The State of Your Treasury

Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”  And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and              what is old.”   Matthew 13:51-52

In Matthew 13, Matthew records a string of kingdom parables:  “The kingdom of God is like….”

Afterwards he asks the disciples if they understand. They respond in the affirmative.

Then Jesus tells them the truth stated above in verse 51-52.

A scribe is a person who has been well versed in Scripture. The treasure is the truth and wisdom that is accumulated over time as one is instructed in the Word of God, which is what one has to give to others.

Treasure Hunters
One of the first grad courses I had was taught by Howard Hendricks called Bible Study Methods. “The Prof” was passionate in his class and the Spirit lit a fire in me. I was set onIMG_8136 a course of being systematically immersed in the Word. Over the next 6 years, I studied every book of the Bible, one book a month. The Lord was building a treasure in me that I was unaware of.

But he then shifted in me the way I engaged the Word, from an analytical method to a more reflective method. Both are essential, both are needed. The danger of analytical only is that it can leave one with mere head knowledge, which can lead to pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). The danger of only relying upon reflective method is that one is ungrounded in solid biblical theology and lacking a firm grasp of the expanse of the entire Bible.

We need both: grounded biblical knowledge and an expanding love for the God of the Word. Both are graces from the Spirit.

.The invitation to each of us is that every day of our  lives, day after day for as much time as we can afford, we are in the Word. Reading, studying, meditating, praying, listening – all the while the Spirit is accumulating a treasure within our hearts.

Malnourishment
In the book Embracing Contemplation (edited by John Coe and Kyle Strobel), Steve Porter quotes the following:

IMG_6058There is, as John Calvin puts it, an “indissoluble union” of God’s person and the written
word….. Robert L. Saucy helpfully summarizes: Thus we are not simply reading the words of God in the Scriptures. We are encountering and incorporating the living Word himself. The Scriptures give us life and healing because they give us Christ, the living personal Word of God, and all that he is for us. Both Scripture and Christ are living and active. . . . By continually consuming the Word we are nourishing ourselves through communion with Christ. We taste the goodness of the Lord himself (1 Pet 2:2).*

To not be in the Word is to lack being nourished by the person of Jesus and to remain immature in our relationship with him. This is the exact warning in Hebrews 5:12-6:1:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity….

How is your feeding on Christ through his word? Are you meeting the Living Word in the Written Word daily?

What is the state of your treasury? This is the treasure we draw from for our daily lives and in our care of others. 

Principle: Feed on Christ first, then give from that to others.

Do not give into the lies that its too late or I don’t know how or I am too busy. Find someone who will mentor you and above all else pray for the Spirit to lead you into all truth. He is the one who opens our eyes and ears and hearts and minds to receive the Truth.

*Embracing Contemplation (p. 146). InterVarsity Press. Emphasis mine.

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Story Stealing and the Art of Questions

Stealing the Floor
We’ve all done it.

A friend is telling some story about the monster, cataclysmic, bomb-winter storm they experienced. No sooner than they get their bits of story out, take a breathe, we step in and interrupt with our version of a similar story. The story line and floor has been hijacked.

When we are just hanging out laughing and telling fun stories, this is no big deal. But if someone is prying back a layer of their life story, then to steal the floor is poor form.

However, we do this habitually.

The aim in our being with others is to not fill up the room but to make space in the room. Create space for others to plunge deeper into their stories. Linger. Allow for silence and reflection. Make space….

Asking Simple Questions
The craft of asking questions in conversation is one worth mastering.

When someone img_1249shares something, simply ask, “what was that like for you?”

Here’s the principle: DO NOT TURN THE CONVERSATION ONTO YOURSELF.

This is one of the simplest ways to be a companioning friend to another. Just keep asking curious questions. Let them tell their story until its all told out. Then ask them another question about them.

“Earlier you mentioned your mom, how is she doing?

“What was your child home like?”

When you were in China, what did you love most about the people?”

“Why do you like debriefing so much?”

