Pace.

I could probably write a better blog if I sat down and planned this out instead of going of the cuff, but I’m going to roll with what’s coming out. So please bear with me, reader.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I’m getting jaded on the idea of birthdays and having your own special, magical day. Now I’m almost getting jaded on the idea of resting and taking a day off. Now, I’d love to get into the dynamics of it and discuss it more in depth, and there is Sabbath rest to be had, but what I mean in general is this: it can be really difficult to take a day and truly rest. By rest I mean stop stressing and stop worrying (which sounds more like a state of being more than anything else, but that’s another discussion to be had) and to get away from your normal routine. But that almost seems impossible because:

-if I have to go somewhere like to another city, it involves driving which, personally, is something that is gradually more and more tiresome, and not restful (and can I just say that the worst part of a vacation is the return leg? ugh.)

-if I have to (or choose to) spend money to do something fun, then I am at risk of financial stress, which is worry, and it could become less restful.

-if I stay home for a day, I’ve got to be sure to do something out of the routine. This is why video games are ruined for me, by the way. I have this awful habit of playing video games every waking second that I’m not at work (that’s an overstatement, fortunately) and so when I wake up on my day off and play video games, it’s not restful because it’s still a lot like my work days! But I think this is why I find cleaning so relaxing – it’s not something I do every day (I’m a dude, and I’m human) and the satisfaction in getting something clean is unmatched.

 

Do you get what I mean? It can be really difficult to truly get a break from things. But I think that’s also just something to come to terms with as an adult – life may not slow down every time you want it to. That’s part of why I don’t believe in “me time” – I think we need to unwind sometimes, and I think that it’s good to rest (!) but at least for me, it doesn’t seem right (hypothetically, although this has happened, too) to block off a night for myself and then when someone asks me if I can help them during that block of time, to tell them no, that I’m having “me time.” Just doesn’t sit well with me.

(Quick aside: I’m all for families taking time to be together, and deliberately making themselves unavailable to others. That’s different – that’s an issue of investing in your family, and that’s a good thing. But I tend to think that people with no other obligations shouldn’t reserve themselves for their own sakes. call me sadistic, whatever.)

I also don’t think that if nobody needs you and nothing’s going on, it has to be work-work-work all the time. It doesn’t, but I think part of me opinion is informed by the fact that I spend a lot of my free time doing silly things (like previously mentioned video games.) I don’t have a lot of sacred habits that I need to free up time for, or make a priority. But I think that should also be done, at least in part, on the terms of your schedule. That is, don’t schedule around your “me time,” schedule your recharging time around what you have going on.

Before I ramble all day, I need to wrap this up – I called this blog “pace” before I even started writing it, and that’s because I’m just finding that life takes on a certain pace. Sometimes we have to adjust to that pace. It’s funny because, for some (say, a stay-at-home mom,) certain things are exhausting and others are relaxing. I’m thinking about driving. I’m sure a mom who stays cooped up would relish the chance to get out, while when it’s my day off, the last thing I want to do is drive. Isn’t it funny?

 

Lord, help me adjust to the pace of life. I know You desire us to rest our spirits in You, as well as our souls and bodies. Help me learn the balance between being available to help who You would have me help but also to take care of myself with vigorous rest.

Lifelong learning: book reports.

I’m sitting in my favorite venue these days – the public library. My reasons are multiple – I love the fact that you can come here, bring your computer, book, etc and use their space free of charge. You don’t have to feel bad that you didn’t buy food or a cup of coffee, because they don’t sell them! It’s fully funded by the government and those unfortunate people who forget to bring their books back on time, so it’s completely free. I love the way the library serves the public by hosting events, especially those for kids, to encourage reading and learning.

But I’d say that at the core, it’s just that I feel smart here. I’m surrounded by the works of people who’ve put their time, effort, and intellect into the books, music, and art that are here. I feel encouraged and inspired – spurred on, really – to engage my own intellect.

