Archive for the 'Spirituality' Category

Christian Spirituality

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Christian spirituality has been coming into its own in the Protestant world in the last several decades.   Historically, the richness of this focus has been cultivated more ardently in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.  While Protestants have been cautious to drink at this well (and for good reasons), it behooves us to remember that before the 1500s, we can make legitimate claims on this tradition as ours also.

A new, comprehensive volume has just come out that helps paint the big picture regarding spirituality.  It is a treatment of the topic that is palatable across some of the historical divides and reclaims some of the ground for the Protestant tradition that has been lost.

Perhaps I am excited about Christian Spirituality by Evan Howard because I know the author and am grateful for his long contribution to CRM, particularly his influence and affection for InnerCHANGE, our order among the poor.

He has also given us more than his prayer and counsel over the years.  His daughter, Claire, serves with InnerCHANGE on the streets of San Francisco.

This is a book for everyone’s library.

Leadership When God is Silent

Friday, May 16th, 2008

zipped-lip.jpg

Bobby Clinton observes that most leaders invariably hit a time, usually in mid-career, when they confront a “faith challenge” and ask questions such as: “Is God really real? Does he do what he says? Can he be trusted?”

“I do not have hard data on this just intuitive insight from observing leaders over the years and anecdotal confirmation along the way as I deal with leaders. But Biblically I teach it from Habakkuk. Habakkuk is a typical leader who faced a faith challenge mid-career. Habakkuk is a core book for me from which I teach on this notion of a faith challenge.

…teach on this to leaders in CRM as you inspire them to stay with it and respond positively to God’s faith challenges that come their way.”


I’ve seen this spiritual dynamic in the lives of others and I’ve experienced it myself. I saw it from a distance with John Wimber when his British colleague and friend, David Watson was dying. I’ve heard it described by personal friends and colleagues.

And of course, Mother Teresa’s spiritual pain, which was revealed so transparently last year in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, is a riveting example of this dynamic where she was quoted as saying:

“… as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

In all these experiences, Clinton is right that the ancient words of Habakkuk speak with contemporary relevance:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Tough Times

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I had coffee this past week with a close friend whose mortgage company is going through deep waters. As the whole industry in the U.S. is being roiled by the sub-prime crisis and the resulting credit crunch, his company is in a vice that he has never experienced in his several decades of business.

Inside the cover of his diary, he had pasted the following quote from Thomas Merton which is poignant considering the circumstances:

“Tribulation detaches us from the things of nothingness in which we spend ourselves and die. Therefore, tribulation gives us life and we love it not out of love for death, but out of love for life.

Let me then withdraw all my love from scattered, vain things—the desire to be read and praised as a writer, to be a successful teacher praised by my students, or to live at east in some beautiful place—and let me place everything in Thee, where it will take root and live, instead of being spent in barrenness.”

White Martyrdom

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

 Haggerty Exhibitions Past Brink Job

“Some of us are called to a white martyrdom.”

The phrase grabbed my attention last week when I heard it from a friend in Denver. It was a phrase a spiritual director had passed on to him regarding suffering. The spiritual director had used this term to describe a martyrdom that is not instantaneous in one dark moment but is lengthy and may even stretch over many years.

I know people like this, who are called to suffer and do so over extended periods of time. I don’t necessarily understand it nor do I know how to reconcile it with the nature of God, but it consistent with the overwhelming testimony of scripture regarding the role of suffering in the lives of those who follow Jesus.

We often joke of how the “gift of martyrdom” gets exercised only once, but if white martyrdom is a reality, that gift is probably much more widespread and practiced than I ever imagined.

Love’s Redeeming Work is Done

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

Auferstehung Christis

In 1739, Charles Wesley penned these now famous words for use in the first worship service at the Wesleyan Chapel in London. The chapel, on the site of a former iron foundry, became known as the Foundry Meeting House. This hymn has grown to be one of the most popular Easter songs in the English language.

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, fought the fight, the battle won,
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Lo! He sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Christ hath burst the gates of hell.
Death in vain forbids His rise, Christ hath opened paradise.

Lives again our glorious King, where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once He died our souls to save, where thy victory, O grave?

