Tag Archives: Mike Glenn

Know Your Yes, Stay on Course

Mike Glenn’s concluding chapter in The Gospel of Yes wraps up all the loose ends in the book by looking at the way the apostle Paul heard Christ’s “Yes” to him. Glenn focuses on Paul’s ability to find contentment in the midst of a chaotic, even dangerous, life. Most twenty-first century Christians would probably love to experience that same contentment, even though the cultural philosophy dominated by secular thinking would certainly scorn contentment. Reading The Gospel of Yes many readers will, no doubt, find themselves conflicted by this attitude. After all, how does a person motivate himself to pursue important goals if he is content?

The cultural conflict between the life Christ offers and the life the culture admires keeps Christians on edge. Most Christians would probably say that they would not be comfortable to seek contentment. They need the edge, the prod, of discontent with things as they are. They feel that they might settle for less than their best if they ever felt content.

Mike Glenn probes that issue and reduces it to two points that define Paul’s contentment. First, “Paul remained faithful to his calling, the “yes” of his destiny” (p. 202) and second, “Paul was able to see himself in the big picture of what Christ was doing in the world.” (p. 202) Paul’s contentment was not about being content with the way things were; Paul was content because he was doing what he was created to do in Christ’s redemptive plan.

Paul experienced what Christ’s followers always experience when they find the “yes” of their destiny. Someone doing what he or she was created to do, living in a faithful, rich relationship with Christ, feels a deep contentment that transcends the pandemonium of twenty-first century life. Christ’s followers are highly motivated to pursue excellence in their callings, but they are not driven to succeed in competition with others to achieve the goals set by the culture. A major blessing of knowing your calling is the gift of being able to filter the call to conflict and the distractions of other people’s goals out of the input you absorb. Paul didn’t have a Blackberry, but he was a well-educated and well-traveled man. Roman culture had very strong pressures toward the Roman concept of success, and Paul had the intellect and character to be that kind of a success. Yet he was content with his work in Christ’s kingdom, because he was fulfilling his destiny, his “yes” in Christ.

Every person has such a destiny. Every person has that destiny from the moment of conception. Every aborted baby had a destiny in God’s eyes. Just as God knew David and Jeremiah from before they were conceived, God knows all those aborted babies.

Christians face a real challenge in the secular culture. Secular thinking alleges to believe that humans are the pinnacle of evolution in the universe, but secular thinking permits even human beings to be classified as expendable. By secular standards, some humans don’t deserve to live. A baby conceived at an inconvenient time or in inconvenient circumstances becomes disposable, a minor inconvenience, or perhaps a threat to other goals. Secular thinking declares many personal and social goals to take precedence over the value of a baby.

God doesn’t see it that way. Every human being is conceived by God’s grace with a unique purpose in God’s plans. Every human being is loved and known by God before he or she is conceived. Every person is part of the big picture of what Christ is doing in the world. Many circumstances conspire against a long healthy life for anyone, but in God’s eyes, there is a unique “yes” for each person. Each person who hears Christ’s “yes” is invited to live in lifelong contentment that transcends all the conflict and distraction and danger and hardship and simple clutter that is part of the culture. Paul heard God’s announcement of all the things he would suffer for Christ’s name, and when he said “yes,” he became content. Each of us has that opportunity just as Paul did. Every one of us is loved by God so much that Christ died to give us the life that is richly content in the midst of madness.

This chapter is a fitting conclusion to The Gospel of Yes. There can be no greater contentment than to know that each one of us matters to God, and each one of us has a place in Christ’s redemptive work in the world. The richest blessing any of us will ever receive happens when we say “yes” to Christ’s “yes” for us.

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”

 

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It Takes Faith to Say Yes

Mike Glenn is not an economist, a fact he readily concedes, which may make you wonder why he then proceeds to attempt an economic analysis. When you read the book, don’t dawdle over this part. It is more of a rehash of political speeches than a picture of the economy. In fact, you could simply skip pp. 169-171 and be just as well off. The remainder of chapter 13 is very well done, except for overuse of the word greed. You will be hard put to forget the political definitions of the word, even though that is not what the author is talking about.

 

What is he talking about? Here is a selection

 

Gluttony – I don’t just need this. I need all of this.

