“It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.”
s -A.W. Tozer
s The person of God who endures today, long after decay, has done much for the Lord’s cause -- not the least of which being worthy of the Father’s praise, and to hear him finally say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
s Aiden Wilson Tozer stood for a radically correct, fire-of-God-anointed, counter-cultural stance as he preached and wrote and mentored. He wrote the following in the Preface to The Pursuit of God in 1948,
“There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton's terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: ‘The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.’” (Bolding added for emphasis -- not featured in the original.)
s There is the effect here of correct teaching without the fire of God. Tozer saw the trueness of the Word limping through his age, disciples malnourished and going without in the spiritual truth of revelation life. He saw it to his great disappointment. ‘Right tempers’ must be added to ‘right opinions,’ in the paraphrasing of Wesley, and the true fire of God through “His manifest Presence.”
s Why is there nothing unusual in the minister’s life as observed by Tozer? What sets him or her apart (from the world) and makes him or her holy? Is he or she afraid of being falsely accused as a hypocrite -- as people are liable to do. Is he or she afraid of losing popularity contests? Is he or she afraid that other very real church imperatives would be lost or threatened?
s True spiritual leadership is messy, costly, sleeves-rolled-up stuff; and not just for the flock. It augments and facilitates changed lives, bringing spiritual enhancement -- more manifest Presence characterised by the Beatitudes. Other-worldly and full of love is this life that swells and does not diminish.
s “If my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.” Tozer would not accept a Bible-bound Christianity without the true fire of God anointing it, making it breathe. He challenges us today to ‘light our candles at their flames,’ and particularly leaders in the church to lead this charge by being radically different and ‘other worldly.’
s And the enduring challenge to us all harkens us back to the first quote. We’d be “excited [people] of time rush[ing] about confusing motion with progress” to our spiritual demise.
s Let us instead invite the Presence of the living God into our lives to live true.
s  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiden_Wilson_Tozer  Matthew 25:21 (NIV).  A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God is available online: http://www3.calvarychapel.com/library/Tozer-AW/PursuitOfGod/00p.htm -- This quote is from the book’s Preface.  Ibid.
You spend more time with them than possibly some of your most loved ones. They’re responsible for your life -- your safety and health -- to a certain extent, and they also know you better in some ways than you even know yourself -- they are your work mates and colleagues. A work colleague of mine told me a story of how the death of one of his co-workers in a non-work-related accident affected him almost as much as it would have had he been one of his own family -- this guy was part of his family.
s Yet many grizzle and grumble about their co-workers, not having much good to say about them, even loathing time with them. It’s true that some work colleagues may be difficult to get along with. Not everyone is the same as us. There are so many different value-sets, senses of humour, personalities. There are also the competing priorities and a seemingly endless stream of conflict with some people.
s In almost any work situation with people there are going to be both positives and the negatives. All relationships have their upsides and downsides. They're flawed as we’re also flawed. We can see these situations more positively or more negatively -- it’s our choice.
s We have a choice about the relationships we have at work don’t we; do we choose to enjoy our work, and more precisely, enjoy the people we work with, or do we withdraw into ourselves and make the least of our opportunities with them, and just plod on with the tasks at hand?
s The choices we make to love and enjoy our work mates and colleagues are always good choices -- not just for the recipients of our love and friendship; it’s very much for ourselves too. We work many hours a week with the same people, sometimes for years, or even a full lifetime in some instances.
s Keeping our relationships at the ‘responsible’ level (and not getting involved personally when we’re not invited to) and also free to expand within the context of friendship at work is a huge benefit to a work team. Bonds of trust develop. Trusting relationships mean communications barriers are subverted and performance is augmented.
s But by far the biggest winner is people themselves! How amazing is it when we can truly enjoy real people in real situations at work. We should get to know our co-workers. We’ll never know what blessed friendships that could grow. And we’ll be the winners personally!
The sights and sounds of sobbing and wailing bring upon the onlooking human spirit cause for lament and chagrin. There are not many who don't genuinely mourn with those who mourn, particularly after the widespread tragedy of catastrophe like earthquake. Ordinarily we cry because of our suffering or the suffering of our loved ones.
What makes us cry says a lot about us -- equally, what makes us laugh also says a lot about us. In the preview to the book of Lamentations, the NIV Study Bible mentions we cry for one of two reasons; it's either for self-centred reasons or God-centred reasons.
When we mourn due to our own losses and suffering it is understandable. We're created with the capacity to mourn with tears of lament or complaint for a reason... to cry out to God so he could heal our sorrowful hearts. There's a purpose. It doesn't end with us, but with God. I know of times in my life when my own personal tragedies have almost sweep me away in a torrent of anguish; all but for God and the love of my family and close friends (within which [the family] his power and truth always lies). God places in our hearts the capacity to 'feel' him, and of course, if we're fortunate, we have family and friends to ameliorate the pain.
All of this support brings meaning to our suffering; meaning that we can see the reasons why, finally, somewhere 'down the track.' This process can take years!
I'm not sure if this type of mourning described above is self-centred. It's a response to tragedy. But the reasonwhy we cry in these instances is both significant and interesting. One could cry about the devastation in a self-centred way or a God-centred way. God-centred lamentations have a sprinkling of faith to offer to God -- the tears -- they're a genuine sacrifice of faith offered to him with hope (that one can't yet see but just knows somehow). Self-centred lamentation is different. It's formed more as a complaint and it usually exacerbates the situation within the wounded person's heart. Pride stands in the way, blocking the healing power of God's Spirit in washing clean the spirit of the person suffering.
I don't know about you, but have you ever cried yourself to sleep (... cried out to God) and then awoken in the morning and experienced a fresh hope? I have, several times. God hears our cries and somehow heals our contrite hearts in the process. It's a miracle. To experience this is truly miraculous -- because it is inexplicable without conjuring a spiritual causation.
One thing I have learned in life; don't cry so much for justice for self. Cry for self, but cry to God. We don't even need to complain or explain. The Spirit knows and he gives us the answer that we so desperately need.
Surely we're blessed most of all to cry for others who suffer substantially more than we do... take a look around you -- take a good look...
We all struggle with some thing or other. Some struggle with people; some with process; some even more struggle with patience, or any combination; people, process, patience. Yet struggle is the essence of life.
Struggle seems to be a key byproduct of life. It happens as we travel, and just like when friction slows the physical rate of anything on earth, struggle happens as a result of our toil, and it is manifest in all sorts of ways. (Struggle Happens: sounds a bit like the fashionable saying popularised in Forrest Gump, 'sh.. happens' -- but couldn't be more different.)
Isn't it bizarre that when we pray most for our struggles to alleviate; to have more patience in our trials, that we get opportunities to grow in our approach to these things -- it's like God has a twisted and wasted sense of humour. Struggle is still byproduct.
When Moses when under the severe strain of threatening rebellion from the people of Israel, he was struggling. Told by Pharaoh to produce the full quota of bricks without the necessary straw to fill them, the Hebrews told Moses and Aaron they hoped they'd be judged most severely by God for bringing this curse against them. Moses cried out to God. (See Exodus 5)
And so do we! It is easy for us to grumble against life when dealing with the inevitable byproduct, struggle. It is perplexing that we don't get a magical answer to our prayers to handle it so much better. Life just seems to get harder... if we focus on the byproduct... and not on the Main Product.
