Who can be saved?

A certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. You know the commandments: Don’t commit adultery. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Honor your father and mother.” Then the ruler said, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.” When Jesus heard this, he said, “There’s one more thing. Sell everything you own and distribute the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” When he heard these words, the man became sad because he was extremely rich. When Jesus saw this, he said, “It’s very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom! It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.” Those who heard this said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.” Peter said, “Look, we left everything we own and followed you.” Jesus said to them, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, husband, wife, brothers, sisters, parents, or children because of God’s kingdom will receive many times more in this age and eternal life in the coming age.” (Luke 18:18-30, CEB)

What must I do to obtain eternal life? What is the bare minimum I can do and slip by and have life forever? And what is eternal life? Is that really life that is eternal that starts now, or is it something we wait for that is different than life here?

Jesus gives him 5 of what we know as the 10 commandments and he says he has kept all of these. Then Jesus says sell all you have and distribute the money to those in need. You see it is not about what we have, it is about the greatest commandment, and the second greatest which is like it, love God and love neighbor. If you have an abundance of stuff, you probably love that stuff more than God, and giving away the money is loving those around you. And we have a hard time letting go of what we have. But when we do we will have eternal life, not a life we wait on, but abundant life now!

Loving People. Loving God.

godless myths

If you point these things out to the believers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus who has been trained by the words of faith and the good teaching that you’ve carefully followed. But stay away from the godless myths that are passed down from the older women. Train yourself for a holy life! While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has promise for this life now and the life to come. This saying is reliable and deserves complete acceptance. We work and struggle for this: “Our hope is set on the living God, who is the savior of all people, especially those who believe.” Command these things. Teach them. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and by being sexually pure. Until I arrive, pay attention to public reading, preaching, and teaching. Don’t neglect the spiritual gift in you that was given through prophecy when the elders laid hands on you. Practice these things, and live by them so that your progress will be visible to all. Focus on working on your own development and on what you teach. If you do this, you will save yourself and those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:6-16, CEB)

I was struck by the sentence, “But stay away from the godless myths that are passed down from the older women.”

Timothy though is a book that doesn’t speak highly of women and has the passage that women should be quiet. And as I did research into that sentence I found that there is nothing about women in the original Greek. That verse from the ESV is “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;” Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. That is good advice. Stay away from irreverent, silly myths. Keep your focus on training for holy living, not just physical training but spiritual training. Keep your focus on Jesus.

Practice the things we need to to keep us strong in the faith. Using our spiritual gifts for the better of the world.

Loving People. Loving God.

turn away

I hope to come to you quickly. But I’m writing these things to you so that if I’m delayed, you’ll know how you should behave in God’s household. It is the church of the living God and the backbone and support of the truth. Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory. The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some people will turn away from the faith. They will pay attention to spirits that deceive and to the teaching of demons. They will be controlled by the pretense of lying, and their own consciences will be seared. They will prohibit marriage and eating foods that God created—and he intended them to be accepted with thanksgiving by those who are faithful and have come to know the truth. Everything that has been created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should be rejected. These things are made holy by God’s word and prayer. (1 Timothy 3:14 — 4:5, CEB)

in the latter times, some will turn away from faith and pay attention to spirits that deceive and the teaching of demons. We are seeing this now. As many have in the past. This is not a one time happening, but something that can go on for a long time. We need to focus on where God is calling us to be.

Everything that has been created by God is good and should be accepted with thanksgiving and nothing received with thanksgiving should be rejected. God made it and it is good. We shouldn’t judge it but know it is good and not reject it. If you reject something that God made good says it is not is following after spirits of evil and teaching of demons.

Love the world, because God created it.

Loving People. Loving God.

Planned

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33, CEB)

I think this is interesting because in my years of following God I am sure there was a plan, but I always didn’t know it. And Jesus here is telling the crowds that they need to trust the plan. Because you wouldn’t go to war without figuring out if you can win, and you wouldn’t build a tower unless you knew you could complete it. And Yes I know I can do the things God calls me to even when I wonder how in the world I would ever complete them. But I honestly didn’t know the plan.

We need to let go of everything we know and allow Jesus to guide us as we go. This is unnerving for me and for probably most. Even those of us who do not plan everything like to know at least an outline. But we really don’t get that. That is trust. That is faith.

