Monday, November 30, 2015

A Bergmanian Take on Existential Risk

Nice - This cartoon from this week's New Yorker combines Ingmar Bergman and Nick Bostrom


Discipline Allows God to Be Lord of My Mind

Marabou storks in the Rift Valley of Kenya

If you are a disciple of Jesus then you have discipline in your life. Disciples are disciplined. Like, for example, guitar students practice.

Henri Nouwen writes: "If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life." (Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living, p. 1) "A spiritual life without discipline is impossible." (Ib.)

As a new follower of Jesus my campus ministry leaders taught me to take daily "quiet times with God." I did. I'm having quiet time with God this morning. I read Scripture and meditate on it. I'm reading the Nouwen book I've quoted from. My spirit is marinating in God's slow-cooking, disciple-making, life-giving, perspective-gaining, hope-restoring, wound-healing crock pot. 

I have done this, daily, for over 45 years. Because "it requires real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind." (Ib., p. 2)

I do my quiet times with God in quiet places of least distraction. (See here; and here.) I have disciplined myself to do this. What began as a stream of life in my heart over four decades ago has formed a groove that channels a deep river. The source of this river is the presence of God. 

Nouwen says that "the word 'discipline' means "the effort to create some space in which God can act."" (Ib.) There is a space created in my mind and heart where the Spirit of God has a chance of getting my attention. I treasure and tend this space and attend to the moving of God's Spirit in me.

The $20 Wedding

Yes, I wore a tux...
( just read THIS, and thought I'd re-post "The $20 Wedding.")

In 45 years as a Jesus-follower and pastor I have officially performed one bazillion weddings. That is a lot of rehearsal dinners and wedding reception dinners.

1. I have done one bazillion weddings.
2. Therefore, I am overweight.

When I think of these weddings what I remember is not the food, but the people. The most beautiful weddings I have seen have to do with the marital couple, who they are, and what they can one day be. 

All the money in the world cannot cover over two clueless people. But a groom and bride who submit their lives to God and to the serving of the other shine like stars in this materialistic darkness of "happiness." I am thinking of some of them now. They loved, and still do. Their love influenced others, without trying to.

It's really about preparing for marriage and life together, not the wedding day. The more the former happens, the greater is that special day.

I present to you a wedding plan. Here are the costs, in my Monroe community.

Wedding planner - $0. (I charge nothing for this advice.)
Officiant - $0. (I charge nothing to officiate your wedding.)
Building rental - $0. (We can have your wedding outdoors. We've had weddings in our backyard, on the river.)
Groom's tuxedo - $0. (The groom wears nice clothing that can be worn again.)
Bridal gown - $0. (The bride wears nice clothing that can be worn again.)
Flowers - $0. (From your mother's garden.)
Photographer - $0. (Because all your friends have smart phones.)
Food - cost per plate - $0. (Your friends bring finger foods. That's what Linda and I did, and we had 350 people at our wedding.)
Miscellaneous costs - $0.
Marriage license in Monroe County - $20.
Pen to sign marriage license - $0. (I will lend you mine.)
Total costs - $20

Stress - less.

Relationship - more.

I have done weddings like this. I remember them for the inner beauty of the couple and the presence of God.

See also:

"Is Simplicity the Newest Wedding Trend?"

"Does a Big Wedding Equal an Unhappy Marriage?" (Wall Street Journal)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Real Jesus Sermon #1

Worship at Redeemer
Pastors are to equip their people for the work of ministry.

As Redeemer's pastor I am committed to increasing the Jesus-literacy of my church.

Tomorrow I give the second of seven Real Jesus sermons.

Sermon #1 can be heard HERE

Prayer Is Relationship Rather Than Something We Have to Do

Monroe

Praying is being-in-relationship-with God, rather than some religious duty that one has to do. 

I communicate with Linda, not because I "have to," but because I love her. To only talk and listen to her out of duty would be a sign of a strange, unsatisfying marriage.

