Let's recap last week and the sermon series, "Jesus the Dude."
Last week we spoke of what it is to truly live "in our right minds." We looked at how Jesus does not abandon his friends; nor does God abandon us when we've denied him before others. We so often end up doing things on our own, going our own way, become despondent due to failure and life's pressures, and at some point give up.
The "giving up" point is where we may finally "come to our right minds" and realize that something needs to change if we are going to find success, happiness, or joy. Hopefully, that realization will come with the idea that we can only have those things through God. Many times coming to ourselves means forgiving ourselves, asking forgiveness from others, and giving forgiveness to those who've mistreated us.
I recently read this about forgiveness from a YouVersion devotional: "Forgiveness is not a gift given to those who deserve it and it is not a promise to never be hurt by the person again. It is a posture of submission to God." What a great quote! In other words, forgiveness is first about you and God. God first! God must be first in our lives for anything to truly happen that will ultimately be favorable for us.
Jesus experienced everything we have, but remained faithful to God through it all. How might we "come to our right minds" but putting God first in our lives? How have we lived for "me," hoping for God to back us up? What might we need to do in order to shed the old self and take on the new?
Much of this is handled and answered in a great deal of prayer. So stay tuned for our next series, "No really, Pray."
From now until the end of the year sermons will be developed around our 101 Booklet for communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The idea is that a conversation would take place where there is an invitation to continue talking over coffee, tea, etc and work through the booklet at your own pace, in whatever order of topics makes the most sense. The questions below are to be considered "conversation starters," and lead into the simple statement of how SUMC understands and communicates what we believe about the given topic.
This Series topic is "Jesus the Man." Yesterday we outlined what we'll be talking about, and started looking at Jesus as a person born into this world just like us.
This is how we understand Jesus:
Combined historical statements: We believe in one God, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and we believe in the Holy Spirit - and they are unified in every way; this means Jesus is more than a man for us, he is also God.
Our way of communicating this: Jesus is God and man combined in order to show us God is real, loves us, and has a different kind of life in mind for us.
Biblical Stories to discuss in this series to show who Jesus was as a "dude"
Prodigal Son and Restoring Peter
Teaching Disciples How to Pray
How or why might this matter for modern Christians?
If Jesus was a real person, it begs the question of not just the impact of his life, but of his true nature …
Stay tuned for more!
This post could probably be better titled "reason verses emotion" but I believe that as people we are either rational people, or emotional people. I should say that what I am thinking and about to say is based on my own, limited, experience from within myself and what I see in those around me. So with that, I think that there are those who operate their lives in a more rational way, and those who live their lives based on a more emotional approach.
Both have positives, both have negatives. I'm not going to do a comparison game here, all I am going to say is that when it comes to living our lives we need to be aware of which 'mode' we operate in most of the time. For me I think I tend to be more emotional (I almost said rationale here - but I've learned my lessons!). I tend to be an over-thinker - like ... a way over-thinker! But thinking a lot about something doesn't make me a rational person. It makes me an emotional person, I believe.
Think about it! lol.
I am overthinking because I am emotionally invested somehow and am thinking so much about it because I am so emotionally invested. But talking with others helps me see things from different angles, and I feel better. So talking with other people about something they are not as emotionally invested in like I am helps me see more reason from an objective point of view. I balance out.
And we need balance in our lives!
This balance comes from true friends and family. We have gotten away from this for a huge variety of reasons, but the root reason, I think, is that we just don't really pay attention to it. Our attention is diverted in so many ways, and it isn't always because of social media - that has just exacerbated the issue.
Let me ask you a question: in the last week, have you felt that you have had a real conversation with a family member or friend in person (or by video).
The follow up question is: so what have you spent most of your time doing? Are you happy about how you've spent your time?
For me, I usually spend my time with things that distract me because I don't feel like doing other things that I know I need to be doing. So I operate and am motivated by how I feel, rather than goals I set. If you are a goal setter, make it a goal to have a good, personal conversation with a family member or close friend (in person or video) this week. Talk about stuff going on, what's on your mind, and see how they are doing and discuss their "stuff" too.
