Evangelical Monk Blog

Ramblings on living a Christan life

And They All Fall Down

Remember that silly little game – ring around the rosie? And they all fall down!

From time to time as Christ followers we may be called to consider how are we doing in this faith walk. Many times I think we ask ourselves if we are also following the ideal of Western civilization – independent, self-suffcient, and such things.

I remember reading a fair amount of Brennan Manning and he speaks much about this condition – which is not terminal but may be lifelong – asking such questions and expecting to really come up with a decent answer.

Sometimes I think we have to experience “failure” in the worldly sense of that word in order to understand it really isn’t our strengths that God seeks. Here is part of the devotional from a few days ago that brought this idea home to me.

I want you to blaze a trail for others who desire to live in My peaceful Presence. I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for Me. Depend on Me more and more, and I will shower Peace on all your paths.

Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Seeking Peace in His Presence (p. 311). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

I’m hearing echoes of Psalm 51:16 and Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel 9:13:

Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing


2012 in Review

Number 1 for 2012….

“I’m going to kill myself today.”

I met a young man today. I was sitting on the steps outside the parsonage where I am currently at home, and I saw him walking down the street. He looked up at the cross on top of the bell tower and saw me. As he approached me he said “I’m going to kill myself today.”

He sat down next to me and I could see that stare off in to the distance. I called the 911 dispatch and they advised me someone was on the way. Robert was his name and he said he has given up trying anymore. His addictions wouldn’t stop and he was just kicked out of the local Sober House.

He told me he had a family, that was now lost to him, and a young daughter of 14 and a son of 8. While he wasn’t married per the state law, he had been with the same woman for many years – until the last few years due to his inability to stay clean. Maybe I said, not lost just not in touch for today. I’ve been there, and 2 years is a painful absence but I’m learning Jesus already knows that. Sometimes I want to ask isn’t there a way that doesn’t hurt so much? I don’t know why it is that way.

We talked a little about the future and how Jesus warned us not to worry about tomorrow as we only get 1 day at a time – which carries enough in it to worry about so tomorrow is another day. We talked about how our God is a God of second chances, third chances and indeed a God of many chances beyond our capacity to comprehend why He gives us so many chances, but I let him know God isn’t letting him go today. And that was all he need be thinking about – today right now and right here and being led to a place where he didn’t have to fight it all out on his own – and nothing more than that because surely I thought that was enough for the moment.

The paramedics came and took him to the hospital. But before he went into the ambulance he called me over and shook my hand and said thank you, Now I’m sitting here wondering why God led Robert down this street and why God choose that moment to have me go out to sit on the steps to soak up some sun and watch the cars go down the street.

Then again, maybe it’s not about me ever figuring out the whys – not that I really can. Maybe it’s not about being worried about saying the right things and doing the script for such situations that I was taught so many years ago – not that I remembered any of it until now. Maybe it is about somehow someway learning to be a person who when I get a call to follow I can respond like Simon and Andrew and just drop my nets and follow Him (Matthew 4:19-20). What I didn’t realize at the time was that dropping my nets meant a lot more than dropping what was holding me back but in fact dropping a huge chunk of myself. Not that such a thing makes sense. I mean how can we lose that chunk and still be who we are supposed to be when I think I hear something about losing that chunk will in fact allow us to become all we were meant/created to be.

Now my head is starting to hurt. But this is about Robert and not me. So join with me in a prayer for Robert and maybe someone else not too far down the road showing him a little of the light we know is out there.

Be blessed and be a blessing today.


In Stanley Hauerwas’ memoir Hannah’s Child, I came across this observation,

The way things are is not the way things have to be. That thought began to shape my understanding of what it might mean to be a Christian – namely, Christianity is the ongoing training necessary to see that we are not fated. We can even imagine a world without war.

There is so much in those few sentences I think. Hauerwas speaks much of contingency and our lack of control despite our intense desire to be in control. What would it be like to submit that desire to the sovereignty of God (in the fullness of the Trinity)?

Somehow I tend to think being training involves a lot more than learning the “rules” and learning to modify my behavior to conform to those rules. Can we imagine under such circumstances the absence of war and evil?

Then imagine what the world would look like if we actually were conformed from the inside out – the soul and not simply the brain. Hmmm, maybe an interesting exercise.

The big question – how do we move into that life of ongoing training?

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Foolish Fridays 13

Brennan Manning in his The Importance of Being Foolish now turns his text toward mission. He suggests that God the Father gave God the Son a mission. We hear that mission being announced by John the Baptist, the Kingdom of God is near.

And as Jesus emerges from the relative quiet of Nazareth Manning directs us to understand, “Jesus lives in order to shed light on the reign of God and life in God’s Kingdom.” I’m struck by the verb used in that sentence, first, Jesus lives, not lived, but He lives today. Second Manning identifies life in the Kingdom, life now with Jesus, not a life down the road at the Eschaton.

We had seen in the summaries that Jesus has a certain way of living, devoted to the Father, having a heart of forgiveness, and seeking and forming relationships, but none of those whether alone or as a group is sufficient.

