September 5th, 2013 | No Comments »

About 50 times a day I crash into the reality that I’m not everything God intended when he created me. Part of the wreckage was caused because I was born into a fallen and sinful world. The rest of the damage has been caused because I am a fallen and sinful person.

I don’t like admitting I’m a sinful person, but my disquiet with the phrase doesn’t rob the idea of its truth.

I’m a mix, as I suppose you are. I am sinful, but I don’t want to be. I want to be all that God intended. I want more than “saved” – even though being saved is glorious. I’m not worried about whether God loves me or about my place in God’s everlasting Kingdom. I’m worried about whether or not I’m becoming the kind of person God can trust with His everlasting kingdom.

Here’s what I mean:

Sin Management

 

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July 23rd, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Lance Boley (bio after post).

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Beginning a spiritual discipline can be frustratingly complicated.  First, there are so many kinds of disciplines from which to choose.  Dallas Willard speaks of the disciplines of abstinence and the disciplines of engagement.  Richard Foster breaks it down according to the inward, outward, and corporate disciplines.  Urban Holmes, not for the faint of heart, defines them in terms of apophatic vs. kataphatic and speculative vs. affective.  Sounds like a lot of fun, right?

Putting all categories aside, what if I simply want to pray more?  Which prayer form will I choose?  Mark Thibodeaux outlines four kinds of prayer:  talking at God, talking to God, listening to God, and being with God.  And if I want to swim in the contemplative prayer stream, will it be Centering Prayer, Breath Prayer, or Welcoming Prayer?

But wait.  It gets even more complicated.  Isn’t all of life spiritual anyhow and thus one big discipline full of countless disciplines every day?  Responding kindly to a hateful email is a spiritual discipline.  Practicing peace in a tense staff meeting is a spiritual discipline.  Doing church is a spiritual discipline.  So now I have formal (planned) and informal (unplanned) disciplines!

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July 18th, 2013 | 5 Comments »
I’m taking a few days for rest and reflection with my family. This week I’ll be reposting some of my favorite guest posts dealing with spiritual formation. You cannot read these and reflect on them too many times.

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I find myself very unlike Jesus. You probably are too. The church I knew as a kid was wonderful. I loved it, and love it still. But I have come to believe that a failure to sufficiently understand what it means to make disciples existed in that church, and that correcting this failure could help many people take hold of blessings that God wants us to enjoy. The following story, a strong memory of mine about church one Sunday, might help explain what I mean.

I was about ten or twelve years old, attending the A&M Church of Christ, and we worshipped one particular Sunday in the large high school gym. Before the event, we invited other area churches and took out an ad in the local paper. We wanted lots of people to know that we were going to have worship in the gym on that particular Sunday. It was very well attended, and lots of people “went forward” following the sermon. I don’t remember the name of the preacher who was brought in for this event, but he made an impression on me. I remember one moment when he was discussing how terrible it would be to look across that great divide between heaven and hell and meet the eye of a hell-tormented friend I had known from life and realize that I never took the time to tell them about Jesus. The preacher was trying to impress upon us the importance of making disciples. One of the reasons my church scheduled this event was, no doubt, to make disciples.

I agree that it is important to make disciples, but I worry that my tradition never properly informed me about what a disciple is, nor how to go about making one. I knew that a disciple was a follower or student of Jesus, but I never reflected on what it really meant to be Jesus’ student. I can be a student in Mrs. Evan’s math class without ever caring a lick about math and without ever trying to be like Mrs. Evans. As a result, it took a long time for me to grasp a mature picture of what it means to be a student of Jesus. Unlike being a student of Mrs. Evans, one cannot be a student of Jesus without coming to care a great deal about what Jesus taught and who he is, nor can one be a student of Jesus without making progress in becoming like him.

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February 7th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Spiritual formation  is more than a passing fad or the latest interest in the church. Spiritual disciplines are absolutely necessary for development and growth. Guest post by Rhesa, Kraig, and Lance have helped us see that. Yet, many of us continue to struggle in practicing the presence of God. And there’s one reason: Boredom.

Boredom is your biggest hurdle engaging and being shaped by spiritual disciplines. Some great practitioners of spiritual disciplines, will bristle at that, but it’s true. While they now faithfully practice prayer, solitude, silence, fasting, etc…, they didn’t start that way. For most of us, what enlivens and excites us now about spiritual disciplines began as drudgery.

A Quick Story

Years ago when I played golf, I spent lots of time at the practice range. Rochelle and I were childless at the time. She had a number of friends and hobbies to occupy her, so frequently, I’d grab my clubs and spend a few hours at the range. Each week my skills got better. Until they didn’t.

I wondered why I was spending two nights a week, hitting 100 golf balls each night yet petering out in my development.  It was then I read an article about Tiger Woods. I learned that while I was hitting 100 golf balls twice a week, Tiger was hitting 100 golf balls with each club every day. Then he would play a practice round…or two. I thought, “There’s no way I could hit 100 balls with each club. That would get boring.”

Spiritual disciplines are kind of like that. To become blessed by them, to begin to drink deeply from engagement with God, you have to fight through some initial boredom. In a fast-food, microwave, ten-second download world, that’s tougher than it sounds.

Daily Bible reading, journaling fasting, tithing, and other disciplines begin shiny, but quickly show wear. At least three times as a boy, my family started to read the Bible in a year. We started out strong. Genesis and Exodus are great, exciting, and, well bloody, but by the time Leviticus rolled around, we were done. Plus, baseball season was starting.

But spiritual disciplines don’t have to degrade into boredom. If you can make three mental shifts about the nature of knowing God and experiencing God’s daily presence you will find that boredom flees and engagement increases. Here are the three mental shifts:

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