A Weekly Diet for Running the Good Race

The Training Table

The Training Table is set, and the menu carefully selected to regularly nourish those who are running the good race set out for us. If you would like to maintain a weekly diet for running the good race, please subscribe to The Training Table.

Why the Training Table?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoming its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7).”

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 3: All Roads Lead to the Same God

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: If You’ve Not Yet, Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

[In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. So let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)]

WE MUST BREAK THIS HABIT OF THE UNEXPLORED, VULNERABLE, FEAR-FULL, NEEDY HEART.

The Sleeping Dog for Today’s T.T. Feast: “Do All Roads [Really] Lead to the Same God?”

I’m certain you’ve discerned a pattern in the first three parts of this series by now: fallen Image Bearers, all of humankind, prefer to fashion lesser god’s out of our OWN marred, self-centered, and self-perpetuated image. Each of the awakened, now-cantankerous dogs include humankind’s hope that God would lower the bar for His acceptance of what is needed for us thoroughly stained sinners to stand before a Holy God.

Whether we will admit it or not, there’s a still-small voice emanating from our fallenness that sounds like this: “It’s my responsibility to be free to do as I please, and it’s God’s responsibility to accept and forgive me regardless of my free-will choices.” End of story. But one-sided responsibility never works… in any relationship, does it?

So, by saying, insisting, or standing on the truth of a worldview, belief, and behavior akin to, “We’re All Children of God”, “God Loves Us Unconditionally”, or “All Roads Lead to God”, what we’re really doing is reshaping God’s PERFECT-HOLY identity, attributes, character in order to make as much room as needed for our own FALLEN-UNHOLY identity, attributes, character. Or idolatry by any other name.

That’s what all 2,800++ man-made religions do: a) we fashion idols into lesser gods, and b) we construe all manner of means and bizarr-o, nonsensical systems whereby we have to earn, vie, work, scratch, claw, vie, grovel, bootlick, wheedle, compare, did I say vie?!, apple-polish, lie… MERIT… our way to God’s favor. Ergo, we must bring God down to our level so that God can’t come near and see us just the way we are… which, of course, He does anyway—indelibly stained and in dire need of a savior TO COME DOWN. Our very dangerous subjectivity within MUST be effected on an OBJECTIVE source from without.

The Timely Timelessness of Our Bumper Sticker Theology

 

 

 

You’ve likely seen it hundreds of times. Does it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling of relief, bliss, and oneness? Or does the notion of all religions boiled-down, symbolized, and smashed together provoke, “BS! That’s from the pit of hell!” in you? Too strong? Think again… please, think again. It’s the perfect icon for what we’re here to weed out: “All Religions, Roads, Worldviews [What-the-Hell-Ever] Lead to the Same God” … oh, and “Peace-Out!” of course.

Here’s the rub, Beloved of God, in Christ, and by the Spirit:

  1. In an age of rampant relativity, we abhor “exclusivity”. But every religion makes exclusive claims about God—and they CANNOT all be equally true. Even though non-contradictory logic has been thrown on the trash heap of our relativistic age, it’s still alive and well: denying it doesn’t change that; it only eats us up from the inside-out: Trying to live a life chocked full of rampant contradictions does that.
  2. To lump all religions together for the purposes of “all-road-ness”, peace, unity, brotherhood, fairness, and Kumbaya-ness—is equally insulting to ALL religions. Ever had a chat with an even remotely devout Jew about “the New Testament Jesus”? Or a “completed Jew” [born again of Christ] telling you about how his or her family is treating him or her?
  3. An easily accessible “Religion 101 course near you” will make it obvious—each religion is different and each is based upon some way, shape, or form on the shaky foundation of works-righteousness. Sin-born and habitually-sinning human beings cannot span the infinite chasm between themselves and a perfect, unblemished, and holy God. Try as we may, it’s beyond impossible… But we try, try, and try again; God is polite enough to let us indulge ourselves in this insanity; His offer of the “It is finished…” cross to span the gulf stands; but when Christ returns all bets, man-made bridges, boasts, and blasphemies will be over… forever.
  4. Wars, and wars-upon-wars, have been fought… are being fought… will be fought… because there exists DEEP DIFFERENCES between religions! Man’s meddling in God’s salvific affairs CANNOT help but lead to war: they are, by nature, COMPETITIVE. Existentially so. Man-made religions vie for supremacy as the Only Supreme God, in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit stands as the only viable Way, Truth, and Life.
  5. The God of the Bible’s Plan of Redemption is the ONLY theologically, reasonably, philosophically, and anecdotally [how one’s religion intersects with everyday life] TRUE, and the most EXCLUSIVELY INCLUSIVE way (John 3:16) to resolve the utter, thorough, and heartfelt brokenness of the universe: our works cannot work… only grace, God’s unmerited favor, works God’s manifold wonders… in all the needed detail… in time and for eternity.

Let me be really frank: do you hate religious syncretism—the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions—motivated, carried out, and taught to avoid the living God of the Bible… as much as God does? (Rom. 1:18-32)

All roads do not, can not, lead to the same God: but the world, the flesh [our own sin], and the devil would just as soon we stay on THE BROAD ROAD which leads to hell. Please, do not allow your sin, or anyone else’s God places in your midst, to bypass THE NARROW GATE. (Matt. 7)

Celebrate and praise God every minute of your life, in word and in deed, that He has made a Way, a Truth, and a Life in Jesus Christ—no one comes to the Father except by Him. If any of us have a complaint of any kind that God has made His only way too exclusive, hard, unreasonable, narrowly defined, or unkind… well, allow me to simply say that a complaint of this kind is a reflection of our denial [based upon ignorance and/or arrogance] of the depth of our sin AND the heights of God’s love. Amen.

See you all at The Training Table next week and we’ll feast by way of poking the sleeping dog, “Don’t Judge!”

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 2: God’s Loves Us Unconditionally

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. So let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)

WE MUST BREAK THIS HABIT OF THE UNEXPLORED, VULNERABLE, FEAR-FULL, NEEDY HEART.

Today’s sleeping dog we’re NOT going to let lie? “God Love Us Unconditionally”

“All You Need is LOVE…” [Beatles, MMT, 1967].

There’s never been a truer statement, right? But here’s the catch: Even though every human being is an Image Bearer of God, if we were in a room with 200 people, from 25 places around the globe, and were to ask each one of them privately what the definition of “LOVE” is, how many sorts of answers would we get? And could we imagine how many answers would conform to the God of the Bible’s answer to such a foundational, yet most likely elusive, answer?

My “love story?” As a 45-year-old, going on two years of intense Christian counseling, when I was asked by my effective, trusted counselor, “Do you believe you’re capable of loving someone?” It didn’t take me more than a two seconds to answer, “Absolutely not. I have no idea what love is… or how to accept it or return it…” You see, I had come far enough along knowing the details my story, and seeing the innumerable ways I had received so little God-honoring, other-centered love—as well as how thoroughly I had adulterated, perverted love, to put it nicely—myself…

Well, to say I knew anything about what love was meant to be by God would have been laughable had I answered in any other way.

So laughable, in fact, all I could do was weep: I literally had no place within my heart to look for an answer to the question, “Do you believe you’re capable of loving someone?” The question was met with a terrifying void, silence in my heart. But knowing my story, and standing face-to-face with so many ways that love has been brutalized, debauched, and degraded… How could I have possibly known what love is?

If we were more honest with ourselves I don’t imagine my story would actually… really… be all that anomalous: Most of us could stand to see the void of un-love for what it is; and then, only then, begin to fill it with The Origin, Author, and Agent of Love… The Triune God of the Bible.

And let me offer the key insight, truism into my own story that’s a very personal and yet universal reality: It is as impossible to work ourselves out of the deadly problem of not knowing what God’s love really consists of, as it is for fresh and salt water to flow out of a spigot at the same time. As it is a carrot to be a Woolly Mammoth… As it is for a worm to graduate from Stanford U. summa cum laude… It’s simply impossible.

This is why the problem is described in the Bible as being SO BIG, INSURMOUNTABLE that what? We must be born again. We absolutely must participate in God’s cosmic do-over. The utter depravity in all of our hearts requires the most radical solution… even for GOD to think of.

So my having been born again in 1983, when I was 31 years-old, I could THENhumankind can THEN… begin as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) to be delivered from darkness into His divine light (Col. 1:13)! We must be born again before we can actually, honestly, holistically reconnoiter the sublimely conditional love of God.

