BETA

Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women

Archive for April, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

THE McDONALDIZATION OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES (Part 2 of 3)

THE McDONALDIZATION OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES (Part 2 of 3)

Last week we talked about how the McDonald Company has incorporated three values into the production of their hamburgers.  These are values that increasingly dominate sections of American society, including our spiritual lives. They are efficiency, calculability, and control.1

Calculability:  In building a hamburger or an automobile, given the right inputs, the expected outcome can be calculated. Perfect the process and the product is guaranteed.  We run into trouble however, when we allow this kind of managed thinking to drift over into the spiritual realm. God reminds us that "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my waysAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:8, 9) Jesus informed Nicodemus that the work of the Spirit in our lives is a mystery that cannot be calculated, controlled or even understood. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (Jn. 3:8)

In our approach to spiritual maturation, we run the risk of McDonaldizing the process in assuming that if we can just get people through standardized discipleship programs they will automatically mature.  When spiritual formation (maturation) is reduced only to a formula, we are in danger of stultifying our souls, and numbing our sensitivity to the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit. The popular Church Growth Movement of recent memory, for example, was based on the premise that spiritual growth could be analyzed, programmed, and thus predicted. Today, many mission experts, challenge that assumption. In truth, the mysterious movement of the Spirit of God in peoples lives shatters predictability: A teenage girl is impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-20); the Spirit visits people from disparate countries around the Mediterranean rim who speak in foreign languages not their own (tongues) (Acts 2); both King Saul and David, seized by the Spirit of God step out of character and joyfully prophesy and dance.  (1 Sam. 10:10, 19, 20; 2 Sam 6:14-20)  (See Ecc. 8:17; 11:5; Mk. 4:27)

A biographical history of the Church reveals that over the centuries, joyful and wildly free-spirited men and women with hearts aflame did great and often unpredictable exploits for God.  No one could have calculated how God would use such people as  John Hess, Joan of Arc, Jim Elliott, Billy Graham, etc.  In fact, the actions of the men of faith in Hebrews 11 were often incalculable: Abraham, by faithwhen calledobeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Others through faith conquered kingdom shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (Heb. 11:33, 34 – Selected) God, I believe is looking for men and women with hearts burning with His love, who dare to challenge the status quo by attempting great things for God that often upset and even turn on end the stagnant, predictable norms in the Christian ghetto.

Jesus was that kind of maverick and it aroused the fury of his adversaries. Throughout his 3 1/2 year ministry he was forever vexing those around him by his incalculability. People were continually attempting to program him along their theological and prejudicial lines. Yet, He would not be boxed in, as he regularly received and followed His Fathers divine instructions.  (Jn. 5:30; 8:29)

If you and I make it a practice to wait upon Him, and truly listen to his voice, our lives will become increasingly impossible to calculate. God will guide us into paths of service we can not imagine:  I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them…  (Isa. 42:16a) Yet, everything in us seems to fight for predictability and the utter absence of risk. Yet, God is continually stretching our faith, and challenging us to step out to do the incalculable; the unpredictable. Just today I received a phone call from George and Jeanne, business people in their 50s who feel compelled by God to leave their easy upper-middle class life style for a couple of years, and go to Rwanda in the Name of Christ.  It is their desire to try and help solve some of the horrific problems in that traumatized Country.

QUESTION: Have you relegated your spiritual life to the calculable McDonaldization process? You know, spiritual auto pilot? Or are you inviting the fresh wind of the Spirit of God into your life to paint a unique portrait of Christ in and through you?  Are you available to do the incalculable for God?  Are you willing to be surprised by God, should he call you to do the incalculable? Perhaps he has a work for you to do that in your wildest imagination you could not have conceived? In a word, are you available to Him on His terms, rather than yours?

