The Art of Joy

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Morning Thoughts

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV)

There is something about living the Christian life that should be appealing to anyone and everyone that encounters the Gospel.  Something that is so genuine, so open and so free that it is just pouring out of every member of the body.  The something is love.  As I sat last night and pondered over the words in this passage, begging for wisdom and guidance I recognized something within the words.  Paul is talking to the church in Corinth, a church that was so eager to use their spiritual gifts that they started to misuse them.  Paul’s words, His guidance was not to throw the gifts out, but to pursue them.  His exhortation down that line starts in 14, but the premise starts here.  The Way of Love.
As I read the words, I have to recognize two things.  First, Paul is again reiterating that regardless of the gifts and the talents that we have, without love they are nothing.  This is nothing new, as Christians we should know and operate out of love.  There is something much deeper going on in the words though, something that pulls at the strings of our character.  If we read the well quoted passage about the qualities of love, and we put into context of our character we find that the passage digs into our souls.  The deepest parts of who we are, and why we do what we do.
Our character should be patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it’s not arrogant or rude.
In a series of passages that talks about our spiritual gifts, we find that the apostle Paul is writing for an inward reflection, of an outward response.  If our character is love, that is who we are on the deepest level, it’s qualities will be reflected outwardly towards everyone.
So, my prayer for this morning reads something like this:
Father,
I know that my heart needs to be focused and refocused on the finished work of the Cross.  Your Son took my place, took my punishment and my guilt on that day.  He defeated sin and death, an accomplishment that only He could do.  I know that my heart doesn’t always reflect the nature of love, the perfect nature of Jesus.  I beg Father, that you continue work in my heart, that you continue to press me deeper into the Gospel and that you teach me how to love Your bride.  Let my character reflect Your nature, let my actions and my gifts flow from a heart that is deeply in love with You.  Wrap me in your arms, hold me, so that I might know the love that can only come from you.  Amen.

The Gospel to the Streets

Walking through some teaching last night with a few of people made me realize that there is a disconnect, a misguided nature to the way that we teach Biblical truths to the people that God has placed in our paths. This disconnect isn’t inherently wrong, nor does it present itself as a heart issue per se, but it opens up conversation and teaching at a much deeper level. The issue is not with the curriculum that we are teaching but how we apply the teaching and the response to the truths that we are hearing.

Let’s flesh this out a bit. Last night we are working through the advanced year for Porterbrook. If you aren’t engaged in Porterbrook, find a learning site and go. We are talking about the Cross and the theological beauty of the scandal. The depth of the teaching is unreal. The implications are mind boggling and irrational, counter intuitive to the progressive society that we live in. As a group we can clearly define what grace is, and the happenings of the cross and this is where we find the disconnect. With all the teachings that we went over, we as a group struggled to be able to reteach or reframe all the teaching in language that mattered in our culture. We essentially have been taking great theological teaching and letting it die on our own domes (that’s brains in an urban culture).

Questions like; “How can you translate this for the people in your culture?” and “Can you explain this to me if I’m struggling with the nature of the cross?” turned out to be very pressing. Our group, had a difficult time breaking down the knowledge of the Gospel and turning it inside out. If we are going to fulfill the Great Commission we are going to have to turn the teaching inside out.

I love the phrase “turning the teaching inside out,” because it conveys the nature of the Gospel in a way that people can understand. As we peer into the Word, the Gospel infects our hearts, it changes us. We learn the deep truths, as we engage not only the Word but teachings from the word. It goes inside us. To develop disciples that internal engagement has to reflect and turn outward. It’s the nature of the Gospel. So our teaching has engage that reflection, it has to engage the mind and the heart. Our focus cannot be simply on learning, but on the teaching aspect as well. It’s in the nature of a disciple to teach, and reproduce.

Here are a few things to ponder before your teaching, regardless of the medium.

  1. As a teacher, are you using theoretical language? Is your language conducive for reteaching? Are you pressing out how to teach the information? Are you using real world examples or are you relying on Christian language to reinforce your points?
  2. Do your people really understand the material or are they just there? How can you format the teaching time to best engage your people? Is it time to step back and make sure that everyone is on the same page?
  3. How is the Gospel speaking into the hearts of your people? You can turn the knowledge inside out, if it’s not really getting to the inside. Where are your people at in their daily devotions?
  4. What’s going on in the lives of the people you’re shepherding? How can you leverage daily living as teaching moments? How is the Gospel speaking into their current situations?
  5. Are you teaching our of your personal experience with the Gospel and whatever curriculum that you are working out of? Do you have stories and life events where the teaching as greatly effected you?