Over time I could begin to own such true, lofty, yet common-to-all-humanity truths like, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. LewisThe Four Loves)

Does that hit home with anyone else? Like, maybe around 7.442 billion [2016 population of planet earth] others? All fallen, human hearts suffer from the same vestiges of shame that disfigures God’s way of love. If we had God’s insight to how many way-less-than-good decisions were made each day due to people’s treatment of the heart like, “Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.” we would be shocked into reversing the curse!

So What About God? Does He Love Us Unconditionally?

Short answer: That’s a big “No!” What was your initial, gut answer to this seminal question about God’s love? Here’s where my mind went right off the starting blocks: Have you ever personally, or as a friend, relative, or guest, listening to one of the most popular wedding ceremony passages from the Bible? The famous, yet little-understood, 1 Corinthians 13 “The Way of Love” passage… and death-until-us-part marriage commitment? Is there something fundamentally fundamental about it to you?

Yes, it’s replete with the CONDITIONS of God’s definition of love—which, notably, is the word “agape”, a WHOLE different, better, conditional way to know what self-sacrificial love is. And, it was inspired by God through its author’s heart and pen to… Get This: be a strong rebuke from earlier chapters to the Church at Corinth—because they had become idolaters and prostituted agape love so incredibly… thoroughly!

[RE-]think about it this way: “For Paul, love (agape) has a single meaning, which is defined as “putting the needs of others ahead on one’s own.” It was at the heart of the Christian experience; it shaped the Christian’s understanding of God’s own character and it was the chief expression one Christian would use toward a fellow believer and the world.

In Paul’s description of love, he leaves no room for it to be anything less than attending to the needs of others. The gifts of the Spirit [a basis for Paul’s rebuke], as useful as they were for the gathered community, were meaningless when performed for personal glory or selfish ambition. Paul’s description of the character of love begins by his mentioning two positive attributes: patience and kindness. Paul follows that by contrasting love to negative attributes; he argues that it is not “envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:4-5). In the end, Paul states positively that love “rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:6-7). Paul makes it clear that love begins when someone else’s need supersedes one’s own.

Paul establishes the necessity of love in his opening paragraph (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Paul then follows this (1 Cor. 13:4-7) with a description of the character of love. Finally, Paul ends with the permanence of love and establishes agape love as a mark of true Christianity by asserting, “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Immediately following (1 Cor. 14:1), Paul literally challenges the Corinthians to “pursue love;” to put others’ needs before their own.” (Gordon Fee, The Love Passage, parenthesis, emphasis added)

Of course, beyond this example of the 1 Cor. 13 “Love Passage” so popular in marriage ceremonies, consider the traditional marriage vows itself: full of conditions to be met for LOVE in a God-honoring marriage. Plainly, God has placed conditions on HIS self-sacrificial, salvific love!

Is God’s Love Unconditional?

“Where in Scripture do we find this notion of the unconditional love of God? If God’s love is absolutely unconditional, why do we tell people that they have to repent and have faith in order to be saved? God sets forth clear conditions for a person to be saved. It may be true that in some sense God loves even those who fail to meet the conditions of salvation, but that subtlety is often missed by the hearer when the preacher declares the unconditional love of God. People hear that God will continue to love them and accept them, no matter what they do or how they live. We might as well declare an unabashed universalism as to declare the unconditional love of God without a clear and careful qualification of what that means.

An interesting contrast can be seen by comparing the preaching of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century evangelists with modern evangelists. The stress in earlier centuries was on the wrath of God directed toward impenitent sinners. Indeed, Jonathan Edwards’s preaching has been described as evangelistic preaching that employed a “scare theology.” That approach has given way to a more positive emphasis on God’s love. Of course, Edwards also declared the love of God, but not without reminding sinners that as long as they remained impenitent, they were exposed to the wrath of God and were in fact heaping up wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:5).

Edwards warned his people that they were more repugnant to God in their sin than rebellious subjects were to their princes. This was part and parcel of proclaiming the gospel of reconciliation. There can be no talk of reconciliation without first establishing that there is some prior alienation or estrangement. Parties who are not estranged do not need reconciliation. The biblical concept of reconciliation presupposes a condition of estrangement between God and man.

Much is said of man’s hostility toward God. The Bible says we are God’s enemies by nature. This enmity is expressed in our sinful rebellion against Him. The common contemporary view of this is that we are estranged from God, but He is not estranged from us. The enmity is all one sided. The picture we get is that God goes on loving us with an unconditional love while we remain hateful toward Him.” (emphasis added)

As probably one of the most well-known ’round the world passage in the Bible states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever is a pretty good guy or gal should not perish but have eternal life.” NOT! How about the real thing: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) All humanity is offered God’s love and truth in salvation as long as he or she repents from the heart and believers in the One Who God sent to rescue sinners, Jesus Christ.

How Has God’s Agape Love Suffered Under a Secularized, Humanized World?

It has been wisely said, “The second oldest religion is humanism.” From The Fall in Genesis 3 on, we fallen Image Bearers of God have flipped the meaning of agape love around “to be anything less than attending to the needs of MYSELF…” first, second, third, and foremost.

Net-Net: Far too many, even self-proclaimed “Christians”, insist that God’s love is unconditional: This is due, in the largest part, to ignorance or arrogance. If ignorance, then let’s wise-up by committing to get to know God by the only means He’s offered us a relationship: by repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, His Word in the Bible, baptism, committing to a community of faith, and serving orphans and widows. If arrogance, then let’s be more honest with ourselves and those in our midst: ANY attribution of God as important as this one [God’s Love is Unconditional] can only be ascribed to our sin and self-centeredness—E.g., “The ONLY conditions of love that I want placed on my life is that of NO conditions. I want to be and do whatever the hell I please. And it’s God’s responsibility to forgive and love me anyway… unconditionally!”

That’s not simply blasphemous; but it does’t make a stitch of sense theologically, logically, or anecdotally either. [And non-believers can’t be expected to know.]

Yes, God will, Beloved: He will love us so much that He will not force anyone into heaven, but, rather, He will be agape-loving, respectful, polite, and other-centered enough to let us fulfill our will for ourselves… EVEN IN HELL: a) in time estranged from God, purposeless, and in despair, and b) ultimately separated from God’s grace in eternity. [Which, by the way, will be far, far worse than some fiery place filled with red, dart-pointed devils scowling at the damned. It will be unimaginable, self-selected torture… forever. See Resources below.]

“From what has just been before us, let us note how vain is the presumptuous hope of the wicked, who, notwithstanding their continued defiance of God, nevertheless count upon His being merciful to them. How many there are who say, ‘I do not believe that God will ever cast me into Hell; He is too merciful.’ Such a hope is a viper, which if cherished in their bosoms will sting them to death. God is a God of justice as well as mercy, and He has expressly declared that He will “by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7). Yea, He has said, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget God” (Ps. 9:17).” (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, The Mercy of God)

Yes, God’s mercies even extend to that end: God’s LOVE and JUSTICE can never be pulled apart. Ultimately, God’s manifold mercies suffused within His character of justice must have an outcome of His mercy in heaven AND in hell. God’s mercies include hell and heaven.

Please begin to renew your heart, mind, soul, and strength about the conditional [Special, Common Grace] love of God today. Look closely at the above www-linked references. Pray for a change of heart. Be increasingly aware and discerning about how the flippant and unloving use of “God’s unconditional love” exists in the church. And seek to “pursue agape love;” to put others’ needs before our own.

The Trinity’s interdependent Plan of Salvation is where to begin to see His unconditionally conditional love and truth worked out: We all, each and every one of us, must first be “born again from above” (John 3:3); then we can begin the journey of unpacking, living out the amazing conditional love of God, and then neighbor, as self!

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know and love God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.” (J.I. Packer)

See you all at The Training Table next week and we’ll feast by way of poking the sleeping dog, “All Roads Lead to God.”

JohnDoz

More Resources:

Agape Love

God Loves So Much… He Hates the Wicked

On the Reality of Hell

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 1: “We’re All Children of God”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

The Preface For Every Part of This Series:

Today, Emotional Ambivalence Rules the Day. “So What?”

The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact is usually accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. So let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”

“So what?” In reality, what are the key words, concept in the above claim? Yes… most of us tend to avoid emotional discomfort of most any kind.

That’s the cultural M.O. We hate entering into emotionally uncomfortable, disruptive situations SO much that we take the above measure of, “the disturbing situation is currently causing no problems” to the extreme: That unless the problem is threatening life as we know it… we’re NOT going to confront it. We just as soon let sleeping dogs lie.

In fact, “sleeping dogs” have displaced “elephants in the room” by the kennel-full. This is a very big problem. And, even then, when someone’s temporal and eternal life is threatened, in far too many instances, we STILL refuse to intervene. We’d rather tip-toe, pretend, deny, delay, and stay distracted… so the dead-asleep dog remains undisturbed, and we all do the same dance around him… not wanting to be on the hook for waking him up.

