Category Archives: blogging

Go

“Go!”

It’s a phrase that appears a number of times in scripture.  Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and the disciples are all told to “go!”  The theme of being sent within the Bible is a common one.  Often times, the people being sent are the ones who are identifying their life with the mission of God. 

God is an active God.  God is at work in the world.  If we are claiming to be God’s people and followers of Christ then we must be people who are willing to “go!”  The term “followers” at its core suggests movement.  In reading through the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry we find that he moves throughout the region at a brisk pace with the message: “The kingdom of God has come near!”

As the church we gather together in worship in order to open our eyes and our hearts to a God who is already at work.  We do not gather for the sole purpose of anesthetizing our senses to the realities of life.  No, instead we gather to heighten our awareness of God at work in those realities.  The realities of:

broken relationships

food

chemotherapy

birth

death

Netflix

community

loneliness

and Facebook

These are just some of the realities where God is present.  In Luke 10, not even halfway through his ministry, Jesus sends out between seventy and seventy-seven (depending on translation) of his disciples into the world with the clothes on their back, a companion, and the message: “the kingdom of God has come near!”  This message wasn’t a threat and it wasn’t a scare tactic.  Instead, it was the good news of a proactive God and a new understanding of what it meant to be human in light of this news.

Today we hear this same call.  We are to “go!”  We continue to gather together in worship week in and week out, but that is not our end-goal.  We gather to be sent into a world with the good news of God’s presence.

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What’s Holding You Back?

I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these…” John 14:12

Really, Jesus?  Greater works than you?  I know Jesus says a lot of shocking and alarming things in his ministry, but this may be the most shocking.  Jesus tells his disciples (those who choose to follow him) that they will do even greater things than he did.  Can you believe that?  Maybe the question should be, DO you believe that?

We hold Jesus in the highest regard.  He is the revelation of God with us, for us.  He shows us what it is to be truly human and he exemplifies God’s love for us in his life, death, and resurrection.  Jesus’ teachings form our moral understandings as well as our ethical understandings of not just caring for the poor and the outcast but forming relationships with them.  We claim to have faith in what Jesus said and did, but how many of us believe that we can not only do the work that Jesus did, but maybe even do greater?  That seems sacrilegious.

We are taught from an early age that we should have faith in Jesus – that’s true and that’s good.  What I find most compelling is the amount of faith that Jesus has in us.  Jesus calls us to be his physical presence in the world.  That’s a big responsibility and a huge show of faith on his part.  I mean, he spent time with his disciples.  They weren’t exactly ‘A’ students, yet these are the ones he is talking to.  I can imagine after seeing Jesus walk on water and feed huge crowds with nothing more than a happy meal that they too would doubt their abilities to do “even greater things.”  

I doubt my own abilities: my ability to be compassionate enough, my ability to discern God’s work, my ability to involve other people in God’s work, and my ability to maintain focus and drive.  Deep down I have a fear that who I am and what I have to offer isn’t good enough.  I don’t have enough faith.   So, naturally I have a hard time believing this scripture.

What would it take to be formed into a type of person that believes 1) God is at work in the world; 2) God sends God’s people to be involved in that work; and 3) I am one of those people.  What would need to change that would serve as the catalyst for action?

Seeing others live with this kind of faith inspires me. It is in friends reaching out to their physical neighbors in times of sorrow and crisis, people empowering communities and economies to provide clean drinking water in Haiti, and a man forming a most unlikely friendship and exemplifying the presence of grace of God.  These are the places where I find strength for the journey.  In the people who embody the compassionate love of Christ and believe that they have been sent into this world with purpose and presence.

I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these…” John 14:12

So, what is it that’s holding you back?

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demonstrate

Don’t just proclaim the gospel, demonstrate it.

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.  This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:34-35)

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Simply Live

“Live simply so that others can simply live.”

These words struck me deep as I read them in a blog post recently (yeah, I’m a little behind on my blog reading).

I struggle with materialism just like the author of the original post confesses.  I have a constant wish list of upgrades to be done to our house, a running list of things I would like to buy, and a running list of things I would like to pay off or invest in.  Money can dominate my thoughts for hours on end and, if not held in check, can dominate my life and my actions.

I’ve taken Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” course, but it didn’t resonate deeply with me.  The whole idea of “be smart with your money so you can be a millionaire” bit doesn’t do it for me.  Being a millionaire isn’t a goal of mine (if it was I wouldn’t be in ministry).  I want my life to be about more than how much money I have.*

We aren’t called to give out of what we have left over.  We aren’t called to build up our bank accounts so we can give comfortably.  We are called to give sacrificially whether it be financially, spiritually, temporally, or relationally. (2 Cor. 8:1-4; Luke 21:1-4)  The struggle is in being content and learning that I have more than enough.

