Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quality Time Versus VIA Quantity Time

I recently made a few changes in my life. Lot's of things motivated these changes: disgust with my current situation, desire to do something more, the inspirational achievements of my wife... lots of things.

Among these changes is a 90 day commitment to better, healthier living. I've changed the way I eat - no more Little Debbies! :(  I even spent some money on a 90 day workout program along with the equipment I'd need to pull it off. This is a pretty tough workout. We're talking about a 60-90 minute workout every day, six days a week.

I had already planned to change my schedule by going to bed by 11 so I could get up at 6 and still get the recommended 7 hours of sleep. However, the day before I started the program I could almost hear God. He said, "You'll go to bed earlier and get up earlier to spend 60-90 minutes working on your body but I still get the ol' hit and miss 15-20 minutes? Really? That's where I rate on the priority list?"

I didn't like how convicting that conversation was but He was right, as always, my priorities were askew. So, I modified my initial plans to include spending my first 60 minutes with God before even putting in the DVD. That means I'm in bed  at 10 and up at 5.

I was a little worried about the 60 minutes part though. I have never been that good at prayer, especially not long stints of it. I always found my mind would wander. So, I figured I'd have to put into practice what I had preached to the youth about How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life by making sure my prayer life was balanced with each of the 5 prayer categories: meditation, confession, praise and thanksgiving, intercession and petition. I also figured why not make it a progression just like my physical workouts - 10 minutes for scripture reading and then 10 minutes for each category.

As I expected, the first couple days were really rough. Have you ever been on a trip with a coworker that you only have a superficial relationship with? Been stuck in a car or on a plane for a long period of time with just this one person? This guy may have been your "hey man" for years but you never really got beyond the superficial conversations? That's what the first two days were like. I'd cover all my regular stuff in the first few minutes of each category, you know, all the stuff I normally did in my 15-20 minute conversations with God. Then I'd sit there for the remaining time in some kind of weird, awkward silence that I didn't quite know what to do with.

It wasn't until day three that the thought occurred to me... you're gonna have to go deeper man. The intercession and petition parts were easiest, I mean c'mon, I can always find more hurting people and things I want for myself to pray for. Even the meditation part came pretty easy, I am a pastor after all so I'm used to digging for the deeper meaning in scripture. It was the praise and confession parts that were giving me fits.

Confession for 10 minutes every morning? I mean, I wasn't that bad of a person was I? Finally, in order to break the awkward silence, I began to dive deeper and deeper into the most private areas of my mind, the parts no one ever sees, not even those closest to me... the parts I had convinced myself even God didn't know about. It wasn't until day 3 that my true confession began.

And what about praise and thanksgiving? What was I really thankful for? What new did I have in the last 24 hours to praise God for? In my struggle to find more than a few things I realized a horrible truth. I had very little to praise God for. Not because God isn't awesome and worthy of praise, but because there were so few areas in my life where I had given God control. He wasn't doing things in my life because I had not allowed Him... That realization terrified me. I was struggling to praise God because I had given Him so little responsibility in my life. Day 3 is a day I will always remember. I imagine it will turn into a milestone in my life that I can look back to and say, "Right there, that's when it all began. That's when I truly began to find new life in Christ."

I decided to write this out for one simple reason - to apologize to every person I have ever misled about a daily time spent with God. You see, for years I have been telling people that it's not about quantity, but quality - that you can somehow cultivate a deep, growing relationship with God by simply spending 15-20 minutes a day in bible study and prayer. This experience has taught me the truth.

The truth is, only through significant quantity can you reach life changing quality. Don't short-change your time with God. Go to bed earlier. Get up earlier. Give God your first, your best, your most valuable time.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm not tender-footed, I'm shoe loyal.

Today's reading: James 1

I never leave the house without shoes on. Even in the house, I never go without socks. My sister, who can run on gravel barefoot, makes fun of me and calls me a tender-foot. I tried to explain to her that my problem isn't that my feet are too tender, but that I am simply loyal to my shoes. After all, their sole purpose (pun intended) is to protect my feet; why would I want to rob them of fulfilling that purpose?

But I think a lot of Christians in the world are "tender-footed", meaning that there is no real feet to their faith. They attend church or spend a lot of time listening to and studying God's word but never actually do anything with it.

One of the things I like about James' writing is its practicality. It's not just about intellect or emotion but about action. He says it's not enough to hear the message of salvation, it has to be life-changing. It has to result in action!

Lord, help me to be the kind of Christian that does as much as he says; and please, let it be something I can do with shoes on.

Monday, February 28, 2011

No fanny protector!

Today's reading: Ephesians 4-6

Paul uses the imagery of a roman soldier to describe a christian on the spiritual battle field. But I noticed something - of all the armor and weaponry Paul talks about, not a single piece of it covers your backside. Breastplate, shield, helmet, sword, none of it. It all is for the front, even the defensive things like the shield is only good for protecting you from the enemy you are facing.

