Hurt People Hurt People

Gilbert Kerrigan, Senior Minister

I heard someone recently say, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, people who are emotionally hurting often act in such ways that hurts other people. Psychologists would say that when hurt people do this to others they are essentially trying to deflect their pain onto others. Often times they may not even be aware that they are doing this.

This is one of the reasons why a legalistic approach to Christianity can be so dangerous. Legalism neglects the inside. Legalism neglects the heart.

Doesn’t Jesus say this very thing? He tells the Pharisees, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matt. 5:25). And then just two verses later, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (5:27).

On another occasion Jesus finds himself in a discussion about spiritual cleanliness and defilement. His opponents are entirely focused on the externals – what you can and can’t eat. He finally says to them, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mk. 7:20-23).

Neither one of these examples have anything to do with emotionally hurt people hurting other people, but I really believe these passages are relevant. At the core we are talking about being controlled by what is inside us. It is the battle taking place inside of us that Paul talks about in Galatians 5. He says that the Holy Spirit and our inner selves (various translations say flesh, sinful desires, old nature, etc…) are in constant conflict inside us. They are at battle deep inside of us, so that whatever flows from the inside outside of us will be of the Holy Spirit.

Until we as a church learn to deal with the whole person, inside and out, we will have, as one person put it, “congregations filled with people who are spiritually gifted but act like emotional infants.” Perhaps this is why Paul tells the Thessalonians, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). Did you catch that? “Your whole spirit, soul and body…

For the most part, the church does a pretty good job of attending to the spiritual needs of others. We are also very aware of and sympathetic to the physical needs of others. A majority of our prayers are focused on physical needs. It is the emotional needs that often get neglected, perhaps because they are often the most difficult needs to address.

Often times addressing the emotional needs starts with self awareness. This means I have to become aware of what is inside myself (pain, anger, shame, betrayal, fear, etc.). Once I have become aware of what is inside, I must then acknowledge it and be willing to address it. We must then be willing to bring it before the Lord and let Him work through it.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.” ~ Psalm 139:23-24

Gilbert's Signature

Christian Etiquette for Political Participation

Gilbert Kerrigan, Senior Minister

I typically do not speak of politics, especially in my preaching and teaching. I tend to be a bit of a Lipscombite, which actually has nothing to do with the school itself. David Lipscomb, for whom the school is named, was deeply impacted by the Civil War. He watched Christians on both sides killing each other over political agendas, and he was convicted by his observation that Christians were much more passionate about kingdoms of this world and much too involved in the politics of those kingdoms. Therefore, he was adamantly opposed to Christians involving themselves in the political processes of our nation, and he strongly felt that our duty was to be passionate about and involved in the kingdom of God.

So, I will admit upfront that this is my bias when it comes to politics. My experience has been that politics brings out the worst in people, and Christians are not exempt from this. I have seen Christians mudsling with the best of them!

With that in mind, I would like to offer what I am going to call Christian Etiquette for Political Participation. I offer you these rules of etiquette:

  1. Use your words to build up and encourage, not to tear down and demonize. This is especially true on social media. Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29).
  2. Do not spread gossip and lies. Check your facts! Don’t just check the facts given to you by biased resources. Be willing to hear both sides with an open mind. The Bible is full of scriptures that speak to the dangers of spreading gossip and offering false testimony about others.
  3. Do not contribute to the rhetoric of fear used by so many today. We are not a people of fear, or at least we are not supposed to be. The most repeated command in the Bible is do not fear. John speaks of fear when he writes, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). The “doom and gloom” message of many in the church today comes from a  place of fear. This should not be!
  4. Honor, respect, and pray for those who hold offices in our nation. Paul tells Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  5. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Straight from the mouth of Jesus (Luke 6:31). I think this is pretty self explanatory, and I believe this applies to the way we treat and talk about politicians.
  6. Do not let the political process distract you from seeking first the kingdom of God.Therefore I tell you, do not worry… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:25-34).

Despite my Lipscombite leanings, I would never try to encourage anyone to abstain from the political process, but I would offer this challenge: be a light in the midst of darkness. Make sure your participation in the process looks wholly different from the participation of those who do not know Christ. As an American Christian participating in the political process, be less American and more Christian.

