Challenging The Notion That The Bible Is An End Unto Itself

What would happen in my marriage if every time a marital issue arose that needed to be addressed, I’d read a book about the issue instead of spending time with Rhonda discussing it? What if I even memorized some of the lines from the book, would that help? What if I really believed the book had the answers I was looking for, would that help our marriage? 

I heard a call-in show yesterday on Moody Radio – the Chris Fabry show. He made this statement: “The Bible has what we need to survive and thrive in confusing, perilous, and chaotic days that we live in.” “We need to turn to God by turning to our Bibles.” The Bible give us “hope that comes from not only reading this but believing that this is written for you and me.” 

He used the analogy of having jumper cables in your trunk in case your car needed help starting. The jumper cables were verses from the Bible used to help in difficult times. Listeners called in with their favorite verse(s) that have helped them through family struggles, personal battles, and current problems – “verses you turn to in tough times.” Psalm 46.7-11, John 29.10, John 10.10, Psalm 34.3-6, Joshua 1.9, Romans 8.28, Psalm 20.7, Philippians 1.6, and Psalm 23 were mentioned by individual callers.

It was encouraging to hear the stories. It was discouraging to hear the Bible presented as an end unto itself. 

I only raise this for “awareness.” I don’t think most Christians intend to make the Bible an end unto itself but it often ends up there. The scriptures almost become a member of the Trinity. As one of my profs once said, “I used to think of the Trinity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Scriptures.” 

Properly understood, the Bible is a means that leads you to God. If your experience of what is written does not move you into an experiential “knowing” of God, then something’s amiss. Paraphrasing Chris Fabry: “The Triune God, who often uses the Bible, has what we need to survive and thrive…” I’m sure Chris would not disagree. Yet, he, like many evangelicals, elevates the scriptures to a place never intended for them. 

Ironically, many of the verses mentioned were about God and His ways with people. Yet, instead of understanding the verse as a means to lead the person to an experiential knowledge of God, it seemed good enough just to understand the verse and believe it. Additionally, most callers told a story about how the Bible verse helped them while failing to focus on God who actually did help them. 

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not pitting scripture against God. I’m trying to place scripture in its proper role. Its purpose is to lead us to God where we find, in the actual experience of Him, what we need to make it in life.

The Holy Bible is not the answer; the Holy Trinity is. 

A song comes to mind that my wife Rhonda often sung bringing tears to my eyes every time. I first heard “When Answers Aren’t Enough”  presented by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The song points us to the Source of our life and Answer to our every struggle. I hope you’ll listen to it. (I wish the Brooklyn Tab rendition was on You Tube – powerful!!) Your heart will be directed to Jesus, the Word. 

What role does scripture have in your life? Share below.

Dr. K 

 

Challenging The Notion That More Information Makes You A Better Christian

Hearing & Doing; Information & Transformation

Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur who created CD Baby, an online “store” with $100 million in sales for 150,000 musicians. In 2008 he sold CD Baby for $22 million, giving most of the money to a charitable trust for music education. He’s published 33 books and is a frequent speaker at TED conferences. I don’t know his “religious” orientation, but for my purposes today, that doesn’t matter. Having briefly acquainted myself with his young life (he’s only 49 years old), I’m impressed by his ability to get things done. It’s obvious he’s a book guy – loves to read, comment on what he’s read, and recommend books to others. 

So, it might be surprising when he drops this wisdom bomb: 

If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.

One of the great frustrations with what I do, is running into person after person who talks, thinks, or writes about ideas, theories, and information but fails to live it. That’s true for about every sermon you’ve ever heard. 

Most evangelicals are convinced that what they need is more information. They believe that if they have enough information, they will become saints. Not so! 

What did St. James write: “Be doers of the word, not hearers only.” He goes on to explain that when you hear the word your tendency is to be satisfied with that alone. You see who you really are then forget it. James says you are deceiving yourself. You are only blessed by doing not by forgetful hearing. 

Church leaders are the worst offenders. They study and teach the Bible regularly. Yet don’t take the time nor tools to actually live what they’re teaching.

So, this cycle of deceit is lived out week after week – giving more information but little on how to grapple with it.

