My friend Isaac always described the responsibility of Christian parents as being to disciple their children. This sounded strange when I heard it, but of course it is true. It says a lot that that I did not intuitively associate the idea of discipling with parental responsibility.
I have thought of and described that responsibility mostly with words like teaching, instructing, disciplining, raising. It is not that teaching, instructing, disciplining and raising are not a part of the process of discipling our children, it is that they are only part of the process.
My assumption was that if I could just get my children to do right everything else would fall into place. It was the same assumption that I applied to my responsibility as a Christian to “make disciples”. Tim Keller contrasts religion and gospel.
Religion says “I obey therefore God accepts me”. Gospel says “I am accepted by God therefore I obey”.
In thinking about those statements, it becomes clear that what I was about as a parent was more religion than gospel. My objective was to teach a system, and, in that, I mostly ignored the importance and prominence of relationships. One might argue that that was not all bad. Didn’t they learn to be responsible, self-sufficient, independent, good people? Of course. Religion is not all bad for the same reasons.
But there is a vast difference in outcomes between religion and gospel. Jesus said the religion practiced by the Pharisees made their convert twice as fit for hell as themselves. The practice of religion rendered them unable to hear the gospel. An implication I see is that children parented in religion i.e. “I obey therefore God accepts me.” are at risk for developing hearts which are unprepared to receive the gospel.
Of course there are other influences in children’s lives that may very well cultivate “good soil hearts”. I am of the opinion that if I had to choose between a family who parents with “religion” and a family that has no religion but parents with love and acceptance, I would take the latter over the former. I believe children raised in a community of love and acceptance will more likely have hearts that are fertile ground and are capable of hearing the gospel.
So what are parents like myself to do when they realize their efforts to raise their children, although done with an honest heart and the best of intentions, were not Godly? The answer for us is the same as the answer for parents who are beginning their families.
The most important thing we can do is demonstrate the acceptance and love that God gives us in our lives and particularly in our relationships with our children. In relationships like those, hearts will be softened, ears will hear and eyes will see and the gospel will transform lives.
Published Feb 2017 Shadowland Community Church weekly email
In general, the more perfectionistic, legalistic, and ritualistic you are, the less contemplative you are. For the contemplative, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. The Christ is a Living Word long before he was a written or spoken word.
Being in the will of God is very far removed from just doing what God wants us to do, … The serious inquirer after divine guidance still must never forget that we could even do all the particular things God wants and commands us to do and still not be the person he would have us to be.
You have made my soul for Your peace and Your silence, but it is lacerated by the noise of my activity and my desires. My mind is crucified all day by its own hunger for experience, for ideas, for satisfaction. And I do not possess my house in silence.
But I was created for Your peace and You will not despise my longing for the holiness of Your deep silence. O my Lord, You will not leave me forever in this sorrow, because I have trusted in You and I will wait upon Your good pleasure in peace and without complaining any more. This, for Your glory.
I am content that these pages show me to be what I am—noisy, full of the racket of my imperfections and passions, and the wide open wounds left by my sins. Full of my own emptiness. Yet, ruined as my house is, You live there!
• Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas
When prayer is authentic, it will always lead to actions of mercy; when actions of mercy are attempted at any depth, they will always drive you to prayer.
“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin,” writes Frederick Buechner. “It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
What if churches and Christian organizations had a vision to be “countercultural” in truly meaningful ways?
What if we woke up and realized that all our talk about “changing the culture” is empty because we are just as culture-bound as anyone?
What if we realized that ideas don’t matter as much as we think they do, and that practices mean a whole lot more?
What if we understood that the power of God’s Word doesn’t depend on us talking all the time, that expressing our opinions and judgments is not the same thing as letting God’s Word loose in the world?
What if we stood against the busyness, noisiness, activism, do-gooderism, media-saturated, virtual reality style of our contemporary world and instead offered churches as places of true sanctuary, true humanity, quiet, and peace?
What if our consistent invitation was: “Come to a quiet place and find rest”? What if we saw it as a primary contribution to our world to provide sacred times and spaces where weary, exhausted people could find true solace and retreat?
