Thursday, March 21, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Catching Up

Late last week I knew, with my schedule the way it was going to be, that I wouldn't have opportunity for blog for several days, at least, for 30 Days With Wesley.  But I also knew I was committed to working through the 30 days and being consistent with them.  So, some days I found myself doing the morning prayer exercises in the late afternoon, other days doing the evening prayer exercises from the previous day in the morning, "doubling up" once in a while, if you will.  There was one day, around day 19 or 20 I think, that I missed entirely - no, I didn't forget; nor did I decide it wasn't important.  Rather, I had my priorities rightly aligned but had to adjust and adapt to a constantly shifting schedule, and knew I would be better off playing "catch up" the next day than attempting to double up a day at 12:30 in the morning.  And by this morning, Day 22, I am back on schedule.

This would not have worked earlier in my life.  I had a tendency to be an all-or-nothing sort of individual.  If I "fell off wagon"...I really fell off the wagon.  But when I was on it, my goodness, I had better be in the driver's seat with the pedal to the metal at all times, and please-don't-get-in-my-way, thank you.  This was not healthy.  But it was all I knew.

I am not saying I've got this balance thing down perfect yet, but I am saying that, rather than being deflated because I missed a day of what is for me an important spiritual 'project,' I simply recognized the need to adjust and adapt to shifting contexts, and get caught up and back on schedule as soon as possible, without "sweating it."  I think this is what is called "steadiness."  Which might be related to "steadfastness."  In the Scriptures this seems to relate to being steady, constant, consistent in devotion to the Lord.  When David is broken over his sins (David, too, when he "fell off the wagon," really fell off the wagon!), he says:

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (Psalm 51:10-12).

From the first verse above we see that steadfastness has much to do with holiness.  From the second, we see that it is only possible if Holy Spirit is living in us as through us.  And from the third, we see that a sustainable life as a Jesus-disciple comes through having a willing spirit.

Is your spirit willing to follow Jesus?  Maybe even become a disciple of Jesus?  In Matthew's gospel he records a story where a man with leprosy comes to Jesus and says "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."  Jesus replies by saying, "I am willing.  Be clean!"  And the man was cleansed, restored, renewed, transformed:  In short, healed.

Jesus is willing that your heart, mind, and soul be cleansed.  Are you looking for a "fresh start?"  You don't have to wait for everything to be "just the right time" or in "just the right place" or "with all the details organized."  Jesus is just as uninterested in pedal-to-the-metal as He is in falling off the wagon.  He wants to create a steadiness, a steadfastness, a standing-firm-in-faith within us.  Whether we are right on schedule, or catching up.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: The Middle

Starting things is easy.  At least, for me it is.  Most of the time, anyway.  I like to get started on new or different things.

Finishing things is easy.  At least, for me it is.  Most of the time, anyway.  Who doesn't like to see the last Lego brick to complete a set go into place, or the last box in a moving truck to come out, or the final penny of a debt get paid?  I love to finish things off.

Of course there it that phrase, "it's not how you start, it's how you finish."  And...that's usually true.  What ultimately matters in anything we do is to finish well, regardless of how bumpy or rocky things may have become along the way.

But...being able to finish well is very much dependent upon how well you stuck things out in that place that isn't so easy:  The middle.  At least, for me it isn't.  Most of the time, anyway.  I get bored...distracted...tired...complacent...and a host of other things, in the middle of things.

So, what about you?  Are you best at starting...finishing...or the middle?

I think there are many people who claim the title "Christian" who loved getting started (their first experience of recognizing the presence of God with them in their lives, which often can be what modern Christians term "getting saved").  And there are many who look forward to the day of completion when all things are renewed by Christ (to the point that many are, for all intents and purposes, sitting on a hillside, staring up into the sky, waiting for Jesus to appear...and doing nothing to advance the Kingdom here and now in the daily reality of the world we live in).

Christian like to start.  And they like to finish.

Many seem averse to the middle.

I get it.  I have a feeling it might be a part of human nature.

I mentioned the other day about my "momentum" t-shirt: "He starts...he finishes."