When I was getting ready to graduate, I thought about how I was going to tackle my bookshelf and become the lifelong learner that college encourages you to be. The problem is that when you’re not in college anymore, there’s nobody constantly hounding you and giving you deadlines about things. Yes, I said that’s the problem.

Don’t get me wrong – there are driven people in life. I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: I want to learn, but I also need that encouragement and that spurring on. I need someone to hold me accountable for what I’m learning, or it won’t really sink in. That’s evident to me because of how I can read a book and miss all the details, so that when I tell someone what I’m reading and they ask what it’s about, I respond with a puzzled look and a “huh, I don’t really know.”

I’m glad I recognize this though, because I know how to remedy it. I learned well enough in the last year of college that I do well to dwell on information and repeat it over and over. That’s why I love math, for example – you have to keep doing it and keep doing it, you have to practice and keep yourself sharp. I was excellent at math in middle school and high school, but in a lot of cases, I couldn’t remember it now because I’m so out of practice.

That’s the value, I believe, of things in school like papers and book reports. Oh man, book reports! Do you remember those? Do you remember how pointless they felt? Well for people like me, they’re vital. If I don’t reflect on my book and actively consider what it’s talking about as I’m reading it, I’m prone to forget it when I close it for the last time. I need to reconsider everything I just read from book to book, chapter to chapter, and even page to page.

That said, I’m considering doing book report blogs in which I reinforce what I’ve learned in whatever book I’ve recently read. I’m finally getting in the habit of reading for enjoyment as well as for learning, and I want to have an avenue to discuss what I’ve learned. I’ll hopefully also be able to give a recommendation for books, and if any of my faithful readers (if such a thing exists) have read that book and want to discuss it, I’d be happy to.

Happy reading!

 

 

This post is written with a nod to my spiritual mother, Anne Lawson, who is the single biggest champion of reading, learning, and libraries that I know. You inspire me. I love you.

Is it really my problem?

I’m over believing that I’m cursed. Jesus became a curse for me by hanging on the cross in my place and for my sin.
I’ve not really ever believed I’m cursed except in one thing: I’m a people pleaser. And by God, that feels like a curse. I’ve called it simply disposition, I’ve called it being Canadian – all in jest to mask my underlying frustration with it.

I like peace, I like everyone to get along and be happy, and I will rob myself blind to ensure that everyone is. I remember bawling my head off one week ago today because I felt like I was in a situation in which someone – either myself or others – was going to be upset or hurt. People pleasers can’t win.

But coming to that understanding has helped me realize that I have to embrace that fact and realize one simply complex truth: not everything is my problem.

In reality, people pleasing is a form of idolatry. For me, it’s idolatry of my reputation, because I go to painstaking and sacrificial extremes to make everyone else happy with me and make people think well of me. I sometimes claim to be unempathic, but other times I think I’m hyper-empathic because I’m meticulous in carrying out the thought process that details what others will think of me as a consequence of my actions.

It’s idolatry, and it’s not a good thing.

But as I repent of this idolatry, part of the repentance process is coming to the realization of and embracing the fact that not everything in my life is my problem. Let me explain…

If you’ve read my blogs lately, you may know I have a situation at work that’s draining me a little. But since I haven’t been confronted about it, it’s not my problem.
Imagine someone just decided to stop being your friend and didn’t explain why – that’s not your problem. Maybe if they fleshed out their issues, it would become yours, but as long as someone remains silent on why they don’t like you, why they won’t talk to you, why they don’t want to be your friend, it’s not your problem.
(Quick aside to my faithful regular readers [if such a thing exists] I apologize that I talk about this issue so much. It does mean a lot to me, but I’m working through it and should be able to stop beating this dead horse soon.)

The other annoying thing about being a people pleaser is that it’s difficult to have an opinion, and almost impossible to feel good about it. Having a lot of conviction is really tough, and the more controversial something is, the harder.

