A Telescope to See God Pt2

As we look through the lens of Peter’s 7 qualities, and explore the telescope illustration, I love how to all blends together with another aspect of the metaphor of how we see God.

Interestingly enough, one of the greatest limitations of earth-bound telescopes is that the atmosphere or environment creates disturbances or patches of distortion when gathering light from such a distant source on the outside of our natural world. To get around this limitation, Astronomers use what is called an Aperture Synthesis They take the images from several widely placed telescopes all pointing at the same object and combine the images so that if there’s a bad spot in one image, it may be clear in another, but the bad spot in the second one may be clear in a third or fourth. So they combine all the accurate parts from multiple different perspectives to get a clear, accurate picture.

Isn’t that one thing community does for us? We all have our environmental distortion created by our upbringing, or teaching, or wounds, or fears, and so when we look at God we have these bad patches in the picture where the light is bent by our own personal aberrations. Ahh…the beauty of community, where we come together and the distortion in our personal perspectives can be corrected when placed in the big picture that is formed when we all study, discuss, and interact with God together. Between all of us, we can eliminate a lot of the distortions that have been a part of our personal beliefs and experiences, and come up with a much clearer and accurate picture of who God is and the truth that He has placed in His word.

Community can expose areas of our praxis that are broken – usually areas that we are unaware of. When you’ve been functioning with the same dysfunction all of your life, there is nothing abnormal about it to you. We can not piece together the whole of truth as individuals. We need others around us who care enough to help us see, and encourage us to address our distortions.

A Telescope to See God Pt 1

How to see God – 7 qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:4-11

4For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent)promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

 10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

I’m going through a study of II Peter, and I spent a few hours on 1:4-11. While considering some of the thoughts my friends had as we discussed the verses I constructed the following, and thought it worth sharing with you.

7 Qualities from 2Peter

The ever-increasing qualities of perfection in 2Peter 1:4-11

I created this illustration to encapsulate my view of the whole process of these 7 qualities – not going too far into how the individual qualities interact themselves – though I’d love to get around to that later. Each one of the qualities mentioned leads to and enables the next quality, while the exercise of the next one strengthens and makes more perfect the previous ones. These qualities are progressive, consecutive, and concurrent.

I’m not sure if everyone is aware of how a telescope works, but the idea is that the:

>>focal length
<———> (how long the telescope is) determines how wide a view it can see. So if these qualities are yours and are increasing you will be able to see more and more of the whole picture of God. So the more they increase in you (the greater the focal length) the bigger picture you can take in.

>>angular resolution
(the clarity of the picture) is determined by the width of the lens on the far end. So the farther away from the eyepiece, and the wider the lens (love) the clearer the picture of what you’re looking at. It’s like the difference between a blurry polaroid and professional portrait or watching Lord of the Rings on your iPod instead of at the theater. Details come into focus that were invisible before when the Angular resolution is increased. The greater your Angular resolution, the clearer, more accurate, and detail-rich your picture of God.

is the third consideration of a telescope primarily determined by the diameter of the aperture (the opening on the far end). It doesn’t matter what resolution or focal length you have if you can’t gather enough light to see what you’re looking at. It’s not a linear relationship either – a telescope that has an aperture 3 times larger will have 9 times more light-gathering power. So the larger the opening on the end gets, the more it multiplies your ability to gather light.

Even a slightly increased capacity to love multiplies all of the other qualities, and allows more and more of the divine nature to get to you on the narrow end. How beautiful that Paul talks about only seeing things dimly in I Cor 13 as he’s talking about Love. He states that when the perfect love comes we will see things clearly – not dimly or in silhouette. Love is the aperture that allows us to gather in the divine light. It’s almost as if he is talking about a telescope. The more you increase the aperture, the more you can see of God – the more you can experience of the divine nature.

…if you don’t have an eyepiece, a telescope is worthless. That’s why the series of attributes starts with arete (moral excellence). It is that divine energy placed into man that opens us up to the rest of the qualities. Without the same spirit and energy placed within us, the rest is simply words that can never take on substance in our lives. Gnosis (knowledge) defines those concepts as we diligently explore them, but we must master our impatience and fleshly desires to have self-control in working out what our knowledge reveals about arete. Hupomone (perseverance) means we must do this as a continual effort – what Nietzsche would call a long obedience in the same direction. Through this we gain a spiritual maturity, and dare I say, a fear of the Lord and a beginning of wisdom, which brings us to philadelphia (affection) as we recognize our responsibility in relating to our fellow humans, and finally to agape (love), the fulfillment of the law – the greatest expression of divine character, and the foremost effort of the follower of Christ.

How beautiful is His word.


