Friday, December 16, 2011

A Dog's Life. Not So Bad After All

This, from Reader's Digest:

There are numerous studies that attest to the stress-relieving benefits of pets. In one analysis researchers evaluated the heart health of 240 couples, half of whom owned a pet. Those couples with pets had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels when exposed to stressors than the couples who did not have pets. In fact, the pets worked even better at buffering stress than the spouses did.

I have to admit, I didn't see this coming. I do think, however, that this is more about dogs than cats. I can't imagine a cat that didn't raise tension/blood pressure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

3 Things You Can Do to Exhale Every Night

Exhaling is an important part of breathing. It's pretty necessary to expel air from your lungs before you inhale oxygen. Breathing (exhale/inhale) is one of life's rhythms that is not often considered, but is crucially necessary.

I've been thinking about the rhythms of life and how we might apply the same principles to our spiritual life. Just as exhaling and inhaling is necessary to sustain life, I wonder if we might not better sustain our own days if we took the time to exhale every night and inhale every morning.

Here are some thoughts I have on exhaling:

1. Breath out the deadly toxins.
Every day we are confronted with the reality of sin. Whether it be our own mistakes, the hurt of relationships, persecution by enemies, or just the consequences of a fallen world; by the time we close our day, our lives are full of deadly toxins. We need to exhale by breathing those out to our Father. Don't take your pain out on your wife or children or friends. Don't bottle it up inside. Take it to God. You can trust that His shoulders are big enough to carry your load for you.

2. Breathe out a sigh of relief.
God has brought you through another day. Whether it was a great one or just ok, God has carried you and sustained you through it. Thank him for that. Be relieved that the sun also rises, and rest well knowing if He carried you through today, He will carry you through tomorrow.

3. Breathe out gratitude.
Did you know that when you laugh you are exhaling? Breathing out joyfully is one of life's greatest experiences. Before you nod off to sleep, let your final thoughts be thanksgiving for the many blessings God has given you. As you close your eyes on another day, search your mind to remember the many places where God intervened on your behalf (sometimes we don't realize it at the time and it isn't until later reflection that we see what He has done for us).

In the morning, you can inhale. But I'll say more about that later.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thankful for the Heart of Calvary

One thing I would like to do better is to end my days being thankful. So tonight, I want to give thanks for the heart of my brothers and sisters at Calvary. It is a blessing to be able to witness so many of my friends who are truly developing the heart of Jesus.

Over the past few years we have seen many wealthy and "important" people walk away from our church, but God has graciously sent people to replace them who may not be blessed financially, but who exhibit a rich love in their relationships with each other and a deep compassion for the world around them. After all, when he saw the widow give her two mites at the temple, Jesus reminded his followers that it was not the size of the offering that mattered, but rather it is the heart of the giver.

Over the past few days I have a great opportunity to repeatedly see people exhibiting the heart of a joyful giver.

Today, we had people coming to our building all day (as late as 8pm tonight) to pick up gifts for delivery to children as part of project angel tree.

Someone dropped off a coat today because they wanted to make a contribution to our teen's local warming project (which they are doing for the second year in a row).

I'm privileged to be part of a LIFEgroup which adopts several families every year to provide clothes, gifts, and food for the holidays.

I was approached yesterday after first service by a lady who desired information about getting involved in our monthly supper house ministry.

A recent new attenders at our church has been purchasing books for radio bible class and making them available for free. People are taking them all each week!

I can't remember the last Sunday I've been at Calvary when so many people have expressed love and gratitude to me as did this week.

Our church's children modeled intergenerational ministry as they spent their Sunday School hour having a bingo party with our Keenagers.

I was approached this weekend by two different people who have a heart for connecting people and want to launch new LIFEgroups.

To cap it off, on a day when our church united, despite a concerted effort to divide the congregation, to approve next year's budget; our people gave one of the largest offings of the year* (over $10,000 more than our average giving)!

I could go on. If you want to see more, check out our facebook page to see the rich love being shared there on a regular basis! I am truly thankful to be part of a church full of people with such big hearts!

*this is especially amazing because the second Sunday of the month is almost always one of our lowest offerings of the month.

Please Pray for a Dear Friend and a Great Man

Patrick McGoldrick is perhaps the person who has most influenced me in church ministry. He is someone I deeply respect and love, and from whom I have learned a great deal. I learned more from him in a six month internship than I did in four years of college.

Please pray for him, Dena Stevens McGoldrick, and their children Paige and Parker. Patrick posted this yesterday:

After a few months of strange symptoms, many doctor’s visits and tests, I need to share with you that I have recently been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors are 100% convinced that this is what I have. There is no cure for ALS. ALS is a serious neurological disease that causes muscle weakness and eventually leads to complete deterioration. The speed and path varies from person to person, but the average life expectancy is two years.

Obviously, this is not what I had planned, nor what I would have ever dreamed would happen to me. But there is another side to the story. God is sovereign and in control. Isaiah 6 is a passage that I preached here many years ago and Bob preached it last month. I take that truth that “King Jesus” is seated on His throne as ruler and has authority of my life. He also will give us strength as we go through this journey.

A song that has blessed my soul in this past week is written ultimately by God, through Job and passed down to Matt Redman. That song is “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I want to live that out!!

We love you so much and appreciate you so much. Our lives have been blessed because of you! Thank you for your prayers.

Control the Thing You Can Control

This morning I was reading in Psalm 119. I noticed across the page, I had scribbled some notes a while back so I looked to see what I had written. Psalm 116:10-11 were underlined. They read:

I believed in you, so I said
"I am deeply troubled, LORD"
In my anxiety I cried out to you,
"These people are all liars!"

In the margin, I wrote:

"I cannot control what others do, I can control whether or not I take it to God."


Friday, December 9, 2011

The Beatles, Mary, and When Peace Like a River...

This is a repost. But it fits with my sermon for Saturday night, so I thought I'd throw it out there for you:

You tell me... was Paul McCartney a closet fundamentalist?

...or was he at least influenced by Horatio Spafford?

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Let it be, let it be, .....

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Let it be, let it be, .....

