A few years ago I attended a service called The Practice for the first time. A friend of mine recommended the service to me, so I decided to go and check it out. The first few times I went, it was because of who was speaking that night, someone like Shauna Niequist, Sarah Bessey, or Ruth Haley Barton. After a couple of times, I found myself wanting to attend because I was drawn to the service instead of just the speaker. Now, I look forward to attending every couple of months as a kind of a personal retreat after busy seasons of ministry.
The Practice is a service and a community that embraces the idea that “A Sunday service is not the main event but rather a training ground to help all of us become people who can live the way Jesus would if he were in our place.” Because of that we should engage in practices together that prepare us to walk in this world as followers of Jesus. Every service is centered around liturgy and practice and sends you with a charge to live out what you’ve just learned. It’s this idea of a practice based faith that Aaron Niequist writes about in his book The Eternal Current. Continue reading
What does it mean to go deeper in our spiritual lives?
My family has probably logged hundreds of hours watching fish on our TV. This primarily stems from our girls’ love of fish. Both of them have been mesmerized by the brightly colored fish swimming around and since we don’t have an aquarium, we watch one on TV. You might think this is strange that we would use our TV as an aquarium, but many you’ve probably logged a multitude of hours watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Whether it’s the aquarium, shark week, or some other show like Blue Planet or Finding Dory, many of us have viewed the depths of the ocean through our TV, but never swam in the depths or in shark infested waters. Why? Because it’s scary. I for one like air and not being eaten by sharks.
This translates into our spiritual lives as well. We desire depth in our relationship with God and have hopefully have made some attempts to go deeper, but have yet to truly venture out into the deep waters. Instead, we choose not to travel very far from where we started. We are like beachgoers who only venture only several yards into the ocean instead of several miles. We are exchanging a perceived depth for a truly profound relationship with God. We read another book about God instead of getting to know God. Instead of letting a passage take us deep into the heart and mind of God, we are simply reading bigger commentaries. Instead of sitting with God in the silence, we are seeking elaborate practices that make us feel like we are going deeper. Instead of truly addressing the emotional and spiritual problems deep within us, we hope that simply changing behaviors will help us be better Christians. Continue reading
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is faced with a question. He is asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with a question about the law, “What is written in the law?” The expert in the law answers with the 2 greatest commandments: Love God and Love your Neighbor. Jesus applauds tells him to go and do just that.
The expert, however, isn’t done yet. There’s a but. Verse 29 says, “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” So Jesus tells him the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan, who has no legal requirement to, helps the dying man on the road while the legal experts walk along on the other side of the road so as not to become unclean. Jesus tells him that the Samaritan acted as a neighbor, and to go be a neighbor to people like the Samaritan was. Continue reading
If you’re connected with me on social media, you’ve seen a couple of my posts about #MayThe4thBeWithYou today. It’s a nerdy holiday and I’m a nerdy guy. I like Star Wars, but today there’s something more important happening besides a bunch of Star Wars fans enjoying a good pun in order to celebrate some fun movies. Today is the national day of prayer here in the United States. It’s a day where Christians all around the country gather throughout the day for prayer services and often the focus is prayer for our government both local and national.
While this it is very biblical to pray for our government (1 Timothy 2:1-4), I think sometimes this call to pray for governmental leaders often overshadows a harder and more important call to prayer. Continue reading
I grew up in a Christian home, went to Christian schools, and now I’m a pastor. In spite of all of that, I have struggled for a long time with what the spiritual disciplines do, or maybe I should say I have struggled to understand why we practice the spiritual disciplines.
Growing up I had it in my mind that practicing a spiritual discipline, like reading the Bible, simply made me a better person because I did it. It was like a mathematical equation of adding a practice (like Bible reading or prayer) + obedience + a certain amount of learning = better person. Continue reading
In this day and age, we do little actual reading. We skim, peruse, read half of something, or read only a headline or a tweet. The act of truly reading–digging, exploring, researching, and digesting–is neglected. Now I know this is not totally true, there are many who read, but the standard operating procedure for most of us, especially as we encounter more and more content online, is to not really read anything. And on top of that, we try to comment, argue, and fight for change while not having read those things that we are for or against.
For example, there has been a lot of things spoken, posted, tweeted, shared and reported on the recent executive orders signed by President Trump. But, have you read them? Maybe you have, and that’s great. I must confess, however, that I haven’t. I’ve said my fair share of things about some of them, but I haven’t read any of them. Why have I not read them if I choose to speak so much about them?
When I think about that, I’m a little ashamed of myself. I know how to research. I went to college and grad school. I’ve written a thesis. And yet I am guilty of everything that I just said was a problem. So, what are we to do about it? Continue reading
Yesterday morning I wrote a post. Then I turned on the news and saw what happened to Alton Sterling. This morning I woke with the thought that maybe I should hold off on my post. Then I turned on the news, saw what happened Philando Castile, and knew that I needed to write something different.
My friend and fellow Westbrook pastor Caleb Trimble preached this last weekend about the Gospel and lamenting. It was almost prophetic that he should choose to focus on lamenting as he preached through Acts 16. If you have the time, you should go and listen to it. Continue reading
This weekend at Westbrook, we spent some time in Acts 8, 10, & 11. These three chapters find Philip and Peter welcoming Gentiles into the family of God. There was some struggle after Peter went to Cornelius, but Gentiles soon became accepted in the Church. Yes, Peter had still had some struggles after Acts 10-11 (see Galatians 2:11-21), but the church as a whole became a welcoming place to Gentiles. Not only were Gentiles welcomed into the church, but it was a place where men, women, young, old, rich, poor, slave, and free all gathered in the first couple of centuries to worship God and participate in the life of the Kingdom.
When I reflect on what the church used to look like and what it predominately looks like now in America, I can’t help but wonder if the church has failed to be like the church in the First Century. In A Fellowship of Differents Scot McKnight writes, “We’ve made the church into the American dream for our own ethnic group with the same set of convictions about next to everything. No one else feels welcome. What Jesus and the apostles taught was that you were welcomed because the church welcomed all to the table.”  We’ve let the church become separated. Continue reading
If you are like me, you like new and exciting things. I am an Apple fan so almost anytime they make a presentation I watch or follow along as various tech blogs live tweet the event. I want to know what their next big thing will be. I want to know what will the next Mac OS or iOS be like. What features will they have? When will the next iPhone or MacBook be out?
You may not be into Apple or even tech, but there’s probably something like that in your life. We’re looking for the next big fad. So many of us want to belong, want to be in the know, or want to be equipped with the latest and greatest.
That was Simon in Acts 8. Typically when we read this story, we think of sorcery or Simony, which is paying for a position in the church. While those are applicable to this passage, I’m beginning to see Simon in a new light as I’ve been reading and reflecting on his brief episode in scripture. Continue reading
So much of what we talk about in church revolves around this idea of Gospel or good news.
Mark opens by saying that his writing is the Good News about Jesus Christ. Matthew 4 says that Jesus traveled around preaching the good news about the kingdom. In Romans, Paul said that he is not ashamed of the Good news of Jesus Christ and just a few verses earlier he defined it this way,
God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.