Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spiritual Formation & Renewal Conference (St. Paul AME Church, Circleville, Ohio)

St. Paul AME Church Circleville/Spiritual Formation

Spiritual Formation Itinerary

Friday evening 


  • 6:00 pm- 7:00 pm Registration & Fellowship (Light Dinner) 
  • 7:00 pm- 9:00 pm Spiritual Formation Workshop


Saturday


  • 8:00a- Registration/Continental Breakfast 9:00a- 10:30a Session I
  • 10:30- 10:40a Break
  • 10:45a-12:00p Session I 
  • 12:00p- 1:00p Lunch on your own 
  • 1:00p-2:30p Session II 
  • 2:30p-2:40p Break 
  • 2:45p- 3:30p- Session II 
  • Workshop ends

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Authentic Petitionary Praying Aligns With God's Redemptive Kingdom Agenda (PrayerLife)

Butterfly in my yard
The baseball player hits a home run that wins the game. As he crosses the plate in victory he looks up, points his finger heavenward, and thanks God. Did God really take sides in a baseball game? While it could happen, I mostly doubt it. While I am thrilled every time the Tigers beat the Yankees, God is not. 

"One suspects that many petitionary prayers are not especially enlightened appeals to the Deity. The petitionary pleas of athletes to their God to help them beat the other team or to knock out their opponent in a boxing match may be commonplace phenomena."
Spilka, Bernard; Ladd, Kevin L. The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach, p. 58.

We can bring all our requests to God, but God is not obligated to deliver on them. 

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus, in John 14:13-14

That little phrase "in my name" means: according to Jesus' identity and purposes. If someone calls me with a request that is "not me," then I will not grant their request. I will not, for example, give the heroin addict money. 

Our requests must grow out of a constant connection to God. They must align with God's redemptive, kingdom agenda. Then even asking for our own selves (petitionary prayer) is fundamentally for the glory of God.

Attach your heart to Jesus.

Out of that attachment, request.

PrayerLife - A Class & My Book (Redeemer Ministry School)


In Fall 2014 I'll teach a class in Redeemer Ministry School I'm calling PrayerLife

PrayerLife

Meets once a week. Dates and times are TBA. 

I will teach out of the book I am writing on prayer and a life of praying. 

PrayerLife students will receive manuscript copies of my book. 

Students will be expected to pray 30-60 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 12 weeks in the fall. 

Students will keep a spiritual journal.

More details to come.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pray To Be Purged of Quantitative Worrying (PrayerLife)


In Eldoret, Kenya
God continues to free me of quantitative worry (QW). QW frets about not having "enough." QW has a scarcity mentality. "Enough" is about numbers. QW agonizes over the past and doom-and-glooms over the future. QW cannot live in the present, because the present does not have "enough."

I learned QW from my parents. They acquired it from humanity at large. I remember being told "We don't have enough money to get this thing we need." I was powerless to help my family, and I laid in bed at night worrying about it. QW is a learned behavior.

Jesus asks "Why worry about things?" (Matthew 6:25)  

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 
Jesus, in Matthew 6:27 

Worry is impotent.

Worry diminishes. Worry subtracts.

Think of Jesus saying "Don't worry about clothes" at a time when most people had only one or two items of clothing to wear. So here I am, with clothing overflowing and things and stuff that would cause the jaws of first-century Jesus-followers to drop. What, then, is the deal with the QW thing in me? What is my problem? How can it be overcome, in me?

The answers are:

1) Trust: Where there is trust QW doesn't exist; the amount of worry is in inverse proportion to the amount of trust.

2) Trust in God: Because one's object of trust must be able to provide. Trust is powerful. Trust adds. Trust in God produces an abundance mentality. 

3) Provision: "Needs" are to be distinguished from "wants." This is about spiritual discernment, and is a matter of the heart. God shepherds us into this. The Lord is my shepherd. Therefore I shall not be in a state of wanting. (Psalm 23:1) 

God, my shepherd!
I don't need a thing.

