Redeveloping the “Y” Axis!

If you remember, I finished my last post (here) with the assertion that the church is in position to restore what I call a y-axis reality.  Borrowing the term x-y axis,” we first learned in geometry.

The x-axis is, of course, the horizontal (time-bound/natural) plane.  For our purposes, the x-axis represents a life lived and experienced on a horizontal playing field. On this horizontal playing field, all that you see is all that there is.

No reason to look up or out.

There is nothing, or no one, there.

Sociologists call this an immanent frame.

An immanent frame is, in the words of Charles Taylor, a way we perceive the world that “frames our lives entirely within a natural (rather than supernatural) frame.”

Life within this immanent frame unconsciously denies the reality of the supernatural.

The natural, time-bound, experience of life is all that’s left in life.

Most authorities on the subject agree: ours is an immanent frame!

We now live in an x-axis-only frame.

Our world is pretty much an x-axis world.  By that, I mean that we only look out and rarely, if ever, look up.

And, while I believe in a y-axis reality, I am guilty of getting stuck in an x-axis-only mentality.  Yes, I am often guilty of living like the world.  At least in this way.

Living as if the only solutions available to me are ones I can see that are right in front of me, I look out but do not look up.

In other words, I live on the x-axis.

I want to live on the y-axis.

The y-axis is the vertical plane.  It’s the “let’s look up again and dream a world shaped by the sacred, saturated with wonder, and soaked in awe” axis.

It’s the axis that points me to something, Someone, beyond what my eyes see.

In a world whose resources are limited, it just makes sense to be a y-axis person.

Y-Axis Problems in an X-Axis World

But I find it challenging to live on the Y-axis.  It’s just too easy to get caught up in myself and my problems.  When I do that, I tend to look to myself (and those around me) for solutions.

At times those solutions work out pretty well.  Most often, however, the solutions are short-term solutions, and I find myself back – again – where I once was.  This time around, a little more aggravated and far less patient.

The stress of returning to the problems takes its toll.  Then, in dealing with anxiety, I begin to select options located within an x-axis-only frame.   I ask questions like,

“Who caused this problem, and why is it not resolved yet?” Or,

“Whom can I blame for this?”

These x-axis-only questions deliver x-axis-only solutions.  Again, I look to people, circumstances, and situations for the answers.

I am learning a harsh lesson: my default position, especially when dealing with tough situations or encountering intractable problems, is x-axis-only.

So, I wonder, “if I struggle with being a y-axis person, are there others who do as well?”

If so, then maybe there is a spiritual discipline or rhythm available to us that well help reorient ourselves to a y-axis reality.

Re-developing the Y-Axis Reality

Perhaps, over time and through practice, a y-axis response can be our default orientation!

Being a y-axis person is vital because the y-axis incorporates, and values the x-axis.  The x-axis, conversely, is dismissive of the y-axis and ignorant of its existence!

In other words, when I live on the y-axis (the reality in which I am aware of and attentive to God’s presence), then I become vitally alive in the x-axis (reality in which my life-with-God plays out).

I may have discovered a rhythm for this very purpose.

This spiritual rhythm is nestled within Psalm 105:3-4.  I am just now beginning to practice it, but I will at least give you the gist of it so that you can, if you desire, practice it as well!

Spiritual Rhythms, the With-God-Life, and Y-Axis Reality

First, a word about why I believe spiritual rhythms and disciplines are keys to the With-God-Life and essential to redeveloping a y-axis reality.

  • Spiritual rhythms empower us to live fully into the present reality of God.  They are not an ‘end’ in and of themselves.   They are a means to an end – the highest End of them all – God’s presence within and among us
  • Spiritual rhythms don’t earn any favor with God or serve as some arbitrary measure of our spiritual success. They are simple practices of grace, to be experienced over and over again (habit), that awaken us to the presence of Christ in our midst.  As we are awakened, we are then invited to abide with Him.

As we abide with Him, we then begin to build a Jesus-way of life.

In other words, Spiritual rhythms help cultivate a life around the reality that Jesus is in our midst and that He is inviting us into an interactive and ongoing relationship with Him.

