The Revolution


Dallas Willard once said there are no human solutions to human problems. The blame game that is so widespread

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic (Photo credit: jakebouma)

post-Sandy Hook leaves me hollow. We all want to do something but what we really want is someone else to do something – thus the cry for gun control laws.

In the Revolution of Character, Dallas Willard and Don Simpson, state, “His {Jesus} continuing objective is to eventually bring all of human life under the direction of his wisdom, goodness, and power…The revolution of Jesus is first and always a revolution of the human heart. His revolution does not proceed through the means of social institutions and laws…” instead “his is a revolution of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship with God and one another.”Changed hearts relenting under the Lordship of Jesus are the answer to our world’s biggest problems. Jesus started a revolution that begins in the heart. But the thing is, once this revolution has moved from the hearts of individuals to an outward loving expression, institutions and social structures will also be changed.

Christians need to stop being a part of the relentless wave of reactions to a world in crisis and instead be a part of the Revolution that Jesus started and that continues to this day. It is not about doing but being and then the doing will take care of itself.

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Committing Murder In Your Heart

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that

Anger Controlls Him

Anger Controlls Him (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Jesus is addressing the heart of an individual. The heart is the extreme focus of Jesus. He spends the better part of the Sermon on the Mount addressing this. Jesus knew that avoiding murder is largely a physical issue but avoiding anger is a spiritual one.

Jesus always emphasizes the spiritual over the physical. I may never reach a point of wanting to murder someone but that doesn’t mean that anger doesn’t have a hold on me. That doesn’t mean that the contempt I have for another person isn’t tearing myself and that person apart. Dallas Willard says, “Anything that can be done with anger can be done better without it.”

There are some Christians that think that it is their Christian duty to be angry people against those that are hostile towards them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Encountering those who are against us in a loving and respectful way instead of a belligerent and rageful way is to follow the example of Jesus. To do otherwise is to follow the ways of the world and to work against Jesus’ teaching on the destructiveness of anger.

 

 

23 Things – Week 9: Sabbath

Week 9: Sabbath

20. Read this interview with Pastor and author of The Message, Eugene Peterson.

21. Sabbath accomplishes many things but the most beneficial is what it teaches us about time. See below:

1. Cultivates trust in God – Dallas Willard elaborates on this point, “When we come to the place where we can joyously “do no work” (Leviticus 23:3), it will be because God is so exalted in our mind and body that we trust him with our life and our world, and we can take our hands off them.”

2. Reshapes our week – So much of our time is shaped by our responsibilities at work and at home while other parts of our time are shaped by the technologies that we are so attached to. By receiving the Sabbath and its time of rest and worship our entire week can be shaped in a sacred direction rather than a worldly direction. We still have our responsibilities but these duties no longer carry the weight that we had previously assigned to them.

3. Eliminates Hurry – Even if the Sabbath is the only day of the week that we intentionally attempt to rest and not extend ourselves we learn to appreciate what an existence might be like minus hurry and urgency. We can learn that the world can carry on just fine without our input and activity. One hurry free day demonstrates to us that a hurry free existence is possible.

22. Read these guidelines for practicing the Sabbath:

1. Sabbath can be practiced on any day of the week. Sunday is a natural choice because it is the day that we commonly worship and despite recent developments in our culture, it is often a day that includes the fewest responsibilities. If Sunday does not work for you, choose any day that provides you with the most freedom.

2. Start small. Remember that we are not subscribed to the philosophy of more. Try spending two hours after Sunday lunch in quiet reflection, in rest, or recreation. As God enables you over time, try to extend the Sabbath to the entire day.

3. Include your family. Spend your Sabbath with family playing games, cooking meals at home, or outdoor activities.

4. Protect The Sabbath. The first thing that will happen when you decide to receive the Sabbath is that something will occur forcing you to make a choice between your commitment to Sabbath keeping and something else. Though we want to avoid turning this practice into a legalism, we do want to demonstrate conviction regarding the Sabbath. For example, I attempt to complete Weekend errands, housework, and yard work on Saturday in order to free up Sundays for Sabbath keeping.

