Heard in the Long Home

Things that cracked me up at the Long home.

“Dad, why do I feel so wake-ish up-ish?” – Ethan at 12:05 am

This one came from Elisa while she changed yet another diaper (sung to the familiar tune):

“When the pee fills your pants/And you can’t seem to dance/It’s amore.”

2007

Ethan asked me the other day my favorite kid’s question of the year. We were riding in the mini-van and I had the radio playing, when Ethan piped up:

Daddy-o, can God hear the music when it’s turned off?

Upon careful reflection I’ve decided that the God can hear the music even when it’s turned off, but at the time I had to say, “I don’t know, Ethan.”

If you’d like to see some of what we’ve been up to this year check out Elisa’s picture albums at http://picasaweb.google.com/elisalong22

Here’s a preview:

thekids_Dec07

Discernment

Several months ago a friend asked me when the last time I’d read 1 Corinthians 14 was. We were having a conversation about spiritual gifts, especially tongues. When I was 19 a friend of mine and I did an in depth study of 1 Corinthians and concluded that there was no way tongues had “ceased.” However, neither of us had ever experienced it for ourselves. So my attitude from that time had been, “God, if you want to commune with me in this way, I am willing.” However, at my friend’s urging I re-opened 1 Corinthians 14 and was immediately convicted by the first verse.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1

“Earnestly desire” certainly did not describe my attitude towards the spiritual gifts. This began a change in our congregation’s expectations for corporate and personal worship.

On Pentecost of this year (I found the timing significant), a close friend of mine and I spoke in tongues for the first (and so far only) time. I cannot tell you what transpired exactly, although I have a guess, but I can tell you that it was without a doubt a move of the Holy Spirit upon me. My overwhelming impression was that what I experienced is described by Paul in his letter to the disciples in Rome:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

It had never previously occurred to me that the Spirit might speak those groanings through my vocal cords, but there is no better way to describe what poured out of me. I would say “uncontrollably” because in a sense that is how it felt, but I was very aware that while a torrent of groanings or words in a different language were rushing out of my inner man, I could definitely have quenched that flow. It was if I was a fire hydrant on a hot summer day, and words were the water gushing out of me.

Paul said, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself,” and “if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.” My conclusion has been that in my weakness, the Spirit prayed through my spirit for the building up of my inner man in ways that with my mind I am incapable of. I pray regularly with my mind; I have spent my life building up my mind, but my spirit had never before received intentional ministry.

In my experience this overwhelming, unmistakable action of the Holy Spirit has been rare. More often He seems to interact with me or with us in a way that is aptly described as a still, small voice. So still and so small that it is difficult to know whether it is the voice of your mind or the voice of His Spirit speaking. It is at these times that I desperately wish for a more powerful discernment.

The discerning person can tell, for example, when prayer is not genuine contact with God but a conversation with oneself, when apparent humility is actually a twisted form of pride; when a vision is really an hallucination and an ecstasy a psychosomatic disturbance; when inspirations are projections of suspect desires and when a vocation to celibacy is more a flight from intimacy than a call from God.[1]

I have begun to notice, however, that when this still, small voice speaks there is not a doubt but a knowing that God’s Spirit just communicated and about what He said.


[1] Sandra Schneiders, “Spiritual Discernment in the Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena”

Changing Character

When one is contemplating the changing of behavior from fleshly (or sinful) to godly there are a couple questions that naturally arise. Since we want to avoid legalism how does one change outward behavior while the inner man still wants to speak crossly, or let a discipline slide, or entertain a lustful thought?

We have on our hands a “which comes first the chicken or the egg” conundrum. Since we all ready discussed “Believe => Think => Feel => Do” it would seem natural that this process should have something to do with our solution.

A second question seems to beg an answer: what role does the Spirit of Messiah play?

I’ve been thinking about this for several weeks now, and it has been an interesting time to ponder because I’ve simultaneously been on the Maker’s Diet for a little over 40 days (and have lost 35 lbs to date). In the process I have noted that once one sets your will to do a thing, it becomes easy with practice. This seems so simplistic, yet it is the key.

Will => Do => Realize is the pattern of transformation. This is connected to our earlier formula in that the setting of one’s will happens as a result of something believed. The pattern of thinking is determined by that belief and the subsequent willing. That setting of one’s will and the thinking process that accompanies it creates a feeling of “wanting” to do whatever it is that needs to be done. In the case of my example, changing the content of what I eat.

Because I believed the contents of what I read in Jordan Rubin’s book, The Maker’s Diet, I determined to act on that belief, and then felt like eliminating sugar, grains and starches from my menu. The first week it was very difficult to stick by my newly diminished menu. In the moments where my feeling flagged it was my will which asserted itself. In fact, in order to accomplish it successfully I took a week of vacation from work so that I could spend extra amounts of time planning and then preparing my meals.

By the third week, it had become second nature to reach for a handful of almonds when I felt the urge to snack that habitually accompanies TV watching, for example. The aptly identified force of habit is a power that we must harness for positive effect. When one is in the habit of submitting momentary emotions to the dictates of your will (and it must be your will, by the way) transformation becomes the natural realization of your habitual practice.

This, of course, is all assuming that what you believe is sound. Since belief is the foundation, what you determine to do will be either beneficial or harmful as a result of whether you believe truth or a lie.

This, I suspect, is what Solomon had in mind when he penned:

“Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” Proverbs 4:4-9 (ESV)

You might wonder where the Spirit of God is in all of this? Let’s discuss that in the next post.

Sharing Common Ground

I’ve been reading a lot of Dallas Willard lately.  One of the reasons is that his premise is the same as that I’ve been championing for several years, but some of the “therefore” thinking he has done from that premise is really putting some pieces of the puzzle into perspective for me.  So I started re-reading The Great Omission yesterday and here are some excerpts that pertain directly to the premise that Willard and I share.

Who, among Christians today, is a disciple of Jesus, in any substantive sense of the world “disciple”? A disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice–a practitioner, even if only a beginner. The New Testament literature, which must be allowed to define our terms if we are ever to get our bearings in the Way with Christ, makes this clear. In that context, disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of their life on earth.

In contrast, the governing assumption today, among professing Christians, is that we can be “Christians” forever and never become disciples….That is the accepted teaching now. Check it out wherever you are. And this (with its various consequences) is the Great Omission from the “Great Commission”….

For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship….So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship clearly is optional.

…Obedience and training in obedience form no intelligible doctrinal or practical unity with the “salvation” presented in recent versions of the gospel.

The only thing I would change if it was me writing those paragraphs is that I would say, “The Scriptural literature, which must be allowed to define our terms….”  Man, I feel like cheering!

The next step is for someone to develop a “curriculum” from the Scriptures. A “since we can’t literally go walk with Jesus through the highways and byways of Galilee and Judea, this is how to become his apprentice today” manual.  I feel called to do this and I am currently petitioning God to make clear the practical details of how to make this possible.

To quote Willard again, I need to be “systematically and progressively rearranging my affairs to that end.”