Gilbert's Signature

I Need More Clarity!

Gilbert Kerrigan, Senior Minister

There are times (more often than not!) that all I really want is for God to give me clarity. I want to see everything clearly. I want to have certainty about all that I believe. I want to know for sure that what I am doing is absolutely God’s will. Dear God, give me clarity!

Is that faith?

clarity_vs_trustDo words like clarity, clearly, and certainty describe faith? Modernity and the Enlightenment sold us this lie that we can know for sure – we can have certainty, even in matters of faith, but I’m not so sure that is correct. Faith, as the Hebrew writer reminds us, is about things hoped for and unseen. There is little clarity and certainty when it comes to things hoped for and unseen. It is all about trust, which is ultimately what faith is all about. Faith is trust. Not clarity. Not certainty. Trust.

There is a story that is told of a man who was blessed with the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa. When he met her she asked, “And what can I do for you?” He asked that she would pray for him.

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.

His answer is probably representative of what many of us would ask. He replied, “Pray that I have clarity.”

“No. I will not do that.” she responded.

“Why?”

She quietly, but sincerely responded, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”

He was confused. “But you always seem to have clarity,” he responded.

Mother Teresa laughed. “I have never had clarity. What I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

I think that is a great story, and it reminds me a lot of a prayer that Thomas Merton once prayed:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Gilbert's Signature

Just a Little More From Mary & Martha

Deron Freudenthal, Campus Minister

Imacon Color ScannerThis past Sunday, I preached on Luke 10:38-42. As you know, Martha is distracted by all the tasks that go along with being hospitable while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. After having all she could take, Martha basically rebukes Jesus telling him to tell Mary to get up and help. Christ, in probably a gentle, sympathetic, yet convicting voice basically says, “Martha, Martha. You’re distracted by so many things right now when really only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen that one thing and it will not be taken from her.”

Ouch! Ever have that moment when you feel so right about something you speak out about it or act on it because you feel so strongly only to find out you are completely wrong? Its a piercing, stomach dropping moment that can be a very humbling experience. That’s where Martha is right now. She just had the “self-righteous” rug pulled out from under her. Ever been there? I have. Its no bueno. At times like this you usually ask yourself 2 questions: 1) What do I do now? and 2) How can I never put my foot in my mouth like this again? I personally think Martha experienced something like this.

First, I think Martha probably stopped what she was doing and took a seat. If we look in John 12, we see Mary and Martha again, along with their brother Lazarus. Assuming this is a different scene than the one in Luke, we see Martha again doing the serving and Mary again at Jesus’ feet. Only this time we see no complaint from Martha. This brings us to the second question. I think this is the case because over time she has learned there is a time for everything: a time to serve and a time to sit. The only reason she is able to happily serve this time is because she has already spent plenty of time sitting at Jesus’ feet. We know these three siblings have become good friends of our Lord, and he frequently stays with them given the close proximity of their village, Bethany, to Jerusalem. I’m sure that during these visits Martha has continually been learning the lesson that true selfless service of others comes out of taking the time to truly love the Lord by taking the time to be with and learn from Him.

Many of us hear this and our first thought is, “I’m too busy.” I hear you. I truly do. Then I think about Jesus, who had to be the busiest person ever, and he frequently went off alone to be with God. Often our attempt to remedy this, to spend time with God while still being busy, is to multi-task. We pray while driving, read scripture while at a ball game, or listen to Christian music while working at our desk. Now listen carefully…all those are good things! I highly recommend them. After all, the goal of intentionally spending time with God is to be mindful of the presence of God in all that we do. However, if our only times with God are while we are doing something else, then our Lord and Savior never gets our full attention. If the only time I ever listened to my wife was while I was watching TV, I’m not sure we would have the kind of relationship either of us would want. So yes, multi-task. May we be aware of God in all that we do, but may we also carve out special time for our Lord during the day. May we, like Mary, choose the one thing that is most needed.