We must not lose sight of this logical link: the primacy of the mission and His consuming zeal for proclaiming the kingdom of God derive not from theological reflection, the desire to edify others, trendy spirituality, or a loose sense of goodwill toward the world. Its wellspring is God’s holiness and Jesus’ self-awareness of his relation to God.

In other words, we can live lives that move to the rhythm of devotion, forgiveness and relationship, but without being in right relationship to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is all meaningless. Unless we abide in Him, unless we find our source of being in Him, of being on that mission in its many forms, John 15 presents this explicitly, we can do nothing.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

The Church? Why.

I hate religion but I love Jesus.  By now many, if not millions, have seen the Jeff Belhite video on youtube.  In our circle time a general thought was Belhite was slamming church, as currently practiced, denominations and just organized religion.  In our group we talked about how church has to have all these rules and exclusions and such things – that hypocrisy thing.

Sometimes I’m puzzled by such things.  Now I acknowledge Jesus never excluded sinners or foreigners or outcasts.  He did tell many people (the Pharisees) that they would not be part of the Kingdom of Heaven due to their hard hearts.  Paul was a little more explicit as well.  Without faith, living faith that includes works according to James, the light of heaven was not coming for you.

And the charge that church has all these rules.  I get it I hope but the questions we talked about concerned whether we want to know this warm and fuzzy Jesus, or just the Jesus revealed by the historical quests for the man, or this Jesus who died so everyone is forgiven whether we acknowledge Jesus or not.  These things can get really out of control pretty quickly and we are left with this idea that Jesus is whoever we want Him to be.

In the letter to the Hebrews, the readers are admonished not to give up gathering together – not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching, from The Message, verses 22-25.

Maybe that’s the important part – its not about us anymore but walking through all of this together. By this type of walking together, maybe we can stop that feeling of being out of control as to who we see as this Jesus guy and I think doing that walking together is in fact what we need to be recognizing as the true church.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.


Read this fascinating little survey about what prevents people from participating in global mission. What struck me about all of this – it isn’t simply the young looking at entering global missions. It is each and everyone of us.

Per the survey, a number of reasons why there was hesitation was about being alone, entering the unknown, being uncomfortable, failing, not being good enough, what their parents would say, and such things. But as noted by the survey team – it all boiled down to fear.

At our monthly contemporary service some rocking out to Matthew West’s Strong Enough – great song. Here’s a line:

Well forgive me. Forgive me if I’m wrong. But this looks like more than I can do. On my own.

Now isn’t that the truth and fits right into that survey. In reading through the Manning book, The Importance of Being Foolish, he talks a lot about our great need for security – we simply hate being too vulnerable and that’s an age old issue.

Scripture talks about this as well. Mark 10 sets out the rich young ruler who sought to follow Jesus, yet when told to sell his possessions and give them to the poor, he stepped back in despair. He couldn’t deal with his fear of not having his stuff (17-22). He couldn’t be all in.

Then we see the disciples – James and John. Sort of is a mind bender. Here are these guys who actually walked with the Christ, yet they didn’t get it. These 2 asked Jesus for special places of honor with Him in His glory. Talk about a lack of humbleness and a display of fear – losing that recognition after all their hard work of walking with the Christ (35-45). Their being all in was conditional.

Then skipping ahead to Mark 12 where we encounter the poor widow. What a contrast, all the wealthy were tossing in a little, yet she gave her last 2 cents (41-44). A sort of overcoming her fears – what to eat tomorrow without anything in your pocket. Talk about being all in!

Now I’m not suggesting we cash in everything we have and toss it into the tithe basket, rather, maybe we loosen our grips on our stuff (that rich young ruler), maybe loosen our grips on those conditional benefits we want (James and John), and maybe allow a mindset to be formed like the widow and we find ourselves all in.

Like I said a post or so ago, citing Martin Luther, its not about us, rather, He takes us on and gives us Him. Let Him deal with the fear.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Foolish Fridays 12

Brennan Manning in his The Importance of Being Foolish now gives us a practice that rests on the prior week’s ideas. Recall, he has us come to understand that Jesus had a devotion and obedience to the Father as his motivation. Second it is crucial that we have a heart of forgiveness. Now Manning directs us to consider the relational attitude of Jesus. Jesus sees his disciples as friends, John 15:15 The Message:

I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends.

With all of this Manning can now suggest:

A Christian who doesn’t merely see, but looks at another communicates to that person that he is being recognized as a human being in an impersonal world of objects, as someONE and not someTHING.

Ahh this seems so easy but it is so hard. How often do we see with eyes of opportunity? That opportunity is what can we gain from this person – some pleasure, some other type of benefit, for some purpose all our own? Now in and of itself I don’t think that is necessarily evil but it is quite opposed to seeing people with the eyes of Jesus. It no longer has really anything to do with gain and opportunity. Rather its all about walking together in the here and now headed to the what is to become (look at Monday’s post here).

Manning points us to the episode of Peter and his denials of Jesus. After Peter’s third denied, in Luke 22:61 ESV, we are informed: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered.” In that moment Peter was transformed into the Apostle he would become shortly thereafter.

