Archive for the ‘Spiritual Transformation’ Category

Claiborne and Haw write…

And they were to make disciples. Jesus’ last commission was to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28.19). They were to teach the nations a new way of living. One by one, these disciples would infect the nations with grace. It wasn’t a call to take the sword or the throne and force the world to bow. Rather, they were to live the contagious love of God, to woo the nations into a new future. “Nations” didn’t mean states or governments; it means all the world’s peoples regardless of region, tribe or clan. The covenant of God was open not just to the Jews but to all the Gentile world. And making disciples didn’t mean using cutting-edge small group curriculum; it meant disciplining themselves, training themselves to become the peculiar people of God set apart from Ceasar’s world. [emphasis mine]

Curious, how does this impact our view of church? If in our culture, church is something you go to, what might this paragraph be calling us to as people of God? If the way, is something that demands training how does this impact our understanding of our pinnacle view of Sunday service? Lastly, does this emphasis on training of self for holiness have the same focus as our Sunday services often do, the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) of Sunday? Granted, I am speaking to a particular brand of American Christianity? But, seriously, if we are honest, how much of what we do is to protect the system of church over and above preparation for holiness and becoming “the peculiar people of God set apart from [America’s] world…?”


Well I meant to write about a recent trip I had to the Carmelite Retreat Center. However, it’s been a long while since I took that retreat. But even so, the effects are still evident and this time with my new friends at the retreat center and found myself engulfed in a Catholic world that felt so familiar. It was like visiting a family member that you have been out of touch with for sometime. You come together and remember all the wonderful things we have in common as family. I know, many in the church of Christ heritage might disagree with me for even going on a retreat let alone consorting with the “enemy.” I must say, I could not disagree more. God was present and working in powerful ways through two friars, my brothers in Christ, Father Stephen and Father Jerome. I have NEVER come to discern the Way more fully than during my time with these brothers of mine. Late nights with Father Stephen, talking theology and life, turned into one of the most meaningful moments and transitionary times of my life. It reminds me of Peter’s proclamation of Christ as Lord, Son of the Living God. The awareness was evident and yet, even now, I am only partially able to understand the full magnitude of the mission of Jesus. There are many days where I imagine Jesus looking at my struggle with the Way and saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Yet, it cannot be taken away from me that Jesus, the Son of the Living God is more predominantly the Lord of my Life. Father’s love stand as the precipice of my delight and joy. His love, daily reaches deep into my unworthy heart and touches the core of my life. Often, I find myself joyfully tearful and unable to speak. Yes, for me that is quite the feat.

The truth is, I am not wanting to share the deepest moments of my journey with the Carmelite order. Rather, what I hope is that someon reading this might be encouraged to begin seeking this love and joy that I speak of mor fully. To remember that life is not about serving the system of religiosity and doctrinal demands. For God loves us the same no matter what path we choose and Christ’s blood is still spilled for all who claim him as their Lord and Savior. The point is seeking God. It is to see David’s quest as our own.

Psalms 27
Of David.

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

(emphasis mine)

For more information about the Carmelite Order I highly recommend checking out these sites…

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:  Carmelite Order

Carmelite Website

Mount Carmel Retreat Center

You can check out all of Willard’s articles here. However, the article I really thought relevant to this weeks lesson in Matthew 16 is here. Here is something to wet your appetite.

How the disciple lives naturally comes out of who the disciple is.

As Jesus’ disciple, I am his apprentice in kingdom living. I am learning from him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of the Heavens as he would lead my life if he were I. It is my faith in him that led me to become his disciple. My confidence in him simply means that I believe that he is right about everything: that all that he is and says shows what life is at its best, what it was intended by God to be. “In him was life and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4 NAS)

Being his apprentice is, therefore, not a matter of special “religious” activities, but an orientation and quality of my entire existence. This is what is meant by Jesus when he says that those who do not forsake all cannot be his disciple. (Luke 14:26 & 33) The emphasis is upon the all. There must be nothing held of greater value than Jesus and his kingdom. He must be clearly seen as the most important thing in human life, and being his apprentice as the greatest opportunity any human being ever has.

