Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stuff We Ought to Know – The Fact-Value Divide under the Totalitarian Rule of Detached Objectivism

Recently there has been much talk about a war of civilizations. But, in many ways, a vital yet subtle war on human experience has been raging over the last 300 years. I consider myself a proponent of science but, at the same time, I find it essential that Christian thinkers learn to put science in its proper limited place. What is needed in our time, as much as anything, is a new popular understanding of what it means to know and what it means to have assurance regarding truth that resides outside the realm of detached objective fact.

Science, which over the last 300 years has become the dominant approach to knowing and learning, due to its detached and purely objective nature, de-emphasized as non-factual all human claims to knowledge which motivate commitments and statements of relative value.

If we were to be truly objective and placed no particular value on one reality over another, we would not even give a second thought to the study of human experience and the history of mankind as our planet is less than a speck in the context of the entire cosmos. But no one lives as if man is inconsequential because living at this purity of objectivity is absurd. Detached objectivism does not resonate with human experience and therefore, science is an incomplete method to come to know all there is to know as a human. The difficulty is in defining and justifying a epistemological system that does not end in the quagmire of doubt and nothingness of subjectivism.

The Copernican Revolution

The gravitas of the Copernican Revolution cannot be underestimated. In developing a mathematical model of the cosmos which proved to be true and yet was counter to human experience which sees the cosmos moving around the earth, Copernicus and his legacy inadvertantly set at odd the facts of detached scientific theory and the often deluding perspective of human experience and thus began the separation of fact and value. It is this separation which has relegated the pursuit of meaning and value to the realm of fantasy and has only permitted objective fact to be raised to the level of knowledge. Our values and perceptions are to be doubted as subjective while only objective fact, which can be proven without any regard for the experience of the knower, is to be given the honor of being called knowledge. We only know fact. All else is fancy. The public discussion of one’s personal commitments and wisdom to guide one’s experience became old-fashioned, bigoted, and private. Such commitment in that they are considered non-scientific are seem in public dialogue as subjective and therefore unworthy of value and commitment. In fact, such commitments are seen as dangerous and reactionary. The root of this response against personal value and claims of knowledge regarding things which are not scientific or purely objective is the result of the wholesale embrace of detached objectivism or science as the sole path to assured knowledge. The problem is human beings do not live in a detached manner. Life is experienced in the realm of commitments to things that we value and have affections for. Is all that is human living to be considered delusional or is there something incomplete and even debilitating about a detached and purely objective definition of legitimate claims to knowledge? But is there another approach to knowledge and a another approach to what is considered valid commitments to knowledge which can bridge the gap between human experience and objective reality? Is there a view of knowledge which can capture both the objectivism of science and also give validity to the commitments human beings hold as precious and valuable?

The Very Real and Historical Conflict between Previous Held Values and Supposed Objectivism

The power of the Copernican Revolution has so resonated with the public consciousness as to empower revolutionaries in all areas of life. The errors of human perception as codified in the Ptolemaic system became symbolic of the need to overthrow the entire system of human commitments and sentiment.

National Socialism and Fascism

It is precisely the unbalanced approach of pure objectivism which empowered the arguments of Hitler and his national socialism. To the public mind of mid020th century Germany, Hitler’s rhetoric was overwhelmingly compelling. The objectivity of Hitler’s revolution was argued as follows:

Does not reason tell us that survival goes to the fittest and the mightiest? Is not it merely human sentiment which holds a nation back from forcing its will on others and promoting its own survival? If mankind is to progress, we must no longer be held back by the sentiments of our values and commitments. Is it not our weakness and unwillingness to force our will on others which has led to our present suffering? If we as a people unify under the leadership of our monarch and as one force the national will upon the weak, we will survive and ultimately promote that which is truly good, our strength. Nature tells us that this is the true facts of life and all silly values which impede the power of our will must be crushed. Did not these values come to us from the weak who could only use these deluding ideas of sentiment for there own survival. The strong must live by the standards of the strong and remove from the face of the earth all these sentiments which only serve to protect the weak at the expense of the prosperity of the strong.

World War II was in many respects a battle between the commitments of the American and British nations on one front against the cold detached objectivism of the German Will to Power. The fact is that American and British commitments to a vision of life, an aesthetic, emerged victorious over the detached objectivism of National Socialism. We must ask ourselves why these sentiments survive through the centuries. It is said that facts are stubborn things but it must be accepted that human values and commitments to values and affection for beauty historically have proven still ore stubborn than detached objectivism.

Marxism and the Cultural Revolution

The Copernican revolution empowered in many ways all the ill conceived revolutions of the 20th century. In the scientific naturalistic socialism of Marxism, all the commitments of the past were described not as the products of inferior or weak races, as in Fascism, but as the commitments of the upper classes to control the instincts of the masses for power and survival. Religious commitments to moral beauty were ridiculed as the opiate of the masses and as the oppressive instruments of the bourgeois. Marxism like National Socialism was surely a result of the one-two punch of the Copernican and Darwinian assault on human sentiment and religious commitments. Ideologies, under Marxism, were the tool of the ruling classes. All previously held ideologies, especially non-scientific commitments, were to be forcefully destroyed. The result of this detached objectivism, which pitted the survivalistic facts of life against all forms of human value commitments and sentiments, was the murder of all the religious, artistic and creative elements of those societies ruled by the totalitarian despots of scientific naturalism.

Is not our current Western culture experiencing a similar despotic reign of fact over value? No longer is a spokesman granted authority from one’s appeal to a common knowledge of what is beautiful. To allow oneself the indulgence of moral commitments is seen as self-deluding. We have become intoxicated by the bitter pill of detached objective fact. In so doing, we are unable to appeal to the values that we all know but have been deemed unspeakable.

What is needed is a new definition of what is considered valid knowledge? Such an epistemology must restore to its proper place personal commitments and affections for moral values and sentiments which are seen as universally beautiful by all sane actors. The pursuit of knowledge is the product of personal commitments to beauty and personal affections for the precious. It is this appeal to the universally beautiful which granted authority to the words of our heroes. Martin Luther King is a quintessential iconic example of the unabashed appeal to beauty and sentiment that maintains authority in the public consciousness. Dr. King boldly proclaimed the values to which we all hold commitments.

As the keepers of such commitments, we the faithful must hold in our arsenal a defense for these commitments as valid knowledge and as Truth. The preservation of all that we hold dear and all that we value relies on us who defend moral truth to equip ourselves with a defense against the bigoted epistemology of detached objectivism. istorVery

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas and the Generosity of God

This Christmas season I have had more than a few conversations with Christians who are anti-Christmas. It is true, Christmas has become pretty twisted. It seems to have become a celebration of greed and over indulgence. People speak of how to deal with the stress of the season. There is so much obligation to give to the greedy and prepare for the over indulgent that the giver can become quite over whelmed. So to some the option is to well, skip Christmas.

Not me. I like Christmas. As for me and my household, we will celebrate Christmas. The question is with all the twisted nonsense of a world gone to Nordstrom’s, “how can we keep Christmas spiritual?”. The key is to stick to the theme.

Don’t Get All Holier than Thou About Christmas
Some in attempting to keep Christmas spiritual teach the moral lesson that it is better to give than to receive. Of course it is true that it is better to give than to receive. But this moral lesson is not the message of Christmas. Neither is the message of the cross that we ought to love our enemies. The cross is about God’s love and perfect atonement for our sin. So too, the theme of Christmas is that our God is a generous and gift-giving God. God gives good gifts to His children. He sees our need and he provides salvation and wisdom and friendship. On Christmas, we celebrate God’s extravagant generosity.

The moralizing crowd, that tries to focus on the better to give than to receive principle, focuses on charity on Christmas. They say, “we all have so much. How about giving to the needy on Christmas?” Nice thought, but to this I say, “The poor you have with you always. There are 364 days to give to the poor. Give to the poor on those days. But on Christmas celebrate God’s generosity. Celebrate the singing of the angels to the shepherds. Celebrate the satisfaction of Simeon and Anna. Party and give good gifts to your children. Put up decorations and lights and make festive. Drink a little wine and eat a feast, for God is good and generous and there is a time to celebrate His gift giving.

So tell your children and tell them often: “During Christmas, we celebrate God’s generosity to us. We give good gifts to our children because our God gives good gifts to His children. We honor God by being happy and enjoying ourselves. And we worry about the dishes and the credit card bill – tomorrow.”

Merry Christmas


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Small Opportunities to Learn the Cross

A Note Before I start:
I realize I have not been posting much, but, WOW, we are having a great time in our new faith community. My current thinking on discipleship is around taking up our cross in the small things. As a community, we are meeting in church Monday, Wed, Thursday, and Sunday. These are very relaxed natural meetings of families, in homes, which involve our kids and are bearing great fruit. We all feel like we are closer than ever to having a culture that is heavenly and a wineskin that effectively teaches the ways of Jesus. Speaking of the ways of Jesus...

Small Opportunities to Learn the Cross
One of the big problems in learning discipleship is to miss the endless small opportunities to practice and learn the cross. We often expect something special and noticeable but the cross is first learned in a silent unnoticeable way.

