The Carrot and the Stick approach to motivation has been around for years; it’s about making use of rewards and penalties in order to induce desired behaviour. It was the underlying philosophy that was behind the government's approach to Covid lockdowns and stay at home orders. Parents, employerss, teachers use this philosophy repeatedly. it’s phrased as “If you___, then I will___.” Every means at our disposal is employed to lead or coerce someone into complying with a request or obeying a command. From union negotiations to the toy aisle @ Big W…election promises to Parliament House.
Too often we assume that’s how God works too. “God if you’ll just___, I’ll___.” Or we convince ourselves God operates in reverse, “God I’ve____, now I’m counting on you to____.” Obedience then becomes a negotiated response…do this TO GET that, or a one of fear…do this TO AVOID that. We give in, comply, or obey because we “have to” even if our hearts aren’t in it. But that's not a biblical understanding of obedience. Rather than being a carrot or a stick approach, obedience is the path to freedom; it flows from trust in the context of a relationship of love and promise of joy. Obeying expectantly acknowledges the reality, embraces the impossibility and moves responsively to the voice which alone can powerfully bridge the gap between belief and behaviour. That's what we will explore today.
#6 and final in series: Spiritual Apprenticeship
Greek orator & statesman Demosthenes, wrote:
“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what every man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”
Social researchers call that “confirmation bias.” It’s when someone gathers facts & assumes truth that supports a viewpoint they already hold & then discounts any contradictory evidence as “fake news” or “misinformation,” …& we’re all afflicted. From the driver or athlete whose confidence exceeds their capability to where one stands on climate change or the Covid-19 response or who believes in guilt by accusation.
We are often blind to what is true because we make judgments & decisions based on what we want to be true. In so doing, we project our fears, attachments and beliefs onto the world and others. Today Jesus confronts just that sort of blindness…visually and spiritually so that as his apprentices we see clearly that every circumstance of need is a reason for mission & every place of darkness is a reason to share the light of Christ’s restoring healing love, life, hope & joy. It's seeing clearly that Jesus wants for us today.
#5 in series: 'Spiritual Apprenticeship'
PnP or Plug-and-play technology has transformed our world over the years. Pull it out the box. Plug it in and start using it. No expertise needed. No drivers to install. No training required. If only discipleship was that easy. Plug-and-play an evangelism program and the Church would thrive again. Plug and play a prayer and the impossible situation is resolved. Plug and play the right technique and a relationship is restored, a need is met and life is sweet. But life doesn't work that way and discipleship doesn't work that way. In life we will all face impossible situations where what is demanded of us is more that we have or can produce. We look at what we have and it doesn't seem enough or it doesn't add up. Today Jesus gives his disciples a pop quiz to see what they have learnt in their journey of discipleship when they face impossible situations. What they discover is not found in themselves but in stepping out in obedience and faith even when they don't understand what is happening. For when we look to Jesus in impossible situations we discover a God who is forever sharing generously in a way that is more than we can ask or imagine. It's more than a snack but a feast of his grace which can transform the most impossible of situations.
#5 in series: Spiritual Apprenticeship
Have you heard of the phrase “disruptive truth-telling”? It's about disrupting dysfunction in order to bring it to a head and effect change. It's naming what is and what is apparent to bring growth and learning. It's used to move organisations and individuals out of the comfortable status quo that is safe, familiar and predictable so that transformation can occur. Disruptive truth-telling is not easy for many of us. Life has conditioned us to not rock the boat, to avoid conflict and to create “peace” at all costs. Our fear and anxiety at the perceived or real backlash, or a desire not to hurt the other person’s feelings stops us from speaking up boldly about something that needs to change. The result is the person/organisation remains stuck, we remain stuck and nothing changes. But Jesus shows us as disciples, as his apprentices, that our calling is to move toward need, to disrupt lives with a bold word that will move people into a new reality where forgiveness and healing bring fullness of life in Jesus.
"Liar!" No one likes to be called out as a liar. Liars are considered untrustworthy, immoral, along with a whole plethora of words we may like to add. Liars are to be avoided...and yet how many of us lie to ourselves constantly. "It's okay if I finish off this chocolate block tonight, it's been a hard day. I'll start that diet again tomorrow." But what about the form of self-deception that masquerades as "procrastination" - "I'm sure it's nothing...I'll check that lump with the doctor at my next check-up in six months." Or the form of self-deception that thinks we are worthless, useless, stupid, unlovable. As the old saying says: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” Right?
