Good Teaching Requires Self-Knowledge

The Courage To Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life (Parker J. Palmer, 1998). [Bold and italics mine.]

The teacher projects his own soul through his teaching. Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one's inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul.

The teaching knowing himself is crucial to good teaching. If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge--and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject. In fact, knowing my students and my subject depends heavily on self-knowledge. When I do not know myself, I cannot know who my students are. When I do not know myself, I cannot know my subject--not at the deepest levels of embodied, personal meaning.


The Resurrection in Your Life (Luke 24, Acts 1-2)

As Christians we understand the death of Jesus, that Jesus died for our sins. But often we may not understand or know how to apply the resurrection of Christ to our own lives. In his book, The Resurrection in Your life, Mike McKinley, author and pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church, explains how the resurrection profoundly affected and completely transformed the lives of the first Christians as recorded in Luke 24 and Acts 1-2. The book expounds on the power of the resurrection by the work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel. Just as it did in the first church in the first century, it is able to do so today as well.

The author explains the text of Scripture about the resurrection in a way that is easy to read and understand.

The Resurrection in Your Life is based on 10 sermons that the author had preached.


Ego Driven Vs. Authentic God Experience

Wanting to be thought holy, special, right, safe, or on higher moral ground has a deep narcissistic appeal to the human ego. These false motivations are, ironically, the surest ways to actually avoid God--all the while using much God talk and ritualized behavior.

The great irony of faith is that authentic God experience does indeed make you know you are quite special, favorite, and chosen--but you realize others are too! That is the giveaway that your experience is authentic, although it might take a while to get there.


Make Every Effort (2 Peter)

Salvation is never the result of man's effort, but the result of the grace of God (Eph 2:8-9). Yet, the Bible exhorts us to be responsible to respond to God's grace with our human effort (Phil 2:12b; Jas 1:22, 25; Mt 7:24). The phrase "make every effort" is repeated four times in 2 Peter (1:5, 10, 15). As Christians for what should we make every effort and be responsible for?
  • Add to your faith the attributes of Christ. "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge..." (2 Pet 1:5, HCSB).
  • Confirm that you are a child of God. "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble" (2 Pet 1:10, NIV).
  • Encourage others to persevere as a child of God. "And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things" (2 Pet 1:15, NIV).
  • Live a life of holiness at peace with God and others. "So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him" (2 Pet 3:14).


How To Delight in God's Word

The first sermon that I will preach in 2015 this Sunday is from Psalm 1, titled: The Secret of Happiness.

The theme: One is happy and blessed when they delight in the law (instruction) of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night (Ps 1:2).

What does it mean to delight in God's word? Loving God's word cannot be separated from loving God and loving others. Delighting in Gods word should include at least the following:
  1. Loving God.
  2. Loving others.
  3. Loving Scripture.


Face and Fight Fright with Faith, not Fear or Flight (Psalm 11)

Psalm 11:1-7; 7

"For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face" (Ps 11:7, NIV).

Psalm 11 expresses the confidence that the faithful have, even in a time of severe crisis. Two different "voices" were speaking to David ("flee in fear" or "fight with faith") in a context of personal or national crisis. David made up his mind to trust only in the Lord. The psalm is adaptable to a variety of desperate situations, showing how to face them in faith.
  1. Flee in Fear (1-3).
  2. Fight with Faith (4-7).


Confusing the Edge with Essence and Claiming the Superficial as Substance

More gems from Richard Rohr (Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. Chap. 1: Center and Circumference) (italics and bold mine):

We are a circumference people, with little access to the center. We live on the boundaries of our own lives...confusing edges with essence, too quickly claiming the superficial as substance. As Yeats predicted, things have fallen apart and the center does not seem to be holding.

If the circumstances of our lives were evil, it would be easier to moralize about them. But boundaries and edges are not bad as much as they are passing, accidental, sometimes illusory... Our "skin" is not bad; it's just not our soul or spirit. But skin might also be the only available beginning point for many contemporary people. ...we can remain on the circumferences of our lives for quite a long time. So long, that it starts feeling like the only "life" available.