They are tools that help us live into the With-God-Life and experience a Y-axis reality.

Psalm 105:3-4 encourages the spiritual rhythm meditating and reflecting on His word and works:

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered.”

Three Reflections and Meditations Designed to Re-develop the Y-axis Reality

The Psalmist is inviting us to contemplate and meditate on the presence of God in our midst.

His words encourage three specific meditations that encompass all of life and lift us into a Y-axis reality in an X-axis world.

  1. Rejoice in his rule as you meditate on the power of His name.  In this we find contentment.  Hold whatever ails you up to the power of his name and rejoice in his sovereign care.  Yes, He’s got this!
  2. Race after and Rest in His abiding presence.  Assume that God is with you. Look for Him.  Talk to Him. Listen to Him.  When we begin to live as if God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves (Acts 17:27), we learn to rest and trust His love in the anxious moments where fear would like to control us.
  3. Remember the wonderful works he has done.  To remember, in a bible-way, is to focus intently on, reflect, meditate, chew, and digest the thought.  Spend some time recalling the works of God (the rest of Psalm 105 is a great place to start).  Write them down.  Carry these wonderful works with you.  When you feel alone, fearful, abandoned, deserted, take a look at the list.  Carefully hold your situation up to the list.  You may find this will bring some much-needed perspective and hope!

As I said, I am just beginning to practice this meditation.

I know this: without spiritual practices and rhythms, I find myself easily driven by X-axis default patterns.  As I employ spiritual practices and rhythms, I find myself more intently focused on the reality that God is near to me and desires to reveal His will and His way in this very present problem!

Disrupting to Renew!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The Good News Gospel of the Kingdom of God

**This article is one I’ve posted before.  I am re-posting it because I am going to circle back around to how a Transforming Pastoral Ministry frames and embodies the Gospel. Our understanding of and experience with the Gospel is vital if our mission is (as I contend) Spiritual Formation and Soul-Care.  I cannot think of any other conversations as important as this one.  Please let me know your thoughts**

Several years ago I attended a funeral for a dear friend who lived and ministered in our community for decades.

And, though this saint had a full life, he still – for so many – died at too young an age.  As such, his death was untimely, tragic, and a terrible reality to face for dozens, even hundreds, of family and friends.

As is often the case for funerals such as this, the church was packed.

Well into the service, a pastor took the pulpit and gave a moving message on the love of God and the hope we have in Him.

He told heart-tugging stories, one after the other, of people of faith who have gone before us and whom we are certainly hoping to see again.

He strung together soul-stirring phrase after phrase until the crescendo of the entire service, when he convincingly said, “Don’t you want to know this Jesus?”  Followed by a pulsating, “If you want to see this person again, then make a decision today!  Right here, right where you are, repent of your sins and believe in Jesus as your personal savior.”

Every Head Bowed and Every Eye Closed . . . Come Again?

Then, in the closing, he asked that with every head bowed, and eye closed, those who made a decision for Christ, to raise their hands.

I, of course, peeked and saw that dozens of hands went up.

Twenty years ago, I would have been encouraged by such a scene.  And, in fact, I’ve preached a similar message all too often.  On this occasion, just a few years ago, I felt dismayed.

I left the funeral knowing that the preacher had presented a truncated and abstract version of the Gospel!

I’ve come to refer to this truncated version of the Gospel as a two-chapter, transactional Gospel.  I knew as I drove home that day, that if that’s the only gospel those folks ever heard, then they simply never heard the Gospel.

At least not the whole Gospel!

Unintended but Catastrophic Consequences

The reason that I believe this two-chapter, transactional Gospel is not a picture of the whole Gospel is because of the outcomes that follow from our commitment to it.

A specific outcome to which I am referring is one where the person(s) who made a decision for Christ then leaves the service and effectively puts Jesus on the shelf until they die.

Why?

Because they know – at last – where they will go when they death finally comes knocking.

This place is heaven, of course.

One might argue that such a response isn’t always the case.  To that, I’d say, “Yes, you are right.”  But, I’d also respond that, though it’s not always the case, often – very often – it is the case!