Bible studies have the same affect. More and more information. Little or no change.  

You have enough information. 

I just read Colossians chapters 3 and 4:1-6. There is enough there to keep you occupied for the rest of your life. You don’t need more information. You need to figure out how to put these exhortations into practice. 

Apply this to the Sermon on the Mount, Ephesians 5, 6 or Philippians 2. 

If more information was the answer, we’d all be living sinless lives with fully enlightened minds.

As a Christian, it’s not what you know [intellectually], it’s what you do consistently that matters to God and others. 

What do you think? Share below

Dr. K

Here’s What God Thinks Of Your Political Opinions

A Secret Way To Change Your World

If you call yourself a Christian, why don’t you act like one? Your judgments of others rarely match the judgments of God. A child of His will at least try to act like His child. When it comes to politics, this is a tough one.

Here’s the full quote from God in the flesh –

You have heard that it was said, “‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even [non-Christians] tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers [those who agree with you], what more are you doing than others? Do not even the [pagans] Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 

God loves Donald Trump, Ted Nugent, NRA members, and Vladimir Putin. God loves Nancy Pelosi, Madonna, Michael Moore, and Barack Obama. Children of our Father can do the same.

Begin, as Jesus teaches, by praying for everyone in your life – friends, family, and “enemies.” Something as simple as: “Lord, have mercy on ___________.” Let Him do what He wants with them. Stop being so demanding of Him and others.

Or, pick one “enemy” and pray everyday for God to show him/her His mercy. Simple. Difficult. Don’t do it because you love them. Do it because that’s what Children of God do.

When you pray like this something really good will start happening in you.

You say, “I can’t pray for those I can’t stand. My heart won’t be in it.” I promise you, your heart will follow your actions. Just keep doing what Jesus says and see what happens. That’s all.

I write from personal experience. I had “evil” well-defined and my enemies clearly designated. Then God started messing with my heart as I began to pray for God’s mercy to be shown on certain politicians, heretics, irritants, deviants, and skeptics. I even prayed for a few this morning. It’s not because I’m so holy that I do so. It’s because I’m so rotten! For my heart’s transformation into the love of God, I need to pray for people I don’t like.

I invite you to join me. And, if you don’t mind, pray for God’s mercy to be mine…whatever category you put me in.

How do you wrestle with praying for those who disagree with you or rub you the wrong way? Share below. 

Dr. K 

 

 

How To Transform Your Life One Day At A Time

There Is Transformational Power In (Good) Regular Ritual

Have you made a resolution this year to deepen your relationship with God? Have you taken to heart the invitation: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4.8)? Have you come to realize the power of habit and ritual to transform your character and soul? If so, here is a morning routine that you can adopt that will accomplish all of this for you. 

“He [Jesus] went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed…” Jesus regularly went to a special place to meet with His Father.  

Set up a morning ritual:

  • awake at a set time with an alarm
  • get up immediately
  • get dressed
  • make coffee/tea or drink a glass of water 
  • go to your place of solitude and light a candle (as a way of focusing on God since Jesus is the Light)
  • sit in quiet solitude with God (at times sipping your coffee/tea while quieting your mind and opening your heart to God)
  • stand and pray the Trisagion prayer (this furthers your communion with God and allows what follows to become a part of praying) 
  • read and meditate on a portion of scripture (sitting or standing)
  • pray with the scripture in mind
  • remain quiet with God as long as you are able
  • engage in liturgical/set prayers and intercessory prayers 
  • conclude with the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) allowing it to be a springboard for communion with God all day long 
  • blow out the candle 

The links above (bold type) take you to a post from August 2016. It will provide more information on this kind of praying. 

When you engage this ritual for 21 days and more, you will experience some profound changes.  

I have done this ritual, or something like it, for over 25 years. I can vouch for the spiritual and life-giving effectiveness of good ritual. It continues to provide the structure for my communion with God and my ever-so-slow transformation of life.

In this type of routine/ritual/habit, moments of intimacy with God take place. You draw near to Him and He draws near to you. 

You are invited to develop or further develop this kind of ritual that will help transform your heart. 

Let me know how it goes for you by sharing your experience of this “routine” below. 