Just this morning, I was car pooling with a friend and I was aware that I had not been practicing the cross with much intentionality this week. So I asked for an opportunity to learn from Christ. Immediately, I noticed how much we speak about other people in our work place. We are constantly complaining about people. To be aware of the insidious activity of “self”, we must have discernment. By simply becoming aware of the normal worldly talk and how it is harmful to other a whole new world of discipleship opens up to us. When this world is seen by us, we find we have to practice the cross all day. We are now practicing the cross for many hours every day. We will soon become quite proficient in the basic exercises of the cross. If we become aware that all talk that speaks poorly of another person or group of people is simply a violent activity of the flesh or the self, we will see before us a whole new world of walking in the Spirit, a way that is contrary to the desires of the flesh.

Here is a small matter or so it appears but, in reality, by holding ourselves to a standard of perfect love with our speech, we find an entire new way of life. If we say to ourselves that only speech that builds others up is acceptable, we find often 100 repetitions a day of denying ourselves and taking up our cross that we never saw before. If we now make it sinful speech to tear down another person, especially if they are not present, we will begin to notice how unclean our speech really is. We as Christians understand that we are not to curse. We are not foul mouthed, but what really is a curse? Is slang cursing or is complaining about another persons work ethic or reliability or character? We are cursing when we are not blessing a person. If that person was present would he or she feel blessed and built up or would he find the need to defend himself?

Our Lord has not taken us out of the world that we might be lights. It is in loving speech, perfectly loving speech, that blesses the good and the bad where we are given almost moment by moment opportunities to shine.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What to do with our Luxury Time?

Let’s just pretend that you had the opportunity to have a great deal of free time for the rest of your life. Let’s say that you paid off your house or ran a business that did not take up all your time, and, therefore, you had time during the day that could be used according to your discretion. This is the plight of the retired or the well off financially. Let’s say that your free time can be any time during the day. For example, let’s say that you could be free from noon to 4:00pm every day. Maybe, your free time would be from 8:00pm to midnight. The point is that you have a significant portion of every day in which you have no absolute obligations to either make money or to the family. The question is “what would you or I do with the time?”

Daily Luxury Time!!!
The daily cycle.

In our daily cycle, we have some discretionary time. We may think we do not have any free time at all. But this is not true. We all have free time. Creating free time during the day is vital to a healthy daily cycle. The question is what do we do with our discretionary time. Do we relax? Do we tend to the garden? Do we read? Do we pray?

Some of us have more than others. If you are reading this blog, you have discretionary time, and you are using it quite wisely I might add. If you are retired or work for yourself, you probably have more discretionary time than most. So what are we to do with this time. I have been thinking about this a great deal lately.

So let’s take a little stroll down fantasy lane and consider, what would we do if we have four hours a day of luxury time?

First what do most people (worldly) people do with such luxury time?
Do Nothing
Most people either completely waste this time by relaxing. Most relatively wealthy people simple work a shorter day and slow down the pace of life. They take longer meals, get ready for work a little slower, come home a little earlier, stop at an acquaintances on the way home, take longer to prepare the dinner meal, etc.
Most people couple this more relaxed pace with exercise. Exercise is the luxury of the rich. Looking good is the luxury of people with too much time on their hands. Many people take up a sport like golf or tennis. Today, people with luxury time often “work out” or go to the gym. Some people, knowing that extended aerobic exercise is the key to long life take up running. This is my personal tendency. I love to run long distances. Running is truly one of my joys in life though for the last fifteen years I have only been able to run like once a month.
Fiction Reading
These first two options in my mind are almost always pure hedonism. Admittedly exercise is a somewhat virtuous means to a virtuous end of living longer but a great deal of the motive is to look good and feel good which is total worldly motivated status driven hedonism. So in an attempt to better oneself and appear at least somewhat seeking something valuable people often pass the time by reading fiction. The rich join book clubs. We sit together and appreciate good art. Even as I write this I start to get nauseous. Somehow the ability to appreciate culture is seen as virtuous. This option feeds only our aristocratic pride. I can almost understand the motives of the Cultural Revolution. If I didn’t do my resentments inventory on a regular basis, I imagine I would be a mass murdering leftist revolutionary.

Next we get to options that I personally would consider.
Becoming an Intellectual and a Writer
I have on my self many very interesting books that I have not had the time to read. I have cracked the cover of many Daniel Boorstein books. I read Dave McCullough to my children. Here is the strange problem with becoming an intellectual (assuming one has the gifting). It is so much easier to be a pundit and commentator of history and the changing world than to be an actual doer. The world has too many books as it is. This is my conviction. One more great book is not going to solve the problems we face. It is helpful to write a book that chronicles one’s work in life. I appreciate “Organic Church” or Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Church” because these books are written after the work was done and are summaries of lessons learned so far in ministry. I can see writing a book like this but not until I and our church has learned how to expand the kingdom in our sphere. Then we can write a book that memorializes the lessons we have learned. But to write pure theory without practice, this is pure punditry and the world has far too many armchair quarterbacks. Whoa to any of us who say we know but do not do. So though I would love to write books, writing about the kingdom without doing the kingdom is of little value and holds little authentic wisdom.

Becoming a Student of Music
I love music. I cannot listen to music and talk at the same time. I am completely carried away by music when I hear it. In fact, I cannot do much of anything at all in life because I am so carried away by music that is only in my head most of my waking life. If I am not lost in thought; I am lost in music. Now, I can justify becoming a student of music and learning to play music with more excellence as a mean to mission. I love to party and play music at parties. I think music is a good means to inspire. Music is a good form of preaching and teaching. If we are both musicians and poets, then we can lead people to good works through music. Music is a step closer to doing than purely being an intellectual because music is played in the world. So having a good band and writing music is pretty close to a valid use of one’s luxury time. I would love to and I very well might become a student of the guitar. I am not a good solo note guitar player. Becoming a good solo note guitar player and using this to write music and preach through music and becoming more involved in evangelism and open air preaching through music is a pretty virtuous use of my luxury time. But only if the mission is actually being accomplished in the music. If the music doesn’t go out to the world, then the whole exercise is pretty self serving. So working on the sound of the band is a good option.

Becoming a Student of Jesus using Western Methods
By this I mean making it my life work to know and teach the words of Jesus. Let’s again imagine we have four hours a day of free time and we use this time studying the words of Jesus and teaching them to others. Would it not be a great work of devotion to spend one’s life being immersed in the words of our Lord. Ought I spend my life in contemplation of the cross and the words of the crucified savior. As John Piper is a student of the reformed approach to the bible and is a champion of a God-glorifying God-centered worldview, my passion is the teachings of Jesus. Would it not be an act of devotion to be the John Piper of the person and work of the Crucified Savior. Think if every person in the church spent the majority of their luxury time as a student of the words of Jesus and equipping themselves to teach others the way of the Messiah. It would but for one problem. Our emphasis in how we learn needs to be not through contemplation first but doing first and contemplation second. Here is the western problem. We teach the theory first and call this knowledge. Instead we should learn through a cycle of instruction in doing, practice of the principle and then contemplation and reflection. Which leads me to the highest use of one’s luxury time.

I know some people who would spend this time in contemplation of God. It is said of A.W. Tozer that he spent six days in heaven and one day telling us how it was. Surely, the knowledge of God is foundational to doing any actual spiritual good if like Piper says “God is the Gospel”. Is it possible to do any spiritual good if we do not know God intimately? Certainly at least a part of any time we have at our discretion needs to be spent in devotion to God and contemplation of His person and work.

Community – Being the Church
Lately in our faith community, the topic has been in what ways does living as community require death to self. In many ways, living in intentional relationships is an option which we take as opposed to just relaxing. We say I could just hang out at home or I could bring the family over to the Jones’. We take these intentional steps because by cutivating community with the Jones’, we create an environment where the seeker can see the kingdom and become part of the church in his daily routine. This simple act of making community is a positive and necessary part of our daily lives. The early church took meals together daily. It is not possible to make disciples unless we create such community. Our leisure time needs to be turned over to this purpose as well.

Becoming a Student of Jesus by Following Jesus into Good Works
So now we come to the last and I believe the highest use of our luxury time. We all have luxury time. The question is “how can we best use our luxury time?” I often leave the house at 8:00pm at night to spend time with like minded followers of Jesus. It is also possible that in the future I will have more luxury time. We all have weekends. What do we do with our weekends to make them productive? Do we tend to our lawn? Do we read books? Do we watch sports? Do we vacation with the family at the local park? Do we play sports? Do we study the bible? Or do we take up our cross daily and follow Jesus? As I consider the possibility of having luxury time, true repentance is to give this time over to doing good works by meeting the needs of others. This practice of compassion and charity is the ethic of Christianity that all our faith is working toward. The journey into the life of Christ is to think very immediately and consider what is my greatest ambition? This ambition comes out in how we use our free time. As I consider all the things I would like to do I land on what so obviously is neglected.

Jesus went about doing good. Do I know those around me who have needs. When we lose our religion and embrace just following Jesus, we have no obligations but to love. Here we are now truly free and our free time is spent not in attaining any position in the organization or community but in doing good.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Faith and Strenuous Work

I have a few blog posts in my head. I would like to write a post on faith in which I contrast the faith as believes and faith for daily power. I am finding that the need for a continual awareness of our need for daily power, we are not ever going to walk in the kingdom. I also would like to write a post on heroic effort and the need for a sense of duty. In our generation, the idea of doing something out of duty is frowned upon but it is exactly this sense of duty to our God which motivates the effort and perseverance necessary to solve the difficult problems that face the church in or generation. This idea of great effort and great work, a renewal of a Christian work ethic for the sake of Christ, is much needed in this unstructured and undisciplined era we find ourselves in.

