The Key to Living Well?

Hey TD!

What is the key to living well? I believe it is abiding in Christ.  John 15 speaks quite a bit on this:

4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Our friend, Margaret Manning Shull, from Ravi Zacharias Int’l Ministries, recently posted a very valuable article in RZIM’s A Slice of Infinity.  Please read the article below and grow your acumen in abiding in Christ, not only for your sake, but for the sake of all those around you! – Arthur

The Art of Abiding by Margaret Manning Shull

When it comes to exercise many of us ask: “How long will it take?” or “How much do I have to do?” The shorter the duration the better, we hope. Scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have researched the benefits of shorter-duration, high-intensity workouts. They found that the aerobic benefits were just as high as those who had worked out for much longer periods of time.(1) As one professor noted, “If you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.”(2) This is good news for all who feel there are not enough hours in a day.

Yet, as good as this news may be for some, I am increasingly nervous about all the schemes and strategies to make one’s life more efficient. From the One Minute Manager to the One Minute Workout the short-cutting of our lives appears endemic. If one needs a quicker, faster, shorter version, there is an app for that. But I worry about what happens to our aptitude for endurance in the elevation of the efficient?

Edgar Degas, Musicians in the Orchestra, oil on canvas, 1872.

By contrast, author Malcolm Gladwell argued in his book Outliers that ten thousand hours of deliberate practice are needed before one can become good at some things. He cites Mozart, Bill Gates, and the Beatles as examples of brilliant artists and inventors whose patient practice and discipline began at an early age.(3) In fact, many artists suggest that their creative expression is something that must be practiced—exercised, as it were, just like any muscle. Significant achievement—in any area—is realized when bounded by discipline, and a tireless commitment to practice, routine, and structure. The painter, Wayne Thiebaud, once said that “an artist has to train his responses more than other people do. He has to be as disciplined as a mathematician. Discipline is not a restriction but an aid to freedom.”(4) Sadly, Thiebaud’s and Gladwell’s views are often the minority report in our hurried age.

Assumptions about growth in the spiritual life often parallel these assumptions about efficiency. Often, the drive to see measurable results creates unrealistic expectations. We often want a One Minute Spiritual Life that still yields unbounded growth and instant transformation. We expect the constant flow of “good feelings” surging through us. If we do not experience these things, or if we don’t perpetually experience something novel and instant from the rhythm of worship, prayer, or study, then we believe that something isn’t right. Sadly, we eschew the repetitive nature of discipline and routine.

Ritual, discipline, commitment, and structure seem impediments to growth, rather than the soil in which spiritual growth is nourished and fed. The drive for efficiency lures us into wanting a spiritual life more like osmosis—a process over which we have little control or responsibility.

There are not three easy steps to a vital spiritual life, nor an efficiency guide to greater transformation. And in his life and ministry, Jesus makes this connection between growth and discipline. In the gospel of John he exhorts his followers to “abide” in him—literally to rest and to take nourishment from the life Jesus offers.(5) Rest is the opposite of the efficient. In addition, he describes abiding in terms of love and obedience. “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”(6) Jesus insists that joy flows from a life of discipline and obedience that includes keeping his commands. They are not separate endeavors, but intimately enjoined to produce abundant life.

How ironic this statement seems when most of us do not associate joy with discipline or endurance! Our daily living often feels like monotonous routine. We can understand the desire to find a short-cut that brings excitement or instant results. But joy cannot be reduced to a feeling, nor is it dependent on the whims of our personalities. Joy is the result of a life lived in the rhythm of rest, routine, and discipline. Following in the way of Jesus can sometimes feel both tedious and difficult, as surely it is both tedious and difficult at times. But disciplined obedience is not a blockade to fullness of joy, but rather a doorway that opens into the abiding presence of God. There, we encounter one who produces something beautiful that remains.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Gretchen Reynolds, “One Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion,” The New York Times Blog, April 27, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(2) Ibid.
(3) As cited by Timothy Egan in “The One Minute Life,” The New York Times, May 13, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(4) As cited in Clint Brown, Artist to Artist: Inspiration & Advice from Artists Past & Present (Corvalis, OR: Jackson Creek Publishers, 1998), 87.
(5) John 15:4-5.
(6) John 15:9-11.

 

Why Don’t We See Christians Living the Transformed Life?

