Spiritual Christianity: Theology, Simplified

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Update: Accepted as a Poster Session. Slides now available.

Abstract submitted for PassionTalks 2018 on Saturday, August 11th at Convergence House of Prayer in Fremont, CA.

Spiritual Christianity arose from a series of blog posts I wrote to prepare my seven-year-old daughter for baptism.  I wanted her to start out with a faith that was:

  • Resilient to disappointments
  • Relevant to culture
  • Revolutionary to society
  • Reviving to the church

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Lesson 6/6 Joy (Anjali’s Catechism)

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Spiritual Maturity: Thanks

God made all of us on purpose. We are happy when we obey that purpose. We become happier the better we understand and live out that purpose.

We share many purposes with other people, because God made us the same:

  • Our bodies are happy when we eat healthy, rest well, and use them as they were intended.
  • Our souls are happy when experience beauty.
  • Our minds are happy when we discover truth.
  • Our hearts are happy when we share love.

Joy is happiness of the spirit. It is the deepest and most important kind of happiness. But there are two very different ways our spirits can be happy.

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RohAnjali 2018 New Year’s Prayer

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Dear God,

Thank you that our family belongs to you.

We confess we need you to free us from our sin and shame so we can love like Jesus.

Give us the grace to:

  • Trust you with our desires
  • Face our fears
  • Reflect on our anger
  • Speak the truth in love, and
  • Ask for help along the way

We ask this by the blood of Jesus, Amen.

LEAD! C.11 Discerning Direction

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In Which We Hear to Obey, and Obey to Hear

Few questions are more fraught with promise and peril for the believer than “What is God’s will for my life?” While we know the textbook answers, we still long for more specific, personal guidance — and rightly so. Properly hearing God’s voice can open the door to dramatic transformation of people, relationships, and society; alas, mishearing God’s voice can result in darkest tragedy.

There is no simple answer, but there is a sure promise: if we entrust our ways to the Lord by faithfully pursuing the disciplines in submission to the Spirit, the Word, and the Body, He will ultimately lead us in a way that glorifies His name…

Memory Verse: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 12. Guidance
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 12. Learning
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 3. Providence: “God Guards You from Every Evil”
    • 14. Obedience: “How He Promised God”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • 7. Discernment: Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God

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LEAD! C.10 World-Changing Worship

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In Which We Give Up the World for God, So We Can Give God to the World

Worship is simultaneously the most personal and the most all-encompassing of all human experiences. True worship is to encounter the Divine Presence in the very depths of our being, in a posture of absolute stillness and submission.

Yet such an encounter doesn’t merely empower and inspire us; it also requires us to manifest that same Presence amidst the frenzy and confusion of this present darkness (cf. Ephesians 6:12). Even to those we think least likely to respond…

Memory Verse: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.””John 4:24 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 11. Worship
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 5. Worship
    • 6. Evangelism
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 4. Worship: “Let’s Go to the House of God!”
    • 16. Blessing: “Lift Your Praising Hands”

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LEAD! C.8 Submission and Service

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In Which We Triumph By Surrendering

Submission is the key to understanding and exercising divine authority. Not merely submitting to God, but also to other humans — even those we might be tempted to count our inferiors — in order to serve them.

Crucially, our service must not spring from codependency or a need to be liked, but from a single-minded devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, who made Himself a servant for our sake.

For only if we serve as Jesus served can we triumph as He triumphs.

Memory Verse: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”2 Corinthians 4:5 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 8. Submission
    • 9. Service
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 7. Serving
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 5. Service: “Like Servants . . . We’re Watching & Waiting”
    • 15. Community: “Like Costly Anointing Oil Flowing Down Head & Beard”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • N/A

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LEAD! C.5 Studying Scripture

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boIn Which Diligently Searching God’s Word Leads Us to Truth

Few disciplines are as essential — or as dangerous! — as studying the words and works of God. Used in the wrong spirit, theology can become a heavy burden or a useless distraction (cf. Matthew 23:4). But when taught by the Holy Spirit, God’s word becomes the very source of life itself (cf. Luke 4:4). The challenge to us, as to Timothy, is whether we will apply God’s word rightly

