Missing the Person of Jesus

This is the first of a two-part blog that came out of a letter I wrote to a friend who had asked me why the Church misses the disabled. It is related to the very core of who we are as believers.

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Several years ago in our previous church, Jill asked me to videotape Kim walking from the close of church service downstairs to her Sunday school room. It is a moving 12-minute, almost silent video. Only two out of 50 people greet her. And this is a very caring church that we had attended for 12 years. Jill plays the video when she does her inclusion seminar.

The problem of the church not welcoming people affected by disabilities has baffled me for years. I believe the pervasive problem of the church actually distancing itself is primarily theological. Of course, the heart is involved, but good theology provides a framework for our mind so the Spirit can shape our hearts. Weak theology leaves our hearts adrift. I believe the problem is not bad theology, but missing theology. There are four misses, each a function of the other: 1) missing the person of Jesus, 2) missing community, 3) missing gospel, and 4) missing holiness.

Let me begin with: missing the person of Jesus.

With the post-70 AD split between Christianity and Judaism, the church quickly lost the Jewish frame, or way of looking at life. One of the immediate casualties was the Jewish lament tradition. Recently, I took the openings of Psalm 6 and 10 from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase The Message and shared them with some in our congregation. I told the class that I took them out of one of those "modern, edgy books of prayers" – sort of true – and I asked them to critique these prayers. People bit nicely: Disrespectful. Aggressive. Shouldn't talk that way to God! Then I showed them the same Psalms from the ESV. There was almost an audible gasp. Those are very physical, real prayers that are actually bubbling over with faith, because they aren't collapsing the gap between hope and reality. They are taking God at his word seriously.

The Greek mind, as you know, didn't like the physical. A few quick examples: all the early "fake" gospels were written at least 100+ years after the real events, and they all show the influence of the Greek mind, which we call Gnosticism when it impacts the church. So in the Gospel of Judas, Judas delivers Jesus up to death to save him from his body. Or in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene that he is going to make her into a man (in the Greek view, men have a higher, less physical form of life)! The church rejected Gnosticism but still the Greek mind shaped how it viewed Scripture. A clear example of the Greek mind is Augustine's quote, "Ask nothing of God, but God himself." Augustine's deep love for God comes through—truly, God's best gift is himself. But it is disconnected from life. What man says to his wife, "I'm your best gift, so don't ask me for anything"? How odd. It separates being from doing. That is the Greek mind. It is very similar to Buddhism and higher Hinduism.

Jesus then becomes depersonalized. I have so many examples; I'm not sure where to begin. Here's a clear one: In John 11, twice (v. 33 & 38) the Greek says Jesus was angry. No English translation mentions Jesus' anger. It doesn't fit. They prefer "deeply troubled." We want a calm Savior. A Stoic Jesus! Stoicism is the Greek mind when it forms a character—calm, balanced, reasonable, controlled. A Stoic would never touch a leper or make a whip to clear out the temple; it shatters the calm. Most of modern popular relationship literature is just warmed over Stoicism. Some good wisdom, but all focused on the self and its safety.

 


 

Therefore, we lost the person of Jesus. We lost the physical person. We needed him for the cross, but we could really skip from Christmas to Easter and things would be fine. My best, wild guess is that since the Reformation there have been about 100,000 thoughtful, scholarly articles and books on the work of Jesus. During the same period there have been probably five thoughtful, scholarly articles and books on the person of Jesus. I'm not talking about commentaries. I'm talking about the theological works that go to 30,000 feet and say, as a good theologian does, "What are the patterns, how do we make sense of this?" We simply don't know him that well; we don't know his cadences. So our theology became disconnected from the person, its glowing center. A typical seminary course on the Person and Work of Christ touches lightly on the person of Jesus (or the meaning of the title) but then focuses mainly on the work of Christ. It has no handle on him. I've confirmed this "hole" in systematic theology by talking with several Westminster Seminary professors.

