What Trump’s Words To North Korea and Your Bedroom Have In Common

radioactive

President Donald Trump, in a seemingly improvised message to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, was clear: “[North Korea] will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Tough words from out of left field. Within hours the country heard reports from various cabinet members, including Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Everyone in Trump’s circle was backing up the statement. Of course. What else could they do?

The President’s remarks encouraged Kim Jong Un to make more threats, all centering around the small protectorate of Guam. And those threats encouraged the President to make more and so the story is still unfolding.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow called the leader’s back-and-forth a game of “I’m rubber and you’re glue” in one of last week’s episodes.

And although the game of “I’m rubber and you’re glue” tends to work things out on the playground, it doesn’t hold a candle to geopolitical issues and the peace process.

Nor does it do much for the peace process in your own home.

It’s not breaking news, like Trump’s brazen words were, that it takes work in order to make marriage work.

It’s also not breaking news that in order for marriage to work, both partners have to respect one another.

Colossians 3:18 has some sage marriage advice. Paul is encouraging believers to live well with one another and have good, happy marriages.

“Ladies,” he writes, “be subordinate to your men, as becomes a Christian wife. Men, love your wives and don’t act ornery toward them (Cotton Patch Gospel).”

I know some who would call this passage a turning back of women’s lib and a cry to allow men to dominate women and keep them under the thumb of male oppression.

But there’s balance here in Colossians. There’s mutual respect. Paul is saying that women must honor their husbands because it’s their Christian duty to do so. And he’s telling the men the same. Now, Cotton Patch is a fun paraphrase and uses the word “ornery” when encouraging the men in how to act toward their wives. Men, don’t be ornery toward your wife does seem as though it’s letting the men off the hook. It has the air of “boys will be boys” in it. But that’s just one paraphrase.

The Wuest translation doesn’t let anyone off the hook.

Wives, be constantly subjecting yourselves with implicit obedience to your husbands as you ought to do in the Lord. Husbands, be loving your wives with a divine love which impels you to deny yourselves for their benefit, and stop being bitter and harsh to them.

Husbands, do you respect your wives? Do you love them with a divine love? Do you love her in such a way that you are impelled to deny yourself for her benefit?

Wives, do you let your husband lead your home with you? Do you take him seriously? Do you appreciate his masculine nature? Do you make him feel that the work he does is a blessing to his family?

Marriage is a team activity.

But there are two distinct roles we each play in our marriages.

Husbands have one role, wives have another. And it’s up to the two of you to figure out what those roles are and how they are played out within your marriage.

Men are pretty delicate humans despite what they’ll tell you. Make your husband feel as though his masculinity isn’t good enough and you’ve knocked the wind out of him. His masculinity is directly tied to his sex drive (something we’re not talking about in this post), and his ability to lead and take care of his family and the work he does.

And we know that women want and deserve equal treatment in the marriage. They want to be loved passionately and brought into the fold as not just a plaything but an equal who has value.

I heard it said once from a female friend of mine that husbands are good at coming up with the big picture of how to run the family and wives are good at taking that vision and making it happen.

She didn’t say that wives aren’t good at getting a vision and executing it, nor did she say there’s no place for such a thing.

If your marriage mirrors Trump’s words to Kim Jong Un, you’re primed and ready for your own nuclear disaster within the four walls of your home.

Putting Paul to Practice

The way you treat your spouse is the way your children will learn to treat theirs. You and your spouse are the first and most prominent examples of how romantic relationships should look like. Your kids are watching…and they’re taking notes.

A husband who calls his wife names, or blatantly disrespects her, or treats her like a possession rather than a prized teammate is a husband who is announcing that he’s going to bring “fire and fury like the world has never seen” to his home. A husband who doesn’t take care of his wife by treating her with divine love and delicate respect and an equal partner is a husband who will have strife and unmerited fury in his home. Men, love your wives, treat them like you would your own body. If you love your wife, you show that you love yourself (Ephesians 5:25).

Wives, respect your husbands. Men are a lot more delicate than they let on. To disrespect your husband is to emasculate him. And you don’t want a pansy-assed emasculated husband. You don’t want a nice, good boy who doesn’t rock the boat.

You want a man, not a mouse.

Be his teammate. Be his cheerleader. Work with him to take the vision the two of you dreamed up for your family and organize it. And in doing that, you’ll also get a teammate, a cheerleader, and someone who will move mountains for you.

Don’t declare war on one another. Instead, come up with a resolution for peacekeeping.

Communicate well, listen to one another, be vulnerable. Make a pact, today, that you’re going to drown out the negative with love. Season your words with gentleness and kindness. Treat one another well. You’re both valuable.

Back to School

back to school for SL

Back to School

It’s back to school for many in the next couple of weeks. The newness of another academic year is exciting.

New backpacks, school supplies, meeting old friends, making new ones, and meeting teachers (for the teachers, meeting students).

