Most Popular Posts of the Month


Yesterday, I emailed our network a list of the most popular posts in this blog of the last 30 days. In order of popularity, here they are:

  • Retreats” – Recently, I updated a number of weblinks and other information on this list of Southern California retreat centers. It continues to draw a lot of Google searches to my blog.
  • A Good Word: The Hardest One to Love” – I posted a quotation from Brennan Manning’s book, The Signature of Jesus that seemed to hit home for many. Who is the hardest one for you to love? You might be surprised…
  • Who Is The Leadership Institute?” – I posted our revised mission, vision, strategy and legacy statements as a ministry. Many found it a helpful illustration of statements like this rooted in spiritual formation.
  • Psalm 42: Thirsty For God” – This included some reflections on my own thirst for God, and how that has developed over time.
  • Download: “Extended Time with God” suggestions” – I posted a link to a resource we’ve made available to thousands who have attended one of our training or retreat events. It’s some simple counsel on how to spend a few hours alone and quiet with God, especially if this is a new experience for you.
  • Thoughts from Renovare Conference – Part 1” – I posted this first of six posts back in July from the Renovare Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Just about every day, someone looking for info on Renovare stumbles on one of these pages. It is my summary of a few of the general sessions.

A Call to Spiritual Formation (San Antonio)


gemhelen.com

gemhelen.com

Link: A Call to Spiritual Formation

The link above will take you to a statement about the critical need for spiritual formation in the church that was finalized and presented at last week’s Renovaré International Conference in San Antonio, TX. I urge to you click there if you haven’t already at someone else’s invitation. I can think of few more important opportunities as it relates to the future of spiritual formation in the church.

I was honored to be one of the fifty “crafters” present before the conference began to review, refine and finalize this statement. It was a remarkable gathering that included Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson and many other key leaders in the spiritual formation movement. I have memories of words and phrases that were added or removed from this version that you read now. I sat across the table from Eugene Peterson who had a couple of crisp suggestions for language here or there. It was amazing to see him at work. As we hit the end and were seeking a strong sentence of invitation, Dallas Willard only half jokingly suggested the last line be something like: “So have you anything better to do?” Hilarious!

On the Tuesday of the conference, Chris Webb presented the document in a general session of the Renovaré International Conference and invited attendees to join the crafter team in making a similar affirmation and to signing the document.  We collected the signatures of hundreds who accepted his invitation.

I invite you to join me and a growing group of others who have read, reflected on and affirm this statement as signers. Please click through to the website to learn more and respond.

Thoughts from Renovare Conference 3


content44ab573615f0f9de43518cd3fe28ea2eContinuing from a couple of earlier posts, here are a few quotations from Emilie Griffin’s presentation at the Renovare Conference in San Antonio, TX:

Emilie Griffin
The Jesus Way and Elijah

  • Our practice of worship can be a way of sometimes losing focus in our devotion to God. Pomp and circumstance can distract us. We want to take God captive. We want Him to serve our needs and wants when it should be the other way around.
  • I’m assuming all of us have had experiences of felt blessedness with God. How could something good like this get in the way of our spiritual journey? We must remember that these experiences are not within our grasp, but are always gifts of sheer grace. C. S. Lewis called them “a plain bounty.” We cannot summon up spiritual experiences from God. Do we measure our relationship with God with whether or not we can achieve some emotional jolt? (My thought: What then am I seeking—an experience or God Himself.)
  • Great spiritual teachers tell us that we cannot have a guarantee of “sensible consolation” in our encounters with God. Consolation is good, but comes as a pure gift from God. We cannot make it happen, but we can be grateful for whatever experience God gives. We cling only to God Himself. We are always guaranteed the love of God, but not guaranteed particular experiences of God. We wait upon the Lord and receive the experience God gives, whatever that may be. We cannot package God, but we can depend on Him for everything.
  • Peter wants to package his experience of Jesus on the transfiguration mount. This never works. We can remember the wonder of past experiences, but we cannot put a tent over them and just reproduce it for ourselves or others at will. (My thought: This is to cling to experiences, rather than remaining open to the Lordship of Jesus even over our experience of Him.)
  • The great spiritual teachers tell us that if we do not have any desert places in our own lives, we should make some places of desert-like solitude and silence. There we can hear God in the quiet desolation of solitude. The blank page of a journal staring back at you on a day when you feel particularly dry can be such a desert.
  • Encounter times of solitude, finding the way to be alone with God to hear the still, small voice. Whatever comes to us that is hard, there is always the voice of the Lord for us there. A miracle is on the way even when we cannot see it. We accept such desert places that we already have.
  • How frank am I with God? How honest am I with Him in my communion with Him? Is my heart fully open to Him?
  • What doesn’t necessarily come together perfectly as performance in worship may be wonderful, authentic worship through which we pour the intentions of our hearts. The focus is always on God Himself.
  • Elijah’s offering was smaller, less impressive and rougher around the edges than that of the Baal prophets, but his was accepted. God sees and hears our hearts in worship. That’s where He’s looking.

