Soul Training

Sharon and I are both working our way through a book entitled “The Good and Beautiful Life”, by James Bryan Smith. Actually the whole church is doing the same. All the small groups are doing it. And each Sunday morning, the preaching is shaped by it. Its subtitle is named, “Putting on the Character of Christ.” It is designed to be curriculum for developing Christ-likeness.

That sounds ludicrous: “Developing Christ-likeness.” Like we have something to do about it. But we do. After we accept the reality that God sent His Son to die for our sins… that He took our place… and because He rose and reigns, we now have eternal life… and it’s Kingdom-living now, in the unshakeable Kingdom of God… Once we get that – from our head down 18″ to our heart – then we have Christ living in us and we now have a part to play in maturing in Christ-likeness, by the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

So, back to the book. At the end of each chapter is homework to do for the week. It’s called a “Soul Training Exercise.” Basically it takes a spiritual discipline and tweaks it a bit. One week we fasted from all media for 48 hours. One week it was Sleep. Yes, sleep. I did good that week. Each week, it is designed to subtly teach the emphasis of the chapter. This week, it is: Pray For Your Enemies.

Most of us don’t have enemies who are trying to hunt us down and kill us. We don’t have REAL enemies, but we do have people who rub us the wrong way or are adversarial by nature or by position. Those are the people to be prayed for.

Wow. Is that hard! I didn’t think it was going to be, but being honest with God about your feelings for them is the first step and that’s hard enough. But then handing over to God the keys to the jail that you want to out them in for the “crime” they committed against you… well, that’s where developing that Christ-likeness comes in. Basically, you’re saying to God, “I trust that You are a just God and that you’ll have the final word. I trust You, Lord.” And then you pray for them to be blessed. Yes, blessed.

The part we play is mostly about believing and trust. That’s how growth comes.

Just ask someone who’s gone through any hard time and had to trust that God gets the final word… in their marriage… in their finances… with people who mistreat them… or with their family (like Amanda)… Or losing a loved one (like Cindy)… or with their own health (like Donna). They had to trust. They are still trusting. And they are more like Jesus as a result.

God gets the final word. Trust Him. He knows what He’s doing; and what He’s doing is making you and me more Christ-like.

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

“I’m a Recovering Fundamentalist”

I love Mark Lowry. He is so funny. You can go from laughing to the point of tears to crying real tears in a nano-second. You may do the same watching the video at the link here:

He says, “I’m a recovering fundementalist.” I can relate. In fact, many people would call me a liberal. But there are so many political, social, or moral issues that we, as Jesus-followers, get caught up in that actually hurt the cause of Christ. All the while, we have a plank of wood in our own eye, as Jesus might put it.

Perhaps my favorite quote from the video is:

“We say, ‘Love the sinner and hate the sin.’ But I think it ahould be this: , ‘Love the sinner and hate your own sin.’ I’ll hate my sin, you hate your sin, and let’s love each other.”

We are so forgetful. We have amnesia. We forget how we used to be and what Christ saved us from. And here’s a News Flash: We haven’t “arrived” yet. Many of us still struggle with the same things we struggled with before we came to know Jesus: anger, lust, gossip, laziness, foul language… the list goes on. These are still part of our lifestyle. Yet we’re quick to point out how sinful someone else’s lifestyle is. I know because I do it, too.

It’s a long video. 10 minutes. You should watch it. Actually, you don’t need to watch it. You can just listen to it on your phone as you go down the road on the way to work.

Maybe you can’t afford to take the time. But maybe you can’t afford not to.

Pursuing Peace

I’m child of an alcoholic. Actually, both my parents were alcoholics. They conquered it before they passed away, but if you’re a child of an alcoholic, you know the damage it leaves behind.

In the chaos and fighting that occured while growing up, I searched for a sanctuary. As a kid, it was sports; later it was drugs and (unbelieveably) alcohol. Still later, I found my true Sanctuary and Hiding Place: Jesus.

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Giving More Than Money

James Spruill told a brief story last night at Charlottesville First Church of the Nazarene about one time bringing a team to Haiti which was going to build and minister to the Haitians. He does this several times a year, bringing food, shelter, hope and the love of Jesus to the people there. He’s been doing it for over 30 years.image

When he got there, he calculated the money it took for everyone to come, project money, etc., and he said to one of the Haitians, “20 people spending $500 each on airline tickets, plus project money… that’s over $10,000 per trip… several times a year… for many years… Wouldn’t it just be better if we sent all that money over here to you to use as you wished?”

The man replied, in essence, “Oh no, pastor! Then you wouldn’t be bringing Jesus with you!”

That’s another good reason why we, as Jesus-followers, shouldn’t always just give money to missions or projects on the other side of the world or the other side of town. We should jump in, get involved, roll up our sleeves, and bring the hope and love of Christ with us as we serve, many times alongside the folks we are ministering to.