How To Inherit The Earth: Submitting Ourselves to a Servant Savior by Scott Bessenecker, the Associate Director for Missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is simply the best book I’ve read in years on spiritual influence. I wish I had understood and practiced the things that he unpacks in this small book about the ways of Jesus, in my early days of walking with the Lord and launching out into a life of service.
If you want to be a better, smarter, and more respected spiritual leader, may I recommend any number of books besides this one! The list of books whose quality is, in my opinion, disclosed by an excessive use of words like “strategic” and “successful,” is endless. You can search for them under keywords like “super-sizing” or “turbo charging” your ministry. Pastors and ministry leaders gobble up books like those hoping to learn the Six Secrets, the Seven Habits, or Twenty-one Laws of great leadership. Continue reading →
“I grew up in a Candy Store Church where we consumed spiritual candy to obesity and competed with other churches of similar ilk. For sure, there were many things at my CSC that commended itself, but I found that we were only growing in girth and not so much in God. My fondness for sweets notwithstanding, there’s only so much of it that a body can take.
Then I found the Vegetable Garden Church. While I intend no malice toward any church in particular, I would like to rate my experience with this new church in contrast to my former.
It seems like a healthier way of doing church…
I think VGC has a greater chance of producing a healthier sort of Christian disciple. You tend to leave from their gatherings healthier than when you came in. In CSC, you may mistake being “full” for being nourished. At VGC, your pangs of hunger are healthily satisfied rather than just being silenced until the Sunday sugar high turns to a Monday low. Continue reading →
If you haven’t already, you might want to read the previous parts of this essay for context. Using the story about David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem as a backdrop I’ve been suggesting that we practice our faith in Jesus with both wise and white-hot passion. With that, for the last time, let me take up where I left off last time…
Contrast David shedding his kingly decorations and dancing a sweaty jig right out there in public with his previous dignified procession complete with a newly painted cart pulled by freshly groomed oxen. Which of the two displayed a more evident decorum? Which of the two presents a cooler Christianity? When we practice our faith in worship, words, or work is it either coolness or decorum that we’re shooting for? Are we trying to please God or impress people? I wonder sometimes… Continue reading →
In Parts 1 and 2 I confessed my regrettable mismanagement of my zeal for Christ and I drew a parallel between my mistakes and those of David’s when he ill advisedly brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem on an ox-drawn cart instead of on the shoulders of priests. In both his case and mine, people paid for our errors. On David’s watch a man died. On my watch my marriage died, my kids got less than they deserved, and some of those I served over the years were wounded. I sincerely grieve over my errors and their consequences.
But, like David, I won’t allow myself to drown in guilt. “Grace,” says Anne Lamott, “is like water wings when you feel you’re sinking.” It’s that grace that both keeps me afloat and propels me forward. Continue reading →
In Part 1 I confessed two things – that I’m a zealot and that many times over the years I’ve mismanaged my zeal. We’re looking at the story in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 15 about the dire consequence of David’s zeal in transporting the Ark of the Covenant on a new oxen-drawn cart.
Back to my own confession . . .
Though, as far as I know, no one has actually died because of any of my rashly expressed zeal, I have to admit that some people have suffered for it, my own family in particular. While I don’t regret my zealotry in principle, I do regret many of the unwise choices I made. I can say honestly that there were many times that I didn’t manage my passion for God and for my family at the same time. What I did and didn’t do as a husband and father, I did in good – yet ill-informed – conscience, but it cost me my family. I lost my marriage, no doubt, partly due to overlooking many of my wife’s emotional needs over the years. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I was so invested in doing what I thought the Lord required of me that I wasn’t as sensitive to her as I should’ve been. Continue reading →
I heartily recommend a book by Christopher Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl called,Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission (Resources for Reconciliation)
One of my least resistible inclinations these days is to befriend people on the margins. It’s something I get to spend more of my time doing than ever before in my up-until-recently white middle-class life. [Well, the white part hasn’t changed except in my mind.] But I can’t say that it’s been without its challenges. Not being the most patient person God ever made, I struggle at times with compassion fatigue over the sometimes glacially sluggish spiritual progress of some of my friends in the street. This book came at a good time for me.
Pohl is professor of social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky and Heuertz is a contemplative activist who founded a ministry called “Word Made Flesh” that is incarnationally located among the poorest of the poor in a number of nations. Heuertz is not only a firebrand follower of Jesus and lover of the poor, but he’s a brilliant thinker and engaging author. I love his other books, Simple Church and Living Missionally. But of the three, this one on the practice of friendship-making among the weak and unnoticed people of the world
impacted me the most. Continue reading →
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14
So, my question is, why are we spending most of our time and resources to reach the people Jesus said would have a harder time entering the kingdom than squeezing a humpbacked, ruminant quadruped through a tiny opening?
I claim no expertise on camels, but I know that, like rich people, they don’t fit nicely through needles’ eyes. Whether we’re talking about the kind of needle that you use to sew up your ripped jeans or a gate in the Jerusalem wall called, “The Needle Gate.” Either way a camel is simply too big to be shoved through there, especially with all that extra bulk he carries on his back! Continue reading →