Christianity is not merely a topic to be discussed, but a Life to be lived and experienced.
Jesus did not say, “I’ve come to bring you a new topic of discussion so that you may talk about it excessively.“
Rather, He said, “I’ve come so that you may have Life, and have it to the full.”
Imagine for a moment the ridiculosity of Jesus coming to earth, living the brilliant life of service and teaching that He did, dying that horrific death, rising from it—for the reason of giving us something to talk about. How sad would that be?
Now I don’t have an M. Div., but I’m pretty sure He went through all that so that we could actually share in His Divine Life and experience it in our real lives day to day.
Merely discussing it, for me, doesn’t do a lot to open myself up to the point of tangibly receiving that Divine Flow of supernatural life and energy. (Unless of course the conversation is about what God is doing in your life and teaching you, or how awesome God is. That’s pretty efficacious. But you know what I’m saying–simply talking about it, instead of sharing in it.)
But prayer, whether with others or alone, sure opens me up to that Divine Flow.
Sitting in listening silence, with nothing on my mind but God really does it for me.
Lectio Divina—the meditative reading of Scripture.
The Prayer of Examen.
Worship and praise.
Being in and observing nature with gratitude to God for it.
These are excellent ways to open one’s self up to receiving grace.
Discussions of Christianity as a subject typically leave you the same way you entered, if not a little emptier. They usually don’t stay with you and strengthen you in the moment when needed.
As Dallas Willard encouraged, we don’t merely need to teach what we ought to do, or what we should do, but we need to teach how to do what Jesus taught us.
Experience of the Divine Life, drawing upon the Spirit of Jesus, seems to come mainly through prayer and total abandoning trust in Jesus.
It is through prayer that God works directly on your soul, and not through theological rumination.
by Gabriela Pallikan
The sun began to peek over the horizon, spraying reflections of tender pinks, oranges, and purples all over the ocean’s surface. Delicate clouds dotted the morning sky, and monstrous boulders towered ominously over the water’s edge. As I stared into the distance, the vast, flawlessly blue waves beat against the rocks in thunderous yet muffled crashes, and seagulls chattered overhead. Even the trees, which were lined up to create a fence between the gravel road behind me and the red boulders ahead, seemed to stand out like radiating emeralds in the soft light of the new day. Seeing all of the vibrant blues of the ocean and greens of the plants and golden in the sky above felt such a relief from the business and agitation of the city. In that moment, everything felt so much more alive, yet so much more at peace. All I could think was how beautiful that scene was, and how perfect the beauty of God can be.
However, looking back, it is so hard to describe exactly why I was overcome with such beauty, because beauty can be such an abstract idea to define. What is it that makes something truly beautiful? Why is it that everyone can easily point out what they think is beautiful, yet they cannot say why? Why is it that certain things are generally considered beautiful and others are not? What is it about beauty that can make a person so enchanted and amazed? The dictionary defines beauty as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially sight. It is true that beauty is pleasurable to those who are beholding it, but it is also so much more than that. It is something that is much deeper than the pleasure of human nature, and it has a much more important purpose than to bring enjoyment to people. Beauty is God’s mark upon the world in order to reveal what is truly good; therefore, goodness and beauty are the same on a deeper level.
Beauty and goodness are fundamentally uniform because something cannot be beautiful if it does not express the truth, goodness, and love which God intended. Beauty is how people can observe and experience what God created to be good. Therefore, goodness is what is pleasing to the senses, but also what is pleasing to God. In his writing Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas discusses this idea of beauty and goodness being one and the same. He says, “Goodness is what every person desires, and beauty is the form of goodness that our senses can observe. Beauty and goodness are the same things deep down below the level of the senses”. The Bible also shows that God created what is good and beautiful. The book of Genesis states, “And God saw that it was good,” but that verse contains a Hebrew word which can really be translated as either good or beautiful, making them one in the same. Anything that is not good on a deeper level cannot truly be considered beautiful.