How can we do any less?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

What’s It All About?

From Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright:

The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing close up, in the present, what He was promising long-term in the future. And what He was promising for that future and doing in the present was not saving souls for disembodied eternity, but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way of the world present is so that they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose – and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that larger project.

The Scriptures, both Old and New, reveal to us what is possible in the here and now, in the ordinary of the everyday, what has been promised and guaranteed on the Cross. And that is not all about our sin, whether we sin less or sin more, what type of sin we have. It is all about Jesus and not about us.

Even better, that promise showered us with grace and mercy, sufficient for our lives, to actually become colleagues – but here is the difference. We are NOT simply, solely, merely, whatever, to become imitators of Jesus, rather we become people filled with, led by and people who are empowered to live out a life that actually reflects Jesus.

Love this illustration, like a freight train, Jesus leads us, pulls us and as that song go, where you lead I will follow. While we know where the end will be, that does not mean that the times in between have no meaning. Like that great image in John 15, the vine and the branches, no longer do we need to fear. Seriously, is there any issue if the branch moves to the left or to the right when it grows? I think maybe what is most important is that the branch remains connected to that vine.

Martin Luther preached this many years ago

The Logos puts on our form and pattern, our image and likeness, so that it may clothe us with its image, its pattern, and its likeness. Thus wisdom becomes foolish so that foolishness may become wisdom, and so it is in all other things that are in God and in us, to the extent that in all these things he takes what is ours to himself in order to impart what is his to us.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Foolish Fridays 11

Brennan Manning in his The Importance of Being Foolish builds upon the base he is suggesting for coming to a place where we may begin to have the mind of Christ. A few weeks ago we read that we need to understand the devotion of Jesus to the Father. Now Manning suggests we look to formation of a heart of forgiveness. He draws our attention to the great parable of the Good Samaritan and the direction given to the expert who answered correctly, “the one who had mercy” and “go and do likewise.”

Manning then points us to the commonly understood point of mercy to others:

Jesus’ gentleness with sinners flowed from his ability to read their hearts and to detect the sincerity and essential goodness there. Behind people’s grumpiest poses or most puzzling defense mechanisms, behind their dignified airs, coarseness, or sneers, behind their silence or their curses, Jesus saw a little child who hadn’t been loved enough and who had ceased growing because those around him had ceased believing in him.

Manning then adds a point not commonly understood within this context, and suggests we need to turn the eye of mercy upon ourselves as well.

Self-esteem consists of how we see ourselves reflected in the eyes of others. This in turn conditions our perceptions of the world and our interaction with the community…. In order to love our neighbors as ourselves, we must come to recognize our intrinsic worth and dignity, and to love ourselves in the wholesome, appreciative way that Jesus commanded.

Looking at these points has to make a person shudder. First we appear to be called to deal kindly, that is with mercy and grace, to those who don’t deserve it. And to be honest I’m not sure I can do that. Jesus has the ability to see all the way through to the heart, and frankly I’m pretty lousy at such things.

As well, we must be honest with ourselves in order to come to a place where our self-esteem and internal sense of mercy and grace, no longer are capable of being contained within and most importantly are NOT flowing from that often messed up idea our value is a function of how others perceive us. To me, we must have that foundation of understanding the devotion to the Father of Jesus, which in turns tells me it isn’t me that will be showing mercy and grace, but solely through the power of the Holy Spirit, who will bring to mind the work and life of Jesus. Humble hearts I think.

We can’t read the hearts of others like Jesus. I gather then that we simply stand in a place where we can see others through the eyes of Jesus, and through the eyes of the other – I think that is the point Manning makes with his second reference, our point of view is crucial for how we interact with the number of divine encounters sent to us.

I guess one way of summarizing all of this; it’s all about coming to learn how to live with and through that gift called grace.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing today.

Wounded Healer

Been conversing with a dear brother who is on mission in China. Having some tough times as things aren’t quite what was anticipated. He makes a reference in his email (sometime those are tough as apparent monitoring going on – wow makes you rethink what we have here) to being a wounded healer. Resonates deeply.

Working with people here on mission really does require you to be wounded – and not necessarily all healed up. But somehow and in some way God puts us in places where our woundedness becomes really our training to be a healer to those who are just entering the time of hurting and pain – sometimes without even realizing where they are headed, hmmm maybe why God set your path in that direction?

This is hard because even though we are dealing with pain and disappointments we are being called to be dispensers of grace and mercy to others even when we don’t feel like it or sometimes even really care. My friend makes a point of being in a place where we wish the sowing and reaping were a lot closer together, and that sometimes the harvest starts yelling thank you.

I know, a lot of wishful thinking for being on the mission field. I was working through the Gospel of Mark and read about the horrors that can be anticipated down the line – earthquakes and such things. Sort of like going through hell. After going through all that stuff, Mark tells us don’t be worried but say what is given to you.

I take that to mean the Holy Spirit is and will be there with us when we are walking through hell, and when we are being that wounded healer. That means we need to be people who listen and not so much people who think we have the answers because we’ve been there. And that is hard.

What do you think?

Be blessed and be a blessing.