This Side Of Eden

This Side Of Eden

…Finding our way home

David Johnson

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The Event of Failure

Carmen and I have a new guilty pleasure t.v. show.  It’s called “Preacher’s Daughters”.  It’s pretty silly for the most part, but I became intrigued when I realized that one of the people they are filming was from Spring Hill, and the St. Paul’s in Franklin, where I used to work, is commonly featured on the show.  So that’s kind of cool.

Anyway, most of the time I watch the show (which is, ironically, about preacher’s and their teenage daughters) and I think, “Is this how preacher’s really come across?”

This week, however, one of the daughters was talking to her dad about her fears.  She said she was afraid of failing.  His response, “Failure is an event, not a person.”  I was so struck when I heard that statement.  It is so true, but rarely do I let what that statement really means sink in.  So many times I (and I think we, as well) end up basing my feelings of failure on a given event.  One bad grade, and the world comes crashing in…I’ll refrain from other examples…but you get the point.  Instead of judging an event for itself, we take that event, overlay it onto the entirety of our lives, and begin to let that “failure” of an event define who we are as a person.

Colby (our 5 year old) had a stretch of a few rough days when he started kindergarten.  His comment he would make every morning was, “Today is a new day!  Can’t worry about yesterday!”  While I am trying to teach him responsibility for his actions, I hope he always holds on to that idea…that while he may have a bad day, or make poor decisions, those decisions can be judged in and of themselves and do not cast a final judgement on his life.

Attentive: Fruit

I’ve been thinking about fruit lately.  The fruit that my life produces.  Scripture about fruit has been popping up in just about every setting for me (perhaps because it is spring)?  Anyway, a few weeks ago I was in a group that read John 15:1-17.  The vine and the gardener.  I invite you to read it now if you don’t already have the story in mind.

A few things struck me in that conversation.  First of all, the branches not bearing fruit are cut off, while the branches that are bearing fruit are “pruned”.  Either way, there is cutting that is happening.  The things that do produce fruit in our lives are still being trimmed and cut, in order to be shaped to God’s will.  Some things are removed entirely, some things are snipped here and there, but the cut…the wound…still happens.  Even when we are bearing great fruit, there still may be some pain in that process as God shapes us more fully to His will.

Secondly, I found myself taking control of the situation.  I found myself saying, “I try to cut these things out of my life.  I try to focus on these things that I recognize as bringing fruit”.  One of my friends pointed us back to scripture and said that it was GOD that was pruning, not us.  Hmmmm…  It should be so very simple, I’m not sure how I had missed that.  In order to truly submit to God’s will, we must be willing to submit to the fact that He has control over what to cut off and what to prune.  Something many of us may understand, but to hear the words was profound.

Thirdly, I thought about the ultimate goal of fruit.  Fruit, ultimately, is not just good for the eye.  It not just good to eat.  The ultimate goal of fruit is to grow a new tree, that will then produce more fruit.  This has a profound impact on my understanding of ministry.  If the fruit of ministry is not building others up to produce more fruit, then it is not fully doing what God intended.

Just some things that I’ve been thinking about…What do you think?  Do you ever try to be the gardener?  Where have you seen the fruit of ministry, growing new disciples, which produce more fruit?

 

Attentive: Lies

Last week was midterms.  It was a pretty busy week…

Unfortunately, on Tuesday, while studying for Greek, I was overcome with fear.  Now, I have an “A” in Greek, and while I want to do well on the midterm, it was an irrational fear of failure.  I did not remember anything…I was going through vocabulary that I’ve known for 6 months, and consistently getting things wrong.  It was a very disheartening feeling.  To the extent that I nearly dropped the class, because of fear of doing poorly on this test (yes, I am crazy enough to consider dropping a class that I have a solid A in).

So I emailed my professor.  Told him what was happening, and he asked to call me.  Of course, I told him he could call.

“Hello?”

“Hello, David?”

“Yes.”

“This is Brad.  I just want you to know that what you are experiencing is lies.  Do not give in to the lie that you are not good enough.  And that you don’t know anything.  You have a solid grade in the class, you have been preparing, and you need to know that God will overcome this feeling.”

He went on, essentially reassuring me and my abilities.  It was very empowering.  And he gave me permission to put down the books for the day, get away from it, and come back later.

Sometimes we hear the lies, whether they are from Satan, or from this world, or from ourselves, it doesn’t matter.  We hear lies, and we sometimes we live in to them.  The lies become so powerful that we begin to see them as reality…and we allow them to become the author of our lives, rather than God.

What are some of the lies that you’ve been told?  Are there people in your life who help you to combat the lies that you may begin to believe?

 

I give thanks for Brad, my professor, for the prayer and reassurance…as for the test…well, it wasn’t so bad.

 

Mighty Works

I wasn’t planning on posting much this week…it’s midterms, and I’m feeling the pressure. However, something in my studying provided a spark.

“In a world where mighty works were accepted more easily than they are today, the problem was not so much whether they actually happened but rather by what power were they done?” (J. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology, pg. 86)

Jesus performed miracles. But people didn’t question them themselves, they questioned where Jesus got his authority, or what power he tapped into. This is prevalent in Mark’s gospel. The same I think can be said of the apostles.

What is it about today’s world that leaves us less receptive to the mighty works that God is doing? Do you see any of those mighty works? When seemingly amazing things happen, are we asking the right questions? Are we asking if it was from God, and giving glory appropriately?

