God Can Be Trusted

I have a meeting today that I have a small role in. I am worried not so much about my performance in the meeting but more about how my performance will be assessed by others. If I can trust God in helping me with the tasks at hand why can’t I trust him with the outcomes? Isn’t trust in God a pass/fail activity? You either trust him or you don’t.

Take a look at the Bible and every time you come across a character that really blows it you can trace their mistake to not trusting God. Adam and Eve didn’t trust that God knew what he was talking about. Saul thought he could always take matters in his own hands and hope God blessed it later. Annanias and Sapphira thought that God wasn’t worth being honest with other believers.

In the book of Daniel, the King summons Daniel and tells him that by helping the King he could have the finest the kingdom had to offer. Daniel was a foreigner in exile who probably could have used a little of the Kingdom’s riches but he flatly tells the King that he doesn’t need his riches. Here is what Daniel tells the King in Chapter 5, ” Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. ”

Daniel’s only focus was on God and he wasn’t worried about anything else. He trusted God, not just for the power to help the king and interpret signs and dreams but for his well being and stability. His narrative about God was that God could be trusted.

What am I holding back from God because I am not trusting him? Today, I am going to trust God at my meeting and after my meeting because I know that he can be trusted.

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Running the Race: Feeling God’s Pleasure

Ian Charleson (foreground) and Ben Cross (left...

Image via Wikipedia

On Dec. 4 I will run in the White Rock Marathon in Dallas. Once a week, I will provide my observations on the connection between the spiritual life and training to run a marathon. Please visit my White Rock fundraising page to honor my daughter and contribute to a great cause.

St. Irenaeus once said that, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” When I am running, I can’t help but think about this quote. Though there are times during training when I feel like I am dying there are also times when I feel more alive than ever. The breeze is blowing, my heart is racing, my legs keep churning, and my mind is alert to my surroundings. I am fully engaged in the moment and nothing is distracting my focus other than getting one foot to move in front of the other.

There is a famous line from Chariots of Fire where Eric Liddell says that when he runs he “feels God’s pleasure.” I can’t tell you that I have reached such spiritual heights in my life but the sense of aliveness that I get when running is getting me closer to feeling God’s pleasure.

When Jesus says that he has come to bring us life and life more abundantly, he is not just talking about eternal life. He is talking about an existence right now that is full of the light of the world. I want my life to be this abundant and full of light. When I run, I am learning more and more what this Christian life can look like.

Marriage Conferences Are About Christlikeness

Walterignez

Image via Wikipedia

Many people fail to realize that how you live your life as a Christian is important to God. Sure, they understand what a Christian looks like from a cultural stand point but what about what a Christian looks like interpersonally and intrapersonally. As someone who is concerned about other Christians becoming Christlike, I have grown frustrated with the idea that many Christian have about discipleship and becoming Christlike – that it is optional.

Marriage is an area of life where being Christlike is not optional; it is essential. My wife and I attended a marriage conference this past weekend and the speakers put more emphasis on strengthening your relationship with God than they did strengthening your relationship with your spouse. Also, they spoke about irritability, the thought life, honesty, forgiveness, and loving difficult people. No one at the conference thought these aspects were just side items to their life or nice add-ons to their faith. No, we all recognized how important it is for our marriages to be Christlike and possess a heart transformed by Christ.

If our hearts don’t change to reflect more of Christ than our marriages will suffer. In the same way, if our hearts do not reflect more of Christ than our entire life will suffer. Our job will be a struggle, our relationships will never grow into something meaningful and rewarding, and we will never find effective ways to share God with others. Perhaps marriage is the perfect springboard for helping us recognize how much we need Christ in our lives and we need him to transform us into the new creations we are called to be.

Running The Race: It’s Not About The Shoes

020 - Medals

Image by steelbyte via Flickr

On Dec. 4 I will run in the White Rock Marathon in Dallas. Once a week, I will provide my observations on the connection between the spiritual life and training to run a marathon. Please visit my White Rock fundraising page to honor my daughter and contribute to a great cause.

