Monday, April 30, 2007

spiritually average

Barna research suggests that most Americans consider themselves average in 7 areas of spiritual life...but most could think of no (nada, zilch, zero) areas in which they would like to improve. The article I read implied that this was a survey of "Evangelical Christians", but I coulnd't verify that this was the case.

Anyway...the survey examined 7 different aspect of spiritual development, asking respondents to rate themselves on a 5-point scale.

- Americans gave themselves highest marks for MAINTAINING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS (48% of the respondents claimed to be 'completely/highly' develoved and 46% placing themselves 'about average').

- In the area of SERVING OTHERS, 41% claimed 'complete/high development' and 50% indicating they were 'average'.

- The areas of spirituality that ranked lowest were SHARING THEIR FAITH WITH OTHERS (53% 'average', 24% 'below average') and KNOWING THE CONTENT OF THE BIBLE (53% 'average', 26% 'below average').

However, when people were asked to name a single area in which they would like to improve, many were unable to respond.

The greatest identified spiritual need INCREASING COMMITMENT TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH only garnered 13%, witih INCREASING BIBLE KNOWLEDGE following closely with 12%.

"The fact that so few people have thought about how they could intentionally and strategically enhance their spiritual life reminds us that spiritual growth is not a priority to most people," George Barna said. "Americans are generally satisfied with being 'average' in their spiritual maturity."

What steps are you taking to grow in spiritual maturity? Do you care?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

who you are

There is no joy in succeeding at what you DO, if you are failing in who you ARE.

I think that busy-ness and the expectations of others often drive us to neglect the depth of our relationship with God.

This morning @ Faith, we explored who God is calling you to become.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

untapped power

Back when they brought power lines through the countryside of Wales, there was a Welsh woman who lived in a remote valley. She went to a great deal of trouble having electrical power installed in her home. But after it had been installed, the power company noticed that she didn’t use very much electricity at all. In fact, she used so little, it hardly even registered on the meter.

Well, one month the guy came to read the meter and asked her, “There seems to be something wrong with your meter. Are you actually using your electricity?”

“Oh yes,” she said, “It's wonderful. I turn it on every evening for about 2 minutes, so I can see to light my lamps. And then I turn it off again.”

Isn't that so often how we live our lives? We have access to the most incredible power source. We have available to us the light that can change the whole world!

Yet prayer is something we so often save for times of crisis and trouble. How much power and joy do we forfeit simply because we fail to ask God?

Monday, April 23, 2007

george washington fails again

Ever get discouraged by setbacks and failure? You feel like you're losing so many battles, how could you ever win the war?

Here's some hope:

George Washington lost more battles than any victorious general in modern history - and his defeats were frequently the result of his own failures, yet he ranks as one of the most celebrated and effective military leaders in Western civilization...

- Source: Joseph Ellis, His Excellency (Faber & Faber Ltd., 2005)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

lectio divina prayer

Yesterday at Faith we had a very meaningful pastoral staff meeting. We practiced an ancient spiritual discipline known as Lectio Divina (Latin for "Sacred Reading"). It's what Christians commonly refer to as "Praying the Scriptures".

The principles for this were detailed by an early church father, Origen in 220 AD. It is simply the act of prayerfully meditating on a passage of Scripture and then internalizing it as you make it the prayer of your heart to God.

Instead of just reading (Psalm 139) "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me int he way everlasting" would first read it and then meditate on the deeper meaning. How does it apply to your life? And then slowly and intentionally prayer those words back to God. Ask him to do what the Scripture is saying. Allow the words of Scripture to become your words.

Sometimes we fear what Jesus called "vein repetition". And in an attempt to be spontaneous and expository in our prayers, we often become unfocused and lack depth. Perhaps I'm not the only one who sits down to pray, soon to find my mind wandering off into the various distractions of the day.

Or maybe you find yourself praying to "Father Weejus". How many times do we pray a series of cliches. "Father weejus thank you for this meal. Weejus thank you for the hands that prepared it. Weejus ask that you be here and bless all the little children of the world."

I think in our attempt to avoid "vein repition" we end up doing the very thing Jesus was warning against: mindless prayers.

For the staff prayer time we each spent 50 minutes of solitude praying through the first five paragraphs of St. Augustine's Confessions. Here's a link. Written in 398 AD, these prayers contain a level of depth that my own prayers often lack. We found it incredibly meaningful as our hearts were refreshed by quality time with God.

Set aside some time this week to pray with some sacred texts. It might just revitalize your relationship with God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Sunday, April 15, 2007

john chrysostom easter

I know Easter has come and gone. But this is a beautiful reminder of why the Resurrection is a truth we celebrate more than just one day a year. For the last 1500 years, Orthodox churches around the world have read this sermon by John Chrysostom (349-407), the archbishop of Constantinople at the great Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia).

