The Peculiarly Good Life

In one of the readings for the Apprentice Experience, James Bryan Smith quotes St. Augustine and this fascinating concept, “good things peculiar to the good.” Basically, there is a treasure of goodness found in God and with God that Christians experience that those outside of this faith know nothing about. The idea being that nonbelievers and even those practicing evil may experience some good things but will never experience the kind of good that comes from a life with God through Christ.

I have thought about this phrase many times over the weeks since I read it. I have begun to think about the peculiar good that I have experienced since Christ started working in my life in a more powerful way 16 years ago.

  • patience in the face of career uncertainty
  • creativity and ingenuity in the midst of challenges
  • daily encounters with God
  • hearing God’s voice
  • finding God in the bleakest of circumstances
  • compassion for others
  • plans and purposes in unusual circumstances
  • tolerance of my own shortcomings
  • joy in simple blessings
  • walking in God’s will
  • seeing miracles first hand
  • deeper understanding of Scripture
  • trust
  • encouraging others in Christ’s name

I am sure I could go on but you get the idea. Sure, there are times when the items above are not my present reality and I have to relearn what I have already learned, but that is just a part of Growing Up.

If Christ is helping you Grow Up, then you have a similar list or one that is peculiar to you. Take a moment and reflect on the good that is peculiar to the good in your life. Then step back and recognize how rich that goodness is and how it can only come from a “good and beautiful God.”

My Favorite Exercise

If you would have asked me in 2000 what my favorite spiritual discipline would be 16 years later, I would venture the following guesses: solitude and silence or journaling or simplicity or service. These seemed to fit better with my natural personality and interests.

It turns out that my favorite soul-training exercise is scripture memorization and recitation. This surprised me too.

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Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have the entire New Testament memorized or even large chunks memorized but I do have several verses as well as important sections down to memory. But just the act of memorization hasn’t been the only reward, the recitation of these verses has been the transforming element.

If you put me in a tight, awkward, nerve-wracking social spot, you can probably hear me muttering Psalm 23 or the Jesus Prayer. If you see me in better moments of worship, I have probably just recited Galations 2:20 in my head. If I am on a run and need a pick me up, I will start speaking the Lord’s Prayer or Philipians 3:10-11.

I have fended off powerful temptation by speaking the Beatitudes until the temptation fades away. Colossians 3 is a powerful reminder of where my mind, heart, and actions should be focused. I have most of this in my memory.

It is not just scripture I have memorized but powerful statements spoken by the church for the last 2,000 years. Stripped of its denominational baggage, the Apostles Creed tells the story, the gospel, of Jesus, and it has impacted me tremendously.

The best part of the memorization is how these verses and sacred words always seem to bubble up right when I need them to as reminders and markers to who God is and who I am under him.

If you have never given scripture memorization a shot, try one of the following verses. I like to read the verse five times, then write the verse five times, and then take 2-3 words and then see if I can recite them five times. Then the next day, I build off of what I memorized the day before. Give it a shot.

Matthew 9:12-13

Galations 2:20

1 Samuel 16:7

Psalm 46:10

Exciting News: Fund Raising Party (feat. Chad and Melissa Edgington)

On Oct. 7, join me and the fabulous musical duo of Chad and Melissa Edgington for a night of great music, laughter, good people, and TACOS.

The event will be at La Taxqueno Tacquiera in Dallas, Texas (207 W. Suffolk Ave.). 6:30-8:30.

All are invited, kids too!

The purpose behind the night is to get good people, who care about how God is changing their life, all together in one spot for community and a wonderful night together.

Also, there will be an opportunity to give to my future ministry plans through the launch of Grow Up Ministries and to contribute to my completion of the 18-month training in discipleship, the Apprentice Experience.

Spread the word and I will see you on Oct. 7.

If you can’t make it but would like to donate, please do so here.

Questions? Leave a comment or contact me at 972-352-0125.

