Wednesday, December 30, 2020
|(Linda, with one of our great-nephews, Josiah. |
Note: my father made the music stand as a gift to Linda's sister Lora and her husband Grady,
on their wedding day.)
When I understood more about the kingdom of God I began to pray The Lord's
Prayer in a different way. Now I pray like this, because I believe this is how the early Jesus-followers understood it.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
MY BOOK OF THE YEAR
The most important, most helpful book I read this year is The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.
Wow! I just finished it. I took copious notes, and am going to slowly re-read it.
This book traces the transformation of human identity into a primarily psychological understanding of personal identity as a state of mind or a state of feelings.
three of the RUNNERS-UP...
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made everything About Race, Gender, and Identity - and Why This Harms Everybody. By Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsey.
This is a savaging, intelligent assault on Critical Theory. It's written by two atheist scholars. What initially caught my attention were these two atheist reviews.
My Payne Theological Seminary class is called Spiritual Formation. My main assignment is: set apart one hour a day, five days a week, for seven weeks. Use this time to pray and listen to God. Keep a record of the voice and activity of God in a spiritual journal.
Needed: listening skills, ability to meditate, and focus, to allow God to dive deep in your heart.
I also teach three philosophy courses at Monroe County Community College: Introduction to Logic, Introduction to Western Philosophy, and Philosophy of Religion. The ability to stay on task is needed to learn philosophy, and to think philosophically. A philosopher must have a great capacity to go inward, to ponder, and ruminate.
Spiritual formation and philosophy are slow cookers, not microwaves. Both, if attended to, produce lasting fruit in a person’s life. Oak trees grow from the soil of slow thinking about life’s big ideas.
Deep, lasting, relationships are slow-cookers, too. This includes the God-relationship. Knowing God involves more than theoretical knowledge, just as one learns to ride a bike by actually riding it, not by reading books about bike riding.
Kierkegaard told us that a pure heart, untainted by distractions, wills one thing. To “will one thing” is to focus on, attend to, be captivated by, be still before, one thing. What is the benefit of that? Nothing less, said Jesus, than the visio dei.
Blessed are the mono-taskers, for they shall see God.
Monday, December 28, 2020
|(I took this photo in Istanbul. The reflection of the man makes it look like he is eyeing the Turkish delight.)|
To "resolve" means: fixity of purpose, resoluteness. For example: His comments were intended to weaken her resolve but they only served to strengthen it. (From here.)
This week I am printing out these four resolutions, which I resolve to live out. I'll carry them with me. I will pray them, often. I want them to get inside me, and become living and active.
1. I Resolve to inquire of the Lord.
2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)
Bring life's dissonance before the Lord. Inquire of God, regarding the chaos and incompleteness. You've tried to figure it out yourself; instead, seek God about this. Not just once in a while, but today, and every day.
Resolve to inquire of God, today and every day.
2. I Resolve that my mouth will not bring destruction.
2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.
3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. 4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent. (Psalm 17:2-4)
I will keep my mouth shut, unless my words serve to build up others.
I will meet, often and alone, with God. I will abide in Christ. I will dwell in his presence. God will shape and form my heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) This Jesus-heart will produce what comes out of the space between my lips.
Resolve that your mouth will not destroy, today and every day.
3. I Resolve not to defile my soul with the enemy's "turkish delight."
7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel... (Daniel 1:7-9)
Daniel refuses to allow King Nebuchadnezzar to redefine his identity. Daniel "resolved"; i.e., Daniel "set upon his heart" not to pollute himself.
When Linda and I were in Istanbul, Turkey, we tasted their famous dessert - called "Turkish delight." Turkish delight will be familiar to fans of C.S. Lewis. In Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund meets the White Witch, who seduces him with a delicious piece of candy called "turkish delight." He eats it, betraying Aslan, and his defiled heart falls under the Witch's dark spell.
Today, resolve not to compromise your allegiance to Jesus as your Lord.
