"I continue to find the Bible the most mysterious book - the more insight I gain, the more I realize how much I don't know. It inspires and encourages, and it also frustrates and provokes.
The Bible is a difficult book."
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
"Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba”(2 Samuel 12:24)
So as I was saying in the last post on topic, one of David's major steps in returning to his first love (God) - and to integrity after Bathsheba - involved changing his motivation. In that post I said that one way of understanding MOTIVATION is to think of it as fuel or energy (the impulse to do something) ...
Another way of looking at motivation is as the reasons why we do it in the first place.
Essentially all of us are looking for positive experiences, and all interpret 'positive' differently. I do not enjoy sanding down a dresser but I enjoy computer games. My wife can’t stand computer games but likes to sand down a dresser. If she asks me to spend a Saturday morning sanding and painting when a friend has offered to hook me up in a multiplayer game on one of the computers at his house, which will I be more motivated to commit to? On one level, THE GAME of course!
But then if I look deeper within myself to a level beyond the pleasure of instant gratification, I discover that I actually gain pleasure out of making my wife feel that she is important – and that she is a more valued companion than my friend. I enjoy spending time with her. Therefore if I draw on my motivation at that level, it will induce me to help her with the dresser and postpone the match-up to another day. (I also really hope she doesn’t read this!)
David too looked deeper inside himself, past the “instant” gratification of a sexual encounter and the desire to keep his image of “cool king” intact. What he found was the same kind of compassion for the powerless that God had shown toward him in the past.
Motivated by that deeper value and drive, he returned to living honourably with the intention of pleasing God.
Where in your life can you look to a deeper motivation on which you can draw to refresh your spiritual disciplines and passion? Paul described this change as offering the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness and withdrawing them from serving sin. David seemed to take this thought literally!
David called on his inner (value-driven) motivation to honour God and imitate His character. This caused him to make deliberate choices, which switched on his energy-driven outward motivation, getting the wheels (and the dynamo) turning for him, making it easier to make the next good choice and the next.
A last thought about motivation. Jesus once passed an invalid, a man who had been lame for 38 years. His first words to the man were “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). I don’t believe any of the words of Jesus were trivial, intended just to start a conversation or to keep a conversation going. His reasons for asking this question were deeper than just getting the man’s attention.
The Gospel writer notes that “when Jesus learned that he had been in this condition for a long time”, he posed this question. One of the reasons John notes this I’m sure is to record Jesus’ compassion based on this man’s long-term suffering. The other reason for the question I’m equally sure was that Christ wanted to test this man’s inner motivation.
I sometimes wish the biblical writers had included italics in their writing to help us understand the emphasis of certain phrases. Of course it’s only my opinion, but I’m sure that Jesus asked the question this way: “Do you want to get well?”
Did this man really want to get well or was he a committed victim? Some people seem not to desire “healing” or improvement. That may sound crazy but I’ve heard it expressed by people in helping professions in many ways. Numerous counsellors and Pastors have verbalised their disappointment that many people come to their office to talk, not to change.
One (I think it was John Maxwell) even said it was a liberating day in his ministry when he began to require that people completed “homework” before coming back to see him again. It cleared his appointment book!
Now, why wouldn’t someone want improvement or healing? For our purposes there are probably two reasons that are important to us. One is something called learned helplessness. The other is that he/she doesn’t really want a different kind of life simply because it’s different.
Most people feel some level of anxiety about change. Change their circumstances and they personally will have to adapt, perhaps in a dramatic way. If healed, the lame man in this case would have to take full responsibility for his income, rather than relying on the compassion of others. He would have a responsibility to help others in the ways that he had been helped. He would have to redefine who he was. He would have to learn a new role in society and new ways of conversing with others. Jesus’ question could have been phrased
“Do you want that much change?”
The man’s response was enough for Jesus to see that he had the right kind of motivation – “No one helps me get into the pool and while I’m trying to get myself in there …” The man knew he was responsible for seeing his own needs met. If no one would do it for him, then he would do it himself.
David stepped outside of his own comfort, his own shame even, his own grief, to turn things around, to give love to another and to seek after God.
If you feel distant from God, even if you feel you are a "failure" at Christianity (a crazy idea but widespread nevertheless), I encourage you to tap into those inner values that impel you toward God - move a small way and you will feel like moving further. Get out of your rut, get out of your head, get out of your shame and reach out.
The old folk proverb “God helps those that help themselves” - while not actually in the Bible - illustrates the principle of Phil 2:12-13. When you are actively seeking the things that will bring you health, God then has an open door to be at work in you.