However, these days, sin has so deeply corrupted our society and created such an alluring false imagery of what is beautiful, that it can be difficult to distinguish the difference sometimes. There are so many twisted versions of God’s gracious gifts to humankind that have turned into hateful, sinful acts of greed and jealousy. These may seem good at first, but once the enhanced, glamorous outside is stripped away, it is clear that what lies beneath is the hideous, destructive wickedness of what it truly is, lacking any sense of virtue or goodness. Some could say that murder is beautiful, but just because someone may see it that way, it does not mean that it is truly beautiful. Murder is, of course, neither fundamentally good nor pleasing to God, so whether or not someone believes that taking a life holds some sort of beauty, it cannot.
Examples of true beauty can be found especially in nature, but a specific example is the Amazon rainforest. This huge, luscious creation supports an amazing amount of life every single day. From the tallest tree down to the smallest ant, the rainforest is home. If one were to stand in it, they would see the glowing green of the tree’s highest canopy, the stripes of golden sunlight running down to touch the earth through the spaces between each little leaf, and they could hear the sounds of the various birds singing to one another as twigs snapped beneath the weight of more impressive animals slowly lurking behind the bushes. There would be no doubt of the beauty of the place, and its true beauty in giving so much life to so many different creatures and plants which God created. The beauty of it lies beyond what one could observe with their senses, but rather into the goodness of the creation.
As God’s mark on his marvelous creation, the purpose of beauty is to unveil the true essence of his goodness in a way that can be perceived through the senses. However, true beauty goes deeper than the senses as it reflects God’s virtue. With this argument, it is important to keep in mind that true beauty is not the same as one’s taste. Take art work for example. Van Gogh’s Starry Night might deeply move one person but just be another painting to someone else. This does not mean that Van Gogh’s work is not beautiful; it just shows that some people might not have a taste for the certain kind of artwork. Starry Night is still a beautiful creation because it reflects how God created the stars to twinkle in the night sky and the light of the moon to bounce around on all the different little homes of the village. Van Gogh was inspired by the scene God created in nature and chose to make his own imitation of it to express the beauty he experienced.
Nevertheless, some might say that there is no higher purpose to beauty because everyone responds to it differently. If there truly was one purpose for it, everyone would see it in the same way. Just because people see it differently, that does not mean that it is not there. Part of the beauty in how God created the world and each person is that everyone is unique. Everyone has their own background, their own story; therefore, they will be inspired by the beauty of his creation differently. In many cases, that inspiration manifests itself in varieties of art. If everyone saw beauty the exact same way, the world would not have the collection of all distinct forms of art. Music, dance, theater, poetry, and visual art would not exist without the unique perspective of every single person. It does not matter that people might not see beauty the same way; the importance of it is that the purpose of beauty is to reveal to them the goodness of God and inspire them to continue to create. It goes down to a deeper, spiritual level for the higher purpose of reflecting God’s virtue. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” True beauty comes from somewhere deeper than our senses can detect, from a higher spiritual level which reveals God’s true goodness.
Some may say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; therefore, everyone has his or her own view of what is beautiful. There may be things that most people agree are beautiful, but there is always going to be someone who does not. Take a rose, for example: most people would agree that roses are beautiful. The vivid, radiant red of the petals, all wrapped around each other, which seemed to glow in the sunlight, and the delicate stems reaching for the sunlight with peculiar, mischievous thorns sticking out cause a sense of hesitation at the seemingly lovely, innocent little flower. However, there is someone out there who might despise roses, maybe because they are allergic, maybe because it reminds them of someone they loved who passed away, or maybe just because they do not have a taste for that particular type of flower. However, this point of view does not recognize that taste, someone’s own personal opinion, is very different from what something may actually be regardless of what that person may think it to be, whether beautiful or not. Just because someone does not find the flower to have beauty by their own notion, that does not take away from the beauty it truly does hold because it was created by God in reflection of his goodness.