Main Product is what we're truly here for. It's correct perspective, or better put 'corrected' perspective. Main Product expects life to be tough and is relieved and joyful when toughness abates temporarily. It is compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. It doesn't expect much, and so it's rarely disappointed. Main Product is about life, truth, love, wisdom, reality, eternity, significance, brilliance, majesty, grace.
Main Product is patient and real. It's something to focus on; we never 'get there' and we can only ever aspire to it. Main product is the ability to overcome -- "hypernikomen" -- we are more than conquerors... (Romans 8:37) ... through One. Main Product is from the Lord. Main Product is the ability to overcome our struggle -- the byproduct of life. Like lactic acid build-up in an exercised muscle is the byproduct, is the byproduct of struggle to life.
Let us not grow weary, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9) Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, in our many trials of all kinds. (James 1:2-3)
Struggles endured prove patience and develop character; character to overcome and reap Main Product.
I was reminded on Sunday of the beauty of the words of Colossians. "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."-Colossians 3:12.
These words and their adjectives are 'sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.' (Proverbs 16:24) I love adjectives like these above -- virtues to aspire to. I did some thinking yesterday and discovered that the first four virtues all align with respect. To have compassion is to be respectful in the way to place ourselves in another's position and 'feel' like them. Kindness is the ultimate respect. Humility is the very epitome of respect. Gentleness, again, is 'other-focused.'
Then I thought, 'What about patience?' Patience is more a matter of trust. Patience is the supreme test and it underpins all the others in my view. Alternatively, the other four 'respect' virtues come from a intrinsic heart of love. They're a natural effect of a touch of God's Spirit. Patience seems more to be grown and exhibited in and through trials and tests, but it could also be as a result of touch of God's Spirit -- the gift of grace that some people have and some people have not.
Paul apportions the 'clothing of holiness' to followers of the Way so that we might bring glory to God through our beings. When we bear with one another and forgive grievances, showing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, we invite others to show us the same courtesy; though that's not the reason we do it -- again, our motive is: for the glory of God to be manifest in our being. We show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience especially when they're not expected -- and this brings glory to God.
Love binds compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:14) What this means, it seems to me, is without love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are NOT. We can try all we like to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient, but without love, it falls apart. It's false and error-ridden. Our compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are all conditional, at best. Conditional love, like conditional acceptance, is not love or acceptance at all.
Love is the true basis of holiness, and indeed, the true test of holiness. Love, like wisdom, is true.
Have you ever been trapped by a thing, perhaps a habit or an attitude (could be drinking, junk food, procrastination etc), and felt, ‘the only way out of the rut was... [Complete the sentence].
s I have to share this because it is so vital for me and for restoring hope when I begin to lose my way. Do you ever lose your way? Do you suffer from a loss of hope and stop looking forward to things? Does your thinking ever polarise to the extreme negative?
s There is a way forward, there always is -- it’s just a matter of finding it. We all have within us the ability to turn our lives around, grow and adapt to new circumstances. No one knows us as good as we know ourselves.
s When we feel beaten and of no use to anybody let alone ourselves we need to find hope; enough hope to plan for, and execute, recovery -- one day at a time. (There is no recovery quite like ‘one day at a time’ recovery.) We need to give ourselves a head start in time and some ‘rev-up room’ as we prepare to hit our goal front on.
s Mental strength is key. We need to plan for hiccups, preparing for low days, with a strategy to get through. When we have a low day, it doesn’t really matter how we negotiate it. It must simply be negotiated without giving in on our goal, whether it’s to stop something and keep it stopped or to start something and keep it going.
s We don’t give our weaknesses any striking distance on us -- again mental strength is all important. Even so-called menial decisions or issues can threaten what we’re about, so we must be on our guard. Awareness is huge. We must stay vigilant on cerebral sneak-ups. Let’s not loosen the resolve. Keep motivated.
s As we negotiate our goals day-by-day, we should ‘chalk ‘em up’ and celebrate at least within our own minds and hearts via healthy reflection. This is a mental pat on the back and an encouragement to keep going.
s As we continue successfully we should be fair with ourselves and find a permissible way to reward the effort and ingenuity that’s gone in. We should be staying psychologically and spiritually healthy with a strong hope borne from lots of good things to look forward to.
s And we don’t forget to celebrate, whilst not losing sight of where we’ve come from.
There are numerous advantagesto keeping our communication brief and to the point. We’re beckoned to take counsel from the wise and watch closely what we say and how we say it. Brevity has both youth and power about it, and can assure us a mark of integrity of character we could only dream of.
s James 3:1-12 is a self-contained essay noted for its brevity. In this way it is an ideal example of how speech should be: concise, packed with value, and full of information. The briefer the speech the less likely it’s going to waver in truth.
s James promotes brevity (Greek: brachylogia) of speech. Demetrius is said to have thought brevity has three advantageous qualities. Firstly, it packs a punch acknowledging that verboseness kills intensity of thought. Along with this power, much meaning is packed into succinctness. Secondly, it’s very appropriate in maxims and pithy sayings as its power is put to good use. Thirdly, succinct speech often allows the hearer opportunity to ask back questions for clarity due to a certain predictable ambiguity. This forces the hearer to think. “Brevity represents youth and power.” It cuts to the chase and addresses boredom and impatience in one foul swoop. It is also the sages of old -- the “professedly virtuous, who would treasure brachylogia as the ideal form of speech.”
s Johnson identifies the links between James 3:1-12 and Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, particularly “Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.” Fear of God is the motivator for brevity in speaking.
s “Quintilian declares that the ‘praise awarded to perfect brevity is well deserved.’” But in being so concise there is also a threat that one might come across as obscure. Be that as it may, Seneca says that speech should be unadorned, plain, controlled.
s There is also the moral issue of self-control. Seneca states that “Speech that runs too fast or too elaborately reveals a loss of self-control and with it, the loss of modesty... [therefore] I bid you be slow of speech.” Brevity has the Midas touch about it, preserving the character of the skilled whom use it; seemingly giving them the ability to turn their words into gold.
s Silence, the ultimate in brevity, could take on a distinctly sacred flavour as Plutarch mentioned: “The solemn, holy, and mysterious character of silence.” He also said that “those who receive a royal and noble education ‘learn first to be silent, and then to speak.’” The wise therefore take on and master silence. “Silence is better than speech, that hearing, not speaking, is the pathway to wisdom, that speech when necessary should be brief, that above all speech should be under control and never the expression of rage or envy.” Sirach 5:13 says, “Honor and dishonor come from speaking, and the tongue of mortals may be their downfall.” We are urged to take this counsel!
s Taciturnity (definition: temperamentally disinclined to talk. [Merriam Webster]) is more than a matter of self-control. James shows us this when framing the command, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” with exhortations of both creation and salvation, book-ending verses 1:19-20 with verses 18 and 21. James sees human anger and God’s justice diametrically opposed within the schemes of life and eternity. He also sees self-control underpinning the spiritual allegiances we have. But, taciturnity is for broad reasons, not the least of which an advocation of self-control.
s Brevity: a lot is said in a “remarkably short span of statements.”
