Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Surprised by Change" Pt. 1

[I am continuing to journal the study questions from Chapter 2 of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. For some "look ahead" at the book, I have posted the chapter titles at the index link at the bottom.]

Main Questions

Background: The story of "Hank" begins the chapter.
Hank was a cranky guy. He did not smile easily, and when he did, the smile often had a cruel edge to it, coming at someone's expense. He had a knack for discovering islands of bad news in oceans of happiness. He would always find a cloud where others saw a silver lining.

Hank rarely affirmed anyone. He operated on the assumption that if you compliment someone, it might lead to a swelled head, so he worked to make sure everyone stayed humble. His was a ministry of cranial downsizing.

His native tongue was complaint. He carried judgment and disapproval the way a prisoner carries a ball and chain. Although he went to church his whole life, he was never unshackled
The church Hank attended expected Hank to come to church, tithe, affirm certain beliefs, and avoid certain sins. They didn't expect that each year Hank would progressively be transformed to be more like Christ.
  1. Without using a name, how have you been impacted by a "Hank" in your life?

  2. Answer: I haven't been able to think of a "Hank" although I know I have met them. Do I just ignore and blot them out of my memory? Wow

  3. What are some of the possible consequences if we expect people to follow a list of rules and regulations but fail to call them to a life that is becoming more and more like Jesus?

  4. Answer: Jesus cared about our insides more than our outsides - so we are allowing to put on a mask and yet lead an untransformed life. We are also saying that as long as the act and look right - we really do not care what their life is really like; or what their walk with Christ is really like

    [each of us is] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased -- C.S. Lewis
  5. In what ways is this true of your life? [this is about spiritual, and not temporal, issues]

  6. Answer: This is a major issue for me for reasons I have expressed here before. We lose the ability to truly walk in joy with Christ when we step away from Him in disobediance. It is such foolishness to protect parts of our lives that leave us making mud pies alone rather than going on a beach holiday with God.

    James Dunn notes that in the first century A.D. a vast amount of rabbinic writing focused on circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath keeping. This seems odd, because no devout rabbi would have said these matters were at the heart of the Law. They knew its core: 'Hear, 0 Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." So why the focus on these three practices?

    The answer involves what might be called "identity" or "boundary markers." Groups have a tendency to be exclusive. Insiders want to separate themselves from outsiders. So they adopt boundary markers. These are highly visible, relatively superficial practices - matters of vocabulary or dress or style - whose purpose is to distinguish between those inside a group and those who are outside.
    Now, read Matthew 23:1-28

  7. Jesus tells us a great deal about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees
    1. What were some of their boundary markers?
    2. How did Jesus feel about this approach to faith?
    3. What are some examples of how these markers exist today?

  8. Answer:

    Part 1: The pharisees talked the right stuff but didnt do it; made their dress the best; sat in places of honor; sought respectful names; traveled to make disciples; made long prayers; made rules on which types of oaths were binding; tithed; and generally looked good on the outside. All of this while they didnt follow Gods commands themselves; and they were thiefs.

    Part 2: It was the reverse of what it should be. We should "clean the inside of the cup" so that the outside would be clean. We should be righteous and not try to appear righteous.

    Part 3: All of them: dress, avoiding smoking, trying to evangelize while they themselves are living a lie, saying the right things but not doing the right things, etc.

  9. Sometimes our spiritual tank is overflowing; and sometimes it is running on fumes. How is your spiritual tank right now.
    1. What has brought you to this point?
    2. What fills your tank and gives you fuel for authentic spiritual growth?
    3. What causes your tank to empty?
    4. What can you do in the coming week to make sure your tank is being filled for authentic Christian living, and who will keep you accountable in this growth area?

    Answer: I put my tank at 1/2 full

    (1) I am at this point because I still avoid things the Holy Spirit tells me not to avoid: prayer with my wife, daily quiet time with God. This is coupled with doing things I know I shouldnt. In my life, this teetor-toter is clear to me - spend more time with God and my other problems drop; spend less and they rise.

    (2) Answered in #1
    (3) Pretty much answered in #1
    (4) Continue to work on having spiritural time alone; and with my wife. My accountability is in my men's study group.

  10. If you were asked: How is your spiritual life?
    1. What would you use to measure and determine the condition of your spiritual life?
    2. What are healthy and Christ-honoring measures of our spiritual health?

(1) My avoidence of the sin that plagues me is the clearest test.

(2) the "fruit" in Galatians 5 are a good measure - and one I use (when I have quiet time and think to examine it):
22 . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;
and of course the "bad fruit" right above provide some negative examples
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing,
It is interesting that he lists "deeds" in the negative examples, but the positive ones are more attitudinal. Huh.

Again, if you are of a faith tradition other than Christianity you are welcome to answer these questions from your perspective - we can all learn much from how they are viewed. Answer or not - privately or publicly; lurk or not; pick and choose - let's see if we can get a good discussion going.

Next in series: "Surprised by Change" Pt. 2
Index to Series

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly