Friday, April 16, 2021
|Monroe (D & J's former home)|
2. Saturate yourself in Scripture. The greater one's familiarity with Scripture is, the greater one will be able to know when it's God speaking and not something else. Begin by saturating yourself in Matthew-Mark-Luke-John. Try reading these over and over and over, slowly and meditatively, for a year. I did it recently for two years and found it very helpful. Read the four Gospels as if you've never read them before. As you read them, when God speaks to you, write it down in a journal.
If you're unfamiliar with this, my recommendation is: just start doing it. In the process you'll learn what this is about because God so much wants you to know Him experientially and relationally.
See also my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
(I'm re-posting this for someone who asked.)
When pressure is applied to a person's life, we see who they really are.
In our current, pressure-packed, politicized culture, peoples' hearts are being revealed.
Sadly, in some who say they follow Jesus, the worst is coming out.
Gladly, other Jesus-followers are shining.
Some have succumbed to darkness. Others walk in the light.
This concerns what comes out of our mouths. This is about our words, our attitudes, our hearts.
If you are a follower of Jesus, listen to these words, and take them to heart.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
"The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them." Matthew 15:18
"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak." Matthew 12:36
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:9-12
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 19:20
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. James 1:26
I suggest: print these Scriptures out. Carry them with you for a season. Meditate on them.
Ask God to take them from your mind and grow them in your heart.
If one verse stands out to you, assume this is the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Carry this verse with you, repeating it often.
Join me in asking God to teach how to speak truth... in love.
And, if your mouth has done harm rather than good, repent, before the Lord. Confess, to the ones you have hurt.
Do not embrace the false, demonic belief that you won't be able to express truth unless you hate.
DECLARATIONS from these VERSES
- When pressure is applied to my heart, the best of Jesus comes out.
- The only words that come out of my mouth are words that build people up, not tear people down.
- I have placed a guard over my mouth, so I don't speak rashly and ruin relationships.
- I am patient with others, because the Lord is patient with me.
- I bear with others, because the Lord puts up with me.
- My consuming goal is unity of the Spirit.
- I speak truth in love. I care for others as I speak truth.
- I prayerfully, while seeking God, guard my heart. There are thoughts I do not allow my heart to entertain.
- No unwholesome talk comes out of my mouth.
- People come to me, because my words build them up.
- I speak no careless, thoughtless words.
- I am over hating people.
- I never slander people.
- No obscene, unholy talk comes out of my mouth.
- I cannot curse other people, because even if they don't know Jesus, they are made in the image of God.
- I pray and ponder things before I open my mouth.
- I have put a bridle on my mouth, and allow the Spirit to guide my words.
"Some of [Dr. Martin Luther] King's most stinging speeches were to members of his own Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, saying 'You spend more money on liquor at your annual convention than you contribute to the NAACP. I know ministers who are more concerned about the wheelbase on their Cadillac than they are on the spiritual base to their commitment to this world."
Branch thinks King's favorite parable was in Luke 16:19-31. We read:
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The rich man in this parable didn't go to hell because he was rich. He went to hell because he didn't notice the humanity of the man who was begging at his gate.
Lazarus was more important to God than the rich pastor's Cadillacs.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Eugene Peterson's The Pastor will kill the false self as quickly as anything I've read. That's good for me, since the true self sleeps better with the mask off.
Peterson describes a pastoral colleague who changed churches for the wrong reasons. He wanted to pastor a big church rather than the small church he had. The big church, he thought, would "multiply his effectiveness." Peterson wrote him a letter. I will paraphrase it.
You want to pastor a big church to satisfy your own ego, not to "pastor" people. "Big" churches are the kind of things America specializes in. The consequence of such mega-specialization is that American Christianity and its pastors are a mess.
Jesus was tempted by "bigness" and rejected it. Because size is the great depersonalizer. As Kierkegaard said, "the more people, the less truth."
Jesus-followers are only brought to maturity through intimacy, renunciation, and personal deepening. Pastors are there to nurture such maturity. Yes, things can happen in big churches, but only by strenuously going against the grain. Largeness is an impediment, not a help.
