Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Life is the Task of a Lifetime

Munson Park, Monroe

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard satirizes people who think they come to a point where they have arrived, and finished life. He writes:

"When they have arrived at a certain point in their search for truth, life takes on a change. They marry, and they acquire a certain position, in consequence of which they feel that they must in all honor have something finished...,  And so they come to think of themselves as really finished... Living in this manner, one is relieved of the necessity of becoming executively aware of the strenuous difficulties which the simplest of propositions about existing qua human-being involves." (
Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 18-19)

C.S. Lewis describes life after life on earth as a continual growing "further up, further in." Paul encouraged us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Kierkegaard picked up on this and wrote 
Fear and Trembling. Faith, for Kierkegaard, is "the task of a lifetime, not a skill thought to be acquired in days or weeks." (F&T, 5) A good part of Kierkegaard's work is motivated by his antipathy to Hegel's idea of a logical "System" that achieves perfect rational clarity.

Faith, for example, is forged through trials. One continues to believe in spite of an Hegelian logic that tells us otherwise. Faith, by definition, means to step forward into the nonlogical (deductive-wise, that is). Logic strives to resolve paradox (dialectically, as in Hegel); faith embraces it to achieve its object. Abraham, for Kierkegaard and Judeo-Christianity, becomes the "father of faith," as he acts against all Western logic in moving to 
sacrifice Isaac. Paradox, trial, and logical uncertainty become the crucible that forges people of faith.

This does not happen in an instant. It takes all of life to become a person of faith. Even Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature." Sozo-ing is not simply making some "decision" to follow Christ; it is more an experiential reality to be entered into and lived out as one actually follows Christ, rather than a theory to be rationally believed in.

Life is the task of a lifetime.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

If Size Matters, Then We Don't

IHM, Monroe

I've been feeling small lately. This is good.

Someone peering out a window in a jet 35,000 feet in the air would not notice me, no matter how I jump, wave my arms, and yell. 

We live on three and a half acres, in a farmhouse built in 1860, on a river that flows into Lake Erie. On my riding mower, it all seems big. But it's not, relatively speaking. To call us small is to exaggerate.  

We cut grass, paint our bedrooms, shop for food, laugh, love, experience pain, and weep on a pale blue dot. I think about this. 

I looked out my second floor home office early this morning and saw an osprey land on the tip of one of the tall Norway spruces in our front yard. An osprey is as big as a bald eagle. I know this by experience, as bald eagles regularly fly low over our property. The spruce is tall. The osprey is big. But compared to what? The Eagle Nebula is 5.13 light years across. The three of us - spruce, osprey, me - are among the tiniest objects in the universe. 

If size matters, then we don't. 

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

And yet... 
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
(Psalm 8)

You and I not only matter, we are the high point of God's handiwork. 

Lately I've had two things going in my mind: 

1) My tiny self relative to all things that are; and 

2) a God-placed crown of glory and honor upon me, exalted above all God's creation, even above the Eagle Nebula. 

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I plan to co-write our book on Relationships 

Re. Spiritual Formation Location Means Nothing

The River Raisin, Monroe

"If I were living somewhere different I could grow spiritually."

That...  is...   false. 

Because the kingdom of God is not some locale; it's not some geographical place. The kingdom of God is the rule, or reign, of God. God reigns wherever hearts allow him to. And, of course, God's reign is not conditional on our hearts. We don't control the King.

If God's kingdom was a physical place, then bazillions of people could never enter into it. But it's not a place. 

This is good news.

It's good news because...

...no matter where you live

...no matter what your circumstances are

...irregardless of your age or your ethnic background

God's kingdom is near, and here.

Pray "God, let your kingdom, your rule, your reign, come...  now. Here."

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Photos and Quotes from Our Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries Conference in June

What a beautiful HSRM Conference we had with Michael Brown, Francis Anfuso, and others!

Here are some photos and quotes.

I invite you to join us next summer! (Details coming.)