That's great.  But inside those ellipses are a great many middling days that don't have the fresh excitement of starting new or the climactic anticipation of finishing well.

Today's optional Scripture reading in "30 Days With Wesley" comes from Romans chapter 12:

"Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:13-21).

I believe that there are a great many Christians who might become Jesus-disciples who transform the world and whom God uses to bring about God's Kingdom here and now, redeeming, renewing, and transforming creation into all that God desires for it - and or us - to be.  If...we lived like Paul instructs Jesus-disciples to live in the passage above from Paul's letter to the Roman church.  These are the kinds of things we do in the middle, that we might honor the new start God gave us, and fulfill the Great Commission Jesus commanded us to live out.

How is your middle looking, today?

If you don't tend to the middle, you'll never be able to finish well.

And speaking of finishing...remember...that looks a little different in God's Kingdom than in the kingdoms of this world.  If you want to finish well...start wherever you are...tend to the middle...and finish last...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

30 Days with Wesley: Sometimes...Silence

Most of us today have no idea of the incredible value of silence.  Or solitude.  Or simply being still and quiet even when things around us are quite noisy.

Of course, this all sounds good and even quite spiritual - until it is God who is silent, still, and quiet.  Because when we are seeking God and trying to discover what God is speaking to us, the last thing most of us are looking for us is silence...or solitude...or quiet.  We want to hear from God.  We want to know what God has to say.  And so we do the things we think we are supposed to do, or need to do, and sometimes...silence.

This is the 13th day of my 30 Days With Wesley journey.  You may have been following along with this here or on Facebook (or both).  And for me, especially tonight, it was one of those "sometimes...silence" sort of times.

That's OK...if you know what to expect and that this is a common part of our journey with Christ.  The things is, when God is silent is different than when we are silent.  When God is silent...God is speaking.  And you cannot hear what God has to say to you in the silence if you never have moments of sometimes...silence.

So take a few moments today...tonight...this morning...or whenever you are reading this...and be quiet.  Be still.  Be silent.  Listen.

And then...rejoice.

Monday, March 11, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Everything Is Nothing

"...and everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).


Every.  Thing.

What things in your life are motivated by faith?  What things are motivated by fear?  Not "fear of the Lord" but "fear of (fill in the blank with.......rejection...losing a loved one...or a job...or a house or material thing...missing your true purpose...or any other of a great number of things you or I might be afraid of)."

The Scriptures tell us that "perfect love drives out fear" and that "the one who fears is not made perfect in love" (I John 4:18).  And Jesus says, "be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father in perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

We cannot do it on our own.

"Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).


No.  Thing.

Friday, March 8, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Eat It...Just Eat It...

Weird Al has nothing on the Scriptures.

Today I went before my denomination's District Ministerial Credentials Board, as I have to do every year until I am ordained (or, possibly, told "no way!").  My appointment time was 8:30 AM.  I was up at 5 AM, out the door before 6 AM, and eating Chick-Fil-A Chicken-Mini's before 7 AM (there is no better way to prepare for DMCB than Chick-Fil-A).

By 8:40 AM I was still sitting in the waiting area, and so I decided to use the time to dig into some of the morning prayer exercises from 30 Days With Wesley.  Each morning and easy the prayer journal utilizes the Lord's prayer.  I think today I was praying it more in the fashion of Psalm 23 (you know..."yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...).  Perhaps only those who have been through the process will see the humor in all of this.

Each morning also has an "optional" Scripture as I mentioned a few days ago.  I have found these the most useful things of all as I pray and seek God's guidance during these 30 days.  Today's was just one verse long, Jeremiah 15:16, which begins this way:

"When Your words came, I ate them."

We live in a world obsessed with consumerism.  Or at least, the Western world, anyway.  I grew up in such a culture and time (who doesn't automatically equate the "1980's" with "materialism," fair or not???).  And I have had to deal with the effects of that many times.  I am still too materialistic and consumeristic at times.

And so God says, "You want to consume something?  Consume this."

