5/31/2014 Time with God: Habit or Lifestyle?

From time to time I hear pastors preach from, say, John 15, the vine and the branches, about the importance of continuous communion with Jesus, and contrast that with the practice of daily time with God. They will say something like, “Don’t just carve out 15 minutes to have a ‘quiet time,’ check it off, and then go about your day.” Or, “Don’t settle for a ‘quiet time’ when you can have moment-by-moment communion with God.” Sometimes this feels like the pastor is saying that we have a choice: a specific time designated for prayer and devotional scripture reading versus walking with God all day long.

I believe they go together. The people who walk with God are the people who also practice specific, private, spiritual disciplines like time with God, scripture memory, and bible study.

We know, for example, that playing scales is not the objective of piano practice. The objective is beautiful music, artfully executed. But one can’t do that without the training that comes, in part, from playing the scales. To change the metaphor, no one cares how much weight a football player can lift in the weight room, but without time in the weight room, the big plays on the field won’t happen. Legendary football coach Bear Bryant used to say, “You can’t live soft all week and play tough on Saturday.”

So don’t “settle for” daily time with God as only a spiritual discipline, but don’t neglect it either! Jesus lived in constant communion with The Father, but, “He often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer,” (Luke 5.16) and, after a busy day of ministry, “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1.35)

5/302014 It’s Lying, and It’s Certainly Not Loving

It happened again today. I received an email with photo documentation purporting to show some well-known government official doing something (you choose) stupid/unAmerican. Of course the photo had been doctored as I discovered with less than a minute’s work using www.truthorfiction.com, and the story was false.

So the person who originated the hoax is certainly guilty of lying.

What are the people who spread the false story around guilty of? Slander?

And what are all those who read it uncritically, filing the “information” away, guilty of?

I often receive these emails from folks who claim to be Bible-believing Christ-followers. To us, God’s word is clear:

Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2.17) 

Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Romans 13.7)

Are we honoring our elected officials, whether we voted for them or not, when we make up or pass around or uncritically listen to stories about them which are false?

One final observation, I often write personal, and, I hope, polite notes to the senders pointing out that what they just sent to their entire mailing list was false. Then I wait for the email, again sent to their entire mailing list, apologizing for their error. Alas, that rarely comes. When it does, I commend them for their integrity.

Lying and slander and rumor-mongering are wrong whether we do it face-to-face about someone we know personally or whether we do it by email about people we don’t like.

Maybe all we need to do is apply Matthew 22.39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus ranked it #2.


5/30/2014 I’m not ready for that – part 2

I have another response to the brother who said, “I’m not ready” to come alongside people in their spiritual journey. (Please see blog entry May 17, 2014)

Gordon Saunders, career missionary with Greater Europe Mission, told the story of a 90-year-old lady living in a nursing home. In addition to leading a bible study, she noticed that Sunday afternoons were slow periods, that the people seemed down. So she gathered them together just to tell each other stories and laugh. In the process she would have further opportunity to get to know them and share spiritual truth as necessary and appropriate. Gordon challenges us to model this lady:

1. Be there
2. Pay attention
3. Do what you can

4. Tell the truth

“There” is wherever we are whether we’ve intentionally travelled somewhere as a missionary or whether we’re in a nursing home, at work, in our neighborhoods, or at school. Wherever “there” is, we can all pay attention to what’s going on and figure out what the needs are. Then we do what we can if it’s only getting people together to tell jokes. Then we tell the truth about God, about the world, about life.

How can you not be “ready” for that?

5/17/2014 I’m not ready for that.

A friend of mine was leading some men through Ways of the Alongsider, a bible-study from The Navigators that teaches folks how to come alongside others in their spiritual journeys. At some point, one of the men said, “I get it! You’re asking us to share the gospel with people and when they believe, help them grow in the faith so that they can repeat the process.” My friend said, “Yes. Of course.” Then the man said, “I’m not ready for that yet.” 

I can think of a number of comeback responses:
  • If you’re not ready now, what are you doing to get ready? Luke 12:47, 48 is clear:
And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
  • Are you less ready than Matthew when he was called in Luke 5, who immediately threw a dinner party for his unsaved friends?
  • Are you less ready than the Woman at the Well in John 4 who immediately went and invited her village, filled with people who probably didn’t even like her, to meet Jesus?
  • Are you less ready than the demon-possessed guy in Mark 5 who asked Jesus for more training, but whom Jesus sent to his home town to tell his story?

It is chilling that our allegedly bible-believing churches are filled with people who are willing to admit they’re “not ready” to do what Jesus has clearly asked us to do, aren’t doing anything to get ready, and are allowed to be members in good standing without even being challenged.

I find that most people in most churches will be “ready” after they’ve had “one more course.” But it’s always one more course. No wonder the harvest is still plentiful and the laborers are still few.