“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.

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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.

Power Outage – Why Relying On Will Power Is Not Working

Aside

According to researchers, will power is not so powerful and those that possess the ability to avoid temptation are not mentally stronger than everyone else, they just know how to redirect their attention away from the temptation so that their weak will power will not be tested.

Thankfully, Christians are not left with just the limited nature of their will power. Jesus’ emphasis in his teachings, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, was on the heart. He says to first, “clean the inside of the cup, so the outside will become clean also.” The problem with change that relies so heavily on will power is that it is focused on the surface of the person and not the inner character.

If I am going to become a kinder person, I have to first become the type of person who would naturally be kind. If I am going to be of service to others, I have to first become the type of person who would serve naturally. Gritting teeth and tapping into will power will fail 80% of the time and always has its limits.

Real power comes from taking Jesus into our hearts and letting him start to change us from the inside out. The change has to come in the heart before it will manifest itself into action. This is a much better strategy for change than will power. Easier too.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

What can you do today to change from the inside out?

  • Acknowledge that your will power is weak and not very helpful.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13 with the knowledge that it is not asking you to do anything but become something
  • Ask Christ to change your heart
  • Focus on Christ’s work inside you and not on the outside results, those will come.
  • Tell others that you are no longer trusting your own strength but in the power of Christ inside you

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.

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 12

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 12: The Beautiful: A New Vision of Me

–  Change is about coming out of hiding and accepting our true identity

–  We are already made in the image of God now we can become heirs of God

–  Change is not easy but it is possible

I really believe that many Christians think that change into Christlikeness is beyond their reach. Jesus never doubted the possibility for change in his followers. If he did, he wouldn’t have hung around the rag-tag group that he did. He wouldn’t have called out the poor in the spirit and the meek for blessing. Change has nothing to do with who we are but everything to do with who Jesus is. Change is possible, I can attest to it.

Apprentice Activity: People Can Change

–  Make a list of people you know who’ve made a significant and positive change in their life

–   Have lunch with one of the people from your list and ask them the secret to change

Note the things that worked for them

If you have grown up in the church then you are familiar with the “top that testimony” phenomenon that often happens in youth groups. Share time in small groups turns into who can tell the most sensational story. My experience among young adults is somewhat the opposite. No longer do individuals want the attention that comes from their tortured past because it is more important to project a “good face” and the appearance of a good life. Adults need to find more opportunities to tell each other what God is doing in their life. This exercise could be very helpful in that regard.

What is Jesus teaching me? That change is sometimes a quick process and sometimes a slow process. I can point you to specific aspects of my life that have been changed by Christ and then I can point you to other aspects that have seen slow changes. I have learned not to keep score and trust God that as long as I am willing to change and asking for change then He will continue to work on me. Though I still struggle with certain things, I look back and see more and more of the overall person that Christ is trying to build in me. If all of my pains and struggles were removed then I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Have you beat yourself up over your spiritual failures? Are you frustrated with the change process? Do you believe that change is possible?

Why Most Prescriptions For Spiritual Growth Fail

In this short clip from John Ortberg, the case is made that God never works on two people the same way. Ortberg says that our growth in Christ will never look the same as someone else’s. Then why are the prescriptions for spiritual growth so standard?

Let’s say that I am trying to become more generous with my giving. The most common recommendation is to find the scriptures related to giving and generosity followed behind by prayer and then maybe a book recommendation on the topic. But what if I don’t like to read, or what if my prayer life stinks more than my generosity or what if I don’t have a concordance or know what scriptures to read on the topic?

Again we return to the similarities found in exercise. No good personal trainer is going to prescribe the same recommendations for a 23-year-old female with slight build as he would a 57-year-old man who is overweight. Then why do well-intentioned mentors, pastors, and friends make such generic recommendations with little consideration for personality, learning styles, context, time constraints, and so on? No wonder so many good-hearted Christians feel frustrated with their spiritual growth. They have come to the conclusion that there really isn’t much they can do because they do not respond to the most common methods of discipleship.