We need to stop tending toward one way or the other because we have closed ourselves off to learning and understanding how to react with one another, especially those close to us. And we need to stop allowing ourselves to get distracted away from those who ought to be close to us. When we start having those conversations, when balance comes, when we get the 'other perspective' we need, I truly think that will help us learn to talk with those who are further and further outside of our inner core.
And that is a good and wonderful thing.
Every once and a while I think about what it would be like to be famous, and then I watch films like Notting Hill or see some interview of a celebrity talking about privacy and the difficulty of fame. I change my mind real quick. Of course, that is just one aspect of fame.
I also wonder how many people are driven by fame and see being famous as a measure of real success. To me, that is not reality and will end up leaving someone more empty than full. This should be common knowledge by now by sadly it isn't. And fame, or the desire for fame, can come at any level and in any place. Social media and friends is usually the "go to" example where people feel like having a lot of connections will make them feel good and popular, but then end up with the constant refrain in their minds of "no one really knows me, I am so alone."
For me, that right there is the rub - "no one really knows me."
I want to be "famous" with my family and a few close friends - that's it. To me fame and success come when my family and close friends (inner circle) know me, know what bothers me, know how to motivate me, know how to talk to me, know how to receive me, know when to let me be, and know how to love me at all times. My hope is that our society will begin to yearn for this kind of idea.
The best way to think about how to live your life is to think about what the end of your life might be like. If at any moment you should die, who would know about it right away? Who would be at your funeral? Who would stick around with one another after you are gone? Who would easily 'replace' you and who wouldn't?
Those questions really help me to focus. And I should say that I don't ask myself these questions in a negative way. As if I am asking these questions with an attitude of melancholy. Nor should you. But really ask these questions and hone in on your inner circle, but be open and gracious and loving to everyone you meet. But dedicate your time, attention, and affection to those who are doing the same for you - especially within your family.
And if you have had a rotten, crap experience with your family - still try to find the siblings, parent, cousins, aunt, uncle, etc that you can stay connect with that will be that love you yearn for - don't leave your entire family because of the "garbage." Be the change in your family. Be the foundation of a friendship. And be willing to be love and to love everyone.
To me, that is an attitude that will breed real success. Real fame.
I'm sure there are many of you out there that thought you would have accomplished more "by now." And "by now" I mean that you are probably at an age where you think this thought. But, a quick google search for "age of successful people" will bring up at least twelve people right away who found 'success' later in life. I've graduated with women in their 70s each time I progressed through my college degrees. It was quite motivating to see.
This is because you can accomplish anything, at any point, at any time, in any walk of life. Most of the motivational messages I have heard, seen, or read deal with changing our perceptions.
So the blog today is simple. Ask yourself, how can I change my perception of where I am now to motivate me to focus on a passion I have?
Notice in that question there is no thought to success of any kind. Do not think about "how can I be successful." Success is a by-product of focus and consistency.
Success will find you.
I've thought this so many times
Reflect on how far you've come
What habits got you to where you are? Are you only seeing and thinking about the negative outcomes? Andy Stanley has a great video series that may help some of you called Starting Over. This helped me when I was working for a college that was ... well it was just awful. I thought it was going to help me achieve my goals, but those goals were more like having to pay for medical tests you don't really need to rule out what the problem might be. For me, I knew God wanted me to solely be a pastor, but I wanted to be in academia. I was constantly starting over, just in the wrong area of life that I needed to be in. Thanks be to God, he brought me around through a major ordeal of humility.
I often think about starting over in the gym. I really hate missing more than a few days, and I (at this point) have not been consistent for a month. I need to start over again ... and I just don't want to go today to do so.
But I am.
You should too in whatever it is you have been too scared, or lazy, to do.
One small course correction
Make one tiny change in your routine that you can do every day that will make you feel like you are making some progress rather than no progress. I could even be just making your bed (see this great video). Find something you could do each day to start the journey toward your goal. If you don't have any goals, then start writing down some off the wall, crazy ideas that you feel you can never do. Save those. Then after a couple weeks re-read them and see if there is a common theme, talent, dream, idea, thought, etc that you see in those wild-eyed fantasies. You just may see something forming that you begin to believe you can actually do.
