Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BEING IN A TOUGH SPOT

There are times we find ourselves stuck in places we do not want to be and cannot get away from. You may have to stay, but you do not have to waste time there. Paul used his prison time to pray, worship, preach and write.


How do you use the places where you feel stuck? Study your place carefully with an understanding that tough places are opportunities for God to do a deeper work in you.

Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist who has appeared on a Ted Talk entitled ‘The Divided Brain[1]. He wrote about our need to live fully with a horizontal and vertical connection.

"Clearly we have to inhabit the world of immediate bodily experience, the actual terrain in which we live, and where our engagement with the world takes place alongside our fellow human beings, and we need to inhabit it fully. Yet at the same time we need to rise above the landscape in which we move, so that we can see what one might call the territory. To understand the landscape we need both to go out into the felt lived world of experience as far as possible, along what one might think of as the horizontal axis, but also to rise above it, on the vertical axis... "[2]

As Christians we often focus on loving people, but not always on loving the places we find ourselves in. Part of loving people requires a love for the culture they are embedded in. God’s Love includes the entire Cosmos.

Dostoevsky wrote:

“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.“ [3]




[2] McGilchrist, Iain. The Master and His Emissary (Kindle Locations 619-626). Yale University Press, 2014.
[3] Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Great Books, 1952), p. 167

Saturday, September 26, 2015

COMMUNITY RESEARCHERS ON ASSIGNMENT


Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God. In his many lessons the Teacher taught the students how to study everything for signs of the emerging Kingdom. We read about how he used his followers to do community research that would reveal where the Kingdom was most welcome. 




Luke 10:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 
Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 


Jesus sent people who would study in dangerous conditions.  Disciples are to go to places before Jesus’ arrives there. They were to look for people who were receptive to peace. If they were welcomed, they should stay with the peace-loving people.

Jesus told them to take their time and stay in these places. Don’t be quick to leave a good place. Embrace the culture of a new place—eat the food, observe the customs, adapt to the surroundings.

We cannot go arrogantly to any place if we want to stay focused on God’s Kingdom. Richard Foster gives good advice for the discipline of a good student. It soon becomes obvious that study demands humility. Study simply cannot happen until we are willing to be subject to the subject matter. We must submit to the system. We must come as student, not teacher. Not only is study directly dependent upon humility, but it is conducive to it. Arrogance and a teachable spirit are mutually exclusive."[1]

As you study people and discover their dysfunctions, hurts and weakness, pray for sick people and bring healing to them. Tell them that God is in this place; the King has arrived in their house.

There are also places that you will not be welcomed at.  In the place that rejects the messenger, don’t let the dust of that town stick to you. Learn to communicate clearly with those who reject you and your Kingdom message. Let them know that God’s love has come near and that is what they are missing in this place.

How are you at studying receptivity to God’s Kingdom? Too many people spend their time in places that do not welcome God’s peace. They co-dependently spend their time feeling rejected and defensive when they should communicate clearly and move on. Every place you go can be studied for its readiness to experience God’s Kingdom. Love the haters and move on.






[1] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline p.66

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

RENAMING YOUR PLACE

In the conflicted life of the patriarch Jacob we find significant exchanges with God in various places. One night he was camped out on a journey and had a dream where he saw a ladder between earth and Heaven. Angels travelled up and down. He had an insightful dream that showed that God was active in connecting His realm to ours.

From his campsite on the outskirts of the Canaanite town of Luz, Jacob was deeply changed in his relationship with the Almighty.


Genesis 28:
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.


God was in this place and I was not aware of it. Jacob was discovering that God is present beyond our understanding of a location. A ‘run-of-the-mill average place’ was actually an ‘awesome place’. A place that already had a name and reputation received a new identity as God’s presence made the difference. The place took on new significance and became Jacob’s place of worship. He marked the place by worshipping God there. Bethel – the house of God.

When we look intently into the place we are, we find that every place can be a Bethel. God will change our perception of place by helping us to see where His Kingdom is emerging.




Saturday, September 19, 2015

STUDYING YOUR PLACE

Each step of our journey is both a departure from and an arrival at. We’re always leaving some place to get somewhere else. While it may seem that life can go in circles, there are important things for us to see and hear in the places we find ourselves. Jesus talks much about developing eyes and ears that perceive God at work.

Studying where you are is an important spiritual practice. As we examine the place we find ourselves in, we discover the true nature of Omnipresence. God is here, too.  

Hebrew Bible scholar Jon Levenson said, “Geography is simply a visible form of theology.”[1]

Walter Brueggeman said it another way. “Land is a central, if not THE central theme of biblical faith. Biblical faith is a pursuit of historical belonging that includes a sense of destiny derived from such belonging…”[2]

And there’s this quote I found on Facebook. ‘The shortest theology of place is this: "may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth."’[3]






[1] Jon D. Levenson. Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985) 116.
[2] Walter Brueggemann, The Land (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977) pp. 3-4.
[3]Theology Of Place’ Facebook quote

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