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

(truth is, for all my hymnologically impaired friends, McCartney's song has more Biblicity than Spaffords. Do you know the passage?)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

5 Lists of 3. Simplifying the Process of Spiritual Formation

Captain Jack Sparrow held one of the Pirate Lord's eight pieces of nine. I just get a kick out of that term. Today, I give you five lists of three.
These are five different lists which each seek to describe (not necessarily define) the process of spiritual formation. These lists are not meant to be comprehensive, nor are they solely instructional; but hopefully they provide some opportunity for reflection. Here we go:

1. A Church's Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Teach Biblical Content
  • Encourage Spiritual Disciplines
  • Empower Christlike Mission
2. A Group Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Partnering for growth together
  • Serving the church together
  • Engaging the world together
3. A Personal Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Be a disciple
  • Be invitational
  • Be missional
4. A Progressive Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Leave Life (for Christ's)
  • Live Life (of obedience)
  • Give Life (for others)
5. A Progressive Approach to Spiritual Formation (2):
  • Obey
  • Love
  • Bear Fruit
What do you think? What would you add? What would you subtract? What would you change? What needs further clarity?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

9-9-9: Food

9 Foods I Love to Eat:
  1. Fried Chicken
  2. Olive-Loaf Bologna
  3. Shrimp
  4. Prime Rib
  5. Fried Okra
  6. Frozen Twinkies
  7. Bacon
  8. Oreo Creme
  9. Cheese

9 Foods I Don't Eat Much:
  1. Eggs
  2. Rice
  3. Gravy
  4. Baked Beans
  5. Liver
  6. Fettuccine Alfredo
  7. Beets
  8. Cottage Cheese
  9. Prunes

9 Foodish Sounding Things I Wouldn't Eat:
  1. Toe Cheese
  2. Leech Sushi
  3. Goiter Gravy
  4. Skunk Stew
  5. Earwig Crunch
  6. Cream-of-Cyst Soup
  7. Deep-Fried Larva
  8. Autumn Leaf Salad
  9. Chocolate Covered Scabs

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

9-9-9: Places

9 Places I've Lived

  1. Sherman Manor

  2. Clare, MI

  3. Covington, KY

  4. Brock West

  5. Cedarville, OH

  6. Muskegon,MI

  7. Marlboro Road

  8. Huntington, WV

  9. Perry, MI

9 Places I've Visited

  1. Disney World

  2. Cape Cod

  3. Outer Banks, NC

  4. Mammoth Cave

  5. Ford Field

  6. Savannah, GA

  7. Field of the Wood

  8. Niagara Falls

  9. Hilton Head, SC

9 Places I'd Like to Go

  1. The Superbowl

  2. St. Andrews

  3. Grand Canyon

  4. Anfield

  5. Anywhere Warm

  6. Philadelphia

  7. Ireland

  8. Augusta National

  9. Seattle

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

9-9-9: SPORTS

9 Teams I Prefer to All Others:
1. Michigan State Spartans

2. Detroit Tigers

3. Detroit Lions

4. Liverpool FC Reds

5. Detroit Red Wings

6. Sailor Soccer

7. Cedarville Yellowjackets

8. Detroit Pistons

9. Cincinnati Reds

9 Teams I Love to Hate:
1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2. Chicago Bears

3. Minnesota Twins

4. Colorado Avalanche

5. Manchester United Red Devils

6. Green Bay Packers

7. Chicago White Sox

8. Dallas Cowboys

9. New York Yankees

9 Athletes I Admire:
1. Steve Yzerman

2. Barry Sanders

3. Lou Whitaker

4. Steve Smith (MSU basketball)

5. John Stockton/Karl Malone

6. Greg Maddox

7. Isaiah Thomas

8. Brandon Inge

9. Andy Pettitte

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Today's Pictures. Plus, Stuff I Like

Following are a couple links to stuff I like. Feel free to leave comments at the end...

If you need to dispose of a dead body, the new iPhone can help you find the perfect place. If you were working for the mob, where would you stash your "jobs"?

This mayor of a Utah town spent two years writing articles under a false name to try to make people feel better about his town. Is this okay? When is "spin" appropriate and when is it just lying? Did you know Ben Franklin did something similar?

How far would you go to find a lost wedding ring? Would you go to the city dump? I wonder how many couples have funny stories about lost rings? I once broke my wedding ring in half on a youth missions trip...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three Stages of Pastoral Ministry

i don't remember where i first saw this, but i scribbled it down on a piece of paper when i did. i stumbled upon that piece of paper today. it made me chuckle (things are funny either because they are true, or because they are not; i'll leave it to you to decide which this one is).

There were three phases to Jesus' ministry which closely mirror the three stages most pastors go through at a church:

1. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"

2. "By whose authority do you do these things?"

3. "Crucify him!"

Community Service vs. Community Transformation

I love a good Venn diagram. Venn diagrams on napkins are even better. This is a good Venn diagram on a napkin. It's from my friend Peter Horn. You can read what he wrote about it by visiting his blog at:

Friday, November 4, 2011

5 More Clues to Being a Super-Star Parent

We all (those of us who are parents) want to be better parents. Part of good parenting is being able to effectively communicate with our children, particulary in moment of correction. Learning to appropriately respond to correction may, for our children, mean the difference between a wise life and a foolish life. How we communicate correction to them will significantly impact their ability to handle correction.

I found these suggestions in this blogpost at It is originally intended for fathers, but the wisdom of these words are good for all parents. Try to consider these good words next time you find yourself needing to effectively communicate with your children:
Don't waste words. Don't add a lot of apologies or unnecessary detail that make you look timid.
Don't threaten.
Be clear about expectations. When you tell someone, especially a child, how to behave or what to do, make sure you both are very clear about what you expect.
Be clear about consequences, particularly if your expectations involve an area with which that child has struggled in the past.
Take clear, decisive action. . . .
Of course, just like your kids, you will fail to do these things sometimes... When you do, admit it and move on!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

5 Habits That Keep You From Being Content

Contentment is one of the most important virtues we can cultivate in our lives. Temptation, sin and addiction all spring out of a lack of contentment. When we are not willing to be satisfied by the resources God has provided, we will soon find ourselves chasing after the things He knows we do not need.