Hey TD,

That is a very good and convicting question, isn’t it?  The fact is that this is the number one reason given by non-Christians as to why they reject the gospel.  We talk, tweet, an type so much about the gospel, but living like we really believe the gospel and God’s promises is another story.

RZIM apologist, Michael Ramsden, shares some thoughts on this in the video above.  TD actually saw this Q and A live at UCLA a few years ago, as some of you may recall.

Please take a listen, pray about how your can live a life with Christ within your communities.  Then, act on it! – Arthur

3 R’s – Rebuild (Fri.), Ravi, Reminder

ravi-blackberry

Hey TD!

My family and I had an incredible time in Colorado Springs last weekend with the world’s leading Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and the rest of his incredible team.  RZIM’s team of evangelists/apologists is unparalleled in the world today in their range and scope of ministry.  The more you familiarize yourself with their ministry, the sharper and more effective you’ll be … and … the more compassionate and sensitive you’ll be.  Go visit www.rzim.org and spend lots of time there!

This picture is for all you Blackberry haters who always give me a hard time for using a Blackberry!  As you can see, Ravi and I both use the same Blackberry 🙂 and have texted each other jokingly because both of us get smirked at for using it.  But we both still prefer their physical keyboard for writing!  So, as you can see, my friends, I’m in good company! Long live the Blackberry!

Anyway, this Friday, we’ll continue delving deeper into our year’s theme, Rebuild: Rehabituating Our Life in Christ.  I will lead us in a key study that will get right to the core of our lives in Christ.  This will be an essential message for those of you needing to rebuild your lives in Christ.  The message is entitled, “Rebuilding Our Infrastructure,” and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

And a quick reminder: Don’t forget the TD Pre-Party at 7:15 p.m.!

See you Friday! – Arthur

TD Fri. – “Holding What We Believe”

Holding

Hey TD!

This Friday will be a special time of sharing Christ together as we learn to view and appreciate our Lord more holistically, in some ways that are clearly biblical, yet have been largely lost on us modern Christians.

This will be largely derived from a session taught by the editor of Slice of Infinity, Jill Carattini, at RZIM’s 2016 Summer Institute.  It was a very meaningful session for me, and one that really helped enhance my perspective of the Lord’s Supper.

It will be a very meaningful time.  Make your plans to be there!

– Arthur

Raw Voice Memo to Myself

(turn volume up)

Hey TD!

Sometimes I record memos to myself on my phone when I’m not at a place that I can write those thoughts down, and I want to remember some thoughts I’ve been thinking, impressions that were made on me, or convictions I’ve developed.  I usually then type out and clean up the thoughts from the voice memo on a Word doc.

Two weeks ago, while at RZIM’s Summer Institute, I had Aha! moments all week long and came home with new focus and resolve, making some resolutions and some adjustments to my daily habits and focus.  While there in Atlanta, I made notes to myself all week (written and audio recorded).  After recently reviewing a raw voice memo I made purely for myself in my hotel room, I realized that there are items in there that I think will be helpful for most of you as well, especially as you try to grow your Christian effectiveness this summer, in preparation for the new school year.

Instead of editing and cleaning those thoughts up for you, I decided to just go ahead and share that voice memo to myself with you all in its raw, unedited form.  It’s only 7 minutes, but I think you’ll glean some insight and energy to help you take another step or two towards living for Him with excellence. – Arthur

The Risk of Seeing

Hey TD,

Isn’t it weird how we can look at something and just not really see it?  Looking and seeing are two very different things.  As you embark on your summers, we want to see what God wants us to see.  Let’s start the week off by putting ourselves in a position to see life more as He sees life.  This article by our friend, Jill Carattini, at RZIM is a good start.  Enjoy! – Arthur

The Risk of Seeing

Posted by Jill Carattini on June 13, 2016

In an essay titled “Meditation in a Toolshed,” C.S. Lewis describes a scene from within a darkened shed. The sun was brilliantly shining outside, yet from the inside only a small sunbeam could be seen through a crack at the top of the door. Everything was pitch-black except for the prominent beam of light, by which he could see flecks of dust floating about. Writes Lewis:

“I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving in the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.”(1)

 

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Each time I come to the gospel accounts of the woman with the alabaster jar, I notice something similar. “Do you see this woman?” Jesus asks, as if he is speaking as much to me the reader as he is to the guests around the table. With a jar of costly perfume, she had anointed the feet of Christ with fragrance and tears. She risked shame and endured criticism because she alone saw the one in front of them all. While the dinner crowd was sitting in the dark about Jesus, the woman was peering in the light of understanding. What she saw invoked tears of recognition, sacrifice, and love. Gazing along the beam and at the beam are quite different ways of seeing.