So few of us are ever pursued in conversation.

My heart is cultivated when I am with matured, curious friends who ask me questions that cause me to pause and wonder about myself, life, or the Lord. I love being with friends who allow a conversation to linger on a single topic and a single person for as long as needed. And if someone’s turn doesn’t come up that time, well that is fine.

A Field Test
Ask a friend out for coffee. Start off with a “so what’s been going on in your life lately” type of question. Listen for a word, a phrase or an event that seems significant. Be curious. “Wow, your son made the basketball team. How cool! What does that feel like after his long illness?” And just keep on asking.

DO NOT TURN THE CONVERSATION ONTO YOURSELF. Oh, the urge will be there for sure. But resist. Stay the course. Keep the conversation on them.

This is a skill that can be developed, a craft that can be mastered.

It is a trait of a true companion friend. And it is a rare grace we can offer others.

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Companioning Double Take

I have been impressed by the responses to the previous post on Spirituality of Companioning. It seems we are bumping into some catch 22’s.

Crammed v. Companioning
Our lives are mashed full of meetings, gigs, conferences, travels and events. We have little emotional energy let alone time for lingering, pursuing, and following up others.

This reality takes us out at the knees in all three areas Jesus calls us to abide: with himself, his word and his people.

Further, one’s stomach can get into a knot just thinking of the transparency that happens when we get close to one another over a very long time.

A spirituality of companionship is likely deficient for most of us. Besides, who pursues you?

A Plea
This may come across a bit dramatic but…..

I implore each of us to make companioning of others a core element of all of our life.

This is the Jesus way of ministry, of leadership, of community, of friendship.

Otherwise, we might find ourselves hiding from one another behind our titles, our schedules, our phones, our weariness. We live the proverbial scene of being in a room full of people and utterly alone.

Philosopher Charles Taylor writes about our society’s image of each of us being “buffered selves.” We individualize everything as we distance ourselves one from another. This is not the biblical reality.

We are one body in Christ, members of one another with Christ as our head. This is not a mere metaphor. This is reality. We are in union with the Son and one another by the Spirit.

In everyday parlance, it comes down to this: Will you be my friend? Will you sit with me and be curious about my story? Will you share yours with me?

The world (and the church) is dying for this sort of companioning.

Principle: Companioning others is not a nice add on if we have time. It is the key element that leads to life change in all of our lives. We cannot mass produce life change.

Resources
Bobby Clinton has written that one of seven characteristics of a person who finishes well is extensive mentoring relationships ( and 2/3rds of us do not finish well….).

You can read some of his articles here.Though his writings can be a bit stiff, I would encourage you to at least reflect on the diagram on page 13. Who are the ones in each of these relational areas of your life? If you cannot write a few names down in each arena, I’d encourage you to begin to talk to the Father about him providing more intimate companions and you opening your life to them.

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Paul Stanley and Bobby Clinton co-authored this book on mentoring relationships.

 

 

 

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My good friends Randy Reese (d) and Rob Loane at Vantage Pointe 3  co-wrote this important book. I highly recommend it. In fact, I highly recommend everyone look into VP3’s The Journey material. All the folks at VP3 are masters of this craft of companioning. It is why they exist. Their material is the best, the very best, I have seen of its kind. Yes, it is costly in time and money but it is life- and community-transformative. I have been through it three times and each group asked for more at the end of the 8-9 month experience. Give VP3 a call, they are brilliant and kind folks.  (I am on the VP3 board, but receive nothing for an endorsement. It’s the only board I’ve ever been on where I experience personal formation while sitting in a board meeting!).

If you have some resources to share, please do. But at the end of the day, all we need is a willingness to sit with another and hear their heart.

May the Spirit grant us to grow into being masters of the craft of abiding: with Christ, with his word and with one another.

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Spirituality of Abiding: Companion One Another

“The language of telling people what to think and what to do dominates most leadership paradigms in the church, with very little attention given to the actual details of being a Christian in the home and workplace…There are, however, serious efforts being made…to recover a leadership of companionship and a spirituality of relationship.

