The Revolution


Dallas Willard once said there are no human solutions to human problems. The blame game that is so widespread

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic (Photo credit: jakebouma)

post-Sandy Hook leaves me hollow. We all want to do something but what we really want is someone else to do something – thus the cry for gun control laws.

In the Revolution of Character, Dallas Willard and Don Simpson, state, “His {Jesus} continuing objective is to eventually bring all of human life under the direction of his wisdom, goodness, and power…The revolution of Jesus is first and always a revolution of the human heart. His revolution does not proceed through the means of social institutions and laws…” instead “his is a revolution of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship with God and one another.”Changed hearts relenting under the Lordship of Jesus are the answer to our world’s biggest problems. Jesus started a revolution that begins in the heart. But the thing is, once this revolution has moved from the hearts of individuals to an outward loving expression, institutions and social structures will also be changed.

Christians need to stop being a part of the relentless wave of reactions to a world in crisis and instead be a part of the Revolution that Jesus started and that continues to this day. It is not about doing but being and then the doing will take care of itself.

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Inside Out

Now that we know who our teacher is we have to watch out for a major pitfall –  trying to do what Jesus says. Our goal is not to try but to train ourselves to become like Jesus. This is the power of off-the-spot training (spiritual disciplines) that reorients our lives and begins to work on our heart, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.

To figure out this “inside out” stuff, take a Bible and turn to I Corinthians 13. This is a familiar chapter full of descriptions of what love is. The easiest thing to do is to say, ” Because love is patient and kind I have to go out and be patient and kind.” The problem is I have taken on the sole responsibility to modify my behavior and change something about myself. By shear will, I will change. This determination cannot be sustained and we end up failing again and again.

By contrast, what if I took John 15 to heart and worked on abiding in Jesus, the true vine. By staying connected to the vine, I am constantly tapping into the source of Christ within me and I gradually begin to change and begin to produce fruit such as kindness and patience. Christ is the one who does the changing and transforming. I simply have to remain in the vine through prayer, scripture reading, fasting, etc.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What I Missed While Doing All That Running

Though I have talked at length about the spiritual benefits of training for a marathon, there were many aspects of my spiritual life that I either neglected or simply couldn’t get to because I was in training. Here is a list of things that I look forward to now that I have a little more extra time and energy:

1. Reading my Bible – Of course I read my Bible when I was in training but it wasn’t consistent. I have had a desire for a long time to discover the Bible in a fresh way. I would suspect that this journey to discovery will appear on this blog occasionally.

2. Sleep – I believe that sleep is a spiritual discipline in the same way that fasting or the Sabbath are spiritual disciplines. Getting more rest is our way of saying that we do not have to conquer the world because it will still be there when we wake up. I have a problem with overdoing and undersleeping. I hope to get more rest in the coming months.

3. Quality Recreational Reading – One way that I remove myself from the busy and mind jumbling environment of work is to take a book of fiction and get out of the building where I work and read during my lunch break. Being a committed marathon trainee, I spent most of my extra reading time on books on running and marathons. I look forward to finishing life redeeming works of fiction such as Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

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?

The Christian Life Hacker Sermon

Yesterday, the pastor at our church gave a sermon on how God changes us.  I have eaten lunch with him once but we didn’t get around to talking about my passion for discipleship and spiritual growth. So I was greatly pleased that yesterday’s sermon was on spiritual formation.

In the sermon, he told a story about a pastor who read the same passage from Philippians every day for a year and how the exercise drastically changed his life. Because, as our pastor explained, there is one truth but many applications of scripture. He challenged us to pick a passage out of Philippians and read the same passage every day for the next week. He guaranteed that we will see change in our lives.

I have chosen Philippians 4:4-8. By only choosing five verses I give my self a way to meditate on a verse a day for the next five days. This morning, the verse is “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” As a person who doesn’t always appreciate the worship aspect of the faith, this is a verse that convicts me and has me seeking God’s help in learning how to rejoice and rejoice always.

You don’t have to be a member of our church to take this challenge. Join me in reading Philippians 4 everyday for the next week. The pastor guaranteed change, let’s see if he is right.