Beauty cannot be whatever each person believes it to be because, if so, then everything would be beautiful, which would make nothing beautiful. If everything was beautiful, the word would lose its meaning, and there would be no way for God to make apparent what is really good. This happens with words all the time in our society. Words that used to be eloquent and expressive have just been used over and over again until the true heaviness of its original meaning has been completely disregarded. Again consider the rose, for example: If the rose was truly only beautiful if the person who was beholding it thought so to themselves, then what would it really mean to call something beautiful? If everything was beautiful, then what would be the point in using that term to describe something? Calling something beautiful would not make it set apart from anything else in the world, and is that not what the point of beauty is? It is how people describe the goodness they can see in the world through their senses, the goodness which sets it apart from anything man-made or corrupted by sin.
There has to be a foundation for the truth of beauty so that it can retain the significance of its true meaning in that it reflects the virtue of the Lord. There has to be a solid contrast between what is beautiful and what is not so that people can define what is good, no matter the personal opinion of someone else. The ugly and evil of the world, brought upon by the very first sin, is necessary to give a true appreciation and ability to see the beauty and goodness. C.S. Lewis wrote about general morality, which also applies to the specific discourse of there having to be true standards for beauty. He says, “The moment you say that one set of moral ideas is better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. … You are, in fact, comparing the both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a Real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that Real Right than others”. In saying this, he means that everyone naturally believes that there is a true standard for beauty, no matter what others think, and the real standard of beauty is what God has graciously shown his people as what is good and loving, truthful and virtuous.
Beauty is the hint God placed upon the world in order to reveal to his people what is good, true, and virtuous. It allows people to experience that goodness through their senses in order to get closer to him. In modern society, it is important to have an understanding of what true beauty is. People can be pretty careless when throwing words around that actually have a deeper meaning. They believe that everyone has their own opinion of beauty, so they believe it does not really matter as long as they know what they think is beautiful. To most, beauty is merely what is pleasurable to the senses or whatever they think makes them happy. However, true happiness can only come from God, so if they are only pursuing what they believe can make them happy, if they are only pursuing the things of this world, they will become lost very quickly. Beauty is God’s own way of communicating to his people what is good and true, what they should be pursuing in order to find the true happiness which only lies within him.
When Faith Becomes Sight: Opening Your Eyes To God’s Presence All Around You
by Beth and David Booram
Profound Guidance For Your Journey Toward God
Gentle and wise guides.
This is who Beth and David Booram are, and you are privileged to experience the rich benefit of their spiritual guidance—should you choose to dive in and feast upon this magnificent book.
Decades of spiritual experience, learning, and teaching are beautifully transposed into words on paper that I found to be penetrating and invigorating. It is difficult to translate the deep work of spiritual direction, healthy introspection, & God-seeking into book form in such a way in which you can feel it and be powerfully moved by it. But this Beth and David have done incredibly well with “When Faith Becomes Sight.”
In this work, they are quite effective with assisting you in attuning your heart’s receptors to God—God at work in the world at large, yet also in those tiny, difficult-to-detect recesses of your inner self.
One of the many qualities I love about this book is how the authors help you–wherever you may be on your journey–look deep within, yet without falling into an unhealthy introspective self-absorption. They consistently keep the focus of the subtitle, “Opening Your Eyes To God’s Presence All Around You”, ever in front of you, while simultaneously leading you on a journey of vitally efficacious self-knowledge. Another quality I must mention are the imaginative accounts of Scriptural narratives throughout the book. They are transcendently vivid and palpable, giving you a different and exciting lens through which to meditate upon the sacred text.
