Posts Categorized as: character
Prologue: Guest Writer
I am writing on behalf of my Dad, Clarence Maupin. He was born in Southwestern Nebraska in 1933. He wrote out this manuscript longhand and asked me to write it up for other people. I asked him permission to put this on my website and he reluctantly agreed—he was hoping just to give it to some family I think…. I have edited his grammar unless otherwise noted. All the mistakes are mine… all the good stuff is his. Few people in this era can say they had a wonderful Dad (and I am well aware of that), but I do. I will add some commentary at the end.
Love Tanks: Because Love is Energy
I think that Love is the most misused word in the English language. This happens when people misuse “love” in church down to saying that we love root beer or something even more mundane. I would like to concentrate these brief thoughts on the Agape love that comes from God and God alone.
It permeates our lives all the time—both for the Christian and the non-Christian. In the fourth chapter of 1 John, as I read it, all of the good love in this world originates with God. People cannot obtain it from any other source. This is significant because it relates to the concept of energy. All of the world (even the universe) moves from place to place in a regular fashion. It takes energy to accomplish this. In my experience as a farmer, this is a common experience for me.
In the history of man, there are times where sticks need to be gathered to prepare food and keep warm. This is common in the past as well as in many parts of the world today. The earth used the ashes and gases/smoke to regenerate new sources of energy. The human body uses energy in the way of food. From birth to death, the process of energy works in a cycle for the sustaining of life for the next generation.
As societies progressed technologically, they became more efficient in using energy from the earth. Coal turned out to be better than sticks; oil and natural gas were better than coal. Electricity was invented and harnessed and everything from hydroelectric power and nuclear energy were used as well. A singular feature of energy is that there must be a way to distribute it to where it is ultimately used.
As a case in point, the form of energy I am most familiar with is petroleum. The earth has a lot of oil deep underground. Thus it must be extracted and moved to refineries where it is then processed into the many products we use. The gasoline that comes from these refineries must be moved to filling stations where we fill up our gas tanks then go our merry way. This is just one example of the physical kinds of energy that we use every day. All of it comes from the earth that God made. Tides, storms, earthquakes, drought, flood and famine also all use or release energy. I could go on with examples of how energy is used, stored, distributed, mined and raised (by farmers/ranchers/fishermen etc.).
When energy reaches it’s final form (when it is ready to be used) it cannot retain its full strength or potency for extended periods of time. In the pioneer days of the West, cow (or buffalo) chips had a very short storage time. As you go up the chain [sic] to corn cobs and firewood you get a little longer storage time. While fossil fuels last a long time underground, once they are refined, they do not last as long at full strength.
Now then, compare this with the pure source of love: God. I think of love as a spiritual energy because it is what makes us move toward action. Agape love starts out in the person of God and can only be obtained from that one source. However, as it spreads out through the earth, it seems to become diluted by people and their mistakes. In my imagination I think that God’s love (energy) is distributed much like physical energy and the results are similar.
In my mind’s eye, I think that every baby is born with an empty love tank. His mother and father immediately start taking from their own love tank
and start filling their new arrival a little at a time. Grandparents and extended family and close friends also add to the baby’s love tank. While humans share some physical characteristics with animals, this intention to fill another with love is unique to humans. Animals will often protect their young, but as the young become mature, they often become competitors for food and territory. Humans are family for life if they have love.
Since the source of Agape (my version of high octane) love is God, I want to think about his distribution system. Devoted Christians are always able to fill up their love tanks through prayer and time with God. They can do this as often as needed* and then go out into the world and freely share that love. When they do, they put a little bit of love into another person’s love tank. While they consume a little of that energy while doing so, but most of that goes into others. When they are nearing empty, all they need to do is go back to the source for a refill and then repeat the cycle gain. This is the distribution system God designed.
The make up of this system is a combination of preachers, teachers, missionaries, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts, husbands, wives, friends and co-workers. Those who have been served share some of this energy while they also consume some of it to survive and work. The real difficulty begins when many do not start from the source. Love becomes diluted and of a lesser quality as it gets passed on, barely shared and sometimes stolen. While all of mankind gets love from God, many do not acknowledge it and even deny it.
As I mentioned earlier, when energy is not used at the proper time, it disintegrates—love is the same way. You cannot store it for a long time. If you try, it will not perform like it should. If you are restoring an old engine, you need to get any old fuel out and start with fresh fuel, otherwise it actually does damage to that engine. Spiritual energy is the same way. You cannot let it remain unused and expect it to be effective. So, the moral of my story is to get love, use love, share love and replace love. Keep this cycle up and you will see the results of God’s Agape love over and over.