 L.T. Johnson, The Letter of James – The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 202.  B. Hybels, Making Life Work- Putting God’s Wisdom into Action, (Downers Grover, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 88-97.  L.T. Johnson, Taciturnity and True Religion: James 1:26-27 in Brother of Jesus, Friend of God – Studies in the Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans, 2004), p. 159.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 159.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 155-67.  Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NRSV).  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 158.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 159.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 160. The author cites pudor [40:13-14] as his source. It is suggested that Seneca translates aidos as pudor – “a strong emotion,” from F.S. Naiden, Ancient Supplication (United States: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 274.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 162. Both quotes feature on the same page.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Abingdon, p. 203.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Eerdmans, p. 166.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Abingdon, p. 204.  L.T. Johnson, Ibid, Abingdon, p. 203.
In the Bible, there are 53 references to 'gladness' or being glad. It is defined as:
"1. Having a cheerful or happy disposition by nature; 2. experiencing pleasure, joy, or delight : made happy ; made pleased, satisfied, or grateful —often used with of : very willing : 3. marked by, expressive of, or caused by happiness and joy : causing happiness and joy : 4. full of brightness and cheerfulness." (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glad)
Gladness is the noun. It's the 'name' for the state of being glad. The etymology of the word is 'shining' and 'smooth.' Therefore the word has a pureness about it, like the pureness of driven snow. It reminds me of what it must have been like in the early 1st Century church when it's said they "ate together with glad and sincere hearts." (Acts 2:46)
The Old Testament wisdom teacher Qoheleth taught, "I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad." (Ecclesiastes 8:15) There's a simple gladness. I think we often don't truly appreciate the simple pleasures of food like we could, yet when we're invited to lunch or a dinner, there is a real sense of looking forward to it for most of us.
Gladness is a simple emotion, as is joy. We can either make glad or be made glad, but there is a more fundamental gladness of disposition. And it is this sense of intrinsic joy, the one characterised by those in the early church, that I think Paul referred to when he urged followers of the Way to, "Do everything without complaining and arguing... become blameless and pure... shine like stars." (Philippians 2:14-15) There's probably no other corpus so littered with joy as this.
Joy and gladness are, they just are. We've all seen people who just ARE joyful and glad. They always have a smile on their faces, and it's not just painted on... it's there for real. It's their simple modus operandi. Some may say, 'are they being real.' Is it not possible to be real and glad at the same time? Enter gratitude, thankfulness.
Being glad, not complaining and arguing, and able to enjoy simple pleasures for what they are... not trying too hard. I know when I've tried to hard I've often missed the target of gladness and joy more than ever. This is the real secret of God's grace; we allow his moment-by-moment love (which never condemns) enter our consciousness and we can know the help of the Spirit that causes gladness of disposition; joy... which drives peace and a host of other virtues.
This sort of disposition is not easily swayed. It is penetrative. It is power for good and everyone in that circle shares in gladness; some are 'made glad' on account of us; they go onto make others glad and so on. On the surface, stopping arguing and complaining seems impossible, but with gladness the Spirit of God laughs in contempt at that thought. Is it possible? Of course it is!
"What wisdom, what warning can prevail against gladness? There is no law so strong which a little gladness may not transgress."
-Henry David Thoreau.
What a bolt of thunderous truth is this offering. Gladness penetrates. I received an email from my church just now and I read with gladness the gladness of a pastor seeing all this wonderful ministry of God around him. That's what I read (between the lines) as he lifted one person after another up to the whole 'e-congregation.' The Spirit of God at work.
Gladness has an oily joy about it. It refuses to be swayed by anything but the best, though it can also see and deal with the worst; it's full of love. It reminds me of the old spiritual quoting Isaiah: "Put on garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." If there's a smile, no matter the circumstances, there's life, pure and simple!
Life is precious. If gladness can get us even halfway there why would we not voluntarily be more glad? Gladness has real and divinely-anointed power about it.
There is a story about the Confucian saying, “The ox is slow but the earth is patient.” A famous sporting coach once used it to describe the development of his struggling team. The crux is this: change and things and patterns take time to happen, grow and emerge, and that in reality is no real issue.
s We hate to recognise this but it is true. Things take forever to change and morph like we’d want them to. A bureaucracy is the classic example -- the wheels of progress turn slowly; but they do turn! Interact with a government department (or worse, a series of them!) by partaking in a form-filling exercise and we all too soon know about the frustration of bureaucracy! But, it’s all necessary… it’s the process.
s I was reminded of a powerful principle recently that illustrates the truth of this point. Time comes. If we put something off, a large far-off goal, because we don’t have the patience to wait for the (say) three (3) years to come, it will eventually. If you put off going to college or university to study that degree you’ve always wanted, to launch your dream career, that three or four years will elapse anyway; do you want to arrive at that point and have the qualification, or not? All that stands in our way is a little hard work, and that never hurt anyone. As Morgan Freeman’s character of “God” said in Bruce Almighty (words to the effect), “Some of the happiest people alive come home each night stinking to high heaven.” Diligence is rewarded. Look at the ant.
s Patience. We’re often all too impatient. The Confucian quote was used by former West Coast Eagles coach, Mick Malthouse in describing his reflective approach after a loss. You can tell current West Coast coach, John Worsfold, has the same approach. At times, we just have to be patient and grin and bear it. It’s going to take some time, perhaps even years before the football club turns its fortunes around on the ground.
s If we think of it this way it might help. Life is about waiting. It’s the biggest waiting room. While we’re here we get to know and live with some wonderful people, we get to learn lots of things, and if we’re fortunate, we experience many wondrous (and not so many painful) things.
s Just think of the journey of developing this emerging young West Coast team that can’t quite win yet; that’s exciting in itself -- a successful future awaits; possibly another premiership. The hunger within these young players will get them there. They have all of it in front of them, which is far better than having everything behind us. There’s everything to live for.
s All of us have to wait for things. Nothing worthwhile comes easy or straight away. But time does come and change does happen. It often happens slowly enough for us to enter into it, to get involved, to think, and to engage with it. Life is otherwise too quick for us. Why do we get frustrated that we have to wait? It will all be over far too early in any event. Life… ponder.