Soar we now where Christ hath led, following our exalted Head.
Made like Him, like Him we rise, ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, praise to Thee by both be given.
Thee we greet triumphant now, hail, the resurrection, thou.

King of glory, Soul of bliss, everlasting life is this.
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, thus to sing and thus to love.

Hymns of praise then let us sing, unto Christ, our heavenly King.
Who endured the cross and grave, sinners to redeem and save.

But the pains that He endured, our salvation have procured.
Now above the sky He’s King, where the angels ever sing.

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

*Image if of Rembrandt’s famous Resurrection of Christ.

Mortality …this wretched lump of clay

Monday, February 5th, 2007

 Wsc.Online Potters-Wheel
In his “Leadership Prayers”, Richard Kriegbaum writes:

“So much depends on me, yet all I have for this task is whatever health and energy You give me….I eat carefully, rest, exercise, and think positive thoughts, and still this wretched lump of clay fails me.

You have Creator’s rights on my body. You formed every miraculous part. What You take away is Your business. I will do what I can with whatever capabilitiy You give me. It yours….

The days end as the years end, with never enough time for all the good that could be done, only just enough for Your priorities, if I get them right. You created time, and it does not limit You. But I do not have a thousand years today, God. I have only now.

So this day is Yours; I am yours” these people are Yours, the resources are Yours. The challenges we face are Yours, as is anything we hope to accomplish. It’s Yours, God. It ’s not mine.”

The “Finished” Life

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

 Media Jesus

In considering Jesus, A.E. Whiteham writes in The Discipline and Culture of the Spiritual LIfe:

“Here in this Man is adequate purpose …inward rest, that gives an air of leisure to His crowded life. Above all there is in this Man a secret and a power of dealing with the waste-products of life, the waste of pain, disappointment, enmity, death …making a short life of about thirty years, abruptly cut off, to be a ‘finished’ life. We cannot admire the poise and beauty of this human life, and then ignore the things that made it.”

“THE DISCIPLINE & CULTURE OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE: A MEMORIAL VOLUME.” (A E. Whitham)

*Painting is Rembrandt’s famous head of Christ.

Collectives vs. Communities

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

 Images Poeshkin + Tabasco
Our friend, Evan Howard, a present-day monastic whose Spirituality Shoppe is an evangelical center for the study of Christian spirituality in the mountains of Colorado, writes in his latest newsletter:

“The difference between a collective and a community is care. Collectives gather together, do the same things, perhaps wear similar clothes. Communities give themselves for each other.

In communities people matter to each other. In community we are an issue for each other. At times this can indeed be a cause of suffering. But our Three-personed God designed this dynamic to be a means of the relief of suffering. A community wherein the other matters is basic to what it means to be human and it reflects the very character of God. No wonder we long for community!

An so you say to me, ‘I just can’t seem to find community.’ I ask you, ‘For whom do you care?’ You ask me, ‘How do I start real community?’ I say to you, ‘Start caring for someone.’”

Money, Sex and Parenting

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Checkbook Male-Female-Symbols-01 Parenting

In my experience, there are three tender topics that unless they are broached, a discipling, coaching or mentoring relationship will rarely move beyond the superficial.

Money: What people do with their money is usually a hot-to-handle issue. It touches on lifestyles, possessions, and deep-seated values. It often crosses an artificial cultural boundary that says “My checkbook is my private business.”

Sex: I remember the evening that a man, my age and now a good friend, leveled with me and said “I’m not interested in a friendship unless we get to the point that I can candidly discuss issues related to sex.” Despite the social openness that prevails in western society about this topic, personal, honest and transparent discussions about sexuality are rare. Sexuality touches us at our core.

Parenting: Few topics are as sensitive to bring up than how someone parents their kids. I’ve found very few moms or dads open to conversations about this when it gets up close and personal. It’s fine to discuss in the abstract. But it is risky to tell someone that their little Johnny or Susie is an out-of-control hellion. Momma bears protect their cubs and human beings are no different.

Plan – Intentional Time With God

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Plan

I may have the rhythm right and I may have a place to go. But once there, what do I do? What’s the plan? This is where some of the spiritual disciplines can be most helpful. Silence, contemplation, listening prayer, intercession and visualization have all, at one time or another, played important parts in my “plan.”

