Sunday, August 20, 2006

Quote of the week....

"The concept of 'taking something to heart' is not determined by how emotionally moved you are but by how much you act because of it."

Jesse M. Guy

4 Ways to Influence People

1. Intimidation
I'll include anything in this category from physical force to the threat of physical force. Unfortunately, there are quite a few examples in church history of people who claim to be followers of Christ and use violence to "convert" the unbelievers or to "correct" the heretic within the faith.

This one includes all the tricks of the trade so to speak. Included in this are the myriad of psychological tricks used in many (sadly perhaps even most) church services today, especially in the United States. I will also include in this the social pressures that go hand in hand with living in a culture with a rich Christian heritage. One of the problems with this method is that it creates the kind of Christianity we see in the West today.... an inch deep and a mile wide. I think of when Peter first exclaimed that Jesus was, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" Jesus said he was blessed because flesh and blood had not revealed this to him, but the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I wonder if because we are so consumed with "converting" people or getting them to a place of decision, if we don't short circuit the process that was supposed to be taking place. I wonder if many of the people in our churches are making their exclamations of faith primarily BECAUSE flesh and blood have revealed it to them.

I believe that we are at least moving toward the right path in this category. At least with persuasion, the believers who are doing the persuading have thought about their faith enough to confidently carry on a conversation with unbelievers and use the power of reasoning and basic principles of the faith to draw folks to Him. However, there are still limitations to this form of influence. Essentially, addressing the mind does not always mean you are penetrating through to the heart.

This is what we are truly called to live. Do not think for a minute that just because I recognize the truth of this that I am claiming to be living it consistently. I do not doubt that I struggle with this calling as much as if not more than most. The reason inspiration is so powerful is because it illustrates. It is not a diagram, a lecture, a book, a step by step video, etc. It is another human being living the life. Inspiration comes from watching someone else not necessarily listening to their wisdom. A simple act like Jesus weeping can tell you more than all the theology courses in all the Christian colleges. His insistence that the little children not be kept from coming to Him, embracing the outcasts and openly calling the spiritual leaders white washed tombs, seeking time alone with the Father but not turning people away when that time is interrupted, and of course, His willingness to come, suffer, and die the death of the cross because it was the will of the Father. These actions whisper and scream simultaneously. We are called to be lights not just voices. Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words." I hope I will lay this to heart each day. Father, please continue to bring this truth to my mind and heart.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Funny Bear...

Empty Shells

I see the empty shells
Lying on the sea shore
No sea life in them dwells
No being in their core

I see the empty shells
Beautiful cathedrals in Europe stand
No true life in them dwells
Only religion built by man's hand

I see them building churches
Here and there they rise
But without the true Life in them
They cause our own demise

I see the empty people
They've been blinded by the lies
Do they need another steeple?
Or to hear the Father when He cries

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Actively Pursuing Jesus

First, what do I mean by "pursuing Jesus"? Pursuit refers to a chase, hot on the heels of someone, a hunter and its prey, and many other images that come to mind. It can also be tied into the concept of a relationship and one person's pursuit of the other through spending time with them, getting to know them, thinking of them more and more, and pouring yourself into the relationship when you decide that they are "the one" for you to invest yourself fully and to let them know your intentions to be with them forever. These are all ideas that I believe apply most fully only to the one relationship any of us should fully give ourselves over to, our relationship with Jesus.

Ok, you've got what I mean, now on with the how.

1.Reading and studying the Scriptures.
When you consider what we as believers claim to believe about the Bible, this is somewhat of a no-brainer. However, how many times have I put this off or gone for days without even cracking it open. If you would say, "I just don't enjoy reading the Bible, " I'd say join the club (at least some of the time, I don't). If you say, "I don't seem to get much out of it when I read it." See previous answer. If you say, "I don't even understand much of it." Again, previous answer. This is obviously not a book for the faint of heart. It will take a time commitment and a willingness to pursue understanding diligently, and even then, we may not grasp all of it. The two single most important principles I can probably say that I have learned about reading and studying the Bible are A)I believe that God has given all of us amazing minds and expects us to use them to their fullest potential, but I look to the Holy Spirit to open my eyes not to my own intellectual ability, and B)It is a discipline that has no connection whatsoever to my emotions, moods, or circumstances, just like any other discipline.

2.Prayer and Meditation
This about learning to communicate. Now having a baby, I have a new perspective on the concept of communication. She is communicating with me even now. She has been communicating with me since the second she popped her head out and said her version of hello ( which was something like aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!). My point is that we do not have to learn to WANT to try to communicate, we are born with that desire. What we actually have to learn is HOW to communicate. God knows this since He designed us, and this is symbolic of how it works when we are born again. We should talk to God, but we should not be under the impression that He wants us to wow Him with our wisdom or praying abilities. I do not fully understand any of this that I am trying to write about in this post, but I am pretty sure that one of the reasons that God is so adamant that we pray is for some of the same reasons that I want Ella to communicate with me. I want her to learn to depend on me, and I want her to learn, period so that she can eventually be able to communicate with me on deeper levels. I think of the various phases that are ahead of her and I : the toddler years and her first words, her cute elementary years and the beginning of understanding, her teen years and experiencing life and relationships in deeper ways, and adulthood and a more peer to peer friendship between the two of us. I think God wants to use prayer and meditating on the Scriptures to see stages of development in our relationship with Him like this also. I still often feel like screaming aaaaaaahhhhhh! so far, though. :)

3.The real how...
All the stuff I just wrote is actually to help us facilitate this third somewhat all encompassing way that we pursue Jesus. Our day to day lives must revolve around Him. The reading, studying, praying, and meditating simply open the door for Him to show us who He wants us to be, and how He wants us to live. This is where it can get a little overwhelming. We see who Jesus is and even if we are believers in who He is and are trusting in Him for salvation, we say, "There is no stinking way I can be like that!" You are right. You can not. However, Jesus tells us to be like Him. Repentance is probably the biggest missing word in the American church these days. It is all about emphasizing belief, but if you will follow step #1, you will soon see the words repentance, obedience, holiness, and whole bunch of other words used a lot more times than we seem to be comfortable using them today. We are called to "present ourselves as a living sacrifice." We can not live the life that we are called in our own strength, but that does not excuse us from pouring our hearts into living for Him. I believe that the more we do this, the more that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to things and strengthen us to live as people that we would have never guessed possible. Living consistently at a level of love for others inspired by our love for Christ that we could not even dream ourselves capable of at this point in our lives.

In the Bible there are many lists. Lots of people like to call it a book of lists of do's and don'ts. However, the real purpose of this list is not to tell us that if you do this and don't do this you'll go to heaven, and if you do this and don't do this, you'll go to hell. This is missing the point. Read the list in First Thessalonians 5:12-28 for example. This is a list of things believers can practice doing on a daily basis a little more and little better. Jesus says in Luke 6:47 and 48, "I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words AND puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built." Also, in John 8:31 "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." It is AFTER we begin to try to walk in obedience to His words that He promises to make us strong and set us free. He does these things, but He will not until we have taken those first steps of faith and action.