“Let every (person) be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.”-James 1:19b Amplified (gender inclusive).
s This is a key to living in a world full of people. The moment we can listen without having something to say is the moment we begin to relate well.
s There is so much ‘higher order’ thinking of the neocortex involved here. From both physiological and psychological viewpoints, the thinking that allows us not to take offence is diverted away from the more primary thinking of the reptilian and mammalian brain. If we were to think only from these centres we’d not even think of listening.
s This process of higher order thinking can only occur with extensive myelination (i.e. training) of the neural pathways. In other words, we only get to better and more consistent thinking by going through the pain of either being taught or by teaching ourselves through self-discipline and this is impossible to do well without the right motivation.
s There must come a time when we truly believe that what others have to say is as important or as valuable as the contributions we might make. There are people who are impatient and wish to be heard, and there are people who patiently wait their turn before making known what their view is -- we desire to be the latter. Patience and trust in the moment is key; again, there’s a cue back to higher order neocortex thinking.
s The classic situation where this is undone is during a meeting where everyone wants their say. So, how do we make active listening work in meetings? Perhaps it’s a case of making a rule that people who speak after someone who’s just made a point should demonstrate understanding of that point before they move on to present their own?
s We do relate better with people when we’ve given them our fullest possible attention when they’re speaking; when we’re ‘other-focused.’ This demonstrates both maturity of character and physiological development of the higher order thinking pathways.
s Peter Drucker says, "To improve communications, work not on the utterer, but on the recipient."
People can and people go. It’s the nature of life. Whether it’s new jobs, places to live, or friends to spend time with, change happens. And people are forever deciding how to live their lives, always ‘tasting things’ and opportunities and seeing for themselves; it’s people creating their own perception of truth based on their unique perspective. People will try new endeavours and a range of factors come in to play regarding whether the new endeavour or habit sticks i.e. whether it’s deemed ‘good’ or not.
s People do this with churches. They can be established in the Christian faith or newcomers. They go and attend a meeting or two to find out for themselves whether what they taste is actually good -- people define this for themselves. Nobody else decides but the individual.
s One of the most fundamental and ever-present critical issues facing the church is how it relates with people, or more appropriately, how a church’s leadership and pastors are perceived in response to the Great Commission (getting people into the kingdom of God and keeping them there [and preferably, growing]); in a nutshell, its the ‘key performance indicator’ regarding the very people it’s called to serve, teach, and evangelise to. The church needs to connect with people in meaningful, relevant ways that 1) espouse transformational kingdom truth via acts of love, and 2) negate destructive influences of the world.
s Wisdom is known by its actions -- real motives have a way of emerging. If a church leader leads in a way that is devoid of grace, it will bring him or her undone -- and to be honest, who could realistically be perfect regarding grace other than Jesus himself? Yet there is infighting and factions in churches all the time. Legalism, unforgiveness, envy, indifference, the list goes on. Sometimes the church is the last place you find grace, much to the grieving of the Spirit of God.
s One way this is very relevant is acceptance. Such a simple word, “accept.” We’re commanded to accept one another, and the testing ground for grace here is to accept things that really test our tolerance. Acceptance, by definition, intuits tolerance and universality or unconditionality. And we ought to accept everyone who genuinely seeks to learn of, and know God, apart from others who we ought to also accept.
s And here’s the tricky bit that gets most churches, and church leaders stuck. What do we do when there’s someone doing things we struggle to accept? It depends what it is. Is it a sinful thing? Is it upsetting anyone? Is it a rejection of grace itself? Is it unbiblical? (These are but a few questions.) I used to belong to a fellowship that is renowned worldwide for accepting everyone -- including, by definition, the scum of the earth. This fellowship is a crucial part of Western civilisation and was started by two Christian guys, one a doctor; both were alcoholic. I have seen with my own eyes the love within the rooms, and of these ‘elders’ of AA who’re called to carry the message on, to assist in bringing a very real and miraculous salvation experience to troubled alcoholics. The movement sustains itself and grows because it works. It works because it’s genuine and based in the love of unconditional acceptance. And this is why the church (in the broad sense) works.
s So then, why would a ministry not grow? Why would people come and go -- and not stay? Could it be that people see through a conditional form of love and acceptance? They smell something’s not quite right. Even kids can do it; they sense a lack of integrity a mile off. Almost everybody does. (But, it needs to be said right here that lack of acceptance is clearly not the only reason a ministry would shrink -- there are a vast array of determinants.)
s True love is unconditional. The trick is a trick of faith. People stop loving when their faith gives out -- we stop loving when we don’t feel it coming back. Yet, the call of God is to love and keep loving; even toward our enemies. It seems to me acceptance is more about ‘me and my issues’ than the other person; God accepts them so why not I? (This is the personal and daily challenge before every person.) How is it that when someone does not do what we want them to do we start to get conditional in our acceptance of them? It is legalism and it’s devoid of grace. It is taking the undeserved favour of divine forgiveness and putting rules and disclaimers around it to get people to conform to our way of thinking.
s Grace and truth are on either side of a knife-edge and one should never envy church leaders; on the contrary, we should always encourage and support them. The challenge here for the church leader is to unconditionally and truly accept their flock, each one, warts and all, particularly if they see them trying. Sometimes in life there are no ‘pat’ answers. Yet we do not shrink from difficulty. Leaders should encourage each person and not condemn them with their words, body language, or lack of interaction (i.e. the ‘cold shoulder’). The leader who always accepts people knows how to love from the heart; they spend themselves serving their people, not the other way around.
s And the ultimate truth is, love never fails; “it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love finds a way to accept people and situations and events just like Jesus did.
s Acceptance is tested most in times of difficulty. Can we still accept people when their actions irritate us? Jesus accepts us unconditionally even though we must seemingly irritate him all the time! Of course, God does not see us as we see each other. His acceptance and tolerance is truly unconditional.
FOOTNOTES:  In Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV) Jesus concludes the gospel by saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Refer James 1:27.  See Matthew 11:18-19. In other words, what goes around comes around.  Hebrews 6:6 (NRSV) is cited as the consequence for falling away. Everyone is capable of falling away, even church leaders. The impact it has is to “[crucify] again the Son of God… holding him up to contempt.” The ‘basic teachings’ do not relate to things for the mature, such as the fruit of Christ-like character. To not ‘fall away’ in this context perhaps means we are to ‘go on’ to the advanced teaching of real character growth regarding joy, peace, love, goodness, faithfulness and so on. Those who ‘fall away’ are those who focus too much on the ‘basic teaching’ and become legalistic and stale in the process. The ‘my way or the highway’ approach to discipleship and evangelism never works in the long run.  Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”  See Hebrews 13:17 for instance.  See 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NRSV).