But at some point, the people pleaser must steel him or herself and realize that it’s far more commendable to be fully convinced of what you’re convinced of than it is to be wishy-washy about it.
Tougher still, I may add, to follow your convictions in an era in which everything is called a human rights issue, and to stand in contrast to many of these issues is to be inevitably labelled an awful human being.

Isn’t it funny, though, that when someone disagrees with you, it can get to the point of making universal statements? When you’re asked for your views (another word for opinion) you can go from something being debatable to a universal statement on your character and your quality as a human being? If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that things get personal when either someone is offended (which isn’t your problem) or don’t have anything left to say (which also isn’t your problem.)

I’ve lost my train of thought (writing during down time at work) but I’d welcome discussion on this: have you ever made something your problem or your burden when it’s not yours to bear? I’m not talking about “bearing one another’s burdens,” I’m talking about trying to control things you can’t control just because they impact you or someone’s perception of you. In what ways do you struggle with people pleasing and letting problems go when they’re not really yours?

Taboos and Psalms: what should we do with the “real” parts of life?

“Oh, but Jesus, I’ve got vices like any other man. Vices that You’re so used to, vices that won’t make You think less of me.”

–          Dead Poetic, Vices

My older brother and I had been on a Call of Duty kick a few weeks ago. One night we were playing and I turned my soldier around only to see an enemy (that was exceptionally difficult to kill and exceptionally dangerous) right in my face. In that moment, my filter was removed, and I found myself using a cultural four-letter word. A few days later, I was in my car and I’d been stewing over something going on with a co-worker. I told God, “You know my heart, and You know what I mean when I say what I’m about to say.” I proceeded to pray aloud about this situation, and didn’t sense any kind of “release” in the situation until I used more cultural four-letter words.

Did I feel justified? Not necessarily. In fact, I felt odd afterwards, but the odd feeling you get when you do something you didn’t expect to do without being killed for it.

The only other time I’ve felt that way was when I was in the car with my dad as a 12 or 13-year old boy and with eyes full of tears, I admitted I’d gotten into the habit of looking at porn. Simultaneously, I felt the shame of what I’d done, but I also felt the overwhelming acceptance of my dad, who didn’t disown me and who didn’t in that moment tear me down for all the wrong things I’d done.

This sparks a load of ideas in me. Given the analogy I’ve used, I get the notion that sometimes strong language is okay when I pray, but isn’t necessarily okay as a norm, just as my dad’s acceptance of me was “this isn’t okay, but I still love you and I want to help you.” I tend to not be of the mind that curse words should be in our daily vocabulary, but I also am of the mind that sometimes there are otherwise no words. See, the reason words are considered curse words in our culture is because we ascribe emotions to them. I remember a story of a little boy who couldn’t properly pronounce the word “fork,” so as a two- or three-year old boy, his parents always tried to keep a fork at the ready so that they didn’t have to live through the embarrassment of the kid mispronouncing “fork” (I think you can imagine what it sounded like.) But that’s the absurdity of curse words – you KNOW that kid didn’t mean anything by it other than, “I want a fork.” But for his parents, it was terribly embarrassing because of the meaning ascribed to the combination of the 6th, 21st, 3rd, and 11th letters of the alphabet.

But I’m almost of the mind that they should (or at least can) exist in our private prayers. I beg you to bear with me while I explain.

I think that the Bible uses strong language at times. I seem to recall that in Philippians 3:8, Paul’s words can be translated as “dung” or more specifically, “bull****.” It literally means excrement. And with all due respect, I think that if Paul were talking to the 21st century American church, saying “I’ve lost everything and consider them all poop” probably wouldn’t get the point across.” I think about David and the Psalms, and how sometimes they were brutal in their language of desperation, despair, and frustration.

And that’s the beautiful thing about the Old Testament – it’s full of real people feeling real emotions. We should love the Psalms not only for their theological depth and wonderful praise songs, but because the fact that the Psalms were canonized tells us there’s room in our life with God for being real and honest about things.

I suppose that provides a segue for the biggest questions of all, and the real reason I write this blog. Let’s start with this premise: I can’t possibly surprise God with my sin. Anything I think, anything I feel, anything I do, anything I say – He’s heard it before. There is “nothing new under the sun.”

