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Vying for Authority

Disregarding God

I have recently happened upon two things. Both are unsettling and both, in some sense, disregard the authority of Scripture. One, in looking to preserve the authority of scripture takes an extreme in which an attempt is made to confine the work of the Spirit among us. The other simply embraces a blatant disregard for the sanctity of God’s word to us in the Bible. I’ve wrestled with how or if I should share these thoughts. I offer them here for discussion and to spur us on toward respect for the voice of God – both that revealed to us in Scripture and that to which we ought remain attentive each new day.

Better Bible

As a developer, I have found my way onto Github, a collaborative document storehouse with revision control. Recently, I stumbled upon the Better Bible. According to some, it seems the message we have received from God is boring, inaccurate, and archaic. And so, in true human fashion, it’s been decided that we ought to be and act as our own gods. Individuals have been invited to collaboratively rewrite and/or fork personal versions of the Bible. From the page itself:

Here are the goals of the BetterBible project:

  1. Fix errors — Where the Bible makes obvious mistakes, let’s fix them.
  2. Inject humor — The Bible can be a dry read and could do with some humor.
  3. Modernize — Make it something that we can relate to. Jesus didn’t address a topic? Well in this version, he can.
  4. Clarify — The verses about homosexuals are apparently important and relevant today. Not so much the ones about shellfish and mixed fabrics. Let’s not leave these things up to interpretation.
  5. Blaspheme — Because none of the above would be very fun if we didn’t.

This grieves me and I pray that the word of God may go out in power and in truth.

A Spirit Constrained

As an active member of a congregation affiliated with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, I am dismayed – disturbed even – by recent decisions and determinations that are being made by the leadership of the Synod.

I recently received emails directing me to CCM (Commission on Constitutional Matters) Opinion 14-2724 regarding Bylaw 3.8.3. This document seeks to bring clarity to amendments that have been recently made to the bylaws of the Synod’s constitution. With a small sampling of 39 entries, the document currently has a rating of 2.08/5.00. (You can read and rate it yourself via the above link.)

In essence, their interpretation of these bylaws affirms that congregations (and other entities with a formal connection to the Synod) must acquire Synod approval for any and all involvement in foreign mission work. Whether giving of time (specifically that of officially called church workers) or of money, no thing should be utilized for the work of the Gospel in a “foreign” field without the synods say-so. Such is my understanding.

In an effort to preserve the sanctity of scripture and ensure that Christians faithfully live in accordance with some codified law, the church has overstepped bounds of authority. When God says “Go!”, who are we to say “But not just yet!”? When God says “Speak.”, who are we to say “Oh, but only to these people.”? And, when God says “Give.”, who are we to say “Only to those worthy.”?

There is most definitely a place for collective discerment and accountability, but we must remain open to God working as He will. I read this over the weekend.

Oswald Chambers
Do not look for God to come in any particular way, but look for Him. That is the way to make room for Him. Expect Him to come, but do not expect Him only in a certain way.

One will not effectively build Concord within the Church by erecting fences to contain the flock, nor by chaining the wayward. It is through Godly teaching, edification, and encouragement that we will find ourselves together under the Word of God to the glory of His name among the nations. Let us not shackle His spirit.

A Humble Way

There is a better way. Jesus, He who has all authority on heaven and on earth shows us a way of humility – a way of laying down, of sacrifice and of surrender. Such a way is so foreign to our tainted human hearts. May we, through the power of God and through devotion and prayer, find ourselves living as faithful citizens of God’s kingdom. When He speaks, let’s listen, for all authority belongs to Him alone.

Hello Old Friends!

Seeking Counsel

I’ve found that with the itinerant life I lived for 15 years or so, it can often be difficult to connect and secure counsel from close friends. I’m attempting to map the past years, better grasp my current position, and seek clarity for what might stretch ahead. I’d greatly appreciate your assistance.

We have begun to meet on Monday nights with a group of ~12 individuals interested in service with the Prayer League. Some of us currently serve as missionaries, some are candidates, and others are in the beginning stages of inquiry. We gather for soup supper and a discussion that revolves around our reading of MissionSmart – a book promoting missionary preparedness.

