Author Archive for James Flynn

James Flynn
Dr. James Flynn is nearing his third decade in pastoral ministry, specializing in teaching and leadership development. He is Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program in the School of Divinity at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He and his wife Monica have been married for thirty-two years, live in Virginia Beach, and have four adult children.

The Woman on the Roof

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by James Flynn

This week’s news contains disturbing news of another potential scandal in the making involving a large church, a powerful ministry, and the lives of several young men who claim to be victims.  I won’t even mention names, because as is often the case, the individual is being tried in the court of popular media and opinion before all facts are known.  Several facts are clear.  We are fallible human beings that sometimes seem hopelessly broken.  People love to revel in hypocrisy and rub our Christian noses in it when they even get a hint we might deserve it.  We as Christians need to trust God for wisdom and mercy to keep our business straight because the world is very willing to give us a hand doing so!

Christians claim to have what the world is desperately seeking.  That makes them jealous sometime.  Because of our faith we understand that life is infused with meaning and purpose, and that each of us has a specific reason to live.  We are not just another species of animal placed on the earth to live, breathe, eat, and die.  The Master Architect has designed us for his purpose and if we chose to seek Him, He will reveal that purpose piece by piece throughout our lives (Isa. 46:9, 10).  This allows us to live a life of purpose and meaning, which so many are seeking.  One of the biggest dangers to realizing our full purpose and potential is that we will get distracted.

David had it all.  He had the good looks (1 Sam. 16:12).  He was young and courageous, able to defeat giants that left others trembling (1 Sam. 17:37).  He had friends in high places (1 Sam. 18:1), married the king’s daughter (1 Sam. 18:22), and had a very successful military career.  He was a “man after God’s own heart” and became the king of Israel.  Life was not always easy, but he had it pretty good until one day he got distracted.  It was the woman on the roof.

David was awake one evening and took a stroll on the roof top of his palace residence on top of Mt. Zion (1 Sam 11:1-17).  He could see the other roof tops from his vantage point and saw something beautiful that caught his attention – the figure of a woman bathing at night in the privacy of her own roof top residence.  He was taken by her beauty—he had to have her though she was the wife of another.  This desire led to adultery and murder.  It led to the death of an innocent child conceived by his lover and problems in his household that would never depart though out his lifetime (1 Sam. 12:9-16).  All this because David was distracted in a moment of weakness. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Experiment

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by James Flynn

Have you ever met someone who was terrified of making mistakes?  We have that fear in us to some degree—no one likes to mess up.  You get laughed at.  You feel like a fool.  Your face turns several shades of red and you get all choked up.  You know what it feels like, because you have been there just like me.  But for some, it goes far beyond that.  Fear of failure can literally paralyze you. You feel frozen and unable to make decisions.  The cure?  An attitude adjustment.  Life is meant to be an adventure, and any good adventure gets its thrill from things not going exactly as planned.  God never designed life to work perfectly or even to be predictable.  As my friend Pastor Mark Batterson at National Community Church say “Everything is an experiment.”  Life is a Spirit-led experiment to discover more about God each day.  Jesus said life would be just that.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be daily at work in the life of the believer, gently leading and guiding us (John 17:17; 14:21,26). Jesus made the disciples aware of God’s master plan to send the Holy Spirit to dwell with each of us so that He, the Spirit, could translate life, circumstances, and their context into meaning. This kind of experimental living was advocated by Henry Blackaby and Claude King in their book “Experiencing God.”  Blackaby and King outline seven essential “realities” of experiencing God in our daily lives:

  • God is always at work around you;
  • God pursues a love relationship with you that is real and personal;
  • God invites you to become involved with Him in His work;
  • God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways;
  • God’s invitation to work with Him always leads you a crisis of belief that requires faith and action;
  • You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing;
  • You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

 Blackaby and King’s theology is experimental Christianity at its best. It takes into account the sovereignty of God and His lordship by conceiving of a God who takes the initiative in executing His purpose in our lives before we are even aware. Purpose is grounded in His love for us. This experimental approach to living is not an invitation issued by us to God, asking Him to bless our work, but rather an invitation extended to us by God to join Him in what He is already at work doing, thus requiring our submission and obedience.             

Life is unpredictable because God has made it that way.  You can spend your life trying to control things so they will turn out “just right.” Or, you can make provision in your heart to realize that things often will not work out how you expected and that is what gives life its zest.  Stop being so uptight about the way life is.  Learn to relax and yield control to God.  When the wind blows, it is the oak tree that snaps because of its rigidity, but the more humble palm tree that bows low and bends, still standing after the wind is gone.  Bend or be broken.  Bow when the wind blows.  Approach life this way, and you might just rediscover the wonder of your relationship with God, forgive yourself for mistakes God forgave long ago, and look forward to the next “adventure” that comes your way!