I stumbled onto the person of Jesus when my life collapsed around me in 1991. I didn't know how to love a wife who was overwhelmed by the needs of a disabled daughter, with five other children, on a tight budget, and extended family members immersed in ministry who didn't know how to handle a need that didn't go away quickly. Jill found herself completely alone. Her soul was shriveling up and I didn't know how to help her. Everything I knew and loved (and still love) about the Reformation wasn't working for me. During a four-month sabbatical I burrowed myself into the Gospels using Edersheim's Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. It blew my paradigm apart. The Reformation wasn't wrong at all; its paradigm just needs to be expanded to include the center of our faith—the person of Jesus.

Here's one example: I was fascinated by the pattern in Jesus of looking at people. He does it all the time. Luke particularly picks up a pattern of Jesus first looking, then feeling compassion, and then acting. That's not how I related to Jill. I acted, often lovingly, but I didn't take time to look and feel. I begin to look more at Jill, not just physically, but to be aware of her as a person, to feel her interior life, to let the weight of her life fall on me. It was a new way of relating for me. . .  slower, less efficient, but more personal, more present.

So once you marginalize Jesus as a person, then all his teaching and life lose their punch. You no longer feel the weight of the kind of community he is creating. We are missing community.
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The missing community in our lives leads quickly to the missing gospel, and then missing holiness. Next week we'll continue on this journey. 

 

 

The Secularization of Christmas (Or: When Someone Says "Happy Holidays!")

These notes are from a talk I gave on "The Archaeology and Secularization of Christmas." Watch the full lesson here.


On one hand, it's easy to feel like Christmas has been hijacked by popular culture. On the other, it seems that it's being attacked by the cultural elites. Here I outline a brief history of the secularization of Christmas, and what our response as believers can be. 

In the first 1,000 years of Christendom, the Gospel of Matthew account with the Wise Men was the predominant story. St. Francis of Assisi then looked more closely at the Luke account, and thus came the rise of the manger story.

Even then, Christmas was a minor holiday in the Church, with Easter taking precedence (understandably so). It seems that in 1823, when Twas the Night Before Christmas was published anonymously (possibly by a friend of Clement Moore, who is believed to have written it), a shift started happening. This well-known poem virtually created our modern Christmas. Then, in 1843, Dickens' A Christmas Carol added to the mix, and both stories fit in with the rise of American consumerism, of buying and selling, as American wealth grew. 

One of the biggest impacts of the rise of Christmas was the fall of Easter in focus and popularity. 

Christmas this way was not necessarily bad, other than encouraging the love of money and possessions. In such a secular-liberal culture, it's nice to see some sort of nod toward Christianity. 

Through history, Christians actually had a part in the secularization of Christmas. It's helpful to know that, because it takes the "self" out of "self-righteousness"!

The current attack on it though certainly has something mean-spirited about it. 

It's okay to say something is mean-spirited, because then we can get over it. Then we can forgive and love those who attack as enemies. We don't have to be trapped in grouchiness. 

This attack on Christmas is a movement back to the manger. It's a returning to the humility of Philippians 3:10 -- "that I may know Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death...."

We’ve been losing political power; the cultural elites control the debate and are using it to humble us. It’s good to see that because no one can take away the two most precious things you have: your faith and your love. So when someone says “Happy Holidays” you can reply “Merry Christmas” without being grouchy. Because we are losing at the cultural level, doesn’t mean we have to lose at the people- and the heart-level.

Everything about the real Christmas is humility after humility. God’s invasion of the earth was a humiliation for everyone involved. It's primary structure was the J-curve. It was the pattern of Jesus' life (in His life, death, and resurrection), and it is now the pattern of our lives as we follow Him. 

Applying Justification by Faith in Ordinary Life

 


 

For this week's interactive lesson in our Sunday school class, I used one of my favorite stories of a pastor and his wife and their struggles to love one another during the day -- beginning with the car not starting in the morning. Then, after we've digested the stories, together with the group, we apply justification by faith to their lives and see how their day would have been transformed by faith. Here are the stories that I used to start the lesson.


