ordo salutis (“the order of salvation”). This refers to the series of conceptual steps within the Christian doctrine of salvation. Evangelical tradition is particularly focused on “the decision” to follow Christ, and “accepting him into our heart.” While a choice is involved here that can change one’s life, we might be noticing the spiritual blossoming when we concern ourselves primarily with a person’s sudden conversion experience.

Today, my former theology professor, Ken Miller (of the Methodist tradition), posted quite an insightful piece on spirituality that we in ministry and soul care are wise to read:

excerpt: -by Ken Miller
Let me put this out there up front: I grew up in a revivalist tradition, in which a signal experience is what initiates one into the faith. Further, in that tradition it is more similar events which act as catalysts for further growth in the faith. Crisis experiences, usually building on emotions and culminating in a trip to the front of the church/campmeeting/crusade venue and subsequent prayer, are what create significant growth in the Christian life. These experiences likely have to do with the confession of a known sinful act or habit or the sudden realization that one’s current pattern is displeasing to God.

I am not about to dismiss the potential value of theses events/experiences. But I will question their sufficiency. Too often we watch the same individuals having emotional releases, only to return to the same patterns of life. It’s a problem at least as old as the revivalist tradition itself, as John Wesley himself struggled with it and created the Methodist system as a corrective. One could conclude, as Wesley did, that those who reverted to the old ways never really tasted the saving power of Christ; others, wrongly in my reading of scripture and Christian doctrine, claim that the experience itself authenticates one as “saved” for eternity. Apparently, change is optional. Tell it to Paul.

That brings me to the subject of the day, and of the brief passage below. Transformation happens not by an emotional experience, but by the renewing of the mind. We may well experience—and many may well need—the jolt of the emotions provided by the revivalist approach. But change will only come when the mind is changed. We need to think differently about things if we are going to act differently. We need to unlearn some things, some of which were certainties before the word of God pointed in a different direction. We will have to take a look at the ideas we’ve adopted from the culture, along with the ones we didn’t even think were open to serious challenge.

But there’s more to it than turning the faith into an intellectual battle with “worldly” ideas. As Paul’s argument continues, we find that we are called into action immediately, requiring a different attitude and set of habits toward the people we live with and encounter on a regular basis. Is it the case that these ways of dealing with people constitute the renewing of the mind as much as the bigger worldview questions?

Miller’s full article here:

It’s interesting to note that if we think one must be “saved” from spiritual separation from God–by mainly the act of a conscious choice–the mentally handicapped and others are excluded. It also erodes some of the proper understanding of God’s sovereign work (as if Salvation is “up to us”).

If however we see both the hunger to seek the truth about life and God, and also we perceive the work and indwelling of God, (seen best in the fruit of the Holy Spirit), we may be noticing the blossoming of God’s continuous work (of which is largely a mystery).

It seems we must be careful to understand the entire process, including the disciple-making (training) and sanctification process, post-decision…if “the decision” is even the crux of it all in the first place. For us it may seem pivotal, but later a deeper experience could follow, yet for God, it’s one long Story that includes his work, and us (individually) and the rest of humanity.

In truth we have a limited and frail concept of what God, by his grace, gives us.

What are your ideas regarding salvation or conversion?

Some flowery information:

(found here)
Chavatzelet HaSharon (Hebrew חבצלת השרון) is an onion-like flower bulb. (Hebrew חבצלת ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ) is a flower of uncertain identity translated as the Rose of Sharon in English language translations of the Bible. Etymologists have inconclusively linked the Biblical חבצלת to the words בצל beṣel, meaning ‘bulb’, and חמץ ḥāmaṣ, which is understood as meaning either ‘pungent’ or ‘splendid’ (The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon). The name Rose of Sharon first appears in English in 1611 in the King James Version of the Bible. According to an annotation of Song of Solomon 2:1 by the translation committee of the New Revised Standard Version, “Rose of Sharon” is a mistranslation of a more general Hebrew word for “crocus”.
The most accepted interpretation for the Biblical reference is the Pancratium maritimum, which blooms in the late summer just above the high-tide mark. The Hebrew name for this flower is חבצלת or חבצלת החוף (coastal ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ). It is commonly assumed by most people in Israel that, the Sharon plainbeing on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the Biblical passage refers to this flower.

Likely "rose of Sharon" Mediterranean Sea flower (lily)

(Jesus Doll) Oh, no, you didn’t… (updated)

 

This “toy” begs a few questions:

Batteries and Holy Spirit included?

Will he be found eating among the trampy Barbies?

If you hold the toy while praying, does it count as an idol?

Can he heal other toys?

If he breaks, will the toy fix itself after 3 days?

What’s your caption, or headline?

Advent Meditation-hope

The passage of Scripture I am sharing is featured this week in the NLT version of Tyndale’s new Bible called, Holy Bible: Mosaic. Weekly meditations, placed in the beginning of the publication before the Scriptures, take the reader through the seasons of the Christian calendar year, starting at Advent. This year Advent starts on November 29, and lasts four weeks.

A passage I will call you to reflect on today is written by church father, Paul. In this portion he offers the church in the city of Corinth words of hope concerning the Reality of their situation, despite the troubling circumstances, and internal strife. He clears through the smog of human weakness to reveal the power of God, and the strength and hope that resides in having confidence in the message, promises, and Spirit from God that have already transformed them.

