Asking The Right Question About Discipleship

Asking questions is key to learning. When we don’t ask questions, sometimes we miss out on important pieces of information that we should know. On the other hand, when we do ask questions, if we don’t ask the right questions we also miss out on the answers that we really need to know. So the question is, are we asking the right questions when it comes to our discipleship?

Hoffman-ChristAndTheRichYoungRulerAs followers of Jesus, we all have questions. There are things about our faith and our life that we really want to know. When we think specifically about following Jesus, I’m sure many of our questions would fall within the realm of what does Jesus want me to do. It was in this line of thinking that a “rich young ruler” asked his question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Continue reading

Practicing Presence in the World

Last year I heard Dr. Phil Kenneson speak at the slow church conference. His talk (which you can listen to here) was deeply impactful to me. He talked about presence and one of the most impactful things he said was, “We don’t have anything more precious to give each other than our own presence.” He didn’t say our gifts, abilities, or wise words, but simply our presence. This doesn’t just mean that we are physically in a room or shared space with someone, but instead he means present with that person being attentive and devoting time to that person. The final challenge of being present is being present is being present in the world. Continue reading

Practicing Presence with my Family

About five and a half years ago my life changed. In 2009, Lindsay and I got married. From that day forward, my life changed. My life now included Lindsay.  Around a year ago, my life changed again. Our daughter, Claire, was born. When I come home from the office, I come home to my family, and this past year I have learned even more that I need to practice being present with my family. In my continuing resolution to be present, after God and myself, I need to be present to my family.

Telefonerende vader met huishoudschort geeft baby de fles. [1961].Growing up I loved to play computer and video games. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the 90s when video games really because popular, but I really like to play them. Now it’s even worse because they’re on my phone. On top of video games there are so many different ways that we have come up with to occupy ourselves. We get sucked into TV, Social Media, the Internet, 24 hour sports channels, and our phones and tablets. There are limitless ways to be in the same place with someone else but not be present to them. Continue reading

Learning to be Present to Myself

The next area of presence that I am resolving to practice this year is being present to myself. I know on the surface that this sounds very selfish, but it’s really a vital step in the life of a disciple to recognize who they are, where they come from, and what’s going on inside of them.

EHS-bookIn the last year I have been going through the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality with the other staff of Westbrook. This is really what has pressed upon me the need for presence to self. The book teaches how to look at what is going on inside you and what happened in your family to help you develop emotional health in order to be spiritually healthy. Many of us don’t take the time to analyze what is going on inside of us and why it is happening. This is what I mean by being present to myself. Being present to myself allows me to better remove the obstacles from being transformed into a more Christ-like person.

When I know myself, I know the causes of anger and frustration. I know what causes me to stumble or succeed. I know the areas where I need to be more patient. I begin to know how to overcome those obstacles that stand in the way of loving God well and loving others well. This is why I have been working and continue working to know myself better. When I ignore these things and pretend like everything is okay, I fail to love as best I can and loving well is at the heart of Christian spirituality. In fact in the Emotionally Heathy course they say that, “The essence of true Christian Spirituality is learning to love well.”

I want to challenge you to take sometime and try to figure out why you are the way you are and if you have the time read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I believe that being present to ourselves better allows to being present to others because we can remove the obstacles that get in the way of loving God and loving others well.

Practicing Presence with God

51wD56vwVtL“That practice which is alike the most holy, the most general, and the most needful in the spiritual life is the practice of the Presence of GOD. It is the schooling of the soul to find its joy in His Divine Companionship, holding with Him at all times and at every moment humble and loving converse, without set rule or stated method, in all time of our temptation and tribulation, in all time of our dryness of soul and disrelish of GOD, yes, and even when we fall into unfaithfulness and actual sin.” [1]

This year, I’m making a different kind of resolution. I’m making a resolution to be present. My journey of intentionality and focus begins with an old practice commonly referred to as practicing the presence of God. One of the characteristics is omnipresence, or being present in all places. God is always present. The problem is that we are not always aware. This is why my first focus is to practice God’s presence. Continue reading

Practicing Presence

David BennerThis year, one of the most thought provoking books I read was Presence and Encounter by David G. Benner. Presence is a powerful word. It is a very simple and profound word, and in the last year, it is word that has reshaped my thinking about how the church should minister in the the world. It started when I heard David Fitch and Chris Smith speak on how the church should be present in the neighborhood. I encountered presence again when Dr. Phil Kenneson presented at the Slow Church conference. He said that we do not have anything more precious to give each other than our own presence. Now, David Benner’s new book Presence and Encounter has added even more depth and weight to the idea of presence. Benner shows how profoundly important it is for us to practice and experience presence in our lives. He writes, “the most vital and significant moments in life are moments of encounter.” [1] In order to make encounter possible, we have be present and experience presence. Continue reading

The Day After Christmas

Photo Credit: Val 202 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Val 202 via Compfight cc

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! [1]

