Lent – Day One

Lent has always held a special place in my heart.  Maybe it’s because I was born Catholic, I don’t know…but ever since I can remember, even after my family left the Catholic Church, we have always participated in the practice of Lent.  At first it was kind of a trivial thing to do, I’d give up chewing gum or beating up my younger brother…you know, things I enjoyed, but that wasn’t a huge loss to me (although beating him up was a highlight sometimes).  From there I almost started to view Lent the same way I think the Pharisee’s would have.  I would try to give up something huge…like everything but bread and water and I would let everyone know how much I was sacrificing.  I don’t think I made it the whole 40 days on that one by the way.

Over the past few years I have started to look at Lent with a new light.  I have come to see it as an experience in which we give something up, or add something, to our lives to remind us of the sacrifice Christ gave for us.  To help us think about what kind of person we would be if we lived without _______ .  And if that person is who God desires for us to be.

This year I have decided to follow the 2011 Experiential Lent Calendar provided by Rob Bell and Mars Hill Church. (http://marshill.org/teaching/files/2011/03/LentCal2011.pdf) I saw this calendar last year after lent was almost over and it really excited me for a couple of reasons.  You see…I get bored easily.  So, the idea of adding something or fasting from something on a day to day basis is right up my alley.  I love the description they have on the calendar about Lent:

“Lent is a season in which we practice giving up something important in order to refocus our lives on God.  By fasting from certain things, we practice dying to ourselves.  And by refocusing our lives, living to God, we intentionally choose things that help us become the kind of people God desires us to be.”

We live in a society that pressures us into a lifestyle of “more.”  More stuff, more food, more money, more debt, more to-do’s, more speed.  By stepping back and giving up what we are told is our right to have, we proclaim to those around us that we are not here to satisfy our desires.  By giving up what’s convenient, easy and comfortable we are saying that we choose a life that wants more of God and less of me (there’s something biblical about that).

The calendar starts out perfectly…Say the Shema in the morning and in the evening.  If you don’t know, the Shema is the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism.  Practicing Jews recite it twice a day, as well as teach it to their children before they go to bed.  It is traditional for the Shema to be the last words before they go to sleep.  The short version of the Shema is Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  What a perfect way to start out a season of sacrifice.  From the very beginning to have on your mind and in your heart what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment.

Personally, I hope this is something that I don’t forget.  What would it look like if the first words out of our mouths each day were reminding us to love God with everything we had?  What if the last thing we uttered before the narcolepsy kicks in and we pass out is pulling our hearts back to God?  What kind of person would I be if on the forefront of my mind each day was loving God with all my heart, soul and strength?  How would that affect my interactions with people?  How would that change how I look at people?  How would that change how I respond to junk that happens each day?

I think I would like to find out…join me?

Resonate

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything, I’m kind of a slacker, but I’m ok with that 🙂

Regardless, I had to share a little bit about what happened last night. Last night we held a Resonate service, which is an acoustic worship night. We had about 20 people come and we worshipped through music, communion, sharing stories and what God is doing in our lives. It was great.

What I love about the whole idea of Resonate is that in worshiping we are resonating with the heart and mission of Jesus. Jesus said that his purpose, his mission was to bring glory to the Father, to God. And as followers of Christ, when we  worship, by any means, not just music, we bring glory to the Father like Jesus desired to do with his life. If we allow worship to define our lives and not just a service or two that we attend each week, we really begin to resonate with the heart of Jesus.

My hope for my life and for yours is to know that everything we do can be worship to our Father. Don’t just let music be how your worship. If you paint, worship God trough your art. If you have a talent for speaking, worship God through  your words. If you are a parent, worship God through how you raise your kids. And if you have musical ability, worship God through every note played and every harmony sung, whether on stage or in your room.

Let’s make our lives an act of worship to our Father, so that the world may know him and so that we will glorify him and not ourselves.

You’re Not Much of a Threat

With the release of the new Harry Potter quickly approaching some of our friends and us have been watching the past 6 Harry Potter’s to remind ourselves of what happened and to get ourselves prepared for this new one.  Now, this may seem a little weird for some of you…to think that a 26 year old can get caught up in a movie about kids with wands casting spells and riding brooms.  Think what you want about the movies, I’m not going to try to change your mind, but there is something that I have seen throughout these movies that has caught my attention in every one of the movies.

Every movie has good lines, lines that stick with you far longer than the parking lot of the movie theater.  Lines such as “Milk was a bad choice,” from Ron Burgundy…or “You complete me,” from Jerry McGuire…”In all the horror in the world today, why does it even matter?” from What About Bob…and “INCONCEIVABLE!” from the Princess Bride.  Good stuff.  But, I have heard some lines in the Harry Potter’s that have reminded me of things that Jesus might say, or at least something that might be said about him or a life that is lived following him.

I won’t dive into all of them right now, but the most recent movie that we watched had a quote from Luna Lovegood to Harry Potter…Luna said to Harry, “Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.”

