Michael J. Thom Father. Nerd. Race fan. Musician.

27Jun/08

Spiritual Receptivity

I am a little over halfway through A.W. Tozer's classic The Pursuit of God (also available to read online).  This is my first read of the book, and, despite the language being just a bit old-fashioned (it was written around the middle of the 1900s), he is an amazing man of God with a lot of interesting things to say.  I just read one portion tonight that struck me as something that I need to keep in mind, now more than ever, in my position working at a church (but, really, to a certain degree, these are thoughts that everyone should think though).

Failure to ... [be spiritually receptive] ... is the cause of a very serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. ... The tragic results of this spirit are all around us: Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit.  These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

Strong words, eh?  I'm just fascinated by how relevant those words are, even today.  "The preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings" - how did he know we'd be more interested in exciting music and cool slideshows than strong teaching of the Word?  "The mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit" - I know some preachers who are not the most elegant with words, but have an amazingly Godly spirit and a servant's heart.  Tozer warns that these misguided desires are "symptoms of an evil disease" - harsh, perhaps, but true.  Let us pray that our church cannot be described with any of these symptoms of a "deep and serious malady of the soul."

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22Jun/08

The Never-Ending Adventures and Journeys of the Jesus Followers

I just started reading another book, this one by the guy who spoke at the NACCM Campus Ministers' Retreat a couple weeks ago, Don Everts.  It's called Jesus with Dirty Feet, and it's a look at Jesus that attempts to do away with all of the cliches, ideas, stigmas, mindsets, and perspectives that we seem to collectively have from our 21st-century viewpoint (well, 20th-century, actually... it was written in 1999).

To greatly paraphrase his very first chapter, the term Christian and Christianity has been greatly distorted and misunderstood in modern-day society.  So, for now on, whenever you hear the term Christianity, think the following:

The Never-Ending Adventures and Journeys of the Jesus Followers.

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23Mar/08

A Bridge or a Rug?

Unfortunately, today is the next-to-last day of the E91 devotional that I've been reading. I'll have to find something to take its place, and fast. But I wanted to share, yet again, a very short excerpt from tonight's reading. This one is by Scheduling & Records Director Vonda Gilley. Referring to the choices we have when encountering difficult or pushy people, we may occasionally get walked all over, as the saying goes. But the way we choose to handle these situations is key:

Think about it, both a rug and a bridge get walked on. A rug wears out eventually, but a bridge helps people get from one place to the next.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13 (NIV)

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22Mar/08

A Summary of Ministry

More from the E91 devotional. The words of Preaching Associate Dave Mullins (he'll be performing Natalie and my wedding ceremony! or at least he's the official E91 person involved; we're going to have Mark Pike do a majority of the ceremony). Anyway, I really like this summary of the ministry. While it may not be literally a complete, all-encompassing definition, I really like its perspective.

We have been called to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We are ambassadors for Christ and let people know that through Jesus and Him alone can all men find peace with God.

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20Mar/08

His Grace Covers All

An excerpt from my previously-referenced E91 devotional, this one written by Senior Pastor Derek Duncan:

I want you to make a list of what you think God doesn't love about you. Look at it and ask God if He loves you in spite of these things. Sure, we all need to change and grow, but do you really think God would love you more if these things were not a part of your life? The answer is no. He loves and accepts you because of the grace of His son Jesus. So, that the list, write the word "grace" over it, and rejoice in the eternal love of Jesus Christ.

How great that is to think about. His grace, literally, covers our sins, shortcomings, errors, mistakes, and bad habits.

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8Mar/08

Kingdom Dream vs. American Dream

I was just reading today's devotional entry in the 40-day devotional guide published a few weeks ago by my church in Indy, East 91st Street Christian Church. This week's study is from Matthew 6:19-34.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." - Matthew 6:19-24 (NIV)

Student Pastor Todd Holzworth, referring to our desire for material things, money, comfort, retirement, travel, and the so-called American dream, writes:

... recently God has showed me something bigger. I don't know what to call it. Maybe it is the Kingdom dream because it is so much bigger than the American dream.