4) Be free of the consumer god: The message of American consumerism is: "You don't have enough if you don't yet have this." The consumer god ultimately consumes you. Reject this.

Worry is consumptive. Worry produces soul decadence. Trust is additive. Trust produces soul flourishing.

The more I am purged of QW the more I am free to spend my life on others. That's my prayer, and I'm trusting that God is doing this in me.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Asking-Prayer Releases God's Power and Life (PrayerLife)

Lake Erie in Monroe
Petitionary prayer is asking-prayer. The biblical idea of asking-prayer is that it is a means of releasing God's power and willingness to act positively towards us. We see this principle in verses like:

Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, 
and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Jeremiah 33:2-3

In the day of my trouble I call on you,
    for you will answer me.
Psalm 86:7

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, 
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

Jesus used a parent-child analogy to explain this. 

 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father 
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:11-13

Stanley Grenz explains it this way:

"In this analogy, our Lord drew from a basic characteristic of the parental heart. Children's requests release their parents' willingness and ability to shower them with good things. If the willingness of sinful parents to provide for their children is released by asking, Jesus declared, how much more does the petitioning by God's children release the power and willingness of their heavenly Father to provide for their good." (Grenz, Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom, 36)

I have met Jesus-followers who hesitate to ask God for themselves because they view it as selfish, or think themselves unworthy of asking. But if someone is a follower of Jesus, then they will follow his counsel to bring their requests to him. Remember that Jesus us this way:

24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. 
Ask and you will receive, 
so that your joy may be complete.
John 16:24

Effective asking-prayer emerges out of a Christ-abiding life. 

Walk in daily Jesus-connection. 

Bring the requests that grow within this connection to God.

God is pleased when we ask, and acts on our behalf.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

When Excarnational Immanentists Doubt

Dandelions across the street from my house

When Charles Taylor's A Secular Age came out I purchased a hard copy of it. I not only knew it was important, but knew it would remain important for a long time. I ended up reading the first few hundred pages, but then stopped. I was reading too fast, missing too many things, and falling short of understanding it well.

I just picked up James K.A. Smith's shorter, still weighty, explanation of Taylor's massive book. I'm half way through. Smith is one of my favorite philosophical-theological writers. He's brilliant, and writes extremely well. (See Smith, How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.)

One reason for returning to Taylor's work is that I'm going to speak on "Christianity and Culture Wars" at our June HSRM conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. I won't be teaching on Taylor explicitly because it would be over everyone's heads, and maybe even my own (a very bad place to teach from). But Taylor's work forms an important background to my own Niebuhrian-type understanding of Christ and culture. (See Niebuhr's famous five types of Christian responses to culture in his ridiculously influential Christ and Culture.) 

One of Taylor's points is that we don't live in "Christendom" any longer. We are secularists of the third order, which means "incarnation" has been replaced with "excarnation"; i.e., immanence overrules transcendence, culturally. (Herein lies, among other things, the importance of pentecostal theology, and why this is my theological preference.)

OK. But Taylor rebuts a utopian secularism that purports to live in a seamless, beautiful, fully excarnated and immanent environment (e.g. the supremely confident atheist, a la Richard Dawkins). Neither Taylor nor Smith nor myself buy the hype of "those confident secularists who would lead us to believe that a “secular” world is a cool, monolithic, “rational” age where everyone who’s anyone (i.e., smart people who are not religious) lives in quiet confidence." (Smith, Kindle Locations 1408-1410) Correct. Even funny if you think about it.

