Lewis Smedes and Love Within Limits

Lewis Smedes was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, and a wise, profound author on the Jesus-life. I read, e.g., his excellent Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don’t Deserve twice, and have turned to it multiple times. Smedes’s autobiography My God and I: A Spiritual Memoir, is a killer book that Linda and I both loved and gained much from.

Today, in my prepping for preaching 1 Corinthians 13 this Sunday at Redeemer, I’m reading Craig Blomberg’s 1 Corinthians commentary. Blomberg cites Smedes’s Love Within Limits: Realizing Selfless Love in a Selfish World. Blomberg’s summary of Smedes is worth quoting in full.

“Lewis Smedes… notes that God has limits to his patience, and so must we, but “when I turn off suffering for the sake of my pleasure, I turn it off too soon.” Neither does patience include the toleration of evil. Kindness is both intelligent and tough; “without wisdom and honesty,” it “easily becomes mere pity, bound to hurt more people than it helps.” Agape transcends jealousy without destroying it; it is right, for example, to be upset when someone runs off with your spouse! “Love does not move us to seek justice for ourselves,” but it should “drive us to move heaven and earth to seek justice for others.” Agape does not disguise or unleash anger; it does not remove irritants from our lives or reduce irritability by forbidding anger. Rather it meets our deepest needs, enabling us to respond differently to enraging circumstances, reduces the potential for frustration, gives us the power to communicate anger appropriately, and increases our gratitude for the way God has worked in our lives.” (Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, Kindle location 5741)

Let’s Support Jim Beach As Our Monroe Young Life Leader

Jim Beach, an Ida High graduate, is the leader of Young Life at Monroe High School. Southeast Area Michigan Young Life is hoping to hire Jim as full-time Young Life staff in Monroe.

I am so grateful for this opportunity! I invite you to read a personal letter by Jim below, where he shares his heart for our Monroe high school students, and asks for your support in prayer and, if God leads, financially.

Blessings!
John Piippo

*****

From: Jim Beach

July 15, 2011

As many of you know, I work with Monroe high school kids as a Young Life leader. Our hearts ache for the thousands of high school kids in our area who do not know there is a God that is crazy about them, who would do anything to know them, to be their Savior, their Lord, their Father.

Most of these kids think that Jesus is either the most boring person of all time, some abstract religious character who has nothing to do with them, or is in some way out to get them and point out all of their faults. But to be honest, most high school kids have never really thought about Jesus. No one has taken the time to get to know them and share who Jesus really is with them. This brings indescribable anguish to my heart, because “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Acts 10). As Young Life Leaders, we go where kids are, build relationships with them, and “earn the right to be heard”. We come along side of them, build bridges of friendship, love them, and point them to Jesus.

This fall I hope to have the opportunity to work with Young Life as a full time staff person. Our area (Southeast Michigan Young Life) has offered me a job as a Young Life Staff Associate here in Monroe. Our goals are to continue to work with high school kids in Monroe, develop an adult committee in Monroe, and start Young Life Clubs at Monroe Middle School, Airport High School, and Jefferson High School. In order to higher me as a full time staff person our area has to raise support money. The Young Life area costs, including staff salaries, are provided 100% by private donations from individuals, churches, foundations, and local businesses. As of July 15, 2011, we still need to raise $15,000 for this coming year.

Would you prayerfully consider partnering with me financially to reach that goal? Making a pledge to give monthly is preferred, but one-time gifts are much appreciated. If you would like to contribute you may do so by giving directly to Redeemer Fellowship Church, indicate: Jim Beach – Young Life. If you would like to fill out a monthly pledge card you can get one: 1) by contacting the Redeemer Church office (734-242-5277) and filling out a pledge card; or 2) by asking me and I can give you a pledge card. (419-349-8618).

Thank you for considering. I am very excited about the opportunity to do what I love full time and follow God’s call in my life to reach lost kids with the message of love and hope that is found in Jesus Christ.

In Christ,
Jim Beach

Redeemer Ministry School 2011-2012 (Come Study With Me for 9 Months)

 

We’re receiving applications for our 2011-2012 Redeemer Ministry School year. Here’s some information.

RMS begins Sunday, September 11, in our morning worship service. We’ll have a picnic that evening at my home.

Monday, Sept. 12 – Thursday, Sept. 15 – Student Orientation week. This will include community building, let by Jim and Denise Hunter.