Too often “We let sleeping dogs lie.” until someone is dead or gone—and then we pile on the “would-a, could-a, should-a’s” until we ourselves are near-dead. And this is a crying-dying, completely unnecessary shame.

The pact goes like this, “Hey, let’s you and I admit it: since we have so little confidence in ourselves, so shallow a faith in God’s objective True Truth and Love, plus all of our self-worth is invested in man’s opinion of us, and we both HATE conflict of any kind… let’s just agree to NOT bring up anything that makes either of us emotionally UNcomfy… in the slightest way. Deal?”

This is the basis of this multi-course feast as we “poke at some sleeping dogs” beginning today, and for several feasts to come at The Training Table.

Part-Poke #1: “We’re All Children of God.”

I was confronted with this very familiar “sleeping dog” for the umpteenth time just last week. It came back at me when I made a distinction between a real and a false faith. “John”, the push-back went, “You’ve gotta chill… After all, we’re all children of God, right?”

It’s a form of universalism [that all souls will ultimately be reconciled and conformed to the image of the glorified resurrected Christ] that’s merely wishful thinking, unbiblical, and a gross denial of God’s holiness and our sinFULLness.

It may sound like we’re complimenting God by accruing to Him SO MUCH FATHERLY LOVE that He will give every sinner a free pass into heaven… as all of His kiddos; but this claim is in direct conflict with God’s other attributes—namely God’s justice. God cannot abide or turn a blind eye at sin or darkness of any kind in His presence. Either we stand covered by the blood-shed righteousness of Christ, or we stand alone before a holy God: Condemned, toast, destined for hell.

I’ve got some Good News for us all: Only by adoption are we regarded as the children of God. But the bad news, which accompanies the Good, is this: We all have to admit what we already know deep down inside—that due to the Sin we inherited (Gen. 3; Rom. 1:18-32), and the habitual sinning we incessantly commit (Jeremiah 17:9; 1 John 2:4), we’re all so infinitely separated from God, Who is utterly holy and pure in every way, that we each require the substitutionary sacrifice for all our our debt: That Jesus Christ paid on the cross… and bridged the span between our sin and the Father’s holiness.

It’s by, through the Father’s love of the Son, and our repentant faith IN HIM, that our adoption into the family of God occurs. And in NO other way. Period.

Look at it this way…

“Because of the Father’s love for Christ, the Father has adopted us into the royal family, making us joint heirs with Christ. We are beloved of the Father because He is beloved of the Father, and we ought never to forget that. He [Jesus Christ] is the eternal object of the Father’s affection, and we [sinners saved by grace] are the Father’s gifts of love to His Son. We are adopted by the Father in Christ, and the Father loves us because we are in the Son.” (R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk Magazine, October 2017, parenthesis added)

The Bible is providential, planned, plain, unequivocal, and UNmysterious in every way that matters! Only by adoption are we regarded as the children of God. And, given this promise and provision of The Trinity, it is only due to the pride of the unbeliever AND the remnants of the same in the Believer that we don’t fall on our faces in humility, gratitude, and witness each and every day.

So, please be honest: In regards to this particular “sleeping dog that we just as soon let lie”, which exactly would YOU and your loved ones prefer? A mildly irritated, awakened dog, or a prowling lion ready, willing, able, and sadly successful in destroying MANY who have placed their trust in the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil?

We are NOT all naturally children of God; we are ALL orphaned, fallen Image Bearers in need of rescue and redemption; and only by God’s plan in election (Eph. 1:4-5), regeneration (Tit. 3:5), repentance (Acts 2:38), faith (Eph. 2:8-9), justification (Gal. 2:16-17), and adoption are we regarded as the children of God. And if anyone is grumbling about such an exclusive and narrow gate, I’m afraid that’s a key indicator that we’re ignorant, hardened about BOTH sides of the Gospel: a) We know neither the darkness and depth of our sin OR b) the heights of God’s mercies and grace. And this would be what the Bible calls “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16)… please realize and repent before being spat out by God.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Since So Many People — Even In The Church — Hear So Little of The WHOLE Truth and Counsel of God in the Bible…

Yes it’s true: Especially in the Western, mostly comfy, unchallenged church, Pastor-Leaders in the church have as much of a problem with NOT wanting to hear or tell the full truth as the world does. Too many Pastor-Leaders in the church suffer from so much unresolved emotional ambivalence that they are too wounded, confused, tentative, co-dependent, and afraid to offer the WHOLE TRUTH and counsel of God… let alone “the sleeping dogs” of small and large problems that naturally arise in all organizations. This is a hard truth… One where the world most desires we let sleeping dogs lie… dead. [And this also explains why Emotional Intelligence has risen to the top of the list of attributes that define great, effective, enduring LEADERS. Note the HBR “article headline”: Difficult Conversations]

The Bible, God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word, is clear: If any human being remains in disbelief, an orphan of this world, and not a child of God by ADOPTION, he or she is a child of darkness and perdition: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:9-10; John 3: 17-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-4; Romans 8:7)

In so far as God is concerned, there are only two races of people in the world: a) The people who believe and b) the people who do not. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

For You and Me: Make A List. Check It Twice. What Sleeping Dogs Need A Loving Yet Truthful Poke “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8)?

In closing, as referenced above, let me “put it in a reverse way”: In the past month I have spoken to numerous broken-hearted people about an unnecessary and deadly plight: “The would-a, could-a, should-a’s.”

What’s the truth and love behind this most common and despairing regret? “If I had only NOT [NOT, NOT] let sleeping dogs lie! And now it’s too late…” What things left unsaid need to be released from the captivity of your doubts, fears, and false vulnerabilities—by the love of God in our adoption—today? Make a list and share it with a Saint who God has placed in your midst. Get after it in the True Truth and Love of God… in YOU.

Why, exactly, is the following passage one of the most challenging yet redemptive in the Bible? “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15)

The heart of the matter is matter of the heart. Too many sleeping dogs. “Awake, oh sleeper.. !” (Eph. 5:14)

I’ll see you marathoners for Christ next week for Part 2 when we’ll poke the sleeping dog, “God Loves All People Unconditionally.” Don’t miss it…

All love,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

How the Holy Spirit and the Saints Work Together. “Got BOTH?”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

The Spirit’s Role Is So Amazing… But It’s Part the Equation.

It has been said by some significant theologians, Bible commentators, that Jesus Christ’s most important gift was that of imparting to the elect, regenerate, faithful, converted, born-again Body of Christ: the Holy Spirit, the third person of The Trinity (John 14:15-31), to “sanctify saved souls” (see below) until Christ returns again. Of course, it goes without saying, Christ’s blood-shed, propitiatory work of salvation on the cross was/is vital as well. But being elect; saved; sanctified; made holy; and readied for eternity are “separate yet inter-connected” parts of God’s Plan of Redemption. And every part has been secured for God’s Secured.

Respectfully speaking, if a claim about the Holy Spirit of the above-kind doesn’t make us sit up and re-consider LOTS of things, then it’s likely we either don’t know the Spirit yet or haven’t given Him His due… BY A LONG WAY. And, in the case of the Holy Spirit, “the first step of a long way” is admitting, repenting, and re-committing that most of us don’t know the third Person of the Trinity as we should.

So let’s first remind ourselves of the holistic and astounding role of the Holy Spirit—for the born-again believer, disciple of Christ: [these can be overlapping qualities]

  • Fulfills His role as Supernatural Heart-Changer and Pointer to Jesus
  • Guides, counsels us
  • Gives us spiritual gifts to be used—as light [imparting True Truth] and salt [to stem decay]
  • Promotes fruitfulness
  • Helps us understand God’s Word, Scripture
  • Convicts us of our sin
  • Comforts us—to use suffering by the Bible
  • Gives us a desire to obey Christ—promotes holiness
  • Enables us to pray
  • Empowers us for perseverance
  • Conforms us more and more into the likeness of Christ—for works of self-sacrificial service
  • Bears us up in our weaknesses
  • Supports our desire to witness, evangelize, speak the truth in love
  • Compels us to be committed to a community of faith—the church
  • Grows us in maturity, wisdom, love, and effectiveness

“So the One Who is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, has given us this Spirit to supply all we need from first to last. He gives us life, fills our life, and points us to the One Who is life.” (Leo Schuster, New City Catechism)

But, Is This All We Need?