"When Your words came, I ate them.  They were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name, Lord God Almighty" (Jeremiah 15:16).

We listen.  We wait.  We pray.  We read.  We worship.  We commune with the body of Christ.

And then...

God speaks!

What do we do when God speaks?  When after all the waiting and agonizing and praying and worshiping and listening and communing...God, suddenly, speaks?

What do you do when God's words arrive on the scene?

Eat it.  Just eat it.


What do you think it means to eat God's words?  What implications does this have for life?  How can you be less consumed with the things of this world and more consumed with Jesus Christ?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Rhythm

Rhythms are important.  Ask any musician.

There are rhythms in our lives as well.  But sometimes, we get out of rhythm.  And that is a problem.

When I was a teenager in my youth group and church, I was taught the importance of "daily devotions."  This term is sort of an evangelical thing (although I was part of a holiness, not an evangelical, church (I recognize the two have many commonalities, but few things frustrate my theological and ecclesial sense more than when people refer to the Church of the Nazarene as an "evangelical" church.  No, no.  I don't think so.  Of course we aren't anti-evangelical or anti-evangelism!  But we are, most certainly, a holiness church.  And now I've digressed quite a bit on this rabbit trail...which I'll use to make a point about rhythm shortly, if you'll stay with me)).

In short, "daily devotions" meant you got up as early as you could in the morning (30 minutes before school started?), prayed and read your Bible for a really really long time (30 minutes?), and used a (30-day?) "devotion book" to guide you.

And one could argue I am more or less attempting to do the same thing at age 37 with "30 Days With Wesley."  One could.  But this one will not.

In some circles, even today, if you don't have a set, "personal devotion" or "daily devotion" time in which you used a devotion book, read the Bible, and pray (usually in that order), and do so for a specific amount of time, at a specific time each day, well, you're not really a "faithful believer" (for some you may not be one at all!).

This, of course, is absurd.

However...what is not absurd is that when we become Jesus-disciples, there are many practices and disciplines we learn, and that by doing these practices and submitting to these disciplines, we and others become more like Christ, which is the goal of discipleship.  These practices establish a rhythm in our lives that is needed (required, really) if we are going to know, do, be and become all that God desires for us.

You might wonder how the last two paragraphs fit together.

Webster gives us some helpful definitions for rhythm:

*"an ordered recurrent alteration of strong and weak elements of the flow of sound and silence in speech"

*"the aspect of music comprising all the elements that relate to forward movement"

*"movement, fluctuation or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements"

We need spiritual rhythms in our lives.  For the Jesus-disciple, these are the disciplines and practices of the faith, which occur through the super-natural flow of Holy Spirit in us and through us.

Notice that not all rhythms are the same (and some are better than others!); nor is each rhythm composed of the same elements, all the time, in every case.  Notice that strength is only shown when weakness is present, and that sound is only heard when silence is also experienced.  Notice that there can and should be variation to the rhythmic practices of our spiritual lives.

So...I'm not anti-evangelical-devotional-time.  Far from it.  It can be a good rhythm.  But it isn't the only rhythm...and who likes to listen to the same few songs on the radio over and over and over again (besides 40  year old soccer moms?  Sorry...that is an inside joke...)?

Spiritual rhythm is vital.  For me, I was really beginning to get out of rhythm.  Not unlike my rabbit trail a few paragraphs back, I am being pulled in many directions, some of which are really just digressions (or put another way, distractions).  "30 Days With Wesley" is getting me in tune again, and for that I am very grateful.  I hope my experience might encourage the reader to get or stay in tune, as well.

One more thing about rhythm from Webster's definitions above:  It is "all the elements that relate to forward movement."

Rhythm:  You might call it...momentum.  I have a t-shirt from a youth camp in 2003 with that word on it.  It says this: 

"Momentum:  He starts.  He finishes."

Do I hear something rattling?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Desire

Near the end of one of today's prayers from 30 Days With Wesley was this:

"...cleanse our hearts from every desire but that of advancing Your glory..."

It would be easy to sort of blow right past that, especially when using a written prayer book for prayer.