I couldn’t help but hear this and immediately think of my life and the spiritual warfare that I have seen.  You see, Jesus never meant for life to be lived alone.  He never planned for there to be lone ranger christians.  We see examples throughout scripture showing how life is meant to be lived in community and if there is one thing that Satan wants us to do, it’s to be alone.  When we are alone we don’t have accountability, we don’t get encouragement, we don’t have the support system we need to help get us through this life with all it’s struggles and pain.  We have to ask ourselves…who is watching out for me? When I am struggling with temptation or some sort of sin, who can I call or go to that is going to help keep me in check?  Am I surrounding myself with people who are going to help me live life in a way that is going to honor God with my words and my actions?

I can promise you that going at life alone will be much harder.  Living life in community, a community with accountability and purpose, will allow us to live life to the full…after all, “one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves [, but] A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

Slow Down!

Today marked the second week that Cynthia and I have spent with our refugee family from Burma.  Now, their story is something that has already blown me away in the short time we have hung out with them, but one of the things that I have noticed about the couple of families that we have spent time with who are refugees is how slow they walk.  I know that seems weird that what I would notice is their pace, but it is something that we have seen in a lot of people in the refugee community.

Unfortunately, I think this says more about us as a culture than it does theirs.  Just today we were going to the store with our family and Cynthia and I realized that in between the car and the door we were at least 10 feet ahead of them.  We looked back and remembered the pace.  I think this says something about us as a culture, or, at least, about me.  We are infatuated with moving from point a to point b as fast as possible.  Speed is a big deal, not only just in how we get to where we need to go, but also in everything we do.  3G is no longer good enough for our phones, now we have to have 4G…it’s not enough for fast food restaurants to have a drive through, but they need to have 2 drive throughs, etc…  Our pace of life has gotten faster and faster, we need to be able to do more things in the same amount of time, we need to stay busy, busy, busy.  That’s probably one of the most common answers I get when I ask people how they are doing, “busy.”

I’m not even really sure how we stop this, but I know that my life will quickly spin out of control if I’m not intentional about taking time to slow down.  There’s a lot to say about managing your time well, but there has to be some time where we slow down to recover and prepare for what is to come each week.  It seems like God knew what he was talking about when he started the sabbath.  It’s more than a good idea, it’s vital to our lives.

I don’t have techniques for us to put into practice so we can slow down our lives and still get everything we have committed to doing accomplished, but I know that if we (I) don’t find some ways to slow down, life is going to get left behind.

Just a thought…

Were I Was and Where I Am

So, yesterday a friend of mine who is in high school asked me if he could write a biography on me.  He had to pick someone that he knew, but that he didn’t know a lot about and like any good narcissist I obliged.  To quote the great philosopher Terrell Owens, “I love me some me.”  Sorry, I’m a T.O. fan.  Anyway…

After he asked me all the questions from my childhood to where I am today, he asked me this, “Would the you 1o years ago be disappointed with where you are today?” (or something like that)  I thought that was an interesting question and my response was something like this, “There’s no way I could have predicted I would be where I am now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And looking back, I can see where God was preparing me to be in the exact place that I am.”

And it’s true, 5, 10 years ago, there’s no way I would have guessed I’d be where I am today, but as I look back at my life, at the major turning points, the little, what seemed meaningless, decisions I made, the hard times, and the things I didn’t really want to experience I can see how God used those things to get me to where I am today.  Sure, it wasn’t always fun, and yes, I did make mistakes, but even through those times God was able to use those to help transform me into who I am today.

So, maybe life for you has been hard lately, or maybe it just seems like the days go by without any meaning or purpose, or life seems pretty good right now…whatever you’re going through right now can be seen in 2 ways, (1) just life happening or (2) as an opportunity to become the person God desires for you to be.  With every choice, every conversation, every action we are becoming someone new, a new creation.  The question is, is that creation going to be something that is closer to God’s plan for your life or farther away?

So, yea, there’s no way I could have seen myself where I am today, but looking back…I couldn’t see it happening any other way.

Everyone?

2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

That doesn’t sound fun.  Last time I checked everyone means a lot of people and there are a lot of people that I know of who want to live a godly life, myself included, who don’t seem to be getting persecuted.  I mean if I really think about it I would be hard pressed to find a time in my life where I was really persecuted for wanting to follow Christ.  With verses like this it seems as if suffering is an expected part of living for Christ.  But, what does that mean for us today?  What does that mean for me?  I don’t live in daily fear that because of the way I live I am going to end up on a cross.  The only real fear I have when it comes to living this way is rejection or avoidance when I tell someone about why I live the way I do.  Is that the kind of persecution we have to worry about?  Is someone saying no to following Christ, or feelings of nervousness when we want to tell someone about Christ all we have to worry about?  Because if it is, it would seem like we got off easy.

What if we don’t see persecution, in the very real sense of the word, because we aren’t really wanting to “live a godly life in Christ Jesus?”  Now, I don’t mean that people who call themselves Christians aren’t, what I’m asking is, what if when Paul said “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:7) he meant for us to get over our butterflies and worries about how it may make us look and be bold about living for Christ?  What if he meant that we are supposed to love God and people fiercely?  What if he meant that I’m supposed to have control over myself in all aspects of my life?  What if he meant that because of the Spirit that lives inside of me I’m supposed to live my life in such a way that makes people ask “why the heck did he do that?”

What if?  Man…that’s a scary question.

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