Christian Life Hacker – 23 Things

Here is the entire list of the 23 Things. I hope you discovered some new practices and ideas that you hadn’t been exposed to before. Feel free to share the 23 Things with your small groups and disciple groups. Congratulations to Cary Jester who commented on the most items and wins the free book. Thanks to others for reading and commenting.

Week 1: Introduction

1Listen: Podcast on 23 Things and Spiritual Disciplines

2.  Read: A primer on Disciplines, the Holy Spirit, and  Spiritual Growth.

Week 2: Solitude and Silence

3. Read: this article on solitude and silence.

4. Embrace pockets of solitude and silence today. Here are some ideas. Choose what works for you. Every time you find a pocket of solitude and silence, ask God to be with you in a special way.

  • Leave the car radio off while you drive
  • Take a walk around your work place during lunch
  • Limit TV watching to no more than one hour
  • Start a meal with everyone silent. Then have someone read a chapter from Mark before beginning speaking.
  • Park farther away from your intended location to give yourself more time to reflect while you walk.
  • Replay before falling asleep the day’s  events  and notice where God has been present.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 questions 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.

Week 8: Worship

18. Watch John Ortberg and Dallas Willard discuss worship. Watch from the 6:00 mark to the 13:00 mark

19. How often do we prepare for worship? One thing we can do is expect to meet God during worship. Next, we can pray for the worship leaders, that they may feel God’s presence and can speak and lead effectively. Third, focus on singing the songs directly to God and listening to God in scripture and preaching. Commit yourself to worship with your heart this week.*

*The idea for this week’s exercise came from the book, A Year With God, by Richard Foster and Julia Roller.

Week 9: Sabbath

20. Read this interview with Pastor and author of The Message, Eugene Peterson.

21. Sabbath accomplishes many things but the most beneficial to our use of time are the following:

1. Cultivates trust in God – Dallas Willard elaborates on this point, “When we come to the place where we can joyously “do no work” (Leviticus 23:3), it will be because God is so exalted in our mind and body that we trust him with our life and our world, and we can take our hands off them.”

2. Reshapes our week – So much of our time is shaped by our responsibilities at work and at home while other parts of our time are shaped by the technologies that we are so attached to. By receiving the Sabbath and its time of rest and worship our entire week can be shaped in a sacred direction rather than a worldly direction. We still have our responsibilities but these duties no longer carry the weight that we had previously assigned to them.

3. Eliminates Hurry – Even if the Sabbath is the only day of the week that we intentionally attempt to rest and not extend ourselves we learn to appreciate what an existence might be like minus hurry and urgency. We can learn that the world can carry on just fine without our input and activity. One hurry free day demonstrates to us that a hurry free existence is possible.

22. Read these guidelines for practicing the Sabbath:

1. Sabbath can be practiced on any day of the week. Sunday is a natural choice because it is the day that we commonly worship and despite recent developments in our culture, it is often a day that includes the fewest responsibilities. If Sunday does not work for you, choose any day that provides you with the most freedom.

2. Start small. Remember that we are not subscribed to the philosophy of more. Try spending two hours after Sunday lunch in quiet reflection, in rest, or recreation. As God enables you over time, try to extend the Sabbath to the entire day.

3. Include your family. Spend your Sabbath with family playing games, cooking meals at home, or outdoor activities.

4. Protect The Sabbath. The first thing that will happen when you decide to receive the Sabbath is that something will occur forcing you to make a choice between your commitment to Sabbath keeping and something else. Though we want to avoid turning this practice into a legalism, we do want to demonstrate conviction regarding the Sabbath. For example, I attempt to complete Weekend errands, housework, and yard work on Saturday in order to free up Sundays for Sabbath keeping.

23. Summarize your thoughts on 23 Things in the comments below.

23 Things – Week 9: Sabbath

Week 9: Sabbath

20. Read this interview with Pastor and author of The Message, Eugene Peterson.

21. Sabbath accomplishes many things but the most beneficial is what it teaches us about time. See below:

1. Cultivates trust in God – Dallas Willard elaborates on this point, “When we come to the place where we can joyously “do no work” (Leviticus 23:3), it will be because God is so exalted in our mind and body that we trust him with our life and our world, and we can take our hands off them.”

2. Reshapes our week – So much of our time is shaped by our responsibilities at work and at home while other parts of our time are shaped by the technologies that we are so attached to. By receiving the Sabbath and its time of rest and worship our entire week can be shaped in a sacred direction rather than a worldly direction. We still have our responsibilities but these duties no longer carry the weight that we had previously assigned to them.

3. Eliminates Hurry – Even if the Sabbath is the only day of the week that we intentionally attempt to rest and not extend ourselves we learn to appreciate what an existence might be like minus hurry and urgency. We can learn that the world can carry on just fine without our input and activity. One hurry free day demonstrates to us that a hurry free existence is possible.

22. Read these guidelines for practicing the Sabbath:

1. Sabbath can be practiced on any day of the week. Sunday is a natural choice because it is the day that we commonly worship and despite recent developments in our culture, it is often a day that includes the fewest responsibilities. If Sunday does not work for you, choose any day that provides you with the most freedom.