Best of Christian Life Hacker: Eliminate to Illuminate

Since the past month and a half has been pretty intense here on Christian Life Hacker, I thought it might be good to revisit some of the posts that epitomize the Christian Life Hacker faith style.  This post makes the point that change starts with cutting out distractions:

Eliminate to Illuminate

If I am not careful, my stack of books to be read can grow by the day. I have never met an interesting website that I didn’t want to subscribe to. If I enjoy a blog or writer I am never satisfied with reading just a few things by them, I have to read their entire body of work. If I find a workout or nutrition program interesting, I want to follow it to the letter even though half of what is being asked doesn’t apply to me or requires too much money or time. Call me obsessive compulsive, a nerd, or even crazy, but what it really comes down to is that I consistently and foolishly think that I can add infinitely more to my life and that somehow that is a good thing.

The truth is, the only effective way to change is by first eliminating all that is a distraction, a burden, or time waster. No one followed Jesus without sacrificing something, maybe even something that was good. Even if we have many Godly things in our lives or Church activities that fill our schedule, we may need to cut some of these things out of our lives so that we can make room for God in an intentional way.

Over the last few years, I have stopped following every sport that showed up on Sports Center and streamlined the teams and events that I will let myself get fanatical about. I have tried to keep the list of books that I am reading at one time down to two so that I can take notes and fully consider what I am reading. I have stopped checking email obsessively and have become okay with emails gathering in my inbox or going unanswered. I no longer feel the need to read a magazine from cover to cover. I have been known to take whole months and devote them to one area of interest or activity instead of being thinned out by trying to keep up with multiple interests.

I mention all of this to possibly help you realize that if you have visions of including more prayer in your life, or reading through entire chapters of the Bible, or being more consistent with your Spiritual Enrichment Workout, you are going to have to eliminate something that you currently do. Piling on things to your already busy schedule cannot be sustained and will only lead to frustration and guilt.

Three Steps To A God Drenched Day

A 2008 study from researchers at Northeastern University monitored the cell phone signals of 100,000 Americans. The study was intended to track the movements of humans throughout their daily lives. Published in Nature, the study showed that humans are very predictable in their daily movements. They visit the same places around the same time each and every day.

I thought it was just me who was attached to a schedule but apparently a majority of our society structures their day around a pattern of activity. We could say that habits of time and place are a part of the way that God created us.

The question becomes for those of us who are interested in Christian spiritual growth, how can we make God just as much a part of our daily routine as taking a shower and drinking a cup of coffee? Let me offer a few ideas to spark a more God drenched daily life:

Step One: Begin and end everyday with a prayer of thanks and gratitude toward God. Most of us either choose our mornings to pray or our evenings. Why not make a point to pray at each of these moments of the day. Just a simple one sentence prayer of thanksgiving will do. What a great way to bracket your daily routine.

Step Two: Set up a God spot. If you have kids you probably have used some variation of the Time Out or Naughty Spot technique of discipline. You have set up a spot where your kids must visit when they are in trouble. Why not designate a spot in your house that is reserved for Bible reading and prayer. It doesn’t have to include anything fancy such as candles, incense, or religious imagery, it just needs to be a set spot that you go to whenever you are praying or reading scripture.

Step Three: Include your family or roommates. Think about how natural it is for many of us to pray together before eating. My kids throw a fit when we forget to pray with them before going to bed.  There is strength in numbers and a completely isolated spiritual life will be a limited spiritual life. Maybe spouses could pray together before going to bed or someone could be designated to read a scripture at the dinner table. My wife always prays with our girls before they go to school. Make reading scripture, praying, and talking about God as common as “How was your day?” and “Let me tell you what I want for my birthday.”

Change can come in our lives when we begin to restructure our daily existence around our priorities to begin to live more like Jesus.

A Guide To Dying To Self

In my life, a challenge, among many, is selfishness. I like things done in a particular way – mine. I often manipulate situations so that my preferences will override others. I am subtle and passive aggressive about it but I am as guilty of selfishness as an outspoken narcissist. God has changed me over the years to see more of his will in contrast to my own. And I have had enough experiences with God’s will to start to recognize my “maximum fulfillment” is found within it. But it is a slow process. Philosophers argue “if there is any such thing as a selfless act?” I wouldn’t know the philosophy maxims that would help answer this question but from my experience, selflessness is very rare.

What can be done about this constant tendency toward self? Well, there isn’t a whole lot that we, as individuals do. God has to do the bulk of the work. One thing that might help is to understand the progression of love in God’s kingdom. First, God loves us (John 3:16). Second, we love God. And third, we love others through God (1 John 4:10). With this progression we see that all love starts with God and is only fulfilled through his power. We can’t even properly love ourselves without help from God so how would we think about loving others in a way that is sacrificing and selfless without God showing us how.