New Creations

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away’ behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I’ve been reading recently about personality types.  While sometimes I have often struggled with things like the Myers Briggs test, occasionally it can be helpful.  In reading through a brief version of the test, and what that may mean for me, some thoughts have stirred in me.

These personality types all have their bonuses.  They all have something of value to offer others…but they also provide a unique set of challenges when dealing with the world.  What is stirring in me, though, is how do I overcome these challenges?  Basically, my personality type described me to a “T”…and it’s helpful to be aware of some strengths I offer and my weaknesses, but what do I do about them?

For instance:  To some extent I am a visionary.  I dream big…and always look toward what the future may be.  But, I also usually lack the grounding to create logical plans for how to make that reality.

What I realize is that those weaknesses need to be touched by the grace of God.  I pray that these weaknesses would be made new…my personality would begin to reflect less of who I am, and more of who Christ is.  I know it’s not an overnight change, but we are all works in progress…

What about you?  Do you know your personality type?  Have you ever really tried to pay attention to that kind of thing?  What does it mean to you to have God touch those “challenge” areas?

 

Perfect: Gifts

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. ”  – James 1:17–18.

I don’t know why exactly this scripture came to my head this morning, but as I was reading, it was there.  It really had nothing to do with what I was reading.

It did, however, get me thinking.  Somehow being perfect involves our gifts.  If God is the giver of every good gift that we have (our talents, skills, money, etc.) then we are to use those gifts to bring about His kingdom.  The scripture tells us that our gifts will help us “be a kind of firstfruits of all he created”.  Firstfruits were the initial harvest of crops from the land.  They were supposed to be offered to God before the crop could be used in sustaining the community.

That’s an interesting thought…that before we can use any talents or gifts for ourselves, we are to dedicate and offer those gifts and talents to God, as first-fruits.  This has pretty big implications about how we use our skills, talents, gifts, money…basically any and all of our resources.

Do you think our gifts have anything to do with “being perfect”?  How can we use our gifts to bring about the kingdom of God?

Attentive: Created

I am struck sometimes by how different types of art can tell our stories…

I have a close friend, who, after breaking up with her boyfriend spent the evening with Carmen and I painting words on a canvas that expressed her feelings.  The end product was pretty beautiful.  Just words, but the colors, the expression…it was pretty powerful to see.

Carmen has a knack for drawing pictures of Jesus.  In these pictures, Jesus is usually wounded…the crown of thorns, a few stains of blood.  Again, very powerful to see.  I have to imagine the that the process she goes through to make those pictures somehow includes the wounded-ness of her own heart.  I can’t imagine being able to just make those creations without tapping into our own wounds.

I am not a visual artist myself.  I’ve tried.  Lots of times.  There’s probably a blog or two about that coming…but visual arts are just not my thing.  I am a writer…at least when it comes to tapping into my creativity.  I always feel like I have to draw “well”…so it’s never good enough (trust me…it’s terrible).  However, I never feel like I have to write well.  I feel like I can just write…and whatever comes out, is my offering.

We were made in the image of God, our creator.  In my mind, one of the most important things we can do, is create!  I think that’s why art, be it drawing, photography, writing, music, etc. is so important to each of us.  On some level, as we create, we tap into a greater story.  It actually becomes a form of spiritual discipline, allowing us to bring our prayers and offerings to God.

Do you have any experience with this?  What are the “creative” outlets in your life?  Do you get the sense that your creativity connects you in any way with God?

Perfect: Love

“What is then the perfection of which man is capable while he dwells in a corruptible body? It is the complying with that kind command, “My son, give me thy heart.” It is the “loving the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind.” This is the sum of Christian perfection: It is all comprised in that one word, Love.”  (John Wesley, Sermon 76, On Perfection)

 

A family member once asked me as I discerned my calling to ministry, “What is God to you?”  My answer…”Love.”

The family member laughed at me, and said something along the lines of, “Come on, David…is that really all you got?”  I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I know we spoke for a long time about who or what God was.  I don’t really think all that God is and does can be summed up in one word, but if it could, I do think that the word “love” would be it.

When I receive the command to be perfect as my father in Heaven is perfect, it is evident to me that love is directly involved in that process.  To know the Father is to know love.  As we talk about what it means to be perfect, I think it is truly important to consider Wesley’s words above…”My son, give me thy heart.”

What (or who) is God to you?  How does that image of God call you into perfection?

God’s Word

For seminary I am writing a small paper on the inclusion of John 7:53-8:11 (The woman caught in adultery) in the Gospels. It is an interesting discussion, and in reality, the text was probably NOT a part of the actual document. The earliest manuscripts do not have it included. Some older manuscripts do include the text, however, the verses are included in different spots, not necessarily at this point in the text. Because of this evidence, it is a safe bet that the verses were not a part of the gospel of John.

However, I do still think the text has something of importance to say about how Christ would have us live…I certainly would not venture to say that the story is not in congruence with the Gospel. I think it matches the life of Jesus very well. While it may not have been included in earlier manuscripts, it was certainly a story of Jesus’ life that was getting spread around. Just because it wasn’t included, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and there isn’t something to learn.

The issue that I have come across in my studying about this passage is that many people believe that since John himself did not include it in his gospel, than it shouldn’t be included in the bible. They make the claim that it is the author of the text who is inspired by the Spirit, and that scribes or other people have no right to change or adapt what was inspired by the original author.

My questions that I pose are this: Did the Holy Spirit limit itself to the author of the text, or could the Spirit possibly have moved in the scribes as well, so that this text was included? What are your thoughts? How do you think the Spirit moves today?

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