A few days ago, I came across a blog which listed five things that are destroying your success. Success is one of those things that everyone defines differently, but I noticed that the five items listed are also five habits that can lead to a discontented life. So I've repurposed the list, and below are five habits that will keep you from being content:
  • Constantly criticizing people
  • Blaming other people for your failures
  • Dreaming about other successful people
  • Not taking the extra step to get closer to your goal
  • Letting other people make decisions for you

Monday, October 31, 2011

Go And Sin No More...Starting RIGHT NOW!

This weekend we examined the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. Last week, I wrote about what it DOESN'T mean, and Saturday night I tried to talk about what it does mean (although I went much longer than I wanted to and skipped a part I didn't want to skip). You can listen to the sermon here.

This morning I came across this blog that dovetails nicely with the idea of "Go and sin no more!" You can read the entire post here (there are some good illustrations as well as some helpful thoughts), but I've excerpted out some of the really good stuff below:
...I spend a fair amount of time talking to people who are simultaneously feeling convicted of their sins and yet not quite ready to give them up, either. Come to think of it, most of us probably fit into this category in one way or another, even if our sinful indulgences may outwardly appear to be "lesser" somehow than those of, say, a prostitute or a heroin addict.

On the one hand, sinful behavior has brought tremendous suffering into our lives, typically in multiple categories: spiritual, emotional, financial, physical and relational. And yet, it is more often true than not that we are actively maintaining "differing kingdom allegiances" and will try - against all reason and sanity - to maintain a "bridge" of sorts to our destructive, sometimes deadly "pleasures" while keeping one foot in God's kingdom...or so we think

Any willingness on our part to maintain roads, bridges or other safe passages to a preferred lifestyle of sin, folly and rebellion against the living God is the clearest-possible outward sign that we have not (as of yet) fully surrendered our lives to the lordship of Christ.

Battling back against longterm sin does not normally take place in moments of high drama and riveting action. True repentance, it turns out, most often shows up in those unremarkable moments when we choose to take a different route home from work, decline an invitation from an old friend or give up control of our Saturday evening to an accountability partner.
These are really good thoughts, particularly, I like the idea that our battle against sin happens in more in the moment to moment battles of daily life, rather than the emotional/spiritual highs of church camps and worship services. I need to regularly be reminded that Jesus has already purchased my freedom, but He still calls on me to live that freedom out. That happens as I make the right decisions from day to day!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who's Up For a Good Old Fashioned Stoning?

John 8:1-11 is the story of Jesus, the religious leaders, and the woman caught in adultery. This passage is often considered one of the more "controversial" passages in the New Testament. It's controversial because of the content of the story, as well as because of the questionable nature of it's place in the gospel of John. It's one of those passages about which the footnotes say, "The earliest and manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11".

I'm not going to go into detail regarding the textual controversy. If you want to learn more about it, here are some sources:

The other aspect of controversy regarding this passage is the way it is often misinterpreted(some think the reason it wasn't included in the original manuscripts was because some church leaders were concerned about the possibility it might be used to excuse sin). This morning, I'm just jotting down a few thoughts about what this passage DOES NOT teach:
1. It does not teach that sin is okay. Jesus never excused or condoned the woman's sin.

2. It does not teach that the law is obsolete. Jesus never said the law didn't apply to this situation.

3. It does not teach that we should not point out sin. Jesus never condemned the Pharisees for accusing the woman of adultery.

4. It does not teach that sin does not have consequences. Jesus' mercy did not eliminate the relational and familial consequences of the woman's sin.

5. It does not teach that organized religion is bad. I wish I didn't even have to point that one out.
So... what does it teach? I suppose I'll address that another time...

Top Ten Venn Diagrams of All Time?

Platypus = Awesomeness.
Keytar= Awesomeness.
Platypus x Keytar = Infinity Awesomeness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is It Okay for God to Punish People for Sin?

I'm listening to an old sermon by Dr. Jim Grier (the most intelligent man I've ever known). He began by reading from Revelation 21:3:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people."
Then he said this: "the earth was created to be the dwelling place of God."

You need to take just a minute and let that sink in. Think it through. Consider the ramifications.

Immediately, I began to think about how this informs the way we think about so many things. It should affect our view of ecology, it should affect our view of sustainability, and it should affect our view of sin.

Let me illustrate with a story.
There was a man who constructed his dream house. He poured all his resources into the house, and in the end it was a beautiful creation. The house was designed perfectly for the man and his family. Then he went away on a journey.

Before he left, he hired a caretaker for his house. "You are to represent me in this house," he said, "and when I return, there will be a room for you to live with us."

However, when the man returned, he found his house destroyed. The caretaker had abused the house, using it for his own pleasure and desires. He had ignored the instructions of the owner, and he and his friends had rendered the house uninhabitable for the owner and his family.

So the man destroyed the house, and re-created it. He lived there with his family. But he threw the caretaker out, and had him arrested, and prosecuted him to the full extent the law would allow.
Was the owner justified?

Is God justified?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How To Be the Perfect Parent

I don't think there is one "secret formula" for parenting. Every child is different and so every child should be parented differently. However, there are probably some good pieces of wisdom that every parent should consider. I found a list recently at the "Zen Habits" blog (I don't agree with everything I read there, but they do have good stuff about living more simply).

I would place varying degrees of importance on each of these items, but I do think all of them represent positive parenting practices:
1. Teach kids to be self-sufficient.

2. Teach older kids to help with the younger kids.

3. Teach them to solve problems.

4. Show them how to be passionate.

5. Play with them outside, and be active.

6. Don’t overschedule.

7. Don’t dote.

8. Dance.

9. Read with them, and read in front of them.

10. Be inquisitive.

So, what do you think? Which of these is the best idea? Are there any with which you disagree? What would you add as a "universal" piece of wisdom for parents?

He Is a Fool Who Knows Not How to Respond to Criticism

Marianne and I were talking today about how easy it is for a person who is “simple” (read about the wise, simple, fool, and mocker in Proverbs) to become a fool if influenced by the wrong people. While thinking about our discussion I sketched out this chart, and was reminded midway through of how often Proverbs stresses our response to correction. If you want to become wise, learn how to respond appropriately to correction.

All We Are Saying... Is Give Tim Tebow a Chance!