This week, we took a look at our skillsets and the gifts that we have to offer the kingdom. In reading this chapter, I realized that it has been quite some time since I have stopped to evaluate such things. I thought back over the many various places that I have worked and the countless people with whom I have served. It became evident that there are certain skills and talents which have long lain dormant.

Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

I also realized that most any tool I’ve ever seen for evaluating such things are self-assessments, self-evaluations, self-tests. It is true that many jobs have regular performance assessments, but those have been far and few between for me and even those give only a limited assessment – most often focused on the specific work with which you might currently be engaged. Rarely, unless, we intentionally seek the counsel of our friends and family, can we position an understanding of ourselves that is founded upon the understanding that others have of us. And, as the verse above states, a one-legged chair won’t stand all that well.

I would love to sit with each of you in conversation over a cup of coffee or tea, but that is probably not going to happen for most of us. I’m in Minnesota. You are probaly not. So, in a swift effort at gathering some friendly counsel, I put together this form – hoping to crowd-source an assessment of my self. If you’ve worked or lived alongside me for any length of time, would you mind giving a few minutes to offer your thoughts? I’d be much appreciative. Just trying to get a better handle on what might be next for me and our family.

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Thank you!

Counsel Me, Please.

(optional)
(optional)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
At what level was my spirituality driven by the following types?0: Not so much • 10: Very much so
0
Connected to God primarily through the reading, study and meditation on God’s word. Drawn to the stories and information found in the scriptures and the Truth they reveal about the person of Jesus Christ. Desired to share the truth of God’s word and message of love with others in an orderly and logical manner. Prayer is guided and informed by Scripture.
0
Connected to God primarily through the experience of God through worship, music, and prayer. Stirred at a deep emotional level, experiencing a sense of the presence of God’s Spirit, and relating to the humanity of Jesus Christ. Desire to lead others into an experience of God and God’s presence. Prayer is a deeply emotive experience.
0
Connected to God primarily through silence and contemplative disciplines. Viewed God as greater than can be grasped by the mind and found a deep connection by seeking silence and a measure of solitude to simply be with God. Desired to lead others into the mystery that is God. Silence is prayer.
0
Connected to God primarily through serving others. Saw God as active in helping the poor, the mistreated and the disadvantaged and wanted to participate with God to change the world. Desired to lead others into an experience of God by participating in God’s work in the world. Service is prayer.
Descriptions are from http://www.hixsonumc.org/pages/Spiritual-Types/
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(select a few)
Skill in exercising this gift.5: Moderate • 10: Proficient
twitter-facebook

How I Will Tweet in 2015

I first joined Twitter in June 2012 and I don’t think I’ve yet left the nest.

I can’t remember why I first joined. I think it was because I knew my work at WMPL would require a personal presence on the platform. Like any novice to a social site, my first year was littered with great stretches of inactivity. My first username was @Ua_MV because @UaMV was taken. At some point during that first year, an oddity and improbability happened – that user modified their handle and my online moniker of @UaMV was freed for the taking.

I didn’t begin grasping the value of Twitter until after months of toying with management of the @prayerleague account. Now, over two years later, I may have my flying wings. There are loads of articles out there on Twitter how-tos, dos & donts, guidebooks and such. Here I intend to share only a single point regarding my philosophy on Twitter use and how I intend to Tweet in 2015 and beyond.

Twitter Is Invading My Feed!

If you’re into Twitter, you may have heard the recent fuss about how Twitter may soon be implementing algorithms for the content pushed to a user’s feed. Additionally, they have begun serving up your follower’s favorited Tweets. Many people (especially at the outset) were resistant to this change. Even I was less than pleased about this invasiveness on Twitter’s part and replied to a few of these favorited Tweets with something like …

I thought maybe the hashtag would catch on, Twitter would take notice, and the algorithms would be out the window. It didn’t, they didn’t, and it is probably inevitable that additional curated content algorithms will have a hand in user’s feeds.