Philip Yancey writes: "Prayer as transaction rather than relationship can decline into a practice more duty than joy, an occasional and awkward exercise with little connection to life." (Yancey, Prayer, Kindle Locations 844-845)

How I communicate with Linda when no one else is around is an indicator of how I view her and our marriage. In a similar way how I pray shows how I view God. "Who one believes God to be is most accurately revealed not in any credo but in the way one speaks to God when no one else is listening." (Nancy Mairs, quoted in Ib., Kindle Locations 820-822)

To pray is to be in relationship with God. Prayer is not something we have to do. When you are in a real, loving relationship you communicate.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kevin Bacon's Argument That the Bible Affirms Dancing






5 Thanksgiving Choices

Some of our Redeemer kids


Today is Thanksgiving Day!

1. Take time to reflect on the blessings God has given you. I've made a gratitude list on my computer and printed it out. I've got the list in my pocket, and will pull it out and look at it several times today.

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." 
- Thornton Wilder

2. Think of the people God has brought to add value to your life.
 
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
- Albert Schweitzer 

3. Focus on what you have gained, not what you have lost. In the worship song "Blessed Be Your Name" we sing "You give and take away, You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be your name." I remember precious people I have lost. I think of what their lives have given to me.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." 
- Epictetus

4. Say "thank you" to others, in your words, attitudes, and actions. Today, serve people. To serve is to love. Servanthood is the overflow of a thankful heart.

"The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated."

-- William James

5. Let the words "Thank you, God" be your constant praise. 

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever."
- 1 Chronicles 16:4

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Our Masks Are Not Our Reality

Ann Arbor store

What sort of wisdom could come from a person dedicated to dwelling in God's presence, from someone not captured by the idols of technology and media? Thomas Merton, for myself and many others, serves as an example. Merton never watched television! What could he have to tell us?

The answer is: prophetic words of ontological realities. One ever-relevant Merton-theme is the stripping away of the false self, accomplished by God, in God's presence. He writes:

"If we take our vulnerable shell to be our true identity, if we think our mask is our true face, we will protect it with fabrications even at the cost of violating our own truth. This seems to be the collective endeavor of society: the more busily men dedicate themselves to it, the more certainly it becomes a collective illusion, until in the end we have the enormous, obsessive, uncontrollable dynamic of fabrications designed to protect mere fictitious identities - "selves," that is to say, regarded as objects. Selves that can stand back and see themselves having fun (an illusion which reassures them that they are real)." (Merton, Raids On the Unspeakable, 15)

Merton published Raids in 1965. That's 50 years ago. He discerned the creeping shallowness of American culture. Were he alive today he would see the same, only multiplied, magnified, and glorified. 

The American social milieu profits on sustaining hypocrisy. A "hypocrite" (Greek ὑποκρίτης) is: an "actor," a "mask-wearer." We are a world of false personas who don't merely hide behind our culturally constructed masks but who have come to believe that our masks are our reality. Halloween, our preferred holy day, has become every day.

The Non-entitled and Needy Say "Thank You"

Monroe County
I headed toward the door of our local Panera Bread with a cup of coffee in each hand. A young man saw me coming and opened the door for me. He didn't have to do that. I didn't deserve it. But he looked upon me as needing assistance and came to my rescue. He had pity on me.

I said "Thank you."

Thanks. I needed that.

To give thanks is to acknowledge need. 


11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19

Of the ten lepers, nine were presumably Jews, and one was a Gentile, hence not a pure descendant of Abraham. The nine lepers who failed to thank Jesus suffered from global entitlement. Their pure-bred lineage meant they deserved to be healed. When you deserve something you don't say thank you.

Outcasts and self-identified sinners view things differently. They know they are needy and undeserving. 

Jesus sees the lepers standing at a distance because they are "unclean." He has pity on them. 

When the non-entitled foreigner-leper experiences healing he returns to Jesus.

He falls before him.

The words "thank you" cascade out of his heart. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jesus Existed


(Especially for my Redeemer family)




Several years ago I received a phone call from a high school girl who came to Redeemer. She was crying as she told me about her high school biology teacher. This teacher at one point in his teaching left the subject of biology and stated, "There is no evidence that Jesus ever existed." This shocked a number of students in class. The teacher then said, "If you can show me evidence please feel free to bring it to class."

I suggested to her that she bring me into the class to present the case for the existence of Jesus. I wrote a letter to the teacher. When I learned his name I realized he was, at that time, a student in my 
MCCC Philosophy of Religion class! 

