Monday, June 16, 2003

so lately i have been reading bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. a very challenging book; it is quite intense reading and i am having to evaluate it carefully as i go. firstly, i have been struck by his chapter on Costly grace, which made me think long and hard about what we communicate to people who ask questions about following Jesus, and the dangers of mis-informing them.

following on from that, i re-read a few pages of The Divine Conspiracy about the basic steps for spiritual formation in Jesus and was delighted to feel it resonate and resonate strongly. it seems deliciously simple - focus people on God, make them aware of His personality, help them develop a deep and intimate relationship to their Heavenly Father. isn't that what we've supposed to have been doing all along though? maybe, but the effects of our efforts seem to demonstrate we have been telling them otherwise, or possibly we have demonstrated otherwise by our lives.

the underlying premise is that one lives from one's beliefs. a person's belief of and about God (the singularly most important thing in a person's life) is therefore the key area in which those who wish to follow Jesus must invest time and energy, in order that the beliefs they hold are correct and true. for example, if a person truly believes that God created each individual human being and imprinted them with His image and loves them dearly, that person will have a high regard for every person that they come across in their daily existence. that person might therefore not struggle to respect others, despite external physical circumstances, simply because of their belief about God being imprinted in every human being. Mother teresa said something along these lines i believe, and she certainly lived it.

in my life, i have been struggling to disassociate myself from certain behaviours which stem from (and in turn encourage) lustful thoughts and lustful behaviour. in the midst of the emotions which result, i have often found i do want to go along with those behaviours, and afterwards i am disgusted with myself as well as confused about how i ended up repeating myself. two conflicting beliefs are in operation: one of my fallen nature that goes along the lines of "i have a right to feel good and do all that is necessary to achieve feeling good"; and one a product of following Jesus which goes along the lines of "you are not supposed to entertain lustful thoughts and allow them to dominate your mind and body".

even though i now see the first belief as incorrect (as well as my actions as illogical in pursuing that belief) it operates to influence my life. the second belief does not correct the behaviour produced by the first, and the end product is my behaviour is merely altered to the extent that i feel guilt and shame. what is necessary is a belief that strikes to the core of the first and removes the source of any behaviour in conflict with the second belief... possibly something along the lines of "sexual pleasure is not the sum of human life" combined with "women are very precious to God" and "my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit".

as i have attempted to correct my beliefs, i have noticed a difference in my behaviour. even though my body has been trained in certain unwanted behaviours, i have noticed an increased ability to resist my body's desires, as well as a freshness of thinking which i believe is the beginning of re-training my body to behave in a different way. beliefs govern your thoughts and actions. i thank Jesus for His company on this journey.

Monday, June 09, 2003

blast from the past!

1. To re-think/re-imagine worship, its form and its function.
2. To examine my heart for the least, the lost, the last, the broken and the marginalized.
3. To re-think/re-imagine Sunday services, their form and their function.
4. To re-think/re-imagine discipleship, what it means and what it looks like.
5. To re-think/re-imagine what it means to be a people who embody the message and how we go about it.
6. To re-think/re-imagine what the meaning and function of Christian leadership.
7. To intentionally become students of Jesus.
8. To learn theological humility.
9. To try to ensure that as we are changed we continue to love the whole church.
10. To learn and retain the ability to ask honest questions.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

the great big giveaway is on sunday - and i don't know how much to give. or i could phrase the question, how much of the resources God has given me dare i keep? so the things that are puzzling me are whether stewardship is a demonstration of faith, or whether 'living by faith' is the model to follow. i almost wrote 'radical giving' but that phrase has slightly religious overtones to it (having said that, so does 'living by faith' but i imagine anyone living by faith isn't that religious. now i've painted myself into a corner about radical giving too... nice one.) as it has been used to exhort people who go to churches regularly to give more of their money away than usual and feel less guilty. i am so cynical sometimes.

bonhoeffer writes that the call of discipleship wrenches a man away from all his quibble-questions and insecurities and sets him simply before the Master with a choice to either follow or not. the very fact that men are presented with this choice is a plus, not a restriction of freedom. the One providing the choice did so at considerable expense.

here we have the opportunity to see whether we are following after the Master or finding our own path through sub-life. Master, you said your yoke fits perfectly and the burden you give is light. i think i feel the weights of disobedience dragging me back. i think that my endless justifications of why i should do this and that and the other are required to numb the awakened conscience into a state of stupor. i also think that giving should not be a source of worrying if i truly believe that God is providing for me - life is more than food and clothing after all. the question then remains, have i trained myself to rely more on the physical comforts of the world, putting trust in possessions, et cetera than in the Master? my mental gymnastics suggest i have...

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

two things i have been able to read today and that struck me as remarkable:

firstly, on a jewish website, i found the daily reading of the psalms included psalm 23. since i have been memorising this psalm, it was interesting to come across it, especially from a different angle. here it is, complete with an introduction that i have never seen before:

"Chapter 23
When King David was in the forest of Cheret and nearly died of starvation, God provided nourishment for him with a taste of the World to Come. David then composed this psalm, describing the magnitude of his trust in God.

1. A psalm by David. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. 2. He lays me down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. 3. He revives my soul; He directs me in paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name. 4. Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they will comfort me. 5. You will prepare a table for me before my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup is full. 6. Only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for many long years."

secondly, something that i found whilst browsing through some articles by dallas willard. the title of this particular article was something to do with being a christian in a pluralistic society. but, the reason it stuck out is the precise expression of something that i have never managed to articulate myself, and it was a delight to come across it and have it resonate.

"Truth and reality do not adapt to us. It is up to us to adapt to them. A four thousand year old tradition does not become truer as the years go by. If it is false or wrong, it simply continues to be a long-standing error. If it is popular, it is widespread. If adopted by the powerful, it is authoritative. But it is still wrong."

Monday, June 02, 2003

a blog of two halves:

firstly, i continue to eat humble pie after my sceptical witterings regarding farewell dos. i was privileged enough to be a small part of the last salt, and the farewell and thanks celebration for jacqui. it was a very fun and enjoyable evening; its felt right to celebrate in such a way.

secondly, i have been lent a copy of dietrich bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship and have been rapt by the few chapters that i have been able to read. it's fascinating to read it having read dallas willard's books and remember what he's written.

and for memory this week, Matthew 11, verses 28- 30:

"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, for I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.'"