Monday, January 14, 2019

Spiritual Formation (Spiritual Guidance part 2)

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For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:18).

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses
trained to discern good and evil (Ibid. Hebrews 5:14).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love (Ibid. 1 John 4:7-8).

               Often, the young learn from their elders.  You can read in Proverbs, “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom…” (Ibid. 4:7).  A prominent place to acquire wisdom is from those who have been around a while and learned a thing or two about life.  However, age does not always mean maturity.  It’s likely that we’ve all seen adults act like children.  In a small community, there was a group of adults who were unhappy with the leadership of their church and decided to leave*.  However, this group of adults chose to make sure that everyone in their small community knew that they had left that church.  They called other members of the church and told them that they were more spiritual than that church and they should leave with them.  They went about spreading rumors about the pastor and his wife.  Oddly, these actions and behaviors sound more like what you find amongst immature teenagers, but, these were adults.  In fact, they were the parents of teenagers, adults who regarded themselves as mature and spiritual leaders.

                Perhaps, maturity is found more in action than in age.  We can see that very idea in the pages of the New Testament.  This principle can be seen in Jesus’ own words to believers when He said that we should let our lights shine before the unbelieving world.  Specifically, our actions, with the hope of bringing glory to God (Matt. 5:16).  His teaching evidently rubbed off on the Apostle John, because he wrote that, we should love in actions or in what we do, as opposed to simply by words (1 John 3:18).  Therefore, as you seek a Spiritual Guide, does their walk consist of gossip or in love, joy, and peace?  Do they display their spirituality by causing division and factions in the body or in kindness, goodness, and faithfulness?  When they speak of others is there malice and maligning or gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?  These fruits of the Spirit are real evidence of maturity.


[* People have left a church for a variety of reason, some good and some bad.  However, their actions speak louder of their spiritual walks than their words.]

Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Spiritual Formation (Spiritual Guidance part 1)

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To Timothy, My true child in the faith… (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1 Timothy 1:2)

Samuel [the Prophet] said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly… now your kingdom shall not endure…” (Idib. 1 Samuel 13:13-14)

Nathan [the Prophet] then said to David … “Why have you despised the word of the Lord… Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house…” (Ibid. 2 Samuel 12:7-10)


            Spiritual Friendship and Spiritual Guidance are similar in ways, because both rely on a relationship between two people and are tools for spiritual growth.  Hierarchy can be a tricky topic when it relates to these relationships.  In the broad sense, there is more of a hierarchical structure in Spiritual Guidance, however, I feel this can be best explained using a ladder.  Imagine a ladder that is flat on the ground, you can see that the third rung is farther from the start than the first rung, but since the ladder is flat on the ground, the third is no higher than the first (Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls, Kindle Location 1088).  As I understand it, Spiritual Formation is similar to this flat ladder.  There are people who have had more time and opportunity to move up the rungs of the ladder and are therefore farther along; however, not higher, the way a regional manager is over a store manager, who is over a department manager and so forth.

            What makes for a good spiritual guide?  Let me tell you about two spiritual leaders that I have personally encountered.  The first was not a mentor and the second was.  I don’t know if the first loved his neighbor as he loved himself; however, I saw the second love his neighbor as he loved himself.  The first once mistakenly said the Babylonian captivity lasted 80 years and when I pointed out that it was 70 years, he was gruff and abrasive that I would correct him.  The second once confused the words dispensationalism and cessationism, but was accepting and grateful to be corrected.

            Remember the episode where a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 7:36-50), and a woman with the reputation of being a sinner made her way to the dinner also.  There she wept on Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair.  This made the Pharisee doubt Jesus’ holiness because He accepted the sinful woman.  Jesus then told the story of a money lender and two debtors, both of whom were unable to repay their debts.  In the story, the money lender forgave both debts, then Jesus asked the Pharisee, “which will then love the money lender more?”  The Pharisee was right to point out the one that was forgiven the greater debt.  Jesus used that to illustrate the relationship between grace and a person being changed.

            That change, the kind brought about by God’s love and His grace, as opposed to a change brought by a higher religiosity, is vital in a Spiritual Guide.  Because, they have be changed by God and by themselves.

Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.
Moon, Gary W., and David G. Benner. 2004. Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Spiritual Formation (Spiritual Friendship part 5)

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… [Barnabas] was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith… he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.  And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers… (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, Acts 11:24-26)

I get by with a little help from my friends (Beatles 1967)


               If you were a fan of the American version of The Office, then you’ll remember an episode in season five where Michael Scott has quit Dunder Mifflin to start his own paper company (Novak 2009).  Pam Beesly also quit Dunder Mifflin to follow Michael, and the episode begins with Michael having a breakdown and doubting his decision.  Pam is the voice of reason to Michael and is there to encourage and motivate him.  Later in the episode, Pam has a moment of crisis and doubts her decision to follow Michael.  At that time, it is Michael that is the voice of reason for Pam.  Although this is not an example of Spiritual Friendship, it is a terrific example of one person needing another person to aid them through their struggles, doubts and fears, and because they are in it together, it is even more powerful. 