When the time came for me to speak on the existence of Jesus at Monroe High School so many students had heard about this that it was decided to hold the event in the school auditorium. 170 students came to hear me as I spoke for 90 minutes, making the historical case for Jesus' existence. There was a Q&A after my talk. Many students asked questions. They were so interested in the subject of Jesus! Now, years later, I've had people who were in the auditorium that day tell me how much it impressed and influenced them. A number of them enrolled in my college philosophy classes as a result of this.

Perhaps you have heard, or read on the Internet, the claim that Jesus never really existed, and that the figure of Jesus in the Bible is all made up. That claim is false. As small a point as it seems to be, Jesus actually existed. No reputable New Testament scholar believes otherwise (actually, maybe one does, but he is in the extreme minority). 


Here are some reasons why.

It is unsurprising that Jesus is not mentioned in any Roman sources of his time.

"It is true that Jesus is not mentioned in any Roman sources of his day. That should hardly count against his existence, however, since these same sources mention scarcely anyone from his time and place. Not even the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, or even more notably, the most powerful and important figure of his day, Pontius Pilate." (Bart Ehrman)



Even biased sources provide evidence for a person's existence.

Our best sources for the existence and life of Jesus are the four Gospels. Are they biased? Of course they are. Is bias bad? Of course not. Everyone is biased. No historian (nor you, the reader of this) is without bias. But note this. Ehrman writes: "You may not trust Rush Limbaugh's views of [Hillary Clinton], but he certainly provides evidence that she exists." (Ib.) Precisely.



Usually followers write what is most true and meaningful about their teachers.

Regarding the "bias objection" Craig Keener notes that:

"Most people write only about what they care about. The only substantive early works about Socrates derive from his followers. The Dead Sea Scrolls extol their community's founder, but no other reports of him survive. The Jewish historian Josephus claims to be a Pharisee, yet never mentions Hillel, who is famous in Pharisees' traditions. Israeli scholar David Flusser correctly observes that it is usually followers who preserve what is most meaningful about their teachers, whether the leaders were Buddha, Muhammad, Mormon leader Joseph Smith or African prophet Simon Kimbangu." (Keener, "Jesus Existed") 



There are no parallels between Jesus and pagan "savior-gods."

The alleged parallels between Jesus and pagan "savior-gods" (like the silly "Zeitgeist" movie) are only fit for Facebook (viz., ultra-biased atheists who: 1) are ignorant of ancient pagan mythology; and 2) who hyper-spin non-facts to justify their atheism). Ehrman writes: "We do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum in their propagandized versions)."



Anyone wanting to make up a story about a new Savior would not have given us a crucified Messiah. 

"The earliest followers of Jesus declared that he was a crucified messiah. But prior to Christianity, there were no Jews at all, of any kind whatsoever, who thought that there would be a future crucified messiah. The messiah was to be a figure of grandeur and power who overthrew the enemy. Anyone who wanted to make up a messiah would make him like that." (Ehrman) Ehrman says the early Christians "knew full well that he was crucified. The Christians did not invent Jesus." (Ib.)


Early extrabiblical writers believed Jesus existed.

Keener writes that the first-century Jewish historian mentions Jesus and John the Baptist as major prophetic figures. 

Syrian philosopher Mara bar Sarapion, writing earlier than Josphuus, claimed that Jesus was "a wise Jewish king." (Keener)

Writing just 31-34 years after Jesus' death Tacitus reported that Jesus was executed under Pontius Pilate. (Keener)

The apostle Paul wrote about Jesus as an historical person just 15-30 years after Jesus' ministry. "Rightly or wrongly, Paul staked the rest of his life on this experience." (Keener)

Mark's Gospel was circulating some 30-40 years after Jesus' ministry. Keener writes: "Luke reports that "many" had already written accounts by the time Luke writes. Luke shares with Matthew some common material that most scholars think is even earlier than Mark. Only a small minority of figures in antiquity had surviving works written about them so soon after their deaths." 

Keener adds: "What can the first-century Gospels tell us? Certainly at the least they indicate that Jesus was a historical figure."


It is illogical to think that Jesus' followers would make us a Jesus to live and die for.

Keener concludes:

"Yet, valuable as examining such historical evidence is, we must return to where we started. Logically, why would Jesus' followers make up a Jesus to live and die for? Why not glorify real founders (as movements normally did)? Why make up a leader and have him executed on a Roman cross? To follow one executed for treason was itself treason. To follow a crucified leader was to court persecution. Some people do give their lives for their beliefs, but for beliefs, not normally for what they know to be fabricated. Jesus' first movement would not have made up his execution or his existence. How much they actually remembered about him is a subject for a future post."

