Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’

Jesus Turned Everything Upside Down

April 11, 2016

Matthew had an interesting outline for how he wanted to present his friend Jesus to the world. He introduces Jesus and the scene. Then he skips to Jesus baptism and what we call temptation (actually a period of spiritual formation followed by facing temptations which always happen to us after a deep spiritual experience and we’re strong enough to deal with them).

Then he consolidates the core of Jesus’ teaching. Chapters 5-7. I have now decided to reread these annually along with my annual reading of the book of Proverbs.

If you can clear your mind, throw away footnoted, transport yourself back to the scene in your imagination, then read the teaching, perhaps the message will sink in.

Many of us need time to let things sink in and become part of our awareness.

Looking at the “blessed” statements with eyes open to the world of the Romans, you see how Jesus turned it all upside down. Instead of the powerful being blessed, it is the opposite.

Then Jesus proceeds to raise the bar on following the law. It was already hard for people,  especially common, ordinary working people, to follow every bit of the law. Then Jesus says, you have heard it said, but I say… He made it impossible.

Then you think about it. If you think you can follow the law to become right with God, you have set an impossible task. However, if you have the right relationship with God and people, then you will in fact be following the law. It’s all upside down–God’s way and our way.

So it’s sort of weird, our spiritual practices. They should help us maintain a right relationship with God and at the same time help us focus on being right with other people.

We don’t study just to be knowledgeable. That is useless. We study so that we know how to relate to others and how to help point them to a relationship. We also study (people have said in surveys) to achieve and maintain our own right relationship with God.

Same with prayer. Same with worship. Same with fasting.

Spiritual is not just what’s inside you. Spiritual is also how you manifest that which is inside to other people. Are you helpful or a hindrance? Generous or selfish? Thinking of others or all about you?

The Body Is The Temple of the Spirit

April 6, 2016

While I am on a physical development trend right now, let me bring up an article I found in The New York Times. It seems a study shows that few people actually do the four pillars of a heart healthy lifestyle.

Let me preface this meditation with a few words from Paul, the Apostle:

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20  New International Version (NIV)

The article in The New York Times stated:

Most Americans know that a heart-healthy lifestyle includes eating a healthful diet, not smoking, being physically active and keeping weight and body fat down. But a new study found that fewer than 3 percent of American adults could claim all four healthy elements.

Only 2.7 percent of the Americans in the study were nonsmokers who ate a reasonably good diet, including eating plenty of vegetables and whole grains and avoiding saturated fat; got at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week; and had a healthy percentage of body fat, defined as up to 20 percent for men and 30 percent for women.

Actually, there is no guarantee that you will live longer if you follow all the advice. But you will live better.

Do you ever find yourself without energy in the afternoon or evening (or both)? Do you have trouble focusing for long periods? Are your relationships falling off the track?

How do you think you can be a witness and servant of Jesus if you don’t have the physical stamina?

How can you maintain the disciplines of study and prayer and meditation with the lack of energy caused by an unhealthy lifestyle?

Eat primarily vegetables with some added lean meat and whole grains. Reduce fats and processed foods (especially white flour and sugar–we get way too much of those in our diet). Add some daily exercise–running, walking briskly, some sort of weight training, Yoga or Tai Chi.Watching what goes into your body includes eliminating smoking (anything) and reducing alcohol to just a couple per day.

Turn your body into a true Temple for the Holy Spirit. Build it day by day.

Are There People Who Are Not Christians In Your Church?

March 30, 2016

I didn’t mean to miss posting yesterday. We had guests and then we were relaxing and I forgot all about writing. Yes, that’s hard to believe. And, I left at 5:30 am for a meeting on the other side of the state. In Ohio, that’s a 3-hour drive.

Looking at our Easter service and thinking about the early  church growing by attraction, I started to meditate on people in the church. Especially when I see posts on Facebook from people who claim Christianity, but their posts belie that stance. Meaning that there is precious little in what they say that sounds as if it were rooted in the New Testament.

So, I got to wondering, how many people were attracted to come to the church who are not followers of Jesus?

Then I thought, there are two types of these people.

On the one hand would be seekers. They know that they are not followers, but they are attracted enough to find out more. They feel a need and feel there’s something that other people have. So, they come.

On the other hand, there are members or regular attenders. They may even say that they are a member. On a questionnaire, they may even check Christian.

But one wonders. Are they really? As the old saying goes, if you were tried at court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?


So, I wondered. How many people around me are that second type? And why have I not attracted any of the first type?

And, how do my actions stack up?

I’ve been reading in an early “catechism” ascribed to the apostles themselves called the Didache (dee-da-kay). Many chapters are advice on how to live. Makes me wonder–if someone were watching my life unfold, would they know that I’m a follower of Jesus?

Ten Lessons for Long Life

March 4, 2016

I was at a conference last week, and one speaker led off with this slide. Well, actually, his first slide was in Chinese. This was the second slide 😉

10 Lessons For Long Life

These are excellent lessons for life and a healthy body. I’ve tried them all. They work. And when I’ve had health issues, it’s because of going the wrong way on a couple.

