“Eternal Trinity, you are a deep sea…”

Not everything old is good. Not everything old is better.

But, something with age can bring comfort, bridging us to our ancestors and our shared humanity. This ancient prayer inspires me, reminding me that people seek the Lord in every generation. I want to be such a person.

“Eternal Trinity, you are a deep sea,
into which the more I enter the more I find,
and the more I find, the more I seek”
– St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

Discerning the Consumption of Thoughts

We purchase thoughts. Whether it’s tuition for higher education, a subscription to a streaming service, or the gas we use when driving to a podcast – thoughts cost us something. I challenge you to discern the consumption of thoughts. Ideas are not free; they cost you monetarily and take up space in your imagination.

If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit has given you discernment to evaluate an idea by Scripture and by the witness of the Spirit. Not every attractive idea is a beneficial concept. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in discerning the consumption of thoughts.

Colossians 2:8 (CSB)
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ.

Three Streams School of Theology

I am thrilled to introduce the Three Streams School of Theology (TSST).

For several years, CIL Church has been offering theological training for those who want to go deeper but do not have the time or financial resources to use for formal seminary training. It’s been so rewarding to learn together in 12-week increments.

We have no prerequisites and no homework. We want curious learners who are hungry to grow together.

I will be joining Deborah Jackson and Jacob Bell to co-teach Church History, so I would love for you to take my class.

The cost is only $50 for the 12-week course, and classes take place at CIL Church. The course starts THIS TUESDAY, so there is still time to join. You have until Tuesday, January 24, to join the class. We’ll meet each Tuesday from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.

Here is the link to register:

To learn more about TSST and our philosophy, visit www.threestreamstheology.com.

Mid-January is great for personal vision

I have concluded that mid-January is an excellent time to start a vision and set goals for the year. By now, you are positioned better to be realistic with the hype of a new year fading.

With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of experience, visualize the type of person you want to be months from now. Focus on characteristics that impact others – like kindness, friendliness, and consistency. As you see that God-inspired person in your future, you’ll find yourself moving toward that ideal as the year progresses.

Month by month. Day by day. Moment by moment. You are transforming into the image of the one who has called you.

Picture Creator: Trifonenko | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Copyright: Trifonenko

Lean into prayer, instead of guilt

We have had eight prayer gatherings so far in the CIL’s Week of Worship and Prayer. Some meetings have surprised us with the amount of participation, and others have been sparse. Regardless, they have all been good.

Gathering a church for corporate prayer has challenges previous generations have not encountered. Traffic. Entertainment options. The complexity of the overscheduled child. The awareness of social anxiety. These are just the start of the list. When I bring this conclusion to other believers, I immediately sense the guilt Christians feel from a lack of prayer. After all, one of the slam-dunk sermons to preach is the theme – “We should pray more.” That message will be effective every time because it’s true for every person. Easy preaching. 

So, this post is not intended to add guilt. I want to call myself and you to lean into prayer. Pray often, even if it is short. Pray with your heart, even on the go. Prayer is not an all-or-nothing experience. Prayer is a call to a conversation with God that will extend into eternity. He loves to hear us pray anytime a bit of our attention is directed toward Him. He delights even in our hurried prayers – what grace.

Prayer is friendship

The longer I walk with the Lord, prayer formulas keep fading in importance. In my formative years of walking with the Lord, several prayer formulas helped me. Most memorable are the ACTS acronym (I will not explain here) and the Lord’s Prayer, the model Jesus gave to teach prayer. These formulas have purpose, and I will use them again and teach them.

However, when I am at my best with the Lord, prayer feels like friendship, not a formula. Prayer is thinking in the presence of the Lord. Prayer is being with Him, which sometimes is not a list, but sitting in silence. When I consider prayer in these terms, I anticipate a lifetime of joy in prayer.

A working definition of Joy

Our Advent theme this week is Joy, which can be tricky. I have preached on joy often in my ministry, so I have thought about this subject thoroughly to create a definition.

In our era of authentic leadership, people lead through transparency, so stories about weakness are not just allowed; these stories are celebrated. What we used to hide, now we use. With this shift, culture is more aware that comedians, musicians, artists, and pastors who inspire us with joyful presentations are often struggling internally. Joy is no longer associated with mood because moods change so quickly.

So the definition of joy I presented in Sunday’s sermon and I share now is this:

Joy is finding and living in God’s centrality.

I recognize this is not a spectacular definition on the first read but think about it more. “Finding” is a process that can take minutes or decades. We keep looking for God in the middle of every situation.

When we do find God at the center, we do not always initially like the conclusion, and we find that God is in the middle of all kinds of things we do not prefer. This process to find and live with God in the center produces the allusive joy we long after.