I know of two assessment tools (Monvee and Christian Life Profile) that attempt to customize spiritual growth plans for an individual but I would suggest that anyone wanting to follow Christ needs to be willing to experiment with what works for them. Ten years ago, when God broke through in my life I went on a search to find what resonated the most for me. It took me several months of slogging through materials and exercises that weren’t really effective for me until I discovered some of the activities, mentalities, and practices that really helped me grow. If you are serious about becoming more Christlike then turn your wishful thinking into a journey of growth. Ask the Holy Spirit  to help you discover anything that builds your relationship with God. Have an open mind to what works. Don’t assume that what works for your pastor will work for you. Find fellow sojourners who will walk beside you and not dictate your choices but help you find the most effective ones.

In the next post, I will list a few activities that might help kick start your thinking along these lines.

The Reliable VIM

From 2002-2006, my wife and I did intense work at an inner city ministry. Leah ran the kitchen and I volunteered with various ministries and efforts. One thing that I tried to do was meet with some of the men who had recently become followers of Christ. We tried to meet a couple of times a month to read scripture and learn more about what it means to follow Jesus. As so often happens, our meetings kind of fizzled out and we were not meeting regularly. A few months later, one of the guys, who I had not seen in several months, came back around and reminded me of some of the things that he learned from our small group. This guy was barely literate but the one thing that he remembered was the VIM pattern of change.

VIM is an acronym created by Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart. V stands for Vision, I stands for Intention, and M stands for Means. Willard calls this a “reliable pattern of change” that can be found in virtually all successful programs working on changing patterns of behavior such as AA or Weight Watchers. I have used VIM in changes involving fitness, career, and spiritual matters.

In order for individuals to change they must have a Vision for what their life will look like when the change becomes a reality. You must see yourself a an ex-smoker or a Spanish speaker or a 5K runner. Next, the individual must Intentionally decide that this change is so important to them that they will do everything they can to make it become a reality. This isn’t a wish for change but a conscious decision to make it happen. Finally, the individual finds the Means to turn their vision into reality. These means can include books, classes, support groups, exercises, journaling, etc. Whatever is used to cultivate the vision is considered a means.

Maybe you have started a Spiritual Enrichment Workout or a New Year’s resolution involving scripture reading or prayer. Perhaps you would like to start a new ministry or small group at your church. By implementing the VIM pattern, you will have the best pathway to achieving your goals.

One last note of warning, the most important aspect of the pattern may be the Intention. We all can see ourselves changed and are well aware of the means that are out there for achieving the change but until you have made a firm decision that your changed self is worth pursuing then the means will do you no good. I can think back in my own life when efforts to change failed and point to a lack of intention as the culprit.

Try out the VIM pattern and see if it helps you move your vague notions of change into improved patterns of behavior.

How Christ Made Me A Better Person Pt. 1

In the last post, I expressed that the best path to personal change is first through Christian spiritual transformation and development. Here are some examples in my own life of personal changes coming as a result of the work of Christ in my life.

Become a nicer, friendlier person – Initially, I come across to people as an aloof, kind of grumpy person and I think, as a younger person, I drew some of my identity from that but as Christ began to show me how he views his created people I began to demonstrate more outward love and acceptance of others.

Enjoying reading scripture – I used to have the mentality that I had to approach the Bible as I would a regular book. In other words, the only way to get anything out of it was to read whole books  and try to get through the thing cover to cover. But, my intense study of the Sermon on The Mount opened up a desire to study the Ten Commandments and that led to a desire to study 1 Corinthians 13 and that led to a desire to study Colossians 3 and on and on. Before I knew it, I wasn’t just reading scripture but I was memorizing scripture and was letting scripture tell me what to read next. All of scripture opened up to me in a brand new way.

Made me appreciate church more – I used to be very critical of church and romanticized the stories of people who I had heard about who left the church out of “devotion.” But it is hard to read the New Testament and not see the effort that Christ went through to establish his church and it is hard to ignore the terminology of the church being the Bride of Christ. To reject the church is  to reject one of Christ’s greatest achievements and 2000 years of God’s work on Earth. My church, your church, everyone’s church has problems and is incredibly limited and distracted but our individual church is the work of God and his will and we need to be sensitive to that.  Christ showed me this and I have become much more willing to serve the church rather than just criticize it.

In Part 2, I will discuss what Christ has done in my life regarding anger, sex, and personality.