FOR FURTHER STUDY SEE:

Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy, The Jesus Legend: A case for the Historical Reliabilty of the Synoptic Tradition

James Beilby and Paul Eddy, The Historical Jesus: Five Views

Life Is a Series of Interruptions

Monroe sunset
In John 21, after Jesus tells Peter to "Feed my sheep," we see one of the most non-seeker friendly passages in the New Testament. Jesus forewarns Peter. ""Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”" (John 21:18-19)

And Peter followed Jesus.

A real following after Jesus, a real "moving with the Spirit," involves being led by the Spirit into places where we would not want or choose to go. 

Our lives and our plans get interrupted by the Spirit who is non-programmable and unpredictable. Henri Nouwen once said he used to get upset at his life being interrupted until God told him his life was a series of interruptions.

To be interruptible. That is one mark of true servanthood. I've met people churches who you would never ask to do anything. Your request to them becomes a great inconvenience in their plans. You hear it in their voices and see it on their faces. 

I have also met Spirit-led people who are eminently interruptible, willing to follow the Spirit wherever he leads them, to include being led to places where they would not choose to go.

Thomas Merton wrote: "What am I heading for? Where am I going? The answer to that one is: I don't need to know...  God knows what he wants to do with me. Rest in his tremendous love - to know the savor and sweetness of God's love expressed from moment to moment in all the contacts between him and your soul... Rest in that union. It will feed you, fill you with life. He will lead you into perfect solitude in His own good time. Leave it all to Him. Live in the present." (A Year With Thomas Merton, July 3)

Be free from, the terrible burden of always having to have things go your way. 

Follow the Spirit in all things, even small things, for the sake of His Kingdom and glory.

Pray "God, interrupt me. Inconvenience me for your glory."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hearing God: Deus Interruptus


Painting a room in our house.

Henri Nouwen once said he was bothered by life's many interruptions until he realized that the interruptions were his life. I have discovered that must pay attention to interruptions and discern whether or not they are from God. I need to have an interruptible heart.

An interruptible heart is one that hears and follows. Without the following God's interruptions will diminish. Why would God continue to say "John, I know you have plans for today, but I want you to do this instead" if I would not "do this instead?" 

Dallas Willard writes:

"Perhaps we do not hear the voice because we do not expect to hear it. Then again, perhaps we do not expect it because we know that we fully intend to run our lives on our own and have never seriously considered anything else. The voice of God would therefore be an unwelcome intrusion into our plans. By contrast, we expect great spiritual leaders to hear that voice just because we see their lives wholly given up to doing what God wants."  (Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, p. 93)

Some do not hear God's voice because they would never follow him if he called them to do something outside their control zone. This would mean a change of their plans. 

The Real Jesus Life is a series of interruptions. We are at God's servants, ready to do his will, at his "beck and call." 

Deus Interruptus.

God, I want to be wielded by you. Intrude into my life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dr. John Piippo - "How God Transforms the Human Heart" 04/17/15

How to Communicate With an Entitlement-Diseased Person

Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan
After you have addressed your own entitlement issues you may be ready to have that difficult talk with your friend or family member who has the entitlement disease. John Townsend recommends beginning with a vulnerable conversation. (The Entitlement Cure, 80) "Being vulnerable means getting past your frustration and anger so that you can express your feelings of care for the person, as well as your exposure to pain because of their behavior." (Ib.)

Clearly state how you have experienced the entitled behavior of the other person. "Let them know how you see their behavior. They may have no idea that they are like this, or that others perceive them as being this way." (82)

People with the entitlement disease need to understand that they have the disease. "Someone has to say something. Otherwise, how can they change?" (Ib.)

Then, move to a "consequence-based conversation." Townsend says this has seven elements.

