Archive for the ‘Following Christ’ Category

Pete Scazzero – Lessons from the Monestary (Sermon)

Bad authority smothers people and tries to control them. Good authority covers in a protecting way, but wants to release people to be all they can be for God.

Pete Scazzero – Lessons from the Monestary (Sermon)

I have been thinking about leadership a lot lately. While listening to this unique look at monastic living in modern society this leadership quote struck me. The quote comes from this video at about 31:30.

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Andy Piercy – Stewards of Life and Time (Sermon)

Us who live performance based identity lives in a performance based identity culture must not slip back into a medieval way of thinking that we are earning God’s pleasure. Or even God’s approval or worse still we’re earning our salvation. That is done. We have our salvation.

Andy Piercy – Stewards of Life and Time (Sermon)

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Thomas Merton – No Man Is an Island (page 36)

Music and art and poetry attune the soul to God because they induce a kind of contact with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. The genius of the artist finds its way by the affinity of creative sympathy, or connaturality, into the living law that rules the universe. This law is nothing by the secret gravitation that draws all things to God as to their center. Since all true art lays bare the action of this same law in the depths of our own nature, it makes us alive to the tremendous mystery of being, in which we ourselves, together with all other living and existing things, come forth fro the depths of God and return again to Him. An art that does not produce something of this is not worthy of its name.

Thomas Merton – No Man Is an Island (page 36)

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Growing Against Entropy And Being Made For More

As I’ve been reading M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled I stumbled across a forgotten, but familiar idea. It’s found in the section on Grace under the chapter The Miracle of Evolution. The idea is that one grows spiritually in the opposite direction of nature. That is to say nature eventually wears out and decays; essentially entropy. However, even though we as humans are a part of nature we grow spiritually. So in a sense we transcend nature.

Our bodies follow the laws of nature and wear out, yet our spirits grow. Peck notes that this growth is for the better or worse, but regardless we still grow. His statement and diagram, on page 266, explain this idea quite thoroughly.

Again and Again I have emphasized that the process of spiritual growth is an effortful and difficult one. This is because it is conducted against a natural resistance…

M. Scott Peck - Spiritual Growth Vs. Entropy Diagram

Not only does Peck state this is a miracle, but he states on page 268:

Among humanity love is the miraculous force that defies the natural law of entropy.

Two questions immediately pop in to my head. The first is why? That is why does love defy the laws of nature? I mean how is it that internally–or spiritually–we defy nature, move forward and grow instead of wind down and decay? Nature winds down and decays and we’re part of it, right? Joseph Addison expands this thought in The Spectator here:

But a man can never have taken in his full measure of Knowledge, has not time to subdue his Passions, establish his Soul in Virtue, and come up to the Perfection of his Nature, before he is hurried off the Stage.

There must be something more than simply growing contrary to nature and then being “hurried of the Stage” by death. That is some sort of reason, place or something which we grow in to. If not, then all this contrary growth would be wasted. The mathematician, Kurt Godel, poses and answers this question far better than myself in a letter to his mother here:

If the world [Welt] is rationally constructed and has meaning, then there must be such a thing [as an afterlife]. For what sense would there be in creating a being (man), which has such a wide realm of possibilities for its own development and for relationships to others, and then not allowing it to realize even a thousandth of those [possibilities]? That would be almost like someone laying, with the greatest effort and expense, the foundations for a house, and then letting it all go to seed again.

Godel assumes our spirits grow contrary to nature, but also are within the confines nature. Then he supposes the world is rational and has meaning, concluding there must be something our spirits are growing in to. That “something” only makes sense if there is growth continuation, that is to say an afterlife. C.S. Lewis expands this thought and question in The Weight Of Glory:

A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvations on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will.

So we’ve established all this growth leads into something more, an “afterlife,” and it’s not simply wasted upon death. That answers the first question of why. Which leads into the second question: what is love? According to Peck, love is the force or reason behind all of this, but what is it? To answer that question I’ll refer again to Joseph Addison in The Spectator:

There is not, in my Opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant Consideration in Religion than this of the perpetual Progress which the Soul makes towards the Perfection of its Nature, without ever arriving at a Period in it… The Soul considered with its Creator, is like one of those Mathematical Lines that may draw nearer to another for all Eternity without a Possibility of touching it: And can there be a Thought so transporting, as to consider our selves in these perpetual Approaches to him, who is not only the Standard of Perfection but of Happiness!

Concluding that all this growth and headway really only makes sense if we truly are made for something more than this life. And the truth is finally revealed: love is the Creator. I’ll leave arguments about the Creator for another post. That something more or afterlife is a part of the Creator’s design. That is to say growing after death is part of the plan. C.S. Lewis always seems to take the cake when it comes to explaining, so I’ll leave you with his quote from The Weight Of Glory:

When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.

