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Archive for March, 2010

Quiet around Parkview today – most everyone is at Catalyst One Day @ Willow Creek.

Reading The Good and Beautiful Life this morning, which I can’t recommend highly enough, and came across this great insight:

“To love is to will the good of another. it does not entail an emotion, loving or even liking a person. we will their good and demonstrate i tin action. This is a crucial point. Loving our enemies seems impossible to us because we think, ‘I can never feel love for a person who abuses me.’ Jesus is not asking his apprentices to feel love but to act in love toward everyone, including or enemies.” (127)

I think Jesus knew this was the place where we’d grow the most – more even than prayer, reading Scripture, fasting, or serving the poor- when we had to return curses with blessing, when we had to give back good in return for evil, when we had to take a punch and return a kiss. This is when we begin to trust God in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine, and also when we start to break a cycle of violence that helps keep the world in slavery to revenge and personal war.

What would happen today if you loved someone who had given you nothing but curses and evil ever since you met them?

What would your workplace look like if you returned a co-workers anger and hate with an act of pure grace?

What happens to the grudges and past wounds we have when we slowly but surely move toward actively loving our offenders?

This is the way the world changes for the sake of Christ.

Listening: Ellis Paul, “Conversation with a Ghost”

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No matter what you have heard about “spiritual formation” or “discipleship” (which , as a side note, are pieces of my job at Parkview), the one thing that needs to be part of every conversation about growing in Christ is the Bible (or Scripture, which is my personal way of talking about it). The next question is – what do I do with this funky, violent, confusing book? How do I read this myself?

Reading the Bible is often like getting married. Seriously. Let me put this into context:

We meet – there is an awkward part of the story where we aren’t sure what each other is saying but we start to understand that there is something important about it. We try to figure things out, ask questions, and listen closely.

We date- we cut out time and intentionally focus on the person and their words and desires, listening and growing in our understanding of who they are simply by putting a fence up around the time we have together.

We get engaged- We make a commitment to what we’re hearing and to believe the promises and overtures of another person and plan to spend the rest of our lives together. There is still indecision and struggle, but ultimately we believe that this is a commitment that will last.

We get hitched- Okay, so that’s crass and I respect marriage very highly but the truth is that marriage is the practical application of the commitment and beliefs of engagements, working out over time and through various mazes of difficulty and joy over years and years.

I’d say that this is a pretty accurate picture of our relationship with Scripture – perhaps it doesn’t take years as a good marriage does – maybe we run through these stages every day but ultimately we are deepening our relationship with the words of Scripture and consequently the wild and passionate God who lies behind each chapter of the story and wants to be the main character of our stories as well.

So, how’s your relationship with the Bible?

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Just a little nod to Death Cab there…

Working on some material for an upcoming message and I’m dealing with the concept of the “soul.” We have all kinds of imagery in Scripture – souls “crying out”, souls being “lost” or “forfeited”, souls being “poured out before the Lord” – all of them suggesting that the soul is a slippery concept. For some people, soul is a kind of music.

For some who can remember way back, it’s a type of “train”. You know who you are.

What is the soul? Its the logical result of our heart and mind and strength coming together. It is the whole enchilada. It is the balance in our lives or the lack thereof, it is the joy in our lives or the lack thereof, it is the sign that something has happened in our heart and mind that is bubbling over to the surface and running all over every activity  and pursuit.

The soul is where the work of transformation that God is doing has a place to show itself to our communities and the world.

So, when Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…”

When He says, “What does it profit someone to gain the whole world but lose their very soul…”

When Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”

What is He saying? Is it possible that Jesus is interested in more than just where we’re going to go when we die? Which are you more certain of – the heaven or hell issue or the bigger picture of what your life shows God doing in you?

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Our bodies are incredible, and I think sometimes the way they’re made could help us understand the One who created them in the first place. I was reading up on “growth plates” which are sections of our bones that allow our bones to get long enough to support our bodies as we get bigger. Having a 3 year old, this is interesting stuff because it translates into more trips to Goodwill for longer pants. Meanwhile…

I was just thinking about our life of following Christ and wondering aloud: how would you know if you were growing? Doctors can look at growth plates and if they see something called the “epipthymeal line” they know that the bones have stopped growing. If you’re 5’3 and you have the line, get used to being 5’3. It’s over.

Spiritual formation, however, is the process of growing into Christ that never stops. We will never outgrow our need to be transformed and changed. So, how do we know if that’s happening? Here are 5 possible “spiritual growth plates” we can use to think through this process.

1. Our Drive (heart) – Our hearts are the core of our motivations, the place where all of our decisions and actions originate. What if we ended each day, somewhat like the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, by saying “What motivated my 5 biggest decisions today?” Did we choose our words, priorities, etc. based on obedience to the Spirit of Christ or did we really just want to do whatever we felt was right? Do those two things line up for us?

2. The Dive (mind) – Our minds process motivations and the way we see the world. Our mind translates what we see so that our heart can formulate actions and responses. It’s like a strainer for the information that comes to us through media, observation, and our own meditation. Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) Paul isn’t shooting for something simply ethical, but an exchange of darkness for light that can change our whole life. Do we replace dark, broken, evil thoughts with the stuff Paul mentions? What did we think about today?

3. Thrive (soul) – The soul is best understood as everything in life in right relationship. The soul is the target of the Hebrew concept of “shalom” – a life-engulfing peace that controls everything. The soul needs balance – work, play, interaction, rest, challenge, stimulation. When Jesus says “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”, He is showing that the fundamental problem with human beings is that we seek imbalance and there are always casualties. What did we do today to help balance work with rest, solitude with interaction, our marriage with our parenting?

4. Alive (strength/neighbor) – Rob Bell stated in a recent article for Leadership Journal that we really haven’t “been to church” unless we practiced some of the “one another’s” we find in Scripture. Life without community and loving others is a life out of balance, and ultimately a life that will experience the early departure of  growth. Unless we’re being moved to serve and serve with, love and love with, worship with, and suffer with (Rom. 12:14-13:1) others we aren’t going to be able to grow in any of the other “plates.” What did you do today to make space for others – strangers and friends alike?

The key to these plates is that they all depend on each other – and in their growth we start to see what maturity really looks like, and this journey of maturity will see through to the transformation of the world and the Kingdom of God bursting through.

reading: “Prayer and Temperament”, Michael & Norrissey

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Haven’t posted in a while, well, more than a while but it’s been good to have reflective space.

Talking this week about discipleship, and Bill Hull’s four calls of Jesus:

1. Come and see – capturing the curiosity, Jesus invited people to investigate His way and teachings
2. Follow me- Jesus called, using imperatives, people to walk with Him literally but to embody and participate in His action in the world.
3. Be with me- Michael Wilkins would say this is the hallmark of discipleship, to partner (true meaning of koinonia) with Christ in His work for justice, restoration, and redemption of all creation.
4. Remain in me- Jesus call to persevere with the new life, stay obedient and faithful in the light of coming persecution and counter-cultural living.

This serves as a tremendous map for where we are in relationship to Christ – curious, participatory, partnering, and dwelling. Where do you find yourself? What needs to happen to move from where you are into a fuller, deeper commitment to Christ?

Just some thoughts that have come up through two days of doctoral class in Lincoln. We are dealing with, in an exhaustive and extensive way, with what discipleship IS and what a disciple looks like both in process and at various places of growth.

This is the last class before the thesis project, and it has give me a lot to think about, and my hope is that it doesn’t stay as simply thought but moves into practice and reality through what I’m doing at Parkview.

Who are you following?

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