  1. You are “for” him: “Brandon, I care about you and I want you to succeed.”
  2. You are concerned about some negative attitudes and behaviors: "It's not OK that you are still living at home with no job or no school."
  3. You yourself have been part of the problem: "I haven't been clear and firm with my expectations, and I've waited too long to press the issue. I'm sorry about that."
  4. You are establishing definite criteria for change: "You have sixty days..."
  5. There will be consequences if no change occurs: "If this doesn't happen, then on day sixty-one I will have your things packed."
  6. You want to hear them out.
  7. Once again, you are "for" him: "I'm sorry this has been a difficult talk, but I care about you and I hope you will make the right choice." 
 After this, expect all hell to break loose. Townsend writes: 

"Be ready for anger, escalation, resentment, and tirades. Remember who you’re dealing with. Entitlement does not recede quickly! But just as God is engaged in “de-entitling” his people, so you are part of that process too."

Don't take this personally. The entitled person is angry at reality, "angry that he can't be a little god." It's not really about you.


*****
SEE ALSO:

Most Entitled People are Dependent People


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Three Signs of Real Church (and How Much It Costs to Do This)

Near Clare, Michigan
Real Church is a People Movement led by God's Spirit.

Three signs of Real Church are:


  • The people are growing in biblical literacy (BibleLife - understanding the biblical narrative)
  • The people are growing in Jesus literacy (JesusLife - Knowing Christ)
  • The people actually engage in praying (PrayerLife - talking with God about what God and I are thinking and doing together)
Cost to do this: $0.

The budget line item in the Presence-Driven Church for these "programs" is: $0. God's earth-shattering presence costs nothing and far surpasses anything money can buy.

(Note: This Sunday morning [11/22] I will preach the first of 7 messages on Knowing the Real Jesus. My vision for Redeemer is that we are a Jesus-literate family. This is our great distinctive; viz., we have Jesus, and Jesus has us. Jesus - God the Son, come to us, still alive, and the greatest leader and most monumental figure in all of human history.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

John Maxwell - 10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation

Park on the river in Monroe

One of the greatest sermons i have ever heard was at the first Promise Keepers event I went to, in Indianapolis. The speaker was John Maxwell. He was preaching on "10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation." After Maxwell gave #1 the place was electric. By the end we were all broken and ready to change. I felt, in that moment, that 20,000 men were about to walk in total sexual purity.


*****
John Maxwell’s 10 Guidelines (For Men) For Dealing With Sexual Temptation

1. RUN!
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

2. ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Every time we choose righteousness, we not only become closer to God, but stronger in our ability to resist temptation.

3. BE ACCOUNTABLE - John Maxwell's list of accountability questions:
Are you spending time alone with God?
Are you in studying the Bible?
Are you praying?
Is your thought life pure?
Have you seen something you shouldn't see (movies, magazines, Internet)?
Are you misusing your power on the job? At home?
Are you walking in total obedience to God? (Remember, partial obedience is disobedience.)
Have you lied about any of the previous questions?

4.LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE

5. BE ON GUARD
Seldom travel alone.
When you have to travel, call your wife every night.
Talk positively about your wife to others.
Choose friends wisely. "Bad company corrupts good character." ( Corinthians 15:33)

6. DETERMINE TO LIVE A PURE LIFE TODAY
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

7. REALIZE THAT SEXUAL SIN ASSAULTS THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST IN YOUR LIFE
"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15)

8. RECOGNIZE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL SIN
"But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself." (Proverbs 6:32)
"For the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life." (Proverbs 6:26)

9. THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN

10. GET A NEW DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
Maxwell's definition: Success is having those who are the closest to me love and respect me the most.

Most Entitled People are Dependent People

Bamboo, near Brasilia, Brazil
I flunked out of Northern Illinois University in my sophomore year. My last semester there I rarely attended classes. Eventually, I returned to NIU and got an undergraduate degree. 

I was at my parents' house when the letter from NIU came. It arrived by certified mail. I signed for it. It said: "You have been academically dismissed."

Amazingly, I was angry at the university for kicking me out. How could they do this to me?

The truly amazing thing is my response. I felt entitled to stay in their university. I needed to understand a very basic truth of life, which is:

Actions have consequences. 

In The Entitlement Cure John Townsend writes:

"Most entitled people are also dependent people. They get away with their attitude because someone is protecting them from its consequences. They would crash and burn a lot sooner if that someone refused to make excuses for them, to give them an infinite number of last chances, and to pay for their mistakes. Your entitled person isn’t likely to change until he experiences his own dependency and what happens when you no longer act as his safety net."

Do not shelter people from deserved consequences. This only strengthens the entitlement disease in them.

