Friday, March 30, 2012

What Would You Do For Eight Thousand Dollars?

Octomom, Nadya Suleman, recently posed (almost) naked for a British women’s magazine. If you’re like me, your first inclination is to condemn her in several different ways, which eventually come back to the price. $8000.00 is her rate for showing her modest parts to the world. Maybe $4.00 is the price others will pay to participate with her. It reminds me of a movie, I think the title was Indecent Proposal about the consequences to a married couple who entertained, and eventually accepted a proposal of a wealthy man to sleep with the wife in exchange for a million dollars. I know they are not exactly the same, but there are commonalities. It comes down to this: when I am convicted that something is wrong, what will it take to make me do it anyway?

First, let’s consider money. How much would it take to change one digit or one check box on your tax return? Plenty will do this for less than a thousand dollars. And no matter how it is rationalized, it is still lying, cheating, and stealing. How big would the jakpot need to be to entice you to win by fraudulent means?

Nadya sacrificed the sanctity of her body’s modesty for money, what would entice you? And how much would it take for you to cross that line?

The point is, without excusing anyone for breach of morality, why are we so eager to condemn Nadya, without first taking notice of the plank of wood impaling our own eye?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Devotional Reading of the Word part 3

Having taken some time to quiet your thoughts and your fears; setting aside your plans and your busyness. Read a short passage of scripture. Read it slowly, out loud, lingering over each thought. When something grabs your attention, stop; let the Word fully have you. You are in no rush to push forward. Don't analyze the word. Don't judge it, simply soak it in. Listen.

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:8,9)

Now read it a second time, out loud. Savor each word and hold it in your thoughts. Think about what God is saying to you in this moment. Go over your thoughts again and compare them with the Word.

Having, first, come to the Word in silence, clearing your mind and heart from distractions, and having second, read the Word out loud while listening for its message specific to you, and now, third, begun your meditation over the Word, you may slip to fourth movement of devotional reading, which is your response to it.

Read the Word a third time and tell God what you are feeling and thinking as you listen to Him. Tell him the parts you love and enjoy. Tell him the parts you resist and the parts that challenge you. Confess your faith struggles and prasie him for the victories. Let yourself cover every piece of the passage. Be truthful with yourself and with God. You may wonder why you feel this way - why you resist or embrace certain areas. Ask God to make it clear.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Devotional Reading of the Word Part 2

In her book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Calhoun says the desire of Devotional Reading is, “to prayerfully encounter and surrender to the living God through attending to Scripture.” It requires an openness that allows one to hear and reflect on the voice of God. It aims to develop relationship rather than gather information.

She describes the first movement in Devotional Reading as Silence before God. Clearing our mind of all the competing voices, dumping our schedule for half an hour and preparing to hear words from God.

Listen to this word from God:
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:8,9)

What of your life gets in the way of just listening and accepting this word from God? What of your thoughts would rather analyze and organize his word rather than merely soaking it in and letting it set upon your heart and mind? Stop and hear. Keep silence before the Lord. Be still and hear.

Share with us what happens after you practice this.

Devotional Reading of the Word Part 1

A fascinating story tells of a human encounter with God. A holy man had been preaching in his community for a very long time – he had no church, he had no friends or support group around him in the community or anywhere; he was alone. No one seemed to be responding to his message of repentance so, after years of ministry to the vacant he grew despondent, suspicious, isolated, and somewhat self-righteous.

I don’t know if you can imagine being called by God to this kind of ministry. I don’t know if you can imagine the pressure of finding a small group of people and horning your way into the conversation so you can share the message God has given you. This man spoke against the unrighteousness of his governmental leaders, he spoke against the growing pluralism, the worship of sexual immorality… He took every opportunity to speak to his community about the judgment of God. He finally grew so anxious and depressed that he retreated to the wilderness to live by himself.

Most of us immediately think, “It’s no wonder no one would listen to him; all he does is preach against people. Where is grace? Where is the good news the kingdom of God brings?”

In the wilderness, the preacher found a crevasse which he made his new home. He was alone with his thoughts when God spoke to him again. God told him that, soon, he would appear in person to the preacher and he should wait there for that. A windstorm storm swept through the region and the preacher wondered if God was still with him. An earthquake shook the ground, the mountains, and the preacher’s sense that he might recognize God when he would come; he had not been in the powerful wind or the earth shattering quake. Before life could settle into normalcy a fire tore through the area and burned up everything leaving behind only desolation, but once again, God was missing.

