Monday, March 28, 2022

Law of Three Generations

I don't know if you have heard of the Law of Three Generations for Christians.  I am told this comes from Bruce Wilkinson who also describes this as the "Powerful Principle of Three Chairs."

Imagine three chairs side by side.  Each chair represents a different person and their faith, with three different levels of commitment toward God.  Every person reading this blog is sitting in one of those chairs.  You can decide where you sit but you cannot decide the consequences of that decision. 

The first chair is called "commitment." This person has a whole heart for God and a personal relationship with Jesus.  This person is deeply committed to Jesus in all they do.  An example of a person sitting in this first chair would be David.

The second chair is called "compromise." This person has accepted Christ but hasn't decided how much or little to follow Him.  They agree with the beliefs of the first chair and appears to follow the "Christian lifestyle" but there is inconsistency and instability.  Children who grow up in a Christian home tend to sit in this second chair.  It's also easy for a Christian to slide from the first chair to the second chair.  An example of this would be David's son, Solomon. 

The third chair is called "conflict."  This person has not responded personally to God and may be confused by their spiritual condition.  If he/she has grown up in a Christian home, they may look and act like those in the other chairs, but there is a gulf between this person and God.  A person who grows up in the home of the second chair tends to sit in the third chair.  They saw Christianity in name only and therefore reject it when they are older.  An example of this would be Solomon's son, Rehoboam.

Here is another example of the three chairs, in three generations, from Joshua and Judges:

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. So the people answered and said: Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods… So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel…. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. (Judges 24:15-16; Judges 2:7, 10)

  • First Chair:  Joshua knew God and His works.
  • Second Chair:  The elders knew about God and His works.
  • Third Chair:  The children of the elders did not know God or His works.

I've been thinking about this a lot of late, especially because of conversations with Europeans who appear to be in a post-Christian era, conversations in the United States who seem to be heading toward a post-Christian era, and conversations with Africans who seem to still be in-between the first and second generation.   Our DML bible study on Nehemiah reminds us of the pattern of the generational forgetting of God when things go well and then remembering when crisis happens.

To know God and to know about God are very different.  

I continue to pray that we, as the Global Church, pursue making disciples who experience no sacred/secular divide which will allow us to see God in every place and every space, and not relegate Him only to the church building and Sunday worship.  That is not the full answer, but I do think it is an important part of it.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Crap Detector #2: The Role of Prayer

A couple of weeks ago, I reintroduced you to my "crap detector," my inner alarm that goes off at times related to my passion or areas of study.  Crap detectors are very personally tuned, and mine is likely differently calibrated than those of others around me or some of my readers.  I thought I would share three different things that set off my crap detector.  I first shared about the way "blessing" sets it off, when Christinas bask in blessing as passive receiving rather than seeing it as God's active equipping.  Today I want to talk about how some talk about prayer sets my crap detector abuzz.  I do so with some fear and trembling because there is a danger that I may be misunderstood but let me proceed and trust you to hear me out.

Over the seventeen years that I have lived and worked in Africa, I have heard many a pastor and church leader boast about how much they pray.  Many tell that this spiritual practice usually comes at the cost of sleep.  There can be a subtle competition among Christians about how little sleep one gets because one is up so early or late praying.  Most of the time, these comments are met with murmurs of "wow" and respect is given to the person who seems so dedicated to God.

On my last trip to East Africa, some of the pastors in our workshop, were nodding off and dozing in their chairs at 9 am. This was way before we could blame the carbs they ate at lunch or the heat of the day.  I knew that some were nodding off because they had only gotten four or five hours of sleep and had gotten up at 4 am to pray.  I wondered to myself, "Is this what faithfulness looks like?  Is it more important to be up praying than to accept sleep as a God-given gift?  What if that early prayer time prevents you from not being able to stay awake at 9 am during a workshop where God may have a message for you?  How many of the dozing pastors had boasted that they "don't need much sleep" because they choose to pray but find themselves instead napping through the day?"  This sets my crap detector to a level one low buzz.  

It made me wonder, how do we, as Christians, figure out where, when, and how much prayer should fit into our lives?  

There are two things I know:

  • God is the only one who does not slumber or sleep.  The rest of us need sleep.  Scientists continue to discover the importance of sleep on our lives and its effect on our health and wellbeing.  They say we need seven to eight hours of sleep per night.  And that is the rule - not the exception.  I can't tell you how many people I hear say, "Well, I don't need that much sleep."  Actually, you do.  It's a fact.  There may be exceptions to the rule, but those are rare, and while people may say they are an exception, there is usually a cost somewhere that they may not even be aware of.  Read the excellent book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker to learn more.
  • I know that almost EVERYONE complains almost all the time about how busy they are.  It's one of our favorite pastimes. 
Therefore, I know that if we are so busy during the day AND we need seven to eight hours of sleep per night, it makes it difficult to find time for prayer.  Do I give up work?  Time with family?  Sleep?
Where is the time for prayer?  There is no one way or pattern, and no easy answer to these questions.  

How much prayer is the right amount?  One hour per day?  Two hours?  More?  Less?    Do we do what Martin Luther said, "I have so much to do that I will spend the first three hours in prayer."  At what point do we move from prayer to action?  Certainly, one would say Luther's example is admirable but is that something we can manage every day?  

A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon on prayer.  The preacher said that "prayer is more important than other ministries." Then added to that statement that "prayer tells us about our love for God."  The preacher complained that "few people were coming to the church's prayer meetings."  

