• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Lulled to sleep

Last week, I traveled west to North America to participate in the WT Americas leadership meetings.  On the way, I met up with my older brother, who took me out to dinner (midnight my time,18h00 his time).  Afterwards, he invited me to his place to watch a short video.  Sitting there in his living room after an 8 hour flight, dinner, and recognizing that it was now 02h30 for me, the video was all the ‘music’ needed to lull me to sleep. 

Ever happen to you? 

In the World Team Ministry Framework, we talk about ‘growing in character’ as a guiding feature of our organizational culture.  To grow implies that we have ‘progressed’ or changed from our current attitude, habit or practice to one that is more aligned with Christ and His calling on our lives.  However, if we are ‘lulled to sleep’, that growth is stagnant and we will continue to act, react and live in ways that are not ‘in line with the Gospel’ (Galatians 2:14)

The ministry, daily life, and all the ‘things’ we need to do in a day can easily cause us to forget, can easily ‘lull us to sleep’ in regards to our own inner spiritual life.  I believe it was Bobby C who said that most people stop growing before they hit 40 years of age. They simply ride the rest of the lives on what they have learned up to that point.

To wake ourselves out of our spiritual drowsiness, I would suggest the following step: begin to write a short paragraph in a journal each day.

Now I’m not the journal writer type, but I have found this to be a good way to start reflecting on where God desires growth in my life.  Summarizing briefly the main activity(or activities) of a day, allows me to begin to see links and focus on one specific area of growth.

You may have a better way, or further steps to suggest. The objective in the end though is to avoid being ‘lulled to sleep’.

Digging in

During graduate studies, I asked my primary professor (or lecturer) whdigging inat he would recommend I do to continue to grow in spiritual understanding and character.  His simple words were: “Select each year one topic of study, one area of life, and dig into it.”

Those words have served me well.

Biblical support for such a practice can surely be found in texts such as 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  Yet, the truth being said, such a habit is not easy to regularly or consistently practice.

We live in a ‘create buzz’ society.  Some idea, new start-up or project gets a lot of play and energy for a very short time period, and then we move onto something else.  I have heard it said that if you don’t capture someone’s attention in the first 1m30 of a video, the person will ‘get bored’ and move onto something else.  Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this ‘speed of interest’.  However, if it is not balanced with effort spent thinking, studying and working on specific issues and needs in ministry and life, then one risks being more easily ‘tossed about’ by whatever may come our way.

It takes perseverance to ‘dig in’.  In ourselves, we don’t have that ‘stick-to-it tiveness’.  Sharing with others around us what our ‘plan’ might be for the next six months would go a long way to getting us started to ‘dig in’ well.

My perception, your perception

Do you remember the majority/minority discussion of a few posts ago (https://worldteamjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/what-difference-does-it-make/)?  Well, I heard another example of how this can creep into our relationships.

Today, I was talking with a good friend of mine who is a pastor.  He recently went back to school to do further theological study and enrolled in a school with an excellent reputation. However, the school is not of the same denomination or theological persuasion as is he.

The first week ‘back to school’, he found himself in a majority/minority situation.  As he sat around the lunch table with others, he heard comments about what others thought people in his denomination believed.  Most of the time, he commented, their ‘perceptions’ were incorrect; as if they had built some kind of ‘straw man’ which they could easily take apart through theological argument.

All he wanted, he shared, was for someone to ask him what he actually thought and believed.

Time and time again, I underestimate the deceitfulness of my own heart, and the heart of others.  How easy it is to be callous to the feelings of other brothers and sisters who may not see things the same way we do.

my-percpetionThe rub in all this is that by failing to listen to others, we miss an opportunity to ‘grow up more into Christ who is our Head’.

We will certainly not always agree with one another theologically, but listening well to others, being able to articulate how another perceives a spiritual, theological truth opens a door to deeper community.

We’re on a mission

mission unstoppableKenneth Berding wrote the following in his short article, “At the Intersection of Mission and Spiritual Formation in the Letters of Paul”: The process of spiritual formation supports mission because the person on a mission is upheld in his work as he experiences ongoing transformation … This may be the area most emphasized in Paul’s writings regarding how important spiritual formation is for mission.  Paul writes: “… we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  (2 Cor. 4:2).  There is a transformation that takes place through the ministry of the Spirit while one is on the mission – a transformation “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

At the start of this new year, knowing that there are several ‘bends in the road’ ahead of us, it is important to remind ourselves that all our work is an overflow of our deepening relationship with Christ and the ongoing transformation being worked by His Spirit as He searches our hearts (Psalm 139) and drives us back to our only Hope: Jesus.

We’re on a mission.

However, that mission is not just the task of taking the Gospel to others.  It is the work of daily putting self to death and learning to live more and more to righteousness.

We’re on a mission.

Part of that ‘putting self to death’ may involve opening ourselves up more and more to others, so that God might use those people to build us up more and more into the image of Christ.  The mission of transformation goes through community.

We’re on a mission.

This means that there will be attitudes and reactions we will lay down as individuals and as a community this year, so that we might affirm more loudly with our voice and with all our heart: We’re on a mission … giving thanks to Jesus for working in us and through us.