I think that's a terrific name for what our "dream" should be. Furthermore, it reminds me of the Casting Crowns song entitled, appropriately enough, American Dream.

Casting Crowns
American Dream

All work no play may have made Jack a dull boy
But all work no God has left Jack with a lost soul
But he's moving on full steam
He's chasing the American dream
And he's gonna give his family the finer things

"Not this time son, I've no time to waste;
Maybe tomorrow we'll have time to play"
And then he slips into his new BMW
And drives farther and farther and farther away

So He works all day and tries to sleep at night
He says things will get better
Better in time

And he works and he builds with his own two hands
And he pours all he has in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are comin' crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

His American dream is beginning to seem
More and more like a nightmare
With every passing day
"Daddy, can you come to my game?"
"Oh Baby, please don't work late."
Another wasted weekend
And they are slipping away

'Cause he works all day and lies awake at night
He tells them things will get better
It'll just take a little more time

He used to say, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins"
But if he loses his soul, what has he gained in the end
I'll take a shack on the rock
Over a castle in the sand

Now he works all day and cries alone at night
It's not getting any better
Looks like he's running out of time

'Cause he worked and he built with his own two hands
And he poured all he had in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are coming crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

All they really wanted was You
All they really wanted was You
All they really wanted was You

8Jan/07

More From Harold Best

I finally have had a bit more time to read. I'm really going to try to make that a regular occurrence.

Unceasing Worship by Harold Best. Excellent book. Every word he writes is so specific, so clear, so meaningful. As I've been reading, I have been trying to write down interesting portions, or quotable sections. I don't know how many times I've had to restrain myself, because if I wrote down everything I considered writing down I'd have practically made a copy of the book! Anyway, to a few of my latest specific thoughts.

Reading in the fourth chapter ("The Corporate Gathering and Authentic Worship") I came across this passage:

Specializing in the things of the faith should be so important to laypersons that they do the kind of reading and thinking that lead to the formation of a truth-centered world-view that informs the whole of their living. No believer should say that there is no time to do this in his or her "busy schedule."

So true. How often do we tell ourselves we are "too busy" to spend time "with the Lord" (Wait, shouldn't that be always? Thoughts for another posting...)? How many times have I not read even this very book, simply because I was too busy, too tired, too lazy. As a Christian, a desire to read and study and grow closer to the Holy Spirit should pour out from a life of worship, if I were truly living one. In truth, in the (unfortunately few) occasions in which I actually do spend this sort of time (like right now), I love it! I find it to be so spiritually fulfilling! In fact, when I had the opportunity last semester to preach at the Campus House, I found it very interesting that the best part of that whole experience was not the actual sermon delivery, nor any congratulations I received afterward. Instead, I found the Bible study (the deepest personal study I had done to date) to be incredibly rewarding and fascinating.

To take those thoughts a little further, let us first look at another excerpt from Best's book, just a little later in the same chapter:

Another way of stating this is that Christians should be amateur theologians and Scripture specialists, but in the older meaning of the word. Amateurs are those who love something (hence the Latin ama at the beginning of the word), enough to study and practice it as thoroughly as possible, to become skilled in it, without the need to call it a profession or a specialized calling.

Simply analysing this passage is easy; it makes lots of sense as an extension of the previous discussion. However, how might this apply to me, specifically? Well, I am honestly not sure how to take this. I could stretch it one way and say that I need not go into vocational ministry, I should simply be an amateur theologian. However, I am also quite sure that Best does not intend to imply that some people are specifically called into vocational ministry (he in fact says so just sentences later). So where do I fit in here?

For now, my plan will continue to be more or less like it has been, I just now have some new terminology for it: I will continue to become the best amateur theologian I can be, as I also continue my studies in Music Education. In the time between now and graduation (still a year and 4 months), I will seek the Lord's will and find out what he has planned for me.

Thank you Lord for your many blessings, even those we cannot readily see.