There’s something special about a new year back at school. It’s a fresh start. A new beginning.

Last year is in the past, this year is a fresh beginning. A person can rectify wrongs by starting over. It’s brilliant.

I’ve taken the summer off writing for Song Lifestyle. I haven’t blogged, gone live, or made a single post to social media about the blog.

That was on purpose.

I needed some time to refocus on what exactly I want to do with Song Lifestyle.

Song Lifestyle began as a kind of live journal of what I was learning about this beloved gospel we enjoy. It was a way for me to annotate my Bible in a way that is shared with as many people who wanted to read it.

And I’m still interested in doing that.

The gospel is not boring.

I think it was Martin Luther who said that we have to hear the gospel every day because we forget it every day.

And it’s true. We do.

But this year I want to have more of a focus in my blogging. I want to have an agenda, so to speak.

And so this post is highlighting that agenda.

The Agenda

Song Lifestyle is about the romance of God. Living a life in love with the Lord, being the Shulamite swept off her feet by the King.

And Song Lifestyle is about applying the gospel to our lives. Every part of our lives.

How is the gospel related to our work, our marriages, our parenting, our politics?

These are the very things I want to talk about this year.

The gospel applied to work, family, and politics.

Work

Work is a vital part of who we are as people. We love to listen to people talk about their work. Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing that he writes about people’s work because people love to read about other people working.

I’m a big fan of the show The West Wing. And part of the reason I enjoy it so much is because I get to watch people give themselves fully to their work and try to fit a personal life into the mix.

I’m a middle school teacher. And although I’m not an important White House staffer, my job is pretty important. I get to teach kids, inspire them to do well, and help shape our culture.

I’m also a graduate student. It’s a lot of work and my academic work goes hand-in-hand with my teaching.

Just how does the gospel and the revelation of Jesus’ grace and love fit in with what we do with our work?

Family

Whether or not you have a wife and kids, family is another huge part of our lives. How we relate to our spouses, how we treat our children, and how we manage our friendships are vital aspects to being human.

How should a man act in this society where anyone can be anything and anyone can identify as anything they want to identify as? What is a woman’s role in the family and in the world? What do we expect from our children?

These are just a few sub-topics we’re going to explore this year. The possibilities are endless.

Politics

There’s really nothing more annoying than a Christian blogging about politics. But I’ve got some different views. For starters, I’m not a conservative Christian. I’m a democrat and fell hard for Senator Bernie Sanders before the DNC screwed the pooch and ousted him. And I’m still Feelin’ the Bern.

What does it mean to be liberal AND love Jesus. Many evangelicals would simply write me off as some backslidden noisemaker for making such a comment.

How does the gospel shape our politics? How does it change the way we vote? How does it change the way we talk about our leaders? I’ll tell you this, I won’t badmouth President Trump. I won’t stay quiet either.

How can a Christian disagree yet remain at peace?

The political articles I write won’t be narratives about how someone *should* vote or think. I’ll write about my own personal application of the gospel to my politics.

This year is going to be busy. And it’s going to be good.

I look forward to taking you on my journey.

Stop drugging your body with Illogical Thought-Trees

spock-illogical-thoughts-don't-belong-mindfully-renewed

Back in 1968 prophet Spock spoke to us. “… I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with humans. I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.”Star Trek, season 3, episode 7

Why would we wish to have perpetually damaging substance generating components in our brains that are fueled by half-truths that do not even make sense?

What do I mean by, “drugging your body?” The things that you think about effect hormones that flow from the “forest in your mind” in to your body as either cortisol (a stress hormone) or oxytocin (comfort hormone). Having too much cortisol in your body has serious implications for your heath and wellbeing, which I have experienced first hand.

As we mature in our mindfulness and become aware of harmful ideas, I recommend that you focus on a certain thought-pattern. As you identify the bogus reasoning, declare your freedom and drive a stake of truth in that harmful structure in your brain. I refer to these physical structures as thought-trees because they look like trees and the biological processes that affect trees provide accessible analogies for addressing brain activity. This is where neuroplasticity comes into play.

Neuroplasticity:

The capacity of the brain to develop and change throughout life.

The capacity of the nervous system to develop new neuronal connections.

Those are two vague and boring definitions.

Let me give you a better one:

Mindful Neuroplasticity: Your brain can be reshaped, rebuilt, made smarter, happier, and molded to bring about the best version of yourself by being mindful, catching harmful thoughts and renewing your mind.

Do you know what happens to the harmful thought-trees in our minds when are fully replaced by life-giving structures? Over time, they burn and are forgotten.

What to do? The path forward.

Identify. Capture. Discard. Replace. Rebuild.

The first step is to identify harmful false thought patterns.

We can do this by becoming aware of certain illogical thought triggers. These subtle deceptions are based on potent false ideas such as False Finalities and Nebulous Conclusions.

