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Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Wrong Question

"There are no bad questions." 

Have you ever heard that?  From a teacher's or mentor's perspective, I agree.  I'd rather know what you are thinking about and what questions you have as opposed to not knowing.  I believe an open non judgemental relationship fosters the ability to ask all kinds of questions.  However, this isn't the context I want to address.

There are questions that are wrong.  There are questions that should never be asked.  For instance, the spouse who develops a relationship with another person outside of their marriage and asks "what do I do?  I'm in love with two people."  That is a question that should never have to be answered because it is a situation that God never intended us to be in.  It is the wrong question.  Right questions would be..."Why did you allow yourself to get to this point?", "Why haven't you terminated and repented of this wrong?".  Another of my favorite wrong questions is: "How do you know God exists?".  The right question is: "How could conclude that God doesn't exist?".

Wrong questions are typically asked to legitimize "the wrong" or "out of bounds".  They are asked, to put the "right" in a position of defending its "right-ness", instead of focusing the light of truth on the the "wrong-ness" of what is attempting to be justified.

I want to propose a question I have heard asked recently.  I want to submit it in its "wrong" form and in the form I believe we should be asking it.  As with all the blog entries, your comments are encouraged and welcomed.

"How can the church compete with the world?"

This is question that recognizes the high level of entertainment value, the profound understanding of human nature that is present in radio, TV, movies, books, magazines, and advertizing.  It asks how can 3 hymns, offering, and a sermon possibly compete with the messaging and methods found in Hollywood?  How can self discipline and sacrifice compete with get all you can get and have all you can have philosophy we are confronted with every day?  It is a very difficult question to answer... unless you realize it is the wrong question.

First, it isn't God's intention for the church to compete with the world.  In fact, God's Word suggests just the opposite..."How can the world compete with the church?".  As believers, adopted sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ, everything in the Kingdom, which belongs to God, is availble to us as His children.  Don't confuse that with getting everything we want.  I have way more money than my kids (although it doesn't seem like it some times) and could give them what they want but what they want isn't always in their best interest.  In fact, what they want may actually harm them.  We do give them what they need and some of what they want.  We try to help them understand the "why" of their wants so they can learn to want what is in their best interests.  We learned to do this from God.  It is the way He is with us.

Second, it places the focus on the "wood, hay, and stubble" of man's invention... the institutional church instead of on God's creation, the Body of Believers, the true church.  No buildings, no programming, no organization, no construction of man can do what God can do.

There isn't anything in the world that can lead us to eternal life (a benefit extended to members of THE church).  There isn't anything in the world that can produce lasting joy (a result of relationship with Jesus - a benegit of belonging to THE church).  There isn't anything in the world that can completely satisfy us (a consequence of relationship with the "Omni" - the "All" -  God).  There isn't anything in the world that can show us love beyond all reason (something God did through Jesus Christ for THE church).

How can the world possibly compete with what we find in and through THE church (the Body of Christ)?  This is the right question.

1:16 pm edt 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What is a Disciple?

What is a disciple of Jesus Christ?  What do they do?  How are they different or are they different from "believers"?  This is a question and some of the questions the kids in our home church are addressing.  I'm proud of them.  In answering these questions and others, they will have the best chance to become what God intended them to be.  This last week, they addressed the question, "what is a disciple"?

We found a series of study guides on the web site for the United Church of God (www.ucg.org/teenstudy).  I don't know much if anything about the United Church of God nor am I plugging them (or "un-plugging" them).  It just happened to be a source for some really good topics, some good questions, and a lot of scriptural reference.  Our selection of it wasn't to promote thier spin on doctrinal issues but to prompt a dialogue between our kids and us as adults.

I took the verses in this study and looked them up independent of the study guide.  As I read God's Word, I asked the question: "What is a disciple?"; "What does a disciple do?".  This blog entry is the result of that study.  If you want the verses, go the link above.  If you'd like my workbook on the study, send me an email.  Here are the top 2 discoveries of my study...

1.  A disciple of Jesus Christ is an asker of questions.

    More than any other topic or theme, this is repeated in these verses.  The Disicples asked

    questions of Jesus.  What He (Jesus) thought mattered to them.


2.  A disciple of Jesus Christ follows Jesus.  They do what Jesus does.  That is how people

     recognized them as Jesus' disciples... They acted like him.  He challenged them and us to take

     up our "cross" and follow him.


Some how I think if we could be good at these two things, we too would be seen and recognized as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Let me encourage you to spend your time of prayer asking questions about life of Jesus and then spend time listening to his answers in prayer and in your study of God's Word (which by the way IS Jesus - John 1:1-14).  Secondly, let me encourage you to do what Jesus did.  Don't try to figure out the contextual nature of what Jesus did.  Believe and act.  Jesus loved people.  Jesus taught.  Jesus healed.  Jesus spent time with sinners.  Jesus enjoyed life.  His disciples were accused of being gluttons and drunks.  (Matthew 11:18-19) Let me interject. I don't think Jesus or the Apostles ate or drank to excess.  I do think they enjoyed a good meal and a glass of wine and life.  That made him and them different than those who had come before him. 

Please don't read that last 2 or 3 sentences and make this about eating and drinking.  It is about who and what Jesus is and what he did, what he valued, what he thought was important.  Understand what Jesus did.  Understand what mattered to him and what didn't.  Live by the standards he lived by.  Hold the values he held.  Follow God the way he did.  Don't add to it.  Don't dismiss it.  Seek to understand.