2. Start small. Remember that we are not subscribed to the philosophy of more. Try spending two hours after Sunday lunch in quiet reflection, in rest, or recreation. As God enables you over time, try to extend the Sabbath to the entire day.

3. Include your family. Spend your Sabbath with family playing games, cooking meals at home, or outdoor activities.

4. Protect The Sabbath. The first thing that will happen when you decide to receive the Sabbath is that something will occur forcing you to make a choice between your commitment to Sabbath keeping and something else. Though we want to avoid turning this practice into a legalism, we do want to demonstrate conviction regarding the Sabbath. For example, I attempt to complete Weekend errands, housework, and yard work on Saturday in order to free up Sundays for Sabbath keeping.

23. Using the comments, summarize your thoughts on 23 Things.

This is week nine of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first 17 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.

Confessions Of A Christian Worshiper

I have a confession to make. I don’t like church music.

No, I am not trying to start a debate about worship styles, instruments, or lyrics. I basically have the same reaction during worship with an organ and a hymn book as I do with electric guitars and lyrics written last month. Church music and the participation in singing just doesn’t connect with me. Sure, there have been moments when the Holy Spirit has moved during a song and I couldn’t help but respond (even raising my hands!?!), but overall I connect more with the scripture reading, prayers, and sermons.

I am sure there are many people who are the opposite from me. They have a deep connection and a spiritual response to the music while the sermon falls flat for them. And that is fine. I have in the past beat myself up for my lack of enthusiasm and activity during worship singing and have had discussions with my wife about why I don’t always sing and why I cross my arms during the singing.

For me, I am unable to lose myself during worship. I think it is the corporate nature of it. All of these people singing in unison kind of messes with my introverted, loner tendencies. I have a hard time seperating the song from the crowd so I can experience its message and power for myself. This is why I will sometimes stop singing and just read the words and let them dwell into me for a moment.

Singing for me doesn’t allow for dwelling, it only allows for experiencing and activity. I don’t feed off of activity and experiences but stillness, written words, and teaching. The strange part of it is, I  love music and have been to many concerts and consider some music as deeply part of my spiritual life.

Thankfully, God has convicted me of hiding behind my personality and refusing to participate just because church music “isn’t my thing”. I have discovered ways to remind myself that worship is for God and not for myself. I have started to read the lyrics while I am singing and not just when I am not. Worshiping with music is slowly becoming an important aspect of my spiritual life and one that is much needed.

23 Things – Week 8: Worship

Week 8: Worship

18. Watch John Ortberg and Dallas Willard discuss worship. Watch from the 6:00 mark to the 13:00 mark

19. How often do we prepare for worship? One thing we can do is expect to meet God during worship. Next, we can pray for the worship leaders, that they may feel God’s presence and can speak and lead effectively. Third, focus on singing the songs directly to God and listening to God in scripture and preaching. Commit yourself to worship with your heart this week.*

This is week eight of 23 Things. See previous posts here and here for the first 17 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.

*The idea for this week’s exercise came from the book, A Year With God, by Richard Foster and Julia Roller.

Three Ways To Simplify Your Spiritual Life

Darren Lwyd through the window The urge to try...

You may think that your spiritual life is the one area that you have maintained

Are you in more than one Bible Study or small group? Are you reading more than one Christian book? Do you stress out when the list of podcast from your favorite preacher start to collect in your iPhone or iPod? If you answered yes to one of these questions, you might be overcommited to spiritual activities.a level of simplicity but is this really the case?

Here are three things you can do simplify your spiritual life.

1. Say no the next time the church makes requests for your time– We all know those people in our churches who are just a vacuum sucking up what the church dishes out without making any real contribution to the church. But the majority of us are well-intentioned and want to help in the work of the church. Every service opportunity sounds like a worthy endeavor, every event sounds enriching, and every ministry could use an extra hand.

What did Jesus tell Martha about her sister Mary? He said that Mary had made the better choice to spend time with Jesus but he didn’t say that Martha had made a bad choice by preparing for her guests.

Martha and Mary had two choices in front of them but neither one of them was a bad choice. One choice was just a better good choice. If we choose to be more selective with our work in the church we are not discrediting what we choose not to participate in but we are letting the Holy Spirit guide us to the better choice for us and God’s plan for his kingdom.

2. Take a walk – Sometimes our scripture reading and study, as well as our small group times can become too academic and full of books and mental gymnastics. We need to find time to capture the peace and stillness of a quiet walk where God can speak and we can listen. We need to recapture that connection with God that gets pushed aside by our academic pursuits.

3. Remember RPW (Read, Pray, Worship) – I am always struck by what the apostles and the early church were able to accomplish without the tools that we see as so necessary today.

They didn’t have the full canon of scripture to draw inspiration and teaching from. They didn’t have seminary degrees to guide their theology. What they did have was the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the Old Testament.

The church activities of the early church centered around prayer, readings from the Old Testament, and worship of the risen Savior. Do we really need to make our spiritual activities much more complicated than read, pray, worship?

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.

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.