While the bible and being immersed into scripture is certainly a central feature of such communion with Jesus, how that is carried out can vary widely, again depending upon my needs, my temperament, and what God wants to communicate. There are numerous forms of reading, studying, meditating, memorizing and hearing God’s word that may be applicable. I find the guiding principle to be: What brings life? Through what means is the presence of Jesus mediated in a way that I can hear his voice with clarity and surety?

I’ve found Bobby Clinton’s “Levels of Word Gifts” to be liberating when it comes to use of the bible in focused time with God. This paradigm has helped me understand how I am uniquely wired and has given me permission and even freedom to use the bible in ways that feed and nourish my soul rather than enslave me to the methods of others.

All sorts of tools can be part of my “plan”: poetry, hymnody, Lectio Divina, CDs, journaling, the Examen or other Ignatian spiritual exercises or their derivatives, etc …to name a few.

Regardless, for me it has always been crucial to remember that tools are only tools. They are never an end in and of themselves. If something doesn’t work, it should be jettisoned. What I am pursuing is God and there is no one thing in all creation that can begin to give me a corner on the totality of that relationship.

The older I get, the more I realize that God is remarkably accommodating, far beyond my imagination or comprehension. He longs to relate with me so much that he will go to great extremes to overcome the frailties of my humanity. Consider what he has done throughout redemptive history and the huge variety of means he has employed to reveal himself …angels, a pillar of fire, a temple, an ass, an audible voice from heaven, etc …

In my experience, if I can just move in his direction, he will go to great lengths to invade my space. And he does it with incredible kindness.

I need to:

Understand my pace
Find a place
Establish a plan

Place – Intentional Time With God

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

 Dynamic Images Display Ruth Franklin Interior With Chair  Fireplace 593 303

It has always helped me to have a place or places where I regularly meet with God. These are private sanctuaries that are venues of welcome for God and me. I know when I go there, it signifies to the Lord that I crave it to be holy ground where he and I can converse. It is where we enjoy union and communion.

It may be a room, a chair, or a special spot in nature. It could be a park bench or an easily accessible spot on a trail. It could be a quiet corner of patio or next to a window in a flat. Wherever it may be, it is quiet, private, and all mine. I have freedom there to pray, to sing, to lift my hands in worship or to prostrate myself before the presence of the Holy.

During my student days, there was a particular seat in the musty, little used university chapel that was my regular place to commune with Jesus. That spot almost had a magnetic quality to it. It drew me because I longed for what it represented and for the One whom I knew would find me there.

Pace – Intentional Time With God

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

 Images Bands Profilfoto 11741-16052005172337

In a recent conversation with a CRM staff person, we delved into the issue of what intentional time with God is all about. As I reflected on the discussion, and on my own experience over the years, I realized there were three factors that have always played into how my relationship with Jesus is pursued when it means specific, concentrated time with him. I realized there are usually three basic components, the first of which is:

Pace – This concerns the rhythm of the relationship. How often do we meet? What’s the cycles and sense of continuity to my times with God? What’s the pace?

I am convinced there is tremendous diversity and no one approach fits all. This is all influenced by life stage, temperament and even vocation.

Many of us have grown up with idealization that such intentional time is a must every day. But that may not be the rhythm that suits me best. For some—such as those in monastic communities—3-5 times a day for prayers and meditation is the norm. For others, three set-aside times with God a week may be what is sustainable and sustaining. A mother with young children may be in a totally different place where emotional and spiritual survival is at stake and how God feeds her soul may be completely different in such a season.

Like all liturgical practice, regularity can bring confidence and surety. It is like the regular exercise of a muscle. However, structure can be deadening and can suck the life right out of the most passionate pursuit of God. While discipline is certainly admirable regardless of the pace, structure without grace can be the death of real spiritual vitality.

Tomorrow’s post will deal with the 2nd factor: Place.

