Posts Categorized as: spiritual formation
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.
Dark Days Indeed:
Several of my readers and students have asked me to address some of the recent social issues that are plaguing our world today. I have hesitated to put my opinions about these issues into print because of the current climate of volatile dialogue. You and I live in an era where making any kind of statement instantly labels you: bigot or activist, hateful fear-monger or hateful defender of the status-quo. I recently read that we are in an era where people don’t want freedom of speech, we want freedom from speech (that bothers us). One person warned me that if I didn’t say something, my silence on these issues implicates me on the side of the bad guys… what’s a teacher/pastor to do?
There is a season for provocateurs and prophets. I used to think that I was someone who played both roles. As I’ve grown older, I don’t think I have either the wisdom or authority to do so. My roles of husband, Dad, pastor and teacher have more than enough challenge.
It is true. We are plagued by some really difficult issues today: Injustice, Trafficking, ISIS, War, Political disasters, Racial divides etc. It can be easy to be completely discouraged when your personal life is hurtful and the society you live in seems to disintegrate around you. What we need is a miracle. Thanks to God, there is a great new book about this.
Recently, I received an invitation to be part of the launch team for Eric Metaxas’ new book, “Miracles.” Once I accepted, I got a free book and an introduction to a well-organized group of fellow readers. I was unable to read the entire book in one sitting but, when I finally finished, I was determined to write a review that would encourage others to read this book. As I was reading the book, I began to realize that God was giving me a way to respond to the darkness of our era. Rather than opining on particular issues, this was a chance to bring encouragement and healing rather than more division. I want to start with a quick review of the book. Here are a few things that I want to share with you that I liked:
- This is a readable book. Make no mistake, it’s well-researched and full of complex issues but it is written in a way that a broad audience can enjoy and grow from this book. He does not shy away from some very difficult issues but the tone is never one of speaking down to someone.
- The key elements in understanding the big issues of miracles are dealt with (check out the subtitle on the pic above). Metaxas discusses the nature of miracles, the reason they happen, how to determine what a miracle is, why they sometimes don’t happen and discusses miracles in the Bible. Then he gives a series of miracle stories from real people. This leads to my next point:
- These are stories from Metaxas’ own life or people he personally knows. This allows the reader to see the experiential aspect of the topic. The stories are amazing and so moving! No hagiography here; just real people with real miracle stories.
- Chapter six could be seen as the fulcrum for the whole book. I’m saying this as a Pastor. As a professor, I liked chapter two the best because of the tight logic and good research about the ontology of miracles. However, almost no one I love gives one hoot about the word “ontology,” let alone what it means. What almost everyone wants to know is this: what will God do for me? We don’t mean to be myopic but pain in life does that: we don’t see the peripherals (even if they’re important). This chapter addresses the difficult questions that apply to our personal experience with miracles.
- The book is a harbinger of hope. In our world today, there are myriads of people bashing the church, pointing out where the strong ones fail, critiquing models of ministry and decrying the deterioration of society. Few voices are shouting that God is still active, still powerful and present. This book give hope in a tangible way and I loved that.
We all want God to do miracles in our lives. I think this is normal and should be expected by those of us who believe the Bible is true. Every day I am praying for miracles to happen in my life…I’m not kidding. When I pray for Kate’s legs or Shannon’s healing, I ask God to miraculously heal them. I am extremely urgent in my prayers for my house to sell. I call out to God to help my Mom with her Alzheimer’s. Yet sometimes the long days and unanswered prayers can extinguish the fervor of faith. So, on top of just asking for miracles, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes open for the miracles that God has already done for you and for others. This book is a good part of that!
When I do this in my own life, I think of my son-in-the-faith, Kevin.
There are no geographical, historical or logical reasons that we’re so close. Nonetheless, God has healed the social and racial divide that would have separated us. God has made us family! His entire life is a miracle and I thank God almost every day for bringing him into our lives…Kevin remains on my daily prayer list.
