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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Worth Your Weight In Salt

Because I am becoming increasingly concerned with the inability of

Salt

Salt (Photo credit: krissen)

American Christians to live out their faith in a practical and realistic way that does not require fanaticism about issues and politics, I thought it would be good to move through some teachings of Jesus  and discuss how these teachings actually live out in daily life.

I am no expert but I hope to bring a thoughtful and reasoned approach. Plus, I am a disciple of Jesus and he has taught me a few things over the years. The main focus will be Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Matt. 5: 13

What a warning this verse is. Imagine not being “good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” This is why our actions as Christians should be thoughtful and directed by the Holy Spirit. A Christian that acts out of emotion but fails to discern God’s will or listen to that “still small voice” is at risk of turning their salt into nothing more than white specs on the ground.

As a Christian, you are Christ’s representative on earth. You are called to be little Christ. We should filter all of our actions through Christ’s actions and ministry. We should be so knowledgeable of Christ’s teaching and ministry that we intuitively understand how much our actions mirror who Christ was and is in us.

There are endless words written on “how Jesus would” drive, vote, eat, or work. I don’t know if we can answer all of these questions but we can, with just a short walk through the gospels, notice that Jesus emphasized love, abiding in him, healing, forgiveness, prayer, and sacrifice. To remain salty, these are the things we should be characterized by. Other things may put us in position to lose our saltiness.

 

How We Can Learn To Pray For Our Enemies And Other Lessons

Because I am becoming increasingly concerned with the inability of American Christians to live out their faith in a practical and realistic way that does not require fanaticism about issues and politics, I thought it would be good to move through some teachings of Jesus  and discuss how these teachings actually live out in daily life.

I am no expert but I hope to bring a thoughtful and reasoned approach. Plus, I am a disciple of Jesus and he has taught me a few things over the years. The main focus will be Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Matthew 5:1-2

This happened right after scripture tells us that Jesus traveled the countryside healing the sick and demon possessed. The pattern of Jesus ministry is healing then teaching. The two go hand in hand. He rarely taught without also healing and rarely healed without also teaching.

Do we only want Jesus’ healing and dismiss his teaching? Do we come to him so that he can make us whole but when he then has something to tell us that may be more important than our healing we turn our back on him? How selfish can we be? The crowds that followed Jesus weren’t satisfied with the healing. They followed him because he was unique, powerful, and wise. What would happen if you sought only Jesus’ teaching? Would the healing disappear or be unimportant? I don’t think so, but I do think our lives would begin a well-ordered transformation.

Action: Ask yourself what you want to learn from Jesus? What aspect of Jesus’ life and teaching would benefit your life? Pray that you will learn from Jesus how to make this change in your life.

Jesus Didn’t Die To Give You A Political Stance

I am fed up.

I don’t like to use this space for social and political commentary but recent events are crying for a different perspective, one that I thought I might be able to speak to.

It seems that there is a misconception in American Christianity that the only way to live out your faith is to be bold and fanatical regarding social or political  issues. Somehow the Christian duty of loving God, loving others, sharing the gospel, and making disciples has been replaced with making political statements, arguing, fanatical postering, and boycotts.

The implication in all of this is that to be a true Christian is to be bold and outspoken about cultural and political issues. Despite lines and lines of Biblical texts that discuss loving your enemies, care for the unfortunate, and going the extra mile, Evangelical Christians feel that the only model for a devout faith involves becoming overly confrontational and entrenched in Christian culture.

John 13:34-35 states,  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorifyyour Father in heaven.”

Ephesians 5:8 explains, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light”

Our call as believers and followers of Jesus is to let his life work through our life so that the Kingdom of God (where what God wants done is done) is spread. We can only do this through the transformation of our life through Christ.

If you want to change culture, change your heart, not your political stance. The only hope for this world is Christ’s children living his life in their life.

Take a stand for righteousness and Christlikeness, consider the damage of your own sin in your community before attacking others (even heathens), and above all seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Do these things, and the cultural and political changes we all long for will become an increasing reality. God looks on the heart, scripture says, and that is where we make change happen.

This is why spiritual formation is so important to me and this is why it should be important to you. Our world needs changed hearts and Christians living Christ-like lives. Heart change is so much more important than political change.

The Essential Need To Change Your Mind

As we pursue doable spiritual formation, one of the first places we start is with our minds.

I used to think that hard work and determination was the only path to change. I used to think that I didn’t need Jesus to be Lord of my life, just a helpful resource in times of need. I used to think that only certain aspects of life could benefit from Christ and his kingdom. But I have changed my thinking.

As much as Christians talk about their feelings and emotions, it is their thinking that is the most important element to a transformed life.

The New Living Translation takes a familiar verse about renewing our mind and phrases it this way:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12: 2

Jesus turns the world’s way of thinking upside down. Everything we think is important as feeble humans is turned on its head by Jesus’ life and teaching. Jesus presents a radical way of thinking about the world.