Eugene Peterson, Foreward to Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others in Their Leadership Journey by Randy Reese and Robert Loane (IVP, 2012), pages 7-8.


There are tremendous seductions to be experts in our fields. People with knowledge that others need and  to provide that knowledge via workshops, programs, and trainings. Nothing wrong with these means. I provide them regularly.

But make no mistake this is not “a leadership of companionship and a spirituality of relationship.”

A Spirituality of Companioning Others
Let’s be honest: Relationships can be hard. Messy. Confusing.

What’s more: Life change takes, well, a life-time. Slow. Often mundane with occasional “aha’s” breaking through.

It’s so much easier to show up for a three-day gig, off load info, have some meaningful conversations over meals and be on one’s way. Again, nothing wrong with this, but….

Life change comes over the course of long-term, abiding relationships. 

Abiding in life-long relationships is a true spiritual practice. It is a means of grace to open us up to the abiding, transforming presence of God, just like any other spiritual practice.

Our spiritual maturity is severely diminished when we resort to a hit-and-run, consumeristic sort of engagement with one another.

A spirituality of abiding requires much more of us than our expertise. It requires faithfulness, companioning, and bringing our very selves over a long period of time.

Faithfulness: Will I keep coming back around; Allowing boredom and the mundane to be part of the means of life change? Stick-to-it-ness. Constance. Reliability. Being there for harsh losses and major life celebrations, but especially over the long arc of ordinary-ness.

Companioning: What greater gift can we provide than an abiding presence over the course of decades? Walking side by side through the stages of life and career are means of walking well.

Bringing myself: The reality of long-term relationship is that you are going to see me at my best and worst. We are messy. I will have to apologize, so will you. I will have to forgive you, and you me. This is the very space and place that God does amazing transforming work. There are few places to hide in such relationships.

A Shepherding Companionship and A Spirituality of Abiding Care
What global workers need are shepherds who will show up in their living rooms and walk their streets. Frankly, these experiences have been my most deeply rewarding.

I remember having a nerf ball war with Tim and his two young sons in their small village home in Cambodia. There we were on the word plank floors chucking balls at one another. Its the same type of mayhem that ensued in my own family room with my own boys. Yet, this particular play required days of air travel and hours of car rides. Those boys are now in college. Tim and his wife are still on the field. No, a nerf ball war did not keep them on the field. And yet, these visits allowed for lingering conversation and honest wrestlings along the way. Tim and his wife are heroes of mine, they are still scattering the Gospel seed in tough soil.

A Spirituality of Abiding
Jesus abides with us. He invites us to abide with him.

Jesus, the Word, has placed his word in us. He invites us to abide in his word. It changes us from the inside out.

As Jesus companions us, so we are invited to companion others. This is the stuff of lasting life change.

May the fellowship of Spirit open up all around us ways and means of abiding, companioning presence with one another.

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Resource: His Word Abiding

Unbeknownst to me when I wrote last week’s blog, our pastor’s sermon this past Sunday was from Luke 24:25–27 (Emmaus Road story) on the role of Scripture in our knowing Jesus.

It is fascinating that the post-resurrected Jesus’ response to these two Emmaus Road walkers (likely part of the 72 disciples group) as well as later to the Apostles (Luke 24:44-46), is to point them to the Scriptures to understand the events they had just experienced.

In other words, to know Jesus, he points us to the Scriptures. His word is where he meets on a daily basis.

This is an excellent sermon well worth your time.  The speaker is Pastor Ken Robertson at International Anglican Church in Colorado Springs, May 19, 2019.

http://www.springsiac.org/sermons/

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Spirituality of Abiding: His Word Abiding in Us

Abiding: the act of dwelling, companioning, remaining. This is language of lingering in time, space, and place. A spirituality of abiding is what we are after. It’s inherently relational.

The first essential invitation from Jesus is abiding in him.