But still: how real can I be, and how often? I mean, I get using a few strong words every now and then, but am I to embrace that and make it a regular habit when I’m talking to God, or is that simply disrespectful? How much room is there in my walk for being real if it sometimes demands I face the fact that I may be on the precipice of hating someone or something? After all, we modern Christians don’t want to be known for being hateful.

Do you get what I mean? I think that we are kidding ourselves if we say that there aren’t going to be times that people, circumstances, or events shake us up a little and make us feel real emotion, whether that be anger, frustration, desperation, sadness, despair, rage, etc. It’s inevitable. And I’m not saying that we are to be simply reactive to what happens in life and not proactive. That is, in some cases, things are to be done about the things that are stirring strong emotion in us. But life in the Kingdom of God provides an interesting new dynamic – we can be a little bit of both. I’m reminded of a book I read in which the author’s son told him he’d been hit at school. When he asked what he should do, his dad asked, “did you hit him back?”

Now perhaps this isn’t a perfect illustration of what I’m trying to convey here (and the issue of “should you encourage your kid to hit back” is another debate for another time!) but it makes me think of a few different ways this could have been otherwise handled. The child could have been entirely reactive and only told his parents or the teacher what happened. This response is entirely facts-based and has no mind for a remedy – that is, the child himself has no intent of doing anything about it. In the spiritual, this is the equivalent of living in the “sweet by and by,” thinking that we are just victims of our world and in no position of changing it. But the opposite of that would be a proactive response – without seeking counsel, the boy hits his bully back, perhaps sparking a fight. It could end up even worse for him than had he not retaliated (but by golly, us Americans like the sound of that!) Instead, the boy’s real-life (as opposed to the hypothetical) response was to do a bit of both – ask his dad what he should do, and then do it!

So it is with us. We are not left to be victims nor initiators.  Our inward reactions to the circumstances of life can be brought before God, and our outward reactions can be played out with the counsel and grace of God, and in a way that He would advise and encourage.

Birthdays: a “Speech.”

I hate to say it, but I think that the older I get, the more jaded I become by birthdays. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Facebook messages, I love getting texts, birthday hugs, etc.
But as far as the day itself, it becomes less and less glamorous the older I get.
When you’re a kid, birthdays are magical. You wake up and the world is yours – nobody can do you wrong, the world treats you like a king for a day. It’s all about you.
But then you get into college and you have to start thinking about whether or not it’s worth it to go to class on your birthday, because over four years, you WILL face that choice. Not to mention if you have a job – you can ask off for your birthday if you want, but nothing is guaranteed.
Step back a little further and think about how weeks become a grind as you go along, too. As you go into adulthood, your weeks become very routine. All of a sudden, the idea of a “birthday week” starts to fade (unless you want to spend tons of money and time off work) and it becomes the “week on which your birthday happens to fall.”

In other words, to sum it up, I just feel that as an adult, birthdays lose their glitz and glamour. It has the potential to become just another day.

But I’m being careful not to be entirely jaded about them, because I’m starting to see birthdays as important milestones for several reasons.

First, it’s a celebration of life. It’s the one day when it’s almost guaranteed that the attention you receive seems to be positive, and you are celebrated, not lamented. I think that’s a good thing for people in moderation (like once a year having that much positive attention. I think that too much positive attention to often [at the cost of criticism or correction] can be bad.)

Second, as people, we do well with milestones or landmarks. I’ve begun the practice of reverse-engineering, which begs the questions:
-where do I want to be and/or what do I want to do?
-where am I now and/or what am I doing now?
-how can I get from question 2 to question 1?
In other words, it’s self-evaluation, asking how I can make the things I want to make priorities into actual priorities based on how i spend my time, money, and other resources. For me, a birthday is the perfect time to do that – a blank slate of sorts with the dawn of a new year. So instead of making New Years resolutions on January 1, I set myself several goals on November 18.