For arguments sake, let’s say that each and every above-aspect, gift, role of the Holy Spirit dwells WITHIN the born-again hearts of Saints [converted people]. Would that be sufficient for ACTUALIZING every one of them? Yes, the Holy Spirit brings about the above SUPERNATURALLY

BUT! there’s another crucial part that’s fulfilled by how God’s Plan of Redemption incarnationally uses His people, the Saints, disciples, followers of Christ in FELLOWSHIP with one another: How about the 100’s Bible verses that pertain to how the SUPERNATURAL is in partnership with the NATURAL [The Body, the Saints, other disciples] to effect the transformational fellowship The Trinity desires of His people—to effect a dark and decaying world?!

By God’s amazing grace and design, there is a partnership in place: a) The Holy Spirit is the engine from within; and b) the Body of Christ INCARNATE in close, intimate, transparent, intentional, abiding, and trustworthy relationship and fellowship in meant to play a vital role in SANCTIFICATION or living it out.

This is why the Bible calls God’s people “co-sanctifiers of one another.”

Now, I don’t know about YOU… okay, I lied, I actually do know about all sinners saved by grace: We ALL have huge challenges [E.g., impossible] “being our own keepers and sancifiers”, right? UNLIKE “Jiminy Cricket-theology”, new creations in Christ are not foolish enough to let our conscience be our guide: a) we are dead until born again and indwelt by the Spirit from the outside coming in; and b) we are surrounded by the Saints in order to help us KNOW, GROW, and SOW more and more like Jesus everyday!

Left alone, our conscience simply serves to be conformed to our own sinful desires. Image Bearers were not created to be alone… ever: The Trinity—three persons in one God—is our origin and our model. Isolated Christians, at least in the Western Church, are more the norm than the exception these daze. How’s this workin’ for us?

We cannot do it alone: God has provided the Spirit from within AND the Saints from without.

What aspects of your story, your wounds, your precious, tucked away, compartmentalized secrets would be greatly diminished in their power to control and condemn your life—if you only opened them up to another Saint’s co-sanctifying use of God’s Word, and his or her senses, wisdom, listening, love, and truth?

So, please, go back up to the list above; read each point again; and then consider this question: “Which Believers in my life am I close enough to so that I could talk freely, while loved, uncondemned, and ongoingly ‘interrogated’ about how each of the Spirit’s helps are being made manifest in me? Or not… and why not?” 

Do not forget: The world, the flesh, and the devil HATES details of this kind, right? And why do you think this is the case? Because, for the enemies of God, diminishing the effectiveness of the Saints is job #1. How’s the dark side’s aim working?

If we were sitting with a friend in Christ and he or she read the above list, and then turned to us and said, “How’s this workin’ for you?” How would we respond?

If you were a committed member of a Community / Cell / Small / Fellowship Group, how could you use a list like the above to INFORM, REMIND and then encourage the members to KNOW it, and ACTUALIZE it? [I’m quite certain you already know how challenging even another Christian’s level of transparency, accountability usually goes over, right? E.g., “Hey, don’t judge me!” Yes, it’s gotten that worldly in the church.]

If a leader of any kind at our church were to bring up an above-list of this kind… and simply left it at that… would it bother us… at all? Would it surprise us if there were no call or way to actualize it… even in the church? Perhaps the ministry called “DISCIPLESHIP” could help… if it weren’t so elusive.

Is there someone… anyone… in your life who is born again, mature, and has your full permission and encouragement to:

  • Know your story… well [Do you?]
  • Remind you of the supernatural nature of your faith and the centrality of Jesus Christ?
  • Loving ask you to compare your behavior to Jesus’?
  • Help to convict you of your sin, idol patterns?
  • Request you see and measure the nature of your fruitfulness?
  • Ask if you’re using your gifts to serve?
  • Help you look more deeply into the nature and effectiveness of your prayer life?
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

In closing, is there an opening for change and re-commitment in our hearts—instigated by the Spirit and actuated by the Saints? Let’s hope so. For my part, I’ll begin again by sending this Training Table feast to the men God has placed in my life for the purpose of co-sanctification. I’ll begin again by beginning “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8); to renew the INSIDE-OUTOUTSIDE-IN partnership between the Spirit and the Saints!

Please join me, Marathoners for Christ running the good race.

Love to all,
JohnDoz

 

 

Posted in Training Table

Beware… “The Culture – CULT-ure GAP”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

What Sort of Culture Do You Work In? “Putrid Petri Dish”? Or “Living Water”?

There’s no question that the most important area for any organization of any kind to focus its energies on is assuring it establishes and maintains the very best culture. Which is really all about leadership, right? The American Heritage dictionary defines the word culture as, “The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.”

The area of an organization which has the greatest influence on what sort of cultural attributes will characterize the organization is threefold: leadership, leadership, and leadership. I emphasize leadership because it is an exponentially important role and responsibility of leadership to set the example and assure the very best culture for success. Stephen Covey said, “In a very real sense there is no such thing as ‘organizational behavior’. There is only individual behavior. Everything else flows out of that.” (“Principled-Centered Leadership”) The “individual” Covey is referring to is none other than leadership.

Now, more than any time in the history of business organizations, a flourishing cultural credo, and a commensurate process and technology support system, should be job number one! The one BIG problem? The market is making demands on leadership, and leadership is more ill-equipped at the heart level than ever, which are both completely counterintuitive to devoting the necessary time, talent, and treasure investment in CULTURE. Or, put another way, whatever it take to guarantee the flourishing of human beings.

The main point of this feast at The Training Table is to warn the reader about the potential GAP between establishing the best organizational culture, and the reality of a culture of a highly dysfunctional nature. We all know that a “dysfunctional organization” of any kind doesn’t mean it can’t function. It just means that a wide variety coping mechanisms must exist that allow the organization to function at varying degrees of success. But, “coping mechanisms” = waste. Wasted capital resources, wasted innovation, and wasted people. To be honest, these days far too many organizations of ALL kinds are a wasteland of human flourishing. And that’s such a crying shame.

Interestingly enough, I have found that the study of how cults indoctrinate members to be very instructive about the symptoms and the behavior to recognize (or stop denying) and avoid (or start working on it today) when (re-)establishing a healthy organizational culture. Some indoctrination techniques of cults include:

1) Subjection to stress and fatigue
2) Social disruption, isolation and pressure
3) Self-criticism and humiliation
4) Fear, anxiety, and paranoia
5) Control of information
6) Escalating commitment
7) Use of auto-hypnosis to induce ‘peak’ experiences

Now, with the exception of the more extreme end of the list in all but a very few corporate organizations, this set of indoctrination techniques commonly utilized by CULTS might feel “pretty much like every organization I’ve worked for”! Well, don’t be surprised or overly cynical. This might be true mainly because it’s actually quite rare to find organizations that match the description below of how to assure a healthy organizational culture, and some of the “must-do’s” to keep it that way:

1) Leadership maintains ” a contact leadership” plan – regularly visits the frontline folks in the trenches
2) Organizational values are established – measured, recognized and utilized in all performance reviews
3) Customers are really valued – all internal and external key customer entities and their key satisfiers are known, measured and habitually used to improve
4) Elevating people as the only sustainable competitive advantage – in any / all communication channels
5) Meaningful work / life guidelines – includes a holistic approach, empathy, trust and accountability
6) Significant business process and / or technology changes aren’t rushed – because people are the key to their effectiveness
7) Community service opportunities, giving back, are genuine – area of greatest need, high humility, low arrogance factor

Finally, a word picture that most aptly describes the GAP between a great organizational culture and the dangers of organizational “CULT-ure” is that of jumping into and swimming in a pool of water: There’s a world of difference between diving into a stagnant and putrefied pool and one which has clean, fresh, aerated (nice big waterfall) water running in and out of it!

Cults are inwardly focused.

By deep contrast, an invigorating and inspiring organizational culture is focused outwardly. It stays fresh, clean, cold and clear because of the continual in-flow and out-flow of behavior-changing knowledge, ideas, and needs from all customer, stakeholder entities.

This “pool of living water” must be inspired, established, and maintained by leadership or else the organisms attempting to thrive in any organizational culture will perish – or find another pool to swim in!

Let’s be real here: employee satisfaction scores have never been lower, more dismal and depressing, than they are today. Yes, this is due to a complex array of spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical factors; but good-to-great leadership has the ability to mitigate most every one!

The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart of leadership!

“Effective, enduring and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so. Leaders are environmentalists.” (John Gardner)

Have a good and Godly day,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Has the Infinite Become Intimate… For YOU?

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

God’s “Exactly When” Occurred So That Ours Might As Well

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1, 2)

Since the Trinity incorporates the incommunicable attribute of aseity [self-existence, timelessness, no beginning, middle, or end], you’ll have to give me a some latitude when I refer to God’s creation of the universe out of nothing [Ex Nihilo] as His “Exactly When” manifestation: “timelessness” and “when” defy non-contradictory logic, right?

