Month: August 2016
Just a personal post, to vent and complain. And perhaps to share a valuable lesson I learned today.
I’m not a big DIY guy. Today confirmed why. I got tired of paying Petsmart $60 or more dollars to give the dog a hair cut and a bath. How hard could it be? I’ve got clippers, I can do this. Famous last words. In my mind it would be just like cutting grass. The difference is, grass doesn’t move, and grass doesn’t chase bees, and my lawn mower is much more powerful than my hair clippers (which I may have ruined by the way). Now there is dog hair up to my eyeballs, and I may have traumatized the dog for life. Not to mention she looks like she got a hair cut with a flint knife.
I always feel pressure to do my own projects. Replace my own floor, remodel my own kitchen, etc. I’m a man, I should be able to do these things. My brother and dad do this stuff, but for some reason I can’t. I can cut grass, I can kill weeds, I can tear stuff up, but anything else should be left to the professionals.
So, time is money they say. Now I’m trying to calculate the value of the 3 hours I killed, and the value of the stress I created for myself. Bottom line, DIY is over rated. There is a reason there are professionals in this world.
“If we are to figure out what Jesus would want us to think, be and do here and now, we must know the Gospels forward and backward.” – Michael Frost in Surprise the World
Last week in our Wednesday night class on “How to read the Bible”, we discussed practices like Lectio Divina and Dwelling in the Word. The short version of this is that we want to read the text not for informational purposes only, but for formation into the image and likeness of Christ. To read in a participatory manner where we are invited into the story of God, to find ourselves and our part in that larger story. Frost is spot on with this idea of knowing the story of Jesus, forward and backward. Not in order to know ABOUT Christ, but to KNOW Christ and what he is calling us to here and now.
So I want to encourage you all today to learn Christ. Pour through the gospels. Not to obtain information or to study, but enter into them and find your place. Let us be filled with Christ, to then go and be Christ in our homes, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, where ever we find ourselves today. Let us, as the book title calls us to, surprise the world.
(By the way, check out this little book by Frost on developing missional habits. It’s VERY good and easy to read.)
I have had a lot of fun the past few weeks teaching a Wednesday night class at Hunter Hills Church on Scripture. What is it? How are we to read it? What is its purpose? In my preparation, I’ve read several books through the years, but the most recent I mentioned in a previous post was Eugene Peterson’s masterful work Eat This Book.
One of the things I’ve learned over the last 5 years has greatly changed how I approach not only the Bible, but my faith in general, and that is that the Bible is not the object of my faith. The Bible is not God, is not the object of my worship and love, and when it becomes that, then the Bible has become an idol. So what is the purpose of Scripture then? Revelation. The Bible points us to God, reveals God, invites us into his world and his way of life for us. That is different than a book of legal commands, or even a book of cute inspirational quotes.
Listen again to the wonderful words Peterson shares:
“But it was to make us followers of Jesus that this text was given to us in the first place, and if either the large story or the detailed sentences are ever used for anything else, however admirable or enticing, why bother?” Eat This Book pg 59
I love that. The Bible was to make us followers of Jesus. The Word reveals God, hints at him, gives us a story of his interaction with the world, and invites us to participate in that story. That is a far cry from the excavating of the text to support or create doctrine to further build our walls of division. This is reading for transformation into the image and likeness of Christ, rather than information about Christ (though that can be and is helpful). This isn’t a reading to organize churches (though we find some of that), but a reading to organize our lives as disciples.
I’m thinking more and more that the goal of faith isn’t to master the text, nor to master God, but to let him master us. The goal of reading the Bible is to invite us into deep faith and trust in the One revealed in the text, not faith and trust into our interpretations of the text. Let us not confuse the means with the end.
So today, read the text. Eat this book. And as we read, let’s let the story unfold as an invitation to participate in a different world and different way of life. Let’s let the story be an invitation to following in the way of Christ.
I just started reading Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book, and boy do I wish I had started it years ago. So often we approach the text in our church as if it is a dead text. It’s read like a legal document, history book, or any other text. But to approach the Bible this way is to discount the idea that it is living, breathing, and active. Listen to what Peterson says:
“Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.” Pg 18
I love that image. Scripture gets metabolized and produces fruit in our lives.
So often I read the Bible it seems just to gain information, or to study. None of this is inherently bad, but the text isn’t here for us to master it. It masters us. In fact, what kind of Holy Scripture do we have if we can totally sort it all out? What kind of God do we have when we have him figured out. We are always hinting at God, capturing images, praying for more. God cannot be mastered.
So, today I encourage you to do what Peterson recommends and eat this book. Let the text get down inside of you, shape you, transform you, convict you, teach you, move you into more deeply loving God and loving neighbor.
How would it change if we went to a text, read it, meditated on it, and asked a different set of questions. Instead of the classic factual questions, what if we asked things like: What am I learning about God here? What am I learning about the world? How might God be calling me to act in light of this text?
Eat the book. Digest it. Let the Holy Spirit work through the text to transform us into the image of Christ.
“The fruit of Silence is Prayer
The fruit of Prayer is Faith
The fruit of Faith is Love
The fruit of Love is Service
The fruit of Service is Peace”
It starts in silence with our Lord, but how neglected is this practice in our fast past, hurried world? Our calendars are full, our brains are busy, our phones are in our hands while our computer and TV screens call out to us. And then we wonder why we can’t find peace.