Blessings,

Deron's Signature

Fueling the Spirit

Phil Travis, Youth and Family Minister

A person can, in general, only go three minutes without breathing, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Yet, it is rare that we ever push these limits. We drink water several times a day, we breathe 12-20 times a minute, and eat 3 (or 4, or 5) times a day. We know these things are important, and so we do them – some of them (thankfully) we don’t even have to think about.

But how often do we make sure that we are giving ourselves the spiritual things we need in order to survive? And how often do we need them? Is it more like food, or more like air? What are the things we need in order to fuel our spiritual life?

So many things in our life use up our spiritual, and emotional “reserves.” Difficult people, work, raising children, life changes, and difficult circumstances – just living life. All of these thing take their toll on our spiritual well-being. In order to be successful, an athlete needs to eat the right foods, stay properly hydrated, and make sure they breathe deeply and well while they are exerting themselves. The same is true for our Christian race – we must breathe deeply those things, which give our spirit life.

What are the things that feed your soul? That give you life? Take time to pursue those things! Maybe it’s crafting. Maybe it’s sharing conversation over coffee, maybe it’s going into the woods alone. Whatever those things are, be sure to not neglect them. Feeding the spirit is vital for developing your relationship with God, and for being able to be used by God in God’s work on this earth.

feed your soulHere are a couple of other suggestions to help fuel your soul:

Find and develop Soul Friends – These are the people who enrich your life, that aren’t just people you enjoy being with, but are people that you can live life with sharing true community. People you can laugh with, people who you cry with, people who challenge you to think differently about yourself, about God and about how you act.

Give yourself a check-up – Ask yourself a few questions about things that can impact your spiritual health. Things like: Am I eating healthy? Am I exercising? How are family relationships at home? Am I spending time alone in the Bible? Am I honoring the Sabbath? A good craftsman takes care of his tools; applying oil, removing rust, sharpening, conditioning, cleaning. If we want to be able to work as effective tools for God’s mission in the world, we need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves as well!  Don’t forget that the Sabbath isn’t just for Netflix or chores around the house, but for true rest and an opportunity to do those things that feed your soul.

We have found rhythms in our lives for eating, breathing and drinking and for the most part, quite naturally. Finding a spiritual rhythm is sometimes not quite as natural. Jesus is a great example of following a rhythm. He would preach, and heal, and then he would escape from the crowds to be with his closest friends, or to be alone in order to pray. Then he would return to the crowds, only for the whole process to begin again.

Slow down. Take a Break. Pursue time with God. Pursue those things that allow your spirit to breathe. And then get back in the game, so you can do it all over again!

phil's signature

Ground Shaking Prayer

Gilbert Kerrigan, Senior Minister

How often have we settled for lesser gifts?

How long have we expected so little?

How many times have we prayed prayers that barely scratched the surface of what could be?

Reynolds Price, poet and novelist, once wrote about a dialogue between Jesus and a man who had come to Jesus for healing. The dialogue went like this:

Behind me he says, “Your sins are forgiven.”
I think “That’s good but not why I came.”
I turn and say, “Am I also cured?”
He comes close but looks down. He says, “That too…”

Can you imagine Jesus with his shoulders slumped and a look of disappointment on his face? He had just forgiven this man of his sins. He had just liberated this man from his bondage to sin. He was free, yet the man was willing to settle for so much less. “Ummmm, OK. Thanks, but am I also cured?

Again I ask, how often have we settled for lesser gifts?

A better question might be: How often have we settled for lesser gifts, thinking they are actually the greater?

Maybe it is time that we pray bigger prayers, expect bigger results, and truly tap into that power of the resurrection that is at work in and for us. Maybe it is time that we shake the ground with our prayers.

pray big

After they prayed, the place where
they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
~ Acts 4:31

 

Rivers of Life

Deron Freudenthal, Campus Minister

The following article, “Rivers of Life,” is from Dr. James Puglisi.
This article was featured in the “Campus Renewal Magazine.”

One of my favorite spots in Texas is Pedernales Falls State Park with its falls and rushing water. I have always been fascinated by flowing water, the sound of it thrashing through crevices or smoothly flowing around a small obstruction. I am as content sitting on a ledge listening to the thunderous sounds of a fast flowing stream as I am sitting in close to watch the smallest flow of water meticulously finding a path around the contours of the rock.