Insatiability – I am hungry, and when I eat, I am still hungry.

Self-indulgence – I deserve the very best.

Avarice – I not only know how to make money. I know how to make money by hurting my competitors.

Covetousness – I have lots, but you still have something, and I need it.

Materialism – Don’t talk to me about things I can’t see.

Acquisitiveness – I have lots, but I don’t have that one.

Longing – I can’t die till I have one of those, and I think I will die if I don’t get one.

Craving – I can taste the essence and smell the aroma and feel the silkiness and hear haunting pipes and see that voluptuous shape.

Appetite – I will have it, and I will shape every day yet to come in order to have more of it.

Acquisitiveness – Tell me when the next new one will be released. I must have the first five.

Stinginess – I know I have ten of them I the cellar, but I might not be able to get another one. No. Find your own.

Selfishness – Just make sure that before anybody buys any more I get all I need.

 

There is a single problem at the root of all these attitudes and behaviors. Doubt. The opposite of Faith. Mike states it this way: “the hard truth [is] that … I am not completely convinced of the message of the gospel.” He doesn’t mean that he hasn’t received Christ as his Savior. Mike Glenn simply means that much as he believes that Christ has saved him from Satan, he isn’t quite sure that Christ is enough. For a pastor to confess this problem ought to comfort every reader who was starting to squirm at the message of this chapter. We are all human, and we all have our doubts, and our doubts about the gospel are at the root of our need for more and more new things. All those attitudes and behaviors that are listed above grow out of our doubt that Christ is enough.

If we really believed that God loves us so much he was willing to suffer and die for us, we would never doubt that we could share with people in need and still have enough. The rich young ruler is no different from you or me or Mike Glenn. He was so sure that he would starve if he gave up his wealth that he walked away from the Savior of the world. Mike confesses that, try as he will, he still does the same thing. Me, too. I can tell you right now that I don’t have the faith of that widow who put her last mite in the offering at the temple. I don’t have that kind of faith, even though I know for a fact when my next check will be deposited in the bank, and I know how much it will be. There are a lot of certainties in my life, but I cling to my budget and I always doubt that I can give anything when I am faced with real need.

Paul wrote to human beings who suffered from doubt, too. Just like me, they were not sure that Christ was enough. They had the same issues I have with want and need, and they had the same doubt that Christ loved them enough to give them enough. Paul told them, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” With thanksgiving? If we listen to the news or to our political candidates, we would believe that there is nothing to be thankful for. If the Philippians spent much time thinking about Rome or the emperor or the corruption of the Roman government, they would not have had anything to be thankful for, either. Political leaders, secular thinkers, idolaters, and pure scoundrels all tell stories of present chaos and impending doom in every age. Unless we have the faith to give thanks for Christ’s love and care before we get around to asking for what we need, we won’t have the faith to ask. We will never hear Christ’s “Yes.” Yes, you have enough. Yes, I love you. Yes, I will always be with you. Christ’s “Yes” is the gift of his presence and his power and his life-transforming grace that shows us when we actually have enough. 

Some people truly believe that they can count on Christ’s “Yes.” They trust that he will provide, and no matter how much he provides, they trust that it will be enough. Some Christians say “Yes” to Christ’s “Yes” and trust him for everything. Here is an excerpt from the Handbook of the World Mission Prayer League .

The Mission’s financial policy believes and assumes that God is faithful, and may be counted upon to provide in every way, both spiritually and materially, for the advancement of his kingdom’s work around the world. The Mission, therefore, does not curtail or delimit its activities on the basis of a formal budget, or pledged and calculated income. New workers are accepted, commissioned and sent without requiring that there first of all be money in sight to support them. No stated salary is pledged or promised to any worker wherever assigned. All workers in the Mission, whatever their location or position, share impartially in the distribution of living allowances made each month out of the general funds of the Mission.

Do you have the faith to say “Yes” to Christ’s simplicity?

