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    Elders' Blog - Entries from June 2013

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    WedWednesdayJunJune19th2013 Certain Particularity
    byDon Whipple Tagged Discipleship 0 comments Add comment

    Who or what deploys the most formative power in your life?

    When my wife occasionally says that our sons act or talk just like me, if what they did was really good then I believe in formative power. If what they said was bad, I simply wonder who in the world their father could possibly be.

    Granted, the question flies in the face of our individualism and programming that deceive us at times into thinking that we are not influenced by others or outside events. This is a significant issue to consider for many reasons, but consider it in the context of our current church-wide discussion of disciple-making. Remember the definition of the word “disciple” that we used a few weeks ago as we focused our attention on Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:16-20:

    Mathetes (the greek word translated “disciple”) always implies the existence of a personal attachment which shapes the whole life of the disciple and which in its particularity leaves no doubt as to who is deploying the formative power.

    Our obedience to Christ then clearly involves pouring our lives out to multiply the number of people who have a personal attachment to Christ which shapes and forms their life in a public and powerful way. Leading others in a growing relationship with Christ is restricted by definition to those who have a growing relationship with Christ. Making disciples is restricted to those who are attached to Christ and who display the formative power of his particular way of living.

    For some this is a huge factor as it explains why the subject of disciple-making carries no appeal for you. It seems like another thing that God or the church expects you to do. The key to unlocking the door between you and obediently leveraging your life to deploy the formative power of Christ in others’ lives is strengthening your own weak connection to Christ.

    Most of us can or want to answer the opening question simply with “Jesus.” Bill Clem, in his book Disciple: Getting Your Identity From Jesus, makes the point that one significant barrier to making disciples is an identity crisis among people like us that hinders and restricts the formative power we bring to bear on others around us. Consider these three examples he lists in chapter 4 of his book:

    1. I am what I do. Therefore if you do not like what I do or if I do not succeed at what I do, then I am a failure.
    2. I am what has been done to me. Therefore I cannot escape from the victimization of being sinned against or suffering, and I must protect myself.
    3. I am my relationships, roles and responsibilities. Therefore my life is restricted and defined by marriage, parenting, singleness, and loneliness.

    The point is that as a disciple of Jesus Christ it is easy to get stuck in these distortions and neglect the truth that our identity is in Christ. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection and the power of the gospel our lives have been transformed to be in Christ and bear his image. This certain particularity of the formative power of Christ is the key to you being an effective maker of disciples. Check this truth out by feeding on Galatians 2:20 (“it is no longer I that live”) and Colossians 3:1-4 (“for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God”).

    Let’s seek God together in such a way that our hearts will be transformed toward the magnificence of Jesus so that he becomes our formative power and our certain particularity. Disciple-making depends on it.  

    ThuThursdayJunJune13th2013 Therefore...Though
    byBill Davis Tagged Encouragement Faith 2 comments Add comment

    God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
    though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
    (Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)

    When we think of a refuge, our thoughts typically run to a safe harbor, if not a sanctuary or perhaps even a resort. However, refuge and strength combine to form quite a combination. For not only does the Psalmist remind us that we can safely seek retreat from trouble and trial, but also that our retreat to God isn't one of mere hiding—it's also where we can be renewed, restored, and strengthened. And to top all that off, he is right there ready to receive us; he's not some far-away, "someday" helper. Theologians call that "immanence." You, I, and the Psalmist can just call his help "very present."

    Then we get the hinge of the passage—the challenge of "do you really believe this?", the assignment that arises from the assertion. And it follows a little 2 word pattern:

    “Therefore… though…”

    That's a good 2-word pattern for the Christian life. "Therefore…though…" applies to a myriad of seeming paradoxes for the Christian. It applies to the trade off of faith/sight, contentment/lack, calm/storm, and on and on. My best spiritual mentor taught me a really great thing to do with this passage. Namely, take out what comes after the "though" and spend time meditating on what we might fill in the blank, be they 'small' fears or really big ones:

    Therefore we will not fear though...
       …I fail at this challenge in front of me.
       …I am rejected by someone very close to me.
       …this chronic health issue may be with me yet longer.
       …something or someone lets me down when I was counting on it/him/her.

    I find that when I put something pretty meaningful with the "though", it's a good litmus of how strong the "therefore" currently is in my life. I also find, thankfully, that it works in both directions. In other words, the times when I truly seek the refuge of the Lord and gain the strength available in his immediately available help, the bigger the "thoughs" I can face.  What "though..." do you have facing you right now? Seek both his refuge and his strength—and appreciate afresh how "very present" he is.

    TueTuesdayJunJune4th2013 Celebrating Simplicity
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Beauty Marriage 2 comments Add comment

    [Guest post from Pastoral Intern Drew Humphrey]

    There’s something mysteriously beautiful about the contrasting hues in which our lives are painted.

    Last weekend, I had the opportunity to trek over to the shores of the Mississippi River for the wedding ceremony of my brother-in-law. It was a beautiful event. The vows were exchanged on a refreshingly cool Sunday evening beneath the canopy of a stand of stately old trees. The air was filled with excitement and joy as two lives were formally united through the covenant of sacred matrimony. There was hugging, crying, laughing, dancing, story-telling, and picture-taking. (There was also an incredibly cute flower girl, who just so happened to be my eldest daughter. But I digress.) In short, it was a celebration fit for the significance of the occasion.

    The next day, I found myself sleepily driving eastbound down Interstate 74 with one daughter who was being very vocal about her desire to be anywhere but her car seat, another daughter who was providing us with color commentary on her “Dora the Explorer” movie, and a wife who was trying to maintain some level of sanity in the midst of it all. At some point on that long stretch of road through endless central Illinois farmland, I had an existential moment. In a single and glorious instant, I saw the startlingly vivid contrast between the experience I was having in the minivan and the celebration of the previous evening. One felt something like a magical fairy tale. The other felt more like a migraine.

    It’s ironic if you think about it. Most of us start our marriages surrounded by pomp and circumstance. We’re dressed up as nicely as we’ll ever be. We revel in the presence of our families, our friends, and those who managed to somehow garner an invitation despite being neither. Our faces hurt by the end of the day from smiling so much. Yet most of our married lives are spent surrounded by electric bills, dirty diapers, broken-down vehicles, and microwave meals. The tuxedo goes back to the store it was rented from and the wedding gown gets stuck in a box in the closet. The blissful exuberance of a wedding day quickly gives way to the mundane simplicity of life in a frustrating, fallen world.

    In other words, we start marriage in the serenity of a summer evening ceremony beneath the foliage of majestic trees. But we experience the daily reality of marriage in a cacophonous minivan rolling down a boring stretch of Midwestern highway.

    Sound depressing? It’s not. It’s actually what makes marriage beautiful.

    We can’t live in an eternal wedding day. And why would we want to? Sure, it might be true that Day 1,914 of my marriage was a tad bit less spectacular than Day 1. But it was no less beautiful. And it was certainly no less of a blessing. Because I got to do something on Day 1,914 that I never would have been able to do on Day 1. I got to pull over for an emergency bathroom break on the side of the road (sometimes even cute little flower girls can’t wait for the next gas station, you know). How’s that for a memory? Perhaps it lacked a certain amount of pageantry. But pageantry doesn’t make marriage beautiful. Simple, subtle grace makes it beautiful.

    I think wedding days are great. But I happen to think there’s plenty worth celebrating in those days when no fancy clothes get worn, no cake gets eaten, and no pictures get taken. Those are the days that make up the kind of marriage I want to have. Those are the days that make for a lifetime of memories.

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