If you are struggling this season, take hope  in the God who is everywhere always, who wants the best for you, who will not give up on you, or stop his transforming work in you. Have hope beyond your troubles, and place that hope outside yourself, in One who will be faithful, and carry you through to the end.

(thank you to biblegateway.com for Scripture version: link included)
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
View commentary related to this passage

Paul Gives Thanks to God

I Corinthians 1:4-9

“4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

(emphasis mine)

Friend, concentrate please on verses 7-9 especially, and take in the hope offered here. This hope isn’t just for the Christmas season, but for all year long, and all life long.

I invite you-right now-t0 re-read the passage slowly, roll it over in your mind and heart, and then pray to God about it, or some portion or  aspect that personally connects with you. Then, please share one or more of your reflections, thoughts, or feelings.

Thank you.

Blessings to you this season.

Reflections-On a Missions Essay/Deism

Below is the paper I did about world Christianity. The author of the essay I am reflecting on is from Sri Lanka, and I was surprised to find some interesting similarities between American culture and Indian culture.

Missiology Essay Paper 3

about

Essay: God: the Source, the Originator, and the End of Mission

by Ajith Fernando

November 20, 2009

Submitted by Lisa DeLay

Ajith Fernando in his essay, God: the Source, the Originator, and the End of Mission, presents the church as a mirror of the Trinity, and surmises the challenges of missiology in the second half of the 20th century, and in his current context of Sri Lanka. He first looks at Paul’s epistles as a study of theology to discover a Scriptural missiological telos.

Fernando speaks of fear as a dominant emotion for the world population–whether they are rich of poor. The rich fear economic reversals or harsh business environments, and the poor fear destitution and oppression by demonic forces. For both groups, the power of God in atonement, and the gospel is vitally important to impart to them. These principles include God’s sovereignty, his gloriousness, righteousness, God as the source of revelation and salvation, God’s gift of salvation, God’s will for our lives, and God’s post-salvation blessings to us. Our response to God is met in the acts of belief, worship, commitment and obedience, godliness, and accountability to God.

As Fernando moves into some of the crises of the church in his region, I sense that many of the same issues plague the body of Christ in the U.S.A. in many similar ways–though a unique American twist is apparent. The “magical view of God,” is common for Fernando’s people, where they are used to apprehending God similar to the way they had understood their originally worshiped deities. These prior deities were considered powerful and would do favors for them. Eventually, the people first came to the Almighty God for things like healing from a sickness, for demonic deliverance, or relief in a financial crisis.

Here, in the U.S. many also view God in an immature, or simplistic, light as well. Many may understand him to be something like a magical genie that should comfort them, fix their problems, and help out in crisis. Christian Smith offers a term for American youth, which I believe to aptly to many adults as well. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:

1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”

2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”

3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”

5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”1

Fernando mentions that to people in Sri Lanka, many times the subjective blessings, rather than the important implications of holiness, are what the Christians are more focused on. I sense a great similarity here, with many American Christians who are stunted in their spiritual formation. The, “what is God doing for me,” mentality, or “what can I do for God so he favors me more,” is a common notion in quite a few Christian circles.

In (his) church, Fernando says prayer requests, and testimonies tend to be about temporal matters or needs. This rings true for my church, as well, and I am sure in many other American churches too. When one reads our church’s prayer listing, requests are most frequently for sickness, physical safety (such as for those in the military, or traveling), or for temporal, or tangible/material needs, (such as finding a job, family stability, fundraising, good weather, or an upcoming event.)  I do not ever remember hearing of a prayer request that included something like, “learning peace and patience during a trial or loss.” I do not remember anyone in my church requesting prayer that his particular suffering would bring him closer to God. Many personal testimonies, as well, or prayer requests revolve around tangible blessings, alleviating personal suffering, meeting temporal needs, or the satisfaction of acquiring personal preferences, (such as healing, or a desired answer to a temporal need.)


1 R. Albert Mohler, Jr.| “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion” Christian Post. Accessed November 16, 2009 from http://www.christianpost.com/article/20050418/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-the-new-american-religion/index.html

 

Get God and Get Rich Quick

raining-money
Wouldn’t it be cool if God was a genie, and if you rubbed him the right way you could get your wildest dreams to come true?

Or maybe he could be like the Lotto, and you could hit the Jackpot with him, and a windfall of goodies could come your way, with no trouble at all.

Or God could be like a butler with supernatural body toning and skin enhancing skills to diminish the signs of aging and flabbiness.

Ah, God, the big vending machine in the sky…

Except-God asks us to be familiar in relationship to him like a spouse. He calls us his “Beloved.” Hum… conundrum…

Is the Get God-Get Rich idea perhaps a bit immature? Near-sighted?

Anyway, God is a Being described as a Person, right? 

A friend of mine, Jon Acuff, has a hilarious post called “Secretly Believing in the Prosperity Gospel.” You’ll laugh out loud if you read it. His book, “Stuff Christians Like” is a great commentary on Christian sub-culture that will have you laughing non stop! (Especially if you were ever a preacher’s kid!)