The Politics of The Good

So apparently we can’t call things like we see them anymore.

The social media political environment forces one to double down on ideology instead of being considerate of the reality. If I am on the right, I can’t call injustice for what it is, I have to point out that the left also practiced injustice. It is like we are 7-years old and screaming, “I know you are but what am I?”

Maybe, we, no matter what side we are on, need to get off of our high horses and humble ourselves. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

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Jesus didn’t die to make me right politically, he died to make me right spiritually. Are we exploiting Jesus in our pride to win an argument or appease Twitter followers? Instead, lets humble ourselves and let God make us Grow Up. May the Grown Up person we become- indwelled and charged by Christ – dictate our beliefs and actions. May we move, speak, and respond out of our Christian maturity not out of our religiously sprinkled yet immature need to win or one up someone on the other side.

Our world, our intermingled lives, are not a game. We have to live together. We have to promote the good. Jesus, when he healed a demon possessed man and was accused of working for the other side, said, “A good man brings good out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

May we all, including me, check ourselves and see what good is coming out that is indicative of the good that is stored in us.

“Lord, may I lose every argument but gain your goodness. May that goodness be evident in my thoughts, my words, and my actions. I don’t want to be right in my peers eyes; I want to be right in yours. Make me good Lord and help me work for all the good you are bringing to the world no matter what side that is on. To live for you and die for my own gain.”

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When God Came Near

I remember when I first truly felt the comfort of God. When I really had a sense of his presence. It wasn’t during a triumphant worship service or some rousing sermon.

I was a middle schooler, laying in my bed with the lights out. I was dreading the next day like I had dreaded many of the days before this. The guys I hung around with at school, the ones that were supposed to be my friends, constantly criticized me for every imaginable thing I did. They bullied me and made my life miserable. I have always been sensitive, too sensitive, and much of this was too much for me to take. I just wanted this to end.

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In those moments in the dark, God came close and provided deep comfort and reassurance of his love for me. I knew that I was not alone and that life was going to be better because he was with me and believed in me and knew what I was going through. The sense of God’s presence during those times was so unexpected, so right on time, and so needed. When people talk about the reality of God in their life and tell their story of God’s presence, I think of these times, alone in my room.

These are the kind of God moments that strengthen my faith, that encourage me, that inspire me to do and be more; to Grow Up.

I have the knowledge that in my deepest need, God comes close and pours out his love for me.

Do you have that kind of knowledge of God?

 

photo credit: michelle brea

 

You Are Spiritual Whether You Want To Be Or Not

Everyone has a spiritual life. From Donald Trump to a child in the slums of India, we all have unbodily personal power to choose, feel, think, and run our life.

This idea that being spiritual is a description of being disconnected from reality or a little out there is just wrong.

Dallas Willard says that “we are destined for a time when our life will be entirely sustained from spiritual realities and no longer dependent in any way upon the physical.”

If this is true, don’t you think we ought to start working on our spiritual life now? If we don’t acknowledge, nurture, or prepare our spirit now, we will be ill equipped for our unceasing spiritual lives to come. The most spiritual people you know are not the ones who are most willing to read their Bible or attend church, but the men and women who operate out of a power that most resembles the existence, mindset, compassion, and actions of Christ; our spiritual Lord and King.

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Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of Jesus:

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

According to this passage, our spiritual life is essential to us entering the kingdom of God. Our spirit must be birthed from the Spirit of God. And, the spiritual is not something that can be measured or tracked like the wind can, it must be experienced personally.

When you hear people like me going on and on about the spiritual life, know that we are not discussing something that is beyond the scope of the words of Jesus or the very heart of scripture. You are a spiritual being that is inhabiting the physical and, if you are a follower of Christ, a spiritual kingdom that requires you to spiritually Grow Up.

photo credit: Michael Foley

Two Mistakes We Make In Growing Up

Jesus, in the Greatest Sermon Ever Given, talked about these things:

Anger

Lust

Lying

Revenge

Pride

Greed

Worry

Judging

Falseness

Our great defense mechanism as humans is to recognize these traits in other people but not in ourselves.

If we start reading Matthew 5-7 and get to teachings on pride or lust or anger we let other people’s face cross our mind’s eye instead of our own. We think that because I have heard this passage before or have heard a few sermons where Greed is discussed, I have already figured these things out. Someone else must have a problem with these things and not me. What a mistake this thinking is and what a tool of Satan to have us dismiss these crucial teachings as not pertaining to me.

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Just this past week I have struggled with Worry about many things. I have lusted. I have delighted in someone who I am not fond of getting some comeuppance. I have judged constantly. I have stretched the truth. I have let Pride dictate some of my actions. I have grown Angry and lashed out at people around me. I have wanted something to happen strictly for financial purposes only.

I am in need of a daily heart transformation that only Christ can bring and discusses in the Sermon on the Mount and so are you. Forget the obligation of obedience, imagine what your life could be if you made progress in just one of the areas above?