However, after further consideration of Twitter’s move to serve me my follower’s favorited Tweets, I came around. The move would be a good one for Twitter. They have even stated their own reasons for this change. Personally, I think it’ll encourage curated content and closer-knit collectives and will be doing just this very thing for me in 2015. This is how …

Twitter’s Favorite ≠ Facebook’s Like

I’ve shifted my perspective on what it means to favorite a Tweet. I don’t think Twitter’s favoriting feature was ever intended to serve the same purposes as Facebook’s like feature. I could be wrong. People have written on the origin of the fave and the various ways in which it’s employed today. Here’s my new take on what it means to favorite a Tweet.

I have begun to think that a favorites feed should serve as one’s own personal library of Tweets. You read books and then place them on a shelf. Your personal library is a collection of books that you have found to hold value or books you may wish to read again later. If a friend stops by, they can peruse your bookshelves, pluck a volume from its place and enjoy what it might have to offer. Your library tells a story about who you are. If someone were to ever drop by my profile’s favorite feed, they should be offered a decent glimpse of me and the things I value. This is how I intend to build my favorites feed.

In 2015, I resolve to stop using a favorite as a simple acknowledgment or an affirmation. Such favoriting would continue to produce an endless feed of messages like this …

I would rather encounter a rich library of resources, good reads, and inspirational thoughts and I think you would, too.

Is Tweeting for the Birds?

At the end of the day, who knows whether I have a better grasp on this little corner of the social media landscape. I like to think it offers me some significant benefit relationally, spiritually, and professionally. However, I expect that I might ultimately find, as I have with Facebook, that the virtual life is but a weak substitute for reality. And, someday, I may join the ranks of those who have walked away. Even so, I hold that there is some hope for these communities being daily forged online. For now, I’ll do my part to conserve some unspoilt nature in this virtuworld. Care to join me?

How the Sun Was Brough Back to the Sky Cover

How a Book Was Brought Back to My Memory

I’m not quite certain how or why the memory of this book came to mind over the past weeks, but I am most pleased that it has. During a recent Twitter conversation, I was asked for children’s book suggestions and it again entered my mind. I do know that the memory came only as a hazy recollection of the cover image. I had to reach out to mom, dad, and my siblings in order to dig up the title. So thankful we recalled it!

I ordered a used copy on Amazon, which arrived early this week. Adapted from a Slovenian folk tale, the story has beauty, simplicity, and deep lessons for life. One evening, Aelah asked that I read it three times straight. I hope she continues to enjoy it just as much as I did and still do. And, I hope you, too, appreciate this reading of How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky by Mirra Ginsburg.

Have you read this book before? I’d love to hear your memories. Also, it’d be great to track down the Slovenian folk tale from which it was adapted, but I have been unable to do so, as of yet. If you know or happen upon it, please share.

Navigating Decisions With Spiritual Discernment

Have you ever read an article that just stuck? Years ago, while working at Camp Lutherhaven, I was introduced to Discipleship Journal, a now retired NavPress publication. In one issue, there was an article about the voice of God and how we can best tune our ear to hear Him. After having read the article, I jotted the following notes & quote and tucked them in my Bible. I don’t remember much else from that piece, but I would happen upon this folded sheet of paper from time to time.

List of versesWithin the past two years, or so, it found its way out of my Bible and has been lost a time or two. A portion of the sheet has now been ripped away – in order, I suppose, to serve some small purpose of its own. The remnants continue to wear. I thought that before it is lost again or wears away to nothing, I ought to share it here. I hope you benefit.

The following table was presented by the author. He suggested that when weighing a decision, one should consider and pray over these things. And, if a course of action would do well in leading you from the ungodly to the Godly, it may well be pursued. In this way, we can modeestly map and navigate what God might will for us in each situation and in each choice that confronts us.

Verse From To
Matthew 6:33 self-absorption concern for God’s kingdom
1 Samuel 15:19-22 defiance submission
Jeremiah 17:5-8 self-reliance God-reliance
Matthew 25:14-30 squandering resources stewarding them
Luke 17:11-19 expecting & taking for granted accepting & gratitude
2 Peter 1:3-8 spiritual indifference spiritual growth & vitality
1 Samuel 16:7 concern with externals concern for character
Romans 12:1-2 conformity with the culture conformity to God
Philippians 2:3-4 concern for self concern for others
Mark 10:42-45 lording over others serving others
James 3:13-17 quarreling cooperation
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 independence community
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 envy, competition, self-protection love
Ephesians 4:32-5:2 harboring hurt & resentment extending forgiveness & seeking reconciliation

I can’t remember the author of this article. If you know, I’d let m know so that I can give proper attribution. I did take note of the following quotations from Roc Bottomly (who may well be the author of the full article).