What I’m referring to is the timeless Trinity’s loving intrusion into His creation of time and space to create the universe purely out of His love and truth and in cooperation between the three Persons of the Trinity. (Genesis 1, 2)

And here’s my point: God’s “Exactly When” in Creation coincides with every born-again human being’s “Exactly When” as we are, a) first, names written in The Book of Life (Rev. 20:15; 3:5; 20:12; Phil. 3:4) , b) secondly, regenerated by the Holy Spirit at just the right time (Tit. 3:5; Ezk. 36:26; Jn. 3:1-36), c) thirdly, repentant as we accept in faith Christ’s substitutionary act of using the cross to bridge the universe-wide GAP between God’s perfection and our own rampant [inherited] Sin and [habitual] sinning (Acts 3:19; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Jn. 1:9), d) forth, being born-again, brought from death to life, from above (Jn. 3:3; 1 Cor. 5:17; 1 Pet. 1:23), and e) fifth, increasingly committed to the dark [as God’s revealing light] and decaying [as God’s preserving salt] world in service of Christ until we’re dead or He returns (Mt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:9; Jn. 8:12).

This feast at the Training Table is about where the reality of God’s providence coincides, intersects with every personal, born-again human being’s “Exactly When.” There exists a line that every human being must cross: we must repent and be born from above… or stand separated, against God for eternity in hell.

E.g., Has the Infinite become intimate WITH YOU?

Please allow me to offer just one example of God’s / my point, and potentially huge gift, for all of us.

Please take careful note of how Psalm 23 is inspired by God and written down by the Shepherd-King David: It’s universally personal. [NOT Universalism! Everyone will NOT be saved; but everyone is grace-fully offered the door to salvation, should they choose to be real, humbled, repentant, and saved to serve… by faith alone.]

[John 3:16 declares that salvation is given to “whoever believes in Him.” Acts 16:31 proclaims, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” See also Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:24; Ephesians 1:13; and Philippians 3:9. Many other verses could be referenced in addition to these.]

But you and I… all of humanity… need to know if we’ve crossed the line between no faith — and the Biblical faith in Jesus Christ: first as Savior from hell and then as the Lord of our life. Period. Do you have a story of your story, your old life, and the advent of your re-birth? Have you crossed the line? The Bible is clear: In so far as God is concerned there are only two races of human beings: a) those who believe and b) those who do not. (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:10; Acts 16:31; Hebrews 11; many more)

The problem is there is a BIG problem: now more than ever in the Western Church the wheat is mixed-in with the tares big-time! The converted and unconverted, saved and unsaved, born-again and spiritually dead, softened- and hardened-of-heart…  are, a) stirred-in with one another; b) mostly or many times unaware of the problem; c) led by lacking Pastor-Leaders who don’t help make the distinction more clear on a Scriptural, regular, personal, and more detailed level; and d) can’t understand why—if they are not regenerate and remain unsaved—their heart, emotions, psychological, and physical senses respond to God the way they do: often feeling cold, condemned, marginalized, ambivalent, compartmentalized, or simply unresponsive to God’s living Word, worship, calling, or community of faith.

And this is a needless, crying shame that only serves to please Satan and defame God. “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” (Senior Devil speaking to Junior Devil, C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

Before we use a popular, well-known part of the Bible to help make my point, let me set the stage: especially at events such as funerals that we’ve all been witness to, Psalm 23 is one of those places in the Bible where we can show up in a totally ROTE form. We can mouth the words and follow along with no sense of ownership; we may not believe in God and yet borrow some solace by means of God’s Common Grace as we recite the words that a big part of our heart instinctively hopes for… and yet may not have; we can even have a bona fide faith in Christ and not have taken any time to internalize His Word so that the wealth of meaning and depth of transforming mercy and truth won’t penetrate and soften our heart.

Psalm 23 is said to be the most universally familiar of all the Psalms. But is it as personal as God intends it to be… for YOU? For other loved ones who exist in your circle of concern or influence?

Closely akin to treating The Lord’s Prayer in the same way [impersonally, on the surface], the 23rd Psalm has the potential of being so familiar, and yet so impersonal, it could become contemptible if we’re not honest and careful: that’s how a divided heart works. First Shepherd, and then King, David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), was inspired to pen these words from a very real, very personal, very broken, very forgiven, and very redeemed realm of his heart.

We need to be very honest about whether or not we’ve, by God’s grace in faith, made each inspired word… our OWN. In order to have a heart that is soft enough to be alive, to resonate with the Spirit’s presence, to hear, to listen, and to love to change, we must first be born again.

Please note the personal pronouns that dominate David’s hymn of fruitful subservience and adulation: what is most personal is most universal. Have you, by grace and faith alone, made God and David’s words your very, heart-of-your-heart, own?

Lastly, before we look more closely at a Psalm so familiar that you may not have ever applied it to your own life, please look closely at some words that describe what every funeral looks like: from the heart-level:

“There are only two kinds of people in the world! They’re both going to suffer [and die]. There’s the kind of person that suffering makes worse, because the source of their joy being taken away. And there’s the kind of person who suffering makes better because the suffering is pushing them towards the one source of joy that is not subject to circumstances. Jesus Christ suffered not so that we might not suffer, but rather when we suffer, we could become more like him!” (The Sufferer, Sermon by Pastor Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NY, March 7, 2004, parentheses added)

Lovingly offered: Which one, of “two kinds of people,” are you?

If the Lord—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is truly your shepherd, you have the choice to be bettered by every form or magnitude of the inevitable suffering that is derived from living in broken world (Gen. 3; Rom. 1:18-32); and if the Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is truly NOT your shepherd, the only road is the one to embitterment, isolation, darkness, despair, Beloved. Choose the narrow road of faith, not the broad road of unbelief. (Matthew 7:13)

“Spirit of God, please help us, and those we can influence, be as honest and personal as possible as we read, Psalm 23 today… and each and every time You bring it, and any part of Your inspired Word, to our minds. Amen.”

The Lord is my Shepherd
THAT’S RELATIONSHIP—When did Jesus, The God-Man, Good Shepherd, become your good shepherd?  What’s your conversion story? In what ways have you, or do you, personally feel cared for, watched over, “pastured”/fed, sought after when lost, lovingly goaded as a son or daughter, counted as most special-unique… guided and guarded by God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit? Can you describe what a relationship with Jesus is like to a family member, a friend, a co-worker, a stranger, an enemy?

I shall not want
THAT’S SUPPLY—What does your “contentedness dial” look like on the dashboard of your life? Red-lining on the low-to-empty side—with yesterday’s angst and tomorrow’s worries in control of today? Or, if you were stripped naked of all worldly things, would you still feel a deep, abiding, gratified, deep-breath-and-blessed level of peace? When you consider times of great abundance AND times of great desolation, do you feel like you’re resting on a Rock-Solid Foundation of your “first-importance peace”: a relationship with The Immovable, Unshakable, Never-Ending One? Is living the comparison, envious, not-quite-good-enough life crushing you in any way(s)?

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
THAT’S REST—Did you know that sheep never lie down in an open pasture until four conditions are met? Sheep must be free of fear; free of torment by flies or parasites; free of hunger; and free of discord, clashing between their fellow sheep? (Philip Keller, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”). How free do you feel to deeply rest in the pasture cleared by God, and for just for YOUright smack dab where The Good Shepherd has providentially placed you for today?

He leadeth me beside still waters
THAT’S REFRESHMENT—How would you answer the question, “What does it feel like to be spiritually parched, dehydrated?”  Hard to put words to, or not? Please try… Better yet, can you recall a time when Jesus, The Living Water, and by the Spirit and/or another Saint, wonderfully and perfectly refreshed you in some way? Some folks have a very high threshold for feeling thirst; like me, I can go a whole day without a drink of liquid; and that’s not good. But FAR worse if I were to never feel parched for God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What say you? “Got Refreshment?”

He restoreth my soul
THAT’S HEALING—Could you offer a story, testimony of what it looks like in your life as being downcast, in darkness, perhaps despair—an then moving to restoration, healing, hope, and an increased devotion to other’s healing and restoration? There is no human being who hasn’t experienced some iteration of the former; and some have experienced the joy of the latter. How about you? When have you been wracked with spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical  exhaustion… and then move to being refreshed by God and some of His Saints? At the end of it, could you say, “God, His love, and Saints in my community, restored my soul!”

