Tag Archives: salvation

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)

Banqueting Table, Part 1

ONCE UPON A TIME~

You hear a famous chef will be working his magic at the neighborhood restaurant, so one night you stop by for a sumptuous meal. Inside, you are welcomed by a maitre d’. Curiously, he’s wearing a name tag that reads, “Hello, my name is: Friendly Maitre d'”. His large teeth settle wide and inscrutable, as he motions his branchy arm for you to follow him. A large room decorated in rich browns and warm accent lights and sconces awaits you. A marvelous walnut table yawns out, bare. Below the table is an enormous drop cloth. You sit as directed, and wait.

Gazing around the room, you shiver a bit in your chair, as you notice light and airy music just a bit out of hearing comprehension. A candle might be nice, you daydream.

Out of the blanket of quite three people bustle through the swinging door. One holds a glass of water, another plastic utensils and cocktail napkin, and then the chef brings up the rear with a partitioned plate in his hands.

“Sorry for the wait,” he says. We’ve been planning this for a while, but now that you’re here, we’ve had to step it up a bit. We hope you know that we want you to feel comfortable.”

“Yes. Very, very comfortable,” say the other two together. You spy their name tags. Both read: “Hello, my name is: Casual and non judgmental host (pre-friend).”

The chef doesn’t wear a name tag at all, but his chef hat has “chef de cuisine” embroidered on it, large and flowing. He is sweaty, but cheerful, and a bit out of breath.

“You don’t want to go anywhere else. You feel welcome, and at home here. This is the banqueting table, friend! We don’t want to be pushy. Just, please, enjoy,” he says wiping his top lip, and setting down the steaming plate in front of you.

“Soon after you begin your entree, we should begin with our spontaneous conversation,” says a beaming host.

“We’ve prepared well in advanced to be natural and friendly with you,” says the other.

You look down at your banquet meal. The cocktail napkin is imprinted with, “Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Appetizing Spiritual Food?

to be continued…

(responses are welcome)

Prayer-The Hope of Kingdom Come

A most calming, most hopeful way to see prayer in the light of Stanley Grenz describes it in his book, Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom. (Eerdmans, 1998) He says that every prayer is eschatological (related to end times). By this he means that prayer is the cry, the longing, and the hope of God’s will coming in the culmination of all things. That time when God wipes our tears, rights all wrongs, and the fullness of time and creation enters into the Consummation of the Story of God-theologically speaking. It is a response and movement toward God and faith, and his plan of redemption in the ultimate sense.

Just the same, Jesus prayed for what else? “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom, spiritual is here now, thanks to our Messiah Kin. Redemption has been won. Yet, as we all know the earth groans to be restored, tragedies happen, evil is committed, and not all is well with people and the world. This is the cry of prayer, in every nation and tongue.

Have you ever seen prayer this way?

Your Stomach’s Personal Savior- Evangelism Follies

Today started out rough. It involved seeing my son’s breakfast, before and after it was consumed. The poor boy’s tummy was upset. Sometimes I forget about using this common remedy I have in my refrigerator. I keep it for times such as these. Sure there’s Pepto Bismol, Tums, Gravol people use as over-the-counter medicinal aids, but I have found nothing works better than a few ounces of flat ginger ale. It worked wonderfully this time too. It’s not magical, it’s the ginger.

Now, suppose I wanted everyone to save money, and time, and feel better sooner, like my family and I have, but instead of telling them my experience, and the reasoning behind the remedy, I would first try a tactic to soften them up. Have you noticed this sort of thing used for Christianity?

Maybe asking them reasonable questions would get them to think about the whole thing themselves, and it wouldn’t seem like I was actually trying to shove my beliefs down their throat. I won’t but let’s suppose I would say to them,

“As a human, you would agree that all humans have tummy aches at some point in their lives, right?

The unsuspecting, pre-convert would then reply something like, “Um, what? Um, yeah, I guess, sure.”

Then I could say, “Did you know that you will 100% lose more money, and be more sick without using ginger ale to fix your tummy aches and vomiting?”

They maybe would say, “Um, no. But I’ve never used ginger ale before, and I’m not sure it’ll work for me.”