The preacher looked around at the devastation and thought, “If only God had used these to get the attention of those people I have spent so much time preaching to. That would get them to change. Doesn’t he want them to hear his message of repentance?” But while he was thinking these thoughts, he began to ponder those ideas – Where was God during the storm, during the quake, during the fire? In that very moment he heard something new – soft and gentle – it was the voice of God, speaking once more to him. He could barely discern it at first, but as he strained to listen, it got clearer – not louder, but clearer.

The voice of God spoke to him in this soft whisper and said, “Why are you here, in the wilderness, alone? Didn’t I send you to preach repentance to the people?”

The preacher answered, “Well, yes, but no one listened. They hated me and they despised you. They vandalized every place that was once devoted to your worship; they arrested and lynched anyone who spoke well of you. I am afraid, I am angry, I am alone…What do you want from me? I have done all I can do.”

Perhaps you recognize this as the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. At this point, God gave Elijah a disciple who could take over his ministry, he told Elijah that there are many other believers he has kept safe and he brought Elijah to himself.

But what you should notice is how important the still, small, whisper of God is to this story. While Elijah wants God to show himself in some obvious and powerful experience, God wants people to take the time to pay attention. Like Elijah, it is when they are still, quiet, listening that they could hear God and not until then.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Practicing Hospitality

I wonder if you have had an opportunity to extend the grace, shelter, or presence of Jesus in the last week. My wife and I have had a few opportunities and sometimes it hasn't been easy. I am sure we also missed a few opportunities along the way.

Last night we went late to dinner at Arby's. We were the only customers in the place and it felt empty. After a long day, it was nice to have an empty place all to ourselves. But then a young woman arrived. She went straight to the trash and leaned over and looked inside. She startted talking to herself and to the trash. She spoke incoherently in a way that suggested to me that she was trying to get herself ready to speak with others. Pretty quickly, she went up to the counter and looked over the Value Menu to find something she could afford. She had only a few dollars and her clothes were well-worn.

The girl behind the counter was polite and helpful. She gave the wanderer a larger size drink than she had ordered. The clerk offered the woman a sandwich, which was refused. Then the woman left pretty fast. This almost empty restaurant along with the girl behind the counter became a place of safety for those few moments: a refuge for a weary soul, a place of hospitality.

Have you seen or practiced any hospitality this week. Tell us your story. You can comment anonymously if you wish. You might also tell how the experience affected you - however snall or large.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quick to Listen

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19)

This morning, at breakfast with friends, we discussed the spiritual exercise of submission and someone mentioned James 1:19. Imagine stepping into your home where your spouse begins to vent and accuse…QUICK! Close your mouth and listen! Think you’ve got a response to tirade that is assaulting you…WAIT! Slow down; don’t speak yet. Give it some time or you will probably regret what you say – that conversation is going to take some unexpected turns and, more than likely, you won’t end up where you thought you would.

You drink your tea till it’s empty in a restaurant, only then to notice the milk that had dried into the crevasse at the bottom from some previous customer. You are repulsed. You feel the emotions rising quickly inside and…WAIT! Slow to anger. Slow to speak. You have already paid the price for someone else’s negligence, but don’t let that control your character.

This is submitting to others when you have a sense of power or rights at stake. This is aligning your will and freedom with God’s will and freedom.

How do you submit to your spouse or your children or anyone who should serve you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ

I have been thinking of those words from Ephesians 5:21 every day this month; I have prayed over them and wondered how to practice submission on a daily basis.

Submission is not something you can “muscle-through.” There are some behaviors one can adopt, and it would definitely be possible to appear submissive under certain circumstances, but that sort of cuts against the grain of submission.

I have tried to submit myself to Donna in our marriage relationship, but we have been married, going on 27 years – our patterns of behavior are deeply rooted. Any changes I make to myself may be noticed, but they are hardly concrete until they have been practiced for some length of time. And I have tried to be giving of myself in that relationship for most of those 26 years.

I have tried to submit myself in relationship to my children as well. But they are children and not peers so that kind of submission doesn’t always look like submission. It may look so when I forfeit the television or something out of deference to them, but not when I am grounding my daughter from her cell phone. Yet they are the same inside me.

I have tried to submit myself to my brothers and sisters, to people I meet, to my parents…I feel less righteous than before, not because of my behavior, but because I feel as though I am missing something that is essential and I don’t know what it is.