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
THAT’S GUIDANCE—Akin to shepherd’s staff being hooked at one end, or the crosier of a bishop or abbot, “The Good Shepherd’s crook” is used to guide an aberrant, lost, or confounded sheep; and is a discipline—from, a) either a harsh, legalistic, and prodding narcissist… or, b) from a loving, personal, forgiving, and eternally devoted Abba-Father-Daddy… God. God is full of manifold and mercies upon mercies. So the heart of the matter is a matter of our… YOUR… heart. How does your Abba-Father-God’s goading, discipline, course correction, cleaning  up… feel to you? Are you full of gratitude, or grumbling? Or are you, perhaps, not even aware of God’s guiding hand at all?

For His name sake
THAT’S PURPOSE—Please take all of the above—Father, Son and Spirit… in a relationship to YOU of supply, rest, refreshment, healing, and guidance: Do you wake most days with first an identity and then a purpose to bless and glorify God, and bless others as well, under the auspices of these manifestations of the Lord as YOUR Good Shepherd? Is it your mission in life to remind anyone God places you in contact with how they’re loved by God?

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
THAT’S TESTING—Philip Keller [above] reminds us that the only way to the mountainous green pastures is through the dangerous mountain valleys where wolves and coyotes are in hiding, waiting for their next victim: suffering, death, disease, the full range of paper-cut to horrific, unspeakable trials of all sorts are an inevitable reality of living in a way-broken universe. And of all the things within this Psalm that will prove, reveal the reality and measure of one’s faith… The Good Shepherd’s providential control and use of suffering is seminal. We walk through the valley of death every day, will death and suffering make YOU bitter or better?

I will fear no evil
THAT’S PROTECTION—God’s covenantal, objective assurances, promises, and peace in Christ take a while to personalize, deepen, flourish and become OUR OWN. What forms of The Fall—the world, the flesh, and the devil—do you fear? Or, deep down inside, can you say, “I fear no evil! In fact, bring it! All evil can ultimately do is conform me more and more into Jesus’ likeness, or deliver me into Jesus’ everlasting arms.”

For Thou art with me
THAT’S FAITHFULNESS—If you were on trial as “a person of faith and made wise by our trials,” would there be enough evidence to convict you? What would the evidence look like for your life? What might you HOPE it would look like—and how could you get on course to make your faith and lived-out life… real?

Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me
THAT’S DISCIPLINE—I wonder how many of us were raised in homes—as a beloved Son and Daughter of a beloved Father and Mother—whereby discipline of any kind felt deeply corrective AND comforting? For me, raised in a trifecta of shame, criticism, and anonymity, “the rod and staff” were the furthest thing from comforting. Since my conversion 34 years ago, my Sonship has become more and more real and relational. How about YOU—then? And now?

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
THAT’S HOPE—Can you name some attributes of transcendent, everlasting, eternal hope—that act as an unshakable foundation of faith for YOU? [Try and think about this in the context of stories, times of suffering, trials you endured, were transformed by, and provided a thimble- or cosmos-full of HOPE. What has made YOU a more hope-full person?]

Thou anointest my head with oil
THAT’S CONSECRATION—Do YOU have both an “elevator-ride length” and a longer, more detailed narrative of your story—and, in particular, YOUR conversion, “consecration into God’s family?” When, as an adult, did you a) see God’s holiness, b) repent of your sinfulness, c) beseech God to forgive you, and d) consecrate you, your life, in baptism and in service, in Christ?

My cup runneth over
THAT’S ABUNDANCE—As Stephen Covey said, there are two types of people in the world: those who have an abundance mentality, and those who have a scarcity mentality: the origins and motivations for either are complicated, but need to get worked out for the Good! The world is either an ever-expanding offering of “sustenance running over,” and a zero-sum, fixed, and shrinking amount. What does YOUR heart look like? Have you lost enough—again and again—to know you had nothing but God’s over-running, manifold, and great mercies to begin with?

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
THAT’S BLESSING—God’s blessed assurance of this kind is only found in Christ: promises from a God Who cannot lie. Could you name, list, offer a testimony to how God’s promises have been a blessing—to YOU? If you only had the time between the first and tenth floor of an elevator ride, what attributes of God’s goodness and mercy would you recall to a fellow-person? This isn’t easily realized for many of us because we don’t “Stay Put!” in our suffering long enough to realize what we actually lack… So God’s REAL and PERSONAL goodness and mercy remain abstractions reserved for the Super-Saints more worthy than ourselves. Has God’s goodness and mercy followed YOU in the best AND the in worst of times?

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
THAT’S SECURITY—In exactly what, who, when, what if, if only… have you invested your eternal Hope and temporal hope in? In what 3-5 specific ways are you looking forward to The New Earth [HEAVEN]? How have you already experienced it here on earth? Or do you feel, in some deep, dark, and stinky-scary place, like you’re fearfully IN-secure? And might just miss heaven by one little mess up, or a biggie buried in your past, here on earth? Where does the Psalmist get off proclaiming, “…I WILL DWELL…!”? How can he be so sure? How can you be so secure-sure where will YOUR infinity be spent? And how will your finite influenced by your faith?

If This Feast of the Heart Has Been Polarizing, Challenging, Nourishing for YOU, Good!

Jesus lovingly yet boldly said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:43) There is no opportunity for healing, redemption, change of any lasting kind devoid of pain, surgery, a cutting or breaking of one’s heart. I truly hope this loving confrontation, offer to GetReal, has been, will be, used of The Trinity to internalize Reformation, Revival, and Constructive Revolution so that you and your do the same for those God has placed in your circle of concern and/or influence.

Until we feast again,
JohnDoz

 

Posted in Training Table

“Got Fog?” Go Back to the Fundamentals

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

God’s Uses “Fog”, Trials, Suffering, Brokenness, and Perplexities of All Sorts… First:

To Encourage Us to Get Back to the Fundamentals of the Faith

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, the community, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself His purposes, and His ways.
  5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you love and obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

(“Knowing and Doing The Will of God”, Blackaby & King)

 

Amen.

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Perseverance Begets Perseverance: Will We Finish What God Begins?

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

All That Preceded Man In Creation Is Part of Humankind

In the five days that led up to God’s creation of all humankind’s predecessors in Adam and Eve on the sixth day, all that God created had an effect on how all of humanity was designed by God. God by no means wasted or trivialized or was “just getting warmed up” prior to creating His consummate creation: mankind, Image Bearers of Himself. God’s culmination was, in fact, an accumulation.

Let’s take one of my favorite examples called, “The Law of the Farm”: every aspect of God’s creation on Day 3 in the realms of soil creation, management, the production of foods, crops, fruits, and all things from the land that the we sow and reap in all sorts of wonderful and nutritious ways SHOWS UP in the cause and effect interaction so named and numerously warned of in the Bible, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) Every thought, word, and deed we partake in results in a predictable cause and effect outcome. It follows like summer follows spring or the tides follow the phases of the moon.

Sowing and reaping impacts persevering as well: if we want to run a full marathon a few 10K’s along the way is highly recommended; if we want to aspire to performing Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 we had better “sow and reap on the ivories” 10,000+ times; if we want to achieve excellence in the marketplace as an entrepreneur we’re going to have to put aside all play for a good deal of time; and if we want to be more like Christ we must be more than mindful of both fruitfulness and the mortification of sin—stewarded well, season in and season out, both fruitfulness and sinlessness build over time. It’s organic.

No doubt one would have to read the likes of Lawrence’s book [above] to grasp the wonder and implications of this truth about God’s creation and the astoundingly consistent laws that accrue from it. And, YES, whether we acknowledge it, or embrace it, or like it, or not. It’s simply the Truth and Love of GOD we need to tightly grasp, unpack, live out… or kick against it until we’re worn out, right?

Just as God said, “I AM”, His creative principles, process, and patterns ARE. Rather than conjure up what we want, and shoehorn God into our own imaginations and desires, it’s far better for us to love and envelop all God has done, and then seek following after that: It’s simply a more reasonable and satisfying, life-affirming theology.

Got Perseverance? One Place I Go? Rucky Chucky!

We absolutely must accept the fact that when [NOT IF] God brings us to a challenging place where endurance, perseverance, grit, dedication, stamina is required, He’s doing so to first break us down, in order to build us up… for strength upon strength, fruitfulness upon fruitfulness, humility upon humility, holiness upon holiness, Christlikeness upon Christlikeness.

“No pain; no gain.” is absolutely true. And from the Holy Spirit, the One Who uses the unavoidable suffering of this broken world to help us mature, persevere, in order to proffer, extend Who the Spirit points to, Jesus Christ’s, grace to others.