Americans try to find meaning in three ways: 1) through the highs of alcohol and drugs; 2) through the ecstasy of recreational sex; and 3) through the ecstasy of crowds. Pastors often speak against drugs and sex, but want crowds like people want drugs and sex. This is probably because they get so much ego benefit from the crowds. But a crowd destroys the spirit as thoroughly as excessive drink and depersonalized sex. It takes us out of ourselves, but not to God, only away from him.
We want, as pastors, a big church to escape self-boredom and core-unfulfillment (even though Christ is in us). A crowd is an exercise in false transcendence upward, which is why all crowds are spiritually pretty much the same, whether at football games, political rallies, or church.
"Crowds" are probably a worse danger for pastors than drink, drugs, or sex. What's needed, what "church" is really meant to be, is a "community," not a "crowd."
Big churches actually diminish a pastor's influence.
When the "church growth" movement hit seminaries, Peterson and a few of his colleagues named it the "church
(Linda and I are in our 29th year at Redeemer and getting know our people better.)
To gain deeper understanding of American culture, it's necessary to understand postmodernism. I'll explain postmodern themes such as:
rejection of metanarratives;
skepticism about knowing objective truth;
the power of language and social constructivism;
how power becomes "knowledge";
and the loss of the enduring self.
If you want to join email me for the link.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
|(Me and Joe LaRoy in Bangkok)|
Kindness has transforming power. Rudeness deforms people.
As a result, I am studying love, again. The greatest words ever written on love are found in 1 Corinthians 13. There may be no better book to read on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 than Lewis Smedes' Love Within Limits: A Realist's View of 1 Corinthians 13.
Chapter 2 is "Love is Kind." This is good for me, since in our age of outrage I need to grow the fruit of kindness. (See Ed Stetzer, Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is at its Worst) Your outrage does not give you license to to be unkind and unloving.
"Kindness," writes Smedes, "is the will to save; it is God's awesome power channeled into gentle healing. Kindness is love acting on persons." (11)
Love is power. Love is gentle.
Kindness is one quality of love. Harshness, on the other hand, is sin.
Kindness is power. Kindness moves people. The Word says, Speak the truth in love.
God is sending his kindness to combat the outrage. "Kindness," says Smedes, "is enormous strength - more than most of us have, except now and then." (Ib.)
"Kindness is the power that moves us to support and heal someone who offers nothing in return. Kindness is the power to move a self-centered ego toward the weak, the ugly, the hurt, and to move that ego to invest itself in personal care with no expectation of reward." (Ib.)
Only a free person can love in such a powerful way. Waves of the Father's love set people free.
When I ask God to "set me free," I am thinking of this kind of thing; viz., freedom to love; freedom to be kind.
To war against outrageous behavior with outrageous behavior only elicits more outrageous behavior.
I must remember - I am a follower of Jesus, not a reactor to social media hatred.
My three books are:
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)
I''m still writing Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart.
Then, the Lord willing, Linda and I will write our book on Relationships.
Monday, April 12, 2021
|(Monroe County sunset)|
I'm re-posting this, to keep it out there.
Dealing with Anger in Relationships
1. Recognize your anger. “Anger” is the emotion a person feels when one of their expectations has not been met. For example, if I drive across town expecting every light to turn green when I approach, I am going to be an angry person. Because this expectation will not be met. Therefore...
2. Identify your unmet expectation. Fill in the blank: "I am angry because my expectation that ________ was not met."
3. Evaluate your unmet expectation. Is it either: a) godly, reasonable, good, fair; or 2) ungodly, unreasonable, bad, unfair. In my "driving" example above, my expectation was irrational.
4. Reject ungodly or irrational expectations. If, for example, you expect people to clearly understand every word that comes out of your mouth, you are now free to reject this as an irrational expectation. Or, if you have the expectation that other people should never make mistakes when it comes to you, I now free you from that ungodly, irrational expectation.
5. If the unmet expectation is godly/fair, then ask: Have I communicated this to the person I am angry with? If not, then communicate it. For example, my expectation that persons should take off their shoes before entering our living room may be both rational and of God. But if I have not communicated this to others, my anger at the unfulfilled expectation is still real. My expectation that people should know such a thing without being told is unfair.
6. If you have communicated it clearly to the person you are angry with, then communicate your anger this way: Say “I feel angry because my unmet expectation is __________________.
Get rid of irrational or ungodly expectations. As you get free of these things you’ll find yourself less angry.
