29 “… "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first." Mark 10:29-31 (NKJV)
"Methodists are fond of talking about the resources of Christian theology as lying in Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. That list is inadvertently read as a list of two resources unique to the church (Scripture and tradition), alongside two resources shared in common with everyone else (what goes on inside our heads and what goes on in our lives). But when Christians talk about reason, we are talking about reasoning with the church, and when we talk about experience, we are talking about the experience of the church." (from Winning the White House and Losing Our Souls)
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV)
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
Now that you've seen the story I will be talking about today, let me add a twist, another story. It is a story which I have grown to love through the years. Usually, it is told in relation to businesses, how the corporate world works, that kind of thing.
May I Ask? Have you ever trusted God when dealing with other people? How did it go? What did you learn about you? What did you learn about God?
May I Suggest? Read David's full story in 1 Samuel. What do you learn from his life? OR take time and talk with someone who you know trusts in God, ask them what they've learned and why they continue.
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
“Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God...the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking it's temperature. Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate (pg 30, Life Together).”
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
Before we talk about feelings, let’s make sure we understand the playing field: Psychology Today noted that in an analysis of 500,000 adults, men rated just as high as women in emotional awareness. Men and women react differently; she shows her vulnerability and he must remain in control.
Moms bring a good balance to us. Think about your mom, grandmother or a caregiver who had an influence on you. What is one characteristic about her that has always helped you?
I know when I was in college, my emotions were getting the best of me. One night, talking to my mom, she reminded me to “think things through.” My mom doesn’t have a degree in psychology but library science but she understood my emotions needed some balance. We all need someone to keep us upright from time to time. Moms tend to be good at that.
John Wesley had a practice that held to that today we Methodists call the quadrilateral. It really isn't four equal parts though. (There are a few other different models. I prefer Dr. Melvin Dieter's Molecule) Our emotions, our experiences might get the better of us so Wesley put Scripture as the primary means of steadying our faith. Wesley also placed tradition and reason as the two other pieces of the quadrilateral.
Daniel and his friends who were in exile in Persia faced a number of temptations. There was the temptation to be impure starting at the beginning of Daniel in chapter 1. In this chapter, we find that Daniel knew his scripture. He understood the laws of Leviticus for Jews on what to eat. Later, chapters 2,4 and 5 tell the stories of the temptation to be insincere (Daniel 2, 4, 5), to be someone they weren’t. They knew Scripture and their tradition and so held firm and again, trusted in God. (1)
With his very life on the line following the ruling of King Darius,
Okay, let’s be real honest here. For my life, I always really think about this story in terms of the Lion’s Den. But the crux of this, the decision of Daniel to trust in God happens way back here in verse 10. Most of us either we can acknowledge that reason would seem to dictate the day here but it doesn’t. The temptation to be insecure, to be ruled by experience or emotions has been ruled out based on the past experiences of Daniel and his friends in the first 5 chapters of the story.
Daniel had the lessons of Scripture in the Old Testament, a model for prayer. And he had his tradition of praying and giving things. One note mentions, “Daniel did not increase his prayer out of hypocrisy, nor did he try to conceal it out of fear,” (The Wesley Bible, 1990). You might say Daniel was a model Methodist in his time but also at a time when we need to see that trusting God is more needed than trusting systems, bureaucracy or governments.
Years later, Jesus’ disciples were troubled, they were facing their own "lion's den." The Greek says, “they were stirred up and anxious.” Down here in the south, think about a hornets’ nest when you hear stirred up. Jesus’ words to them were, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. (John 14:1).”
Our “lions’ dens” are all different. They maybe at school facing a bully or social pressure. For college students, those pressures maybe a tough teacher or social pressure. Those of us as adults it maybe in a work environment that is toxic or a difficult marriage or…social pressure. What we choose to do BEFOREHAND prepares us for when everything hits the FAN.
When he observed Daniel’s practice of prayer, G. Campell Morgan wrote, “The occasional is always affected by the habitual.” What are you doing to beforehand? How will you behave when feelings begin to take over? Will you be defined by them or will your habits determine your faith?
Why do we ask the question about supporting the church with your “Prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness?” They aren’t for the church – they are for you. These are the habits to help us face the occasions that arise? Will you? Will you begin the habits?
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
We are not on a solitary journey with God. We do it together with others. The Bible talks frequently about our being a “body” and a “family.” The Old Testament is full of similar words as God formed the people into a “nation.” Ecclesiastes even pointedly says we need each other to survive this life.