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Where do you struggle w/ simplicity in your life?

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*I know the last 10 minutes of Ramsey’s 8 week course talks about giving, but the majority of the course revolves around the goal of becoming rich.  You can disagree withe me if you want.

MEadership

Phil 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

 

What are your motivations for leadership?  Do you find it easiest to lead when others are watching or when there is a certain number attached to a paycheck?  As a young professional in a business made up mostly of older (not old…just older) people I find myself wanting to prove myself.  I want to prove my worth, prove my ability, prove my necessity in whatever context I am in.  This desire to prove often times leads me to looking out for my own self-interest as opposed to following through on the direction God is leading me.

Reflecting a little on this scripture this morning I found that I am susceptible to wanting leadership for some of the wrong purposes.  Do I believe I have something to offer?  Sure.  Do I always approach these situations in the healthiest of manners?  Probably not.

Real leadership comes when it is completely void of self service.  True leadership is looking out for those who can’t advance your career or agenda.  True leadership happens when nobody else is looking.

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Drip, drip, drip

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A friend recently asked me, “What does it take for someone to be creative?”

This is a fair question.  After all, we live in a society that craves creativity (or at least the idea of creativity).  Pintrest, design blogs, etc all point us toward a life that can look crafty, homemade, yet chic.  My last post was on boredom.

I honestly think one of the greatest assets to creativity is boredom.  Allowing time to be bored gives space for creativity to roost.  If every spare minute is spent trying to amuse ourselves and pass the time then there is no time left for creativity.  Think about it, don’t we sit there on the internet and fawn over those young 20 somethings taking crazy pictures by some random lake or in some random industrial area; or maybe we oogle Pintrest at all of the awesome looking food or bathroom remodels wishing we could be so cool.  Well, get off the internet and do it!

A second key to creativity, in my mind, is the willingness to do.  Seth Godin published a post at the beginning of the year about the Drip.  The basic idea is that everything a writer writes isn’t genius.  The stuff that becomes published and distributed may be, but you have to wade through a pool of mediocrity to find brilliance sometimes.

The Drip is the steady outpouring of your craft whether it be writing, singing, drawing, etc.  We expect the fountains of greatness to burst forth filling our bucket to the brim and we aren’t willing to start until we hear the rumblings.  You may find that you’ll fill the bucket much quicker drip by drip.

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The Death of Boredom (or Bored to Life)

Boredom.  We spend most of our childhood trying to avoid it. Yet rainy days, elementary school lessons, and the evening news brought it’s ugly face to the forefront.  It is what caused us to proclaim with such antipathy, “I’m boooooooored.”  Boredom is one of the worst things a child can experience in their own mind.

Luckily for kids and adults alike we are close to eradicating boredom for good.  With recent technological advances we now have the opportunity for amusement at our fingertips.  Our tv has over 600 channels and the capability to record anything for a more convient vegging experience.  Phones have access to stores with thousands of mobile games which seem to go in and out of popularity at a blinding pace.  There are gaming systems that, at the flip of a switch, can transport you to another world where you are a mythical hero, sports star, or military special operative.  The internet is filled with news stories, religion articles, videos, gifs, and blogs to satisfy any craving your mind might have.

We almost have boredom beat.  That’s good…right?

a•muse [verb] :: 1. to hold the attention of (someone) pleasantly; entertain or divert; 2. to engross, absorb

In Ancient Greece, muses were beautiful creatures that not only caused people to stop and stare, but were often times the subjects for artists and poets.  If something is a•musing it can be understood to have the opposite effect of a muse.  Things we use to amuse ourselves are meant to hold our attention or absorb us into what they are.  They don’t enliven us.  They may provide us with laughter or entertainment momentarily, but ultimately their purpose is temporary and fleeting.  Our amusing activities become a mindless practice in passing the time.

Boredom and amusement are in a constant struggle.  We have come to believe that boredom is the protagonist in the battle.  What if boredom is the key to greatness?  Instead of mindless amusement, maybe boredom can open the door for great creativity.  Would Michael Jordan have become MJ if he had YouTube videos of Wilt Chamberlain and Dr. J to watch all day?  Would Pride and Prejudice exist if Jane Austen had spent her time keeping up with the Kardashians?

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Boredom is the arena were laundry baskets turn into racecars, cardboards boxes become rocketships, phrases become melodies, and emotions become sonnets.  The creative spirit hovers around us begging for an entry point that we crowd with memes and viral videos.

