Struggling with Spiritual Disciplines

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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

Reading for the Common Good

a-review-ofIn 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

The Gospel and Lamenting

Copy of Misrepresenting the GospelYesterday 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

Is everyone really welcome?

Has the church failedThis 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.” [1] We’ve let the church become separated. Continue reading

The Next Big Thing

The NextIf 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

Is it really Good News?

Good (1)

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. [1]

Continue reading

Common Life

the bestI know that it might surprise a few of you who know me to find out that I am an introvert. This doesn’t mean that I’m asocial or don’t like people. In fact, I love to spend time with friends and family. What it does mean is that I do most of my processing in my head and find rest in quiet alone (or mostly alone) times. That being said, however, I am coming to recognize the value of being in community with others. By that, I don’t simply mean being around other people. What I mean is sharing our lives, experiences, and even hard times with others.

As a society, true community is a necessity that we have learned to go without. We have created a culture of isolation where we fence off ourselves more and more in our homes around media and our devices. It seems like very few people know their neighbors and share very little of our lives with those outside of our families. And in some ways media and social media have increased our isolation by creating the appearance of being connected with people while having very little connection with others. Continue reading

Fixing Our Eyes

Fixing our Eyes

Where are you going? What is your aim? I find myself asking these questions while reading Acts 3.

This is where we find a well known story from Acts. Peter and John go to the temple to worship and meet a beggar. Instead of giving them money, they offer him Jesus. And he went walking, and leaping, and praising God.

If I would have been in the same situation, I’m not sure if I would have reacted the same way as Peter and John. I probably, like I do now, would have tried to scurry along without making eye contact. Continue reading

Kingdom Come

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The kingdom of God is a pretty big deal.

In Jesus’ first recorded sermon he said that, “the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” [1] When his disciples asked him how to pray, he instructed them to pray, “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come…” [2] And right before he leaves, the disciples ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” [3]

The Kingdom was and still is a big deal. So what is it? Continue reading

Waiting on God

waiting on God

In Acts 1, Jesus leaves the disciples waiting. It was just a few days, but I’m sure that for a few of them it seemed like it would never happen. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come on them, so now they waited. No Jesus, no Holy Spirit, just waiting.

It can be hard to wait, but here we find out that waiting on God is essential to the mission of Jesus.

I found myself waiting in seminary. I knew that my time in school was wrapping up, so I started looking for ministry. After perusing online job listings for hours upon hours, and sending my resumé to various churches, I found myself at graduation with no prospects for ministry. So Lindsay and I waited. Over the next year I had a few promising interviews, but nothing turned up until the summer of 2013. That’s when I started interviewing at Westbrook, where I am now serving in ministry. The few years that I waited felt like a long time. On top of that, those years came with their fair share of disappointment.

While the disciples did not wait for the Spirit with disappointment, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for some of them. Jesus didn’t say how long, he just said to wait. And then when Holy Spirit comes, they would be his witnesses, but not before. Continue reading