The late seventeenth century poet George Herbert once described prayer as “the soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage.” At those words I picture the woman with her broken alabaster jar, wiping the dusty, fragrant feet of Christ with her hair. Pouring out the expensive nard, she seems to pour out her soul. Fittingly, Herbert concludes his grand description of prayer as “something understood.”

The woman with the alabaster jar not only saw the Christ when others did not, Christ saw her when others could not see past her powerless categories. “Do you see this woman?” Jesus asks while the others were questioning her actions, past and present. “I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much.”(2) Her soul’s cry was heard; she herself was understood.

There are many ways of looking at Jesus: good man, prophet, historical character, provocative teacher, God in flesh, one who sees, one who hears, one who loves. At any point, we could easily walk away feeling like we have seen everything we need to see, when in fact we may have seen very little. The risk of looking again may well change everything.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 212-215.
(2) Luke 7:44-47.

 

“A Christmas Meditation” by Ravi

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas, TD!

Yesterday, I shared a Christmas “Slice” with you by Ravi.  Today, I’d like to share “A Christmas Meditation” that my family read together this Christmas morning, also by Ravi.  It’s a pretty powerful reading.  Enjoy and be challenged to better appreciate Christ this Christmas day.  It’s a little longer than usual, but is so worth it. – Arthur

“A Christmas Meditation” by Ravi Zacharias

One of my favorite authors, F.W. Boreham, tells a fascinating story, told to him by his mother while they sat around the fireplace one evening. As a young woman of seventeen, she had set up an appointment to meet her cousin in Canterbury, near the Cathedral. She went as planned but her cousin was not there. Somewhat “dejected and disgusted” about this broken appointment, she was not in the happiest disposition. A man with a very intellectual countenance but a gentle presence who had seen her walk up and down offered to show her around while she waited and explain some of the Cathedral’s features and its history. He had a wealth of information with incredible insights. As they parted, he gave her his card and without looking at it, she slipped it into her purse. In the end, it turned out that her cousin had become ill and hence, never showed.

On her way home in the train, she finally took out the card. It simply said, “Charles Dickens.” She gasped at the thought that she had been face to face with one of the greatest story tellers of all time and regretted her lost opportunity of knowing through whose eyes she was seeing the great Cathedral…one who was so in tune with the stones and personages that intersected where they had met. But preoccupation had pre-empted that inspiration.

Seeing through the eyes of one who knows the stories behind an edifice is a privileged glimpse for anyone. Imagine how it must have felt to the disciples on the Emmaus Road when they realized who it was that had just explained to them not a building or a song, but all of history as it pointed to the Messiah. When they met him, He asked why they were so despondent and not knowing who He was, they answered, “Are you the only one in Israel who doesn’t know what has happened in the last few days?” He must have smiled on the inside because the irony was that He was the only one in Israel who actually did know what had happened. Even as they listened to Him open history before them they had no idea who it was that was doing the explaining, except that their hearts burned within them as they saw a panorama of redemption. When it dawned on them that He was the risen Christ, they must have dug deep inside to wonder how they had missed it.

But at least they listened. Poor Pontius Pilate asked the greatest question he could have asked—“What is truth?”—of the only one who perfectly embodied it, but he did not even have the presence of mind to wait for the answer. He also missed the moment. History repeats itself and regrets of that nature have a long reach.

On that quiet night so long ago, lying in the manger was the answer to all of life’s successes, struggles, disappointments, and regrets. The hopes and fears of all the years had met in Him that night in a makeshift crib in the little town of Bethlehem. A carpenter, a humble maid, a band of shepherds, and ordinary folks responded in awe at the blessing of his arrival. As always, there were those who were busy about their business and had no time to pause and ask, “Who is He in yonder stall?” What a loss! They missed a divine appointment with mankind.

