“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2-3, NIV)
For those making that claim, my contention is that the best way to be “spiritual” is to understand where real spirituality is found.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5, NIV)
We may think we know “spiritual.” But we don’t know a thing until we know spiritual.
David Brooks is one of my favorite columnists. He hits it out of the ballpark again on THIS COLUMN.
He took the viral video of the guy raging against religion and got into the why, and then the results of the video. Challenged with the exact words of the video, the young man actually realized he needed to learn to say some things differently.
Brooks goes on to demonstrate how it’s not a problem to have “angst” in our world. It’s just what to do after that angst is our problem.
For generations we’ve been told to think for ourselves, but all we know how to do is say what we don’t like.
For generations people have been told: Think for yourself; come up with your own independent worldview. Unless your name is Nietzsche, that’s probably a bad idea. Very few people have the genius or time to come up with a comprehensive and rigorous worldview.
Brooks’ remedy is rather interesting:
The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true.
The old leftists had dialectical materialism and the Marxist view of history. Libertarians have Hayek and von Mises. Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy, or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day.
Passion is great. Just give it some place to land. Rigorously examine what is out there. What have the ancients taught us? Where is a path we can find?
I am deeply thankful that even in my time of angst I found the ancient paths still leading to Christ. Over the years I have been so thankful to keep exploring those paths and found the richness of who he is, and realized that within “religion” there is a design that helps to truly follow Christ. It gets expressed in so many ways, and most of them awkward in one way or another. But following those paths has given me the beauty of Christ.
I don’t fly solo very well.
This was from my reading this morning in Common Prayer:
When I fed the poor they called me a saint. When I asked why they were poor, they called me a Communist.” (Dom Helder Camara; 1909-199)
And in other news, I am sure this was a quote but we’ll never know:
In last night’s halftime show the Black Eyed Peas sang a line that went something like:
“Obama, let’s get these kids educated”
The unrecorded quote of the day probably came from the White House as the president leaned over to his wife and said, “Michelle, a guy with plastic hair just told me to get American kids educated.”
This column in Christianity Today is thought-provoking. Are you “religious” or “spiritual”? Careful how you answer!
The word religion comes from the Latin religare (re: “back,” and ligare: “to bind”), so the term is associated with being bound. In that sense, defining oneself as “spiritual, not religious” couldn’t be more apt, reflecting a desire to not be bound by any rules, community, or belief. Being spiritual but not religious is the perfect fit for people who don’t like the demands of religion but aren’t quite ready to say they have no soul.
Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft has noted that our culture’s fear “is not the fear of death, as it was for the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, nor is it the fear of hell,” as found in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic societies of the medieval period. No, the fear of the age “is the fear of meaninglessness itself.”
Yet those who oppose organized religion may be missing out on some of the best tools for staving off meaninglessness.
I am bound, and gladly. I am so grateful for the faith delivered once for all to the saints. This is something I will be discussing on Wednesday nights in an adult study at our church. Join us!
This is a great post by George P Wood. It’s worth discussing.
In my experience, modern Christians tend toward the extremes of intolerance and tolerance. On the one hand, some Christians elevate sexual sins above other sins. On the other hand, other Christians turn a blind eye toward porneia, except when it involves child sexual abuse, incest, and adultery. This tolerance arises from the notion that premarital sex or homosexual activity, or the use of pornography, are trivial.
Neither extreme is right. God cares about how we use our bodies, including how we use our bodies sexually. The biblical norm of marriage leads toward human flourishing both in this life and the life to come. The worldly value of porneia leads to human languishing both in this life and the life to come. When people flourish, we should rejoice; when they languish, we should grieve.
We need to teach people abundance, not how to flirt with disaster.
Who woulda thunk it?
This Ross Douthat column in the New York Times reflects on the popularity of so many mystical practices, but it has its downside. We are dabbling in so many things, we are diving into nothing. We are not fully entering into ANY of the practices, so we might think we are mystics, but the proof is in the pudding.
As society has become steadily more materialistic, Johnson declares, our churches have followed suit, giving up on the ascetic and ecstatic aspects of religion and emphasizing only the more worldly expressions of faith. Conservative believers fixate on the culture wars, religious liberals preach social justice, and neither leaves room for what should be a central focus of religion — the quest for the numinous, the pursuit of the unnamable, the tremor of bliss and the dark night of the soul.
We have dabbled, but the goal of a true mystic has not been witnessed. We are more materialistic and less godly!
I sat in a conference this past weekend and one of the plenary sessions talked about the big elephants in the room. She went after racism, sexism, and homophobic attitudes. Initially, the reaction was positive. Actually, the overall reaction is probably still positive. Yet, what was unsettling in my spirit was this lack of the overwhelming love of Christ. Her point was to treat people we disagree with as human. Agreed. No quibbles or quarrels.