Tim Tebow started his fourth NFL game yesterday. He’s won two of the four starts. There are some NFL fans who would give an arm and a leg for a starting quarterback who wins 50% of his games (ahem: I’m looking at us, Lion’s fans).

Tim Tebow needs to be given a chance!By any measurement, his game yesterday was dismal. He was bad in every aspect of the game. For 55 minutes, he very effectively kept his team from winning. But then, as the clock ran down, he put it together. He rallied his team, and in overtime, they were victorious.

By the only measurement that matters, his game yesterday was 100% effective. As Herman Edwards said, “You play to win the game.” The opponent was bad, the game was certainly not pretty, the defense really deserves a lot of credit; but Denver got the win, and Tebow was their leader!


I’ve never heard so many “experts” pile on a player for being “terrible”, than I have heard talking about Tebow last night and this morning.

(Disclaimer: I AM a Broncos fan. I do want Tebow to succeed because I want Denver to succeed; however, I really never cared for him in college)

The talking heads on ESPN have spent most of last night and this morning pontificating on what a terrible game he played, and how this is definitive proof that Tebow will never make it in the NFL. Why?

Why are these guys so quick to denounce a guy who has only played 4 games? Have they forgotten Steve Young’s career in Tampa Bay? Have they forgotten Payton Manning’s first season in Indianapolis? Have they forgotten Doug Flutie and Warren Moon who had to start their careers in Canada? Why is Tim Tebow being written off after four games?

The answer is simple… These guys spent so much time decrying Tebow before he ever entered the league, that if he does succeed they will all be shown to be foolish. No one ever entered the league under more criticism, and so the media experts have never had so much at stake in seeing someone fail.

So what? Why am I writing about this today?

Because I see people make this same mistake in life ALL THE TIME. They make a judgment about another person (often times an unfounded judgment) and then they spend the rest of their lives justifying that judgment. They are absolutely unreasonable in the conclusions they draw, in the way they massage the truth, and in their interpretation of what they observe. Sadly, the result is a steep descent into bitterness, hatred, and eventually depression.

Be careful. Whatever conclusion you reached yesterday may need to be reconsidered today. Remember 1 Corinthians 13. Love hopes all things. Don’t stick people in a box, don’t stick yourself in a box. Give the people who have offended you a chance to surprise you. You may find yourself on the receiving end of a beautiful friendship.

The King Who Brings Freedom Deserves the Throne

(if you know nothing about Lord of the Rings, this post will likely not make any sense to you. Come back tomorrow. If you know a little about it, or have seen the movies, you’ll be okay.)

The Coronation of the King

The final movie of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy is The Return of the King. The movie has about four endings (more if you get the DVD with extras). One of the moments that feels like it is the end of the movie is the coronation of Aragorn as King of Gondor. After three movies of seeing him lead the Men of the West in countless battles and skirmishes, it’s almost a relief to see him finally receive his crown.

Imagine, though, that the movie ended differently. How would you feel about the movie if after he led Rohan to victory at Helm’s Deep, and after he repulsed Sauron’s invading horde, and after he inspired the victory at the gates of Mordor; imagine if after all this, the people of Gondor just asked him to leave.

“Thanks for the work, Aragorn. We’ve decided to just continue being ruled by the house of Denethor.”

Aragorn was the rightful king of Gondor. He was the delivering king who had long been prophesied. He suffered mightily on their behalf, both in battle and in love. How disappointing would it have been, after all he endured to have been denied the throne of the people he had just saved?

That is what we do to Jesus every time we seize control of our lives.

He suffered and died to purchase our freedom. How can we not let him sit on the throne of our lives? How can we not submit our lives to His rule?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Resolving Conflict: Squashing Rumors 2

One thing I've learned over the past several years is that when someone comes to me and says, "I heard...", it almost always ends poorly.

See, if they've heard a rumor about me (assuming it's false), I can tell them the truth; but that will only last until they go back to the original source of the rumor. Then, they find themselves in the awkward situation of having to believe one person and therefore decide the other is a liar.

There is a better way.

I've made it a personal policy to NOT answer those who ask me about rumors. I simply ask them to come back with the person from whom they heard this. That way, we can work together to find out where the truth lies, and no one gets stuck in the middle. (my assumption is that anyone who says something about me to someone else will be happy to say it to me, right?)

I would recommend everyone make this their policy.
1. Don't defend yourself against a rumor unless the originator of the rumor is there.
2. Don't ask someone else about a rumor unless you have the originator of the rumor with you.
3. BY ALL MEANS, don't pass along a rumor... under ANY circumstances.

All the Posts in This Series:
5 Ways to Let Go of a Grudge
3 Steps to Being a Peacemaker
5 Questions to Help Evaluate Yourself
6 Roadblocks That Shut Down Communication
Squashing Rumors

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Resolving Conflict: Squashing Rumors

We all hear rumors every day. Sometimes we think of them as gossip (which we sadly consider to be harmless), but often we hear a rumor and consider it to be at worst partly true.

You already know this principle from Proverbs, but it bears repeating.

The first person from whom you hear a story will rarely give you the full story.

Almost always, you need to hear things from multiple perspectives if you are going to have a truly robust understanding of the truth.

That said, what do you do when you hear a rumor which you KNOW is false? Unfortunately, we are often to cowardly to do anything in these situations, but can I suggest six steps you can take which will shut down the rumor quickly?
  • Correct the error immediately
  • Tell the truth to the person telling the rumor
  • Determine the source of the rumor (where did it come from?)
  • Determine the spread of the rumor (who else has heard it?)
  • Go to the source and stop it (by correcting the error and telling the truth)
  • Go to the spread and confront it (by correcting the error and telling the truth)
I know this approach is inconvenient, difficult, awkward, and likely time-consuming. But if we are to be MINISTERS OF RECONCILIATION who are concerned with seeing others experience the life Christ has called us to, then we MUST be about this business. Our willingness to deal with false rumors can mean the resolution of conflict, the abatement of pain, and potentially life-saving peace for those around us.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Resolving Conflict: 6 Roadblocks That Shut Down Communication

I spend a lot of time thinking about communication because I am, at my core, a communicator. Granted, there is a difference between interpersonal communication, lecture-type communication, and organizational communication; but I’ve kind of been letting all of them roll around in my mind.