So which to write on.

I think I will write today on the need for strenuous work in our spiritual life.

My Heroes
One of my heroes is Albert Einstein. It is said of Albert Einstein that he thought of the same question for ten years. His mind was completely taken with a problem that he understood was essential to solve if we are to understand the mechanics of the universe on the scales of the infinite and the infinitesimal. Einstein suffered from exhaustion and seasons of depression during this period from the strenuous work of problem solving he endured. The product of his effort is one of the greatest intellectual feats in human history.

Another example of strenuous work in problem solving is the founding fathers. The founding fathers all worked in the service of the nation until their health would demand that they take a leave of absence. The result is the creation of a government based on the rule of law and a system of checks and balances that is the envy of the world. These pinnacles of human achievement are generated in the crucible of strenuous work. Anyone who has labored in the creative process understands this experience of inspiration and confidence and discouragement and depression. Problems like those facing the church today will not be solved without the enduring of a similar process of creativity.

For me, I am awed by the talent and expertise of great musicians. For this reason, I have great affection for the music and the passion of the work of John Coltrane. Such strenuous work produces dignity and honors God.

In our generation, many seem to feel that hard work and spirituality are contradictory approaches to life, but nothing can be further from the truth. Paul the Apostle said, “I worked harder than anyone else, but not I but the grace of God working in me”. Paul knew the experience of laboring in contemplation and the grace of inspiration that is the product of this co-laboring with the Spirit of the Almighty.

Today we face a great challenge. We live in an era when we have lost our understanding of how to walk in the character of God and how to teach others to walk in this way. We are called to re-build these age old foundations. This re-discovery of the way of discipleship will not just come upon us as we live in relaxed, “organic” conversation. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of princes to seek it out. God does not share His secrets easily but instead we are to seek wisdom like the greedy seek for gold. Such seeking and problem solving will take strenuous work.

One of the reasons I have not been blogging as much lately is the result of the strenuous work of the past few years. Being a bi-vocational pastor for the past three years took a toll on my health. In the back of my mind, I have not been willing to pursue such strenuous work again. We pursue such work out of faith. True faith in the promises of God motivates strenuous work and lately I have not had much faith.

True faith motivates great achievement and strenuous work. This is a good barometer for our faith. If we are not working like Paul but spend our time in leisure, then we do not have kingdom faith for the building of the kingdom on earth in the power of Jesus Christ. Faith causes one to rise up and pursue the promised land by faith. This pursuit is strenuous work.

Some of the Question that Need the Strenuous Work of Problem Solving
The strenuous work I am speaking of for myself is primarily contemplation and reflection upon the work that are doing in our faith community. Some of the difficult questions we face include:
1. How do we find the power of the presence of God in our every day life over our inherent self-centeredness and character defects?
2. How do we make disciples that really know and practice the principles of Jesus?
3. How do we teach a life of worship and prayer in such a busy culture?
4. How do we mobilize the church for mission?
5. How can we build a community that socializes the new believer into the principles of the kingdom?

The answer to these questions is hidden from us in our present time BUT we are called to discover these answers. This is our labor and our life and to build communities that live in the solutions to these problems and challenges will take strenuous work..

The discoveries that we will make along the way, as we contemplate discipleship and the way to renewal for Christ’s church, will be our most valued possessions. We will think Christ’s thoughts after Him. We will be wise. This too will take strenuous work.

Such a view of the need for human effort and even strenuous exhausting effort in the search for truth informs the manner in which we raise our children. I find many parents who do not teach this level of discipline to their children. Instead, we coddle our children. We do not challenge them in the sciences to think deeply and to wrestle with difficult questions.

This ethic of strenuous work is a high value in our home and I believe needs to be embraced in the church if we are to discover the wisdom needed to change the church and the world around us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Religion or Spirituality – “Do Not Be Called Leaders” – How Organized Religion Undermines the Spirituality of Its Leaders

Some commandments of our Lord we obey and others we, Christians, completely ignore. In Matthew 23, Jesus made a statement that the church, myself included, has decided to completely ignore.

Jesus Christ made a very clear statement in Matthew 23 verse 10, He said, "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.”

The previous verse, verse 9, we protestants obey. It says “Do not call anyone on earth your father”. That one, we obey. But verse 10, which is a parallel verse, we completely ignore. We have small group leaders. We call men “our pastor”. We say “Joe is called to leadership”. We may not technically say, “Joe is my leader”, but, in all practicality, the structure of the organized church is one of a few men preaching and teaching and a whole group of men and women listening to them. It is this dichotomous structure of teachers and listeners that Jesus Christ, our Lord, commanded that we DO NOT develop!! It is OK to listen to teachers, but do not try to be like them. Do not make it your ambition to obtain a position of teacher or a title of teacher or leader or father within the community of faith.

Now just a little aside. I can hear the purist saying, “but what about Paul’s statements about elders in Timothy?” Paul is talking about elders and deacons. Let’s just say, I believe in limited government. In other words, we need over sight and government in the church, but the role of government is very limited. The elders exercise discipline in very rare circumstances, and the role of the deacons is to make sure the bills get paid and that the wealth is distributed to the poor. But, for the real work of the community, there is no leadership. Actual discipleship work is totally worked out in peer to peer relationships. In all spiritual relationship and discipleship relationships, there must be no leaders or teachers for we have one leader Christ. So, for all the spiritual gifts of teaching and prophecy and mercy and hospitality and the work of building the kingdom, call no one on earth leader and do not let anyone call you a leader.

Second aside: I am fully aware that Paul also said, "Some are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers". My position does not contradict the reality of giftedness. I realize the answer is a "both/and" of no hierarchy in terms of status in the community and also of a place given for people graced by God to exercise and develop spiritual gifts.

The reason Jesus prohibits titles and hierarchical structure in His church is because ambition within the social structure of religion will undermine our spirituality and deceive us. This subtle ambition to be something in the structure of religion will prevent us from entering the Kingdom life of poverty of spirit, meekness, mercy, and purity. Lately, I have found this principle to be true not just in theory but in practice.
Let’s read the whole passage in context.

Matt. 23:6-15, Jesus, speaking regarding the religious leaders of His day, says:
6"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.
8"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
9"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
10"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11"But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
13"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
14"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."

How I found this to be true in practice
When I first became a Christian, I was immediately offered positions of teaching in the body. Within a month or two of accepting the truth of the gospel, I began teaching 2-3 bible studies every week. Fifteen months after my conversion, I entered seminary and, less than a year after entering seminary, I was on staff at a mega-church and leading a Christian discipleship home. The point is I have never known Christianity without the promise of a “calling to leadership”. Throughout my entire Christian life, I have been in a place where I teach and others listen. Here is the way it works. We are baptized into a culture that has a structure that calls men with speaking gifts, or who are educated, leaders. Someone with a talent for speaking is placed in a role that is intended to turn him into “the man”. This structure is completely contrary to what Jesus commands, and I am only now realizing that this structure does not allow men to enter the kingdom. As Jesus says in the context of the passage, a structure that calls men leaders, "prevents them from entering the kingdom". Oh God, help us!!!

Let me say this, the men who found me and made me "twice the son of hell as themsleves" are tender-hearted, prayerful, humble men. I love them for believing in me or at least believing in me to a point. These men were fathers to me and were great examples of integrity and simplicity. But, the system simply doesn’t make kingdom followers of Jesus Christ.

For me, I have for the first time completely stepped out of the system. I, now, have no ambition in the system because there is no system. I cannot hope to be a full time teacher and preacher because there are no full time teachers and preachers. I cannot hope to be a leader of a faith community because, we have no leaders but Christ. I am left with no ambition to be the man because there is no “man” position in the simple church. Without hierarchy, I can't seek promotion among men.

The Initial De-tox
What I initially found was that my first response to this freedom from religion was to cease being spiritual. Now that there was no religion to drive me to be spiritual, I found I was not motivated at all. In other words, my motivation to please people was what was driving my daily spiritual disciplines. Certainly while in the religious system, God honored my prayers and I had many wonderful experiences and learnings from all these years of study and preparation for teachings, but I could not help but have mixed motives. This process is very humbling but, obviously, very spiritually necessary.

Here is my definition of religion or organized religion.
Religion is the social structure that motivates certain religious practices.

This structure will motivate even the most pure man or woman. If the structure exists then religion will be part of our cultural identity and therefore part of our character. There is no avoiding the influence of religion on us if we are “baptized’ into a religion structure with leaders and teachers and hierarchy.

Spirituality is a life driven by Holy Spirit fueled affections of the heart and which results in morally beautiful spiritual practices.

Maybe we could say, spirituality is an affection driven relationship with God that motivates spiritual practices of love for God and man. I am finding that without losing my religion, I was never able to separate my religion from my spirituality and, therefore, was never able to work solely on becoming a spirit led follower of Jesus Christ. I was working too hard on being a pastor to follow Jesus with all my heart.

I am contending that all pastors are placed in this quagmire.