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”

Destiny — Christ’s Yes to Each Person

Once upon a time someone tried to tell children that they could resist the lure of illegal drugs by simply saying, “No.” Sex education programs that teach abstinence sometimes try the same tactic: Just say NO. It is extremely hard to say NO to something you really want, something you hunger for, and all those programs about saying NO have high failure rates. People cannot simply say no to deep hunger. Children try drugs because being one of the “in” crowd meets a need, and the drugs themselves temporarily fog their ability to recognize that the need is not being filled. Children experiment with sex because there is a deep hunger they think sex will satisfy, and they keep it up, because the human body is designed to hunger for sex. It is a lot harder just to say NO when everything within you is driving you to YES.

Frederick Buechner, quoted by Mike Glenn in The Gospel of Yes explains that our destiny in Christ is a deep and powerful force which is like the forces that drive people to drugs and sex for fulfillment. Buechner says, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When I read those words, I knew that at last somebody had clearly stated what has happened to me. I never had a “Damascus moment” like the apostle Paul when my world crashed down around my ears and I finally saw my future. My experience has been very different from that, and someone who recently asked me to describe my sense of calling was a little disturbed that I didn’t have a single enlightening moment, a powerful “one thing” that came clear to me. My experience of calling is more like the discovery of what Buechner called “deep gladness” and the arrival at the intersection with a “deep hunger” in the world.

My call is to learn how the world actually thinks in order to learn how to communicate with the world as it is. The Bible teaches me, and I can easily observe, that human beings are fatally flawed from the moment of birth. The Bible explains it as the work of Satan and the will of humans. The Bible teaches me that Christ came to change all that. My own life is a testimony to that truth – I, a flawed human being, met Christ and was transformed by him into the person I was created to be, not the sad failure I had become on my own. I want to share that experience with other people. I want other people to know Christ as I know him. The desire to share Christ with others is a driving force in my life. My experience with Christ created deep gladness in my life.

However, I find that nobody wants to hear me quote John 3:16 as a greeting. People reject most quotations from the Bible, although a few proverbs and some generic selections from Ecclesiastes pass muster as safe aphorisms. If I want to share Christ, I can’t speak Bible language. I must speak the language of the culture in which I find myself. And that is not easy.

The culture uses the same words I do to talk about life, but they don’t mean the same things. Here, I am happy to say, is another deep-seated gladness for me – words. I love the study of words, and the more I study the words of the culture, the better I understand what the real hunger of the culture is. Guess what. The culture hungers for someone who will heal our guilty feeling that each of us is personally responsible for the terrible mess the world is in. The culture hungers for Christ. The problem is that it has classified Christ as an element of religion, thereby defining him as a myth, and in that act, the culture believes that it has removed the Christ problem from the real world. The culture is now engaged in a rational and reasonable search for the solution to the universal guilt that they refuse to call sin, because that, too, is a myth.

My calling is to understand their language, so I can speak their language to share the Christ they have tried to lock up inside houses of worship.

My deep gladness, Christ the Living Word, and my other deep joy, the study of human words, have met with the world’s deep hunger for a cure for the universal guilt.

I have found my destiny – my YES in Christ. How it will all work out I don’t know, but what I do know is that I have never been happier. I have a sense of fulfillment and peace that is like the moment when you sit down by a fireplace on a snowy day. I am working very hard. I spend long hours every day researching the culture and studying my Bible and writing what God gives me to understand. I don’t have a vision of the distant future; I barely have a vision of tomorrow. I forget to do things that should be ingrained habits by now. None of that matters, because I am saying “yes” to Christ’s “yes” to me. I am glad, deeply glad, and I love sharing bread with the hungry world just waiting for Christ’s “yes.”

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 Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”

Are You Mired in Your Past by Unwillingness to Forgive?

Blogging Through the Book Part 5

We have arrived at week 5 of our project to blog through Mike Glenn’s The Gospel of Yes. It has been a great experience so far to explore personally some of the ideas in this book. The book is both inspiring and challenging. It inspires us to believe Christ’s promises, and it challenges us to personal disciplines and faith that may demand more from us that we are comfortable to give. Be sure you visit Dana Pittman’s blog where you can find links to other blogs exploring this book.