Third, it just gives you a really good excuse to be with friends and family.

So as jaded as I’m getting, and as ordinary as birthdays can sometimes feel, I think there’s still a lot of magic to be had. The world may not stop for you anymore, but you can take time to stop and appreciate your life – look at the people around you who are so kindly bringing you birthday wishes and realize how blessed you are. Take stock of your life and realize where you have room to grow and ask for the grace to do so.

Confessions of a young minister: evangelism.

I’ve been wrestling with the same idea for months on end now. See, I get really intimidated around anyone else who’s been doing ministry. There are a lot of pastors, campus ministers, etc. in my life that I know, they know I’m a Christian, and they all share one thing in common: they intimidate me.

Not deliberately, that is – nobody sets out with the intent of putting me down or making me feel like less. No, I’m convinced I’m the one who makes myself feel like less. I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent” (but that’s another story for still another blog.) But for months now I’ve wondered why it is that I feel intimidated by people in ministry and church leadership. I began to chalk it up to a lack of experience and a naivete toward ministry. But as I examine that further and really break down what that means, I come upon a secret which I’m afraid to admit, but I think that a transparent blog demands it to be done.

I’ve never led anyone to Jesus.

I’ve never invited someone to church.

I’ve never discipled a new or struggling Christian.

I suppose those are three secrets, but for the sake of accountability, I want to bring them out. Now, I have four things to do with these. First, expose the excuses I’ve used for them; second, give myself grace for them; third, explain how they’ve contributed to my being intimidated; fourth, think of ways to reverse this trend.

Excuses

I’ve not led anyone to Jesus, but I still have preached the gospel from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. That’s an excuse, because public and private disciplines are entirely different. I’ve encountered this with Bible reading in general – the private practice of familiarizing oneself with God’s word solidifies a public reading of it and gives it a certain degree of merit, I believe. I can’t help but believe that until I lead someone to Jesus in my everyday life, my preaching will be somewhat less effective in terms of its evangelistic value. I can’t explain it, but in the Kingdom of God, that just seems to be the way it works.

I excuse the second by using my fear of rejection. But subtly so, I convince myself that people are tired of being invited to church (as though it happens often!) and that people just don’t want to hear it, and then finally that people will just say no, so why bother? But that’s not a good excuse, because – let’s face it, Jesus’ whole life risked rejection. He WAS rejected and despised by men (Isaiah 53:3,) and He continues to be to this day. So if Jesus is my example, shouldn’t I equally risk rejection?

For the third, I excuse it on the grounds that I haven’t seen a particular opportunity. My rebuttal to that is that I haven’t even looked that hard! But more on that in a bit.

Grace

I’m young.

I know, I know, it kind of sounds like an excuse (but mercy often is excusing) but it’s also true. I’m 22 and about 6 or 7 in the faith, and it can be different learning how to evangelize when life changes a lot. Since I became a Christian, I’ve been through high school, college, and six months out of school. I’ve changed jobs a few times, too – so some of the lessons I’ve learned have been internally transforming. Now before I go on excusing myself I’ll get to my point: I’ve got (God willing) a lot of time ahead of me, and to be quite honest, I think the best grace to me at this point is this very thing: I see now that it’s an issue in my life, and I can from here go on to remedy it (which will be addressed later.)

I’d also like to extend myself a little grace on discipleship on the grounds that I think I have more influence on the lives of young men in our church than I think I do. I’m able to work a job, do my schoolwork well, and show young men in our church by example what it looks like to love Jesus with a job, with schoolwork, and to love His church.

Contributing to intimidation

Let me break it down in terms I understand: sports! HA!

I was writing in my journal this morning, doing some reverse-engineering (which asks three questions: where do I want to be? Where am I? How do I get there?) and as I was writing about this particular issue, the Lord reminded me of how, as sports fans, we like to criticize and think we could empathize with the grind of the athletes. But naivete in ministry stems from spectatorship: from watching and not doing! It’s like me telling a baseball player that I, too, am a ball player, and when he asks me my longest home run or my career highlight, I have none to give.