If our first mistake in transformation is not seeing the need for it, then our second mistake is thinking that change will only come from our will power and determination. This will only take you so far. Many people are finding this truth out as their New Year’s Resolutions are losing steam.

No, the only determination you need is to make progress and to daily let Christ work in your life. To be open to Christ’s work and whatever form that takes. To take him in and let him be the Lord of your life. Change will come, transformation will come.

I have told you that I have a long way to go but I am better than I was 10 years ago. But self-improvement is not the goal. Being a light to the World and fulfilling God’s plan on earth is why I need to reflect the nature of Jesus in all that I do or become.

 

I Might As Well Live In The Present

I have been spent and done in the past few days.

I usually know what I am going to write come time to write and look forward to sharing it with the blog world. But, today, I am emotionally and spiritually spent. I can’t be Christian spiritual life guru today.

Still, God has come close and given me a better day yesterday than he did the day before. He has taught me to live in the present where he is currently at work. To not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

If you share in my concern, worry, grief, stress, and anxiety, or any one of these, then let us try something together. Let’s live in the present today and find God at work.

When We Are Asked To Be Wise

I went to Jury Duty yesterday. For most of my adult life, I have been able to get out of the responsibility or some technicality has prevented me from being exposed to the actual selection process.

In the case that I was a possible juror in, both the prosecution and the defense spent an hour explaining the particulars of the law as it related to their side of the case. As these lawyers set up a question and then verbally asked the question of particular juror candidates, I found myself in a slight panic. In the moment, and without much reference, we were being asked to interpret how we feel about a particular aspect of the law and the procedures of the trial process. Over and over again, I wished I had their questions in writing so I could mull them over and make a more reasoned answer. Simply, on the spot, I didn’t always understand their questions, even though I am educated person who has a decent grasp of how our judicial system works.

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Thankfully, I was never called upon other than a few times when everyone else in the room had already answered the same question and I had time to determine a yes or no answer.

My limitations as a human person were quite evident to me yesterday. My mind can only work so fast and it prefers being able to read something rather than hear it. The awkwardness of a court room with 50 other strangers also provided some anxiety that prevented my mind from working at its best. Also, the severity of being asked to consider guilt or innocence of one individual was a lot of pressure and I was relieved when I didn’t have to be tasked with that responsibility.

What we all needed and especially what the 12 that were selected needed was wisdom. Gordon T. Smith in his tremendous book, Called To Be Saints, says this about wisdom:

Each person longs to be wise, and all people long to see wisdom lived out in government, business, and church leadership. Furthermore, the purpose of all formal education…is that we would grow in wisdom and in our capacity for wisdom.

Many people read Proverbs daily, but do they know why they are reading Proverbs? Solomon tells the reader in the first line of the book, “For learning about wisdom and instruction…”

If you still have your doubts about all of this Spiritual Formation stuff and still think you are doing just fine in your life with God, consider your need for wisdom. Consider also that God has set in us a desire for wisdom and has spent much of scripture teaching us what the wise life looks like. And then provided his son to demonstrate that wise life and offer it to us.

May we do whatever it takes to achieve more wisdom in our lives.

Your Expectations Will Not Be Met And That Is A Good Thing

How were your expectations met over the Holidays?

Maybe your Christmas with family, which you were dreading, turned out to be quite pleasant or the opposite was the case.

Maybe you were so looking forward to an upcoming encounter with someone but it turned out to be a disappointment.

Maybe, you had big New Year’s plans for your health or your spiritual life but by Jan. 8 they have already come crashing down.

Maybe, your job situation, which you expected to be largely the same, has been turned upside down.

 

I know it is the second week in January but I still can’t shake the Christmas story. The whole story is full of the unexpected. From the revelation of the coming child to Mary to the arrival of the Magi, to the trek to Egypt, the Christmas story is about unfamiliar turns. And out of these ordinary happenings, God seems to be working the most in the unexpected.

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Life is full of unfamiliar pathways. We know this because the unfamiliar has happened to us over and over. We know this because we see people around us faced with the unexpected or a dramatic turn in their life. The unexpected is to be expected. Yet, we let these moment throw us off so often. Questions pop up about everything and we start to ask God if he really knows what he is doing?

If I look back on my own life, though, these unexpected times are when I notice God the most. Yet, in most cases, I would prefer some consistency and predicted outcomes. God has his own predicted outcomes and we should be longing for those instead of trusting in our own schedule, plan, or devices.

Whatever God’s plans are for you this year, may you, and I, be ready for the unexpectedly expected goodness of Him who works in the unfamiliar.

photo credit: hermanturnip

The Posts I Remember The Most From 2016

Eight months of writing has been incredibly rewarding. Writing has focused my thoughts and made me accountable to how I live my life. It has made me more observant to the work of Christ in my own life and those around me. Here are some of my favorite posts over the last eight months.