I also think of how God urged us to move to Texas. We did not know that Kate needed a more accurate diagnosis when we felt Him tell us to leave. I marvel at the doctors God has brought into our lives. I think of how God has used our local church in NE to help my Dad during these dark days… the list of miracles in my life goes on for a long, long time. Even though God has yet to answer some of my prayers, He has lovingly given me a great amount of large and small miracles! The give-and-take process of asking for miracles and then counting the ones already given has helped me have a more robust faith in God despite my sorrows and heartache. Metaxas said it well, “True faith is not a leap into the dark, it is a leap into the light” (pg14). It is in this tension that we walk—it is the already and not-yet. The light shows that God has not left us alone. He is still acting despite all the evidence being heaped up against peace.
Can you imagine the era during the birth of Jesus—the Romans, the oppression, the injustice, the loss of hope? It was during the worst of times that God sent his Son to dwell with us; to suffer with us. In our own era of darkness, there is hope that God is still working. It might be quiet and hidden in a manger, but He is here and He sees us. I hope you are able to read this book. It re-ignites my faith and I think we all need that from time-to-time…especially during the Christmas season…especially if this season brings heartache. God is with us in joy and blessing, and in pain and poverty. He is with us now.
Blessings on you. Merry Christmas and may God give you miracles.
*I am not getting any reward or compensation from this review. I’m hoping that someday I might get to meet Eric Metaxas… but no guarantees…
Apologies for the lapse in posting. Transitions demand a lot of attention. Getting into a rhythm little by little.
Caveat: This is not like any other post I’ve done up to this point. I was asked to do a book review of Dudley Rutherford’s new book, “Walls Fall Down.” I am not being rewarded or paid in any way for this post. To be honest, due to my schedule, I only said “yes” as a favor to one of my best friends. Read on for my response.
In my work as a professor/pastor, I have done several scholarly reviews of books before. This is a review of “Walls Fall Down” by Dudley Rutherford. The process for a book review is usually one of dissection, explanation, opposing views and highlights. I was ready to do the usual book review this time as well. The book arrived in the mail and I put it on my desk to read. A week or so passed by while I traveled and after getting home and getting my things back in order I sat down to read and evaluate. I was really delighted by the experience of reading this book—I really liked it.
I don’t have a great deal of time to go into a lot of detail but here is why liked the book so much.
- This is based on the Bible. That could sound cliché but I mean it’s the actual story of how Israel defeated Jericho, and how that story teaches us about walking with God today. We live in an era where many, many people don’t actually know much about God (cf I Cor 15:34) and others work hard to discredit the integrity or historicity of the text. This book starts with the idea that this event happened and that God’s approach has a great deal to teach us today. I love that. Don’t know the story at all? It’s there too.
- You can see Dudley’s pastoral heart. You can tell that the writing is for people to hear the Word, learn something from it and then live differently because of what it says. There is a prayer at the end of each chapter and, here’s what’s cool, its about real life. It doesn’t have that super-spiritual-but-not-like-real-people feel to it. This means more to me the longer I work with churches.
- It’s encouraging. For those of us who are trained to see the gaps, the mistakes, the logical fallacies etc. things can sometimes get pretty grim. Dudley’s book is full of hope and shows a good reason for that hope. There is a story about a guy named Raúl that is particularly impressive.
- I actually want my students and my own kids to read it. That’s a good endorsement.
- It’s practical and real. He addresses the 10,000 hour issue from Gladwell. He talks about visualizing and knowledge and how those exercises affect us. He teaches us why to choose courage over fear. It addressed some of the ways people experience God as well as how we have to obey God. Awesome.
So. I write with a sense of thankfulness to Dudley for this excellent book and a good reminder that if you preach to people’s brokenness, you’ll always have an audience. I hope this book will be a blessing if you choose to make the purchase.
 This is from a conversation with Jud Wilhite… I didn’t make it up even though I wish I had…