Neglecting The Need To Be Good People

At the very points where Christians should be obvious lights of better living and treatment to others, they are often demonstrating the opposite. For example:

  • In a recent Barna poll, 49% of Unchurched people could not identify a single positive contribution made by American Christians.
  • Baylor University, a place that touts leadership and faith on billboards and promotional materials, sold its Christian soul to the idol of football, prestige, and wealth and neglected the welfare of its own students.
  • Many Christians rallied around a political candidate who has demonstrated anger, flaunts his lusts and sexual appetites, lies repeatedly about himself and others, shown no signs of humility, and has made large sweeping judgements about entire groups of people. Many of these Christians tried to rationalize their support with some thin Biblical claims about God using bad and immoral leaders for his purposes. As if this was somehow a preferable scenario to a more noble and honorable person.

Where did we go wrong? We could just blame the timeless culprits of Money, Sex, and Power and move on for hopefully better days. But what if our current state of character deficiency is a result of neglect?

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My browse through a Mall bookstore showed two whole columns of the Christian section on Heaven but nary a book on lying. The library where I am a librarian has twice as many books on the End Times than it does on anger. When have you ever heard a sermon on blessing those who curse you?

Yet, the most read sermon of all time talks extensively about anger, lust, lying, worry, giving to the needy, and judging others.

It is not like Christians don’t know these things. I have always been haunted by the words of a Harvard student who was continually mistreated and propositioned for sex by a classmate. She stated to Robert Coles, well-known researcher on social issues and ethics, “What is the point of knowing good if you don’t keep trying to become a good person?”

Are you, with the help of Christ, trying to become a good person?

Part of the hesitancy to speak up on these things involves our own fear that we will be found out and made to look like a hypocrite or torn down by the slightest personal failing. I am not above being fearful of perceptions of hypocrisy, even of the words I am writing now. But, I am also not above doing my part to push myself and others to Grow Up to represent a Christian life that seeks to obey Jesus’ words and be a light to the world.

Won’t you make 2017 the year that you work on becoming a good person. In the coming weeks, I will present some ideas that will help you work with Christ on this goal. The world needs our character, our values, our love, and our compassion. It is time to let Christ transform you and Grow Up.

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Scenes From the First Grow Up Event

Last Friday, I hosted the first Grow Up Event, a Fund Raising Party. After rain earlier in the day, the skies cleared up late Friday afternoon and the weather was perfectly cool and pleasant. The ground was hardly wet or muddy. God set up a great evening for us.

Around 35 people came and enjoyed excellent tacos from El Taxqueño Taquería and then settled in for music from Ben Coleman and then from Chad and Melissa Edgington. The songs were a perfect backdrop to the evening and set a great tone for a pleasant and uplifting night.

In addition to the music, I was able to tell a little bit of my story and what I feel God is leading me to do with the start of Grow Up Ministries. I mentioned how He has led me to the Apprentice Experience training as an act of faith and that now, I will be pursuing opportunities to help struggling and stagnant Christians find the ability to live the life Christ intends for them to live.

After the music, people had the chance to give. At the end of the night, we raised $525 that will go to the completion of my training and the start up of Grow Up Ministries. God is good.

See pictures below.

Even if you were unable to make it, you can still give by going to my fund raising page:

https://igg.me/at/bkFj2UfykB4

By contributing you will receive the following:

At least $25 – The Grow Up Playlist full of songs that have helped me in my spiritual life.

At least $50 – A sample chapter of an eBook I worked on a few years ago called More of Christ, Less of Everything Else.

At least $75 – A resource pack full of the list of tools that I use to grow closer to God.

At least $100 – A short eBook that I am creating called the Devotional Lives of Famous Christians.

The Best Definition of Spirituality I Have Heard

I recently read a tremendous definition of Spirituality. Geoffrey Wainwright says that Spirituality is “praying while living.”

I thank God, and my wife, for giving me a strong sense of the spiritual while also carrying a keen awareness of the practical. One of God’s gifts to me is being able to connect the two. For example, I missed my rather consistent time of prayer yesterday because I was putting the finishing touches on a practical demonstration of care and love.

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Today, I am back at it with my prayers and meditation, with an understanding that yesterday’s act of service came out of my best times of prayer and worship. In a sense, I was praying while living and living while praying. I needed that act of service to put my feet to my prayers, my study, and my worship. But acts of service don’t exist in my otherwise selfish heart if I wasn’t working, with God’s help, to transform my  self absorbed tendencies through prayer, meditation, study, and confession.

Are you living without praying? Or praying without living? Either way, you are not growing and are staying stagnant.