What if our church campuses were no longer dominated by functional buildings designed to be busy beehives of activity and pep rally enthusiasm? What if, instead, we cultivated gardens and glades, created walking paths and forest trails, developed lakeside amphitheaters for regular outdoor worship gatherings and church buildings that were essentially glass houses designed for contemplation of God’s works?
What if we, as congregations, refused to have any church programs other than providing opportunities for retreat and holding regular worship gatherings?
What if we sent people out at the end of worship with the simple admonition, “Go in peace. Be Christians!” and then just let everyone go live their lives?
What if pastors and “leaders” in the church saw their duty in terms of presiding over worship, and then spending the rest of the week out there in the midst of daily life with people, listening and encouraging, apprenticing them in the life of Christ, and caring for the poor and sick?
What if, as the monks understand, we taught each Christian that his/her whole duty was “Ora et Labora” — prayer and work — in the love of God, to bless the world?
What if we told believers that they shouldn’t wait for “the church” to develop “ministries” to help their neighbors, but that they are free to work with others in the community to formulate ideas, strategies, and programs for the common good?
What if we prioritized slowness, quietness, listening, contemplation, prayer, minding our own business yet being sensitive and available to those in need around us, a devotion to serious study and thoughtfulness, a charitable spirit, respect for all people and a willingness to engage all people in love and service?
Posted by Internet Monk 1-10-17
Our vocation is not a sphinx’s riddle, which we must solve in one guess or else perish. Some people find, in the end, that they have made many wrong guesses and that their paradoxical vocation is to go through life guessing wrong. It takes them a long time to find out that they are happier that way.
For some reason, most Christian theology seems to start with Genesis 3—which features Adam and Eve—what Augustine would centuries later call “original That is not what Franciscans and many other Christians believe. And this is notsomething the loving Abba Jesus would do. Because the belief in substitutionary atonement is so common and so problematic, we will explore its alternative—at-one-ment—in depth later this year. When you start with the negative or with a problem, it’s not surprising that you end with Armageddon and Apocalypse. When you start with a punitive, critical, exclusionary God, it’s not surprising that you see the crucifixion as “substitutionary atonement” where Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for us.
Why did Jesus come? Jesus did not come to change the mind of God abouthumanity. It didn’t need changing. God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created it. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.
As our image of God changes, our image of God’s creation, including ourselves, changes as well. Jesus shows us what it looks like for God to be incarnate in humanity. He holds together the human and the divine so that we might follow him and do the same.
I am currently reading a paper I “accidentally” came across. Written by Peter Block, it is entitled Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community – Changing the Nature of the Conversation. It is a challenging read and contains some really powerful ideas about community, leadership and conversation, to name a few. Although civic engagement is not my immediate concern, I am finding his ideas are also relevant to spiritual community engagement. Though all the content is not likely directly transferable to a spiritual community context, there appears to be some important ideas that can be relevant.
For example, the citation below on Conversation and Transformation is personally painful. As I read it, I realized the conversations to be avoided or postponed, are conversations I mostly engage in when in a small group setting. Since transformation is high on my agenda, and my conversations aren’t contributing to transformation, my interest in the article has increased significantly. Hopefully, I will be able to gain some insights into the kind of conversations through which transformation occurs.
Certain conversations are satisfying and true yet have no power and no accountability. For example, the conversations we want to avoid or postpone are:
- Telling the history of how we got here
- Giving explanations and opinions
- Blaming and complaining
- Making reports and descriptions
- Carefully defining terms and conditions
- Retelling your story again and again
- Seeking quick action
- Talking about people not in the room
These conversations characterize most meetings, conferences, press releases, trainings, master plans, summits and the call for more studies and expertise. They are well intentioned and valid, but hold little power.
These help us get connected, they increase our understanding of who we are, and most of all they are our habit; they are so ingrained in the social convention of our culture that they cannot be easily dismissed or disrespected. They just do not, however, contribute to a transformation.
Transformation is a change in the nature of things, not simply an improvement. More clarity, more arguments, more waiting for others to change does not change anything. If transformation occurs primarily in language, then a different kind of conversation is the vehicle through which transformation occurs. And the transformational language that is restorative is the one where accountability and commitment become viral and endemic.