RMS’s Fall Trimester begins Tuesday, Sept. 20. Our Fall Classes are:

  • Spiritual Formation – John Piippo. Description: In order to be used by God as an agent of renewal and transformation one must themselves be in a continual place of personal renewal and transformation. This course will combine times of personal prayer, spiritual journaling, and teaching from biblical and historical resources on what it means to dwell in the presence of God and be renewed and transformed. Meets: Tuesdays, 9:30am – 1:00pm
  • Worship I: Intimacy & Worship – Holly Benner. Description: True worship and adoration comes from intimacy with God. It is founded on the understanding of God’s great love for you. Intimacy and Worship will focus on building and furthering that love relationship with Him while defining what a lifestyle of worship looks like. This class will include an in-depth look at Song of Solomon and Old & New Testament character studies. Meets: Wednesday/Thursday, 9:30am – 11:00am.
  • Kingdom of God I – Jim Collins. Description: The main teaching of Jesus was about the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven.” This course will present the major interpretations of the meaning of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. Students will learn to understand the real Jesus from the perspective of God’s kingdom message. Meets: Thursday; 5pm – 8pm.
  • Bible Study Methods – Josh Bentley. Description: This course will provide students with systematic methods of studying scripture. Through those methods students will also learn how to practically apply their understanding as they study different books of the Bible. Meets: Friday, 9:30 am – 1 pm.

Thanksgiving week will be off – no classes.

On class days we worship in the sanctuary from 9 – 9:30 AM. Anyone is invited to come. RMS students are expected to attend.

AND, RMS students will be part of the following special events at Redeemer:

 
 
  • Philip Mantofa, Sept. 26 & 27
  • Chris Overstreet, Oct. 21-23
  • Angela Greenig, Nov. 10-12

Last day of Fall Trimester – Friday, Dec. 9.

I am already excited about students who will be in RMS this fall!

For registration information go to: redeemerministryschool.com.

Happiness Is Not Something to Be Sought After

 

 

Lori Gotlieb, in “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” writes of the American obsession with and quest for “happiness,” and the American parental goal of raising one’s children to be very, very “happy.”

She writes: “Nowadays, it’s not enough to be happy—if you can be even happier. The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness have morphed from a quest for general contentment to the idea that you must be happy at all times and in every way.” Ironically, this way of thinking will end up making people very unhappy and in need of a lot of therapy to set them straight.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the best-selling The Happiness Project, says, in a bit of a silly statement, “Happiness doesn’t alway make you happy.” By this I think she means to say something like: “To make ‘happiness’ one’s life pursuit will not end up with you being ‘happy.’ Or perhaps: “If you mean by ‘happiness’ the removal of anything that would unsettle or disappoint or trouble you, then the achievement of that will leave you miserable and in need of help.” Gotlieb confirms: “Modern social science backs her up on this. “Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing,” Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory at Swarthmore College, told me. “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” It’s precisely this goal, though, that many modern parents focus on obsessively—only to see it backfire. Observing this phenomenon, my colleagues and I began to wonder: Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?”

The answer is: yes. Happiness sought for its own sake will leave you miserable. The only happiness worth happening is happiness as a byproduct. Parents, therefore, must allow unhappiness and misery in the lives of their  children. To shelter them from this is to destine them to an adulthood of psycho- and drug therapy. “Parental overinvestment is contributing to a burgeoning generational narcissism that’s hurting our kids.”

Harvard child psychologist Dan Kindlon says, “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle.”

Why might parents try to protect their children from all unhappy events and work hard so as to make them eternally happy? One answer is: because it’s really about the parents’ own happiness, and not their children’s. Read the entire Gotlieb article to see the reasoning behind this.

Infants and small child narcissists are happy, because they are the center of the universe. But as they grow older this changes; indeed, it becomes a “big problem.” So, parents, do not “protect” your child from negative feedback.

Theistic philosopher J.P. Moreland has written about this in The Lost Virtue of Happiness. J.P. presented chapter 1 of this text at our HSRM/Green Lake conference a few years ago. You can watch a video of J.P. speaking on this here. But I must warn you. J.P. is a brilliant philosopher, but apparently is clueless when it comes to fashion. I suppose that if one does not buy into the idea that trendy clothes will make you happy, then J.P., in this video, is a free man. The bullets are:

 
 