Holy Spirit Renewal Conference
The generations worship and grow together at the
Holy Spirit Renewal Conference
A time of impact and recommitment, equipping and challenge, healing and deliverance, love and fellowship!
Think Multi-Generationally! Dr. Michael Brown, excerpt 6/25/18

" I'm glad to see that there are young people as well as older people here. The only way there is going to be life, the only way there is going to be long-term spiritual reproduction is for God's people to have a multi-generational mentality. It's important to think multi-generationally, it's important to be pouring into the next generation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, 'The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children.' I want to encourage you to grab God's multi-generational heart. You can live with urgency at the same time you live in a multi-generational way. Run your race with excellence aware you are going to turn the baton over either to Jesus or the next generation and we want to be thinking, who do we pour into, to raise up? Let the Lord lay this on your heart. Be spiritual fathers and mothers. With so many kids who are fatherless today, you can be 18 years old and have people coming around you because you come from a stable environment and they are looking at you like you are a mom or a dad because you have that role in their lives. Pay attention to the ideals that matter to the young generation. Acknowledge they have some good ideals but need the tools to really live them out. We should say, 'Let us show you scripturally how to live this out. You have some ideals that come from God's heart, you want to be revolutionaries & change the world and that's great, but let me show you the most radical way to change the world.'"

"What really matters to the young generation today? They care about social justice and equality. In many ways they are going to come at it in wrong ways but rather then dismissing the whole thing agree with them that this is something that God has put in their hearts and teach them the only way to justice and equality is with the gospel. Recognize the qualities that are good, that are scriptural, and then disciple people to live these things out the right way, God's way, not the world's way, which brings real justice, real liberation, and real equality."

"May God raise up prophetic mothers and fathers and people of vision who understand the times and know what God's people should do and help lead the way.
A young person once said to me, 'Give me a cause and I'll die for it!' I don't think we need to water the gospel down. I think we need to make it as radical as it is! Look, this is the generation of extreme sports, and extreme this and that. Why would we want to have a watered down gospel? Let it be the extreme gospel of Jesus!"
The Supernatural Life and the Like of God - Francis Anfuso, excerpt 6/26/18
"My struggle has been in my failures in life. Here’s the irony: we can see God do amazing things, we can see God’s great love and grace for us, but then as we mess up we can somehow think our failures are disqualifying us. One minute before you received Jesus, just one minute, was God loving you or hating you? He was madly in love with you, and you were far from him! One minute after you received Jesus had God’s love increased at all? He was at peak love when you were a sinner, and he was at peak love when you were saved. His love for us has nothing to do with our performance. We think if we do better He loves us more. He knows us past, present and future so His thoughts of us are with complete understanding, and right now God sees you in your completeness. He doesn’t fixate on what we do wrong; he fixates on what he created us to be.

If we can come on the full side of seeing God’s heart we realize He not only loves us…He LIKES us. I didn’t always know God liked me. I had gotten into the pattern of offering God my love and not spending time just receiving His love. I had to stop apologizing for my life. His acceptance, from the moment we understand His love and grace, has not changed. I didn’t have to earn it in any way.

Consider, what is the thing that you are looking for in a supernatural life in a relationship with God. Are you looking for Him to be the main event or are you trying to accomplish something, do something, be something? When you think of your value, do you think of what a certain other person thinks about you? Is there any statement that someone made about you that you are replaying inadvertently, subliminally, and you are trying to prove them wrong, that you are not who they say you are? We can talk a lot about the supernatural dynamic of what God wants to do but it really goes back to our foundation. When Jesus rescued your life, you brought nothing to the table. The fascination was in His heart. He created us to be a fascination to Him. He created us that when He thinks of us we warm His heart. There is nothing we could ever do to make Him love us more. There is nothing we could ever do to make Him love us less. So, if we are in pursuit of the supernatural, it is not to prove anything, it is somehow to enjoy the ride, it is just to flow with the Spirit of God in our lives. Get God’s heart for you! Make your motive for doing anything receiving, flowing with His Spirit. Let the dance take place, let Him lead you in the dance of life. We have nothing to prove, we don’t need to measure up. We don’t have to apologize over and over. God heard you the first time and it was done. He is saying, ‘You’re cleaned, washed, just as if you had never sinned…Come on, let’s just have a relationship!’