In other words, I’m intimidated because I haven’t done any of it yet!

The Solution

DO IT! Ha.

I consider it a mercy that God has shown me all of this, and I hope my heart has been clear. Just as with anything in my life, I want to expose the excuses I use while also extending myself a little bit of grace. But since grace is for change, then change is the next logical step, not compromise. And it tends to be the pattern of God that when a problem is exposed, it is soon after dealt with. I’m excited because I imagine that since this has been exposed, than soon evangelism will happen soon in my life!

God brought to mind also the verse in which Jesus says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21.) So the first step in getting my heart into evangelism is to invest myself there. Emotional and relational treasure counts, and it looks like expending energy in those arenas instead of hoarding it. I trust Jesus on this, because if you look at it financially, it makes perfect sense. When I was younger, I spent countless money on music, and I was obsessed with music. It was all I thought about it. Then movies, DVDs, and video games were where I invested my money, and also my energy and attention! Now that I’m getting older and spending differently, I’m finding that I find myself praying more for the campus missionary I support, and I believe that’s because I think about the money that goes his way, and it reminds me to pray for him.

In other words, I think that as I expend my energy and time towards others, my heart will go their way more often.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read, I hope you can relate (or, well, not – because if you don’t relate than you either have led someone to Jesus or you don’t care to!) and finally, I hope you give me as much grace as I give myself (which, I believe, is a fraction of what God gives.) My top concern in writing this is the fact that I am preaching twice in the upcoming two months, and I’d hate to have someone not listen because of what I’ve written here.

November 6 (1) – Spending Like a Son

Today’s post presents an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, it is risky, because it is not my aim for the reader to think I have a blatant disregard for financial planning. I fear that the things I want to say may come across as ideas that discourage the use of wisdom and discretion in making financial decisions. I can assure you that this is not the case, so read carefully. On the other hand, however, I am seeking to convey that I have, at times, made too much of planning and meticulous use of money.

That said, let me explain.

It has been my prayer for a while that God would give me avenues to give. I’ve spent the majority of the last twenty-two years being a moocher – people have paid for my food, my clothes, my housing, etc. Basically, I only have to pay for my insurance, phone bill, repairs to my car, and gas. Lately, I’ve found that this really bothers me, and I would love to be more of a giver. That is, I’d like to find small ways to bless other people that allow me to stop holding my money so tight.

In the Christian community, I’ve heard of such stories – I’ve heard of people miraculously receiving cash or a check so they can put gas in their car (and I’ve been the beneficiary of that in a difficult financial time, something that drove me to inconsolable tears,) I’ve heard of people giving their cars away to someone who needed it, I’ve heard of people getting checks for just enough money to cover their bills, etc. Stories like this stir my heart, because they show me that there are people in the world who don’t hold on to their things or their money as tightly as I do, and that is a large reason I want to give.

Let me again address what I said at the beginning of this post. See, like a lot of things in the Christian life, there is to be a balance to our finances. I think there is great wisdom in being a meticulous planner, making smart decisions, making a budget, etc. Trust me, I’ve done that for a long time. But my own tendency with that (and take this with a grain of salt as it is indeed my own, not universal) is that I’ll end up adhering to it with a fierce loyalty and, in the end, I hold on to the money I’ve been given too tightly.

But not with myself.

Ah! That’s the rub.

I worry about spending money on others, but I have such little problem spending it on myself on things I hardly even need! I can’t count how many times I’ve felt I should do something for someone else and end up convincing myself I don’t have the money, then I go on and buy something frivolous like a jersey, a meal out, a CD, a movie, etc. for MYSELF.

That, I am convinced, is the real problem with my money “management.” I deceive myself into believing that I don’t have money to help or bless others when, in reality, I’ve ended up spending that money on myself.

It is with that in mind that I submit to you what God has said lately: give first, ask questions later.