***
SEE ALSO:

Entitled People Need the "Aha!" Moment


Miracles: Fiction or Fact?


My friend Elijah Stephens has made a movie answering the questions:

Have you ever wondered if miracles are real? Where's the evidence? Can testimonies stand up to the hard questions?
Elijah interviews some very good scholars in the movie, including Craig Keener and University of Indiana's Candy Brown.
Check it out HERE - you can support Elijah's project.

Monday, November 16, 2015

We're Investing In Our Children at Redeemer

 Our new 5500 sq. foot building addition for our Children's Ministries is in its last stages of development. We're investing in our kids = investing in God's future for our church family!

This is the Big Room - it will have a lot of chairs, an A.V. projection system, an area of a worship team - when our kids leave the sanctuary on Sunday mornings they will first assemble here, then go to individual classrooms.


Very large storage room.


One of the five large classrooms!


Kitchenette + computer work station w. bathroom in rear - New refrigerator in.


West parking lot finished!

Entitled People Need the "Aha!" Moment

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
In The Entitlement Cure psychologist and Jesus-follower John Townsend writes: "Your entitled person isn’t likely to change until he experiences his own dependency and what happens when you no longer act as his safety net." (p. 80)

When you stop enabling and feeding the other person's entitled attitude the odds increase that they will have a wake-up moment, an "Aha!" experience. You cannot give them such an experience, but you can help to starve their entitlement needs. 

You know someone is waking up to their entitlement disease when they begin to express thoughts like:

• I wish I could say or do whatever I like, but that doesn’t work anymore. 
• I can’t have anything I want. 
• I now have to do things that I don’t want or like to do. 
• I have to deal with losses of relationship, money, opportunity, and time in my life. 
• I have hurt people I love. 
• I have hurt myself and not been the person I could have been. 
• I must face my regrets because of my choices. (p. 77)

This may be the beginning of good things to come. Townsend writes:

"Researchers who study personal change now take a neurological view of this process. Someone must have the “aha moment” — when the lights come on, the neurons fire, and the insight comes, as with Paul’s Damascus Road experience (see Acts 9: 1 – 6). That “aha moment” is necessary, because external change starts best with internal change."

I remember a day in the spring on 1970 when I was playing guitar in a band. I was on a stage playing and the thought came to me:

I am screwed up. 

This was my life-changing "Aha!" moment. I came to see it was from God. Finally, I had ears to hear the truth about myself.  

I began to let go of entitlement statements like:

• I'm not wrong.
• I deserve special treatment.
• I don't impact people negatively.

I began to feel emotions of sadness, guilt, remorse, and regret for my actions.

Townsend writes:

"This is only the beginning, however. In the next phase, our neural pathways need to get trained to do things a different and better way. This is where habits come in — habits of regularly thinking about others, of taking ownership and initiative, of doing the right things even if they are the hard things." (p. 78)

***
SEE ALSO:

3 Bad Reasons to Help Someone Who Has the Entitlement Disease


Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Know a Pastor Who Lost Himself

My back yard
I knew a pastor who, when he mowed his lawn, wore a suit. He wore a suit just in case one of his church members would drive by and see him. After all, he was a "pastor," and did not want to appear otherwise. One of his members described to me how he looked, sweating in the hot sun, his gray hair flopping in the wind, his tie ratcheted tight to the stiff collar of his starched white shirt.

I know a pastor who was so devoted to his flock that he was always busy. Even when he was not busy he chose to appear busy, just in case one of his church members would drop by to see him and think he's lazy.

I know a pastor who was so concerned about his appearance that he lost himself. I know a pastor who was so busy that the fire in his heart burned out. 

In The Contemplative Pastor Eugene Peterson writes:

"I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble. I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself - and to all who will notice - that I am important. If I go into a doctor's office and find there's no one waiting, and I see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he's any good." (Eugene H. Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, Kindle Locations 155-158)

I know a pastor who bought a new suit every year (though he could not afford one) and got very busy (though he could not afford to) and sacrificed his life and his wife and his children and his church and his own spirit on the twin altars of Appearance and Busyness.

""The poor man," we say. "He's so devoted to his flock; the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly" But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront." (Ib., K 151-154)

I know a pastor whose goal was never to disappoint people. I know a pastor who had "a blasphemous anxiety to do God's work for him." (Ib.)