Randy’s Story:

I’m a pastor of a church in Virginia. I’d just got back from a West Coast trip, so I felt some pressure to get into work. I had a lesson to prepare for that evening, plus a lunch appointment. 

Wouldn’t you know it, but my wife Sally’s car wouldn’t start. It is a diesel and we’ve been having trouble with it the last couple of weeks, especially when it is cold outside...and this was winter. I was able to start it by jumping it with the other car and then driving it to the garage to get a new battery.  

I got into work about ten o’clock, two hours late. I’d barely dented my in-basket and lunch came. During lunch, I lost track of time, and to complicate matters, I’d not changed my watch from West Coast time so I thought I still had time to spare! When I got back to the office 2:30, I only had an hour and a half to get the lesson done for our small group that night, and I was still backed up with other projects. Because I have so many evening meetings, I try to get home by 4 to take pressure off my wife. I called her at 4 and asked her if it would be okay if I came home at 5ish. She agreed, but I could tell she wasn’t happy about it. But I had helped out that morning.

I got home about 5:30 in the middle of dinner. We rushed through dinner, then I helped getting the kids ready for bedtime. I still wasn’t finished with the lesson so in between helping them, I reviewed the lesson. In the middle of this, Sally came upstairs, saw me working on the lesson while I was with the kids and blew up at me. It was not a happy moment. 

I don’t think Sally appreciated how pressured my day had been. She seemed to have forgotten that I’d helped her out that morning, and that had impacted my whole day.


Sally’s Story:

I couldn’t believe it when the car didn’t start this morning. For two weeks now, we’ve had problems with our battery in our diesel car. And it’s worse in winter. I’ve reminded Randy about this several times, but he keeps putting it off. This should have been fixed weeks ago. My whole day was messed up because he hadn’t taken the time to get the car into the garage.

When he called me at 4:00 to ask for more time, I said ok, but I was frustrated. Now I had all the pressure of our kids’ homework while trying to make dinner, plus we had small group tonight, so we had to be out on time. He messed up the beginning and the end of my day.

Dinner was rushed. I can’t think of how many times this has happened. Why do his problems become my problems? Then when I went upstairs afterwards to check on the kids, I found him sneaking in his lesson preparation for our small group time. I’m sorry, but I blew up at him. He’s not only neglecting me, but now the kids as well. He had it coming. Augh!

If faith had been Randy and Sally's lens, how would their day have been different?

Do we read the New Testament backwards?

Answer: Yes

  1. If you read the NT backwards, that is read the Gospels through a Romans lens, then the Gospels just feel awkward and a bit moralistic. Jesus is always telling people to do things that are really hard. There are sprinkles of grace, but there is all this doing too. Even Acts feels a little odd. For instance, we don't want Peter yelling at all those Jews on Pentecost saying, "You killed the author of life!" I mean, didn't we all kill him by our sin? But if you read the NT frontwards, that is, first the Gospels and then Acts, Peter's sermons make perfect sense. Why? The Son of God was just murdered and the Jews of Jerusalem were complicit in that murder... and no one is talking about it or confronting it. It is the elephant in the room. Something worse than the Holocaust just happened. Peter is confronting evil.
  2. If you read the NT backwards, then without realizing it, you de-personalize the gospel. Jesus is needed for the cross, but who He is as a person is almost secondary. Thus, the only serious place where the Person of Jesus is studied regularly and systematically is children's lower elementary Sunday School. So we've lost the whole Holiness tradition from the early church... True, the Medieval church abused it by moving into asceticism, but it came from Jesus and how he loved and his Passion. No one died like that. He taught a whole world how to die. We don't curse our enemies anymore, we bless them. So by losing the person of Jesus we never quite know how to bring morality back in. Is it example? Is it third usage of the law? Why should we be good? We miss the absolute perfection of holiness that the NT breathes on almost every page. There is a whole new way of living.."Don't even let there be a hint of sexual immorality..." "Be completely humble and gentle".... We've lost the sweetness of Christ.

