Discernment

Standardized TestEver take a spiritual gifts test? I certainly have, and many of the courses I teach for different universities use them.  And while I’m quite sure that surveys designed to apply psychological testing procedures to operations of the Holy Spirit can help us sort some things out, I still get a little uneasy about them.

Why?

Most are written so that even an unbeliever could take them and point to a “spiritual gift.”

Every one starts with a philosophical or theological assumption you may or may not agree with.

Every one tries to systematize something that, in scripture, seems hardly systematic.

Sooner or later somebody says something like, “I took this a few years ago and my gift of faith was a lot stronger then.”  What? Seriously?

So I thought maybe it was time for something radically different. Why don’t we go back to the source and see if there is actually a spiritual gifts “test” in the Bible?

Radical, I know, but stay with me. [click to continue…]

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Sleepy 2Psssssst.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Helloooooo.

Sorry to interrupt you in the World of Slumbering Hearts, but we should talk.  You’re probably reading this in the middle of the day, but I’m writing it in the middle of the night.

Sometimes I get to thinking when I probably should be sleeping.  It works out OK, I suppose. Sometimes I get to sleeping when I should be thinking.

Anyway…

It seems as though more and more we live in a world of sleeping hearts. Cold. Unresponsive. Lifeless.

Our eyes are open.  Apparently our thumbs still work. We still go through our routines. But we seem oblivious to a quieter, more powerful, more eternal world.

Our generation is by no means the first.  The Apostle John was asked to deliver a wake-up call to some churches in what we call the Book of Revelation. Three, in fact.

One of them, in Ephesus, was deliriously busy doing religious things. Campaigning for spiritual orthodoxy. Working tirelessly for The Cause. God had obviously blessed them with hard workers and boundless energy.

Wake up call: You’ve left your first love.

The second, in Sardis, was living on their reputation. God had obviously blessed them with amazing experiences.

Wake up call: You have a name for being alive, but you’re dead.

The third, in Laodicea, was living in the lap of luxury. They had the best of everything… the latest technology, the coolest gadgets, the nicest stuff. God had obviously blessed them with material prosperity.

Wake up call: Lukewarm Christians nauseate God.

So… how awake is your heart? I know you’re probably really busy. I know you can probably point to past experiences where your heart is alive. I know you can find many blessings in your life for which you are grateful.  But it’s possible to have all that and still have a sleepy, lethargic heart to what God is doing here, now.

Here are some signs of life to look for in hearts that are alive and awake: [click to continue…]

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backwards clock“So much of our time is spent in preparation, so much in routine, and so much in retrospect, that the amount of each person’s genius is confined to a very few hours.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whatever happened to Green Stamps?  They’re an indelible memory of my childhood.  In case you missed it, the Sperry & Hutchinson Company, began offering stamps to retailers back in 1896. Grocery stores, gas stations and the like bought the stamps from S&H and gave them as bonuses with every purchase, based on the amount you bought.  In their heyday, 80 percent of U.S. households collected some kind of stamp.

My sister and I grew up licking green stamps and pasting them in books.  When the A&P bag began filling up with completed books, we started getting excited.  We’d peer at the two pages of toys in the S&H catalogue, surrounded by page after page of sheets, clocks, toasters, and other boring things.  (Truth be told, you could get virtually anything with stamps; a school in Erie, Pennsylvania, exchanged 5.4 million stamps for two gorillas for the local zoo.)

Anyway, when we had collected enough to make the trade, we’d go off to the Redemption Center.  Technically, we’d already “bought” the stuff.  We were presenting evidence of our purchase (the stamps) in order to redeem – to buy back – our merchandise.

This is not about Green Stamps, but about redeeming.  About buying back something that already belongs to you – namely your opportunities and your time.  [click to continue…]

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What do you do when you’ve done what you know to do, and what you know to do isn’t working this time?  How do you explain the fact that time-tested methods for producing results, solving problems, and getting ahead just aren’t working this time?  How do you plug the leaks in your economic life?

Questions like these are front and center among politicians, economists, investors, and families these days.

The problem isn’t a shortage of solutions.  The problem is that that the solutions we know are supposed to work aren’t working.

We’re like a wad of sailors on a stormy sea, who keep running to opposite sides of a ship to steady it in the waves – while all the while, the hull is leaking.  I’ve seen it at kitchen tables; I’ve seen it at capital buildings.  Everything we do to steady the ship just draws in more water, and sailing has turned to bailing.

I wonder if anybody is asking – really asking – God.

(Aw, what does HE know?)

Plenty, it would appear.  This isn’t the first time politicians and businesspeople confronted a leaky economy. [click to continue…]

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Casting netsHow do you learn best?  Mark Meadows used to amaze me in third grade.  He’d just sit there.  Never write.  Never raise his hand to answer a question.  Just sit and listen.  And make “A’s.”

Cameron Walker?  Never stopped moving.

Me?  I don’t think I ever stopped running my mouth.  (Hey!  I heard that!)

We all learned.  We just did it in different ways.

The same is true of people in the Bible.  Guys like Paul could go off into the desert for three years and think about stuff.  Analyze things.  With the Holy Spirit’s help, rehash everything he’d ever believed (incorrectly) about the Law.

Our buddy Peter was different.  From the day He met Peter, Jesus began transforming him from a “man of fish” to a man of God.  Like Moses before him, Peter learned with pictures and visual objects.  Things like coins and nets and fish and swords.  I’d like to show you a few objects Jesus used to teach Peter to hear God’s voice.  I think you can learn, too.  Even if you learn best by talking or sitting there listening, I’ll bet you can pick up a few important lessons from Peter’s experience.

[click to continue…]

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