As I prepare for a marathon, I struggle with my motivations. It is hard not to be self-absorbed when you are training for a marathon. I don’t like talking about myself, normally, but I find that I am constantly talking about running and the marathon with my wife and others. I keep asking myself, “Is this all about me?” “Am I making this sacrifice to draw attention to myself?” Sure, I make myself feel better by raising some money for a good charity and to draw attention to my daughter but I am the one doing the hours and hours of training and I am the one who will receive the participant’s shirt and the completion medal. So, is it all about me?

I don’t want it to be. In fact, I think this whole experience will change me for the better. And if you have been reading this blog long enough you know that I am all about growth and change. Today, I read about having an inward focus on God and living well and beautifully by placing myself under the reign of Jesus Christ. This is where I want my focus to be; not on myself and my accomplishments but on God. There is nothing wrong with achieving something as hard as a marathon but I would rather do it because of the power and strength given to me by God. I want it to be about Him and not me. I want to run with God through this race.

Pushing forty crisis? My need for control? Need for attention and praise? Display of manhood?

I don’t know what initially sparked my desire to run a marathon but I know now that I will not complete it because of my shoes or my training or my innate physical ability. I will complete it because God desires for me to complete it and he has something in store for me in the process.

 

The Parenting Test

Tests are provided in school to determine how much a student has learned. But does life provide consistent means of assessment when it comes to our Christian life? Sure, we can think of life’s big tests such as disease, death, and tragedy, but what about the every day? Are there moments in our day in which our discipleship to Jesus is put to the test? If you are a parent, it certainly is.

Let’s just take the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ teachings against anger in Matthew 5. As a parent of three kids under the age of 13, there are many instances where fighting occurs. You try not being angry when every time you walk out of the room, two of the kids begin to fight and you have to stop what you are doing and go back to the room and tell them to stop fighting.

What about his teaching on oath taking in v. 33? I know that I have made promises to my kids that I haven’t been able to keep and some that I never really intended to keep, I just wanted them to move on to something else. What about the Golden Rule? Do I demonstrate the same respect for my kids as I expect out of them? Sometimes I don’t.

Parenting is a great test of where we are spiritually. If I am impatient, quick to anger, and rarely gentle or kind then I am reminded that I have some work to do and that I need to rely more on Christ to provide the heart change that I need. The tests results are not always pretty but if we are honest with how we parent then we will find the areas where we have the most room to grow.

Friday Night Lights Should Have Won

I peeked in on the Emmy’s last night, hoping to see if one of my favorite shows would win series of the year. I have watched Friday Night Lights since its first episode five years ago. In that episode, the storyline was pretty much what you would expect involving football, teenagers, and high school. But then the end of the series premiere came. Instead of the triumphant ending to the episode, the star quarterback breaks his neck and what happens on the field becomes small in comparison to what is happening off the field. Pretty soon, football becomes less a vehicle for exploiting young emotions and young lusts but a character in the show that provides connection, challenge, unity, and growth.

You won’t be able to appreciate my description of the show unless you have seen it yourself but let me tell you that no show on television has ever captured small town America and its people like FNL. They virtually nailed every depiction of life in a Texas town,  down to the local politics, to the spiritual element, to the racial bias, and to the family connections.  In the characters, you will see individuals wanting more out of their life but not always knowing what that is or a clue as to how to obtain it. This is the essence of good story telling. There were no easy answers for the characters in FNL and sometimes there were three steps backward before steps were made forward.

As someone who obsesses over growth and particularly Christian spiritual growth, I appreciated how honestly the show addressed the complexities of change and growth. And particularly, how family, friends, and community can foster or hinder that growth. The show was like cutting a hole in a  portrait to reveal what is really going on behind the eyes of the picture’s subjects. I hope you will discover the show on Netflix and understand for yourself why this show should have won the last five Emmy’s for best series.

Running The Race: Timing Is Everything

56/365 morning run

Image by kharied via Flickr

On Dec. 4 I will run in the White Rock Marathon in Dallas. Once a week, I will provide my observations on the connection between the spiritual life and training to run a marathon. Please visit my White Rock fundraising page to honor my daughter and contribute to a great cause.

The first thing that I have noticed is the time commitment involved in training for a marathon. Even though I have found a training program that gives me the best workout in the shortest amount of time I am still having to commit to about an hour a day, six days a week. And because I have always preached on this blog that adding to your schedule or piling on to your calendar never works and only adds stress and frustration, I had to find something to eliminate.