23. Using the comments, summarize your thoughts on 23 Things.

This is week nine of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first 17 things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

23 Things – Week 8: Worship

Week 8: Worship

18. Watch John Ortberg and Dallas Willard discuss worship. Watch from the 6:00 mark to the 13:00 mark

19. How often do we prepare for worship? One thing we can do is expect to meet God during worship. Next, we can pray for the worship leaders, that they may feel God’s presence and can speak and lead effectively. Third, focus on singing the songs directly to God and listening to God in scripture and preaching. Commit yourself to worship with your heart this week.*

This is week eight of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first 17 things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

*The idea for this week’s exercise came from the book, A Year With God, by Richard Foster and Julia Roller.

23 Things – Week 6: Service

Week 6: Service

13. Read Philippians 2:3-11. What is one way that you could humble yourself today in a tangible way?

14. Make a list of ways that your church is reaching out to its community? Are there areas in the community that are not being reached?

15. Read this excerpt from a commencement address by Dallas Willard:

Remember to live sacrificially.

On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. During his inaugural address, this, the youngest man ever elected president said that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” In this context, President Kennedy issued the following challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

This simple statement, delivered with great fervor, drew forth an amazing current of sacrificial giving from people. This is built into our hearts. We know it’s right. And as Christians we’re the ones who really know what it means and how it can be done.

Don’t strive to advance yourself. Let God advance you. This is a deep psychological and sociological truth as well as a profound theological teaching. If you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. Give it away. God will give it back to you. Don’t make it your aim to get what you want. Serve others. Remember, God gives grace to the humble. He calls us to submit ourselves to the mighty hand of God that, when the time is right, He will lift us up.

I need to add that it’s not safe to be a servant unless you know who you are and unless you stand before God. On the night of His betrayal, just before He shared the Passover with His disciples, …

Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him (Jn 13:3-5).

Because Jesus knew who He was, because He was secure in His relationship with His Father, He was able to do the work of the most menial slave.

Remember who you are. Keep God before you. Then serve sacrificially. When you serve others, you’re really serving God. Because you are serving God, you give the best of service to other human beings.

This is week six of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first nine things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

Who I Turn To For Inspiration

Dallas Willard is a hero of mine. His book, The Divine Conspiracy, opened up a completely new way of living out the Christian life for me. Before I discovered Willard I was searching for a deeper, more meaningful faith that I didn’t know was possible. Willard introduced me to what discipleship was really all about and showed me that Jesus and his teachings can radically reshape my life if I just give him the opportunity. With very little effort, I am able to memorize quotes from Willard and they have helped in many ways. Below, you will see some of my favorite Willard quotes that just came off the top of my head.

“Discipleship is becoming the person that Jesus would be if he were I.”

“Grace is God’s action in my life to accomplish what I cannot accomplish on my own.”

“Faith cannot grow on hype.”

“Ruthlessly remove hurry from your life.”

“Hope is anticipation of good not yet seen.”

“Faith is confidence based on reality.”

“God will let anyone into heaven who can stand it.”

“Grace is not opposed to effort it is opposed to earning.”

“It is not the sinner who uses up a lot of grace but the saint. A saint burns grace like a 747 on take off.”

“Jesus is the most intelligent man who ever lived.”

“The life we wanted is possible if will rearrange our life around the plans and practices of Jesus Christ.”

“Reality is what we learn when we find out that we are wrong.”

“Peace is the absence of will.”