Remember that from the Christian POV, “anger” is not sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We are not told never to feel anger. There is a righteous anger, and that is not only appropriate but necessary. But when we feel the emotion of anger we are never to sin. In all relationships we are never to be harsh, demeaning, vindictive, or abusive. Remember that in every close relationship there is anger. The anger-free relationship is a myth, and probably is a sign of unhealth when claimed.
Finally, Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Which means: deal with anger quickly, and in a loving and truthful way. The goal is always restoration of relationship and reconciliation.
Refuse using Facebook or texting or social media to work out interpersonal conflict. For such things Face-to-Face is best.
Henri Nouwen writes:
"When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don't send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: "Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?" You don't have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don't have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend."
Think, and pray, before you text or speak.
Sunday, April 11, 2021
|(Trees at Redeemer)|
What Is the Difference Between Guilt and Shame? How can we experience freedom from shame? Here are the notes and resources I presented in a seminar about this.
1. Shame Is Different than Guilt.
2. Shame and Guilt are emotions.
Shame says I am wrong. Guilt says something I have done is wrong. Shame refers to our being and worth; guilt is about morality. Shame is debilitating. Guilt is a rescue. A healthy, integrated person has a moral conscience that responds to right and wrong.
The emotion of guilt, when given by God, is a good thing. We want, e.g., a person to feel guilty (show remorse) if they have hurt someone. "Guilt," writes Paul Tournier, can become "a friend because it leads to the experience of God's grace." (See Tournier, Guilt and Grace: A Psychological Study.)
FREEDOM FROM SHAME
You are a God-created, soulish, embodied, "in Christ" person. This means there are some things you are not.
You are not what you do. To define yourself by what you do is to live on a spiritual and emotional roller coaster that is a function of your accomplishments. Your identity does not depend on what you have accomplished. Your productivity does not define you.
You are not what you have. Do not define yourself by your stuff. Because when you lose any of it you will slip into the indentityless darkness.
You are not what other people think of you. If people think well of you, say thank you. If people think ill of you, pray for them. But do not go up and down and in and out on the basis of others' affirmation and disaffirmation. Refuse to let other people define you.
YOU ARE WHAT GOD THINKS OF YOU. Period. Case closed. Colossians 1:27 says: To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
The best book on "grace" is Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace?
Saturday, April 10, 2021
I still worry too much. My worry comes from losing spiritual focus.
I can mentally acknowledge that God is with me. But there are times when this truth does not capture my heart. At that point, I am susceptible to worry.
Here are things that combat worry.
- Spending solitary praying time with God. This restores my heart to its proper place. In His presence, my agitated soul finds rest.
- Being in community with my brothers and sisters. Authentic Christian community absorbs worry. (Thank God for the small groups Linda and I have been in over the years!)
- Reading Scripture and meditating on it. Scripture escorts my heart into His Kingdom.
- Listening to experienced Jesus-followers, and learning from them. Many counselors dispense wisdom.
- Remembering how God has been with me.
- Counting my blessings. (I often carry a list of them, looking at them, and giving thanks to God for them.)
- Organizing and doing. Taking action, where I am able and available.
- Walking in obedience. Living righteously secures my attachment to Jesus.
- Worshiping. When my soul sings, worry flees.
Doing these things recapture my heart. My renewed heart experiences God with me, working through me, assuring me that I am not alone, and that He is with me.
My two books are...
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Friday, April 09, 2021
|(Munson Park, across from our house.)|
The more time we spend in solitude, silence, and listening in the presence of God, the more we are at peace with God, others, and ourselves. This is because peace is a fruit that is produced when we are attached, branchlike, to the Prince of Peace.
We carry this peace in our homes, and into the workplace. The peace that is ours affects the social atmosphere.
Inner peace has power to shape environments. I know some people who carry such peace, and it affects me.
Henri Nouwen writes about this in The Way of the Heart.
"It will be possible to move into the midst of a tumultuous world with a heart at rest. It is this restful heart that will attract those who are groping to find their way through life. When we have found our rest in God we can do nothing other than minister. God’s rest will be visible wherever we go and to whomever we meet. And before we speak any words, the Spirit of God, praying in us, will make his presence known and gather people into a new body, the body of Christ himself."
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Encounters With the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)
I'm now working on...