 

 

9/11 Gave Me A Spiritual Purpose and A Calling

I remember being at home on the Friday morning after September 11, 2001. I was watching our 2-year old daughter as she played oblivious to the images and sadness that was on display as a memorial service played on our TV. When Billy Graham got up to speak and to pray I shed a few tears for my country and the dark cloud it was now under.

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God had already been doing some pretty significant things in my life at that time but September 11 clarified and focused my calling. I didn’t want to live in a world where the evil carried out by those terrorist on that morning existed. I wanted to not just be a better person but be a part of a plan to make the world a better place and insure where that kind of evil couldn’t happen again.

First, this conviction and movement of God led my wife and I to serve in Social Ministry and then Community Ministry. Now, 15 years later, God has led me to pursue Christian maturity and discipleship, what I call Growing Up.

I believe that changed lives change the world. I know that I am just a lowly blogger who teaches classes, writes, and tries to mentor and disciple. But, if God can take these humble efforts and help someone draw closer to him, change a behavior that hurts others, or share God’s love with a broken world, then my efforts are worth it.

That is how September 11, 2001 shaped my life and where God has taken me since then. I pray that my work makes a difference and that it resonates with the right people at the right time.


Part of my continuing growth in this ministry is a 18-month training called, Apprentice Experience. This training in will teach me more about the nature of God and how he changes lives. I plan to take that knowledge to share with others, so that they can reach Christian maturity, additional wisdom, and transformed lives. But, I need your help to complete the training. Please donate now to my fund raising page and I will keep the message coming and the mission of making a better world through changed lives a reality.

Three Marks Of A Spiritually Mature Leader

The university where I work recently conducted an inauguration service for a new President. It had all that you would expect; dignitaries representing important places and institutions, fancy clothes and regalia, grandiose music, and words of inspiration and acknowledgement.

It also exemplified aspects of Growing Up that can be peculiar attributes of mature Christian leaders. Let me explain:

  • Good memory: Some would say that leadership is all about the future. Where are you taking the organization? What future will the people under you have in 5 or 10 years? What will be your future legacy? But could leadership be enhanced by a keen understanding of the past? Much of the Inauguration service discussed the 28 years that our previous president served and all the ways that God used him to accomplish great things at the University and among its students. As much as Christian leaders want to hear from God in the future they may need to focus at times on what God has already done and draw inspiration from those memories.

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  • Humility: After he was invested with the proper accoutrements of the office and he was officially announced as our President, he didn’t stand in the glory of the moment, instead, he and his wife knelt down and prayed and were prayed over by leaders and pastors. Mature Christian leaders know that when they reach their highest achievement, that is the right time to humble themselves and pray and call on God for all of his provisions.
  • Submission: President Wright, in his remarks to the audience, stated that “this is not my University, this is not the faculty’s University, this is not the student’s University, this is God’s University.”He went on to proclaim that his goal was to please God and be a part of God’s will for the University. Throughout scripture, the great call for people of faith, is to submit to the authority and direction of God. Leaders are only placed in leadership by God and they need to recognize that any achievements or successes will come when God is glorified and not themselves.

A leader could certainly lead without a good memory or humility or submission but they would not be an example of a mature Christian leader. These types of leaders have recognized their condition under God and know that their work is God’s work.

 

photo credits: Dallas Baptist University

The Difference Between Self-Help And Growing Up

In this space, I have intentionally tried to use less religious words to help communicate what we are trying to accomplish in our spiritual life. I have avoided using phrases such as “spiritual formation” and “discipleship” because I fear that these terms have become lost in church-speak and hold little meaning. Or they have been treated as add-ons within churches and most church members just ignore them like they might just ignore the children’s ministry or the homeless ministry or the singles ministry.

Instead, I use some form of Grow Up or Growing Up to express a movement towards Christian maturity. In my attempt to make things more understandable, I hope that I haven’t given you the impression that what we are doing here is just some kind of glorified self-help agenda. Growing Up is so much more than self improvement.