Nothing seems to be able to stop the flow short of a dam. Regardless of the obstacles, a path is eventually found. The contour is sometimes very sharp due to the recent breakaway of a portion of the rock, but over time, despite the deepest cuts and scars etched into the rock, the surface slowly gains a smooth feel due to years of water polishing the sharp edges away.

flowing-waterWater, a Metaphor of Life!
It is no wonder that the use of water as a metaphor for life is so prevalent in many of the religions of the world. Often, it is the life-giving aspect of water that is so often referred to as it enriches the soil and breaks free the dormant life found in the seedling.

Water is also often used to illustrate the absence of life. It is the scene of the desert that evokes images of the parched earth, straining for any relief that the tiniest amount of moisture can bring, evidenced by the sprouting of desert flowers after the smallest of rains. It is the flowing water that evokes a different image that speaks to the flow of life, just as we describe the flow of the stream.

Life is this flowing experience that often takes a course we do not plan.  Life, the water, runs into the walls of our lives, the rock that serves as walls for the stream. Sometimes the wall gives way, our lives seem to crumble around us without explanation. The water may not be able to break through obstacles, but it will find a path around until over time a more direct path can be carved out.

Life often takes a similar path. We are impacted by the path ahead of us.  We often have to change course or direction, but just as the source of the water comes from way upstream, the source of our life comes from our creator and sees no end. We continue to flow, to move forward despite the sharp edges that life inflicts upon us, yet over time the sharpest of edges will slowly be rounded and smoothed away. The sharper the edge, the longer it may take, but the edge will be tempered. Life will only stop moving forward when we are lost to this world for another place, just as water will only stop flowing when it is dammed up or its run is depleted.

Conclusion
In the Catholic tradition, we observe Lent in preparation for Easter Sunday when we commemorate the risen Christ. Lent is a time marked by the desert motif, a time of dryness, where the rivers of life have dried up, but the seeds of life only remain dormant. There’s nothing worse than walking into the campus ministry office and reaching for the candy jar, only to find rocks where there was once chocolate!

Yet, we await the risen Christ and the wellspring of life in his resurrection. The dry bowl does not signify death, at least a permanent one.  Life does not stop during Lent. We live, we work, we love, we hurt, and are reminded of the scars that invade our life on this earth.  We are also reminded though that God can smooth the sharpest edges of our lives, and that redemption comes from the well-spring of God and His loving kindness. The waters flow and seep into the ground restoring the water table, just as the love of Christ seeps into the deepest recesses of our lives, soothing the deepest aches and pains of the body.

Iron Sharpens Iron

Phil Travis, Youth and Family Minister

The following is an excerpt from Josh Barnard’s article,
“Iron Sharpens Iron,” on the Youth Specialties Blog.

Iron-Sharpens-Iron-So-one-man-sharpens-anotherI’ve been thinking about Proverbs 27:17 lately and about how its concept doesn’t really work with other materials: Cheese doesn’t grate cheese. Coffee doesn’t brew coffee. But “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV).

Consider the substantial amount of heat, pressure, and resistance required for us to be sharpened as instruments of God’s purpose in our daily lives and in our ministries.

So how does iron sharpen iron? Practically speaking, you sharpen something by creating shape-altering friction between the two surfaces. The softer metal edge will be worn down and thus sharpened by the harder material. This is why you don’t sharpen two identical Kershaw folding knives by vigorously rubbing their edges together – that would only dull them both.

Metaphor alert: This is where you lean back and think, Wow . . . so seeking refinement only through relationships with [people just like me] isn’t the best way to stay sharp in my spiritual growth and leadership.

I’m asking you to consider who God has placed in your life that you don’t always appreciate or seek perspective from.

More resistance = more change.

Scripture says we’re to flee from unrighteousness. Unfortunately, some of us flee from conflict in the name of church peace (or self-preservation). We have a saying in my home that we’d rather be friends than be friendly. Being friendly means never offending anyone and thus never getting past surface relationships. But being a friend means “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13 ESV). The Lord has forgiven us, so we’re to be genuine and offer forgiveness in every relationship we have—that will help others do the same.