Then start watching some videos online in the area you see with your ideas. Hopefully, that will be enough to get you dreaming again, then turning your day-dream into a reality. Search my archives for another blog post on that thought.
Just do it
Great phrase nike came up with. Sometimes our feelings get in the way of what we need to do. The more we can focus on a goal, or something we want, and do something small each day to reach that goal, the better we can become at managing those feelings that lead to thoughts that make us feel stuck.
Here's the stone cold reality. You are stuck because you choose to be.
You may also be stuck because you don't know what you don't know. If you do the same old same old each day, you remain ignorant of your potential. Therefore, you won't know the potential you have - and you do have it - because you remain ignorant of what is "out there." So start searching.
Again, what it is that you are searching for? If you are searching to be happy, searching for a feeling won't do anything for you! Feelings are today's fantasies. It's the work that brings reality. So work for what you want, that's the only way to achieve it, and feel good about it and yourself.
So get out of your feeling-though-rut and choose to do something today, and tomorrow, and the next day, etc.
I did it. Others did it. You can do it. You have a brain and are created in the image of God - the CREATOR. Allow him to move in you, allow Him to refocus you, and perhaps ask Him to work with you through something rather than do something for you. One day after I prayed for Him to work with me rather than just outright do something, things began to happen.
Allow God to work with you!
Press on my friends.
Tedious: too long, slow, or dull; tiresome or monotonous (dictionary.com)
Sometimes our workouts ... and our life ... can seem pretty tedious. We can feel like we're doing the "same old thing" and nothing is happening. Chances are nothing is happening with your workouts, but with your spiritual discipline it could be that you are on the verge of something. Either way, you may need to ramp some things up in both areas of your life.
Ramp it up
If you're workouts seem tedious and you are doing the same old thing, it's time to change what you are doing. There are so many things that you could do - here are just a few: 1) Superset; 2) Shorter rest periods; 3) Combine an exercise with some cardio; 4) Superset with no rest for one minute; 5) Do HIIT; 6) Change the number of reps you do; 7) Add more weight; 8) Any combination of 1-7.
For your spiritual life, you may need to step our of your comfort zone. I am perfectly happy sitting in a room reading and praying, with the occasional meditation while listening to praise music. Those kinds of habits and disciplines are great - for the introvert. I have a hard time "going and doing" (believe it or not). Often times if our spiritual life seems tedious we may be needing to step out and actually do something! Or, God might be nudging us to do something that we've been ignoring. That could be quiet time if your more extroverted, or it could mean going out and serving somewhere and talking to people if you're more introverted.
Sometimes we simply lack the motivation to do things. With fitness and spiritual disciplines, we sometimes need to feel like we have to give ourselves a little pep talk to stir up some kind of passion to do what we feel like we must. This is where I start thinking about all those moments in recent past where I have thought, "If I only had done (such and such) like I thought and planned ...". Usually situations where that thought happens come up for me frequently, and so I get motivated to do the tedious task because I know the pay off will come later.
With our spiritual lives, Paul tells us to focus on things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. This guides our life on earth until things are remade and we have new bodies. We focus on heaven and Jesus because we are going into eternal life.
Honestly, sometimes that's not motivating for me because I talk about that every week and every day. It makes me understand the wandering in the desert a little more!
But that's where we need to start thinking about what we are grateful for and what God has done for us. This stirs me enough to plod along and continue the walk with and toward Christ. "Come Holy Spirit" is the prayer, and then set your mind to the task.
And finally - sometimes we just need to get out of our own heads and start getting busy.
We are programmed to expect the big, the unusual, and the spectacular, and we miss the glory of the ordinary (Mastering the New Testament: Luke; Larson, p.174)
In our American culture, we are trained to believe that every single person is extraordinary, will make something special happen, and will be successful given certain conditions (degree, debt free, own house, have car, etc). However when you think about it, if every person is told this, then every person thinks they are extraordinary, expects the extraordinary, and ends up extremely dissatisfied and disillusioned with their life - for most people. Some people do attain levels of perceived greatness, but usually at great cost.
