MinistryJournal 2008 (no.13)

Robby John
Harding University
3/31/08
Weekly Journal

It will have been one year, since I started working with this congregation, in about 2 hrs. Time has gone by so quickly and I have often wondered, what good have I done while being here. It seems that the brethren are more excited and intrigued by all the learning ,they are still open and ready for-I think they really have changed, as I have, for the better, though the increments may be slow and small, yet it is visible. Within all this concealed thought and reflection, I got a shout from God on Tuesday evening.
Br. Joe, is about 81yrs of age and he is married to a great Christian woman, lee. She has a lot of body aches, constantly, yet he takes care of her. She often argues and talks rough to him, even at Church meetings. She’s a sweet, yet troublesome lady, who has encouraged all at Church. She often says that Joe is too forward-he likes to talk about the Bible too much, with everyone he meets for the first instance. She says all he does all day is read (the Bible) and write (scriptural references, on the bills he posts in the mail). To her, it’s a waste of time- she wants to go out in the park, where they live, to meet people; maybe catch a parade sometime (though she knows her frail body won’t allow her.
Recently, Joe was found guilty as charged, of striking up biblical conversations, with people he met at wal-mart or by the side of the road selling fruits, or even newspapers. I observed that he had actually gotten another prospect (the former will be mentioned later). His name was D. McKenna; relatively young (about late thirties), who weighed about 80 pounds, confined to a wheelchair, being paralyzed from the waste down. As I drove by the Church, I observed their cars parked outside, on a few occasions, as they utilized the church building, to study.suprisingly to, me, D still drives and gets around fine with his chair ,by himself.
To make a long story short, Joe called me on Tuesday afternoon and said we might have a baptism today and if I knew where we could go. Well, there are no lakes or rivers close by, so I called up a sister, who has a pool and she agreed to have us come over, if necessary.
There I was, at the house, working on projects, waiting, as the Angels were also waiting in heaven. The call came, hallelujah—I was so overjoyed and just couldn’t’ stop jumping around the house, as my wife made ready towels and such, for us to depart.
Upon talking to D for a bit, we took his confession and I held him and went into the water. Things got a little out of hand, as I eased back, and mistakenly went into the deep end of the pool. What a sight, to see those on the side of the pool grab my shoulder, to rescue me from toppling D over. (Besides, it was my first Baptism In a pool; I’m from the Islands)
When we finally got it done, we hugged him and welcomed him, into the family. In moments like these, I really understand what mission philosophy should be. Here it is, Joe has been seeking and searching and being ridiculed, yet he never gave up and because of his persistence, a soul was saved. The Angels could now rejoice and turn to wait for the next in line. As for the other person Joe met, who hasn’t been baptized yet; well, he still comes and visits .he was there on Wednesday and he also brought a friend.
I think God has taught me a valuable lesson in all of this: though we wait for fruits to bear, it doesn’t mean that because we are made to wait, the soil isn’t good and fertile and the watering is not sufficient. Only God gives the increase, as we Christians plant and water continuously. When the increase comes, it is always worth the wait. I can’t wait for next year.

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Book review : Renovation of the Heart: putting on the character of Christianity, By Dallas Willard

Storyline:  a fresh perspective on spiritual reformation, looking at the major principles involved. An introspective view of the self (heart/soul/spirit/will), in relation to society and God, as well as consideration as to how modern society shapes our view and progress, within spiritual formation.

Can an explanation regarding the nature and process of spiritual formation be more clear and much more informed, that this book from Dallas Willard? , If there may be, they exist in few. A lot of material circulating in bookstores and personal libraries, adopt a step by
step module for spiritual growth, as if it can be observed ,analyzed, quantified and set in stages ; as if taking the right and limited steps, will lead to a perfect result every time. Willard does well to stray from this literal utopia, by staying true to the discussion, in the context of personal and social life, a oppose  to exploring mundane and disconnected concepts, with regard to the nature of the subject.