The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson

It took me a while to get into it, but when I finally did, Marilynne Robinson's Gilead transfixed me. Here was someone who understood the soul. I don't mean to be critical when I say that Robinson is a liberal, feminist Calvinist. She says about Calvin,

“Calvin has a strange reputation that is based very solidly on the fact that nobody reads him,” Robinson has said. “I was, and continue to be, struck by the power of the metaphysics and the visionary quality of his theology. . . . [H]e’s terrifically admiring of what the human mind does.”

In our deeply secular world, Robinson is a voice of sanity in her love of the Word and understanding of the heart. She gets the soul at a deep level.

This New York Times Magazine article on her by Wyatt Mason is well worth reading.

Robinson's latest book, "Lila" is about the seemingly rough and uneducated wife of John Ames, the preacher in Gilead. She is transformed by her husband's preaching. According to the article,

"One of the book’s most telling passages involves watching Lila’s mind as she sits in her house, pregnant, reading the Book of Job, registering the lines and considering them. The act of reading the Bible as high drama may seem unlikely, but through it, Robinson has managed to portray how a mind with no religiosity might meet a book Robinson loves fiercely and, in its pages, find a road to a self that learns a new language: her own language. As it turns out, there is extraordinary drama in the story of how we learn to speak to ourselves." Italics mine.

Robinsons' love of the Bible is why I love nothing more than writing interactive Bible studies. I love studying the Word, immersing myself in the wisdom of other writers, and then crafting a study that draws teachers and participants into a living pilgrimage.

 

Should you endure in an abusive relationship?

A Q&A between a women's A Loving Life Study and author Paul Miller

Q: In chapter one of A Loving Life you say, "Suffering is the crucible for love. We don't learn how to love anywhere else." Please expound on that? Although many of us agree that suffering is a crucible for love, we struggled to see how we don't learn love ANYWHERE ELSE. It seems like such a stark blanket statement that discounted other avenues to learn love.

A: Good point. I am overstating for the sake of emphasis. We do love in other ways. Although, it is rare to find someone who loves in amazing ways who hasn't been through a crucible. Actually, I don't know of anyone who hasn't reached depths of Christ-like love who has been through a "fellowship of sharing in his suffering" (Philippians 3:10).

Q: Earlier in the book, one our group members remembered having concerns with how far your chapters on suffering and death being integral to love went. We would be interested to know if you had taken time to think about how a victim of abuse might take your words to mean that they must continue in suffering. She states, “I know he has a sentence about how this doesn't apply to physical abuse, but there is no clear guidance on what "counts" as abuse. I fear that in light of the overall message, a victim would feel pressure to endure at all costs. Or someone who witnesses a great injustice (like human trafficking for example) might dismiss the suffering of victims as part of learning about love? Has he spoken with victims of spousal or child abuse about how his message might be perceived?”

A: I thought about having a longer section on the topic of abuse and the multiple sides of love, but I didn't partly because the subject is so huge. In Love Walked Among Us, which is also a study of love, I go into much more detail on how different sides of love balance one another. In that book, I show how in Jesus' life his honesty (Part 2) and his dependence on his heavenly Father (Part 3) balance out his compassion (Part 1). My bottom line concern in A Loving Life is the broad direction of American culture is not enduring in love because we are asking the question, "Does this relationship make me feel good?" The word "abuse" in American culture has a enormous semantic range. People use that "range" to give them wiggle room to escape a difficult relationship. At one end, it includes sexual or physical abuse--at the other end it includes living with a spouse who is just mean or cranky. The spouse in a difficult marriage (a lazy and critical husband, a moody and irritable wife, for example) uses "abuse" to elevate the evil so they have a reason to leave the relationship. I think this is where love begins. So our culture uses the cover of "abuse" to escape difficult relationships. I think God calls us to endure in love in those situations. When I suggest in one of our seminars a title of a book like, "7 Steps to Enduring in Love-less Marriage" everyone laughs. It shows our allergic reaction to the hard work of love. The biggest reason I didn't deal in depth with abuse is simply that is not a part of the book of Ruth expect Boaz's warning in chapter 2. I stay with the subjects that the book raised. If I did something on the story of David's life, it would be more front and center, especially with the rape of David's daughter.