               To this point, in the past blogs we’ve looked at examples of Spiritual Friendship in the Old Testament.  However, the same concept can be found in the pages of the New Testament as well.  In fact, when Jesus started His ministry, one of the things He did was call followers like Peter, James, and John.  These three had a unique relationship with Jesus, they are the ones we see with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mk. 9:2-8).  Then in the garden of Gethsemane, they are the ones who witness Jesus’ distress and hear his expression of deep grief (Mk. 14:33-34).

                Other examples come from the life of the Apostle Paul and his relationship to Barnabas.  When Christianity spread from Jerusalem to Antioch, Barnabas was sent by the Church to encourage and minister there.  He was able to see that the work was too great for one person and therefore, he went and found Paul to help (Acts. 11:25-26).  This year of ministering together must have forged a bond between the two, because after this, they are set apart by the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel further.  Possibly as early as AD 46 and going as late as 48, these two men embarked on a missionary journey together.  This included preaching the Gospel in Pisidian Antioch, where they would face criticism and conflict with Jews (Acts. 13:45).

               We must keep in mind, although both were well versed in the Scriptures and both were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were still human.  Therefore, they were subject to all the doubts and insecurities that all people are subject to when criticized and maligned.  Perhaps, one of the reasons that the Lord put them together was so that one could encourage the other if doubts and insecurities set in during the mission.



Next week, we’ll begin to transition from Spiritual Friendship into Spiritual Guidance.


Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

Beatles, The. 1967. With a Little Help from My Friends. Comps. John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.

Novak, B. J. 2009. Dream Team, The Office, Season 5, Episode 22. Directed by Paul Feig. Performed by Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Spiritual Formation (Spiritual Friendship part 4)

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…[T]he soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.  Saul took [David] that day and did not let him return to his father’s house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1 Samuel 18:1-3)[1]


             Some of us have had an unexplainable connection to another person, and for such a link we have terms like kindred spirit.  Although I dislike writing in the first person, I feel the need to break into this subject with a personal story.  Years ago, I was part of a group and within that group we were all assigned a spiritual mentor.  For some reason, I did not connect with my assigned mentor and I don’t mean to suggest anything negative about the guy.  Simply put, we didn’t connect; however, there was another leader within that group, and I did connect with him.  Years later at Bible College, because of my program, I had several classes with two professors, both of whom I liked. However, again, one I had an authentic connection with.  That connection has become a friendship and is still a vital part of my spiritual walk today.


             We as humans have tried to map out what makes us individuals, for example many of you may have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test and come to find out you’re more of an introvert than an extrovert.  Perhaps it’s helpful to understand that about yourself; however, that doesn’t mean your best friend or spouse will also be an introvert.  There is something of a mystery regarding human attraction and the same can be said about spiritual connections.


             This connection existed between David and Jonathan.  Since Jonathan was the son of King Saul, he came from power and some level of wealth.  David on the other hand was a shepherd and the son of a shepherd.  It’s implied that he didn’t even have a sword when he defended his flock against predators (1 Sam. 17:34-36).  Therefore, Jonathan was willing to give his sword, bow, belt and nice clothing to David (1 Sam. 18:4).  Also, after God had chosen to take the Kingship away from the house of Saul and give it to David, Jonathan remained loyal to David, despite him losing his place as the next in line for the throne (1 Sam. 23:18).  Spiritual friendship may extend to an ethereal concept; however, it is grounded in the real world, where you may need to meet their needs or put them before yourself.




Written by Pastor Ozzy



[1] There is no explicit reason to think that David and Jonathan had any kind of homosexual relationship.  Moreover, there is no implicit reason to think that either when a person considers their ancient near eastern setting (The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, note 1 Sam. 18:1-4).


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Works Cited


Cabal, Ted, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, J.P. Moreland, and Doug Powell. 2007. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Spiritual Formation (Spiritual Friendship part 3)

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Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

            Spiritual Friendship, like most interpersonal relationships, is complicated.  If we are honest, we as Christians make many assumptions regarding others’ spiritual walks; moreover, often we are careful to make our walk look smoother than it is.  However, inside, where nobody else can see, we all read James’ words, “For we all stumble in many ways” (Ibid. James 3:2a) and silently we shout, amen!

            There is a phenomenon in our modern world concerning social media. Although some people are more than willing to overshare every problem they encounter, most people want their online profile to appear perfect.  Photos with smiling friends and family.  Posts that make us look like we have our lives together and everything is in order.  We can take this same mindset and apply it to our outward spiritual walks, doing everything we can to make sure people only see our pressed and wrinkle-free white robes.