The result of having too much stress in our life has finally sunk in to me. I thought I handled stress well with meditation and Yoga. Not so much. You can do the practice, but if it is not deep and meaningful — and mindful — then it doesn’t alleviate all the stress.

Action rather than talking is good. Sometimes we’re good at talking about what we’d like to do–or what we’d like someone else to do–and never get around to doing.

Giving grows the soul. We all have too much stuff. I just threw out almost 1,000 lbs. of books from my library. That was about half. I still have four bookcases full. Some books I’d like to have for reference. Others, I’ll never read again. Like I told someone, I’ll most likely never program in C or C++ again, so why keep the books. Or the first version of Java. Programming and math books are the heaviest.

More chewing slows us down. I still have residual habits from working in manufacturing where we had 10 minute breaks and almost 30 minutes for lunch. You learned to eat quickly. Bad habit.

As for walking, never seek the parking spot closest to the door. Park at the end of the lot and walk.

I’ve been reading Dallas Willard’s “The Spirit of the Disciplines” again. He devotes much space to discussing Paul’s approach to the body–the body and its care is important to Paul, as it was for all the ancient peoples. We should learn from them.

Be Real In Faith, In Life

January 28, 2016

“I always look for the mask people are wearing,” said a friend once.

I suppose that comment is cynical, since he assumes everyone has ulterior motives or is hiding something.

But many of us are hiding something. Pain, uncertainty, feelings of being inferior, feelings of inadequacy. Or, we are acting a role. We want to convince people we’re smarter, better, more spiritual than others.

You can devote your life to spiritual practices. But, in the practices themselves, where is your heart?

Do you study not only to learn but also to impress others? Do you worship because your heart is joyful or out of duty? Do you fix a smile on your face and raise your hand in celebration, but you “really want to get away?”

More important is the question, is what I am doing helping someone else along their journey to God?

Maybe I have adopted the language, dress, and attitude of another group. I talk at them, not with them. How is that working for you? Or your worship music changes every year while seeking to appeal to a specific group.

But what do people, especially seeking people or young people, really  want to see? They want to see you being real.

When you talk about study, you can teach yet acknowledge that you still haven’t figured it all out, yet. When you discuss the with-God life, you confess that it is not an easy path and that there are times you get off the path.

Has the spiritual life helped you? And you can answer honestly where it has and where you still need to grow.

We probably all wear masks at times. But if we are trying to help someone else, we’ve got to drop the pretense. We are what we are. Struggling seekers longing for a better relationship with God.

From Theology to Practice

January 19, 2016

Andy Stanley last weekend talked about putting some motion in your devotion.

He captured it well.

Every time I dig deeply into either the Gospels to see what Jesus really teaches, or into the letters which were advice to the new disciples, I come to the same conclusion–the preponderance of the teaching focuses on how we live day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

I’ve been reading, studying, and contemplating on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Some scholars think Paul didn’t write it because the tone is a little different from the rest of his letters. It sure sounds like Paul to me. I go with some scholars who say it was probably more of a sermon than a letter. After all, Paul was firmly in the rabbinic tradition.

Some scholars dissed the letter because they thought it was used to justify the power of priests 1,700 years ago. Maybe so, but I don’t see that today.

Paul begins where he always begins, with the history of God’s relationship with the Jewish people, the breaking of the relationship, and then, most importantly, Jesus coming to teach, die, and be resurrected. Paul’s theology begins and ends with the resurrection. That changed everything for him.

Just as in Romans, though, Ephesians teaches that once we settle on God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus and our acceptance through faith, then the most important thing is how we live. Romans ends with practical advice; Ephesians ends with practical advice.

Part of our spiritual discipline, or spiritual practices, involves how we act. By the way, James who writes from a different tradition supports this thought. Be ye doers, he said (in 16th Century English).

But I digress. Today when you get dressed and head out to work or wherever you go, how are you going to act? What will you do? Will people see what you do and say, “There goes a disciple of Jesus”? Or, will they say, “There goes another one of those Christians who can preach belief but acts as if they’re the only people on Earth.”

I wrote yesterday about how I was once (?) book smart and common sense stupid. How hard it is for us to translate what we know into what we naturally do! But that is our task as set out by God. We may know. We may believe. But could anyone tell by watching?

Lost In The Futility Of Their Minds

January 7, 2016

Have you ever met someone who is so smart that they are actually ignorant? They have so many ideas rattling around inside their skull that often nonsense comes out of their mouth (or computer)?

These people are not only atheist philosophers. I have met people who call themselves Christians who live entirely in their heads. Religion is intellectual, ideas, agreements with propositions.

Sometimes people study things to overcome their own deficiencies. Perhaps I’m that way. For a couple of years at the university, especially the year I wasted in graduate school studying political philosophy, my goal was to be an intellectual. University was all about ideas. In fact, some philosophers who were really all about spirit were labelled “idealists” meaning they thought ideas were real.