Q: In chapter 9, you explain that Ruth and Naomi came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley season. You say that the words "Now it happened" and "they came" suggest that it was God's orchestration, denoting good fortune. However, wouldn't experience have told the women, at least Naomi, that the time of year they arrived was at the beginning of the barley season? Wouldn't Naomi have known that from her past experiences from living in Bethlehem before she left?

A: Good point. I wondered the same thing myself. But all Hebrew scholars agree that it is a veiled reference to God's sovereignty. So I think the author is underlying something obvious with language that hints at God's shaping events.

Q: Is it possible that Boaz was in fact motivated somewhat by his attraction to Ruth (romantically)? Although we do see that Boaz was acting on hesed love, it seems likely, too, that he had developed feelings for her as he grew attracted to her. We would like to you to please comment on that.

A: It is always possible, but there is no suggestion in the text that was motivating Boaz. That is, he is already drawn to her as a person even before he meets her. But it is the drawing of respect, awe, wonder over this living 'Mother Theresa' in his midst. Could there have been romantic attraction as well? I think that is quite possible, but I would disagree with someone saying that was a motivating factor. It is clear from Boaz's reaction to Ruth's proposal in marriage that he was attracted to her and he didn't see any way for him to bridge the gap between them.

Q: Some members of the group felt that spending $1000 seemed like a lot money for Ruth to spend on new clothes because she was frumpy and wanted to get married. Additionally, why do you feel it is appropriate to tell a women to devote her tithe for her wardrobe in chapter 17?

A: Well, nice clothes aren't cheap. I knew she didn't have a lot of money, so I thought the Lord would be delighted to see one of his daughters dressed up. And it worked. "Preparing the bride" is my whole life's work!

Q: In the last few chapters when the transaction between Boaz and So-and-So is explained, you say that Boaz acted with prudence by concealing some of the information (namely about redeeming Ruth) until later. Some of us struggled to see that as prudence. Can you please explain that more clearly? Why was it prudent that Boaz present the "deal" in two steps rather than telling So-and-So all that entailed redeeming Elimelech's property from the start?

A: I'm repeating a bit what I said in the book, but Boaz was not being deceitful in the least. "Ruth" was common knowledge to the whole village--except for this guy. So Boaz uses So-and-So's foolishness to protect Ruth. In general, as Christians we tend to be naive about deal making. You see prudence all through Jesus' and Paul's life. They have open hearts but often closed mouths. For example, Paul doesn't say what his thorn in the flesh was. It is likely just prudence on his part. The human heart tends to take negative information (thorn in the flesh) and judge the person with it.

Q: You mention that So-and-So was locked into a higher price and if he knew about Ruth from the start, he would have agreed to a lower price. How do we know that from the passage in Ruth? Chapter 4 in the book of Ruth doesn't say anything about that. Was the price even negotiable? How would Boaz have the authority to negotiate the price anyways?

A: We don't know that for sure. It is an inference on my part. It is the only explanation that makes sense to me, and I've read multiple explanations. Yes, it is clear from the transaction that the price was negotiable. That is what Middle Eastern deal making is all about. Any party of a deal has authority to name whatever price they want. He's offering to purchase the land that Ruth and Naomi are hardwired to. So Boaz doesn't need authority to negotiate a price any more than any one needs authority to go into a car dealer and make an offer on the price.

Q: Why do you feel that "So and So" is the village idiot? Are you reading into the text? Or is this something generally accepted by biblical scholars?

A: It is very clear from chapter 2 (Boaz has heard all about Ruth on day 1) and chapter 3 (Boaz's comment to Ruth, 'All the people of the gate know that you are a worthy woman') that the whole village knows that Ruth and Naomi are connected. This guy has had his head stuck in video games so he has no idea of what is going on. See the movie Dumb and Dumber when "dumb" sees a 40 year old newspaper on our moon landing and says, "No way, we landed on the moon!") That's the village idiot.

