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Archive for the ‘Christian Life’ Category

A helpful quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together, especially after just relocating and seeking new friendships…

Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification.  It is a gift of God which we cannot claim.  Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification.  What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God.  Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature.  The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grown from day to day as God pleases.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.  The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it. (p. 31)

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I’ve been re-re-reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy lately.  It is easily a favorite of mine.  The point Willard makes very clearly is that the heart of the gospel is discipleship to Christ.  In Chapter 8, Willard focuses on the topic of practical discipleship.  I’ve pasted below some great quotations from the chapter, also with the intention of capturing the flow of his theme throughout:

Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church.  It is not the much discussed moral failures, financial abuses, or the amazing general similarity between Christians and non-Christians.  These are only effects of the underlying problem.  The fundamental negative reality among Christian believers now is their failure to be constantly learning how to live their lives in The Kingdom Among Us.  And it is an accepted reality.  The division of professing Christians into those for whom it is a matter of whole-life devotion to God and those who maintain a consumer, or client, relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for over fifteen hundred years. (p. 301)

Disciple defined:

A disciple, or apprentice, is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.

He lives in the kingdom of God, and he applies that kingdom for the good of others and even makes it possible for them to enter it for themselves.

The disciple or apprentice of Jesus, as recognized by the New Testament, is one who has firmly decided to learn from him how to lead his or her life, whatever that may be, as Jesus himself would do it.  And, as best they know how, they are making plans – taking the necessary steps, progressively arranging and rearranging their affairs – to do this.  All of his will, in one way or another, happen within the special and unfailing community he has established on earth.  And the apprentices then are, of course, perfectly positioned to learn how to do everything Jesus taught.  That is the process envisioned in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. (p. 291)

Then how do we make disciples?  Willard says we must first be a disciple (see above quotations).  Then we must actually intend to do so.  How do we then do it once we are ourselves a disciple and have made the conscious decision to do so?

Lead people to become disciples of Jesus by ravishing them with a vision of life in the kingdom of the heavens in the fellowship of Jesus.  And you do this by proclaiming, manifesting, and teaching the kingdom to them in a manner learned from Jesus himself.  You thereby change the belief system that governs their lives.  (p. 305)

To enable people to become disciples we must change whatever it is in their actual belief system that bars confidence in Jesus as Master of the Universe.  (p. 307)

We must study our friends and associates to see what they really do believe and help them to be honest about it.  We understand that our beliefs are the rails upon which our life runs, and so we have to address their actual beliefs and their doubts, not spend our time discussing many fine things that have little or no relevance to their geniune state of mind. (p.309)

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The last “Weekly Notables.”  I have resolved to read more edited, published writing rather than spontaneous “off the cuff” blogging.  I’ll still send some good links along sporadically.

Reading: Francis of Assissi said what?  Preach the Gospel, Use Deeds When Necessary.

Health:  Do you think you know pain?  Check out this guy‘s visibly wincing pain at mile 22 of the San Diego Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon.

Reading:  Lot’s of it.  D.A. Carson’s contribution to the church is real nice, and so is making nearly all of it availabe for free.

Listening: Free audio download from Christianaudio: Eugene Petersen’s Christ Plays in Ten-Thousand Places.

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This is hilarious.  Original sin according to Brian Regan:

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Some excellent words from Miles J. Stanford in the chapter titled “Acceptance” from his short book of essays called Principles of Spiritual Growth:

There are two questions that every believer must settle as soon as possible.  The one is, Does God fully accept me?  and the second, If so, upon what basis does He do so?  This is crucial. (p. 17)

Many suppose that because they are conscious of sins, hence they must renew their acceptance with God.  The truth is that God has not altered.  His eye rests on the work accomplished by Christ for the believer.  When you are not walking in the Spirit you are in the flesh: you have turned to the old man which was crucified on the cross.  You have to be restored to fellowship, and when you are, you find your acceptance with God unchanged and unchangeable.  When sins are introduced there is a fear that God has changed.  He has not changed, but you have.  You are not walking in the Spirit but in the flesh. (p. 18 emphasis added)

Here he quotes Wm. R. Newell explaining “the proper attitude of Man Under Grace:”

To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.

To refuse to make ‘resolutions’ and ‘vows’; for that is to trust in the flesh.

To ‘hope to be better [hence acceptable] is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.

To be disappointed with yourself, is to have believed in yourself.