The area to take the hit has been my reading of books on Christian living and the spiritual life. I would love to read this and this, but my schedule won’t allow it. Also, and I didn’t expect this, my reading of scripture has been cut down but I don’t really have an excuse for this other than my routine has been broken up and I have been too uncreative and lazy to find other ways to get scripture reading into my day.

But it is not all bad news; training gets me outside in nature and I often, while running, like to listen for as many natural sounds as I can. This gets my mind off myself and any discomfort and hopefully leads me to thoughts on God. Also, the isolation and solitude of running gives me space and time to think about my family and to pray for them. Prayer hasn’t come as naturally as I would like during training but I have tried to interject it more and more into my runs.

The Christian Must Reads

Cover of "Revelations of Divine Love"

Cover of Revelations of Divine Love

The good people over at Renovare have recently released a book entitled 25 Books Every Christian Should Read. I thought it would be interesting to compare their list of classic books for the Christian life with the most recent Christian book stores best sellers lists.

You don’t have to look too hard into culture to see that the most popular pieces of art, music, or writing are not always the most lasting. Still, what is it about the top list that feels more substantial and filled with nourishment while the bottom list feels safe and sterile and superficial. And that is just from reading the titles.

I have read several of the books and authors on the bottom list and have been helped by their insight and inspiration but I have also read several of the books and authors on the top list and have not only been inspired but also challenged in my intellect and my heart. The top list is like a wrestling match that no matter the outcome you will come away a better wrestler. No matter how you finish the books on the top list, you will be changed. I have read some of them and didn’t understand what I was reading and I have read some of them and never finished but my mind goes back and wrestles with some of the ideas every time the book gets mentioned. In the bottom list, I got the main idea in the first chapter and find no real need to wrestle with the rest.

What are your thoughts?

Here is Renovare’s list:

1.  On the Incarnation  by St. Athanasius
2.  Confessions  by St. Augustine
3.  The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
4.  The Rule of St. Benedict  by St. Benedict
5.  The Divine Comedy  by Dante Alighieri
6.  The Cloud of Unknowing  by Anonymous
7.  Revelations of Divine Love (Showings)  by Julian of Norwich
8.  The Imitation of Christ  by Thomas à Kempis
9.  The Philokalia
10.  Institutes of the Christian Religion  by John Calvin
11.  The Interior Castle  by St. Teresa of Avila
12.  Dark Night of the Soul  by St. John of the Cross
13.  Pensées  by Blaise Pascal
14.  The Pilgrim’s Progress  by John Bunyan
15.  The Practice of the Presence of God  by Brother Lawrence
16.  A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life  by William Law
17.  The Way of a Pilgrim  by Unknown Author
18.  The Brothers Karamazov  by Fyodor Dostoevsky
19.  Orthodoxy  by G. K. Chesterton
20.  The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
21.  The Cost of Discipleship  by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
22.  A Testament of Devotion  by Thomas R. Kelly
23.  The Seven Storey Mountain  by Thomas Merton
24.  Mere Christianity  by C. S. Lewis
25.  The Return of the Prodigal Son  by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Here is the Best Seller’s List from the Association For Christian Retail