4. I Resolve to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
Learn about Jesus.
Fix on him.
Sum all things up in Jesus.
Resolve to know Christ and him crucified. Today.
My two books are...
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Sunday, December 27, 2020
|(I took this photo of a woman praying in Jerusalem)|
To re-member something, literally, would be to "member again" that which has become dismembered. Parts that were once together because they were meant to be together, got separated, but now are rejoined.
When I pray I am often re-minded (I am mindful again) of something that has "left my mind." God brings something to mind, and I am re-membered.
I don't think you have to try or strive to re-member. Rather, as you consistently meet with God, conversing together in the slow-cooked prayer exchange, a re-membering will take place, by the Spirit. This has been, and remains, my ongoing experience.
This is good news, and provides an incentive to pray. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put you back together again, but God can. As you pray God will put the pieces of your life and life in the kingdom back together again. (As some have said, to pray is to change.)
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 (summer 2021)
Saturday, December 26, 2020
Friday, December 25, 2020
It's 6:30 AM, and I am awake on Christmas morning. Linda and I spent a beautiful day yesterday with our family, and last night with our church family. (Thank you for coming!)
For Linda and I it was a beautiful experience, with many cars filling our parking lot, as we turned the lights off, shined our flashlights, and sang "Silent Night" together.
Below are photos I have taken, mostly from Monroe, with a few from a recent Montana trip.
I've added some quotes and scriptures to them.
Treasure, in your heart,
Our family wishes you a meaning-filled, blessed Christmas day!
Thursday, December 24, 2020
|(Nicole and Josh)|
I grew up in a Lutheran Church (ELCA), and on Sunday mornings we recited The Nicene Creed. The word "creed" is from the Latin word credo, which means "I believe." The Nicene Creed begins with "We believe..."
As I read this today, I see that I still believe it, more than ever. In Jesus, true God was made human. Here's a brief look at this.
Jesus is True God
In the four Gospels we see many places where Jesus acts like he is God, and even claims to be God. This is recognized by the religious leaders, who accuse him of claiming to be divine. They pick up stones to throw at him, viewing his claim as blasphemous.
For example, Jesus claims to forgive sins. From the ancient Jewish point of view, only God can do this.
N.T. Wright explains the God-thing about forgiving sins in his excellent book Simply Jesus. Wright writes:
"How does God normally forgive sins within Israel? Why, through the Temple and the sacrifices that take place there. Jesus seems to be claiming that God is doing, up close and personal through him, something that you’d normally expect to happen at the Temple. And the Temple— the successor to the tabernacle in the desert— was, as we saw, the place where heaven and earth met. It was the place where God lived. Or, more precisely, the place on earth where God’s presence intersected with human, this-worldly reality." (Wright, N. T., Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, pp. 79-80)
There are many examples in Scripture where Jesus acts like he is God. He claims such an intimate relationship with the Father that it causes the religious leaders to accuse him of making himself equal with God. For example, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Their accusations were on target. In Jesus, God's presence intersected with earth in the form of humanity.
Jesus is Human - The Humanity of Jesus
Jesus is fully and completely human. He was conceived in a human womb. He had a physical, human body, like we have. Jesus got tired (John 4:6), hungry (Matt. 4:2), and thirsty (John 19:28).
Jesus went through a learning process, as we do. We read:
Jesus felt the spectrum of different emotions, as we do. He marveled (Matt. 8:10), he wept (Jon 11:35), and he was inwardly troubled (Matt. 26:38; John 12:27).
Jesus was like us in every way, except one. He was without sin (1 Peter 2:22).
OK. Jesus was fully God. But why did he have to also be fully human? Wayne Grudem writes:
And, the beautiful words of Hebrews 4:15:
In Jesus, full God-ness, and full human-ness, converge. The everlasting, world-creating Word became flesh, and pitched his tent among us.
Christmas is coming tomorrow.