23 Things – Week 7: Simplicity

Week 7: Simplicity

16. Learn about simplicity from this video 

17. Read Matt. 5: 33-37. This is Jesus’ instructions to avoid manipulating and misleading people through the words that we say. The goal is to be the type of person who can simply say “yes” or simply say “no.” Additional information and explanation is usually only used to make sure that others continue to think good of us.

For the next week, attempt to answer requests with a simple “yes” or a simple “no.” Avoid the urge to explain yourself constantly. Make every effort to remove verbal manipulation from your day. Work toward honest and appropriately simple language. Talk about your experiences in the comments below.

This is week seven of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first 15 things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

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Removing Yourself From The Center Of The Universe

The biggest obstacle to God’s kingdom is not Satan but the kingdom that I inhabit and try to rule. We all have a kingdom and the best place to be is placing our kingdom inside God’s kingdom and let him rule.

When I am the center of the universe then only my needs are important but the catch is that my needs can never fully be met without God inhabiting me first through his son Jesus Christ.

Are you putting God in the center of your universe or yourself? Is the only thing that matters to you come from you?

We may struggle to completely place God at the center but at least we can start by removing our selves from the center, at least occasionally. Service allows us brief moments of putting others needs in front of our own. We need reminders that our needs are mostly secondary and that others could use some help.

When I worked with the homeless and the poor, I could tell when I had been absent from the ministry for too long because I would become increasingly insular and self-absorbed. Through service, I jolted my selfish nature into a more appropriate position under God and with people.

23 Things – Week 6: Service

Week 6: Service

13. Read Philippians 2:3-11. What is one way that you could humble yourself today in a tangible way?

14. Make a list of ways that your church is reaching out to its community? Are there areas in the community that are not being reached?

15. Read this excerpt from a commencement address by Dallas Willard:

Remember to live sacrificially.

On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. During his inaugural address, this, the youngest man ever elected president said that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” In this context, President Kennedy issued the following challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

This simple statement, delivered with great fervor, drew forth an amazing current of sacrificial giving from people. This is built into our hearts. We know it’s right. And as Christians we’re the ones who really know what it means and how it can be done.

Don’t strive to advance yourself. Let God advance you. This is a deep psychological and sociological truth as well as a profound theological teaching. If you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. Give it away. God will give it back to you. Don’t make it your aim to get what you want. Serve others. Remember, God gives grace to the humble. He calls us to submit ourselves to the mighty hand of God that, when the time is right, He will lift us up.

I need to add that it’s not safe to be a servant unless you know who you are and unless you stand before God. On the night of His betrayal, just before He shared the Passover with His disciples, …

Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him (Jn 13:3-5).

Because Jesus knew who He was, because He was secure in His relationship with His Father, He was able to do the work of the most menial slave.

Remember who you are. Keep God before you. Then serve sacrificially. When you serve others, you’re really serving God. Because you are serving God, you give the best of service to other human beings.

This is week six of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first nine things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

What I Love About The Bible

KJV Bible

KJV Bible (Photo credit: knowhimonline)

If you have been following this blog for long, then you know that 2012 has been “The Year of the Word.” I have tried to study, read, listen, study, and read the Bible with the intent of becoming a more devoted user of scripture. Here are a few things I have grown to love about the Bible:

All of the dirty, harsh, brutally honest, and uncomfortable parts – Chris Webb in his excellent book on the Bible, The Fire of The Word, says, “… the Bible resists us at every turn. It will not cooperate, it will not conform to our schemas, it will not be tamed.” I have often said that if the Bible was to be written today, it wouldn’t be sold in Christian book stores.

The Bible is not a greeting card or a piece of propaganda, it is largely a story with many of the great elements of a good story – conflict, betrayal, love interests, and redemption. This is the type of story that leaves you scratching your head and wrestling with questions.

Better this than a propaganda piece where the point is discovered two lines into the story.

It is not about me – One of my hangups with the Bible is my frustration when I don’t get it and I am not inspired by it. I have undo expectations that every time I open the Bible I will be changed and moved to action. Did you notice how many times I used the word I in those first two sentences?

I have been treating the Bible like I treat my favorite restaurant. Every encounter has to be as rewarding as that one time when it was glorious and fantastic. When it isn’t a tremendous experience, I get disappointed.