On Taylor's account "our secular age is haunted, and always has been. Certainly belief is contested and contestable in our secular age. There’s no going back. Even seeking enchantment will always and only be reenchantment after disenchantment. But almost as soon as unbelief becomes an option, unbelievers begin to have doubts — which is to say , they begin to wonder if there isn’t something “more.” They worry about the shape of a world so flattened by disenchantment. In part 3 [of Taylor's Secular Age] Taylor paints a picture of the fraught dynamics of a secular age that have enduring significance for understanding our present." (Ib., Kindle Locations 1415-1420)

Oh, how this resonates in my experience teaching philosophy in a secular context! My classes are filled with doubting unbelievers; i.e., God-doubters (incarnation-doubters) who are plagued by doubts about their God-doubting. 

They are excarnational immanentists who have transcendent incarnational challenges to their secular faith.

Repression, Addiction, and the Return to Love

Artist: Gary Wilson
I've been doing a slow re-read of clinical psychiatrist Gerald May's exquisite, helpful Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions.

May writes: "After twenty years of listening to the yearning of people's hearts, I am convinced that all human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and our most precious treasure. It gives us meaning." (1)

The root of this deep longing "is a longing for love. It is a hunger to love, to be loved, and to mvoe closer to the Source of love. This yearning is the essence of the human spirit; it is the origin of our highest hopes and most noble dreams." (1)

This desire is God-given. God nourishes this desire. "But something gets in the way... The longing at the center of our hearts repeatedly disappears from our awareness, and its energy is usurped by forces that are not at all loving." (1) Persons give themselves over to things that, in their deepest honesty, they really do not want. What addict truly and deeply wants bondage?

The biblical-theological answer to what turns us away from love is: sin. Sin turns us from loving ourselves, loving others, and loving God. May writes: "When I look at this problem psychologically, I see two forces that are responsible: repression and addiction. We all suffer from both repression and addiction. Of the two, repression is by far the milder one." (2)

We often repress our desire for love because love makes us viulnerable to being hurt. "Along with bringing joy, love can make us suffer." When the latter happens we often repress our desire for love to lessen the suffering. "This happens after someone spurns our love; we stifle our desire, and it make take us a long time before we are ready to love again. It is a normal human response; we repress our longings when they hurt us too much."

I know this is true, as verfied by half the country western songs ever written (the other half being about alcohol).

Stuff that we repress does not go away. "It remains within us, skirting the edges of our consciousness. Every now and then it reminds us of its presence, as if to say, "Remember me?"" (2-3)

So that is "repression." And then there is "addiction." May says that "repression, in spite of its sinister reputation, is relatively flexible. It is workable. Addiction, the other force that turns us away from love, is much more vicious." This is because, while repression stifles desire, addiction attaches desire, bonds and enslaves the energy of desire to certain specific behaviors, things, or people. These objects of attachment then become preoccupations and obsessions; they come to rule our lives." (3)

May thinks all of us suffer from addiction. As I read May's book for a third time, I am certain of this.

This deeply insightful text is necessary reading for anyone longing for God and the love of God, others, and self.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bob Hazlett Preaching at Redeemer This Sunday



Bob Hazlett will preach at Redeemer this coming Sunday, May 25.

Bob is the founder of Touch of Fire Ministries. After serving ten years in pastoral ministry, Bob founded Touch of Fire to encourage leaders and empower individuals to live prophetically and walk powerfully. Bob speaks regularly at conferences and conducts outreaches nationally and internationally. Bob's course, Xtreme Christianity, equips people to live in the supernatural. Bob lives in Connecticut with his wife, Kimberly, and daughters April and Abby.

This past February Bob spoke with Cindy Jacobs and Kris Valotten at Bethel Redding Church in Redding, California, on "Developing Prophetic Communities." 

Here's Bob preaching at Bethel's "Piercing the Darkness" conference. NOTE: for those of us at Redeemer - we've been preaching on faith and hope out of Hebrews 11. Watch Bob talk about these things in this video.

Bob is also joining us at Ohio School of Power and Love this Wed-Th-Fri-Sat.