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The Deceptive God Badge Of Confrontation

I’ve been listening to Fiction Family’s new album, which features a track titled God Badge. The song is amazing and has been spinning around my head for the last few weeks. Some of the lyrics go like this:

Put your God badge down
And love someone
Unlock your heart
And love someone

There is no us or them
There’s only folks you do or don’t understand
You’re not your own idea and neither was this town

The lyrics are asking us to put our God Badge down, but what’s a God Badge and how do we put it down? A God Badge, simply put, is a justification—generally found in morality or religion or the bible—for our actions towards God or one another. The song tells us that we avoid loving one another and hold up a God Badge for justification; in vain of course. Then the song tells us to change our ways. Similar to the third commandment from Exodus 20:7, which reads:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

I’ve also recently been reading M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. Pondering the lyrics, a chapter from the book titled The Risk Of Confrontation popped in my head. It’s no coincidence that the two were in my head at the same time.

Let me explain by starting off with a synopsis of the chapter. The chapter is in a larger section titled Love. The main point of this section is to explain ways to love each other well. This particular chapter points out one must risk confrontation with another in order to help them spiritually and personally grow. Our actions are sometimes wrong and sometimes others know better than we do (or vice versa). Therefore out of love we have a responsibility to risk confrontation and correct. M. Scott Peck, on page 153, goes as far as to say this:

To fail to confront when confrontation is required for the nurture of spiritual growth represents a failure to love equally as does thoughtless criticism or condemnation and other forms of active deprivation of caring.

The chapter explains this idea very well and I would suggest reading it in detail if you’d like to grasp the idea further.

So how does this relate to the God Badge thing? That question has been eluding me for quite a few years now. Probably by choice at some level that I’ve just carelessly overlooked. Here God Badge is simply using the bible (or religion or morality) in an attempt to avoid confrontation with someone and thus forsaking love. A verse that has been often be taken out of context and used to justify this is Mathew 5:38:

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

I should mention that I’m generally a non-confrontational person and this subtlety may be lost on people with a more in-your-face personality. In that case the God Badge looks more like the using the bible (or religion or morality) to justify judging and condemning others.

Loving each other well is hard to do and important to see from all angles. I’d go as far to say that in modern American culture loving someone would never look like conflict or confrontation. So the God Badge can be as loud as judging and condemning your brother or as subtle as not confronting them in love.

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Job 2:10 and C.S. Lewis – from a letter to Arthur Greeves, December 20, 1943

A couple of quotes struck me this morning. The first is from the book of Job. It is his response just after all his wealth, servants and family are stripped from him. The second is from a letter Lewis wrote and really doesn’t need much context. With out further ado:

Shall we accept the good from God, and not trouble?

Job 2:10

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination.

C.S. Lewis – from a letter to Arthur Greeves, December 20, 1943

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Taking Note of Gifts – Philippians 2:13

While playing worship at church the other day the pastor mentioned a verse during his sermon gave new life to an old idea. The verse resides in Philippians chapter 2. If you are reading from the New International Version the verses read like this:

12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

There are multiple verses listed here, however, the one which struck me is verse 13—listed in italics. It is important to read a bit more than just verse 13 and give a bit of context. (Click here to read my thoughts of this importance.) Philippians is Paul’s epistle to the church of Philippi. Thus when speaking Paul is speaking to that audience and to their needs as the church or the body of Christ. The wrong view of that last statement is that it reads, “the historical context of the book Philippians implies that it merely applies to history.” Moreover this entire sentence is a concluding thought indicated by the beginning word of the passage “therefore.” Paul in the previous passage has discussed imitating Christ. (verses 1-11) Hence Paul is reaffirming and encouraging the Philippians as the body of Christ.

All that aside verse 13 reads as follows, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Almost immediately after hearing this verse it occurred that any musical gifting I possess is simply what it is, a gift. That is to say a gifting—of any sort, but in my case specifically a gifting of music—is exactly what the term indicates a gift from one to another. This concept is what struck me personally, but the whole of the verse expands far beyond this personal example. Once realizing the truth of this it becomes clear that gifts should be treated as such. Consider the following example:

A friend give’s another friend a substantial gift, such as a car or a house. All of a sudden the receiving friend has gained a free item.

In this example let’s suppose the gift carries far more monetary weight than zero dollars—that supposition is only in place to give the example worldly substance. Upon acceptance of the gift the receiver would not only gain a gift, but the responsibilities that go with it.  That is to say possessing that gift would entail new duties for receiver. There are many unique paths the receiver could take after possessing the gift.  It is important to note that the paths chosen could be for the better or for the worse. For instance an example of a path for the worse is one in which the receiver simply takes the gift for granted and is not concerned with it in the least with it. However, the path I intend for that gift is of care, acknowledgement, and new responsibilities. The above example is fairly straight forward, but to see everything in this light is what struck me.  Everything is a gift; anywhere from what we “own,” the skills of our hands, to the breath in our lungs. It is all a gift.

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The Importance of Context and History

When studying the Bible it is important to look into the context as well as the history. The importance is simply this: one does not want to take a verse and merely flip the verse on its’ head to apply the verse to whatever one wants or desires. Taking note of this importance leads to a deeper understanding of the Bible. Thus not only is one eliminating personal bias one’s comprehension is also improved.

I am neither a Biblical Scholar nor Historical Scholar. Thus when discussing the Bible I will make my best attempt to present what has been learned and clearly show the truth of the Bible—not perverted by me. That is to say the Bible is the infallible word of God and I prefer not to discuss it in a “Ryan” jaded manner.

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