Not Just A Slogan, Part 2: What Is Christ-Centered?

Today is a continuation of our look at what it means to be Christ-centered. Monday covered being like-minded and not seeking selfish ambition.

Work out your salvation

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”

For believers, we have confidence of our future and hope for the restoration of everything. But we still have a job to do. We still have to be diligent and intentional in our own Growing Up. We have incredible powers at our disposal but God has established a process where by we must devote ourselves to the disciplines, practices, and sacrifices needed to resemble Christ.

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Eliminate Whining and Arguing

“so that you can remain blameless and pure”

Sometimes, the easiest thing in the world is to complain or be contentious. It takes real maturity to let that not be your default setting. This passage tells us that if Christians can make progress in this area, we will shine like stars in the sky. The tendency to grumble and point out faults at every turn is so pervasive that if a group of people are not participating in this behavior it will be noticed as easily as we might notice stars at night.

Lesson Learned

Have you noticed from Monday and then today that to be Christ-centered involves a relational bent and a unique sense of community. Only one of Paul’s emphasis in this passage is truly a personal act – working out our salvation. The rest involve how we serve others, how we get along with others, and how unified we are.

This truth has come as a surprise to me and has convicted me. Being an introvert with a slight obsession with personal improvement, I don’t always consider my relationship with others to be paramount. Now I know what I need to work on.

What do you need to work on?

 

photo credit: Matthew Doyle

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Not Just A Slogan, Part 1: What Is Christ-Centered?

I went with my daughter to visit two colleges this weekend. It was interesting to hear the words, ideas, and terms that these individual cultures presented. The sloganeering that happens in places like a college campus works well on brochures and billboards but do these people even know what they are really saying and do those that are listening even understand what these terms mean?

Where I work, the term Christ-centered gets thrown around a lot. It is a great sentiment but what does it really mean? I went to scripture and found some insight on what Christ-centered truly means.

Like-minded

“having the same love, being one in spirit, and in mind”

Christ centered institutions have a unique unity. How does this occur? First, individual Christians begin to Grow Up and be changed and begin to resemble more of Christ. This means we possess more of the mind of Christ and heart of Christ. So, if I possess more of Christ and you possess more of Christ then the more we mature the more we are reaching a common plane of mind, heart, and spirit because Christ is working in both of us.

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Avoid selfish ambition

“not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others”

Christ centered people and institutions will be marked by a measure of humility. I was talking with a prominent coach on our campus, and he talked about the biggest surprise he has had with building character among his players is their increase in humility. This growth hasn’t made them soft, instead it has increased the unity and bond as a team because they are valuing others above themselves.

Read part 2 on Wednesday.

 

What Marriage Has Taught Me About Growing Up

This week we celebrated Valentine’s Day. I am very thankful for my beautiful and loving wife, Leah. We have been married for 19 years. Marriage is a great testing ground for our growth in Christlikeness. Here are a few things I have learned about Growing Up through the experience of marriage:

Anger needs to be dealt with

Many times, when I have had fights with my wife and we have left to different parts of the house in our anger, I have asked God to show me what to do. To direct my next steps. Almost every time, I have been directed to find her, reach out to her, and apologize. I have never been directed to sit there and stew on my anger. That would just make things worse.

Dallas Willlard says, “Anything that can be done with anger, can be done better without it.” So, it is best for me to swallow my pride and deal with my anger as soon as possible. We may be hurt but it would be best if we dealt with the anger so we can deal with the hurt.

Love and support of a committed person brings with it strength and courage to face major problems

I remember when my wife and I found out that our baby might have severe deformities. We were in shock and bewildered. But I also remember the quiet assurance that we seemed to give each other. Her support and encouragement blended with my support and encouragement to strengthen us for the uncertain months ahead. We were fearful and overwhelmed but knowing that we were there for each other and going through this together, eased our anxiety and gave us courage. I can’t overestimate the power of honest and true love and support. It can absolutely make the impossible seem possible.

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You can’t think about yourself for very long and if you do, be ready for problems

There is no such thing as “It’s all about me” time in a marriage. There may need to be time for space or time for personal recreation or entertainment but to shut off all burdens of commitment and time to your spouse so that you can do your own thing is not part of the contract your signed when you got married.

Commitment to commitment means something and our own wants should never outweigh our commitment to our spouse or to God. I have to consistently check myself and my motivations. Is my heart burning with selfishness and self-absorption? If so, I need to get back in the spiritual laboratory and let God take back control. For my benefit and fulfillment and hopefully for the benefit and fulfillment of my wife.

“What Happened?”

You may have wondered a about a few things over the last couple of months.

“I thought Scott was starting a ministry, I thought he wanted to lead workshops and speak in churches?”

“I thought Grow Up Ministries was a real thing. Scott hasn’t mentioned it. Didn’t he have an event where he was kicking off this ministry? What happened?”

There are real, substantial reasons for why I haven’t pursued this venture at this time.

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My life has changed significantly since the beginning of December. The majority of the change has come vocationally.

I would like to discuss these changes in more detail and tell you God’s handiwork in all of this, but the transitional nature of my current situation makes broadcasting some of the details slightly complicated. So I will wait.

But, I can tell you, that God is involved and the story is a really good one. It involves answered prayer, really tough decisions, and unusual circumstances. But I am still too much in the middle of it to tell you where it all will end.

That being said, all of these ideas and insights that I try to wrestle with in this blog are not just clever ruminations about themes that may or may not have real practical pursuits. No, I am putting this Growing Up stuff into practice on a daily basis. I am running spiritual experiments, if you will, over and over. This is both exciting and challenging and quite ambitious for a simple, unassuming guy like myself.