1 Alister E. McGrath, The Future of Christianity, Pages 52,53, Malden, Mass., Blackwell Press, 2002

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

THE McDONALDIZATION OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES (Part 1 of 3)

THE McDONALDIZATION OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES (Part 1 of 3)

Amidst the hustle and bustle of your professional life, God has a spiritual work he intends to accomplish in and through you to the effect that you become the very character of Christ. In todays hurried and harried get it done now world, three modern day values can well prove to be the bane of your spiritual life and ministry.  These values are utilized in guaranteeing the successful production of McDonald hamburgers: Efficiency, calculability, and control.1 

Efficiency:  Today, we are overloaded with Christian literature, and church related programs and methodology that promise quick and efficient fixes to complex spiritual life issues: Apply these 6 simple steps and viola: Victory is guaranteed over vexing sexual problems, a troubled marriage, or wounded past, etc. In previous generations, solutions to the sinful human condition came through deep commitment, as one poured and prayed over the Scriptures. This was a process that followers of Christ understood extended over a life time.  Classic Christianity saw the journey as a means of personal growth, engagement and transformation. The sorrows, tiredness, and dangers of the journey led to renewal and transformationToday, however, the idea is to get to the journeys end as quickly as possible with a minimum of inconvenience2

The reality is that Gods working of His life into ours will not be accomplished in mini sound bites or by quick fix methodology.  At best, the modern mind seems to demand a shortened process of shallow doses of time alone with God, to be caught on the run and sandwiched in between our work and our toys. The very idea that spiritual transformation is a slow, deliberate process is vexing to most moderns who move at warp speed in the concrete jungle of PDAs, Wi Fi, the Journal, multi-tasking, and pressurized deadlines.

The truth is that if God is to be known, He simply will not be rushed.  Therefore, he is infinitely more concerned about the deliberate maturation process than he is in its efficient accomplishment. If we are to be transformed and liberated into His freedom, the maturing progression demands relaxed, quiet periods alone with God and His word as we ponder, soak on, and apply His eternal truths. In this context, there simply is no quick substitute for times of healthy introspection and soul-searching. Generic to this process of transformation is learning to cultivate the art of disciplined listening to the quiet voice of Jesus through the Spirit.  My servant  [Jesus]will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets.  (Isa. 42:1b, 2b) Yet we tend to resist His wooing:  "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. (Isa. 30:15b)

QUESTION:  In todays inch deep and mile wide McDonaldized brand of efficient, get it done now Christianity, are you willing to break with this trivialized sub-culture and deliberately set aside sufficient, daily time to allow yourself to de-compress, and slow down until the Spirit can penetrate, speak, convict, heal, transform, and lead?  If not, you have already joined the McDonaldized Christian society of callow, trendy, will of the wisp, here today, gone tomorrow brand of insipid Christianity. And that, my friend is a modern day tragedy. 

1 In 1993 sociologist George Ritzer coined the term, McDonaldization to describe a trend that challenged modern American culture. By that, he meant the process by which the principles of the fast food restaurant coming to dominate more and more sections of American society. George Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation into the changing Contemporary Social Life, Thousand Oaks, CA Pine Forge Press

2 Alister E. McGrath, The Future of Christianity, Pages 52,53, Malden, Mass., Blackwell Press, 2002

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

FIVE EXCUSES WE GIVE GOD FOR NOT SERVING HIM 1

Believe it or not, God has a significant work he desires to complete through you. Tragically, many of us shrink back in fear, denial, paralyzing self-doubtor into just plain stubborn unwillingness. Moses, a man not unlike ourselves, when called by God threw up five excuses. Basically he had a pretty secure life which God invaded.  Hey, when ya got the stuff, why risk it all for the cause?  Right? That was Moses.  You know the story: After killing an Egyptian, he fled to another country, spending the next 40 years as a shepherd. One day he stops to observe a burning bush from which God speaks to him:  Moses! Moses! [Moses] said, Yes? I’m right here! I have come down to help pry [the Israelites] loose from the grip of EgyptI’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my peopleout of Egypt." (Ex. 3:7b, 8a,9b Msg) And Moses response?

