Best of Christian Life Hacker – Quiet Time Has Got To Go

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 is one of the first post from back in December:

Quiet Time Has Got To Go

I have a confession to make. I don’t have a quiet time. That’s right, the standard for evangelical spiritual growth is not in my vocabulary. Not because I dislike the idea of having a time of the day set aside for being quiet but because the term “quiet time” has turned into something powerless and reeks of church speak (terms that have very little meaning outside the church).

I am sorry, but my time spent talking to, listening to, and learning about God and his kingdom needs a term that packs a little more punch than “quiet time”. This term sounds like something I would do to my daughters to punish them or settle them down before bed.

Also, for anyone who has grown up in the church, the term has been used so frequently and with such “preachiness” that it instantly conjures up feelings of guilt in individuals who have failed to live up to all the requirements of a ‘quiet time’ (at least 15 minutes, first thing in the morning, chapter a day, etc.). I don’t know if I can come up with a better term, but the one that I have started using is “Spiritual Enrichment”.

To me, the term Spiritual Enrichment accomplishes two things. First, it helps explain the goal of the activity – to grow, to be enriched, improved. Second, it reminds us that what we are doing during this time is a spiritual activity and not just a time when we try to be alone with our Bible open. We are spiritual beings, that is part of the life that God breathed into us in the Garden of Eden and later at Pentecost. Evangelicals get nervous when talk turns too spiritual but denying our non-physical side is denying what makes humans unique and what made God so proud in creating us.

So, on this blog at least we will not use the term “quiet time” but will replace the idea with the term Spiritual Enrichment. I am not sold on this term so if anyone else has an idea on what we can call it please let me know.

Christian Life Hacker 101: Christians Can Meditate Too

Back in 2009, Paul McCartney reunited with Ringo Starr during a benefit concert. This event marked the first time that the two surviving Beatles had performed together since 2002. What was the cause that brought out these legends of Rock and Roll? Transcendental Meditation (TM).

Film director David Lynch was hosting this concert to help raise money for his Foundation, which is trying to get TM to be a part of the curriculum of public schools. In this form of Eastern meditation, the idea is to empty your mind of everything so that you can be connected to a transcendent consciousness.

This form of meditation is in stark contrast to Christian meditation, which instead of emptying the mind seeks to fill the mind with God. Psalms 1 describes a person who is so delighted in God that he “meditates on his law day and night.” Eastern meditation wants to remove all desires while Christian mediation wants to increase in what God desires. Eastern Meditation wants to bring the individual to a trance like state while Christian mediation wants to bring the individual to a worshipful state.

Christians should not be alarmed if they hear someone discussing Christian meditation. They should not think that their faith has been overrun by Eastern religious influences. They should realize that spending time filling one’s mind with thoughts of God, his words from scripture, his love, and work on Earth, could be one of the most beneficial practices they could ever participate in.

 

Christian Lifehacker 101: Spiritual Disciplines Are Not Just For Super Christians

Let’s look at two more terms that are often misunderstood – Spiritual Disciplines and the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual Disciplines – If you don’t have a grasp of the concept of Grace then Spiritual Disciplines will seem like a set of legalistic requirements that if you are not practicing indicate your poor faith and lack of devotion. We often feel frustrated because we don’t pray and read our Bibles enough and to have another list of spiritual activities to do just makes this idea of spiritual growth seem more daunting.

In a previous post, we learned that grace is God’s action in our lives to accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own. Spiritual Disciplines are the best way that I know of to increase God’s action in our lives. For example, by spending more time in silence I give God more room to speak to me and draw closer to me. By fasting, I learn that God has provisions for me that go much farther than the material. By worshiping, I focus my mind on “things above and not on earthly things”. Everyone of these examples creates an avenue for God to work in my life. If I was not intentionally practicing these things then I am reducing God’s place in my life to afterthoughts and pushing him to the periphery of my life.

If you are still put off by the term discipline, then replace it with the word training. No person has ever completed a marathon without some kind of training. It is the same in your Christian life. You will not grow closer to God or become more like Christ by wishing it to happen; you have to train your spirit (non-physical side) so that real change can occur.

