Easter - 2018

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Non-Western Christianity is where to watch...

 Christian Spirituality has been dominated by western culture throughout history. When I think about the non-western world as it relates to Christian spirituality throughout the last century, I see a purity of passion and purpose. The New Testament is filled with people who were under persecution and were making a passion filled plea for the cause of Jesus. The goal was not to replace Judaism, but to preach it fulfilled through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Modern third-world countries are living that same plea in the cultures of poverty and oppression today.

I appreciate how Holt agrees with William Dyrness and states, “His point is that Christians in the West can no longer afford to leave out of consideration the contributions and challenges of Christians from these continents. That is, these Christians have both gifts to offer from their own cultural backgrounds and hard questions to ask of the affluent Christians of the West.” The Christians of the world who have not been considered the most affluent of the world are growing exponentially in their discipleship and spirituality. It would stand to reason that the unique expressions of faith they bring to the Kingdom will have a great influence over the years to come.

Last week the Catholic Church installed a new Pope to lead their church. He is the first Pope from any of the Americas. He is also a Latin American from South America. It is the region of the world that is experiencing tremendous Kingdom growth and potential. Pope Frances' leadership is one of humble beginnings with a “common man” approach to relationships. He will highly affect both the Catholic and Protestant Churches in the years to come. There will be new cultural influences in worship, in leadership, in communication, and in style. The movement of influence the world world is gaining from these third-world believers instills a renewed passion and drive for the cause of Jesus.

Dom Helder states, “When I give bread to the poor, they call me a saint; but when I ask why people are poor, they call me a communist.” His statement is still ringing true throughout the world today. It amazes me how we try to fight for justice as if it is the cure, but we are not allowed to discuss the cause for the injustice. An example close to my heart is the cause for the value of life and for the inclusion of people with special needs. The republican party is the political party that supports the pro-life movement. The life inside a woman's womb should have just as much right to life and liberty as anyone has. The democratic party is the political party to advocate for special needs rights and for the support programs for individuals who need the helps. The problem is neither political party sees the need to join these efforts together. 
The unborn has a right to be born and it also has the right to live. Barriers are created from greed. The questions comes in asking from where the supports for the child are to be paid for and who is the responsible party for the unwanted child. As a Christian, my heart is in the justice of the life and liberty of that life to live to the fullest potential. Yet, in our political system, the cause of both parties has a fallacy in not joining the goals together.

As parent of children with special needs as well as a parent who has adopted three boys who could have been aborted, my heart knows that government is not the answer. Jesus and the church are the answer. The kingdom of God is a place for the hurting to be healed, the lost to be saved and the saved to grow close to God in faith. It is within this environment where injustices such as the one I mentioned above will find answers. The amazing work of God is that these answers are emerging from the one-third of the world that has been considered the least of the church throughout the ages.
It is through the discernment of the Holy Spirit where believers of all nationalities, race, and gender will see an increase in the purpose of spreading the good news of God. I believe this is why the “pentecostal” movement is so prominent in these non-western countries. Holt states, “The Pentecostal version of Christian spirituality does not depend on learning or wealth; rather, it is simple and experiential.” These non-western countries are not as educated, not as industrialized, or not as technologically advanced. Thus, there is a dependency on the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction. 

As we look back throughout the history of Christian Spirituality, we see this dependence on the Holy Spirit which brings great revivals and change to the Kingdom of God. The call is for all believers to trust in God and to put our faith in him.

Kazon Kitamori of Japan states, “We become united with the pain of God through our pain, and we are united with God through the joined pains.” The church of the west has become dependent on itself and its knowledge while losing it's awe and wonder in the mystical power of God. God is not impressed with our production for a cause. He is impressed with our faith and dependence on him through the progression of hope that is found as injustice is found to be resolved in the name of Jesus.

Seeking to bring peace, grace, and truth to the world around me...you know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Expectation without the work! A wind chime for Jesus!

I can totally relate to what John Wesley writes concerning the expectation of God's blessing without the work that God has laid as a foundation to receive the blessing.  It is like being a wind chime...you just hang there and the wind does all the work. Yet, god has not called us to be a wind chime...