This is not just a run-of-the-mill spiritual platitude.  There are plenty of places and people in this world that one can go to for those (unfortunately).

"Cleanse our hearts."

God wants to save us from sin and spiritual death.  But the initial act of saving is just the beginning.  God gives us a new birth in Christ.  In the same way as any human mother would, God doesn't give us birth and then say "it is finished."  In fact, if I recall correctly, Jesus used that exact phrase not at birth, but at death.  There is a lot more that could be said about that.

In any case, a new birth in Christ, while one of the most joyful moments one can experience, is just the beginning.  God wants to cleanse our hearts - put another way, to sanctify us.  This is a monumental task for humans who have been filled with and warped by sin and the nature of sin in us.  But it is not too hard a task for God.  Indeed, "nothing is impossible with God"! (Luke 1:37)

"From every desire."

I don't know about you, but I have had many desires in my life.  Some I used to have and have no longer either because they have been fulfilled...or I no longer have the desire...or maybe because I have given up hoping that such desires could become a reality...or maybe I even know they won't be a reality (quick example: I will never play Major League Baseball.  However...maybe one day I can be a part of one of those cool but really expensive fantasy camps they know, sometime before I am so old and fat I can't even move with that in mind, I'd better find a way to do that very soon...).

Some of my desires have been good.  Some have been decidedly not good.  Some have been motivated purely out of my own selfishness.  Some have been motivated by my drive to care for and love my family...and others...

"But that of advancing Your glory."

God wants our desires to be subject to God's desires, God's plans, God's will.  We are not to pray, "Lord, please bless this thing I want to do" but rather "Lord, take away my desires for what I would want, and place in me a desire for what You would want."

God is incredibly loving and kind.  We would be surprised with how often we might find that when we let go of our desires and submit ourselves to God, God redeems and sanctifies what we let go of and gives us back  renewed, transformed desires that fit better than we could have ever imagined with who God has made us and is making us in Christ.  Psalm 37 applies here so well.

There was another Psalm in today's readings, however, that I'd like to conclude with a portion of and applies equally as well, especially for my own place in life's journey, and hopefully will help you in yours, as well:

Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

---Psalm 103:1-5


What's your desire today?  Who's motivating it?  How is God sanctifying your desires (making them holy and in accordance with God's will)?

Monday, March 4, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Discipleship Is Not An Option

Each morning prayer time from "30 Days With Wesley" has included in it an "optional" Scripture reading.  Each of the five days so far I have "exercised my option" to read those Scriptures.

I shouldn't be surprised that the 'optional' Scriptures have been the ones that have made the most impact on me and have kept me thinking and digging deeper to understand more about how I need to be living, right now.

There are a good many churches and Christians who view discipleship as "optional" for being a "Christian."  For them, the "Christian" is the one who has said a "sinner's prayer" and any one point in their life, for any reason, in any emotional state, and is therefore "saved" with a guaranteed reservation in Heaven, eternally.  Anything remotely resembling discipleship is for those select few who have the initiative and drive to go further, but it really isn't necessary, since the whole salvation/Heaven thing is a done deal.

I don't want to be harsh on this point, but, I think I probably am:  What Bible are they reading?  Which Jesus is saving them? 

Discipleship is not an option for the Christian.  Discipleship is what it means to be a Christian.  The way things have been going during my lifetime, I long ago dropped most uses of the word Christian to talk about myself or others.  For a good long while I had adopted the term "Christ follower" - but eventually "follower of Jesus" became popular as an alternative among many of the same churches and Christians I was referring to a moment ago.  Over the last few months I have settled on "Jesus-disciple" as my preferred way of saying, "this is who I am, and this is who we are as the body of Christ."  We are Jesus-disciples.  

The term itself isn't so much what is important as it is that we recover what it means to truly be disciples of Jesus, because the Great Commission hasn't changed much in the last 2000 years.  Jesus still calls disciples, and then gives them this commission:  "Go and make disciples..."