Now everyone has a mixture of both religious and spiritual motivations this side of the final consummation of the kingdom. But, until a teacher-type steps outside the structure of religion, I have found it is impossible to discern and be cleansed of our religious and pharisaical motivations. The culture of religion makes us hypocrites.

So where do we go from here?
The answer is to pursue the kingdom and the teachings of Jesus and refuse to be a leader in any structural way (at least for a good long season). What we will find is a change of motives. Today, I find that I need the power of the Holy Spirit not in order to stay inspired so that I can preach a good sermon but in order to have any real relationship with Jesus at all. If I do not pray and seek the kingdom, I end up without God in my life. So now the primary motive for spiritual disciplines is actual love for God. Do not fear the loss of false motives, if we are His, then our hearts naturally long for God. This grace-given affection is now necessary to have any Christianity at all. Christendom is gone and now all we have is the kingdom. We are placed at the crossroads. Will we enter the kingdom or simply fade away and spiritually die?

My second motivation is moral survival. Now that I have no social fears to protect me from my sinfulness, I find that, without God, I am just like every other sinful pig. All our sin comes to the surface. Our external shell of religion can no longer protect us from the world. Now and only now do I feel I am desperate for authentic power from God without which I am morally doomed to mediocrity and nominal Christianity.

Thirdly, I am motivated to live in the world but not be of it. It is a total paradigm from religious obligation to actual compassion and otherliness. When the obligation to religious practice is gone, all that is left is the creativity to find ways to love people in practical ways. There is no religions service left to justify that we are building the kingdom. If we are to build the kingdom, we are forced to do it through organic and authentic relationships. There is no show to assist us in doing the kingdom work. There is no show to maintain. There are no more events to plan or meetings to attend. All we have at our disposal is our ability to make relationships with people and love them.

If we lack real kingdom affections and real love of God and people, we will be like the whole in the donut. We are left with no spiritual life at all. The process of stripping ourselves of all religion is pretty revealing. It has revealed in me that so much spiritual discipline was motivated by social ambition and not love for God at all. But the great benefit is that now, I am forced to only develop true spirituality. There is no more cloak of religion to hide beneath.

The conclusion is that Jesus’ sayings are again the true path to life. So my fellow travelers, “let no one on earth call you leader or teacher”. As we obey this liberating command of our Lord, in no time, if we continue to seek the kingdom and His righteousness, we will find God will do for us immeasurably beyond anything we could ask or even imagine. Glory to God!!

God Bless,

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Adrian's Blog: BLOGDOM TODAY - The Effects of Preaching and Religious Experience

Adrian's Blog: BLOGDOM TODAY - The Effects of Preaching and Religious Experience

This is an important post on how preaching works. I believe preaching is an important part of church life and needs to be revived in the home church networks.

Adrian quotes Edwards saying what is important in preaching is the experience in the moment not what you remember the next day. What Edwards is saying is that spiritual disciplines like prayer and worship and listening to inspired preaching transform the affections. We hear something beautiful and are sanctified by the experience of loving the beautiful. The memory of the content is not the main way we are sanctified by spiritual discipines.

The same is true of prayer. We rarely remember what we pray about later in the day BUT wow without prayer our affections get quite dull and we find ourselves without sensitivity to the our sin and to others. Prayer changes the affections and keeps us sensitive by the effect on the affections not the intellect. The same is true of preaching.

Those who are critical of the role of preaching and worship in song need to understand this vital truth to grant to preaching and worship in song in its proper value.

God Bless, brad

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Alienation, Confession and Brokenness - Reflections on Ted Haggard's Confession

Many of us who love the church would like to simply chalk the Ted Haggard's moral failings up to an individual incident of sin that any of us could fall into and move along to other discussions, but such an approach simply once again ignores the root causes which allow such problems to arise. Fellow evangelicals, there is something deeply wrong with the way we do church and practice our faith and this public incident provides us with a symbol upon which to reflect and discuss what is not working in popular evangelicalism.

Certainly, such discussion is not based on mountains of data but on one point of data. Certainly, none of us are intimate enough with Ted Haggard to observe closely the nuances of his history and his discipleship process that allowed him to lead a double life. BUT the incident and the content of his confession reveal some general principles that provide insight into the tragedyof being a sinner and an evangelical at the same time.

The content of Haggard's confession that I would like to focus on is as follows:
"The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life," he said.

Alienation, Confession and Brokenness
As a pastor and a discipler, I have learned a very important phrase that I have to use with everyone at some time or another. In our discipleship method, we often say, “your problem is not unique”. Human beings have been covering up their nakedness for a long, long time. It is only in the safety of a gospel immersed people that a sinner can find the acceptance to tell his or her whole story. We do this in one on one relationships with some other totally broken idiot. I am sometimes privileged to be that broken idiot on the listening end.

The culture of Popular Evangelicalism is completely contrary to this level of open confession. In almost all instances people have to go outside the church to some special recovery program or to therapy to make a thorough and open confession. In other words, hearing good sermons, that happens in the church, but for discipleship, you need to go outside the church. For actual help with overcoming sin, we the church are almost totally lost. Something is desperately wrong here.

Magic or Method
The church offers two solutions that simply do not work. Both methods are more magic than method. In the Charismatic church, of which Haggard is a part, there is the Holy Spirit magic method. In these churches, you come forward for an alter call and a ministry worker lays hands on you and presto, problem solved. Of course, the problem is only solved until you go back to your seat when all your totally broken affections come rushing back in.
In the conservative churches, the method is exactly the same except you replace the Holy Spirit with the bible. Listen to a good message and have morning devotions and presto, problem solved. For total idiots like this sinner, that method led me to loneliness and debauchery not holiness and freedom.

We could discuss the entire system of beliefs and practices that maintain this magical approach. Let me just make a list
Individualism – the wrong headed belief that Christianity is the story of me and Jesus working out my salvation in fear and loathing. This American individualism only compounds the alienation and obsession that came to us in Adam. Individualism and its alienation and obsession is the problem so it cannot be the solution.
Celebrity and Spectator Church Services – The church as we practice in popular evangelicalism utilizes a system where one or two men climb up a social latter to success. The winner gets to be the face of the church. To be this face one better primp their entire life. Put your best foot forward. Don’t show anything other than controlled and calculated weakness. Polish you sermon. Polish your social skills. Polish your shoes. Don’t dress to up. Don’t dress too down. Play the part and study hard and you can be celebrated as a success. This works good unless of course you are an actual human being. In this system, there is no way to be totally honest with the people you are working out your faith with.
The Farce of Pastor to Pastor Accountability
In such situations, pastors go outside their immediate co-labors to make open confession. In other words, pastors cannot be honest with the people they are trying to disciple. Pastors have pastor to pastor accountability. Why?? Because it is too risky to be totally honest with the council and one’s co-workers. BUT IF DISCIPLESHIP IS BASED ON OPEN AND HONEST CONFESSION AND THE MODELING OF HONEST CONFESSION, THEN THE PASTOR, BY DEFINITION CANNOT MAKE DISCIPLES IN THE CHURCH IF HE GOES OUTSIDE HIS CORE STAFF TO MAKE OPEN DETAILED CONFESSION!!! My friends, the system is completely wrong headed. Unless pastors confess directly to the people the exact nature of their brokenness, they are discipling, there is no discipleship. Discipleship is modeling the process of over-coming sin through confession and repentance and the applying of the principles of death to self. My friend this is learned only when the student sees us do it before them. The foundation of this is rigorously honest confession. Detailed confession in gender specific discipleship relationships is step one to being a disciple-maker. If the pastors do not have these relationships with their staff they are not making disciples they are planning worship services and events.

Read on at your own risk!!!

Ok here goes…If a pastor has a penis obsession, he needs to say to his staff, “I have a penis obsession”. Have we never dealt with homosexuality before??? If we haven’t, we know nothing about human sexuality. Everyone has sexual problems. Everyone. There is no exception to the rule. Discipleship must deal in total honesty about sex. Piper says if a pastor doesn’t speak at least twice a year about sex from the pulpit, he is not a pastor but a professional. We are not professionals my friends. We are sinners who cling to grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in total brokenness. We live one day at a time by grace alone. We learn what our triggers are and we call our mentors when we are finding that we are losing our balance. Often this requires calling out ten times a day until the obsession goes away. The key is that our mentors confess that they have been through the same thing and they share their solutions. There is no condemnation when our faith communities are honest enough that everyone realizes that no problem is unique. Total honesty. Popular evangelicalism is the exact opposite of what the sinner needs to find peace and the Kingdom.

Do you really think that the red-faced alcoholic at your work is going to get healed and healthy at your church? He was molested as a child and has a masturbation obsession. Church as it plays out today makes real sinners feel more alienated not less. If he does get “saved” what will happen is, he will play the game; find his act to play; become a deacon and still be just as much of an emotional basket case as he ever was. We have all seen it and the world can see it too. We haven’t dealt with the real self-centered fear that comes from our human condition. Fellow evangelicals, “we travel the world to make one convert and when we find him we make him twice the son of hell that we are.” The system is not working!!!

A Process That Does Work

What does work is a process of totally rigorous confession and anaylsis of the nature of our sinfulness in the context of confessing relationship. Folks, are you desperate enough to do what ever it takes to find the kingdom. It is a narrow road paved with confession and honesty. Find a mentor who has what you want. This mentor must have been through a serious transformation process and understand confession.