*cf John 5-6 for more support for this thought.
In his introductory page, Dad mentioned that my two grandmothers and my Mom had the best love tanks of anyone he’d ever known. I agree. I was fascinated as I read through this essay. Dad’s thinking mirrors some of the main thought of Dallas Willard’s book “The Spirit of the Disciplines.” My Dad didn’t go to college but he’s one of the smartest guys I know. Part of the allure of my Dad’s life and thought is that it takes a long time to get him to teach. He thinks over things for a long time (often alone on the tractor) and tests and re-tests them in the furnace of daily church life. Dad has been a leader at my home church for over 50 years. I have inherited that desire for effectiveness in my life and I have long searched for compelling ways to get people involved in missions, ministry and justice-related issues. Yet, as all long-term leaders learn over time, the issue of good leadership is the leader. Someone with a full and constantly renewed love-tank will always be effective at most levels. I am overjoyed with the unknown congruence of my own journey that has gone along with Dad’s. I love and owe him so much. I hope this has blessed you as a reader.
I tend to avoid other people’s autobiographical posts. Sometimes it can seem self indulgent or like a form of auto-therapy. Nevertheless, I seem to keep writing them…
During the last six months of my life, I have been in a season of slow grief. It’s a refining time and one I’ve not enjoyed very much. It might be a mid-life crisis but I can’t afford a Porsche. Something deeper is happening. I have sought counsel. Prayer has been a constant practice. I have shared my soul with some dear friends but nothing can change the fact that I’m going through the process of grief. And today, I wanted to write in order to connect with those who might be in the same place.
Grief is not new to me. I experienced it as a boy when our landlord died. As a few more elderly people I loved passed, I began to see it more and more. And then, after my brother Matt was killed in 1985, I endured it first hand in a severe way. Since that time I’ve grieved all kinds of things. You have too. I don’t mean to be maudlin about how we experience sorrow. But this season is different for me. It is a season of slow grief. And it has snuck up on me. It has affected me through at least three areas:
The primary way has been the slow degeneration of my Mom due to her Alzheimer’s. Our family is not unique in this sorrow by any means. And everyone, if they live long enough, has to deal with aging parents. But those are facts and this is about my Mom. My memories of her wisdom and intelligence still amaze me. One time, in order to chastise me for smoking, she sat down by me on the couch and said, “I’m going to the store, do you need anything?” I replied with a negative cro-magnon grunt. She continued, “Do you need me to pick up some more Marlboros? I noticed the pack in your truck is almost empty.” She then walked out leaving me speechless and totally embarrassed. She was so smart! My recollections of her include her impressive office at the hospital, her clean kitchen, her work ethic, and her volunteering at church for almost anything. All of you who know her remember that she had an extraordinary cultural bandwidth. She could work with a crowd of farmers, a ladies’ tea or immigrant women who needed to find a way to immunize their children. She was not perfect, but I am now dealing with a real sadness for her condition and a weird sense of guilt for being so far away, for so long.
The second thing I’ve been grieving has been the health of my wife and daughter. Watching the endless doctor visits has played a weird game with my mind. On one hand, I’m grateful we have great doctors and it’s not nearly as difficult as things that other people face. For example, my sweet niece Hannah has gone through two rounds of cancer and our family has prayed and prayed for her (and their fam) during these last years. I know that Shannon (systemic lupus) and Kate (vasculitis PAN) are not in that same severe journey. Hannah’s processes are far more difficult than our family’s. Yet, on the other hand, the journey of seeing my girls have such vast changes in their lives has developed a grief in me that is hard to describe. It is a dual grief of missing Shannon’s health and grieving the potential future of Kate. God has been so good to us considering the suffering of other people. I can’t deny that nor would I ever want to. Gratefulness pervades my heart about the kind of health-care and provision God has given us for them both. Yet an underlying sadness is there, at the back of my room of my heart that has lost something.
Lastly, our transition to Texas has had it’s own breed of grief. It has manifested in two parts: The first was leaving work and people we loved / the second was arriving somewhere new. All four of us had to leave friendships that had become like family. As we had no immediate family in Lincoln, our friends had to play the role of family for us and for our kids. In particular, Shannon and I both had jobs that we believed to be from God. We worked hard to be competent at those jobs and found them fulfilling. Leaving those was difficult as well. The second part was coming to a new place, with a different culture at a weird time in life. Garrett and Kate were both convinced that God was bringing us to Texas and have done a great job working through the process. And, we are blessed at how wonderful our new church leadership has been. They have helped us and loved us in wonderful, godly ways. Regardless, the leaving of our friends-like-family and the cultural punch-in-the-face that comes from being new have caused another kind of hurt. And watching my kids (as adolescents) suffer through this was harder than I anticipated.