Pray for God's Truths to Descend From Your Mind Into Your Heart (PrayerLife)

Inside the ancient Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey
Last week it was my privilege to speak to 150 inmates at a large state correctional institute. This prison has a full-time chaplain. I was very impressed and thankful for God's presence in him and the work he was doing with inmates.

After I spoke I talked with a lot of the men, praying for many of them. A man in his 60s came to me. He asked,

"Would you pray for me?"

Yes.

"Please pray that I could forgive myself."

I would like to do that. Then he said,

"I understand God's forgiveness up here (he pointed to his head), but I cannot forgive myself down here (pointing to his heart) for killing my parents."

One of Henri Nouwen's prayers that has become my own is this: God, let the truth about your kingdom descend from my mind into my heart. I mentally know "up here" that God's forgiving love exemplified by Christ's death on the cross is formally extended to me, 24/7. But more than this, this great truth is also to be experientially mine, "down here" in my heart, 24/7. 

I am forgiven and acceptable to God. I am part of God's forever family. The experiential reality of God's forgiveness overwhelms my many failures, and brings tears of joy. The forgiveness of God is the only answer for those of us who are imprisoned by our past sins. (For empirical corroboration see University of Wisconsin psychologist Robert Enright's research on the power of forgiveness.) 

This past Thursday I gathered 10 inmates around this man who killed his parents. We placed our hands on him and I prayed, "God, let the truth _______ knows in his mind now become the reality of _____'s heart."

I can't get __________ out of my mind and heart this morning. Would you pray for him?

And, pray for God's truths to descend from your mind into your heart.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pray for Mercy to Love Enemies (PrayerLife)

South Michigan, west of Adrian
One of the most radical things Jesus ever said was that we are to love our enemies. In Luke 6:35 Jesus says, "Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Jesus didn't just say this, he lived it. This is so off-the-charts that we trivialize it easily by asking "What Would Jesus Do?" as if merely answering the question will empower us in doing what Jesus did.

These words of Jesus drop me to my knees. I am not Him. I am far from Him. I am a Christ-follower; I am not enough like the Christ.

Try this. Soon, if not now, someone will hate you. Their hatred will be personal. Personal hatred towards you = your enemy. They will speak, maybe act, against you. They will crucify you with thoughts, words, and actions. They will mobilize an internet army to attack you. They don't like you and they are out to reify this; viz., to demonstrate that their hatred of you is not some mere abstraction.

Now think of this enemy and love them. From your heart. As you hang on the cross let words of compassion flow. God, forgive them, for they don;t know what they are doing. As I think about this I can hardly believe it is true.

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, writes of this: "We must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves - to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him or saying he is nice when he is not."

How radical is this? If we all lived this the planet would be revolutionized.

Meanwhile I am in trouble, for I get irritated with people who are not even my enemies. I have a heart problem. Wrap my heart with WWJD bracelets... 

Pray "God, be merciful to me... be merciful to us..."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prayer & Love (PrayerLife)

Leading worship at Redeemer

My #1 personal prayer request for several years now has been: God, produce your love in me.

I want to love as Jesus loves.

Two results of loving like Christ are:

1. Freedom from what others think of me or do to me.

2. Release from fear and anxiety.

#1 - Only a free person can do what Jesus did. He's dying on a cross, being tortured physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet in all this he thinks of his persecutors. He is dying for them! He has a 0% victimization attitude.; Only a free person can be this way.

#2 - The book of I John tells us that "perfect love casts out fear; there is no fear in love." The more fear, the less love; the more love, the less fear. Fear and love do not go together. So, the more of Christ's love becomes my heart, the less fearful and anxious I will be. 

My strategy is this:

1. I can't will myself into this.
2. God can produce this in me.
3. I choose to submit myself to God as my Shepherd. 

In a life of being shepherded by God I shall more and more "fear no evil." Why? Because "You are with me." This is the point where I have a choice, where I have a responsibility. I can choose this day whom I will follow and serve. My choice remains, as it is my only hope, God's presence.