As I said in a conversation with someone last week, being a Jesus-disciple is simple, but it isn't simplistic.  There is a big difference.  As Rich Mullins once wrote, "It's Hard To Be Like Jesus."  But that is precisely what Jesus calls us to do.  And that will always begin with prayer, seeking God's will, reading the Bible as Scripture, and other spiritual disciplines such as fasting, giving, solitude, accountability, worship, and more.  There isn't any real substitute for the spiritual disciplines for the Jesus-disciple.  Take a look at the two words "discipline" and "disciple" and it doesn't really take a rocket scientist to figure out.  It's simple.  But it isn't easy (simplistic).

If you are searching in your life, or if you are a Christian who feels like they are just going through the motions or going around in need to become a Jesus-disciple.  There are two ways that go hand in hand to do that:  You need to get in touch with God, and get in touch with other Jesus-disciples.  We need both spiritual disciplines and spiritual community in order to know, be, do and become all that God desires for us as Jesus-disciples.

You can do it.  God is with you.  God is with us.  He is Emmanuel.  He is Jesus.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Reality Check

If you want to spend time with God - if you want to get to know God - if you want to have a relationship with God - you will soon find that most often you have to deal with "real world" conditions and not what would be the "ideal" conditions.

Many people think that if they can discover God, this will somehow help their lives and world move from the present reality that they don't like to an ideal reality that they will like.

God is not a genie or a magician.

At least, not the God who claims to be revealed most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ, whom the Bible, the Christian Scriptures - and the apostolic witness of the Church, the people of God, the body of Christ - testify to.

The History Channel debuted their 10-hour series "the Bible" tonight.  If you watched this (or if you have read the Bible, at all) you know the story contained in it is chock full of less-than-ideal real world conditions.  We don't live in an ideal world.  But that doesn't mean ideals aren't important.  Far from it.

The problem comes in when we allow our ideals to morph into our idols.  We cannot so highly value and cling to the ideal that we are unable to acknowledge what is real.

I'm now through my 4th day of "30 Days With Wesley."  It's good.  Today, though, was not ideal.  In my ideal world, I'd have a nice, long, leisurely, time-and-space of solitude (well, just God and I, anyway) in the morning. before anything else takes place.  Today that was not going to happen.  Instead I had to deal with a short, early afternoon, interruption filled, time-and-space of non-solitude (God and I were still there, but...).  This is not ideal.  But it was reality, today.

If you want to follow God and be like Jesus, the 'ideal' will not always happen.  Jesus dealt with this, too.  We know that Jesus "often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16), and yet He was often interrupted when He tried to get away, too.  The needs of the people were great, and they came to Him, rightly so, to help them.  Pastors and spiritual directors deal with this sort of thing all the time, as well.  We draw lines to protect ourselves and our families.  But we draw them ideally knowing we will cross them really (and probably really soon). Sometimes the real world conditions mean interruptions and inconveniences.  Sometimes they mean consequences that are far more grave.

And by the way, I'm not advocating for the kind of 'leadership' that suggests "you are called by God, so your family just has to deal with all the junk that comes with it" (as some pastors I have worked with in the past have *openly* told me was their philosophy) - and subtly (or not so subtly) demanded that I needed to as well).  We need to be emotionally healthy and minister to our own families, children, spouses every bit as much as the rest of the world.  Pastors who tell their people to make their family's spiritual and emotional well-being a priority and then, well, don't - well, they remind me of Matthew 23 that we were studying in our quizzing Bible study earlier today.

But back on point:  You will live through many less-than-ideal days.  Stuff happens.  Life happens.  I'm not minimizing that, at all.  But it cannot become an excuse for neglecting the practicing of our faith and the spiritual disciplines necessary to a life well-lived for God in Christ through Holy Spirit.

So as I finished my prayer exercises tonight, I did not much feel very good about it, or that much had come from it.  Perhaps the novelty of this project had worn off already?  No...chances are I'm still dealing with a lot of life stressors, and exhausted mentally and emotionally.  And we all face those at varying levels and to varying degrees and different times in our lives.  What do we do then?  They are the times when we need to prove faithful in devotion to Christ through the disciplines.  Anyone can pray and read and seek and worship when it feels exciting and seems to be making a tangible difference.  But those days are few(er) and far(ther) between if we don't take the opportunity - ideal, real, or otherwise, to trudge through the disciplines on the days when it doesn't feel like much of anything and doesn't seem to make a difference, at all.