Now, I often observe that people think too much. They read too much into other people’s writings.

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God. They have lost all sensitivity. (Ephesians 4:17-19 excerpted)

After the era of Freud, people seem to like to psychologically analyze other people. They think about others problems. Sometimes they explain away evil acts by saying it’s all their mother’s fault or some other such nonsense. (OK, I like Jung and James far more than Freud from that era, I’ll admit.)

We read the Bible and try to dissect every word as if we were scholars who had lived with the nuances of the language for a lifetime.

Jesus basically said it’s all about the status of our heart. It’s how we live out love. Paul emphasized grace. He also was concerned about how we live out love–but he was worried that people would return to being legalistic about it instead of living in the freedom of grace.

But freedom didn’t mean thinking about whatever you wanted to until you slowly went insane. Thinking that leads to understanding of God is good. Better is getting up every day and deciding to once again live out God’s grace by sharing it with others.

Stop sitting around thinking; start reaching out to others in love.

Become A New Creation

December 31, 2015

Decide first for the year not what you will do but who you will be.

I was led to study 2 Corinthians 5 this morning. While reading and contemplating, this phrase popped, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.”

Devoting ourselves to spiritual practices, or disciplines, is simply a means of working on the maturity of that creation.

I may be a new creation, but there seems to be continual work on becoming the sort of person that I should be. I don’t think Paul thought we stopped at becoming the new creation or he wouldn’t have written the last few chapters of Romans. It’s on how you live.

The Bible as a whole is not a text book of science, or of philosophy, or of theology, or of history. The Bible is a manual. It is our guide on how to live, how to relate to God, how to relate to others, how to become the sort of person pleasing to God.

We get off the track when we get into petty arguments. We are on track when we ask at the end of one year and the beginning of the next:

What kind of person was I last year? What kind of person will I be next year?

Generous? Joy filled? Sober? Filled with gratitude? Peaceable? Helpful?

Or the opposite.

You can make your daily decisions about how to act in the situation by firmly being aware of what kind of person you wish to be.

Choose wisely!

Review Last Year, Choose New Habits For This Year

December 30, 2015

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

The last post talked about finding your mountain of “stuckness” and turning.

This week is an ideal time to take a thoughtful look back. Get out your calendar. See where you went; what you did. Where did I waste time? Where did I invest? Is there a trip I made last year that I should do again and improve upon?

Open your list manager. What did you accomplish? What is left? What can be dropped? What must be added to be what I want to be this year?

Who are the people I met with? Who should I have met with? Where can I set aside time to intentionally find people with whom I should mentor or converse next year?

Now, let’s take a look at our friend Aristotle.

We are what we repeatedly do.

That means what we need to work on this year are a couple of new habits. Steve Carter talked about lifting the idea of 40 days from the Deuteronomy story that related to the Hebrews. Do something for 40 days. Make a commitment.

Each day for the next 40 days, I will [fill in the blank]. After 40 days it will become a habit.

Sometimes we fall into bad or sloppy habits. Reading the wrong thing, sleeping in, talking instead of working out, eating that doughnut.

We must become self-aware. See ourselves as if from the outside doing that behavior. Then we decide to replace that bad habit with a desirable one. That is practice.

Let’s repeatedly do excellence. It really is a Spiritual Discipline.

Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet

December 28, 2015

The church staff planning meeting must have been interesting. Well, December 27 is the Sunday after Christmas and before New Years. We need to have a New Year’s Resolutions teaching.

Steve, why don’t you take that? What text would you use?

How about Deuteronomy?

Of course, Deuteronomy. Why didn’t I think of that? <cue head slap>

Teaching Pastor Steve Carter of Willow Creek taught as well about the famous resolutions problem as I’ve heard. You can click the link and watch or listen.

From Deuteronomy 1:6-7–plan your journey, turn toward the promise, go. But before all that, figure out what your Mount Horeb is.

For the Israelites, it was a place of rest and seeming comfort following years of aimless wandering through the deserts.

Problem–the promised land was just “over there.” But they weren’t looking “over there.” They were stuck. God said, “Turn.” Then God said, “Go.”

Our problem–

Where did we get stuck last year. What was your Horeb? Carter says to stop, contemplate, and then name your mountain. Overeating? Overstressed? Overrevving? Overreacting? Overwhelmed?

I’ve always used this week of the calendar to contemplate and review. Yes, years ago I did the self-help guru advice of goal setting and New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote them down. Put them in the front of my DayTimer calendar.

I accomplished exactly none of them.

Then I discovered first getting my heart right. Then uncovering where it seems that God is leading me. Then determining one or more–but not too many–projects that will move me forward. (Note: a project is something that takes more than one task to complete.)

This allows for much more serendipity to enter my life. I can move with changes. Yet, I’m still moving toward being the person God wants me to be.

Name your mountain; turn toward the promise; go.