I’ll Never, I always, She is …,

Finality Defined: the fact or impression of being an irreversible ending.

Example: I am a failure is false, I sometimes fail is true.

Recognizing the false finality makes it easy to discard.

Nebulous Defined: hazy, vague, indistinct, or confused:

Double whammy: a statement that includes both a false finality and a nebulous conclusion.

Example:

False: There’s so much that I need to accomplish (nebulous), I could never complete it all (Finality).

True: There seems to be an overwhelming amount of things to accomplish, I need to make a list. Then I can have a realistic idea of what it will take to complete these tasks. I can get help if I need it.

For more tips on short circuiting these types of thoughts check out this article: How to Short Circuit Harmful Ruminating Thoughts

The Nightly Cleaning Crew

There are agents known as the gardeners of your respective brain landscape. Glial cells, as they are called work to speed up impulses among specific neurons. And there are additional agents. Also, glial cells are the debris removers, yanking up unwanted weed growth, pruning branches, vacuuming up fallen thoughts during your sleep.

This produces a critical question, which ones to prune?

There’s a classic saying amongst neuroscientists: “neurons that fire together wire together.”

Scientists are just starting to uncover this puzzle, however, what they have discovered to date is fascinating and has compelling implications. A protein, called C1q (almost sounds like a robot from Star Wars) marks the connections that are getting used less often. This mark is a sign for when the cleaning team sets out during sleep. The relationships that were attached to that structure are pruned. The thought tree is starting to forfeit its effect on your existence.

So we join in with Doctor Spock in saying to those damaging thoughts, “that’s illogical, those pesky thoughts are not worth considering.”

Now that we have a handle on Identifying, Capturing, and Discarding, my next post is going to be focused on replacing and rebuilding.

“be transformed by the renewal of your mind”- Romans 12:2

I think that sums it up quite nicely.

I hope that this offering has been helpful to you in some way. If you have any questions or comments or for more of my thoughts about Mindfulness and Christian Meditation please check out my blog Mindfully Renewed.

Warm Regards,

J. A. Conner

Everyday Monasticism: Vespers and Compline

monks at vespersVespers and Compline

 

Vespers

Vespers is an evening prayer of the Divine Office. In Latin, vespers means evening. In the orthodox church, Vespers is the liturgical hour which kicks off all the hours. Genesis 1:5 is the rationale for doing so: “…and there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”

Vespers is a time to reflect on the day that has passed and thank God for all that has happened. It is also a time of praise.

This is when the work day has ended and you are able to sit back and reflect on the ways in which God worked things out for you that day. Perhaps a meeting that you were dreading went well, or you finished your work early, or you finished anything at all. The day was busy with kids, coworkers, finances, and friends. You have a lot to be thankful for even when things don’t go aright.

The basic schedule in which monastics pray vespers is outlined below. I have purposely left out a few parts for simplicity:

Introductory verse: Anything that is full of praise.

Psalm 107:1 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for the is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Hymn: You could sing some worship song you like.

Gospel Canticle: a story from the gospels that will bring encouragement at the day’s end.

Intercession: Pray about issues that arose during the day.

Concluding prayer: think about the Lord’s prayer and how you live that out.

Like praying lauds, praising God for life at the beginning of the day and praying over your day before it begins, take time with vespers to think about those things you praised God about in the morning and the requests you asked of Him. Let this be a time of praise and thanksgiving.

 

Compline

Compline is the night prayer. The psalms that are chosen for reading at compline are those psalms that are full of confidence in the Lord.

Compline is such a special time. For those of us not living in a monastery, but living a monastic life, compline is similar to a child saying his prayers before he drifts off to sleep.

Psalm 90 and 91 are often thought of when thinking about compline. The monastic is thinking about God’s protection during the night during compline. You are thinking about how strong God is and how faithful He is to rescue you from harm. You’re thinking about His love and how while you are resting at night, you are snuggled up in his strong arms. You are, as the Shulamite says in Song of Songs 2:6 “His left hand cradles my head while his right hand holds me close. I am at rest in this love.”

Drift off to sleep thinking about how sure you are in God’s kindness and love and grace and romance. He adores you! He’s going to protect you! Nothing, absolutely nothing, will be able to separate you from His love.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Everyday Monasticism. I hope you’ll choose to live a modern monastic life full of hope in the freedom we have in Christ the Romancer.

Join me this summer for our Summer of Wisdom as we explore Proverbs.

Everyday Monasticism: Lauds

Monks of the Desert
The Monks of the Desert in New Mexico 

Everyday Monasticism Part 2

Last week we defined everyday monasticism. It’s living daily in contemplation of the goodness of our Lord. We discussed how this gospel we are all wrecked over is a Catholic gospel. That’s not to say that we are all Catholic, but that the word Catholic is defined as “all embracing.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is for all. All were included in the gospel.