            However, James was being brutally honest when he said that we all stumble.  And it is at these times that Spiritual Friends are most needed.  Again, there are overly honest people on social media and that can be somewhat awkward at times. Some confessions and conversations are best kept between personal friends and not for everyone to see.  However, these kinds of exchanges are necessary for a Christian’s life and can be powerful moments of growth.  Hence the necessity of Spiritual Friendship.

            Consider what Paul expressed to the Corinthians in his second letter.  There he talked about how God comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others when they have difficulties (1:3-4).  It’s important to see that one person can receive the comfort that is meant to be passed on to comfort another.  That is where a friend can pass on what they have received in their past to a friend going through a similar ordeal.  We’ll explore this idea more when we get into Spiritual Guidance.



Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Spiritual Formation (Spiritual Friendship part 2)

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… Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you… (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, Gen. 12:1)

Boaz replied to [Ruth], “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. (Ibid. Ruth 2:11)

           In the last blog, we began to look at the relationship between Naomi and Ruth, and because of what we find in the Ruth narrative, we can see how one person can help to affect  another person’s spiritual formation.  With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this relationship led to Ruth becoming a progenitor in the Davidic line (Ruth 4:13-17); i.e., leaving her pagan origins and joining with Naomi was the catalyst that put her in the matriarchal line of the Messiah (Matt. 1:5).
            
          Although their period in the history of Israel is quite different, there are striking similarities between the Abraham story and Ruth’s story.  Both were pagans in their homelands (Josh. 24:2).  Abraham lived as an alien in a foreign land as did Ruth.  Interestingly, where Abraham has direct encounters with God to give him instructions and guidance (Gen. 17), Ruth has Naomi to guide and direct her (Ruth 2:22, 3:1-5).  Keep in mind, the Ruth narrative has for its backdrop the period of the Judges.  A time when people did what was right in their own eyes.  This period in Israel's history sounds very similar to our modern experience.

           Therefore, the spiritual friendship between Naomi and Ruth has great value to modern readers.  Imagine how strange the pre-monarchy structure of Israel would have been to an outsider, like Ruth.  This same sense of strangeness can exist when someone with no background in the Bible attempts to understand Christianity.
            
           As has been previously mentioned, the Ruth story happens during the period of the Judges.  The book of Judges is often misrepresented in our modern day because people have failed to understand its descriptive nature and mistook it for prescriptive.  If a person misunderstands the book in such a way, it is difficult to see its value and purpose.  That is where spiritual friendships are incredibly valuable.  Someone with a biblical background can guide and direct someone new in the scriptures.
            
           This is, of course, only one example of the value of spiritual friendships. Next week, we’ll continue our exploration of this topic. (Click here for Part 3)


Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Spiritual Formation (Spiritual Friendship part 1)


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But Ruth said [to Naomi], “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, Ruth 1:16)


Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life. (Ibid. 1 Sam. 20:17)


            We are relational creatures, and the need for relationship is seen even in the Garden of Eden.  There the Lord God observed that the man should not be alone and when there was no suitable partner for the man, God created the woman (Gen. 2:18-22).  Thus, there was a right relationship between the creator and the creation and right relationship within the creation.  This is still a need we have today.  Why are there dating websites?  Why are there social media websites?  Why do most restaurants have tables with more than one chair?  Without giving tacit approval to dating websites, it is because we are social creatures and we seek relationships.  We seek to continue relationships, and we seek to nourish relationships.

As has already been cited, the Bible has many stories that revolve around relationships, and although, cultural norms may have changed, the basic concept remains the same.  There seems to have been an implicit spiritual connection between Naomi, who was an Israelite and Ruth, who was a Moabite.  Moabites were the descendants of Lot and his elder daughter (Gen. 19:37) and there was always war between the Israelites and the Moabites.  You may recall the episode when Balak king of Moab hired the Mesopotamia diviner, Balaam to curse Israel as they were trying to enter the promised land (Num. 22-24).  Although we are not told in detail why Ruth was willing to abandon her people and her god Chemosh, she chose to follow Naomi back into Israel, saying to her, “… your God [shall be] my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Notwithstanding, the fact that Naomi and her family had left the land of Israel due to famine (1:1) and when in the land of Moab, her husband and sons died, all of this would seem in the ancient mind to be a punishment from God.  Moreover, Naomi herself seems to have felt some distance from the God of Israel, since she wanted to be called Mara, which meant the Almighty has afflicted me (1:20).  Yet, there was something about Naomi’s faith in the God of Israel that attracted Ruth to the worship of Yahweh.

So, in this series, we’ll explore the topic of Spiritual Friendship and how it can relate to our Spiritual Formation. (Click here for Part 2)

Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.