Posted tagged ‘Discipleship’

Christian Tutorials

January 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 January 4, 2018

                 

Recently my son-in-law’s Audi wouldn’t start. One day it had, the next day it didn’t! My daughter lugged the battery to NAPA and got a new one. The new battery, however, didn’t fix the problem. So my son-in-law went online and watched YouTube video tutorials that explained how to fix this problem, and then that problem. Armed with this knowledge and his tools he attacked the stationary vehicle once again.

Finally, the tow truck was called and it was towed to the mechanic where a thousand dollars later hopefully it will be fixed.

Some of that story resonates with me when I think of living the Christian life. Let me explain! Yesterday I was walking amongst the book aisles of Mardel’s, the Christian book store a few miles from our house. One of the long bookshelves was occupied with the best-selling books of the Christian faith this past year. I browsed, picked up a couple for clarification on what they were about, and then went on.

What was revealing to me was the fact that most of the books were written to answer questions, like how to pray or how to be a woman of God or a man of God? They were an assortment of self-help guides as to how to live the Christian life. They were about process and executing a plan. I walked away saying how nice it is to have tutorials for living the Christian life, and yet being a bit uneasy about it as well.

The Christian life is a journey, an ongoing relationship with the Holy. Our tendency as flawed beings is to try to figure out how to successfully live out that journey. The rub, however, is that it isn’t about succeeding. It’s about being.

If I’m focused so much on how to walk with God I will barely experience the walking with God. Like an educated adult, if I’m YouTubing how to pray with power I will detour around the childlike words of a simple faith.

Like my son-in-law’s quest to be an at-home Audi mechanic, sometimes as followers of Jesus we must simply surrender to the fact that we can’t do this on our own; that we won’t be able to figure everything out, establish a fail proof plan for reaching the mountaintop with God, and trust the Maker. There is simply not a way for us, as they say, “to be all that” when we acknowledge that the grace of God is intimately mingled into our existence. It’s difficult to calculate where I am on the journey when I forget where God is on the same journey.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still, and know that I am God.” For many believers there is an immediate jump to “how do I be still?” But you see, it isn’t about us! It’s about us being still and letting God be who he is. It’s realizing that I’m in the passenger seat and the one who knows all and is all is driving the direction of my life.

A Jess Bless!

June 18, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                              June 18, 2015

                                                    

Last night I had the last session of a children’s discipleship class plus two adults. The two adults were there because we talk about baptism in our last session. One of the attenders of the class has been my grandson, Jesse! In earlier sessions we’ve talked about Romans 3:23 and 6:23 and the scriptural principle that all of us fall short. We’ve talked about the impact of the cross of Christ in bridging the gap between us and God that sin created. We talked about forgiveness and grace and other things.

Jesse did a recap for us last night. In these classes I look for whether or not the kids understand and whether they can explain it.

He did!

When I explained baptism he was right with me! Often he would complete my sentences.

“Jesus died-“

“And rose again!”

“All of us have sinned-“

“And fallen short of the glory of God!”

“That’s right, Jesse!”

I asked him why he wanted to be baptized. Sometimes this becomes the stumbling point, as some children can’t verbalize why, but Jesse…”Because I believe in Jesus and I’ve asked him to live in my heart because I love him, and I want people to know that I love him.”

“That’s right, Jesse!”

“And you can’t be a pastor unless you are baptized!”

“Well…not quite! Anyone can be baptized-“

“But you are “called” to be a pastor!”

I sat there with my mouth open. He has a pretty good grasp on things!

It was a Jess Bless time!

Children can bless us more than we can imagine if we let them verbalize it. In the midst of their “ants in the pants” they have the potential to communicate a gem, a truth, a heartfelt belief.

My grandson lost his “chair privileges” one day at school this year because he kept falling out of it with antsyness! Hyper in motion!

But he believes in Jesus, and isn’t afraid to tell you about him!

Behavior Modification or Transformation

April 20, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 April 20, 2012

 

Do not conform 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)

 

When I was in first grade I pulled a chair out from the boy who was sitting in front of me in Reading. It was hilarious to me…for a moment! Then my teacher grabbed me off of my chair, stood me up, and shook me! Not something teachers, who want to stay employed, do today, but effective. Never again did I think about pulling the chair our from under an unsuspecting student, although I wanted to on numerous occasions.

My behavior was modified. The laughter of a student sprawled on the classroom floor was soon erased by a bespectacled  instructor peering down at my puny little body. I learned to not do things that upset my teacher…when she was around.

It was not a transformation experience. It was a modification moment. The first of many in my first grade year. (Another was throwing wet paper towels in the restroom at boys who were using the urinals! In case you’ve never done that…don’t! It resulted in my first opportunity to see the inside of the principal’s office!)

In our faith journey with Jesus we talk about having a transformation experience, coming to that point when we realize that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ. We talk about asking him to be our Lord and Savior. It is a Damascus Road experience, a kairos moment> At that moment we know things will never be as they were again. It’s a new way.