Thomas Merton comes back again and again to the centrality of love. I like how he puts it here:

"In all these things I see one central option for me: to let go of all that seems to suggest getting somewhere, being someone, having a name and a voice, following a policy and directing people in “my” ways. What matters is to love, to be in one place in silence, if necessary in suffering, sickness, tribulation, and not try to be anybody outwardly. Not try to have a public identity."
Merton, Learning To Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom (The Journals of Thomas Merton), p. 15)

Abandon yourself to God today in prayer. Ask God for a greater heart of love.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Prayer & the Myth of Multitasking (PrayerLife)

Mushroom in our backyard
It's Tuesday. This afternoon I'm going to the back of our 3 1/2 acres and sit, in the woods, on the riverbank. I'm going to pray. I'm going to meditate on Scripture. And I'm going to slow cook in some of Howard Thurman's deep thoughts.

When God speaks to me I will write it down in my spiritual journal.

I'll do this for 3-4 hours. Alone. God and I. I've done this for years. I'm not doing this to try to make something happen; I'm doing it to see and discern what is happening in me and around me and beyond me. I'm looking forward to meeting  with God today!

A byproduct of these times is that creative juices flow inside me. Some good thinking happens. Awareness and attentiveness get readjusted. All these things occur as a result of intentional God-attending.

I'm going to be quiet and still.

This morning I'm reading Susan Cain's book QuietCain cites studies indicating that excessive stimulation impedes learning. "A recent study found that people learn better after a quiet stroll through the woods than after a noisy walk down a city street. Another study, of 38,000 knowledge workers across different sectors, found that the simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity." (p. 85)

Therefore excessive multitasking impedes learning, since multitasking is being-interrupted. Cain writes:

"Even multitasking, that prized feat of modern-day office warriors, turns out to be a myth. Scientists now know that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time. What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent." (Ib.) 

Monday, May 19, 2014

To Pray Is to Trust, Not Control (PrayerLife)





One of my favorite TV shows in the 1960s was "The Outer Limits." Who can ever forget the beginning of that show when it took over control of everything? It opened with a calm, detached, obviously-in-control voice saying, 

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits."

I remember watching this and choosing to change channels (we only had 3 at that time!) just to ensure that I, and not this overconfident voice, was still controlling things.

I can control what channel I'm watching as long as you trust me with the controller. But beyond that, I don't control much.

One of life's great delusions is that we control many things. Most of what we experience in life is out of our control. I don't control the weather, or the expanding universe, or the microbiome that colonizes my body space. I don't control the foxes that live in my backyard, the sparrows that come to my feeders, or the bug I just saw in our family room. I don't control the outcome of my DNA or the laws of gravity. I place my fingers on my wrist and check my heart rate, which I have little control over. I program my phone to remind me of the meeting with you, but I do not control you. I don't control, I cannot control, the hearts and minds of other people.

I don't control 1% of 1% of 1% of all that is happening within me and without me. To embrace the illusion of control is to live in falsehood.

Conversely, I am controlled by many things. Which means, I am subject to the weather, the expanding universe, the colonizing microbiome, my DNA, global warming, and life's "circumstances." Addictive behaviors control me. I am a slave to anything that controls me. Anything I cannot repeatedly say "No" to controls me. Clinical psychiatrist Gerald May writes:

"Loss of willpower is especially important for defining the difference between the slavery of true addiction and the freedom of sincerely caring about something or of choosing to satisfy simply desires. If you find yourself saying, "I can handle it," "I can stop it," or "I can do without it," try to perform a very simply test: simply go ahead and stop it. Do without it. If you are successful, there is no addiction. If you cannot stop, no amount of rationalization will change the fact that addiction exists." (Gerald May, Addiction and Grace, 28. Emphasis mine.)

In a world where we control little and we are subject to many things what can we do? Here is what we are not to do, and then what we can do.