So what do you believe? What has shaped the person that you are today? Are you living truthfully, or are you living a lie? Have you believed the lies? Today in the Master's Workshop, Jesus shows us how temptation has a revealing effect in our lives...it uncovers our heart's desires...it shows the depth and direction of our our convictions...it spotlights what we really care about...what we are most committed to...and what has captured our deepest affections. He also shows us the greatest gift we have, in countering Satan's deceptions and lies, in standing firm...and living truthfully in every moment.
#2 in series: Spiritual Apprenticeship
Being a disciple is intentional and all-encompassing; it’s an apprenticeship that can only be developed through practice as we apply the skills we learn in the master's workshop in the real world we live in on a daily basis. Today as we begin this 40 day period of Lent, we come into the workshop of his grace and leave what we think we know, what we have believed to be true, what we have let form and shape us at the door, and start again with eager and willing hearts to learn from Jesus. As Martin Luther also discovered and wrote as the top of the list when he nailed 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. So let's begin this season of preparation with practising repentance.
#1 in series: Spiritual Apprenticeship
For the ordinary person, it's a great gift. The Autofocus function on a camera. It focusses on a single point or matrix of focus points to enable a crystal clear picture to be captured. But turn it to manual focus and the clarity can be affected. Sometimes the picture is blurred. Sometimes our vision is distorted. =Sometimes what we think we see, is not what was envisaged or expected.
How do you see yourself? Is the picture crystal clear or blurry...true or distorted? Who we think we are shapes our approach to everyday circumstances, how we deal with disappointments and successes, relationships, and life itself. But an even more important question is how we see God. That matters even more...for how we see God and who we think God is will shape our experience of him, our attitude to him and how we live because of that. If God is angry & judgmental…arbitrary and stingy...that's what we will experience. But if we see God through the lens of grace, we will experience the surprise and wonder of a God who is for us...a God who empowers, entrusts, and gives more than we expect or deserve and gathers what we do offer back in joy. Today in the final week of our vision series, God wants to switch on the autofocus on the lens of grace that gives clarity and focus through a cross matrix of focus points. God wants us to experience him as the God of love he is, a God who entrusts us with unimaginable gifts and riches, eager that we make the most of them and enter his joy. It's a heart perspective that will bring clarity, leave a legacy, and transform our living, sharing and growing as we rebuild with resources.
#4 and final in vision series: 'Beyond Limits'
If our church shut its doors today. Turned off the lights. Left. Would anyone in our community notice? Would anyone in our communities even care? It's not a shock question…it's a real question; a question that gets to the core of engagement. Are we part of and immersed in the community, or have we created our own silo apart from the community? To put it another way…what do we WANT to be known for in the community….and what ARE we known for? Too often we have disengaged from the community. Too often we have been scared of engaging with, or facing people who may not believe what we believe, or have a different perspective to what we have. So we get busy in doing church rather than being the church - Christ's living, loving and reconciling presence in the world. Today God is calling us to reimagine our communities and to see God's kingdom breaking in and being established in our midst, to see our community as a gift that he is giving us. It's time…for Christ's sake…and those in our community…to re-engage with community.
#3 in series: Beyond Limits
Moses, Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, the women at the tomb, Thomas, Paul, Timothy, OT or New, faithful disciple or called by the Father, they all share a common character trait: reluctance, resistance, reservation. Not one was enthusiastic & obedient from the word “Go.” In every case it took more than one “Go” to get them going.
The Great Commission is not a good suggestion…It’s an Expectation. A "Go" Mission. People as yet, unclaimed by the gospel, are to be reached in Jesus’ name. We are to grow into living examples of Christ’s life here so that all people might be drawn into the life and love, the restoring and recreating grace of God that we have received in Jesus, our Saviour King. What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me? How can I repay the gift of life, love, joy satisfaction, and salvation I’ve been given in spite of me? What can I do in a world rife with unbelief, torn by divisions, run amok in its rebellion against everything good true or beautiful? Recommit to the Vision, his commission…and go!
#2 in series: "Beyond Limits"