12 Things I’m Thankful for in 2012

This post is more personal in nature, but I love to express how thankful I am. So, I suppose this is the digital equivalent of shouting something from a mountaintop. I’m going to release 12 things in two posts of 6 each, so stay tuned!

>>how God has invited me into serving His kingdom – 1.
I love that God has created, called and equipped me to serve His kingdom by serving The Church. The paradigm of doing that with Auxano is an exponential expansion of what God has planted in me. I am thankful for His trust, His invitation, His grace, and His investment in me as a servant in His kingdom.

>>my hottie wife and awesome boys – 2.
I can’t even express how great it is to have such a loving, supportive, innovative wife partnering in ministry and journeying through this life adventure with me. My two boys are a whole dump-truck full of awesome.

I am thankful not only for the opportunity to love and shepherd them. I am thankful for their influence on me. There’s no doubt that I would be a completely different person if I had more regular sleep, fewer back and groin injuries, and less than 6 hours a day playing peek-a-boo.

>>great parents that I appreciate more every year – 3.
I have such a heart of thanks for my parents. Every year it grows. I think the more I reflect, and the more that I deal with the mind-paralyzing intricacies of parenting myself, the more thankful I am for the way that my parents sacrificed and loved me.  I am also mortified at how crappy my attitude was as a kid at times. I just had no perspective, and I’m glad they were wise enough to take that into consideration and treat me with so much grace.

>>great leaders who invest in me – 4.
I’m thrilled to have such high-capacity thought leaders investing in me and my call to serve church leaders. Will Mancini is a brilliant thinker who is changing the landscape of spiritual culture in America by helping pastors find God’s unique identity and vision for their churches. Chris Willard, who modeled great pastoral and organizational leadership to me, is helping churches develop a culture of true generosity that is changing how people understand what it means to follow Christ. Both of these guys have written tremendous books that are leading their field in how to approach vision and a culture of generosity.

>>full-on freedom – 5.
There are a lot of times that I get irritated and concerned about how the United States is evolving as a culture and a country. I enjoy and really truly appreciate the full degree of freedom that I have the privilege to enjoy. I think that the Millennials are probably the last generation that will be born in a time of such amazing freedom, and I’m thankful for it. I’m also thankful for the men and women (present and past) who paid for me to enjoy it.

>>stunning access to information and technology – 6.
I am blown away at the amount of information that I have access to today, even just compared to my younger days.  Being a technology geek, I have been involved in the development of the technology that makes it possible. It is amazing how accessibility of information is changing our communication, our thought processes, the speed of change itself, and ultimately our culture. It’s frightening in some aspects, but I love it deep down. I can’t wait to get me some Project Glass! The singularity is approaching… 🙂

>>What are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments below!

Is vision what keeps people at your church?

This is the second blog in a series: The Grass is Always Greener Where you Water it. As I write about the churches where I have served, I am using pseudonyms that will give me the opportunity to explore them a little more fully, without offending members or staff with my observations. Looking back now at the trail behind, I recognize that each celebration of a win, and each challenge (or epic fail) was directly related to how clearly the church understood its identity and calling.

I’m going to call the next church in the series, Metro Church. This church sits in the midst of an incredibly hip urban center, with a high value for the arts and style – not quite New York City, but cooler than Atlanta.

I want to talk about my experiences at Metro Church through the framework of what Auxano calls, The 4 P’s. These 4 concepts are the foundational source of attraction and stickiness of a church body when someone initially comes into contact with it. Everyone is looking for a defining, emotional connection to the church. We can not keep people from connecting to one or more of them. The essential question is, are they ever given the opportunity to connect with something more enduring?

>>p is for place
Metro church had a really great place. They were not exactly downtown, but close enough. They had a fantastic cutting-edge facility, great multi-use classroom environments, a top-notch cafe right in the lobby, super children’s areas, and even a skatepark out back. One of the core values of Metro Church was “Compelling Environments”, and they did it well.

When I first came to Metro, I resisted this value as purely attractional. It bothered me that there were so many people who attended because they were in love with the great environments, the musical style, the skinny jeans on the worship team, and the utter hipp-ness of the place. It definitely felt like you had to have a certain cool factor to attend Metro. They leveraged God’s provision of a great campus in every way they could – and to be honest, for a while, I struggled to find anything more meaningful than their focus on a relevant culture. In the sparse communication season of a deeper mission, people were definitely attached to the culture of the place.

>>p is for personality
This P happens when there is a particularly loved or charismatic leader on the staff at a church. People can easily attach the church’s identity and their sense of belonging to a staff member or communicator. Is it difficult to imagine the church being such a compelling place without that particular leader? Because the senior leader and communicator at Metro is so incredibly gifted, the spotlight on the vision had to shine so much brighter to keep it front and center as the identity of the church. If they had failed in that, the church’s identity would have revolved around the personality of a few key leaders. See Will Mancini’s article on Rick Warren’s health issues for a great example.