So i’ve been thinking alot about communication…

And even though i’m in the “church business” (boy, does that sound wrong), I think communication is pretty much the same in most venues. whether you are in a “real business”, a partnership, a relationship, a marriage, a team, etc… some basic principles of communication apply to you.

I’m starting with the assumption that good communication places significant responsibilities on both the sender and the receiver. If both aren’t working together, communication will never happen. but for now, i’m focusing on the sender.


Insecurity — some people withhold information because doing so places them in a position of power. if you are not willing to give information away it is because you are either trying to manipulate or assert power over someone or you are trying to hide something. some things do need to be hidden, but it is almost always better to give information away rather than holding on to it.

Individuality — communication cannot be successful if it is used to advance a personal agenda. good communication is dependent on teamwork and shared investment. those who are unwilling to “play together” will never communicate successfully.

Lack of Clarity — I could say, “perhaps you should consider the ramifications of the impending impact based upon your current longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates and the certain eventuality of sharing those precise coordinates with a rapidly forthcoming jalopy.” or I could say, “LOOK OUT, HERE COMES A CAR!” Both statements send the same information, the first statement would likely be comprehended…but too late.

Competition — every time I send information to someone, they must evaluate it in light of everything else I have sent them over time. If my present information conflicts with previous information, my audience must determine which of my “competing” messages they will believe… even if the messages aren’t a direct contradiction, they can still create competition if they are not aligned with each other.

Vagueness — the RIGHT details are more important than LOTS of details.

Wrong Methods — a song is a great way to convey love to someone. It’s not a great way to communicate you are upset with your child’s behavior. If you don’t consider the medium through which you are communicating, you will significantly detract from your audiences comprehension.

that’s all i have to say about that…

try it out on your spouse.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Resolving Conflict: Five Questions to Help Evaluate Yourself

Perhaps I am overly optimistic, or have a “pie-in-the-sky” outlook when it comes to the degree of authority the Bible should have in our lives.

However, I do believe the Bible should be the primary authority for all believers in matters of life and faith. Whatever we are doing or not doing, the Bible should be governing us.

I realize this approach makes me appear a bit simple and naive, but in the words of someone, “it is what it is.”


Here are five questions I think everyone should answer when attempting to resolve conflict or when discussing concerns they might have about someone or something (family, friends, job, church, etc.):
  • Is this about Christ?
  • Does the Bible speak clearly and specifically about this?
  • Does a clear and specific Biblical principle apply to this?
  • Do any Biblical passages or principles apply here?
  • Do you believe you are acting in clear obedience to God on this issue?
Honestly, if you find yourself in conflict with someone, and you can’t answer “yes” (and immediately articulate why) to any of these questions, I would suggest you may be in the wrong for this conflict. The other person may also be wrong, but your inability to answer “yes” to any of these questions probably indicates you are holding on to something you shouldn’t be holding on to.

Before you pursue that conflict any further, take a minute and evaluate yourself. Maybe you are the one who needs to change!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Resolving Conflict: 3 Steps To Being a Peacemaker

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conflict between two other people? These situations are always awkward, especially when everyone is friends, and deep relationships are at stake.

Previously in This Series:
5 Ways to Let Go of a Grudge

2 Samuel tells an interesting story from the life of David that provides us with three great principles to remember when you find yourself trying to help resolve conflict.

David and his followers are on the run from Jerusalem. His son, Absalom, has led a rebellion and seized control of the capitol city. As they leave, they are approached by a man named Ziba who brings them many gifts of food, drinks, and animals. David knew that Ziba was the servant of Mephibosheth (a crippled descendant of Saul to whom David had shown great kindness). David asked Ziba where Mephibosheth was, and Ziba answered that his master had stayed in Jerusalem to welcome Absalom.

After the rebellion was squelched, David returned to Jerusalem and began to deal with all those who had been loyal to Absalom. Mephibosheth came to greet him, claiming that he had wanted to go with David, but Ziba had not assisted him (he couldn’t leave on his own because he was lame). Mephibosheth claimed that Ziba had seized the opportunity to ovethrow his master and ingratiate himself with David.

Faced with two completely opposite stories, David makes a wise decision (the outcome of which ultimately demonstrates Mephibosheth’s loyalty).

Read the whole story in 2 Samuel 16 and 2 Samuel 19.

Out of this story come THREE IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES to remember when you find yourself trying to negotiate conflict:

1. The first story you hear is almost never completely right.

I find this to be true so often. Someone will come to me with a story about another person, and when I talk to the other person, I hear a completely different tale. Usually, you need to talk to both parties several times, and ultimately bring them both together in order to get close to the truth. (I’m not saying the truth always lies in the middle, but it is often somewhere in-between)

The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.

2. Don’t be beholden to the one who comes “bearing gifts.”

Often those who NEED to convince you they are right will “sweeten the deal” by bearing gifts. These gifts may not be tangible, but may come in the form of flattery. Not too long ago, I was in a meeting with a person who has typically not been my biggest fan. However, in this context he realized that he could benefit from my support; and surprisingly, he began to extol my many virtues in ways I’ve never heard before. While it feels good to receive gifts (and we need to avoid being overly cynical), we should also be careful of having our judgment swayed because of gifts we’ve been given. Proverbs says:

A man who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet.

3. Beware of the one who quickly slanders others.

Ziba sought to gain David’s favor by tearing down Mephibosheth. In any conflict, it is very easy to be distracted by “ad hominem” attacks rather than dealing with the actual issues. It is easier to simply say bad things about another person and call their character into question, rather than try to determine the truth behind specific events that have happened.

A few years ago a group of people in our church became very irate with some of my co-workers. I spent hundreds of hours sitting down with many of them to try to resolve the conflict. In the end, though, it was fruitless because we could never consistently identify exactly what was causing the problem. Sadly, all I ever heard was attacks against the character of other people.

Someone who tries to win an argument by slandering, likely doesn’t truly have a case to make. Proverbs says:

He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.

Hopefully, you’ll not often be in a situation like this. Hopefully, you’ll spend much of your life in the midst of healthy relationships and people who love one another. However, if you do find yourself caught between two friends…

Remember David, Ziba, and Mephibosheth.