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

chocolate covered pork

A Ukrainian candy company has begun marketing what may be the stickiest, richest and most fattening treat on the market: pure pork fat covered in chocolate. Cracking open a finger-sized stick of ''Fat in Chocolate'' reveals exactly that: a vein of white fat.

I love chocolate...and I love pork. But not everything goes better together. Now, deep fried chocolate-chip cookies with a side of icey cold milk...that's something I could sink my teeth into!!!

I've heard of a place in Georgia where they smoke barbecue ribs and then batter and deep-fry those puppies. There is something to add to the list of things to try in a lifetime.

Oops, temptation is slipping in. I've got to be good. We've got a team from Faith Church preparing to do the DALMAC cycle trip from Lansing up across the Mackinaw Bridge. We've got to stay in shape for the BIG RIDE!

I guess chocolate covered pork fat will have to wait.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

cruel video pranks

Malicious Online Videos Hurting Teachers


LONDON (AP) - The teacher stumbling at the front of the classroom in his white briefs, pants pulled down to his ankles by a student, probably wishes he were somewhere else. That place is probably not YouTube.

Captured on video, the scene has been replayed thousands of times and posted by several users on the Internet's most popular video-sharing site. It is not clear where the video was shot, but a quick search on YouTube will turn up hundreds like it.

Such clips hurt teachers, British Education Secretary Alan Johnson said.

"The online harassment of teachers is causing some to consider leaving the profession because of the defamation and humiliation they are forced to suffer," Johnson said at a national teachers' conference Tuesday.

The secretary was speaking about new government guidelines for confiscating mobile phones and other devices that are used to record malicious videos in the classroom. However, Web sites that host student-made videos must also act, he said.

"These are big companies we are talking about," Johnson said. "They have a social responsibility and moral obligation to act."...

The video of the teacher in his briefs was still available Wednesday, as were clips of a teacher walking through cellophane tape covering a classroom door and a student using ketchup to feign a head injury in class.


It breaks my heart when I think about what a cruel culture we are becoming in Western Society. American Idol humiliating pitiful singers, Howard Stern getting the biggest radio show deal in history, Don Imus slandering female basketball players.

As followers of Christ, I believe we are called to respect the dignity of human beings. There is a line that we have to be careful not to cross. It is one thing to prank, tease and joke around. It is another thing to humiliate and degrade.

The Golden Rule, "Treat others as you want to be treated" may not be a quote from the Bible (as many mistakenly believe), but it is definitely consistent with Scripture.

As I began to grow in my relationship with Christ and God began to reveal areas of my character and habits that needed to be changed...this is one of the first things that God's Spirit brought under the spotlight. As a child, I took great pleasure in humiliating someone I didn't like in order to get a laugh. God started to check my spirit when those tendencies would slip back to the surface.

I pray that as Christians we can be a positive light in a negative world.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

life as training

If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.

C.S. Lewis
"God in the Dock"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

easter blogging

This Sunday is primetime for church. Kind of like Superbowl Sunday for pastors and Bible teachers. Fortunately we have more than just the greatest story ever told...The Resurrection itself is POWER for living!

But I won't give away the core of the message for Sunday here, because I can't assume people have read this blog first :-)

Monday, April 02, 2007

too much alone time

In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good for a man to be alone

You know, we all need our privacy. Especially introverts (myself included) need time alone. But TOO much isolation is not good for a person.

Often when relations start to go sour, we have a tendency to just withdraw. Sometimes we just crawl into a hole somewhere.

And that’s not always bad. Honestly, I can tell you personally, that I am at my HOLIEST when I’m isolated from everybody. I can get real godly. Man, you just remove me from the stress of daily life:

  • not having to deal with technology stuff
  • not having to deal with the person who complained about this or that at the church
  • not having to deal with family stuff
  • not having to deal with the phone ringing off the hook

You allow me to stay away from any kind of relationship, and I can totally focus on God. I can start to think that I am a total Saint. I start to think I’ve got it all figured out.

But it’s the moment that I come OUT of that prayer closet, the moment that I get into the real world and I have to deal with other people. That’s when I realize I’m not so perfect after all. That’s where my faith is tested.

There’s nothing wrong with withdrawal. It’s very healthy and necessary. It’s good for us to pray and get alone and get some private time.

But I once heard a theory that I believe came from John Maxwell:

Spiritual growth begins in isolation, but it never matures there.

When I get away to be with God, the things I learn…are things that I have to PRACTICE with other people. Spiritual growth matures through human relationships. That’s where iron sharpens iron.

So it’s good to get away. But

  • You will never grow to full spiritual maturity being a monk in the monastery.
  • You’ll never become what God wants you to be just out there separated from others.

That’s why we do church together. It forces us to learn and change and grow in community.