Hear me, here. I don’t mean give at every avenue, and I don’t mean give ridiculous sums. Live within your means. For example, I wouldn’t advocate taking a loan out for the sake of buying someone else a car (I mean, God could move, but I’m not an advocate of loans in the first place, necessarily.) If you don’t make a lot of money, think long and hard about helping people with something big. But small things? You can do that. You can bless someone with a meal. You can bless someone with a tank of gas, a load of groceries, etc.

Don’t be like me. Don’t be so stingy towards others that your number one rule in money management is: this money is mine.

Let’s be honest: it’s not yours (See Psalm 50:12.) God has given us this planet that belongs to Him, given us jobs that He ordained, and gives us money that He supplied. And that is what frees us up to give! Because no longer is the issue “will I be able to make this back? Where will I find this money?” Instead our perspective can be this: “God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7,) and He is able to supply all my needs (2 Corinthians 9:8, 10; Philippians 4:19) so therefore, I can give cheerfully and trust that my own needs will be met.”

Let me clear one more thing up here. Again, I am not advocating a life of personal frivolity. Sometimes, in order to make money available for giving, one must change our own lifestyle. Maybe that means eating lunchmeat sandwiches at work instead of ordering pizza. Maybe that means being content without buying dessert every time you go out to eat or even at the grocery store. Contentment is a big component of being a giver, I’d contend. Because, after all, one of the benefits of being a giver is that it takes the focus off of me and all of my stuff and all of my needs, and focuses on being a sower and a helper to someone else.

November 4: Some quick musings on the Bible.

I consider myself no expert on the Bible, rather the contrary – I still think I’m ill-disciplined on how much and how methodically I read it. But I see improvement, and I’m starting to see consistency in my own life as far as my devotion to reading the Bible goes. I was having a few thoughts this morning as I was praying and reading the Bible…

First, it’s so easy to get distracted from a pattern of reading the Bible. Have you, reader, ever found yourself getting more and more consistent, and then one thing comes up and you “excuse” yourself from reading it for a day? I worked long hours this past week, and Friday was the last big work day, so when Saturday rolled around, I decided it was okay to take a break from the normal routine and I spent my morning and afternoon watching soccer. Now, I’m not bashing the idea of resting, but I do think it’s funny how little desire I had later in the day to read the Bible, after I’d experienced a new hunger for it earlier in the week. Usually to get back in the pattern of reading, one has to take on a Nike-like approach: just do it!

Second, I think the dichotomy of reading the Bible as a slave or as a son is so fascinating. I’ve documented this over and over in my own blogs, and I know I’m not the only Christian to struggle with this idea, but when I first was saved, I was in the Bible constantly because I believed I had to be, because it’s what a “proper” Christian does. But my motivation was less to learn and more to fulfill a quota, which again is ironic, because how do you decide how much is enough? But when I first heard about grace (I was a Christian for about three or four years before I really began to understand that God was gracious and loved me irrespective of what I did or didn’t do) I started to see that the pressure to read the Bible was off, and I subsequently disregarded such an important discipline.

But my own personal approach is beginning to change with one word: study.

This word popped in my head this morning and I remembered how, in college, I studied ad nauseum for exams, and I was a great student. I knew my best study tactics and created healthy habits, the chief of which was repetition. I would read material over and over, do flash cards over and over, until it was just in my head. Now, from a worldview that believes that the Bible is relevant and important to every part of life, taking a studious approach to the Bible becomes more and more important. What I mean by that is first, coming to the Bible on its terms, not yours. What I mean by that is that a lot of times, people come to the Bible looking for a prescription. Maybe I’m struggling with lust and I want a verse to help combat that, so I look up Job 31:1, which says “I have a made a covenant with my eyes, why then should I look upon a young woman?” (roughly translated from my head.) So I tell myself over and over that I’ve made a covenant with my eyes. But have I?

