Discipleship

Part of my Spiritual Transformation class is to write a paper reflecting on a sermon called The Dust of the Rabbi.” In the sermon, Ray Vander Laan notes that what Jesus meant by a disciple and what our current culture thinks of as a disciple are radically different. I am struggling with my level of discipleship based on the level that Ray claims as being what Jesus expects. And then today, For my other class that I’m taking, I read this.

What is actually required of a disciple of Jesus? Based on the sermon examples I’m so not close. I’m not even a good pupil.

Salvation Without Jesus?

A little pondering and reflection this morning. I’m reading my assignments for my doctrine class with Dr. Robert Sherman at New England Bible College, and we’re reading Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Millard Erickson. In the section about soteriology (salvation), he lists five “Current Conceptions of Salvation.” They are liberation theology, existential theology, secular theology, the modern Roman Catholic theology, and evangelical theology. Mr. Erickson gives several paragraphs to each concept, giving basic tenants of each one. I noticed in the first one, in his discussion of liberation theology, that he could describe the position without using the word “Christ” or “Jesus.” I noted that in the book: “There’s no Jesus in this section; what’s He for?” I continued to read about existential and secular theologies. No Jesus there either. Only in the Catholic and and evangelical methods does he describe using the words Christ, Christian, or Jesus. I thought to myself “Why would I concern myself with a system of current Christian theology that can be discussed without the word Jesus or Christ in it? Surely a Christian theory should be steeped in Christ, right? As Christian’s read their Bibles, there’s this section toward the end, the last third or so, and it’s all about Christ! Surely something that takes up that many pages should concern us, right? Right? If your Christian theology can be summed up without using the word Christ in it, I think you may be doing it wrong.

“Turn Aside”

John Ortberg in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted talks about “turning aside” for God. As Moses “turned aside” to look at the burning bush, so must we be willing to interrupt our daily routine and pay attention to the presence of God. Today I was supposed to be in Second Kings according to by Bible reading plan. Instead, I turned aside, and went to Leviticus (of all places), and shared some scripture via email with a new Christian who is hurting from years of sexual abuse. She was on my heart this morning. And instead of plowing through my scheduled Bible reading, I turned aside, and went somewhere else, hopefully following where God was leading me

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I want to go back to bed.

The pastor is away on vacation. I need to lead the Sunday School opening and songs. I’m teaching the adult Sunday School class. I’m running the PA for the morning service, though that’s no real big deal. I’m leading the 11am worship service with my wife. I’m needed at church today.

This afternoon at 2pm is my brother’s funeral.

If ever there was a day I would want to skip church and go back to bed it’s today. If ever there was a day I was needed at church it’s today.

The Spiritual Discipline of Sleep

“Get plenty of sleep” the book said. “You can’t minister appropriately if you don’t get enough rest.” The professor said “Try to get one day a week where you sleep as long as your body wants to.” For me, that was today. Is was supposed to be today. It’s Saturday. I didn’t set an alarm. My body woke up around 5am, as I’ve trained it to do; that’s around my usual wake-up time. I went to the bathroom, but then proceeded to go back to bed. I thought perhaps I’d get another couple hours of sacktime in. I fell back to sleep, but not for long. Nothing wakes one up faster than the sound of a 90lb labrador retriever chortling in one’s bed. My wife and I both lept up. She pushed Deuteronomy (yes, my dog is named after an OT book by way of TS Eliot) out of the bed. I grabed a box that had been filled with Christmas socks. Deut hacked and wheezed, and I stood ready to catch a belly full of nasty, but it never appeared. But now, fully awake, knowing getting more sleep wasn’t going to be happening, I figured I’d start my day. Deut and I took our walk. He ate his breakfast. I read from my Bible, and decided to start the online journal for my Spiritual Formation and Transformation class. Here’s entry #1.