Let your prayers (or any soul training exercise) inform your living for a richer, deeper, more Christ-filled life while letting your living inform your prayers. This is at the heart of the partnership that you have started with God.

image: National Gallery of Canada (no. 29218)
© Estate of George Rouault / SODRAC (2013)

 

9/11 Gave Me A Spiritual Purpose and A Calling

I remember being at home on the Friday morning after September 11, 2001. I was watching our 2-year old daughter as she played oblivious to the images and sadness that was on display as a memorial service played on our TV. When Billy Graham got up to speak and to pray I shed a few tears for my country and the dark cloud it was now under.

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God had already been doing some pretty significant things in my life at that time but September 11 clarified and focused my calling. I didn’t want to live in a world where the evil carried out by those terrorist on that morning existed. I wanted to not just be a better person but be a part of a plan to make the world a better place and insure where that kind of evil couldn’t happen again.

First, this conviction and movement of God led my wife and I to serve in Social Ministry and then Community Ministry. Now, 15 years later, God has led me to pursue Christian maturity and discipleship, what I call Growing Up.

I believe that changed lives change the world. I know that I am just a lowly blogger who teaches classes, writes, and tries to mentor and disciple. But, if God can take these humble efforts and help someone draw closer to him, change a behavior that hurts others, or share God’s love with a broken world, then my efforts are worth it.

That is how September 11, 2001 shaped my life and where God has taken me since then. I pray that my work makes a difference and that it resonates with the right people at the right time.


Part of my continuing growth in this ministry is a 18-month training called, Apprentice Experience. This training in will teach me more about the nature of God and how he changes lives. I plan to take that knowledge to share with others, so that they can reach Christian maturity, additional wisdom, and transformed lives. But, I need your help to complete the training. Please donate now to my fund raising page and I will keep the message coming and the mission of making a better world through changed lives a reality.

Three Marks Of A Spiritually Mature Leader

The university where I work recently conducted an inauguration service for a new President. It had all that you would expect; dignitaries representing important places and institutions, fancy clothes and regalia, grandiose music, and words of inspiration and acknowledgement.

It also exemplified aspects of Growing Up that can be peculiar attributes of mature Christian leaders. Let me explain:

  • Good memory: Some would say that leadership is all about the future. Where are you taking the organization? What future will the people under you have in 5 or 10 years? What will be your future legacy? But could leadership be enhanced by a keen understanding of the past? Much of the Inauguration service discussed the 28 years that our previous president served and all the ways that God used him to accomplish great things at the University and among its students. As much as Christian leaders want to hear from God in the future they may need to focus at times on what God has already done and draw inspiration from those memories.

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  • Humility: After he was invested with the proper accoutrements of the office and he was officially announced as our President, he didn’t stand in the glory of the moment, instead, he and his wife knelt down and prayed and were prayed over by leaders and pastors. Mature Christian leaders know that when they reach their highest achievement, that is the right time to humble themselves and pray and call on God for all of his provisions.
  • Submission: President Wright, in his remarks to the audience, stated that “this is not my University, this is not the faculty’s University, this is not the student’s University, this is God’s University.”He went on to proclaim that his goal was to please God and be a part of God’s will for the University. Throughout scripture, the great call for people of faith, is to submit to the authority and direction of God. Leaders are only placed in leadership by God and they need to recognize that any achievements or successes will come when God is glorified and not themselves.

A leader could certainly lead without a good memory or humility or submission but they would not be an example of a mature Christian leader. These types of leaders have recognized their condition under God and know that their work is God’s work.

 

photo credits: Dallas Baptist University

God Speaks To Me Through …

What Spiritual Exercise(s) has had the most impact on your Growing Up?

For me, it has to be reading/studying and solitude with a little bit of small group community to keep me encouraged and accountable.

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Whatever activity that benefits you the most in Growing Up, make sure you are including that in your life on a regular basis. If it is prayer, make time for prayer. If it is worship, make time for worship. If it is service, make time for service. If it is scripture memorization, start memorizing.

Don’t worry if your exercise or activity isn’t the most commonly practiced. God works on us at an individual level so how he connects with me will look different than how he connects with you. That is the point, to find that sweet spot where you get the most out of your time and life with God and make it a prominent part of your life.

Will there be times when we need to branch out and try an activity that makes us uncomfortable and doesn’t come naturally? Absolutely, but I contend that if we aren’t making room for our best”with God life” then we won’t even understand what other activities and aspects we need to work on. Growing Up in Christ leads to more Growing Up in Christ.

So, be intentional this week in pursuing God by way of the activities that bring you closer to Him and thus, give you the most potential for growth.

 

 

 

A Fresh Approach To Growing Up

Part of what I try to do here on the Grow Up Blog is present a fresh approach to Christian living. I try to push the reader away from long standing guilt driven and unrealistic approaches to life with Christ.

Along these lines is a book I have worked on periodically and submitted as a book proposal to publishers.