The article goes on to suggest three dimensions of learning to be a disciple of Jesus. 1) Obedience to the Lord,otherwise, why call him Lord. 2) Imitation of Christ in all areas of life becomes our own existence. 3) “Learning to exercise the power of the kingdom –of Christ in his Word and Spirit– to minister good and defeat evil in all of the connections of earthly existence.” These are all very powerful ideas and beautifully laid out. I was incredibly convicted, challenged and moved by this article. It makes me excited and hopeful for a greater day. May it bless you as well.

The Word of the Lord from Ezekiel 34.1-11.

The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.

“‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

Blessed be the Word of the Lord.

In this democratically charged age, I wonder if we as Servants (Leaders) can see ourselves in this light. I wonder if we are really willing to deal with the hard questions about our roles and to truly see ourselves shepherds, servants, even to the removal of our Leadership title. Can we serve and die for the wayward soul? Can we serve and die for the disgruntle follower of Christ? Can we leave the fold to go after the one who continually gets lost in the darkness and distrusts that our fields are the greenest to be had? I do not propose a swinging of the pendulum and really I do not even suggest anything, except to propose questions, Are we ever hearing or can we not hear anything from our high places? Are we seeing or are we blind guides unable to see the flock from our mountain? Can we shepherds follow the great Shepherd or have we lost our Guide on the journey to the kingdom of God? My hope is that we are ever hearing, ever seeing, ever longing to be transformed into the fullness of the Great Shepherd who is our head. May Ezekiel challenge you as he has challenged me.

We speak regularly of this love and our upcoming wedding (with the Christ God) at VineLife. I wonder if true Love is so foreign to us that we cannot even read the poetic words below and relate. Please share your reactions, feelings, desires regarding the thoughts of St. Bernard. (No comments about his name, lol)

Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?

In my mind, this is perhaps the most significant blog on this site. Please don’t readily dismiss on account of its challenging words. Love is challenging. Read it again. Dwell in it’s richness.

The Teens Mite

Posted: Jul 24, 2008 in Faith, Spiritual Transformation

For the point scroll down to the bottom, otherwise the setup of what I am trying to say starts here!

There is a wonderful story about Jesus in Mark and Luke (MK 12.41-44 and Lk 21.1-4) in which Jesus has sat down at the treasury (the tithing basket for the Jews) and watches these people coming in and dropping their support of the Temple and the work of God. As he is watching, many rich people are putting their large gifts of money into the collection. But then came a poor widow, who walked up and dropped in two small copper coins, worth nothing more than a penny.

I can imagine the scene even now, here is a woman who just desired so desperately to give to God. I wonder if it even crossed her mind that this was the money that might be needed to purchase food for that week OR that the bill collectors would be calling later to collect and here she is giving to God. What was she thinking in giving for “she out of her poverty has put everything she had, all she had to live on” into the offering? I cannot even begin to imagine the struggle of this offering but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

You see, I am very blessed and therefore I, like the rich, give out of the abundance God has given. Truth be told, I have a feeling that when this woman woke up that morning there was no question about the day ahead. Unlike the rich who tallied up there income and responsibly balanced their budget for the day, making sure that no debt was left unpaid, no meal unaccounted for or that no one needed clothes for camp and definitely making sure that the entertainment money was protected, this poor widow, went to the Temple that day in order to give everything she had. For she knew that even that penny was a gift from God and that if she did not give it in faith, how could she ever expect that her faith would allow God to provide.

I know this struggle well as I make sure that my tithe is accounted for in my checking account. I don’t know what it is to depend on God because I so often depend on the balance of my accounts as my God. And if that gets to empty, I look to other people’s money and borrow to feed the family OR put clothes on my back that aren’t faded or from last year. Oh how I wish that I could live like the widow.