“Let us understand that God is a physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, sanctification, not a punishment for damnation.” (St. Augustine)

As an inordinately stubborn sinner saved by grace, and an endurance athlete, I have been through many challenging trials that I stayed in, got through, and grown by SO THAT I could aim higher and do it better the next time: I sowed sticking to it, and reaped a sanctified endurance… for lots of crud from my own sinful desires, this broken and dark world, as well as my own desire to “go the distance”—running, at points in time, 100+ miles a week in the mountains of Colorado and elsewhere. I persevered through pain after pain so that pain was no longer a stranger or something to AVOID.

And this is key: Pastor Tim Keller puts it like this, “If we’re put off like the world when pain comes, so surprised that all we do is stand paralyzed and aghast like the world does, we cannot be used of God to save and serve others in any sort of pain. Being surprised by suffering is one thing, but if we’re surprised by our surprise we’ve simply forgotten, or never knew why suffering exists and what the reality of this broken world consists of… and how Christ-followers are used in it.”

“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.” (Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering)

Now more than ever, this world needs more thoroughly sanctified sufferers—disciples more like Jesus—more effective resources of light and salt.

If we don’t move through any pain to its redemptive end and fruit on the far side of the journey, we will be ill-equipped to face the reality of brokenness and redemption God has in store for His Beloved—in the smallest paper-cut of pain to the worse heartbreak imaginable, God has a good end in mind (Rom 8:28), which is refinement, conformity to the likeness of His Son. NOT simply the relief of the pain! God’s not into self-help; He’s into soul transformation for the holy benefit, blessing of self… to the glory of God and for the sake of others.

As odd as it sounds, and in a sublimely practical way, today when I’m facing a spiritual, emotional, psychological, or physical trial that I must work through, “I go to Rucky Chucky:” a particular place along the Western States 100 mile trail race where the race entrant I was pacing for 60 miles practically died. In the middle of the night the river crossing looked like a scene out of Apocalypse Now: it was a war zone of endurance and anguish that I’ll never forget.

And That’s My Main Point:

God offers “points of persevering” of this kind that we must endure and work through to their finish

…so that we REMEMBER and use the strength gained in faith again!

And again. And again. And again. Until we die or Christ returns.

Over the past 45 years, I’ve been blessed to have experienced hundreds of Rucky Chucky-like endurance-adventures. And this is NOT meant for boasting in ME, but rather in The One Who Endured for my sake so that I could do the same for His, Jesus Christ, and by His Spirit—and for those He has placed in my midst of my life. (2 Cor 1:3-7) If anything, and due to my sin and addictions to my early-life self, I’ve just needed to be reminded and refined more than others…

Respectfully offered, what is [or what are] your “Rucky Chucky story” of a redemptive trial that served to move you from strength to strength? This is vitally important for us to know… down to to a visceral, cathartic level of detail, tears, and rejoicing! Otherwise, either you don’t have anything to “fall back on” or you don’t have any “seeds and stems of perseverance” to grow more of it.

We Are Called to Persevere, Press On in Two Ways

  1. By God’s Providence: Those who are called, who are born again and in Christ, will persevere because The Trinity has secured, guaranteed their salvation forever. God’s elect will persevere to the end. As Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14; Romans 8, emphasis added). This Christian teaching glorifies God in his kingly power to keep his children spiritually safe in his arms for all time. It is upon this platform of divine security that an adopted child of God joyfully, not fearfully, nourishes his, her relationship with Christ and freely, not full of guilt, serves him.
  2. By Our Partnership: But, in addition, those who are called and are in Christ will persevere because their refined, sanctified character has been shaped by the organic nature of the faith. It grows like a garden or fruitful farm when we care for it in kind: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8, emphasis added)

Father God, in Christ, and by the Spirit has providentially secured our, 1. perseverance and salvation to the end; but The Trinity has also provided His chosen ones, 2. a persevering role and a goal within His Plan of Redemption as well: a) to begin and end each trial while, b) garnering all its worth for our growth, maturity, Christlikeness, fruitfulness, and c) to “pay it forward” in service to and for others.

This is the cycle of KNOW, GROW and SOW…

…until we’re dead or Jesus returns.

Period.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, emphasis added) Will we stand in the muck of life, suffering, trials of any kind LONG ENOUGH for the refinement God has for us in it?! Or will we run for it when either the anticipated or live trial is going on.

In the most pithy and yet powerful way, I recall many years back when I reached out to a handful of my Brothers in Christ for prayers in a time of deep pain. John Berry from Austin Texas was used of God to send the most worthy of pithy yet powerful responses: “Stay put!” That was all his email said… but it said it all.

Consider especially the organic nature of how STAYING PUT in our suffering produces joy “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) What is the end result of such JOY? Wisdom and Christlikeness. “…that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

“Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.” (St. John of the Cross) No thorny thicket, cross = no wisdom, Christlikeness.

Don’t miss “The Law of the Farm” in James’ wisdom: seeing our suffering to the end, staying put, surrounding ourselves with a community of faith to see us through, embracing mourning and mortification in the way designed by God… all PRODUCES much fruit. Or not: nothing living comes forth when we leave any organic form of life to die. The volume of wasted tears could fill all the oceans of this earth; but the ones offered up to God are kept secured in a bottle near and dear to God! “You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) THAT’S STUNNING AND ASTONISHING.

We Need to Commit to Finish What God Has Begun: Each Trial, Each Race, Each Relationship, Each Work, Play, Day

 

 

 

 

What is one sad and damaging hallmark of our day that we all can agree on? Yes, it’s a lack of commitment, sticktuitivenss, grit, gumption, fortitude, spine that extends to virtually every realm of our culture and private lives: far more often than not, when the going gets tough, the tough are few and far between… and quitting is all too common. 

And don’t miss this: When [not if] God offers us a maturing, strengthening, refining circumstance in life, and we choose to shortcut the journey in order to alleviate either the spiritual, emotional, psychological, or physical pain ASAP, we not ONLY lose the chance to grow in that moment, but The Law of the Farm teaches us that the NEXT offer God gives us to grow will be avoided… and EXPONENTIALLY so: darkness avoided makes not just every dark place more frightening, but the anticipation of any shadow as well. Until we won’t risk anything… anymore.

Because that’s how sowing and reaping works. “Ask [God] to give you patience that endures affliction, which, when it is tried, will come forth as gold.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

And yet, can we imagine ANY realm of life that actually works this way? There is not one thing in life that benefits from quitting early—every achievement at the highest level takes perseverance, not quitting, but finishing what we started.

When the next trial is allowed by God in your life, stay put; pray; go to God’s word via A.C.T.S. [Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication], get into a community of faith to intentionally and aggressively seek after what God has in store for your KNOWING [more of the Trinity], GROWING [in grace and Christlikeness], and SOWING [Christ in word and in deed].

If we will not stay put under pressure, no diamond will ever be formed, nor its beauty on display for this dark and fast-decaying world, Beloved.

Amen.

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

On Holistic Healing: The Great Physician Is In!

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

A Feast of the Heart: On Holistic Healing

“Today, if you hear God’s voice, no not harden your heart…”  (Psalm 95:7-8)

Following is a letter from a young man by the name of Shane who had contracted AIDS. Shane was writing a letter to a dear friend (Bishop Michael Marshall) whom had brought Shane the Good News of Jesus Christ while he served in Shane’s church and while Shane lay terminally ill… and trying desperately to be healed by way of various physicians and medicines.

Shane writes about a medicine and cure offered uniquely from The Great Physician that he was blessed with and that healed him… at last! Not for time, just in time, and for eternity.

Shane wrote, “I will probably be in the hospital for at least another week.  I am confident I will recover from this illness.  I am blessed with many good friends.  Their love and support sustained me.  I have had from four to 10 visitors each day as well as phone calls and I know I am in their prayers.  Father Carlos came today and served communion.  God has many hands.

As you are keeping me in your prayers, each day you are in mine as well.  The mission you lead at my church was the most significant event in my life.  I thank God for the work you are doing.

I never thought of AIDS as a blessing, but now I have chosen to respond in that way because my faith is growing and deepening most certainly every day.  I believe my faith is the most important thing now.

My doctor can cure my infection possibly, but my faith and the love of Christ alone can heal me.  Even if my AIDS is not healed in this life I know that my transform spiritual body will be whole and healthy forever.  I look forward to our continued correspondence.  God bless you, Michael.

My love to you, in Christ, Shane.”

Shane died the following day…

I love, love, love this story! But do we have to wait until we’re near death to see we’re already dead devoid of a repentant, living relationship with Jesus Christ? No…  “Today, if you hear God’s voice, no not harden your heart…”  (Psalm 95:7-8) Please allow me to respectfully ask you something:

What do you believe is the greatest, most dire infection, disease, terminal illness any person can have? “Sickle-cell or no salvation?”