The Father’s Word to Jesus to Us
In John 15:7, Jesus references a second element of abiding: his word abiding in us.

In John 17:14, he further says this: “I have given them your word.

The Son has taken what he has received from the Father and given it to the Apostles.

The Spirit is also involved in this process of instilling the Word:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak…. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:13-15).”

There is an order of word-giving:

Father to Son.

Saint-Paul-the-Apostle-Hand-Painted-Byzantine-Orthodox-Icon-on-Wood-2-02

Saint Paul Icon depicts him holding a Gospel book because of his significant contribution to the New Testament Canon.

Incarnate Son to Apostles.

Ascended Son to Spirit to Apostles (and us).

The Apostles wrote down what they saw and heard (1 John 1:1-4) that we may have what
they have, fellowship with the Father and the Son. That is why the church holds to the Apostolic teachings.

The Word Today
Many question the veracity of the Bible in our day. This is nothing new. I will not go into a defense of the Scriptures as there are worthy volumes that address that topic. Trusting the Bible is an act of faith in a God who is large enough, creative enough, kind and generous enough to send his Son, send his Spirit, and use frail, human vessel to write and preserve his word. He is a generous Father. He is able. I trust him, he is my Father. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true…(Psalm 18:30).”

How might we heed Jesus instruction to have his word abiding in us?

Word Abiding
The Anglican Catechism entitled “To Be a Christian” has a fascinating statement on this topic:

Question # 224: How should you use the Holy Scriptures in daily life?

I should “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” that by the sustaining power of God’s Word, I may embrace and hold fast to the hope of everlasting life given to me in Jesus Christ. (Scripture Collect, Book of Common Prayer)
As usual in the Book of Common Prayer, much is packed into a short statement.
First, we note the efficacy of the word – it provides “sustaining power.” The Word impacts us, transforms us, nourishes us, instructs us.
It sustains me in this dark, weary, trial-laced world. I need Word-grace in my life daily, throughout my life.
I’ve yet to meet a mature woman or man who is flourishing in life that has not been sustained for decades by the word of God.
Second, we note the means of Word abiding:
Hear: Sermons, teachings, conversation, soliloquy (speak the gospel to yourself)….
Read: like a letter, leisurely, reflectively….
Mark: Yes, its OK to write in your Bible….
Learn: Study, exegete, dig deep, mine….
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Inwardly digest
: I like this ingestation image. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were given the word to consume and it transformed them from the inside out.  As we receive and eat the Word into our very beings, we become carries of the Word. It infuses us. It seasons us.
Not in a hollow, arrogant preachy-way. Rather in a grace-filled, gratitude-saturated way. But this seasoning is a constant need, to be refreshed daily.
Beyond those succinct guidelines the wisdom in this instruction is to leave it to the individual for application. We are all different in personality, learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and we are in different stages of life. (Once I had to seek out peace and quiet from a pile of rambuctious little boys in my home. Now I am seeking to find my reading glasses….) Each of us are in different spaces and places in life.
Here is the point. No word, no abiding. No knowing his Love. No knowing him, no mature season of the soul.
He is not silent. He has spoken.
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A Spirituality of Abiding

Abiding is not a value held in esteem in our current culture of rush to get someplace and get stuff done. “Keep things moving along” is the general sentiment. Relationship does not grow in the currents of rush.

Abiding is one of those words that is used so much in our Christian vernacular that our imaginations glaze over with the mere mention of the word. A fresh inspiration around this imperative could be of help.

monkimage.php_An example.  When I go to a movie, I abide with the entire experience. I am engaged, sometimes even a bit transfixed. Seeing, hearing, wondering, feeling, emoting – I am “all in” so to speak.  This metaphor provides a bit of stimulation to imagining a spirituality of abiding, with the caveat that life is not usually as intense as a movie and we progress over time. Slowly. And that is a grace too. The other option sounds exhausting.

Jesus’ imperative to us is to abide, remain, keep to, stay present, attentive to the subject at hand. God is always the subject in our lives.