I cant do this.  "But why me?  What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?" "I’ll be with you," God said. (Ex. 3:11, 12a Msg)  Moses fundamental problem was his failure to understand that God would accomplish the mission through him rather than through his efforts. The writer to the Hebrews clearly understood this basic principle of reliance on God in stating, May the God of peaceequip you with everything good for doing his will  (Heb. 13:20a, 21b NIV)

QUESTION:  Could it be that if we find ourselves resisting Gods prompting to do His work, it is because we believe accomplishing His mission is up to us, rather than Him? And that we find to be overwhelming. (See I Cor. 3:5-7) 

Lets talk about itThen Moses said to God, Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them? God said to Moses, I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’ "  (Ex. 3:13,14 Msg.)

QUESTION: Could it be that Moses had only a cursory understanding of just who God is?  With his veiled comprehension of the Lord God, the job set before him loomed as the impossible. (See Jer. 32:27)

What if they dont believe meMoses objected, They won’t trust me. They won’t listen to a word I say. They’re going to say, ‘God? Appear to him? Hardly!’ " God then turns Moses rod into a snake and transforms his hand into a leprous condition. He then says to Moses,  "If they don’t trust you and aren’t convinced by the first sign, the second sign should do it. (Ex. 4:1-8 selected Msg)

QUESTION:  Could it be that we, like Moses fear rejection by our own people more than we fear God? (See Jn. 12:43)

Im not gifted. Moses raised another objection to God: Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer. God said, And who do you think made the human mouth?  Isn’t it I, God? (Ex. 4:10,11 Msg)

QUESTION:  Could it be that we basically do not believe that Gods calling is also His enabling? (See I Thes. 5:24)

Lord, could you please send someone else?  [Moses] said, Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else! God got angry with Moses: Don’t you have a brother, Aaron the Levite? He’s good with wordsHe’ll act as your mouth   (Ex. 4:13,14a, 16b, Msg)

QUESTION:  Could it be that we just dont want to move out of our comfort zone and into a position where we will have to trust God to do the difficult, if not the impossible? (See Mk. 10:17-24) 

1 Adapted from a sermon presented by Rev. Dr. Craig  S. Milco, 28 March, 2004 at Craig Memorial Congregational Church, Paradise, CA

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

JUST WHERE IS YOUR DWELLING PLACE?

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  (Psa. 90:1)

For clarification, the word dwell conveys the idea of an abode, habitation, retreat, or refuge. It is a place that conceals and protects those who flee to God from the wicked one and from evil.

TodayRight now, in your heart of hearts, where are you dwelling?   

On the fear of your seemingly uncertain future?

On the financial challenges facing you?

On the pressurized and packed day awaiting you?

On the uncertainty of a fluxionary economy?

On the secret inner pride of past accomplishments?

  Or on God?

We are told in Psalm 90 that life is filled with trouble and sorrow.  (vs. 10)

That it is brief like withering grass. (vs. 5) 

Seventy or eighty years in length. (vs. 10)

And that it ends with a moan. A sigh. (vs. 9)

Yet, amidst lifes

   Harsh realities

  Disappointments

  Fading idealism

  Diminishing health and strength

  Broken relationships and promises,

We can be satisfied by His unfailing love that will cause us to sing for joy and be glad all our days if we understand

(1) that His favor already rests upon us (vs. 14, 17), and  

(2) if we choose  throughout the day to dwell in Him, rather than on the circumstances. 

The experiencing of this peace is almost too simple for many of us to grasp.  But grasp it we must, because in its absence we will end up in anxious despair.

You might want to take a few moments now and prayerfully meditate through Psalm 90. Jot down a few key ideas and carry them with you throughout the day.  When you have a free moment, refresh your spirit with its marvelous and liberating truths. When you feel tension and anxiety creeping in, review the truth on the slip of paper and reclaim the focus of your dwelling place.