Step out every day in faith, knowing that Jesus is leading you where you need to go and be and will always be by your side.

Loving People. Loving God.

Peace

“Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-lawPeople’s enemies are members of their own households. “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them. “Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me. Those who receive a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Those who receive a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they are my disciples will certainly be rewarded.” (Matthew 10:34-42, CEB)

When we actually follow Jesus we will have peace, but that peace may be within conflict. Because actually following Jesus could lead to conflict in the family or with friends. We need to make sure our relationship with Jesus is the main relationship in our lives and not allow anything to get in the way of that. That means that conflict could come within groups we are in. We must be ready to state the truth and follow Jesus, even when it means we will cause stress and strife in our earthly relationships.

Know though that the reward we receive will be greater when we faithfully follow after Jesus and take up our cross daily.

Loving People. Loving God.

We are not alone…

Tychicus, our dearly loved brother, faithful minister, and fellow slave in the Lord, will inform you about everything that has happened to me. This is why I sent him to you, so that you’ll know all about us and so he can encourage your hearts. I sent him with Onesimus, our faithful and dearly loved brother, who is one of you. They will let you know about everything here. Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, says hello to you. So does Mark, Barnabas’ cousin (you received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him). Jesus, called Justus, also says hello. These are my only fellow workers for God’s kingdom who are Jewish converts. They have been an encouragement to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, says hello. He’s a slave of Christ Jesus who always wrestles for you in prayers so that you will stand firm and be fully mature and complete in the entire will of God. I can vouch for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas say hello. Say hello to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, along with Nympha and the church that meets in her house. After this letter has been read to you publicly, make sure that the church in Laodicea reads it and that you read the one from Laodicea. And tell Archippus, “See to it that you complete the ministry that you received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:7-17, CEB)

Have you ever felt like you were alone in the world? That you did the work you did all by yourself?

I would have to say honestly, I have been there. It is easy to get caught up in the world around you and lose sight of all of our partners in ministry.

This passage from the epistle to the Colossians reminds us we are not alone. this list of people, who are all working together in the mission of God shows us and reminds us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and we never are alone.

Know you are not alone.

Loving People. Loving God.

Care for others

I think it is also necessary to send Epaphroditus to you. He is my brother, coworker, and fellow soldier; and he is your representative who serves my needs. He misses you all, and he was upset because you heard he was sick. In fact, he was so sick that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him—and not just on him but also on me, because his death would have caused me great sorrow. Therefore, I am sending him immediately so that when you see him again you can be glad and I won’t worry. So welcome him in the Lord with great joy and show great respect for people like him. He risked his life and almost died for the work of Christ, and he did this to make up for the help you couldn’t give me. (Philippians 2:25-30, CEB)

The Philippians were worried about Epaphroditus because he was sick and he was one of them. He went to/with Paul to help Paul. Paul was worried about Epaphroditus and wants him to get to go home also.

There is a lot of care in this passage. Epaphroditus towards Paul and the Philippians, Paul to the Philippians and Epaphroditus and the Philippians to Paul and Epaphroditus. This is a way for us to see that care for others is a part of our work in serving God.

Care for others is a part of who we are as children of God.

Loving People. Loving God.

Excuses

When one of the dinner guests heard Jesus’ remarks, he said to Jesus, “Happy are those who will feast in God’s kingdom.” Jesus replied, “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people. When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, ‘Come! The dinner is now ready.’ One by one, they all began to make excuses. The first one told him, ‘I bought a farm and must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’ The servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.’ The master said to the servant, ‘Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’” (Luke 14:15-24, CEB)

Do you think our excuses are really good enough for God?

When we tell God we can’t make it because I bought a farm, got married, or is that good enough? Will God allow our place to be empty, and what will become of us?

Have you ever wondered what the man who hosted this dinner party do to those who gave an excuse for why they couldn’t come? He gave their space away, but was that all?

And is that why we are motivated, to have a space at the table?

We should want to be at the master’s table. To partake with all the children of God.

We should not serve and love creation to get a place, but because we were served and loved by the master.

Let us not let our lives get in the way of us being beacons of hope for God.

Loving People. Loving God.

What is your hope?

What is my hope for Contemporary Christian Spirituality as a class, my self personally or my ministry?

As I ponder this question, my first thought is why do these three things need to be different? My faith is intertwined in my life that it is hard to look at something I do that isn’t a part of who I am. Yes we need to keep things separated for good boundaries, but there are times when we should embrace the connectedness.