John Piper on Lust

Monday, January 1st, 2007

 ~Talarico Arthleg Lust

“I have in mind men and women. For men it’s obvious. The need for warfare against the bombardment of visual temptation to fixate on sexual images is urgent. For women it is less obvious, but just as great if we broaden the scope of temptation to food or figure or relational fantasies. When I say “lust” I mean the realm of thought, imagination, and desire that leads to sexual misconduct. So here is one set of strategies in the war against wrong desires. I put it in the form of an acronym,:

A N T H E M

A – AVOID as much as is possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desire. I say “possible and reasonable” because some exposure to temptation is inevitable. And I say “unfitting desire” because not all desires for sex, food, and family are bad. We know when they are unfitting and unhelpful and on their way to becoming enslaving. We know our weaknesses and what triggers them. “Avoiding” is a Biblical strategy. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness”
(2 Timothy 2:22).
“Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14).

N – Say NO to every lustful thought within five seconds. And say it with the authority of Jesus Christ. “In the name of Jesus, NO!” You don’t have much more than five seconds. Give it more unopposed time than that, and it will lodge itself with such force as to be almost immovable. Say it out loud if you dare. Be tough and warlike. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Strike fast and strike hard. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” ( James 4:7).

T – TURN the mind forcefully toward Christ as a superior satisfaction. Saying “no” will not suffice. You must move from defense to offense. Fight fire with fire. Attack the promises of sin with the promises of Christ. The Bible calls lusts “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). They lie. They promise more than they can deliver. The Bible calls them “passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). Only fools yield. “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter” (Proverbs 7:22). Deceit is defeated by truth. Ignorance is defeated by knowledge. It must be glorious truth and beautiful knowledge. This is why I wrote Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. We must stock our minds with the superior promises and pleasures of Jesus. Then we must turn to them immediately after saying, “NO!”

H – HOLD the promise and the pleasure of Christ firmly in your mind until it pushes the other images out. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). Here is where many fail. They give in too soon. They say, “I tried to push it out, and it didn’t work.” I ask, “How long did you try?” How hard did you exert your mind? The mind is a muscle. You can flex it with vehemence. Take the kingdom violently (Matthew 11:12). Be brutal. Hold the promise of Christ before your eyes. Hold it. Hold it! Don’t let it go! Keep holding it! How long? As long as it takes. Fight! For Christ’s sake, fight till you win! If an electric garage door were about to crush your child you would hold it up with all our might and holler for help, and hold it and hold it and hold it and hold it.

E – ENJOY a superior satisfaction. Cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Christ. One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal. We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. Don’t say, “That’s just not me.” What steps have you taken to waken affection for Jesus? Have you fought for joy? Don’t be fatalistic. You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart – more than you treasure sex or sugar. If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph. Plead with God for the satisfaction you don’t have: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Then look, look, look at the most magnificent Person in the universe until you see him the way he is.

M – MOVE into a useful activity away from idleness and other vulnerable behaviors. Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure. Find a good work to do, and do it with all your might. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11). “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Abound in work. Get up and do something. Sweep a room. Hammer a nail. Write a letter. Fix a faucet. And do it for Jesus’ sake. You were made to manage and create. Christ died to make you “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Displace deceitful lusts with a passion for good
deeds.”

John Piper
www.desiringGOD.org

Disposition of Our Lives

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

 Augusta Iconography Webmuseum Bartholomewmartyr

My friend, Ronnie Stevens at the Danube International Church, Budapest, writes:

“God requires a disposition toward our own life controlled by four realities:

1. A grateful conviction of whence it came.
2. An abiding consciousness of Whose it is.
3. A growing understanding of what it is for.
4. A perpetual willingness to lay it down.”

* Painting is “The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Ribera, 1630, in the Prado, Madrid.

William Temple on Worship

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

William Temple

William Temple, the widely regarded and brilliant Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-44 wrote:

“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.
It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness,
Nourishment of mind by His truth,
Purifying of imagination by His beauty,
Opening of the heart to His love,
And submission of will to his purpose.
And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.”

Morgan on Holiness

Friday, December 1st, 2006

G. Campbell Morgan 1

G. Campbell Morgan was the famous British bible teacher whose pulpit was primarily Westminster Chapel in London, (starting in 1904). Back when monologuing was the prime and effective means of persuasive communication (called “preaching”), he was one of the best. He also authored over 60 books. While archaic in such respects, he is still timeless in others.