What not to do: try to control the essentially uncontrollable. This leads to bad outcomes, especially in relationships. Keith Miller writes that one answer...

"...is to try frantically to gain control of our work, our schedule and relationships. Our control attempts leave in their wake some very unhappy mates, lovers, children and parents who make up our nuclear families. Even our friends and co-workers are affected. There are few truly happy campers in the world of a controller.

There are millions of controllers - and we are burning out at an incredible rate. Our relationships are hollow, ragged, distant. We're exhausted and feel totally alone inside, even though we may be surrounded by people. Instead of achieving that serene and happy life that our frantic, controlling activity was supposed to produce, we have tense stomachs and bruised our broken relationships." (Keith Miller, Compelled to Control: Recovering Intimacy in Broken Relationships, xv)

What to do: trust. Trust in God, the only object worthy of trust.

Trust is the antidote to the futility of control. One way to engage trust is to pray. Henri Nouwen writes:

"In the act of prayer, we undermine the illusion of control 
by divesting ourselves of all false belongings 
and by directing ourselves totally to the God 
who is the only one to whom we belong." 


Pray to be free of the illusion of control. 

Trust God by praying.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Prayer and Self-Divestment (PrayerLife)

Lake Michigan sunset

Prayer is talking with God about what we (God and I) are doing together. Real prayer is a collaborative Kingdom activity. God is up to something today, and we are to be part of it.

Prayer isn't prayer if we come to God expecting him to validate our own plans and purposes. The idea is to hear from God what he is doing, to receive direction as to what we are to do, and then to act on that knowledge.

Henri Nouwen writes: "Prayer is the act by which we divest ourselves of all false belongings and become free to belong to God and God alone." (Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 39)

Prayer listens so as to be abandoned to God.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rahab the Rope Maker (This Sunday Morning at Redeemer)

I took my sermon notes yesterday, went for a drive through the countryside all the way to Tecumseh, preaching through my notes.

I've made revisions, and am taking another drive again this morning. If you see me on the road please don't interrupt!

Rahab was...

  • ... A Gentile woman prostitute who lived exiled on the margins of Canaanite-Amorite society, 
  • ...who despaired over her personal and cultural bondage, 
  • ... who came to place her faith in the One True God, 
  • ...got rescued, 
  • ...married into Israelite royalty, 
  • ...became the great-great-grandmother of King David, 
  • ...and whose blood flowed all the way through the lineage of Jesus. 

  • And who, BTW, was a rope maker.
Note: The Hebrew word for "rope" is the same word used for "hope."

Dave Nichols's "Love God" Blog

I really like what Dave Nichols has been doing with his "Love God" blog.

Dave has written clear, deep, meditative things on the central Jesus-idea of loving God with one's entire being.

Dave has posted 41 entries so far. Here, e.g., is entry #1.


Lesson 1: Love God

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.


Comments

These words are the beginning of the Shema Yisrael, the Jewish recitation of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41 every morning and evening.

More than anything else, God desires our love, a love that involves all our heart, soul and strength. Such love can never find expression in the grudging obedience and legalism that arise from obligation and fear. Nor can such love have its origin within us; our love for God comes in response to what God has said and done for us or for others.

Many identify the death of Jesus as the greatest example of God’s love for us, and the greatest source of our love for God. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ignores the fact that the command to love God had been given more than 1,000 years earlier.

The focus of this study will be on what God has said and done in the Torah, the first five books of our Bible and the holiest part of the Hebrew Scriptures, that gives rise to our love for God. It is hoped that such an approach will dispel the common idea that the God of the Old Testament is one of wrath while the God of the New Testament is one of love.


Reflections

The ancient Hebrew concept of “heart” included intellect as well as emotions. We tend to separate these and depend on one more than the other. Are your decisions guided more by thoughts or feelings? Does your love for God favor one of these over the other? What might it look like for you to love God with all your heart in this Hebrew understanding?