In what ways have you experienced your greatest dis-eases, sufferings to be your greatest blessings?

Have you been “holistically healed” by the Good News of the Gospel? In light of the fact that so many people we see everyday look so nicely dressed and outwardly fit… how do you maintain a sense of urgency about talking to others about our shared infection of Original Sin, alienation from God, and desperate need of a Savior from hell, and a Lord, to model our life after?

How do you, if you do, act as a witness of and for The Great Physician that offers hope and complete healing for anyone who will admit they need to be healed of their alienation from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Not one of us have any guarantee for a tomorrow. TODAY… is the only day we’re given to offer another a word of timely and timeless healing and hope.

If you’re withholding a word when your heart is pricked to do so… please consider asking the Holy Spirit, yourself, and a trusted, faithful friend, why.

And please take care to avoid getting “A.I.D.S.”, my friends in Christ… and those who haven’t been born again as yet.

Apathy – Isolation – Delay – Silence

See you next week at The Training Table, beloved race runners in and for Christ,
JohnDoz

Born Againby R.C. Sproul

Born Again, by Burk Parsons

Posted in Training Table

Leaders, What’s Your “Go-To” in the OEM? Part 3 of 3

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Based upon the feasts of Part 1 and Part 2 at The Training Table, let’s pull some pieces together and lay down “the law of leadership” that cannot be escaped: The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart!

Step #1: Choose the Basis of What Hunormously Great… Or Simply Indispensable… Leadership Means to You

Here’s a fav of mine: “Effective, enduring and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so. Leaders are environmentalists.”  (John Gardner) That’ll work just great! Now let’s work it…

Akin to [really] believing that a corporate, organizational Vision-Mission is crafted, stewarded, executed in order to succeed, every leader and leadership team MUST have a Vision of what LEADERSHIP really and truly consists of… and then pursue the living daylights out of it in word and in deed!

Beginning with: The #1 responsibility of leadership is to execute the Vision-Mission of the organization. That’s the goal; doing it well is extraordinarily rare. Be extraordinary! Please.

Step #2: Choose Just ONE Standard Which Provides a Valid Basis for What Makes People Tick, Flourish at Work

Here’s the example we used in Part 2:

Gallup Research Workplace Audit:  The Most Important People Issues for Growing the Business [assuring success at any organization]

Top 11 verbatim related to the key satisfiers for people at work [any work], AND where each can fit in the Organizational Effectiveness Model—the “go-to” places for leaders:

  • “At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” (OEM: Vision / Mission / Core Values / Alignment)
  • “The vision/mission and values of the company makes me feel my job contributes.” (OEM: Vision / Mission / Core Values / Strategic Roadmap / Alignment)
  • “I have a best friend at work.” (OEM: Core Values / Personal Responsibility)
  • “At work, my opinions seem to count.” (OEM: Core Values)
  • “My work associates are committed to doing quality work.” (OEM: Vision / Core Values / Personal Responsibility / Alignment / Job Performance Review Process)
  • “In the last year I have been given opportunities to learn and grow.” (OEM: Mission / Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “I have the resources I need to do my work right.” (OEM: Core Values / Strategic Roadmap)
  • “In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “The person I report to seems to care about me as a person.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “In the past six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)
  • “There is someone at work who encourages my development.” (OEM: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

There are many standards for what being a combination of human and divine amounts to, but none that compare to how God’s Bible explains it: Genesis 1:27, 2:7; Psalm 139; John 3:16. Devoid of this True Truth—no matter what any given leader says about the value of the worker or his or her “Human Resources”, the commoditization of human beings will always ensue, take over. And this is the antithesis of great leadership which inevitably leads to: “a) choosing the wrong mission-objective (or no objective, that is, just drifting), b) applying ineffective or immoral means to achieving it, and c) disengaging others (or attracting only unthinking-followers).” (on-line)

Not treating the most valuable asset of any organization as the most valuable asset always, eventually results in leadership treating the led as sort of a necessary evil. Mere overhead. Cogs that require oiling NOT developing, nurturing, flourishing… and NO further expenditure of a leader’s heart in his or her time, talent, or treasure than is absolutely necessary to maintain a pulse.

Step #3: Consider Slowing Down Long Enough to Really Grasp the GAP In Between…

a) The duty and beauty of LEADERSHIP to create an environment where PEOPLE FLOURISH in order to successfully execute the Vision/Mission and,

b) The recognition and data of how PEOPLE FLOURISHTHE GAP TO MAKE IT HAPPEN… must be bridged, filled by any given leader’s EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE factor, rating, strength, maturity, wisdom, etc…

Oh, yes… YOUR HEART!

The GAP between defining great leadership and carrying out the beauty and duty of executing the Vision-Mission according to what makes people flourish is the EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE factor of LEADERSHIP. That’s the heart of it.

  1. Self-Awareness: Definition: The ability to recognize and understand your most core beliefs, value system, emotions, and drives–as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks: Realistic self-assessment, Self-confidence, Self-deprecating sense of humor
  2. Self-Regulation: Definition: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, The propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting. Hallmarks: Trustworthiness and integrity, Comfort with ambiguity, Openness to change
  3. Motivation: Definition: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status, A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks: Strong drive to achieve, Optimism–even in the face of failure, Organizational commitment
  4. Empathy: Definition: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people, Skill in treating people according to their (heart) emotional reactions. Hallmarks: Expertise in building and retaining talent, Cross-cultural sensitivity, Service to clients and customers
  5. Social Skill: Definition: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, An ability to find common ground and build rapport. Hallmarks: Effectiveness in leading change, Persuasiveness, Expertise in building and leading teams

Please don’t forget where, how we started this journey in Part 1 by defining God’s creation of the human heart—glorious and lasting leaders get this way down deep: Leaders who are strangers to God and self cannot effectively, endearingly, enduringly lead others. (Mark 12:30-31)

Just look at the attribute of Self-Awareness alone: “The ability to recognize and understand your most core beliefs, value system, emotions, and drives–as well as their effect on others.” ‘Nuf said… If you are in the presence of a leader with a sense of self-awareness of this kind, consider yourself very blessed. Look around: You’ll note it’s quite rare.

Even leaders who [apparently] know GOD—in both sacred or secular organizations—and yet do not know SELF, cannot lead OTHERS. Why so? Honestly? Leaders who rank low in Emotional Intelligence (EI) cannot get out of their own way. He or she is the biggest barrier to organizational and/or individual greatness.

Mostly hidden within every decision—or indecision—lurks a mini- and/or major-maelstrom of ambivalence or warring emotions that the low-EI leader is controlled by. SO THAT the best solution, or “GO-TO” on/in the OEM/pyramid remains unseen, unused, uncommunicated, unfruitful, or “UNFLOURISHING!” to and for the led. The OEM is the default mechanism for all things… unless uncontrolled emotions cloud its presence, its principles, and its practice.

That’s it.

Step #4: Leaders Are Made, Not Just Born

The human heart is absolutely transformable. Every leader [and those who are led] needs to grow in some way, shape, or form. There are many good tools out there to get a leader “on track for transformation” and [usually massively] increased effectiveness.  As a leadership coach, organizational effectiveness and strategic planning consultant, my “go-to” approach to serving in this regard was simple and yet very complicated: Internalize the OEM for your own life… FIRST!

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.” (Warren Bennis)

What is the Vision, Mission, Core Values, Strategic Roadmap, Alignment, Personal Responsibility, and Results FOR YOUR OWN LIFE? Of the dozens of leaders I personally have worked with, around 15-20% completed the journey of answering this question in all of its detail. The rest gave up in favor of “being too busy as a leader.” Hmmm? Yes indeed, “The Road Less Traveled” is operative in many realms of life, and leadership.

Believe me: Any leader who chooses to not fully, intentionally live life on the personal level should not be given the special and rare position to put things in place for others on a universal, organizational, corporate level. The GAP can’t be closed except from the inside-out: YASE! It’s a heart issue. As a leader, what would a grand, costly, transformational, and infectious change of heart look like to you?

This call-to-action perfectly complies to the likes of leadership experts Kouzes and Posner [The Leadership Challenge, 2+ million copies]:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

Know this: As the timely cartoon depiction [WSJ last week] below reminds us, if a leader’s “GO-TO” is not something in the OEM, it will be something else… and it’s usually way below what it could be, or even [E.g., usually] quite destructive.

I know this is a BIG feast to digest, but please do so in ways that costs, hurts, heals, reveals, utilizes a community of people, and transforms your heart,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table
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