No discipline asks more of anyone than forgiveness. A new reader skimming the chapter headings of this book may wonder how forgiveness can possible be a “yes.” We have all prayed the Lord’s Prayer. We have dutifully recited the words, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We can say the words, but it is dauntingly difficult to forgive. Yet it is a subject that occupies a central place in the thinking of Christians. We chew over the problem, and we want to justify our anguish and our anger and our feeling of betrayal. What do I do with all those emotions if I forgive? Who will ever sympathize with me again if I forgive? What if the person who hurt me so deeply does not deserve to be forgiven? Don’t I have a right to be hurt? Angry? Shouldn’t the person who hurt me make up for it before I forgive? Shouldn’t this person at least recognize how wrong he was and ask for forgiveness first? I can’t just let go of this incident and pretend it never happened. I’m scarred. I’m crippled. The consequences of this person’s wrongdoing can never be removed from my life. Why should I forgive?

Many people remember the novel Great Expectations from high school. In that story, a woman became trapped in a single moment of her life and never could escape. She was so deeply wounded and so completely incapable of forgiving that she was trapped in her history. It was a tragic story.

The deepest wound of my own history was my relationship with my mother. We had a thousand different ways to hurt each other. We kept doing it right up to the day she died. I can’t count all the times I reveled in justifying my attitude toward my mother by explaining to complete strangers how she belittled me and mistreated me. Mike Glenn talks about the way the past bleeds into the present when we are unable to forgive, and I can tell you that it does exactly that. Things that happened when I was seven years old, or eleven, or sixteen, or twenty-five, were still rankling when I was forty-six and fifty-two. My past bled into my present and poisoned every interaction with my mother. Even during the happiest times we ever spent together, I suffered terrible trepidation that in the midst of the fun, she would throw a verbal brick at me, because it had happened before. I could not forgive the past, and I could not forgive what I thought might be the future. During a phone call shortly before she died, she blindsided me with a jab about things I could not possibly change even if I had wanted to. Once again I felt justified in not forgiving her, because, I asked myself, what would be the point? We would inevitably be at each other’s throats again, and I would have something new to forgive. When she died, I asked myself why my relationship with my mother could never be healed. I fretted over the blackness in my life where my misery and anger fed the loneliness of a motherless child. I felt motherless, because I felt I never could trust my mother.

Mike Glenn says that “[God] can heal the past right now so it will no longer bleed into the present.” He is right, but “right now” can only happen when you make up your mind to let him work. For me, it happened on Ash Wednesday, about nine months after my mother’s death. The pastor preached a sermon whose central message found a home in my deeply wounded heart. He said that each of us must throw onto God’s altar all the things that are barriers to God’s work in our hearts. We must allow God to consume the barriers with his holy fire. I realized that my unwillingness to forgive my mother, even though she was dead, was a barrier to a rich relationship with God. I made it my Lenten project to learn how to forgive my mother. By the end of that season, I was ready to attend the service of Healing and Reconciliation that preceded Holy Week, and I thought I had forgiven my mother fully. I soon learned that Satan is very tricky and can resurrect pain and anger we think we have buried, so we can never really be finished with things we think we have forgiven. Nevertheless, learning to forgive makes it possible to stand in Christ and reject Satan’s temptation to wallow in that dark, miserable past. As Mike Glenn says, “In the power of God’s ‘yes’ to us in Jesus, we are not victims of our past.”

The broken relationship with my mother is a very real memory still, but it no longer stands between me and my ability to love and serve God. Forgiveness heals the way I remember those ugly truths. Learning to forgive my mother opened the floodgates of forgiveness, enabling me to forgive others for a lot of wounds, major and minor. Learning to forgive my mother enabled me to forgive myself for a few self-inflicted wounds as well.

Maturing in faith requires growth in many areas, but I am beginning to think that forgiveness might be the most needful. When I teach Bible classes, no matter what the subject of the class is, someone in the class always wants to talk about forgiveness, and everyone else is always glad the subject came up. Life wounds us in many ways. Life is not fair. People are not fair. There is a great deal to forgive. If we can learn to forgive and if we can continue to forgive and forgive and forgive, we can let God burn up a lot of barriers that impede our happy and fulfilling relationship with him. As Mike Glenn says, “Forgiveness is how we … get a firm hold on the ‘yes’ of God offered to us in Jesus Christ.”

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Jesus Christ is Alive!