Q: Many of us believe that Bathsheba was not an adulterer. Why do you say that Bathsheba committed adultery when the Bible never indicates she was at fault in any way? How likely is it that she had any option whatsoever to deny King David's attentions? According to 2 Samuel, David should have been at war but instead stayed at Jerusalem and saw from his roof a beautiful woman taking a bath in the evening. Then David inquired information on her, sent messengers and TOOK her. Nathan rebukes David but gives counsel to Bathsheba and her son Solomon. She is only one of four women honored in Jesus’ genealogy. Some commentators believe that part of Proverbs 31 is by King Lemuel aka King Solomon honoring his mother Bathsheba.

A: First of all, the Bible clearly holds David responsible. He initiates it. So the focus of the text is on David's sin. But Bathsheba could say no. Her husband did. Kenneth Bailey is the scholar who mentioned the impropriety of Bathsheba's bathing so she could be seen. In Jerusalem, all evidence points to the king's palace being higher than the other houses. It is an inference on Bailey's part that Bathsheba was improper by bathing openly but I think it is a pretty clear one.

Q: Lastly, we had a concern on how gendered your discussions on purity were. Do you feel that focus on purity was evenly divided? Or you needed to be exclusively on the importance of female purity since the discussion was about the two women Naomi and Ruth.

A: I'm not really sure about your concern. I talked about the purity of men especially in my discussion of Ruth's protecting her from men when he first met her, and then briefly on Naomi's concern at the end of Ruth 2 when Naomi is protecting Ruth's purity. I spent more time on men than women's purity in those sections. I was following the pattern of the story.

 

Do we make the church too safe?

I loved this article by Skye Jethani on how we make the church too safe. One of our trainers sent me the article because she thought it fit so well the training that we do for the church. Our interactive Bible studies are hard to sell to pastors because they want light and easy. We love to get people to actually think and work at studying the Bible in the church. I recoil from the six lesson studies that just lightly touch on a text. Our interactive studies immerse you in the wonder of Scripture and the beauty of Jesus. As one of our trainers, Timo Strawbridge says, "our studies take you to the Grand Canyon. When you are at the rim of the Grand Canyon, the Canyon does its own teaching of your heart."

Surviving and Thriving in a Collapsing World: Summary

Collapsing? That seems a dramatic word. But the reality is that our world has been changing so dramatically that it is, in fact, collapsing.

What are we to do? How do we live when our culture is swirling around us and we have a hard time finding our footing?

For those of us asking, “What’s happening to our world?", Paul Miller explains modern culture’s shift in this brief summary of a larger seminar.

As he leads us briefly through the three-fold collapse we are all experiencing in Western culture, Paul helps us define and understand what’s happening, what’s next, and how we firmly plant our feet.

A Loving Life

Learning to Love in the Midst of Suffering

*This post is originally from Paul Miller's guest post on Crossway.org. Paul's latest book is A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships (January 2014). 

Moral Collapse

Western society is in the midst of an unprecedented moral collapse. It is not just Christian moral values that are collapsing, but ancient pagan ones as well. For instance, the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar had multiple lovers, mostly arranged by his wife Olivia, so she could retain control over him, but the public face that Augustus and Olivia presented was of a happily married couple. Marriage was honored even though it wasn’t followed. Instinctively, pagans knew you needed to keep marriage front and center. In fact, when Nero blessed gay marriages the pagan revulsion was a key element of his downfall. Something new is going on in our culture that has never happened before. It is creating moral havoc, leaving people’s lives in shambles. Let me explain.

A Theology of Feelings

A young married woman named “Sue”, a member of a strong evangelical church, told a close friend of mine recently after the church service almost as an aside, “I think I’ve outgrown my marriage.” When I heard this I had trouble suppressing the laughter. I said, “So her marriage vow ’til death do us part’ was just how she felt on the day of her wedding?”