This week and the following two more weeks we are going to have a brief discussion of the Divine Office–the Liturgy of the Hours.

There’s a lot of whack, a lot of glory on the Liturgy of the Hours. Our Catholic and orthodox friends have quite the revelation when it comes to worshiping God in this way. Where some who have taken a straight shot of grace and continue to do so might call the Liturgy of the Hours religious, others of us are able to see the beauty in the Divine Office.

Those who regularly pray the Divine Office may be doing so out of a religious motivation to “do something” for God or prove their devotion to him. Both of which are unnecessary, rightly agreed; however, those who pray the Divine Office regularly also understand why they are doing it other than religious devotion. By praying the Divine Office each day they are recentering their focus on God during the various hours of the day. They are engaging in active contemplation–thinking deeply about our Lord and committing themselves to him over and over.

Those of us, again, who have as Crowder puts it, have chosen to “drink grace straight”, may look at the act of committing ourselves to the Lord over and over as unnecessary religion, but those who do it often see it merely as a part of their daily lives.

Divine Office

The Monks of the Desert located in New Mexico are part of a Benedictine Abbey called Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert. They are a cloistered, or sheltered, group of men who have given their lives to Ora (prayer) and Labora (work). They live and work at the monastery, which is beautiful, and pray the Divine Office each day between their work.

The following is taken from their website and gives an overview of their daily schedule:

4:00 AM – Vigils – , begins with the verse from Psalm 50, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

5:45AM – Lauds – This is the prayer of the Church as light returns to earth, recounting the eternal light bestowed on the world by the Risen Christ.

8:45 AM – Terce – the first of the “little hours” in which the monks come together and pray

1:00 PM – Sext – the second of the “little hours” in which the monks come together and pray.

3:30 PM – None – the last of the “little hours” in which the monks come together and pray.

5:30 PM – Vespers – This includes a half-hour of praying psalms, a hymn, the Magnificat, and a prolonged prayer of intercessions for the needs and intentions of the entire Church.

7:30 PM – Compline – Consists of a penitential rite, three psalms, a hymn, and an antiphon sung to Our Lady that varies according to the liturgical season.

Lauds

Lauds is is morning prayer where the congregation focuses on praise. When praying Lauds, you’re thinking about the goodness of God for keeping you safe in the night. Often during Compline, the last prayer of the day, the congregation will pray Psalm 4:8 “I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” You are spending time praising God for a good night, for life to devote to Him, and asking for the day to be blessed and for your mind to stay in contemplation of His greatness.

A psalm often read or sang during Lauds is Psalm 62.

O God, you are my God, I watch for you from the dawn.

My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you.

I came to your sanctuary,

as one in a parched and waterless land,

so that I could see your might and your glory.

My lips will praise you, for your mercy is better than life itself.

Thus I will bless you throughout my life,

and raise my hands in prayer to your name;

my soul will be filled as if by rich food,

and my mouth will sing your praises and rejoice.

I will remember you as I lie in bed,

I will think of you in the morning,

for you have been my helper,

and I will take joy in the protection of your wings.

My soul clings to you; your right hand raises me up.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,

world without end.

Amen

Everyday Monasticism: Lauds

Don’t run out and join a monastery. By practicing everyday monasticism, you can enjoy celebrating Lauds by waking in the morning and sitting with your coffee and think about the wonders of God. Think about the grace we’ve been offered that Paul talks about in Romans 6-8. Celebrate that we’ve died with Christ and because we died with Him, we have also raised to life with Him! (Romans 6:8). Allow your day to begin with praise. It beats turning on CNN the first thing and seeing what else went wrong during the night.

Celebrating Lauds sets your heart on the goodness and majesty and grace of Christ. It helps you to pray about your day and remember that you are an open heaven. Everything you do is blessed because “Christ, who is your life, [has] appeared, and you [will] appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). There is nothing you can do apart from Him. He’s living His life inside you. The Distilled Translation tells us that Jesus is using our bodies (Galatians 2:20).

Don’t get religious. But do go into this week and practice loving God each morning. See how your days go!

Everyday Monasticism

 

Saint Benedict

Everyday Monasticism

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:6 ESV).

The lives of those who have chosen to live in convents and monasteries has always fascinated me. I’m not Catholic in that I’ve gone through catechism and had my first communion. However, I do believe in the Catholicity of the gospel. Catholic is defined as “all embracing” or “including a wide variety of things.” In other words, Catholic is universal.

I’ve often thought that if life had turned out differently for me, and I had not met my wife and chose to have a family, I think that today I may be a dominican monk spending my days in contemplation and working at a university or in some school teaching young people.

Ora et Labora

Saint Benedict is the founder of Western Monasticism. He was born about the year 480 at Nursia near the Umbrian province in north central Italy. He “was renowned for handing on to his monks a balanced way of life – particularly with respect to contemplative prayer and active work, ora et labora” (http://www.dominicanajournal.org/oralabora/).