I see it all the time in music/worship ministry. People will come in and say, "God has laid this song on my heart and I would love to sing it in church." Some people that are involved in the music and worship department usually have a grasp of the "what" in the preparation. Then there are those that feel they should be given the opportunity to have a stage.

I remember one lady coming in to the office.  She had been attending for about two months and she wanted to sing a solo. I agreed to meet her and see what we could arrange and possible plug her into the program. She then proceeded to tell me how God had given her this song in a dream and then she heard it the next day on the radio for the first time. I was a little shocked, but God can do what he wants so I listened to her. She had never sang the song before and probably didn't realize "The Broken Road" was a little out of her range. So, I agree to work with her and try and find something that would give her the opportunity to sing in service, including the use of "The Broken Road" if we could work it up. She immediately got angry with me and said she didn't need to work on it any more because God had given it to her and that God was finally blessing her broken road. She proceeded to tell me how she was called to sing it the coming Sunday. 

Well, that singing a solo the next Sunday was not going to be an option. Their were others already in place and God had worked through our team of a people a steady progression of growth and unity. We had done the reading, the prayer, and planning in order to be prepared. This young lady was enthusiastic for her renewal of life. The good news is that she was willing to work through the process and eventually sang a solo in church about three months later.

It is a reminder to me that I am often the same way. I will seek instant gratification and inspiration. I would love to have the spiritual blessing of discernment. The truth is that God has already given me the gift of discernment. The question becomes, am I willing to do the work to study his word, meditate on his guidance, lift my mind in prayer, and listen for his direction. The reminder is one of not becoming distracted by my selfish desires, but to be disciplined to hear and seek God's desires for my life. I seek to enjoy the enthusiasm of my new found insight into God while I bathe the insight in the love of God's grace and truth.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Church's Spirituality and the 1900's

Jesus said that we are to go to all the world and preach the message the he has started. The era of the church in the west since 1900 has many interesting figures. These figures are dedicated to preaching along with bringing a renewed since of social justice. Jesus commands with the goal of baptizing the new believers and then to teach them that he had taught the early disciples. The 1900's separate themselves in that this era grabs the concept of going to all the world. Mission efforts increase and the actions of the dedicated believers is so proclaim the message throughout all the world, through all social classes, beyond race barriers, and beyond gender distinctions.

Mother Teresa seemed to cross all cultural and denominational barriers in her calling. She saw her faith and action as a dedication to God and his calling on her life. She stated, “As to my calling, I belong to the whole world. As to my hearts, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus.” The personalities of the era look beyond their limitations and allow the Holy Spirit bring to fruition the goals that Jesus established in his great commission to go, baptize, and make disciples. God's power of grace and truth permeate the anti-God culture that emerges in the second half of the 1900's. It is this dedication and search for God on a global scale that transcends cultural barriers so that the good news of Jesus is preached.

Thomas Merton writes on these thoughts prolifically. His confessions follow that of Augustine and is a story of a worldly young man who radically changes the direction of his life so as to devote himself to God. Merton changes his perception that he is to escape the world, but that he is to serve the world as a member of it. Holt records of Merton as: “Merton saw his responsibility in that world to be wider than prayer for it.” Merton himself writes, “Christian holiness is our age means more than ever the awareness of our common responsibility to cooperate with the mysterious design of God for the human race.” It is this since of responsibility that calls and spurs us on to serve the world in which we live so as to bring a message of the good news of the gospel to those around us on a daily basis.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a great illustration to this era's endeavor to reach beyond the message into helping the world see the message. The task is accomplished in the servant attitude that is so desperately needed through out all cultures. A servant heart looks to Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the grace to accept with serenity the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” and establishes a sense that change needs to take place and through God's grace and truth, believers present the message of Jesus for change.

Church has also developed the outreach programs in order to develop the spiritual life within the believers through the 1900s. Development of education, communication, and technology has advanced the work of the church in connecting people to Jesus and to each other. Richard Foster describes twelve spiritual disciplines that are organized into three categories. These categories are: “the inward, the outward, and the corporate disciplines.” Each of these disciplines bring about change with in the believer for the transformation of the soul. Foster writes: “The disciplines are the path of the spiritual life. This path leads to the inner transformation and healing for which we seek.” The healing of the soul and restored connection with the creator are realized in the practice of the spiritual disciplines.