So how much resistance do you allow?

Who are you allowing to speak into your life?

Do you have any real friends who are at least 10 years older than you?

Do you have friends who have different hobbies and interests?

An unused blade never needs sharpening.

I once had a neighbor show me a custom-made, heirloom hunting knife he had received for Christmas. Really, it was a work of art. The problem was that once it got carefully passed around the room, it was returned to its sheath and then placed back into the safe—it was never to be used as a tool of any kind.

I hope you feel useful – I hope you feel as if you’re a well-used, common instrument of God’s grace. I hope you’re expected to become dull. I hope you’ll allow people into your circle who aren’t much like you but who remind you that the process of becoming more like Christ involves much heat, pressure and resistance.

Sacred Spaces, Again

Bob Waltz, Shepherd

Sacred spaces are real. They can be planned. They can be shared. They are special places/times in which we catch that refreshing breeze of what it is to be spiritual beings in bodies of clay, and to be, in those precious moments, the spiritual envoys of God, that God intended. Meaningful ceremony and planned times of sharing are kinds of spaces. We can plan for sacred spaces as if they are times, e.g.,celebrations of births, joy of accomplishments, the blended blessing of remembering and releasing lives lived well, or holding hands, or times of shared tears or laughter. Times together are precious, and can create sacred space, or they can be created by sacred space. Sacred spaces are also physical spaces that give us pause, that instill awe, or titillate our sense of sight in wondrous colors, or sound that we hear in music that crushes the world’s hold us and let’s us go to another place, a godly place; or encourages us to be what we are intended to be in fellowship and friendship. It is our SENSE of who we are as children of God that brings passion, ceremony, celebration, and purpose to our lives, not just the logical assertion that we have done right.

I John 3:1 – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God! And such WE ARE!”

Pray for sacred spaces in your life and seek them with passion, e.g., art, architectures, music, friendships, special times, and special physical places. May we each discover those things that God provides that bring healing to us, that give purpose to our families, that challenge us intellectually, that cause us to say “wow”. We need to experience a kind of sacred space that fills and fulfills us, so that we have something to share and help bring fullness to relationships, to bring color to lives stricken by difficulty, or more simply, to befriend, others.

The Scandal of the Table

Gilbert Kerrigan, Senior Minister

eucharistSome of the most troubling words to have ever come out of the mouth of Jesus speaks to the connection between his body, blood, bread, and wine. A disciple hears those four words and immediately starts to think of the Eucharist. In our own faith heritage it is more commonly called Communion or the Lord’s Supper. It is one of the primary reasons we gather together on Sundays, so that we may “gather around the table.” Someone once asked, “What is church without the Eucharist?”

Jesus once said, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:48-51).

Those listening to Jesus did not like what he was saying. It sounded eerily like cannibalism to them. They kept grumbling, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus then takes it a step further. He continues, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (6:53-56).

Have you ever noticed that when it comes time for us to participate in Eucharist we often try to do the very thing that Jesus refused to do – soften the blow of this teaching? We use words like symbolizes or represents when we talk of the connection between body, blood, bread, and wine. Jesus never did! Even when his disciples said that his teaching was too difficult to accept, Jesus never changed his tune. Brian Zahnd, in his book Water to Wine, said, “It is significant that Jesus never softens the scandal of his invitation by saying, ‘I mean symbolically.’ No, Jesus just keeps intensifying his eucharistic theology…”

Some of the disciples of Jesus found this way too difficult for them, and they gave up on Jesus. John says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (6:66). Even so, for Jesus this was a nonnegotiable. Eating his flesh and drinking his blood is eternal life.

I am not trying to do away with symbolism. I am also not trying to teach transubstantiation. I simply do not want to do what Jesus refused to do – soften the blow.

I love what Brian Zahnd says about all of this: “If we try to remove the scandal of a robust eucharistic theology by reducing it all to mere symbol, we are doing the very thing Jesus refused to do. Let the scandal remain. We are invited to eat the flesh and drink the blood of God that we might participate in eternal life. The most appropriate response to this holy mystery is not an empiricist explanation or an embarrassed backpedaling, but a reverent amen.”

Gilbert's Signature