The Heat is On

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 by James Flynn

Did you ever look around you and think “These people just don’t care anymore—whatever happened to trying to live a moral life?”  Not that I have that area altogether, but I am shocked at the indifference around me some days.  Sometimes it makes you want to give up, and just go with the flow.  Why should I care about how I live, if no one else seems to care? Then I snap back to reality and remember that every decision—every action has a consequence.  Maybe that’s why Jesus spoke the way He did about purity and its importance in our lives. Striving for purity does make a difference and is worth the fight.  Purity does matter.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). The word used for “pure” in the text has a message for us—it is the root that gives us the English word catharsis. The word is a violent word and pictures the process of the purification of metal in a furnace. When I worked in industry, I worked for a specialty chemicals company that purified metal. I would see furnaces heated above 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Metal ingots were dropped into these furnaces. The furnaces were so hot that the very light they emitted was the heat itself—the light could set things on fire across the room when a furnace door was opened. I had to wear special goggles to protect my eyes from being burned. The hard metal ingot would melt like an ice cube before our eyes and disappear into an orange-white puddle of bubbling liquid—unless there was water trapped in the metal, in which case the ingot would explode. I will never forget seeing a white powdery substance floating to the surface of the liquid metal. That powder was the dross—impurities trapped in the metal were now floating up so we could see them. As I stood there observing the process of purification, my life experience was yielding another one of those precious teaching moments…

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Guard Your Heart

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by James Flynn

Sometimes I get real discouraged about the way people around me treat themselves.  It’s one thing to feel sorry for someone because they are the victim of poor treatment or abuse.  It is entirely different to watch someone harm themselves.  What’s even more difficult is to watch someone harm themselves in slow motion, day after day, one decision at a time.  The times we live in now seem to give us all a pass and no one is responsible for anything anymore—we are all just victims and things just happen to us.  That cannot be further from the truth.  Sure, some things happen that are out of our control, but the majority of the things that happen in our lives are because of daily decisions that we make.  In many ways our life today is the sum total of the decisions we made in days gone by.  This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual life—the state of our spiritual life today is a direct result of the decisions we made yesterday.

In Prov. 4:23 we are told, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” As is often the case, the English text does not yield the powerful meaning of the more emotional words of the Hebrew text. The words of Prov. 4:23 conjure up the image of a watchtower of guards guarding the heart like they would a secure prison. The reason? Because from the inner person flow “the goings out of lives.” Just as the human heart physically pumps blood to every cell in the body, so the inner person is the source of life for us, and for those to whom we preach. When anything interferes with the flow of life-giving blood to a part of our body, that area is six minutes away from death, gangrene, and possible amputation. Life works the same way in the human spirit. If something interferes with the life flow from our inner being, we begin to feel numbness. If the numbness continues, we start to feel nothing. This is the warning sign that life has been cut off like a limb first going numb, and then going to sleep.

Numbness is extremely serious. We are called to maintain a spiritual life that not only nourishes our own soul but brings life to others as well. When the “goings out of lives” is hindered or interrupted, it is a matter of life and death for those who depend on us for spiritual nourishment, the source of transformative life. Let’s face it—many in the church “hire the preacher” to do their Bible reading for them. Most in the audience would never eat just one meal a week, but this is many people’s approach to church and Bible study. The sermon is so very important, because it is, sadly, a meal offered to starving people who eat nothing else the rest of the week. Can you see why it is vital to watch over our own hearts like a tower of watchman would watch over a maximum security prison? The stakes are very high—live your life today like your spiritual life tomorrow depends on it!

Don’t Be So Dull!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 by James Flynn

Perhaps you have the same struggle as me.  I am not in imminent danger of tossing away my salvation to adopt a life of wonton sin and pleasure.  I have been married for 32 years and plan on staying that way.  I have been “doing the ministry thing” for just about three decades now, so I am not plotting to reject my calling any time soon.  I haven’t kicked the dog lately or called anyone bad names.  So what do I struggle with?  Dullness of heart.  Not flaming hardness, just insidious dullness. That is my weekly struggle, and whatever else you struggle with, you probably have that one on your list. Just like an automobile, our spiritual life does not maintain itself, and requires regular maintenance to keep it running in tip-top shape.  I determined a long time ago I was not interested in a spiritual life that runs like an old clunker – life is too short for that, and eternity too long.  My priority each day is to chase away a dull spirit so I can live each day to its fullest.   

The Scriptures record God’s ongoing frustration with people “. . . Who have eyes but do not see, Who have ear, but do not hear” (Jer. 5:21). It’s one thing to have a set of eyes and a pair of ears, but it’s another thing to use them. Human beings are notoriously effective at hearing what we want to hear. Our spiritual eyes and ears can become dull (Isa. 6:10) and that is a dangerous place to be. We listen and see selectively on our own terms, often when it is convenient and expected. Spiritual blindness and dullness of hearing can occur when we drift away from proper relationship with God…

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Let Me Hear Your Voice…

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 by James Flynn

Hearing the voice of the one you love is one of the greatest joys of any relationship. When you love someone, communication literally determines what you possess together. People will go to great lengths just to hear a few words from the one they love, because words are the way human beings connect and share what is in the depth of our hearts. In Song of Solomon, the bride longs to hear the voice of her groom: “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret place of the steep pathway, Let me see your form, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your form is lovely” (Song of Sol. 2:14).

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