The ancient Hebrew concept of “soul” contained all that makes us who we are. (The tri-partite concept of “body, soul and spirit” was Greek, not Hebrew.) To love God with all your soul means that love for God becomes an essential part of your identity. Do you tend to be a different person at church than at work or school? What might it look like for you to love God with all your soul in this Hebrew understanding?

The ancient Hebrew concept of “might” included all the resources at our disposal: personal, social, professional, financial and everything else. What might it look like for you to love God with all your might in this Hebrew understanding?


Prayer


Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who calls us to love you with all that we are. 

40-Day Spiritual Journey With Howard Thurman - Begins June 1



Beginning June 1 one of the things I will be doing to strengthen my spiritual life is going through a 40-Day Journey with Howard Thurman

If you want to join me order the book on amazon.com - it's available in hard copy or Kindle version.

If you do this and would like to connect with me and share your thoughts and spiritual discoveries during the process please email me at johnpiippo@msn.com. 

During the process keep a spiritual journal. The book has an excellent introduction to spiritual journaling. 

This devotional guide uses quotes from Thurman, Scripture readings, questions to ponder and meditate on, and suggested ways to pray.

Thurman (along with Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen) is one of the deep, praying persons I continue to read who has influenced me over the years.

From amazon.com:

"Howard Thurman was an influential American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. Strongly influenced by his grandmother, a former slave, who raised him and a Quaker mystic under whom he studied, Thurman adopted a philosophy of activism rooted in faith, guided by spirit, and maintained in peace. Editor Donna Schaper selects forty inspiring passages from the works of this spiritual adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to accompany readers on their own spiritual journeys."

Wading Into Deep Waters with Thomas Merton (PrayerLife)

My Prayer Chair in my backyard by the river
For my soul's nourishment I am now mostly reading:

  • Scripture
  • Thomas Merton
  • Henri Nouwen
  • Howard Thurman
I read Merton, Nouwen, and Thurman because they all had prayer lives. They were praying people. They were not "too busy to pray."

I need to hear from someone who is not too busy to pray. I have no need to hear from someone who "believes in prayer" but "is too busy to pray" (= faux-believers). I don't wish to judge non-pray-ers. It's just that non-pray-ers are disconnected from God. Therefore, they have nothing to say.

The souls of Merton, Nouwen, and Thurman run deep. Their hearts were ploughed and planted and grown and harvested by God's Spirit, over years. I read them and pay attention. But most of all, I pray myself.

Here's a Merton quote I read this morning:

"In the afternoon-evening: realized that the one thing that is of any worth whatever in me, the one thing of value , and this is infinitely valuable, is the light to know God, the gift of faith that makes Him present in my heart. He who called forth light from darkness has shone in my heart! (II Cor. 4: 6)." (Merton, Learning To Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom (The Journals of Thomas Merton), p. 12) 

There it is...   again. One Thing. 

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. That's it.

Those that want to know this enter daily into the deep waters of God's Spirit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Intercessors Pray Like This (PrayerLife)

Shampa Rice at Redeemer

Intercessory prayer can bring about changes in the lives of other persons. Stanley Grenz writes: "Intercession can alter the spiritual situation of those for whom we pray." (Grenz, Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom, 33)

Do I believe this? Of course. I would not pray for others if I did not believe this.

"As the prayers found in Paul's epistles suggests, prayer can lead to the spiritual strengthening of and greater spiritual knowledge in others." (Ib.) For example, Ephesians 3:16-19:

16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Intercessors pray like this:

"God, I pray that _______________ would be strengthened in their inner being through Your Spirit. I pray that You, Jesus, might make ______'s heart Your home. I pray that _______ might have the power to understand and know Your great love that transcends mere human knowledge. I pray that _______ would be filled with all Your fullness."

Or, for example, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17:

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

Intercessors pray like this:

"God, I pray that You bring Your comfort and hope to ___________'s heart and strengthen _______ in every good thing they do and say."

Pray for others, like this.