Ephesians 2:3-7

BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

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So I went running sunday afternoon.  Thunderstorms were forecasted for the afternoon and evening so I checked the doppler radar, which showed a line of developing storms just south and east of Lincoln moving northeast.  The cold front was approaching and it was now or never to get those miles in before the nice, muggy 50s would depart. I jumped in my car and headed to the Mopac east trail.

The beginning of the run went well.  I headed east out of Lincoln and could see a few weak storms in front of me.  I only felt a sprinkle here and there, but vowed that if it started to downpour before I reached my turn around point, I would make it to the next mile marker and head back.  This vow was based solely on the assumption that the line of development, as I depicted from the radar, was just east (or in front) of me.

Then I reached my turn around point and was nearly stopped in my tracks.  What I saw was precisely what I used to love to photograph but then take cover from during my storm chasing days as a college student.  About a mile from me was a classic shelf cloud which usually marks the front boundary of a line of thunderstorms with heavy rain, wind, and possibly hail.  If you can see a shelf cloud, it is heading towards you!

Needless to say, the rest of the run was in the midst of some strong winds and heavy, heavy rain.  I felt like such an idiot for being out there.  For one, having a degree in meteorology, I have been to way too many seminars and lectures about lightning safety, survivial stories, and not-so-survival stories.  And two, my wife and I had not yet paid our first premium for our life insurance policies (which was done the next day!).  Doh!

All that intro to bring up vows with God.  I am not going to lie, there was some strong pleading with God out there on that trail.  Especially when it seemed lightning was striking very close by.  But I refused to make a vow with Him, such as, if you keep me alive, I will do such and such.

One of the stories I was thinking about constantly on that run was that of Martin Luther.  Luther, after being caught in a severe thunderstorm, became so scared that he vowed to join the cloister if he would make it safely.  The storm did not kill him and the rest is history.

One of the pastors I admire most is John Piper.  In a recent message he gave at Park Community Church called The Pastor as Scholar, he mentioned that growing up he was deeply and physiologically terrified of speaking in front of people.  This continued until his senior year at Wheaton College, when he was asked to give the opening prayer at some summer school event in front of 500 people.  Piper said before the event, he vowed with God that if God would enable him to say the prayer, he would never turn down another opportunity to give a speech due to fear.  Once again, the rest is history.

It seems strange to me to make vows with God.  I know I have made them in the past.  They were usually immature things about sports, or girls I liked, or something I thought I really wanted.  I made a vow with my wife on our wedding day, and each day is its practical unraveling.  But what about with God?  Is there a place for it?  Is it biblical?  Has anyone else made a specific vow and kept it to the best of their knowledge?

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Can you guess when this was written?

A typical case of such unbelief begins when young men are brought up as nominal Christians.  Their parents take them to church as children and there they become acquainted with those passages of the Bible used in the service.  If their parents still keep some of the old habits, they may even be taught the catechism.

But they go off into the world, yield to youthful temptations, neglect to look at their Bible, and they do not develop their religious duties.  Attending church occasionally, these occasional incidents more often offend such youth than strengthen them.  Perhaps they are tempted to be morally superior to those they think are superstitious.  Or the poor examples of some professing Christians disgust them.  Or else they stumble because of the absurdities of others who see they are equally ignorant themselves.  At any rate, they gradually begin to doubt the reality of Christianity.  A confused sense of relief that it is all untrue settles within them.  Impressions deepen, reinforced by fresh arguments.  At length they are convinced of their doubts in a broad sweep over the whole realm of religion.

This may not be universally so, but it may be termed teh natural history of skepticism.  It is the experience of those who have watched the progress of unbelief in those they care about. It is confirmed by the written lines of some of the most eminent unbelievers.  We find that they once gave a sort of implicit, inherited assent to the truth of Christianity and were considered believers.

How did they become skeptics?  Reason, thought, and inquiry have little to do with it.  Having lived for many years careless and irreligious lives, they eventually matured in their faithlessness – not by force of irreligious strength but by lapse of time.  This is generally the offspring of prejudice, and its success is the result of moral decline.  Unbelief is not so much the result of a studious and controversial age as it is one of moral decline.  It disperses itself in proportion as the general morals decline. People embrace it with less apprehension when all around are doing the same thing.  (Wilberforce, William. Real Christianity, p. 127-128, emphasis added)

It is striking how similar Wilberforce , in the early 1800’s, described the experience of so many people I know today.  What do you think?

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