Reading the Bible is not about me. It is about God. He is the main character, he is the hero, he is the element that fills up every page. The Bible doesn’t owe me anything and I need to quit being so entitled in my reading.

The variety of scripture – I have often been frustrated by the cookie cutter nature of education within churches. Pastors, Bible study teachers, and bloggers seem unaware that there exists a wide range of personalities and learning styles.

Sometimes it seems, the only solution to every discipleship dilemma is to read a book or open up a Bible commentary. In other words, issues of faith and growth can only be solved by linear, analytical, academic approaches.

God has had a say in the kinds of people we are and he did not make us all to enjoy reading and studying. Not all of us work best “in our heads” so to speak.

Some of us need to move, some of us need an emotional connection, some of us need the community of others, some of us need to sing. The beauty of the Bible is that songs, poems, rules, teachings, history, stories, culture, and mystery are all prevalent. God designed it this way because he knew his creation is filled with diversity and variety.

We all need the entire volume of scripture to be the full, robust people of God we are designed to be.

23 Things – Week 5: Study

Week 5: Study

10. Watch Paula Gooder talk about “what the Bible is?”

11. Not everyone is bent towards reading and study. Still, you can immerse yourself in scripture through Psalms set to music by Sons of Korah (Click on Listen)

12. Who are your teachers and what are they teaching you? Make a list of your chief influencers, past and present. What aspects of God do you need to study more deeply? Develop a plan to pursue this study of God.

This is week five of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first nine things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

Lenten Fast Update

Since 23 Things is covering fasting this week I thought it would be good to update you on how it went with my Lenten fast from Soft

Designer label for 2 litre Coca-Cola bottle

Designer label for 2 litre Coca-Cola bottle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Drinks. We will do it FAQ style.

Did you make it the entire time?

No. I technically didn’t start on time because I was running in a Half Marathon and wanted a little celebratory soda pop post race. Ash Wednesday was three days before the race so I started my fast on the Monday after Ash Wednesday.

Did you eliminate all sugary caffeinated drinks?

No. Sweet Ice Tea became a new favorite but it still wasn’t a replacement and there were days when I cursed my Snapple because it was not a Coca Cola.

What helped you through the fast?

Somewhere, I read a quote from Lauren Winner that said something about whenever we are overcome with craving for the item we are fasting from we should be reminded of how our desire for God should be just as great. The fast reminded me often of how much I need God in my life.

Was it difficult?

Not as difficult as I expected. There is an amazing discovery that happens when you realize that you don’t have to meet every desire and that if you go without, the world still spins and life isn’t that bad. It is good because I am becoming less and God is becoming more.

What did you get out of it?

The biggest insight was the daily reminder of Jesus and his sacrifice. We, as Christians, do such a poor job of remembering our Lord, even during Christmas and Easter. This fast brought to my mind on a regular basis why I was doing this. Then I would remember Jesus’ sacrifice and be underwhelmed by my poor excuse for a sacrifice. It is a shame that I am so feeble-minded that I can so easily misplace Jesus in my head but this fast kept him in the forefront.

23 Things – Week 4: Fasting

Week 4: Fasting

8. Read this interview with Scot McKnight on Fasting

9. Participate in a Week of Elimination. In the past, I have eliminated sports from my weekly schedule. If sports is not a distraction for you choose your most attractive guilty pleasure (TV shows, YouTube clips, blogs, Facebook, etc.) and eliminate it from your daily life for one week.

This is week three of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first seven things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

Cover of "When You Pray: Making the Lord'...

Cover via Amazon

We are discussing prayer and meditation this week on the blog. Check out this week’s 23 Things here. Who better person to learn prayer from than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

Matt. 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Matt. 6:5-9 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.

Matt. 21:22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer

Mark 11:25  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Luke 11:2-13

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,[a]
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.

John 11:41-42 Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me

23 Things – Week 3: Prayer and Meditation

Week 3: Prayer and Meditation

5. Explore what Henri Nouwen has to say about prayer

6. Have some fun with your prayers and Pray in Color

7. Learn what makes Christian Meditation different from Eastern Meditation

This is week three of 23 Things. See last week’s post for the first four things and an introduction to 23 Things. If you want to be eligible to win a free book, post a comment under each week’s session. Those who complete all 23 Things will be placed in a drawing for a free book.