The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection)
The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blogging Through the Book Part 4

There is a big culture war in the US right now between people who want religion kept out of public life and people who don’t know how to live separate from their religion.

The key to the problem between the two groups is the resurrection. One group says that this world is all there is and we just make the best of it. The other group says that Christ rose from the dead, and this world is just the beginning. This group claims that the resurrected Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit indwells them, and they can’t go anywhere without his presence.

One point of great conflict is the subject of ethics. If this world is all there is, and if it is up to us as humans to figure out a good way to live, then there can be all sorts of variables in the mix. There is no absolute, no revelation, nothing eternal or permanent. Ethics can evolve and mutate.

On page 82 of The Gospel of Yes Mike Glenn says. “If Jesus is just a teacher [i.e. not risen from the dead], the Beatitudes are inspirational moral goals to which we should aspire.” Many humanists and even many adherents of other religions view the Beatitudes precisely this way. Christian humanists, if there can actually be such a thing, teach the Beatitudes this way. Mormons think of the Beatitudes this way. Other philosophies and religions, (Hindus, for example) see the Beatitudes as kind and lovely teachings to be admired.

If Christ rose from the dead, however, then this world is not all there is. There are eternal absolutes. There is a God who reveals himself and teaches us something better than we can even imagine on our own.  Glenn continues by saying that if Jesus is alive, then “the Beatitudes become the moral expectations of the coming Kingdom.” The Beatitudes are not about time and space; they are about eternity and infinity.

Christ promised his followers that the Holy Spirit would come, but he could only come after Jesus died and rose again. The resurrection was that important. The Holy Spirit is the power of the resurrection living in each believer, as Paul wrote in a letter to the church at Corinth, saying that our bodies are temple[s] of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)  We walk around all day every day in sacred space. The cultural argument about secular and sacred spaces makes no sense to us, because we live in sacred space all the time. We live at the intersection of time and eternity.

When a secular thinker reads Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7) he does not recognize the eternal and infinite dimensions of that teaching. He is like Simon Peter who asked Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times. The secular philosopher, who believes Jesus was an astonishingly good person who was badly misunderstood and mistreated, asks how we can ever be truly merciful. He believes that advocating the end of the death penalty sounds merciful, because he believes he is giving the convicted murderer the opportunity to continue living in the only world there actually is. The only mercy he can imagine is extension of life in time and space. He actually believes that the murderer is being given time to come to his senses and perhaps improve both his character and his life experience before he dies and goes out like a light.

When we read Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy, we know a living Christ who has already shown us mercy from the eternal and infinite throne room in heaven. We show mercy, because we have received mercy, and we will receive mercy in the Kingdom where the Beatitudes are the Word of the Father. Christ, God in the flesh, spoke those words. Christ is the Living Word of God for eternity. His words shape not just this world, but the world to come. We advocate for real mercy, for eternal mercy, when we share the good news of Christ and his mercy to us. We never live exclusively in the present world, because the indwelling Holy Spirit leads us to live in an eternal context.

This truth doesn’t make life easy. It puts us in conflict with people who want us to shed those eternal values when we are in the “real” world. The “secular” world. If the Holy Spirit lives in us, we can never actually be in a secular space or a secular situation. This is the reason that, for Christians, issues such as the death penalty and abortion and euthanasia and genetic selection of babies and even birth control are never simply secular issues. We are concerned about not only our own behavior, but also the behavior of people whom we influence. A Christian employer who operates a dry cleaning shop won’t choose health insurance or background music or the wages he pays simply on the basis of time/space values. If his eternal values conflict with the values of secular neighbors or a secular government, he may have some time/space problems. If he is true to his eternal values, however, Christ promises never to leave him and promises him eternal rewards for his faithful testimony.

I haven’t always been alert to the eternal connection of all my actions. I have been lured more than once into a secular answer when I should have listened to that indwelling Spirit. I have been deeply grateful for the mercy shown to me when I made those bad decisions. I am not likely done with making mistakes. However, I am learning to listen for the voice that speaks in sheer silence, the voice that speaks living words from the Living Word of God.

I am daily more grateful for the truth of the resurrection. And I am grateful to be resident eternally in sacred space.

 

 

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”