For example, Morgan defined holiness in the following way:

“In holiness and righteousness, the essential meaning of holiness is right but it is right in intrinsic character. The essential meaning of righteousness is right, but it is right in actual conduct.”

He goes on to describe holiness in 7 limiting statements.

(1) Holiness is not freedom from all sin as imperfection; but it is freedom from the dominion of sin, and from willful sinning.
(2) Holiness is not freedom from mistakes in judgment; but it is freedom from the need to exercise judgment alone. (The alone is the key idea).
(3) Holiness is not freedom from temptation, but it is freedom from the paralysis, which necessitates failure.
(4) Holiness does not mean freedom from bodily infirmity, but it does mean freedom from all ailments, which are the direct result of disobedience.
(5) Holiness does not mean freedom from conflict, but it does mean freedom from defeat.
(6) Holiness is not freedom from liability to fall, but it is freedom from the necessity of falling.
(7) Holiness is not freedom from the possibility of advance, but it is freedom from the impossibility of advance.

Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

Potter And Clay
Richard Foster comments in the November Renovare newsletter:

“We refuse to think of spiritual formation in terms of various practices . . . ever.

In another era those practices were things like ‘a quiet time’ and Bible study of one sort or another. Today it is Lectio Divina and ‘journaling.’ May I say as clearly as possible: Christian spiritual formation has nothing essentially to do with such practices. Many practices can be genuinely helpful in their place, but they are not ‘it.’

What is ‘it’ is LIFE—life with Jesus, interactive relationship with the great God of the universe, inner transformation into Christlikeness.

Now, this reality can happen with Lectio and with ‘journaling,’ and it can happen without them. It can, and it does!

The tendency today, unfortunately widespread, is to think of spiritual formation exclusively in terms of practices of one kind or another. Please, dear friend, do not fall into this trap. It will only produce legalism and bondage, and it utterly defeats spiritual formation. Many of the familiar practices are useful, to be sure, and some more than others. But none is essential. We all are to walk with the living Christ and then ‘in humility regard others as better than yourselves.’ (Phil. 2:3).”

Memorize Scripture?

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Images-2

In the early days of my relationship with Jesus, I was introduced to the spiritual discipline of memorizing scripture. While I have to admit it has waned in recent years, that investment was life-changing.

I think I’ve heard most of the negative reactions to this discipline such as:

How legalistic!
The Trinity is not the Father, Son and Holy Bible!
This is so “modern.” To focus on propositional truth in such a way is too passe.’
Memorizing is just a pretext for proof texts.
You gotta be kidding …this is too fanatical for me.

Early each Monday morning when I am in town, I meet with a small group of businessmen who are committed to seeking God and growing together in what it means to be followers of Jesus. Several months ago, I introduced the concept of memorizing scripture to the group.

It has been a surprisingly difficult undertaking for these men. These are people with MBAs who read stock quotes in their dreams. They have remarkable skills in finance and demonstrate business acumen that leaves me in the dust. Yet some have an aversion—even an emotional/mental block—to committing one verse a week to memory.

On the other hand, the ones who persevere in the discipline experience a remarkable transformation. God invariably uses what they have tucked away to influence their behavior, realign their thinking and transform their character. While not the only way God speaks, having scripture resident in the subconscious provides the Spirit of God a powerful tool through which he can communicate throughout the rhythms of everyday life. Memorizing scripture is a small investment with an enormous return.

I believe one of the big reasons most people shy away from this discipline is that they don’t know where to start. They need a structure. That’s why I usually encourage a person to start with the Topical Memory System published by NavPress. For those that want something more visual, Memloc has proven to be an effective tool.

However we cut it across the theological spectrum, there is no way around the benefits described in the longest chapter in the bible—Psalm 119—about a mind and heart that are enamored with the Word of the living God. And there is no better way for that to happen then to have portions of it committed to memory.