All the Posts in This Series:
5 Ways to Let Go of a Grudge
5 Questions to Help Evaluate Yourself
6 Roadblocks That Shut Down Communication
Squashing Rumors
Squashing Rumors 2

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Resolving Conflict: 5 Ways to Let Go of a Grudge

Holding a grudge can destroy a person.

But letting go of a grudge can seem impossible.

In 2 Samuel 1, David learns that Saul has died in battle. This was the man who drove David away from his best friend, who tried to kill him on several occasions, whose mad pursuit forced David to live in the wilderness for years. However, upon learning of Saul’s death, David pens a tribute song extolling the greatness of the former king.

In 2 Samuel 3, a war is raging between the house of David and the house of Saul. Abner, the general for Saul’s son realizes that the war is going to be won by David and so he decides to throw his loyalty behind David. However, rather than follow the example set by David (regarding Saul), David’s general, Joab, is unwilling to release his grudge against Abner (in the course of battle, Abner had killed Joab’s brother). He lures him into a meeting where he kills him. Within this story, we see Joab do some things that might remind us of ourselves:
  • He thinks the worst, and therefore reaches a wrong conclusion about Abner (vs.25)
  • In an effort to justify himself, he slanders and misrepresents Abner to David (vs.25)
  • He plots and carries out violence against Abner (vs.27)
  • In the process of destroying Abner, he rallies the support of others thereby including them in his sin (vs.30)
To understand the full impact of this story, we must remind ourselves that Saul had wronged David far more profoundly than Abner had wronged Joab. Yet David was able to release his hatred of Saul so effectively that he was capable of honoring his former enemy.

What principles can we glean from David’s handling of a grudge?:
  • Always hope for the best. David continued to hope and believe the best about Saul right til the end. The best way to feed a grudge is to remind yourself how you’ve been wronged. The best way to starve a grudge is to tell yourself the good things another person has done. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” If we want to release a grudge we must be willing to believe the best and to hope for the best.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. One of the most common reasons feuds between people grow out of control is that people reach wrong conclusions about one another. It is very easy to conclude that once someone has wronged you, they are going to continue to do so. Therefore, people often find themselves assuming wrong motivations in others regardless of what the truth may be. If we granted others the same amount of grace we give ourselves, we would rarely arrive at wrong conclusions about them.
  • Don’t build your case to others. The harder you work to convince your friends that someone is evil, the more likely it is that you will have to slander and assault their character in ways that go beyond what is right and appropriate. Through everything Saul did, David continued to refer to him as the “Lord’s anointed.” He refused to build a case against Saul, even to his closest friends. Once you have built a case against someone, you will have a very difficult time dropping that grudge.
  • Be slow to act. Very little good comes out of acting hastily, especially when you are responding to hurt or insult. Breathe. Pray. Count. Do whatever you need to do in order to slow down the flesh and empower the Spirit. James said we should be SLOW TO ANGER. Once you act quickly on a grudge, you have irrevocably changed a relationship that may not have needed the change. Take your time.
  • If you must, suffer silently. David retreated into the wilderness rather than fighting Saul. Jesus offered up no defense in his trial. When you choose to suffer silently, you are in good company. And if you are willing to embrace Christ in the depth of your hurt, He will provide you with all you need so that you can release the anger and hatred that drags you down.
A grudge is hatred percolating.

You can destroy it, or it will destroy you.

All the Posts in This Series:
3 Steps to Being a Peacemaker
5 Questions to Help Evaluate Yourself
6 Roadblocks That Shut Down Communication
Squashing Rumors
Squashing Rumors 2

Understanding Spiritual Formation Conclusion: More You and Less of Me

One of my favorite bands is a group of guys I met at a musical festival several years ago. They gave me one of their CDs out of the back of their trailer as they rolled out of time. I probably play that CD more than any other CD I own. I don’t even know if they’re still together, but Telecast’s song “More of You” is always a powerful reminder to me of the secret of life. The words of the chorus are simple:
More of You and less of me
Jesus come and be a light in me
Burn like the sun for the world to see
Be glorified

This is the secret of the fruitful life. The more Jesus shines through us, the more He will be glorified. The more Jesus is glorified, the more fruitful our lives will be.

Every time I hear this song, I think of a story about Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist. Many of John’s followers were leaving him to follow Jesus and some felt that maybe John should do something to keep his followers with him. John responded by reminding the people that he had only come to point the way to Jesus. He said, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Disciplining ourselves spiritually is necessary if we are going to allow our lives to be a channel for more of Jesus and less of us. Spiritual disciplines are regular activities which help us refocus our eyes on Christ and help enable the formative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Virtually any activity (that isn’t inherently sinful) can serve as a spiritual discipline, if it is done to assist you in the process of focusing more on Jesus and less on yourself. As you consider how you can engage in spiritual disciplines, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, consider beginning with some of the disciplines which have been exercised throughout the history of the church.