Here are three steps to changing your thinking:

1. Read the Gospels. This is the only way that we can understand how Christ wants us to think.

2. Memorize scripture. Pick a verse such as Galatians 2:20 and put it to memory.

3. Pray for new thinking. What area of your life do you struggle with negative or destructive thinking? Ask God to change your thinking to see this part of your life the way that he does.

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

Becoming A Student of Jesus

Considering the last post, I wanted to move forward in paths toward growth in Christlikeness. The first step is becoming a student of Jesus.

We are students of many things and many people but are we a student of Jesus? Do we read scripture and learn from Jesus how to live? Do we pray and ask for his direction in a certain situation?

The people close to Jesus and not so close to Jesus had many questions for him. They longed for him to teach them how to pray, how to forgive, how to think about the future, how to live a good life, and how to handle their money.

But we can also simply observe Jesus and how he responded to various situations. How he was more than willing to touch a leper and how he was so relaxed and had so much trust in his Father that he could sleep in the middle of a raging storm.

Call it weird, but here is what I do when I am more in tuned with Christ. Because the Bible tells us that Christ lives inside of us, I actually take that to heart and try to focus myself on Christ within me. Like right now, as I write this, I am trying to stay in tuned to what Christ wants said and not what will sound cool or get me a lot of praise. This refocus of my thoughts allows me to learn from Jesus, who is within me, how to respond to a given situation.

According to Matthew 7:24-27, the only way to survive the storms of life is to learn from Jesus and put his words into action. Jesus is the greatest teacher who ever lived. He is so much more, of course, but why learn how to live from a second rate source when you can learn from the son of God.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Next Action: Read from the Gospels daily – Notice how many people asked questions of Jesus to learn from him – What questions do you have for Jesus? – Listen for a response.

One Thing

What is your one thing?

I have thought a lot about what this blog’s one thing should be. What is one message that I would like to get across to whoever happens to find my blog?

I am not a theologian so I would fail if I tried to argue doctrine and the like. I am not a social activist so I would be misguided if I blogged about social issues. And I am not a counselor so I could be dangerous if I constantly spouted advice.

What I am is a normal guy with a normal life who happened to have his life turned upside down by Jesus Christ. I don’t possess any unique skills or have any huge insight but I do long for other normal people who are yearning for a deeper relationship with Jesus to experience what I have experienced. You don’t have to be super spiritual, weird, or withdrawn to transform your life, you just have to be willing to let Christ transform you from the insight out.

My one thing is making growth in Christian spirituality a doable thing for people who think that it is beyond them. You do not have to be constantly frustrated in your spiritual life. Progress is feasible and incredibly rewarding. Christ wants to work on you where you are and what you are dealing with. Your faith does not have to look like your pastor’s, your parent’s, or your Bible Study teacher’s. If it did, you would not be the person you truly need to be.

Join me in discovering a new life that you have always thought was possible but considered out of reach. I can show you a few small things that I have learned that make a huge difference.

This is my one thing.

Introducing 23 Things

23 Things is a learning phenomenon within the circles in which I work. To keep up with trending technologies and to train those that are somewhat leery of new web movements, a librarian developed 23 Things to introduce these technologies and to give participants the opportunity to develop new skills and apply internet based tools to their work activities. I would like to modify 23 Things so that it can be used in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship. Instead of introducing Web 2.0 tools, I will introduce Spiritual Disciplines and exercises to all of those who want to participate. Then, participants can do a small exercise related to that discipline.

This project takes a little more effort and time than usual blog posts so I will be a bit sporadic and link driven over the next week or two. I think you will enjoy the finished product though. I have been developing some of these ideas for over 10 years now and in true Christian Life Hacker style will attempt to make it accessible and doable.

More to come…

Just Because It Is Christian Doesn’t Make It Beneficial

English: Wooden File Cabinet with drawer open....

Image via Wikipedia

I used to be very organized at work. I wasn’t one of those workers who took forever to return an email. If there was an RSVP for a meeting or luncheon, no one had to send me a reminder memo. I was on top of it. My office included open desk space and well labeled filing cabinets. My to-do list was refined, massaged, and edited daily and sometimes hourly. Did all of this make me a better employee? Was I adding true value to my employer? Was I doing truly meaningful work?

No, not really.

You can be the most organized person in the world and still not get meaningful things done. In some respects, I was busy organizing to avoid what was really important. Staying organized was shadow work but not the real thing. It was, as Tim Ferriss has said, “work for work sake.”

To avoid “work for work sake” you have to be able to determine what is truly important and let the rest take care of itself. I wonder if we do the same thing with our spiritual life? Are we busy with spiritual things yet ignoring what God is asking us to do? Does our spiritual life look better by human standards than it does to God’s standards?

Reading the latest buzz worthy Christian book, debating the latest theological trend, and listening to the next preacher superstar may make you look devout and knowledgeable, and you certainly are, in a sense, but it doesn’t mean that you are growing to become more like Christ. It doesn’t mean that you are becoming a more loving and generous person who is slow to anger and quick to forgive.

We may have to put away our books, our seminars, and our conferences and just spend some thoughtful hours with God in order to let him dictate what is most important in our life. Then, we need to go about living out that important thing and letting everything else be.