I have mapped out this inventory process many times here at 21st Century Reformation. Trust me!! It works!!. Here is what happens. In almost every situation, where a person makes a thorough inventory and tells his story in every detail to God ad to another fellow traveler, he or she feels a connectedness to God and to another human being that he has never felt before. It is this connectedness that breaks the power of the loneliness and alienation that is at the heart of all our obsessions.

My friends is this the first principle and practice of your local church program. If not, I know one thing is for certain, your faith community might be doing church but you are not making disciples.
God Bless,

Saturday, November 04, 2006

First Reactions to the Ted Haggard Moral Failing

I am contemplating writing extensively about Ted Haggard's moral fall, but I am leaning against it. I have come to realize that my initial reactions are too emotion-laden to have much objective value. My initial response is pure fury and anger. I feel betrayed. Here at 21st Century Reformation, I seek to counter the superficiality of popular evangelicalism with a message grounded in the ethics of the cross and self-sacrificial love. My initial, albeit emotion-laden, reaction sees Haggard as responsible for mainstreaming prosperity and financial provision teachings which are diametrically opposed to my understanding of the person of Jesus Christ and the moral beauty of God that has captured my affections.

I have personally experienced the desire of a church for a charismatic leader with a popular message, and I have seen this desire for a "pastor-as-celebrity" church undermine what I see as the message of the Holy Spirit to the church in our generation. Haggard is the poster child for such celebrity and feel-good preaching that I passionately see as the source of all that ails us. Needless to say, Haggard and his lack of confession, while being a pastor, surfaces many emotions in me.

For me, all I can say is that it will take time for me to discern what is my anger and what is God's word to the church. One thing I know for certain is that we evangelical Christians need to soberly seek wisdom from God. Today, I stand more than ever in opposition to any preaching which claims that Godliness is a means of financial gain as it is in opposition to the moral beauty of the cross.

May God have mercy on us and may we respond to His discipline with humility and repentance.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Community and Confession

When I was a pastor, I taught a path of discipleship that involves daily confession with our mentors-student-friends. The walk of a disciple in discipleship relationships requires a level of honesty that is essentially total exposure.

One night after a council meeting at the church I was pasturing, a council member said to me, in reference to the practice of daily confessing relationships, “Brad, no one is going to do that”. I have thought about this statement many times. To me it is one of the most discouraging things I have ever heard. Being rigorously honest is a difficult path but to simply say as a matter of fact “we aren’t going to be honest and open” is certain death along the spiritual journey. I picture a man on a quest to climb Everest and finally just quits and says, “I am going to just sit here. I am not going to move. I quit.” Such a decision is certain death as the 3nvironmental effects will overtake the lethargic body and the man will die - so too the disciple who ceases the practice of daily honesty and confession.

All the teacher can do is try to model this level of openness in his own relationships or he could take the real leap to make it happen.

The Leap into Community
For some of us this total honesty is too much work. We lead busy lives and have trouble bracketing time to pray and confess with our mentor-student-friends. We can confess and be open with our spouses but we find it hard to be consistent with partners outside the home. How do we really let people into our lives? The answer is really pretty obvious. We let people live with us in our homes. Our culture’s way of life places walls between families and fellow men or women with whom we desperately need to be open with. The answer is to simply go around the walls and live within the same walls.

The multi-family living situation is I believe necessary to effective discipleship. The few men I attempt to maintain confessing relationships with are busy and lead separate lives with their families. Why?? Do we live this way? As we attempt to confess and walk out our spiritual lives together, we lose contact for most of the week. The whole process is undermined by the structure of our living situations. The answer is to force the change by living in community.

Community and Exposure
Most Christians I know have pretty well manicured homes and gardens. The outside looks very orderly and well managed. This I believe is often a sign of our spiritual poverty. I often find that the more together someone looks on the outside the more sick they are on the inside. Of course the mentally ill provide exceptions to this rule but I am not talking about mental illness but spiritual illness. The well-manicured lawn, so to speak, is often an attempt maintain a wall of protection against judgments. Community has the opposite effect. When we live in community, our friends now see how we raise our kids, how we treat our wives and every tension that exists in our significant relationships. Community is confession without words. So if you are having trouble living a life of open confession, take the leap. Sell your house and move in with another family or two in your church. In doing so, we just might find that our sins are washed away and our sickness cured by the daily walk of confession and exposure that such a new way of life imposes upon us due to our new living arraignment.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meekness – If I Stop Being “the Man”, I will be Like the Hole in the Donut

For my entire Christian life, I have been the man. Within a week or so of coming to know Christ, I began teaching a small group. Within a year, I was teaching bible studies 2-5 times a week and I never stopped until recently. Being the man, the teacher, has been my whole gig. There is some good to this constant ministry. By being constantly in ministry and in leadership, we are always aware that we might quench the Spirit in our lives. This “fear of the Lord” keeps one holy and always confessing to our discipleship partners. My whole life as a Christian has been one inspired idea after another. Pastors learn the word but for what motive. We seek the power of the Holy Spirit and most often this is for good reasons. We desire to see the kingdom expand. But, if we dig deeper we may find a less altruistic motive.

As I step aside from ministry for the first time in my life, I find myself less motivated and less spiritual and less intimate with God. If this is true what was my motive in the first place? This question can only really be answered from experience. For a pastor to know his real motives, an involuntary season out of ministry can be an eye opening experience. For me, I feel completely like a fish out of water. Ministry is my whole gig. Without ministry, I am like the hole in the donut. Being the man, leading others in knowing and understanding God, is my whole life. But ministry isn’t life and service cannot be our motive. When we are left without a religious motive to be spiritual, do we have enough fear of God and love for God to walk in holiness. Is the real reason we live in the fear of the Lord, because we want to be seen as spiritual or to actually be spiritual so as to be successful. Jesus said, “the Pharisees love praying long prayers and to be seen by other men”. Without leadership and the hope of status in the religious community, there is no real love for God.

We all have a role we play in life and we play it before others. There is the alpha male who is looked up to and followed. There is the pretty girl, the smart guy, the nice person, the tough guy. Some play the simpleton and as a simple person they feel comfortable. Some are victims. Some play weak. Some play strong. Being a pastor can be very insidious because the role seems to be focused on living before God but in reality it is a role played on the stage before men. When that stage is pulled away and the drama is over, do we feel like the whole in the donut, a fish out of water? Does the season of inactivity lead to adoration or addiction?

A Challenge to Pastors and Church Leaders
Meekness is to cease managing the perceptions and behaviors of others in order to maintain one’s status in one’s social community. Meekness is to cease all controlling and manipulative behavior and to abandon oneself to the permissive will of God. Pastors are perceived as being controlling. I have heard many stories of pastors being “hard to work with”. The meek are not hard to work with. Many pastors are very “my way or the highway”. Many churches have very authoritarian management cultures. It must not be like this. If it is, it is because the leaders are managing their status and are not abandoned to the will of God. What is the real motive? We are holy because we do not want to offend the Lord. We do not want to offend the Lord because we desire His blessing. We desire His blessing because we want to extend the kingdom. We desire to extend the kingdom because ministry success is our whole life. Ministry success is our life because we are self-centered and narcissistic. If we are controlling or fearful, is it not because the real root of our motives is not the love of God but the love of honor from men. This is a hard confession to make but God is good and trials come for our good.

If without ministry, we feel like the hole in the donut, then we must realize the our inner person is not truly motivated by the love of God but the love of religious promotion before and by others. If we appear controlling to others, it is probably because we are. If we are tired and nervous it is fear of men not fear of the Lord. If this heart is our heart, the deep death of meekness must come to us by any means necessary. We need to ask God to purge us of our carnal motives if we are to be truly effective in doing spiritual work.

For me a time off is bringing all my brokenness to the surface. It is a deep work and a good work for God will not share His glory with another. My the Lord heal His church and cleanse us of our sin.

God Bless

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Politics and Christian Values

I have said on numerous occasions that I cannot stand politics. I think the reality of it is that I so disagree with the values of both parties that I must simply avoid the subject.
The iMonk says it great here as does Garrison Keilor
And I certainly look forward to reading Tempting Faith

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Purpose of the Torah

When Jesus spoke of the Old Testament, He spoke of "the Law and the Prophets". For example, Jesus said "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. This is the law and the prophets". Here Jesus is saying that if you want to understand in one phrase biblical ethics it is this "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". So in Jesus day the sacred text was called the law and the prophets. The books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers, were called "the Law".

Paul explains to us what the purpose of this portion of scripture is. The purpose of the Law is to "reveal to us the sinfulness of sin". In Galatians, Paul says the purpose of the law is to shut up everyone under sin". The purpose of the Law is to convict us of sin. Then, we who were held in bondage to the elemental principles of the world were set free from the law and from sin through Jesus Christ. The law Paul is saying was not ever created for the purpose of making anyone holy or righteous. The law was not made to make a holy society like the Muslims believe. And if someone uses the Law for something it was never made to do, Paul says that this use of the Law is destructive. We are to use the Law for its limited function. The purpose of the Torah is to tell the story of the sinfulness of sin. In the life of the people of God, the practice of Law was not to make the society healthy or whole or righteous but to convict of sin. When a person was stoned for adultery, we were not to say "this is making our society holy by getting rid of evil doers". Instead, this was to convict us of our own sinfulness and guilt for have not all of us contemplated the same act but were without opportunity. Oh God...I am guilty. So this is the sole purpose of Torah, of the Law, to convict us of our sin.