I believe our lives are filled with extraordinary moments that have great meaning for the individual, or individuals, involved. The rest of the time we live in the ordinary, or as some may term it, "the mundane." Day after day things just seem the same and it feels like nothing is happening. Well, that can be true if you are chasing after what you were programmed to chase! How often are we told to explore skills rather than interests? Really think about that. Our interests could be incredibly varied, but we might have a skill sets that fits within a particular area of interest.
I, for example, am interested in a great many things, but my skill set fits with public speaking, writing, reading, vision implementation, and team/system development. As a believer, this led me to become a pastor. These skill sets could also work in the business world as an entrepreneur. It also works in fitness. Sometimes we just go to the gym and do what we've been told - either directly or by what we see in the media. But there are many ways to be healthy and in which we can work out. We just need to find what keeps us going through the mundane.
On that note, there are three things can I think are common in just about all walks of life that can be thought through: it can seem tedious; it feels like there is no progress; you don't actually feel like you are doing anything; desire for 'fame'. I'll be talking about these in more detail in the next month with some thoughts on how to get through these feelings. For now, I will simply say that "ordinary" is just fine. Ordinary allows us to live simply, but also can cause us to reflect on where we want to be, and within the ordinary moments we then prepare for the extraordinary moments that life offers us. So there is always, then, something worth waiting for and something to look forward to.
1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)
8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Recently I started working in the gym that I was working out in. While this is bringing in extra money (sorely needed - stupid debt! Lord forgive ...) it has caused me to not be able to workout as much because of when I can work versus when I can workout. I've been doing more home workouts lately, and have been reflecting a lot on my genuine sadness and disappointment at not being able to give my all in the gym anymore. Why is this so important to me? Why am I working out? Have my reasons changed? What are my goals? etc etc.
In these reflective moments the verse above keeps coming to mind. It makes me remember that while I am disappointed at how little I get into the gym, and how regimented and disciplined I am and desire to be with it, I do not have that level of commitment to the spiritual disciplines that we as Christians need to aspire to do. These disciplines have shaped believers for a few millennia, and who are we (who am I) to not aspire to have the same commitment to God as those who have come before? To not have those same aspirations as I do in going to the gym?
Thinking on these things then, I think the same reasoning for 'getting in shape' and joining a gym can be the same - or at least very similar - for the spiritual disciplines:
I have to start looking after myself / take time for myself and get fit / want to look good (again)
This one is probably the most vain for either spiritual fitness or physical fitness, but it's still a reason why many want to begin "getting in shape." And speaking in terms of the spiritual disciplines, we might want to look better than other Christians on how we practice or faith. If I am being honest, there was a time in my youth (both age and Christian walk) where I wanted to be not just a good Christian man, but the best Christian man I could be.
I wanted (and admittedly, still do) people to come to me and ask for advice because of how well I was living. I wanted to be like people such as Thomas Jefferson or John Wesley, who used to journal about their character every day in order to improve themselves. I started to do this in High School. Lately, I have actually been thinking about how I seemed to have better self control and discipline in High School than I do now!
In practicing spiritual disciplines, we should start slowly with the basics: prayer, reading the Word, fasting, worship, spiritual conversation. Many of the "basic" practices should include a good mix of personal practices as well as corporate practices (doing things for yourself and doing things for others). With daily dedication, we can begin to focus more and more outside of ourselves, and daily be in the habit of John the Baptist, where we become less and Jesus becomes more.
While there may be a desire to look better and exercise, there is also the understanding that diet is a huge part of getting in shape. Often people thing it means eating less, when in fact, some people (like me) may need to eat more. I have been eating what I should (and a little of what I shouldn't, I do love my icecream), but not enough. In order to grow muscle like I want, and lean out, I need to almost double my caloric intake. Most people need to first cut out the bad, establish some kind of baseline, and adjust accordingly.
I think that idea about dieting down and adjusting accordingly is where the similarity with spiritual health comes into play. All of us, and I genuinely think all of us need to first cut out the bad and get some kind of spiritual baseline established in our lives. Speaking as a Methodist, I would say this involves tuning ourselves into the grace of God, and understanding we have a measure of His grace already in us - that still small voice encouraging us toward life eternal. I believe this lends us to then focus on those "basic" spiritual disciplines that I listed above. From there, we can adjust our spiritual walk accordingly as we are convicted of our brokenness and sin to become more and more like Christ, who lived and died so others would know the grace and love of God.