Make room today, slow down, listen, and be silent. I think those that can find silence and stillness in this busy world have a spiritual advantage over those who don’t. Be attentive today. Be silent.
As a reminder, over the next 8-10 weeks, I have joined with fellow church leaders and bloggers in a summer blog tour. We will be exploring the idea of Christians and faith communities living inside out. I hope and pray that you will be blessed by these posts, and that you will check back often and participate with your comments. At the end of it all, there will be a winner selected from those who comment and they will receive a copy of the workbook Church Inside Out by Timothy Archer. Leave a comment below and then click here to enter the giveaway.
Next stop on the blog tour a very insightful and practical post on prayer by John Dobbs from Monroe, LA. Read, comment, enjoy and be blessed!
The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. – 1 Peter 4:7 (NLT)
The end and culmination of all things is near. Therefore, be sound-minded and self-controlled for the purpose of prayer [staying balanced and focused on the things of God so that your communication will be clear, reasonable, specific and pleasing to Him.] – 1 Peter 4:7 (AMP)
People who believe the Bible to be inspired have trusted that the end of the world is coming, but it’s been coming for a very long time. But even people who are not too keen on the Bible might look around at our world today and consider that the world might be making it’s way swiftly to the end. The number of nuclear nations grows and as it does there are less reliable hands in control. Crime and war and disease and all manner of issues threaten our planet. Those who are always looking for a ‘sign’ are aware that there is no shortage of signs.
I don’t know what Peter’s original readers thought about his intense descriptions about the end of the world, but none of them lived to see it. What they did see, though, was an end to THEIR worlds through persecution that scattered them and anger towards the Christian community that scandalized them. Whether the end of planet earth is close enough to happen in our lifetime or whether our personal ‘world’ is potentially going to shatter, the answer is to grow in our prayer life.
Prayer shouldn’t come from the outside in. I think that’s what has people turned off about prayer sometimes. They have to sit through the prayers that do not seem to have much to do with them. At times we repeat memorized prayers quickly and without much connection … emotion … and we wonder why we pray.
Prayer needs to come from the inside out. It needs to be earnest. Prayer that comes from the inside out expresses the intentions of our heart because it comes from the heart. We talk to God about the things that really matter to us. Earnest prayer is not concerned with form or vocabulary. It is more intense because it is more intentional. We pray these prayers most easily when we are forced into a corner by a loss of financial security or the loss of someone we love. We pray from the heart when our friend is hospitalized and we wonder if they will make it. There are situations in life that we face that move us to the earnest prayers God seeks. That’s where we ought to try to live in our prayer life. That takes another quality. Discipline.
Discipline is really the harder part. Praying with discipline might involve praying consistently. Who of us hasn’t had a hard time being consistent in our prayer life? Has anyone else bought a new prayer journal determined to really dig in but you can’t locate it right now and if you could you know there isn’t a single word in it? Can I get a witness? Discipline might also relate to concentration. Using our prayer time to compose ‘to do’ lists for the day is not what I call a powerful prayer time. But it might describe my prayer life sometimes.
Earnest and disciplined … Peter says that’s how we ought to pray because the world is coming down around our ears. We’re much too jaded to believe this, so our prayers go on either dry and boring or light and easy. Since this kind of prayer relates to our inward attitudes and thoughts about prayer, here are some ideas to move us toward the kind of prayer God desires:
1. Remember Confession. In the prayer acrostic ACTSS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, Submission) confession comes on the heels of praise. When we consider our lives in contrast to the Holy God we serve, confession should come easy…but it doesn’t always. If we want to skip confession we also want to skip the element of our prayers that drives us to a more earnest spirit.
2. Remember Compassion. Many of us keep up with prayer lists for others. These can grow quite large because of the volume of requests we may see on Facebook or other social media. In which case we are often praying for people we’ve never met in places we’ll never go and for whom we’ll never have an update. Nothing wrong with that, but keep your closest friends and acquaintances in a separate list. When you consider their needs – and in this list you likely know the current needs – practice empathy and imagine what they might need from the Lord. This seems like a good way to tap into earnestness.
3. Remember Consistency. There are probably no real tricks when it comes to a consistent prayer life. An advertising slogan says ‘Just Do It’. You can set reminders, pray in the same place every day, develop routines that you don’t want to break. I don’t know why it is that we never have trouble remembering to eat at noontime or keep other rituals, but establishing the routine to pray seems more difficult. I think there are many habits that we can do without mental engagement, passion, earnestness … but praying isn’t one of them. At least a lively prayer life isn’t one of those things. Someone smarter than me will have to tell us why we resist such a beautiful gift as spending time with our Abba… why we’re so easily distracted…. why we fall out of prayer patterns so easily. I think the word ‘discipline’ that Peter uses may reveal something. We can be an undisciplined bunch sometimes.
Prayer that comes from the inside out is prayer that is earnest and disciplined. It’s the kind of prayer that our Father desires, but it is also the kind of prayer that keeps us coming back for more. It satisfies our soul … the deepest part of who we are in Christ.
John Dobbs and his wife Maggy live in Monroe, Louisiana. He is the minister for the Forsythe Avenue Church of Christ. He is often distracted from an earnest and disciplined prayer life by social media. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@johndobbs) and his blog at http://johndobbs.com.