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It’s Not What You Do, but How You Do It

July 31, 2006 Leave a comment

In the book, “He that is Spiritual”, Lewis Sperry Chafer writes:

True spirituality…is a divine output of the life, rather than a mere cessation of things which are called “worldly.” True spirituality does not consist in what one does not do, it is rather what one does. It is not suppression: it is expression.

He goes on to say…

The world and “worldly” Christians turn to so-called “worldly” things because they discover in them an anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life. Little is gained toward true spirituality when would-be soul doctors have succeeded in persuading the afflicted to get on without the anesthetic. If these instructors do not present the reality of consolation and filling for heart and life which God has provided, the condition will not be improved.

Now, I know this is talking about how the Holy Spirit fills us, but it got me to thinking. My initial thought was how so many of us struggle with what God wants us to do with our life; and through this many of us end up with a feeling of frustration that leads to a sense of emptiness. In order to fill that emptiness, we look for ways to escape by turning to “worldly” things or activities. But as I reflected on this I came to the conclusion that the frustration may not be so much “what” God wants us to do, but rather “how” God wants us to do it.

In other words, instead of allowing God to use us in the way He designed us, we allow ourselves to be influenced to doing things the way someone else deems we should (albeit with good intentions). Typically this comes from someone in authority or in a leadership position who has influence with believers.

I have heard of pastors (or would-be soul doctors as Chafer refers to them) who convince people to give up things that may be considered “worldly” without realizing how much joy and fulfillment it brings to their life. It may be something as simple as playing softball in a men’s league. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to witness to friends and teammates, the pastor has convinced the person to give it up “for God” in order to serve the church in some way. The person who follows this advice may end up with a feeling of emptiness. They love the competition of playing softball, but now find themselves doing something that is completely unnatural to them.

A person in this situation may find himself turning to other things to deaden the pain of an empty heart and life. Instead of playing softball they may turn to something as innocent as getting lost in a book instead of dealing with what is bothering him. On the surface this may not be a bad thing; but if it consumes them to the point that they shut out the world and accomplish nothing, it can be very damaging. I’m sure you can think of other habits which may be more damaging. Whatever the habit, it is only a way to lessen the pain of giving up something that brought so much joy. Only when a person deals with the root cause of why they turn to this “worldly” habit will they turn away from it and fill that void by serving God in the unique way they were designed to.

Chafer writes, “How misleading is the theory that to be spiritual one must abandon play, diversion, and helpful amusement!” He goes on to write:

It is a device of Satan to make the blessings of God seem abhorrent to young people who are overflowing with physical life and energy. It is to be regretted that there are those who in blindness are so emphasizing the negatives of the Truth that the impression is created that spirituality is opposed to joy, liberty and naturalness of expression in thought and life in the Spirit.

The bottom line is when we are saved, it doesn’t mean we have to give up everything that brings us joy, but now we must use those things to bring glory to God. Perhaps you like to play golf on Saturday morning with a group of friends. Or maybe you like to ride your motorcycle in the mountains and stop for a cool drink at a place that may be viewed as inappropriate to most Christians. Both of these activities can be opportunities to share the Good News with others who may not otherwise hear it, while at the same time fulfill your heart and life.

Chafer concludes with, “God has provided that our joy shall be full.” We need to be assured that it is okay to live life in the way we were made. It’s okay to do what God has called us to do in the way He made us. When we do this, our heart and life will be so full of joy we won’t need any “worldly” habits to nullify the emptiness. We will be completely fulfilled and filled with the Spirit.

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Further Thoughts on Faith Seeking Understanding

July 30, 2006 Leave a comment

I have spent some time reflecting on the idea of dialectical poles of theology. First of all, since it is described as a pole, that means the two ideas are opposite of each other, and the two shall never meet. I have come to the conclusion that these two ideas are directly related to each other. Instead of being at two opposite ends, I think they describe our journey of faith.

First of all, look at the idea of understanding in order to believe. When we talk about our salvation, isn’t it true that we must come to some sort of understanding in order that we will believe the Gospel message? As a person is exposed to the idea of Christ dying on the cross for their sins, the Holy Spirit gives them the understanding of what this really means. And that understanding leads to faith.

Now, let’s look at the next idea, belief in order to understand. As a new believer realizes his faith, he seeks more understanding through prayer, Scriptures, and other Christians. His faith is what is guiding him and drawing him to know more. His faith is leading him to greater understanding. And that understanding leads to stronger faith in what he believes.

My point is that these two ideas are not opposite ideas, but ideas that build on each other. I see these two ideas as two opposites on a spiraling circle. As one understands, his faith grows; and as his faith grows, he seeks more understanding which in turn develops a stronger faith. This pattern continues our whole life. Every revolution around the circle creates a wider circle, a greater understanding and a greater faith; in essence creating a spiral that continues further and further away from the center. It could be said that as we spiral from the center we are moving away from our selves and closer and closer to God.

And those are my words…

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Something to Reflect on Today

July 27, 2006 1 comment

This morning as I pondered my future, I ran across a profound statement made a thousand years ago by Anselm of Canterbury, a monk in the eleventh century. It refers to the conviction of fides quaereus intellectum (‘faith seeking understanding’). He says the dialectical poles of theology include the dual principles of credo ut intelligam (‘I believe in order that I may understand’) and intelligo ut credum (‘I understand in order that I might believe’).

Things that make you go hmm…

For more information about Anselm, check out an article about him at http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/a/anselm.htm.