Another development is in the area of equipping the believers for individual service. This was not a new development for the church, but that the equipping is accomplished through embracing of psychology and the recognition of individual talents for the purpose of propagation of the message and increased effectiveness for service. Karl G. Jung embraced this union of psychology and spirituality. His work is a major contributor for the development of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test that is widely used as a resource for spiritual direction and mentoring. The church in the 1900's is a church that takes the message and uses the knowledge of the psyche so as to maneuver an increased effectiveness in kingdom advancement.

The 1900's were an exciting time for the Kingdom of God. The advancement of the good news began having an greater global impact then ever before. The church in South America and Africa grew in great numbers. The church in Europe slowed down in its growth, yet the dedicated maintained a remnant of believers for the purpose of advancing the message of grace and truth. The Catholic and Protestant movements started seeing more cooperation, especially in the area of praying for unity. Believers also began serving other religions and cultures in the name of Jesus so as to win them. The words of Jesus to go, to preach, and baptize were embraced and expressed in new and creative ways that transformed lives and connected people to their creator for all eternity.

 Seeking transformation....you know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Elizabeth O'Conner - Proportionate Giving

Gordon Cosby urged his listeners to reclaim for "ourselves the energy with which we have endowed money." I have found that I have endowed money over the years with ability. "Do we have the money to move forward with a project or a special event?" is the question that usually proceeds the question of whether God would want us to advance the project. Karen and I have seen this in our marriage and family as well. We don't ask the question on purpose, but more as a natural response. In recent years, we have been trying to train our natural self to ask the question, "What would God have us do?" before we ask if we can afford it.

When we were first married, we would not have had the experience to trust God and the faith to follow through. I love the quote, "None of us has to be an accountant to know what 10 percent of a gross income is, but each of us has to be a person on his knees before God if we are to understand our commitment to proportionate giving." The adoption process and the thousands of dollars over the past two years, have taught us the value of giving proportionately and giving to God proportionately first. It is then we are granted the gift of giving beyond our means.

Jesus tells the story of a farmer that finds a pearl in the field. He sells everything so as to purchase the land and have the great treasure. We have sold everything in order to have the treasure of Kendyll and Nathan. We sold it all to buy the treasure. The rich life of being a follower of Jesus is that as we trust in him, he provides our needs and then we discover the gift of sacrificing the good for the opportunity to grasp the greater good.

You know I love ya, Don

Monday, March 11, 2013

Consolation or Desolation!!!

    I am inspired by Ignatius of Loyola's dedication, commitment and faithfulness to the discerning of the Holy Spirit. His being raised as royalty and that he combines this royal upbringing with the ideas of faith and belief have heightened the cause and organization of Christian formation within the soul of men and women throughout the ages. There are many that find him to be unusual in the use of the spiritual exercises that are of the mystical nature and maybe too mystical, but thus far what I am discovering is practical thoughts as applied to supernatural visions so as to discern the will of God in a person's life.

     Ignatius called "consolation" when the soul is roused by an interior movement which causes it to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord and consequently can love no created thing in this world for its own sake, but only in the Creator of all things can one love. In opposition, Ignatius called desolation all that is contrary to the third rule, as darkness of the soul, turmoil of the mind, inclination to low and earthly things, restlessness resulting from many disturbances and temptations which lead to loss of faith, loss of hope, loss of love.

     After our two month old, Nicholas died, I experienced a deep time of desolation. I never lost my faith, but there was a deep sense of loss of hope and loss of love. About, six weeks after he died, I received a call and the caller was being encouraging by stating, "the next time you see Nicholas, he will be a strapping twenty something young man." I was gracious and hung up the phone, but it really upset me. I did not want the twenty-something...I wanted the two-month-old. I prayed and as I prayed I was comforted by the Holy Spirit with a God given truth. I have a treasure laid up in heaven for me that is realized in the here and now. I believe Nicholas is no longer bound by time. Thus, he is present with the Lord and when I see him again, Jesus will turn and will put a two month old back in our arms. It was in that prayer time that I moved from desolation to consolation.