Ora et Labora is translated as Work and Prayer.

This is where I am most actively drawn to the lives of monks. They live their lives in contemplation while they go about their daily tasks. For some, the very thought of spending even 15 minutes in solitude and silence is frightening. But I think it sounds wonderful. Staying in contemplation of the goodness of God, thinking about the romance we have with Jesus, contemplating the whack! It seems like the perfect life. And to add work to that–to go about some laborious task like beer-making while contemplating the grace and salvation of God, would be best life ever status! The monks at St. Benedict in Italy, the birthplace of Saint Benedict, make Birra Nursia in order to support themselves.

Thus, everyday monasticism.

Everyday Monasticism

There’s no real reason to jump ship and join a monastery. You can, if you want. It’s a noble calling. There are obvious objections I’d have, objections over the religiosity of many of the practices, but it’s noble nonetheless.

God has already called us kings and priests. Revelation 1:6 is one place in scripture where we’re ordained into the holy priesthood. The Greek word used for priest in Revelation is hiereus.

In Revelation it’s used figuratively. Christians are called priests because we have offered Him spiritual sacrifices. We minister to the world, performing the sacred rite of telling others about the grace given to us through Christ. We are, therefore, priests who carry the whack!

As Song People living lives of active contemplation, we are blessed with the ability to live Ora et Labora each day. Saint Benedict taught his monks that their work was also a prayer since everything we do as Christians is to the glory of God.

You can work at a bank or teach a group of kids or work in a hospital or be a stay-at-home mom and make your everyday work an offering of prayer unto the Lord. We can walk the dog and be in contemplation about our engagement we have with Jesus. There is no need to jump into a religious life inside the walls of a convent or monastery in order to live a life of uninterrupted bliss with Jesus.

We are, therefore, everyday monastics. As John Crowder often says, “this is the drunkest day of your life.” You are an open heaven. You are a monk living a contemplative life in the glory of God. You are a nun of the order of whack! We are Christians living out a very Catholic gospel…the gospel that is for everybody, the gospel that is universal, the gospel where all are included in the life and resurrection of Jesus.

Creativity in the Mundane

Creativity in the Mundane

inspired man

Last week I wrote about how there is glory in the mundane. All our average weekly experiences are just as spirit-filled as going to some big conference with high profile speakers and professional worship teams.

There’s nothing wrong with conferences and professional worship teams…but there’s nothing more spirit-filled about them compared to your average everyday life of picking up the kids from soccer practice or spending an evening balancing your checkbook.

Creative Conception Boredom

Although there’s glory in the more boring parts of life just as there’s glory on being a missionary or a popular itinerant preacher, it’s not a lot of fun to be bored. Living a normal life of doing the laundry, going off to work, and playing the same board game with your kids every evening can get monotonous.

But being bored can be a tool.

We teach our children that boredom is a blessing. Unless we get bored, we’ll never have an original idea to keep us entertained. Although I’ve not done the research, I can imagine that some of the most profound inventions were created out of some aspect of boredom. The late Steve Jobs, although wanting to revolutionize the world with the personal computer, likely would never have had the idea to build that first computer in his garage unless he was sitting around bored wondering what to do.

The mundane is a blessing in that it causes us to look deep into our hearts and discover just what it is that makes us tick.

For many Christians, the notion of “God’s will” is an elusive one. To know God’s will for one’s life is the principalis finis — or the main goal — in Christian living.

Knowing God’s Will

God’s will is not a mystery. It’s simply a matter of looking deep inside yourself and figuring out what it is that you want to do. Wait. That doesn’t sound very spiritual. It doesn’t. That’s because it’s not. Not really.

When I was fresh out of high school I joined a ministry based out of Texas that, for it’s primary function, existed to be a place for young people to spend a year seeking God’s will for their lives.

There was so much talk back then, maybe even more than today, about getting a vision for God’s will for your life. The idea was to get the vision as early as possible, create a 5 and then 10 year plan, and never give up. That way a person wouldn’t waste any time in doing what it was that God wanted them to do.

I remember the leaders made it so difficult. It was like chasing the elusive white rabbit of destiny. We took classes, we fasted, we prayed, we memorized scripture, and had lengthy discussions about just what it meant to gain God’s will for our lives.

For me, I wa convinced that God was uninterested in showing me his will. I couldn’t get it. Like so many young people, I was too interested in too many things to really nail it down. And like so many young people in the church, I was absolutely convinced that it would not be God’s will for me to have a secular job and make money. That was heresy!

The general rule of thumb back then was that if you didn’t want to do something. If it was the one thing you couldn’t imagine doing with your life, you were likely being called to do that thing.

