Pew Note 3-18-17

There is a visible horizon with Jesus, because there are things I can understand and affirm in the creeds and confessions. But there is no actual horizon. His love, grace and majesty are never ending. My theology is a map, not a photograph. A sail, not an anchor. Faith is a mystery, not a certainty, because I can never be certain that my mind has captured more than a glimpse of his glory. A hope, not a possession, because nothing I possess can hold the one who holds me.

Michael Spencer

Pew Note 3-7-17

It seems to me that the only people who can handle power well are those who don’t need it too much, those who can equally let go of it and share it. The only people who can handle power are those who have made journeys through powerlessness. 

Richard Rohr

Making Disciples

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

Contemplation

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.

Richard Rohr

Pew Note 2-6-17

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.

Dallas Willard

Peace

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

Pew Note 1-14-17

 “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?

 

What if?

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?

What if?

Posted by Internet Monk  1-10-17

Pew Note 1-6-17

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.

Thomas Merton