(Go to Part four)

Thoughts from Renovare Conference 2


willard-dallas-3Continuing from the last post on this theme, below are a few amazing insights from Dallas Willard’s presentation at The Jesus Way conference here in San Antonio:

Dallas Willard
The Jesus Way and Servanthood

  • Before you get to servanthood, you have to start with kingdom. The basic message of Jesus was the availability of life in the kingdom of God now, right where you are.
  • Repentance, as Jesus used it, was not beating your head on the floor. It means ‘Think about your thinking.” Primary in most of our thinking is, “I am king.” If you are running your life, you have a problem. You won’t be a servant to others.
  • In order to get out of our kingdom, we often have to go into exile. Prophets spoke to Israel in exile. The kingdoms they thought they were building for God were all torn down.
  • We come to the kingdom of God through exile, and then we can live as servants in the Jesus way. Our kingdoms must be torn down. Jesus comes to help us enter into that, offering instead the kingdom of the heavens.
  • The kingdom of God is simply God in action. You find the kingdom of God when you enter the action of God—the reign of God. Jesus brings us into an interactive relationship with God which is His kingdom. We can then walk off and leave our own kingdoms behind. And Jesus teaches this by His own example.
  • John 13 – knowing where He has come from, knowing where He was going…He washed their feet as a servant. No one else was going to wash those feet. To make the point of servanthood, Jesus served.
  • He knew where He came from. Most people fail to serve because they have a sense of the scarcity of their life. Out of such scarcity, they fear they will not have enough for themselves. We can only serve out of abundance.
  • He knew where he was going. Where? He was going to His death. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground (John 12). Are our lives are like that? When you put a seed in the earth and go away, a plant comes up and eventually bears fruit. When you return to look for the grain planted, it is no longer there. Exiled. Dead. But it brings forth much fruit. We are talking about service. What Jesus is saying is the path of my future lies through the cross—through death.
  • Watch how Jesus simply turned everything loose. He stepped out of His position. He came down to the earth and gave Himself up to death. The grain of wheat fell, died and brought forth fruit. The system of God—the kingdom of God—takes over. We don’t go to servanthood directly, but go by following Jesus in abandoning completely the control we have over life as we try to build our own little kingdoms. Building our own kingdom is the human story since Adam and Eve. The Tower of Babel, for example.
  • When Israel says, “We want a king,” it really means “We want someone other than God to trust.”
  • All the kingdoms of the earth will pass away, and God will still be sufficient. This is the story of the book of Job, who lost everything. God really is enough. Yes.
  • When everything else is gone, there is still God. It is in exile that we learn the sufficiency of God. Then, out of our knowledge of His sufficiency, we can fall into the earth and die. We have our kingdom to give up and let die. We turn it over and are set free from the burden from controlling our world and our lives. The great freedom of the cross.
  • The cross frees us into true servanthood. Out of love we can now love our neighbors. If we are not servants, we can’t love. We have problem with mercy in our churches because we don’t live as servants.
  • Being a servant is not a matter of particular acts, but a matter of your whole life. You don’t keep your kingdom and occasionally serve. You must live always as a servant.
  • A fear? If we serve, who will look after us? If we live the Jesus way in the kingdom, we know who has our back. Humble yourself  under the mighty hand of God, that when the time is right, He will exalt you. You can then cast your cares on Him knowing He’ll care for you.

(Go to Part three)

Thoughts from Renovare Conference 1


I’ve had the treat for the last 48 hours to be part of Renovare’s “The Jesus Way” conference here in San Antonio. Yesterday afternoon, I was in spiritual formation heaven, sitting in a room of 50-60 spiritual formation leaders that included Dallas Willard (just behind me), Eugene Peterson (just across from me) and Richard Foster (just down the table from me). I was so encouraged by their manner and their lives. There is a statement of spiritual formation that will come out of a many month process culminating this week. I’ll have the treat of being one of many signers.

My hope is to share here a thought or two from the sessions (but not much more so as not to violate any copyright stuff). These aren’t necessarily word-for-word quotations, and I might have a thought of my own included (in parentheses):

frazee-rFrom Randy Frazee. Senior Minister Oak Hills Church.

  • There is great power in asking for feedback from those close to us on the quality of our journey with Christ and its fruit. Will we have the courage?
  • Others near us already know where we are at in bearing (or not bearing) the fruit of the Spirit. What are they tasting in relationship with us? our life in relationship? Sweetness? Sourness? Rottenness?
  • (My thought: Many times we are boastful or proud as a compensation for a kind of “recognition deficit disorder”)

chrisChris Webb. Recently appointed president of Renovare. Speaking on the theme of sin.

  • Where does a homeless, drug-addicted, hooker go to church before she recovers? We’d welcome her post-recovery, but would we welcome her when she’s in the middle of her mess?
  • We need “sinners anonymous” churches for people like you and me who are actually in recovery, but haven’t arrived yet.
  • Story of David – Psalm 51. David gets a huge number of chapters in the Bible. He sins in every chapter. WWDD (What Would David Do?)
  • David was one dangerous man to know. Alongside his colossal record of sin, we read that he was a man after God’s own heart. What in the world did God see in the heart of a man like David? Perhaps we don’t see an answer in the narrative, but rather in the psalms.
  • WWDD? He sinned much, but he loved God more. He was broken, even shattered, by his sin. He cried out again and again for mercy.
  • Are we as shattered by our sin as David was?
  • Most of the time we are not broken, desperate, weeping over our sins because we don’t tell the truth—to ourselves, to God or to others.
  • Will we tell the truth to God, even if the truth of our hearts is anger or hatred?
  • (My thoughts: How else would it be transformed?. Will we tell the unpleasant truth to God when we pray, or will we pray prayers we think He somehow expects from us? Will we be honest, deeply, truly honest, with God about the sin we’ve done, thought, felt?)
  • Jesus with the woman caught in adultery. He encouraged the sinless one to throw the first rock. No one was willing to condemn. No one.
  • Are we recovering from sin? Are there sins in our lives now of which we are ashamed? Will Christ condemn us if we admit our sin honestly? No. He will not.

(Go to Part two)