It was such bondage. We’d say, “I have no desire to move to Africa and live a lonely life out in the bush, so that’s clearly what God wants me to do. I have to kill the flesh in order to wrap my head around God’s will for my life.” Then we’d fast longer, pray harder, memorize some obscure scripture taken fully out of context…you know…something about suffering or going lower and lower in order to be accepted and loved by God.

God’s will is not elusive.

It’s not some fantastical idea that you have to strain and strive for in order to get it.

You can get it right now. That’s right…right now you can get God’s will for your life.

Just rest.

Sit back. Close your eyes. And think this thought: What would you do with your life if money didn’t matter? What’s the one thing (or group of related things) that you would like to do every day or every week? If you could make money doing something, anything, what would you like to do?

The answer to those questions will be God’s will for your life.

See. You didn’t have to fast or strive or memorize Leviticus in order to attain it. God’s will was right there inside you all along.

John Crowder, in an article titled Christological Ecstasy, writes this on the subject: “We have considered the will of God to be against our human will–quite often pictureing our deepest desires to be in direct conflict or contradiction to God. But in reality, there is a heavy duty ecstasy that comes along with doing His will because we are created for a divine synergy of the deepest levels of our longing.”

Generally speaking, we are taught that if we enjoy something, it’s probably not from God. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! God is a ravenous LOVER of people! He’s been hijacked by his love for us! Gladness is at the center of His heart (Heb 1:9).

Crowder goes on to write, “What if He is the one who has kindled our core desires, while the gnomic twist simply offered us cheap, unsatisfying fixes to those infinite longings? Let me clarify: when I speak of the will, I am speaking of our deepest heart’s desire that results in action.”

God has placed his will inside you and it looks a whole lot like the things you love to do. Do you love doing ministry and helping people? That’s God’s will for you. Do you enjoy starting businesses and making money and employing people and encouraging them and mentoring them? That’s God’s will for you! Do you want to be a stay at home mom or dad and raise kids and manage a home and personal finances? That’s also God’s will.

God has planted his will deep inside you so that you will do the very thing that He has willed for you to do! Going out and being a miserable missionary to Nigeria because that’s the Christian thing to do is against His will.

You cannot make God like you any more than He already likes you! You can’t work up any more favor by sacrificing your desire (God’s will) for something that you don’t enjoy.

For the sake of length, we will finish this post next week when I write about work and enjoyment and how both are the will of God.

For this week, go into your work week meditating on how good God has been to you. Take a few moments each day and ask yourself the questions I provided for you. I bet by Friday you’ll be closer to the will of God than you’ve ever been in your life.

Glory in the Mundane

bored-at-work

Life and Boredom

Fun will always trump boredom. I cannot stand to be bored. I need to be moving, doing something productive, or I need to be using my brain and thinking deeply about a topic. Aside from some late evening viewing with my wife, sitting around on Netflix waiting to be entertained by the next Netflix original kills me inside.

There is nobody who likes boredom.

But boredom is good for you.

There’s glory in the mundane parts of life. There are few people who are constantly entertained, always on some adventure, and engaging their minds in deep, meaningful thinking. Life gets monotonous sometimes–and it’s what we do with that boredom that will make all the difference.

Two Types of Boredom

There are two types of boredom:

  1. The Everyday Mundane (which we will discuss this week)
  2. and Creative Conception Boredom (which we will discuss next week)

The Everyday Mundane

This boredom is the everyday life of the average person. There’s laundry piled high in the laundry room; the kids’ rooms are a mess; the dog shat on the living room floor last night and nobody bothered to pick it up or “didn’t see it”; the baby (or babies, if you’re like us and you have twins) won’t stop crying, getting into things, escaped, etc…; bills need to be paid…

These are just a few examples of the Everyday Mundane. It’s work, and kids, and housekeeping…and LIFE.

For so many (myself included), we look at other people’s lives and wonder how they got to be so lucky. How they managed to always be on the go, living an adventure, and successful. It seems like they can up and create an adventure anytime they please! They’re always in some far off country doing something amazing, or in an airport waiting to do something amazing, or they’re on Facebook talking about the amazing things they’re planning…it can take a toll if you don’t watch out.

But there’s hope!

Our lives are relevant even if we aren’t preaching to ten thousand people in some amphitheatre in Australia. Our lives are relevant even if we haven’t written a national bestseller or some award winning blog. Our lives mean something…even if that something is that we managed to find ALL THE MATCHES to our kids’ socks in the dryer (GLORY! That’s a miracle…call the archdiocese or whoever you call. It’s like finding a weeping Virgin Mary statue).

It makes me think of the Greek word for life…or at least one of them.

Zoe (Strong’s G2222): simply it means life or the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate.

This is all of us. We are all living a Zoe life. We are alive, we are vital, and we are animate. Even if it’s folding socks or picking up toddler mess, we’re alive. And there’s WHACK on it! There’s glory in living this kind of life.

But there’s another Greek word, the root word that comes from Zoe, that catches my attention even more.