My "crap detector" started going off and I glanced around hoping that no one would notice its loud buzzing.  I would not use the words "more important" but rather that prayer should be the foundation of every ministry.  The following heavy statements about love of God followed by attendance of church meetings was a good recipe for guilt for members.  I wondered whether this pastor was assuming that because we aren't praying in the church building, that therefore we as a church (the people) are not praying?  The sacred/secular divide rears its ugly head again.  The church was being defined by what happens in the building (church gathered), not by what happens to the equipped people when they are the church scattered from Monday-Saturday.

The ministry of DML holds three one-hour prayer meetings every week, which I rarely miss.  DML leadership doesn't expect pastors, elders, or deacons from our churches to make regular appearances in our ministry meetings.  Likewise when some from the gathered church may have a workplace prayer meeting or Bible study, church leaders and staff don't usually make an appearance.  My crap detector started buzzing as the sacred/secular divide seemed to assume that unless we attended the gathered church's prayer meeting, then is it assumed that our prayer lives were deficient, or that our love for God might also be deficient?  There were no questions by the pastor about what we are doing related to prayer, just assumptions about what we are not doing.

I find that in Africa as well as North America, or maybe just around Christians in general, there is lots of guilt about prayer.  As a person well acquainted with guilt, my crap detector goes off quickly when I hear it as it is so often abused and does not invite people into a more responsive faith.  

I am a firm believer in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

This threefold structure of rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks is something that helps us integrate our faith into our lives.  Some have described it as a framework of freedom, not a set of rules that restrict us, but a way of living out our faith in the context of our work and community.  

There is a time for dedicated prayer.  There are some who are called to be intercessors.  Prayer is a critical part of us being in relationship with God and listening prayer (rather than listing all my concerns) is how we hear God.  But how that looks for each person is going to be a bit different.  Let's give grace and space for those differences and ask more questions of each other to learn what that looks like in each other's workplace or home space.

I invite you again to share with me how and where your "crap detector" goes off, or how you balance your prayer life!

Monday, March 7, 2022

Reed Family Update: Engagement Parties and How to be Chopped!

This is going to be quite an exciting year for our family.  My son Noah and his fiancĂ©e, Hannah Birmingham, will be getting married on May 6, 2022.  My daughter Hannah and her fiancĂ©, Matt Koster, will be getting married on September 10, 2022.  Four months apart, and lots of intense wedding planning, which is so much fun!

Since both of my children and their beloved having been living independently for some time, they both declared that they didn't need wedding showers, so we decided to hold engagement parties for them instead.  And as we talked about fun things to do at an engagement party, we all agreed that our family's love for cooking shows would be a fun theme.  So, on November 27, we held a "Chopped" Engagement Party for Noah and his Hannah; and on February 20, we held a "Chopped" Engagement Party for Hannah and Matt.  We had grandmothers, aunts and uncles, parents, siblings, groomsmen and bridesmaids and their significant others and more!  Both parties were really a lot of fun, so I'm sharing this with you with bunches of photos!

If you aren't familiar with the show Chopped, the idea (which we modified for our own delight) is that teams of two have to cook with mystery food ingredients, in a limited amount of time, with a variety of sabotages that can also be thrown their way.  Then judges judge the food based on taste, presentation, and the use of the mystery ingredients.  They had to cook with artichokes, plantains, tomatillos, and other fun ingredients for the entree; and for the dessert, they had to figure out how to make a tasty dessert with root beer, pomegranate, Cheetos, and other fun ingredients!

The sabotages they had to deal with included having their hands tied together (with a garter of course - it's a wedding theme!) for the whole cooking round; for one member to have to hold a bouquet in one hand for the whole cooking round; to wear "Team Bride" glasses, which have very limited vision, for the whole round, and more.  There was tension, laughter, frustration, and fun, all wrapped up in what turned out to be very successful and tasty dishes over all!  

Enjoy these pictures!  I'll put Noah's engagement party pictures first, then Hannah's engagement party pictures.  

Noah and Hannah Birmingham's party:

Those who cooked for Noah and Hannah B's party - Hannah Reed was the MC.

The bride and groom to be...and yes, Noah felt left out of festive dressing, so he is wearing the veil.  (Is he a little bit like his dad?  Absolutely!

Some of the beautiful plates of food, and the judges for Noah and Hannah's party (including the bride-to-be, and my husband Michael, who both did a great job!)

Hannah and Matt Koster's party:

Brother and sister, getting married four months apart.  Love these two!
Hannah and Matt opening a few kitchen presents that could be used for the Chopped party, and then would end up in their home.

The Grooms team - Matt with his groomsmen as well as his sister, who will stand up for him - cooking for Team Groom!

The bride's team - Hannah's maid of honor and bridesmaids, as well as her brother who will stand up for her - cooking for Team Bride!

Bride and groom as judges, as well as one of Hannah's bridesmaids and Matt's grandmother!  (And yes, you had to be a bit brave to eat this food, so I give her props!)

Noah and one of Hannah's bridesmaids trying to cook while tied together.  Not easy to do!

Trying to make a dessert while holding a bouquet!  Mwah ha ha ha ha!

The Team Bride sunglasses, which only has pinholes through which to see.  But the pie looks pretty good, doesn't it!

All in all, a fun time.  We have decided that we will do these types of competitions on our own as a family, as we enjoyed it so much.  But not until after the weddings!  

Bob is not far from our thoughts with all of this - his missing these upcoming events with his children and our missing his presence and input.   He has missed so much already in the last twelve years.  While the amount of time since he left us continues to grow, our missing him at these big events does not lessen.  But God is still good!