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One of our readings in the Apprentice Experience training comes from Scot McKnight, a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. McKnight, in a chapter called “A Community Called Atonement,” discusses what it means to be made in the image of God. Using the phrase Eikons to represent those made in the image of God, McKnight states, “the goal (of atonement) is for our sinful selves to be set free to be new creations in true divine and human Koinonia.” He later states that “Eikons are made for union with God, communion with others, love of self, and care for the world.”

In other words, God’s plan involves a restoration of his created beings, his Eikons, to be new creations so we can be unified with Him and bonded to each other. This is done through the sending of the perfect Eikon, Jesus.

Spiritual formation, discipleship, Growing Up, maturity are all words used to describe God’s ongoing restoration process that starts with a commitment to Christ but ends with a transformed person in every way.

Don’t let my humble attempts at communication keep you from seeing the seriousness of this transformation process.


I am learning and growing through this training so that I can help you reach your faith goals and achieve your own maturity in Christ. But I can’t help you unless I have the resources to finish the Apprentice Experience training. Donate now and help me finish the program and continue helping others grow to fullness in Christ.

God Speaks To Me Through …

What Spiritual Exercise(s) has had the most impact on your Growing Up?

For me, it has to be reading/studying and solitude with a little bit of small group community to keep me encouraged and accountable.

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Whatever activity that benefits you the most in Growing Up, make sure you are including that in your life on a regular basis. If it is prayer, make time for prayer. If it is worship, make time for worship. If it is service, make time for service. If it is scripture memorization, start memorizing.

Don’t worry if your exercise or activity isn’t the most commonly practiced. God works on us at an individual level so how he connects with me will look different than how he connects with you. That is the point, to find that sweet spot where you get the most out of your time and life with God and make it a prominent part of your life.

Will there be times when we need to branch out and try an activity that makes us uncomfortable and doesn’t come naturally? Absolutely, but I contend that if we aren’t making room for our best”with God life” then we won’t even understand what other activities and aspects we need to work on. Growing Up in Christ leads to more Growing Up in Christ.

So, be intentional this week in pursuing God by way of the activities that bring you closer to Him and thus, give you the most potential for growth.

 

 

 

If You Do These Two Things, You Are On Your Way To Growing Up

Growing Up doesn’t have to be hard. If you take yourself off the throne of your own life and place Christ there and then you seek the guidance and teaching of Christ inside you, then you are on your way. Those two things will take care of 70 percent of your growth and seem relatively easy.

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When I did this, I became hungry for God and that made reading the Bible less of a chore. I wanted to change, so I was eager to try out spiritual disciplines that may have intimidated me before such as fasting, meditation, and lectio divina. I knew the great example of service that Christ showed on earth and I wanted to follow his example. These changes were all a part of my transformation. All of this was relatively easy and progress was attainable.

Sure, you will still have a ways to go and some big spiritual hurdles to cross. I am still struggling with some of the same sins and same hang ups that have haunted me for 30 years but God has brought me so far and most of that growth has been 90 percent God and just a little of myself.

Have you been hesitant to Grow Up because you thought it would be too much work? Are you fearful that you couldn’t change? Does some of what is required seem foreign to you?

I am here to tell you that there is attainable growth when you focus on Christ, quit trying to be King of your own life, and by surrendering to his Lordship and transformation.

We will discuss the hard parts later. Right now, let’s revel in the abundant growth that is already available to us.

 

photo credit: Jan Tik

 

10 Blessings For 10 Straight Days

The Soul Training exercise associated with the latest chapter of The Good and Beautiful God is to count your blessings. Smith asks you to try to come up with 10 things God has blessed you with and then see if you can keep going and come up with 100 blessings from God.

I decided to make it a part of my daily meditation and come up with 10 things for 10 straight days. I completed my list a few days ago and thought I would share it with you. Hopefully, this will inspire you to make your own list.

