Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Restoring Your Spiritual Passion

Restoring Your Spiritual PassionRestoring Your Spiritual Passion by Gordon MacDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gordon MacDonald is an excellent author. His illustrations are so good. He explains in this book how to restorte your passion for serving the Lord. His words are very motivating. I highly recommend this book!

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Below are some great quotes from this outstanding book:

John Wesley, “Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry because I never undertake more work than I can go through with calmness of spirit.” P. 35
Seven Conditions That Threaten Spiritual Passion (Passion Threatening Conditions)
1.     The Drained Condition
Any person who is heavily involved with people in highly stressful encounters of problem solving, conflict, or sales will understand what it means to be drained. pp. 39-40
            You can’t do work of a spiritual nature without energy going out of you. p. 43
2.     The Dried-Out Condition
If the one who is drained has reached the state by exhausting resources, one who is dried out has reached that state by not taking anything into the inner chambers of life for quite some time. The two conditions are often closely associated. pp. 47-48
Those with natural talents, like musicians, are quite vulnerable here. They can mistake the applause of the admiring crowds for God’s blessing. Thinking that their ability to raise the emotions of people in an artistic setting is the same as being a tool in the hand of God, they begin to abandon any sense of need for spiritual passion or energy and move ahead on their own instincts. More often, what power they appear to have is sheer theatrics, not spiritual passion. Often the system seems to work for a long time, and then–disaster. p. 48
W. E. Sangster describes the realities in this world when he concludes that he is spiritually dried out. “I am a minister of God, and yet my private life is a failure in these ways.
a.     I am irritable and easily put out.
b.     I am impatient with my wife and children.
c.     I am deceitful in that I often express private annoyance when a caller is announced and simulate pleasure when I actually greet them.
d.     From an examination of my heart, I conclude that most of my study has been crudely ambitious: that I wanted degrees more than knowledge and praise rather than equipment for service.
e.     Even in my preaching I fear that I am more often wondering what the people think of me, than what they think about my Lord and His word.
f.      I have long felt in a vague way, that something was hindering the effectiveness of my ministry and I must conclude that the “something” is my failure in living the truly Christian life.
g.     I am driven in pain to conclude that the girl who has lived as a maid in my house for more than three years has not felt drawn to the Christian life because of me.
h.     I find slight envies in my heart at the greater success of other young ministers. I seem to match myself with them in thought and am vaguely jealous when they attract more notice than I do. pp. 49-50
3.     The Distorted Condition
Spiritual passion is constantly under attack by the distortions of truth that pervade our times. We pass through a world in which there are, I am told, more than two thousand persuasion messages pressed at us each day. They come to us, for example, in advertising, direct human encounters, signs all about us (STOP HERE; NO FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED; KEEP OFF GRASS), and endorsements by impressive people. pp. 52-53
      William Blake’s poem (with emphasis)
This life’s dim windows of the soul
Distort the heavens from pole to pole
And lead you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye p. 55
4.     The Devastated Condition
The devastated condition is the fatigue that originates with people and events vigorously opposed to what one stands for. pp. 59
5.     The Disillusioned Condition
Spiritual passion can also be neutralized in disillusionment: the deflation of great dreams. P. 62
The moments of dream deflation leave large marks upon the soul. It would not take me long to list most of the occasions when I thought I had had given birth to a great idea only to have it torn apart by those who were more interested in status quo, or proper procedures, or politics, or their own positions of security or recognition. Of course there were not a few moments when my dreams were just plain ridiculous, and someone had to tell me so. P. 63
6.     The Defeated Condition
There is a weariness that comes from total personal defeat. Perhaps this is the most common of all the varieties of weariness. Who does not know the taste of failure? One suddenly feels utterly impotent, unable to live up to the set standards of faith. Or promises or commitments have been made, but then broken. Or disciplines and goals have been enthusiastically determined, and then abandoned. pp. 64
7.     The Disheartened Condition
Another good word might be intimidated. We fall into the intimidated, or disheartened, condition when we begin to gain a view of people, events, or institutions that causes them to appear to be far more powerful than the God of our faith. p. 66