It’s Zao (Strong’s G2198): It’s meaning is packed with glory! It means to live, breathe, to be among the living (not lifeless, not dead); to enjoy real life; active, blessed, endless in the Kingdom of God.

This is the life we’re living. Zao. Our lives are active and blessed. We are breathing and living. We are living a life that is endless in the Kingdom of God.

Living Zao

The next time you are tempted to be down about your boredom, look around the room (or the playground, or the boardroom, or the classroom, or the front lawn scattered with toys) and remember that you’re living Zao! God has put you in a place and has declared it good!

There is nowhere we can escape the love and power of God. There is not a place on earth we can get away from the goodness and romance of our Lover. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ (Romans 8:39).

You are an open heaven. Christ died and placed his life inside you in order that you would co-labor with him. For some, that means that they’ll travel the globe and preach to far off people groups. For others, that means that you’ll work and encourage your co-worker. For even more, it means that you’ll be a stay-at-home mom or dad and raise good, healthy, loved kids.

Live Zao — enjoy this real life that you are living. See how you are blessed and endless in the kingdom of God. You ARE endless. You are never going to die…not for real. You’re life is eternal.

Next week we will talk about Creative Conception Boredom and how it can completely revitalize your living.

In the meantime, check out a book by Lily Crowder about living a regular life full of glory while doing the normal, everyday mundane tasks most of us do. It’s a real eye-opener and quite encouraging.

Interview with Nathan Horst: Contemporary Worship

Wall_painting_depicting_saints_at_worship_-_Google_Art_ProjectWorship; noun. The feeling and expression of reverence and adoration of a deity.

Christians are well acquainted with worship sets in the church. Two up tempo songs followed by a reverent one and then a  contemplative song. Some days that one is followed by a spontaneous song with the worship team singing around a specific theme. We enjoy worship. Finding ourselves lost in the music, introspectively examining who God is in that moment, allowing divine inspiration to spark something new–it’s good.

But is the worship music we enjoy during services biblical?

The Gospel according to Paul tells us that salvation came at the point of Jesus’ death on the cross. This Gospel, this good news for all nations, is universal in that it’s meant for everyone and no one who wants it gets left out. We see in Romans 6:5-6 that we have been united with Christ in his death so we have been unified with him in his resurrection and that we are no longer slaves to sin. Paul has given us our death certificate again and again and removed our old identity of sinner without hope of salvation to saint because of the finished work of the cross.

Where does that leave worship lyrics that call us to agree that our identity is not one of freedom but of still being a sinner, dazed and confused? In an email interview with Nathan Horst, who is pretty busy in the worship world–he was a former band member of Farewell Flight and the worship band Sister Brother–he’s also owner/operator of a music studio called Attic Studios in Harrisburg, PA, and is a worship leader at Life Center in Harrisburg. I asked for his thoughts on the theological soundness of worship in today’s modern culture.

“Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) tends to glean from the various stories we as Christians represent,” writes Horst. Because much of the music we listen to, and in turn sing during worship services, tends to focus on the Christian lifestyle — like times of questioning and doubting — some could pigeonhole Christian music as depressing. But Nathan sees some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. “I’ve seen a recent trend in worship becoming more introspective, in hopes, I presume to make worship songs honest, relatable, and less distant feeling,” he wrote. Which is definitely good since so many in church culture talk about being real, being honest. But being real or honest is not the root of why we worship. According to Nathan, who not only writes worship music but rubs elbows with some of the top musicians in the industry, “worship is about pointing people, and their attention, to the goodness and nature of God.”

This is where many in the church find their theology that they glean from the Bible collide with what they hear from the worship team. Paul’s gospel message is unarguably grace-driven–he clearly writes that Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross. Often said by John Crowder of The New Mystics, “Paul gives us our death certificate over and over in Romans 5-8” saying that we are dead to sin and free to righteousness in Christ; however,  so many popular worship songs we sing don’t seem to reflect this message at all; rather, they have people agreeing in song that they are still sinners lost in a sea of evil.

The grace message, and many “grace preachers”, have gotten a bad rap in recent years because many in the church find the message dangerous. To some it seems that singing or preaching grace is giving an open license to sin freely with no eternal consequences. Nathan was able to shed some light on this for me from his unique perspective. “The pure grace message is freedom,” wrote Horst.  “More songs should point back to the revelation that the work is finished; we don’t have to earn God’s approval, or strive to attain status in the kingdom of God.”

Yet so much worship music seems to be striving for holiness and begging for God’s favor. In addition to that, many songs are apologetic for our sin rather than celebrating what we have in Christ–freedom from a sin-dominated nature. And what about the songs that seem to justify sin? “The idea that even though I’m a sinner and will always fall short but God still loves me is not enough,” Horst wrote.  “We’re called to live above that ideal.  We should be dwelling more on his gift of righteousness than our sin nature.” Theologically speaking, songs that focus on Jesus’ righteousness, him becoming our sin so we could be made holy, would be more theologically sound than songs that explain away our sinfulness or apologizing for what we’ve already been forgiven. “These types of songs, according to Paul’s message, should be about how He’s adopted us into His family and how we’re now all welcomed to the table to feast on the Lord,” Nathan wrote.

