Evangelical Monk Blog

Ramblings on living a Christan life

Month: October, 2012

Foolish Fridays 10

Brennan Manning in his The Importance of Being Foolish makes a turn in his text from looking at the obstacles to us putting on the mind of Christ, and begins to examine the central issue. Manning makes the point that to adopt the mind of Christ is also to understand the devotion of Jesus.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus discloses to the Pharisee the greatest commandment, Love the Lord your God, and your neighbor as yourself. In John’s Gospel, Jesus again tells us that the world must come to know Jesus loves the Father and does all that the Father commands.

Lest we come to the view that surely this was Jesus and it is simply too difficult for us, Manning references Paul’s admonition to the Philippians,2:5, “Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.” Manning points us in this direction, ”Christians who move toward this place will find peace and pleasure in the divine Enough. Here we stop worrying about what we don’t have because we are taking the time to appreciate and enjoy what we do have.” (Catch that phrase – the Divine Enough)

In looking at Paul I am put in the place where Paul talks about the thorn in his side, that thorn that he prayed would be removed. When it wasn’t, Paul learned from God, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (The Message):

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size — abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Putting on the mind of Christ therefore is a gift given to those who believe in Him. I understand that this is not always that easy but I also know the Kingdom is both emerging and not here, But this is the beginning of what it means to be new creation and that makes all the difference I think.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.


Taming the Beast

What a day for all things sexual! I have mentioned in the past that I have had the great honor of being a facilitator in a group designed to walk with people going through the trauma we know as separation and divorce. During each of the 13 week cycles, we have a rather frank disussion of sexuality and sexual issues confronting people in this situation. Our discussions focus on moving to a better place in our lives in all of its many facets.

I can say with all honesty, no demonstrations have ever occurred. By this time I sure most people have seen the news reports about the live sex activities that occurred at Northwestern, a prestiguous university just north of Chicago (I will spare you all the details, you can read about it but it involved a live demonstration in front of the class, but what made me stop was the reactions about what happened.

In particular the professor defended his involvement and the activity as important eductional activities. “I certainly have no regrets concerning Northwestern students, who have demonstrated that they are open-minded grown-ups rather than fragile children,” Bailey told the Tribune. The professor was quoted further as stating he could not come up with a legitimate reason not to proceed, “My decision to say ‘yes’ reflected my inability to come up with a legitimate reason why students should not be able to watch such a demonstration.” Wow.

Now we contrast that with the actions of another prestiguous university, Brigham Young University in Utah. There a star basketball player – now remember this happened when we were on the edge of entering that time of the year known as March Madness, the college basketball equivalent to the Super Bowl – who was kicked off of the team for having premarital sex with his girlfriend in violation of university policy here. Once again the reaction was somewhat mixed.

While these incidents do not directly involve Christianity, it does present a great case of what the faith must confront in its mission in the world. Somehow we believe there is an order to things – we order things based on Jesus, and His story given to us in the Word. To lose that grip leads to the contrasts and circuses we see in these examples I think. In neither situation is there a real effort to tame the beast if you will. Rather on the one hand we are told there are no limits other than individual choice without limits other than the fluid social contract, and on the other, a rather stark slapdown. Neither make any sense.

What do you all think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

A Question

And lacking a belief which gives structure to all other beliefs, the way religions have donein the past, people have no way to make judgments about which desires are more important than others, and they fall into patterns of responding to the most immediate desires, one of the most powerful of which is sexual desire. Tim Muldoon.

Most powerful?

What do you think?

If so, makes us stop to think.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Foolish Fridays 9

Brennan Manning in his The Importance of Being Foolish ends this first half of his book by identifying two other desires we have that defeat our having the mind of Jesus Christ. I wrote about the first last week, security, but from that also emerges our desires for pleasure and power.

Manning identifies the source when he writes, “The absence of a divine love experience is painfully apparent. Whether we seek to fill the void with blatantly fleshly pursuits … or fool ourselves into believing our drive for pleasure is based on spiritual preference, the name of the game is the same.”

On power, Manning writes, “The will to power is subtle. It may go unrecognized and undetected and therefore unchallenged. But Christians who succeed in seizing power, collecting disciples, acquiring knowledge, achieving status and prestige, and controlling the world are estranged from the mind of Jesus.”

What struck me by these words was that first, pleasure and power remain attractive for people who call themselves Christians. The key seems to be, in Manning’s words, “the absence of a divine love relationship.” As well, we seem to have this remarkable ability to fool ourselves into validating our desires and then losing control over them.

He talks about physical appearance as beginning as a concern for health but it becomes almost obsessive – working out, professional trainers, food and pharmaceuticals, Botox, plastic surgery. In some earlier posts I thought about desire, love, marriage and singleness and how those desires seem so much in disarray in this world.

I get this sense that is almost haunting in its scope for my life. Our desires aren’t in and of themselves necessarily blatantly sinful, and may indeed be seen as good acts and good motives, but without having those desires submitted to Jesus Christ and rightly ordered, we remain separated from the divine love relationship.

I am remembering the story of Lot’s wife from Genesis 19:26. When first reading that passage we come away with the idea that she disobeyed the command and was therefore turned into that pillar of salt. However, Jesus brings out all the truth of the story in Luke 17:32 (The Message), “Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.” And that seems to make all the difference.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Dads & Daughters

Maybe you’ve heard it said, daughters are gifts from heaven. I have 3 daughters, 2 are all grown up and live far away and I miss them. One is still with me and what a special gift she is!

Now not to slight sons, but don’t have any and for some reason our Lord has chosen to bless my family with all girls. Hallelujah and amen.