Dr. K 

Clarifying The Aim Of Our Relationship With God

It's About Becoming United With God

God wants you to become one with Himself. He has provided everything for that to happen. You get to participate in what He’s provided. Thanks be to God!

I am excited to share with you another rendition of The Participatory Paradigm diagram. This visual depiction of how to live the Christian life is evolving slowly as improved ways to show it come to mind. I hope you’re able to follow along and allow the paradigm to challenge and encourage you on your journey with God. 

Download (PDF, Unknown)

In this version, the relationship between the Holy Trinity and “Me” is presented as a more fluid movement. I’m trying to show this movement – the energies and life of the Trinity flow into the individual who in turn participates in them as he or she communes with God. The person is energized and transformed by God to love God and others. In participation/communion with the Holy Trinity, “me” experiences God’s life and energies which transforms absolutely everything all the time. 

The aim of this core relationship is union – God in you and you in God. You live but it is God who lives in you. You become more and more unified as one. This is not “growth” as commonly understood. Instead it is a slow journey into or a gradual participation in the life of God which is already at work in you. 

Then, out of this oneness, all other relationships take place. Out of this union you live your life synergistically with God. 

The Church prescribes the means of living this life eucharistically, ascetically, sacramentally, and liturgically. In synergistic oneness with God, you pray, work, give to the poor, and fast as you engage various aspects of the world around you (the large, outer square). 

Is this making sense? As you experience the reality the diagram seeks to present, you will understand it more fully. 

As you may have noticed, I reinserted the term “energies.” A pastor-friend of mine wrote that, for him, there was a renewed understanding of God’s work in us with the term “energies” (vs. grace). Now that’s something coming from a Presbyterian!  

I’ve enjoyed developing this diagram with you over the past few weeks. For now, its going into hibernation. But I hope you’ll continue to meditate on it as you are able. It’ll probably wake up sometime later this year. 

If you have questions about the diagram or want further clarification, let me know. I love “talking” about this kind of stuff. 

Share your questions or thoughts below. Thanks!! 

Dr. K 

Neither Presidents Nor Protests Will Save Us

The Kingdom Is Jesus & He's Not Part Of This World's System

“My kingdom is not of this world…but now my kingdom is not of this realm,” Jesus explained to Pilate. I’m not sure all that Jesus meant by this statement. He may be at least saying that His kingdom does not come about by force, violence, or even vote. It is something “otherworldly.”

C’mon, let’s admit it. We’re messed up. We can’t see straight. So-called Christians latch on to ideas and personalities they believe will save them. They give their time, energies, and often money to political agendas and people who cannot save. Spend some time on Facebook these days and you’ll feel the dramatic cross-purposes left and right. We’re fragmented by sincere people blinded in the darkness of their self-constructed, vacuous spheres.

When you get your eyes off Jesus you see so much less. Rights become paramount. Success is idolized. Winning takes precedence. Politics dominate. The kingdom is displaced.

When blind Bartamaeus cries out to the Son of David for mercy, Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s an astonishing question. Doesn’t Jesus know already? Yet, Jesus does not push His agenda onto Bartamaeus. He invites him to enter into His work. “That I might receive my sight,” is Bartamaeus’ answer. As he is healed of his physical blindness the real healing of his heart takes place. He begins to follow Jesus. He can see much more clearly now.

It’s in your face-to-face communion with Jesus that you begin to see clearly. You begin to see that apart from Jesus, you are blind. Place your eyes on anyone or anything else and your eyes become tainted. Preoccupation with this world shrouds the True Kingdom in murkiness.

It tears me apart to see Christians so fragmented. I struggled with sleep last night. I awoke this morning burdened by the petulance and bravado from so-called Christians presented on Facebook yesterday. We’re a mess!

Jesus is about unity. First, our union with Him. Second, our union with one another. Allowing lesser agendas to control us is just wrong.

In reality, there is little you and I can do about what’s going on around us. However, you can pray. Here’s a prayer for our political leaders you can pray daily:

Save, O Lord, and have mercy upon all world rulers, on our president (name), on (names), and on all our civil authorities. Speak peace and blessing in their hearts for Your holy Church and for all Your peoples, in order that we may live a calm and peaceful life, in all godliness.