 “Some folk bring joy wherever they go; others bring joy when they go.” p. 71

Five Kinds of People that Affect Spiritual Passion
1.     The Very Resourceful People: They Ignite Our Passion
William Wilberforce writes: “These wise men never endeavored to mold our uninformed opinions into any particular mold. Indeed it was needless for them to preach to us. Their lives spoke far more plainly and convincingly than any words. We saw their patience, cheerfulness, generosity, wisdom and activity daily before us, and we knew and felt that all this was only a natural expression of hears given to the service of God (Lean, God’s Politician, p. 100). This is a brilliant description of VRP’s and their effect upon those around them. pp. 73-76
2.     The Very Important People: They Share Our Passion
VIP’s, the very important people who share our passion. p. 76
What a blessing—an inestimable blessing is it to have a faithful friend! Satan is ready enough to point out whatever good we have; but it is only a faithful friend that will screen that from your sight, and show you your deficiencies. Our great apostasy seems to consist primarily in making a god of self; and he is the most valuable friend who will draw us more from self-seeking—self pleasing—and self-dependence, and help us to restore to God the authority we have robbed him of (Carus, Memories of the Life of Rev. Charles Simeon, p. 32). pp. 76-77
3.     The Very Trainable People: They Catch Our Passion
Third kind of person catches our passion. p. 78
And although VTP’s tax our strength, we are usually glad to cooperate because we sense the possibilities in them. p. 78
Paul is urging on Timothy when he wrote:
What you have heard from me [VRP] before many witnesses entrust to faithful men [VTP] who will be able to teach others also [more VTP] (2 Timothy 2:2 RSV) p. 79
4.     The Very Nice People: They Enjoy Our Passion
They do not add to our passion; nor do they seriously diminish it. They simply enjoy it. Being around people who exude spiritual energy can be a pleasurable experience if one professes Christianity. p. 81
Jesus never turned His back upon the VNP’s in His world. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd, and he treated them with dignity and possibility. That’s important to note, for from the midst of the VNP’s there came certain folk who eventually became VTP’s there came certain folk who eventually became VTP’s (each of the twelve was probably a VNP at first) and perhaps even later VIP’s. p. 81
It is startling to realize that in church life most of our heavy expenditures are for the very nice people. VNP’s fill the pews, the parking lots, and the classrooms and sop up the milk. We build and expand all too often for the convenience of the VNP’s.  p. 82
5.     The Very Draining People: They Sap Our Passion
The good news is that this serving often pays off, and those who were draining actually become useful and trainable. Then again, one can conceivably be a VDP to one person but not to another. For example, Paul considered John Mark a VDP who could not be trusted for a second missionary journey, but fortunately, Barnabas saw John Mark’s potential for a VTP or VIP and didn’t agree with Paul’s assessment. p. 86
First, VDP’s will be drawn (like mosquitoes to blood) to any healthy group of people, and they will remain until they become self-sustaining or until they are pushed away. Second, a healthy cluster of people will lose its vitality (its group passion) mysteriously and unpredictably because there are simply too many VDP’s to sustain. p. 87

Friendly fire comes in the form of several poisoned spirits
1.     The Competitive Spirit
Either they can become our partners, our confidence builders, or they become our competitors. The former help build our spiritual passion; the latter, when we see them as competitors, drain it. p. 96
2.     The Critical Spirit
When tired or unguarded, I found it easy to find a flaw in every person in my world. I found something to carp about in reading of every magazine or in the watching of or listening to a Christian presentation on television or radio. pp. 100-101
3.     The Vain Spirit
A third poisoned spirit that destroys spiritual passion makes its presences known when we harbor an insatiable need to impress people in order to have them prefer or like us. p. 102
The more we strive to live off the applause of others, the less we will hunger for the passion that causes us to seek the approval of the heavenly Father.  The great theologian James Denny once wrote, “No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he is clever and that Christ is mighty to save. P. 103
4.     The Adversarial Spirit
Our spiritual passion will also be affected by how we handle adversarial relationships, I’m thinking of our critics: those who are friendly and those who are unfriendly. And I’m thinking of those who have opposed or failed us and toward whom we feel vengeful. p. 103