Three fundamental realities beckon our abiding: Jesus, his Word, and one another. Three blogs to imagine a spirituality of abiding.

First, abiding in Jesus.

Union is the relational impact of our life in Christ. We are “oned” with Father, Son and Spirit. Amazing.

As the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son, so the Son is in us and we in the Son (see John 14, 15, and 17). In the Son we are also unified with the Father. In 1 John 4 John says that we are in the Father and the Father is in us. The Spirit is the binding agent in this relational reality we find ourselves in. It is very beautiful. 

Jesus says, do not wander from this holding love of the Trinity. A growing awareness of Jesus’ abiding presence in and with us is the grace to avoid wandering.

What are the dynamics that facilitate one’s staying present to this Triune God? What distracts? I don’t take the newspaper with me to the movie theatre. I show up and am ready to be there with the story line of the movie. Yet, I sure am creative at importing all sorts of distractions, disruptions and wanderings into this abiding life. What are your particular distractions?

unnamed 2How might one respond to Jesus’ abiding presence during the ins and outs of any given day, in any place, at any time?

The implication of an un-abiding life is that our life is not up to anything of substance on our own, “for without me you can do nothing,” he warns. Nothing is not a little bit of something. Its nothing. We don’t “figure out” this abiding way. We are taught by Jesus. How is he teaching you this way?

What has he shown you, that is particular to you, that he uses to expand your capacity to be aware of he in you and you in he?

How might that, whatever that is, be increased or expanded, that he may deepen your abiding? Might I encourage you to give greater swaths of time to that? 

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Grace to Offer Ourselves to Others

A Shepherd’s Reality
When we consider the life of a shepherd in the field with her or his flock, we are aware that they face heat by day, cold by night, rain or snow at either time, bandits, thieves, Unknownpredators, and all sorts of stuff sheep get themselves into – sore hooves, briers, cliffs, illnesses, holes,
snakes….Shepherding is a never-ending demanding job.

Little wonder that God uses the shepherd metaphor to describe how he relates to us – he pours himself out to us, always tending to as the sheep of his pasture. Our Lord is the Shepherd-King!

Jesus suffered for our well-being. So too do shepherds endure hardship in pursuit of the well-being of those for whom they care.

Like Shepherd, like shepherds.

Gospel Orientation
The temptation is to bear down and just press on in this work. But there is no gospel in “try harder.”

unnamed 2The invitation for all of our life in Christ is him living his life in and through us. Paul’s well-known testimony is “not I, but Christ lives his life in me (Galatians 2:20).”

As shepherds, we abide in Christ that he may  live his life through us as we care for others.

This is not merely a utilitarian relationship. It is one born of sacrificial love. Jesus has given his life for and to us in love for his Father and for us. The Father and the Son have sent the Spirit to bind us to themselves and to pour out life and love into us. As shepherds, this is what (who) we offer to others.

So as we press on in the care of others, even at personal cost to ourselves, Jesus will live his life in us and through us. Outwardly, we may experience all sorts of adversities, inwardly God will be renewing us day by day (see 2 Corinthians 4).

This is the Christ-life manifested in the context of our service to others.

Here is how Paul described it, “He (Jesus) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28-29, emphasis mine).”

Christ powerfully works in Paul. Paul strenuously contends for the maturation of the flocks.

Fear Not Hardship
Fear is one way the enemy causes us to draw back. What if I am rejected? What if I am misunderstood? What if this costs me too much? What if…..?

Jesus knows all these concerns and he continues to pour his life into us. The Gospel orientation in life is that because Jesus is always enough, there is always enough to go around.

Jesus’ all sufficiency is in direct opposition to a scarcity mindset.

So we lean into Jesus and he offers himself to us and through us to others.

Be encouraged. Jesus is with you and in you. The Father sees you and pours his life into yours through the Spirit and the written Word. We are never alone.

How has God been shaping and using you in this area of caring for others?

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