Actually, I wish I could live like a wonderful teen at my church. This one, who should not understand giving so well, this past week gave all that had they had worked so hard to make from babysitting some other kids at church for five hours. $60 to be exact. This teen didn’t even hesitate to give and in fact went out of the way to make sure Mom and Dad didn’t see them put it in the basket for fear they might hinder the spirit of giving. $60!! For a teen!! As a teen, 60 bucks is a lot of money and I know there were already plans for some of that money.

Eventually Dad found out about this great gift and when he went to his child in his wisdom and said, “I would not have stopped you from giving but you do need to know, you don’t have to give everything you earned.” Then, from the mouth of His dear child came this paraphrased reply, “Why not, I don’t need it but the church and its people do. Besides, I have babysitting jobs coming up, there will be more coming later” (faith in the provision of God, from a teen who should be asking Dad for a $20 bill,or at least that is what I would have been doing as a teen).

To this wonderful example of giving, we say, thank you for showing your brothers and sisters how to give good gifts! You, dear child of God, are precious and holy in God’s sight. I am sure Jesus was looking upon your gift and saying, “this one, from little, has put in everything they had into the offering. Well done my good and faithful servant.”

* Name and gender have been left out in order to protect the identity of this wonderful person.

Well it has been a long while since I posted. I truly want to but I feel as though in some ways I have been hindered by the Spirit (felt it unnecessary). I am sure I will catch flack for such a statement but I don’t know how else to describe it. Anyway, below is a blog entry from the Jesus Manifesto it is quite convicting and it is definitely a prayer that needs to be prayed. I know that at VineLife we have a huge struggle with giving, not because we don’t want to give but because we have been slaves to credit and the almighty interest rate. Lord, help us.

Subvert this society of spiritual insincerity! These pseudo-saints
wear masks of metaphysical maturity
veiling their vulgar visage and voluminous villainy
Prattling proudly, they publicly proclaim their piety. It’s pathetic!

Don’t buy it, brother.
Don’t get snared, sister.
They’ll get their due.
But as for you,
Do the prayers you do…
In the quiet place.
With simple words.
And an open heart.

Like little kids call for papa
Call out to your Heaven-Father.
Yes, he is Huge and Holy,
But still closer to you
than you are to yourself.

Reach up to him and say:

“We need a regime change,
From Bush or Obama or McCain
To a divine administration.

We don’t need laptops and lattes,
Macbooks or machiattos
We don’t need Red Robbin
Or Little Debbie
Or Colonel Sanders
Or Ronald McDonald
Or Famous Dave.

All we need is
what we need
right now.
And that’s you.

We’re beggin’ you, papa
For debt forgiveness.
Our bedrooms are wallpapered with past due notices
Our cars run off violent oil
Our homes built upon a mountain of bones.
So we declare bankruptcy!

But we can’t point a finger of judgment at others.
We pass along the debt relief that you’ve given to us
And forgive everyone for what they owe us…

…at least in theory, papa.

‘Cuz we are cracked people.
Greedy, lusty, and grumpy by nature.
Always willing to secure ourselves
At the expense of the other
Even if it makes you look bad, papa.

So help us not to be tempted
To secure ourselves with dark dealings…

Deliver from this damned depraved design
of the despicable deceiver who devours divinity!

written by: Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

I must say, this is tough to hear. In fact, many do not have ears to hear this message. They chalk it up to Tree Hugger mentality or extremism. Truth is, I struggle with Green friendly stuff because it seem too hard to embrace, so radical so unnecessary for me in my life. But I wonder is it really about me OR is that exactly why we can’t hear it? Beyond that is this cycle one that can truly be overcome with faith and self sacrifice?

Of course I have my opinions but I want to know what you think… SO? What do you think? Be prayerful, let yourself be questioned, be open to the Spirit’s leading. Here are some scriptures for consideration.

Micah 3; Romans 13:8ff