This conviction being the purpose of the Law, then the purpose of the "prophets" was to present the promise, the promise of deliverance from our sin in the Messiah. When we understand the purpose of the Law, we then see the promise in the prophets. The prophets’ foundational and primary role was to encourage the sinful people of the hope of deliverance from sin. This deliverance was to come to the sinner by grace and through faith, and indeed this deliverance has come in Jesus Christ.

So this is the purpose of the Law to convict of sin. The Torah tells a story to explain to the people of God why there is such oppression and injustice in the world. Why is there this insanity of Pharaoh? Why would a king seek to be worshipped as a God? Why do we need a nation built on law and not on the authority of a despot? Because of the sinfulness of sin.

The story of the sinfulness of man starts with man's most primitive desire. The desire to be God. So the first sin, the foundational sin, was the direct attempt to be the independent sovereign ruler of one's dominion. Satan told the first man, "if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God able to discern good from evil and make your own choices. You will have your own absolute personal sovereignty". You will need no Father for you will be your own father. You will have total existential authority over your own universe. This is the foundational sin that defines the spiritual DNA of natural man. Oh man, this is what you are by nature and all mankind is taken from the same pool.

From this spiritual gene pool came Cain and Able. This story was followed by the story of the violence in Noah's time and then the story of the tower of Babel. Then there is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then the story of Jacob and Esau and the story of Joseph and his brothers. Then the story of Pharaoh...This is all the story of the sinfulness of mankind. The purpose of all of this is to reiterate one theme - the sinfulness of sin. Be convinced, we are all sinners.

The story has a thematic point, an overwhelming and overarching theme, to define clearly the problem of mankind's inherit sinfulness. This is the purpose of the Law. Whenever we use the Law for any other purpose, we are using the Law in ignorance. To use the Law or the Torah for any other purpose is like using a surgical tool to pound a nail. Would we use a CAT scan machine to hang drywall? Would we use a stethoscope to drive to work? No, we use a hammer to hang drywall and a car to drive to work. One of the lessons we constantly teach our children is that things are made for certain functions. Paper is not food. Don't use my guitar as a step ladder. So too, do not use the Torah as a science text or as a means to obtain righteousness. The Law is to be used as a spiritual tool to convince people of the sinfulness of man. It does this by showing man's desire to be God and man's propensity toward violence. The Torah shows the danger of anarchy due to the sinfulness of man and the need for Law and government to rule over us because we are all sinners.

God Bless, brad

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anger and Being Critical

Let’s return to discipleship for a post or two. As always, we need to return to the sayings of Jesus Christ, our only Leader, our Teacher, our Head. In Matt 5:22, Jesus says that anyone who is angry is guilty before His throne of judgment or anyone who says “Raca” or “you fool” to his brother is guilty. We know from the Sermon on the Mount as a whole that what is done in the heart is just as real before God as the deed done in the body. Jesus teaches us to accept that when we criticize our brother or sister even in our heart, we are falling short of the glory of God. Saying “you fool” is the manifestation of a critical spirit. There is a place for going face to face with our friend and encouraging them to righteousness and, in this instance, we are helping them self evaluate. This is being critical as a helpful diagnostic tool in a discipleship relationship. There is a place for that. Here, I would like to call attention to the problem of a critical or fault finding heart.

If we are saying in our mind, “Bob (or Joe or whomever) just doesn’t get it”, we are in need of doing spiritual work on our critical heart. In the spiritual life, attitude is everything. We need to learn to be rigorously honest to discern our heart attitudes. The critical fault finding heart is not healthy for us who are sinners. Let us leave the criticism for people who can handle such deadly poison. A resentment is just like a toxic waste. If we are going to try and handle such volatile material, then we better take every precaution. Such hazardous material is known to cause cancer. Every sinner is in need of a thorough detox from criticism if we are to cure the problem of our fleshly impulses and sins. So it is best to be very thorough in our dealing with all anger, resentment, and critical attitudes. For some, we say “I don’t have any resentments. So, I ask, “Do you have a critical attitude toward any person or institution.” Discernment of this critical attitude will help clear the heart for the filling of the Spirit.

In fact, Jesus makes this principle very clear when he says. “Do not judge. Instead take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” This most practical saying tells us that we should work on our own faults and our own heart before we start criticizing others. In fact, to take a speck out of someone’s eye, THEY HAVE TO POINT IT OUT TO YOU AND ASK FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE. We have no business looking at another person’s character unless they reveal their character to us voluntarily. In all, there is really no positive reason to criticize others, but the fact is us sinners are very critical creatures.

Let me give an example or two. I find it almost impossible to participate in political dialogue with Christians. So many Christians are critical of the other party. We are so often in a battle and a conflict with the other party that we have developed resentments and judgments that are very unhealthy spiritually. If someone who is partisan hears a person from another party speak on a subject there is virtually no ability to hear the other side as a result of the critical spirit. This attitude quenches the power of God in the Christian’s life.

Another example can be with respect to churches. One party is critical of another party. One is for home church another for mega-church. It is hard for one to feel at home with the other. This unease is a critical spirit. Whether in pretense or truth, if the gospel is preached, we ought to rejoice.

So what do we do? We take thorough stock of our critical heart. We list every person we are angry at or could harbor some resentment or are critical of. We are going to learn to turn our eyes from focusing on the speck in our brother’s eye to the log in our own and to do this we need to do this in every individual instance. So we begin by brainstorming a list.

Let me say that in every instance where people have taken this step and been thorough, they have found a shocking amount of resentment in their hearts. But if they turn that resentment into confession of sin and blessing of the other, they also have found a wonderful freedom and filling of love from the Holy Spirit. We must trust Jesus’ words that any insult in our heart or being the least bit critical is a spiritual disease that places us in spiritual danger. Do not turn away sad without following Jesus in this first real example of spiritual direction that Jesus gives us. He is our leader; we need to learn to take spiritual direction from Him. If we take this direction and allow ourselves to be alarmed and moved by the words of Christ and if we respond with zeal and urgency, then we will find the power we so desperately need.

The Practice
1. Make a list of names:

So we begin with making a list. The first time I made a list I found that the list had over 100 names on it. It seemed I was critical of everyone. The whole world. Both political parties. All denominations. Most of my friends. My family. My extended family. My college roommates. Kids from grade school. Members of my small group. My kids. My parents. My parents old friends. My old friends. My old friend’s parents. My old friend’s brothers and sisters. The English. The French. The Germans. Pentecostals. Conservatives. Liberals. The elders of the church. The deacons. My mentor. My boss. My co-workers. My ex-co-workers. Old girlfriends. My brother. My sisters. My dad’s co-workers. My brother’s friends. Kids from the neighborhood. Musicians. Theologies. Men in general. Women in general. My circumstances. Basically, we are all mad at the world.

To have a large list does not mean that frustration with life is the main theme of our character. No one would look at me and say I am an angry person. But neither would a person dying from cyanide poisoning be made up mostly of cyanide. A little of this toxic stuff can make us spiritually sick. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Therefore, we make sure that even the slightest remnant of frustration or criticalness be dealt with ruthlessly.

2. What specifically happened?
So after we make our list (which could take a few hours or a few days), we begin to list what they did that makes us angry or critical. For example, your brother….he didn’t defend me in front of the neighbor kids. Your mom….she divorced your dad. It is that simple. Do not write a lot of words. Some people greatly err on this point. When we write it all out, we are venting. Venting only teaches us to be angry. As a rule do not write more than 10 word on an instance. You may break down thinking about the injustice of it all. This is normal. But I warn against writing a lot about why you are angry on a certain point. Writing a long discertation is usually just rationalizing why you are angry as if we are trying to give reason to keep it. We are not trying to stay sore. Also, for some people say like a spouse, we may have many lines of things we are critical of or sore about.

A Sample List (A Portion)
My wife…she gets angry when I go out with my friends
My wife….she watches too much TV
My wife….she shows disrespect in front of the kids
My wife…she spends too much money. She bought this..
Bob Smith….he won’t return my call
Joe Jones…he criticized my preaching behind my back.
My boss…He threatened to fire me.
My co-worker…he told the boss I am not dependable.
My co-worker….he told the boss my department was a problem and didn’t speak to me first.

My co-worker….he said I have an ego problem
My friend…he won’t take my council.

The list can go on and on and it should. We must be very thorough.

3. List how did this incident hurt us?
What we are doing is accepting that an actual hurt occurred. The incident hurt us financially, emotionally. Our spouses spiritual immaturity hurts us sexually and socially. For this task, I have never taken a great deal of time. I just check off a list of boxes. Yes, that hurt emotionally, financially, socially. This process is simply to help us see that the stuff of life really does hurt us. We are getting real with our heart here. We are being honest that we are indeed quite sore about things.

4. Ask for Forgiveness for our Anger
At this point, we need to make sure we accept Jesus’ saying, “I say if you are angry, you are liable before the judgment” (Matt 5:22). This step is the most important. The word of God must be our standard. If we have anger, or words of judgment or a critical heart toward our brother or sister, we are liable to the judgment. Liable here means guilty of a civil violation. We have real guilt before God if we have anger. Therefore, we need to be convicted of this sin by the Word and the Spirit. This point cannot be over emphasized. Ask God to take away our anger and our hatred…we admit that we do not love and in fact do wish harm on some people. Hold the standard up high and get real!!!! This is the key!!!!