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Classic Literature of Christian Theologians

July 19, 2006 2 comments

One of my professors at Colorado Christian University is an avid reader and collector of classic literature of Christian theologians and authors. He has a personal library filled with volumes of books. It is through him that I have come to love reading the thoughts of these great thinkers.

It began when my professor suggested I read J. Gresham Machen’s book, “Christianity & Liberalism”. This was published in 1923 but seems so relevant today. My professor told me he reads it once a year to stay grounded. The first time I read it I had to read each chapter twice in order to understand what the author was saying. But, as with any good habit, the more I read, the easier it became.

Recently a kindly widow came to our University and asked if we would be interested in her late husband’s books. I eagerly said, “of course.” After she brought in eight boxes the first person I called was my professor. He and I went through the books one by one. My professor knew of many of the authors; as he read them off he would hand them to me with his commentary of the author.

One of the books was “He that is Spiritual” by Lewis Sperry Chafer published in 1918. I have only begun to read this new found treasure, and have begun to take diligent notes. It is available today in paperback through Christianbooks.com.

Over the next few days or weeks, my hope is to make some of these notes and thoughts available to you through this blog. And as I do, hopefully stimulate thought and conversation. When I have completed this book, I will move on to another and do the same.

Until then…these are my words.

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Spending Time With God Through His Word

July 11, 2006 2 comments

Over the past few weeks, God has been working in me and teaching me through His Word like I have never experienced before. I have a hunger for His Word that cannot be satisfied. I am reading and digesting books by the score. My passion for prayer has been rekindled. My time with Him has become the dominate activity of my day and I praise God for all of this as I can feel His presence growing ever stronger in me.

This last week, I have spent much of my time reading about the regeneration we experience as we come to know our Lord. I have also been reading about the power of prayer as seen by E.M. Bounds. These thoughts were on my mind as I read the third chapter of Colossians this morning. I have probably read through it a dozen times or more over the years; but this morning it took me an hour to get through these 25 verses. I read it as a prayer to God to continue my regeneration as I mature in His love.

I have taken the liberty of writing out the 3rd chapter in such a way as to make it my daily prayer, and I want to share it with you so that it may be a blessing to you as well.

Having been raised up with Christ, I will seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, and set my mind on the things above, not on the things here on earth; for I have died and my life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is my life, is revealed, then I also will be revealed with Him in glory.

I will consider the members of my earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amount to idolatry; for it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come upon me, and in them I also once walked, when I was living in them. But now I also put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from my mouth. I will not lie to my brother or sister, since I laid aside my old self with its evil practices, and have put on my new self that is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created me — a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

And so, as one who has been chosen of God, holy and beloved, I will put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with others, and forgiving others, whoever has a complaint against me; just as the Lord forgave me, so also should I. And beyond all these things I shall put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, to which indeed I was called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within me, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing others with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in my heart to God. And whatever I do in word or deed, I do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

I will love my wife, and not be embittered against her. I will not exasperate my children, that they may not lose heart. In all things I will obey those who are my masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever I do, I will do heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord I will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom I serve; for if I do wrong, I will receive the consequences of the wrong which I have done, and without partiality.

Based on Col 3:1-25 (NASB)

The remarkable thing about God’s Word is how it speaks to us concerning the present circumstances in our lives. We may have read a particular passage a dozen times, but because of something going on in our life at this particular time, it can speak right to the heart of the matter. God’s Word applies to us everyday.

My prayer is if you are not spending time with God through His Word, that you would begin to do so. And if you are already doing so, take a little extra time and allow the Holy Spirit to bless you even more. I know for me, it has changed my life, and will continue to do so.

Blessings to you!

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Who Does God Want You to Be?

This weekend I have the opportunity to preach both services at my home church. I knew what scripture I wanted to talk about (2 Peter 1:5–8), but I was still struggling with how to apply it to our church. This afternoon, while I was thinking about this, I asked God to help me. “What is it about this scripture that you want me to say?” And then it came to me.

Many of us have read Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life”. The first words in chapter one are, “It’s not about you.” Yet, how many of us look at our ministry and ask the question, “What am I doing?” “What is it that God wants me to do?” Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe the right question is “Who does God want me to be?” When we read these words from the thought of who we are, and not what we do, it has a whole new meaning.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (HCSB)

The other thing that occurred to me is when we strive to become who God wants us to be, we will in turn find out what God wants us to do. So simple, yet so profound.

And those are my words.

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Be Prepared to Tell Your Story

Are you prepared to share your faith? Scripture says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) This can be a scary thing to some of us. If you are like me, you may get all caught up in the details and preparation.

When I was a new believer I was excited about the change in my life and told anyone that stood still long enough. But as I grew in my faith I began to get wrapped up in how I shared my faith. I wanted to do it right. After all, this is an important thing; someone’s salvation could be at stake.

Now please understand, this is before I realized that nothing I could do would determine the outcome; but at the time it seemed a pretty heavy responsibility. So, I proceeded to get all of the methods available to sharing my faith. You know the type; stuff like the acrostic FAITH, and others. These are great tools. In fact I have one in my Bible for just-in-case (but don’t tell anyone).

Then one day I realized a fancy method or cool acrostic isn’t what’s going to attract someone’s interest in hearing about Jesus. What may attract someone’s interest is me sharing my story, my life change. People identify with real, sincere, from-the-heart stuff; not some sheet of paper with notes on it.

So next time you are given the opportunity to share your faith, do just that; share your faith. Tell your story. You might find that people are more interested to hear what you have to say.

And those are my words.

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