I'm hoping to see God's vision, purpose, and plans for some things much more clearly at the end of the 30 days.  But I won't be able to do it if I don't give it my all and trudge through the seemingly insignificant day 4.

Have you taken time to quiet yourself and acknowledge the presence of Christ today?  Have you spoken to God?  Listened to Holy Spirit?  If you are reading this, and it's today (and no matter when you read it, it will be) - there's still time.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: We Talkin' 'Bout Practice!

If you are a fan of the NBA, or even if you are not (I used to I just occasionally check in on how my Detroit Pistons are doing (not very well, BTW, in case you wondered)) - you may remember Allen Iverson's famous rant to reporters about "practice."

To summarize, Mr. Iverson didn't think too much of practice, since he was the "franchise player" for the Sixers at the time; he thought practice was an unnecessary intrusion because, after all, he was a great player.  He went on about this rather colorfully and at great length.  His famous (infamous?) rant is an all time great moment for teaching what humility is not.

Most people understand the importance of practice for performance.  

Our teen quiz team has been experiencing that lately.  We've done a *lot* of extra practices lately in preparation for the last two quizzes of the year this month (excepting Regionals in May).  They prepared well.  Very well.  But I can't say that, at least today (it was our last District Quiz), it translated into performance.  We did OK in the end, but it was rough.

But this is where our practice differs from other competitions.  Because for us, practice is performance.  And this is not at all unlike (and designed intentionally so) practice as a Jesus-disciple.

For some, the idea that we "practice" to be a Jesus-disciple seems strange.  But this is precisely what we are supposed to do.  Our faith as Jesus-disciples is not somehow separate from our lives.  It is our lives.  And we must practice daily the spiritual disciplines necessary to perform well as a Jesus-disciple.  Not practice now for a performance later, but practice now because it is performance.  To practice faith is to pray, read, study, build relationships, worship, meditate, fast, teach, preach, follow and lead as well as many other spiritual disciplines.  These practices make up a total performance.

In short, as Jesus-disciples, if we do not practice our faith, we do not really have faith at all.  To be a Jesus-disciple is to practice, and for the Jesus disciple to practice is to perform.

And all this is what has been on my mind on an incredibly stressful day that began by spending some time with John Wesley and Jesus.  I posted Psalm 33:3 during this time this morning to viabothandia as it was one of the Scriptures from the prayer book.  It says,

"Sing to the Lord a new song; play skillfully, shout for joy."

Here's what I wrote down at the time:

I want to play skillfully...but to do that means I have to practice, and practice well.  I want to practice hard and be like You - but I can't be like You without You making me like You - but with You, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).  ALL things. ALL THINGS.......not the things *I* desire - but WHATEVER YOU CALL ME TO DO, I *CAN* DO, IN AND THROUGH YOU!!!

(I left the all caps in on purpose - I was shouting...inwardly...otherwise I'd have scared the neighbors...)

Practicing isn't easy.  There are times we just don't want to do it.  It's hard.  And when we don't see the immediate results we had hoped we'd see, we might be tempted to give up practice.  But for Jesus-disciples, giving up practice is giving up the game.

Don't give up.  Don't give in.  Keep practicing.  Start practicing, if that is what you need to do.  Change up your practice routine, if that helps.  But by all means, keep practicing.  You have a part in the performance of God's story and the unfolding of God's Kingdom.  But you'll never know - you can't know - what part in the performance you are to play if you don't keep practicing.  

Practice?  We Talkin' 'Bout Practice!  Yes, Mr. Iverson...we are...and that's a good thing...

Friday, March 1, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Terra Nova

As I sit down to write this post, I am wondering exactly what to write about my experience today that would be a benefit to the reader. My website here, as I have mentioned before, is not intended to be a personal blog. I had one of those for many years, in several incarnations. They were good experiences. But here I want to be able to help others in their spiritual journeys.

