Footprints Over Monuments

journey

I personally love to learn about, think about, read about, talk about spiritual formation. It’s a popular topic today, I understand that. I don’t want to be involved with this because it’s fashionable. Rather I’m drawn to it because of how my life is being transformed.

Spiritual formation, at its foundation, is about the forming of Christ in us by the Spirit of God. Eugene Peterson identifies it as such in his Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. He notes it is “primarily what the Spirit does, forming the resurrection life of Christ in us.”

I believe one key aspect of spiritual formation is the call to slow down. Spiritual formation will be nearly impossible if we are constantly on the run, in a hurry.

We live in a world – both outside and inside the church – that calls us to do more and do it faster. And do it flashy as well.

Christian spiritual formation calls for us to slow our pace. Continue reading

What If All Are Not Called as Disciple Makers?

Grow.-Plant.-Discipleship

I’m going to go out on a limb and offer something that will seem very counter-cultural within western, American evangelicalism, especially in light of massive church growth strategies over the past few decades.

I do not believe all Christians are called to be disciple-makers.

Ok, it’s maybe not so problematic. But I know it sounds opposed to all we are taught.

How so? Continue reading

New and Old From the Treasure

A particular title from a blog article I saw today reminded me of these words of Jesus found in the ‘kingdom parables’ of Matthew 13, as they are known:

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52And 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)

Jesus had just spent quite a lot of time laying out teaching about the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven. And He had done it in parabolic fashion, as was His habit at times.

First of all, I think it interesting that He asks the disciples if they understood all the things He had just taught. There simple response is, ‘Yes.’ It’s interesting because they don’t always understand the parables, though Jesus would take time to explain if necessary (see Mark 4:10-20). But, even more, Jesus used parables to sometimes confound those that are not His disciples, not even willing to give an explanation to help them understand (see Matthew 13:10-17).

But here, after some helpful explaining from Christ, they say they do understand all these things.

So, Jesus continues with some helpful concluding thoughts following His parables: 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.

This is probably a well-known passage, at least to any Bible student or the one who has been walking with Christ for quite some time. But I am intrigued about a few things from this verse:

1) Firstly, the people spoken of here are trained for the kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of God. This isn’t patty-cake, patty-cake Christianity. This is true discipleship, true following of Christ, truly seeking first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.

It was Paul who taught that the ultimate goal for the body of Christ was maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16). He told the church in Colossae that he struggled with all his energy to present them as mature (Colossians 1:28-29). And Paul let Timothy know that the teachings he had passed on must now be entrusted to faithful people (2 Timothy 2:2).

So, back in Matthew 13, Jesus is not trying to form a group simply made up of Sunday-attendees. Nor is He even try to build a group that could say they have one or two extra add-ons like a small group or Bible study attendance. He is passionately concerned to build up a people who are trained and equipped to follow Him. He wants a prepared Bride to marry, one that is pure and spotless. Remember, He did say He would build His church (Matthew 16:18). Thus, we must at least expect His commitment to this.

Can we catch the heart of Christ to see His followers trained for the kingdom of God?

2) Before moving on to some thoughts about ‘things new and old’, I note that Christ said these things come out of the treasure. Whatever path we want to go down in considering what this treasure is, let’s just stop and realise that this is a treasure.

Again, He isn’t calling us into anything that is a little extra add-on. He is calling us into things that are worth something. Matter of fact, this is so worth something that we should be willing to sell all that we have for this treasure (see Matthew 13:44-46).

And the things that we bring out of this treasure are things of worth. I mean, come on. Don’t we get caught up in the slightest of details at times. Don’t we get caught up in those things that are worth nothing in eternal perspective. But what a patient Father we have. Whatever those old and new things are, they are at least worth a whole lot from the God-perspective. These are things that would withstand the testing of fire (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

Remember, we are pulling from a treasure. This is no trivial matter.

3) Lastly, a true disciple of the kingdom of God knows that they are to bring from the treasure both new and old. Now, this is incredibly hard in a 21st century, individualistic society. It’s all about now and today. There is no room for yesterday, much less yester-year.

Of course, the young guns will remind us of the deadness of many things of old. And I do know there are such things that must be discarded, if you will. They served their purpose, but it is time to move forward and move on.

But, again, we must marry the two together, find that healthy tension between the two. At least that is what Jesus tells us the wise scribe of the kingdom does. If you want to go to either extreme, then you will never truly walk in line with the kingdom perspective. And you will never pull from that treasure.

That’s challenging!

For the one who only thinks about today – they have missed it. For the one who lives in a land of nostalgia, only remembering the good ol’ days – they have missed it. But the one who catches a glimpse of the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of the King, they know that they are to pull things both new and old from the treasure.

I want to be this kind of disciple: 1) trained for the kingdom, 2) pulling out from the treasure, and 3) being faithful to pull out both new and old. This is the call of Christ.

Movement Obsession

gospel driven churchOver the past month or so, I have slowly been wading through a very interesting book. I’m thinking that is my motto with everything I read – slowly wading through it.

The book is entitled The Gospel-Driven Church by Ian Stackhouse, pastor of Guildford Baptist Church just southwest of London. In the book, Stackhouse has mainly taken up the task of challenging the more vibrant church of the UK, specifically relating to the newer churches and more established charismatic churches of the past few decades.

It’s not that Stackhouse is not a charismatic, for he is, or I can only assume he is by his words. But he has still taken aboard to pastorally challenge the church in a few areas. Having lived in the UK from August 2003 to July 2006, I am somewhat aware of the church scene in the UK, hence my interest in the work. I came across Stackhouse’s book soon after it was published in 2004-2005, but only read a few pages. Nevertheless, I liked those few words I did read. But I was never able to get back into the book, as I ended up giving it away to a friend.

But recently I re-bought the book and wanted to go through it. And, to my delight, the book has been an excellent read. Continue reading