If we could mark with a yellow highlighter the messages from God that cross our minds, we’d see yellow daily.

It’s easy to forget that when two of us are talking there are three in the room and it’s that third person’s voice that we most need to hear. We need to keep one ear tuned to God while we listen to the person with the other. Sometimes, we both need to stop talking and listen to God.

Oh, that we might listen. Still our hearts, Lord. Lay us bare before Your grace and love. Turn our desire toward You. It is so easy to numb ourselves amidst the onslaught of this worlds offerings. It is too tempting to embrace the machinations of our own minds. Soften us. Set us right. Lift Your voice just enough to gather our attentions again. And then, whisper the wind and send Your word as mist among us – resfreshing our weary souls.

Reflect On the above passages
Praise God that His word is full or grace and truth
Offer Thanks for His messages we might highlight yellow
Confess those times when you may have stopped up your ears
Ask God to pluck you from the madness of daily life into a rhythm of rest
to tune your ear to that third voice in every conversation
 Comment Can you think of other items that might be added to this list?
What decisions are you facing that could benefit from a new perspective?

 

How I Plan to Check My Email

In the days leading up to 2015, I undertook a massive overhaul of my email and task management. I’ve already begun to see returns.

Previously

Since beginning work at the Prayer League, I had been using a single Gmail account to manage both personal and work messages. Three active accounts were being funneled into a single inbox. Messages sent to my two work addresses were then auto-tagged as WMPL and removed from my personal inbox. I also used Gmail’s priority inbox with sections for Unread, Starred, and Everything Else to offer some semblance of organization from which I rarely benefited. My todo list was little more than a mess of scattered emails that had been flagged. Messages were easily left untended and tasks were neglected.

Email Field Guide

Over break, I read through an Email Field Guide by @MacSparky that offered some excellent suggestions on managing email. In a section titled, Your Inbox Is Not Your Task List he presents the following metaphor.

Imagine that mailbox outside your house. There is a pretty simple workflow involved with paper mail. A very nice postal worker arrives at your abode and crams lots and lots of paper into a little box. You then fetch the paper and sort through it. You throw some of it away. You read some. You may even scan some and keep it for later.

The one thing you are not going to do is walk out to your mailbox, look through your mail, and then stuff it all back in your mailbox, wishing the postal worker luck getting tomorrow’s load into the already full box. That would be crazy.

Nevertheless, crazy is what a lot of us do every day.

Yes, I have long been guilty of this very thing. It was time to figure something new.

Moving Forward

First, I attempted to determine which tools would best serve my needs. I settled on:

Evernote cloudmagic qs_postboxPostbox • An OSX email client
CloudMagic • An iOS email client
Evernote • For note-taking & task list

Both email clients integrate very well with Evernote, allowing me to effortlessly save messages as todo list items. I can then easily keep my inbox clean and my todo list orderly and accessible. After having these tools in place and connecting my various email accounts, I spent a good number of hours purging emails both from my inbox and from my archives. I even went so far as to migrate messages from my personal Gmail back to their corresponding accounts. Currently, the inbox of two accounts sits at zero messages! I intend to keep it that way.

The field guide also suggested that, in addition to your inbox, sent, drafts, and trash folder, you utilize only one additional folder – an Action folder. This will serve as temporary housing for messages that I know need to be acted upon or replied to, but which I can’t immediately do so.

I’ve also set a few filters to better manage some of the incoming mail and have unsubscribed from a number of lists. Finally, and quite significantly, I intend to devote specific time each day to checking mail rather than depending upon notifications, which offer such unwelcome interruptions. All my email notifications have been disabled. (Note: This means you may find me a bit less prompt in responding, but hopefully more dependably so.)

It is a radical shift in perspective, but a generously healthy one. Let’s hope I can keep up the new routine long enough so that it becomes nothing less than my natural workflow.

What do you think? Could you benefit from some sanity when it comes to your email? What simple steps could get you headed in the right direction?