Struggling with Spiritual Disciplines

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

For All The People

I bring you good news that will cause

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Thanks to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, I think that we’ve all probably heard some version of this before. It’s the part of the Christmas story where the angel announces for the first time that Jesus has been born and that he is the long awaited Messiah. He is the one who was to come. And the first people to hear it were shepherds. Lowly shepherds who had probably never been recognized as important receive the most important message in the world. The Savior has been born and this news is for all the people.

The problem with this passage is that we have such a hard time living it out. We want the Good News to be for all the people we like, or all the people who aren’t weird, or even for all the people who look like me. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus brings the good news to people who would have been neglected or even the outcasts of society. If we were one of the disciples we would have been thinking, “Surely not him or her, Lord. You mean we need to take the Gospel to them, too?” Continue reading