  • American people are addicted to happiness, and they overemphasize its importance in life.
  • If, right now, you are not tremendously happy, that’s OK.
  • Yet, in America, if you are not happy, or your children are not happy, it seems like the world is falling apart.
  • Given the American emphasis on happiness, are Americans happy?
  • The answer, says Moreland (drawing on Martin Seligman’s research), is that the rate of depression and loss of happiness has increased, in the span of just one generation in America, tenfold. We Americans are not a bunch of happy campers! We have an epidemic of depression and an epidemic of the loss of happiness.
  • Yet the Boomer generation is twice as rich, a lot healthier, more youthful, and a lot safer than our predecessors were 50 years ago. These are the kind of things that have defined the “American Dream.” We are now living in this “Dream.” We have more discretionary time. We have more money. It takes longer to age. So we feel younger, longer. J.P. says: “There’s just one problem with this. All of this has not only not made Americans happier, we’re slowly getting worse.”
  • Why is this happening? Seligman’s answer is this. “The Baby Boom generation forgot how to live for something bigger than they were.” Americans have been taught to get up each morning and live for their own selves and try to find meaning in their own lives, rather than live for something other than their own well-being and bigger than they are.
  • From Moses to Solomon, to Plato and Aristotle, to Jesus and Augustine and Aquinas, to the Reformers al the way up to the 1900s, everybody meant the same thing by ‘happiness.’ But from the 1920s/30s on a new definition of ‘happiness’ was introduced and lived by. This new definition of ‘happiness’ is: “a feeling of pleasurable satisfaction.” (See here, e.g.)
  • “Happiness’ has become a positive feeling. Moreland is not against positive feelings; he’d rather experience them then their opposite. But there are two problems with this definition of happiness: 1) pleasurable feelings are not a big enough thing to build your life around; and 2) the more you try to get of it the less of it you have. “The best way to be happy is largely to forget about it.”
  • Now watch this. 1) If ‘happiness’ is the feeling you have, say, when your team wins; and 2) the goal of life is to be happy, which means to retain that kind of feeling; then 3) your goal this year is make make sure that your job, your spouse, your church, your children, etc., help you that positive feeling named ‘happiness.’ All the aforenamed things (job, wife) are but a means to making you happy. If a man’s 4-year-old wife doesn’t make him “happy” he may trade her in for a 20-year-old woman that gives him that hap-hap-happy feeling.
  • The ancient definition of ‘happiness,’ used by Aristotle and contained in the word eudamonia, is: to live a life of wisdom, character, and virtue.” Plato thought it would be terrible if all a person did was spend his life worrying about whether he was good-looking, wealthy, and healthy. Solomon tells us that the happy person is the one who lives his life wisely reverencing and fearing God. In the New Testament the happy person is the person who lookslike Jesus of Nazareth and lives the way he lives.
  • How do you get that? See Matthew 16:24-26, where Jesus says: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Jesus is not here commanding us to do this. He is saying, if you want to get good at life, this is what you have to do.
  • If you want to get good at life, if you want to be “happy,” then learn daily to give yourself away for the sake of God and others. J.P. says, “Give yourself away to other people for the Kingdom’s sake.”
  • If you do that, you end up finding yourself. That’s the upside-down logic of Jesus. “Happiness makes a terrible goal. It is the byproduct of another goal, which is giving yourself away to others for the Kingdom’s sake.”

Be Fully Transparent To God

The best spiritual place to be with God is in an attitude of full transparency. God knows what’s in you anyway, so why not reveal all before God?

Why reveal anything at all, from our end, if God already knows us fully, inside and out? The answer is: because the god-thing is about a relationship, not a ritual. God loves you, and wants us to trust His love. Relationship requires response. That’s us.

The good parent knows a lot about their children. Their children do not know this. If, e.g., the child steals something, the most fruitful spiritual response will be for the child to come forth on their own instead of being exposed by their parents. Even if the parent already knows. Because the parents wants the child to trust them. In a similiar way God desires us to bring our entire selves before Him. In this way we learn to trust that God will always be truthful and loving towards us, and has His best interests in mind when it comes to us.

When it comes to other people voluntary vulnerability is our response. We should not be transparent before most people, because they are not God and we cannot trust that their response to us will be loving and truthful. For me, there’s really only a handful of people in my life that I can be entirely open before. The firstt among these is Linda. The qualities in her that allow me to trust her with my deepest self are:

  • I know she loves me
  • She never condemns me
  • She’s not out to “get me”
  • She never tries to control me
  • She is forgiving (because she, like me, has been forgiven much)
  • She speaks truthfully to me (no game-playing or manipulating)
  • She champions my spiritual being – she wants Christ to be more deeply formed in me

I discovered this in her 39 years ago. If she has changed it’s that she’s gotten better at this.

But my wife is not God. God is a lot better than she is, and than I am. For all those who cry out to God for “more” of Him, this will necessarily involve laying all of you before Him. You will discover that God is always good.