Ok, enough of that…I’m making myself sick. Sheesh. You get the picture—no main tragedy; just a slow grief. But even in this season God continues to teach me.
I believe that feelings are usually not accurate indicators of truth. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane should teach us that at the very least. Sacrifice is a normal part of the way that Christ-followers deal with the demands of Lordship. Sorrow is par for the course for all of humanity. But for me, the season of slow grieving is a new phenomenon and it has been a different challenge. And, like all things broken, God has been turning my grief into good. In particular he has given me three things that I need very much.
The first is a deeper humility. No one I know enjoys the process of growing humble because it involves humiliation. But my inability to effect any kind of change in any of the three areas of grief has dropped me to a deeper reliance on God and on the church than I’ve had in a long time. The fact that our life is a vapor and like the short season when grass grows has never been more apparent. Like many an old-geezer, I marvel at how time accelerates and trends repeat themselves. This kind of humility has kept me from the arrogant passion of younger days and has developed a stronger belief in the body of Christ being mature and faithful. It is a desire to be wise rather than clever.
Another gift that God has given through this grief is more tenderness in my heart. The sorrow of poverty, the sadness of injustice and the deep wounds that infect our nation and our world are less “issues-to-deal-with” and more apparent to my conscience. Resources for “dealing” with these problems have not increased for me but the need to address them in love is growing.
The last one is a growing sense of God’s presence and provision. In my Bible and in my counsel he keeps using the word “wait.” I’ve kinda grown to expect it and hate it all at the same time (when I’m most honest). My need to tangibly trust God has grown. The rhythms of surrender that I have practiced over the years has become a life-line for me and His response to me has increased as well. When he says “wait” I know that he brought us here according to his good purpose. The church here in TX has been another of God’s instruments to remind me that I am still in his hands. It can sometimes be hard to see through the hazy conditions of grieving but his presence and provision is enough to remind me that he sees me. Recently I’ve been privileged to be part of the launch team for Eric Metaxas’ new book: Miracles . God has used that to remind me that he is cooking up a real doozy. I can’t wait to see the finished product.
People innately seem to have a relentless urge to pursue happiness. When it fails we tend to grieve. I want to have a relentless desire to pursue God: I want him to be my “one thing.” He is my portion. He is my prize and he is the antidote to my patient grieving. When other people grieve, try your best to avoid giving “encouragement” disguised as teaching. In my case, I have a long track record of pastoral work. Answers aren’t my problem. What I need now is prayer—and I’ll take it. Jesus will indeed heal Mom…and my family… and me. I’m thankful to have a great family, great doctors, great work experiences and a great church! Hope is on the horizon. The presence of God will be made manifest to us all—soon and forever.
 I will soon do a review of this book. Spoiler: it’s fantastic.
Early in my education for Christian leadership I heard and felt the tension about reading your Bible every day. There were some voices who had nearly angelic visions of word studies and parsing Greek verbs and there were others who wondered (usually aloud) about ineffectiveness, Pharisaism and a loss of love for the lost. That tension has followed me my entire ministry career. In this post, what I want to do is share why I try to read the Bible every day. I am aware of the nature of illiteracy, dyslexia, orality and individual personality, and the roles they play in this process. I believe that the fundamental issue is placing our confidence in Jesus to be our teacher and King for salvation—His love is the basis for life. A new legalism is not my goal and spiritual smugness is not in my heart as I write. Rather, this is a short explanation of why this is my practice as a leader. At its root, my issue is practical.
The godly leaders I most admire all used this practice
Joshua chapter one is the starting point for me in this regard. God tells Joshua that he is supposed to “growl” over the Word of God (usually translated “meditate”) in order to obey God fully and to lead Israel in their battles. I would like to be more like Joshua as a leader. That same idea is also found in Psalm 1 where the one who focuses with God’s word day and night will flourish (like David). Peter, Paul and Jesus all mirror this idea as well.
Beyond my Biblical heroes, my missionary heroes also were deeply focused in the Word of God! Patrick’s mind was so saturated by the Bible that even as he was writing, his own syntax would slip into quoting long sections of the Bible. He uses over 200 scripture quotations in his Confessions alone. But Patrick was far more than just an introvert writing in a scriptorium somewhere lost in Ireland. Celtic Christianity became the dominant missionary force in Northern Europe for hundreds of years because of him. J. Hudson Taylor and Andrew Murray are two more missionary heroes who loved the Bible. John Sung and Watchman Nee along with the Bible women of the Chinese house church movement have been people of “one book.” Even today, effective, godly leaders of the church (and academy) that I admire have this in common.