Maybe then I would say, “Since you haven’t tried it, you really can’t say that. Would you rather risk it, and throw up for days?”

And they might respond, “Well, I’m just not sure if I can see it  your way.”

And I would say, “Listen, you have to take that first step of faith. You have to say you’ll commit to ginger ale. You have to trust it will help you. And then you have to take the steps to implement that into your life. You have to be prepared, because you never know when violent illness will spring on you. It usually comes like a thief in the night! Sounds scary doesn’t it?”

They might say, “Well, I don’t want that to happen.”

(me) “Well, it might happen that way. In fact, it’s an absolute certainty, you will, one day, get very ill.”

(them) “Oh. I never thought of it like that.”

(me) “It is an urgent matter. Would you like to commit, right now, to accepting ginger ale as your stomach’s own personal savior?

I don’t evangelize any good news this way.

I just tell the truth, and share my experience. I don’t try a tactic, trick of technique to corner my prey, I mean, listener. I don’t simply because, anything I really love and enjoy I talk about anyway. It’s not fake. It’s not a sales pitch. It’s not a way to get people to do what I do, or believe what I believe. What they wish to believe is in their control. Besides, I personally can’t stand being manipulated, so why would I subject anyone to that?


What witnessing or evangelism follies have you seen or had tried on you?

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

 

Response to Reader – Displeased with “erect nipples”

Michael wrote in to make me aware that my blog had a “luke-warm” message toward sexual temptation because one of the posted Flickr photos depicted a [clothed] “bra-less young lady with erect nipples.” He also included this verse for my edification, and to prove his point:

(red emphasis his)

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

I’m very sorry this was an upsetting experience for Michael, and fraught with potential sexual backsliding, for him, and possibly for others.

Originally, I had been impressed with the wordpress Flickr link that *automatically* generates, and rotatates submitted photos from a (supposedly) G-rated, artistic Flickr site file folder titled: “Interesting.” I hadn’t seen anything offensive, but I understand this photo might have crossed the line for some people–well, men and lesbians primarily, but also those who don’t like looking at chilly women (or men), female store mannequins, or being reminded that nipples seem to have a mind, and actions of their own. It seems foundational garments–lack of them–are a foil again! Just like in the 1960s.

I didn’t know the photo was in the rotation, and I’m sorry it (might have) stumbled some of you.

My decision-

Due to not having control over the nature of the photos my readers are exposed to, I am removing the auto-generated photo gallery link from Flickr for now. I prefer that Flickr was set up differently, so I could pick “landscapes,” or “scenery,” “topic themes,” or non-nippled photos that suit my taste, and have them displayed, rather than whatever “Interesting” might be to someone, which, in this case, turned out to be two small bumps in the road for me, and the Life As Prayer blog.

If anybody has a good suggestion for adding topical rotating photo art in the sidebar in wordpress, let me know; and until I figure out a better way to have revolving art that won’t titillate, um, so to speak, I’ll axe the Flickr shots that have been in the sidebar. Sorry to those of you that will miss them.

Weigh-in with your ideas, or thoughts.

Thank you. And sorry Michael.

P.S. This reminds me. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Support the Tat Tats! Wear pink, and remember that 40,610 will die of breast cancer this year! Get a mamo, or encourage the woman in your life, (or a man with man boobs) to do so!

(When I get lemons I make a lemonade post!)

Thanks everyone.

Perceiving Grace… Your thoughts?

Proposals on grace, including “kenotic decentering” here. After reading it…What are your thoughts about what you read?

Adam Miller‘s article brings up notions of what grace may be in how it may be perceived, or actually work in how we experience life.

Does grace fill in the gaps of our weakness, bringing us to find satisfaction and salvation in ways we never can alone. OR maybe is it what we allow, (and what is given) to help us find contentment and salvation in whatever the mixed bag of sorrow and joy happens in life. In other words, life is already normal, (not abnormal, despite the negative side of it) and grace helps us see life as not deficient. 

Miller points out a third way, and, of course, there are other ways to perceive grace, or propose how it works too. 

I’d LOVE to hear your proposal, or stab at it.