The Topical Memory System – (Navpress)

Celtic Missionality

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Glasnevincross

The Celtic movement combined a profound commitment to trinitarian theology with a deeply experiential/sensual/visual spirituality. Celtic understanding and practice of community and holism was exemplary. And their missiology was highly incarnational with a remarkable understanding of apostolic structures. A Celtic monastic community’s purpose was:

“… to root your consciousness in the gospel and the scriptures; to help you experience the presence of the Triune God and an empowered life; to help you discover and fulfill your vocation; and to give you experience in ministry with seekers.”

As CRM develops and multiplies such apostolic communities around the globe, this isn’t a bad statement of what those communities of transformation should encompass.

A wonderful example of Celtic apostolic passion—firmly grounded in trinitarian spirituality—can be found in this portion of the famous Celtic prayer, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate:”

We rise today
In power’s strength, invoking the Trinity,
Believing in threeness, confessing the oneness,
Of creation’s Creator.

For to the Lord belongs salvation,
And to the Spirit belongs salvation,
And to Christ belongs salvation,
May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.

Mastery of the Bible

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Openbible
This excerpt is from an email that J. Robert Clinton, professor of leadership at Fuller Seminary, puts out weekly. Bobby’s admonition is worth repeating.

________________________________________

“In my opinion we have only one guarantee for an effective lifetime experience as a leader. We must be people of the Word.

In one of my opening classes I use an illustration, which shows that most leaders who have studied at Bible Colleges and Seminaries in the U.S. actually stop really studying the Bible for their own personal growth and lifetime basis for decision-making between the ages of 30-40. The conclusion that I draw in Having a Ministry That Lasts is:

Effective leaders should have an appropriate, unique, lifelong plan for mastering the Word in order to use it with impact in their ministries.

Few leaders master the Bible without a proactive, deliberate approach, which plans to do so. It does not just accidentally happen. For what I mean by “master,” see my book, Having A Ministry That Lasts.

My studies in the volume Focused Lives (1994) revealed that all of the 8 leaders studied the Bible as a lifelong pursuit:

Simeon (1759-1836)—Strategic Mentor
Gordon (1836-1895)—Missionary Minded Pastor
Brengle (1860-1936)—Public Saint
Morgan (1863-1945)—World Class Bible Teacher
Jaffray (1873-1945)—Missionary Pioneer
McQuilkin (1886-1952)—Bible College Founder
Mears (1890-1963)—Recruiter of Leaders
Maxwell (1895-1984)—Missionary Trainer

All were people of the Word all their lives. While they had their own unique approaches to study of the Bible, they were disciplined in doing so. And they finished well!

Daniel was still studying the Word in his-mid 80s. I [Bobby] have about 15 more years to go to catch-up with him. Do you have some plan for mastering the scriptures over your lifetime? Are you still studying, learning, and growing in the Word of God—whether or not you are preaching or teaching something?”

525,600 Minutes

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

Clocks
Contemporary poets are most often sung, and these lyrics from Seasons of Love (from the musical Rent) capture a poignant fact of life, which coincidentally, is profoundly biblical

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:14

“These are evil times, so make every minute count.” – Ephesians 5:16


As someone for whom more than half of life is over, these lyrics and the truth embodied therein carry extra meaning.

Space for God

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Space For God

My good friend, Tim Cahill, invited me to join him and couple other men for a “day in the park.”

What this really is is an extended time of solitude and time alone with God. We met in a nearby regional park (where I often walk and pray myself), spent about an hour together and then separated for the bulk of the day to be alone with God.

It was a wonderful time, like water to a parched soul. With a major event coming up next week with close to 700 CRM staff, family and friends gathering for a once-every-four-year event, finding this island of solitude in the midst of the preparatory chaos was a blessed parenthesis. It provided time and space for centering my emotions and spirit on Jesus and to regain a sense of his real and even manifest presence in my life through time in the bible and prayer.

Helping people make such space for God and learn how to hear him is increasingly the focus of Tim’s life and ministry. I am deeply grateful for the contribution that my “reflective, mystical friend” has made in my life through such a calling. I am grateful for Tim being a catalyst around which I, and others, are invited into a deeper union and communion with Christ.

