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Friday, January 30, 2015

Formation Friday: Jackie Robinson

What can a baseball player teach us about spiritual formation?

In this case...A whole lot.

Many know Jackie Robinson as a baseball player, the first African-American baseball player to play in Major League Baseball. And Robinson didn't just have a good baseball career... he had an exceptional career. In his first year, he hit 12 home runs and helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant. That year, Robinson led the National League in stolen bases and was selected as the Rookie of the Year, the first time the award was offered to anyone. He continued to wow fans and critics alike with impressive feats, such as an outstanding .342 batting average during the 1949 season. He led in stolen bases that year and earned the National League's Most Valuable Player Award. Over 10 seasons, Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers' 1955 World Series championship. He was selected for six consecutive All-Star Games, from 1949 to 1954. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
"Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Common Thread in Every Christian Denomination...

The presence of God is at the heart of the Christian Life.

     No matter what stream of the Christian Church from which you hail, going deeper in your faith invariably leads you to encountering the presence of God. Each stream has a different perspective on how this happens, but encountering God's presence is always at the heart of it all.

It began in the garden, when God walked daily with Adam and Eve.

Sin invaded, and separated us from His presence. Sure, God is –– and always has been –– omnipresent, all-present, everywhere at all times. But from the beginning, there also has been a difference between God's omnipresence and His manifest presence.

God came in different forms: through the form of angels, of a burning bush, of fire and cloud, of a tabernacle and an ark, even the form of a gentle whisper.

Things changed when a baby was born in Bethlehem. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Word: Ephesians 6

The Bible likes to use many metaphors to describe what life is like for Christians who are living in this fallen world. Ever since Eden it has been a struggle.

We have images of a road or path, a house built on sand and rock, a journey through the desert, and my personal favorite... war.

Because in my experience, when the Bible uses the metaphor of a battle it is the closest idea of a virtual reality.

We are fighting. Daily. Hourly. Every minute.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"An Intelligent Carpenter"

A friend and former classmate of mine posted this quote yesterday and it got me really thinking.

"The Church's approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.” - Dorothy Sayers

God has given each of us extraordinary gifts, skills, talents, abilities, etc. and most of the time we as Christians don't see the beauty of each one.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: St. Francis' Prayer

Each Monday, we will be sharing a simple post to help focus our thoughts and prayers as we head into a new week. Most of these Monday posts will simply include a Scripture and prayer, along with a song that you can listen to as you pray through the words.

I've seen God move in incredible ways when I take the time to slow down and welcome His work in my world. My hope is that we would not see these prayers so much as an itemized list of things we want God to do, but rather an avenue through which we can open our eyes to see what He is already doing.

It's this thought that influenced the title of our series: Pursuing the Presence. Inspired by Brother Lawrence, may God use these weekly prayers to open your eyes to His presence and activity all around you.

So without further adieu, our first Pursuing the Presence: St. Francis' Prayer

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Be Faithful

I'm not a big fan of contemporary Christian music. In fact, there are a few bands I like and then... well that's it.
Sanctus Real makes my list though, I like that they found their voice and their style in writing songs that are basically prayers put to music. Take a few minutes to listen to this song before reading the short poem afterward. My hope is that you will be reminded of how great our God is, in that he takes the things that are wrong in the world and uses them to transform us closer and closer into the likeness of Christ.

“Whatever you’re doing inside of me…”

The chorus rings through my mind,
I don’t understand the chaos within.
It's days when the earth feels motionless
Or maybe I’m just blind.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Formation Friday: Athanasius the Great

There are few people in history who have the title "the Great" attached to their name... I would like to introduce you to one of them:

If there was one person in Christian antiquity outside of the writers of the New Testament who is responsible for what the church globally believes today I would say it is easily St. Athanasius of Alexandria. This Church Father was empowered by God to be a voice of truth in an age where truth was not only unpopular, but completely disregarded.

It amazes me that God holds to His promise when he said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) No matter what may come up God has always raised one person (or a group of people) up to hold the truth high. We see this in the Bible, and we can trace this throughout history.

The church was at a crisis moment like this at the beginning of the 4th Century, a priest named Arius from Libya, had become increasingly popular with his teachings. He announced, "If the Father begat the Son, then he who was begotten had a beginning in existence, and from this it follows there was a time when the Son was not." To say it another way, Arius preached that Jesus was not fully God, that he had a beginning and that he was not of one substance with God.

The argument caught on, but Athanasius and his mentor at the time, Alexander, fought against Arius, arguing that it denied the Trinity. Christ is not of a like substance to God, they argued, but the same substance.

Why does this matter?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Word: 1 Peter 4:10-11

"GOD HAS GIVEN each of you a gift FROM HIS GREAT VARIETY of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? DO IT WITH ALL THE STRENGTH AND ENERGY THAT GOD SUPPLIES. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen." 

-1 Pet. 4:10-11 NLT (Emphasis my own)

Among all of the things these verses say to us I want to draw our attention to what I bolded. May we never forget that all of the things we do, all of the things we get, all of our gifts, strengths, abilities, etc... it is God who has supplied them and God who has supplied the strength and energy to continue to live.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Six Words or Less

Words tell a story.

Ernest Hemingway was once asked to describe his life in 6 words or less. He accepted the challenge, and some consider his response to be his greatest masterpiece.

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Those words tell a story.
How about you? Could you describe your life in 6 words or less?

Let me take it one step further: Describe 2015 in 6 words or less.

You read it correctly, that's not a typo. I don't mean 2014, not the last decade. 2015. Describe the coming year in 6 words or less.

See if it makes sense another way....When you reach New Year's Day at the end of 2015, if you were asked this same question, how would you want to be able to describe this year?