My hope is to get a better understanding of the spiritual side of our religion. Religion is a word that can be both good and bad. And according to Bradley P. Holt we have lost the spiritual in religion and have boiled religion down to the institution. Holt mentions “Baron von Hilgel, an early-twentieth-century scholar who wrote that religion has three dimensions: the intellectual, the institutional, and the mystical.” (Holt, Bradley P. Thirsty for God. p. 14) Holt says that today the mystical is called spiritual and we have lost this aspect of religion and focus only on the institutional. We need to reclaim the intellectual and spiritual aspects so we can have balance to religion.

My hope is I will, through this class, come to a deeper understanding of the spiritual aspects of all of life and dive deeper into the faith I have been gifted by God. This in turn will hopefully help me be a better campus pastor. Able to hear and be with students to help them connect in a deeper way to the spiritual aspects of their lives and thus helping them grow closer to God.

Because to be honest that is my hope every day. That the things I do help those around me know that they are loved by God and seen as they are. That my role as pastor is one of helping people see the love that God has for them and help them see how they are part of the kindom of God. Yes I know I used kindom, instead of kingdom. Kindom is a word floating around in Christian circles that is a substitute for kingdom that refers to the family of God. It is not about God reigning in power, even though God will, it is about us being a part of the family, adopted and loved as children. That is the hope. That we all realize, feel, and see that we belong here. Just as we are.

So I look forward to diving in deeper. To looking at different ways to connect to God and access the spiritual aspect of religion and not just have it be about doctrine and rules. Because religion can and should be so much more than rules we have to follow. It should be about love, because that is what God is. Love.

My hope is we will all learn to be in closer, deeper communion with God and that we will all love as God has and does love us.

That is my hope. For this class. For my ministry. For my life.

Loving People. Loving God.

The beginning of a Contemporary Christian Spirituality Journal

It is interesting to me that 20 years ago I started this blog for a class. It was an independent study that took me to a gathering of 3 different groups of church developers in Orlando. We had to blog about our experiences.

And now today I am starting a journal for one of the classes in my first semester of a Doctor of Ministry program and I thought why not just do this online, so those who read my blog and devotions can just follow along this journey with me.

So this journal is for a class called Contemporary Christian Spirituality and most weeks from now until December 12, 2022 we will have a prompt to write on. The blog posts will be roughly 500 words and may or may not actually include what the prompts are. So if you really want to follow along, I have listed the prompts below.

You can also find all of these posts at this link.

DateSpiritual Journal Assignment for the week (~300 words each assignment for First Professional Students; ~500 words for DMin students)
8/29What is at least one hope you have for this class, personally or for ministry?
9/5 NO CLASS- Labor DayNo spiritual journal assignment for this week  
9/12Discuss your experience today learning about and trying some spiritual practices. What practices made you comfortable or uncomfortable (learning about or practicing), and why? How can you incorporate some of these spiritual practices in your daily life?
9/19How has your understanding of spiritual gifts been expanded? What is one spiritual gift that God has given you to specifically use in your ministry (current or future), and how is it being used/could it be used?
9/26What are your impressions of contemplative practices, such as centering prayer? Would you consider using them regularly in your own spiritual life, or utilizing them in a ministry setting? Why or why not?
10/3Pick 1-2 aspects of simplicity or minimalism that surprised you or shocked you today. How could these aspects affect your relationship with God and your spiritual journey?
10/10 NO CLASS- ULS Reading WeekNo spiritual journal assignment this week
10/17Which Contemporary Christian Spirituality person and their spiritual emphases did you relate to most, and why?
10/24What does liberation look like in your relationship with God and your relationship with others?  
10/31What aspect of the charismatic tradition resonated with you, and how could it continue to be part of your spiritual journey?
11/7Describe an experience of nature in which you felt the presence of God.
11/14How can technology both help and hinder your spirituality?
11/21 NO CLASS- ULS Thanksgiving BreakNo spiritual journal assignment this week
11/28How can spiritual direction and spiritual friendship play a role in your own spiritual journey?
12/5What was one aspect of metta meditation that surprised you? How could you incorporate aspects of it into your own prayer life?
12/12Describe a time you discerned God’s direction for you. How did you know you were on the right track?