These are just a few of the questions that we should be asking ourselves as we are preparing to teach. The glory of the Gospel is that we can’t add anything to it, to make it work. We can however teach it in ways that press our people deeper in to mission, deeper into community and just plain deeper in.

How are you getting the Gospel to your streets?

1 Corinthians 10:31

clouds

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  (1 Cor 10:31)

As I sit on a plane headed to Denver to spend sometime with my family, I ran right across this verse. lt was not particularly what “I” planned to contemplate as I’m in the middle of some theological writings, but alas l keep coming back to with a yearning heart.

What are the implications in our daily lives if we take this verse literally? (I read this as a prescription)

The first implication that immediately jumps out at me is the fact that my life is not my own. We can see this weaved in and out of the NT, the idea of complete sacrifice to God, our lives. Paul points out that your life is not your own, but to be used to preach the Gospel.
(1 Cor 10:31)

Has the gospel gripped you to the point that you will do whatever it takes (short of sin) to spread the good news?

What situations do you find yourself in, where you don’t glorify God? What about when you do?  What in the circumstance changes?

Do you feel like you glorify God in your daily life? If not, are you trying to earn God’s favor or are you worshiping?

Just some thoughts at 10,000 ft. in a tuna can.

The God Delusion – What we can learn from Richard Dawkins

I know that I haven’t been writing a lot on this little bit of web space that I can call my own. It’s a habit that I would like to cultivate again, but it seems that the myriad of life events has taken my focus off of blogging and into the culture as I know it. It’s not a bad place to be, but there is something to putting thoughts on paper and sharing them with the culture of the web that is unique in a sense and allows for deeper introspection.

As I sit down to write a sort of introduction to a series of writing, I’m pressed to pray for the hurt and the sufferings of the people that I would call my family. Death, sickness, abuse, complacency and a host of other griefs continually plague society, causing pain both physical and emotional. My prayer is that we as Christians are pressed deeper into the gospel as we joyfully engage life’s events, whether its in a time of suffering or abundance.

Father,

We know that you are the great I AM, the immutable definition of love.

You are the giver of grace and the faith that justifies and sanctifies,
and we at times forget our place in this fallen world.

Father, forgive us of our trespasses, our feeble attempts to be you.

Break us free from the bondage of slavery that is our flesh, and shower your grace upon us.

Focus our eyes on our Redeemer and Hope, the Guide through the valley’s and the mountains.

Let us not forget that we are never alone, that the great Shepard is always watching, feeding and tending to His flock.

We are but children to the Father, dependent in all aspects of our lives.

Glorify yourself through us Lord, providing the strength that we need in times of desperation and the strength that we need in times blessing.

Point our hearts towards the Gate, who is the Provider and the ultimate Comforter.

Amen

 

Interacting with Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” 

As I was sitting, looking through my Amazon account for the next piece of literature that I might consume, I stumbled across this book placed interestingly enough in the “religion” section.  It’s an interesting experience when you come across a piece of literature that is diametrically opposed to your beliefs and you have the strongest of sensations to engage it.  Admittedly, there was a part of me that wanted to interact with the material to develop an argument, a counter point to Mr. Dawkins work.  Briefly, I imagined writing a book, similar to the point/counter-point literature that has fueled much of the academic work  throughout history.  My mind quickly snapped back into whatever reality I was in and refocused on the why I would read this particular book.  After some prayer and thought, here is why I will engage this text. 

  1. We live in a world that largely hates God and/or the idea of God. Dawkins articulates a world view that is pervasive. It benefits the missionary to know. 
  2. It’s a challenging read, to know deeply that God is real and to wrap your mind around the other side.  Christians tend to run to dogmatic, programmatic language when faced with difficult conversation.  Shortly, it strengthens our faith. 
  3. It forces me to not rely on my personal theologically linguistic constructs as a means to discuss the topic of God with an atheist.  How can I discuss the doctrine of atonement with someone who thinks God is a “mystic child abuser.” 
  4. It opens up conversation with atheists.  Especially, the well read ones.  
  5. It teaches Church history from a different view point.   Obviously, the Church missed the mark during the time of Christendom.  Dawkins, is quick to discuss how “religion” has been a driving point for much of the bloodshed in history. (I will flesh this out later, as I think the issue is deeper than that.)