Let me give a word of caution or clarification. This is not about engaging in conversation or debate. This is isn't trying to formulate answers. I hope by now you've picked up a theme regarding listening. If your hope and desire is to connect with God and you're listening for God in others, there is no need to be looking to what to say next. I wonder if we have so much division in this world, not so much because we disagree so vehemently but we neglect to listen so consistently.
I want to suggest four ways of listening to God in others.
1. Ask Questions of Those Farther on the Journey.
When Philip comes up to the eunuch in Acts 8:29-39, he initiates the conversation. But the eunuch recognizes his need for hearing more from God and so responds to Philip's question with a question...and an invitation. More questions followed. Jesus and the woman at the well reflects this practice too. Ask questions of those farther on the journey whether that is due to age, by wisdom or faith. And on that note...
2. Pursue the Wise
Sure, follow blogs by Seth Godin and the speakers at Catalyst but that isn't everyday relationships. Pursue conversation, pursue connection, pursue an actual relationship with those you see as truly wise. I have had direct conversation with Guy Kawasaki over twitter, Scott Ginsberg on Facebook and author Janet Hagberg through e-mail. In a digital world, this is was what the Queen of Sheba did in 1 Kings 10 when she heard of King Solomon's wisdom. This was the pattern in the early centuries of the church when men and women sought out the Abbas and the Ammas of the desert. These weren't ordained folks, they were just wise people who sought God. You may not have to far to find them either. They maybe in the office right next to you.
3. Listen to the Teaching of Those Set Apart
There are those who are have been consecrated or ordained for teaching others the faith. Acts 2:42 tells how the early church took time to be taught by the disciples. Paul outlines in his letters to Timothy and Titus how to be teachers and the rest of his letters, well they help us know how to listen better. What we need is to take the time to actually listen – to understand what God might be saying and not to always have ourselves understood.
Like my Grandpa Hagler, ordinary, everyday people can be the voice of God to us. In Paul's letter to Titus, chapter 2, he talks about older men and women living as an example to the younger folks and teaching them. Some of the most Godly people I have ever met are not ordained. They have been doctors, lawyers, clerks, police officers, professors and even an old oil field worker (Grandpa Hagler) and a high school drop-out (Grandpa Erion).
But those are easy ones. Can we listen to God when God speaks through the unexpected everyday people? Can God speak to us though a Muslim? What about a Buddhist? Can God's word come from someone in the LGBT community? Are we ready to listen when an 60 year-old, white, Republican male speaks God's word to us? Can we listen as well when the voice of God sounds like a young 20-something, woman who is a Democrat?
Remember, if God can speak through Balaam's ass then certainly God can choose to use anyone.
If what you are after is to look for God, then remember (paraphrasing Stephen Covey) to seek first to understand and don't worry about being understood. This is about listening for God not other people hearing from you. It is hard to practice but it is worth it. We all need to be reminded we're not the center of the universe – God is. Be thankful!
May I Suggest? Make a list of four people who fit each of these catagories. Take on one a week for one month. Take time to write out what you hear from God. How attentitive were you to the Holy? How hard was it to listen? What questions still remain?
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
We know what we shouldn't do. We shouldn’t eat that Big Mac. We should order water not get a refill on sweet tea. We really need to take the walk and not watch another episode of American Idol. Think about it. What is one of the things you know you need to do or see that you need to do and you keep getting distracted by something else? Take a moment and share with the folks at your table what that thing is and what keeps distracting you.
What if that one thing was something you got a clear message from God about? Would that make it easier to do it? Take a moment and consider 1 Samuel 16:1-13 and the choosing of the next king of Israel.
God sends Samuel to end of the line, to the youngest of all the sons, the last in the line when we're all looking for the first. But Samuel had heard the correction and knew it was right when God said to anoint the shepherd boy, the youngest of Jesse's sons.
Speaker and author Len Sweet refers to David as one of the “C” people – not necessarily “the best and brightest,” but “...the committed, the consecrated and the compassionate.” Daniel Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence, expresses the reality that IQ and success rate and happiness don't go together – that the “C” people can do just as well or better. Maybe it was more than a good thing that David Letterman set-up that scholarship at Ball State University for “C” students.
Our potential is as broad and wide and far as the sky itself. No matter who you are...David's life is a testament to trusting in God. He may have been average in most things, but not when it came to faith and obedience to God and humility when he failed. These are what set him apart as Israel's greatest leader = not Saul who was the strongest or Solomon who was the wisest.