If you are interested in reading more from Dallas Willard, I would suggest starting with Renovation of the Heart and then move to the Divine Conspiracy. There is also a good daily devotional with portions of Willard’s works in bite size form.

photo: intervarsity.org

Relax and Take In God

I have been trying to find ways to simplify my life but I am terrible at it. I am easily distracted by media and the latest information. (I guess that is why I am a librarian) I am hoping to find time and space in my life for God, reflection, and family. That is one good thing about all of the running that I have been doing. I don’t have much else to do on a 30 minute run but think and pray. But, still my mind wants to wander in other directions.

Dallas Willard says that spiritual formation should start with our thought life. He is right but this taming the thought life is a lifetime process that I am sure I will be struggling with until I die. One thing that has worked for me lately is to practice being more relaxed. The more relaxed I am, the better able I am to focus on God. Running has helped here as well.

I don’t know where I first heard this but one aphorism for running long distances is “Just relax and endure.” So, if I am in a tense situation, I slow down and try to stay relaxed and my mind starts to take the reigns off a little and God then steps in and gives me wisdom, or comfort, or strength to handle the situation. We often hear the excuse that we are too busy to think about God but the reality may be that we are too stressed or tense to think about God.

Take a moment right now and try to relax your body and your mind. Say a prayer, asking God to make you more relaxed and for Him to speak to you in these relaxed moments.

Announcement: Christian Life Hacker Marathon Challenge

On December 4, I will be running in my first marathon. That is, if all goes well in my training. But I am off to a good start.

I am running the White Rock Marathon in Dallas. Besides the personal pride and achievement associated with running 26.2 miles, I am also running because the main beneficiary of the proceeds from the White Rock go to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. My daughter, Joy, has gone to Scottish Rite since she was a year old and they have treated her for infantile scoliosis. I am hoping to raise at least $250 dollars for Scottish Rite. You can visit my fundraising page here: http://www.runtherock.com/donate/?kwoAdvocateId=3ZAZJX3

If you have been reading Christian Life Hacker for very long you will recognize that I make a lot of parallels between exercise and our spiritual life. Ever since I read Dallas Willard’s chapter on the body in his magnificent book, Renovation of the Heart, I have been fascinated by the body and it’s connection to the spiritual life and vice versa. So, once a week, on this blog, I will chronicle my marathon training and note any insights I have found regarding my spiritual life. I think that this goal will be both a physical, emotional, and spiritual test that God will play a key role in.

Wish me luck and please donate to Scottish Rite here. 

Spiritual Mentors: Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard giving a Ministry in Contempora...

Image via Wikipedia

This week, I am profiling people who have had the most influence on my Christian spiritual life. Today’s profile is of a thinker who made me fall in love with Jesus.

Dallas Willard

His Influence: As a young evangelical pastor, Dallas Willard was troubled by how much he had to “grind it out” to get visitors to the church and get them to come to salvation. He felt that much of his efforts were a form of manipulation and didn’t reflect what he thought he remembered from Jesus’ ministry. He began to study the Gospels more closely and discovered that people were incredibly drawn to Jesus. Willard began to ask himself, “What was it about Jesus that drew so much attention and what was it that made others want to be close to him and follow him?” Willard saw Jesus as gentle, relaxed, purposeful, unhurried, loving, compassionate, and understanding. Willard began to wonder if Jesus knew something about what made up the good life and how to live in the Kingdom of God? These questions led Willard to pursue graduate degrees in philosophy  and he would eventually become an accomplished professor at the University of Southern California. For thoughtful Christians and pastors, he would be known as the author of books such as The Spirit of the Disciplines, Renovation of the Heart, and his master tome, The Divine Conspiracy.