There’s nothing wrong with modern worship. I don’t know anyone who wants to go back to hymnals and tambourines. But the message of the cross, and the implications of the cross on our lives, is what’s at stake in modern worship. The theology that entwines itself in our worship music must correlate to what the writers of the Gospel meant when they wrote it. Are we merely sinners saved by grace or were we once sinners now living in the freedom of Christ? It’s unimaginable that we can be more than one thing at a time. We cannot be both sinner and saint. Paul, in Ephesians 1:4, uses the word saint to describe his audience. The Greek word Paul used is hagios. It means morally pure, upright, blameless in heart and life; holy.  “There needs to be a stronger emphasis on the implications of the cross,” Nathan wrote during our interview. “We are alive in Him, raised to life, seated in heavenly places. These are topics I’m continually coming back to in my own writing.”

Worship is vital. We adore our Father. We sing and contemplate the fatness of what we have in Christ. There’s a sacred charge, though, to keep in step not with what sounds good or makes people comfortable, but to keep our worship theologically sound. Perhaps there can be a stronger shift from making the focus on ourselves and more of a celebrant beat of what Christ has done and who he became for us.

To learn more about Nathan Horst and his work go to www.atticrecordingstudio.com

 

Guilt and Shame Continued: Not Guilty

cropped-laughing-jesus1.jpg

Not Guilty

In order to be fully righteous and guilt free we need to be justified and have our sinful nature eradicated. The law tells us exactly what we must do in order to please God and be holy.

But keeping the law isn’t all that easy. I’ve heard John Crowder say it like this, “if you’re going to clean yourself up, you’re going to have to mutilate yourself.” God’s law requires you to chop off body parts that cause you to sin, pluck out your eyes, and punish yourself.

Self-help religious practice will never get you to your goal though. There’s nothing you can do to clean yourself up enough.   You’re guilty.

Or at least you were.

Romans 3:23 tells us something we know: all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. What’s unfortunate is that so many stop here. They wear vs. 23 as their identity. But our identity is in vs. 24.

We “are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (ESV).”

We are justified through Jesus.

It’s interesting to note that the word gift used here means something far greater than how we use it in English. In Greek the word that is used is dorean and it means more than just a birthday present. Dorean is without payment; or for no reason. 

This verse could easily be read this way: We are justified by his grace for no reason through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

We’ve done nothing to deserve a gift of this magnitude. At least with a birthday you were born…there’s a reason for a gift. When it comes to the business of salvation, the gift is free for you. You didn’t pay for it in any possible way. It was given to you for no reason at all.

C.S. Lovett offers commentary on the gift in his book Lovett’s Lights. He writes, “The gift of God is not a DECREE of righteousness. The real gift is JESUS. When a person receives Christ, he gets a package deal. In that package is a death of the believer did not die. It is someone else’s death, though ow it becomes his. Also in the package is a righteous life he did not live. It too was lived for him. Because of the living union between the believer and Christ, the Christian shares in all that Jesus has DONE and IS (77).”

You’ve been declared NOT GUILTY because you share in all that Jesus has done and all that Jesus is.

“When Christ offered himself on the cross, God was declaring that our failures and futile efforts to fulfill our lives are completely forgiven through his patience and love (Rom 3:25 BCJ).”

You don’t have to live another sinful day of your life. It’s a demonic lie that says you have to struggle with sin because you live in an adamic body. Can a Christian Sin? Of course a Christian can sin. But he doesn’t have to!

Everything evil that was done in the past is completely gone for the believer. We were “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…(Rom 3:24-25 NKJV).”

I really like this word that Paul uses when he says “God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…” because, again, the Greek says it so much better for clarity-sake. The word for passed over is paresis – it means overlooking or absence of punishment. But it doesn’t JUST mean the absence of punishment. The word goes further meaning the removal of guilt.

Let’s read those verses anew: in His forbearance God removed our guilt over the sins that were previously committed.

You don’t have to live guilty anymore. Whoever you took advantage of, whatever horrible thing you did, is all gone through Christ.

Lovett writes it another way. He explains that redemption means “the release of prisoners of war or deliverance from a state of danger or misery by the payment of a ransom (77).” Our ransom is Jesus.

We are delivered (past tense) from the GUILT of sin. We are delivered from the POWER of sin, if we want to be. And in the very end, we will be delivered from the PRESENCE of sin (Lovett 77).

You don’t have to sin if you don’t want to. That’s grace. You get a choice in the matter. You’re good! You get to act like it.