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What has been most helpful about this exercise is how it has opened my eyes to a wide range of goodness around me. My default mentality is often to feel sorry for myself and dwell on what I am missing or still need to obtain. This exercise made me see that almost everything around me is a blessing and that God is incredibly generous and looking out for me.

One thing you will notice about my list is that it is full of mundane, maybe even somewhat silly things. I intentionally tried to not list my family members because those are obvious and would keep me from noticing blessings that I would often overlook.

So, as you make your own list, don’t feel the need to be super spiritual. Sometimes it is the smallest things that provide just the right amount of joy and whimsy that helps remind us of God’s goodness.

My list of 100 blessings from God:

  1. good night’s sleep
  2. UME Prep
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. blogging
  5. DBU
  6. books
  7. Dallas Willard
  8. Michael Roe
  9. Green Tea
  10. less pain
  11. teaching opportunity
  12. my church
  13. running
  14. podcasts
  15. yoga
  16. lighter temperatures
  17. recent days spent with my parents
  18. music
  19. common sense
  20. Texas
  21. good hugs
  22. my car
  23. Olympics
  24. education
  25. Tim
  26. friendship
  27. marriage
  28. good memory
  29. meditation
  30. morning
  31. my job
  32. our house
  33. Henry
  34. Abilene
  35. swimming pools
  36. my mind
  37. bananas and grapes
  38. basketball
  39. the trail
  40. camping
  41. Grace’s 17 years
  42. chocolate milk
  43. accomplishing work tasks
  44. good stories
  45. start of school
  46. healing
  47. beds
  48. mowing
  49. air conditioning
  50. learning
  51. being with my wife
  52. internet
  53. showers
  54. churches
  55. scripture
  56. forgiveness
  57. patience
  58. dancing
  59. medicine
  60. children
  61. parents
  62. date nights
  63. cool evenings
  64. God’s love
  65. breakfast
  66. Eric Nadel
  67. worship
  68. Ben
  69. Joey
  70. Aaron
  71. no teeth were pulled
  72. mashed potatoes
  73. answered prayer
  74. my students
  75. The Mother Hips
  76. Dad
  77. fatherhood
  78. Leah
  79. My mom
  80. opportunities for growth
  81. surviving the first two days
  82. information
  83. night sky
  84. nature
  85. my office
  86. dinner’s at home
  87. Dr. Kiker
  88. Anthony
  89. Chad
  90. travel
  91. Leah’s job
  92. good customer service
  93. generous gifts
  94. Adrian Beltre
  95. Pocket
  96. Audible
  97. Mrs. Roszak
  98. Dr. Barcelo
  99. insurance
  100. baseball

The Stories We Tell Ourselves About God

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed each aspect of the Triangle of Transformation except for one – Adopting the Narratives of Jesus.

James Bryan Smith has brilliantly determined the best way to understand the nature of God is to let his son tell us. Jesus even tells us as much when he says that if you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Why use the term narrative? Because most of us don’t think in scholarly bullet points and doctrinal distinctives. Most of us, have a running story in our mind as to the nature of God and his interaction with us personally. This is where our spiritual life grows out of – our own, often false, narratives about God.

Smith points out that stories are the “central function of the human mind.” Think about it, we dream in narrative and even day-dream in narrative. Stories aren’t just our minds default but they are running our lives.

When Jesus cries out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, but then has the trust to tell God, “not my will but thine,” he is operating from a narrative of trust in his heavenly father. This trust comes from an intimate relationship between Christ and God.

We might not have the spiritual power of Christ but we can learn from him how to think and view the Father. This is part of having the mind of Christ.

So, as you read the Gospels, notice how Jesus discusses and teaches about his Abba Father. He didn’t just present God in a certain way for his followers benefit. No, his portrayal of his Father was his narrative, his thinking that he lived his life out of us. We can adopt these narratives as well.


Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more helpful content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.