And yet, I've always found that if I can't offer something out of my personal experience, it is pretty hard to be of help to anyone. I could teach you how to play major league baseball...but what do I know about it, despite being a big time Detroit Tigers fan? Sure I might be able to teach you something, but somehow it just wouldn't be the same as if it were coming from, say, Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander. Now those guys know how to play the game.

On the other hand, it's important not to minimize the contributions of many people to the game of baseball who aren't household names: Little league coaches, college batting instructors, minor league roving assistants, moms and dads who sacrificed long hours and high dollars to help their kids have a shot at success in the big leagues. All those people contribute something of value to the game and can be learned from, but just like Cabrera or Verlander, they are able to do so out of their personal experience.

When it comes to spiritual formation, then, whether I am closer to St. Francis of Assisi and Richard Foster or Joe Small Group Leader and John Prayer Warrior's Dad (I strongly suspect the latter group) isn't really consequential as long as I have something from personal experience to offer. The small stuff matters, because in the end, and in God's Kingdom, the small stuff is the big stuff.

This morning's opening Scripture in 30 Days with Wesley was exactly the same as the first morning, as if to remind me:

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise" (Psalm 51:15).

How often we forget what God has already shown us and taught us.

It's Friday. If you attended what I like to call a "building church" last Sunday, what was the sermon about? What did you learn or take from it that has been useful to you this week? If you didn't attend a "building church" - perhaps you had an office or other meeting earlier this week. Can you summarize the main points of that meeting? See what I mean? You might actually remember...but how about the previous week? Or the week before that? See what I mean?

How often we forget what God has already shown us and taught us.

I don't want to re-learn lessons already learned, over and over and over again. I want to walk on terra nova (if you don't know what that means, now would be a good time to look it up before you go any further). But of course, sometimes terra nova, in the Kingdom of God, is really what already was, made new again.

I'm embarking on this 30 days doing many things I've done before: Prayer, Scripture reading, using a prayer book, pushing out thoughts and material to my network on Facebook and my website. But this is terra nova.

And I have the growing feeling (actually, it's much more than just a feeling) that this is what God is up to in my life right now: Walking with me, forward, onto and into terra nova; but not just any terra nova - it is what already was, made new again.

I love that God is always about redemption, renewal, restoration, and transformation. Oh, and yes: Resurrection.

Which reminds me of a conversation I was having on line today. Let me quote myself (if I may!):

"Many people would like to have 'historical' or 'factual' 'proof' of Jesus' resurrection. They would say that, if they had that, then they would believe. But actually...if we did have that kind of "proof" - it would paradoxically not be sufficient to actually believe - it would only be knowledge in our head. We would say something like, 'Oh, yes, Jesus, that's the guy who came back from the dead way back when. Only person in history ever known to do it. Remarkable, isn't it?' So the only real proof of Jesus' resurrection is the relationship we have with Him - the conversation between He and us as the Spirit witnesses with our Spirit that we belong to Christ. The apostles' witness is the only real, convincing proof that Christ lives and is who He said He is - the Son of God, the Messiah. And that is the witness that has been passed down to us today. We do have proof. He is alive. He is in us. And we are changed forever. Amen!"

It's been a long day. It's been a busy day. It was our "Fabulous Friday" for our teen quiz team. We started early, finished late. It's been a good day. Maybe the thing that would be of most benefit to share today out of my personal experience is that, as I said before, the small stuff matters - and matters most - in the Kingdom of God. Nothing earth shattering happened today. But what happened today is going to have a major impact on the rest of my life and those I've been in relationship with today, wherever I've been and whatever I've done.

Some people in an obscure location in the Roman empire claimed a guy they followed around for a few years was raised from the dead. Not an everyday occurrence granted, but small stuff compared to what was going in the rest of the world. Or was it? Small steps of obedience, in the midst of our stumbling and bumbling, done every day, lead to...

...terra nova...