Honestly, this type of shelving Jesus until the afterlife response is normative because it’s exactly the type of response the question expects!

The preacher asks:

“Want to see your friend again one day?”

“The one that you’re mourning right now?  This dear friend whom you’re not even sure you are going to be able to live without?”

“Then, you better say yes to Jesus – right now – so that you can see him/her when you die.”

If the only thing that matters is where I will go when I die, then the life I live until then is of little consequence.

As such, the Gospel asserts no real authority or influence over or in my life.  Such a Gospel not only fails to speak to the realities of my life today, but it’s a Gospel that I can intentionally refuse to listen to even when or if it does.

Sacred Versus Secular?

Further, such presentations lend themselves to an “I’m in/You’re out” way of living.  This  divides us into opposing factions and breaks the world into different categories of what’s “sacred” versus that which is “secular.”

The Bible makes no such distinctions.  That’s right.  You’ve been taught it does, but it doesn’t divide creation and creature into neat categories of the “haves and have-nots.”

The Bible does, however, speak to the reality of an enemy.  The enemy is the one who rails against the human soul at every turn.

It’s this reality to which the Four-Chapter, Relational Gospel so forcefully and invitingly speaks.  It’s this space – the space between what’s now and not-yet – that the Four-Chapter, Relational Gospel inhabits.

Putting an End to the Old by Proclaiming the Original Good News

In my last post, I began exploring four areas of life that remain untouched by the Two-Chapter, Transactional Gospel.

These four areas the very reason why the Gospel was first announced.  And, what Jesus announced was called Good News!

I am going to rewrite them and then propose we explore them together, over the course of the next few weeks.

These four are:

  1. The Good News Gospel Revitalizes the Cultural Mandate.
  2. The Good News Gospel Reframes the Great Commandment.
  3. The Good News Gospel Reinvigorates the Great Commission
  4. The Good News Gospel Reveals the Kingdom of God, present in and among us, through Christ.

The order may need to be reversed, but we will stay with it for now.

Doing so will help us come to terms with the fact the Good News Gospel begins before my sin and goes beyond my redemption.

Disrupting to Renew!

Reimagining Community: It’s Not What But How

Reimagining Community: It’s Not What But How

The past few weeks I’ve been summarizing some of the rhythms of ministry that characterize Pillar Community Church.

Many of them – likely all of them – are active in any congregation professing belief in Christ.

At Pillar, it’s not really ‘what’ our rhythms are, but ‘how’ we practice them that prove to be distinctive.

Not better, mind you.

Just distinct.

Continue reading “Reimagining Community: It’s Not What But How”

Disruptive and Dynamic Process of Spiritual Formation

Disruptive and Dynamic Process of Spiritual Formation

When I awakened to and accepted this disruptive and dynamic process of spiritual formation, I then began to establish it as a solid foundation for life and ministry.

After eight years (really more) of traveling this road, I am becoming convinced that the disruptive and dynamic process of spiritual formation ought to be the mark of every ministry.  Particularly any ministry desiring to seek the Kingdom of God in Christ and invite others to do the same!

I suspect that others are awakening to these realities and are looking for someone who has gone before them and can provide some guideposts along the way.

Continue reading “Disruptive and Dynamic Process of Spiritual Formation”

The Story of a Church: A Disruptive and Dynamic Journey!

Spiritual Formation as a Disruptive and Dynamic Journey!

God’s Kingdom has come (already begun) with the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is an indisputable biblical fact.

It’s also true that his kingdom rule continues to be contested!  The powers that once ran and sought to ruin his good world through sin and shame continue to exert notable force.

Even as the often slow but certain Kingdom-coming continues to make its presence known!

These two realities

  1. That God’s reordered rule in and through His son, our Messiah, has already begun, and
  2. That the powers and principalities of this present age continue to resist,

have real-time consequences in this life.

A lingering consequence of these two truths is that spiritual formation is often more like a disruptive and dynamic journey, rather than a linear and progressive trajectory.

Continue reading “The Story of a Church: A Disruptive and Dynamic Journey!”