Balthasar Gracian’s oracles are timeless and insightful. It might be called “The Art of Worldly Wisdom,” but it parallels Godly wisdom in many ways. This particular oracle speaks about gratitude and being realistic as anything. Gracian says:
s “If you are wise, live as you can, if you cannot live as you would. Think more highly of what fate has given you than of what it has denied.”
s Being focused on what we have rather than on what we don’t have helps us be more grateful. For instance, I have lots of interests and varied responsibilities but often little time to do it all in. My life can get complex. I’m rather time-poor. I know when I focus on being time-poor I’m not far from frustration -- in fact, you guessed it, I’m there instantly.
s None of us can really live as we would like to -- this is a fact of life. Life’s been structured this way. It’s not for our comfort, but for our character development half the time. So, we live as we can or as we’re able to.
s No matter that Gracian’s material is 400 years old -- he still noted the same societal bereftness toward virtue that we note in today’s society. “What a misfortune for our age that it regards virtue as a stranger and vice as a matter of course!” And we do, many of us, accept that vice is part of the journey of life. My pastor told us of a story recently where a couple were sceptical of leaving their 15-year-old son at a church youth meeting, thinking church people a kooky lot, yet the following week they held no such concerns dropping him at a party where drink and drugs would be consumed and people would no doubt ‘shack-up’ with each other. Virtue seems never popular for some warped reason; not at least as popular as vice! It also demonstrates the courage that parents need to have in standing for virtue against vice in their children’s lives, especially in the teenage years.
s Living practically is also choosing to live in the present. “Adapt yourself to the present, even though the past [might] appear better.” And this is our stumbling block a lot of the time. We choose the past or the future as defaults to thinking when easily we could stay with the present day.
s For me, living practically is about remaining holistically-compartmentalised. That is to say that I need to see my life holistically and draw value from the whole, whilst valuing each separate compartment of my life (i.e. home, family, work, writing, exercise, sleep etc) in order to bring the best from each one. A holistic viewpoint gives me mental balance which delivers emotional and spiritual balance. Compartmentalising thought is about bringing each part of my life to fullness and effectiveness.
Inoculations have the effect of protecting our body’s and immune systems from nasty diseases. They’re imperative when travelling overseas where our customised immune systems may fail to cope with the onset of a foreign organism. The inoculation gives us enough of a dead or very weak version of a virus or infection for the body to train its immune defences around.
s There is also a form of spiritual inoculation; but this sort of inoculation is not good. It renders the strength of the Spirit less powerful in changing our lives, and our tolerance to life-changing messages becomes stronger. In other words, it takes more of God to penetrate us less. This, of course, is completely the opposite for a ‘baby believer.’ They have low tolerance, meaning a little ‘good news’ keeps them fervent for God for a long time comparatively. The strength of Spirit is strong for the new believer.
s One of the problems for those raised in the church, according to Ben Windle, is they’ve been drip fed a dangerous little (i.e. an inoculation) amount of God making their hearts a little dead to him. They know about God without really knowing him. Knowing him is a feeling; it’s much more than knowledge, yet the shift to knowing him over knowing about him is very subtle.
s Sometimes Christians who’ve been raised in Christianity all their lives might feel envious of newer Christians who have the ‘fire of God’ stoking their hearts and minds and this reminds me of the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Those called to start work in the vineyard at the eleventh hour ended up getting paid the same amount as those who’d worked the full 12-hour shift! Sounds unjust. Why hadn’t these workers worked previously? Were they slackers? No… “Because no one has hired us,” they replied. So it is with people who’ve only just now come to faith in Christ. They responded the first time called. Perhaps they were called earlier? No matter, they responded now. It was God’s time for them to receive him, now!
s The landowner of the vineyard (God) rightly tells those complaining that he’s not being unfair. He says, “Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” Jesus completes the parable saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” So it is with the kingdom of heaven. s
Each of us has a ‘God-shaped’ hole inside of us. Each of us must know God for him or herself. We could have four theology degrees, and be raised in the most loving Christian household all our lives, and know all the worship songs going etc, and still not know him. We must relate personally with him, to be able to sense the favour of both his rebuke and praise and respond appropriately.
s Without God, an authentic life is a very difficult thing to achieve. With God, life may not get much easier, but the difference is like darkness to light -- we have power to make the difference. People raised in the church unfortunately may never have really known this difference like people who’ve come to faith by visitation of the Spirit say during adolescence or adulthood; perhaps as a response to the intense pain of trauma, stress, or depression -- the true life-changing experience.
s Ben Windle suggests one thing for people inoculated from God’s power -- Passion. He believes the missing ingredient involved in truly ‘crossing over’ is passion.
s Interesting thought: What if someone raised in Christianity were to cross over to experience more of God’s transforming love, power, and grace? They’d suddenly be last -- and therefore first! It also augers forward another truth. Who of us who might’ve ordinarily come to Christ later in life find ourselves strangely inoculated by now? It happens. It’s all about passion. Passion ebbs away with the years.
s Are you still passionate about pleasing God to the detriment of your own dreams, goals, hopes, plans, and desires? Or are you too struggling with your grip on passion?
s  Ben Windle, Searching For A God You’re Supposed To Have Found, (South Brisbane: Inspire Publishing, 2004), pp. 9-22. This section is called “Crossing Over.”  Matthew 20:7 (NIV).  Matthew 20:13-16 (NIV).
The 1997 motion picture, “Contact” starring Jodie Foster is a favourite of mine because it showcases a unique blend of science, spirituality, and science-fiction -- and it’s of epic proportions. Foster is at odds to prove extraterrestrial life exists and it somehow turns out that radio waves prove her theory has merit. These radio waves transmit a steady ‘pulse’ to awaiting receivers on earth. The pulse ends up being deciphered as a form of language -- a message for the receiver to build a highly complex space travel machine that eventually takes Foster’s character far into space to encounter the other life form. It was the pulse that was representative of what started this epic story. It was the force that sustained the communication media, the engineering plans, the technology, and the hope of the entity transmitting the message in the first place. And it’s the pulse that is representative of a real-life rhythm that I have discovered about life. Life is based on a sort of pulse, and a rhythm.
s There is a ‘beat’ to life -- a steady pulse with which everything in the universe turns. It’s imperative to engineering, music, human life. It’s the heartbeat of creation -- in the ongoing sense. Machines run to an electric or electronic pulse. To run correctly they need to be in tune and in time. Musicians must also be in time with the beat, as in the case of orchestras and bands -- it only has to be a little ‘off’ and it sounds terrible; but oh the sweet music of all instruments and vocals in time, and in tune! Even humans have a rhythm. It’s a fact that -- sexually speaking -- both male and female orgasm at a cadence which is in the order of contractions slightly better than once per second; sneezes and laughter also occur at a rhythmic rate. Overall, the cadence of the inner most being is steady and metered. I think it would extend to the whole of creation. God has timed everything to a universal rhythm.
s Is it any different to our pace in life? There are times when we’re out of rhythm and our cadence is either too fast or too slow and we rush ahead or fall behind; leaving others behind or we don’t keep up. We seem to try too hard or not hard enough. It bemuses us and we get frustrated with ourselves.
s Then there are times when we’re ‘on-song’ and truly everything happens with the least effort. Luck is on our side it appears. Or perhaps we’re not trying so hard and things are happening more naturally. We’ve adhered to the timing of our God. We’ve achieved balance. Our lives are a symphony. Imagine the inner workings of our body’s. Now that’s a symphony! The machinery of each cell -- billions of them -- functioning to the beat of our life force. There’s a miracle of science right there! Testimony to intelligent design.
s It bodes us well to adhere to the Master’s design and get in rhythm. When aligning with the stroke of the Master of life, we get this blessed feeling of joy and peace that flows outwardly to our world. And nothing could contain this love.