Daily prayer for your governmental leaders – local, state, federal – will go far in unifying hearts in Jesus. By doing so, we’re asking the One Lord to heal our fragmented selves and help us bring healing to others.

Dr. K 

Three Reasons “ME” Is At The Core Of The Participatory Paradigm

What's Happened To Your "Personal Relationship With God?"

“Do you have a personal relationship with God?” Good evangelicals have heard and asked this question many times. The “lost” may enter this relationship by grace and faith only to find it to be something else. Ah-ha! The ol’ bait and switch! They enter for relationship but discover this “thing” with God is more about doing work, following rules, knowing dogma, studying the bible, or caring about social agendas. Unfortunately, many of these same people do not stop to reflect on their actual relationship with God. They assume they know how to relate to God. I’m challenging some of these assumptions with the Participatory Paradigm.

Today, two models of relating to God are presented. I’m challenging them by focusing on the “ME” section of the Participatory Paradigm.

 

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Three Reasons For Including “ME” at the Core      

1. To emphasize the reality that first and above all, core to life and everything dear to ME, is God’s union with ME and MY union with God. To believe that God is just one more “piece of the pie,” added among the many other “things” in life, is to diminish the Almighty to my level. It lets me control God by keeping Him in His place along side all the other stuff I’ve got going. He’s as important as my family, my work, my recreation, and my friendships, but not more important. I can do lots of things “apart from Christ.” “Seeking first the kingdom of God” is for the weirdo’s, pastors, missionaries, and other zealots. I’m going to heaven! I’m good!

Here we have God among many (competing) gods. 

To counter this “stinkin’ thinkin’,” I’m trying to show the core reality of God’s life in us and our life in Him. All reality flows out of that one reality.

2. To counteract those who would say, “It’s all about God,” as if there is no place in a theological discussion for anything else. Of course, this makes no sense. God became flesh in order to provide the way of salvation so that humanity could be united with God. There is certainly much about God that we need to know about and to experience. But after all, He did create human beings to be in communion with Himself. For salvation (the whole of the Christian life) to find its fullness, at the center must be God and “ME” in relationship.  

Here we have God the object of admiration, worship, study, and ideas. 

3. To remind me that The Holy Trinity invades every faculty of ME, my being – mind, soul, heart, and body. And that every faculty is being renewed so that it may experience the “energy” of God more fully day by day. In this way, I “live, move, and have my being.” So then, I am enabled to conduct my life in continual repentance, renewal, reconciliation, and righteousness (none of it of my own doing). My whole being is being saved. That’s what is happening to “ME.”

Which one of these diagrams best reflects your understanding of “God and you” in the Christian life? In what ways are you being challenged to think differently? Share below. 

Dr. K 

P.S. I want to thank my friend, Mike, for his excellent work on these two diagrams. You can see the difference between someone who knows what he’s doing (Mike) and one who doesn’t (me) as it relates to computer graphics.

P.P.S. In the next post I’ll present some new developments in the PP diagram. I’m excited about better ways to visualize our participation in the life of the Trinity.

 

Exploring the Participatory Paradigm With Some Modifications

Two Changes That Might Make Things Clearer (I Hope!)

I recently heard a pastor talk about being “stumped” when one of his parishioners asked, “How do I know I’m becoming spiritually mature?” He had no good answer. I think the question comes out of a good place. Most of us want to see movement on our spiritual journey. Yet, like an amateur mechanic using a hammer to loosen a bolt, so a Christian might reach for a “spiritual growth” to tool make sense of her spiritual life. I think it’s an inadequate tool. It might be handy and even accomplish a small task on occasion. Yet it can just as easily fail. Of course, it’s not always the tool’s fault. How it is used is just as important. So, there are two primary factors involved in “fixing” something: 1) the tool used, 2) how the tool is used. 

I think the “spiritual maturity” tool is faulty. Yet, having an appropriate tool, in this case The Participatory Paradigm, is only as good as the operator. This tool works. Hundreds of saints can testify to that fact. But a person must live it, actually participate in it, receive it and do it. 

There are thousands who will not because they’re convinced their way is better. I’m not going to argue or seek to persuade. I just invite you to consider this paradigm and live into it as you will. 

