Category Archives: Be Like Jesus

How can we be disciples of Jesus?

Finding Calcutta

I thought Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin would be a casual read – some good stories but nothing to write down, meditate about, and share.  I was wrong.  Mary Poplin spent a period of months working beside Mother Teresa.  She is a professor at U of Texas, but writes so even I can understand.  She writes about her inner and outer journey during those months, and I find her insights pierce me.

“Discouragement is a sign of pride.  It shows that I was focused on results, perhaps in my own power, rather than faith and obedience to God’s direction and his responsibility for results.”

As I read, I was faced with my own self.  Her insights on generosity humbled and frightened me, and I realized that I’ve never really sacrificed.  Her experiences of obedience stressed that my faithfulness to God’s present call prepares me for his call later.  If God calls me to wash windows, I must wash them so the angels stop and say, “There is a great window washer, a man faithful to his call.  What a servant of God!”  Obedience is the path to “my Calcutta”.

This book is an easy, but slow, read.  It was easy to understand, but the application of what I understood made me pause in every chapter.  Truth is like that.

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Filed under Be Like Jesus, Missions

The Class Meeting

The Class Meeting by Kevin M. Watson describes the kind of Christian group that appeals to me.  The format of the Class Meeting is actually from the eighteenth century, and John Wesley is given much of the credit for it’s design and impact.  The principle behind a modern-day Class Meeting is to become doers of the Word, not just learners.  This aligns perfectly with a phrase from Jesus’ Great Commission, “…teaching them to obey everything  I have commanded you.”

It seems to me that most “small groups” in the USA church are either affinity groups based on having fun, or studies based on collecting knowledge.  Class Meetings are designed to enable group member to live more holy lives.  Let me share a few ideas from the book.

  • The class meeting is essential because it is a logical, practical, and proven way to make disciples.  It forms righteous thinking (orthodoxy) and righteous action (orthopraxy).
  • Judgment does not prevail in Class Meetings.  Unless I have asked to be accountable, rarely will the Class Meeting members hold me accountable.  The person who judges me is myself.  The Class Meeting is a weekly self-inventory of my own life.
  • People who protest against the Class Meeting because it may be uncomfortable must admit that comfort isn’t a good indicator of whether something is good for me or whether I need to do it.  Comfort is focused on my desires, not God’s desires.

Honestly, what would happen if the church would actually live what they already know they should do?  The book is designed to enable the reader to start a Class Meeting.  If you are desperate to become more holy, check it out.  If you’re comfortable and want to stay that way,  the book will only make you uncomfortable.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.

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Visioneering

I think the words “vision & visionary” are getting over used – almost worn out.  But Andy Stanley offered some freshness with his book Visioneering.

Stanley highlighted the fact that every idea is not a vision.  A vision is more than an idea of what could be.  There is a moral imperative that it should be done.  It must be done!  However, visions don’t always happen right away, and they often (usually?) don’t come easily.  Obstacles can come from friends, enemies, and even myself.

Stanley uses Nehemiah as the example of some key aspects in receiving, articulating, expanding, and completing the vision – God’s vision.  I found his examples and conclusions usually well aligned, and I especially enjoyed his insights on how to inspire people with a vision.  I’m not sure I believe as strongly as he that there is a “God-ordained vision for each of the roles of your life”.  In any case, I think it’s a good book to read if you believe God has entrusted you with one of his visions.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.  Look for “Visioneering” as you scroll through the box.

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On God’s Side

This book by Jim Wallis was a welcome read for me, but I was ready to consider his ideas.  For some time I’ve been more loyal to Jesus than a political party.  I am registered as an independent.  So I was easily on board when Wallis presented the three target points of his book:

  1. Christian conversion is to impact more than the destiny of my eternal soul.  It is to impact the way I live in this world.
  2. Faith transcends politics, and
  3. My faith should be lived in public for the public good.

The book title comes from a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”  Wallis helps me see that I am weakly committed to God’s side in some areas of political debate.  I have been caught up in the either/or mentality rather than both/and solutions.  The table below gives an example of what I’m saying.  It compares the different views of what causes poverty.

Liberals    (blame society)

Conservatives    (blame individuals)

poor-paying jobs poor work habits and work experience
poor education no dedication to education
no or poor child care having children out of marriage
poor housing options weak family structure
lack of affordable health care substance abuse

Commonsense says that I have an individual responsibility for improving my conditions, but it also says that forces outside my influence can make my progress more difficult or even impossible.  Working from only one side of the aisle will not correct the root of the problem.  We have to work on both lists.

Wallis repeatedly discusses “justice”.  He explains that justice has a broad range of meanings: righteousness, wholeness, deliverance, Shalom, and healed relationships.  He emphasizes that Jesus wants this multi-faceted type of justice for everyone.  And he’s afraid that justice can slip to an optional status when it is viewed as an implication of the Kingdom of God rather than an integral part of it.

I really enjoyed this book, but I think some Christians may find it uncomfortable.  He really challenges the readers to embrace following Jesus above following a political party.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the right side-bar of this blog.  Look for “On His Side” as you scroll through the box.

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The Holy Longing

A friend of mine suggested I read this book by Ronald Rolheiser.  Rolheiser is a priest, lecturer, and prolific author.  I’m not Catholic, but have some great memories of worshiping in their midst during the “Catholic Charismatic Renewal” of the 70’s.  So I began with anticipation.  I ended with some wonderful insights and a bit perplexed.

I encountered some wonderful interpretations of Scripture.  For example, the idea of being separate from the world (consecration) was given greater depth by Rolheiser’s idea that consecration means “set aside from the norm”.  It means not doing certain things, but just as importantly, it means doing things the “normal” person would not do.  A consecrated person is required to act when they see a need for action whether it is from natural disaster, injustice, ignorance, etc.

Some of Rolheiser’s ideas seemed to have good conclusions but took questionable pathways to get there.  For example, he interprets Jesus’ mention of eating his flesh and drinking his blood as the exhortation “You cannot be with me (the perfect) if you can’t be with my Body (the imperfect).”  I like the conclusion, but I think the parallel is a stretch.

And Rolheiser’s ideas on the soul (all living things have souls), salvation (the love of a Church member toward me guarantees salvation of my soul regardless of my personal desires, conduct, or attitude), and sexuality (sexuality lies at the center of spiritual life) made me a bit afraid.  I was afraid for how these ideas could misdirect a readers path.  And, to be honest, I had to skip sections because they troubled me so much.

I am truly glad I read this book.  I will hold on to some of Rolheiser’s concepts, but I must reject some of his proposals.  I guess it’s like most of what we hear and read, a mix of good and bad.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.

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