Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bible Interpretation

How we approach the Bible makes a big difference in our interpretation of it and then how we use it and apply it to our lives. In many evangelical circles, we view it as a manual of principles and a manual for life. I've been seeing and feeling recently that that is not a very accurate description of the Bible. A manual is defined by formulas and clear steps to take. That's not the Bible. It's mostly stories. And that does not diminish its value, importance, or impact. It just means we need to use it differently. John Eldredge describes some of this perspective (below). What do you think?

Find a Few of His Friends

Hopefully you will find a few folks who walk with God to also walk with you through the seasons of your life. But honesty – and Scripture – forces me to admit they are a rare breed. Few there are who find it. All the more reason for you to make the number less scarce, by becoming someone who walks with God and teaches others how.

Look to those who have walked with God down through the ages. Certainly that is why the Bible is given to us. If God had intended it to be a textbook of doctrine, well then, he would have written it like one. But its not; it’s overwhelmingly a book of stories – tales of men and women who walked with God. Approach the Scriptures not so much as a manual of Christian principles but as the testimony of God’s friends on what it means to walk with him through a thousand different episodes. When you are at war, when you are in love, when you have sinned, when you have been given a great gift – this is how you walk with God. Do you see what a different mindset this is? It's really quite exciting.

And there are those who have walked with God since the canon of Scripture closed. Here is an Athanasius, a Bonaventure, a Julian of Norwich, a Brother Lawrence, a Tozer – here is how they walked with God. When it comes to time and place, temperament and situation, they could not be more different. Julian lived in a cloister; Tozer lived in Chicago. Athanasius fled to the desert; Lawrence worked in the kitchen. But there is a flavor, a tang, an authenticity to their writings which underlies whatever it is they are trying at the moment to say. Here is someone who knew God, really knew him. This is what its like to walk with God, and that is what its like as well.

(Waking The Dead , 107, 108)

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Insignificance and Importance

Here's something that has been a core struggle of mine. John Eldredge describes the depth of this struggle well:

What Has Life Taught You about Your God-Given Glory?

“How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?” (Ps. 4:2). These blows aren’t random or incidental. They strike directly at some part of the heart, turn the very thing God created to be a source of celebration into a source of shame. And so you can at least begin to discover your glory by looking more closely at what you were shamed for. Look at what’s been assaulted, used, abused. As Bernard of Clairvaux said, “Through the heart’s wound, I see its secret.”

Let me put it this way: What has life taught you about your God-given glory? What have you believed about your heart over the years? “That it’s not worth anyone’s time,” said a woman. Her parents were too busy to really want to know her. “That it’s weak,” confided a friend. He suffered several emasculating blows as a boy, and his father simply shamed him for it. “That I shouldn’t trust it to anyone.” “That it’s selfish and self-centered.” “That it’s bad.” And you . . . what have you believed?

Those accusations you heard growing up, those core convictions that formed about your heart, will remain down there until someone comes to dislodge them, run them out of Dodge.

(Waking the Dead , 118)

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Life has taught me that I am insignificant unless I produce amazing results. Do fantastic things. Achieve a lot and impact millions of people's lives in remarkable ways. Any one else have this struggle? I think it's deeply entrenched in our society, and even in our faith.

If we are given talents and gifts, then we should use them to the best of our abilities. Touching more lives is better than touching fewer lives. The conclusions I have learned from these points is that we need to kill our hearts in favor of production. While working one-on-one with clients is all nice and dandy, writing books and speaking so that I can touch many more lives (theoretically in the thousands or even millions) would be the more faithful use of my talents and skills because the production value, the results, appear better. Being a psychotherapist, I can only impact a certain number of lives, but being an author and speaker, I can impact many more.

But how deeply? This, I believe, is the cause of the dichotomous experiences I mentioned earlier about my publication and my client. I've recently found several newsletters and blogs that have reinforced my view that numbers are not always the most important thing (the importance of quantity and results probably derived through the Protestant work ethic, as described by Max Weber, which I can go into if people have the interest).

One of these comments was from a peacemaking newsletter that stated "Faithfulness is not a matter of results; it is a matter of dependent obedience." I love that. The relationship, the obedience to God (which is in part determined by listening to our true hearts), is critical.

Max Lucado described an instance that probably every parent has had. Sometimes the simple things are more important than the "great" things. Jamie O'Neal's
Somebody's Hero (music video below) hits this point dead on the head.

The pattern among all of these examples, it seems, is love. The true greatness is not in results, but in the love with which we do things. This is why I love the Mother Teresa quote that is at the top of my blog is my latest motto (in many ways it a reminder to me). The quote is "We can do no great things; only small things with great love."

The things we do are not in and of themselves great. They may be more or less unique, but that in itself is meaningless. It is the love that has the potential for making anything and everything we do great. I can write an article or chapter that is very good according to academic standards and may actually influence others. But if I do it more out of obligation than love, then it is really not all that great. The love I have is for clients. What do you love?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Books & Input

Last Sunday, Bobby talked about study and mentioned some books that he recommended for certain journeys and questions. I added some in a comment to his blog, if you'd like to check it out. Several of mine have been a source from where I've gotten a lot of questions, felt encouraged to seek answers, been uplifted through the journey and struggle, and even found some answers.

On that note, I'd like to encourage readers of this blog to contact me with questions, doubts, struggles, etc. they have and would like to see discussed here. It will help me come up with more content and also be relevant to people's need.


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).