The time I lost a good friend of mine to alcoholism. How was I supposed to write about that? Here was my attempt.

My plan for men’s ministry seems too simple but I think there is something profound in the idea.

My tribute to my Dad was important for me to write and even inspired my Dad’s pastor to use it in a video devotional.

I tried to stay out of politics, but I made my points here and here.

Fund raising does not come natural to me, I think this was my best attempt.

Here is where I admit that I never had a girlfriend until I met my wife and that my flirting game was non-existent.

God is doing something significant through prayer because I couldn’t help but write about it and since I wrote it, I keep getting the topic brought up. Stay tuned.

I enjoyed writing my Alien perspective on Christmas.

The most significant thing I learned from Gathering 1 of the Apprentice Experience.

I need this daily reminder to not be afraid.

My favorite spiritual exercise was a surprise to me.

I was proud to write this about a Spiritually Mature Leader.

Back to the basics of Growing Up.

If you have told Jesus to go away recently, there is still hope.

Maybe we should abstain from more Bible Study.

Jesus’ “Wait! There’s more” moments.

My case for why Christians should Meditate.

The great turn that our churches and ourselves need.

The Curse of Long Time Church Attendance

We need Hard Christianity.

I would like to thank those of you who read regularly and have given me feedback on the blog. I enjoy writing enough that I would probably do it even if no one was reading, but it is always nice to know that others are checking on the blog.

Books, Songs, Podcasts and Articles That Helped Me Grow Up in 2016

2016 was a signpost year for me and my family and one that I will look back on for many reasons. The following items helped me interpret, work through, and Grow Up in 2016.

I am not with it enough to have items exclusively from 2016, but all of the items below are things I did or was exposed to in 2016. These aren’t just things I consumed and enjoyed this past year but things that were inspiring and even life changing.

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Album

Didn’t He Ramble – Glen Hansard

Hansard combines the best sounds and vibes of Gospel, Folk, and Singer-Songwriter efforts into a wonderfully moving and uplifting album. He seems to treasure the sacred of every day things. That is a gift.

Articles

Election Day 2016: Lord, Teach Us To Pray…Today

A great reminder of the endless possibilities and responsibilities we have as Christian citizens of this world.

Why I Can’t Vote For Either Trump of Clinton

‘When people hurt, I know hurt’: An airport chaplain mourns his 10-year-old son

Why I Offer Free Prayer In A Coffee Shop

May my efforts in ministry be as simple and needed as this guy’s experiment.

Books

Mark Batterson – Draw The Circle

Scot McKnight – King Jesus Gospel

A biblical case for a “Gospel culture” over a “Salvation culture.”

Richard Foster – Sanctuary of the Soul

What Batterson’s book did for my prayer life, Foster’s book did for my practice of meditation. I blame this book and its practices for even starting this blog up again.

Devotional

Traveling Unfamiliar Pathways: An Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphany Devotional. Renovare

Exercises

Meditation

Stations of the Cross

I am not Catholic, and don’t even know the exact purpose of the Stations in the Catholic tradition. All I know is that the hour I spent walking through the Stations at The Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kansas was one of the most powerful times with God I have ever had. The experience was life changing.

Podcasts

Your Mom Has A Blog Podcast

I have had trouble finding good Christian podcasts. They either are two theology heavy or just talk about current events and politics. This podcast, from Chad and Melissa Edgington, is a simple snapshot of a Christian couple trying to remain faithful in the midst of marriage, parenting, and ministry. Funny and refreshing.

Building A Story Brand

I can be a sucker for the Success Industry but this podcast had the right balance of self and others and spreading good will that I was able to get many insightful bits of inspiration for ministry, blogging, and work.

Podcast Episodes

Meeting God in Scripture – Jan Johnson (Renovare Weekly Podcast)

Johnson was one of our speakers at the Apprentice Experience. She is a delightful person with a lot of spunk and compassion for others. This episode demonstrates that spunk and reminds us that Scripture can’t just be studied.

Readings

Chapter 3, “What Jesus Knew: Our God-Bathed World”. Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard

If you want to have your view of God and Jesus revolutionized, read this chapter. I had read it many years ago and had forgotten how amazing it was.

Chapter 2, “We All Need More Love Than We Deserve.” The God Who Won’t Let God – Peter Van Breeman

What are we wired for and what is God uniquely capable of providing for us?

Song

Casual Party – Band of Horses

When I first heard the 77s song, “You Walked In The Room,” I couldn’t imagine a song capturing the emptiness and banality of youth culture any better. This song is the same theme except for 40 year olds. Don’t worry, if you just want a rockin’ toe tapper, this will do the trick as well.

Talk

The Role of Faith in Prayer – Dallas Willard

“Prayer is a conversation with God about what you are both doing together.”