Well, for my daughters and for my love who is near today, know this

Dads love unconditionally, always, even when sometimes it’s hard or hurts

Dads aren’t given to judge you for your thoughts, actions and ways but to love you for simply being his daughter. Always! That is the foundation even when you don’t think so

Dads really want to be there and share the lives of their daughters – even when there is another guy coming into your life. We don’t like to share but we learn such things

Dads show you are loved and that affection is the normal in all things

Dads give their daughters a special name, our code, hey Sweet Pea! So you know you are special and a joy

Dads always and I mean always, see their daughters as beautiful. Well because they are

Dads always love to tell you he loves you

Dads, a secret, sometimes cry because when my daughter hurts I’m hurting too and we want to be there to catch you when you fall

Dads love to see their daughters all the time and love to hug you and hold your hand and sometimes squeeze you tight

Dads love to walk with you through this adventure called life because some day sooner than wanted you will be flying on your own but Dad will always see you when you were younger and had that big smile on your face

Dads will pray for you every night and you should know you are forgiven almost before you speak

Dads love to sit with you while you do your homework, and just love to watch your lips move when you read

It makes me sad as you have said some some Dads are just donors and that is a crime, but a Dad who knows this joy just can’t stop loving you for who you are – an awesome gift of sweetness given by God.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Foolish Fridays 8

Brennan Manning in his The Importance of Being Foolish writes,

When we cling to a miserable sense of security, the possibility of transparency is utterly defeated. Just as the sunrise of faith requires the sunset of our former unbelief, our false ideas and our erroneous and circumscribed convictions, so the dawn of trust requires the abandonment of our craving for material and spiritual reassurances. Security in the Lord Jesus implies that we no longer calculate or count the cost.

I suspect our driving need for security is our effort to grasp a semblance of being in control. To be in control means I determine the cost, and make the decision as to what is best for me, and much more difficult, what is best for my family.

This brings to mind the stories of the rich young ruler from Luke 18:18-30 (all Scriptural references are from the ESV), as well as the parable of the rich man who had the abundant harvest of grain and built more silos from Luke 12:18-21. That chapter in Luke 12:28b-31 continues with these words of Jesus,

O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Solomon in his Ecclesiastes speaks to this intense and destructive desire of ours, which are in his words, “a chasing after the wind.”

I am coming to the view that our lives are contingent. Look at what Jesus asks his disciples in verses 25 and 26 of this chapter,

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?

In being contingent, we are not and can never be in control. The utter destructiveness of this search for security is how Manning ends this section,

Living dependent on ‘security’ defeats carefree trust in God’s wisdom and love, hurts interpersonal relationships, thwarts on-going community renewal and Christian reunion, and handicaps the serious Christian who seeks to have the mind of Jesus Christ.

In the end do we really have a right to life, or is our life a gift from God? In seeking to seize what is best are we not in fact destroying that which is dear to us? What happens when we live life as a gift?

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Grace Activity

I had the good fortune to attend a men’s breakfast a while ago and it has stuck with me over the last year or so. The speaker touched upon that great verse from Micah 6:8.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.

I sometimes wonder why it isn’t given more play as it is a deeply relevant verse and maybe it has something to do with Micah being in the Old Testament and the Minor Prophets it seems a lot of contemporary evangelical churches don’t spend a lot of time with Old Testament stories but that is for another day.

The speaker asked us, table by table, to talk about what did acting justly look like. That struck me as I feel quite deeply that acting justly is a big deal as it has two levels – one of the examples concerned that guy who had found $150,000 a while ago, so the question was what would we do.

That’s the first level and for most of us I think the question is pretty easy. The second level is much much harder because it asks that same question but the circumstances are the mundane ordinary life – the day-to-day stuff we do. That’s where answering that question, what does acting justly look like, becomes really difficult.

But the discussion turned to thinking about what justice looked like. We all pretty much agreed that the determiner of justice was God and God alone. And on one level I get this idea but I’m not all that comfortable that the verse is talking all about doing justice in this sense.

It seems to me that acting justly has a lot more to do with how we are in right relationship with everyone who comes across our paths. Tied into all that is my sense that all those crossing our paths are really divine encounters. How we act toward the other when there isn’t that $150,000 in play is the real test I think. I’m thinking that next part of the verse has something to do with the answer.

Remember that Brennan Manning observation?

If we want people to experience the Kingdom of God and to dwell with God for eternity, then how they experience their relationship with us should be a foretaste of that goodness and joy.

How are we doing with that?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

It’s All About Grace Right?

About a year ago I was at a retreat and picked up a copy of Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart – short, sweet and packed with wisdom. He spoke about a meeting with Mother Theresa, He observes, “Mother Teresa again affirmed the truth that ministry can only be fruitful if it grows out of a direct and intimate encounter with our Lord.” (at 18)

Combining that insight with this one from Sarah Young’s devotional,

When you need comfort, I love to enfold you in My arms. I enable you not only to feel comforted but also to be a channel through whom I comfort others. Thus you are doubly blessed, because a living channel absorbs some of whatever flows through it.

Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Seeking Peace in His Presence (p. 303). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

This has me thinking a little about all of this. We need to be aware that a blessing retained is a blessing without hope and reflects the rampant individualism and secularism of our world here and now. Is it faith or service? Is that even the right question to be asking?

Maybe the idea is our faith is expressed through how we order and live out our lives in the here and now. We are and have to be aware of where we are and the climate of the culture, but nevertheless, living out what is given to us and not, that is a big not, living out what we think should be our mission.

Why do we think that it’s all about what we think Jesus wants us to do, rather than coming to a place where being with Jesus and joining Him in His work that is what the Gospel message is about.

I always love reading Matthew 7:21-23 (The Message),

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.