Two Inner Battles That War against Spiritual Passion
1.     The Battle of Ambition
Ambition is the urge to get ahead, to establish oneself powerfully and securely. p. 108
Ambition is a difficult spiritual enemy to pin down. It covers itself in devious ways. It can sneak in through vocabulary such as “the Lord has led me…” or “I have this vision for…” or “the door has been opened to….” Ambition can cloak itself in one’s “burdens for…” or “concern toward….” It can hide behind the effort to expel or unseat rivals because they hold divergent theologies. But ambition is most dangerous when it settles into the cracks of the heart and tempts a person to weigh every situation in terms of the possibilities of advancing into positions where there is fame or reward. A close parallel exists between raw personal ambition and the spiritually-passionate desire to advance the kingdom of Christ. Sometimes it is difficult at first to tell the difference between the two. p. 109
We pray that the honor of God will be seen in our efforts, yet we are all too conscious that the approval of the crowd is at least of equal importance. p. 111
2.     The Battle of Pride
Akin to ambition is pride, the inability to handle success. Our Christian world includes men and women in both the pastoral and lay sectors who started into leadership not through the energy of ambition but by sincere commitment to God’s purposes. But something happened along the way. Their success became intoxicating. p. 113

Four Kinds of Safe Places that Restore Spiritual Passion
1.     The Sanctuary
It became possible to create an imaginary sanctuary in his private world. There in the desert he could walk right into a specially designed sanctuary that offered the possibility of personal restoration. “So I have looked upon thee in the sanctuary, beholding thy power and glory. Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee” (Ps. 63:2-3 RSV). p. 141
In this sanctuary David not only perceived the greatness of the majesty and power of God, but he was also refreshed with the reassurance of the steadfast love of the Lord. p. 142
2.     The Night Room
“As I like in bed, I remember you; all night long I think of you, because you have always been my help” (Ps. 63:6,7 TEV). p. 143
3.     The Protective Wings
Safe places in the air above the danger, in well-placed nests away from the danger, and close to protective parents’ wings covered or lifted from the danger. As David brooded upon safe places, the wings of a bird came to mind. pp. 145-146
“In the shadow of thy wings, I sing for joy” (Ps. 63:7 RSV). p. 146
“He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you” (Ps. 91:4 TEV). p. 147
4.     The Strong Hands
Confidence is a state of mind and heart that permits a person to act with assurance that yesterday’s defeat or failure will turn into tomorrow’s victory. Real confidence is not merely a psychic energy created on a base of unfounded hopes. It is a sense of new source of power from beyond ourselves—a power, a passion if you please, which has proved itself before and which is available to us as Christians in unlimited amounts. p. 148
A defenseless child walking beside his or her father, held by a strong hand.  This is the picture of one who assumes that his strength is an extension of the father’s power. The connection of the hands makes the difference between confidence and fear.  “My soul clings to thee,” David wrote, “thy right hand upholds me” (Ps. 63:8 RSV). p. 148
“I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 RSV). p. 151
In their desperate desire to get the church into the marketplace, some have though it wise to combine the safe place of corporate worship with utilitarian areas for secular activities.  When necessary, this is acceptable. But it is not ideal .It is highly beneficial, although not essential, to have quiet places where the secrets of the Father are shared. p. 153

Seven Principles of Still Times that Restore Spiritual Passion
1.     The Role Model Principle
God has taught us the special principles of still time in a number of ways. He taught it by modeling it in His own self-revelation. There is still time inferred at the conclusion of each of the days of creation. “And God said…” refers to the work God gave Himself to do. “And God saw…” refers to the still moments at the end of the work in which God stamped value and closure on what he had done. “And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 18:18 RSV). p. 160-161
2.     The Rhythm Principle
This remarkable rhythm in the work of God ought not to be taken lightly. p. 161
3.     The Rest Principle
I am convinced additionally that the Sabbath was a necessary discipline protecting against what we would later call workaholism, the tendency to use time flagrantly in the building of one’s fortune at the expense of a more balanced and spiritually oriented life. p. 165
4.     The Remembrance Principle
What were the components of the legal Sabbath that God taught to Israel? First, remember! In the Hebrew world it was a dynamic action when one remembered. The effort was that of attempting to fully experience a previous event as if it were happening all over again. p. 166
5.     The Renunciation Principle
When Moses first set forth the Sabbath concept as part of the law, an important component of what he was saying had to do with the concept of renunciation, the renunciation of work—not because work is a bad thing, but because if it is not contained, it gets out of control and captures the affections of the worker, causing work to lose its meaning and leaving no time for worship or rest. Moses was telling the people that a good thing must be renounced because a better thing must take precedence for a short while. p. 167
6.     The Refreshment Principle
“And God rested and refresh himself” is the literal wording of verse 17. p. 167
7.     The Recurrence Principle
I am also convinced that Sabbath, the recollection of the spirit, is more than just a day in our time. It is a recurring event throughout each of our days. p. 169
François Fénelon wrote:

You must learn…to make good use of chance moments, when waiting for someone, when going from place to place, or when in society where to be a good listener is all that is required…at such times it is easy to lift the heart to God, and thereby gain fresh strength for further duties. The less time one has the more carefully it should be managed. If you wait for free, convenient seasons in which to fulfill real duties, you run the risk of waiting forever; especially in such a life as yours. No, make use of chance moments (Fénelon, Spiritual Letters to Women, p. 16). p. 170

Six Special-Friend Teammates That Help You Maintain Spiritual Passion
1.     The Sponsor
The sponsor, of course, is another name for mentor or disciple. p. 180
The sponsor is that Very Resourceful Person (the VRP) who ushers us into opportunity and possibility. p. 180
2.     The Affirmer
The affirmer takes up where the sponsor leaves off. The affirmer takes note of what we are doing and what we are becoming and attaches value to it. p. 184
3.     The Rebuker
Rebuke and criticism are two different things, the former a valued gift, the latter somewhat cheaper. But I have been taught even to seize the truth in a criticism that may have been leveled for reasons other than for building me up. “There is a kernel of truth in every criticism, “.  I am told Dawson Trotman used to say to his friends. “Look for it, and when you find it, rejoice in its value.” p. 192
4.     The Intercessor
Intercessors are those who have accepted the responsibility for holding me up to God in prayer. p. 195
5.     The Partner
The restoration and maintenance of spiritual passion frequently depends upon the process of partnership with one or more who share the load. In fact, I am not sure that most of us can ever reach the full extent of our energies if we are not in partnership with someone else. p. 198
A close friend told me that one draft horse can move two tons of weight. But two draft horses in harness, working together, can move twenty-three tons of weight. That probably is not far from properly illustrating how men and women can work together in a common objective. pp. 198-199
6.     The Pastor
This is the tender person, the person who comes alongside in the moment of exhaustion. The pastor—and I’m not necessarily talking about ordained ministers—it is the one who helps make sense out of life when all has become so confusing. P. 202

Three Powerful Truths That Put the Christian Life in Perspective
1.     Intimacy Makes it Possible to Hear God’s Wishes
A proactive listening: seeking the wishes of the one to whom they had devoted themselves. pp. 211-212
Only in safe places and during still times will one hear the wishes of God—or of anyone else, for that matter. God’s wishes are not shouted; often they are hidden behind the commands. Anyone can hear the commandments of God unless he chooses not to. But it takes a sensitive ear to hear the wishes of God, and that only comes—as I’ve said—in safe places at still times. p. 212
2.     The Choice to Act Is Often Taken at Great Risk
The passion generated from a listening mode to an action mode.  Convictions generated from a genuine encounter with the living God create the passion to act and the strength to carry out the action. p. 214
In the biography of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, a poignant moment is described when his son, Bramwell, must tell his father (then 83) that he is going blind from a disease of the eyes.
“You mean that I am blind?”
“Well, General, I fear that we must contemplate that.”
After a pause the old man said, “I shall never see your face again?”
“No, probably not in this world.”
During the next few moments the veteran’s hand crept along the counterpane to take hold of his son’s, and holding it he said very calmly, “God must know best!” And after another pause, “Bramwell, I have done what I could for God and for the people with my eyes. Now I shall do what I can for God and for the people without my eyes” (Begbie, The Life of General Wm Booth, p. 422). p. 215

3.     A Divine Energy Creates the Ultimate Passion
Throughout the Bible, a mysterious energy of God pulsates which, when planted within people, makes for formidable accomplishment. We know that energy to be originated by the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. p. 215

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1 comment:

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