Do you ever sing and analyse the meaning of the words that are uttered under your best singing voice? I do. Recently I did this whilst singing “I love You, Lord” at church and found cause for complaint regarding the theology of the song... now it’s true I concede, most worship songs falter somewhat on theology.
s What I then did was invest some time in coming to know the origins of this song and found some empathy in my heart for Laurie Klein, who at that time in 1974, was living in poverty with her husband and a toddler whilst he studied full-time in College. Initially I was negative about the song, theologically, on about three points; it’s amazing how concessions are made in our hearts when we learn of the difficulties people have. That’s compassion I guess.
s I learned that this song was written on Laurie’s heart as she sung it; perhaps on one of the darkest and most depressing mornings she’d known. She needed God at this point, really needed him. The first half of the song came straight away.
s I love You Lord
and I lift my voice
To worship You
O my soul, rejoice!
s She stopped long enough to get a pen to record the words for the second stanza.
s Take joy, my King
in what you hear
May it be a sweet, sweet sound
in Your ear.
s The song’s been very successful having been recorded 60 to 70 times since Jack Hayford first used it. I sometimes find that Christian worship songs are worded in ways that portray us as perfect disciples and that troubles me. “I exalt you,” I have problems with. Merriam-Webster has it as follows: Exalt:
s God lifts us, do we lift him? Perhaps we give him a place in our hearts. Is that lifting him up? I think he’s up in any event. ‘To raise in rank, power or character.’ That is theologically flawed I think. About the only thing we can do is exalt him in our hearts; not exalt him, period. By bearing him a place we lift him personally above the cares of the world. And perhaps this is what Laurie Klein meant.
s ‘Take joy my king,’ and so on, for me, asks the King to find joy in our praise. Yet he takes joy only when there’s a desire in our hearts to truly be one with him, in thought and purpose. He takes no joy in the sacrifice of our worship, only in its sincereness. We can add nothing to him but our devotedness.
s I guess what I learned overall though is this song has captured the heart of millions of Christian worshippers around the world over the past thirty plus years, and perhaps God has blessed the perfectness of intention that Laurie Klein gave to it.
The 2006 Walt Disney classic "Invincible" starring Mark Wahlberg showcases a truly inspirational sporting story based on Vince Papale’s rise to pro-football team the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976, as a bar-tending 30-year-old who had never played College football.
s The movie portrays Papale as a down-on-his-luck teacher from South Philly and regular at “Max’s,” the bar he tends at. He is depicted as a humble, persistent, and eventually overcoming battler. He is shown to impress at an open team try-out, then survives the initial cuts at his first days at training camp, before going through (and surviving) pre-season then regular season games. He faced ridicule and opposition from his eventual teammates as someone too old, who was ‘from the wrong neighbourhood,’ i.e. not drafted into the NFL, breaking in on their territory.
s Vince’s story is one of a rank underdog who becomes a ‘fighting dog’ on the way to achieving ‘top dog’ status (as he puts it in his own words -- see footnote 2). He never quits; he simply persists. He shows great faith -- which is by definition: “Being sure of what [he hoped] for and certain of what [he did] not [yet] see.” He acted as if making the team would actually happen though he never vocalised this during the movie -- his actions speak more profoundly than his words do.
s The humility shown by Wahlberg as Papale is striking; he’s always quiet, unassuming, and generally thinking not of himself and his own physical pain, not to mention the pain of rejection from his teammates and friend Johnny. He also shows a quiet, restrained empathy with his coach Dick Vermeil (played by Greg Kinnear) who’s depicted as taking a huge risk on him.
s Humility is one genuine quality of the great; them that will not break faith on account of themselves. Humility is base selflessness, and "Invincible" viz Papale reeks of humility.
s A motivational speaker in real life, Vince is also a colorectal cancer survivor and considers himself blessed to have had the ‘second chance’ at life -- his past five years have been a God-send. This is what he says about it:
s “Invincible is not my story, it really isn’t... Invincible is about anybody... Invincible is about anybody who had a dream; Invincible is about anybody who had a goal; Invincible is about anybody who was told they weren’t good enough, that they didn’t have the right resume, that they didn’t come from the right neighbourhood, they were too young, they were too old... it’s never been done before... you don’t have the right pedigree... you grew up in the wrong neighbourhood... Invincible is about anybody that was told that they ‘couldn’t’... Invincible is about an underdog... who becomes top dog.”
s So it is with any and all of us. We have the basically the same opportunities as anyone else. It’s the character we bring to these opportunities that defines us, maximising our talents. One could imagine more skilled players than Vince being cut from the Eagles because they didn’t have the heart commitment required -- which equals ‘regret’ in my book -- later in life, who wants to have the pangs of regret hanging over them? What separated them from Vince is pride.
s Pride is injured when we fail. In sport, we don’t get the luxury of wallowing in the pride of failure -- we do that to our peril. Success ebbs away when we hang our heads after dropping the ball. (Is it different in any other area of life?)
s Instead, humility is about getting up again right away after failure... it’s a rejection of our feelings and an act of will toward a goal beyond our own selfishness. (It seems illogical to think and act this way at the time; paradoxically, it’s clearly profoundly logical.) This is no easy thing to learn, and it seems we have many opportunities in life to learn and re-learn this. When we fail and fall, we must get right up again, resisting the temptation to wallow.
s Invincible is a great true story of a man overcoming incredible odds, showing that if it were possible for him, it is possible also for us.
Captain Rectitude (a Marvel comic character) was transformed into a super-being by the fictitious American Purity Foundation and his tunic features a purple love heart on it as a sign toward acting for good. Apparently of Jewish faith, and an alter ego of Bob Jones IV, this figure that lifts at least 90-tons and flies under his own steam, could only stand for righteousness (which is what all supposed super-heroes do in any event?!) if he were true to his name.
s In reference to: Balthasar Gracian’s Aphorism #116 -- Only act with honourable men -- "Never have [anything] to do with such (dishonourable) men, for if honour does not restrain a man, virtue will not, since honour is the throne of rectitude."
s Breaking down wisdom teaching is the key to its installation within our characters; its distillation through our souls.
s Honour is the throne of rectitude:
s Rectitude :- 1: the quality or state of being straight 2: moral integrity : righteousness 3: the quality or state of being correct in judgment or procedure. Again, others describe this virtue as: Rightness of principle or practice; exact conformity to truth, or to the rules prescribed for moral conduct, either by divine or human laws; uprightness of mind; uprightness; integrity; honesty; justice. There is also a state of certitude, as baseness of certainty of being or acting, within the posture of rectitude.
s I would personally describe rectitude as a quality of the principle value of respect. (The system of principle values I propose comprises seven: diligence, prudence, shalom, balance, trust, respect, and wisdom. None of these is mutually exclusive however and rectitude would also interlace, for instance, with diligence and wisdom.)
s When we have this quality of rectitude fitted consistently to our character’s there is honour because honour is its basis i.e. the throne of rectitude. Honour is restraint. It’s therefore love; it’s refusing to act unless for good. The honourable person will “keep their oaths even when it hurts.”
s Trust is obviously involved. We trust well when there’s surety and that sense of an underpinning faithfulness in another’s character; there’s a mirror reflection in the interaction too back to ourselves -- how steadfastly faithful are we? Mutual trust is the key to the reciprocity of honour.