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Changes

  1. I’ve changed “The Trinity” to “Holy Trinity” – I wanted to emphasis the Godhead’s essence more clearly. God is beyond us and unknowable by us. We cannot know Him in His essence. We can use human words to try to understand God. But He is far beyond any terms we may use. He is incomprehensible. If so, then how can we know Him? Keep reading…
  2. I’ve changed “Energies” to “Grace” – The word “energy” simply means: “the capacity or power to do work.” It is a good word as I’m using it in the diagram. (The discussion of the reality of “God’s uncreated energies” has been around for centuries but hidden from most of us.) The Holy Trinity provides the power for us to “live, move and have our being.” We do not exist apart from God making it happen. We have a relationship with God as God makes it happen. We are transformed from God making it happen. We know God as He energizes us to know Him. Yet, for many evangelicals, there is baggage that comes with the word, mainly “new age” connotations. So, “grace” might be a better word for my purposes. However, “grace” may not clear to many either. Unfortunately for many evangelicals, grace is reduced to Christ’s salvific work on our behalf – we are “saved by grace.” Of course, this is true. However, everything that happens to us is by God’s grace not just our justification. Our life can’t happen any other way. So, for purposes of this diagram, I’m using “grace” and “energies” synonymously. I may be wrong, but I’m assuming most evangelicals relate to “grace” easier than “energies.” Theologians may take me to task for this. I’ll see how it plays out. 

By the way, since God is unknowable in His essence, the only way we can know Him is in or by His energies/grace. He gives us the power to know Him. The gold arrows from “Holy Trinity” to “Me” indicate this reality. As one of my favorite modern-day theologians has said, “We cannot know God. But, we must know Him to know that.” 

I’m also wrestling with a really good title for the diagram. The Participatory Paradigm still reigns supreme. But I wonder if “The UnCommon Journey With God” would work. Maybe that would be better as a subtitle. “The Ancient-Modern Faith Paradigm” or “The Classic Christianity Paradigm” might work. What do you think? 

I received a couple comments on the first diagram. I’d like to hear more. Share below. Thanks!! 

Dr. K 

Take A Sneak Preview Of The Participatory Paradigm

Plus, 7 Observations That Help Explain It

Today I present a visual image of the Participatory Paradigm. In essence, I’m trying to put in visual form what is already taking place and has been since the Church began. The attempt at doing this is actually pretty silly (and could be dangerous). It’s like putting combustible air in a box. Mystery cannot be contained in a diagram. Yet, here I go. Please forgive me if I trample on your sensibilities. Love constrains me to present this to my readers and friends. I hope this diagram challenges your present understanding of the Christian life. I hope it elicits questions which you’ll share with me.

This is an initial draft. There is much work yet to do to make this presentable. But, I wanted to share it with you in light of what I have been writing and for future reference.

Drum roll please…here is a diagram of The Participatory Paradigm… 

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I’ve been working on this digram for almost a year. True. I am a slow learner. But, actually the realities of this visual paradigm have been working on me for years. There are limitations to any diagram and this one falls short in many ways. Yet, it encapsulates so much about what the Christian life is, at least how it was lived for centuries after Christ.  

Observations On The Participatory Paradigm Diagram 

  1. At the core of life is our relationship with God within the framework of the Church.
  2. Out of the Holy Trinity flows the uncreated energies of God in which we participate creating a context for union with God. (gold arrows)
  3. In union with God, we live into and through the life of the Church by the operation of grace into all aspects of life. (green arrows)
  4. We live in constant movement “out of and back into” these relationships (Trinity & Church) liturgically, eucharistically, sacramentally, and ascetically.  (green arrows)
  5. It is in four primary practices – Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving, and Manual Labor – that our spiritual lives are honed to the benefit of others. 
  6. Every area of our lives – micro & macro – are affected by these core relationships, synergistic movements, and transforming practices. 
  7. From the standpoint of the true Christian (“ME” in the diagram), participation is mandatory or none of this matters.  

Study the Participatory Paradigm diagram. How does this “picture” compare to your picture of the Christian life?  Are there similarities, differences, gaps, questions, or clarifications needed? Share below.

Dr. K