Category: The Christian Life

You’re imitating me?

One Christian men’s group I attend praises mentoring a lot. But something about that word has bothered me. Why?

After all, when I worked in Corporate IT, I did some mentoring. In Corporate, I passed along technical and organizational info about being a better programmer. Basically, I transmitted a reproducible body of knowledge and techniques.

But I see a danger when using the term mentoring in a Christian context: It’s a mistake to reduce Christian growth to a passing on of a bunch of techniques and info. Being the Christian fixer who is so experienced that he knows the correct way to handle any financial dilemma or parenting problem.   Being a combo of Doctor Phil and Dave Ramsey.

But even if I were an expert on fixing the aftereffects of bad life experiences and resolving parenting dilemmas, I would still be missing the most important thing: life experiences are of some value, but they are not what makes someone worth imitating.

So what is the secret? What would make me worth imitating?

Consider this:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God
. (Micah 6:8)

Rather than having a qualifying list of life experiences, what really matters is how we react during any life experience. Can we help someone to think wisely about what God has brought into their life? If we do, we’re helping them develop wise biblical character.  

I love the verse “Abraham grew stronger in his faith as he gave glory to God.” (Romans 4:20)

Shouldn’t a Christian mentor help a mentee grow stronger in their own faith and discernment? Helping them to better distinguish between a wise and a foolish usage of time.  And between sound and thoughtless choices about money. And showing them how prayer and Scripture illuminate the correct path.

If that’s what mentoring is, it’s no longer just a corporate buzzword. Now it’s worthwhile for true growth. Count me in!  


 

Should Volunteering Drive Us Bats?

bats

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-33)

I started work on this post on a strange morning for me. I was sitting here with an enormous floater like a vampire bat fluttering in my right eye. Not a typical Tuesday morning! But upon reading the passage above and seeing how much stronger Jesus is than any vampire bat, I started singing out loud, “Jesus you really are the son of God.”

Thankfully, the vampire in my eye has since flown away! It faded out.

But today’s passage can drive you bats. Because it’s been used for many, many sermons saying “Get out of your boat.  Get out of your comfort zone.”  These have not always been condemnatory sermons, but they generally do come at times when church leaders want people to be more involved in ministry activity.

“We need more volunteers for the nursery.” “We need more ushers.” “We will have to shut down some Sunday School classes if we don’t get more teachers.”  The message: If you aren’t involved it’s because you are stuck in your comfort zone and you must leave that pampered place.

But that exhortation misses the mark when it is more concerned with getting people to do stuff than with who they are in Christ.

Peter was overcome by fear and challenged by Jesus to be a man of faith. We have fears too. Fear of losing a job. Fear of getting sick. Fear of what people will think of our decisions. We need to ask God to fulfill his promise that we will get a new heart, one that’s alive and not stone, one that’s filled with faith instead of fear.

Big danger here: The “Comfort zone” lecture risks short-circuiting heart change, shaming you to act without a renewed heart.  We need to have God-given grace-filled volunteers, not people being manipulated and shamed into volunteering.

We may or may not join the usher team or teach Sunday school. But when we do, we are much less likely to go bats and burn out and quit when we act from a willing, Spirit-filled, renewed heart!

Pleasure During Trying Times

Here’s a picture of our last running club social get together, way back in March. We were laughing and joking, with no social distancing whatsoever, enjoying tasty food and beer. Little did we know that a few days later gatherings like this were going to be banned…. for months and months.

The feast was a real blessing from God. But what does it mean to experience blessing when such feasts are forbidden? Can I ask God to give me a sense of satisfaction even without being able to enjoy a delicious spread?

The superscription for Psalm 63 says A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. David was driven away from home and hid in the desert in fear of his enemies.  But he did not wallow in self-pity. No, he found an amazing level of joy in this place of exile.

My favorite phrase in this Psalm is from verse 5, I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods. Do you ever find the Lord so satisfying that it’s like enjoying a savory juicy prime steak?

The author who’s the best at describing this kind of satisfaction is John Piper.  His excellent book The Pleasures of God – Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God 1describes spiritual pleasure brilliantly. Piper calls this Christian hedonism. His explanations of this to seem way over my head. But over the years, in answer to prayer, God is giving me an increasing taste of this spiritual feast.

Meditate on the following verses. May God’s Spirit cause their truths to dwell more richly in you. That’s wonderful anytime, but especially during this time of COVID.

 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips
(Psalm 63:1,3,5)

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-pleasures-of-god

Christ’s Astounding Treasures

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8)

Jesus’ treasures are real and substantial. But to be honest, it often seems like I partake of them less than I could. Why do I have junk instead of gold? One reason is the tension between the vastness of what God has promised and the time and effort and perseverance I need to appropriate and build treasure into my life.  

A look back at Israel’s conquest of the promised land sheds light on what’s needed.

At first, we see the great triumphs described in the book of Joshua:

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. (Joshua 21:43-45)

The Israelites’ entrance into this promised land parallels what happens when we  enter Christ’s kingdom:

 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.(Titus 3:5-7)

But this triumphant passage is only the start.  Looking at the Israelites again, we see that they got a warning that despite how much territory they gained, God left some enemies in the land as a test:

“…I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua. (Judges 2:22-23)

Would the Israelites persevere and drive out those enemies? Unfortunately not. They got complacent; and that lackadaisical attitude really came back to bite them, eventually leading to their downfall. Their best efforts weren’t enough.

And that’s what we’re being warned against !

We are euphoric about a new life in Christ with all the tremendous changes that are included. He has rescued us from sin, death and the devil. But we must still overcome the pockets of resistance and sin in our lives, pressing on towards maturity. 

We have the power to achieve something the Israelites were unable to complete. Is that because we are so super spiritually great ? Have we mounted a holy pedestal of perfection? Not at all. No, we are free to admit that our best efforts aren’t enough.

We desperately need what the Israelites did not yet have : the power of Christ’s Holy Spirit  working inside of us. That power does not guarantee an obstacle-free  ride to perfection, but when we decide  to persevere, we will indeed make great progress towards maturity.

As we mature, we grow more skillful at distinguishing  slop from gold. We learn to be increasingly quick at exchanging the slop in our lives for the  gold of  the boundless riches of Christ !