Then there were those in power that felt threatened by Him and wished to silence Him permanently. Malcolm Muggeridge said it well:  All new news is old news happening to new people. Just as the Garden of Eden is lived out every day in somebody’s life, the Christmas message is lived out every day in all of our lives. Today in our schools and even businesses and government in America the message of Jesus is shamelessly silenced or mocked, and should anyone speak up, some “figures in robes” somewhere with the power of Caesar will wreak havoc in their lives. This is not new. There are still Caesars who think they are gods. There are still those who elevate the mundane to the exalted and miss the marvel of the ultimate. This has ever been so, as truth and grace are traded away for the artificial and the momentary. Intellectual hubris silences the bells of heaven and they cannot hear for whom the bell now tolls as a nation self-destructs. How self-indicting it is, that we can be so close and yet so distant from having our eyes opened.

But there was another one that first Christmas, the one who was the closest of all to the story but didn’t quite know what the journey was all about for a completely different reason. When she was told that a sword would pierce through her heart Mary must have shuddered under the weight of the unknown. She had no idea of the horror she would one day experience, seeing her son go to the cross. What a horrific pronouncement! Yet, the prophecy brought enough of a jolt to one day bring those words to mind, though she could not anticipate the specifics. Uncertainty once again, with hope but fear.  It is understandable.

We have the unique privilege of being able to look back and read the whole story. There was a Cross that loomed in a fearful symmetry with the manger. Emmanuel, God was with us. Born to be lifted up, “to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Bethlehem portended the magnitude of the need and the supremacy of God’s answer.

Our world is broken. Many a family will have a vacant chair this Christmas because a life has been snatched from their circle. Humankind is wounded and hollow speeches bereft of wisdom are the landmarks along the way. We look into the future a little bit like Mary, knowing we have the Saviour but not knowing what swords will pierce through our hearts. Hopes and fears intersect as we journey.

But let us draw strength this Christmas. Prophecy is unfolding before our eyes in giant strides, just as He said it would. The scriptures are full of it. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

I have a friend who lives in Norwalk, Ohio, a doctor. He told me some years ago that as a very young teen, his daughter had gone to the Caribbean on a youth mission trip. She returned with her group to Miami to make her way back home. Her parents were concerned about this last leg of the journey by herself; she would be separate from the group, travelling alone for the first time. As she was looking for her flight information on the marquee at the airport, an older man also viewing the list of flights asked if he could help her. Uncomfortable, but not wanting to reveal her unease, she let him know she was checking for her flight information to Detroit. He said, “Oh, I’m going to Detroit, too!” That sent tremors into this young girl’s heart. Again, she tried to mask it. “Is that your destination,” he asked? “No, actually I’m heading to Norwalk, Ohio, and my dad is picking me up in Detroit.” To her utter surprise, he said, “You know what? I’m going to Norwalk too and I’ll be happy to take you there and save your dad the drive.” Now fear really began to grip her. Then there was a pause. The gentleman detected the hint of fear. “Are you Stacey,” he asked, giving her full name? Stunned, she answered that she was. He smiled. “I’m the doctor who delivered you when you were born, Stacey. I know your folks very well.” An irrepressible smile lit her face now and she felt a huge sigh of relief. She knew that her parents knew the doctor very well. The phone connection was made and the journey home was both providential and safe.

I ask you, what more poetic a story than to be worried about your daughter only to learn that the first one to have ever held her in his arms was the same one who would guide her home on her first journey alone from a distant city!

We are pilgrims, journeying through life. The story of Bethlehem is the most beautiful and the greatest story ever told, the story of God’s visitation. Imagine the shepherds who tried to raise perfect lambs looking at the Lamb of God. Imagine the kings who studied the stars coming to the One who made them and was the King of kings. Imagine Simeon, who had waited all his life for the Messiah, holding in his arms He who would soon be carrying Simeon in His own. Imagine Mary, fearing the sword that would pierce through her heart, finding out that the child in her arms was the redeemer of every heart that came to Him, the great I AM. Imagine Joseph the carpenter, who “saved” him from Herod’s slaughter, finding the very designer of the universe saving him from his sin.

Missing Dickens and being fearful of who is offering you a ride back home are legitimate regrets or fears in a world of unknowns. But finding the Saviour and having Him explain all and take you to your destination is what Christmas is all about: hope within and hope for the future. He is the One and only Prince of Peace.

As the world debates who should be armed to wage war and who shouldn’t be, the message of Christmas is that God Incarnate came to this same world as a babe to ultimately carry us in His everlasting arms. This world would be a different place if we understood what that meant. Thank you for helping us carry His message for another year.

A Blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year to you.

Ravi Zacharias