Constant change points us to Advent

Please get a cup of coffee or tea and slowly read this article from Dr. Dan Scott. Dan is a great thinker on culture and Christianity, and his recent article to the Wilberforce Society was so insightful I want to share it with you. Dan is an impactful mentor and dear friend to me.

From Dr. Dan Scott
November 22, 2022

Dear Wilberforce friends, 

In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote a bestseller, Future Shock. The book’s premise was an allegory about the challenge of dealing with rapid change.  Toffler begins the book talking about culture shock, the psychologically dislocating process through which human beings adapt to a change of culture. 

When one moves to another country, the first weeks are usually exciting. We feel like we are on an adventure. We are more than tourists, but not yet residents. We learn many new phrases in a new language. We eat new foods. We may even wear different clothing. For many of us, that is extremely exciting. 

After a couple of months, the adventure sours. We want to eat things from home we never even liked before. We realize that even if we are speaking the new language, we are engaging in glorified baby talk. We begin to meet people who do not want us in their country. If we cannot go home, we plunge into deep despair. 

If we persevere a year or two, we experience something else: we begin to feel at home. We have begun to adapt. Our language skills improve. We make new friends. We become a bicultural person. 

Now, were we to return home, we would find ourselves altered. The people of our home country will now notice some odd traits we have picked up. We may pronounce some words of our native language a bit differently. Some of them will not like the changes we have made. We will begin to feel “neither here nor there; neither this nor that.”

Toffler’s brilliant insight in 1970 was that soon, people who did not travel away from their native town would begin to move through a process very similar to culture shock. Only in this case, it would be one’s native culture that would change. Of course, cultures always change. The difference would be that change that once occurred over a century would happen in a decade. Then, the pace would pick up to radical change every five years. Then two years. 

People would experience “future shock,” the inability to adapt to one radical change before facing a new wave of change. Adaptation would become continuously incomplete. 

I think this book was one of the most prophetic pieces of all time. It accurately described a previously unheard-of societal condition to which nearly all of us can relate. 

At nearly every level – social, political, technological, and religious – future shock leaves many of us dazed, confused, and irritated. 

The answer is to ground ourselves in timeless things. That doesn’t mean we will not experience future shock. It just means that underneath all the change we will feel the solid foundation on which we stand. Of course, nothing in the universe is timeless. To find timeless things, one must transcend the visible, temporal plane. One must enter the company of God the judge of all and “the spirits of just people now made perfect.” 

Spiritual practice is the habit of routinely, habitually, turning our awareness to our eternal place and state.  Strangely enough, healthy spiritual practice does not make us irrelevant or weird. We still pay our bills and enjoy ballgames. We participate in the temporal world because that is where we are living now. However, we are aware that neither here nor now is the full picture. History is headed somewhere good – the Kingdom of God. The flow of life is guided by the wise and good Creator of all things. The tide of time moves us Godward. 

This past week, many of us lost another person known and loved by our community. Little by little, the community as we knew it shifts. We want at least our own little world to remain stable and unaltered. However, we look around and realize that so many have already moved into eternity. Piece by piece, our familiar world, like a great kaleidoscope keeps moving and we fear that soon we may not be able to discern the features of the familiar even there.   

It can be quite upsetting. We are tempted to become despondent, angry, even embittered.

Then we look ahead: Advent is coming. We will enter the joys of that past generation which in their own bleak midwinter had, like many of us, lost all hope. Then, a star and a baby revealed the glory of God that was about to break into the darkness. 

I founded Wilberforce to address some of the spiritual needs that I felt around me. Then, the world changed. And changed again. I have continually asked the Lord what to do. But all I get is the words of an old song: “Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God’s unchanging hand.”

As we met to thank God for Daniel Bell’s life (the member of the community to which I referred above), we told stories about the past. We touched one another and remembered good times. Finally, we gathered around that Table where past, present, and future all converge into timeless space. At the thin veil between here and there, now and then, we met God, holy angels, and the saints – including people we once knew that were not yet ‘saintly.’ 

Then, we walked back into a time and space that had, once again, changed. 

Alvin Toffler had no answer for future shock. He anticipated endless social unrest and irresolvable psychological dislocation. All of that has unfolded as he predicted for everyone who belongs only to their own time and space. 

For those of us who, amphibian-like, have become spiritually bicultural, future shock is only part of the picture. The other part preserves, heals, and completes everything we have ever known that has been true, good, and beautiful.  

So, lift up your hearts! Every morning and every evening. When the journey gets long and weary, look at the star that never fails to lead us home. 

Keeping touch with Eternity,