5. Finding our Fault (for next post)

Before coming to this step, we need to be thorough about the fourth step of confessing our sin of being angry and critical. It is best to take a day or so between steps four and five. Really we are now doing something different. First we were being ruthlessly honest with our sin of anger. We exposed to ourselves the reality that we are a pissed off sinful person. This confession of deep anger is a breakthrough in itself. I contend that everyone is “a pissed off sinful person”. Everyone!!! There are no exceptions.

I am actually a pretty happy go lucky positive person. This joviality is what is on the surface of my consciousness almost all the time. But inside, every sinner like me, is a pissed off angry murderous wretch. This anger and critical heart is the cyanide that is in our heart and kills our happiness. When we confess this sin, He is faithful to cleanse us and restore us to a new level of righteousness. This process is how we practically put into practice the teaching of Jesus Christ on anger in the Sermon on the Mount. This practice is following Jesus…Follow Him and find life….

God Bless, brad

Monday, October 09, 2006

Posts Coming

Sorry for the lack of posts. My daily routine has been a little off due to work commitments, and I have not had time to edit a few post that are already written. Posts coming.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Are the Popular Methods of Doing Church Working?

Whether we go to traditional church or not, we all agree that the Gospel is intended to bring life transformation. The question I wish to address in this post is whether the current popular methods of doing church are working. Here is my thesis:

The church growth method of serving up spectacular church services with great professional music and slick lean sermons has only served to produce spectator Christians whose only understanding of mission is to bring people to the spectacle.

Though no one puts it so bluntly, this method of professionalism is what most every church in America is trying to do. We try to draw people to church by having a well crafted church service. It is the craft of the service that is to create an inspirational moment for the observer and bring them back next week. There are endless reasons why this approach to church is just plain wrong. I simply ask pastors to consider, if we are nervous about whether we will preach a good sermon on Sunday morning, then we got it all wrong. If we focus on improving the “flow” of the service, then we are dead wrong. This approach produces all the wrong results no matter how big our churches are. Such practices produce many shallow results. The one fruit I wish to focus on is that this method produces spectator Christian.

Neil Cole, in his book Organic Church, questions whether in our zeal to increase our attendance we have not somehow lost the plot of the Kingdom of God.

To illustrate the need for drastic change and the ineffective results of doing church in the ways that are popular today, Cole tells a story about a missionary family that comes home to the US on furlough. They have been doing church in a more simple way and their younger children have only seen simple church. One child as he sits in the US church and observes the lights and the sound check and the rehearsals turns to his mothers and says, “Mom, are we going to see a show?”. Cole ends the story by saying, “we are often unable to see how strange our customs really are”. This current method of putting on a show for the congregation is a new and I contend ineffective, counter-productive method. Think what would happen if a pastor just kinda let the whole show stink one week and went over his allotted hour and ten minutes? Oh…God forbid!!! May it never be…What a ghastly thought!!!

My Recent Experience
I went to a Sunday AM church this last Sunday and I was left with some pressing questions. The pastor preached an absolutely wonderful and insightful message on taking risks for the mission of the Kingdom. He preached from the parable of the talents and really nailed the main point. But when he got to application, I couldn’t help but ask myself whether anyone would actually apply the teaching. We hear stories of missionaries, but the stories of lay people building ministries are really quite rare. Is it possible that the traditional church structure isn’t condusive to people having a worldview which includes them initiating and building ministries at the home and street level for evangelism and discipleship.

I am a seminary trained pastor with a strong history of evangelistic successes and teaching gifts and yet there is really nothing for me to do in the traditional church as a member other than to pray and tithe. Is it possible to mobilize the church using the “listen to the teacher” method of doing church? Is the essence of ministry bringing people to Sunday services to hear pulpit teaching and yet this is the majority of church attendees understanding of how evangelism and discipleship works. But does it work? Is it working?

I looked in the bulletin and could not find any meaningful way for me to expand the kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit. I could become a security guard at an event. I could join a small group to learn more about the bible. I could go to prayer meetings to pray that people would come to the church to hear the gospel. But what could I do to be actually be mobilized for mission. Nothing. This is a real problem. The story of the church needs to teach us differently. The home needs to be seen as the church and what we now thing of as church should really be used as the training center for disciple-makers. To do actually mobilize the masses of Christians, we have to change the story of what it means to do church. The home must become the church.

I am in favor of pulpit preaching and I am all for the sermon. I am a pulpit preacher. Pulpit preaching is my gift. But I have a problem with the church structure as it is lived out today. As leaders, we need to consider that it is possible that because of the current spectator spiritainment paradigm that the church is caught in something needs to change. I contend that the current method cannot work to actually extend the kingdom. All around the country pastors are preaching wonderful sermons but people are not finding discipleship and they are not being mobilized for mission. Overall, we are losing the discipleship of our nation and all I can say is not on my watch. If the current methods aren’t working and if the current methods of spectacular services are only serving to produce spectator Christians, then some changes need to be made. .

1. We must help every one know and every family understand that we are all missionaries!!!

a. As a family, we constantly remind our children that we are a missionary family. We as a family ask ourselves, “What would a missionary family do?”. One family in our small group asked that question and realized they needed to take their kids out of the Christian private school and enroll them in the public school. They need to meet the neighbors and the best way to accomplish this is through the public school. This is risk taking and this is change. If we are all to be mobilized the home must be the place where the mission takes place. To take risks and mobilize the masses of church, every one must see their family as a missionary family and every home as the place where evangelism and discipleship takes place. The centralized church building is where we share stories to encourage one another about the kingdom advancing in our neighbor hoods.

2. The small group in the home must become the primary definition of doing church, and the weekly celebration needs to become a support of the small church, home based discipleship and evangelism ministries. .

a. How many people in your church attend small groups every week. This is the actual size of the congregation. People who attend only on Sunday are not doing church. When we are baptized and enter a new family in Christ, this new socialization process will happen from house to house. It cannot and does not happen through one hour on Sunday. If the Southern Baptists defined church membership as the number of people in weekly small groups, what percentage of the church roles would be actual members. This turns the whole paradigm on its head. Is it possible that the actual size of the church is maybe 5% of the figures that we hear from the denominations?

b. If we seek to make discipleship relationships, we must make these relationships in the home. The home is where we spend time with our close friends. Any thing short of this level of relationship is not going to expand the kingdom.

c. Relationship with disciples in their homes will result in a high percentage of conversions to Christ. They may never step foot in the Sunday celebration but I would contend that these relationships are more likely to produce conversion and kingdom discipleship than trying to invite people to the Sunday Morning Show.

If the definition of how we do church changes to say we are all missionaries and we are doing mission in the home, I would bet that the actual mobilization of the congregation to apply the teachings of Jesus would follow much more “organically”.

God Bless,

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Spiritainment - Youth Ministry from the I-Monk � Blog Archive � Ruin the Ski Retreat for Jesus

In all my blog travels, the internet monk is the tops of the tops. Let's read all his stuf from now on. This one on youth ministry is it. How about a road trip out to Kentucky?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Discipleship Practices from the Beatitudes

In an earlier post (posted last year), I outlined our discipleship principles. That post was called Discipleship 101. This post (taken from a letter) outlines our recent learnings of Discipleship Practices.
In this letter, I would like to propose some basic principles that can direct us as we walk together and learn the discipleship process that Jesus is teaching us.

First, we are covenanting together to learn how to be students of Jesus Christ. My life mission is to put Christ back into Christianity. For many of us our life story is “how I had to leave the traditional church to become a Christian”. The work of God in our life is not about a new way of doing church but about how to become a student of Jesus. It just so happens that in order to do this we have had to redefine how we do church in order to learn how to follow Jesus and fully commit ourselves to the Kingdom mission. So the first point is that what we are doing is learning together how to be students of Jesus. In this light, it is important to remember that none of us are leaders. The church of Jesus Christ has only one leader and that is Jesus Christ and we are all equally His students. No one can simultaneously be “the man”, the leader, and a student of Jesus. The need for rigorous honest comes in direct and constant conflict with trying to be a leader. This is actually a side application of the principle that we are all covenanting together to be students of Jesus. Another side principle to the “we are all students of Jesus” idea is that we need to learn how to take spiritual direction from each other while maintaining totally equal status. I would suggest that we learn to mutually give and take spiritual direction from one another. Again that is another side application to the foundational principle that we are first and foremost covenanting together to learn from the Spirit how to be students of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, our core text is the gospels. I have recently focused a lot on the sayings of AA and 12 steps and I think this is helpful but to some of us the big book and AA is not authoritative. Our big book is the bible. Though I think we can learn a great deal from NA, AA, SA etc., it is important that we are students of Jesus Christ in a very open and overt way. A far as practice and the “how to” of discipleship, we might want to spend some time being mentored by someone from a 12-step group but even if we were to do this it is to learn some practical application that helps us in becoming better disciples of Jesus. Keith has mentioned this approach and I am all for it as a possible season. My point here is that our foundation and probably most of our language should find its source primarily from the sayings of Jesus. Our real questions and practices should focus on the sayings of Jesus and have commentary from the rest of the bible.