What is a supernatural life? Being a rock star in God?...We need to respond to God’s Spirit. We have to be fully engrossed in our relationship with him and then out of that love relationship we can offer someone what we have, but if we don’t have that we can’t offer them anything. We can only fully help others when we realize God’s heart for us. We have nothing to offer except the love we are receiving. 
Every time we respond to the Holy Spirit, every time we acknowledge an area in our life that needs an adjustment, it is never God jerking us around, it is the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit. Respond to the Holy Spirit. We all battle insecurity, self-worth, feelings of failure, struggling, and yet the Spirit of God is wanting us to receive his uncompromising, unconditional love and acceptance. You may say, 'Oh, I have responded to him before' and that’s okay, but respond again and again and again. Let God know your desire to be fully healed of this inability to live in the full awareness of his love for you. Continue to be willing to do what is needed to get free. Supernatural life is not someone saying a few words over you; it is you responding to the Holy Spirit. That’s a supernatural life. Declare now, 'I want to know God’s unconditional LIKE; I know His love to a certain extent but want to know He likes me!' I never believed God likes me. I needed to know that God likes me, that he is more excited to be with me than I am to be with Him. He made me to be a fascination to Him. If you struggle with that, give a death blow to those thoughts that oppose this truth. Receive His LIKE."

Friday, July 27, 2018

Cast Your Distractions on Him

My back yard


That, according to Richard Foster, is the primary spiritual problem of our day. "The Internet culture is only a surface issue. Our problem is something far more fundamental. This deeper, more basic issue can be summed up in one word: distraction." (Foster, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer, Kindle Locations 709-710)

The inability to focus. 

Difficulty in attending to just one thing. 

The tweeting soul. 

This has always been with us. Foster writes: "People were distracted long before it [the Internet] came along. Blaise Pascal observed, "The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room." (Ib., 710-711)

People's minds have always wandered. Arguably, today they wander more than ever. We live in a culture of distraction, a world whose economy is sustained by distractedness. To un-attend is the norm. (See, e.g., Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.)

This is changing the nature of interpersonal relationships for the worse. And, it affects the God-relationship. Single-mindedness, the ability to attend to one thing over a sustained period of time, is needed to succeed at anything (except multi-tasking). If one wanted to overcome this, how could it be done? Foster writes: 

"The first counsel I would give regarding a wandering mind is for us to be easy on ourselves. We did not develop a noisy heart overnight, and it will take time and patience for us to learn a single-hearted concentration." (Kindle Locations 716-717) He quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"The first thing to remember is not to get impatient with yourself. Do not cramp yourself in despair at the wandering of your thoughts. Just sit down each day and wait patiently. If your thoughts keep running away, do not attempt to restrict them. It is no bother to let them run on to their destination; then, however, take up the place or the person to whom they have strayed into your prayers. In this way you will find yourself back at the text, and the minutes of such digressions will not be wasted and will not trouble you." (In Ib., Kindle Locations 717-721)

Learn about your own inner chaos. Identify it. My suggestion is: when your mind wanders, note where it wanders to. I have found that the mind always wanders to something like a burden. When you identify the burden, give it over to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast your burdens on him, for he cares for you."

Discern if a particular distraction is from God. Foster writes: "If one particular matter seems to be repeatedly intruding into our meditation, we may want to ask of the Lord if the intrusion has something to teach us. That is, we befriend the intruder by making it the object of our meditation." (Kindle Locations 725-726)

Find ways "to crucify the spirit of distraction." (Kindle Location 727) Try fasting for periods of time from electronic media. Turn off your cell phone and survive without it. How badly do you want single-mindedness?

Remember that people don't need you as much as you think they do. Constant connectedness with many people increases inner chaos. Foster writes: "I would suggest a fast from all our Internet gadgetry for one hour a day, one day a week, one week a year. See if that helps to calm the internal distraction." (Kindle Locations 728-729)

Find a place free from distractions, and pray. Dialogue with God. Listen, and speak. Learn the Relationship. Get away from the to-do list and be with God. Live life with your doing flowing from your being with God. 

Ahhh... to calm the inner distraction...  To learn simply being with Almighty God...  To receive and respond to God's earth-shattering presence...  To be in love with your Maker...  

Francois Fenelon wrote, "God does not cease speaking, but the noise of the creatures without, and of our passion within, deafens us, and stops our hearing. We must silence every creature, we must silence ourselves, to hear in the deep hush of the whole soul, the ineffable voice of the spouse. We must bend the ear, because it is a gentle and delicate voice, only heard by those who no longer hear anything else." Oh, may you, may I, hear nothing else." (In Ib., Kindle Locations 765-767)