Truly, no matter who you are...trust God!
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
Me? I have wondered what to say.
One of the things I am committed to is listening, both the practice of active listening and holy listening. As a spiritual director and UM clergy, I do believe God's grace is sufficient for us all. It is my intent over the next few years to enter into and hopefully facilitate listening sessions with clergy and laity on this issue among others.
What I could 'hear' from a distances is two things:
The vote on grace, I think, has to deal a great deal with the fear of the first group. They fear these words will be used to advocate change and so distrust the meaning and motive behind it. On the other side, talk of leaving has so very much to do with the effects of pain, to get away from the source of pain. It too, is part of our human condition and likely response.
My concern? The state of our trust in God. But I don't say it as a condemnation on our denomination - I say it as a symptom of who we are demonstrating ourselves to be. We are children, still babies some of us. We remain in our early stages of moral and spiritual development, surrounded by symbols of our past successes and our present toys and we worry about whether we will get our way. We are only living out our faith as we have grown into it. I hope we all realize we're not done growing up yet and that gives me hope.
Honestly, look at what makes up many of our churches. Our behaviors demonstrate this across our coutnry and denominations. I don't see much difference. A good experience on a Sunday morning trumps the experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily. The small group curriculum excludes the messy conversations where reason come into play. We strip tradition away so that the mystery and wonder of God is lost. It is no wonder the western church is in the state it is in.
I look at his letters to the churches. I look at Acts and the disagreements in the early church. They were filled with the Spirit and they lived closest to the source material! And where is the church in Galatia let alone Galatia as a city today? Closed and gone. So are the others (maybe only Rome can lay claim to surviving). So who are we kidding? It was a mess then and we live in the mess now and guess what? God is still in this mess and just like them, we struggle to trust in God much less one another.
I am no different and yet, I know I am. I have suffered at the hands of God and I have not grown bitter. I worry but I do not fear. I trust God, it seems, maybe a hair's breadth more than others most of the time, and then again maybe not. Here is what I do know, I know God and so I trust my calling. I am going to continue to listen, I will continue to love and I will continue to preach grace. Because grace was offered to me, I will offer it to all. I don't need legislation for it to be so and because it is so, I have hope for Christians who also happen to call themselves United Methodists. I trust God will be with us in the mess."
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
the loss of vision in my right eye.
It is still hard to get used to. I've lost close to 70% of the vision in my right eye due to what is called ischemic optic neuropathy, a blockage in some of the veins leading to my optic nerve. I didn't know that in the beginning when I was being sent to Neuro-opthomologist. I didn't know what it was when I was doing optical mri's or when nurses were drawing all that blood. I didn't know what was in store when I kept handing medical folks my credit card and insurance card over and over again either!
What did I know?
I knew that even if I couldn't see out of this one eye, I could still see God. I came to trust in what I 'saw' in my heart as I prayed my breath prayer, "My Father, my God, grant me you." In those moments, all alone with my thoughts and emotions, I could see God. The more I saw of God, the more I found peace even as my world changed once again.
If you really want to see God throughout your day, you must realize this is part mind set, part practice, and a whole lot of grace going before you.
Your day, your week and all your years are full of experiences that will try you and test you. If you are growing on this journey (Kathy Escobar just completed a great series on this), then you'll need more than one way to face things. Don't think one thing - think options: Like a buffet! A magnifying glass, a pair of glasses, binoculars and a telescope all make things easier to see. So do certain prayer practices. They are here for you and me to use to see God throughout the day...if we want to do it.
2. Follow Your Temperment.
You are you and you are not someone else. I'm going to say this point blank - stop listening to anyone who says "this practice" or "that practice" is the ONLY way you're going to grow in your faith or see God. Even if it is just implied, go elsewhere. They are not YOU. If you have been adopted into the family of God then as a daughter or son (see Romans 8:14-16), God wants you to be you, to relate to you as an individual not as a clone.
3. Go with the flow.
What is your main interest? What is bugging you? What is inspiring you? Go after it, research it, ask questions about it, Google it. In your life experience, has something on morality, theology or social issues, caused you to be inquisitive? Then let that interest or question lead you as you look for God.