     In my consolation, I find my worship and prayer time is enhanced because he is a great and loving God. He knows my heart and my hurt. Thus, my love for him grows and increases the more I rely on him to bring to comfort and hope. It is this time of consolation that my tears of grief are turned to "tears inspired by love of the Lord" because I know that he will complete that which he started and restore all things when the time is made complete.

   Hard Times come to a Dead End at the Cross! You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Character....I want it!

Character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
President Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the best President's in all of American History. His character stands out and above in the waves of despair during the civil war. He was a man of faith, principle and of Character.

One day, President Abraham Lincoln was riding in a coach with a colonel from Kentucky. The colonel took a bottle of whiskey out of his pocket. He offered Lincoln a drink. Lincoln said, “No thank you, Colonel. I never drink whiskey.” After a little while, the colonel took some cigars out of his pocket and offered one to Lincoln. Again Lincoln said, “No, thank you, Colonel.” Then Lincoln said, “I want to tell you a story.” The president was always telling a story.

He said, “One day, when I was about nine years old, my mother called me to her bed. She was very sick. She said, ‘Abe, the doctor tells me that I am not going to get well. I want you to be a good boy. I want you to promise me before I go that you will never use whiskey or tobacco as long as you live.’ I promised my mother that I never would, and up to this hour, I’ve kept this promise! Would you advise me to break that promise?”

The colonel put his hand on Lincoln’s shoulder and said, “Mr. Lincoln, I would not have you break that promise for the world! It is one of the best promises you ever made. I would give a thousand dollars today if I had made my mother a promise like that and had kept it like you have done. I would be a much better man than I am!” (Martin M. Hyzer, 15K-WS)  
That is Character.

How a Christian deals with the circumstances of their life speaks of their character.
  • Crisis doesn’t necessarily make character, but perseverance through it does reveal character.
  • Adversity in our lives is a crossroads where a person chooses one path – Character or Compromise.
  • Jesus and the Cross are the ultimate example of character.
  • Every time we choose character, we grow more into the image of Christ
  • Character is who you are when no one is looking. 
  • People that always seem to be at war with themselves have a problem in their character.
  • Your character determines who you are.
I am seeking God in every opportunity so as to demonstrate His character in my life. You know I love ya, Don

Monday, March 4, 2013

Life in Reality is not a Reality Show!

In life....we learn living is not easy....We start off with many dreams and those dreams give opportunities to more dreams and then we grow up into adulthood and we realize that life isn't all about dreams but that the real world needs people to do things other than your dream....Life in reality is not a reality show.

The question that is often raised is: Where is God? Where is God in all this mess? Where is God when I was suffering? Where was God when I lost my job? Or my house was robbed? Or my spouse left? Or when my children started drugs? Or when my baby died? Where was God in all this hard times?

God is still exactly where he has always been. He wants you to know that he has brought you through your suffering and struggle so that you can meet him at the Cross. He knows it is hard and he know that life has not been easy....he does know that life has been necessary so that you know that faith is the only way to survive. 
God intends every type of suffering and hard times to sanctify us. The scars of life establish hope for our future. The scars of life drive us to cling to sanctification. Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness....It is at the cross that hard times come to a DEAD END!

It is our faith that is realized at the scar on the cross... we are renewed by what Jesus did on the Cross. “A believer's awareness of justification, peace, and access is made authentic in our suffering...in our scars.”
Let's consider Romans 5
     Justified through faith:
          Peace through Jesus
              Access through grace (favor)
                     Rejoice in the hope of the “glory of God” = the cross

Every Christ-following believer should have hope because of the scars of justification, peace, and access to grace. The suffering...the scars call to us...the hard times come to a DEAD END at the cross because they motivate, they produce, and they mark Christ-Followers for the purpose of SANCTIFICATION!!!! ( the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.)

We are working through this together...you know I love ya, Don