If you pray, can you lift up a few for me and the results of all this? I just want to impact people’s lives and bring God glory.

Soon, you will know the rest of the story.

Satan’s Role In Hindering My Spiritual Growth

Here is one thing I think but have not said:

That Satan possesses people for small moments to disrupt my spiritual growth. I have learned to see this a part of the process of Growing Up but early on, I wasn’t always able to handle this.

What will happen is that I will have a really rich time with God, usually in the mornings, and my whole perspective will change as I see God’s work in my life. My desire in these moments is to live a transformed, Christ-filled existence, and in the joy of those times, I see and have faith that it will happen, even that morning.

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Then, sometime during the day, I am met with such difficulty and frustration coming from other people that it doesn’t just make me doubt the progress that I have made but makes me want to abandon it altogether. The people involved have seemed to be directed to point out and state the one thing that day that would send me reeling away from the progress I have made. It is almost like clockwork. But now, I have learned to expect it and prepare for it  and see it for what it is – a strategy by Satan to counter my growth.

So, if you are just dabbling in Growing Up and are just starting to make progress, let me warn you of these moments. May you be prepared for them and know that you have done nothing wrong unless you let these people or these moments get the best of you. Start to see them, not as trying moments, but as badges of honor to demonstrate to you that you must be doing something right.

Keep Growing Up. Satan doesn’t like it and wants to hinder any progress towards Growth. Trust me, you can withstand these attacks and be stronger when you do.

Look at this passage and see what comes after perseverance. Godliness is possible, through the power of Christ, but it is essential that we find our way through these attacks in order to reach our goal of Growing Up.

 

How To Make Serving Others Easy

I was talking to a Pastor friend of mine recently and he expressed the need for his church members to be more willing to help and volunteer for the various ministries of the church. His church had seen growth in numbers but not as much in willingness to serve and contribute to the work of the church.

Being a long time church member myself, I understood his frustration because I see it all the time. But as I was reading recently and was being directed to look at some of the great love chapters of the Bible, I discovered an important truth, as voiced by Curt Thompson in his book, Soul of Shame: “Love always has another move to make.”

The more we grow in love (the way, the action, the life, not just the feeling), the more creative, daring, observant, and sacrificial I become. As Thompson observes:

“…”love never fails.” It does not fail because it always has another move to make, another gesture toward connection. And there is no end to its movement. We never “arrive,” but rather are, and even in the new heaven and earth will be traveling, as C.S. Lewis bids us imagine, “further up and further in.” Where shame attempts to push us into static inertia, love bids us to move.”

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I have noticed in my own life that when my ability to love increases so does my ability to serve. In those times of truly being loving, the choice to serve or take action, isn’t a chore but as easy and natural as can be.

Through growth in love, both of God and for others, comes this unstoppable movement toward doing good for others and for your community. My pastor friend’s church doesn’t have a volunteer problem, they may have a love problem.

Besides, to serve or to act but to do it without love is to “gain nothing.” For love never fails and if our actions are full of love, then we cannot go wrong.

The goal is not to do more but to love more and the doing will flow naturally out of a heart of love.

The People Are What Make This Experience So Special

The Second Gathering of the Apprentice Experience is less than two months away. God taught me quite a bit in my one week in November and I have been changed and continue to be amazed how God used that first gathering to prepare me for what lie ahead in the coming months. But, what might stay with me the most will be the relationships that have been formed through this experience. These were truly amazing people who, by their sheer love and concern, taught me some amazing things.

-There is a young pastor from the Southeast whose enthusiasm for the things of God and love for people has inspired me.

-There is a Northern California mother of adult children whose calming spirit and love for God instantly made me feel at ease.

-There is a Anglican priest who is so well read and spiritually experienced. He has kept all of us thinking about important spiritual things online even when we are not together.

-There is a Midwest lay person from a small town who runs a benevolence ministry for the simple reason that it needs to be done and God has gifted her with the ability to do it.

-There is a West Texas mechanic with such a keen grasp on connecting the physical with the spiritual that we all sit in amazement as he weaves his intricate illustrations that teach profound truths.

-There is a lady from my home town who provided me with an instant connection and whose peaceful concern for me eased much of the anxiousness I felt as the week began.

-There is a fun-loving Mennonite who is  a true delight to be around even if he doesn’t believe that he is.

-There are pastors who, though tasked with huge responsibilities, are seeking God with all of their heart and that give me hope for the future of our churches.

-There are a few coming off incredible brokenness whose bravery and faith put mine to shame.

I could go on and on about all 27 of these amazing people and what they have taught me. We have just started this journey and God will no doubt continue to move in us. I can hardly wait until March.

Amazingly, at least in my mind, I am just a few hundred dollars away from paying for the entire $5,000 tuition needed for the Apprentice Experience. It has been a while since I asked for help with this fund raising.

Won’t you consider donating and partnering with me. You know I value your input and support beyond what I can express. This is an unbelievable opportunity for me and I want to share it with you and others.

Help me make this happen. Donate here.

By contributing you will receive the following:

At least $25 – The Grow Up Playlist full of songs that have helped me in my spiritual life.

At least $50 – A sample chapter of an eBook I worked on a few years ago called More of Christ, Less of Everything Else.

At least $75 – A resource pack full of the list of tools that I use to grow closer to God.

At least $100 – A short eBook that I am creating called the Devotional Lives of Famous Christians.