s There’s a key challenge in all this. How many people of true honour are there? How many are there in our circle of influence? How many of our friends and acquaintances would we consider ‘honourable’? (Humour is a test: One of the hardest things I find is not laughing at vulgar humour -- challenging respectfully those otherwise honourable individuals who falter by virtue of their taste in jokes -- I do not want to laugh at crude, insensitive gags, yet I do at times because I daren’t risk offense. [A case of personal dissonance over love (covering the offense) vs. justice tussle perhaps.])
s Finally, what would we need to do to ‘grow’ the capacities of love, honour, and rectitude (in short, respect) in those we associate with? Wouldn’t it start at home i.e. with us, as intimated above? I think so.
s Honour is the throne of rectitude -- best we practice this unyielding, unrelenting form of respect, which is but founded in the truest heart of love and faithfulness that would go the extra mile or two (or however many) to honour another.
s  Source: http://www.comicbookreligion.com/char?ID=490&Captain%20Rectitude%20(Bob%20Jones%20IV).  Source: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/CaptainRectitude.html  Full Aphorism: ACT ONLY WITH HONOURABLE MEN: You can trust them and they you. Their honour is the best surety of their behaviour even in misunderstandings, for they always act having regard to what they are. Hence ’tis better to have a dispute with honourable people than to have a victory over dishonourable ones. You cannot treat with the ruined, for they have no hostages for rectitude. With them there is no true friendship, and their agreements are not binding, however stringent they may appear, because they have no feeling of honour. Never have to do with such men, for if honour does not restrain a man, virtue will not, since honour is the throne of rectitude.  Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rectitude.  Source: http://www.brainyquote.com/words/re/rectitude210935.html.  See Psalm 15:4 (TNIV) – in reference to the Septuagint (Greek OT) and others in favour of the Masoretic Text (Hebrew OT) as it is questionable according to Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation and Commentary (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2007).
God in skin... This is how Sy Rogers would describe our purpose in serving God; to be as much as we can, God in skin, the personification of God, His character and approach to life - not sprouting Bible verses and frowning upon the pagans, but making a real difference in lives, acting in love and freed from the shackles of fear.
s Sy's seminar was rich with God's everlasting truth, the latest scientific facts, a cogently real worldview, and an abundance of spiritual inspiration.
s I want to focus on the following critical issues:
s Jesus must be Lord of our sexual lives! By saying this, Sy means that when He is Lord, Jesus' love is enough for us not to look to false, reinforced and well-learned and worldly patterns of behaviour. He makes no apologies for the well established Christian values, like no sex before marriage but he tells us we must be more dynamic in our approach, not simply resting on the standard Christian parental lecture. We are to have a full appreciation of all the (9) factors that come into play. For instance, we must be fully aware that when a young couple come together, they must understand the powerful forces at play to tempt them into sexual sin. When they employ the principle of delayed gratification, however, choosing Jesus as the Lord of their sexual lives, so much more of God's available blessing will be made known to them, at the right time. The message: We must not covet something that God has not already chosen to give us!
s 'God gives better bread!' This is an awesome nugget of truth. Whilst sin does give us 'bread', it is temporary and always brings pain. In Sy's experience having lived a life in what he termed as so sadly typical of thousands or even millions of others, that you 'can be re-railed' in choosing God as the lover of your soul. We must endeavour to 'paint a more redemptive picture of God', indeed, we must learn to 'run to Him.'
s God's bread is so much better and fulfilling than that of any of the world's bread, but if you said this to anyone deeply rooted in the world they would think you were mad. Is God acceptable of the repentant sinner or not? We erroneously think He is pious and non-approving of us; He just wishes us to love him so He can help us! He provides way better bread!
s 'Scars are evidence of mending' - it is blatantly obvious that one cannot be healed if one has never actually been scarred! Though, who among us is actually un-scarred? We all require healing and listening to Sy he is evidence that only God can heal completely. Only the love of Christ can do this, but the scars that carry on throughout the rest of our lives are a celebration, a testament, to the God-anointed healing that has occurred and continues to show itself over and over again!
s 'Don't keep the secret with Satan' - this propels us toward the fact that the 'you tell on it (the sin) or it will tell on you!' philosophy actually works in life and describes the theory that all sin catches up with us eventually. It always does! Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10, fear of the Lord is what? - The beginning of understanding and wisdom. To be wise is to be obedient to the Lord, to revere Him by loving Him is the ultimate protection, that even if we fall a little, we must confess and repent! It is best to be always repentant.
s 'Jesus is all you need!' This is how to evangelise, right? WRONG!! So wrong... we are encouraged by Sy to be God in skin again. Sy illustrated this point by explaining how a pastor friend visited a couple grieving the loss of a family member. They don't necessarily want a Biblical answer to comfort them as much as an arm around them a willingness to share in their sorrow (mourn with those who mourn). We know this is not the answer for every given situation but it is the Spirit of God that dictates our heart response in the given situation, not some cold way of evangelizing which is classically de-void of love! We are to be real people to those we serve, God's anointed and appointed and indeed share our lives with those we serve (1 Thess. 2:8).
s Sy's advice is full of practicality. He says 'God motivates - we re-train'... like how? First we must 'know the equipment we are dealing with!' This human brain of ours processes information at an incredible speed of between 1250-3000 words per minute -- far quicker than we can cogitate! No wonder we react to certain situations (stimuli) at almost the speed of light! When our 'button is pushed' the locked in patterns of response dictate our reaction automatically.
s Sy advocates the 'however highway' of the mind. This recognizes a different, healthier response is possible, through the re-training of the mind... and praise God that He will give us plenty of practice opportunities to develop a 'deep ditch' of programmed behaviour (this is ironically a somewhat sarcastic comment -- because we know when we are re-training our minds there is a lot of discipline required -- it is true that God will give us plenty of opportunity through testing (James 1:12) to bed in the new pattern of behaviour.) His key to this is to 'not deny how you feel...' it feels uncomfortable, painful, awkward... but 'embrace it with the Lord!'
s In paraphrasing Dr. Amen, Sy succinctly says 'change your brain, change your life.' Again, there is no better way to replace an old and ugly sinful habit than with a much more powerful and stronger, healthier habit. The 'however highway' in the mind can be used to substitute a sinful habit or behaviour with a more powerful, healthy behaviour - a road to blessing!
s Sy's theory of the nine (9) factors that go into determining the depth of estrangement/healing in life are split into three areas: the Biological, the Emotional/Relational, and the Spiritual. The reason why most churches and ministries fail believers, in responding to the issue of dealing with sexual sin, is they often only tackle one or two areas of the nine that Sy advocates. Clearly, we need to be so much more cognisant of the multi-faceted nature of the causes of this type of sin!
s At the core of one's ability to resist sin, says Sy, is the place the person is at as far as how mature and secure (in their own skin) they are.
s I found Sy a complete breath of fresh air in evangelising in a truthful and practical way. One thing that reduces our credibility is the jargon we use. Sy encourages us to get real on the way we speak of God.
s Other things Sy said... - 'We are born with an 'empty cup' but we're full of potential...' - 'Accountability is love... is proof of love' - Much of the modern world is like 'Sodom with electricity.' - Be deliberate about the process of mentoring and discipling in same gender groups. - Resist Satan by obeying God - crucify the flesh!
s (Words/phrases in quotation marks (and inspiration) are direct from Sy Rogers on July 20, 2005 at the Baptist Theological College of Western Australia (now Vose Seminary) before ~50 students and faculty.)