My resolution for the new year is to invite boredom into my house.  To turn off the tv, put away the phone, put down the controller, and power down the laptop.  The imagination of a child can run wild with simple things like a box or a basket.  What creativity and imagination have we missed out on already?  I’m team boredom all the way.

Where do you find yourself seeking amusement?  What is waiting to be created?

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An Election Day Prayer

I posted this 4 years ago at this time.  I’ll probably post it again in another 4 years.

Forgive us O Lord: A Prayer for American Politics 

Forgive us O Lord, for being divisive rather than working to build unity. 

Forgive us O Lord, for striving to be right more than striving to be kind. 

Forgive us O Lord, when we desire to be understood more than to understand. 

Forgive us O Lord, for placing our hope in a person, a system, a government – rather than in you alone. 

Forgive us O Lord, for complaining about politics rather than thanking you for our freedom.

Forgive us O Lord, when we use our mouths – and our email forwards – to tear down “the other.” 

Forgive us O Lord, for spending more time and energy thinking about the Empire than the kingdom. 

Forgive us O Lord for speaking poorly and wishing ill will on another candidate. 

Forgive us O Lord, when we are known more for following a party than for following the Risen Christ. 

Forgive us O Lord, for claiming that God is only on “our side.” 

Forgive us O Lord, for claiming and proclaiming that one political party completely and accurately represents the politics of Jesus. 

Forgive us O Lord, when we forget that the heart of the king is in your hands. 

Forgive us O Lord, for being more excited to speak to others about our candidate than about our Savior. 

Forgive us O Lord, when we think this prayer is for someone else we know and not for ourselves. 

Give us grace to treat others with dignity and respect, even in the midst of our differences. 

Give us wisdom – not just with what we say and do, but how we say them and do them – so that we may not represent our political party, but that we may represent the one who has given us True Life. 

Amen.
Source: Broken Stained Glass

Summer Reading List

Every summer I set out with the goal to read a handful of books.  Being a seminary student the majority of my reading during the year is dictated by the syllabi handed down by my professors.  Summer is a nice respite and an opportunity to knock out some of the books that have been on my ever-growing “to read” list.

I set a couple of rules for myself to make the experience productive, enjoyable, and manageable.

1) Don’t overestimate your free time/reading pace/desire.

2) Read at least one book that is entirely for pleasure.

3) Carve out specific time in the schedule in which to read

Here is the list I came up with for this summer:

the Ignatian Workout: Daily Spiritual Exercises for a Healthy Faith – Tim Muldoon

    I took a class this past spring entitled Spiritual Life and Leadership.  This was definitely one of my favorite classes I’ve taken thus far in seminary. It opened my up more to spiritual practices and a life formed by spirituality.  We discussed many different spiritual leaders past and present, one being Ignatius.  The book approaches spiritual disciplines from an athlete’s perspective and relates the practices to athletic training.  This appeals to the mediocre athlete in me.  I’m starting with this book because it lays out spiritual practices and has a step by step guide for them. My hope is to begin the summer with them and have the time to explore while classes are out.

Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today – N.T. Wright

     I really like N.T. Wright.  When this book came across my desk a couple of months ago I immediately put it in my summer stack.

The Slow Fade – Reggie Joiner, Chuck Bomar, and Abbie Smith

    I work with college students as well as junior high and high school students.  It is a constant goal of our ministry to develop students with an active faith.  In some cases with college students there isn’t a foundation from the start.  I’m hoping this book will set out to challenge how I approach ministry as well as provide a bit of encouragement.

Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

   I’m a big Bonhoeffer fan.  I chose this one because it is one of his smaller works.  I will have to set aside an entire summer at some point for The Cost of Disicpleship.

The Ice Man: Confession of a Mafia Contract Killer – Phillip Carlo

    This is obviously the pleasure read.  I’ve always been intrigued with the world of organized crime. I took an elective in my undergrad on the subject and found it absolutely fascinating.    My wife thinks I’m weird because I will watch hours upon hours of Gangland.  Maybe if I’m reading about it instead of watching it on tv it will be more acceptable.

 

What books are you reading?  What should I start putting on my list for next summer?

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A Challenge Ahead

I’m starting a Sunday School series with the Juniors and Seniors at Arborlawn that looks at the book of Revelation.  I feel like this is a topic that many people tend to avoid because we’re not sure what angle to take.  I’m in that camp.  I have found a great book that makes the book a lot more approachable (it also happens to be written by one of my seminary professors) and that I will be using to frame the lessons.  I know the study will be tricky, but I also know that it will be worth it to have the students thinking about what we typically hear something is “about” and being able to shed conventional thinking and open their minds to something different.

 

Are there topics that you generally avoid teaching?  What are they?  What’s holding you back?

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