The path of prayer and love and the path of suffering seem to be the two Great Paths of transformation. Suffering seems to get our attention; love and prayer seem to get our heart and our passion. But most of us return (to our center and to our true selves) by a more arduous route... usually three steps forward and two steps backward...


Justice Will Prevail (Psalm 9-10)

Psalm 9:1-10:18; 7-8

"But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice" (Ps 9:7, ESV). "He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness" (Ps 9:8, NLT).

The Greek and Latin versions have combined Psalm 9-10 as a single psalm (with a broken or incomplete acrostic with several letters of the alphabet missing or out of order). Both psalms refer to God's interest in "the oppressed" (Ps 9:9; 10:18), both mention "times of trouble" (Ps 9:9; 10:1), both call on God to "arise" (Ps 9:19; 10:12), and both are sure that God will not "forget the afflicted" (Ps 9:12; 10:12). [On the other hand, there are enough differences to justify finding two Psalms here: the tone of Psalm 9 is predominantly praise and thanks, while that of Psalm 10 is largely lament.] Noting much overlap between both psalms, Derek Kidner titles Psalm 9 as "God: King and Judge," and Psalm 10 as "Man: Predator and Prey." Man is also both the oppressor and the oppressed. Consider Psalm 9-10 in three parts:
  1. God is King and Judge on His Throne (Ps 9:1-12).
  2. God Seems Far Away Because Present Troubles Are Near and Real (Ps 9:13-10:6).
  3. God Listens to the Afflicted and the Oppressed (Ps 10:7-18); God's Justice Will Prevail.


What is Man (Psalm 8)

Psalm 8:1-9; 4, 1a, 9

"...what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" "Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Ps 8:4, 1a, 9, NIV)

Regarding Psalm 8, Derek Kidner eloquently and succinctly writes:

"This psalm is an unsurpassed example of what a hymn should be, celebrating as it does the glory and grace of God, rehearsing who he is and what he has done, and relating us and our world to him; all with a masterly enonomy of words, and in a spirit of mingled joy and awe. It brings to light the unexpectedness of God's ways in the roles he has assigned to the strong and the weak (2), the spectacular and the obscure (3-5), the multitudinous and the few (6-8); but it begins and ends with God himself, and its overriding theme is 'How excellent is thy name!'"

J.I. Packer says, "we are at the end of 4 centuries of God shrinking." God (seemingly) gets smaller while we get bigger. The Bible does not see it this way. David did not see it this way. We must not see it this way.


What People Resent About Christians

Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, said that what he resented in most Christians was what he perceived as a constant underlying undertow of resentment:
  1. Resenting God for demanding a sacrifice from them...or so they thought or felt.
  2. Resenting the fact that they sacrificed as much as they have.
  3. Resenting others for not appreciating their sacrifice.
  4. Resenting others for not having to sacrifice like them.
WOW! Can anyone express and articulate this any better?


The Ego/Self Hates Change More Than Anything

We need to deeply realize how limited, helpless, and powerless we are to truly change or to be truly changed, even after we may have been sincere Christians for decades. From Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Chap. 1: Powerlessness), Richard Rohr, priest and author, nails it when he writes about our frail and fragile humanity that is being constantly dictated and ruled by our ego, even as Christians. The ego hunkers down and becomes even more (self-)deceptive when we experience any degree of growth or success in the church, or as a Christian.

Until you bottom out, and come to the limits of your own fuel supply, there is no reason for you to switch to a higher octane of fuel.

Self-made people, and all heroic spiritualities, will try to manufacture an even stronger self by will power and determination---to put them back in charge and seeming control. ...not realizing the unbending, sometimes proud and eventually rigid personality that will be the long-term result. They will then need to continue in this pattern of self-created success and defenses. This does not normally create loving people, but just people in control and in ever deeper need of control.