Want to be healthy
Perhaps the best idea I have heard is when someone just wants to be healthy. This understanding of being healthy can mean different things to different people (we aren't talking about just losing weight here). Generally speaking, there is a desire for a fuller life and a longer life. Honestly, I like it when people say this because it seems like there is more intentionality involved, and an understanding that being "fit" is more than just exercise and trying to eat better. It also involves the knowledge that diet and exercise isn't something temporary or for a specific goal that comes and goes. The reality is that being healthy is for longevity - a lifelong aspiration.
The same should be true of our spiritual walk. We ought to desire to do the spiritual disciplines every day for reasons of longevity. And the idea of longevity with Christians is eternal life with God. Therefore, exercise is of some value (temporary outlook), but godliness is of value in every way because it is not just benefiting us now, but will also benefit us when we have the new bodies in the new heavens and earth. I mean, we have a part in remaking ourselves with God! That is so cool, and how awesome is God! In our discipline, we shape ourselves to more attuned to Him, and he shapes us to be more like Christ through His power and grace in the Holy Spirit.
Like anything, start small and do what you can handle each day. Start with one discipline, work on it until it is a habit, then start another while keeping the first. As you understand yourself more and more, and as God reveals more and more to you, the results (or fruit) will begin to show and like physical fitness you will want to do more and more because of the good you begin to feel and see in your life.
When difficulties come, or when you feel like you can't give things the time like you want or things are working as well as you had hoped, don't focus on that. Work around the problem. If you are used to the quite time for prayer in the morning but can't anymore, find a way to get used to praying in different circumstances or areas. Don't get caught up in the 'perfect' way to do something. Just find a way to do it!
Like not being able to be in the gym as much, I can still work towards physical health in other ways. It can be the same with our spiritual walk. God is everywhere and in everything, so we don't need to go searching for him in a closet to pray! Also realize that God may be guiding you in such a way that you have to focus on something different than you have planned or desire at the present moment. Time is not against you!
So press on.
Often I'll watch videos to get myself motivated for a workout, and I see in these videos these buff guys giving everything they've got in their workouts. It is convicting because I often just go in and do what I need to do, without much progress. The reality is that with exercise and diet if we want to see changes we need to give it our all! When we give everything we've got (and then some) in a workout we feel exhausted, but we also feel euphoric afterwards.
We need to do the same with our relationship with God, especially in prayer. I am going to be doing a few blog posts about "giving your all," and in this one I start with giving your all in prayer.
Now, there's much on the subject - but probably because people feel uncomfortable with prayer, or don’t know how, or are uncertain with how to do prayer ‘right.’ Maybe some just think that praying throughout the day at random times is ‘good enough.’ All are excuses - all. Praying throughout the day is good, but you have to make space for prayer (and reflection) each day. And when it comes to prayer, just do it. Yes God already knows what is on your heart and mind. But real grace isn't fully realized (I think) until you make space and give him your full attention too. And honestly, how many of us give our all in prayer?
I think when difficult times come, we give our all until the particular issue is resolved. But how often do we give God our all in prayer for someone else - especially their salvation? How often do we pray for God to use us each day for his purposes? How often do we go to battle with the Enemy in prayer? How often do we pray for our community and local leaders to be guided by God's Truth? How often to we pray for those who have done harm to us, that the relationship would be fully resolved, we fully forgive, and we are sure we are not in the wrong in anyway?
These questions are just as convicting for me as they may be for you.
If you haven't seen it yet, watch the movie "War Room." This is a great example of the power of prayer, and a great example of giving one's all. It also serves as great motivation when we need a little encouragement, because sometimes even when we make space we can end up like we might in the gym, just going through the motions.
Don't go through the motions today. Make some space. Give God your full attention in prayer. Give God your all in prayer today.
Some "weekly" musings from Pastor Dave as he sits on his porch and drinks coffee, thinking about theology and lifting heavy weights. For gymsharks, there is something called "Flex Fridays," where we vainly put up photos of ourselves flexing. So this blog is my attempt to flex my theological muscles through reflection ... get it?