Maybe a better approach is to take a book of the Bible (and I say maybe with all frankness, because this is my own approach and I’m not going to claim to have the universally superior approach) and read it repeatedly. Say, Galatians. In chapter 5, verse 1, I read that it is for freedom that Jesus set me free. So I find first of all that Jesus did indeed set me free (from sin and requirements of the law, contextually) and He did so because He wants me to be free! Best to see that, I opine, in the midst of Gospel context than a bunch of stand-alone verses, trying to combat lust prescriptively. The only real prescription, friends, is the Gospel. All things – money management, fighting sin, relationships, freedom, growth, encouragement – are to be encompassed by the Gospel. That is, the Gospel dictates how all of those happen and how they all look.

I think I got off my train of thought just a little (I’m mostly off the cuff this morning) but the jist of what I’m trying to say is that Bible reading and even Bible studying is not a bad thing, nor is it a burden (!) when it’s done in the context of sonship, realizing that you approach the Bible to better understand the heart of God, and realizing that you do it to familiarize yourself (!) with the truth of the Gospel, and in so doing, you prepare yourself for a life of godliness, as scripture helps train us for righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16.)

As are the nature of musings, this is a little unstructured and off the cuff, so I’m trying to wrap this up, and I’ll try to do it in a few short points.

1. Sons spend time with their Father and learn from Him. So it is with the Bible – studying is not a burden or an obligation, but a tool to familiarize ourselves with the Gospel.

2. Sometimes repetition is key. I usually take a short book (like an epistle) and read it daily. At first I may not understand it and I may find myself getting hung up and repeating passages several times, but after it becomes familiar, I understand it more and notice more patterns and themes in the book.

3. The Bible is revelation, and if you put it in perspective – that God wrote a book, that the book tells us about Him, and the book is how we opine about Him – it becomes less scary and more of a help to us.

4. Speaking of help, the Holy Spirit stands to testify of Jesus, and helps us understand the Bible.

November 3: A Blur

As I sit down, I genuinely don’t know what to write about.

I don’t know because I’m exhausted, I’m in pain, and my day was quite long. I’ve tried to pin down an idea here or there to absolutely no avail, except to say this.

Sometimes life is a blur. I believe this week in particular will be a blur, and today set the pace for that. I think blurs are good at times though – when I’m too busy to do anything than what’s most important, that’s a good thing, as it gets me in the habit of doing the most important thing.

More on this throughout the week!

November 2 – I’m not a wanderer.

When graduation was upon me, I tired of being asked what my plan was. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I felt the pressure of expectations, namely getting a job (as if I didn’t already have one) and instantly taking off in your career. So I decided that I was going to start answering that question in this fashion (and I probably did in a blog at one point or another:)

I’m just going to keep going in the same direction I’ve been going.

Now, to a point that was a good answer, because I was referring to where I was in ministry. I intended to keep teaching kid’s ministry, being on the worship team, etc.

But what I failed to take into consideration was the process of becoming a leader. See, I had good intentions, but I default to following, and when you’re called into leadership (which is the premise on which I was operating,) God has to readjust that default setting towards leading and not following. I’ve found that this happens by God transforming my thinking, and I mean several things by that.

 

First, I’m learning that sometimes leadership is go, go, go. Get ready for your life group. Do your homework. Prepare a sermon. Spend time in prayer and in the Bible. Go work at your job. Love your friends and family. Be a friend and family member. Work overtime sometimes. Be there when someone needs you – that is, don’t deny your service just because you’re lazy and want a little bit of “me” time.

Second, I’m learning that leadership is not a private matter. That is, leaders live their lives in the open, and as much as I want to go about my business quietly and silently, that’s not necessarily an option. What I mean by that is that – for one small example – if one wants to lead by example, then one must let the example be seen. A leader’s life must be shared and can’t be hoarded anymore.

Third, leadership is a constant direction. That is to say this:

I can’t be a wanderer anymore.

I can’t just drift through life without a plan any longer, I can’t pretend that my own life doesn’t have consequences for others anymore.

Leadership is a weight, but leadership is not a burden, and that burden demands direction and deliberate thinking.

That’s all for today.