One category of spiritual disciplines is disciplines for provision. These are additions to your lifestyle in order to promote more of Jesus in your life. Following are a few disciplines of provision:
  • Disciplines of Scripture. God’s Word is to be a light to our path. It should illuminate the direction of our life. Adding Scripture to our daily routine is a powerful way to provide more of Jesus in our life. Ideas for engaging the Bible include reading, studying, meditating, memorizing, or even listening on CD or MP3. Whichever method or methods you choose, the key is consistency.
  • Disciplines of Prayer. We never pray enough. Paul encouraged the early Christians to pray continuously. We always have room to pray more. Remembering the purpose of these disciplines is to bring more of Jesus into our lives, we should design our times of prayer to be more focused on Jesus’ agenda than on our own desires and requests.
  • Disciplines of Service. When Jesus wanted to demonstrate to his disciples how to truly love one another, he washed their feet. He found a very practical need they had, a need most people wouldn’t have been willing to address; and he took action to meet the need. All around you are people with significant needs just waiting to be met. Being more like Jesus means learning to see others with Jesus’ eyes. Setting aside time on a daily basis to look for and meet other’s needs is a powerful way to have more of Jesus in your life.
A second category of disciplines is disciplines of denial. The first categories of disciplines addressed the need to have more of Jesus. These disciplines are designed to help you have less of yourself.
  • Disciplines of Abstinence. The most common type of abstinence for Christians is fasting. Often we equate fasting with going hungry. Certainly, the majority of contexts for fasting are food related. Even hospitals use the term “fast” when they tell you not to eat before a procedure. However, abstaining for a Christian can entail much more than just food. Giving up something of value causes an emptiness and a longing. Sometimes the emptiness is momentary, other times it may be on-going. During these times when we are most acutely aware of the thing we have given up, we are reminded to turn our attention to God, remembering that He desires to have complete control over our lives and that He can fill the emptiness in our lives. Sometimes denying ourselves the pleasures of life can be a powerful reminder of our need for God.
  • Disciplines of Silence. Some very devout Christians have taken long term vows of silence as a sign of their devotion to Christ. While their self-denial is certainly admirable, nowhere in the Bible are their suggestions we should never talk. However, I once saw on the side of a Starbucks cup the words, “It is impossible to listen while your mouth is open to talk”. Sometimes less of us means fewer words and more listening. Setting aside a time to simply be quiet and listen for God can be a great time of spiritual growth. These times can be five minutes or five hours, depending on who you are and what your life options provide.
  • Disciplines of Sacrifice. Giving away something you love or need is never easy. However, when someone is willing to give away something they love or need for your sake, you are usually moved by their care for you. When we are willing to regularly give our things away so we can make ourselves less, we are opening ourselves to be filled by God. Sacrifice can be financial, material, and emotional. Sacrifice may even be the giving away of our time or our energy.
The fruitful life belongs to those who hear and understand Jesus’ teaching. Jesus taught that those who truly desire to follow him must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow.

Spiritual disciplines provide the opportunity to do just that, to make yourself less so that Jesus can be made more in your life. Remember, don’t discipline yourself for the sake of discipline. Such activity is meaningless repetition. Discover one, two, or three of the disciplines above and go for it with all your energy. Make a new habit which will help you be the new creation!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Understanding Spiritual Formation 7: A Parable About Disciplines

Steve, Barry, and Ann had been friends since grade school. Their relationship was uniquely close even though they were all intensely competitive. So, when Ann suggested they all enter an upcoming 5K race together, it wasn’t long until the competitive juices kicked in and they began talking regularly about which of the three would be fastest or even win the race.

Ann and Steve immediately began intensive training. They signed up with a personal trainer who helped them set up a daily regiment of exercise and running to prepare them for the race. Ann followed the trainer’s directions every day. As a result she could sense her preparedness growing as the race day approached. Steve worked even harder than Ann. He also followed the trainer’s directions, but inspired by how his workout made him feel, he went above and beyond the suggested exercise. His hard work evidenced itself as he lost weight, became more fit, and greatly increased the time he could run on the treadmill.

Barry took different approach. He had been an all-state wide receiver in high school, so he knew he was fast. He remembered the difficult training camps he had endured in high school football, and didn’t really want to return to that level of physical exertion. Instead, Barry spent hours on the internet, researching strategies for running a 5K race. Over time, he assembled an impressive collection of helpful hints for running such a race. The night before the race, he reviewed his notes thoroughly and went to bed early, feeling well-prepared to defeat his two friends.

As she approached the second kilometer mark, Ann overtook Barry. He had built a commanding lead in the first kilometer because most of the “experts” he consulted said it was important to get out in front early. Barry had successfully avoided getting hung up in the crowd at the start. When Ann blew by him less than half way through the race, though, he wondered if he had made a tactical error. By the third kilometer mark, Barry knew he wasn’t going to finish the race. One hundred yards later, he pulled off the road and began looking for bushes into which he needed to
deposit his breakfast. He was done.

After Ann finished the race, winning her age division, she cooled down and began looking for her friends. She found a white-faced Barry sitting in his car, but Steve was nowhere to be found. “I assumed he was with you”, she told Barry.

“Nope. I haven’t seen him all morning” he gasped.

Ann grabbed her cell-phone and called Steve. “Hey, we can’t find you anywhere? How did you finish?”

“Well, actually, I decided to just go to the gym this morning. I’ve been enjoying my workouts so much I thought I’d just come and work up a great sweat, instead of running the race.”

Ridiculous? Maybe. Three different people took threedifferent approaches, but only one finished the race.

Consider for a moment the methods you employ to open your life to the work of the Holy Spirit. Do you intentionally engage in activities to help you be more open to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? What is your plan for allowing the Holy Spirit to make you look more like Jesus? Most people take one of three different approaches concerning their spiritual development.

Some people, like Barry, spend a lot of time thinking about spiritual things or maybe relying on the things they learned when they were children. They don’t really do anything specifically, though, to develop themselves. When life’s problems or distractions come along, like Barry, they wipe out.
Some people, like Steve, engage in a massive amount of activity for spiritual growth. They spend amazing amounts of time reading the Bible, listening to sermons, and attending Bible studies. However, all their work never really leads to anything. They simply develop massive spiritual
muscles, but never use thee muscles to impact the world around them.

The third approach is Anne’s approach. The best way to allow the Holy Spirit to mold you to the image of Christ is to regularly spend time disciplining yourself so that when you have the opportunity to represent Jesus in the world, you’ll be ready.

Spiritual disciplines are regular activities which help us refocus our eyes on Christ and help enable the formative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Bible reading and study, Scripture memorization, prayer, giving, serving, meditation, and many other activities can be effective spiritual disciplines. Like any exercise program, they are only effective if they are regularly repeated and if they become habitual over time. However, as Steve discovered, sometimes these types of activities can become an end to themselves. We must always remember that we engage in disciplines so that we will be more like Jesus, so that we can present Jesus to the world!

Whatever disciplines you determine to develop in your life, the most important step is to start. If you never take the first step, you’ll never develop the habit.