Just one of the highlights that was especially helpful to me was this sentence from Chapter 12 entitled “Befriending Desire”:
“Surprisingly we discover that desiring isn’t primarily about fulfilling. Desire is a powerful spiritual energy that moves us toward God and the life we were created to live.” And their reflection on Jesus’s many “Parables of Desire” was eye-opening—”Isn’t he emphasizing that desire is a powerful force within us that can propel us toward God and the desires God has for us?”
If you’re looking for authentic assistance in attuning to God and, therefore, your truest self, this book will be amazingly helpful, for it has been lovingly poured forth by two very loving, gentle, & wise spiritual guides.
These people, however, curse anything they don’t know.
One of our original mantras in The Ripple Effect was this:
Give no energy to that which you don’t know.
How much heartache, division, and stupidity could we save the world if we just lived by this simple agreement with ourselves?
One thing I don’t know is what other people really think of me.
Oh how much energy I save for better things by giving none to that fruitless option.
I also have no idea if Donald Trump colluded with Russia. So I spend exactly 0.0 seconds per day wondering about it.
One thing I do know is that my family needs me to be present, so….yeah, energy there is well spent.
2 Timothy 2:23-26
Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.
Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.
Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.
The core issue of unbelief is not intellectual.
It is spiritual.
This is why the Lord’s servants are not called to win arguments. And I believe we’re called to proclaim the truth of the Gospel more than defend it. That opens the spiritual door for the Spirit to work in someone’s heart…if it is not too hardened.
That is how we can be gentle, because we know the truth from experience, and therefore understand that unbelief comes from the evil one in the spiritual realm, and a person’s spiritual eyes must open for them to see.
The Gospel truth is not about intellectual understanding (Thank God!), but about spiritual sight.
When we genuinely see that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual darkness, it becomes obvious to us that we don’t try to conquer people who are being held captive, we work to set them free!
I love our chiropractor for a myriad of reasons, one of which is their overarching philosophy and approach: God designed your body to heal itself. We simply remove whatever is in the way of inhibiting that flow of healing. Your body does the rest–the real work. There have been so many times in which they have helped me through some sort of injury, and I tell them “Thank you,” and they respond with, “Hey, we just got everything out of the way to free your body up to do the work of healing itself.”
Jesus, if we allow Him, simply frees us up so that we can experience His healing touch upon our very lives. When nothing is blocking our view, we realize He is always with us, always good, and and always out for us–for our very best.
I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken. ~Psalm 16:8
What is holding you back from keeping the Lord in mind always?
It is extremely likely that it is is something within your control or something the Holy Spirit will assist you in removing.
Celebrate with those who are celebrating, mourn with the mourners.
[New Testament for Everyone]
There’s been much on my heart this week. The Spirit has directed me to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, which I look forward to sharing with you soon. A close friend has been in the hospital. Our daughters went back to school, and that was joyful to the nth degree for them. A friend’s daughter took her own life last Saturday….
Yet what is on the forefront of about everyone’s mind are the events of Charlottesville. Personally, I have so many jumbled thoughts, that I feel it best to let someone else speak. My friend Jermayne Chapman wrote “An Open Letter to Pastors” this past Sunday that is beyond worth sharing.
So thank you, Jermayne, for sharing so freely, my brother.
Here is the post in its entirety:
An Open Letter to Pastors this Sunday Morning, August 13, 2017
I hope you are well this Sunday. I’m sure you are caught up in last minute prep for Sunday morning.
In light of the events that happened in Charlottesville, VA, I wanted to challenge you this Sunday morning. I wanted to challenge to not remain silent this Sunday morning on what just happened in our country.
Somewhere in the service, preferably towards the beginning, you need to acknowledge what happened in Charlottesville. You will need to call out racism and denounce white supremacy. That’s not a political thing, it’s the right thing. You will need to weep with those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. Not based on whether or not you fully understand why someone may be hurting. You need to do this even if everyone in your congregation looks like you. Because everyone in your congregation will need to hear how they should respond when they observe racism or when a co-worker, a friend or a neighbor suffers from the pain of a racist experience. You will need to pray for healing and peace.