In his introduction, he sets the stage for the discussion. Readers get the sense that the information is both personal and relative. The beginning of the discussions, is entrenched in the “human experience’ as we relate to ourselves honestly, the world around us and
God.

The structure of the book is well chosen. Anticipating a series of movements, within which interrelated yet distinct information is presented, the author uses clear marks of distinction ,to separate discussions and list points and sub points clearly, so as to help the
reader digest information ,as they go and recognize breaks or correlations in
through. For those who are stimulated by visual aids, this is perfect and
suitable. You get some charts and diagrams, without this incessant flow of
information, typified by many scholarly works. The great thing is, Willard
presents his information in a framework that works with anyone; the avid
reader, the scholar, or the impatient ones with regard to tedious reading.

The themes heading up each section, also does well to clarify and steer the discussion. They are simplistic yet informative. I suggest that he does this, to create awareness of what is to
come, instead of allowing the reader to feel as if, he or she has to search out
the writer’s intentions and arguments. Readers actually see themselves in the
discussion, as It relates to things we are familiar with, and things we aught
to be familiar with.

There is the relentless listing of human elements, (Heart/soul/body) and the present state of how we understand those (our interaction of society) and how society has shaped our understanding. Secondly, there is a call to some consciousness within us, to recognize what we are missing and how to begin developing these things. As the author states in
the beginning chapters, there is a view which says that Christians should not
seek to be extraordinary, as Christ was, but to maintain the business as usual
attitude and do the bare minimum –this thought actually sets the tone of the
book and informs its thesis. The goal is to spur people unto becoming better,
challenging them all through the book ,to take a look at things the way the
are, to ask questions of why they exist that way and to seek out ways to
correct what needs correction, with Gods direction.
This can be seen, in his movements of societal awareness Evil for e.g. Willard
states that for many problems in the world, people won’t give a straight
answer. It seems that there is confusion as to the root cause of problems, in
marriage, in relationships and within us. In essence, Willard states they don’t
want to come clean, in agreeing that the problem is with evil; wherein a
degenerated society lives up to the purposes of the flesh and finds every way,
of eluding the head on discussion.
He marvelously calls into consideration history( even with that if
Israel), reminding us that there is nothing new under the sun, with regard to
the fleshly nature ;that  evil and human failure had become accepted ,even within this modern setting. Thus, the only way to break the mold is to recognize ourselves; what drives our desires and longings; what we do, which subject us to burying our identity.
Like any good prescription, Willard addresses the problem, with the
introduction of God. The reason why our relationships are broken and why we are
broken essentially is because we don’t live in community with Gods’ Spirit; we
don’t understand what it is to Love, as he does or value of own self and
others, as he does. This is where the element of hope surfaces relentlessly, in
the book. By the mention of Peter and Paul, he introduces great men, who had
struggles with being formed in the image of God and allow them to give commentary,
as to how they succeeded in the presence of the divine.
Willard challenges our belief systems, our modes of operating within
relationships; the wider society and churches. He speaks clearly, on the
illusions we create for ourselves and show how they have hindered our picture
and pursuit, of spiritual formation. The individual is called to a greater consciousness;
we are challenged to change our thinking, our view of self and others and also,
to better understand God and his will; that we might seek to really do his
will, instead of trying to make our will, his
In conclusion, I must say this book offers a refreshing alternative to
“how to do books” , on spiritual formation. It is personal (addressed to the different
parts of our human self), communal (in hopes of allowing us to interact in
society with true concepts about life and reality), focused on the divine
(allowing us to see that it is only when we try to follow Gods principles for
reformation, that we can truly be successful). At the end of every section,
Willard brings us to the table, with discussion questions that I believe is
geared to allow us to add our own information and experience, with the
material. For the beginner and the experienced, with regard to material on
spiritual formation, Willard’s book is a must read. Good theology and life
application, inviting the reader not just to read, but to reflect on past
actions and make adjustments for the future, built on a true picture of self,
society and God.