Holy Spirit – After reading the above definition you probably have started to wonder where the Holy Spirit fits into all of this.  Though Spiritual Disciplines are an important ingredient in change, they have no power without the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been given to us for one purpose and that is to make us disciples of Jesus. James Bryan Smith says that, “everything that happens to us in our Christian life is the work of the Holy Spirit.” When you become frustrated with your Christian life, it is the Holy Spirit that nudges you toward a new set of priorities. When you read scripture, it is the Holy Spirit that draws your attention to a certain passage that speaks to a specific need in your life. If you have gotten anything out of these blog postings it is due, not to me, but to the Holy Spirit moving in your heart and mind to be inspired by what is written here.

One of the last things that Jesus tells his disciples is that, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). This is the role of the Holy Spirit  in our Spiritual Formation – to be an unseen teacher constantly reminding us of what Jesus did and said.

Christian Life Hacker 101: What You Need To Know About Grace and Discipleship

Today, I continue explaining the terms that get used the most on this blog.

Discipleship –  This is one of my favorite words in the Christian lexicon. It makes it sound like those of us who live 2,000 years after Christ can still join him just like Peter, James, John and all the rest did. I also love this word because of the definition that Dallas Willard uses. Discipleship is the act of “learning to live one’s life as Jesus would if he were they.” Let that stir in your head for a moment. This definition is much more than “What would Jesus do?” but “Who would Jesus be if he were in my family, in my job, and handling my problems?” This is the ideal we seek as we draw closer and closer to Jesus in order to learn from him.

Grace – Another term that Dallas Willard helped me understand. According to Willard, grace is more than the common definition of “unmerited favor”. Grace is “God’s action in our lives to accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own.” Of course, this is “unmerited favor” but a simple look through scripture shows us that the word grace is used  differently than what we normally expect.

“Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 3:17.

In John 1: 14, we are told that Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

These are just two examples that show how limited our definition of grace has become. We do not grow in “unmerited favor” or forgiveness but we can grow in God’s action (grace) in our lives. One last quote from Willard. “It is not the sinner who burns a lot of grace but the saint. A saint burns grace (God’s action) like a 747 burns fuel on takeoff.”

Next time, we will look at the terms spiritual disciplines and Holy Spirit.

Christian Life Hacker 101: Learning Another Language

When my wife and I worked at an inner city ministry I tried to be conscious of avoiding “church speak”. I wanted to express the gospel but do it in a way that didn’t sound like I was completely unaware that many of the people we encountered had never set foot in a church before.

Similarly, one of the reasons I started this blog was to show regular believers that growth in their spiritual life and becoming more like Christ was possible. Not only possible, but simple as well. So, I feel I need to offer some definitions and explanations for much of the language I have used on this blog so far. Here are two of the most common terms that Christian Life Hackers should understand:

spirit(uality) – Everyone has a spiritual side to their life whether or not they are a part of a particular religion. Our spirit is anything that is not physical. Our emotions, our choices, our dreams, our thoughts, and our intellect are all non-physical and thus a part of our spirit. So spirituality is a conscious awareness of our spirit and involves our efforts to work with and on this spiritual side of our selves. But, Christian spirituality involves all of the work that Jesus Christ is doing and has done to change our spirit to reflect the type of spirituality that he possessed when he was on this Earth.

Christian Spiritual Formation – Since we have already established that everyone is spiritual, then we must assume that everyone has been formed spiritually. From the child growing up in the ghetto to Donald Trump, everyone has been involved in Spiritual Formation. The distinction that needs to be made is Christian Spiritual Formation. The work that Christ does in the heart of the believer is more than just formation but more like transformation or even renovation. The heart that we have before knowing Christ is ruined and full of evil but by taking Christ into our lives and letting him change us from the inside out our heart begins to overflow with the aspects of Christ – otherworldly aspects such as peace, love, joy, faith, and hope. Complete transformation is impossible this side of heaven but with our heart indwelled by Christ and our willingness to let Christ work on us we can achieve unbelievable growth in our lives.

Note: Today is day one of my elimination project, or fast. I am eliminating sports from my life for the next week. Have you found something that has too much of a hold on you that you need to eliminate for a time? Go ahead and try living without this thing and be sure to let me know so we can work on this together.