>>p is for programs
Metro Church did an exceptional job with this one. The culture of the church was one of change. Programs were always accepted as temporary expressions of the church’s mission. There were only a few rare exceptions where people invested their identity and commitment in one of the amazing programs at Metro. There was always very little fallout when a program was cut, or transitioned into another program. The staff really did a great job of making sure that people knew the programs were tools in support of the church’s vision.

>>p is for people
This is the trickiest of the 4, and happens to be the one that was the biggest challenge for Metro Church. When people become the central source of identity (a person’s emotional connection to a church at the deepest level), they experience severe angst when people they are personally attached to leave. We want people to experience true community in our church body. But when the people we are relationally connected to leave, our ties and commitment to the church should not dissolve. The purely sociological phenomenon of comfort and belonging that occurs when 10-20 people know you and miss you should never trump our attachment to God’s vision for the church.

Metro was constantly in a state of leadership flux because the relational attraction of the micro-communities at the church created stronger ties than people’s connection to the church’s vision. As the pastor that led discipleship and spiritual development, I was guilty of unintentionally reinforcing this by using small groups to strengthen these ties without dripping the vision as the motivating purpose behind the small group communities.

The 4 P’s are not bad. They are all good things. They are part of God’s provision to us, as His church. Tragically, it is easy to raise these 4 areas to a place of primacy over the vision without even realizing it. Because we want to leverage God’s provision to make the most of what He gives us, we reinforce people’s love and value of the place God has given us, the quality of our leaders, the excellent programs we use, and the people who help us connect. The problem is that even in the absence of a clear and compelling vision, the 4 P’s have enough power to drawn and retain people, masking the gaping hole in our purpose and mission.

I am thankful for Metro Church’s continual focus on the vital, unique vision that God called them to. I learned so much about the seductive danger of a church that could have continued growing just by been great at the 4 P’s – yet continually called people to refocus on God’s mission for His people in that time and place.

>>Which of the 4 P’s does your church struggle with? How do you keep your missional focus?

How to change the dynamic of an argument

Have you ever been in a disagreement, debate, or argument that just seems to be going around in circles? Are you in one right now with a spouse, co-worker, friend that’s creating tension and division in your relationship? If they could just see things from your perspective, they would understand how much better your solution is. These are a few tools that have served me well in coming to an agreeable solution in work and personal relationships when tension arises.

>>create some space
When opposing positions are not resolving, creating some space can make a lot of difference how things move forward. Suggest a short break away from the issue. Focus on another activity that occupies your mind for a short time. Don’t immediately do something that occupies your body, but leaves your mind able to focus on the issue – otherwise you’re not really creating space away from the issue.

>>write a letter
Sometimes writing a letter can make all the difference in the world. It allows each person to consider and express their thoughts and feelings in a more complete and sequential way. It can get the whole issue on the tabe without the interruption of debating each point as it appears in a dialogue. Be honest but humble. Use “I” statements to express how you feel and think. Do not try to state the other person’s position or make assumptions about them. Focus on expressing only your thoughts and feelings. Make sure there are no “always/never” statements. Stick to ONE main issue. Don’t try to solve everything. Take a short break then read it again to make sure you are clear, honest, and not exaggerating.

>>remove it from the spotlight
It can be helpful to find a point that you agree on. Restart the conversation from that central point of unity, then discover where and why your opinions diverge. Another thing you can do to remove it from the spotlight is to change the subject. Make a decision to focus on something that you like or admire about the other person and turn the conversation to that for a while. This is not to pretend the disagreement doesn’t exist – this is to ensure that the issue does not define the relationship or your whole perception of the other person. Speaking your genuine appreciation for a person without hesitation can change the dynamic of a whole relationship.

>>recognize that it may not be solved
It is possible for people to disagree and still have a healthy, functional relationship. If both positions are well-established and have significant merits, it may take years for an opinion or belief to change – or it might never change. Often opposing positions are not mutually exclusive, and simply changing your thinking from “either/or” to a “both/and” perspective can bring a satisfying compromise resolution.

>>try it on
Really listen. Remove your stake in the conversation to help you hear the other person. With each of these tips, it is important to be prayerful, humble, and have an open heart. Decide what it would look like if the other person is right, before you respond. Sometimes it has taken me a decade to realize that I was wrong. So now, I start any argument considering what it would mean 10 years down the road if they are right. The other person may not be correct, but I still need to hear them clearly and “try it on.”

What is your best tip for changing the dynamic of an argument?