Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"A recent study by the Barna group found that the number one challenge to helping people grow spiritually is that most people equate spiritual maturity with trying hard to follow the rules in the Bible. No wonder that people find themselves unmotivated to pursue spiritual growth. If I think God's aim is to produce rule-followers, spiritual growth will always be an obligation rather than a desire of my heart.

"Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith," Paul wrote, "but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping." In other words, it only results in a rule-keeping, desire-smothering, Bible-reading, emotion-controlling, self-righteous person who is not like me. In the end, I cannot follow God if I don't trust that he really has my best interests at heart.

The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. There is an enormous difference between following rules and following Jesus, because I can follow the rules without cultivating the right heart."

"Jesus did not say, "I have come that you might follow the rules." He said, "I have come that you might have life, and have it with abundance."

When we cease to understand spiritual growth as moving toward God's best version of ourselves, the question, how is your spiritual life going? frightens us. A nagging sense of guilt and a deficit of grace prompt us to say, "Not too well. Not as good as I should be doing." People often use external behaviors and devotional practices to measure their spiritual health. They measure their spiritual life by how early they are getting up to read the Bible, or how long their quiet times are, or how often they attend church services. But that is not what spiritual formation is about."

The above is taken from "the me I want to be - becoming God's best version of you" by John Ortberg

I've got stuff to say about this. It frightens me a bit, as I lead leaders at our church who are involved daily in the art of discipleship. As North Americans we're so good at finding markers of success but in this case, in the ways of spiritual formation and spiritual maturity (have I told you how much I hate that phrase!?), what are they?

Is it age? Simply time, in years, spent "in the faith" that mean you're a mature person? Want to know what I think? I think that makes you old. Seriously. I've known plenty of people who have walked with Jesus for years who are people of mature and deep faith but then there are others who are not. Furthermore, I have found people young in years and deep in faith. Refreshing to find either, isn't it?

So if that's not it, what is it? I think that's when we get into observing the rules. The one who lives the law the best is, well, the best. But wait. What about the one who seeks hard, loves hard but falls hard? Admits it, seeks out Jesus and perseveres? What about the one who looks different from me in their search? They read the Bible and they love Jesus but they somehow do it differently than I do. Does that make them less or more? I hope that there's room in the Kingdom for those people...and for me too.

So how do we overcome this judgement of spiritual maturity by markers, by rule following and by guilt of not 'doing' enough? How do we lead this way? How do we walk with people in - and give ourselves - freedom to find the life, the deep, rich, everlasting life, that comes from truly following Jesus? What would a community of believers, a church, full of people living this way look like? I want to find that!
"What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity."

J. Sidlow Baxter
1903-1999, Author and Theologian

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"And I can always give thanks because an all-powerful God always has all these things-all things-always under control". Ann Voskamp
Mother Teresa once said, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” Hmm.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Ready for Anything!

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Copyright © 1995-2011 Universal Uclick - All Rights Reserved.

A friend of mine posted this on his blog and I couldn't help but add it here. I need a suit like that too!
Spence Shelton on prayer:
"Prayer is God’s means for people to acknowledge their dependence on him for all things. So when we praise him, when we confess to him, when we believe him for a brother’s need, we put ourselves where God designed for us to be: dependent on his provision. A rich prayer life is one that regularly and unreservedly cries out "Abba, Father."

I've been doing a lot of reading on prayer and am sure I'm not done yet. I like this definition. What do you think?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

“Leaders influence followers far more by the context out of which they live – body language, personal values, social relationships, dress, consumer choices, chosen companions – than the text they articulate. Leadership is not primarily a skill, although it employs skills. Leadership is a way of living that suffuses everything we do and are. Leadership is a way of being in the family and marriage, a way of being among friends, a way of going to work, a way of climbing mountains, but most basic, a way of following Jesus. And so in a culture in which there is an enormous attention to leadership, it is essential that we take a long hard look at what is previous and foundational to leadership, namely, “followership” – following Jesus (Mark 1:17). Followership gets us moving obediently in a way of life that is visible and audible in Jesus, a way of speaking, thinking, imagining, and praying that is congruent with immediate realities of “kindgom” living. Following enters into a way of life that is given its character and shape by the leader. Following involves picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are mostly unsaid. Following means that you can’t separate what the leader is doing and the way she or he is doing it. For those of us who are in positions of leadership – as parents, teachers, pastors, employers, physicians, lawyers, homemakers, students, farmers, writers – our following skills take priority over our leadersip skills. Leadership that is not well-grounded in followership – following Jesus – is dangerous to both the church and the world.”

(Eugene Peterson, “Follow the Leader,” Fuller Focus (Fall 2001) :31.

"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

Richard Foster
(Celebration of Discipline, 1978)

I've been thinking a lot about this quote lately. I want to be a deep leader. Shoot, I just want to be a deep Jesus follower. Lately, though, I feel more empty than anything. Is there depth to emptiness? What's truly going on in these seasons of life? Perhaps it's a depth of relationship with Jesus that actually helps us survive the valleys that will, inevitably, arrive. I'd rather that than to say that it's a lack of depth that brings them on. Believe me, sometimes that's how it feels but somehow that seems like a false picture. Like a lie from the deceiver meant to kick a girl when she's down. He's like that, you know. Regardless, I choose depth.

I think of the disciplines I've been taught through my life, particularly the spiritual disciplines and wonder, how do we foster depth? What things are y'all doing to foster depth in your relationships with others and with Jesus?

For those of you that are church leaders, how do you help those you lead in their pursuit of depth? It's easy to look at people and see their strengths, weaknesses and potential for "success." We market people's abilities. More important, to me, is heart. So how do we encourage heart? How do we show people that there's so much more and encourage them to want it? How do we, together, strive for and lead for depth?

It seems that today is more about questions than about answers.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Hillsong United - Like An Avalanche from Liefzmij on Vimeo.

"Beautiful God
Laying Your majesty aside
You reached out in love to show me life
Lifted from darkness into light
King for a slave
Trading Your righteousness for shame
Despite all my pride and foolish ways
Caught in Your infinite embrace"

There's something about this realization that continually amazes me. God became flesh and lived among us willingly. There is no greater love than this. Laying majesty aside and choosing rejection and darkness to ensure that we could be reconciled to Him. What greater love is there than this!? And yet daily, we choose darkness, sin and, well, garbage. We choose it, convince ourselves that it's right and good and best, all the while, rejecting those who might try to lead us back down the path of righteousness and help us walk in the light. Crazy!