Yet, if true change is going to happen, and if we are going to genuinely engage homosexuality or other issues with genuine Christian faith, we are going to need the overwhelming love of God. We are going to need to be swept away by the beauty of Christ. That is the beauty of true Christian mysticism. It is not denial. It is not simply moving away in some monastic practice. It is the beauty of Christ. When his beauty overwhelms us, these other “elephants” are no longer huge issues. We act out of a true heart of love and change happens. It truly does. I have been witness to that and it is not only undeniable, it is beautiful. It is beautiful in an overwhelming way.
I call this blog “Apprentice to Jesus” because my goal is to attach our lives to Jesus in a lifelong journey. Part of that journey has a mystic content to it. But we cannot dabble in those practices. We must be full in for the overwhelming beauty of Christ to take effect.
What’s more, it’s possible that our horizons have become too broad, and that real spiritual breakthroughs require a kind of narrowing — the decision to pick a path and stick with it, rather than hopscotching around in search of a synthesis that “works for me.”
We need to quit dabbling. We need to be full in with Christ. Take up the ancient practices. Work with them. Live in them from time to time. There is no need to move away to a monastery. They can be lived out in the reality of our world. Adjustments need to be made, of course. Yet, isn’t Christ worth that?
In spite of bad theology (see previous post), and the moral arguments we COULD have, what is obviously needed now is action. Please join me, if you have not already, in sending support to Haiti relief. If you are looking for reputable organizations, please try here or here. There are so many others, but if you want to donate right away and don’t have a favorite, these two are great resources.
I had finished my message for Sunday morning when I ran across this great column by Mark Galli. I wish I had come across it before writing my message. I could have printed this off and just read it!
My text for the day is Luke 2:22-40, the story of Simeon and Anna. Here are two people who simply wasted time with God. No big results. No huge ministries. No great accolades. They simply worshiped. They hung out with God. And in that hanging out time, they were incredibly privileged to hear the voice of the Spirit speak to them one day in the Temple. In that moment, the voice could speak because they could HEAR, and that voice pointed them to a young couple with a little baby. The voice could say, “That one,” and they KNEW what it meant.
We need to be better time wasters with God. No agendas. As a pastor, I resonate with Galli’s frustration. People sometimes get frustrated with me if I don’t give enough “how to” in my message. Well, I must confess I get frustrated trying to tell everyone “how to” do something! Just hang out with God! Find out for yourself! It’s a great journey! Frustrating at times, but FUN.
May I waste tremendous amounts of time with God in 2010!
One phenomenon that came and went before I knew anything was some “revival” in Lakeland, FL. By the time I heard anything about it, it was over. The controversial leader of the event was already leaving, talked about a “leave of absence” from ministry, then divorced his wife and married an intern.
As a Pentecostal, often my belief and practice gets wrapped together with Charismatics, so when junk happens (and it’s happened in my own denomination), it effects me. I know struggles. That’s not the issue.
The issue I take is how sloppy we have become as a church. We so rarely take stances on truly moral or theological issues. I will commend my denomination for being able to take stands on morality more often than not. While I have watched them sidestep some landmines because of personality, I have also watched them take great care to take a tough stand even if they were dealing with a well-known personality.
That said, I think even my own denomination is sloppy theologically on many other issues and while we can take the “high road”, so to speak, on some moral issues, we are slipping badly on other things. We’ve taken much more of a business model approach for church leadership. We’ve taken a “networking” approach for fundraising that grossly overlooks bad financial practices. We follow money far more than we used to and it’s coming back to haunt us in some ways. We are far more “results” driven than Spirit-driven.
It’s just a bit sloppy.
It’s why when I read a couple of paragraphs from a Christianity Today article online I thought not only of moral stances, but our lack of theology when the editor said this:
One critic, Charisma editor J. Lee Grady, faulted Bentley for sending the charismatic movement into a “tailspin.” He quoted an anonymous Pentecostal evangelist who said, “I’m now convinced that a large segment of the charismatic church will follow the Antichrist when he shows up because they have no discernment.”
That quote is haunting. It’s not just a lack of discernment on morality. It’s a lack of discernment in theology and biblical understanding.
This is why I do this blog and why I still pastor, preach and teach. The Body of Christ is seriously lacking in discernment. One would of thought it would have improved after the late ’80s debacles with Bakker and Swaggert. It has not. It’s worse. The evangelist in this case was questionable from the get-go and people STILL flocked to see him.
I do this blog and continue to preach on spiritual formation because the Body of Christ needs to wake up.
It’s probably directly related to why someone like that evangelist could get thousands into a Florida tent and I get a handful on Sundays. Oh, well. We keep moving on!