In recent days I have encountered two very different attitudes. The difference it makes is enormous.
In one there was an aggressive defensiveness right from the very first contact. Even when we sorted out things in a fully amicable way I find I came out of the encounter exhausted.
Today on the other hand was very different. I went out in the grey drizzle to visit a couple. I was greeted with enthusiasm, they were interested in how things were for me, perceptive about the situations in the circuit, very supportive and not at all interfering. I don't know how they felt about the visit, but I came out of it with spirits lifted sky high and re-energised. What a wonderful gift this couple gave today to the one who at least in theory was ministering to them.
I often hear older people say "I can't do anything to help any more". Sometimes it can seem a bit of a glib response if you remind them that we can all pray. And while it can sound glib I do know many older Christians who have a terrific ministry in praying for others, who have an incredibly important role within and outside the Church. So I do still want to encourage prayer for all people, I can personally vouch both for the wonderful difference it makes when you supported by many people in this way and also (hopefully obviously) the clear and obvious differences between being part of a community that prays and one that does not.
However, today reminded me that another thing we all can do for others is through our attitude when we meet them or talk to them. Do people who meet you get a lift or leave feeling exhausted? As with prayer this is not related to our health, wealth or situation. I have met people close to death whose attitude has given a huge lift as well as those with seemingly everything going well that drag you down.
I suspect our attitude to others is a window into our love for them. If we feel we cannot control much else in our lives surely we can seek to control our attitude? Isn't our attitude a summary of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
I just invented that saying "A wise Christian stops if they are contradicting Jesus", but it is ok I am not copywriting it. Use it where you will :-)
Why did I think of this tonight?
Well I am concerned about a current series that Adrian Warnock is writing on feelings. Sadly he now seems to be contradicting one of his most popular posts I DON’T WANT BALANCE, I WANT IT ALL! which is all about his "feeling" of wanting all things. Much more importantly he seems to be contradicting Jesus.
As my saying makes clear I think contradicting Jesus is a bad idea. Rather like continuing to dig when in a hole.
So far Adrians new series consists of the following posts:
As is so often the case with arguments from the reformed movement the key person missing from the debate is Jesus. Whole arguments, just like this one, are formed from quotes from various Christians in their own tradition. Scripture will inevitably be from the Hebrew Scriptures or the Epistles almost never from the Gospels (in this case no Scripture at all so far).
For me this is not enough. If you want to convince me of a theological argument then I need to hear how it fits with Jesus, his example & teaching. With incarnation, betrayal, death, resurrection, ascension ... Then you can tell me about the rest (which I am also interested in).
However, if you go further than not referring to Jesus, if you go so far as to contradict Jesus then I have a real problem with your teaching.
Our third quote in this little series, makes the very important point that however precious our experiences of God might be, a warm glowing feeling inside us never actually produces faith. Some of my readers might be surprised to know that I wholeheartedly agree. Faith on the other hand, DOES produce feelings, as in the other two quotes, Spurgeon quotes our hymn:
However, I do not see how this can fit with Luke 18 (or the Mark 10 or Matthew 19):
15People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
If Jesus tells us we need to receive the kingdom of God like a little child then how can we receive it except through feelings? Was the hope of the children, we are to emulate, fitting with the line from the hymns Adrian is using “My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness".
Adrian is arguing, through the quotes he chooses, that feelings will come from faith (although even then we can't trust them - and incidentally if we can't trust them then why did God give us them?) BUT he argues faith cannot come from feelings.
As we look at the gospels I am reminded how little the disciples understood the teaching of Jesus at the time. If they did not understand then surely their feelings were critical to their choice to follow him, to trust him when they did not understand. It was feelings that got Peter, James, John and Andrew out of their boats to follow Jesus who they did not understand, it was not intellectual assent but willingness to trust based on their feelings about this man.
I recognise that we all have predilections for certain assumptions and arguments. One of my problems relates to getting all riled up about justice issues (eg gender, sexuality) so that I do not hear the valid parts of what some people say.
For those of the reformed movement that Adrian loves there are a number of common predilections. Sadly Adrian has followed them all this time:
Forgetting Jesus, particularly the four gospels.
Only using writers from within your own tradition
Believing all people and their spiritual journeys are the same (in this case Adrian completely ignores personality)
Trying to remove all ambiguity. To lay our exactly and clearly what must be believed, in what order and to what extent. To create checklists and rules so that you know who is included or excluded.
As I mentioned in my earlier post there are some great resources on the issue of feelings such as those of Ignatian Spirituality.
But the key thing is we all need to do that basic reality check. "Is what I am saying consistent with the Jesus of the Gospels?"
At last I am making some progress again. Way back in June I wrote that I had completed my first weight loss target using thelinediet.com but July and August were not good for weight loss. As we were busy packing, moving and unpacking I struggled to find time to ride much and so I ended up putting back on some of the weight I had lost.
However, at the beginning of September I started the line diet again and I am pleased to say that today I am again no longer obese and in fact am a bit lighter than the lowest I reached in June.
This time I have coupled the line diet with a determination to form a healthy habit. It seems that research has shown that we take 21 days to form a new habit. So with the help of habitforge.com I have set myself the goal of forming a proper cycling habit. HabitForge makes it easy to keep track of your success in forming a habit and also helps with the motivation. At the minute I have cycled 11 days in a row.
I have been wondering how we might use this idea of forming healthy habits within the context of the Church. For example to help people in their prayer lives or with reading scripture daily.
Anyway just off for the first ride of the day on my new bike to the recycling depot.
But instead I want to express my sadness that when we only look at a very narrow range of Christian teaching and tradition we miss out. Adrian is in grave danger of trying to reinvent the wheel and in the process is missing some beautiful wheels and alternatives to wheels that God has already given his Church.
One form of spirituality that I have been fortunate enough to be introduced to is Ignatian Spirituality. It was wholly alien to me (and seemed slightly weird and scary at first), yet which provides excellent ways into working with feelings and faith. It is one I rely on most days.
So Adrian, try a wheel that has already been invented. Explore Ignatian Spirituality. Two articles that are especially relevant are:
So often we miss so many of the riches that God has given us because of our tendency to tunnel vision. Sadly the more narrowly we focus our definition of Christian the more this will be the case. I fully appreciate that Adrian is not likely to consider looking outside his narrow Reformed Charismatic Evangelical understanding. But how sad to miss out on the way God has used people like Ignatius of Loyola to open our eyes.
Just can't resist celebrating life today. I am sitting in my lovely study looking out of the big bay window at a blue sky with the light playing on the trees and thinking about the last few days and the day to come.
There are so many great things about being a Methodist Minister and so many of them that are visible here in the Leicester North Circuit. Really positive meetings this week of the Local Preachers & Worship leaders and later the Circuit Leadership Team. A lovely afternoon spent with our Grace Worker, a volunteer who is going to work with her in a local school and with Rachel (superintendent). An afternoon celebrating a desire to do mission and get on with showing God's love to the community around - wonderful.
Yesterday a lovely ride to and from Synod with Rachel and Adam (from a neighbouring circuit). Was a total of just under 60 miles for me and is such a better way to prepare for worship & conferring. Great worship and plenty of good news about what God is doing around the district. Plus a difficult discussion about the future of the roles of President and Vice President.
Now today a nice ride in this morning sunshine to preach & preside at Holy Communion at Rothley with Margaret as worship leader. Then a circuit pilgrimage at 3ppm this afternoon at Queniborough followed by a tea (bring your own) and my leading a circuit service also at Queniborough.
God is good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!