Friday, August 26, 2011

I'm Done!

This week I inadvertently found myself in the midst of an online battle, where one Pastor found it necessary to pound (via blog, but probably physically too if he was able) another Pastor for supposed doctrinal issues.  I say "supposed" because as I read his assault (and his defense from others) I really found very little to object to vis-a-vis doctrine.  What was called doctrine seemed to me really more of a difference in style.

Though I engaged some of my online friends, none got my point, that Christian leaders are showing neither Christianity or leadership by engaging in such online warfare, I now proclaim that I am done!
  • I am done with assailing someone's character without ever knowing them.
  • I am done jumping on the bandwagon of criticism when, if I was honest, I know nothing of the target and only slightly more about the sniper.
  • I am done being a self-appointed judge of doctrinal purity.  Some things in Scripture are major enough to fight and die over, but many issues can and are disagreed about by solid, dedicated followers of Christ.
  • I'm done trying to persuade you that you should also like the same preachers that I like.  Unless your guy is a BLATANT false teacher, you can listen to whomever you like.  I doesn't affect me anyway.
  • I'm done thinking I understand the gospel completely.  If the Apostle Paul considered it a mystery, who am I to think I can nail down exactly how God works, outside of what He has revealed in His word?
  • and finally, I'm done with using the internet as a battlefield.  I find myself repenting of this sin frequently, but by God's grace this time I really am done with engaging in online debates.  As I often tell others, there really is a reason it's called "Yahoo."
As for this week's blog, I'm done.  Any thoughts???

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Value of Discipline(s)

Contrary to common perceptions, discipline is not a four letter word! Though culture does it's very best to convince us otherwise, we truly are better off living disciplined lives, wouldn't you agree?  While the disciplined dieter may miss overindulgence, he/she is no doubt healthier and more energetic.  The disciplined student may miss out on the party lifestyle of the undisciplined, but will certainly enjoy a more fulfilling education and likely a more prosperous career.  Likewise, the disciplined Christian will grow in ways that the hit-and-miss churchgoer never will.

I've been trying to live a more disciplined life lately.  I posted last week about my running regimen.  I've been more conscious of my diet.  And Spiritually, though I'm journaling less, I find myself meditating on Scripture more, if only to find things to write on this blog.  I've also rediscovered a book I've read once or twice.

If you're looking for good, rich, and readable book on Spiritual disciplines, let me recommend Don Whitney's "Simplify Your Spiritual Life."  Dr. Whitney led a men's retreat at a prior church of mine several years ago, and his lessons on prayer still affect me greatly.  It was at this retreat that I bought my copy of this book, and it's quick 1-2 page chapters on various disciplines has proven very helpful.

Early in the book is a great line, which some of you may have seen me post recently on Facebook and Twitter:

"Our experiences do not determine whether the Bible is true; rather the Bible determines whether our experiences are true."

Is this a verifiable, objectively true statement? Or is it just a cute but figurative way to show the value of the Bible?
Dr. Whitney writes this sentence in the context of viewing a beautiful sunset or really any other of those wonderfully pleasant experiences we find from time to time.  Watching children play, feeling the sand and water squish between our toes at the beach, or being warmed by the sun or cooled by a breeze all sometimes cause us to exclaim "God is so good" or words to that effect.  And He is!  But we need to be wary that we believe that because of the witness of Scripture and not solely due to emotional or physical pleasures.  In other words, God is good because we see His goodness throughout the Bible, and the happy times we experience are gifts that He gives us to remind us of His goodness.  These happy times are not causes or evidences of His goodness.

In a similar way, our feelings toward God at any given moment do not define Him in any way.  Today I feel in close fellowship with Him- does that mean that He loves me?  What if I don't feel so close to Him tomorrow?  Does that mean that He has stopped loving me?  I love emotions, and I love emotional worship, but such reliance on emotions to define our relationship with Him only leads to crushing defeats after falsely stimulated "mountain top" experiences.  God loves us because He says He loves us.   In fact, God loved us even when we didn't love Him.  "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  I know when I sin that I don't feel close to God (nor should I), and I often question whether He could/should still love me.  But as the children's song goes, "the Bible tells me so!"  Therefore, letting Scripture judge the truthfulness of my experience leads me to truth.

How did I get here after starting today's blog on discipline?  Getting into the discipline of reading/studying/meditating on Scripture teaches you real truth, truth that can and will change your life.

How's that going for you?  Write a comment below and let me know!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Running the Race with Endurance

I've begun running recently.  Or more precisely, I've RE-begun running recently.  The combination of being out of shape and brutally hot temperatures have kept me from enjoying a nice run in the early morning coolness, but this week I finally was able to get outside and get moving!

As any runner will attest, thoughts race through your mind while your feet hit the pavement.  Sometimes these are silly thoughts, like "I wonder why there's a winter boot, ONE winter boot, laying on the side of the road when it's been so warm?".  Sometimes though they turn more serious, like if the heart attack comes am I better off falling into the tall grass on the side away from traffic but making it harder to find my body, or am I better off falling down on the shoulder where I might get hit by a car but where someone might find me before the flies do.  And sometimes the thoughts are in-between, like this morning.

It dawned on me this morning that the Apostle Paul must have been a runner.  Look at all the athletic imagery he used when writing.  In Philippians 3:14 he said he pressed, "on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   In 2 Timothy 4 he "fought the good fight" and "finished the course" and looked forward to receiving his "crown of righteousness."  1 Corinthians 9:27 says he "disciplined his body" so that he would not be "disqualified."  Sounds like an athlete to me!

Yet he poured himself into his ministry.  Depending on the source, he traveled more than 6000 miles on his missionary journeys, not counting day to day travel.  And remember, he didn't lace up the latest model of Nikes.  Worn out sandals were all the support his aching feet could expect.

The thought came to me how important physical fitness is in ministry.  As I've lost weight recently, I find that I can count on my body responding in better ways than probably ever before.  As I walk around youth camps in 100 degree heat, I don't want to die as much as I may have a year ago.  When my days start early and end late, I find I have energy in reserve.  When I lead worship on Sundays, I feel myself able to give it a little bit more and hopefully encourage others to do the same.

Building the temple God gave us.  Who'd have thought??