Just now, I sent an excerpt of this book to people who have donated $50 or more to my Fundraiser. In order for you to get this book sample as well as the Grow Up Playlist sent to you, won’t you consider donating?

This book sample will tell you why you are not Growing Up and present a vision for your growth in Christian Living that is marked by:

  • peace
  • thoughtfulness
  • freedom to serve
  • wisdom

The only way to get this sample is to donate. Your donation will keep quality blog content coming your way as well as allow me to continue learning and training so that I can share all that I learn with you.

Donate now and enjoy this book sample.

Does God Care About Olympic Sports?

Gold medalist swimmer Maya Dirado, when discussing her Christian faith and its influence on her success said, “I don’t think God cares about my swimming very much.”

Later, in a interview with Christianity Today, she elaborated on this comment, “I think God cares about my soul and whether I’m bringing his love and mercy into the world. Can I be a loving, supportive teammate and can I bless others around me in the same way God has been so generous with me?”

I don’t pretend to know the extent to which God cares about competitive swimming, but I think Dirado makes a great point in emphasizing the inside out nature of the Growing Up process.

For Dirado, what God is doing with her spiritually is more important than what objective measures of success are out there. Then, based on how well she is letting God work on her soul and spirit, she now has the responsibility to impact others around her through love, compassion, and generosity. Attributes that have been demonstrated to her through Jesus Christ.

Dirado understands that man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.

What a refreshing perspective she has and a much needed one in a world that wants to distort Christianity to just perceived legalisms, hypocrisies, moral stances, and political sound bites.

What if Dirado’s faith philosophy is more correct than we realize? To allow God to work on us, to bring Christ into our life to transform, change, and develop us so that we can be a blessing to others. Pretty profound, huh?

That sounds like a goal worth striving for.

 

 

When You Tell Jesus To Go Away

Occasionally, I teach a Bible Study at my church. Yesterday, I taught from Luke 5:1-11. This is the story of Jesus telling Peter and other would be disciples to, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” If you have read this before, you know that once the disciples did this, the load of fish that they caught was so great they needed help just to get the fish to shore.

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What struck me about this passage and how it relates to Growing Up is Peter’s initial response to Jesus after Jesus told him to “put out into deep water.” Peter said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Peter’s response was reluctant, skeptical, and downright doubtful. He was really telling Jesus that Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about and that nothing is going to change. Peter gave Jesus a courtesy response with little expectation of anything significant happening.

By the end of the story, Peter is so ashamed at himself and his lack of faith that he falls to Jesus’ knees and tells Jesus to “go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

Is Jesus talking to you? Is he asking you to go deep? Are you being asked to put down your net one more time even though it feels as if you have already done it a 100 times with little result?

You need to have more confidence than Peter. Read scripture, pray, meditate, worship, speak that word to a friend, and listen to God once again.

Let down that net and see the abundant catch that only Jesus can provide.

How To Grow A Spiritually Mature Man

I am going to lay out some ideas in this space in relation to how groups of men can Grow Up in their Christian Life. These are just ideas, I haven’t tested them but through observation, reading, and my own experience, I believe that this might be a pathway to move men into a more mature faith. I welcome your feedback on these ideas.

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  1. Make it difficult – Men need an animal to go hunt, a palace to defend, and a purpose that is greater than themselves. I have talked in this space about the challenge of the Christian life and how that is by design. If there is no challenge then there is no opportunity for growth.
  2. Give Each Other Nicknames – One of the oddities of male bonding is the need to give each other nicknames. Somehow, calling someone Slim or Lefty is a term of endearment between one man to another. Women don’t give out nicknames, men do. That is weird, I know. Even Jesus gave out nicknames. He called Simon by the name, Peter, which means The Rock. James and John were Sons of Thunder. One of the disciples was named The Zealot. These nicknames brought a since of affection, inclusiveness, uniqueness, and identity. Don’t underestimate the power of a nickname.
  3. Use Humor. If you watch typical depictions of groups of women in film, they show their love for one another through touch, compliments, knowing glances, and words of gratitude. The male depiction is usually centered around one thing: humor. Psychologist may think that men are using humor to mask vulnerability or as a defense mechanism against their true feelings and sorrows. But what if humor is the male way of connecting with one another. If you can share a joke with another male, then you build trust, and an understanding with one another.
  4. Things Can Be Serious. Remember, men who are bonding will bring humor into the situation themselves. So, the task at hand can be serious, even life or death. Men won’t shy away from what is heavy or serious when they know what is at stake. In fact, this will be embraced because it feeds into their sense of purpose.

What do you think? Would this work? Could a study or plan be developed around these ideas? I will be pursuing this and may be calling out some men to test out some of these ideas. If you are interested, let me know.