Memory Verse: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • 5. Study
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 2. Bible Intake (Part I)
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 6. Help: “Oh, Blessed Be God! He Didn’t Go Off & Leave Us!”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • 3. Scripture: Encountering God Through Lectio Divina

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LEAD! C.2 Meditation and Memorization

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In Which We Dwell On God’s Word, As It Dwells In Us

The purpose of the disciplines is to bring us into the presence of God, and nothing is more effective for that that deeply meditating upon and memorizing Scripture. In contrast to Eastern meditation — which is about emptying and detachment — Christian meditation is about drawing near to the Father and being filled with His Spirit as we take on the mind of Christ.

Memory Verse: “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”1 Timothy 4:15-16 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading
  1. Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline

    • Part I. The Inward Disciplines
    • 2. Meditation
  2. Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    • 3. Bible Intake (Part II)
  3. Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

    • 10. Happiness: “Enjoy the Blessing! Revel in the Goodness!”
  4. Ruth Haley Barton: Sacred Rhythms

    • N/A

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LEAD! B.2 From Simplicity to Faith

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In Which Unseen Faith Transforms the Visible World

Faith for the Simple

Faith is the primary virtue of the Mind. It enables us to base Decisions on Reasons, as well as to deduce Reasons from Decisions (axioms). It can be defined as “the ability to believe what is true — even when difficult.”

Faith is particularly needed by the Simple, who otherwise would only trust what they can touch and feel. Yet God’s invisible wisdom is in reality more powerful than all the armies of flesh and blood which rail against it. And thus pursuing that wisdom, in faith, is actually the most practical decision of all…

[click to enlarge image]

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Stoned, Part I: Three Stones

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5:30 AM, Sunday, March 11th, 2007

I am walking down a street of some kind, carrying  three stones I, um, excreted earlier. Semi-round, they are roughly the size of a quarter, nickel, and dime, respectively. Clean now, I juggle them in my hand, relieved to have them out, but not quite sure what to do with them.

It is night, but I am approaching a streetlight where i can finally examine them. They all have a fine texture, almost like a random-dot stereogram. More than almost — if I stare at each of them I can make out a word. Respectively, I see:

  1. Insecurity
  2. Pride
  3. Self

It is a bit surprising to see “Self” as the smallest pebble, but there you have it. Having named them, I understand why it was important to excrete them — so I could get them out into the open and deal with them. But, how to deal with them?

  • Jesus?
  • Hi Ernie.
  • What do you want from me?
  • Your sin.

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Death, Part II: I Am Risen In Christ

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It is cold and dark in the upper room where the three disciples are gathered; together in body, yet each lost in private reverie. Emotion huddles in a corner, weeping tears of Sorrow. Reason lies on a cot, staring up into empty space, his head resting on an uncomfortable cushion of Contradiction. Intention paces the room, chafing under the cloak of Guilt he wears. Suddenly, there is a knock on the door, a pounding. A familiar voice calls out: it is Hope, bearing vital news. The disciples all stand and look at each other, wary. The doors are heavily barred against the agents of Fear and Shame, which even now must be seeking to destroy them. To open the door to Hope may give them entry as well.

Emotion appeals to Intention, who looks at Reason. Reason shrugs, so Intention squares his shoulders and heads to the door. With a deep breath, he opens the door, and Hope comes rushing in, followed by Joy. Both women are covered in deep cloaks of Mourning, but the hoods have been thrown back, and their faces are excited. They shout as one, “He is risen!”

The disciples are stunned. Emotion looks at the two women, then the other disciples. He embraces Hope, then takes Joy by the hand and runs to the tomb. Intention follows slowly, more to keep an eye on Emotion than because he trusts Hope. Reason shakes his head sadly, and returns to staring at the blank walls, turning his back on Hope.

[Read More] for the story of what they find at the tomb, as the follow-up to my crucifixion in Part I.

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