Archive for April, 2011

Faith vs. Knowledge (9)

Posted in Willard on April 28, 2011 by nmpreach

Willard discusses spiritual disciplines including humility, pursuit of inward transformation, constant receptivity to the “Presence”, and unqualified obedience to Jesus. 

Under this umbrella of disciplines is silence and solitude.  Regretfully, I have much to learn in this spiritual discipline.  Upon self-evaluation, I’m not very good at being silent.  I’m prone to talk to God more than listen.  In fact, silence makes me uncomfortable.  And often times, I revert back to my “default” mode of noise, noise, and more noise. 

And solitude.  I can’t think of the last time that I was alone and did nothing for lengthy periods of time.  After all, my brain tells me that I’m not being productive, I’m being lazy, or I am wasting time.  Again.  Default mode.  Do you find yourself overwhelmed by stress, being irritable, or lonely?  Check your time of silence and solitude.

Fellowship with other disciples is another discipline that must be learned.   Recently, I’ve been reading much in regards to Christian history.  It’s inspiring to read of Christians who gave everything (including their lives) for their pursuit of a relationship with Jesus.  Their writings have also been beneficial.  And of course, the example of discipleship throughout Scripture is something we must follow.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “not neglect meeting together…but encouraging one another” (10:25).  After all, isn’t that what the Church is about?  The fellowship we have with one another is so vital to maintaining a healthy spiritual life.  It’s important to remember that fellowship isn’t just being around one another.  It’s about growing a relationship, sharing together, and learning to love.   Too often, we equate fellowship with eating with one another or sharing recipes.  Again, it’s time we train ourselves in spiritual disciplines that cause us to grow closer to Christ and one another.  How would your own evaluation of fellowship look?  Are you investing in other believers and allowing them to invest in you?

Let’s commit to working on these disciplines – together!  What do you say?

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Life or Death

Posted in Discipleship on April 26, 2011 by nmpreach

I’m  currently reading a book entitled King’s Cross: The story of the world in The Life of Jesus by Timothy Keller.  So far, so good.  I anticipate several posts about the book in the future.  However, I was reminded last night of what occurs when one falls to temptation.  

In the Garden, the Serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”  And after mankind rebels, God banished man from His presence.  I suppose we could debate death and the meaning of death, particularly in this passage for hours or days.  However, I was reminded that any separation from God – SIN – causes us to not experience life as possible (in the presence of God).  In other words, each time I choose to rebel against God and follow my own will, I forego a bit of life. 

Each decision leads to life (communion with God) or death (separation from God).  Each decision.  Life.  Death.

What will you choose?

Easter and YOU

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2011 by nmpreach

It’s hard to believe that Easter is upon us.  But it is.  This particular time of year is always big for the church where I serve.  For several years, we’ve sponsored a Community Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday morning.  It’s grown by leaps and bounds every year.  Who can say (or believe) 15,000 eggs?  Wow.  On Sunday, we’ll have a “sunrise” service proclaiming the victory we have in Christ and celebrating communion together.  And then we’ll share a meal together before going into the Easter worship.

People from throughout the community will typically attend churches (including our gathering) on Christmas or Easter.  I anticipate this year to be no different.  I’ve been praying for some time about this particular day.  After all, this is only one of a few times that some will hear the Gospel this year.  My prayer has been for God’s salvation, rededications, etc.

As I was praying the other day, a thought struck me.  A voice in my head (whom I believe to be the Holy Spirit) said, “When are you going to pray for yourself?”  Honestly, it took me back for a second.  I was focused on praying for those who would hear the Gospel.  I had prayed for myself in a passing way.  Something like “…and Lord help me to share the words only you would want.  By the power of Christ I pray….”  But the Spirit spoke again, “What about your response?  What does Easter mean to you?”

There are times, I think, that we focus on someone else’s response.  After all, we’re told to pray for a harvest (Mt 9:38).  But doesn’t it make sense that we should be part of a continual harvest?  In other words, isn’t our committment a daily process?

This Easter, would you consider doing something out of the ordinary (at least for the Easter season)?  Would you add yourself to your prayer?  Would you pray for a harvest?  But would you also consider what Easter means to you personally?  What does God want to do with you?  What is he calling you to?  Instead of thinking about your loved one or friend that needs to hear the Easter message, consider what God might be doing in your life.  And then do something about it.

He is risen!

Faith vs. Knowledge (8)

Posted in Willard on April 20, 2011 by nmpreach

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

The Apostle Paul (Ph. 3:8)

We’ve been discussing knowing God/Christ on an intimate level.  It’s now time to turn our attention to some practical things.  I appreciate how Willard offers, “Jesus is the human face on the kingdom of God.  He makes it concretely accessible” (142).  This is how we can say being a follower of Christ is not about religion.  It’s about relationship.  At the danger of sounding overly pious, I believe that statement to be true.  Willard argues, “His (Jesus’) crucifixion and resurrection announce the end of human systems and stand in judgment over them.  He is the man on the cross calling us to join him there” (147).

This Easter week, people will show up in churches because it happens to be Easter Sunday.  They will tolerate several things including family gatherings, a few songs, and even religious people.  It’s the last statement above that makes most people uncomfortable.  He is the man on the cross calling us to join him there.  What?  I thought it was over.  Jesus did it all.  There’s nothing I could ever do.  etc.

