I have recently finished a book that asked the question, “Does your spiritual life taste stale to you?”Â I guess that question touched a responsive chord because I plopped down the $12.99 retail rather than searching on-line and bought the book.Â It was difficult to walk on by after the title grabbed my attention: I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.Â
It was written by Vince Antonucci a man raised by a Jewish mother and abandoned by his poker-playing father.Â He now pastors a church in Virginia Beach known as Forefront Church.
I found his storytelling captivatingly honest and the weaving of biblical principles through the stories fresh and inviting. It is funny and poignant and the first book in quite a while that I could not put down.
Imagine a believer suggesting that Christians should buy a bumper sticker that reads “Stop Having a Relationship with Jesus.”Â
When the shock of that statement wears off you see that he is pointedly inviting you to consider whether just a relationship with Jesus is enough for you.Â He helps you think about something that might be more precious.Â Here is how he makes that point:
Continue reading “Does This Taste Stale to You?”
"Imagine flying in an airplane, look out one side of the plane and see the left wing–it reads "dependence". On the right side is the wing of "discipline." We need both to "fly" in the Christian life. Discipline refers to those activities designed to train a person in a particular skill. Dependence refers to the trust we have in God to work through us. We mistakenly assert that the believer’s job is to trust, while God does the work."
"God’s work does not make our efforts unnecessary but rather makes them effective."
Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace.
While I agree with Jerry Bridge’s above conclusion, I wonder if he does not express more confidence in our "efforts" than we rightly deserve? As I understand Scripture, both our "dependence" and our "discipline" are gifts from God ( Philippians 4:13. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) I find believers need no more encouragement to strive or exert more effort. In fact, we need all the help the Spirit is willing to give to trust in the God who boldly affirms, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
I am strengthened by the truth that I can worry less about "my part" in the mystery of union with Christ and rest more in His work accomplished and being accomplished in me!
When my children were little, a discipline technique I used when they began to act up was to look them in the eye and ask, “Do you need an attitude adjustment?”Â Â Because I had laid an earlierÂ foundation of what an attitude adjustment was, this question seemed to have a magical recuperative power.Â What had moments before been bad behavior suddenly was replaced with good behavior.
I thought of this as I was considering the truth contained in the following verses:
“The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” Â (Deuteronomy 30:6)
“and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me.”Â (Jeremiah 32:40)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
It strikes me as marvelous good news that God has implanted within us a new attitude–a new disposition that inclines toward loving Him and not wanting to depart!Â This is what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he stated, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God…” (2 Corinthians 5:17)Â I forget this truth and often pray asking God to give me love for others, give me a heart that desires to affirmÂ rather than to be affirmed, give me a forgiving heart.Â The restful wonder of what it means to be “in Christ” is that He already has!Â
“These new inclinations for doing God’s will were given to you before the light of Scripture ever brought any aspect of God’s will to your attention.Â James calls it “the implanted word,” which he tells us to “receive with meekness.”Â James is saying in essence, “Take hold of what you already have, that which is innate to your new nature.”Â Ponder with your mind what God has already made your heart desire!
The birthright of every believer is an inner self that’s supernaturally inscribed with the whole of Christ’s teachings and commands–even to the extent that “we have the mind of Christ” as Scripture says.
Every command we come across in the Bible is therefore a vigorous reminder to do what we already desire.Â The Scriptures simply clarify in our minds what we already want to do in our regenerate heart.”Â ((Dwight Edwards, Revolution Within, p.112))
What an awesome truth!Â How encouraging that today my task is not to plead with God to give meÂ something to help me through the circumstances of life but to appropriate what He has already given and praise Him for His great generosity!
September 23, 2003
Good Morning Friend,
How much I have to learn about what it means to worship!Â It is not about being comfortable in a pew–it is not about having a great sound system–it is not about beginning on time or being well ordered–it is not about being timed down to the hour.Â As I engage in worship with my friends here they show me it is the greatest treat of the week!Â They come prepared to stay the day! They hunger to talk and share of all the ways God has blessed them in the past week, so the services begin with testimonies ofÂ God’s faithfulness–there are so many wanting to speak that the Pastor often has to limitÂ it toÂ 8 or so!Â It was heart melting when our helper Flavia stood up and with tears in her voice gave thanks to God for her new job with JjaJa Mike and Lissa. What a privilege it was to be in worship in this place!Â Worship is alive in Wakiso and in my heart.Â There are two churches that we take the children to.Â One is close, just a couple of miles from the village and is called Wakiso Central Baptist Church. That church is led by a wonderful shepherd named Pastor Fred Kibuuka.Â His wife is named Susan and she is a great help to Rafiki both in ministering to children and identifying girls who would be good candidates for the Girls’ Center.Â Â
When worship begins,Â it opens with music.Â HereÂ at Wakiso they have a fragile electronic piano and a man whose enthusiasm more than makes up for any lack of skill.Â His chord progressions are more rhythmic and drum beat like than they are carrying any melody line.Â TheÂ worshippersÂ love for the music to be vigorous and to build in energy and participation, so the praise time goes on and on with people on their feet clapping and so joy filled.Â I was struck with how the faces are smiling and how delighted they are to be together—our worship seems passive and unemotional by comparison.Â Â Â Solos flow into congregational singing and back again–and yet there are no bulletins and you are convinced that what goes on is spontaneous and honest expression fromÂ hearts overflowing with love and gratefulness to God.Â Following the music, the Pastor invites the congregation to pray and everyone does–out loud and at the same time–the cacophony of sound that rises is powerful–some crying out for mercy, some jubilant and thankful, some confessing and asking forÂ forgiveness.Â
There is no hurry in any of this and at a time that seems corporately sensed a quieter song begins and we are ushered together into a time of Pastoral Prayer.Â The most striking difference in American and African prayer is that we bring a list of requests to God and they bring a list of praise and thanksgiving.Â What a contrast–we have much and want more– they have almost nothing and are profoundly grateful and want to speak it!Â Â The time of offering is also an event–there is a table with a basket set up front and the people sing and dance on the way to deposit their shillings and seem thrilled to have some to give.
I love Pastor Fred’s wife Susan.Â She is a fireball and completely dedicated to children’s ministry.Â Children from the surrounding village wander into church at odd times and find a place on a crooked, rough bench andÂ look up to her and listen attentively.Â They sit pressed together for about 45 minutes relatively still and listening–no flannel board visuals, no VCR, no snack time orÂ toy time–they listen to her teach/preach from Scripture.Â The children range in age from about three years old to about eleven.Â
The only discipline I see being done is for her to move a child to the front row so they could listen better!Â She too begins her time by asking the children, “Who has a testimony of what they are thankful to Jesus for?”Â 25 hands reach for the sky and they are anxious to go to the front and tell their friends how Jesus helped them by giving them a t-shirt, recovery from flu (cold), providing school fees, healing from malaria, some new slippers (flip flops), or a motherÂ healed, orÂ getting a sweetie (candy),Â etc.Â It is the most humbling thing in the world to sit amid a people who seem to have nothing but who have eyes to seeÂ that life is a gift and who have trained eyes to look for something to be grateful for.Â How much I have to learn about worship!Â Until later—lissa