Sue’s reflection was a perfect summary of Oprah’s theology of feelings applied to life. Feelings trumped commitment. But don’t blame Oprah. Orpah is just channeling 19th century thinkers like Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. “I’ve outgrown my marriage” is just another verse to Whitman’s poem “Son of MyseIf.”

Notice Sue’s choice of language. Sue used therapeutic language (the need for growth) to mask her self-will. To paraphrase her, “I’ve grown as a person. In fact, I’ve outgrown my husband, ready for a new relationship to enlarge my spirit.” Her self-deceit is breathtaking. Sue presents herself on an upward, Oprah-like trajectory of self-improvement, when in fact she is spiraling into herself, a black hole of narcissism.

It reminded me of Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss (greeting Jesus as a friend)—as if Jesus didn’t notice that Judas had 200 torch-bearing soldiers behind him, all armed to the teeth! Jesus brilliantly unmasks Judas’ self-deceit by comparing his outer presentation (the kiss) with his inner motive (betrayal). Jesus probes Judas’ soul, “Are you betraying me with a kiss?” It is a plea for integrity. So to Sue I ask, “Are you betraying your marriage vows with the language of self-improvement? Are you masking your narcissism with words of love?”

Sharing in Christ’s Sufferings

I’ve written A Loving Life to the Sue’s of this world and especially to their spouses—to the modern widows and widowers who have been discarded or found themselves trapped in an uneven or broken relationship, where they are loving without love in return. I don’t want them to just endure or grit it out, but in this hothouse of suffering to learn to love. I want Sue’s husband to learn “the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, to somehow attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:11).

So instead of being cranky or even bitter Christians, harping on our culture’s moral decline or the unfairness of our life, we can become overcomers who are filled with hope because of the resurrection of Christ. God specializes in capturing evil to do his wonders. That is what the cross and resurrection are all about!

 

October 2013 Update

Dear Praying Friends,

I met with a group of pastors last week to help them with their prayer life. I began by playing a sermon from a pastor that said "God isn't a vending machine. We should focus on God and not ourselves in our prayers." I said, "Yes, that's true, but why does Jesus emphasize asking so much? Why create and attack a straw-man (God-as-vending-machine), when so many of us are functionally prayer-less?" To help them see that, I asked them about two areas of their lives where I was reasonably confident they were prayer-less: How did they pray about their sexual lust? How did they pray for the strong men in their lives who made their life difficult? Bingo. They were prayer-less. So we left the esoteric world of "what is ideal prayer?" to the real world of "I need Jesus."

Some international news: Bob Allums is recently back from 10 days in England doing two A Praying Life Seminars. He is headed off next week to the Philippines for another 12 days to do multiple prayer seminars. Our International Coordinator is in Chile now for two weeks doing three Person of Jesus Seminars.

We have some significant suffering among our staff:

• Jane French, our bookkeeper, is so wiped from a new onslaught of chronic fatigue/Lyme disease, that she is unable to walk unaided or do almost anything. Chris, her husband and our part-time IT person, is caring for her full time now. Shirley is covering her work for the time being.

• Kelly Bergman, our web and video person, just after the birth of her second baby, discovered that she has a fractured spine. She is in a lot of pain.

• Jill Miller, my wife, is getting a biopsy for possible breast cancer.

I'm knee deep in writing the "Mind of Jesus: The Parables of Luke". I've also begun to do some early work on the "Gospel and Community." The Reformation is strong on psychology, (how the gospel affects the individual,) but weak on sociology, (how the gospel shapes or creates a Jesus-community.)

Thank you for praying for us!

paulsignature

Paul Miller

Follow me on Twitter @_PaulEMiller

Prayer as a way of Life

In their January 2013 issue, Richard Doster of byFaith.com interviews Paul Miller about his book A Praying Life and just what it really means to have "Prayer as a Way of Life." Check it out here as the newest edition to our Resource Library.

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