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    Entries in Spiritual Growth (13)

    Wednesday
    Sep102014

    Four Components of Growth

    John Wesley is a guy who lived in the 18th century. He also happens to be one of my pastoral and theological heroes.

    Wesley was a British pastor in the Anglican tradition. But he was much more than this. He was at the center of a time of Christian renewal. John's brother, Charles Wesley, wrote many hymns that are still familiar today. And George Whitefield--a famous evangelist who traveled to America and whose voice was so powerful he could preach to thousands of people at once--are two other prominent figures associated with what we now call the Methodist movement.

    In 1739, Benjamin Franklin heard Whitefield preach in the city of Philadelphia, and estimated that his voice could be heard by an audience of 30,000 people in the city--without a microphone. Franklin further added that Whitefield had the power to preach to 25,000 in the open country. That's power. You can read Franklin's account here.

    John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield made an impact on their world through a strong commitment to Christ. The Methodist movement began at Oxford, on a college campus. A few young people came to John Wesley, who was a scholar, and together they sought to grow as disciples of Jesus, serve others, and proclaim the gospel.

    In John Wesley's 9th Discourse on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), he identifies four keys to Christian growth:

    1. Believing in God, "'as reconciling the world to himself through Christ Jesus,' [and] the believing in him, as a loving, pardoning God;"
    2. Loving God, "to rest in him, as our God and our all;"
    3. Imitating God, being "merciful even as he is merciful;" and lastly
    4. Obeying God, "the glorifying of him with our bodies, as well as with our spirits; the keeping of his outward commandments; the zealously doing whatever he hath enjoined; the carefully avoiding whatever he hath forbidden; the performing all the ordinary actions of life with a single eye and a pure heart, offering them all in holy, fervent love, as sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ."

    That's what we're seeking. Believing, loving, imitating, and obeying God.

    Take a step.

    Thursday
    Jun122014

    Book Review :: Yawning at Tigers by Drew Dyck

    Next time you sit down for a conversation with a friend, old or new, ask them what they think about God. You'll likely hear that God is loving and forgiving, though you might also hear about God's wrath or anger. Maybe your friend thinks that God is distant and disengaged from our lives, if they believe God exists at all. There's a range of opinions about God.

    Within my tribe, however, the popular view of God is a bit fuzzy. God loves us, and it is a syrupy sweet kind of love. We mess up, sure, but God is right there to pick us up, dust us off, pat us on the butt, and urge us on. God wants us to have our best life, and if we spend time in the Word and claim the promises found therein, this loving, sweet God will deliver us everything we desire. God is here to wait on us, or to push the right buttons when we need things to fall our way.

    But that's not how God works, or is.

    Drew Dyck, in his book Yawning at Tigers: You Can't Tame God, So Stop Trying, challenges this soft notion of God. He claims that our deepest desire is to "know and love a transcendent God," and to encounter a God worth worshipping. Dyck has caught on to the fact that our polar swing away from distorted depictions of God majoring on judgment and wrath have led to a different form of misrepresentation--a God we can control and confine to a cage.

    I happen to really like Dyck's approach and overall tone, not only in YaT, but in his work at Leadership Journal and in Christianity Today. He's open and honest, inquisitive and opinionated, and has a deep concern for the world. That's why I was excited to read this book. In his acknowledgements, Dyck concedes the immensity of the challenge of writing anything about God, and candidly admits that he has never felt so out of his depth. This spirit shines through in YaT. Claims about God are made with confidence and humility. That kind of attitude, I think, give testimony to a knowledge of the true God.

    YaT explores God's person, human beings, and how the two have been brought together in Christ. Dyck challenges us through story, the examination of Scripture, and through the work of astute theologians, pastors, and scholars like Eugene Peterson, Matt Chandler, Miroslav Volf, and many others. He launches salvos toward those flippant in prayer or shallow in their representations of the Christian way, and calls us toward holiness. Dyck's thoughts on holiness, woven throughout the book, were particularly encouraging to me. We are called to be holy because God is holy (a truth woven throughout the Scripture), yet many today seem content with a lax spirituality that is as boring as it is feckless, a far cry from the eternal type of life Jesus has made possible.

    Dyck's writing in YaT will draw you to reconsider your own notions about God. You may find yourself disagreeing with some of his claims. But don't miss his message. God is wild and free, far grander than we have imagined. But God has also revealed himself to be trustworthy, wise, and good. God is love, and is loving, of course. But the meaning of that love is more earth-shattering and awe-inspiring than we have let on.

    Through relationship to this God, you will find that life is a grand adventure, lived in the company of the Redeemer of all things, who brings about his purposes through his people. Once you have beheld God, revealed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you won't even be tempted to yawn. You might find your mouth agape, oh yes, but for far different reasons. It will be due to the glory you encounter, a glory that is yet to be fully revealed.

    Read this book, find encouragement, and recheck your theology.

    Set God in your sights, and worship.

    Thursday
    Jun122014

    Where are you connected? How are you growing?

    Think about that.

    I talked with another pastor in my area a few months ago, and their congregation considers an "active" member someone who has attended ONCE in the past year.

    I grew up in a family that stopped by the church about three times a week.

    Frequent attendance is no guarantee of spiritual growth or Christian maturity.

    But where are you connected? How are you growing?

    How are you making discipleship to Jesus the guiding, determinative focus of your life?

    And how does your congregation play a role in your journey toward maturity?

    And as a leader, how am I making sure that time spent with the congregation is profitable, edifying, pastoral, and encouraging?

    Thursday
    Feb062014

    The Quieting

    Photo by Astrid

    Silence your body to listen to words.
    Silence your tongue to listen to thoughts.
    Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating.
    Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
    Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.

    - Mama Maggie

    We avoid silence.

    But silence is essential, if we are to learn to hear God.

    HT: Irvin Boudreaux

    Sunday
    Aug052012

    Change in the Christian Life is Possible.

    I believe that it is a common problem of all Christian people to say that despite earnest efforts, change is difficult, hard, appears slow, and, in some cases, quite out of reach. There are some facets of our character that seem to be immutable, or fixed, beyond change.

    It is quite a modern problem, and one that is accelerated and reinforced by our situation in this time and place, that the expectations we have for the spiritual life is that it will be one of fast ascent or rapid development. But if you have read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, you would know that Christian does not make his journey from home to the Celestial City in a day.

    You would know that it is the trials that reinforce the virtues of the Christian life, and the companionship of others along the way that can make for refinement or detriment in character.

    You would also know that the object of faith, the destination on the journey, is one that has been fixed, and that we move toward through a kind of plodding.

    The progress is determined in large part by the declared intention, or decision, to set out on the journey and remain steadfast in bringing it to completion, and one of the joys of the Christian life is knowing that it is Christ himself who has and will supply the grace needed for us to accomplish our aim.