A disciple of Jesus Christ is all about Jesus Christ.  A disciple of Jesus Christ isn't about fitting Jesus into a set of rules and roles.  Be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

5:40 pm edt 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Hypocrisy of My Actions

I wrote a book, had it published, and sent copies to friends and colleagues.  This makes me a hypocrite.  Some time ago, I became convicted about my reading habits.  I was reading more about what other people thought about the Bible than I was reading the Bible itself.  This conviction led me to all but give up extra-biblical reading in favor of Bible reading and study; hence, my hypocrisy.  In the presence of my conviction, I wrote a book.  I’m sure there is some balance to be struck.  My fear for us is that we haven’t struck it.

 

Do the following exercise and prove it to yourself.  Ask 10 friends the following questions:

  1. What do you read? (In a day… a week… a month… a year)
  2. How much do you read?
  3. What influences you the most in what you think about?

Here is what I believe you will find…

Ø       We read everyday.  We read email, blogs, newspapers, web sites, billboards, work material, instructions on packing, ingredient lists, nutrition indices, gauges.  These constitute the majority of our reading.  When we read outside of this, most often we read for recreational purposes (i.e. a book or magazine written by some about a topic we hope will be interesting to us).

Ø       We barely, rarely, if ever, read the Bible.  Hear me on this.  We read passages or verses as a result of being in a prepared Bible study (i.e. someone else’s intentional Bible reading and study).  We may even read from the text itself in 1-30 minute intervals, maybe 3 to 5 times a week.  We seldom, if ever read it like our very existence depended upon it.  (!!!)

Ø       We are influenced more by the people around us than by the Person within us (regardless of whether that person is God or ourselves).  Email comes from someone. Blogs are written by people (like this one).  Newspapers, websites, etc… are people communicating to people.  We live where we live because of what people think.  We drive the car we drive because of what people think.  We wear the clothes we wear because of what people think.  We read what we read because we want to know what people think.

 

What if we wanted to know what God thinks?  What if we read the Bible in equal portion to the writings of men?  What if we read God’s Word with the frequency and constancy that we read anything else?  Here is where I have a tendency to excuse myself (you may be thinking through your excuses at this point as well).  One I hear most often is: “The Bible is hard to understand.” 

 

I called a Help Line the other day.  I was stuck with some new technology and needed assistance.  The person on the other end of the phone wanted to assist me.  They were even paid to assist me.  They tried their best to assist me.  I just couldn’t understand them.  It took 10 minutes to get familiar enough with each other’s accents, with our understanding of the terms we were using, with the emotional state we were both in before we could begin to think about the reason for my call. 

 

It takes time and a concentrated effort to understand anyone whose communication pallet is different from ours.  Reading the Bible is no different.  God has a vocabulary and dialect.  It is different from ours.  He uses terms that have meaning to Him (most times a different meaning than we have for the same term).  God’s “emotional state” is different from ours (i.e.  God operates in unconditional love.  We have a tendency to operate from the state of “I want…” or “I need…”).  In order to understand God, we have to spend time listening to God with the intent of trying to understand.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Believers in Rome that “faith comes by hearing (really understanding) and hearing (really understanding) comes from the Word of God” (Romans 10:17 paraphrased).

 

Unless we commit ourselves to the Bible, to Jesus (God’s Word-John 1:1-14) in His 2 dimensional form, we will never understand God.  Jesus teaches that He is the only way to God (John 14:6) and that He – Jesus -  is God’s Word (The Bible).

 

I’d love for you to buy my book and read it.  I think it a far better use of your time and mine; however, if we would pick up God’s Book and read it first and most.

11:14 am edt 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why did I do that?
I have been studying my behavior and, as others allow me, human behavior as well (not that I'm not human...:-).  I offer the following observations...

1.  What we do is a consequence of a designed in process.  It starts with what we feed our minds.  This fuels our "want to" (motivation) which leads to action.  Actions repeated develop habits (or addictions).
2.  We only ever do what we want to do.  That is not to say that things don't happen to us (i.e. sickness).  I do mean to say that my behavior is a consequence of my decision making.
3.  There is a trigger mechanism.  It exists between my motives and the action.  That mechanism is a sense of entitlement or "ought-ness".  In other words... "I have a right..." or "I deserve..." or "I should...".  Think through it with me for a moment... I get a thought in my mind.  I work it over and it consumes more and more of my conscious thought.  I believe I am entitled to act on that thought.  I act.  If the consequence of my thoughts and actions doesn't cause me to repent (i.e. change direction), I most likely will do it again when the process reaches "critical mass".

There is a lie and a truth in this. 

The lie is that we are entitled.  We believe we deserve or are owed something.  The Bible says that as a result of our sinful nature, the only thing we deserve is death.  Any other message is a lie and its source is from the Father of Lies - the Devil.  The lie should (ought) to be rejected.

The truth is we ought or should act.  There is right.  There is a code of conduct.  There is a Judge. These things are absolute.  The Bible says that God is our Judge.  That our love for Him first, ourselves second, and others third is the context for all behavior.  That our love for Him "prompts" us to do what He asks... what we "ought" to do. 

Hold yourself accountable.  The next time you ask yourself..."Why did I do that?", really drill down on yourself.  What thoughts consumed your consciousness?  Did you feel entitled to act?  Was it a sense of "ought" that lines up with God's Word? 

The path to maturity leads through self examination (Galatians 6).
9:27 pm edt 


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