Although it’s true that Jesus said “It is finished”, He doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility.   After all, what does it mean to worship him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23-24)?  Some of us might be quick to answer with “‘The Jesus Creed’ – that’s what it means to worship in spirit and truth.”  Love God and love others.  It’s as simple as that.  Right?

Willard defines “love” as “humbly and simply devot(ing) ourselves under God to the promotion of the goods of human life that come under our influence” (155).  In other words, it goes back to taking the focus from ourselves and placing it back upon God – being willing to do what Christ did – giving completly of himself.  Are you willing?

Bounds on Prayer

Posted in Prayer on April 18, 2011 by nmpreach

Woe to the generation of sons who find their censors empty of the rich incense of prayer; whose fathers have been too busy or too unbelieving to pray, and perils inexpressible and consequences untold are their unhappy heritage.  Fortunate are they whose fathers and mothers have left them a wealthy patrimony of prayer.

– E.M. Bounds

Woe to the generation = Have you ever thought about your impact upon those whom you influence?  For those of us with children or grandchildren, it’s a tremendous responsibility.  It’s been said, “Decisions today affect what happens tomorrow.”  It’s true.

Whose fathers have been too busy or too unbelieving to pray = Too busy to pray?  Why isn’t prayer the first thing that comes to mind?  How can we be busy without praying?  And as for belief?  Does our weak prayer life “shout” that we don’t believe?

Fortunate are they whose fathers and mothers have left them a wealthy patrimony of prayer = Does prayer have that affect?  Bounds seems to think so.  If you want to bless your children – to leave them something that lasts – don’t stress about the latest gadget.  Pray for them!   And do it often.

The Trouble With Boxes

Posted in Discipleship on April 14, 2011 by nmpreach

Many of us have heard “Know that you know that you know” when speaking of faith.  But after leaving the confines of a “safe spiritual enviornment”, we return back into our default mode – living life in compartmentalized ways.  Using the metaphor of boxes, we have a box for our family life, another box for our hobbies, a box for our jobs, and even a box for all things spiritual.  We guard our boxes.  Although we rely on our jobs to pay the bills, our family life box is protected from our job box.  Our spiritual box is for certain times and places or when we are around others who have a similar box.  It’s our “default mode.”

Recently, we’ve discussed miracles.  In which box would they be?  The spiritual box?  Would we have to create another box for all things supernatural?

Jesus didn’t live with boxes.  He had one box.  Everything was about glorifying The Father.  When asked about eternal life, Jesus said love God and love one another.  He told his followers they would do even greater things than he had done when the Holy Spirit provided them power.  After being raised from the dead, he appeared to his followers and encouraged them to keep the faith.  And what did Jesus find?  The apostles had returned to their default mode.  Peter was fishing.  Thomas – often called the doubter – said he wouldn’t believe unless he saw and touched Jesus for himself.  Do you hear him living among several boxes?  Understanding mankind’s default mode, Jesus allowed Thomas to see and touch.

Jesus spoke of eternal life.  He often said, “Let those who have ears hear.”  Perhaps we should define “eternal life” as living without the boxes.  Everything we do should be about glorifying The Father.  Jesus put it this way:  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt 6:33)

So how about it?  In which box do you spend most of your time?  Are some of the boxes bigger, heavier, more important than the other boxes?  Which box(es) need to be eliminated?  Are you willing to get down to one box?

Faith vs Knowledge (7)

Posted in Willard on April 6, 2011 by nmpreach

Once we’ve determined how we can know of a supreme being and His standard of morality, Willard now moves into a discussion of Christ.  Deists believe in God – although He can’t be known, doesn’t interact with creation, etc.  But what does one do with Christ?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14:9) seems pretty clear.  Jesus claims at least the same attributes or characteristics of the Father.  Based upon other texts e.g. Jn 1:1, I would go further to say the Father and Jesus are one in the same.  Therefore, those of us who are Trinitarians believe God has taken an active role in creation (in Jesus) and continues to do so through the Holy Spirit.

When we consider miracles, there are those who would disallow them based upon the miracle not following a “natural” set of laws.  As Willard so eloquently points out, “The inception of new life in the human female’s womb regularly requires the injection of sperm from a human male, dead people regularly stay dead, and on a regular basis water refuses to turn to wine even when spoken to” p. 125.  However, witnesses have recorded those very things happening in the Bible.  A virgin did conceive and give birth, the dead was raised to life, and water did turn to wine.  It’s important to note that these things were corroborated by more than a few people.

Natural laws are a reality.  But one must consider where those laws come from?  In other words, the laws didn’t create themselves or just happen.  But even so, if the law giver provides the laws, doesn’t he also have the ability to modify or counteract the laws?  If he has the ability and chooses to do so, supernatural events (or miracles) occur.

If one chooses not to believe in miracles, that is of course, their right.  However, disregarding truth simply because it can’t be explained is less than intelligent.  God has given us the opportunity to know Christ today through His supernatural events in the past and present.  I look forward to what we’ve been promised for the future.  Thoughts?