- For the next seven days, pick at least one thing each day that you don’t want to do, but which is a good thing to do. Some examples might be washing and drying the dishes when it’s not your turn; vacuuming the Church chapel; carrying out a spontaneous act of kindness toward a non-Christian with no gospel presentation attached; washing your Mum’s car; spending one entire hour in prayer; reading a complete book of the Bible in one sitting (preferably not Psalms!). At the end of the week, look back at what you did and more importantly how you feel (in terms of both motivation and your general disposition).
- As you have read this post and the last, what thoughts have occurred to you in terms of choices that will lead you back into friendship with the Holy Spirit? Write these thoughts down. Alternatively, talk them through with your prayer partner or mentor. In regards to this friendship, what can you do to “turn on the tap” today? The next few days? Come up with a very simply (and short) action plan. Over the next few days examine the results of these actions.
- What motives for short-term gratification may be steering you into behaviour that alienates God? What deeper inner values can you draw on that will motivate you to pursue a lifestyle that God can fill with His presence?
- Ask God to show you in a way that only He can how much is for you. Ask His help and partnership in changing your motivation.
If this is the first time you've read one of this series of posts, please click on the label at the end of the post (Relighting the Fire) to read all entires. Unfortunately, they're in reverse order, so like many blogs, you'll have to scroll to the bottom to find the start of the the thread...
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Some things just strike me as funny. Funny because they are mildly absurd in a fascinating kind of way. (Much of my own behaviour fits into this "absurd" category too, so it's a good thing I can occasionally laugh at myself too).
This morning it's the whole Jesus Tomb "controversy". There are several things funny about it.
First, even though James Cameron's claims were dismissed by journalists and archeologists as "debatable conjecture" and "trying to connect dots that didn't belong together" (quoted from a Time article on the subject), an Australian TV channel played it a week ago as if it was new, groundbreaking and a danger to the "faith of a billion people".
To which I simply say "meh."
Second, the frantic reaction of some of my fellow Christians who become threatened by this. When the Davinci Code suddenly became the next best thing, I'd already read the book nearly a year earlier, thought "Yeah, good story" and moved on. Suddenly it became the nexus for discussion of "Is the Christian faith true?" and I was having conversations with people on both sides of that one for several months (without me bringing up the issue).
Neither "side" responded positively whenver I said "Dan Brown wrote a novel." (particularly when I repeated it like a good little smartass). To one side, it was more than a novel, it was enlightenment (they're kind of the new Trekkies in a way).
To the other side, it was an affront to God and to Truth, it threatened the stability of "Christendom", it was bad because it encourages people to not believe in Jesus Christ and also to tell Christians we are deluded.
Well, "meh" to all of that. (People already didn't believe in Jesus, felt free to tell us Christians we're idiots and personally if I'm threatened by a novel, I need to take a good hard look at myself!)
When the Davinci Code thing erupted there were churches everywhere scrambling to launch bible study groups examining its claims and refuting them, making money off the back of it by writing Why The Davinci Code is Wrong books, a preaching "topical" sermon series on it. The anxiety was thick on the ground. Watch the same thing happen with the Jesus Tomb...
Fellow believers, here's why I'm not bothered by either Cameron or Brown's claims:
- If the Jesus Tomb is largely based on finding a family burial plot where the names Mary, Jesus, Jude etc were inscribed, well duh. That's like finding one in Melbourne where the names Peter, John and Jane are inscribed or a Korean grave with the name Kim on it. These were very common names. The name Jesus is the name Joshua. How many Joshuas are still around? And what about the other Jesus Tomb in Kashmir? Which one is the real one, folks?
- James Cameron is the director of movies that I love such as Aliens and Terminator 2. But he is also responsible for Titanic. In my mind that destroyed his credibility forever! :)
- Dan Brown stole his ideas from ... ooops, I meant to write: borrowed heavily from the 1980s book Holy Blood, Holy Grail ... which itself was largely based on the invention of the whole Merovingian (love that word) story by 3 French nerds in the 1950s. For more, you could start your reading by clicking here)
- Neither Brown nor Cameron are the Antichrist. They just know how to sell books and movies.
There's just a few reasons why the serious ansgst over these kind of controversies is truly funny.
Let me return to my chuckling. The 3rd reason for laughing, is that here I am so taken with the whole thing that I too am up on my soapbox... Maybe there's a book in this for me...
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Go to How the War was Won and click on the titles to get the full articles. There's some quality stuff on a broad range of topics!
See you there!