It starts the moment we first take breath, breaking free of the womb, and ends with a lurch when the final breath is taken -- if we die that type of death. All through the journey of life we struggle and strive for freedom. No matter how hemmed in we may feel, we tend toward it unless we’re temporary dispirited by despair (most depressions are temporary). How we tend toward freedom varies with intensity of passion at the various junctures of life. Life is characterised by this very struggle and we all identify with it; it is fundamental to life as humans know it.
s Yet the meaning of life is paradoxical to freedom. The direct contrast of freedom is captivity; confinement to the human condition. “Suffering is the price we pay for being alive.” We don’t know a single day that doesn’t bring with it pain, discomfort, trials, and in a sense, torment. This paradox is the crux of the issue of the meaning to life in a nutshell; but how do we rationalise and implement living strategies that pay suitable credence to this ‘fact of life’ and in this sense, find joy?
s Hold point: must people get stuck on the ‘God question’ when it gets to suffering. How could an all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing God allow such universal and ramificable suffering in the world? Such a vexing question is not easily explained except through the eyes of faith -- and yet not all see. Those with eyes to see may read explanation through the following points.
s We learn through our suffering. Whether this is the strengthening of our characters, such as persevering through tough physical conditions or psychologically-testing times, or the learning of other mental schemas toward life (i.e. wisdom living strategies) via observation of others, or learning one’s own lessons, we do learn from hard times. And this is suffering’s purpose. Pathemata mathemata is an ancient Greek saying meaning, “Suffering is education.” It makes us more compassionate and creative in the world. Our best growth and best accomplishments come at times, amazingly, when we are most pressed. We become softer and more useable, getting a glimpse from God’s truest standpoint. Sadly, from God’s viewpoint, these times of significant suffering and growth come only in patches through life, and are never of our choosing -- at most other stages we stagnate, though the least to the most pious of us would be loath to admit it.
s Unaccounted freedom is basely a folly. When we insist on our freedom, it is an ironical twist that we essentially become a slave to the search for it. What brings us joy momentarily from the world ends up becoming a snare; ask any ‘recreational’ drug-user turned addict. It’s as powerful and true as the law of cause and effect. The moment we believe to the contrary is the moment we’re destined for the pit.
s A very real version of unaccounted freedom is laziness or a sort of supreme comfort; it robs us of the drive to contend, and the passion of purpose to achieve that which is potentially and truly remarkable. It reduces our creativity of imagination to that of the proverbial mustard seed -- the implosion of the famous parable. We are but a sad and puny reflection of our intended self. This is the dungeon experience of the human soul. The result is we loath ourselves without ever realising it or why -- we can’t stand being bored and we require to be entertained. And this is when we are most pre-disposed to the folly of complaint. We begin to see nothing good, only the negative -- the foundational fact is there’s always the negative (as there is always also the positive). We are no longer thankful for the countless, wondrous blessings that pervade our lives. And perhaps worst of all, we begin seeing only the lies of life and never the truth; again, both are visible -- it depends on our point of view. We are rancorous to be around and we bring cursing into our own lives and those of our dear-ones. This is all because we insisted on our ‘freedom,’ the ultimate in idolatry and therefore Godlessness.
s We can see from above that the ultimate in comfort brings us nothing but a curse; neutrality that stands for, and creates, nothing. Yet, despite this, what remains is still inherent to our nature; the search for freedom. We are thus “condemned to freedom,” another fascinating but perplexing absurdity. Truth is abstract. It is not an easy thing to live the free life or even attain it.
s A fundamental departure from seeking ‘freedom at all costs’ is the realisation of our existence in something bigger than ourselves -- existence in the realm of a higher power. We and our “moral actions or material prosperity” are not the end in themselves they used to be. They do not define our existence, and we are not rulers of our own destiny. ‘Belief’ doesn’t continue to believe in these lies. It rather comes prepared to cooperate with God’s full and perfect will -- the carrying and bearing of one’s own cross -- the complete opposite of ‘freedom at all costs,’ toward an acceptance of self in the midst of creation and time.
s It recognises and accepts the ‘tragedy’ of a destiny of “our powerlessness to change things.” In the midst of incredible technological advances, suffering continues relentlessly in the plan of life, much to our chagrin and frustration when viewed without a sense of ‘believing’ faith mentioned above. Our faith is a daily walk of commitment -- it’s surrendered in the blink of an eye. We must accept the ‘tragedy’ for what it is every day.
s At the end of the day there seems to be much we Westerners can learn from less privileged cultures. We who “enjoy standards of living that are astonishing by other standards… [and generally] suffer less than anyone else” tend to make more of our meagre issues than the truly maligned, and blame God to boot! (Complaint might as well be a direct imprecation of God.)
s It is part of life to accept we are not in control. The earlier we embrace this truth the better it is for us. Is it not human to be frail and limited in our capacities? In this way, suffering -- being inevitable -- gives us the ability to minimise its affect on us. This way we are not trumped in the false optimism of fate. We instead opt for a more realistic ‘pessimistic optimism’ based in our acceptance of God, the world, and our place with both.
s This is a true freedom. It intuits joy based in the awareness and acceptance of truth (... and the ‘abstractness’ of truth!). Joy like this comes from thankfulness, the parent of all virtues. This freedom to thank in all circumstances is entirely congruent with gospel truth. Joy like this brings abundant life that stands up like none other.
s  Alister E. McGrath, The Price of Life in Suicide: A Christian Response, eds., T.J. Demy & G.P. Stewart, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1998), p. 141.  Alister E. McGrath, The Price of Life, p. 141.  See Mark 4:30-32.  In McGrath, perceptive existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy on the human condition in three words.  Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2001), p. 190.  Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1981), p. 154.  See Matthew 10:38 or Luke 9:23.  Alister E. McGrath, The Price of Life, p. 143.  Alister E. McGrath, The Price of Life, p. 144. McGrath cites Pelagianism (the movement) as an example of a false view of society that control exists within humanity, including relations with God.  Paraphrasing Cicero.  See for example James 1:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; and, Philippians 4:6.  See John 10:10.
Have you ever thought much about the purpose of your life? (The message to the meaning of life is more urgent than I first thought.)
s It is to reconcile the inner discord within every single one of us. Most of us are actually somewhat blind to this. We search for peace almost everywhere but often miss the actual source.
s It’s about God. It’s about relationship. It’s about growing passionately toward God, worshipping Him via the things we think, say and do -- a commitment for the rest of our lives. At its essence, this involves a continual process of learning.
My key passion is upholding a vision of life balance and re-creation of value for living, and an exploration of the spiritual person within us. As an advocate for a fair, right and just life, I have a passion for Biblical wisdom, including the Psalms.