 1 (4) Radical David Platt, Multnomah (WaterBrook), p, 9781601422217
  2 (5) Crazy Love Francis Chan & Danae Yankoski, David C Cook, p,
     9781434768513
  3 (6) erasing Hell Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle, David C Cook, p,
     9780781407250
  4 (9) Radical Together David Platt, Multnomah (WaterBrook), p, 9781601423726
  5 (10) Not a Fan Kyle Idleman, Zondervan, p, 9780310331933
  6 (12) The 5 Love Languages Gary Chapman, Moody, p, 9780802473158
  7 (14) Made to Crave Lysa TerKeurst, Zondervan, p, 9780310293262
  8 (19) Forgotten God Francis Chan & Danae Yankoski, David C Cook, p,
     9781434767950
  9 (23) So Long, Insecurity Beth Moore, Tyndale, c, 9781414334721
 10 (24) One Thousand Gifts Ann Voskamp, Zondervan, c, 9780310321910
 11 (26) The Power of a Praying Wife Devotional Stormie Omartian, Harvest House, p, 9780736926928
 12 (28) The Resolution for Men Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick, B&H Publishing Group, p,
     9781433671227
 13 (30) Love and Respect emerson eggerichs, Thomas Nelson, c, 9781591451877
 14 (31) 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son Vicki Courtney, B&H Publishing Group, p, 9780805449860
 15 (32) The Resolution for Women Priscilla Shirer, B&H Publishing Group, p, 9781433674013
 16 (36) Weird Craig Groeschel, Zondervan, c, 9780310327905
 17 (41) Facing Your Giants Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson, p, 9780849921025
 18 (45) The Power of a Praying Wife Stormie Omartian, Harvest House, p, 9780736919241
 19 (49) Boundaries Henry Cloud & John Townsend, Zondervan, p,
     9780310247456
 20   5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter Vicki Courtney, B&H Publishing Group, p, 9780805446661
 21   Heaven Randy Alcorn, Tyndale, c, 9780842379427
 22   Life Interrupted Priscilla Shirer, B&H Publishing Group, p, 9781433670459
 23   5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace Gary Chapman & Paul White, Moody, c, 9780802461988
 24   The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren, Zondervan, p, 9780310276999
 25   Prayers That Activate Blessings John eckhardt, Charisma (Strang), p, 9781616383701

Best of Christian Life Hacker: How To Think About God During A Crisis

Yesterday’s anniversary of Sept. 11 reminded me of something I wrote last winter. In our most stressful and trying moments, God should be at the center of our thoughts. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. So I put together a short list of things to remember and do during a crisis. The original post can be found here but below you will find the practical steps from that post:

1. Look for the Lord’s presence. I learned this through working at an inner city ministry that was marked by organized chaos. My constant prayer was “Lord, show yourself.” During those times at the ministry, I can’t tell you a time when God did not answer this prayer. Whether it was a word exchanged between me and another or a simple moment of feeling the presence of God holding me up and giving me strength. God is working all around us, even in times of crisis, and we need to have our God radar turned on.

2. Find something to pray repeatedly. Sometimes we are so stressed and are bombarded with noise and distraction that we can barely think straight. Praying elaborate and thoughtful prayers is not feasible. During these times it is best to pray a sentence or a verse that is simple and repeatable. Sentence prayers that I have used during stressful situations include the Jesus Prayer, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” “Lord, help me,” and “Come, Lord Jesus.”

3. Know what is in your toolbox. Despite our weaknesses and feelings of helplessness, we, as believers, have a tremendous amount of resources at our disposal. We have Christ dwelling inside us, we have the advocate and helper Holy Spirit, we have the new life given to us through conversion, and the power of the God of the universe.  We need to start living in the reality of the power that God has made possible and quit letting fear and worry overwhelm us.

What Changed On Sept. 11

View of WTC buildings on 9/11

Image via Wikipedia

September 11, 2001 was a key moment in my life. I was deeply affected by the tragedy.

It sickened me to think that there was evil in the world capable of accomplishing what that group of terrorists accomplished. I decided that week that I didn’t want to be a part of a world where this was possible. I realized that if I could change my corner of the world for the better I was one step closer to changing the larger world. I didn’t want to look back on my life and tell myself that I didn’t do anything to make this a better place to live. How has this been lived out:

a. My wife and I left a comfortable job and community and moved four hours to work in a inner city ministry. She helped feed 50-70 hungry people everyday and I drove poor kids around, worked with the youth, and led Bible studies.

b. I began to see Jesus, and the transformation that he can bring, as the only hope to a radically evil world. I saw that only renovated hearts dependent on Jesus could bring solutions to Earthly problems.

c. Discipleship to Jesus became a life direction for me.  Also, teaching others how to be more Christlike became a mission of        mine. I came to believe that pew sitters and talk show blowhards were not going to change the world. The method to change the world was the same method that has worked for 2,000 years – small groups of dedicated followers of Christ abandoning themselves to the guidance and direction of Christ.

If you are reading this, then you are witness to some of my efforts to be an agent of change. I could probably tell you now, that if it was not for 9/11, then I may not have ever started this blog.

How has 9/11 changed you?