This is a lot to ask, so I’ve taken the time to write out what you can say in case you have no time to prepare.
“Many of you may already be aware of the events that took place this weekend in Charlottesville. As we have learned from Jesus and the Parable of the Good Samaritan, white supremacy is wrong and has no place in our church or in our society. While there are those who are hurting from direct involvement, many more brothers and sisters have been traumatized by the occurrence of these events and the reminder they create of our shared history and the parts of that still persist today. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 12 to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. It is in that spirit as well as that of the Good Samaritan that I would like for us to take the time to pray. Pray for all of those who are hurting. We need to pray for justice to prevail in the terrorist attack yesterday. We need to pray for the Body of Christ to continue to reject the sin of racism in all its forms and be the healing balm our society deeply needs right now. Let us pray….”
Feel free to use this or parts of this. Feel free to do something in the spirit of this. You can do many things, but one this you can not do…YOU CAN NOT BE SILENT ON THIS.
In coaching leaders, I like to give a ‘Good-Better-Best’ option. A ‘Good’ option would be to condemn what happened and pray for those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. A ‘Better’ option would be to pray and speak from scripture about why this is wrong and how we as the Body of Christ should respond. And of course, the ‘Best’ option would be to completely redo the Sunday morning service to take the time to address this from scripture and allow people time to pray and process.
Since ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ both involve great planning and you need to preach in a few hours, I’ve offered a ‘Good’ solution. I challenge you to create a ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ option for your congregation at some point. If you need help, let me know. Thank you for how you serve and I’m praying for you today.
2 Corinthians 12:8
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul, author of 13 books of the New Testament, wrote about a thorn in his flesh from 2 Corinthians 12. When he wrote this, It was 23 years after the Damascus road and he was on his third missionary journey. He has a few more battle wounds of life perhaps, and is older and embracing a mysterious paradox, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (vs10) Paul’s thorn is a mystery, and he does not write what it was exactly, and this is important. Some have speculated it was his eyesight or other physical ailment. Perhaps it was other earthly passions that we all men battle: wine, women, or wealth (or some deviation thereof). Was it a thorn Paul brought upon himself? Was it a thorn that “life” brought upon him? Maybe a combination of the two? If we did know exactly what this “thorn” was, we would sure slip into discouragement if we had a “thorn” he did not have. Indeed, this is a key reminder of the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit. A timeless truth for all ages, struggles/situations that rises above the pages we read and can birth in our souls faith and hope (or rebirth), even in the lowest valleys of life.
That “power” Jesus speaks to Paul in verse 9 is the Greek word “dunamis”. It is one of four Greek words for ‘power’ in the New Testament. Dunamis is where we derive our English word dynamite from. However, God’s power is not a public spectacle like an explosion or bolt of lightning. [Remember God’s dialogue with Elijah? (1 Kings 19) God’s presence was not in the earthquake, fire, or wind but in the whisper.]
I suggest 3 easy reminders that I practice daily. The H.O.W. of transformation!
H = Honesty of the ‘thorn’
O= Open Mindedness (to that Dunamis Power)
W = Willingness (for surrender and change)
“The Main Thing”
“Make the main thing, the main thing!” I don’t remember which coach at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp first said it, but I have never forgotten it. Although it sounds like double talk, it’s actually a great reminder of how to determine priorities in life. What’s really most important? What are the essentials for making the best decisions, developing fine tuned disciplines, and growing the deepest relationships? Those essentials are what that same coach would describe as mastering the fundamentals; understanding and executing the basics. It’s when those rudimentary things are consistently embraced that great things are possible. What defines a truly devoted follower of Jesus…knowing and living out His basics. And how does Jesus describe those basics? “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…learn from me …remain in me and my love…obey me…follow me.” Get the picture? Jesus’ main thing is Jesus himself.