Yesterday I was riding with my sister to Ironton, Ohio, where she teaches a Thursday afternoon class at the college. As we traveled along the usual route traffic was backed-up because of some work that the road construction crew was doing on the hillside removing some huge boulders that were putting vehicles in peril. My sister turned around, headed back the other direction, and suddenly turned left. We headed down a narrow road that had more curves in it than a Sandy Koufax Dodgers’ game in the Sixties. We actually went through a place called Possum Holler. It was like riding a roller coaster on asphalt.

But somehow we came out on a road that led into Coal Grove, Ohio, that then led to Ironton. The usual way led to danger. We had to change our way. It was the Ohio version of someone saying “We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!”

Spiritual transformation is God grabbing hold of our hearts and then we realize we must change our way. It’s taking us through “Possum Holler”, because, otherwise, there is no reason why we would want to go there.

Behavior modification is changing my ways. Spiritual transformation is changing my way. Modification is realizing that the principal’s office is not where I want to visit very often, so I’m going to be a good boy, or maybe a better boy. Transformation is realizing that my life has purpose and the principal’s office is a dangling boulder that does not need to be a part of it.

In our faith walk there is a subtle difference between conforming to a church’s culture and being transformed by the Spirit. The first can mask itself as the second. The first changes the exterior, the second is an internal working that changes me externally. The first is my pulling the chair out from under my classmate, realizing that will get me into hot water, so I never do it again…but I’d still like to!

Conforming or being transformed…changing my ways or finding the Way.

Finishing Perseverance

March 21, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 21, 2012

Perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

“The Wall” is the term that is used to describe a point where an athlete is physically, emotionally, and mentally fatigued. To go any further he must be able to reach deep with inside of himself and discover a hidden reservoir of strength and energy that he didn’t know was there. At the Boston Marathon “the Wall” is even known by the name “Heartbreak Hill.” It comes between the 20th and 21st miles of the race, and is an incline not quite a half-mile long. Heartbreak Hill is the point in the race where most runners must “finish perseverance”, or they will drop to the side.

I hadn’t actually thought about perseverance being something that needs to be finished, but James infers that in his words towards the beginning of his New Testament letter. When perseverance is complete a person is taken to a new point in his journey. That new point happens because perseverance has achieved it’s purpose.

It reminds me of that fascinating game called “curling”, that we only seem to see once every four years (during the Winter Olympics). The “curler” guides a “stone” towards the target area. “Sweepers’ use brooms to finish the stone’s placement. It is the curler whose precise and focused moments are essential for the stone to get to the finish. Perseverance is like the curler. It carries us to that certain point where the target is in sight.

If I’m reading the words of James correctly, maturity comes at the finishing of perseverance. Perhaps spiritual immaturity takes a hold on a person’s life, because perseverance is never finished. It’s like all the books I have in my library. I am a “book addict.” The problem is that I have a book-load of unfinished hard copies. It’s not that the books are uninteresting. It’s more that I’m undisciplined to go the distance, to go from Preface to Epilogue.

Could it be that our lack of spiritual maturity is intimately connected to our deficiency in perseverance? It’s easier to bail out than to stay with an uncomfortable leg in the journey. Maturity, however, is signatured with some battle wounds, and painful events.

In a culture that is increasingly superficial and enamored with the outwardly beautiful, perseverance brings us to a point of “aged and deep beauty.” It goes past a 140 character Tweet to a volume of depth.

Finish perseverance, and persevere as you finish!

The Balanced Radical

November 10, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. November 10, 2011

Here in Colorado Springs in the midst of one of the main tourist attractions, Garden of the Gods, there is a huge boulder that looks like it has been turned upside down and balanced on its tip. Thus the name of the attraction, “Balanced Rock.”
Balanced Rock looks like it could go either way at any moment. One notices that there are some tourist who walk a wide circle around it because of having just a little fear of being smushed! And Balanced Rock has continued to stay balanced for a long, long time.
Walking with Jesus is meant to be a radical experience in many ways. All one needs to do is read the gospel stories of the encounters Jesus had with people from various livelihoods, and listen to the words that Jesus said to pick up on the fact that being a “Jesus follower” is transforming. For instance, when Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and goats and he talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the prisoners, and taking care of the sick, he makes the point that what was done for the least was done for him. (Matthew 25:31-46) Of course, he goes the other direction in the same parable and talks about the fact that what was not done for the least person was also not done for him. It’s a rather uncomfortable scenario. I guess you could say rather radical.
There’s also a section of Scripture in Luke 11 called “The Six Woes.” To summarize the six woes Jesus makes the point that the religious folk known as the Pharisees were all about outward appearances, but spiritually vacant on the inside. They put on a good show, but there was no substance and root to it.
I’ve been reading an interesting book entitled Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church. In the book the three pastors (Martin Copenhaver, Anthony Ropinson, and William Willimon), drawing from their experiences serving various congregations and college chapels, are pushing for what could best to titled “A Balanced Radical Faith.” They push for their readers to see how often the church has tilted to one side or the other, and therefore, the participants of the church have also usually tilted one way or the other. In many congregations there is the push and emphasis to get involved in fighting hungry, abuse, homelessness, and violence. In other congregations there is the emphasis to have a multitude of Bible studies, home groups, prayer gatherings, and worship services.
Neither is necessarily bad. It’s good to feed the hungry. It seems that Jesus made a pretty big deal out of that. It’s also good to study the Word, and discuss the depth of our faith and beliefs.
A balanced radical is one who is coming more and more to an understanding, a conviction, that Jesus is calling for followers who want to go deeper in their spiritual lives, and also desire to serve more sacrificially.
It’s like “Balanced Rock.” Many people will make a wide circle around it, because it seems so strange. And yet, balanced radicals are who Jesus is calling us to be. In a sense, our world is turned upside down in service to the King of Kings. Not many of us risk it, because it looks like our world could topple over.
And here’s the thing, a balanced radical realizes that he/she never arrives at a point of settledness, because the winds of life are always causing adjustments. In other words, the balanced radical comes to an understanding that it is only faith in Jesus that is holding him up.