So my prayer as I start this journey is that my biases are placed on the cross and that the Holy Spirit works deeply within my heart to show me what he has for me.  It will be an interesting journey, considering I’ve already started to repent of the pride that is being sanctified in my heart.  

Generational Thoughts

I see a generation rising up to take their place,
With selfless faith, with selfless faith,
I see a near revival, stirring as we pray and seek,
We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees.


Have loved me

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you

Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

Boom. It hit me like a MAC truck. The Holy Spirit hit me like Ed Reed from 15 yards out. I don’t pray for a generation rising up to take their place… I don’t know if I press the generation to seek and pray for a near revival, and I’m not sure if we as a Church could honestly say that we do either. I would say that we press good programming, fun activities and Gospel connections that draw on Mommy and Daddy’s faith. Daddy is ultimately responsible for his child’s growth but what am I doing as a youth leader to press that personal faith and growth in the students and parents I engage? 

These are my thoughts as I worshiped the one true God.  The Creator of all, the King of Kings, the Father.  What am I going to do with the ministry that you have entrusted me with.  Am I going to get on my knees and pray for this generation?  A generation that needs more prayer and more intercession.  A generation that needs MEN to boldly proclaim the gospel to their offspring and not shy away from spirituality like it’s some effeminate quality that ranks right up with going to the mall.  Than it came again, Ed Reed style… A deep feeling like we as a Church don’t ask the right questions.  Tim (the Lead pastor) starts his blow up about asking the right questions.  Not forcing my contextualization, allowing them to teach me what they need.

So I prayed and much like Isaiah in Isaiah 6 it hit me:

Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11T hen I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Go and speak the Gospel.  Speak the words of God and trust that it won’t return void.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa 55:10-11 ESV)
I went in to the cell group with one strategy.  Speak the Word to the teenagers and let them tell me how that effects their lives.  Let them do the talking and carrying the converstation.  Help lead the converstation when needed, but let them work out the life applications with guidance.  In short, I listened.  It’s an interesting lesson to learn and that is to listen.  Contextualizing only works if you have the right context.
If you aren’t in your missional community living life, you have no idea what to context too.  You have to live the life, learn the customs and roll deep with the trash of other peoples lives.  Jesus did it, it’s biblical and it’s what we are called to do.  This experience doesn’t just lend itself to teenagers, those dudes you are discipling once a week for an hour probably need you to engage, listen and teach the Gospel as it relates to them.
Pray for resurgence, pray for generational change, pray bigger than you can imagine because God is infinite and good.

Praying through Twitter

So praying has been the the thing that has been on my mind the most as of late…. My conversations with God, my pleading with him for the things of my heart and my asking Him to change my heart so that it matches His.

Prayer changes things…

We’ve heard the adage, it’s on posters, wall hangings and decorations but do we really believe it? Is it the thing that we fall back on when there. Is another option to us? When there is still some futile effort that we can exercise?

That’s the rough side of contemplating our relationship with God, focusing in and leaning on His strength and His wisdom. I decided to write this post today after reading a tweet from someone who I have never met and probably never will. I reads:

This is my mom.My mom committed suicide today.I miss her so much.I love her so much.Everyone please pray.Im not ok.

I took out the picture and the name because its extremely important but not needed for the post. My question is, how many “believers” read that tweet and skipped over it because it wasn’t important to them. It was retweeted a few times but the truth of the matter is that a believer reached out for prayer for something so tragic as a suicide and I think that we can agree that we blow it off as non essential.

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18 ESV)

Paul says it all. Sometimes I think we miss golden opportunities to cry out to the Creator of all things, to be that intercessor for those whom we don’t know. What could bring God more glory than to open our hearts, drop to our knees and pray because one of our brothers or sisters is struggling?

What are some of the ways that you can be praying at all times? Using discernment to pray about events in the news? Focused prayer on a specific people group? Local or global area? How much do we make God small by praying small? It’s. A. Heart. Check.

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit is working deeply in your heart, pressing the evil out and stirring the Holiness that is Jesus inside you.