Putting these two principles together I am going to suggest some practical ways to focus our learning.

I propose we focus our learning and language on the Sermon on the Mount straight through. My take on the Sermon on the Mount is that it is about cultivating a heart of perfect love of God and neighbor and learning how to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to live in love. I am going to march directly through the beatitudes with a series of practices and questions. So here goes;

1. Spiritual Poverty: We daily practice an awareness of our spiritual poverty. We know and experience that an awareness of our spiritual poverty and powerlessness is the right way to see ourselves if we are to live with Jesus Christ as our Savior.
a. What areas of your life does your spiritual poverty manifest itself? There is a
million ways to ask this question. In the past, I have become ensnared in the following sins
and therefore I am aware that I am vulnerable in the following areas of my life.

Today, I need Christ’s power to free me from the following areas of spiritual weakness.

2. Faith in the Gospel of the Kingdom: We believe that the kingdom of heaven is within our reach on a daily and even an hour by hour basis because of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His on-going work of pouring out His Holy Spirit.
a. The Kingdom of God in my life will bring freedom in the following areas.
i. Again, there are a million ways to ask this question or express this faith. Another way is
to ask: If God did a miracle in my life today, what behavior in my life do I think He would
change to make me a better student of Jesus Christ?
b. We know and reckon it as reality that we our old nature has been crucified with Christ and that we are new creatures……
i. The entire corpus of Pauline teachings on the positional truths that we possess in Christ are affirmed and regularly contemplated in order to better understand how Christ brings His kingdom to us and grants us victory in this life and in the age to come.

3. Mourning: We confess to God our sorrow for our sins and shortcomings on a daily basis.
a. Father God, I am sorry for the following sins I have committed today (this week, this month, since my last confession before You) in deed, in word, and in thought. Father, I ……
b. We are prodigals daily…..
c. Father I am a sinner. Only say the word and I will be healed.
POINT: There are numerous passages in the teachings of Jesus on this topic that He came for sinners and not for the righteous. This principle is central to being a student of Jesus.

4. Receiving Forgiveness and Comfort from God. We daily and even hour by hour receive comfort and forgiveness from God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We do not carry the burden of our own sins but give these burdens to our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
a. I am thankful that the following sins and shortcomings carry with them no condemnation. I am forgiven of all these sins.

5. Meekness: We daily and even hourly practice death to self-centeredness and self-will. We cease seeking our own honor and glory. We cease fighting for our way in all things. We accept God’s will without fighting. We pray moment by moment, “Not my will but Your will be done.”
a. I accept the following circumstance in my life and I am thankful for them as the will of my all-loving, all-powerful Father.
i. With respect to this circumstance that is beyond my control and which I cannot change today, I joyfully accept this trial as good for me and helpful for my spiritual growth. I place this situation in God’s loving and all-powerful hands. I accept what I can control and what I am responsible for and I likewise accept what I cannot control and for results that I cannot force by my will.

b. I accept the following people just as they are and am thankful for them as the will of my all-loving, all-powerful Father.
i. With respect to this person who is making my life more difficult or who I would like to change, I accept that I cannot change them and that they are like me spiritually poor and spiritually sick.

6. Commitment to the Kingdom Mission. We live for the will of Jesus Christ. We turn our lie and will over to His cause and His kingdom on a daily and even hourly basis. We are His slaves. We make it our sole ambition to expand His kingdom. We hunger and thirst for righteousness in our personal life and for the manifestation of a community filled with righteousness. We make it our life purpose to build morally beautiful community. We seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
a. We love not the world.
i. Lust of the eyes: I am content with what I have today and I repent of any longing for material possessions that might be unnecessary to the expansion of the kingdom. What material things do I need to cease desiring?
ii. Lust of the flesh: I accept the pleasure that comes only from God’s hand. I am satisfied with the sexual pleasures which come from my spouse or will come eventually from my future spouse. If I am single, I accept my singleness. I accept the grace to be patient and wait for the pleasures which come only from the hand of God. What pleasures do you seek that are not God’s will for you to receive immediately?
iii. Boastful Pride of Life: I accept my status in all things. I accept the level of influence in life that I have today. I take responsibility for the spiritual leadership I have been given today. I seek only to fulfill the role God has given me today. What frustrations do you have as a result of a lack of status or position in any organization? What frustrations do you have because others have not granted you the spiritual authority to speak into their life?

b. Daily planning and reflection on our mission work.
i. We daily pray and prepare to be used by Jesus Christ in expanding the kingdom. “Lord, how am I going to be used to expand your kingdom today?” I present my self to do your will. Lord, what is my task today. Lord, what is my task this hour?
a. The Lord is using me to expand His kingdom in the following places? People? Organizations? Community? I am an important member of the following missionary community? My role in this community is the following? Lord how can I be an asset to this missionary community? Today, I will grow in the following skill to be a better asset to God and His people.
b. We pray the Lord’s prayer and commit to His Kingdom come and His will be done on a day by day and even hourly basis.

7. Mercy: We practice forgiveness toward all people in our past and present.
a. As needed to maintain a heart filled with love toward God and our neighbor, we regularly list all people we have any frustration or resentment toward. We list any actual or perceived wrong they nave done to us. We acknowledge how this hurt us or how we felt this hurt us. We forgive them before God and we bless them. We pray for them all the success we wish for ourselves. We seek to see how we might have had a role in bringing this harm upon ourselves. We allow this conflict or perceived conflict to be used by God to surface our own sins and shortcomings be it pride, anger, lust, greed, fear, self-centeredness, etc.
b. We realize that if we are arguing or if our mind is distracted by conflict with another that we have a spiritual problem with unforgiveness. Resentment, anger and unforgiveness is a daily source of spiritual poverty. It is anger that is the primary impedance to being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We are ruthless with even the slightest conflict in our heart with another. We daily take inventory of any possible unforgiveness and we bless everyone in our life.
c. We bless everyone.
d. When we know of a conflict, we seek reconciliation. If we know that a brother or sister has anything against us, we go to that person and attempt to make peace. We lead with confessions of our sins and weaknesses. We seek diligently to be at peace with all people and to acknowledge only where we were to blame for any conflict or misunderstanding. We do not attempt to change others. We only clean our side of the street.
We do not judge others or attempt to take the speck out of another person’s eye unless we are asked. We manage our hearts and not the hearts of others unless they ask for spiritual assistance. When they ask for help with any spiritual matter we honor this as a great privilege and seek first wisdom from God. We speak and give advise slowly and confess our sins and shortcomings relatively quickly.
f. We place this principle of the need to show mercy in all things and to emphasize forgiveness as a number one principle to on-going spiritual health.

8. Purity: We seek to be pure in heart that we may have ears to hear and eyes to see God who is our first love and our supreme passion.
a. Speech: We are aware that we all sin in what we say. We seek to have integrity in our speech. We confess that our speech is often a mix of blessing and cursing of others.
i. Lord, have I said anything that is harmful today? Lord, make my words worthy of honor. Give me Your words to speak in my day to day affairs.
ii. Lord, teach me to speak your wisdom. All people should be equipped to speak grace to others. We are all called to use our tongue for the kingdom in some respect. Lord, what are my speaking gifts?
b. Sex: We accept Jesus’ Christ’s teachings on sexual purity and the purpose and meaning of sex. Sex is an important subject in the discipleship process. All people have sexual problems just like all people have unforgiveness. You cannot live in this world without experiencing difficult people or without developing some form of sexual problem. It is part of being human.
i. We regularly ask ourselves if we have been inconsiderate in our sexual relations. Have we been selfish in our pursuit or withholding of sex?
ii. Do we accept ourselves as God made us sexually?
iii. Have we expressed in thought, word, or deed our sexuality outside the context of covenant relationship? We let the Holy Spirit guide this confession and management of our heart as we seek purity of heart.
c. Love: In our quest to be followers of Jesus Christ, we hear His perfect commandment to love our enemies, to turn the other check, to go the extra mile and to give to all who ask of us. Lord, where do you seek for me to love you and others? We allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in this prayer of surrender to the will of God.

9. Peacemaking: We build community and shalom in every sphere of life. We seek to find peace in all we do and all people we have relationship with. The kingdom of God is not about individual holiness but the holy and beautiful community of followers of Christ. We are a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.
a. Intercession: Lord, what area of life, family, work, church, can I pray for your kingdom to come? Lord, your kingdom come in the following places of community where I have influence.
b. Lord, what can I do today to build reconciliation and peace? Who can I bless today?

10. Persecution: We consider all trials as opportunities to shine forth faith in Jesus Christ and our All-loving, all-powerful Father.
a. We confess all grumbling and complaining about the difficulties we are faced with. We ask for grace to be joyful and thankful in the midst of the stress of the day. We know that it is endurance under stress that provides a great opportunity for the glory of God and witness to the deliverance and liberty we have learned by being students of Jesus Christ. It is the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and conscious contact with our all-loving and all-powerful God that produces in us peace in difficulty. In this we confess at best spiritual progress and not in any way perfection. All of us fail in this highest manifestation of love and spiritual life.
b. We than God for our trials.

So here is what I have for now. I hope that this commentary on the beatitudes can help us as student of Jesus.

God Bless,