4. Pray the Jesus Prayer.
By the fourth century, the practice of the Jesus Prayer helped followers live out Paul's call to "pray without ceasing." The Jesus Prayer gave birth to the practice of the "Breath Prayer," which is a personal prayer you create the follows a similar pattern to the Jesus Prayer. Ron DelBene, author of The Breath Of Life, teaches this form of prayer and has made this book available for free in pdf on his site.
5. Pray the Hours.
Praying the hours, the Divine hours or the Divine Office, is another ancient practice of the Church. It is an incredible help to the Christian looking for God throughout the day. Phyllis Tickle offers a great introduction to this practice at explorefaith.org
6. Use Prayer Beads/Rosary.
The Rosary is a well known practice of prayer for Roman Catholics and if this is your tradition, by all means use them. Because of theological differences, Protestant churches did not participate in this practice. That was until the 1980's when an Episcopal priest developed a similar model simply called "Prayer Beads." Kristen Vincent has a great site outlining the practice of using prayer beads. The aid of something tangible can be a huge help in guiding and focusing our heart on the unseen God.
The intent of these is to help you throughout the day. This is certainly not about creating some new law that you have to do them. These are not tasks on a to-do list. They are not an end to themselves either. They are here and have been available for years and centuries. They are not a creation or gimmick.
If our journey was a road trip, these are some of the modes of transportation to get to the end. If your journey is as mine, to look for God throughout the day, then pick one and take it for a test drive. What are you waiting for, it is time to hit the road! Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1Th 5:16-18 NASB)
May I Suggest? Examine your own wants and desires. Ask yourself, "Do I want to be seen as good or do I want God?" After that, move forward with integrity knowing yourself better and I pray, knowing God more!
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
Posted by Ken L. Hagler
Having been in full-time ministry now for 16 years, I've had this one question asked regularly of me and the emphasis is usually as follows:
"How do you have a 'quiet-time/devotional time' everyday? I don't have any TIME!"
Time noted a few years ago how we use all our time. The New York Times put together this great little interactive graphic to see are time usage each day. If you don't care about it, you're not going to put time into it. If you don't make time do it, then it isn't going to get done. By all accounts, the most important thing in our lives is the screen in front of you right now or the one in your living room, bedroom, den, kitchen, mini-van backseat or in your hand.
So the answer to the question of time for a devotional time? Make it. Only you can. If you are going to make God connections, you have to start by being intentional about looking to God at some point in your day.
When preacher John Termbath sent his letter to John Wesley saying he was "withering," Wesley's response was emphatic,
O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. (The Letters of John Wesley, Vol 4. 103)In his book, Prayer & Devotional Life of United Methodists, Dr Steve Harper notes that in his studies of over 30 years regarding the spiritual life of saints and followers of Jesus, they included, "...stated periods and acts of formation in the midst of a total life devoted to God (pg42)." But as monk Thomas Merton noted, "Most of us, unfortunately, are not ready to lay down our lives in martyrdom most days at six o'clock in the morning or whenever our mental prayer may occur...(pg. 90, Spiritual Direction & Meditation)
I recommend four things:
1. Find a guide or devotional YOU will use.
There are so many devotional and guides available for us these days. DO an online search or walk through any Christian bookstore (you might consider this one or this one). DO listen to other people's recommendations BUT DON'T just pick something because someone else recommends it - use what you know you will use. From my experience, it should have at least three things:
1) Scripture reading.
2) Guided thoughts toward God.
3) Prayer guide.
2. Set aside the time that works for YOU.
Morning, lunch time, mid-afternoon or right before bed. It doesn't make much difference BUT pick the time which works best for you to hang out with God. This is your time with God, not mine or anyone elses.
3. Pick a time amount that works for YOU.
We're talking about starting here! You wouldn't start training to run a marathon by trying to run one on the first day. DON'T start by saying you're going to have an hour with God. If it turns out that way, great, but be realistic. A five-minute meditation and prayer is a GREAT start!
4. Stop and change if it doesn't work for YOU.
If after a few days, you don't get a sense of God's presence, you don't find yourself more connected to God in your day, put your chosen material down and try something else. DON'T feel like you're stuck with any devotional - it isn't about reading all the way through. Again it is YOUR connection to God each day.
BONUS IDEA. Have a notebook nearby each time.
Make notes when you see God make connections. Whatever comes to your mind or heart, write it down.
May I Suggest? Start with using an online devotional that is free (I shared two in item number 1). Also, try your local public library for other books.
NEXT UP...learning to look for God throughout your day.
Posted by Ken L. Hagler