What would you like to see the story of this year be?

Of course, it's easy for the cynic to discredit this question. "Well, what if I want to get married? That probably won't happen!" Or maybe you're thinking "I'd love to make my Grandpa come back to life, but that won't happen either!"
Absolutely you can ruin this question and make it meaningless by describing something that likely won't happen.

But what do you long to learn? How do you want to grow? What do you want to change?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Spiritual Stalling

There is a story of a man who once bought an older, used car. He was very pleased with his purchase. It was in good shape, low miles considering its age, and it wasn’t too expensive. It was a great car and it ran well for him for several weeks.

One day though, he got into his car to start it as usual and nothing happened.

He changed the battery … nothing happened.

He changed the spark plugs … nothing happened.

He changed the starter … nothing happened.

He was stuck.

He got it towed to an auto shop not too far from his home for some deeper inspection into what might be the problem. Several days later, his mechanic called and asked him suspiciously if he was the original owner of this car.

He said, “No, but I do have a bill of sale.”

The mechanic then told him that the original owner had installed a “kill switch” under the floor mat of the driver’s side of the car as a primitive anti-theft device.
Our friend had accidentally hit that switch with his foot getting into his car that day and didn’t even know that it was there.

If only he had known it was there, he could have just tapped it again with his foot and the car would have started right up.

Sometimes we stall out spiritually and nothing seems to get us restarted again.

Is there a spiritual “kill switch” hidden under the floor mat of our life that we have yet to discover?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Formation Friday: Henri Nouwen

"The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it."

These are the words of Henri Nouwen (pronounced Now-in), Roman Catholic Priest, Psychologist, Professor, and world-renowned author.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was born in Nijkerk, Holland, the eldest of 4 children. He was ordained as a Priest in 1957, and after studying both Psychology and Theology, he spent 20 years as a professor at several prestigious schools, including Yale and Harvard. It was during these years that his name became internationally known as the author of numerous books such as "The Wounded Healer."

As an author, Nouwen was influential in a number of areas. His writing was focused on spiritual formation, psychology, social justice, and community. Throughout his works, there emerge three themes: solitude, community, and compassion. To Nouwen, these three function as the disciplines which "create space for God" in the Christian Life. It is by creating this space that we begin to hear God speak, to see the ways in which He is moving around us. Nouwen wrote,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday Word

At the heart of the Christian faith lies this heart shattering truth: God alone justifies the sinner, and God CAN justify the sinner because God died for the ungodly. Not by anything the ungodly did, for while we were still enemies, while we were ungodly ...while *I* was ungodly... He made us acceptable, righteous, redeemed.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." -Romans 5:1

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

East and West

"East and West"

When you see or hear this phrase I'm sure many of us automatically think of the statement in the Psalms.

Psalm 103 as a matter of fact.

Or maybe we think of the song by Casting Crowns.
Or maybe we think of a compass.
Or maybe we think of trying to measure that distance... good luck by the way.
Or maybe we think of........................................... Genesis.

Genesis, particularly one story in Genesis. The story of Cain and Abel.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Throne Room

Have you ever just imagined (or at least tried to imagine) what it will look like one day?

To have every pain... Erased.

To have every droplet of water that ever seared our saddened faces, every memory of slow, cold, empty nights where we prayed ourselves to sleep in hopes to not wake up the next day. Have we truly allowed the thought to penetrate our inner selves: every last tear wiped from our cheeks.

Have we ever really let that image sink down deep into the hidden membrane just beyond those glossy orbs that we see everything from?

Jesus is going to hold our faces in His hands and personally wipe away every hint of humanity's pain. Every trouble. Every hardship. Every hurt.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4 ESV

I know I haven't. Though I am trying.

But this image, it's different for all of us. Some of us see Jesus through different lenses, and it blurs the vision of the church.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Formation Friday: Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot may be a well known enough name to some, yet I am surprised all the time by people who ask me, "Jim who?"

Today, 59 years after his death I wish to share his story with you in hopes that the passion in his heart for the Gospel will be an encouragement and an influence for you.

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” - Jim Elliot

Jim appeared to be a normal American boy growing up in the shadow of WWII. He was born in Portland, Oregon to Fred and Clara Elliot, and became a Christian at a young age. Jim grew up to be a very good wrestler and a writer, which made him fairly popular throughout his teen years, his good looks and physical strength were matched by a deep introspection.

In 1945, Jim Elliot entered Wheaton College, a private Christian college in Illinois. Believing in the value of physical conditioning and discipline, he joined the wrestling team during his first year. The following year, he refused a staff position within the college that would have given him a free year of tuition but also a significant time commitment and what he considered foolish responsibilities. He was not even fully convinced of the value of his studies, considering subjects such as philosophy, politics and anthropology to be distractions to one attempting to follow God. After a semester of relatively low grades, he wrote to his parents that he was unapologetic, deeming study of the Bible more important.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Where You Go, I Go

This week we're taking a break from our traditional Formation Friday post and instead looking at a person from the Old Testament. -Nate

I hurt a guy once. He was one of my best friends and I pushed him out of my life because he was angry. Granted I’m summing up a deterioration of a close friendship in a sentence, but essentially I didn’t know how to handle his anger or his bitterness, so I let him go. I didn’t really ask why and I didn’t like the reasons he blamed either. He acted out in anger against me for a little bit and I cut him out. His anger brought me somewhere I didn't want to go.

 To this day it’s one of my biggest regrets.

This past weekend I spoke on the book of Ruth. Ruth is interesting story because like Jesus’ story doesn’t start with Jesus, Ruth’s story doesn’t start with Ruth. It starts with Naomi.