Beyond the Cosmos

Friday, May 19th, 2006

57329Main Mm Image Feature 151 Jwfull.Sized
Beyond the Cosmos, by Hugh Ross, is particularly compelling as it focuses on God’s multidimensionality and how that impacts an array of difficult doctrines such as the trinity, God’s proximity, omnipotence, sovereignty and free-will, the incarnation, the atonement, and the problem of evil and suffering in the world.

It may take some mental slugging to get through dense scientific jargon in the initial chapters, particularly for those of us who gave up on the hard sciences early in life.

But Ross—a Cal Tech astrophysicist—draws on the latest in cosmology and astrophysics to make a case for the existence of at least ten dimensions, six more than our four-dimensional universe. He then goes on to demonstrate how such a possibility impacts our understanding of God and the reality of his presence in our existing universe.

Ross summarizes:

These “how can it be” doctrines have for centuries tested the faith and love of those who believe in the biblical, personal God and often have served as stumbling blocks for those who do not.

However, the scientific discoveries of the past two decades offer new insights into God’s mind-boggling capacities in his mind-boggling beyond ten (the newly proven minimum) dimensions of reality.

Comprehension of these capacities can launch us into greater heights of rejoicing and new depths of appreciation, individually and collectively, for the immeasurable gift of eternity with Him.


From Desolation to Consolation

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Cosmos

“The biblical pictures of the new creation suggest the absence of virtually all relationship-limiting factors … we might gain the capacity to communicate and relate intimately with billions of others all at once – and agree perfectly with each one … Our present dimensionality makes such simultaneous communication and fellowship impossible. But with one extra dimension of time or its equivalent, we could acquire this capacity.” – Hugh Ross in Beyond the Cosmos

Throughout the years in my journey with God, I have gone through cycles. There are times when I feel the nearness and presence of God … where His reality is not a question. And then there are other times when He seems silent and distant.

Ignatius coined the terms “consolation” and “desolation” to describe these conditions and they have been used in the currency of spiritual formation and direction for centuries to describe such spiritual states.

During the latter, my normal MO is usually to endure and push on trusting in that what I have affirmed in the past is true although not something I am existentially experiencing. It is usually a matter of time before God will graciously pull me out of such a slump and allow me to reconnect.

Nevertheless, those “down” times can be difficult and characterized by questions and a plethora of doubts … doubts about God, the reality of the spiritual realm, life after death, God’s sovereignty, his manifest presence and power and other “ultimate” questions.

I know I am not unique in this. But sometimes it is not real easy to admit. To question whether we’ve been sold a bill of goods and are giving our lives to fairy tales doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in those who may depend upon one for leadership, or more disconcertingly, support us financially.

The last time I came out of one of those “down” stages – which was aggravated by watching some people die some rather ugly deaths and my wife’s serious health challenges – God interestingly used two books to reconnect me with who I know to be true. Both were re-reads but are powerful apologetics for the reality of God and His presence in our lives: The Creator and the Cosmos and Beyond the Cosmos, both by Hugh Ross.

These two volumes did much to re-ignite my confidence in the veracity of historic Christianity, the reality of God, and the trustworthiness of the Bible. They were a shot in the arm to my devotional life and have given new meaning to prayer. They include some of the most accurate, encouraging perspectives on the reality of the supernatural and the eventuality of “heaven” of any writings I’ve recently come across.

I know Hugh Ross won’t appeal to everyone. But God has used his writings in my life so I can recommend that others take a look.

Celtic Passion

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Celtic Cross And Church

“I will kindle my fire this morning,
In the presence of the holy angels of heaven,
God, kindle Thou in my heart within

A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall …”

- Celtic Prayer to begin the day from the Carmine Gadelica

“The Celtic Christian Movement proceeded to multiply mission-sending monastic communities, which continued to send teams into settlements to multiply churches and start people in the community-based life of full devotion to the Triune God.”
- George G. Hunter in The Celtic Way of Evangelism

There is much to learn from the Celtic movement as we seek to re-introduce authentic, expressions of orthodox, biblical Christianity in the increasingly postmodern, “neo-barbarian” Western world. Hunter’s book, and other studies, provide provocative case studies of a movement replete with missiological implications for our era.

For CRM, there are striking (and deliberate) parallels between this ancient movement and InnerCHANGE and NieuCommunities. May God multiply all such movements.