Are you trying to love others without having a proper love of God? Do you have trouble understanding the level of love that God has for you? Try this exercise. Read John 21:15-17 and meditate on Jesus’ question of Peter, “Do you love me?” Think about how you would answer this question and your response to Jesus’ command to Peter to “care for my sheep.” Who is it that you need to “feed?”, to care for?, and to love? Ask God, he will give you an answer and you can start to “get over yourself.”

Eliminate to Illuminate

If I am not careful, my stack of books to be read can grow by the day. I have never met an interesting website that I didn’t want to subscribe to. If I enjoy a blog or writer I am never satisfied with reading just a few things by them, I have to read their entire body of work. If I find a workout or nutrition program interesting, I want to follow it to the letter even though half of what is being asked doesn’t apply to me or requires too much money or time. Call me obsessive compulsive, a nerd, or even crazy, but what it really comes down to is that I consistently and foolishly think that I can add infinitely more to my life and that somehow that is a good thing.

The truth is, the only effective way to change is by first eliminating all that is a distraction, a burden, or time waster. No one followed Jesus without sacrificing something, maybe even something that was good. Even if we have many Godly things in our lives or Church activities that fill our schedule, we may need to cut some of these things out of our lives so that we can make room for God in an intentional way.

Over the last few years, I have stopped following every sport that showed up on Sports Center and streamlined the teams and events that I will let myself get fanatical about. I have tried to keep the list of books that I am reading at one time down to two so that I can take notes and fully consider what I am reading. I have stopped checking email obsessively and have become okay with emails gathering in my inbox or going unanswered. I no longer feel the need to read a magazine from cover to cover. I have been known to take whole months and devote them to one area of interest or activity instead of being thinned out by trying to keep up with multiple interests.

I mention all of this to possibly help you realize that if you have visions of including more prayer in your life, or reading through entire chapters of the Bible, or being more consistent with your Spiritual Enrichment Workout, you are going to have to eliminate something that you currently do. Piling on things to your already busy schedule cannot be sustained and will only lead to frustration and guilt.

So I would like to propose an exercise to be done starting next Monday and lasting one week. For this activity, I will be going on a Sports Fast where I will not read about or watch sports for one week. I will instead, try to use any extra time or mental storage space for meditating on God, spending time with my family, or praying and reading scripture. Your biggest distraction may not be sports. It may be political talk shows, or Facebook, or reality TV, or People magazine, or iPhone apps. Whatever it is that is teetering on becoming an obsession with you and it is getting in the way of  what is truly important you must eliminate it for one week.

My posts for this week will talk more about fasting and will be designed to prepare us for our upcoming Week of Elimination.

Discovering Spiritual Activities That Work Best For You

In the last post, I explained that cookie-cutter advice  for growing spiritually was ineffective. Today, I want to give some examples of activities that fit individual personalities. Perhaps you can relate to one or more of the following types of people.

If you are the type of person who gets more out of the worship portion of the service rather than the sermon, then why don’t you look up the scripture verses where many of the praise and worship songs get their lyrics. A simple Google search for some of the lyrics should provide the scripture reference.

If you are the type of person who prefers working with your hands and creating things, then why don’t you create a cross of some kind. As you work on the cross, think about Jesus’ sacrifice and what it means to you. Think about how Jesus turned an ugly and torturous piece of wood and turned into something beautiful.

If you are the type of person who would rather watch someone read rather than read yourself, then find an audio version of the Bible to listen to in your car or on your mp3 player.

If you are the type of person who would rather play sports than watch sports, then take a Psalm and as you read it, act it out. You may have to do this one when no one else is around.

If you are the type of person who is energized by times of solitude, then take your lunch hour and find a park and just sit thinking about God’s creation and provision.

If you are the type of person who likes writing encouraging notes to people, then why don’t you write a prayer of praise to God.

If you are the type of person who enjoys talking with friends about serious matters, then find two or three who will join you regularly to talk about what Christ is doing in your life.

If you are the type of person who gets more out of the sermon than the worship portion of the service, then take notes during the sermon and review your notes during the next week.

If you are the type of person who learns more about yourself when you are helping someone else, then volunteer with a ministry who serves the poor and envision each person you help as Christ himself.

These are just a few suggestions among thousands. The point is to be creative and be willing to try out new things. Do any of these resonate with you? What suggestions would you add to the list?