Saltines and Sandies

August 25, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. August 24, 2011

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8)
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103)

My favorite cookie has always been the Pecan Sandie. It’s not that I don’t like others; it’s just that I have history with the Sandie. My Aunt Irene used to have a stash at her house in a cookie jar. Aunt Irene had no children, so I could feast on cookies the whole time I was there. A Sandie has good memories for me.
But cookies in our house growing up were up high. It demanded that a little guy, like me, had to do a bit of cabinet scaling to obtain one.
On the other hand, the lower shelf that I could reach with no effort had the Saltine cracker box on it. Saltines were there for the taking.
Perhaps you think differently, but my thinking was “How many Saltines can a kid eat?” I’ve never heard a parent say, “You’ve had enough crackers! Now put them away!”
If you go into a restaurant and request crackers, they will bring you a basketful, but if you ask for a chocolate chip cookie check your bill. Restaurants give crackers; some even give pickles, peanuts, and popcorn…but no one brings a plate of cookies to the table for free.
In terms of the leadings of God in our lives, are we munching on Saltines or reaching for the Sandies? In other words, do we obey the God-leadings that never demand too much, or allow ourselves to stretch to reach what demands all of who we are?
Another way of saying it is, do we “dull-ify” the things of God in order to not risk being disappointed? I can remember reaching for the cookie jar, pushing the “in peril meter”, only to discover that it was empty. It was disappointing!
And there were the Saltines! Multitudes of them, easily within my safe reach!
A follower of Jesus is always settles for the Saltines will never taste the richness of God’s calling.
There are times when a Saltine is what we need. It’s usually when we’re in the midst of some kind of stomach illness. We’ve overextended, and we need to settle for a time. Think of it as a sabbath rest, a centering experience.
Honestly, though, how many of us are reaching for the hand of God so often that we need a “Saltine break?”
Personally, it occurred to me this week that most of what I’m about, and most of what I’m leading my church in, is cracker-based instead of cookie-reaches.
“Lord, I pray for power to reach for the Sandies, the sweetness of Your favor as I pursue the risks of Your calling!”

RUSHING DOWN THE STEEP BANK

June 27, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. June 26, 2011
One of my favorite Jesus stories is the “swine dive” in Mark 5. In case you don’t have it memorized, it’s the story of Jesus’ encounter with the demon-possessed man. The man is so afflicted that his name is Legion, an implication about how many demons has taken up residence in his life.
Jesus is going to set this poor fellow free and the demons request that he send them into a herd of pigs nearby. When that happened there was a two thousand swine mass stampede to death.
I can only imagine what that must have looked like. I’m seen a bunch of guys rush into a lake to try to get the greased watermelon, or a herd of crazed people rushing through the doors of Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving about 4am…and those were quite the sights, but I’ve never seen a herd of pigs racing to their doom.
I think of that story because of another comment that was made by a man who assigns basketball officials to college games. He said “moving too quickly maximizes risk.” His point was about how someone who referees basketball games usually wants to move up the ladder to high school, then Junior College, College, and then…for a very, very few…professional basketball.
He’s seen many officials advance too quickly, and then come crashing down, because they hadn’t put in the necessary time to season their game.
The same principle applies to the growth of a follower of Jesus. Moving too quickly maximizes risk. How many times has someone experienced new life, had incredible enthusiasm and excitement, and been put into a position, or entrusted with certain responsibilities that they weren’t ready for?
Many times!
We expect instant success and sudden stardom. To have gradual growth as a disciple is looked down on.
The responsibility is on the mentors and the Body of Christ. If we don’t see the value in solid gradual growth then no one else will. We even see it in church growth. If a church grows by 50% in one year it’s applauded. There’s a good chance a traveling workshop will arise out of it within the year after that. It’s common for other people to want to copy the sprint to success.
But a sprint to success is on the same level as the swine dive off the steep bank. People aren’t ready for rapid growth, individually and corporately. The first church grew quickly…I mean, off the charts growth patterns…and then it had to stop and figure out the Hellenistic widows who had fallen between the cracks. In essence, it had to stop and think about where things were.
Moving too quickly maximizes risk.
Perhaps that’s why the description of an overseer, or elder, in 1 Timothy 3:6 includes these words: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.”
Hmmmm…