Thoughts, suggestions, critiques?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Spiritual Practice of Submission

The following is my sermon notes for Sunday's lesson. I invite comments regarding the message as I encourage your participation in this discussion about Submission as a spiritual discipline. Thanks.

2010-02-14 The Spiritual Practice of Submission
Don Morrison S 11th and Willis Church of Christ

Today we continue our look at Spiritual Disciplines by examining the practice of submission.

I want to admit, up front, that the whole concept of submission doesn’t sound very appealing to me on the surface. I want to confess that it is almost bred into us that the individual is supposed to be self-determined and autonomous.

Then I want to admit, that knowing how difficult it is for us to look plainly and fairly at the idea of submission. I thought about turning straight to Ephesians 5:22, 23 where scripture says, “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body...” I knew that would be a great start for everyone’s Valentine’s Day.

And now, having just brought that to mind, I want to ask you to set that aside. I want to ask you to set aside all your preconceptions about submission and look through some scriptures about the practice of submission as a spiritually transforming way of life for all of us—not just one gender, not just those who are not bosses, not just those who are really, really spiritual, or the losers—for all who would follow Christ.

As Zen read earlier (Philippians 2:5-8) that Jesus placed himself in a position where he is, by his very nature, God, but where he also became completely submissive to the Father’s will.

• Open heart and mind to see submission not only from the perspective of our worldly experience.
• But as a virtue that can liberate us.
• Bring us first to you—to submit to you first and then to be as you would have us.
• Help us to be pliable in your hands, moldable, submissive to your will as Jesus, our Savior

So let’s start with the verse just before Ephesians 5:22

Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.
Submission to one another is an expression of our reverence for Christ

• Not just submission toward God, but in relation to one another.
• Story about Ken Cukrowski reading the Greek text with me
• Relationship between student and teacher that the student must submit to.
• A student cannot get the full benefit from his teacher if he cannot place himself in the position of submission to his teacher

1. Submission to one another frees us from the need to be in charge and in control.

In that same vein, when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thaddeus, Bartholomew and the rest to come follow him as his disciples, they were committing themselves to a certain role in their relationship with Jesus.
• Jesus told some of them, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)
• It is what he will make of them, by his power or expertise, if they will place themselves at his feet—so to speak—and become his disciples.
• Do you wonder what Jesus can make of you if you place yourself at his feet and let your will and freedom align with his?
• Without submitting to him, neither they or us could become his disciples. It is when we align our will and freedom to his will and freedom that we actually become his followers.

2. Submission changes us into someone who can be a follower, a learner a student.

I want to point out one more of the changes that submission can bring to our lives when we practice it.

First, let’s look at Samson and Delilah in Judges 16:4-9
• Samson idealized self-determination and autonomy
• He pursued a Philistine wife rather than marry according to the law
• He was humiliated by her when she gave away the answer to his riddle
• Samson’s relationship with Delilah was more like a rivalry. They kept trying to outmaneuver each other.

• I know I am starting from a difficult place, using Samson and Delilah, but imagine if they had submitted to one another.
• Calhoun’s definition: “Submission that leads to growth means aligning my will and freedom with God’s will and freedom, expressed by submitting to one another out of love and reverence for Christ.”

• Imagine Delilah seeking Samson’s will and freedom rather than her own wealth or her people’s desires.
• Imagine Samson seeking Delilah’s will and freedom rather than mocking her with lies, or setting her aside for his own self-promotion.

3. Submission changes us by teaching us to value others for what they might have to offer.

1. Free us from needing to be in charge
2. Ability to be a better disciple of Jesus and learn better from others
3. Learning to value the thoughts and ideas of others, including those of people we would like to be close to and have enduring relationships with.

Now let’s read more from Ephesians 5 while we hold to this idea of submission and the ways it changes us.
V 21 aligning my will to the greater good of the body of Christ, the church.
• how does that look at the business meeting?
• How does that change my conversation after the body makes a decision I didn’t like so much?
V22 the wife aligns her will and freedom to her husband.
• Not becoming a doormat saying, “do whatever your want to me.”
• Rather, deciding not to push her way (even though we all know that she is usually right because… well just because) and align herself with him
V 25 The husband aligns his freedom and will with his wife’s.
• serving her as Christ serves
• Seeking her needs above your own—submitting your needs to hers.

Submission is not about becoming less of a person or less valuable a person. It is about changing us into the image of Jesus who submits himself to the will of the father.