What I have learned from Willard. Around ten years ago, God broke me down in order for him to become the center of my life and for me to no longer rely on my own strength. I began frantically looking for writers and preachers who could guide me into the next phase of my spiritual life. I wasn’t interested in superficial religiosity and greeting card theology. I needed something meaty and hearty that would demand something of me and challenge me to pursue Christ at all costs. I picked up The Divine Conspiracy and discovered the power of the Sermon on the Mount and that led to grand passages that I barely paid attention to in the past such as the 10 Commandments, Fruits of the Spirit, Colossians 3, and 1 Corinthians 13. But most of all, Willard taught me about the nature of Jesus and what it means to follow him. The concept of the Kingdom of God was foreign to me before but Willard showed me that this was Jesus’ major theme in all of his preaching and teaching. From Renovation of the Heart, I learned what makes up the human spiritual self and how each part can be changed into Christlikeness. Willard, for all of his intellect and philosophical skill, is also very practical and is very thoughtful in finding ways to phrase things in a way that anyone can understand and remember it. Thus, I can quote Dallas Willard in my sleep: love – to will the good of another, peace – the absence of will, faith – confidence based on reality, hope – anticipation of good not yet seen, discipleship – learning to live the kind of life that Jesus would live if he were I.

If I had not discovered Willard, my spiritual life would have been earnest but lacking intention and focus. I would not have discovered my mission in life, which is to become more like Christ in order to spread the work of his kingdom. I would not have started these ministry efforts to help ordinary Christians find growth in their spiritual life. I am eternally indebted to Willard and his writings.

What Dallas Willard can teach you: “The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”

Willard recommendations: If you want to experience Dallas Willard for yourself, check out these recommendations.

The Divine Conspiracy – This book will set the foundation for the need for discipleship and how life with Jesus is the only way to live.

Renovation of the Heart – Once you have the foundation, you will need a guide to become more Christlike. This book shows how each part of ourselves can be transformed into Christlikeness.

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 29

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus by Gary W. Moon. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 29:  Becoming A Master Craftsman: It’s All About The Vim and Vigor

–   VIM is an acronym created by Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart. V stands for Vision, I stands for Intention, and M stands for Means. Willard calls this a “reliable pattern of change” that can be found in virtually all successful programs working on changing patterns of behavior such as AA or Weight Watchers. I have used VIM in changes involving fitness, career, and spiritual matters.

–  Baltimore Catechism – “Why did God make me? God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him and to be happy with him forever.”

This comes from a posts I published on Jan. 24 regarding the VIM pattern: From 2002-2006, my wife and I did intense work at an inner city ministry. Leah ran the kitchen and I volunteered with various ministries and efforts. One thing that I tried to do was meet with some of the men who had recently become followers of Christ. We tried to meet a couple of times a month to read scripture and learn more about what it means to follow Jesus. As so often happens, our meetings kind of fizzled out and we were not meeting regularly. A few months later, one of the guys, who I had not seen in several months, came back around and reminded me of some of the things that he learned from our small group. This guy was barely literate but the one thing that he remembered was the VIM pattern of change.

Apprentice Activity: Personal VIM Statement

–  Use the following questions to help form a personal VIM statement:

Vision – What can you envision yourself becoming through the renovation of your heart into Christlikeness?

Intention – Have you decided that your vision of your transformed self is important enough that you will do whatever it takes to see it become a reality?

Means – What tools and practices can you begin using to help achieve change? Are their items to read? Classes to take? Church ministries to be involved in?

– Read Colossians 3: 1-17 and then ponder verse 15 –  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

More from my VIM post from Jan. 24: Why is intention so important? We all can see ourselves changed and are well aware of the means that are out there for achieving the change but until we have made a firm decision that our changed self is worth pursuing then the means will do us no good. I can think back in my own life when efforts to change failed and point to a lack of intention as the culprit.

What is Jesus teaching me? That God answers prayer. I can think of two instances in the past few days where I prayed for something specific and my prayers were answered. I have tried over the last year to pay more attention to how God answers my prayers and to thank him for his answer. I am oblivious, or too self absorbed, most of the time to recognize that God has indeed answered my prayer. O Lord, may you open my eyes to all of the ways that you are providing for me, protecting me, and making your presence known.

What answers to prayer have you noticed over the last several weeks? How would you rate your ability to recognize God’s work in your life? What could you do to be more aware of God’s action in your life?