So what are the implications of that? Well, firstly I think it means we better always be moving forward. To borrow a line from 300, we should "never retreat, never surrender". It's when we start running away from God's plan that we expose ourselves to the attacks of the enemy.

Secondly I think it says something about the trust we should be able to place in our fellow Christians. If a leader out on the front lines is constantly worrying about "friendly fire" then he is dead for sure. Yet how often does this happen? How often do we see a godly person defeated not because the enemy has overpowered them, but because they had to worry about those behind him. Either the killing blow comes from one of their own, or they get taken down by an opportunistic enemy while trying to cover their backsides.

Lord, I pray that I will always be moving forward according to Your plan. I also pray that I will always be the kind of person that will protect the backside of those I follow, and that those following me will have the same desire.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

We're all gonna need purple shorts...

Today's reading: 1 Corinthians 15

I was once given an assignment in my university biology class. The professor asked: What would have to change in our bodies, biologically, for them to last forever the way the bible suggests our new bodies will.

I postulated that since the new heaven and new earth are described as being lit by the light of God, and fed by a river of living water that maybe our bodies might be more "plant like"; living off the energy of light and the sustenance of water. Of course, that would mean we would have to develop chloroplast-like organelles in our cells to convert the light energy, possibly turning us green.

Then to read Paul's description of our new bodies, "Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power." Put the two together and... voila, heaven is filled with a bunch of incredible hulks, minus the angry outbursts. Scary, I know, but that's just how my mind works sometimes.

I certainly hope that we will not spend eternity looking like The Hulk, but I am excited about what our bodies will be like. Will we be able to travel around space and time like Jesus did after His resurrection, popping in and out of places? Will we be incorporeal spirits? Will we be the model-ly versions of ourselves with perfect features and killer bodies? It doesn't matter to me. All I know is that I will be perfect, God's version of perfect which is way beyond anything I could ever imagine. No more faults, no more defects. No more aches and pains, soreness, creaking or popping joints. A perfect body that will last forever in eternity with God! Honestly, I can't wait! Come Lord Jesus!

Friday, February 25, 2011

John Lennon got it wrong!

Today's reading: 1 Corinthians 13

There's nothing you can know that isn't known,
Nothing you can see that isn't shown,
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be,
It's easy,
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love is all you need.
There's plenty about God's love that we don't know, there's mountains about God's character that has not been revealed yet. Paul paints a beautiful picture of what godly love is, but then goes on to say that what we know of love is still just the reflection in a poor mirror.

I like this analogy; take all the sand off of every beach in the whole world and put it into one giant pile. Now lick your thumb, press it into the pile and pull it back. The pile is the whole of God and His love. The amount of sand that is stuck to your thumb is the amount of Himself that He has chosen to reveal to us. I look forward to the day when I get to see the whole pile and begin to realize the true love of God.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do not push...

Today's reading: Romans 7&8

Has anyone ever seen a button that was labeled "Do not push" and not felt uncontrollably compelled to push it? What is it that compels us? Curiosity? Lack of trust in the guy writing the instructions? Basic rebellion? For me it'd probably be D: All of the above.

Paul talks about this in the first part of chapter 7. He says the law can sometimes be the big red button in our lives. Whether we press the button because we are curious; "Why is this forbidden? What am I missing out on?" Or because we lack trust in any kind of moral standard; "What's so wrong with it? Who says I can't/shouldn't do whatever I like?" Or because we simply won't be told what we can or cannot do; "Do not push? Ha! Watch me! You can't tell me what to do!"

Unfortunately, regardless of the compulsion, the result ends up the same. I know that I have pushed my share of forbidden buttons and broken God's law more times than I could ever count. Luckily, Paul also explains that we are not bound by an adherence to the law, but by the Spirit of God.

That doesn't mean I get to go pushing buttons all willy nilly, I still need to work on my trust and rebellion issues. But it does mean that I am no longer a slave to my compulsions... even if I push a button every once in a while I know that my relationship with Christ is the ultimate deciding factor.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Greatest story ever!

Today's reading: Acts 26

The greatest story anyone could ever tell about Jesus is their own. In churches, we call that our testimony. It can be greater than any story I've heard in Sunday School or vacation bible school, it can be more effective than any gospel presentation I learn. Why is it so powerful? Because it's mine.

Paul is simply sharing his testimony of how Christ changed HIS life. That is all I have been called to do as well. With that, I can be so much more passionate, so much more real. And, to top it off, I don't have to get into any heavy spiritual debates. People can't argue with the changes within me. 

God, it is my desire to not only share with others what You have done in my life, but for evidence of Your working in my life to be so fresh and so often that I never have to share an old story, except for the really good ones!