Ann won the race because she committed herself to training, and because she never lost sight of the purpose for her training. You can open yourself to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life if you are willing to commit to disciplining yourself, and if you’ll regularly remind yourself of the
purpose for your disciplines.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Understanding Spiritual Formation 6: Introduction to Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciplines are important. However, before i talk about them, let me say:
the Christian life is not to be lived in solitude. it is to be lived in community. therefore, any individual activity must find its significance within the community, not simply as a "boost" for someone's "personal walk".
Dallas Willard says about spiritual disciplines,
"What is a discipline? A discipline is an activity within our power, something we can do, which brings us to a point where we can do what we at present cannot do by direct effort. Discipline is in fact a natural part of the structure of the human soul, and almost nothing of any significance in education, culture, or other attainments is achieved without it."
In other words, disciplines are like the drills we do at soccer practice. They aren't the actual game, but they help us play better when we get in the game. If we want to live appropriately, we need to discipline ourselves ahead of time.

There are many approaches to spiritual discipline. Some of the leading authors in the field are Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Donald Whitney, and Mel Lawrenz. The following is my approach.

Through living in community, we become aware of our areas for growth because our brothers and sisters lovingly point them out to us. Aware that we cannot simply change those things, we must engage the formative work of the Spirit to bring growth. In order to open ourselves to the work of the Spirit, we undertake disciplines related to the area in which we aspire to grow.

Foster identifies the following disciplines:
  • meditation
  • prayer
  • fasting
  • study
  • simplicity
  • solitude
  • submission
  • service
  • confession
  • worship
  • guidance
  • celebration
Willard would identify among others, the following key disciplines:
  • solitude and silence
  • fasting
  • scripture meditation
I would add:
  • service and sacrifice to the community
  • witness to the world.
If you are looking for a starter project for engaging in these disciplines with a community, check out "A Spiritual Formation Workbook". It will guide you through eight weeks of meeting together and help you create habits for your community that can last a lifetime.

Understanding Spiritual Formation 5: The Discipline of Community (continued)

As I continue with the theme of community as a spiritual discipline, here are some more thoughts to unpack this idea.

Bonhoeffer writes:
"one who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewherel he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. Just at this point Christian brotherhood i threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship."
Community is more than touchy-feely togetherness, or a group of Christian men sitting at a pub discussing theology, or a group of young mom's crying together.

Community at its heart must be interested in seeing its members formed by the Spirit through each other. This will take the form of mentoring sometimes, and sometimes it will just be people speaking truth in love to one another. Again, Bonhoeffer writes, "God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men...Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him." We need each other if we are to be formed.

Emma's former gym was a great picture of this. Her coach had over 30 years experience. Over the years, many of his former gymnasts came back to the gym to be teachers and coaches. On any given night, he could be seen working with a group of team girls while all around the gym his former students (of many different ages) are working with other girls (and boys), teaching them the the basics of gymnastics. His methodology touched many more girls than he ever could, because he indoctrinated his students with a love of gymnastics that they wanted to pass on.

As we live in community with one another, we should be indoctrinating each other with a love for Jesus that needs to be passed on. This is true community!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Understanding Spiritual Formation 4: The Discipline of Community

Just before Jesus left his disciples, he promised that he would send another “counselor” to take his place. The Spirit he was sending was the same Spirit that had been in Him, the samd Spirit that had been enabling his earthly ministry.

The Spirit would indwell Jesus’ followers, and continue his ministry in their lives, forming them to be like Jesus. Everyone who takes up the call to follow Jesus receives the Spirit. If you follow Jesus, you have the Spirit.

Jesus’ Spirit is in you…forming you to be like Him. You need to open yourself to the formative work of the Spirit. Praying, meditating, reading the Bible, memorization, fasting, contemplation, and many other methods can open you to the Spirit. He works through all these activities to make you more like Christ.

But Jesus was/is most interested in seeing the Spirit form you through your relationships with others. Before he promised the Spirit, Jesus commanded his disciples to “Love one another.”

This was a new command to them. They picked it up and ran with it. It became the foundational teaching of the church in its earliest days. When the apostles wrote letters to other churches, they often included ideas on how to love one another. They wrote “be devoted to one another” , “serve one another” , “accept one another” , “build one another up” and many, many more.

Loving one another is the conduit for the Holy Spirit’s formative work in our life.

After Jesus promised the coming of the Spirit, he prayed for everyone who would ever believe his message (that means that if you believe in him, he was praying for you). His prayer was very simple.

He prayed that we would be unified.

When the people of God are united to each other in love, the Holy Spirit can perform his formative work in a powerful and effective way. It’s really kind of simple. The Holy Spirit makes us look like Christ by using those around us to influence us in positive ways.

This is “Community”.

It’s a collection of people sharing their lives with one another for the glory of God.

God is glorified when we look like him.
We look like him when we look like Jesus.
We look like Jesus when the Spirit forms us.
The Spirit forms us when we place ourselves into community.

God’s new creation is a community.

And it is very, very good.

Understanding Spiritual Formation 3: Celebration as a Spiritual Discipline

S.D.Gaede writes in Belonging, "The Christian community derives its being from the fact that certain things are true. If they are not true, we have no reason for community."

We gather weekly to celebrate those truths. A list of the truths we celebrate when we gather might include: grace, redemption, creation, re-creation, etc...

In our celebrations we should be spiritually formed, because we leave as different people then when we arrived. We may be more convinced of those truths, we may be questioning the application of the truths, we may be anticipating our next gathering, we may feel more connected to the truths, we may have a greater sense of identification with the community because of the truths...

What should these kinds of truth-oriented celebrations look like? In no particular order, I would suggest:
  • They should be triumphant -- The greatest truth of all is that good has/will triumph over evil. In the Matrix trilogy, the scene of celebration at Zion gives us a feel for anticipatory triumph. Our celebrations should awaken in us a moving sense of the transcendence of God, and of our anticipation of His ultimate victory.
  • They should be meaningful -- The truths which bind us together should be proclaimed in a relevant way so that our celebration is informed. Some churches are so taken with the celebration itself that it has become disconnected from any meaning... this almost feels like idolatry.
  • They should be participatory -- We are all celebrating, we are all the community. I think of a pep rally for my MSU Spartans. Even though we may all be sitting in rows, we will be extraordinarily participatory. Why don't our celebrations look like pep rallys?
  • They should be reflective -- The truths we celebrate have particular meaning for us. We should constantly be weaving our story into the fabric of the communities truths. This requires honest reflection. We do a great disservice to ourselves when we celebrate without reflection.
So there you have it. Celebration as formative activity. I'd love some feedback, this is still a little heuristic.