The nature of life
Here I am thinking of what Dallas Willard refers to in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines. He says that you define “life—whatever its ultimate metaphysical nature and explanation—to be the ability to contact and selectively take in from the surroundings whatever supports its own survival, extension and enhancement.”  Later he talks about part of life being our ability to interact with God as part of that contacting and taking in life. If you compare this with some of Jesus’ teachings in John 5 and 6, I think the picture of the Word of God being part of what brings us life seems obvious. Athletes use nutrition as part of their main strategy for performance. As a leader, I want a wise and steady intake of the Living Word that brings life. For me this is a significant part of renewing my mind (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:23).
Whether you call it the Protestant work ethic or Western Cultural improvements, Bible readers have had enormous influence on the betterment of society. Hospitals, education, child labor laws, the ending of the slave trade, anti-corruption laws, fair trial systems, etc. are all results from people who were influenced by what they read in the Bible. Literacy movements, human-trafficking opponents and people involved in the war on poverty have all been influenced by the Bible. Bob Woodberry’s  amazing research shows the power of what happens when Protestant missionaries are part of a culture’s development! In the end, God’s ways are good here and a guide to what is to come. I want to know more about that kind of wisdom because I want to be productive in my work for the Lord here.
Grounding in Wisdom
In the trends of culture, I am interested in what is supra-cultural—what transcends cultural boundaries and is common for all people, everywhere, for all time. In church life this is particularly important as blogs (yes, I see the humor here) books, and church events constantly expand. I have read statements that suggest that Christians read the Bible far too much. I’ve also heard statements about how it does not matter how much Bible you know, it matters how much you love people. One recent Christian leader said that they don’t care as much about what the Bible says is “wrong” but how we are supposed to treat others. Daily exposure to God’s Word gives me a starting point to evaluate the many voices I hear. What I seem to find is that “love” is usually culturally understood, but the source of love is scripturally defined. The Wisdom literature of the Bible gives us insight into how the universe functions. I remember reading Covey’s concept of the P/PC balance for effectiveness and thinking that a lot of what Proverbs has to say correlates with that idea. Regular Bible reading keeps us from being carried away by any kind of trend by passionate folks who can get out of balance.
The most important command is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength (Mt 22). In my opinion it is nearly impossible to love someone without knowing a lot about them. Two of my favorite books coincide here: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer and Knowing Christ Today by Dallas Willard. Both books say that knowledge is a pre-requisite to loving God. Now, let’s be clear. I’m not saying that you need to know the order of the books of the Bible to become a believer. I AM saying that the longer we are disciples, the more critical it becomes to know about the One we claim to love and serve. Knowledge is not the enemy of action or evangelism—it is the best foundation for them. The more we know about the nature, history and power of God, the more awe and reverence we receive. It is a gift. At that point, our response is the issue. But replacing poor responses with intentional ignorance is a foolish choice. Beyond the information required, as I know more about God, the more immediacy I have in my experience with Him. He gives me help, guidance and reminds me of his presence and love. He reminds me to trust him for the day and to submit to Him. I never weary of hearing Him say, “I love you.”
So. For these five reasons, I try to read the Bible every day. I don’t mean to be legalistic (I hope it’s obvious). I am not slavishly bound to this practice. If I miss a few days, I have freedom. I want to avoid Pharisaism or doctrinal arrogance. I am also aware that some people just hate the process of reading in general and some are simply unable. I don’t mean to suggest that this is something that is required for being loved by God.
Yet I will continue to invest my time, money and effort into reading God’s Word. The Word of God helps me be more productive, wiser, braver, and kinder. It sharpens my mind about human behavior (including my own). It keeps me focused on the eternal and quickly checks my bad attitudes. It is a singular blessing in my life. Final Issue: I am a better leader when I am established on the Word. This is my attempt to keep my lamp “trimmed and burning” (Matt 25) and be ready when Jesus is calling on me. Matt Perman says that “the Scriptures are at the foundations of our productivity because the Scriptures are one of the chief ways God…builds our character.” O Lord, grant me more character that will be productive.
Sometime soon, I’ll write about HOW I read the Bible, but this is the foundation of WHY I do. May God bless you as you learn more about his Word in whatever way you can…
 From Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book, Eerdmans, 2006, pg 2. The word is “Hagah” in Hebrew
 An excellent example of this is Bryant Myers’ amazing book Walking With The Poor, Orbis, 1999
 An easy intro to his research can be found here
 The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People 2004, Free Press, pg 54
 From What’s Best Next by Matt Perman, Zondervan, 2014