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games began on February 7th and they ended on February 23rd. By the end of the month Russia, the host of the Olympic games, had invaded Ukraine. The Olympics have become widely seen as a picture of peace on earth. Instead of wars, countries send their best athletes to compete in friendly athletic events. In a strange turn of events, Russia went from hosting the Olympic games as a symbol of peace and good will to invading another country in a show of force. Continue reading

Waiting on Redemption

100_1768Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne 1

It’s probably a bit strange that I would say I am waiting on redemption because I have already been redeemed. When Jesus came, he saved us. His life, death, burial, and resurrection have released us from the power of sin and death. I have been forgiven. James Bryan Smith writes about this in his book The Good and Beautiful God. He says that as Christians we are in Christ. This means that, “Christians are not merely sinners but a new species: persons indwelt by Jesus, possessing the same eternal life that he has. The New Testament is unambiguous on this issue. Several Bible passages affirm this.” 2

Smith goes on, however, to talk about how while sin no longer reigns over us, it still remains. This is the reality that we live in now. Sin has no power over us anymore, but it still exists in this world. This is why I am waiting for redemption. At the heart of all that is broken in this world is the power and presence of sin. We live in a world broken an marred by sin. Sin causes violence, hatred, division, and suffering. When Jesus returns, this will all change. The world will be restored, people will be reconciled, and we will be redeemed. In the words of Andrew Peterson, “The world was good, the world is fallen, the world will be redeemed.” 3

As Christmas quickly approaches, we celebrate the one who came to save us and who will come to make all things new in the end. Together we wait for our savior to return. While we wait let us be about the work of reconciling, restoring, and proclaiming the redemption that he has given us.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and
the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.4

1. From Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
2. James Bryan Smith. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 154.
3. “All Things New,” Andrew Peterson, Resurrection Letters Volume 2 (Centricity Music, 2010).
4. From the Book of Common Prayer: http://www.bcponline.org/Collects/seasonsc.html#advent

Do you need to be Re-Evangelized?

What does it mean to be an evangelical?

I’m guessing that you’ve answered this question by identifying a certain set of political views. If you did, Lance Ford would argue that you’re defining the term incorrectly. Instead of defining Evangelical by politics, Ford writes, “An authentic Evangelical should be a ‘good news’ person. And not just any old good news. This is about the good news of the Kingdom of heaven—the good news that Jesus brought, lived, and taught.” This is the basis of Lance Ford’s new book Revangelical. At the message at the heart of his book is that Evangelicals need to be re-evangelized.

Like many of us, Ford grew up in the politically conservative evangelical world. The problem that he discovered, however, is that this definition of Evangelical doesn’t always line up with the good news of Jesus Christ. He writes, “Many of our positions on issues such as immigration, the poor, and justifications for war have been formed more from a desire for economic stability, self-preservation, and national interest than from the perspective and edicts of God’s Kingdom and the teaching of Jesus.“ Instead of basing what we believe on the Gospel, life, and message of Jesus, we choose to believe based on political parties and radio or television personalities.

Now, evangelicals need to become Revangelicals. Ford is calling us to reorient our lives to Jesus. By the very definition of word, an evangelical (which comes from the Greek word for Gospel) should be someone who lives by the Gospel and as Ford writes, “take the words of Jesus seriously.” We need to re-evangelize ourselves and recommit to making Jesus central to our lives.

While the culture I grew up in wasn’t nearly as over-the-top conservative as Ford’s upbringing in Texas, I was raised in a politically conservative environment. I understand where he is coming from and agree with his premise that large number of people in the American Church has valued conservative politics over the words of Jesus. This is because many have allowed their politics to inform their view of Jesus instead of Jesus informing their view of politics.

To that end, this book doesn’t hold back and calls out a culture that has put the words of Jesus in second place at best. I think a lot of people need to read this book and really take the challenge to heart. Honestly, all of us need to ask the question of whether or not we value the words of Jesus first and foremost. Because, to be fair, there are politically liberal Christians who have done the same things as conservatives. The point of this book, however, is not to defame a specific political party and raise up another as being better, it is to help us recognize that as Christians we are to follow Jesus first.

Ultimately this book calls into question our discipleship. Are you a follower of Jesus first, or have you let certain political and social views reign supreme in your life? Whether you are conservative, liberal, or moderate, if you are a Christian, we all need to be careful to follow Christ first, and Revangelical is a good reminder to choose Jesus.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from TyndaleHouse Publishers through netgalley.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Feed Me

Photo Credit: Still_life88_second via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Still_life88_second via Compfight cc

I have a confession to make. I’m not very proud of this, and in fact I laugh a little at myself for thinking it, especially for when I had the thought. When I was in high school, I thought that I was not being fed spiritually. I was convinced that I had achieved a level of spiritual maturity beyond that of what was being given to me. The problem, however, was that I didn’t understand what maturity in Christ meant. I had grown up in the church, went to Christian school, and participated in Bible Bowl. In other words, I (thought) I knew the Bible really well. I had large chunks memorized and at times could identify the chapter of the story or quotation. I was equating knowledge with maturity. On top of that, I was a good kid. Obviously I was doing something right. Continue reading