Remembering John Calvin Dancer, Part 5

My father-in-law was the most patient man I have ever met. Ever. The man. Was. Patient. Are you catching that? How many of us count patience among our virtues. Few. Generally speaking, people aren’t patient. Men aren’t patient. Mainers aren’t patient. And yet Dad was the example of patience. In the 30 or years I knew him, I never saw him lose his patience. Never. I never heard him yell. He never raised his voice even! He never got frustrated. Never exasperated. Never lost his cool. Never. Never ever never. My mother in law even commented he was no good to fight with, because he would never argue!

There was one time–one time in 30 years–where he got into some physicality with his then teenage son Jonathan. Susan and I were in the living room, and I don’t remember what the argument was about. I do remember Johnathan was out of line. Whatever the issue was, Dad was in the right. Then, there was some pushing. I didn’t leave the living room, so didn’t see what happened, but I’d bet dollars to donuts Johnathan started the pushing. In any event, even during that, Dad never lost his cool. No yelling. No name calling. Even when it came to being pushed by his son (and both Dad and Jonathan were tall, and John has some meat on his bones–a fridge sized man he is), he didn’t lose his patience. Amazing. His patience is such an example to me. I fall so, so far short there. He gives me a mark to shoot for.

Remembering John Calvin Dancer, Part 4

My Beloved has always called her father “Daddy.” That name is full of love and endearment. I’m sure she calls him Daddy because she loves him so much. I’m confident she feels not only loved, but safe and secure, cared for and cherished. I hope I can live up to his example such that my own daughter will call me Daddy, even when she’s older, and for those same reasons.

Remembering John Calvin Dancer, Part 3

Something that always impressed me about my father-in-law was the way he prayed. There was an honesty and a humility with which he prayed. (Really, honesty and humility were a hallmark of his life, so it’s only logical his prayer life would follow suit.) And one of the things he did, almost–but not every time, but usually–he started his prayers with “Father.” He used “Heavenly Father” some, but mostly he started with just “Father.” I never asked him why he started this way, if he was intentional about it or not, but it was usually how he started. This made an impression on me because of what that opening word says about his relationship with God. God wasn’t someone distant to Dad. He wasn’t “Heavenly Father, creator of all things seen and unseen, immortal and immutable, so on and so forth.” He IS those things, yes, and my father-in-law would recognize Him as that, for sure. But in dealing with God on a day to day basis, He was much closer to Dad than that. He was “Father.” I find that inspiring, that one would be in such close communion with God that, when praying needed to be done, when he needed to ask, when he needed to talk to Him, he addressed Him as that simple word: Father.

Luke 11:2 “And He said to them “When you pray, say Father…”

Lessons from John Calvin Dancer

I’ve had the blessing of having two great Dads in my life. My own father, William Batty, Sr. has been an undeniable and indelible influence on me. So also my father-in-law, John Calvin Dancer. Yesterday, around 1:15 in the afternoon, he breathed his last and went to the presence of God through Christ Jesus his Lord. As much as I would like to praise God for him at his memorial service, I don’t think I’ve got the spiritual strength to get through it. And so I thought I’d write a series of blog posts about how he touched my life.

My father-in-law was not an ordained minister. Though he spent all of his adult life as a pastor, and 32 years in one church even, he wasn’t ordained. One day, we were alone together, driving somewhere, and I asked him why he wasn’t ordained. He told me a story of how he was in Bible college, towards the end of his education there, and how he overheard two guys talking about graduating college and becoming ordained. One of them was excited for his ordination because that meant he could get a discount at a local clothing store. There was something about that, something about the idea that the exciting part of starting out life as a minister was a discount on clothing, that saddened my father-in-law. He then told me this. “I always felt my ordination was like Jeremiah’s. And if God ordained me, what difference was there if I was ordained by man?” Now, we could have a discussion about ordination, what it means, and whether it’s important or not and why, but you’ve got to give it to John Calvin Dancer: he had his reasons, he was determined that scripture backed him up, and he stuck with that decision his whole life. He believed he was doing the right thing by his Lord. That lesson has stuck with me.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”