“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)
Arguably one of the best Biblical examples of “making the main thing, the main thing” was in Mary of Bethany’s encounter with Jesus as recorded in Luke 10:38-42. I love this account for many reasons but mostly for the clear message Jesus communicated regarding what was most important to him. Mary’s sister, Martha, had good intentions but they fell short of what Jesus needed from her. Mary understood what was necessary and she did the “one thing” that Jesus required by sitting at the feet of Jesus “listening to what he said”. More than anything else Jesus wants to build an intimate relationship with us and that is only possible when we make his main thing, the main thing. Are there any good intentions in your life that are falling short of what Jesus needs from you? Is Jesus’ “one thing” a daily reality for you?
“God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.” (John Piper)
At the close of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Elizabeth’s father questioned her decision to stay with Will Turner. The Governor reminded her that Will was just a blacksmith. She emphatically corrected her father by saying, “No, he’s a pirate!” His identity had been lost to a life as a buccaneer. Are you willing to lose your identity to Jesus? Mary did in Matthew 26:6-13. Her time doing “the one thing” that Jesus required prepared her to do “a beautiful thing” to Jesus, anointing his head with expensive perfume. Her undaunted devotion was an imitation of Jesus’ impact on the world; costly, controversial, humble, and memorable. When you spend time with Jesus you can’t help but start thinking like him and acting like him. Are you ready to be identified with Jesus by doing “a beautiful thing” to him and for him?
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5)
Indiana is the kingdom of basketball, and for me, the king who reigns is homegrown, hall of famer Larry Bird. I still love watching video of his playing days and reading of how he developed average athleticism into one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Larry was all about “making the main thing, the main thing”. His work ethic is legendary. He was always the first to arrive at the arena and the last to leave. His passion to play well was off the charts, he was extremely fit, and he never ceased honing the fundamentals of the game. He said he wanted to be prepared for anything. Are you prepared for anything? I believe Mary was. To me, Mary is a spiritual hall of famer. She kept her spirit fit by sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42), her passion for Jesus was demonstrated by her walking in the steps of Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13), and as she honed the fundamentals of her faith, Jesus opened her eyes to see him in a new light when he raised her brother from the dead (John 11:28-44). Jesus commended Mary for her spiritual work ethic.
What might he say about yours?
Are you pursuing the “one thing” he requires? Are you giving the “beautiful thing” he receives? Are you receptive to the “new things” he wants to reveal to you?
“Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:42)
PART IV: CONCLUSION
Wow, how this week has flown? Where’d the time go? How am I going to get everything done? I know what the “main thing” is, but how do I make it the “main thing” with so much on my plate? Sound familiar? Charles Hummel calls this the “tyranny of the urgent” in his small but powerful booklet of the same name. An acquaintance once told him that, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important”. In other words, how do you determine your priorities? If you’re like me, the things that you really want to do will get done one way or the other. Jesus wants to be our top priority just as his Father was his top priority while he ministered on earth. In spite of fatigue, the demands of his disciples, the distractions from his opposition, and the needs of the multitudes Jesus knew how important “the main thing” was to his ministry. To borrow a tag from Nike, you might say he “just did it!” The love for his Father and his desire to obey him was far more important than the urgent matters that he would face every day (Mark 1:35). Don’t let the urgent in your life crowd out the most important relationship you’ll ever have. “Just do it!”
“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…” (John 14:23)
Next to the Bible, Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest is the most significant book I read regularly. I’d like for OC to conclude our thoughts with his own insights on “MAKING THE MAIN THING, THE MAIN THING”.
“Think about your circumstances. Are you so closely identified with the Lord’s life that you are simply a child of God, continually talking to him and realizing that everything comes from the Father’s hands? Is the grace of his ministering life being worked out through you in your home, your business, and in your circle of friends (which includes our precious 3 footers)? The life of your Lord is to become your vital, simple life, and the way he worked and lived among people while here on earth must be the way he works and lives in you.”
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21